Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 21, 2017

Chief Paul Rolleri: Collision course correction

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

It’s been four years since Lauren asked me to write a guest blog while she enjoys some vacation . At that time, I was a brand new interim police chief, and decided to write about traffic issues. I thought about changing the topic, but I wasn’t able to avoid it. Four years later, despite all of the national conversations about policing, traffic still remains at the top of the list of concerns in Alameda. At least with the people who take the time to write to me. It is rare for a week to go by without receiving several email complaints about a lack of enforcement or an increase in collisions. Oh, and I should acknowledge that some people write or call to complain that we do too much enforcement.

So, what has happened since my last blog? Overall, our collision totals have been dropping. There has been a 22.5% decrease in the total number of collisions from 2005 compared to 2016. The drop has been less incremental in the past few years, but it’s still encouraging and moving in the right direction. There are several reasons for that, and APD cannot take all the credit. The Alameda Peeps group began their “Slow Down in Town” campaign, which I believe has been very successful in bringing extra awareness to the motoring public. Several Peeps volunteered to be trained to operate a traffic radar gun and report speeding vehicles to APD, which generated hundreds of written warning letters. Our Traffic Unit, while short staffed, has done an admirable job of conducting numerous directed enforcement efforts that concentrate on speeders and pedestrian right of way violations.

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July 20, 2017

Jeff DelBono: What the heck is WETA?

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

Once upon a time, there was a man who flew his helicopter across the bay from Marin to Bay Farm Island right after the Loma Prieta earthquake. As he flew across the water he thought about the way the Bay Area was made of small economies, all surrounded by water. He also thought about the bridges that offered the only connection between the areas, and how fragile they could be in an earthquake. If the bridges break, the region becomes paralyzed. The man wondered why we weren’t utilizing the largest natural resource to move people around the area during and after an emergency like a major earthquake. How were people going to get back to work to keep the economy active?

The man explained his vision to a senator who wrote a bill, which created the Water Emergency Transportation Authority. WETA’s original purpose was to restore previously discontinued ferry service in the bay. The infrastructure funding for these ferries came from the state but it wasn’t long before the need for ongoing revenue became apparent. Through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) a percentage of the bridge toll money began being given to WETA in an ongoing plan to operate services. There is very little regional tax money and ticket sales only account for a very small portion of operational cost. Additionally included in the original language of the bill, if there is not a 40% recovery on cost from ticket sales, MTC has the right to pull the funding for the route and it will be discontinued.

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July 19, 2017

Gray Harris: Remember when things were public?

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

I was lucky enough to travel to Utah a few weeks ago in my new (to me) fifth wheel trailer. If you’ve never been to Bryce Canyon, I highly recommend that you go walk among the hoodoo rock formations or visit any of the other national parks that our forefathers had the wisdom to preserve for future use by the public. We sometimes need to be reminded that we are all part of the public and benefitting from our public services as often as possible is always a good reminder.

In addition to National Parks, Utah also has large chunks of BLM and Forest Service land. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service are agencies created to preserve public land for public use. Public funds are what allow us to drive the fifth wheel out into the middle of a beautiful, breezy, barren hillside or a lush green forest and camp. Obviously, this is something you cannot do on private land, often much more crowded and less beautiful anyway, which is what those in power would like to turn this land into. Once it leaves the hands of our democratically elected leaders, it will most likely leave us completely.

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July 18, 2017

Angela Hockabout: Our House in the Middle of the Street, part 2 of 2

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

Continued from yesterday

New California Housing Now

In order for California to be the society we tell everyone we are: California, the open, the liberal, the environmentally minded, we must work to right our housing markets as follows:

  • Densify our housing in job centers.
  • Expand our mass transit.
  • Reform prop 13 responsibly.
  • Streamline our planning process.
  • Place taxes on overseas residential home investors.
  • Incentivize jobs to move to the exurbs.
  • Incentivize telecommuting.
  • Empower property owners to build tall dense housing.
  • Empower and encourage property owners to include permanently deeded affordable housing in their development plans.
  • Consider the idea that we might be a little uncomfortable with the idea of new housing, but that discomfort is nothing compared to the discomfort of families suffering with housing instability and homelessness.

We must do this because a society where so many children are homeless is not liberal, free, or progressive.

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July 17, 2017

Angela Hockabout: Our House in the Middle of the Street, part 1 of 2

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

Lauren has been kind enough to lend me her platform today and it should be no surprise to you that I’m going to use it to discuss housing. It will also not surprise you that I will be blunt about it.

A Fubar Housing Market

Our housing market is f*cked up beyond all recognition. There’s an acronym for that. It’s FUBAR. If you don’t like FUBAR, you can call it BUBAR, broken up beyond all recognition. Personally, I believe the F word more accurately states our crisis level of housing shortage in California.

