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Keeping Up With the Observer Corps - June 2024

By Liz Hartka

The Observer Corps welcomes its three newest members: Wendy Murphy (Police Commission), Kimberly Holzinger (Public Ethics Commission), and Donnis Hobson (Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission). We’d also like to express our thanks to Tamara Sherman for her many years of service covering the PEC.

Speaking of the PEC, you may have seen a reference to that commission in the Oaklandside this past week. In 2020 the PEC launched an investigation based on a tip accusing the Duong family of secretly giving tens of thousands of dollars to Oakland city councilmembers’ campaign committees.

The Oakland Fair Elections Act and Limited Public Financing Act for 2024 require candidates to participate in a number of public debates or forums in order to qualify to receive public funds. At its 5/22 meeting, the PEC discussed guidelines for deciding what qualifies as a “public debate or forum.” 

Floyd Mitchell, Oakland’s new police chief, met with the Police Commission at its 6/13 meeting. The Commission was concerned about the reduction of sworn positions (from 696 to 678) in the Mayor’s Proposed Mid Cycle Budget. At a previous meeting in May, the Commission discussed the withdrawal of a Charter Amendment (sponsored by Council Member Kevin Jenkins) that would have severely diminished the power of the PC.

At the 5/28 meeting of the Life Enrichment Committee, 39 members of the public commented on an item, Managing City Staff for Each Intervention, of an informational report on “City Managed Homeless Interventions” submitted by Scott Means of Human Services.

In addition to the Police Commission, several other public meetings in the past month have addressed the Mayor’s Proposed Mid Cycle Budget. For example, the 6/12 Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission had a lively discussion about the possibility of using Measure Q parks funds to make up shortfalls in maintenance budgets. Unless justified by a budgetary emergency, such a measure would seemingly be contrary to the intent of Q, which requires the city to maintain prior maintenance efforts. 

The Finance Committee continued to address the shortfall in the city budget, with some members focusing on economic and business development strategies to build up the tax base and generate more revenue, and others preferring to double down on revenue collection to fill the gaps.

The Public Ethics Commission noted the following cuts to its budget: (1) the elimination all funding for the Limited Public Financing Program (legacy public finance program) for 2024, for the first time in its 20 year history; (2) the reduction of Democracy Dollars (new public finance program under Measure W) startup funding by approximately $98,000; (3) a cut of $50,000 from an education program under Measure W; and (4) the elimination of $38,000 in discretionary funding earmarked for hearings and investigations.


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