Schaaf: Oakland budget ‘great plan’ for city

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Wednesday hailed the City Council’s approval of a $2.4 billion two-year budget as “a great plan for Oakland’s next two years.”

Schaaf said she’s also excited because Wednesday was the first day on the job for Oakland’s new city administrator, Sabrina Landreth, who most recently was Emeryville’s city manger and formerly served as a deputy city administrator in Oakland.

The mayor announced the appointment of Landreth on Feb. 20 but Landreth continued to work in Emeryville until the end of the fiscal year on Tuesday.

Schaaf said, “I’m really happy” because this is the first time that Oakland has had a permanent city administrator since March 2, 2014, when Deanna Santana left the post. The position has been filled by interim city administrators Henry Gardner and John Flores since then.

The mayor said the budget approved by the City Council on Tuesday night includes most of the proposals that were in the initial plan that she announced in April but also contains amendments submitted by various council members.

Schaaf said:

“This budget is the result of teamwork.”

The budget emphasizes public safety, affordable housing and education, closes an $18 million funding gap and reduces the city’s debt, she said.

The budget contains funding for four upcoming police academies that are expected to add 40 officers and increase the number of sworn police officers from 722 to 762 in two years.

Schaaf said it also moves the city closer to meeting her goal of having 800 police officers by 2018.

The mayor said the budget includes funding to work with the Oakland Unified School District to try to reduce chronic absenteeism and truancy at the city’s public schools as well as money to help kindergartners establish college savings accounts.

Schaaf said that program is similar to one already in place in San Francisco and calls for the city to give $50 to every kindergartner for a college savings account starting in the fall of 2016.

City Councilman Dan Kalb said funds provided by the city and the school district will allow the district to hire social workers to work with families who have children who miss school regularly.

Kalb said truancy is an important issue because a report commissioned by state Attorney General Kamala Harris last year found that once students fall behind in their studies it is difficult for them to catch up with their colleagues.

The budget also includes funding for a city Department of Race and Equity, which will examine and study city policy, hiring and distribution of resources for racial bias and make recommendations to prevent it.

The department was proposed by Councilwoman Desley Brooks at a special meeting of the City Council in January that was called to address the nationwide discussion of racism in the criminal justice system in the wake of police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York.

In addition, the budget approves Schaaf’s plan to establish a new Department of Transportation.

Schaaf said many other cities, such as San Francisco and San Jose, have transportation departments but in Oakland transportation services have been spread out among various departments, such as public works, planning and parking.

The mayor said the new department will be “more efficient and more effective” and will help the city better compete for state and federal funds.

Schaaf also said the department won’t take money from the city’s general fund and core city services.

Schaaf said Janette Sadik-Khan, who served as commissioner of New York City’s Department of Transportation from 2007 to 2013, will lead the search for a transportation director for Oakland.

Schaaf said the search process will take at least several months and the new Department of Transportation won’t be fully operational for about six months.