Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 23, 2012

Nothing compares 2

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Public Resources — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

In more apples to apples comparisons I was sent a spreadsheet with a list of monthly salaries for various cities in the Bay Area and their Fire Departments.   This information was updated in 2010 and was confirmed by the City’s HR Departments.

So for a bit of a change, I thought I would do a bar graph which would give a more visual comparison.  Some of the cities are much larger than Alameda (Berkeley), some are about the same (Redwood City), and some are a bit smaller (Woodside).

According to the Base Monthly Salary alone, Alameda falls into middleish in comparison to the other cities.

But below is another graph which shows the same set of cities, but includes the total take home which includes holiday pay, education incentive, insurance, uniform costs, etc.   If you add in all the little extras, the compensation for Alameda Firefighters ends up on the lower end.




  1. Minimizing the problem isn’t helpful. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the fourth deck or the first deck when the ship is sinking.

    Much of the problem stems from one city following the unsustainable policies of another city. Now we have all the cities struggling to fund the wage and benefit packages that are unsustainable.

    Comment by Irene — May 23, 2012 @ 7:12 am

  2. We all know we have a problem, anybody got any answers that could actually work. I don’t think anyone would argue that things are unsustainable. How about some positive comments as to how to fix the problem.

    Comment by John P. — May 23, 2012 @ 7:22 am

  3. Irene: I’m puzzled why you would suggest that providing comparable facts is “minimizing” the problem. If people are going to contend that our public safety employees are “overpaid” or “over compensated” then the natural question is, as compared to what? This is a comparison based on other Bay Area cities which are technically Alameda’s competition for quality staff people.

    Suggesting that Alameda has the ability to wave a magic wand and unilaterally enforce new contract provision on two bargaining units — since I’m assuming that you aren’t just suggesting that only the Firefighters take the Hoover Commission suggested cap — is more optimistic than even this optimist would even dare to believe would go smoothly. Just look at the conflict between AEA and AUSD as a sign of what happens when there is the perception that one side is attempting to unilaterally change a contract. The same level of animosity, if not worse, will result in any unilateral change in public safety contracts. So the question is, if you think that the Firefighters and Police should accept a $90K cap on pensions moving forward, what are we — as a City — willing to bargain in order to get that level of concession?

    Comment by Lauren Do — May 23, 2012 @ 7:31 am

  4. The City pension obligation committee is currently working on the issue of having a complete understanding of the depth of the problem and analyzing potential solutions. The City Auditor, Treasurer, and other smart and knowledgeable people are on this work group and the City is committed to finding a solution. Everyone agrees that our big problem with pension obligations, including both payouts and medical costs is huge and that past practices are unsustainable. Speaking just for myself, beating up on the people who do the work for us as being overpaid and lazy, etc. is not helpful. Expect to see some proposals for solutions, long and short term coming out of the committee in the next few months. We are not at liberty to discuss any specifics, as everything is now in fact finding and discussion stage, but you might take some comfort in knowing that a broad-based group of people are working on the problem. Proposals will go to the Council and will be thoroughly discussed publicly then. Who is on the committee is no secret – you can ask the City Manager’s Office for that information.

    Comment by Kate Quick, — May 23, 2012 @ 7:38 am

  5. “Over compensated” refers to an employer’s ability to meet their financial obligation. Comparing Alameda to other cities that also can’t meet their obligations, in my opinion, isn’t helpful.

    Hard sacrifices need to be made and, since we’ve already cut as much as we can at the bottom (including moving to a four-day work week that impacts the public the city serves), it’s time to focus at the top of the pay scale for all city employees.

    The Hoover Commission didn’t claim to have a magic wand and I hope the city takes their recommendations to heart.

    Comment by Irene — May 23, 2012 @ 8:32 am

  6. Kate , thanks that’s what I was looking for.

    Comment by John P. — May 23, 2012 @ 9:31 am

  7. Irene: As long as other commenters — not you specifically — continue to compare Alameda City salaries to random entities, I’ll post comparables that I think are more worthy of consideration.

