Transport Oakland’s Response to Mayor Schaaf’s Draft 2017-19 City Budget

Mayor Schaaf & Members of the Oakland City Council,

Transport Oakland is pleased to support the draft City budget released on April 28th, pending the adjustments promised by Mayor Schaaf at the May 2nd City Council meeting. Transport Oakland feels that the current draft budget reflects our platform of livability, vitality, sustainability, and equity for the City and its residents. The draft 2017-2019 budget seeks to make the best of a precarious budget situation, with a $32 million operating deficit and many departments being asked to tighten their belts.

Of special importance in this year’s budget is the funding of a fully-fledged Department of Transportation; it represents a promise kept to the voters of Oakland and a vehicle for timely delivery of the Measure KK infrastructure bond. The Oakland Department of Transportation, being funded largely from sources outside the General Fund, will have a minimal impact on the City’s budget deficit.

Transport Oakland is also encouraged to see an aggressive scheduling of Measure KK bond funding for street repaving & safety improvements over the next two years as part of the CIP. The City of Oakland has an obligation to spend the taxpayers’ money prudently, and that means paving streets sooner rather than later. Unspent bond funding simply adds more debt to the City while leaving streets to crumble and reducing the spending power of those dollars in future years.

We look forward to being an active stakeholder in the ongoing budget process, and are confident that the final budget will be one that minimizes pain to City departments while providing the highest possible service to Oaklanders. The Transport Oakland team is still analyzing the budget and weighing its likely impacts for Oakland, and we plan to provide insight in greater detail later in the budget process. From our preliminary reading, however, a few key points stand out. We are determined to see that the final adopted budget reflects the following priorities:

Staff DOT for Success

Due to the windfall of Measure KK, SB1, and grant sources, Oakland DOT has more funding to build projects than they have staff to plan, design, and implement them. The draft budget adds 27 new staff to the department, but even this increase in staff is not enough to keep up with the volume of projects to come. Every day that we delay Measure KK projects due to lack of staffing is a waste of taxpayer dollars as interest racks up on unused bond funds while our streets further deteriorate. The City needs to clearly measure the gap between projects and staff, and plan to close that gap in the future for timely delivery of projects.

Deliver on Promises to Oakland Voters: Deliver Complete Streets Now

The Oakland taxpayers placed a great deal of trust in the City by voting through Measure KK at a greater margin than any previous bond. The City now needs to live up to the expectations of taxpayers by delivering projects in a timely manner. But it’s not enough to repave streets to be exactly the way they were before: projects need to improve safety, increase sustainability, and reflect the values and needs of the communities in which they are built. More staff are needed upfront to deliver higher quality projects, as they will deliver greater value to Oakland voters over the long-term.

Equity Must be the Keystone of the CIP

The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is an essential counterpart to the City budget, prioritizing City investments over the next two years. One of the terms of the Measure KK infrastructure bond was that the City must include Equity criteria in the CIP’s scoring of projects. The equity scoring process for the draft CIP contained several shortcomings, including limited outreach with the community on how Equity is appropriately measured. While a rapid process was needed to program Measure KK funding in this year’s CIP, it cannot be repeated in future years: real oversight is needed to ensure the City is implementing projects to advance equity for Oakland’s most underserved residents and neighborhoods. Transport Oakland urges the City to create the Infrastructure Bond Oversight Committee as promised in Measure KK and launch a community-based process for measuring Equity in future CIPs.