The Politics of City Revenue

By Arnold J. Meltsner | Go to book overview

2
City Officials and Oakland Finance

In Oakland one has to look hard to find politics. The usual grand drama of political scientists, the electoral battles for office, the conflict of interests and groups, and the disparities between men who seek power and men who have it is muted in a mélange of separate public arenas and private concerns.1 No single factor can explain Oakland's present political scene, but indifference can go a long way. Ask not who rules, but who cares.

When Oakland Project members interviewed the man on the street as to his attitudes about his city, the city turned out to be San Francisco. Besides Oakland's nice climate, it was a convenient location because of its proximity to the "real" city of San Francisco. Oakland as a city does not exist; it is a collection of neighborhoods without community. Indifferent citizens and indifferent party leaders make a great combination. Party activists spend their time on the state or the national scene, not on municipal elections. Incumbents usually get reelected and appointment politics prevails. Coalitions are hard to assemble because groups do not exist or may not know each other. The savvy political actors on the Oakland scene, the black activists for the

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1
Given the division of labor on the Oakland Project, I will not fully describe Oakland's political system. The following brief introductory comments are based on the many discussions which the Oakland Project has had in trying to understand the complexities of a "nonpolitical" political system. Readers who wish an in-depth analysis should see the work of Jeffrey Pressman, particularly "The Non-Politics of Non-Leadership in Oakland", draft manuscript ( Berkeley: Oakland Project, University of California, October 1969).

-49-

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The Politics of City Revenue
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • The Oakland Project vii
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Revenue Sources 12
  • 2 - City Officials And Oakland Finance 49
  • 3 - The Revenue Process And Public Avoidance 86
  • 4 - The Sewer Service Charge 132
  • 5 - Budgeting Without Money 161
  • 6 - Citizen-Leader Perceptions Of Oakland Finance 186
  • 7 - Politics, Policy, And City Revenue 248
  • Appendix 287
  • Bibliography 289
  • Index 297
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