Tag Archives: budget

Oakland’s Bond Ratings: Class Act or Not?

As every adult should know, a “credit” card is really a “debt” card.

In the same way, a “mortgage” is a massive “debt” owed to a bank, and the interest you pay on said mortgage is your “rent” to the bank for the money.  If you don’t own a house free and clear, you are still a renter — renting money from the bank. I won’t get into HELOCs but anyway, debt is debt.

Debt can be useful if you haven’t saved up enough money ahead of time — rainy day fun, savings, etc.  Also useful for putting up huge capital-intensive public works projects in a hurry if you expect future revenue to climb. The higher your “credit score” – aka “debt” score of “how good a debt slave are you” score – is, the more debt you can take on.

Cities have credit scores too – it’s called a “bond rating.” Continue reading

Behind Government Budget Problems

Sutro Baths Steps by sirgious
Sutro Baths Steps, a photo by sirgious on Flickr.

This month’s post by Gail the Actuary explains our country’s (and the world’s) economic situation better than I ever could, so here it is.

This obviously speaks for Oakland as well, since we’re one of hundreds of US cities built upon a once lustrous but increasingly potholed and cracked foundation of cheap (and now all burnt up) oil and gasoline.

We’ll need to find other means of social lubrication, and in the meantime, don’t be poor!

The ramifications touch every part of our society, and thus I’ve tagged this with all categories. Put on your systems thinking cap and get reading!

Police foundation update

This is by now a bit of old news, but I want to pre-announce that Oakland Police Foundation should be launching this summer. The silent majority will finally have a way to support a properly run PD in light of City of Oakland’s ongoing financial disaster. Stay tuned.

Needless to say, Oakland’s financial descent was brought about by many things including, but not limited to, council member Jean Quan(ficomm head)’s use of budget reserves during tax reveune “boom times.” This left Oakland’s budget without a cushion for inevitable lean times.  Also many CA cities voted for “3% per year worked” retirement salaries in and after 1999, to attract talent.  This exploded many cities’ pension liabilities — the kind of financial issue in which Oakland’s former city workers now retire with up to 90% of their old salaries, in retirement, in perpetuity.

Clearly an unsustainable ponzi/pyramid scheme which will fall any year now.  So why should I worry, anyway? Nature sorts things out eventually.

Sidenote: I definitely wouldn’t vote for Quan as Oakland’s next Mayor — and she’s running. Ditto for Don “No Specific Programs” Perata.  Hopefully Rebecka Kaplan will run for Mayor.

Back to the main point of this post — OPF is working through various IRS paperwork right now and should go live in Q3 2010.

LIVE: City Hall budget meeting, video here

Today’s city budget meetings from 5pm to 6pm and onward are viewable LIVE here via KTOP (and possibly thanks to the city’s Dept of IT)

Continue reading

Realistic City of Oakland Budget Cut: 10%

City must trim its budget… to FY2000 levels…soon.

[The short version: FY08-09 budget $1.066 Billion. 10% cut needed — a $106.6 Million cut for FY09-10.]

A favorite blogger of mine, Karl Denninger, spends a good amount of his time calling out the lies put forth as truth by our “Federal” Reserve, Congress, White House and corporate media.

Indeed… Who respects authority figures these days? Americans are lied to by everyone–from politicians to CEOs to AC Transit directors to City of Oakland administrators to realtors…. it’s a loooong list! That many Americans don’t vote actually shows how smart we are.

Continue reading

City Uptown Lot Proposal: Grow Hemp

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[6/15 update: Just two days later after this post, Alternet has a “legal pot in CA” article featuring Oaksterdam. We are so bleeding edge here! 🙂 ]

As you know, City of Oakland is pretty broke now, and not getting any richer. That’s just like most other US cities, and we aren’t in some measly two-year recession here. Oakland’s need for revenue is great.

V Smoothe and other Oakland bloggers have covered a potential pot tax on our July ballot in some detail. What I haven’t seen anywhere is discussion of the city actually growing and selling its own marijuana to raise revenue. This idea may not be as crazy as you might believe. (Or maybe it is!)

As noted at Alternet, hemp has many beneficial uses other than as medicine. It is sold as cereal at Trader Joe’s, is made into rope (a competitor fiber of which is sold at Long’s Drugs: sissal) and is even made into clothes and grocery “eco-bags.” Finally — and this ought to shock and awe you — even the U.S. Constitution was written on hemp paper. That’s according to author Michael Ruppert in his new, seminal work A Presidential Energy Policy (May 2009).

[Plug: every Oakland city councilmember, business owner and citizen advocate/ activist should read Ruppert’s new book, above. This month would be a good time for it!]

There’s some discussion in the comments of Sharon Astyk’s collapse blog about how State of CA is staying alive only with marijuana sales/proceeds and associated industry. I doubt that, but it’s certainly already a part of our state’s tax base.

So, my proposal.

Uptown’s empty non-parking lot is brown and empty. Dust from it comes into my apartment through the window screen when I have it open. Nobody is using the space. What a waste! (Same goes for other empty city lots.)

