Our phones buzzed at 6:20 AM with a message, “What a beautiful morning to #defundopd!” Then came another promising donuts! It was time to paint the People’s Budget in front of Lake Merritt for the city to see how Oaklanders actually want our money spent.

Image Description: Volunteers wearing masks painting the ground and chatting with in front of the Lakeview Library in Oakland, shaded by trees under a clear blue sky.

What’s the People’s Budget?

The People’s Budget Amendment is the Community Democracy Project’s campaign to put Oakland residents in charge of the city budget through participatory budgeting.

In response to the city council’s failure to listen to the demands of thousands of people to invest in Black Lives, we’d hosted a F*ck Your Budget Assembly the day before. Nine badass guest speakers led a fishbowl conversation with 100+ attendees, and we invited our fellow residents to build their own budgets

Image Description: Photos of Fuck Your Budget Guest Speakers from Centro Legal, Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, Repaired Nations, Anti Police-Terror Project, Community Democracy Project, Melanated Social Work, and People’s Community Medics

This morning, we painted the results from the all budgets submitted:

Image description: Painted on the ground, a bar graph of the Oakland People’s Budget compared with the 2021 City Budget. The police bar of the People’s Budget is much smaller than the City Budget. The People’s Budget bars for housing, human services, library, parks & rec, race & equity are much larger than the City Budget bars.

Image description: Bar graph of the mock budget survey results showing an 11x (44% to 4%) decrease in police funding with that money redistributed to other departments. See most current results.

See the People’s Budget Survey most current results.

Image Description: Upside down city department names painted on brick, “Police, Fire, Housing, Human Svcs, Library…”

Before we began, three legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild met us in front of the iconic Pergola pillars that open onto the lake. They stayed and assessed the arrest-risk for us, ready to protect our free speech rights .

Image description: Legal observers, in masks and neon green National Lawyers Guild hats

The legal observers read the vibe: clear blue skies, a turnt up #BlackLivesMatter playlist, a tai-chi class, and kiddos all around. They concluded that our action was relatively low-risk but they stayed a while longer just in case.

Image description: Two parents and a small child reading “HELLA PEOPLE POWER” painted on the ground.

We’d deliberated for weeks about what to paint! Pie chart or bar chart? The complete budget or the top 5 departments? Rainbow colors or A’s colors? Percentages or dollar amounts?

We wanted to show how the People’s Budget reflects our values so much more than the current city budget does. The People’s Budget results showed people in Oakland cared about each other, by decreasing funding for police and increasing funding for services and departments that help our communities.

Image description: Paper print-out of bar graph grid under an orange traffic cone

We decided to paint bar graphs that show the current city budget, side-by-side with the People’s Budget. As we worked, so many folks stopped to offer their support, and some even jumped in to help!

Image description: Painters in masks sit/stand 6 feet apart from each other show-casing their artwork!

Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles also created a budget survey recently. It’s no surprise that their mock budget assembly came up with similar results, moving the majority of police funding to community services and departments!

Image Description: Pie chart of BLM-LAs budget priorities (45.61% universal aid and crisis management, 27.61% built environment, 25.06% reimagined community safety, 1.64% law enforcement and policing)

At the end of the day, we realized that we’d bought way too much paint. But the streets of Oakland are a canvas for all of our collective creativity. Where do you want to see #PeoplesBudget painted next?

Image description: Masked person on knees painting “Race & Equity” on the ground.

Take the survey to ensure your vote is counted before we paint the next People’s Budget! 

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