Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 31, 2011

First look

Filed under: Alameda, City Council — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

Tonight the City Council will get a first look at the new budget for next year.  It appears from a cursory review that the budget will be balanced using a combination of cuts and fund transfers.

Here are some of the proposed cuts by department:

This, of course, is just a first draft.  While it appears that this one year solution will stop the major bleeding, the five year projection still has the City on track to exhaust the reserves by year five, which clearly is not an option that anyone should want.   However, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect Acting City Manager Lisa Goldman to do what previous City Managers — both permanent and Interim — haven’t done in the past few years.  She has managed to produce a budget for this year after finding herself in the position of having to clean up a huge mess not of her making.   It’s a tribute to her skill that she is managing to hold the ship steady in preparation for John Russo to take over.   He knows exactly what he is getting into and she is handing him a City in no worse condition than how she found it.  How he handles the City’s budget given the five year forecast will definitely be interesting.



  1. We should get rid of the fire dept and go with the county. I am horrified and mad as hell that a man could drown in front of our Police and Fire Dept.

    This is shameful – I can’t continue to respect these City Depts.
    Fire them all – Clearly the citizens could do better.

    Comment by alamedan — May 31, 2011 @ 7:49 am

  2. #1, agreed! Disgraceful and certainly embarrassing to see their act on Channel 7 last night. Nice that they waited for a 20 year old of the public to bring him in.

    Comment by Drudge — May 31, 2011 @ 8:31 am

  3. “…police officials said neither the APD nor the Alameda Fire Department are certified in land-based water rescues and so couldn’t go in to get the man.”

    What a sad commentary on present-day public servants. What else are they not “certified” for?

    Read more:

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 31, 2011 @ 8:38 am

  4. This is criminal.

    I am a cold water swimmer. Those “public servants” should be trained in 60* water. It is not very cold.

    Those firemen and policemen should have stripped to their skivvies, walked out, and taken this man in to shore, alive and well.

    Comment by RM — May 31, 2011 @ 8:43 am

  5. I blame the policies of AMG and Highsmith and the former majority of the Council for thinking it is acceptable for an island city’s public safety departments to NOT be certified and willing to do water rescues.

    Comment by Drudge — May 31, 2011 @ 9:01 am

  6. Just thinking out loud and writing quickly: the thing you want to also see is the amount set aside as Alameda’s annual contribution to CALPERS pension system and to post-employment health. I think this was an issue that city staff themselves brought up at a previous meeting over a month ago, if I recall. Many cities face the dilemma of not fully-funding their long-term post-employment commitments because they want to save as much money to provide services right now, but, in doing so, risk have those long-term commitment grow even more over time for reasons of compounding, among other things. So, going forward, I think a regular part of budget should be a clear statement about how much our actuaries say we ought to set aside in a given year versus how much we’re really setting aside, as well as the usual statements about revenues, expenses, reserves, and how we’re closing, if any, deficits. Maybe all that is already in there, btw.

    Comment by Tony Daysog — May 31, 2011 @ 9:30 am

  7. And how many others stood and watched the police and firefighters watch the man drown? The young woman who finally stepped up to the challenge should be honored. The rest in attendance, civilians as well, should be ashamed of themselves. You don’t need a badge to have a responsibility to your fellow man. Our civil servants didn’t just fail this guy, the community did.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — May 31, 2011 @ 10:10 am

  8. We need to outsource City Attorney’s Office and AFD. Realize some long-term cost savings and get rid of the pension obligation!

    Comment by DRM — May 31, 2011 @ 10:19 am

  9. 7
    You’re right, no doubt the police and fire kept the other on-lookers from helping,…since they’re certified to do that.

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 31, 2011 @ 10:21 am

  10. What would the police and fire department have done if it was a fireman in the water??

    Comment by Dr.Poodlesmurf — May 31, 2011 @ 10:50 am

  11. This incident is certainly disturbing, but all the talk of outsourcing should happen in separate context devoid of emotion about this incident because a) outsourcing is no magic bullet for financing anyway and b) that would not guarantee a different outcome anyway.

    Since his mom had called to say the guy was suicidal, it seems like volunteers from suicide prevention organization might have been called to talk to the guy with a bullhorn? I have a friend who has done suicide hot line, but don’t know if they go into the field. I wonder if our fire people have training for talking people down from a ledge. A couple years back a fire fighter was pulled to his death along with a guy on a ledge he tried to rescue by grabbing him. Realistically you know two safety personnel could have wrestled this guy back to shore safely, but in theory, without water rescue training there could have been a problem. People who are panicked while drowning should be put in a full Nelson headlock from behind and not everybody is capable of that.

