Oakland Councilwomen Rebecca Kaplan and Jean Quan believe that the city’s well-paid police officers should agree to compensation cuts to help balance the city’s $31 million budget deficit, but ex-state Senator Don Perata indicated in a recent interview that cops have already sacrificed too much. The sharp disagreement among the three leading mayoral candidates offers insight into how they would deal with budget crises in the future, and it reveals their political allegiances.
Earlier in the week, Quan voted to begin the process of laying off 200 Oakland police officers if cops refuse to start paying 9 percent to their own retirement plans. Currently, police pay nothing toward their pensions, while firefighters contribute 13 percent and other city workers pay part of their retirement plans as well. A majority of the council wants that to change. And they note that because police and fire take up 75 percent of the city’s general fund budget, there are few other places to cut.
Kaplan also pointed out that Oakland police, whose salaries start at $71,000 annually, make more than their counterparts in other cities. The Tribune noted that starting pay for NYPD is about $44,000. “We shouldn't have to pay double what New York City has to pay,” Kaplan said, according to the Trib. “We shouldn't have the highest-paid workers paying a lower percentage into their pension than the lowest-paid workers.”
But in a video interview with East Bay blogger Zennie Abraham, Perata empathized with Oakland police and indicated that they already did their fare share when they agreed to compensation concessions last year. “They got concessions — good concessions — from police and fire a year ago,” Perata said, referring to councilmembers. “We knew, when those were made, they never bothered to have any ongoing discussions. Then they start jamming people from the dais. And I'm getting a little tired of picking on the guy that does the work.”
Perata said the council should vote on "$15 million" in cuts first before asking city unions to make further concessions. He did not, however, identify what those cuts would be. In addition, he said that Oakland police should not face pay cuts because their jobs are too dangerous. The Oakland police officers’ union is strongly backing Perata for mayor.