Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 8, 2011

A little bit of me and a whole lot of you

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

After the Memorial Day drowning of Raymond Zack, many Alamedans called for an independent investigation/inquiry into the events surrounding that May morning.

When the City of Alameda announced that they had hired former State Fire Marshal and former director of CALFIRE, Ruben Grijalva, to perform an investigation  and present a report probably 95% of the people who cared were relieved that the City was taking this seriously and the other 5% started Googling Ruben Grijalva immediately to show that he was unqualified to perform this task.

I Googled him too and ran across this forum in San Diego where someone with a huge ax to grind against Ruben Grijalva (and apparently against the whole City of Palo Alto too), literally pages and pages worth of indecipherable posts, has now endeared that poster to the “nothing less than a citizen led commission full of citizens that only we agree with will suffice” set.

City Manager John Russo explains why the whole citizens commission idea is not the best idea and why the concerns about Ruben Grijalva not doing his best work really should not be a concern:

It’s long, so I’m going to excerpt and transcribe the key parts:

There are some people who believe that what should be done as a so called “independent review” is a citizen commission.  That is not a recipe for discovering the truth.  That is a recipe for grandstanding, politics, and a series of facts that may be facts or may be there to support pre-existing conclusions about directions the City should take.

The approach we have chosen, as a City, is to hire the most qualified person available with experience in both police and fire and his marching orders is as follows.  Number 1, he is to conduct a review of how Alameda got to Crown Beach that day, he is to look at the history…

The second portion of the report will be a minute by minute chronology of what took place on Memorial Day…

Finally, we’re asking Chief Grijalva to prepare a report for us to examine the steps that we’ve taken since Memorial Day…but also to tell us what other steps we need to take, what our other potential weaknesses are.

Now for all of the people who believe that a citizen commission is the way to go, they will have ample time, they will have at least 12 days to examine Chief Grijalva’s public report…when Grijalva comes here to make his public report, the Council at that time, I am confident, will choose to hear public comment on the report and you will have Chief Grijalva here who will be in a position to react to some of those comments from the perspective of someone who has spent his entire career in both branches of public safety…

I think he also welcomes this project because it is a high profile project and it is one upon his reputation will also be viewed in terms of how good of a job he does here and I think he’s very well aware of that…

Little known fact, apparently Ruben Grijalva back in the day worked for the City of Sunnyvale as a hostage negotiator.   Digression: the City of Sunnyvale has one of those co-police and fire departments and has had that for a very long time.  They call it the Department of Public Safety which makes it sound like it belongs on a college campus.   Digression over.  He successfully negotiated the surrender of Richard Farley who became obsessed with his co-worker Laura Black and went on a shooting rampage at his former workplace.   The story was dramatized in one of those made for tv movies starring Brooke Shields, here’s the last 10 minutes which has the whole hostage negotation bit:


  1. Unsurprisingly, Lauren conveniently neglects to mention he was head of Cal Fire during the 2007 So Cal firestorms when their response was a total failure, and necessary equipment sat grounded while thousands of acres burned. Or that Grijalva is a former IAFF leader.

    100 hours to tell us that the AFD’s water policy needed to be reinstated, and has, for $20K of our money. Can’t wait for the movie of this one!

    Comment by Adam Gillitt — July 8, 2011 @ 8:14 am

  2. In this week’s Sun, Russo is quoted as saying “…he was the only person we spoke with,” and that he had the just about the lowest fees. Good to see our CM being thorough and getting the best for our firefighters citizens.

    Comment by Adam Gillitt — July 8, 2011 @ 8:20 am

  3. Russo and our Mayor and Council insured the Firefighters will get the equivalent of 5-7 paid for houses for each firefighter on retirement and 10 houses for the Captains on up as the Citizens Of Alameda are so happy to Finance while every other service is cut so He and Jon Spangler can Ride the Firetruck…While be paid almost double what a Government Firefighter makes….

    Comment by John — July 8, 2011 @ 8:40 am

  4. Kinda glad they got a bargain on the investigator. Maybe he will suggest the FF to get cups but they won’t know what they are for…LOL

    Comment by John — July 8, 2011 @ 8:54 am

  5. Think about this…the City is paying a guy to do two things- one conduct an investigation which will limit the City’s liability when the lawsuit is filed, giving a “definitive” spin to the tragedy. Second, the City Manager cannot reasonably discipline any administrator, fireman or police officer on the scene without the investigation. I am afraid that he may also lack the political will to do the right thing.

    here is what the report will say: “the policies in place on the day in question were the result of the actions of the previous city manager and fire chief, who have since been dismissed.”. That will cost $20,000. How does the song go? Nice work if you can get it…

    A citizen’s committee sounds silly to me, as it will simply bring up bad politics, but a good lawyer will quickly expose a cover-up report, making the lawsuit even more expensive. It’s always the cover-up that hurts the most..

    why hire an expert? Volunteer amateur citizen’s committee prospective members- Adam, David, John, Jack=. They would quickly get to the truth….

    Comment by Make it go away — July 8, 2011 @ 9:07 am

  6. Ray won’t be able to play much golf anymore. But the FF should have enough Green fees to more than make up any green fees that he would have spent in Alameda.

    The more I see about politics in Alameda is No one wants the truth. Our Politicians are protecting us.

    Comment by John — July 8, 2011 @ 9:22 am

  7. 3: John, did you see me in the parade this year?

    Comment by Jon Spangler — July 8, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  8. During the last campaign season, all of the prevailing candidates said they were strongly opposed to combining a chief of police and fire chief into one position of “Chief of Public Safety.” The prevailing candidates said that one person could not possibly be an expert in both disciplines, and that it would be a recipe for disaster.

    Not that I necessarily agree with that viewpoint, but … now we’ve hired a person who is supposed to be an expert in both fields. Seems inconsistent. Digression over.

    Comment by Irene — July 9, 2011 @ 9:44 am

  9. Irene: was that a question that came up during a particular candidate forum or in a candidate questionnaire?

    Comment by Lauren Do — July 9, 2011 @ 11:23 am

  10. I may have overstated how many candidates commented on this idea. I’m not sure if it came up in the race for council.

    It came up at a mayoral candidates forum for sure: “Thursday, Oct. 7, 6:30 p.m., Cardinal Point at Mariner Square, 2431 Mariner Square Drive; mayoral candidates; hosted by the Alameda Chamber of Commerce, Greater Alameda Business Association, Webster Street Business Association, Park Street Business Association and the Alameda Association of Realtors.”

    I think it was Former Police Chief Bernie Matthews who asked the question, probably because it was mentioned at a council meeting in which Frank Matarrese cited Pleasanton’s “combo” experience as a way of reducing costs. At the Cardinal Point forum, Marie Gilmore and Doug deHaan were vehemently opposed to the idea, stating the department heads required separate skillsets, and that one person could not possibly be an expert in both disciplines. They said that if the positions were combined under one public safety officer, Alameda would be put at risk.

    As I said, I don’t have a strong opinion on the issue, but it’s what they said.

    Comment by Irene — July 9, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

  11. It did not come up in the council race.

    Comment by Adam Gillitt — July 9, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  12. 7.:Jon, wasn’t that you in the “Hot Pink Feathers” section?

    Comment by notmayberry — July 10, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

  13. Deja Brit…

    “Fire station watch manager Tony Nicholls arrived at the scene within five minutes but refused to try to rescue Mr Burgess because, he told the inquest, his crew’s ‘Level 1’ training only allowed them to go in the water up to their ankles.”

    Read more:

    Comment by Jack Richard — February 29, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

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