The Oakland City Council voted 7-1 shortly after 2 a.m. today to approve a controversial measure to hire former New York and Los Angeles police chief William Bratton as a consultant to provide advice to the Oakland Police Department.
The vote came after nearly four hours of public comment on both sides of the issue and more than 45 minutes of discussion by council members as well as Mayor Jean Quan. The council's chambers were packed as were four overflow rooms elsewhere at City Hall.
The measure expands upon an existing contract with
Massachusetts-based Strategic Policy Partnership, which is headed by Robert Wasserman, the former chief of staff of the Office of National Drug control Policy under President Clinton.
City Administrators entered into a $99,000 contract with the partnership last fall and today's vote increases it to $250,000 to pay for
the services of Bratton and several other police experts.
After the council voted to approve expanding the contract and hiring Bratton, it then began considering three other crime-fighting measures.
One measure calls for hiring 11 Alameda County sheriff's deputies for up to 180 days at a cost of up to $265,000 to work ten-hour shifts twice a week on violence suppression efforts in East and West Oakland.
Another measure calls for funding an additional police academy to start in September that would train new officers. The additional academy
would supplement a police academy that began last fall and a second academy that will begin in March.
The third measure would hire 20 police service technicians at a cost of $1.5 million to be assigned to field duty as well as one crime lab
Oakland had as many as 837 police officers four years ago, but Police Chief Howard Jordan said earlier this week that it has only 613 and he
would like to have 1,000 officers.
According to Mayor Quan's spokesman Sean Maher, the three additional crime-fighting measures were approved early this morning.
Many of the more than 100 speakers who addressed the council at their lengthy meeting said they oppose the appointment of Bratton because they believe he supports aggressive police measures including one commonly called "stop and frisk."
But Jordan told the council that, "There's no discussion of using stop and frisk and I don't support it."
Adam Blueford, the father of 18-year-old Alan Blueford, who was fatally shot by an Oakland police officer in a confrontation last May 6, told
the council, "This stop and frisk will blow up in your face" and predicted that more young people such as his son will be killed by police.
"I'm speaking against Bill Bratton and stop and frisk," Blueford said.
But Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Baptist Church, which is located in East Oakland, said, "It's a war zone and we need a Bill Bratton and I support the chief (Jordan.)"
Jackson said the four crime-fighting measures represent "the help we desperately need in Oakland because young black and brown boys are getting killed."
He said, "Desperate times require desperate measures and we're desperate."
City Councilwoman Libby Schaaf said the four anti-crime measures "work as a comprehensive whole."
However, she admitted that, "They won't solve Oakland's crime problems overnight" and are only "a six-month fix" until the council votes on a new budget in June that could bring more help to the city's understaffed Police Department.
The lone council member to vote against expanding the contract with the Strategic Policy Partnership and hiring Bratton was Councilwoman Desley Brooks.
Supporters of California's ban on same-sex marriage told the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday that defining marriage is a states' rights matter and
that Californians' choice of a traditional definition in 2008 should be honored.
"The definition of marriage has always been understood to be the virtually exclusive province of the states," the sponsors of Proposition 8 wrote in a brief submitted to the high court.
"And we submit that countless Californians of good will have opted in good faith to preserve the traditional definition of marriage because they believe it continues to meaningfully serve important societal interests," the sponsors said.
Proposition 8, enacted by 52 percent of voters in November 2008, amended the state Constitution to provide that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
The initiative's sponsors and their committee, Protect Marriage, are asking the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in San Francisco last year that the measure violated the federal Constitution.
The appeals court said that because same-sex marriage was legal in California for several months in 2008 before Proposition 8 was passed, it was unconstitutional for the measure to withdraw that right for no reason other than animosity toward homosexuals.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the appeal on March 26 and is due to issue a decision by the end of June.
The sponsors outlined their claims in an opening brief filed Tuesday.
Two couples who challenged Proposition 8 in a civil rights lawsuit and the city of San Francisco have a Feb. 21 deadline for filing a response. The sponsors have until March 19 to submit a reply.
The 9th Circuit ruling has been put on hold and Proposition 8 has remained in effect until the high court rules.
Nine states and the District of Columbia now allow gay and lesbian marriage while 41 others have prohibited it through laws or state constitutional amendments.
The Proposition 8 supporters' brief says the nation is currently engaged in a "great debate" and that the high court "should allow the public
debate regarding marriage to continue through the democratic process, both in California and throughout the nation."
The filing contends the purpose of the initiative was not to dishonor gays and lesbians.
Instead, the sponsors say, it was reasonable for California voters to believe that restricting marriage to male-female unions will "increase the
likelihood that children will be born and raised in stable and enduring family units by their own mothers and fathers."
In another section of the brief, the sponsors, answering a question posed by the Supreme Court, argue they had the legal authority to step in to defend the measure in court after Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Kamala Harris declined to do so.