The Oakland City Council has approved a new two-year budget that makes an investment in affordable housing while closing a historic $360 million deficit.
The balanced budget passed Monday night by a vote of 5-1 with Councilmember Noel Gallo voting no and Councilmembers Janani Ramachandran and Treva Reid abstaining.
Ramachandran abstained because though many things she supports are in the 2023-25 budget, she could not approve what she said was a rushed decision to reorganize city departments.
“Well said,” Reid said before also abstaining.
Mayor Sheng Thao proposed the reorganization last month when she released her $4.3 billion budget, which the council took and amended.
Ramachandran wanted the city to have data-backed proof that the reorganization would save the city money. She also wanted transparency on who would be leading the reorganized departments, her office said Tuesday.
The reorganization will come back to the city administrator’s office for study and review.
Something for everyone
Among the amendments made by the council, the city’s Information Technology Department will get $440,000 less in the second year of the budget, despite a ransomware attack in February that affected city workers and residents.
Councilmembers found $750,000 more in the first year of the budget to give to the Oakland Department of Violence Prevention, which helps prevent gun and other forms of violence, including gender-based and domestic violence.
“While this budget may not please everyone,” City Council president Nikki Fortunato Bas said, “there is something in the budget for everyone.”
She specifically mentioned the additional money for the Department of Violence Prevention.
“I know everyone supports that,” she said.
The investment in affordable housing amounts to $216 million and the City Council created an $8.8 million rapid response homeless housing acquisition fund to provide housing more quickly for homeless residents. Thousands of people in the city are homeless.
The budget “puts Oaklanders first by investing in the full landscape of public safety, resulting in more officers moving forward, while simultaneously investing in violence prevention,” Thao said in a statement.
“In addition, this budget preserves jobs, delivering quality city services to residents and businesses; makes the largest investment in affordable housing in the city’s history; and centers our youth, families, and seniors,” the mayor added.
Indeed, a goal of Thao’s budget was to avoid laying off city workers.
“[T]his budget preserves jobs, delivering quality city services to residents and businesses; makes the largest investment in affordable housing in the city’s history; and centers our youth, families, and seniors.”Mayor Sheng Thao
The budget allows the city to expand hours and services for Oakland’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs using federal, state and local money.
The budget also provides $87 million to repave streets and $106 million to build, repair and improve parks, recreation facilities, and among other things, libraries.
Councilmembers added two policy directives to the budget. One directive proposed by Councilmember and state Senate candidate Dan Kalb will help hire, train and retain 911 dispatchers.
The other directive, also proposed by Kalb, will require new City Administrator Jestin Johnson to study whether separating police, fire and medical emergency phone lines will reduce 911 wait times for callers.