    5 is obviously a joke? One never knows because citizens accused our entire City Council of negligent homicide after the woman drove her car into the estuary and drowned.

    Comment by M.I. — May 31, 2011 @ 11:01 am

  12. From the news reports, it sounds like this incident was “outsourced,” with the Alameda County and the Coast Guard being contacted. With the exception of the Coast Guard, how many fire departments have training in cold water rescue?

    Comment by Dennis V. — May 31, 2011 @ 11:10 am

  13. The explanation given to the news reporter last night is that without certification, they could be sued if something went wrong. Really??!! They don’t think they’re going to be sued anyway for doing nothing??!! (Maybe even by the taxpayers for standing around on payroll for an hour doing nothing.)

    Comment by LindaonOtisSt — May 31, 2011 @ 11:19 am

  14. I used to be a lifeguard, and one of the first things you learn is how to escape a panicked swimmer so they don’t drag you down with them. In this situation, it would have been a bad idea for an untrained bystander to attempt a rescue IMHO. But if the victim was reachable by wading, sounds to me like a group of rescue workers could have reached him safely.

    The fact that our Fire and Police dept’s are not trained for water rescues is shocking to me. Sincerely WTF? Meanwhile, our public swimming pools are on verge of being closed so we will have less kids growing up here that know how to swim.

    Comment by Jack B. — May 31, 2011 @ 11:19 am

  15. #12, how many other departments are island or coastal cities? That’s the really question.

    Comment by DRM — May 31, 2011 @ 11:19 am

  16. I have just heard the news and am in disbelief. I am a retired Coast Guardsman and am shocked that there was no swimmer put in to make this rescue. This is an outrage.

    Comment by Tom Orput — May 31, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

  17. A separate, but very connected issue. Until this morning, the city had a policy forbidding fire personnel to enter open water to rescue people.

    This isn’t just about certification, but a larger decision (two years ago) that the city could save a little money, hedging its bets that nothing bad would come of it. And backing that bet up with rules that would cost a firefighter their job if broken.

    It was mentioned in a letter to the editor in the Sun back in 2009 when it was instituted:

    As of March 16, 2009, the Fire Department administration issued an operational status change, placing the surface water rescue swimmer program on hold. According to the status change, “all previously qualified Rescue Swimmers shall not enter the water for an active incident until further notice.”

    What does all of this mean to a swimmer in distress? It means that firefighters may not swim to or use the rescue boat and rescue boards to approach a distressed swimmer in the water.

    Firefighters are permitted to toss a 75-foot water rescue rope to the victim, provided the victim is within 75 feet of the shore, to effect a rescue. The Fire Department Incident Commander will request that the County Dispatcher contact Coast Guard for assistance.

    I’m struggling with this whole issue, but I think this context is important, because it wasn’t just a bunch of wimpy folks who didn’t want to get wet.

    For a city, surrounded by water, it’s phenomenal that there is no water rescue program.

    It’s not enough for fire management to write water safety articles telling people to swim near the lifeguards at the beach. Especially when there are no lifeguards.

    The city’s policy was changed this morning, a step in the right direction, but a more permanent program needs to be put back in place.

    Comment by John Knox White — May 31, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

  18. Tell us again, how much are firemen and policemen psid in Alameda?

    Comment by RM — May 31, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

  19. Might make sense to look to SF Mayor Ed Lee and Public Defender Jeff Adachi as a sort of finger in the wind:

    As former Green, the party has lost it’s luster for me, but it’s interesting that some SF Greens supported Adachi’s Measure B.

    At the big rally to support schools at SF Civic Center a couple weeks ago, attended by the way by thousands of teachers including many from AUSD, the microphone was handed to an “unscheduled speaker” from a non-teacher union in SF, who spoke against a petition being circulated for another ballot initiative sponsored by Jeff Adachi. This speaker was frankly a union hack who was basically labeled Adachi as an enemy of working people because of his efforts on pension reform.

    Things aren’t that simple. I know some former public defenders who are friendly with Adachi (they are all involved in film making: and Adachi may be wrong, but he is not union busting scum. Plenty of that out there.

    Maybe there are solutions in the spectrum between Lee and Adachi. Lee has gotten SF fire fighters to sign onto 12% pension contribution. I hope Alameda does that well.

    Comment by M.I. — May 31, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  20. 17. thanks John, that makes statement in 5. seem far less extreme. yow.

    Comment by M.I. — May 31, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

  21. 18. I just went over the salary data dump. There are 17 police and 18 fire staff that made more than $200K last hear. 5 of those police made over $300K.

