Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 15, 2012

Crowdsourcing a City Council questionnaire

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Election — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

So I had this brilliant idea to crowdsource from all you folks a questionnaire for the City Council election. I thought it would interesting and insightful to get questions, about five or six good ones that go beyond the typical “What will your priorities be if elected to the City Council?” Not that isn’t important, but you know someone is going to ask the question and that candidate is going to have some sort of standard answer already that is going to be so boring.

No I’m referring to questions along the lines of “Who would you want to be stranded on a desert island with?” But, of course, not that question.

As a reminder, this is what the City website says is the role of the City Council:

The Mayor and members of the City Council are elected at-large by the voters of Alameda and serve as the principal policymakers for the City. The City Council is responsible for enacting ordinances, establishing policies, and providing guidance and direction for actions that affect the quality of life in Alameda.

Article III of the City Charter outlines the duties and responsibilities of the City Council as well.

Of course this election is setting up to be a good battle because of the high stakes aka the possible third seat opening up if Rob Bonta is elected to the Assembly. So I’m hoping that folks have interesting, but not directed at any candidate, type questions. Otherwise I’m stuck with making them up myself. I might end up going with the deserted island question but maybe change it to “If you were launched into space, who would you want with you.”

I’m thinking about sending this out to candidates on September 1st, so get your questions in before then!


  1. so the issues of diminished revenues, escalating costs, base development, and looming teacher strike are pretty clear…I doubt if any of the candidates have radical new ideas…so I want to know about whether they might be effective in office…

    1. On a scale of 1-10, how computer literate are you?
    Please list any social media you currently use, including any websites you regularly visit

    2. what is the hardest decision you’ve had to make in your professional life?

    3. many people have suggested that people run for elective office just because of ego- how would you answer such critics?

    4. What current American (not a relative) do you admire the most and why?

    5. Describe something in your professional life you recently learned- and your learning style

    Comment by Commonsense — August 15, 2012 @ 6:37 am

  2. Just to be clear with the tenative agreement reached with teachers in June, the “looming teacher strike” is not looiming at all.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — August 15, 2012 @ 7:06 am

  3. 6. Alameda Point has gone through 15+ years of planning process, do you believe that there is a community consensus for a vision for the area? What process should be followed for taking next steps and what are the most immediate next steps needed to be taken?

    Comment by jkw — August 15, 2012 @ 7:13 am

  4. 7. Explain your understanding of the current state of the City Budget.

    8. Much is made of the City’s “unfunded liabilities,” briefly explain the issue and what solutions, if any, do you feel should be pursued

    Comment by jkw — August 15, 2012 @ 7:19 am

  5. Who is funding your campaign?

    Comment by Jack Schultz — August 15, 2012 @ 7:25 am

  6. 9. What steps would you take to support the successful implementation of the Housing Element?

    Comment by notadave — August 15, 2012 @ 9:19 am

  7. Would you be in favor of voter approval through the ballot box prior to final approval of a negotiated agreement between the City and Public Employee Unions?

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 15, 2012 @ 9:25 am

  8. How about something basic like: “Will you obey & uphold the Alameda City Charter from the moment you are elected to office?”. Because, as Rob Bonta showed us, we just can’t take something that obvious for granted anymore.

    Come to think of it, someone should ask him if he will obey & uphold the California Constitution if elected to Ass-embly…

    Comment by vigi — August 15, 2012 @ 10:00 am

  9. #3: Hey, jkw, if you really care about Alameda Point, you would join the R.A.B.! Seriously, I would love to see you grill the Navy & the environmental regulators like you do the City planning staff.

    Comment by vigi — August 15, 2012 @ 10:05 am

  10. I would like to know how well the candidates understand and live up to our Sunshin ordinance, the Brown Act, and the California public Records Act. While it isn’t strictly a question, I’d like to ask all of the candidates–in all of the races–to take this pledge from CalAware and Terry Francke. (Sorry it’s so long…):

    “…The following is a 10-point Sunshine Pledge responsive to that third statement that, if adopted, should merit the vote of anyone of any party — at least against any competitor who won’t make such a commitment.
    What it tells the public seeking some distinguishing mark in a sea of untested faces is that this candidate, if elected, won’t be pulling up the ladder but instead lowering others, welcoming the community aboard.