A FUBAR housing market looks like this:

  1. People paying more than 30% of their incomes on rents or mortgages.
  2. People are unable to afford to move close to where they work even if they’re working 40+ hours a week. They have to drive long distances to and from work.
  3. People are unable to sell their homes because there isn’t enough inventory to downsize or move elsewhere within our region.
  4.  The homeless population is growing rapidly 
  5. Folks with median incomes are unable to afford local housing
  6. Housing prices are so high that folks can’t move out of the rental market to become homeowners.
  7. Lower income folks are moving to more affordable areas, meaning that there are fewer available employees for lower income, yet valuable jobs to ensure that our society functions well.
  8. Families are living in substandard housing for their family size.
  9. Folks are unable to change their housing based on their family’s needs, unless they move out of the area.
  10. Local small businesses are folding because folks are paying such high housing costs and have little to no disposable income to support local small businesses.
  11. Renters are clamoring for rent control because housing costs are going up so high and there are no alternatives to their existing housing.

Sound familiar?

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July 14, 2017

Anne McKereghan: Destigmatizing Prop 13

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

On June 27th, the AUSD Board of Education voted on the district’s three-year budget prioritization. The budget report included the need to make an anticipated $1.2 million in cuts for the 2018-19 school year and an additional $8 million in cuts for the 2019-20 school year. These cuts are necessary in order to reflect the ability for AUSD to meet its financial obligations for the next three years.

The question begging to be asked is, why is our district, and so many others, once again facing drastic cuts. Though there are many financial pressures stressing districts, the greatest culprit facing public education in California is our own government, plain and simple. The State of California does not see education funding as a priority. According to the California Constitution “From all state revenues there shall first be set apart the money’s to be applied to the State for the support of public school system and public institutions of higher education,” Clearly our legislators continue to fall drastically short of meeting the constitutional requirement. As reported in January 2016 by the California School Board Association, funding of $22-$42 billion in additional resources is needed annually to prepare students for college and careers – no, that’s not a typo, that’s billion with a “B”!

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July 13, 2017

Mark Irons: Apocalypse Now !

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

Lauren’s blog for June 19th  was about the essential hypocrisy of places like Berkeley which is trying to hold back it’s infill housing, yet wants to jump on the Paris Accord band wagon. In 1975 I lived in West Berkeley where our 95 year old neighbor remembered when West Berkeley was farmland tilled with a horse drawn plow. “Farms in Berkeley?” You bet, but not anymore. The image appeals to my romantic nature, but we have already passed the point of no return on climate. Regretfully the past is the past. We must compromise for the greater good.

Closer to home, I read the recent Op-Ed in the Sun by Richard Bangert advocating for a solar farm at Mount Trashmore. I was curious about that notion so I contacted a PUB member as well as a former engineer at AMP with whom I’m acquainted. I expected to be prepared argue for community solar farm, but Richard told me the manager of AMP said straight up they have no intention to pursue such a project so I let the notion of advocating for such a system drop. Private and public utilities are extremely complex. I come away agreeing that AMP wants to act green, but does not walk their talk.

Along these lines, I agree with Gabrielle Dolphin’s letter in the Sun, also critical of AMP. I get that AMP is a business with a primary fiduciary responsibility to the City. They’ve chosen to sell off what by state standards is “surplus” renewable generation to bolster their bottom line, but they ignore the benefits of local generation, also known as “distributed generation”.

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July 12, 2017

Gaylon Parsons: History’s back

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

Midterms are historically sleepy elections compared to the bombast of the Presidential election years. Voter turnout is lower, unless there’s an issue of national importance driving voters to the polls. Alameda’s mayoral elections are set for midterm years, and two of our four other city council members are elected. While the mayor is elected separately and has responsibility for running the meeting, they still only have one vote among five. So, even in years when we’re electing three of the five votes on council it can seem less consequential than those Presidential years.

That’s what I learned, back when history was at an end because western democracy won. Welp, history is fucking back you guys, and it’s terrible. There’s chaos and random people who’ve never been in politics making amazing TV ads like this one

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July 11, 2017

Dave Hart: Reformation — with just 2 theses

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

updated: this post was updated to correct some version errors in the original posting.

We have a good thing going here. We live in a very pleasant city that feels more like a town, in a perfect micro-climate with a short commute to one of the world’s foremost cities. Life here is good, well worth the very high cost.

But could it be better? Of course. Except for true love & homegrown tomatoes, anything can be improved in some way.

I have a couple of ideas for legal & political reform. Discuss & critique all you like, and feel free to propose additional ones. To help streamline the conversation, stick to reforms of legal and political structure. For example, instead of saying “add more mass transit” instead propose changes to existing law & political structure that would enable more transit. Approach it more as a “constitutional convention” than a session of Congress, to use an analogy.

