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Oakland voters to consider eviction protections, council term limits on Nov. ballot

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OAKLAND – Oakland residents will get to vote on greater eviction protections, term limits for City Council members and a likely fairer election process following action by the City Council on Monday.

The council placed those proposals on the ballot for voters to consider in November as well as an $850 million infrastructure bond. The bond will leave property taxes unchanged.

Councilmembers failed to place a proposal on the ballot titled the Emerald New Deal, which would have directed $160 million in city cannabis business tax revenue to provide restitution to Black and Hispanic residents negatively affected by the War on Drugs.

Councilmembers Treva Reid, Noel Gallo and mayoral hopeful Loren Taylor voted in favor of the Emerald New Deal, but Carroll Fife and Sheng Thao voted against the idea and Nikki Fortunato Bas and Dan Kalb abstained.

"This is a call to action," Bas, the council president said.

"I think this is the beginning of an effort," she said.

But Bas said already the City Council has allocated $1.25 million in the budget passed last month to help people affected negatively by the War on Drugs, which has been largely regarded as a failed effort.

Also, the council recently allocated $19 million to the Oakland Department of Violence Prevention and $3 million in grant money to community organizations. Bas said both allocations will help people suffering from the effects of the War on Drugs.

Bas believes the city needs to make good on policies it has already established.

Earlier in the day, the council, except for Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, voted unanimously to allow residents to decide on greater just cause eviction protection for tenants. Kaplan was excused from the meeting.

During the public comment period, property owners were largely against the proposal, arguing that the protections would limit new construction. But tenants and their advocates argued in favor of the proposal, saying that housing is a human right.

Just cause protections require the property owner to have a "just cause" for evicting a tenant.

New construction, including accessory dwelling units, would be exempt from just cause protections for 10 years if voters approve the measure.

Councilmembers decided in favor of letting voters determine whether term limits for councilmembers now and in the future are a good idea. Fife opposed the proposal. Kaplan and Gallo did not vote and were excused.

"I don't understand the impetus for moving this forward," Fife said.

She said recent elections have shown that incumbents can be defeated. If the measure passes in November, councilmembers will be limited to three four-year terms.

The proposal to float an $850 million infrastructure bond before voters in November received unanimous support from councilmembers. Kaplan again was excused.

Of the total amount, $350 million will go toward affordable housing preservation projects, $290 million to transportation projects and $210 million will go toward preserving and improving city facilities.

Bas put forth an amendment to the initial proposal under council consideration Monday, adding $10 million more for fire stations. That reduced the amount for parks, recreation and senior centers by $10 million.

Gallo was not altogether pleased.

"My most immediate need besides housing is taking care of my children," he said.

Gallo implied that the $10 million probably would be spent more effectively on parks and recreation centers where children can grow up.

The City Council also voted to place on the ballot a measure to allow residents to allocate public dollars toward election campaigns. Oakland would give residents monetary vouchers to allocate to candidates. The vouchers would come from a initial city fund of no less than $4 million. The ballot measure seeks to increase resident participation.

More dollars donated to candidates in Oakland elections come from wealthy donors. Allowing residents to allocate small amounts of money, such as $25 vouchers, may broaden participation.

In November, voters will also have the opportunity to decide on a measure devoted solely to providing affordable housing, on a progressive business tax and on changes to gender-specific language in the city charter, among other initiatives.

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