I’m not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be one, but I have to say that what I do know a tiny bit about is whether a case is persuasive for an argument that someone is trying to make. For example, in response to the Letter to the Editor that former City Councilmember Lena Tam had written a fellow blogger responded on another blog site that she overlooked two cases (City of South Pasadena and County of Sacramento) that he had written about on his blog site that prove (sort of) that City Councils can unilaterally alter benefits to bargaining units.
The problem is, I don’t particularly find the cases that the blogger cited to be on point either.
Let’s take the case of South Pasadena first and look, I’m even linking to the blogger’s fancy Lexis Nexis print out too! The first alarm bells — if the City Council is to use the case as a rationale for unilaterally changing benefits — is on the first (well, second) page which declares that the opinion for this particular case with these particular sets of facts cannot be used as precedent for other cases:
Ugh, so another super long City Council meeting on Tuesday night and turns out the two agenda items that were of most interest to me ended up getting bumped for another day because the meeting was too long.
I feel like this City Council’s inability to actually complete an agenda without having to save items for another meeting is kind of getting a little ridiculous. Add to that the super late meeting and you wonder what actually is being accomplished other that letting a ton of people speak during non agenda public comment period and then relegating actual agenda items to future meetings.
Neither the issue of adding more meeting because the City Council can’t seem to manage to complete out an agenda at regularly scheduled meetings was addressed on Tuesday night (ironic) and the issue of — well let’s just be real about it — Trish Spencer going rogue at regional meetings was heard on Tuesday night.
One interesting thing that came up as part of last Wednesday’s City Council meeting, which was sort of a budget workshop (good watching for anyone that was a general overall understanding about the City’s budget) is that one of the items of revenue that the City could be taking is, but is not, is around utility users taxes.
Essentially it was reported last week that the City of Alameda’s ordinances around utility uses is around 20 years old and so it doesn’t take into account some technology, like cellular use, and therefore the City is unable to collect taxes that could go into the General Fund to help bring in some much needed revenue.
Here it is, the rationale for Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft’s Council Referral at tonight’s City Council meeting. I received the first of my Public Records Requests from the Alameda County Transportation Commission. Mayor Trish Spencer is the representative from Alameda to the ACTC (self appointed) and receives $225 plus a $25 travel stipend to attend these meeting on behalf of the City of Alameda.
At the March meeting ACTC there was a legislative report about what’s going on with various bills at the state level regarding transportation projects and/or policy. As you know, a lot of the money for any infrastructure projects in Alameda comes from regional, state, or federal grants. Not a whole lot comes from Alameda general fund money, so typically it’s in Alameda’s best interest to play nice.
These periodic Alameda Point updates are generally super helpful to follow along if (1) you’re new to all this or (2) you conveniently forget what has already happened and what plans have been presented thus far.
There’s a whole section on the commercial portions and business stuff which (most) people seem to want and don’t have a lot of objections to. Of course I caveat that with “most” since as we saw from the whole WETA facility discussion apparently there are people in Alameda who don’t want business and ended up voting against the approvals to pave the way for the WETA facility which would bring with it many jobs in the form of construction jobs first and foremost and then maintenance and administrative jobs once the complex is complete.
But, I digress, anyway good update on the whole project overall, but I wanted specifically to highlight the information about the housing because that’s the stuff that the community tends to have strong feelings about.
This is probably the first time I’ve been really concerned about the viability of a specific small local business. Yesterday while visiting Alameda Landing I noticed sign with a cookie ice cream sandwich on the window and language about Facebook liking. Upon further inspection it appears that CREAM (Cookies Rule Everything Around Me) is coming to Alameda. It’s (essentially) the model that Cookiebar borrowed, pick your own cookies and pick your own ice cream to make your own ice cream sandwiches.
Fortunately for CookieBar it has some really interesting flavors (Vietnamese Coffee is yum!) and is making its own ice cream. Let’s hope the West End is big enough for two cookie ice cream sandwiches.
