Abel’s eNews: Final stages of the budget process, steps to help the homeless, tell us what you think

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Making Progress on a New City Budget
The City Budget should reflect our community values and shared priorities. A large portion of the budget pays for the core framework of our city: Public safety and emergency services; our wonderful libraries, beautiful parks and vibrant recreation and senior centers; road repairs and street-safety improvements; sewers, clean-up efforts to tackle graffiti and illegal dumping; and programs to foster job creation, spur economic growth and assist our local merchants. All of these things are essential to the life-blood and spirit of our diverse community.

It’s also imperative that everybody has a safe, healthy and affordable place to live. We must continue to implement both long-term and immediate measures to address our housing crisis. That includes creating and preserving housing that is affordable for all residents, and helping our homeless neighbors get off the street and into permanent homes.

Last week, I introduced legislation to declare a shelter crisis. Oakland has nearly 2,000 unsheltered residents on any given night. The Council is also considering more than $50 million in investments to leverage County dollars for several strategies that will expand homelessness services, create a second Henry Robinson Center (which has an 85% success rate in keeping people housed after three years) to help people transition to housing, open Safe Haven/Outdoor Navigation Centers that will help bring 600 residents a year into safe, supportive housing, and help unsheltered residents find jobs.

As a deeper foundation for implementing long-term homelessness strategies, it’s also important to recognize that this problem is one part of a wider continuum of housing insecurity in our community – an anxious uncertainty that also affects seniors and the disabled on fixed incomes, tenants faced with escalating rents, working families living paycheck to paycheck, middle-class households and younger folks looking to buy a modest home in an exorbitant regional market, and many of our neighbors who find it increasingly difficult to balance the basic necessities of food, healthcare and a place to live, not to mention the humble dreams of a college education for their children or a comfortable retirement for themselves.

The Council and Mayor are considering a roughly $2.7 billion two-year budget. After excluding funds that are earmarked for specific programs, as a practical matter, the Council has about $1.16 billion available to spend over two years on a wide range of other important neighborhood and citywide priorities. As is often the case in life, we can’t fund everything – and that leaves us with many tough decisions.

In addition to citywide priorities, I’m also pushing for funding for specific district needs, including:

  • Safety improvements at school sites
  • Anti-graffiti program
  • Chinatown safety grant for street cameras
  • Restore maintenance of street trees
  • Arts and Culture Commission
  • Summer jobs program
  • Add a Deputy City Attorney for Rent Stabilization Board
  • Enforce Measure FF to ensure minimum wage increases
  • Day Laborer Program
  • Increase funding for the Neighborhood Law Corps Attorneys
  • Support youth and invest in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Center
  • Funding to study the feasibility of creating a regional public bank

I heard many of these priorities from my constituents at our town halls. It is important to note that 74% of Oakland residents prefer to increase City revenues rather than cut funding for programs.

I'm also proposing new revenue sources, including making transportation-network companies, like Uber and Lyft, pay business license taxes, and collecting transient occupancy taxes from all short-term, Airbnb-type rental operators. 

The City Council will have another public hearing on June 12 to hear a report on the administration’s proposed budget from the Council’s independent analyst and a meeting on June 26 to finalize a balanced budget for FY 2017-19 by the June 30 deadline. I’ve heard from many of you during our budget town halls, and encourage you to share your ideas in the coming weeks as we make the tough decisions for Oakland’s future.

Independent Budget Analyst Finds $5 Million in Savings, Revenue
As Chair of the Finance and Management Committee, I asked the City Council to add the municipal-budget expertise of Harvey M. Rose & Associates to provide an independent review to assist our deliberations. Their review found a potential $5 million in savings and new revenue to redirect to homelessness services and other priorities. The Council will discuss the findings at their special budget meeting on Monday, June 12Read the full report.

Expanding Services and Housing for Homeless
Alameda County recently released its point-in-time count of homeless persons in the region. The data provides an updated and more accurate understanding of homelessness in our area, and helps us check our progress toward ensuring that everyone has a safe place to call home.

In Oakland, the count found 2,761 individuals experiencing homelessness, 1,902 of whom were unsheltered – up by 26% since the last biennial count in 2015.

About 40% said they were experiencing homelessness for the first time. By a similar proportion, 42% said rent assistance would have prevented them from ending up on the streets – which puts a human face on the economic pressures of displacement.

The causes of homelessness are complicated and interconnected. The comprehensive strategies to successfully help these neighbors of ours get into safe, affordable housing, while maintaining public health, safety and the quality of life in and around homeless encampments, are equally challenging.

Build and preserve affordable housing. City oOakland staff have recommended spending $50 million to build and preserve permanently affordable housing for our lowest-income residents. The City is also eligible to receive $30-50 million in County Measure A1 funds over the next two years for this purpose. This represents a 10-fold increase in funding for affordable and homeless housing over past years.

Fight displacement that leads to homelessness. Oakland has expanded just-cause eviction laws to protect more renters as part of a larger effort to strengthen renter protections and services. Landlords must now petition to raise rents above allowable cost-of-living increases, and must pay higher relocation fees. These services should help protect 4,000 Oaklanders from displacement this year.

In the long-term, our community must build more affordable housing to make more lasting progress in addressing homelessness. But as we wait for those new units to be created, we must also address the immediate basic needs of our homeless neighbors now.

