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The Community Democracy Project wrote a voter Initiative to amend the City Charter of Oakland. The initiative requires one fifth of registered voters in Oakland to sign a petition to put the initiative up to a city-wide vote. 

Full Text (2012-2013)

[Text of the proposed Oakland voter Initiative as of January 2013 (more info on at]





This measure would amend the City Charter to require that the City of Oakland implement and maintain
a “Democratic Budgeting Program.”

Democratic Budgeting Program.
The Democratic Budgeting Program promotes active citizenship, community learning, and direct 
democracy by providing the residents of Oakland a governing process that allows participating residents 
to collectively determine how the budget of the City of Oakland is allocated through participation in the 
Neighborhood Assemblies and Citywide Committees designated herein.

PROPOSED TEXT OF INITIATIVE: Proposed Charter Amendment -- Oakland City Charter, Section 801 and 
New Section 813 under Article VIII.

Article VIII-Fiscal Administration
Section 801. Budget
Amendment: Each department, office and agency of the City shall provide to Democratic Budget 
Program (hereafter, DBP) personnel, officers, and Neighborhood Assemblies (NAs), in the form and at 
the time directed by the Mayor and City Administrator all information required by them to develop a 
budget conforming to modern budget practices and procedures as well as specific information, which 
may be prescribed by the Council. Under the direction of the Mayor and Council, the City Administrator 
shall prepare budget recommendations for the succeeding fiscal year. The Mayor shall present said 
budget recommendations to both the City Council and to the Congress of Directors. Following City 
Council Budget Hearings, Neighborhood Assembly Meetings, and Citywide Committee workshops, a 
public vote shall be conducted pursuant to Section 813 below, in which voters shall select either the 
original budget recommendations as prepared by the City Administrator under the direction of the 
Mayor and the Council, or the budget recommendations prepared by the Citywide Committees under 
the direction of participants in the Neighborhood Assemblies. The City Council shall adopt the budget of 
expenditures and appropriations as voted by the public for the ensuing year.

Section 813. Democratic Budget Program

This article establishes the Democratic Budget Program (DBP). The DBP is subordinate only to the 
Residents of Oakland; the DBP is on the same organizational level as the City Attorney, Mayor, City 
Council, and City Auditor. Residents of Oakland shall be able to determine how the city’s budget is 
allocated through a direct vote at Neighborhood Assemblies designated in this article.

I. The Democratic Budget Program Fund

(1) The annual budget for the DBP is initially equivalent to at least $2.55 million in 2012 dollars, to be 
adjusted in accordance with the inflation index. For the first five years, the COD can adjust line item 
levels upwards. After that point, the budget shall be subject to the standard budgeting process. Initially, 
the budget must include the following line items at the following levels.

Table 1 [continues on next page]




Item Percentage of total DBP budget
Salaries and benefits 51%

Neighborhood Assembly budgets


Training and leadership development, for 

directors, organizers and coordinators 


Office and administrative expenses, including 

rent and mailing 

TOTAL 100%

(2) Salaries and benefits.

The following are floor amounts and can be adjusted upward by the COD.

a) Coordinators
Coordinators are FTEs compensated at least the following amount, in 2012 dollars to be
adjusted in accordance with the inflation index, plus benefits equivalent to $25,000 annually, in
2012 dollars to be adjusted in accordance with the inflation index.

Salary: $25 -33 hourly
$4,000-5,280 monthly
$48,000-63,360 annually

b) Organizers
Assuming a .5 FTE, Organizers are compensated at least the following amount, in 2012 dollars to
be adjusted in accordance with the inflation index, plus benefits equivalent to $12,000 annually,
in 2012 dollars to be adjusted in accordance with the inflation index.