I’ll start with the Big One: Measure A: the elephant in just about every room in Alameda. It is a blunt instrument that lacks nuance & allows few exceptions, even ones that would be positive. At the same time, it has saved Alameda. It’s a well-worn line, damn near cliché, but take a drive around town and notice the contrast between lovely single family homes and ugly apartment blocks that look like cheap motels. Measure A preserved the former and staved off the latter. It’s kept traffic and noise to reasonable levels and maintained the architectural character and overall beauty of the community. The ambience & atmosphere it preserved is a very big part of our quality of life & one of the main reasons so many people want to live here.

It remains very popular. Even its staunchest critics will admit that, though many of them won’t do so audibly. There’s a very simple reason why its opponents have only attempted to chip away at it through contrivances like density bonuses instead of attempting repeal: they are keenly aware that A would easily survive a ballot initiative to overturn it.

There is, however, no denying that the measure hamstrings development of the old Navy base. Reasonable proponents of MA get that, but are worried about changing the law & setting the bulldozers in action in the rest of the city. Many of those reasonable people end up as Measure A hardliners because they fear the consequences of repeal. Such consequences were a major reason — perhaps THE reason — for the Suncal initiative losing 85-15.

I propose the following compromise: A ballot initiative that waives Measure A for the Navy base and related areas, but strengthens it in the rest of town by requiring a supermajority vote to alter or repeal it East of Main St.

It gives each side a win and doesn’t cost either a loss: The pro-development crowd get a major easing in zoning that allows a more mixed use plan West of Main. Preservationists get increased protections East of Main. Development is facilitated in new areas while older areas are assured of their status quo. I believe such a ballot measure can (and should) pass.

The other elephant to acknowledge & address is faith in our political leadership. There is widespread belief that our city council is bought & paid for and that it cares more about the interests of donors and developers than it does about the voters. It is difficult to overstate the negative effects of this perception. Not only does it undermine public confidence in our leaders, it also prevents them from getting much legitimate work done as their motivation is frequently questioned & mistrusted. Accepting money from interested parties creates real questions of integrity.

The most obvious example, of course, is the IAFF’s contributions to council members’ campaigns & those council members’ habit of voting rich contracts for the IAFF’s membership. There are other examples, such as building trades unions making contributions in exchange for project labor agreements, as well as candidates’ connections to property developers (both real and imagined).

Fortunately, this is even easier to fix than the Measure A controversy. Here is the second proposed reform, a three tiered recusal statute, structured something like this:

  1. No council member can accept a campaign contribution from an entity or any of its membership and then vote on any contract that enriches said entity or its members. The candidate or council member CAN accept the money, but they must recuse themselves from any vote on issues that affect the donor(s).
  2. Candidates & council campaigns may only accept contributions from named individuals or PACs that disclose ALL of their donors’ names, so the identities of a candidate’s financial backers will be known to the public.
  3. Additional limits & restrictions as needed: volunteering, in-kind donations, mailers and advertisements by entities & their members will be banned or strictly limited.

This is a simple and easy solution. It doesn’t require the expense of a ballot initiative. Like the Measure A idea above, it only has winners, there are no losers. The public regains confidence in council. Contributors are still free to contribute, but will be viewed as altruistic & acting in public service, not as vote buyers. Neither side loses anything. Not that there was anything to lose, of course. Both sides have long maintained that there is no quid pro quo, nor purchasing of influence. There has also never been anything shady like PACs handing out anonymous or deeply covered money in Alameda so that will be a simple matter as well. Passing such a law will be a breeze. Confidence will be restored with a pen stroke.

There would be some details to address, of course. One possibility is to allow affected parties who are registered to vote in Alameda to contribute de minimis amount, say $100, without forcing recusal. Another is a waiver for contracts or expenses that are small & below a stated threshold. Please feel free to propose other matters to iron out.

Each of these proposals is that rare compromise that gives both sides a win without a concomitant loss or cost. The Measure A compromise will please both sides of that debate & allow development to proceed in the West without stoking fears elsewhere. The recusal law will restore public confidence in both council and donor entities by removing the appearance of influence peddling. All sides win in these proposals while the city emerges stronger & better positioned to serve the public.

Dave Hart,
Businessman, parent, property owner, A’s fan, and barbecue master

July 10, 2017

Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft: Can We Talk . . . And Listen?

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

In his book, “The Road to Character”, New York Times and NPR commentator, David Brooks observes that, “Great matters cannot be settled by taking into account just one principle or one viewpoint. . .The moderate [steps] back to understand opposing perspectives . . . appreciating the merits of each.”

This is how I try to approach the challenging issues that come before the City Council. One of the most difficult issues we have faced is the current housing crisis, including the affordability and availability of rental housing. It is tempting to look the other way and say housing issues are not a local problem, but a regional one; Alameda didn’t cause the housing crisis so it’s not our responsibility to fix it. But I believe every city has a responsibility to help address this issue, while taking into consideration the legitimate concerns of both tenants and landlords. And the majority of our City Council agreed.

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