In case you hadn't heard, Oakland's City Council voted to spend $7.7M of Measure Y funds for recruiting and training as many as 75 new police officers this year.
There's a lot of hullabaloo out there about how this is a violation of the public trust because Measure Y funds were supposed to pay for "problem solving officers," not training new officers. Frankly, I have trouble understanding these complaints, and I find them a bit hypocritical.
Now, I'm the last one to say that I expect the City of Oakland to spend its money wisely. I view my $88 annual "violence prevention tax" the same way I view the $80 tax for the world's crummiest library system and the $197 I pay for the world's worst school system. On a bad day, I view these as straight extortion. On a good day, it's the admission fee for watching an entertaining albeit horribly self destructive spectacle.
When Measure Y passed, I expected them to figure out some way to divert 100% of the money to "administrative costs" and social programs. There's a pretty standard way the city does this, and others have reported extensively about these practices.
I don't live in the "kill zone" of Oakland, as one friend calls it. So in some respects, I don't really care whether Measure Y sends money to police officers or to social programs. But I feel pretty certain that the silent majority of non-criminals/non-activists/non-lawyers who do live in the "zone" care very deeply. They want more police.
Larry Reid says he doubts 803 officers is achievable in 2008. Maya Dillard Smith worries that Measure Y money may supplant the general police budget. V Smoothe wants to make sure Measure Y money is repaid if a recruited officer doesn't join the force.
What's with all the complaining? Is adding 30 or 50 officers such a disaster, if we don't reach the magic 803 number this year? And, while I share the concern about government fiscal responsibility, do we really have any illusions that Oakland will somehow not spend every penny it takes in one year?
Personally, the only reason I thought Measure Y wasn't a total disaster was the thought that maybe some of the money might incrementally raise the city's police budget. I know the city is corrupt; I know the police union is corrupt; I know everyone's on the take. But in a city where pretty much any measure (except the one for a new central library--we don't like books apparently) passes with 75% of the vote, you take what you can get. I assume measures will pass. I assume my taxes will always rise. I look for the bright spots where I can find them.
So I say good for you Ron Dellums. Good for you for taking a more conservative position and pushing for more police. And good for you for trying to find the cash to make it happen. I hope this works out, and I hope we get more cops.
And to those who oppose this move, I ask you what you think the money should be spent on instead? Because the choice is not between spending it on this or issuing refunds. I'm not sitting by my mailbox waiting for that $88 to show up. I know better. I'd rather spend the money to maybe get a few cops, however poor the process, than on Nancy Nadel's next wacky "violence prevention" scheme.
Enough of those. Let's get some more cops and bust some heads.