To the casual observer, the layoff of eighty Oakland police officers last week appeared to be the result of an unfortunate stalemate between city officials and the cops’ union. But on a closer examination, the union’s demand for no layoffs for three years in exchange for pension contributions was the primary reason for why officers lost their jobs. The union’s hard-line stance also is now jeopardizing the livelihoods of at least 120 additional Oakland police officers — and possibly more.
Police union officials and their supporters immediately blamed the city council for the layoffs and for the city’s financial woes. But the council’s only sin in the dispute was agreeing over the years to incredibly generous wage and benefit packages for public employees that are now bankrupting the city. Police officers were the biggest recipient of that generosity and so it was particularly ironic that the cops’ union decided to point a finger at the council when it finally started showing some fiscal discipline.
In reality, Oakland’s financial problems are due in large part to the recession. City tax receipts have declined nearly $100 million in the past few years. And the city’s budget deficit is projected to be even higher next year than this year. Consequently, the cops’ union demand of no-layoffs for three years was, in effect, a poison pill. The best the council could offer was a one-year layoff moratorium.
The council now is considering several tax measures for the November ballot, and with police officers still refusing to pay any portion of their pensions, the proposals will be even tougher to pass than originally planned. If voters’ reject them, Oakland likely will have to lay off 120 more cops — or request additional concessions from the police union. Both options would have been impossible if the city agreed to no layoffs. Prohibiting layoffs also would have forced the council to decimate city services if the ballot measures go down to defeat.
The cops’ union’s intransigence also would have put Oakland on a path to bankruptcy. Without the ability to lay off more police officers, or to get the cops’ union to agree to more concessions, it might have become impossible to balance the city’s budget — short of declaring bankruptcy. And if that were to happen, the no-layoffs agreement would be thrown out the window anyway, along with expensive wages and benefits.
Most importantly, the police union’s actions have now seriously threatened any hope of tax measures passing this fall. Getting voters to agree to tax themselves more, especially in the current economic downturn, would have required a united front among city officials and the police union. And although union officials say they will help the measures get approved, they’ve already lost the support of one influential councilmember. “There’s no way I’m going to support a ballot measure,” Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who represents the Fruitvale and Glenview districts, told the Express. “It’s probably impossible to get it approved now. And they have no one to blame but themselves.”
Video Undermines Council Probe
Just after talks between the cops’ union and city leaders unraveled, Oakland police said they would examine whether Councilwomen Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan had interfered in police business during the Johannes Mehserle verdict protests. But the probe smelled of political payback. Both Quan and Kaplan had been outspoken about police not contributing to their pensions. The cops’ union also backs ex-state Senator Don Perata over Quan and Kaplan in this year’s mayoral election. Perata has steadfastly remained in the union’s corner.
Video of the protests also appears to undermine the decision by Oakland police to “investigate.” In a video shot by The Bay Citizen, Kaplan was clearly shown yelling at an anarchist who had thrown an object at police, while Quan was urging others to form a line separating the angry anarchists from cops. Kaplan and Quan also were attempting to create a buffer between marching police officers and peaceful demonstrators. The councilwomen helped slow down the advancing police line, thereby giving peaceful demonstrators a chance to leave the area, once cops had declared the protests an “unlawful assembly.”
UC Berkeley Goes for Cash
The percentage of out-of-state and international students attending UC schools this fall is rising by one-third, with the increase concentrated at UC Berkeley and UCLA, the Los Angeles Times reported. The rise in such students, who pay much higher tuition, is the result of an attempt by the UC system to raise revenues. The increase — from 6 percent to 8 percent of the undergraduate population — also means there are fewer slots for California residents at the state’s top public universities.
UC regents also endorsed a plan to offer online-degree programs in an effort to raise even more funds from out-of-state and international students, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The regents approved a pilot program proposed by UC Berkeley law school dean Christopher Edley Jr. despite concerns raised by faculty that online degrees will harm UC’s reputation for academic excellence.
As a result of the cop layoffs, Oakland police announced that they will only respond to 911 calls about crimes in progress. People who wish to report burglaries, auto thefts, and other less serious crimes that already happened must fill out a police report online or visit the department’s downtown headquarters. … Oracle chief Larry Ellison was the top bidder for the Golden State Warriors but owner Chris Cohan decided to sell the team for a record $450 million to a group headed by Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Joseph Lacob.