If the Oakland Police Officer’s Association fails to compromise today during negotiations with city leaders, the result could prove devastating to members of its own union in the months ahead. The reason is that the Oakland City Council is poised to put tax measures on the November ballot to raise funds that are desperately needed to avoid more police layoffs. The passage of those tax measures is no sure thing, but if the cops’ union refuses to compromise and begin contributing to police pension plans now, then the measures are likely doomed to defeat.
Oakland voters, already suffering from the Great Recession, aren’t likely to tax themselves again in order to save the jobs of police officers who refuse to pay into their own pensions just like other city employees do. And without the infusion of cash from the November tax measures, another 120-plus cops likely will be laid off on January 1. It seems incredible that the police union leaders don’t understand this fact — that their own intransigence will lead to their fellow union members losing their livelihoods.
At the same time, Councilmembers Jane Brunner and Ignacio De La Fuente, City Administrator Dan Lindheim, and Mayor Ron Dellums deserve credit for standing up to the police union and refusing to agree to its irresponsible demand that no cops are laid off for three years if they start contributing 9 percent to their pensions. Oakland’s budget deficit is projected to deepen in the 2011-12 fiscal year, and the police union needs to face reality and understand that the city may have to obtain more concessions next year in order to avoid more layoffs. To promise no cop layoffs now, likely would force the city to completely devastate basic services next year, including closing libraries and parks. Oakland, in short, would no longer be a place worth living in.
And all of that can possibly be avoided, if the police union would just do what’s right today. Voters will be much more likely in the fall to approve tax measures, such as raising utility taxes or approving a parcel tax, if police show that they’re willing to sacrifice for the common good. But if the union leaders refuse, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves when 120 of their fellow cops lose their jobs after Christmas.