Oakland City Council approves mayor's budget to close $177M deficit

The Oakland City Council on Tuesday approved the mayor's budget, which will maintain most of the city's functions under the assumption that the sale of the Coliseum goes through this summer.

The approval comes after the missed July 1 deadline, an eight-hour meeting on Friday, and a four-hour continuation on Tuesday.

Mayor Sheng Thao's budget is moving forward with a few amendments, with the city council declaring a state of "extreme fiscal necessity" and a $177 million deficit. The hope is that this will address the budget crisis.


Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao addresses FBI raid and more

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao gave her first interview with a news organization on Tuesday following the FBI raid on her house at the end of June.

The vote was 5-3 after the council chose between two options: Thao's proposed budget, which took into account the sale of the Coliseum, reallocating Oakland police officers, and reducing 311 staff with a contingency plan if the sale does not go through. Option two would have frozen 68 full-time OPD positions, paused two police academies, and cut city services. Ultimately, the council approved Thao's budget plan.

In a sit-down interview with KTVU, Thao said her budget proposal would allow the city to operate at near-current levels with 678 officers.

"What I'm proposing is that we have no cuts to OPD, the sworn personnel right now," she said, unless the Coliseum isn't sold.

The second budget option was lower risk, not taking into account funds from the potential Coliseum sale, with a significant reduction to public safety resources and cutting the budget by $63 million. The second option also included a restoration plan to add back resources if the sale doesn't happen.

Councilmember Janani Ramachandran argued there was no time to submit amendments to the second option, which was presented to the council last week. 

Councilmember Treva Reid agreed.

"This is a 2.2 billion dollar contract with a 177 million deficit.  The time has not been adequate. We know that it’s not been adequate," said Reid.

Ramachandran, Reid, and Councilmember Noel Gallo voted against Thao's budget, concerned over the risk of the Coliseum sale not going through.

"No one’s happy about any of the options we had, they’re all problematic, but I do believe overall that this one is somewhat better in terms of public safety and moves us forward in a way that I think is likely to be consistent to the reality that we’re going to get this Coliseum money," said Councilmember Dan Kalb.

Thao issued a statement after the vote, saying her budget brings Oakland toward its goal of closing the budget shortfall.

"We must remain disciplined and address our deficit responsibly while maintaining our focus on the issues that matter most to Oaklanders, public safety and clean streets. This budget achieves that goal. I am grateful to everyone in our City government who participated in developing the solutions reflected in this budget and to the City Council for voting in the best interest of the city and people we serve," she said.

The sale of Oakland's half of the Coliseum will bring one-time funds of $63 million, but the city's deficit far exceeds that.

Earlier, the union that represents Oakland police officers, Oakland Police Officers Association, demanded that the city council reject all proposed cuts to the budget.

These budget cuts "place the public and police at extreme physical danger and jeopardize the future of the city, residents, workers and businesses," OPOA Vice President Tim Dolan said in a statement provided by PR consultant, Sam Singer.

"The mayor’s budget is based on the false hope of a Coliseum sale," Dolan added. "Mayor Thao’s proposal as well as the proposed alternatives by councilmembers Nikki Bas, Carroll Fife, Rebecca Kaplan and Dan Kalb will all drive the city into bankruptcy and chaos."

At the Oakland City Council on Tuesday, members are also expected to approve a recall election against Mayor Sheng Thao.

The council is expected to schedule the recall election vote for Nov. 5, the same time as the general election, which would save an estimated $3.7 million as opposed to a standalone vote.