Even weeds would be better than dusty Martian-like soil. Weeds improve soil quality, prevent soil erosion, clean our air, keep down dust, provide habitat for birds. A few are growing on the perimeter.

Now instead of sporting a do-nothing dirt field, imagine if:

  • City of Oakland put a hemp farm contract out to bid;
  • Oaksterdam University was chosen to administrate subplots  in the large empty lot, not to exceed 50% of the space;
  • Oakland residents and or the most expert pot growers in the state donated compost, soil and plants to begin growing the stuff right here next to Uptown;
  • The city received 70% of all proceeds; the growers and administrator received 30% to pay for landscaping, a beautiful wrought iron fence all around, security and lighting, benches and chess tables and;
  • Proceeds also paid for a public night market/ farmers market/ art space/ bowling alley or billiards or karaoke boxes in the Newberry across the street;
  • OSA kids and other students learned hands-on how to farm marijuana as well as other beneficial plants including fruit trees and vegetables (on the other 50% of this lot)

Why do I propose this?

Great Depression 2.0 is going to be “L” shaped. Not V shaped or U shaped. The economy will NEVER, EVER return to its pre-2009 state. That outcome is neither possible nor desirable. Richard Bernstein, former chief investment strategist at Merrill Lynch says in Bloomberg Markets (July 2009 issue) that “I don’t think we’re going back to the credit-based global economy that we saw… if one disagrees with that and says we are going back to a credit-driven economy… I strongly doubt that’s going to be the case.”

(Credit aka debt is how we’ve been paying for a lot of things… homes, new cars, ipods, college educations, city budgets, state budgets, federal budget…)

The state of California is in no position to help cities. The federal government needs to cut its own spending. There is no free lunch. The city budget needs all the help it can get. We must depend on ourselves.

Back to basics, people!

We can live without derivative flipping and house flipping, but not water or food or natural resources or energy. Our young people need to learn farming skills for our oil-free future, to grow food.  People’s Grocery could admin the food growing demo garden here.

So there it is. I’m not a pot smoker, not daily weekly nor monthly. This just seems like a common sense proposal to me. It will at minimum teach. At maximum it would provide jobs, green our gray concrete drab downtown, and provide cashflow for essential city services such as water/sewer delivery, pothole repair along essential transit routes (defined as bway/tele/sanpab, e14th/international in my mind), and police/fire services. The way things are going, I can see Oaklanders paying occasional bribes to police within a decade or so, just to receive service. This would offset that.

That’s not what I want to see, but it seems inevitable. We’re not Cambodia yes… yet even Cambodians are making things of value in factories, whereas in Oakland I don’t know that we create very many physical things of value aside from some culinary items, artwork and some music.

So back to planting a useful agricultural crop within the city. This in no way should be a giant, centralized monocrop. That invites pests and lowers soil quality. I’m suggesting a demo project on the Uptown lot to teach everyone else in our region “how it’s done.” Then, people can go dig in the dirt at home and grow hemp there, or grow other things.

Why in Oakland?

We have the brains (experts at Oaksterdam and various cannabis clubs; ag expertise in Davis and Berkeley), money (local buyers, and said purveyors), and the test pilot incubator: cash-strapped City of Oakland, or just the area of Oakland.

It’s probably a reality that the state will legalize growing marijuana and regulating it further for tax reasons, within several years. This is according to Matt who I spoke with at Oaksterdam.

Now, what is the profit potential — does it cover lighting/security costs as well as the other goodies I outlined?

The uptown lot is small: under 60,000 sq ft.

I’d use up to half, or 30,000 sq ft as a hemp demo garden.

The rest would be processing shed, small warehouse, compost pile, education center (rudimentary, thatch roof and that’s it, no water/light); there’d also be a public market space and additional food production.

Hemp Production Estimates
Notes:
$750 gross per hectare for hemp stalk, 1994
$200 per acre for hemp, 120 days, to produce paper
Competes with cotton and wood
Lot size utilization for hemp:
30000 sq ft
equals .27871 hectares
equals .68871 acres
$Production value per harvest
$209.03 hemp stalk (fiber)
$137.74 hemp (paper)

These figures are old, so the production value is likely higher. It doesn’t take into consideration actual “medical marijuana” – these are prices for fiber only.  Then there’s the benefit of not having to truck the stuff down here from Mendocino County of up from Mexico alongside our organic safeway juices. I’d also rather eat hemp cereal from Oakland than nori made in China’s polluted waters.

Before planting ANY “pot” one of the conditions would be for the growers to plant a handful of fruit and nut trees FIRST, since these take years to start producing. I mean, that might be better than receiving no stimulus money at all.

hemp production estimates
$750 gross per hectare for hemp stalk, 1994
$200 per acre for hemp, 120 days, to produce paper
competes with cotton and wood
30000 sq ft $Production value
is .27871 hectares 209.03 hemp stalk (fiber)
is .68871 acres 137.74 hemp (paper)