    Taking a hard look at post-retirement benefits is absolutely crucial and Kate Quick has mentioned the work that is going into that at the City level. But any change in post-retirement benefits for any City worker represented by a bargaining unit will require negotiated concessions. As the Little Hoover Commission noted:

    Additionally, pension reductions for current employees must be offset by “comparable new advantages.” In other words, it requires a fair economic trade, which works against realizing any savings from pension modifications.

    And it goes on to cite a Supreme Court ruling on the issue:

    “An employee’s vested contractual pension rights may be modified prior to retirement for the purpose of keeping a pension system flexible to permit adjustments in accord with changing conditions and at the same time maintain the integrity of the system. Such modification may be reasonable, and it is for the courts to determine upon the facts of each case what constitutes a permissible change. To be sustained as reasonable, alterations of employees’ pension rights must bear some material relation to the theory of a pension system and its successful operation, and changes in a pension plan which result in disadvantage to employees should be accompanied by comparable new advantages.”

    In essence, my initial question to you. What are we — as a City — willing to bargain for in exchange for such a substantial concession from the City’s bargaining units?

    Comment by Lauren Do — May 23, 2012 @ 9:34 am

  8. Lauren, Irene is right. You are missing the point by comparing our economically unsustainable pay practices to other cities with the same exact issues. Again: if the ship is sinking, don’t compare the lido deck to the bridge. Talk about life boats.

    Comment by John Johnson — May 23, 2012 @ 10:15 am

  9. John P, I do not believe there is a solution to the ‘unsustainable’ fiscal policies of the city, short of revamping the management/union relationship for public employees. Ideally, the city would no longer recognize unions. At the very least, pay and benefits must be taken off the negotiation table.

    Neither of these things will happen so the city will be stuck with patchwork feel good bandages which masquerade the root problem without solving it.

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 23, 2012 @ 10:23 am

  10. “As long as other commenters — not you specifically — continue to compare Alameda City salaries to random entities, I’ll post comparables that I think are more worthy of consideration.”


    Are you saying BLS Comparisons and Federal Firefighters wages are NOT good Comparisons when we look at salarys and we took on these same Firefighters when the based closed?

    Just shows you how out of whack our system is.

    Comparing other Broke Cities that are underwater for same reasons doesn’t make for good comparisons.

    Might want to look at places and entities that have employee costs under control and sustainable.

    Those are positive steps in moving forward.

    Comment by John — May 23, 2012 @ 10:50 am

  11. Federal firefighter makes about 60K for this region SF OAK San Jose

    Using Federal standard of 30 Percent Benefits is 18K per year.

    That is equal to 78,000 total compensation and no overtime pay til at 72 hours per week.

    Alameda Firefighter averaging 190K Total compensation.

    Firefighters Salarys from BLS
    compare these to AFD

    Fire chief $78,672 $104,780
    Deputy chief 69,166 88,571
    Battalion chief 66,851 81,710
    Assistant fire chief 65,691 83,748
    Fire captain 60,605 72,716
    Fire lieutenant 50,464 60,772
    Engineer 48,307 62,265

    WE have a great Fire department. But local governments total pay compensation is unsustainable and crippling Cities Budgets. the Federal government pays very well and here is their pay schedule.

    The Average Firefighter will retire with the Equilent of 5- 7 Houses Fully paid for and be able to retire between 50- 55 After recieving almost double the Average Pay of a Federal Firefighter while working for City.

    The Captains and above recieve the Equivilant of 10-12 Houses fully paid for upon retirement all financed by the Citizens of Alameda.

    Can We Really Afford this.

    Comment by John — May 23, 2012 @ 11:03 am

  12. “Speaking just for myself, beating up on the people who do the work for us as being overpaid and lazy, etc. is not helpful. ”


    Your the Only one bringing up lazy ,Ect Ect……..And that Certainly is NOT helpful.

    But that is why your the Churchlady.

    Comment by John — May 23, 2012 @ 11:10 am

  13. Ms. Quick said, “We are not at liberty to discuss any specifics, as everything is now in fact finding and discussion stage. . .” A very different take on negotiations from the school district’s and teachers’ negotiations, isn’t it?

