The Oakland City Council voted 5-3 last night to lay off eighty police officers as part of $31 million in budget cuts. However, council members said that they could still reverse their lay-off decision if the police union agrees to begin contributing to its pension plan like other city employee unions. City leaders are scheduled to return to the bargaining table with the police union on Sunday and Monday.
The lay-off plan, along with millions in other cuts, was proposed by City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente and seconded by Vice Mayor Jean Quan, who is running for mayor this year. Voting with them were council President Jane Brunner and Councilwomen Pat Kernighan and Nancy Nadel.
Councilmembers Desley Brooks, Rebecca Kaplan, and Larry Reid voted “no,” although it appeared that only Reid opposed the police layoffs. Brooks said she had problems with several cuts made to other city departments and revenue-enhancement proposals that she called “smoke and mirrors.” Both she and Kaplan also said that the police union’s refusal to contribute 9 percent to cops’ pensions was “unsustainable.”
However, Kaplan, who has launched an exploratory bid for mayor this year, did not specify why she decided to vote “no” on the layoff plan, which is expected to put pressure on the police union to make pension concessions. The third major candidate in this year’s mayor’s race, ex-state Senator Don Perata, has made it clear that he’s on the police union's side.
De La Fuente’s proposal also called for laying off another 122 police officers if voters refuse in November to approve changes to Measure Y, the 2004 parcel tax initiative. Councilmembers want to suspend the minimum police force requirements in the measure so that the city can lay off some cops and still collect the parcel tax. Next month, the council also will consider other tax measures for the November ballot, including another parcel tax and/or raising the city’s utility and sales taxes.