You can help. To donate to homeless services programs: EveryOneHome.org

Street Paving Plan
Another top budget priority is fixing our streets. With the FY 2017-19 budget, the City Council will accelerate repaving and repair of Oakland’s streets and help ensure that transportation and infrastructure improvements are implemented equitably throughout the city, using a framework that considers communities of color, household income and other social indicators.

The budget, which includes paving for more than 1,100 blocks, will triple the funding for street repaving and repair, and double bicycle, pedestrian and other complete-street improvements. We also need to allocate money for additional “worst streets,” and that continues to be one of my top priorities.

The capital budget is nearly doubled compared to two years ago with the infusion of Measure KK infrastructure bonds ($40.6 million for streets) approved overwhelmingly by the voters, combined with substantial grants from outside sources. And with the passage of state Senate Bill 1 (an estimated $6 million for Oakland), we can also use more Measure B and BB funds for street paving.

GET INVOLVED

Saturday, June 24 | Abel’s Office Hours in Grand Lake
10:00 am-12:00 pm | Grand Lake Farmers’ Market (Grand Ave. side)
Councilmember Guillén holds monthly “office hours” out in the community along with “Walk and Talks” throughout the year. We’ve been in Bella Vista, Cleveland Heights and East Lake the past few months, and will be in the Grand Lake neighborhood this month. Say hello and share your thoughts about the neighborhood. Bring the kids! “Walk-ins” are welcome, but you can reserve a time slot to avoid waiting: Richard Raya, 510-238-7023     

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Saturday, June 17 | Watering San Antonio Park’s New Trees

9:30 am | San Antonio Park, 1707 16th Ave.
Help us start the watering season for the 27 new elm trees around San Antonio Park on E. 19th St., 18th Ave and Foothill Blvd. All equipment will be provided – plus snacks and drinks. For more info: jungw@pacbell.net or www.ranchosanantonio.nextdoor.com/events

Tuesday, June 20 | Community Meeting on 601 MacArthur Project
6:30-7:30 pm | St. Vartan Armenian Church, 650 Spruce St. 
The architect and development team for the proposed project at 601 MacArthur Blvd. will be on hand to update the community about the latest details about the proposed project, which would construct 25 units on the currently empty lot. Refreshments will be served. If you can’t attend the meeting, please share your concerns and ideas: Richard Raya, rraya@oaklandnet.com

Tells Us What You Think: Streets as “Public Spaces”
Oakland’s transportation department is gathering community input on the possibilities of transforming the city’s largest asset – our streets – into vibrant public spaces. A potential new program would integrate art into everyday infrastructure through projects like creative crosswalks and intersection painting. The program also envisions new plazas and parklets at suitable locations. For more info Share your ideas and suggests good locations via this interest form by June 23.

Want to Oversee the Police? | Commission Applications Due June 30
The application process to select members of the inaugural citizens’ police commission is open this month. The selection panel will seek to make appointments that reflect our community’s diversity of experiences, especially individuals from communities experiencing the most frequent contact with the Oakland Police Department. Strong commitment to police accountability and public service will be prioritized. The seven-member commission (with two alternates) will oversee the Community Police Review Agency, which will conduct investigations into allegations of officer misconduct; propose changes to, approve or reject current or proposed OPD policies; and can remove the police chief for cause.

Commissioners must be Oakland residents and over 18 years old by the date of the first commission meeting.  Applications will be accepted until June 30, when the selection panel will begin to interview candidates. Appointments will be made by August 8To apply

Help Oakland Reduce Violence | Commission Applications Due June 12
The City Council voted this week to create a Blue Ribbon Commission on Violence Prevention. The commission will have six months to define “violence,” and determine ways to reduce it. Their efforts will include a series of educational town halls, and examine how other cities address violence in their communities. I particularly want to look at effective strategies for reducing violence through a public-health lens.

I need to nominate someone to serve on the commission by Monday, June 12. If you are interested, please let me know why you would like to serve on this commission or if you know someone who would be a good fit. Email aguillen@oaklandnet.com

CELEBRATE OAKLAND

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API Heritage Month Honoree | Banteay Srei

The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a serious challenge facing our city, with the Asian-American and Southeast Asian communities disproportionately affected. Resources to address the needs of these victimized youth, especially culturally appropriate resources, have historically been inadequate.

As part of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month in Oakland, Councilmember Guillén recognized the vital work of Banteay Srei, which provides services to Southeast Asian youth who are trapped in or at risk of being victimized in the sex-trafficking of children.

Pioneering a new model of treatment and support, Banteay Srei promotes intergenerational community engagement through its Southeast Asian Unity through Cultural Exploration program by bringing together community elders and young people to cook together and share their stories, creating unique opportunities for community healing and growth. Banteay Srei empowers young women through cultural knowledge and history, and helps them overcome past experiences and make healthy decisions.  

CITY SERVICES

Sunday, June 18 | Free Dental Exams and Treatment
9:00 am-3:00 pm | Tzu Chi Oakland Service Center, 620 International Blvd.
At this annual “Dentists on Wheels” event, the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation brings desperately needed free dental care to low-income families and people who can’t afford insurance. Interested persons must RSVP: 510-879-0971