    1. I will be second to none in supporting open government and free expression on matters of public concern.

    2. I will not consent to withholding governmental information from the public unless convinced — by publicly available legal analysis supported by specific statute or case authority — that the information may be lawfully withheld and that failing to do so would more likely than not seriously injure an identifiable public or private interest. I will always insist on hearing — publicly — what is the worst case possible resulting from public disclosure.

    3. I will not consent to holding meetings that exclude public attendance unless convinced — by publicly available legal analysis supported by specific statute or case authority — that excluding the public is lawfully permitted and that failing to do so would more likely than not seriously injure an identifiable public or private interest. I will always insist on hearing — publicly — what is the worst case possible resulting from public attendance.

    4. In attending meetings of the body I have been elected to, I will use no electronic communications technology until the means have been installed to record and store all voice messages for subsequent public review and to display in real time and in the same room, all text messages or other traffic on the device I am using.

    5. I will resist any attempt to prevent particular persons from voicing particular views, or to shut down public communication generally without excellent reason and readily available equivalent opportunities, whether in general public forums such as the streets, the plazas and the parks or in speech-dedicated forums such as government meetings.

    6. As tempting as private briefings on pending meeting topics may be, I will decline to accept them from staff on any routine basis, and will instead be prepared to “ask the dumb questions” publicly, in the open meeting, for the benefit of the public’s understanding.
    7. I will do whatever I can to see that officers and employees of my agency understand the laws protecting whistleblowers and that a whistleblower hotline is maintained to receive and process reports of improper governmental activity, protecting the identity of the reporting party to the maximum extent permitted by law.

    8. I will fully support citizens’ efforts to draft, publicize, circulate and enact a sunshine ordinance that makes my agency more accommodating to public access, information and participation than under the minimum standards in the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act.

    9. I will insist that the following financial data pertaining to the relevant officers and employees of my agency be posted on the agency’s website and updated within five days of any changes, and until this disclosure practice is adopted, I will make my own data available on a personal website I will launch and maintain at my own expense:
    • A summary of all compensation and benefits in all forms.
    • The Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests.
    • Any campaign contributions received, with all information required to be disclosed by the Political Reform Act.
    • All agency credit card statements and/or annotated expense reimbursement claims.

    10. I will do what I can to see that the immediacy, economy, convenience and power of all forms of electronic communication are devoted to the inclusion and involvement of the people in their own government, and never to their exclusion and alienation.
    Several of these items apply to those seeking office on a multi-member council, board or commission, but most are relevant to most public posts subject to election.

    Notice that other than item 9, these cost the candidate absolutely nothing to adopt, and, if elected, nothing to live up to other than some occasional resistance of inertia from fellow officers, staff or legal advisers. In fact, a candidate’s refusal to take this pledge sends a pretty clear signal that he or she is already committed in the opposite direction — just waiting to clamber aboard and hoist that ladder.
    But those who do take this pledge deserve one consideration: the right to be wrong and the chance to learn through failure. Considering the kind of transparency they are committed to champion, they above all others should be given the benefit of the doubt for at least a longer than average honeymoon, because the risk they are taking is that if they misfire, everyone will soon know all about it — whereas those committed to unobservable government can cover their tracks as standard practice.
    If they take the Sunshine Pledge, they deserve an edge. They’re not saying, “Trust me.” They’re saying, “Watch us.”
    Please contact Terry Francke directly at…” (for more info)

    Comment by Jon Spangler — August 15, 2012 @ 11:20 am

  11. I want to know what the candidates have done to contribute to the betterment of the City of Alameda by serving on public bodies,
    contributing to open, public, and deliberative processes. When and where have they proven themselves in public legislative bodies, such as serving on the Planning Board, Transportation Commission,Hospital Board, or Golf Commission? Where have we seen how well they contribute to the legislative process. I want to see them publicize and stand on their records and their public decisions,especially the ones made during heated public sessions.