Salary: $25 - 33 hourly
$2,000-2,645 monthly
$24,000 - 31,740 annually

II. Formation of the DBP
(1) District Launch Assemblies
Within thirty days after passing the initiative, the City Clerk’s office must notify all residents of Oakland 
of District Launch Assemblies, including a call for candidates for the Coordinator positions, and basic 
information about the DBP. The District Launches must be held within (10)ten weeks of passing the 
initiative. The City Clerk shall coordinate with the DBP Campaign Coalition and city departments 
(including but not limited to Neighborhood Services) to delegate responsibilities for planning, 
facilitating, and securing locations for the District Launch Assemblies. Decision-making at District 
Assemblies require a quorum of 75 district residents aged 16 and over.

a) Election of coordinators: Coordinators are chosen by majority vote. Coordinators for each 
Council District will be chosen by eligible voters in that district. All eligible voters are eligible to 
run. Interested parties must submit their petition for candidacy no later than three weeks after




notification of the District Launch Assemblies, accompanied by thirty signatures from eligible 
voters in their district. Votes are cast at the District Launch Assemblies in a manner determined 
and facilitated by the DBP campaign coalition.

b) DBP Campaign Coalition: The organizational representatives and community leaders that 
comprise the DBP initiative campaign coalition, plus any other organizations or community 
leaders they appoint to the Coalition.

c) Hiring of Organizers: Solicitations for applicants to the Organizer positions occurs at the 
District Launch Assemblies , facilitated by the DBP campaign coalition. Organizers must be hired 
by Coordinators within one month of the District Launch Assemblies. Coordinators must also 
notify all district residents of the Organizer position openings.

d) Deadlines and Consequences: If notification deadlines described in this section are not met, 
the City Administrator and City Council shall be docked in daily pay for each day of delay. These 
funds will be transferred to the DBP Fund.

(2) Neighborhood Launch Assemblies
Within four weeks after the District Launch Assembly, the City Clerk’s office must notify all residents of
Oakland of the Neighborhood Launch Assemblies including a call for candidates for Director positions 
and Neighborhood Launch assignments by geographic area. Notification must occur by mail, phone, 
or face to face contact. Organizers-- once they are hired--shall assist in informing residents. The
Neighborhood Launch Assembly must be held within seven weeks of the District Launch Assemblies. 
Coordinators will work with the appropriate City offices and the DBP campaign coalition to determine 
locations and any other logistics for the Neighborhood Launch Assemblies.

NA boundaries and Directors are determined at Neighborhood Launch Assemblies within each NCPC. 
To make these decisions, a minimum of seventy five residents who meet the definition of a “voting 
member” must be present at each Neighborhood Launch. Decisions at Neighborhood Launch Assemblies 
will be made by majority vote.

a)Determination of NA boundaries: Each Neighborhood Launch Assembly will receive a map of 
their NCPC. Coordinators will determine and facilitate a process by which participants will divide 
the NCPC district into NAs of 3000-5000 people each. The final NA boundaries must be decided 
by majority vote.

b) Election of directors: Any voting member of an NA may run for the position of Director. 
Within 2 weeks after notification of the Neighborhood Launch Assembly, interested parties 
must submit their petition for candidacy and 20 signatures from eligible voters in their Council 
District. The Directors for each NA will be chosen as follows: candidates who received the first 
and second most votes will be appointed for a three year term; the remaining three candidates 
who receive the highest number of votes will be appointed for a two year term.This is to ensure 
that after the first two years of implementing the DBP, the terms of at least two experienced 
Directors will always overlap with the terms of newly elected Directors.

III. Neighborhood Assemblies

(1) Size
Neighborhood Assembly (NA) boundaries are based on the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council




(NCPC) districts as of June 2012. The NCPC districts will be subdivided into NAs of 3,000-5,000 people. 
The subdivision boundaries will be determined by Neighborhood Launch Assemblies in each NCPC (see 
above). The Congress of Directors may propose changes to the following: NA boundaries; and minimum 
and maximum population thresholds for NAs. Proposals will be voted on by NAs at the time of the 
citywide budget vote in June.

