Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kaplan Officially in Mayor’s Race, Denounces Prison Guards

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 1:07 PM

Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan officially jumped into the mayor’s race today, citing job creation for Oakland residents, improving public safety, and reforming city government as her top priorities should she win election. Kaplan also used her official candidacy announcement at an art gallery in downtown Oakland to strongly criticize the California prison guard’s union for financing two hit-pieces in the past week that targeted her and Councilwoman Jean Quan, who is also running for mayor. Kaplan, visibly perturbed, labeled the hit-pieces “lying, deceptive mailers.”

As previously reported, the hit pieces were produced by a shadowy group with extensive ties to ex-state Senator Don Perata, the third major candidate in the Oakland mayor’s race, along with Quan and now Kaplan. Perata has denied involvement in the mailers, but he has been a highly paid consultant for the prison guards over the past year, and the group behind the mailers, Coalition for a Safer California, includes people closely associated with him. Other donors to the group also include several of Perata’s close friends and longtime supporters.

Kaplan also derided the group behind mailer for getting its facts blatantly wrong. As the Express noted yesterday, the mailers blame her for laying off Oakland police officers, when in fact, she voted against the layoff plan. The mailers also urged voters to call her and other councilmembers before a “June 29th” council meeting, when in fact the council approved the cop layoff plan on June 24th — before the mailers arrived in Oakland mailboxes. Kaplan also challenged the prison guards’ union to debate the issues. “The voters of Oakland deserve an honest conversation,” she said.

During a short press conference after her candidacy announcement, Kaplan also explained her vote against the lay off plan, saying that she was disappointed that her proposal for a pension-reform ballot measure was not included in the city’s budget plan as she said she had requested. The council’s budget plan included laying off 80 cops unless the police union agrees to start paying into its pensions like other city union do, but contained no long-term solution for addressing the pension problems. “I didn’t believe the budget did enough to plan for the future,” she said.

Kaplan also said that earlier today she proposed a pension-reform measure for the November ballot which would require new police officers to pay into their pensions. She called Oakland “an outlier,” because it’s one of the few cities that does not require police officers to contribute to their own pensions. She noted that San Francisco police pay 9 percent — precisely what city leaders have asked Oakland cops to pay. She also noted that Oakland police salaries are higher, on average, than cops in other large California cities that have struggled with crime problems, including Long Beach. The high pay and generous benefits that Oakland awards its police officers, she noted, means that the city can’t hire as many cops as it needs. “Oakland is really the outlier,” she said.

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