    Comment by Not. A. Alamedan — May 23, 2012 @ 11:21 am

  14. “Ideally, the city would no longer recognize unions.” What a great idea! Let’s all race to the bottom: low wages, longer hours, no health benefits, no pensions, no vacations, no sick pay. Excellent plan.

    Comment by Kristen — May 23, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  15. See what I mean? There is no solution and the alternative is race to bankruptcy.

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 23, 2012 @ 11:50 am

  16. Oddly enough, there are many none union jobs that offer great benefits, just not the eye-popping pensions our firefighters enjoy. How about comparing compensation with a city that can meet its pension obligations? Irene is right. Alameda gets no pass from me for being no worse than anybody else. The trick is to model our system after one that works.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — May 23, 2012 @ 11:59 am

  17. Blah, blah, blah..Well, I didn’t read all of the above comments in detail, but does anyone ever consider that fighting fires in Alameda might be just a bit easier than in cities where there is no Measure A keeping the density down? Frankly, we don’t have a lot of multistory buildings or stack-&-pack housing here. Very few high-rises. Therefore, I think one must be wary about comparing the job demands of Alameda firefighters to those in any other municipality.

    Comment by vigi — May 23, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

  18. Jack, I would disagree with you that the answer is to get rid of unions. The real answer which is to late to remedy was to have our politicians and city management not make such terrible deals with the unions in the past just to get elected. At some point we run out of money and no one gets paid. Your point #15.
    not. A. Alamedan post #13 very good point.

    Comment by John P. — May 23, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

  19. The Unions own the Politicians….Bonta is not running for Assembly without the Two Largest Contributors….Teachers Unions and Employee Unions……They are #1 and #2 in the Billion Dollar Club of Contributors.

    Government Unions vs. Taxpayers
    The moral case for unions—protecting working families from exploitation—does not apply to public employment..

    Since January 2008 the private sector has lost nearly eight million jobs while local, state and federal governments added 590,000.

    Federal employees receive an average of $123,049 annually in pay and benefits, twice the average of the private sector. And across the country, at every level of government, the pattern is the same: Unionized public employees are making more money, receiving more generous benefits, and enjoying greater job security than the working families forced to pay for it with ever-higher taxes, deficits and debt.

    How did this happen? Very quietly. The rise of government unions has been like a silent coup, an inside job engineered by self-interested politicians and fueled by campaign contributions.

    Public employee unions contribute mightily to the campaigns of liberal politicians ($91 million in the midterm elections alone) who vote to increase government pay and workers. As more government employees join the unions and pay dues, the union bosses pour ever more money and energy into liberal campaigns. The result is that certain states are now approaching default. Decades of overpromising and fiscal malpractice by state and local officials have created unfunded public employee benefit liabilities of more than $3 trillion.

    Comment by John — May 23, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

  20. John P, you said it in a nutshell when you said it’s too late.

    But it goes further than that. The symbiotic relationship between the city and city worker unions is bound to satisfy both at the expense of the third party…the tax payers, who have no actual recourse but to pay. Not saying it’s true in this city but if you read Tony Daysog’s post yesterday (#8) when he speaks of the 3% formula, it sure sounds like he viewed the tax payers as a bottomless money pit, at least subsequent to 9-11.

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 23, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  21. 19. Those numbers are wrong especially about adding 590,00 local, state and Federal employees. Please read the following Pants on Fire article.

    Comment by J.E.A. — May 23, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

  22. “Since the beginning of his term, state and local governments have shed 611,000 employees — including 196,000 educators — according to government statistics. ”

    So who is right ?

    Numbers from BLS


    Public administration +90
    2008 6763
    2011 6853

    All other -8013
    2008 175089
    2011 167076

    However, all other include ‘Education and health services’ and specifically ‘Elementary and secondary schools’

    Detailed tables from BLS


    Elementary and secondary schools – 512
    2008 9036
    2011 8524

    Comment by oleczek — May 23, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

  23. So John,” public employee unions contribute mightily to liberal politicians”. Well corporations contribute mightily to conservative politicians. Makes for a great balance. If “corporations are people too”, then why can’t unions be people too.?
    Your other quote ” the unions own the politicians”, well guess what the corporations own them also. The big problem is that we the people don’t own the politicians. John check out, I think your pants are on fire.

