Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 19, 2011

Lucky number seven

As mentioned by Mike McMahon, you can still ask a question to incoming City Manager John Russo over on In Alameda, he’s our Officially Speaking guest for this week.

Zennie Abraham on his City Brights blog on SFGate has a 40 minute interview with John Russo that he posted the other day.   The first part is all about Oakland and why John Russo has decided to move on from Oakland which is interesting but not necessarily topical about Alameda.   The end there are some very specific Alameda-centric questions and answers that I think folks might find worth noting.  The links will jump to direct time codes in the video that I am referring to.

When asked by Zennie Abraham what the first thing on John Russo’s agenda was when he comes to Alameda, he responded that filling all the interim positions with permanent employees in order to stabilize the City.  He points out that since 2005 Alameda has had seven City Managers, which at first I was taken aback by the number because it seemed rather inflated, but he’s not wrong:

  1. Jim Flint
  2. Bill Norton (Acting)
  3. Debra Kurita
  4. David Brandt (Acting)
  5. Ann Marie Gallant (Interim)
  6. Lisa Goldman (Acting)
  7. John Russo

He constantly refers back to the idea of stabilizing the City and indicates that he is going to “reconstruct” the Executive Management team (essentially hire a permanent Fire Chief, Police Chief and fill the Economic Development vacancy)

The second item on his agenda is to capitalize on the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory opportunity and promises to “pursue it like no other city in the East Bay.”   To move Alameda Point forward he says that his plan is to re-engage the federal government and re-open discussion about kick-starting base re-use in general.

When asked about changing the culture in Alameda, John Russo responds that Alameda City government needs to adopt the three words: Accountability, Responsiveness, and Transparency.    He discusses how performance measures for City Staff are “input based” as opposed to “output based.”   He says that in the next year he will walk the City Council through a process of changing performance measures for staff.   He also says that he will change the perception that there is a lack of responsiveness from City Hall to the public.  And he says that he will boost transparency of the City.  One method he is proposing is that by September the Council will be on a two -week agenda schedule for public notice purposes.   But he is quick to caveat that that by promising to “open up” City Hall that does not mean that everything will be taken to a vote of the public — something that he also stated in his interviews with Eve Pearlman over at Alameda Patch.

And, here’s what some people may really be interested in.   Zennie Abraham asks him directly about the charges that he “bought” the City Manager position by donating to City Council members campaigns.  John Russo responds by pointing out the cities in which he has made other political contributions.   He clarifies his policy of political contributions and that he doesn’t give money to local candidates in the City that he does business in and pointed out that he stopped endorsing and giving contributions to Oakland candidates when he became Oakland’s City Attorney.   He goes on for quite a bit about this for those that are interested and has some pretty strong words for those that believe that a small political contribution is enough to “buy” a City Manager seat.

John Russo also discusses the issue of the SunCal lawsuits and expresses the need for a permanent City Attorney to begin really tackling these issues.   He actually refers to the Exclusive Negotiation Agreement as an “engagement period,” marriage being the Disposition and Development Agreement, which Alameda did not have a signed and negotiated agreement with SunCal.   John Russo made clear that these lawsuits and determining the best course will be in the hands of the future City Attorney and the City Council.


  1. “Accountability, Responsiveness, and Transparency.”

    I wonder how long it will take him to have AUSD Post on their website a Breakdown of Total Compensation for all employees of AUSD. Seems like all the Members of the Board and Ms Vidal can’t find staff time to do this. Little over three months now.

    Comment by John — May 19, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

  2. John: AUSD is a separate entity from the City government.

    Comment by Lauren Do — May 19, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

  3. What does 2 have to do w/1? Non sequitur. The boundaries of the AUSD=boundaries of City of Alameda. AUSD has a website & its own TV channel (another waste of time & money) and it’s got plenty of unaccountable staff who get paid out of our property taxes. Less Conversations w/Kirsten, more data

    Comment by not mayberry — May 19, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

  4. Two of AUSD’s guiding principles are that “parental involvement and community engagement are integral to the success of all students” and that “accountability, transparency and trust are necessary at all levels of the organization.“

    If you have any questions about Measure A or anything else, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Thank you, as always, for your support of our schools.


    Kirsten Vital
    Superintendent of Schools

    Comment by John — May 19, 2011 @ 8:17 pm

  5. Ms Vital Uses “Trust” as her third vs Mr Russo using responsiveness.

    “Trust has to be earned, and should come only after the passage of time.”
    Arthur Ashe

    Is three months long enough to wait?

    Comment by John — May 19, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

  6. If something is 95% of your budget which Total Salary Compensation is for the District why is it so closely guarded yet you post everyones Tax by property in the City with no qualms.

    Comment by John — May 19, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

  7. Hey, John, would you please just contact Ms. Vital directly at the district, as she invites you to, rather than on this forum? You can report back to all of us with your objective assessment of the facts, once you get them. We’ll be happy to wait however long it takes for you to come back with the truth. I know we can expect a full and in-depth analysis. Thank you so very much.

    Comment by Alana Dill — May 19, 2011 @ 11:44 pm

  8. Communication from 2/23 and 2/24

    On our district website is our budget- which give you a pie chart of how money is spent, total budget , total students, we have approx 800 employees – no breakdown on website – I will inquire.

    Best, Kirsten

    I agree – it is something we look at department by department at budget time through our reporting systems but with the cuts to the fiscal and HR departments we have not been able to do what you are looking for as a document.

    Through our reports, I have deeply studied each of these pieces and have been and will continue to make recommendations to the BOE to help our very challenging budget situation.

    Kirsten M. Vital


    Comment by John — May 20, 2011 @ 1:55 am

  9. They can list Every Property in Alameda By Address and give you exact Property Tax and how much new Measure A will cost you but can’t give people who are paying bill a simple report and post on their website that might take a sixth grader 20 minutes to generate .

    Comment by John — May 20, 2011 @ 2:00 am

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