Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 29, 2011

You are the latest contender, you are the one to remember

Filed under: Alameda, City Council — Tags: , , , , — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

It appears that the City Council may be ready to make a decision on who to chose as Alameda’s next City Manager.   A Special Meeting scheduled for tonight will consider two agenda items:


PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT (Government Code Section 54957)

Title: City Manager


CONFERENCE WITH LABOR NEGOTIATORS (Government Code Section 54957.6)

Agency Designated Representatives: Mayor Marie Gilmore, Vice Mayor Rob Bonta

Unrepresented Employee: City Manager

So that people don’t attribute anything nefarious, the Mayor and Vice Mayor were on the Council subcommittee tasked with the City Manager Search which is probably why they are the agency designated representatives.

We could know as soon as tonight who will take over the City and (hopefully) what the vote to hire the next City Manager ended up as.   Like a lot of people, I am really hoping that the best case scenario there is a unanimous vote on the new City Manager, but I’ll take 4 – 1 in a pinch.   The City Council already sat in a meeting last Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. talking about their candidates after the three panels did the last set of interviews on Friday.   The report out from that meeting was that the City Council gave direction to staff, which — if I am reading the tea leaves correctly, or in this case the closed session agenda — means that the direction was to offer one of the candidates the position of City Manager, if he/she was not scared away from Alameda after running the interview gauntlet.

Place your bets here folks on who will be the next City Manager of Alameda.   Going back to my Survivor watching days when you would guess prior to watching the episode who would be voted off the Island using your Brain (logic), Heart (hope), and Gut (feeling), my Brain/Heart/Gut picks are:

  • Brain: John Russo
  • Heart: David Brandt
  • Gut: John Russo

That’s right, I’m a Brandt booster.   I thought his departure was a real blow to Alameda and think he would make a really strong City Manager for Alameda.   Strong in a good way.  Although I’m willing to give anyone a fair shake initially, even if the candidate isn’t my first choice.   Which, clearly from my picks I think that Brandt might be more wishful thinking on my part than the front-runner.

In any case, set your alarms to 6:00 p.m.ish — maybe more like 6:30 p.m.ish given how much some of the City Council people like to talk — and tune into the City channel (15 for the uninitiated) or tune in on-line for the live feed for the inevitable report out.   Or it could be that this is all a big tease and we’ll have to wait even longer for the final results.

UPDATE:  Michele Ellson has tweeted that her sources have informed her that the City Manager pick is indeed John Russo.  I don’t think we’ll get “official” confirmation until tonight.



  1. Hi Lauren,

    Thanks for the love, but your gut is right on this one. I just want to give my very best to he community and the staff (yes, even the unions). Staff will serve the City well no matter who the Manager is. Now I’m off to a 6:45 am City Council meeting. Yes we do things differently up here.


    P.S. I think Lisa Goldman has done a great job as an acting Manager is the worst of situations and I hope the Council recognizes that.

    Comment by David Brandt — March 29, 2011 @ 6:36 am

  2. I’d like to see Brandt also. He’s competent, knowledgable and not a grandstander.

    Comment by dave — March 29, 2011 @ 6:48 am

  3. @IslandMichele just tweeted that Russo is the council’s pick.

    Comment by Jack B. — March 29, 2011 @ 6:58 am

  4. that first post real??
    I’m with Dave on this one.

    David Brandt would be the best choice in my opinion for this job for all the reasons already listed. My main concern with Russo is that he will be looking ahead while he is here working for us.

    Comment by John P. — March 29, 2011 @ 7:16 am

  5. Alameda is looking a bit lawyer heavy if you ask me. A city manager for city manager seemed like a reasonable expectation. But Russo is an interesting choice. I just dunno.

    Comment by Jack B. — March 29, 2011 @ 7:19 am

  6. Hi John P.:

    The first post is indeed for real.

    Comment by Lauren Do — March 29, 2011 @ 7:28 am

  7. Lauren, then my heart is broken, because I really liked that guy. He would have fit so well in Alameda.

    Comment by John P. — March 29, 2011 @ 7:33 am

  8. 5. remember that David Brandt is also a lawyer, which is another reason he was doubly qualified. Despite missing his demeanor I am not looking to the negative response if Russo is named. I am hoping that having J.R. here in the flesh on the job will quell those people who are inclined to make a big stink.