(2) Meetings
NAs will hold meetings at least ten times per year during ten different months. The first NA meetings 
shall be held within one month of the Neighborhood Launch Assemblies. The meetings will be open to 
the public and publicized among residents of the NA. Coordinators must oversee the following public 
notification practices: (a) mailings and/or other forms of messaging such as email or text messages to 
NA residents at least one week prior to a meeting and two weeks prior to a city wide budget election; b) 
meeting notification posted online. Each meeting will last at least two hours, with at least one half hour 
devoted to information sharing and discussion of city departments and the budget. Meeting minutes will 
be accessible online. Additional topics of meetings may include but are not limited to general political, 
cultural, and educational matters--discussions, presentations, trainings, and performances.

a) Budget vote meetings
Once per year, at a meeting to take place in the first two weeks of June, NAs will host a vote on 
the city budget.

(3) Voting Members
The voting members of an NA are the residents of the NA boundary who are aged 16 years or older and 
who are in attendance at an NA meeting. Proof of residence may be no more or less stringent than that 
used in acquiring a membership at an Oakland library. In order to vote on the city budget at the June 
meeting, NA members must have attended at least two prior meetings of any NA during the preceding 

(4) Neighborhood Assembly Decision-Making Process
A quorum of thirty voting members is required for decision making in an NA. Voting members of NAs 
will make decisions based upon a majority vote, amendable later by the NA itself. Examples of decision- 
making include but are not limited to electing directors, putting forth a proposal to any committee, or 
creating a committee or subcommittee. An opportunity for deliberation is required before voting.

5) Directors

a) Election of Directors Following Inaugural Year
The voting members of each NA will elect between three and five directors to collaboratively 
administer the NA. In all subsequent elections after the inaugural year, all Directors shall be
limited to serving two-year terms and are eligible to serve multiple, non-consecutive terms. 
Individuals interested in serving as Directors must first gather twenty signatures from residents 
who live within the NA boundary supporting their nomination. NA voting members will elect
new Directors by majority vote at the end of an exiting Director’s term, which will fall in the 
same month in which they were elected.

b) Duties
Directors perform various facilitation duties, including but not limited to setting NA meeting 
agendas, scheduling dates and securing locations for NA meetings; publicizing meetings, roll-
taking of meeting participants, leading NA decision-making processes, such as NA voting




systems, or stewardship of the NA Operating Funds and purchasing supplies for each meeting.

c) Training and Leadership Development
The TLD of Directors shall focus on two categories: leadership and local knowledge. Leadership 
training includes but is not limited to building skills in facilitation and group decision-making, 
communication and outreach, management, and organization. Local knowledge includes but is 
not limited to increasing understanding of current and historical cultural and economic trends in 
Oakland, the functioning of City departments, and issues impacting Oakland’s budget.

(6) NA Budget
Each NA is allocated a minimum of $7,560 per year (i.e. $630 per month) in 2012 dollars, adjusted for 
inflation, for meeting supplies and outreach materials. All funds not spent by the end of the fiscal year 
will be transferred back to the Democratic Budget Program Fund (DBPF).

(7) Neighborhood Assembly Education
The same financial information provided to city council and the mayor for the proper allocation of the 
budget shall be extended to DBP personnel, officers, and NAs.

(8) Location
The City of Oakland shall subsidize or make available at least one space that can accommodate a 
minimum of 100 people each month for each participating NA. Directors are responsible for identifying 
and securing locations. The location shall meet the accessibility standards of public meetings (ADA).

IV. Personnel for Democratic Budgeting Program

The DBP shall be supported by two categories of paid personnel: Coordinators and Organizers. DBP 
personnel are city staff and entitled to all of the rights and responsibilities afforded thereto.

One Coordinator shall be hired per council district, and they shall have jurisdiction over that district. 
Following the first year of the program (See “District Launch Assemblies”), Coordinators will be hired 
by the Directors of NAs in their district. Coordinators must live within the district in which they are 
hired. Coordinators shall promote the DBP to the public; serve as liaisons between NAs and city officials; 
ensure the popular education about the budget and city departments to the NAs; hire and oversee the 
work of Organizers; support the work of the Directors; support the leadership development of Directors; 
maintain the DBP’s web presence and databases; and administer NA budgets to Directors within their 
jurisdiction. In their role as liaison between city departments and residents, Coordinators shall ensure 
that educational and informational materials are appropriately and sufficiently prepared for NAs. In 
addition to administering the DBP fund, Coordinators shall produce a quarterly financial report to be 
made publicly available, and submit it to the Congress of Directors. The Coordinators must prepare basic 
introductory information about the budget process to be presented at the first NAs by Directors, local 
volunteers, and members of the DBP Campaign Coalition. Coordinators are city staff and are entitled to 
all of the rights and responsibilities afforded thereto.