Right now you have a full two weeks to review the proposed MOUs for all the City labor groups that take small steps toward “smoothing” out the OPEB liability for the City. If that’s not enough time for you, well, technically you can go to the meeting on the 29th and complain about that and I’m sure that someone on the City Council will agree with you and rather than talk about the actual MOUs being offered will complain about timing instead.
Anyway, just to generally nutshell what in the heck is going on, as a reminder. The City is in a bad position regarding benefits that were promised to our bargaining units way back when the economy was good. When I say “way back when” I mean like a long time ago and not just like two administrations ago. Anyway, after kicking the can down the road for years, the last administration — despite the alleged coziness between a majority of the City Council members — was the first administration that actually managed to put in initial controls to help stem the inevitable tide that threatened to bury the City of Alameda. While some people felt as though it did not go far enough, it was certainly more than had been accomplished prior to the Marie Gilmore administration. At no point did anyone at that time say that they had solved the problem, but rather had taken the first of many steps.
There’s a City Council meeting tomorrow on the Budget, different from the other budget meeting that was discussed at last week’s meeting that caused so much confusion for Mayor Trish Spencer. Maybe I’ll write about the budget meeting tomorrow, but who knows.
As I mentioned there are some awesome quotes from last week’s meeting from a few City Council members including Jim Oddie who threw some major shade at someone on the City Council who sits around in coffee shops complaining about issues but then doesn’t do much to actually get anything accomplished. I wonder who he was referring to… Anyway, hopefully I can get some video spliced in the next week or so, but no promises.
What I did want to write about was a referral placed on next week’s regular City Council meeting by Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft which may seem very cryptic if you haven’t heard the rumor mill with regard to Alameda’s representatives to regional bodies.
Just when you thought that these City Council meetings couldn’t get any longer, City Staff decides that it might be in the best interest to add more meetings to the month. Because they’re SO much fun! But before I get to the next regular meeting agenda where there is some really interesting things, here’s a little preview of last week’s meeting where the City Council first met in closed session to talk some negotiation business and later during the discussion about OPEB it was clear that one of the members of the City Council was unclear on what she was voting on, or in this case, against.
Mayor Trish Spencer goes on a bit of a tear about how she feels like the information about OPEB is being “pushed through” and wants to schedule the discussion not at the meeting where the budget is being discussed (at an already scheduled meeting, albeit a “special meeting”; it is special because it’s not a regularly scheduled meeting) but at a regularly scheduled meeting. John Russo pushes back and says that it is impossible because the Sunshine Ordinance requires 15 days notice and the next regularly scheduled meeting is in 14 days.
And then Trish Spencer says:
I didn’t realize that we were talking about doing it on a special meeting and I think the Council, I would like Council feedback on that. I appreciate that.
Despite some folks in Alameda “feeling” like housing units have been built unfettered in Alameda lately, as I mentioned in last Monday’s post, the California Legislative Analyst’s office concludes it’s simply not true. Everyone wants jobs and businesses to come to their cities, but no one wants to build the housing to go somewhere else. Unfortunately that “somewhere else” is limited and forces those on the lower end of the economic scale to brave six hour round trip commutes while some on the island find navigating from Peets to the Alameda Marketplace “challenging” as a sufficient reason to block housing development.
Excerpts from the LAO report, worth a read if you have the time, or if you are an elected official who, ostensibly, should be using facts and data to shape policy decisions as opposed to gut feelings and anecdotal evidence.
First their super helpful five major points in case you don’t want to read the whole thing and like to make snap judgments about a whole document based on a handful of words:
- California’s Home Prices and Rents Higher Than Just About Anywhere Else.
- Building Less Housing Than People Demand Drives High Housing Costs.
- High Housing Costs Problematic for Households and the State’s Economy.
- Recognize Targeted Role of Affordable Housing Programs.
- More Private Housing Construction in Coastal Urban Areas.