In Oakland, money intended to be used for this being used for that so lights stay on

At a time when Oakland is trying to cure its pothole epidemic, the city is planning to use $2.9 million in state gas tax money to keep its streetlights on, then use what it saves of its own money to stave off cuts in parks and recreation.

It’s a bit of a financial loop-de-loop, but money is money.

Here’s the story, straight from the source.

“Though cranes are rising across the skyline and Oakland’s revenues are growing at a steady rate due to the strong real estate market, the city’s expenses continue to rise faster than revenues,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said in her recent budget statement. “Particularly the cost of medical benefits and pensions — as well as insurance, utilities and fuel costs — are growing at two to three times the rate of inflation and revenue growth.

“These structural problems threaten our ability to deliver core services to Oakland residents, including our youth,” she said.

As a result, Oakland is facing an estimated $25 million deficit in its operating fund this year.

One of the most severe shortfalls is in the city’s Landscaping and Lighting Assessment District, which pays for a number of city services, including street lighting and park recreational facility maintenance.

Revenues collected by the special district, however, haven’t increased for more than 30 years, which has led to a sizable shortfall that could have meant choosing between keeping the city’s streetlights on or cutting into park funds.

Enter the state gas tax.

The mayor is proposing to use the $2.9 million to pay for the street-lighting portion of the shortfall, then use the savings to keep the parks open.

According to Article 19 of the state Constitution, gas tax money is to be used for the “research, planning, construction, improvement, maintenance and operation of public streets and highways (and their related public facilities for nonmotorized traffic).”

Oakland officials feel that gives them the cover to use the tax money to light the streets as well.

“This is a legitimate use of the funds” based on the state controller’s recent guidelines to include the “furnishing of power for street or road lighting and traffic control devices,” mayoral spokesman Justin Berton said.

Even with state road money as backfill, the the city will need to freeze 8 ½ unfilled park worker positions to make ends meet.

So, while the parks will be open, the city will be short workers to maintain them.

As for the roads themselves, Oakland has more than 7,700 open service requests to repair potholes.

In an effort to fix the problem, the city is embarking on a three-year plan to spend a record $100 million on badly needed street repairs.

“The state gas tax provides an incremental $7 million per year that we are directing toward that work,” said Oakland Department of Transportation spokesman Sean Maher.

So with a bit of budget finesse, you should be able to see that pothole before you hit it.

 In Oakland, money intended to be used for this being used for that so lights stay on

Ticket to ride: A San Francisco traffic control supervisor who was handing out a few early morning parking tickets the other day had his city car stolen out from under him.

According to police and Muni reports, Shawn McCormick was on a detail in response to neighborhood complaints about parking on the sidewalk when he pulled up to the 5800 block of Mission Street at about 5:30 a.m. on April 11.

At that time of day, it’s common to leave the car running and the lights on to keep the immediate area well-lit for personal safety.

On this morning, however, as McCormick got out of his city-issued 2013 Toyota Prius and started writing up tickets, a 25- to 30-year-old man in dark pants and a hoodie appeared out of the darkness.

What exactly happened next is unclear. But the upshot is that after a brief struggle, the assailant managed to get in through the passenger side and wind up in the driver’s seat, where he put the car into drive and took off toward Daly City.

The good news is that there was a tracker in the car and police were quickly able to locate it on the 900 block of Huron Avenue.

The bad news is that it had crashed into a parked car.

And the hooded car thief was long gone.

“Incidents like these have been a common occurrence on our front-line employees, which is why we have been moving forward with initiatives to help keep them as safe as possible,” Muni spokesman Paul Rose said.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Phillip Matier appears Sundays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX-TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call 415-777-8815, or email pmatier@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @philmatier

Article source: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/philmatier/article/In-Oakland-money-intended-to-be-used-for-this-13827090.php

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