Fighting for budget priorities, celebrating our parks, go solar

Priorities for the Budget
Over the past few weeks, the City Council has been working to set funding priorities for programs and services in the FY 2017-19 budget, and several community forums have been held to hear about community needs and recommendations. While revenues are up, expenses are also increasing and the City is forecasting a budget shortfall of upwards of $30 million in the two-year budget. 

TIMELINE: The Mayor’s proposed budget will be released April 28, followed by at least three more community forums to be held in May to gather feedback. The City Council will then consider budget details and amendments at its meetings in late-May and June. The final date for the City Council to adopt a final budget is June 29. We will keep you posted on the progress.

SHARE YOUR IDEAS: Let me know what your budget priorities are. Please email me at aguillen@oaklandnet.com with any comments you may have, especially if you cannot attend one of the community meetings.

MY DISTRICT PRIORITIES: As the City Council makes decisions about citywide budget choices, I will be fighting for several key policies and programs that District 2 residents have expressed a strong interest in funding, including:

Accelerate Street Improvements: Neighborhoods throughout Oakland require street repairs regardless of zip code and income. I want to accelerate the 5-year paving plan by 33% to increase the number of streets that are repaved and help reduce the amount of pothole repairs needed.

Reduce Illegal Dumping: Illegal dumping occurs all over Oakland and costs $5 million a year. Much of the problem is associated with homeless encampments as well as illegal dumping from haulers. There is also a spike in illegal dumping at the end of the month, when tenants often move out of their apartments. I’m pushing for a program that will help reduce both homelessness and illegal dumping while also providing social services needed for self-sufficiency and a path toward permanent housing.

I want to reduce illegal dumping by deploying street-cleaning crews to increase Oakland’s capacity by 10%. The City would employ litter enforcement and prevention strategies and work with nonprofit agencies to employ currently homeless and unemployed individuals to help pick up illegal dumping in hotspots like the E.12th corridor.

Expand Oakland’s Tree Canopy: I want increased support for City staff to inspect, maintain and prune trees while expanding Oakland’s tree canopy by 30% – with particular attention to neglected flatland neighborhoods where the canopy is smaller than other parts of town. Residents in neighborhoods that have an improved tree canopy experience cleaner air, lower crime rates and improved well-being. It’s a good investment in the health of our people and the environment.

Improve Community Policing with “Officers in Oakland” Program: I want to expand the police recruitment of Oakland residents and students to better match the diversity of our community by expanding the “grow your own cadet” program. Working with Merritt College and OUSD to increase the number of OPD officers who attended schools or grew up in Oakland will also help improve neighborhood safety and community-oriented policing.

Safe Housing for Victims of Sex Trafficking: Sex trafficking is a major problem in Oakland, especially in certain corridors in District 2. All of our youth should be kept free from harm. One of the biggest obstacles facing sexually exploited minors is the lack of safe housing to help them “get out.” We must provide assistance to support Oakland youth who have been sexually trafficked.

City Hiring to Reduce Overtime and Improve Efficiency: Several job categories are underfunded, putting the City of Oakland at a disadvantage when trying to recruit, hire and retain employees. In some departments like 911 Dispatch, the staff turnover comes at a great cost. We should invest in retaining our employees rather than dealing with the revolving door currently in place. We also need to reduce overtime in the Oakland police and fire departments by hiring additional staff with priority for current part-time employees.

Tiny Homes – Housing for Students: An estimated 30% of community-college students are homeless, routinely sleeping in their cars or couch-surfing with friends. I’m supporting a Tiny Home Village pilot program to provide homeless/housing-insecure students with places to live. With initial City funding, a model program can attract philanthropic support from foundations and other partners. With this housing opportunity, these students can avoid long-term homelessness as they acquire self-sufficiency and career skills.

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Astro Tot Lot Now Open for Fun
If you missed the dedication ceremony at Astro Tot Lot last month, check out the video. The new playground was ready for its close-up as the starting line for the Oakland Running Festival. Be on the lookout for the big party celebration this summer.

GET INVOLVED

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Parkway Cascade Clean-up

My office joined the mighty volunteers of the Parkway Cascade Garden last Saturday for spring weeding and planting. In response to illegal dumping and illicit activities occurring in this half-acre City lot this neighborhood group adopted it four years ago and set about cleaning and landscaping the area. It is now a verdant public space where the volunteers aim to host a community barbecue early this summer.

We would like to particularly thank volunteer leader Stephen Cunningham for working with our office and Public Works staff to obtain and install signs against illegal dumping. Thanks also to Flora Grubb Gardens for donating the plants, including young succulents and poppies.

A recurring theme during my time representing the engaged residents of District 2 is that community unity can make a big difference in a small space. Great work, everybody! 