    This is the true value of serving on boards, commissions, and other deliberative bodies prior to running for elective office. Those who have served behind-the-scenes in task forces or committees may be well qualified but when they have not served on public bodies we cannot observe their skills and contributions, making them much harder to evaluate.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — August 15, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  12. Jon who is spending the MOST money on the Services of you and your Bride in promoting their Candidates thru Marketing and Social Media?

    Comment by John — August 15, 2012 @ 12:10 pm

  13. I want to know what the candidates have done to contribute to the betterment of the City of Alameda by working in the private sector, contributing to the betterment of all by engaging in open and free enterprise processes.

    When and where have they proven themselves in private bodies, such as serving on strategy profit committees, enunciating the perils and benefits of JIT supply philosophy, the risks and benefits of expanding their business so we can see how well they contributed to the betterment of their company or employer. I want to see them publicize and stand on their records and their decisions, especially the ones made during heated Board meetings.

    This is the true value of serving in the Private Sector. Those who have served in government bodies, behind-the-scenes lobbyists or on public sector task forces or committees may look well qualified on paper but when they have not worked in for-profit bodies we cannot assume they the skills necessary to make financial decisions for the city, thus making them much harder to evaluate.

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 15, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

  14. So, Jack (#13), I know the “you must have business experience to be a good government leader” argument is getting a lot of airplay these days, but I don’t think our actual experience supports the idea. Over the last century, the three presidents of the US with business experience have been Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, and George W. Bush. Hoover didn’t do well after the Crash of ’29. Truman was actually a failed businessman; his haberdashery went bankrupt. And for humor I’d like to hear someone explain the great things Bush did for the US economy.

    Perhaps the question could be rephrased to:

    Explain how your recent experience can be applied to solve the economic problems faced by Alameda, specifically falling revenues, increasing costs, deferred expenses, and stalled base redevelopment. (Plagarized from #1.)

    Comment by Tom Schweich — August 15, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

  15. There are multiple seats available in the races for City Council, the School Board and the Hospital Board. Besides yourself, who will you be voting for in your race and why?

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — August 15, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

  16. Tom

    I don’t think Jack was talking about Past Presidents of the United States or even referring to them. I believe your comparison is quite a stretch.

    I think jack was referring about about a possible future Council Member and how they have dealt with the situation the City now faces.. there are many business people who have faced the exact situation the City is Now facing financially and have successfully survived so far .

    I might be wrong but that is how I read Jacks #13

    Comment by John — August 15, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

  17. Do you support the creation of the Alameda National Wildlife Refuge at Alameda Point that was shelved because the Navy would not agree to take care of cleanup issues for the US Fish & Wildlife Service if something was missed? What would you do to realize that vision?

    Where is the best location for a VA clinic at Alameda Point – Where wetlands should go, or where buildings should go?

    Comment by Richard Bangert — August 15, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

  18. Obama and Kennedy had very little experience…neither did Carter. . LBJ, Ford, Bush Sr., and Nixon had the most. I think we could come up with faults all around…

    Comment by Commonsense — August 15, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

  19. Mr. Schweich, we could argue about various US Presidents and which ones were better Presidents because they had -or didn’t have- business experience but that’s not what or why I asked in my # 13. My idea for #13 came from Jon Spangler’s #11.(I tried to use all his wording in my 13 but had to change a few, obviously)

    Jon, from what I can gather, is nothing if not a government type guy. So I asked a serious but parodistic question based on Jon’s wanting to document every little thing a candidate has done running around sticking his nose if every little aspect of public service, which, I don’t consider earthmoving important.

    You sum up my intent well in your question.

