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Recent Comments

Re: “Why BART's Wage Offer Doesn't Include a Raise

Hi Patrick Emmert,

I think in the economic context we find ourselves in, including dramatically rising housing prices, a generally strong rate of inflation affecting most consumer goods, high gas prices, a decline in real incomes for most people in the Bay Area, etc., that for all these reasons it makes sense to show what people are actually taking home to live off of.

Regardless of whether we use after tax, or before tax pay as our measure, it appears that what BART wants is still a pay cut in real terms over four years. It's right there in BART's own employee impact tables. And that's after BART's employees gave up a lot, about $100 million, in 2009.

What the unions actually want isn't the giant pay increase that has been portrayed. At this point it's rather a relatively small increase in real take home pay over 3 years.

Whether or not BART workers "should expect an across the board raise," as you're asking, isn't something I can answer. I suppose there are ways of measuring their performance both individually and collectively. These assessments likely exist. Perhaps you've looked into this further and have information upon which to base your opinion that BART employees' pay should be cut?

15 likes, 6 dislikes
Posted by Darwin BondGraham on 09/25/2013 at 10:21 PM

Re: “Why BART's Wage Offer Doesn't Include a Raise

Hi Michael Hawk,
Thanks for your comment. I cited the sources of info in the article, but here's some links for you.

Employee impact statement (produced by BART management): http://bartlabornews.com/wp-content/upload…

BART management's description of the contract offers: http://bart.gov/news/articles/2013/news201…

11 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Darwin BondGraham on 09/25/2013 at 8:09 PM

Re: “BART's Big Gift to Wealthy Corporations

Hi Craig,

You're correct that BART doesn't have "unilateral" powers to create assessment districts to fund expansions of the system. That doesn't seem to be what Pamela was saying either. BART does appear to be authorized to create these districts per the Improvement Act of 1911 and the Improvement Bond Act of 1915.

Consider this: if suburbs of the Bay Area really want a BART extension and stations in their cities, why doesn't BART require them to create an special assessment district to fund those capital investments? And if downtown San Francisco's stations are to continue receiving big infusions of cash for maintenance and new construction to upgrade the BART stations, BART could make this contingent on downtown property owners agreeing to an assessment district to finance these things.

On BART's regressive funding, the point isn't to compare what wealthy riders pay vs. what low-income BART riders pay. Fares, fees, sales taxes, and all these other means of levying charge upon individual consumption is broadly regressive, no matter who pays it.

The point rather is to compare fares with other funding mechanisms. If BART obtained more of its revenue from property taxes the system would be more progressively funded because fares would be lowered. Both wealthy and low-income riders would pay lower fares because property owners around the stations (mostly wealthy corporations) would be increasingly funding the system.

And what's really interesting about the transit finance research done by the people cited in this article is that you can capture the new value created by the transit system's expansion to pay for itself, so really you're taking anything away from private land owners. Instead, you're simply preventing these real estate owners from obtaining a windfall profit that they didn't create.

Does that makes sense?

9 likes, 5 dislikes
Posted by Darwin BondGraham on 07/17/2013 at 6:13 PM

Re: “Throwing More Money at Police

Hi Len,

As usual you raise some really important points.

Related to Oakland's retirement obligations, I'm wondering what you think about the stock/bond market rallies of the past couple years? Doesn't the rise in securities prices mean that the projected increases in CalPERS contributions will be lower in futures years for the city? Shouldn't we expect CalPERS to report a lower un-funded liability soon? Or has CalPERS already built this into their models and what they're telling the cities as far as contribution increases? I haven't been following CalPERS close enough to know how the economic trends will impact Oakland.

I guess what I'm wondering is how much of a moving target these future year obligations are for Oakland. How much are they're based on volatile assets and liabilities that change year to year?

5 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Darwin BondGraham on 05/30/2013 at 10:15 AM

Re: “Are More Cops the Answer?

Hi Len,

Ellen Cushing wrote a story about Richmond last month that touches on some of the stuff your bringing up- http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/what…

As for comparing Richmond and Oakland's inequality, yes, it's very similar in proportionate terms, and also in the role that racial segregation plays, but of course Oakland's number of poor households dwarfs Richmond's in absolute terms.

Half of the households of both cities subsist on less than $50,000 in household annual income. Using a conservative 2.5 persons per household figure, that means that half of Oakland and Richmond's populations are subsisting on less than $20,000 in individual income, and a majority of these impoverished persons are women and children.

Actually the data paints an even bleaker picture when you account for the differences in households sizes across different deciles of the income distribution. Toward the top levels, households making $100,000 and up, household sizes tend to be smaller, whereas those homes earning below $100,000 are probably larger on average. So the rich homes have fewer mouths to feed.

Of course the only reason any of this would relate to crime would be the socioeconomic factors Krivo and other sociologists are pointing out. According to this school of thought, the crime isn't caused by poverty; it's caused by the inequality.

Here's a quick and rough peek at Oakland and Richmond's household income distributions - http://www.scribd.com/doc/142302196/Distri…

7 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Darwin BondGraham on 05/18/2013 at 8:38 PM

Re: “Are More Cops the Answer?


I'm glad you brought up Measure DD.

Measure DD was funded as a capital project via $198 million in bonds, but there is no money for the operations and maintenance budget for the lakefront improvements. Deanna Santana pointed this out at the recent community forum on public safety sponsored by Make Oakland Better Now! (April 28, 2013 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church). I believe Santana also said the new West Oakland Youth Center also has no operations and upkeep budget.

Santana's point was similar to the one we've highlighted in this article; public safety is about more than cops. There's a delicate balance. De-funding important capital projects and non-police services can have major negative impacts on public safety.

Santana said at that meeting that she would like to implement a "fair share" budget, one that doesn't require the trade-off of funding one department at the expense of others.

Unfortunately the police department, because of its outsized costs, directly competes with general fund dollars that should be used to upkeep this beautiful public works project. Perhaps the Council will find money to fund maintenance and repairs for the millions we've borrowed and spent. It would be a shame if we had to let our wonderful city improvements crumble over the next few years because of a very costly effort to ramp up police staffing levels, an agenda that is by no means guaranteed to make the city safer.

11 likes, 45 dislikes
Posted by Darwin BondGraham on 05/16/2013 at 6:04 PM

Re: “Are More Cops the Answer?

Mr. Tuman,

Those are good questions, and I appreciate that you're them. I would rephrase them, however, to reflect the contradictions that lurk behind the uncritical push to increase police spending. Is the answer more police? Or, does not the city already allocate an unusually large share of its budget resources to the police, thereby preventing investments in other areas that might better improve public safety outcomes?

I also think this whole debate really needs to be informed by a much broader set of voices.

12 likes, 43 dislikes
Posted by Darwin BondGraham on 05/16/2013 at 8:02 AM

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