Message From Councilmember Loren Taylor To Residents of District 6

Hi Neighbor,
While on the campaign trail two years ago, I often heard the frustration of District 6 residents who felt that their city had forgotten them. They saw resources being invested in other parts of the city and withheld from East Oakland. This week, however, we are telling a different story with the passage of Oakland’s 2020-2021 mid-cycle budget amendments.
I am proud to have achieved a significant win for our District and Oakland as a whole in partnership with the Council’s Equity Caucus which includes myself, Councilmembers McElhaney, Reid, and Gallo
Over the past 6 weeks the council held many discussions about the proposed budget, our respective priorities, and options for better aligning the budget with Oakland’s values. After participating in four (4) council meetings, two (2) citywide Town Hall discussions, and several District 6 – specific community meetings, I was ready to vote for the Equity Caucus’ budget proposal that makes significant investments into keeping our residents housed, our businesses open, our children learning, and our communities safe, healthy and beautiful.
As a result of these budget amendments, we expect to deliver:
  • IMPROVED EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES: Dedicated $7.7 MILLION to building a city-wide public Wi-Fi network to bridge the digital divide – so Oakland youth can have access to the internet.
  • WILDFIRE PREVENTION FUNDING: Preserved wildfire prevention and abatement funds that were considered for removal.
  • INCREASED ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES: Dedicated $6 MILLION to support small businesses in Oakland – $2 MILLION of which is dedicated to low-income areas of Oakland like the flatlands in District 6. We also dedicated $1MILLION toward technical assistance for small businesses through organizations like the Multicultural Chambers of Commerce and the East Oakland Entrepreneurship Forum.
  • GREATER INCOME SECURITY: Avoided $11.6 MILLION (26 employee furlough days) in labor concessions so that our City of Oakland employees would not experience a financial hardship due to the revenue shortfall. In addition we allocated $1 MILLION for innovative workforce development programs to ~100 Oaklanders in accessing new careers.
  • EVICTIONS AND DISPLACEMENT PREVENTION: Dedicated $7 MILLION toward residential rent and mortgage relief that will directly keep people housed who might otherwise be displaced because of COVID-19.
  • BEAUTIFICATION AND BLIGHT REDUCTION: Allocated an additional $500 THOUSAND to the removal of abandoned vehicles and illegal dumping which plague our neighborhoods.
  • A TRANSFORMED PUBLIC SAFETY SYSTEM we divested $14.3 MILLION from OPD to address the community’s call for reallocating law enforcement funding toward prevention and community enrichment as a down payment toward a more meaningful transformation that will be realized in the next two-year budget. Investments include:
    • Invest $1.3 MILLION for standing up MACRO, a new alternative to police response, for 911 calls related to mental health
    • $100 THOUSAND to establish a CITY COUNCIL/ COMMUNITY TASKFORCE FOR A TRANSFORMATION PUBLIC SAFETY VISION with a goal of reducing the General Purpose Fund allocation for OPD by 50% to improve public safety by putting more resources into crime prevention and community investment
    • Added TWO ADDITIONAL POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY INVESTIGATORS to investigate police misconduct and hold police officers accountable
To read more details regarding this approved budget, please see the Draft Agenda Report that accompanied our budget proposal, and the Approved Budget document with the final Council Amendments in Exhibit 5 .

What About Defunding The Police?

As detailed above, we are answering the call to shift resources from the reactive and punitive side of law enforcement and invest more into the proactive, preventive solutions. Several have said, however, that the $14.3 million (3%) we reduced from OPD’s budget is not enough. I AGREE. We have to do more and that is why we are initiating a taskforce which will help us come up with a plan for doing significantly more in next year’s budget.
  • Yes, Our System Is Broken And We Need To Transform It. When we have a significant amount of our budget directed toward law enforcement, which could otherwise be directed toward Youth Services, Homelessness, and affordable housing, it is time to significantly change how we spend our money.  I agree with the calls to radically transform our system and I am committed to doing so.
  • Change Can’t Happen Overnight Unless We Are Willing To Live Through An Uncertain Transition Period. Calls for an immediate $150M reduction to OPDs budget (or even a $25M reduction) without a plan for how we achieve those reductions will place significant burden on Oaklanders who will otherwise need critical public safety services while we are “figuring it out.” Yes, I believe that we will be able to identify opportunities to (a) civilianize additional police duties, (b) rely more heavily on community partners, and (c) eliminate waste and increase overall efficiencies within OPD. But that plan has not been developed yet. Oakland is currently facing a high average backlog of service calls and slow response times that will only worsen if we don’t have alternatives in place to respond to these calls. There must be broad commitment from the community to living through this period of uncertainty.
  • Most District 6 Residents I Have Heard From Agree with the need for Change, But Aren’t Prepared To Live Through That Uncertainty. Many whom I have heard from are similarly frustrated by the amount of money we spend on OPD and the slow response times, but are also anxious about what a reduction in force will mean for their personal safety and that of their neighborhood. Residents in the Flatlands and the Hills are calling for increased help from the city to make their neighborhoods safer.
    • A 93 year-old Black resident in the Havenscourt neighborhood called me to express fear of what would happen if we have less officers to respond to calls.
    • A young African American woman, fortunate to participate in the city’s first-time homebuyer program is asking for help to keep her safe given that a frequent visitor to her neighborhood has made repeated threats against her life and that of other neighbors.
    • And similarly another long-time African American gentleman is asking for help addressing the frequent shootings that happen on his street.
    • These residents are asking for a plan before we move forward with a significant defunding of OPD.
  • Radical Change Can And Will Happen Quickly Here In Oakland… And We Are Starting A 9-Month Journey To Get There. We will quickly establish a City Council/Community-led Taskforce to plan and guide implementation of a transformational vision of Public Safety in Oakland. The vision must be bold (e.g., a 50% reduction in OPD’s General Fund allocation), and must also include tangible outcomes (e.g., a 50% reduction in crime, and a 50% reduction in incarcerated Oaklanders). And this is what I propose as a starting point for the Taskforce. The taskforce should be kicked off by September, and with extensive community involvement have a draft plan by January and a final plan by the end of March to inform next year’s budget process.
I am ready to roll up my sleeves with community to make the transformational changes we need in a responsible way so that we aren’t compromising resident safety in the meantime.
I would love to know your thoughts and perspectives on what I have shared above regarding the path toward shifting resources from law enforcement to community investment. If you are interested in providing thoughts/ input to this process, please let me know and we will add you to the list we are compiling.
As always, please feel free to reach out to our office with any additional questions/ follow-up . – Email us at district6@oaklandca.gov
Yours in Service of Oakland,
Loren M. Taylor, Councilmember
Oakland – District 6