    Comment by Jack B. — May 31, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

  22. Alameda Fire Dept has 16 people whose earnings and benefits cost the citizens between $ 200,000 –$ 275,000 last year.Another 55 whose earnings and benefits were between $ 150,000 – $200,000.

    The median expected salary for a typical Fire Fighter in the United States is $41,308.

    Volunteer firefighting is a very rewarding and valuable way to serve your community.

    According to the National Fire Protection Association, 71 percent of firefighters in the United States are volunteers.[1] The National Volunteer Fire Council represents the fire and emergency services on a national level, providing advocacy, information, resources, and programs to support volunteer first responders. The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) provides information, education and training for the volunteer fire and emergency medical services throughout New York State.

    I wonder if we had Volunteer Firefighters would they have just watched and waited.

    Comment by John — May 31, 2011 @ 3:17 pm

  23. what if it was a fireman in the water??

    Comment by Dr.Poodlesmurf — May 31, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

  24. I’m sorry but this entire situation makes me ill.
    So, let me see if I have this right…..The Fire Department Administration issued an operational status change because the funding was cut for future training. Before the cuts, Firefighters went thru the training and I am assuming it is not something you forget overnight. They get pissed off and decide that they will show us and say no one in the Department can go in the water. This decision was made by the Firefighters Administration not our CM, CA or Council people. What they did was try to show (the public) if you don’t give us what we want, we will not do anything. It’s our way or the highway. I have always thought of Firefighters and Police Officers with the highest regard but letting this man drown makes my stomach queasy.

    Comment by J.E.A. — May 31, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

  25. JEA: I’m not sure who the “they” you are referring to, when you say “they get pissed off and decide that they will show us…”

    I believe what the letter was attempting to point out was that the Fire Chief, and whoever else in the City who would have to approve this, sent out the memo saying that the program was on hold and that previously trained rescue swimmers were not allowed to do what they had been trained to do. Which means that if the Firefighters did attempt a rescue against policy and protocol that they could expose the city to liability and, of course, themselves to termination.

    Comment by Lauren Do — May 31, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

  26. It’s good that the NYFD and NYPD did their jobs on 9/11.

    What is happening in Alameda?

    Comment by RM — May 31, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

  27. Could it be that the firefighters standing around do not know how to swim?

    Comment by Frank — May 31, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

  28. Lauren,
    I was referring to the Fire Department Administration including the Chief and/or anyone else that makes policy for the Department.

    Comment by J.E.A. — May 31, 2011 @ 4:29 pm


    Should we compare the danger factor of Alameda vs NYC?

    Comment by Member of a real family — May 31, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

  30. Now, will someone tell us what the starting salary is for the Alameda Fire Dept? What are the yearly increases after that?

    Please also, again tell us what a Lieutenant, Captain, and Battalion Chief make in Alameda.

    Yes, and then let’s compare those figures with the NYFD’s salaries.

    Yes, and then, let’s compare the danger factor of Alameda vs NYC.

    Comment by RM — May 31, 2011 @ 5:28 pm

  31. “Fireman’s Oath:

    “My duty is to protect those that I serve from whatever danger they may face; whether it be fire, demon, or angel; no matter the danger, I will protect the people to the best of my ability. I am but a servitor of the people; my duty is to those who I serve, and to no one else. I serve The People, without fear, without remorse, without fail. My Duty is to The People. By my Fireman’s Oath, I am bound to protect those who are in danger, those in times of need, those who I would serve.””

    Comment by John — May 31, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

  32. 17
    “Until this morning, the city had a policy…”
    “The city’s policy was changed this morning,…”

    Do you know why was it changed? How and who changed it in the first place and what are the mechanisms that allow such fundamental changes? How was the union involved, if at all?

    There are a hell of a lot of questions that need to be answered by both Police and Fire and the coordination they expect from the Coast Guard. There definitely needs to be a public hearing, and soon.

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 31, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

  33. There are over 1 million firefighters in the United States,
    of which approximately 750,000 are volunteers.

    Comment by John — May 31, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

  34. Jack R: there is a City Council meeting on the budget tonight, it will probably come up in one form or another tonight.

    Comment by Lauren Do — May 31, 2011 @ 6:27 pm

  35. It may, but to me, an issue like this shouldn’t be tacked on to something else. Fundamental policy, like what’s stated in #17, that can be changed at the whim of someone’s pen stroke needs more light than a few three-minute sound bites.

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 31, 2011 @ 6:40 pm

  36. Here’s an interesting letter to the editor of the Alameda Sun in 2009 about water rescue in Alameda. It is the fifth letter down.