    Comment by JOHN P. — May 23, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

  24. John P and JEA

    That article is from the Wall Street Journal.

    Regarding Top Two is from Big Money Talks

    These interests have spent hundreds of millions of dollars for and against ballot measures. They often win by spending money to defeat measures, which has the effect of maintaining the status quo.
    They have generously contributed directly to candidates and supported or opposed others through unlimited “independent expenditures.” While there are contribution limits for state candidates, there are no limits on what can be spent on “independent expenditures.” Thus, “independent expenditures” allow contributors to avoid contribution limits and spend whatever they want to support their favorite candidates.
    They provide significant financial support to both major political parties and other campaign committees.
    Roughly a quarter of their expenditures have been for lobbying various public officials,

    The 15 That Spent $1 Billion to
    Influence California Voters
    and Public officals

    The Top Two

    1. California Teachers Association $ 211,849,298
    2. California State Council of Service Employees $ 107,467,272

    Comment by John — May 23, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

  25. John: I believe the SEIU endorsed all of the democratic Assembly candidates, with the exception of Joel Young who they pulled their endorsement from. The CTA is not on Rob Bonta’s list of endorsers, but is on Abel Guillen list.

    Comment by Lauren Do — May 23, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

  26. Nice quoting John. Your quote applies to all entities from the report not just unions.

    The full quote is

    “Just 15 wealthy special interests have spent more than $1 billion in the past 10 years
    to influence California voters and public officials. This powerful group includes
    labor unions, drug companies and Indian tribes. It also includes utility, oil, telecommunications
    and tobacco companies.”

    [continue with your quote]

    Comment by oleczek — May 23, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

  27. Something compares 2

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 23, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

  28. Lauren,

    What I stated was that ” Bonta is not running for Assembly without the Two Largest Contributors….Teachers Unions and Employee Unions……They are #1 and #2 in the Billion Dollar Club of Contributors.”

    I’m not saying it’s wrong or Illegal just the Reality of Politics and maybe why we have the huge Salary and Pension Liabilities to deal with at City, County, and State Levels.

    Looking at the List of Labor Organizations that are endorsing him and all the People Related to Schools the little that I know about Politics money is trickling in from CTA…..

    Labor Organizations
    California Labor Federation
    Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California
    California School Employees Association (CSEA)
    California Professional Firefighters (CPF)
    Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC)
    United Farm Workers (UFW)
    California Teamsters Public Affairs Council
    UNITE HERE State Council
    Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG)
    California Police Chiefs Association
    Labor Organizations

    Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1000
    California Association of Professional Scientists
    United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Local 5
    Operating Engineers Local 3
    Teamsters Joint Council District 7
    Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of Alameda County
    San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association
    California Association of Highway Patrolmen (CAHP)
    CDF-Firefighters, IAFF Local 2881
    IAFF Local 55—Oakland, Alameda County, Emeryville Firefighters
    Alameda Firefighters, IAFF Local 689
    San Francisco Firefighters, IAFF Local 798
    Oakland Police Officers Association
    Alameda Police Officers Association
    San Leandro Police Officers Association
    San Francisco Police Officers Association
    East Bay Automotive Machinists Local 1546
    International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 16
    American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 57
    International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1245
    Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, AFL-CIO

    Comment by John — May 23, 2012 @ 9:01 pm

  29. Everyone in the City Worried about David Howard and his influence who can Probably Raise 1.75 in change from his couch…It’s pretty laughable.

    Comment by John — May 23, 2012 @ 9:13 pm

  30. Jack

    I think you are Right…..This was 3 Years ago and the Game is Still the Same.

    California Treasurer Spanks Legislature

    Comment by John — May 23, 2012 @ 10:21 pm

  31. The city can’t unilaterally change city employee contracts, but it can unilaterally change the number of city employees — by laying them off. That’s how the trade off usually happens — a city moves to lay off staff, and the city unions, in turn agree to some concessions. if the city can’t negotiate some voluntary concessions then layoffs could happen in the long run — in the short run, there’ll be more and more cuts in services, especially in anything which is not defined as a “core service”.