(2) Organizers
The Coordinators shall hire three Organizers per council district. The Organizers work initially half-
time, in collaboration with the Coordinators. (The number of Organizers and their weekly work-time 
are adjustable upwards at the discretion of the COD.) Organizers support the NAs within their district




by performing outreach within their district, with a special emphasis on NA areas with lower rates of 
participation. Their tasks include door-to-door outreach, presentations to community groups, use of 
social media and other organizing methods to inform people in the community of NA activities, decisions 
and meeting agendas; conducting polls and surveys; helping organize the election process for NA 
Directors. Organizers may be called to assist with support for the CWCs and the COD, or under special 
circumstances as determined by the Coordinators or the COD. Organizers may be deployed outside their 
district. Organizers are paid an annual salary and benefits as delineated in the section on the DBP Fund. 
They are hired for year-long contracts. Organizers must be residents of Oakland. Preference is given 
to residents of the district for the position of Organizer. The contract of an Organizer is automatically 
renewed unless at the year-end review, the COD recommends against rehiring. If organizers are part of 
a union, the evaluation process and any firing or other changes to employment that result must comply 
with the union’s just cause for discipline clause.

V: Congress of Directors

The executive of the DBP is the Congress of Directors (COD) or any duly appointed committee 

(1) Function
The COD is made up of all NA Directors. It meets at least twice a year. All Directors are expected to 
attend or to send a surrogate. The COD's functions include: 1) receiving, compiling, and preparing for 
vote proposals from NAs that have to do with changing how the DBP works; 2) overseeing the DBP staff; 
3) collection and redeployment of leftover funds from the NAs; 4) amending as desired any amendable 
portions of the DBP that do not require a vote of the NAs; 5) reviewing the overall DBP budget; 6) 
overseeing the overall functioning of the DBP, including the citywide votes; 7) facilitate the exchange of 
information between City Departments and the NAs. To perform its tasks the COD may direct staff or 
form empowered committees of the whole as needed.
(2) COD decision-making
COD will make decisions based upon a majority vote, amendable later by the COD. Meetings will be
open to the public.
(3) Amending the DBP
Unless specifically stated, all such changes may be decided by the COD. The other sort of changes which 
require citywide vote work just like program specific proposals, except that such proposals go to the 
COD instead of to a CWC. These items are voted on at the same time as the City budget. Directors must 
meet together at least twice a year. One meeting shall occur prior to the city budget vote in June to vote 
on proposals to amend administrative tasks outlined in this article, or proposals to amend the funding 
of a given NA. In this meeting prior to June, Directors will also compile proposals intended to amend the 
process of the DBP and place these proposals on the ballot for the city budget vote in June.

VI: Citywide Committees

The purpose of Citywide Committees (CWCs) is to receive and synthesize department-specific program 
proposals from NAs, and to make proposals regarding the disposal of special (i.e. non-general) funds. 
CWCs make monthly reports to NAs.

A CWC for a given department is convoked once one of the following occurs: 1) at least one NA in each 
City Council District approves a proposal specifically focused on that department, or 2) some set of




Directors collectively representing NAs in each City Council District calls for the formation of such a 
CWC. Once convoked, a CWC exists throughout the year, and in perpetuity unless the COD votes to 
dissolve it.

(2) Composition and Meetings
CWCs are comprised of up to one delegate (and one backup delegate who will attend the CWC if 
the main delegate is unable to) elected by each NA, and up to one delegate from the appropriate 
City Department. Elections for CWC delegates are held every two years. CWC delegates can serve a 
maximum of four consecutive terms. Quorum consists of at least 7 NA delegates. A CWC votes according 
to majority rule, until and unless it decides to change its voting procedure to require a higher threshold 
of agreement. CWCs meet at least once every two months. Their meetings are public in accordance 
with the usual meeting rules for deliberative bodies. The work of the CWCs is supported by DBP staff. 
The City shall make available space for the meetings of the CWCs. Departments are expected to share 
any and all information they currently share with the Mayor, City Administrator and City Council as 
pertaining to the development of the budget with the CWCs.