    Comment by jmasterson — May 31, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

  37. 33
    A few of which are part of the Tolu Fire Department District.
    I received this notice in today’s mail:


    Fire Dues cover your residence or property from June 1 to May 31 each year. It is tme again for collection. Dues are $20 payable to Tolu Fire Department. P.O Box 44, Tolu, KY 42084. A $500 call charge will be applied to anyone not paying fire dues. Any additional donations will be appreciated.

    (I usually add $10)

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 31, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

  38. I blogged a piece for Aquatics Fan if you want to check it out.

    Comment by Jack B. — May 31, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

  39. JR,

    It was put in place by the former Chief (Kapler), this morning it was changed by the new interim Chief D’Orazi. It’s a staff decision, not council.

    The union fought the change and lost. This was one of the big cost-saving moves that people rave about. This was back when they were cutting personnel as well.

    Comment by John Knox White — May 31, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

  40. One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that none of the safety personnel would have been terminated for violating the rule about water rescues for going in after that guy. I can also say with absolute certainty that if the City had tried to fire any of them for doing that they would be have reinstated by an arbitrator will full back pay.

    Comment by Michael Rich — May 31, 2011 @ 8:40 pm

  41. 39

    My understanding is that the IAFF agreed to training cuts only after stubbornly resisting any compensation cuts. (As opposed to the police who were team players and took modest pay cuts to help smooth out the rough fiscal ride.)

    If that understanding is correct, could that have been one of the training cuts they greed to?

    Comment by dave — May 31, 2011 @ 9:06 pm

  42. Hey Dave. I wasn’t meaning to get into defending or accusing anyone on this issue. I think it’s ugly for all involved, including the public safety people who felt they were powerless to do anything.

    I’m uncomfortable with the attempts to tie this to the public safety labor issue, as if firefighters were sitting around letting some guy die to make a really big point.

    My initial point was that there are a lot of reasons that things happened the way that they did yesterday, some of which we will probably never know. I was pretty upset about it this morning, but I’m ending my day knowing that had this been my kid, or yours, drowning, the public safety people would have been in the water doing what had to be done. The circumstances yesterday are much more complicated and murkier.

    Patch has a good article up about it:

    Comment by John Knox White — May 31, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

  43. 43

    Wasn’t casting accusations about (and agree that this was a murky & complicated sitch) just asking a question about the subject of unions, etc that had come up in the thread.

    Comment by dave — May 31, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

  44. Land-based water rescue training: $40,000

    Pending lawsuit by the victim’s family: $3+ million. (It will be settled for an undisclosed sum, count on it).

    Video of our fire & police standing on the beach – priceless.

    Stop hiding behind the “training cutbacks.” If it was a 10 year old girl stranded out in the water, I doubt they’ll be hiding behind a piece of paper.

    This is a very sad day for AFD.

    Comment by Basel — May 31, 2011 @ 9:50 pm

  45. JKW
    Thanks for your #39.
    The Alameda Patch article leaves more questions than it answers. It’s hard to believe an assistant Chief is so unaware of Department policy that ‘it’s all news to him’ that that his guys can’t swim to save somebody. And this business about the guy was ‘too big to save’ is repugnant on it’s face.

    I was at the boat races last year when the Alameda Fire
    and Police rowed it out on the estuary. Fire won. Now they’ve lost…big time!

    It was their responsibility and they shrugged.

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 31, 2011 @ 10:12 pm

  46. Re 32:

    Jack, the policy was put in place by former chief Vogelsang in 2009, apparently in response to budget cuts by former City Manager Kurita the year before in 2008.

    Comment by Adam Gillitt — May 31, 2011 @ 10:36 pm

  47. #44 is right, what a reactive City. Just disgraceful. Thanks AMG.

    Comment by Drudge — May 31, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

  48. 43, I wasn’t talking about your comment, I was talking about all the comments, on numerous sites, by folks who have been running around bashing the firefighters for months, who now are tying this to their salaries, etc. As if making this tragedy a talking point of their unrelated campaign is appropriate.

    I was unclear, apologies.

    Comment by John Knox White — June 1, 2011 @ 6:00 am

  49. Jack R. Just to clarify, the new Interim Fire Chief, D’Orazi, retired from the Alameda Fire Department in 2007 so he hasn’t been actively in service since then and only came on board a week ago so he wouldn’t be aware of all the changes made in 2009 under Chief Kapler.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 1, 2011 @ 6:24 am




    Comment by KAREN JACUZZI — June 1, 2011 @ 7:41 am

  51. The City of Alameda needs to hire the likes of Lenny Scutnick. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr.Scutnick, Google his name and watch the video.

    Comment by Basel — June 2, 2011 @ 12:24 am

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