City Hall and Frank Ogawa Plaza. August 11, 2020. Photo: Pete Rosos

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The Oakland City Council’s Finance and Management and Public Safety committees meet on Monday and Tuesday this week, respectively. They’ll hear updates on the city’s “vacancy rate”—the percent of unfilled city jobs—and consider an ordinance to prohibit testing and punishing city employees for off-the-job cannabis use. 

Vacancy update: The latest city staffing report, which will be presented to the Finance and Management Committee Monday, shows there’s 584 full-time city positions paid for in the current budget but empty, a vacancy rate of 12%. That’s not far off from previous reports. But the city, like other government agencies, are seeing fewer applications per job posting. It’s been particularly difficult to hire accountants, engineers, police officers, and building inspectors, Ian Appleyard, the city’s director of human resources management, noted in the report. Turnover is highest in the police department. This past fiscal year, 100 police employees left, including 32 retirements and 50 resignations. However, the staff reported noted, the number of resignations were similar to the prior year. The city is also working to fill open positions in the Department of Violence Prevention, and the critical job of a homelessness administrator. 

The Finance Committee meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. You can access the hearing here

Pot tests: Before the Public Safety Committee on Tuesday is a draft ordinance that would prohibit the city from testing prospective or current employees for off-the-job cannabis use. Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s proposal would make it so the only time the city would test employees for cannabis is when the federal government requires it. All non-fire department commercial drivers are subject to random drug testing under federal Department of Transportation regulations. The ordinance, if passed, would not apply to testing requirements found in labor contracts. Firefighters, for instance, under their current contract undergo a drug test as part of annual physical examinations, and are subject to testing “for cause,” like in the event of an on-duty vehicle crash where intoxication might have been a factor. The proposal is similar to a bill Assemblymember Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, introduced earlier this year. 

OPD staffing: At the public safety meeting, the City Administrator’s Office will also provide an update on staffing at OPD. Over the past several weeks, city staff and the City Council have monitored the number of sworn police officers to ensure that staffing does not fall below 678 officers. Under a 2014 voter-approved parcel tax, the city is legally not allowed to collect revenue from the tax if the number of officers dips below that level. Most Measure Z funding goes to the police department but the tax also provides millions in funding to the fire department and violence prevention programs. 

FBI and CHP: Two men have been shot and killed over the past year and a half in East Oakland by officers from agencies outside of Oakland. California Highway Patrol officers shot and killed 23-year-old Erik Salgado in June 2020. In September, a FBI agent fatally shot Michael Jonathan Cortez inside a Fruitvale District corner store. Both incidents have caused controversy and raised questions over the presence of outside law enforcement agencies in Oakland. City administration this week will give councilmembers an update on what agencies operate in Oakland, and whether there are any contracts that use public dollars to support those agencies. 

The Public Safety Committee meeting begins at 1 p.m. on Tuesday and can be accessed here

David DeBolt reports on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2012 where he covered a variety of beats, most recently as a senior breaking news reporter. During his time at BANG, DeBolt covered Oakland City Hall, the Raiders stadium saga and the A’s search for a new ballpark, as well as the Oakland Police Department and police reform efforts. He was part of the East Bay Times staff honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.