    As somone commented on another post, it won’t be that long before the city is paying 50% or more of base salaries into PERS contributions *alone*, never mind benefits in general, for public safety employees. Right now the PERS contributions are in the range of 35% of base salary, and the city has indicated that they’re going up — and i mean 35% even with the much vaunted addtional employee contribution of 2%.

    When the city’s pension committee comes out with its proposed solutions, first and foremost, look for the words “new” or “future”, because chances are that any significant reforms will apply only to future employees, which does nothing to solve the city’s current financial woes any time soon.

    With a crisis statewide in city budgets, it hardly makes sense to claim that Alameda is okay, because it’s no different from the rest. Yes, and they’re all in trouble. For Alameda and other cities mired in debt, the only long term solution may be bankruptcy, which is hardly a good option, but contrary to what the city site says, bankruptcy does permit a city to make unilateral changes to its employee contracts, and to retiree benefits as well. It will be that, or the loss of many city services, or staff cuts, or voluntary concessions on the part of unions, but something’s got to give.

    Comment by dlm — May 25, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

  32. DLM, you need to carefully review Vallejo’s experience and glean from it what happened in the way of “making unilateral changes to employee contracts.” Also, review the implications of what a city bankrupcy does to our ability to secure interest rates, have credibility in the financial markets, etc. We are indeed in a pickle, but we are far from where cities who are much less prudent are with respect to having to take such drastic action. We will work through this, and it is true, many of the solutions available are to insure the debt does not grow and do not involve “unilateral actions”. But not all.

    Comment by Kate Quick, — May 26, 2012 @ 7:29 am

  33. 32
    “We will work through this,…”, exactly what do you recommend the city do, Kate? Or is that another of your secrets, i.e. “We are not at liberty to discuss any specifics, as everything is now in fact finding and discussion stage, but you might take some comfort in knowing that a broad-based group of people are working on the problem.”?

    I understand we plebes are unable to grasp the complex intricacies of such high level thought but perhaps a general hint might quiet the common people until your ‘broad-base’ cabal sees fit to reveal salvation.

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 26, 2012 @ 9:57 am

  34. Jack, Kate Quick is part of a group that is actually doing something in the real world, in real time to try to fix a very serious problem. The rest of us are jabbering away on the internet. I think her idea is much better.

    Comment by JOHN P. — May 26, 2012 @ 10:21 am

  35. “Kate Quick is part of a group that is actually doing something in the real world,…”. Thanks John P, that’s really reassuring. Since you think her idea is much better, too bad you can’t share your inside knowledge.

    Here’s another guy who, apparently, has inside info, “…sure, it’s not fiscally sustainable. That’s why I was happy to be a part of the Fiscal Sustainability Committee — so I will be a part of the solution.” Tony Daysog

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 26, 2012 @ 11:49 am

  36. Jack, I can’t share my “inside knowledge” because I don’t have any. But yes I think what Kate is doing is far better than what you and I do. I also think what Tony has done is far better than what you and I do. They have actually volunteered to do something positive for their city, and let people like us criticize them for what they do. Its so easy, I just went for a walk on the base came home, typed a few words and now I’m gonna eat lunch. Life is good.

    Comment by JOHN P. — May 26, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

  37. If this group can succeed in putting the city fiscal toothpaste back in the tube, I’m for replacing the Mayor and CC with them.

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 26, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

  38. “Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which they were created”

    It’s the Mindsets of the Kate Quicks and Tony Daysongs that have us in this pickle.

    We might be alot better off without their type Groupthink is what Jack might be referring to.

    Their so called Volunteering cost us probably 100 million + just in a few Departments in last 10 years by their evaluations and being part of the process.

    Comment by John — May 26, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

  39. Nobody’s going to claim that bankruptcy is a good thing — I certainly wouldn’t — I’m just remarking that the city’s assertions re: Vallejo are not correct. I have “carefully reviewed” Vallejo’s experience and here’s what I gleaned: the bankruptcy judge ruled in favor of Vallejo, the unions then appealed, and ultimately CalPERS threatened to join the appeal. At that point, the Vallejo officials gave up, because they didn’t have the resources to fight CalPERS in court.