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 15, 2012 @ 5:44 pm

  20. And, of course, John- the one who doesn’t disdain h’s- is spot on, as usual, in his #16.

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 15, 2012 @ 5:52 pm

  21. Jack

    He without the “h” wants to “Frame ” what the Marketing Materials they are Creating think we should Focus on…….Creationalism to Crapationalism.

    Comment by John — August 15, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

  22. A pledge, Jon? You’re starting to sound like Grover Norquist! You have not commented about Jerry Brown defunding the Brown Act, making it somewhat unenforceable. And shining sunshine on their acts doesn’t seem to stop politicians from sticking their heads where the sun doesn’t shine. The dirt seems to stay up on the wall, altho everyone knows it is there.

    Comment by vigi — August 15, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

  23. “Sunshin ordinance”

    Vigi……Re # 10 …..Jon Spangler has renamed it…….It is his way of government cutting back.

    Comment by John — August 15, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

  24. Jon’s pledge is the progressive way of running government. Don’t believe what they do, believe what they say they’ll do.

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 15, 2012 @ 10:01 pm

  25. 12: John, our votes are not for sale and never are, (Do you ask insinuating questions because your vote is for sale? I hope not.)
    We make our living by offering clients our professional expertise in writing, editing, and marketing. In the past we have, in some cases, contributed writing and editing services to candidates we have decided to support. (Doing so is entirely legal, ethical, and appropriate, in case you did not know that.)

    Comment by Jon Spangler — August 17, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

  26. 22: Vigi, I am appalled by Brown’s de-funding of the Brown Act. Alway have opposed any efforts to weaken it, in case you were wondering, but you never asked me before and Brown’s de-funding had not come up in local blogs I have read. (I believe I DID comment on my FB page about it months ago when it occurred.)

    23: John, I do everything I can to post error-free and clear comments. I re-read, proofread and edit my comments at least once before posting them. Unfortunately, the font on lauren’s blog is so faint and so small it is easy to miss spelling errors and typos, even when I am looking for them. The current fashion for washed-out font tones does nothing to improve a writer’s ability to edit and proof her/his own copy, which is why i do not use or recommend lighter font colors at all in my work. I have emailed lauren about this more than once but she is apparently “stuck” with this washed-out and almost-unreadable font in this WordPress layout.

    13, 14, 19, 24: Jack, I have nothing against private-sector experience or expertise. But I DO believe that government has a legitimate and critical place in our society, just as business and social sectors do.

    And governance in a legislative body requires unique and specific skills and abilities. Government is not the same as business. Good legislators need to be transparent, responsive to the public, pursue the public good, and use different decision-making processes and a different approach overall than some of the skills used in running a private business. (My wife and i have been in business for 20 years, BTW.). It was the specific and demonstrated ability to participate effectively in legislative decision making that I was addressing in my #11, which was not meant to address how candidates might address particular topics or issues like fiscal responsibility or pension liabilities, both of which concern me.

    I do not necessarily equate a candidate’s ability to legislate effectively or their ability to act in the public interest with their stances on specific issues: a fiscal conservative who legislates more effectively or who favors more government transparency might get my vote over someone who was more autocratic in style (less collegial or small-d democratic, so to speak) but more liberal in their political stances on certain issues.

    The “Sunshine Pledge” is from Terry Francke of CalAware, a spinoff of the former California Freedom of Information Committee, now the California First Amendment Coalition. Francke is often acknowledged to be California’s pre-eminent attorney in the field of government accountability, public records access, and government accountability (Brown Act, California Public Records Act, etc.).

    Here is where i first found the Sunshine Pledge, which I never claimed was my idea:

    Comment by Jon Spangler — August 17, 2012 @ 3:13 pm

  27. Another question: much comment has been made about unfounded liabilities, please explain your understanding of this issue (not just the number, but what the long term liability represents) and how do you think a properly balanced sustainable budget would handle this issue? Is it possible to ever have a budget without a long term unfunded pension, OPEB commitments without getting rid of them completely?

