Oakland considers using profits from Coliseum sale to close budget deficit

The Oakland City Council on Friday began public discussions about how to surmount a $177 million budget deficit and whether to help bridge the gap by selling its share of the Oakland Coliseum.

That option isn't palatable to City Councilmember Noel Gallo, who said the sale won't come through in time.

"We need to take the money that I do have to be able to create a budget that's balanced, so I can move forward," Gallo said. "I cannot be praying and hoping and dreaming about additional money until I have it in my hand."

Councilmember Janani Ramachandran and others say they're worried about plugging a hole with a one-time sale, which could endanger the city's credit rating.


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"If council chooses to go down the road of adopting a budget that factors in that money, we are on the road to financial chaos," Ramachandran said.

Mayor Sheng Thao, whose home was searched by the FBI last week, did not attend Friday's meeting at City Hall. But last month, she proposed a budget that focuses on public safety, clean streets and economic growth.

But vacancies at the police and fire departments could be frozen, and fire stations could be affected.

"We're incredibly worried that one of the budgets proposed is closing four or five fire stations," said Zac Unger, president of the Oakland firefighters union who's also running for City Council.

Unger said Oakland firefighters are almost unable to handle the workload, which is now at about 100,000 calls a year.

"We support any budget that keeps fire at full staff. I know that there are a lot of really difficult choices to be made, but public safety has to be top priority," Unger said.

No matter what the council decides, Ramachandran says it won't be pretty.

"We've been given an impractical choice, of passing a budget that includes mythical money that hasn't been realized yet - and won't be anytime soon - , versus cutting public safety deeply, and I support neither of these options," Ramachandran said.

Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said because this is a midcycle budget, there is no strict June 30 deadline to pass a budget. The council will hold another session to discuss the budget on Tuesday.

Henry Lee is a KTVU reporter. E-mail Henry at Henry.Lee@fox.com and follow him on Twitter @henrykleeKTVU and www.facebook.com/henrykleefan