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Alameda County Grand Jury calls out supervisors

Uploaded: Jul 15, 2019

It's good to see one branch of government doing its job.

The Alameda County Grand Jury issued its annual report last month and ripped multiple government agencies for decisions, meddling and mismanagement.

It cited three members of the county Board of Supervisors (Keith Carson, Richard Valle and Wilma Chan) for voting to end the Urban Shield anti-terrorist training program that involved many jurisdictions over 12 counties. The three supervisors kowtowed to a small and vocal group of anti-law-enforcement activists who wanted the training modified to disaster preparedness.

It was paid for with a federal homeland security grant so that grant was withdrawn because the supervisors' motion did not allow the county to meet the terms of the grant. This was known before the vote, but the three went ahead and pleased the activists -- and left county and Bay Area residents less safe because of it.

There's a reason that the military drills all the time to prepare in case they are called into battle. It's no different for law enforcement, particularly when confronted with events that are outside of their normal experience.

The Grand Jury also appropriately took the Oakland Unified School District to task for its continued mismanagement of the finances. The report says the district spends less than the average amount on students compared to statewide averages while spending way more on administrators, central office staff, contractors and consultants. It also cites major problems with construction management and oversight.

Last year, the board halted nine building projects after cost overruns soared more than $160 million, according to the report. Before settling its teachers' strike last year, the district faced projected deficits of $9 million (midyear cuts reduced that number), $6.4 million in the current fiscal year and $15 million in 2020-21.

The expense of settling the teachers' strike with healthy raises exacerbated the shortfalls in the out-years.

The district has needed a top-to-bottom overhaul for decades, but it has suffered from poor board and senior staff leadership. It receives about 125% of the statewide average per student revenue so the money is there. It's how it's being spent that's at the core, as the Grand Jury pointed out for the second year in a row.

Perhaps, in Oakland's case, the best solution for students would be a state takeover that can establish fiscal discipline and truly put students first.