Ex-state Senator Don Perata has been spreading false information about the Oakland police union’s pension deal with the city. On the campaign trail and in the official ballot argument against Measure X, the $50 million parcel tax measure, Perata has asserted that there is no deal for cops to pay 9 percent of their pensions if the measure passes. But in an interview today, Oakland police union President Dom Arotzarena said Perata is wrong. “There is a deal,” Arotzarena said. “I sat through the negotiations myself. There’s a signed deal. I even had a vote from the entire membership.”
Arotzarena said that more than 80 percent of the police union membership voted in July for the deal that Perata now says doesn’t exist. “It was a huge vote,” Arotzarena said. “There’s definitely a deal.”
In the official ballot argument in the voter information pamphlet sent to all Oakland voters, Perata states that assertions by city council members that police officers will have to start paying into their pensions if the measure passes “is false.” “He’s wrong,” Arotzarena added.
Arotzarena said his members would have never voted to begin paying 9 percent of their pensions unless the council agreed to put Measure X on the ballot and voters approved it. If voters turn down the measure, the council has voted to lay off 120 more police officers. But if the measure passes, the city will be able to avoid the additional layoffs. The city also will be able to hire eighty new police officers to replace those who were laid off.
However, Arotzarena said the police union does not plan to change its mind about endorsing Perata, even though he has been spreading false information about the election and is strongly opposing a measure that will keep his union from losing 120 more of its members — and allow it to gain eighty back.
Instead, the union has decided to attack one of Perata’s competitors, Councilwoman Jean Quan, for an alleged “flip-flop” on Measure X. Quan voted in July to put the measure on the ballot, but at last week’s Chamber of Commerce debate, she answered “no,’ to a question about whether she “supports” it or not. In late July, Quan told the Express that she voted to put Measure X on the ballot because of the deal reached between the council leadership and the police union. But she also said at the time that didn’t plan to campaign for it and didn't think it will win. She didn’t say at the time, however, whether she would vote for it or not on Election Day. She also did not sign the official ballot argument in favor of the measure. It was signed by Arotzarena and Councilmembers Jane Brunner and Larry Reid, and Mayor Ron Dellums, among others.
Still, it’s clear that Quan could have done a better job publicly explaining her July vote to put Measure X on the ballot when she personally has reservations about it. Over the weekend, she muddied the waters further when she told the San Francisco Chronicle that she planned to vote for the measure, but would not campaign for it, and that she equated the “support” question during the debate with campaigning. It’s a muddled position, no doubt, but is it a flip-flop as Perata and the police union now contend? You decide.
Perata, himself, meanwhile, also has put out conflicting information about taxes and the city’s budget. Throughout the first-half of 2010, he argued strongly for the council to put a measure on the ballot, raising the city’s sales tax by one-half percent. But the council rejected the idea because it would have given Oakland the highest sales tax rate in the region and because sales taxes are regressive. They disproportionately harm low-income residents who spend a much higher percentage of their incomes on items subject to sales taxes, like clothes and household goods.
Yet in the official ballot argument against Measure X, Perata contends that voters should turn down the measure in part because it’s a parcel tax. He said such a tax “places an unfair burden” on low-income residents and seniors. So parcel taxes are “unfair,” but sales taxes aren’t? Again, you decide.