    Comment by M.I. — March 29, 2011 @ 7:45 am

  9. I think Russo is a smart guy and would have loved to see him become Alameda’s Lawyer (God knows we are going to need a good one) and for Brandt to become the CM…..Seems like everyone could have won with that scenario…Oh well…

    Comment by J.E.A. — March 29, 2011 @ 7:46 am

  10. 8. When I use the word “interesting” I mean it as a positive. I don’t know enough at this point to make “a big stink.” Or even a little one.

    Comment by Jack B. — March 29, 2011 @ 7:56 am

  11. As a business owner on Park Street I have to tell you about my experience with Mr. Brandt. That is none. He would frequent the restaurant next to my store with other city employees. I probably saw them come and go probably 25 times. Never once did any of them come in and say hi, how is business, what’s working what’s not. many times they were waiting for a table. I would chat with many of the other business owners on my block and we were always amazed that they seemed so distant and non-observant about what was going on around them. That could just be the culture of who he was working under. I am not against the idea of him being city manager, just looking for a leader who realizes there leading the whole community and are willing to engage in conversations with all its members.

    Comment by Barbara Mooney — March 29, 2011 @ 8:31 am

  12. Brandt is a softspoken, low key person, but don’t mistake that for distant or unobservant. He is very sharp & very observant.

    Comment by dave — March 29, 2011 @ 8:44 am

  13. Looks like Russo’s contributions to the SunCal trio paid off.

    Comment by Jakster M — March 29, 2011 @ 8:44 am

  14. Dave is correct, I have followed David Brandt since 1996 when he started in the City Attorneys office. He holds 15 years of knowledge in Alameda city government. That and a lot of experience with the base issues. That is hard to beat.

    Comment by John P. — March 29, 2011 @ 9:16 am

  15. Whatever has happened, we still do not have an official announcement, nor do we (apparently) have a signed contract.

    That said, I would have preferred David Brandt over John Russo simply because he is a professional civil servant and would offer a more neutral emotional “keel” in this era in which we all need that for the purposes of reconciliation and redirecting our limited resources. (See #13.)

    OTOH, I deeply respect John Russo for his stance on transparency and accountability in government and his willingness to speak out on issues. He would definitely raise Alameda’s profile and the energy level at city hall: I just hope that it would all be in a positive way, as he tends to be controversial. I also wonder how long he will be able to resist running for
    elective office, which seems to be in his genes.

    Both of them know the local landscape very well, which will be a big plus. With al the turmoil in Sacramento we do not have time for someone to get to know the minefield known as our local issues…
    (See #13.)

    Comment by Jon Spangler — March 29, 2011 @ 9:26 am

  16. 13

    Assuming the leak is accurate, I am surprised. I didn’t think the recipients would be so stupid as to appoint a contributor so soon after the check cleared. Did I overestimate their political sensibilities?

    Comment by dave — March 29, 2011 @ 10:09 am

  17. #11 is right, Brandt is pretty distant and was a non-factor in Alameda. No one can point to any of his efforts or accomplishments that were of any real benefit to our city. He was involved for years in the Alameda Point negotiations and the progress was (and still is) non-existent. Russo is a game-changer who will not suffer any of the “pay me or I will sue” crap we are seeing from AMG and Highsmith, this is a good thing. Now on to a new city attorney.

    Comment by DRM — March 29, 2011 @ 10:18 am

  18. David Brandt, why don’t you run for city attorney! the spot that Highsmith is vacating!

    I mean, if they can hire a City attorney from Oakland as CM, I cannot see why a CM can’t be hired for a city attorney (and I know you are an attorney, so what a shoe in!)

    How silly of a pick. You’d think they’d go with someone that has CURRENT experience and past experience being a CM.

    All this talk about the 3 council block just isn’t starting to look like talk…

    Comment by hobnob — March 29, 2011 @ 10:19 am

  19. we just got finished with a 3 council block in case you have forgotten, except that it was a 4 person block with the acm as part of it. The so called 3 person block is made up of some of the brightest, most committed people to our city that we could have wished for, and I do not think that they will be pushed around by anyone–

    Comment by barbara kahn — March 29, 2011 @ 10:28 am

  20. Through activism in Oakland, I’ve gotten to know John Russo over the past few years, and I’m bummed to see him leave Oakland.

    Alameda is getting a great asset. The guy knows how to delegate, knows not to micromanage, knows how to pick his battles, and he has a deep rooted sense of fairness. He’s also very focused on sane financial policy.