    Federal law supercedes state law, and federal bankruptcy courts can in fact overrule state decisions, which they did. Look at Central Falls, RI — the bankruptcy court ruled in favor of cutting city employee and retiree pensions, and the matter was finally resolved through voluntary concessions.

    I’m just waiting for the next shoe to drop. Some other cities — several other cities — will declare bankruptcy and then we’ll see what the upshot is.

    I’m not convinced that the city can work through this, not really. Every time a new set of deficits comes out, it’s worse than the last. The discussion around Measure C has made the city’s condition sound even worse. I would agree that Alameda is a relatively affluent city, not so hard hit by the real estate crash, so I’m left wondering what happened — where did the money go?

    Comment by dlm — May 26, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

  40. DLM

    I have a friend who follows market and housing fairly close and she has been pretty sharp in what has transpired in last 7 years regarding Real Estate and the Stock market so I pay attention.

    If your looking to buy a home look at price ranges from 1996-2000. She says banks are only releasing 80K foreclosures this year with a back log of 4 million. Will take years to digest them all.

    In alot of areas in FL, CA, NEV, AZ, prices have dropped and we are already seeing the 1996 -2000 prices.

    Maybe Alameda will be lucky enough to avoid the decline.

    Comment by John — May 26, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

  41. Just to be clear, there is no “secret knowledge” at this point. There is a huge amount of data and information that is being sorted through and winnowed in order to select some practical and “do-able” steps to recommend to the Council and Staff. Not all of it is easy to understand and I am challenged to really comprehend some of it, but the picture is clear and has been stated on this thread – there IS a problem and it is a big one. I am studying and asking a lot of questions, as are the other folks working on the issue. Many of the solutions have “upsides” and “downsides” – both. So it is not an easy task. And, I think it will require multiple avenues of attack to overcome the problem. No easy answers here.

    Comment by Kate Quick, — May 27, 2012 @ 8:31 am

  42. So the city picks a few people off the street and expect them to rectify 10+ years economic mayhem and all will be well. Hello dreamworld.

    Comment by coughcough — May 27, 2012 @ 7:30 pm

  43. Coughjackcough…42
    I like to be responsible for what I write.

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 27, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

  44. #42. You can ask the CM office who is on the committee. Not at all people “off the street”, you will find. And nobody has even remotely suggested that we “rectify” the issue. We are trying very hard to come up with two things: the extent of the problem (agreement) and some possible solutions that will be meaningful and realistic to propose to the people who must decide what to do.

    Comment by Kate Quick, — May 27, 2012 @ 9:45 pm

  45. So the city picks, not off the street leading citizens with sterling qualifications, to winnow through and study the ‘extent’ of the fiscal problems elected official have placed this city in and, after carefully ruminating meaningful yet realistic proposals, reveal to the loyal people munchkins in order that said people munchkins will become aware of what they must communicate to the Council and Staff so said Council and Staff will also become aware of the upsides, downsides, sidesides, roundabouts, boulevards and avenues of attack to comprehend then overcome the really bad fiscal problems the previous Councils and Staffs led the city into.

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 27, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

  46. Jack

    The New Fire Chief was also President of the Firemans Union…..So No conflict there…Fire Department Union was Leading Political Contributor to Mayor and Council Members………..So No Conflict there… The Political PR Firm for Mayor and Council Members and AFD Union Fire Department are Same Company…So No conflict there….It’s all a tight knit bunch and hard to figure why we are paying them Double what a Federal Firefighter Makes…The Federal Government are not known in todays Economy as underpaying their employees.

    The Average Total compensation for Fire Department is over 200K a Year…..It’s not that much if you say it real fast.

    I’m sure they will work it out….. the Two Kevins have done tons of work and they have been Ignoring them for Years and Kicking the Can down the Road.. The Can is now a Anchor.
    City Budget: The Clash Over Cash Opinion

    Alameda Auditor and Treasurer Respond to Mayor
    “We don’t yell fire in a crowded theater unless the theater is on fire.”