Saturday, April 22 | Rose Garden Volunteer Work Day
9:00 am-1:00 pm | Morcom Rose Garden, 700 Jean St. 
Join Dedicated Deadheaders and City staff prepare the garden for annual Mother of the Year event. We will be spreading alfalfa pellets for fertilizer, always weeding, applying compost tea. Please wear long-sleeve shirt and jeans, bring water bottle, sunhat, sunglasses, gloves and hand tools if you have them. Delicious homemade baked goods provided. For more info

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Saturday, April 29 | Abel’s Office Hours in Bella Vista
1:00-3:00 pm | Bella Vista Park, 1025 E 28th St.
Councilmember Guillén holds monthly “office hours” out in the community along with “Walk and Talks” throughout the year. We were in the Cleveland Heights neighborhood last month (photos at Haddon Hill Cafe), and will be in Bella Vista later this month. Stop by and share your thoughts about the neighborhood.

Support Our Students
The non-profit Education Coalition for Hispanics in Oakland (ECHO) supports our city’s Latino students in a variety of ways, including the Latino Student Honor Roll in partnership with OUSD. This year, they need community support to make it happen. Your help will go toward organizing the effort and the purchase of educational tools, such as Kindles, for our honored students. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution today. Donate here 

CELEBRATE OAKLAND

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Running Festival Results
More than 10,000 people participated in the Oakland Running Festival. I had the opportunity to welcome over 2,500 Oakland Half-marathoners runners last week to Oakland and District 2 before joining the race myself. I encouraged runners to visit one of the many restaurants on Lakeshore and Grand avenues after the race, and it sounds like these restaurants did really well. Spurred on by my team, I finished the half-marathon, and we raised a little money for the Oakland Education Fund at the same time. Starting at East Shore Park, everybody who ran – and their cheering fans too – had a chance to check out the new Astro Tot Lot (team photo with new playground equipment in background). I hope next year’s race will start and finish again in District 2. 

Sunday, April 16 | 61st Annual East Pancake Breakfast 
8:30-11:30 am | Lincoln Recreation Center playground, 250 10th St. 
Join the Wa Sung Community Service Club for “Stacks N Sausages.” Donation: $5. For info: wasungserviceclub@gmail.com

Thursday, April 20 | EcoFest Sustainability Festival
10:00 am-3:00 pm | Laney College
Check out the free 11th annual EcoFest at Laney College. Explore the Fab Lab, community garden tours, smart transportation expo, scientific bee-keeping and more. Live music, dance, food (by the Laney culinary arts program) and drinks. Bounce house and free concessions for the kids. For more info

East Lake Businesses Featured in Oakland Magazine
Our own East Lake is featured in the latest Oakland Magazine, highlighting the cluster of great restaurants featuring cuisine from Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Thailand Read the article

CITY SERVICES

Rent Adjustment Help Is Now Online

The new, easy-to-use and informative Rent Adjustment Program website is live. Learn more about your rights, responsibilities and options for resolving tenant/owner disputes here.

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Get Help Installing No-Cost Solar
GRID, a nonprofit community organization based in Oakland, connects families with government programs to provide solar at no cost to eligible homeowners. As the largest non-profit solar installer in the country, they pay for your solar system. GRID has also provided hands-on solar installation training to Oakland residents as part of their solar workforce development program. Through their installation and job-training efforts, they’re helping to build a more inclusive and equitable green-energy economy. Find out if you are eligible: 866-921-4696 or gridsolar.org

City Takes Action to Improve Fire-Prevention Inspections
The City of Oakland is taking several actions to enhance the quality and speed of fire safety inspections by the Oakland Fire Department, including doubling the size of the Fire Prevention Bureau and enhancing their training and tools:

  • Enhance the Blue Tag Field Inspection Policy and require immediate training about it for all staff to ensure proper actions are taken when encountering unsafe building conditions.
  • Fast-track requisitions to hire six additional inspectors, doubling the size of inspection staff.
  • Hire additional staff as part of in the FY 2017-19 City budget, eventually tripling inspections staff and improving fees/collections procedures.
  • Immediately reallocate fire-station staff to support inspections until new inspection staff are in place.
  • Prioritize problem properties to ensure all buildings are current on annual inspections.
  • Adopt stronger and more proactive Residential and Commercial Inspection Programs.
  • Use the building department’s online tool (Accela) for OFD record-keeping to ensure transparent access to and coordination of fire and building records on properties.

Inspections in Very-High Fire Severity Zone to Start Soon 
On May 15, inspections of residential properties in the Very High Fire Severity Zone of the Oakland hills will begin. Oakland firefighters and inspectors will visit each property within the zone to determine if vegetation on the property is compliant with the California Fire Code. In April, an Annual Inspection Notice will be mailed to every property owner, with detailed information about requirements for “defensible space” around houses and a checklist to help homeowners be certain their properties are in compliance. Defensible space acts as a buffer between a structure and an advancing fire. For more info

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Free Harbor Tours
Free Port of Oakland harbor tours will return in May with Blue & Gold Fleet running 12 cruises through October. Blue & Gold’s 230-passenger sightseeing vessels will offer 90-minute tours. The tours will trace the shoreline along Oakland Estuary and Outer Harbor, and showcase working marine terminals. The schedule calls for two tours a month on Fridays at 6:45 pm, departing from Jack London Square’s ferry dock. Ticket registration begins May 1