    You could have done a lot worse.

    Comment by Max Allstadt — March 29, 2011 @ 10:43 am

  21. As long as he stays insulated from our local politics I will be happy. He must be A-political.

    Comment by John P. — March 29, 2011 @ 10:49 am

  22. *refills popcorn bucket*

    Comment by Adam Gillitt — March 29, 2011 @ 11:40 am

  23. not to hijack, but is the aggregater site down?

    Comment by notadave — March 29, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

  24. Hi notadave, we’ve been having issues with the hosting site for Sorry for the inconvenience to folks who use the aggregator.

    Comment by Lauren Do — March 29, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

  25. #2 and #13: Ditto and ditto.

    Comment by dlm — March 29, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  26. #22, I had hope for you as a Councilmember, but then you had your “Monkey Business” moment, your Chappaquiddick when you assaulted that elderly volunteer and seemed to delight in it. For a town that has suffered such ugliness in its politics in its history, IMO that was the worst for me.

    Comment by DRM — March 29, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

  27. I remember a lot of shenanigans with the Oakland DA’s office over the huge petition to put the Oak to 9th Project on the Oakland ballot. By this example Russo seems a great fit with the SunCal 3 on our CC as he too is in favor of handing mega tax dollars to private developers for private construction projects the size of which are uncalled for.

    Comment by alamedan — March 29, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  28. #27, what were those Oakland DA shenanigans? Russo is not a DA.

    Comment by DRM — March 29, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

  29. Well, since no one asked for my opinion, all the more reason to chime in. I can only speak for the person who I worked closely with over the years, and that would be David Brandt.

    Brandt is a consummate professional who not only knows the answers we need to seek out, but also the questions that need to be raised. David was always Alameda’s point person with re: to negotiating with major developers or the US Navy.

    His combined background in city planning (he has a Master’s degree) and law placed him, and therefore the City of Alameda, in a position of strength when it came to negotiating with these entities.

    There would be no flights of experimentation with David, as he understands what needs to get done right off the bat, and to go about doing it I am convinced in a manner that involves all Councilmembers (no favorites) and the community as a whole, but, at the time, is clear about the mission at hand. A uniter, in other words.

    Part of the problem Alameda finds itself in was that, many years ago, there was, shall I say, a unnecessary amount of experimenting on the part of City Manager Jim Flint (RIP). For example, he would tout an negotiating approach with the Navy that he called “interest based” negotiations which, while fine on paper or perhaps in MBA classroom, flew in the face of the obvious: with the Navy, you’re dealing with one of the most — if not the most — powerful military institution in all of humanity. A military force that can at a moments notice project its strength and capacity across the globe in ways that make modern Russians and Chinese now envious, but also, and I mean this seriously, would make the likes of Caesar, Napoleon, and Alexander green with envy, too — so powerful is the military institution that, thankfully, we have on our side. Compounding matters, in a show of another experimentation, Flint fudged an important matter that lay at the crux of his “interested based” negotiating approach and became a focal point of the matter of the EDC the repercussions of which were dealing with to this day.

    (Yes, these were issued I raised back then . . . water under the bridge . . . for any colleagues not quite remembering, just remember my quoting the key lines from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponessian War).

    The point I am driving at is this: with Brandt, there would be no experimentation.

    With Brandt, you get a professional with unique insight that Council can use to its advantage: Let’s Council says they want cap future AP developers’ profit (IRR) at 10-13% when we know the developer typically look to invest only in projects achieving 18 to 20% IRR. Dave knows that, rather than walk, the developer will figure out ways to cut costs, quality of service, elsewhere so that, in totality, developers will still indirectly seek to achieve their original target. Point: David has the background to help Council SMOKE out bad deals from goods, not in an effort to kill outright progress, but to make sure progress happens in a manner that is right by Alamedans, because that’s one of the major task at hand particularly with re: to AP.

    I know David. I’ve seen him in action. I’ve worked with him. And I know he can do the job that Alamedans need done.

    On a final note: as I like to do, now and then I go to Cal Berkeley to listen in on free lectures. Brandt was sitting front and center at a lecture by former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. That tells me this guy not only knows his stuff but is also intellectually curious.

    Comment by Tony Daysog — March 29, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

  30. Tony, I agree with you, it just kills me to see us lose this guy.

    Comment by John P. — March 29, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

  31. 28, I don’t think that knowing that developers cut corners to preserve profit margins is any unique talent or ability. what were the big accomplishments?