    April 6, 2011

    To say we were shocked and disappointed by Mayor Marie Gilmore’s response (“City is Solvent”) to our comments at the city council meeting of March 29, 2011 would be an understatement. We’d like to take this opportunity to correct some of the misstatements she made and hopefully set a more constructive tone for working together toward fixing a problem that impacts our entire community.

    It’s disappointing that the mayor has decided to make personal attacks against us for speaking out about the budget problems, problems which were clearly and accurately presented by city staff that evening.

    Why she went from thanking us at the meeting to calling our remarks “irresponsible” and questioning our motives less than a week later is puzzling.

    But we’ve seen this type of reaction before: when we raised concerns about the telecom arm of the former Alameda Power & Telecom we were subjected to the same type of derision.Ultimately, those same parties acknowledged that we were right, and we were able to work together to solve that serious issue.

    We hope that going forward the energy won’t be wasted on trying to place blame and deny the city’s condition, but instead will be focused on saving our city. This is what we get elected to do. We don’t “yell fire in a crowded theater” unless the theater is on fire.

    At the meeting on March 29, we clearly and passionately articulated our belief that if nothing is done to change the current course, the city will go bankrupt. We stand by that conclusion.

    We did not say the city was on the “verge” of bankruptcy. Nor did we say that it is a foregone conclusion that this is our fate. Looking at the information staff presented that evening, any rational person would reach the same outlook. If “bankruptcy” isn’t politically correct enough, let’s just say that we’ll experience “severe bill-paying impairments.” Ignoring or downplaying this information is the disservice to our community; we should be addressing it head on and looking for solutions.

    The mayor also criticizes us for not being engaged in this issue. We need to set the record straight on this:

    ° In 2005, we convinced the city that long-range planning was imperative to ensuring our financial future. We spent many hours with the CFO developing a tool that could be used not only by staff, but also accessed by the public to better their understanding of the budget. For unknown reasons, this effort was abandoned when it was 90 percent complete.

    ° In 2008-09, we co-chaired the Fiscal Sustainability Committee, which completed a comprehensive study of the city budget and provided a 10-year forecast of city finances. The members of the committee included a former city manager, a former council member and a former city CFO. This information was presented to council and many community groups beginning in June 2009.

    ° In May 2010, we did a follow-up presentation of the sustainability commitee report to council, re-emphasizing the key information the report had presented a year earlier.

    ° We have always been available to council and staff any time they have asked for our input or opinion.

    There is one statement the mayor makes that is absolutely true: we have never been involved in labor negotiations. We have as much authority in labor negotiations as any of you reading this: none. (In fact, we don’t get a vote in anything, only council members get a vote.)

    The mayor mentions “public input” and “transparency” as goals of resolving this budget quandary. If she truly means this, let’s open the contract negotiations to the public. If we can’t go that far, at least communicate to us and all Alamedans what we’re offering and what the unions are asking for. San Jose has done this. We don’t see why Alameda can’t. We haggle and lobby for spending on golf, libraries, the arts, yet 80 percent of our money is spent on labor, an issue which the public gets absolutely no input on. That’s not right.

    Finally, we agree that this current situation has been decades in the making. Rather than yelling at her passengers about who gave bad directions, the driver of this car needs to grab the wheel and turn us onto the right path before we go off the cliff.

    We thank the former council members, city employees and members of the public who have called, emailed, and come by in person to thank us for our comments at the meeting of March 29. We agree that this is possibly the most serious issue this city has ever faced. And we hope that going forward our elected leaders will fulfill their obligation to serve the interests of all citizens by taking the steps necessary to ensure our financial future.

    Comment by John — May 28, 2012 @ 2:53 am

  47. 11: John asked “Are you saying BLS Comparisons and Federal Firefighters wages are NOT good Comparisons when we look at salarys and we took on these same Firefighters when the based closed?”

    John, the answer is YES.