(3) Department-Specific Program Proposals
Throughout the year, a CWC receives proposals from NAs regarding the specific budget for their 
Department. A voting member of an NA may submit a proposal on matters impacting the budget of 
a specific department to be passed by the NA with majority approval. Approved proposals will then 
be submitted to the appropriate Citywide Committee. The CWC reviews the proposals it receives and 
selects from and synthesizes those proposals into a single Departmental Program Proposal (DPP) to be 
submitted to the COD along with any explanatory materials. The COD will submit all such CWC proposals 
to vote at the yearly NA budget vote. The departments are encouraged to collaborate with the CWCs 
and may develop a joint budget proposal to be voted upon in the manner below.

(4) Special Funds Proposals
The CWC makes recommendations to the COD regarding the use of special funds for their department. 
The COD receives all such proposals from the CWCs and synthesizes them into a package to be voted on 
at the yearly NA budget vote. (See the section on the budget vote.)

VII. City Budget Vote

All aspects of the City budget heretofore decided by the City Council and Mayor are hereby decided by 
residents of Oakland in accordance with the process herein.

(1) Budget for the City Budget Vote
A budget in the amount required to hold an election for 20,000 voters shall be set aside for the annual 
budget vote. The COD may adjust that amount as needed. Any unused funds shall expire.

(2) Eligibility
All voting members who have attended at least two prior NA meetings during the current fiscal year may 
vote on the city budget. Participation of one NA in each council district is required for a citywide vote to 
occur. If this quorum is not met, the budget is decided by City Council.

(3) Ballot Distribution and Voting Procedure
Voting on the budget is to occur during a one week period in June. Copies of the ballot are to be




distributed no later than third week in May. During the allotted one-week period, each NA must 
convene a special meeting dedicated to the budget vote. Each NA shall serve as a polling place. 
For the purpose of voting on the city budget, all NAs shall have access to the same voting equipment 
and resources provided for other municipal elections. In accordance with state law, there will be a hand 
count of 1% of all ballots.

a) General Funds Allocation
The first section of the ballot will determine the allocation of general funds across all city departments. 
The voters will decide what percentage of the general fund will be allocated to each city department. 
Information on prior year allocations will be included on the ballot, as well as recommendations from 
CWCs and City Council. The function of each department will be briefly summarized on the ballot. 
The final allocation is simply the average of all the votes, with a blank vote counted as a vote to keep 
the amount the same as the prior year. The general funds allocation thus decided goes into effect in the
second calendar year thereafter.

b) Special Funds Allocation 
The second section of the ballot will determine allocation of special (i.e., non-general) funds among the 
City departments. Voters will decide between two allocation packages--i.e. slates combining all special 
funds: the allocation package recommended by the COD (which synthesizes proposals from the CWCs) 
and the allocation package recommended by City Council.

The final result will be the average of the two packages as determined by the proportion of votes for 
each. A vote for both is counted as half a vote for both, and vote for neither is not counted. The general 
funds allocation thus decided goes into effect in the second calendar year thereafter.

c) Departmental Program Vote
The third section of the ballot will determine how the Departments are to spend their funds in the 
following calendar year, given allocations previously determined either via the DBP process or, by 
necessity at the beginning of DBP implementation, via prior City Council procedure. 

For each department, voters will choose between up to two departmental programming proposals 
(DPP) which spell out how the department is to use its funds: a proposal submitted by the appropriate 
CWC and a proposal submitted by the Department staff.

The DPP receiving the majority votes wins. If a CWC does not submit a proposal, the default winner is 
the Departmental staff proposal. A blank vote or an evenly split vote (extremely unlikely as it may be) is 
considered by default to be a vote for the Departmental staff recommendation.