    Comment by DRM — March 29, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

  32. Marie Gilmore supported John Russo for assembly at a political cost, which included not getting endorsement from Sandre Swanson when running for mayor. That’s politics. I’m virtually certain she contributed to Russo’s assembly campaign. I don’t think Russo’s contributions to the three council persons who were elected needs to be seen as a quid pro quo or his having bought this job, because I think he would have applied and gotten the position anyway, if he is fact getting the appointment.

    If he gets this gig, I can’t wait for the people who feel compelled to snark about the contributions get over it because it’s a distraction and a dead end. I would not be surprised if Mr. Russo eventually spoke very directly to all those accusations and I hope he does.

    Jon Spangler, I’m not sure I agree with you about Russo’s political aspirations. He was on the Oakland Council when the Oakland City attorney office became elected so it was a natural for him to run for that. One additional run for assembly doesn’t mean that he is a career politician. He could have run for mayor of Oakland, though that would have meant running against Perata and spread a wide field even more. I was hoping he would be asked directly about that by the citizen’s committee.

    Comment by M.I. — March 29, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

  33. 29 Tony wrote,
    “…he would tout an negotiating approach with the Navy that he called “interest based” negotiations which, while fine on paper or perhaps in MBA classroom, flew in the face of the obvious:you’re dealing with one of the most — if not the most — powerful military institution in all of humanity. A military force that can at a moments notice project its strength and capacity across the globe in ways that make modern Russians and Chinese now envious, but also, and I mean this seriously, would make the likes of Caesar, Napoleon, and Alexander green with envy, too — so powerful is the military institution that, thankfully, we have on our side.”

    Sorry Tony but I’m not getting this Navy thing. Your implication commingles Naval military power with domestic power and suggests the ability to project military power somehow bleeds the same ability into domestic issues. To suggest similarities of outcome based on totally separate structures, in my view, is ridiculous.

    If one deals with the Navy on military terms, one may fail. If one deals with the Navy based on US Code, one has equal power.

    I don’t know the circumstances of you and Flint and the Navy but any failure on Flint’s side wasn’t due to military power.

    Comment by Jack Richard — March 29, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

  34. David Brandt and John Russo are my top picks – but I have to admit Russo is at the top of my list. Russo has “grit” and we need some of that with all the law suits, the budget crisis, and low moral at the city. I believe he’s the right city manager for what we’re faced with today. I think Brandt is great and I agree with everything you said about him Tony, but these are tough times which calls for a strong manager – one who can get us through these difficult and challenging times, and I think Russo fits that bill.

    Comment by Karen Bey — March 29, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

  35. So who blabbed? The decision, if there was one, was made in closed session, and it was clear that there would be background checking before finalization of a decision. If this happened in closed session, one of the Council must have blabbed and that should not have happened.

    Comment by Kate Quick — March 29, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

  36. MI:

    Maybe the contributions don’t matter. Maybe they are just a distraction.

    But they most certainly arouse suspicion, and certainly do not pass the smell test. And (if Russo is chosen, still not official) appointing a contributor to a high profile job so soon after said contribution is most certainly politically obtuse.

    The rancorous embers from the last campaign still glow. Why pour gas on them?

    Comment by dave — March 29, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

  37. Nice confirmation, Kate. Thanks.

    Comment by Adam Gillitt — March 29, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

  38. 36
    Because without the gas the embers die.

    Comment by Jack Richard — March 29, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

  39. Jack,

    You’re correct to point out what you did, for I got so caught up in what I was writing that I forgot to explain what I was trying to say re: the military.

    In a nutshell, it’s this: Flint didn’t understand nor take the time to appreciate the way military bureaucracy works. First and foremost, it’s been my sense that the City-Navy negotiations with personnel from San Diego is permeated by an atmosphere where San Diego is too cautious due to concern about what personnel from DC are thinking, and, within DC, they are too cautious because matters particular to there. So, for Flint to come in with weird negotiation structure, from vantage point of the Navy I surmised, only adds confusion and even more reason to be cautious re: Alameda. And the, to pursue that initial EDC idea that . . . well, what can you say.