    We certainly need constructive and thoughtful long-term solutions to salary and benefit sustainability but
    offering irrelevant or repeated versions of the same “facts” when those “facts” do not add constructively to finding Alameda-specific solutions is a waste of everyone’s time.

    You keep posting similar information about salary ranges that the City of Alameda cannot use–because of who we are as a city,our contractual obligations to the unions, and what comparable cities in the Bay Area offer as compensation for public sector employees: the “competitive marketplace” you seem to be so fond of is this regional public sector universe. Your comparisons are inapplicable and irrelevant to the City of Alameda, which makes them merely tiring after the first dozen reads.

    Irene has pointed out what we all know to be true: most public agencies in California and many nationwide have underfunded and over-promised in regards to public pensions and other contractual obligations in the past. But we do not have time machines and we cannot just throw a legal and ethical monkey wrench in the works as you keep proposing with numbers that are non-starters.

    As Kate has pointed out, the city is carefully and responsibly studying how to resolve these significant liabilities, which every city official acknowledges and understands. As City Manager John Russo has repeated during City Council meetings–ever since he arrived–“It took a long time for this problem to develop…we didn’t get into this crisis overnight, and we won’t be able to solve it overnight, either…”

    Lauren’s bar graphs and related comparisons of *applicable* and *relevant* comparative data help us to see where the City of Alameda stands relative to its local peer cities in the Bay Area–where we actually live and have to compete and function in hiring public safety and other city staff. They offer far more useful and applicable data than your repetitive BLS statistics.

    The fact that our “competitor” and peer cities are in the same financial boat re: pension funding strengthens Alameda’s opportunities to cooperate with other jurisdictions statewide and nationwide in developing solutions that will not cause legal and governmental train wrecks or tie us up endlessly in the courts. We need the kind of careful and considerate sustainable solutions that good and capable people are now working on in Alameda, but off-topic
    statistics that do not match the City of Alameda’s reality do not help us get there.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — May 28, 2012 @ 10:42 am

  48. 28: John, Endorsements by unions, big corporations, of the King of Siam do not change either the laws of California or the inevitable mathematics of state budgeting. Because of several decision-making hurdles in our state constitution and recent developments in super-partisan politicking (on both sides, but most destructively on GOP side of the aisle) implementing sustainable and realistic fiscal reforms–including raising needed additional revenue–is extremely difficult.

    You can bet that Rob Bonta–or any responsible legislator who represents us–will do his or her best to undo the existing budgetary logjam simply because the math is unavoidable for all of us, whether we are members of unions, business owners, citizens, bloggers, corporations, rich, or poor.

    The laws of mathematics have not yet changed: we need legislators who are willing to acknowledge that and create a more rational system for making state budget decisions. Rob Bonta is one of those candidates. And the fact that he understands and can work with unions will stand him in good stead as the inevitable conversations on financial sustainability proceed, as they must. Politicians cannot avoid budgetary reality forever and they must eventually add revenue as well as cut expenses unless we are willing to destroy our social fabric and risk even more substantial disruptions to commerce and daily life.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — May 28, 2012 @ 11:00 am

  49. What I got out of 47 and 48 was the solutions Jon wants are tax increases.

    Comment by Jack Richard — May 28, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

  50. Jack

    Sounds like same BS sales pitch we’ve been hearing for years as they kick can farther and farther down Road.

    Probably the most courageous thing we can do is just BK.

    Negotiate a Payout and take back control of City from the Employees.

    Amazing how a few Hundred Employees can Put a City of 75K people in Financial Peril and probably why most don’t live here. We are just looked upon as Employers.

    When the Mindset is you CAN’T compare Exact same Jobs Nationally or on Federal Level with regionally adjusted pay and we are talking Civil Servants what Koolaid are they Serving Up.

    Saw same exact scenario in Business…….It’s a mess to clean up .

    I wonder how much the Jon Spangler Household has made off of the Political Ideologies and Garbage he dumps on Regular basis. I’m sure more than he made of his opinion on Finest Vaseline to use or which manure he favors at the Hardware Store. What Isle are the Trash Bags on Jon.

    Comment by John — May 28, 2012 @ 9:01 pm

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