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