    Within that Alameda v. Navy microcosm, there’s also the larger culture (macrocosm) of the military that we, in Alameda, have to respect and deal with. As one of the most powerful institutions in all of humanity, in actuality, the top brass probably aren’t that concerned about, well, base closure generally. That’s smaller than a mosquito in the realm of the things that the Secretary, Under-Secretary, Navy secretary, etc are even thinking about. So, my point, to Flint and colleagues, was don’t strain our credibility and give them a reason to put us off even more, which I believe things Flint’s initial EDC idea did and perhaps even the anti-Iraq war resolutions did.

    In any event, that Thucydides quote I often repeated to colleagues was, “The strong do what they want, the weak suffer what they must” . . so cut a deal.

    I am confident that Brandt is a guy who understands the world he is working in and would work in a realistic fashion to accomplish the aims of Alameda.

    But, it’s almost 6:30, so I guess we’ll soon find out if it is Brandt, or not. I wish the Mayor and Council all the best in their deliberation and selection.

    Comment by Tony Daysog — March 29, 2011 @ 6:32 pm

  40. 36.answer: because Gallant deserved to not have her contract renewed and an apparent majority of council felt strongly that Russo, who happened to be frustrated with the scene in Oakland was available and was the best guy they could get. And they should be thanked for being willing to stick their necks out to make the appointment they think is best rather than be second guessed. Screw the “smell test”, that’s subjective based on your nose. We not only don’t have confirmation, we don’t know the vote count, which I sorely hope is better than 3-2, but too f-ing bad if it isn’t.

    I really want to stress that from my limited but better than average view of both Brandt and Russo, I’m 100% certain David Brandt would have been a great choice and I’m disappointed for him he didn’t finally get to be rise from “assistant” and get the top job. On the other hand I had some social over lap with john Russo a while back and also went to house parties in support of his run for assembly. I think I get what it is he can bring to this position which will be a huge asset to Alameda and I think the scoffing about the contributions is useless quack, quack.

    Comment by M.I. — March 29, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

  41. Would you feel the same way if the recipients of the cash were candidates you opposed?

    Comment by dave — March 29, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

  42. 40

    The prison guards’ contribution to Assemly campaigns have nothing to do with our prison budget. Screw the smell test, that’s subjective based on your nose.

    Halliburton’s no-bid contracts had nothing to do with Cheney. Screw the smell test, that’s subjective based on your nose.

    Comment by dave — March 29, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

  43. 39
    I must confess, I did not understand your 39.

    Thucydides also said, “It is frequently a misfortune to have very brilliant people in charge of affairs. They expect too much of ordinary people.”

    Comment by Jack Richard — March 29, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

  44. Well, let’s take a look at what you wrote and, in light of what I wrote about the military, and think about it: you wrote, “If one deals with the Navy based on US Code, one has equal power.”

    Now, think about what you just wrote, and employ that snarky Internet word, “really?” in the way the SNL newscasters do.

    “Really? Alameda has equal power with the Navy per US Codes?”

    That’s my point: where does a 800 pound dinosaur sit at a dinner table? Anywhere it darn well pleases.

    So, with re: to Dave Brandt, I am confident he would not lose sight of our position relative to the Navy, A-towns goals, and the community and Council, and not lead us along experimental approaches with the Navy or anyone else for that matter. He’d be realistic, knowing him as I do. Perhaps others will be, too, so Brandt doesn’t have a monopoly on that virtue, no doubt.

    Let us work for and hope for the best for our city whoever is the City Manager.

    Comment by Tony Daysog — March 29, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

  45. 44
    It’s pretty basic, Tony, you think the Navy is above the law. I know it’s not.

    As I stated before, the US military is subject to the same laws as any common citizen in this country. I don!’t care how heavy the gorilla is, the law makes them equal.

    If you think I’m an ordinary person, which SNL disparages, you’re right.

    Comment by Jack Richard — March 29, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

  46. 41., 42. dave, of course those are good examples. If there is one thing which has ruined politics it is the influence of money, but those are also large constituencies you refer to. More than that, what you seemed to me to be saying didn’t pass the smell test was the close proximity of Russo’s contribution and the election, to the appointment to the CM position.

    I’ve said a bunch of times that when he contributed it was not at all apparent that Quan would win or that Gilmore, Tam and Bonta would win, or that Gallant was out the door. The contributions were months before the Alameda position opened. Just how bad does that smell compared to Halliburton no bid contracts?

    Comment by M.I. — March 31, 2011 @ 10:57 am

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