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!
Our credit rating as a City has improved, we still have incredible debt to pay for past bonds. It shows our financial health, ability to pay debts on time and eligibility for loans to fund much needed resources like affordable housing development and fixing potholes.
These bonds come with a price tag that can be hefty and our children may have to carry the burden years later. These financial obligations can tighten a budget. We will continue to pay for the Warriors long after their gone (about 2025) and it's going to cost to cost us if we keep the Raiders. The Raiders do not pay property taxes and to my knowledge we do not directly see a benefit from Raiders sales (please show me, I would appreciate it). However, the Raiders are great for City morale, part-time jobs, tourism and can attract new business.
We have the employment, unemployment and not in labor force rates. 34% of our residents in the East Bay are not in the labor force in comparison to our 6.4 percent unemployment rate. So, yes unemployment rate goes down when residents are employed. But, it also goes down when residents drop out the labor process or are kicked off their unemployment benefits.
We need to make sure that jobs programs are being supported to help our most underserved and underrepresented residents access and sustain gainful employment that pays a liveable wage and to put pressure on new companies coming in to make sure that there is a priority for local hires.
Housing and homelessness are incredible issues that we can not avoid. With the rates of homelessness surging and displacement increasing due to gentrification, many are feeling the hurt of being & seeing their loved ones and neighbors packing their bags and heading to the street or out of the City that they've called home for generations.
Decisions are being made on how to best support them, but who knows your people more than you? Will there be a space for you as the City continues to develop. With 6 billion in proposed budget cuts to HUD coming, there will be negotiations and compromises.
We are already starting to see the impacts of this new administration. In some areas HUD has decided to freeze enrollment of their housing services. Federal funding to HUD helps to reduce homelessness, fund infrastructure, and enhance community services.
Cuts to HUD will impact urban cities through out the Nation. And even though 6 Billion has been proposed it could be more given that the administration wants to increase defense spending by $54 Billion. In Oakland, we will feel the impact.
The threat of Obamacare repeal is impacting our communities. Millions including our foster and homeless young adults will suffer with the cuts to Medicaid. Our elderly and working class that benefits from receiving health care support for prescription medication and treatment for preexisting conditions could be compromised as well.
Another major cut to come is with the Community Development Block Grant $3B program. The Federal Government provides this grant to states and cities to combat poverty.