Oakland Homeowner Files Lawsuit against Measure Y

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday April 11, 2008

An Oakland education and labor attorney has filed a California Superior Court lawsuit against the City of Oakland and its recent decision to spend $7.7 million of Measure Y money on police recruitment, asking that the court immediately halt the collection of Measure Y taxes until the original community policing mandates of the bond measure are met. 

Marleen L. Sacks, an Oakland homeowner and a senior counsel with the Pleasanton Office of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo law firm, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday on her own behalf. 

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said they had no comment, and a spokesperson for the Oakland City Attorney’s office said the office had not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit as of Wednesday and could not comment on it. 

The first hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for May 29 in Alameda County Superior Court. 

Last month, in order to meet Mayor Ron Dellums’ ambitious State of the City promise of fully staffing the Oakland Police Department by the end of the year to its authorized 803 officer strength, the Oakland City Council approved a proposal by Dellums and Police Chief Wayne Tucker to spend $7.7 million in Measure Y violence prevention bond money to run simultaneous police training academies, fund a recruitment advertising blitz, and cut red tape in the hiring approval process. Dellums had said at the time that the police augmentation plan was the only way to fully implement the Measure Y police hiring mandates. 

But in an e-mail press release announcing her lawsuit, Sacks called the $7.7 million expenditure “ill conceived and hastily drawn” and a “raid on Measure Y funds” because it is a general police recruiting measure, and not specifically targeted to hire Measure Y police officers. Among other things, the 2004 bond measure authorized the hiring of 63 new police officers—57 of them “problem solving officers” (PSOs) to be assigned to each of Oakland’s police beats—but only 40 of those PSOs have been hired.  

The lawsuit also asks for reimbursement to Measure Y of past money taken by the city to fund police academies “that resulted in no additional Measure Y officers.” 

Sacks has been considering filing a Measure Y lawsuit for months, well before the plans were announced for the $7.7 police augmentation program. Last November, in response to a San Francisco Chronicle column by Chip Johnson about concerns by Oakland residents over crime and violence in the city, the paper printed a story of e-mail responses by Oakland citizens. 

Among them was an e-mail from Sacks that read, “I’m really starting to think that filing a lawsuit for failing to implement Measure Y may be the only way to get their attention. The city is collecting $20 million a year based on the promise that they are totally not keeping. It is outrageous that we keep having to pay the tax and are not getting any of the benefits.”