By Melvin Cowan
Advisory Board Member, The East Oakland Collective
Mission accomplished in bringing the community together, but there is still more work to be done! The East Oakland Collective teamed up with the East Oakland Boxing Association for the continuation of quarterly community town halls in deep East Oakland. On March 14, 2017, EOC and EOBA partnered with the City of Oakland to host Mayor Libby Schaaf and staff to educate and discuss Oakland's budget and funding priorities for 2017-2019.
We had a packed house of concerned and engaged East Oakland residents ready to learn about the City's 2017-19 budget process and current fiscal status. If we're not a budget priority we and our needs are seen as less relevant (nonexistent), in comparison to other City needs and or issues that receive overwhelming advocacy and monetary support.
When looking at Oakland's Budget like most city budgets, it can seem complicated and feel overwhelming. There is support. It's important to understand how certain programs and services are funded. We waste our time and energies advocating for resources in areas or with agencies that are not designed to offer support for our particular interests.
What we can do as a community.
This is the time to ask questions, get active, and speak to the needs of your communities. It's important that we ally where we can to magnify our voices and we need to be smart with our money. It's better to invest our resources in companies, initiatives, systems, and individuals that we have the ability to hold accountable and will support the needs and interests our most vulnerable.
It's March, on May 1st the Oakland City Administrator will release the Mayor's proposes budget on the City's website. City Council will have until June 30 to approve a balanced budget. Council members are expected to have Town Halls during that time to make sure that community input is being collected and factored. If we're not there and speaking for our communities, we lose power and credibility when we speak about concerns with the Government after the fact.
We have about 90 days to educate ourselves, educate our people, educate our legislators and work together create support for our communities.
You don't have to be an expert on budgets to hold a budget town hall. All you need is a team of committed residents, a venue, the support of your City's leadership or a representative, individuals that can speak about the issues and particulars of the budget focusing on the needs of your community, someone willing to take ownership of coordinating next steps, food, and most importantly the community.
We've come together to support the interest and needs of our community. We don't have the shoe strings for a shoe string budget. But, we have one another and love for our people. The process isn't perfect, but we have to start and regardless we have to act. The future of our young, families, neighbors, and place in Oakland yet to come is at stake.
I can't stress how important it is for us to come together on this. It's going to take all of us and we will need to be diligent about supporting one another and holding one another accountable. No one is exempt. 90 days, let's get busy! We got this!