Thanks to a huge outcry from the Oakland community, its libraries and many other invaluable public services have been saved for the time being. If you recall, the Oakland City Council was looking at three budget proposals to balance a huge budget deficit, the first of which would have closed 14 out of 18 branches of the Oakland Library and drastically cut the services at the remaining four.
Mercury News reports that nearly everything that was spared from severe budget cuts by the council on Thursday had received strong community support during the past few months. But unfortunately additional cuts "may be necessary in the coming months as the effects of state and federal budget changes trickle down."
The decision was reportedly a very close one -- Mayor Quan's vote broke a 4-4 tie from the City Council -- and resulted in "shouting matches and harsh words among council members."
The council was able to come up with alternatives for balancing the budget, such as negotiating new contracts with members of a couple of local unions, one of which is still in the voting process, adding 269 new parking meters, and eliminating misdemeanor prosecutions by the Oakland City Attorney's office, which will now be handled by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.
Services that were spared but still hang in the balance include:
- Maintaining most current library services, which can still be decimated if the city's general fund contributions fall much more, as that would stop the city from collecting Measure Q tax money specifically directed to funding about 60 percent of the Oakland Public Library's overall budget.
- Keeping all fire stations open.
- Maintaining cultural arts funding.
- Rehiring 22 police officers still available after they were laid off a year ago. This is half the number of officers laid off who are still available for rehire, and they come back to the Oakland Police Department at a significant savings over the cost of training and hiring new officers.
- Retaining the job of director in the Oakland Public Ethics Commission (though a half-time assistant position is being cut).
- Maintaining one position in the Oakland Film Office.