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Funding for Oakland police, fire departments at center of budget discussion

Oakland public safety funding at center of budget battle
Oakland public safety funding at center of budget battle 03:43

Public safety is one of the biggest concerns for people in Oakland, and it's taking center stage in the battle over the city's budget.

The Oakland City Council met Tuesday night to try to finalize the budget for next year, which is made harder by the fact that the city is facing a $95 million shortfall in the general fund.

Chris Moore has lived in Piedmont for more than 20 years and said there shouldn't be any cuts to police and fire.

"We need to fund our public safety. We can't cut our public safety, and yes, that might impact other services, but what's most important in this community? The most important is public safety," said Moore. 

He said that's because the city can't afford to lose any more residents or businesses.

"The revenue problem is you've chased all the businesses out of town, you've chased renters out of town," he said. 

"For people of Oakland to get the services that they deserve, it would cost quite a bit more money than the city is currently spending," said Dan Lindheim.

He is a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley and was the city administrator in Oakland from 2008 to 2011.

He said the budget for the police and fire departments are so large, when facing a significant shortfall, the city has to make cuts in those areas.

"If you're not going to cut police and fire, which is 2/3rds of the general fund, then you have to cut absolutely everything else, and since you can't cut absolutely everything else, that means you must cut police and fire," said Lindheim. 

Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo disagrees, and said public safety is his number one priority.

"Even if I have to change other services, I need to do that. I need to protect the children and families," said Gallo.

Per the city charter, the city council has until June 30 to pass a balanced budget.

According to the mayor's office, the cuts to police and fire are only freezing vacant positions, not eliminating them. That means the city council can vote at a later time to re-authorize hiring for those positions if more money becomes available.

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