Moving Towards a Moral Budget in Oakland

The Town came closer than ever to passing a People’s Budget in 2019

“A city’s budget is not just an economic or political document. It’s a moral document, a statement of our values and priorities. A moral budget must meet the needs of our community. It must serve and protect the most vulnerable. It must put people above profits. It must encourage all to flourish and reach their potential. It must honor and respect our human rights and dignity.”

-Reverend Lynice Pinkard

This year, the Oakland City Council came closer than ever to adopting a budget that lives up to these ideals. After years of advocacy by Refund Oakland (a sweeping coalition of community and labor organizations, which includes EBASE), the FY 2019-21 budget adopted on June 25th begins to reflect the values of the People of Oakland.

Oakland’s budget protects workers and empowers them to defend their dignity by funding worker education and establishing funding for a Department of Workplace and Employment Standards. All work is sacred and valuable. Workers must be protected and respected in their workplaces, earn living wages, and enjoy other life-sustaining benefits. This year, we won a major victory for workers’ rights by securing sufficient funding for a strong and effectively-staffed Department of Workplace and Employment Standards to protect all workers in Oakland.

Our new budget also invests significantly in affordable housing, addressing homelessness, and preventing displacement. Housing is a fundamental human right. A city that allows thousands of our neighbors to sleep on the streets every night is morally bankrupt. This year’s budget will protect people from displacement and put safe and affordable homes within reach for many unhoused community members.

These strides come none too soon. Oakland is in the grips of a profound crisis: homeless encampments under every overpass, the mass exodus of Black and brown residents forced out by obscene rents, illegal garbage piling high in the flatlands, low-wage workers barely making enough to keep keep food on the table, streets that are more pothole than road, and a scandal-plagued police force that treats our communities like criminals.

Like the budget, this crisis is not just economic or political. It’s moral, borne of decades of divestment from vital services, systematic neglect of flatland neighborhoods, institutional racism, and exploitation. Decades of immoral budgets that have exacerbated displacement, gentrification, inequality, and criminalization year after year.

We commend the City Council for moving towards a moral budget that rises to meet the severity of our current crisis. Oakland is blessed with abundant resources. We have more than enough to meet the needs of every person in our Town. We reject the false framework of scarcity, which pits neighbor against neighbor and keeps us isolated and fearful. It’s long past time that our budget reflected this abundance so we can ensure that every person in Oakland can thrive.

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