This weekend you can watch the three ring affair on both Saturday and Sunday, although I imagine that the event on Sunday will be vastly more entertaining. Sunday, Circus for Arts in Schools will be holding two shows at the Kofman Auditorium to help raise funds for the obvious. Although, personally, I find clowns to be a little…frightening. Chalk it up to enjoying Stephen King. Or maybe it was a result of being traumatized early on in life when I caught the scene from Poltergeist in a video store and slept for years behind a wall of pillows. Whatever it was, I’m sure the clowns from Circus for Arts in Schools are not like Pennywise or the clown under the bed, but still…
A much safer, but potentially, no less frightening event is happening on Saturday all. day. long. The City is holding a special City Council meeting to talk about the financial state of the City and it starts bright and early at 8:30 a.m. I really hope they are recording this because heck if I’m going to be able to drag myself to the library that early and sit through a marathon session.
Here are the slides from Tuesday’s City Council meeting presented by Treasurer Kevin Kennedy which talks about the general well-being of the City’s finances. Some takeaways from that meeting include the information that the City has a cash reserve(they call it a “fund balance”) of a little more than $19.6 million, which is 21% of the general fund. By the way, those financials have been independently audited by Maze and Associates according to the staff report. And considering how…um…difficult the financial world has been lately, the City getting a positive rate of return on our investments is definitely a good thing.
Amazingly enough, even though all the details are there about what the City is spending money on, people still manage to spin the facts to suit their own agendas. For example, here is what Bankruptcy-crier, Action Alameda/Save Our City Alameda spokeperson is now saying:
…According to a presentation being shopped around to various groups in Alameda by the City Treasurer, the General Administration category (which includes the City Manager’s and City Attorney’s offices) ranks third in City of Alameda General fund spending behind Public Works and Public Safety (Police and Fire). Why are Alameda residents being forced to suffer service cuts, yet there is no examination of further cuts, including headcount, in General Administration?…
See, when you don’t put any context or actual numbers behind anything it seems really shocking. This is a common practice, such as saying thing like: Alameda is the fourth most dense city in Alameda County or thanking City Staff for being the fourth highest provider of traffic to your website when there are only four categories. It’s meaningless, but a good way to present the facts without really having to tell the facts. In actuality if you look at the general fund appropriations drawn from the slide below from the “presentation being shopped around to various groups in Alameda by the City Treasuer” here is how it gets shuffled:
- Police – 32%
- Fire – 29%
- Public Works – 11%
- General Administration – 9%
- Pub Safety 1079/1082 & OPEB – 6%
Yeah, it seems a bit strange to lump the two highest departments into one category, doesn’t it? Considering both those two together account for more than 50% of the budget and if you add the post retirement benefits (Pub Safety 1079/1082 & OPEB) it jumps to nearly two-thirds of the general fund budget. And we are worried about the general administration category at 9% of the budget? Really? The amount of money we have budgeted for paying for pensions has more money attributed to it than Rec & Parks and we should be worried about having people (City Managers and City Attorneys) to run the City business in our council-manager form of government? Seriously?
While I think it is important to continually shine a light on what we, as a City, are spending our money on and how the future of the City’s finances look, fixating on whether or not we should have only one City Manager as opposed to having a City Manager with an assistant and a deputy is a small drop in the bucket when it comes to things that the City has deferred payment or future liabilities. Now is the time for the City to start playing hardball when it comes to negotiating contracts, etc… While we are not going bankrupt or even on the verge of it, we need to — stealing from the presentation slides — continue to be:
…proactive in identifying and addressing areas of concern.
Areas of concern are not how many City Managers and City Attorneys there are, but issues such as how we can increase our revenue in order to not have to continue to cut away at services for Alamedans.