    Comment by JKW — August 17, 2012 @ 6:30 pm

  28. JKW
    They didn’t answer your #4 correctly?

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 17, 2012 @ 6:52 pm

  29. Jack, after listening to people speak at the ACT forum, I’m not convinced that everyone understands what the liability represents or what a solution would be, so I decided to ask a more specific question that would hopefully elicit an answer that showed whether they under stood the underling issue.

    Comment by JKW — August 17, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

  30. What’s the answer that would sway your vote?

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 17, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

  31. Jon Spamgler

    My Comment to #23 Vig was kind of a Joke…..You warned me to Cease and Desist mis-spelling…I don’t have perfect spelling and apoligize…..I hope thru all this BS you haven’t lost your sense of humor

    Comment by John — August 17, 2012 @ 7:30 pm

  32. #27: What *does* a long term liability represent? If it’s pension funding, it depends on the estimated rate of return, and if it’s retiree health care, it depends on the rate of inflation in health care costs. How does somebody come up with the right answer under these circumstances?

    Comment by dlm — August 17, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

  33. Nevertheless, it’s a good question. There is no right answer but any answer informs the voter (provided the voter’s brain hasn’t reached room temperature) what the candidate believes.

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 17, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

  34. 26, third, fourth, fifth paras: Jon Spangler

    Third: No one could argue persuasively against government having a critical place in society. However, I would argue that the ‘place’ has become more than critical, it has become all-encompassing.

    Fourth: The unique and specific skills of a legislator are no different than those skills required to operate a private enterprise successfully. A good manager or legislator must have transparency for his constituents, whether they be voters, employees or other stake holders. The private sector manager must have all the skills you claim are unique to public sector legislators. However, I would argue that the private sector manger has much more at stake than the legislator has. The private sector manger must make decisions that can lead directly to the bottom line of the enterprise, success or failure of the enterprise. Whereas the public legislator has no bottom line, all that’s required is convincing enough voters to vote for him/her in the next election. Which is more or less proved by your # five paragraph.

    Fifth: Your decision at the stockholders meeting, apparently, has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the CEO operating the business, instead you are more concerned with the minutia of feel good internal politics.

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 17, 2012 @ 10:37 pm

  35. Jack,

    The answer to #27 that would sway me is one where the person showed a broad understanding of long-term liabilities and their relationship to annual budgets. I’m confident that a number of the speakers at the meeting were spouting generalities that did not reflect any understanding of what they were saying.

    dlm, You’re say nothing beyond “nobody can know what it is.” I’m not asking for “what the right number is.” I’m asking “what is a long-term liability?” People throw around $75 million, $90 million, $200 million in long-term liabilities and then spout off on pensions and deferred maintenance, etc. The question is what does this mean ($xx.xx in unfunded liabilities) to the City Budget and how would you craft a budget to address this issue?

    Comment by jkw — August 18, 2012 @ 11:45 am

  36. Here are the candidate statements for City Council that filed one:

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — August 20, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

  37. #35: My comment in #32 is a genuine question — what do you think it represents? “Long-term liability” has become synonymous with “unfunded” but it’s not necessarily the same thing. I think you may be referring to the OPEB funding in any event, which is in fact an unfunded long term liability. I would say in sum that it’s not really clear.

    Comment by dlm — August 20, 2012 @ 10:02 pm

  38. I noticed, after a cursory read of Mike’s link, none of the candidates addressed any of the potential questions above…except one, Number 11, Jon Spangler’s gem. That say’s something about what type candidates are running.

    Comment by Jack Richard — August 20, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

  39. Was just reading the candidate statements, and noticed this gem from Gerard Dumuk: “At 5 years old, Gerard’s parents abandoned careers, fled a dictatorship, and immigrated to America and raised 3 children.” So Gerard’s parents abandoned their careers and fled a dictatorship at the tender age of 5? Those were some amazingly capable 5-year-olds!

    Comment by Sue T. — August 21, 2012 @ 9:30 am

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