Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 3, 2012

You asked, they answered: Jeff Cambra, City Council candidate

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

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

Many years ago, my father and I started a family business. He was the sales person, and I was the operations manager. We struggled to grow the business for a long time. I moved back home to keep my expenses low, my mom helped with the books, and my dad brought in the business. Our sacrifice and hard work paid off, and we had a successful growing family business. As time progressed, there were changes taking place in the industry that would make our service obsolete. I developed an exit plan and identified several markets we could move into with new products. My father did not understand the market changes or agree with my assessment. A short time later, sales plateaued and a number of our larger customers began to get their products directly from the manufacturer. Ultimately, I made the decision to close down the family business to protect the remaining assets.

2. Explain your understanding of the current state of the City Budget.

At the present time (2012 – 2013), the City has a balanced budget thanks to savings (reductions in expenses) generated within the departments that rely on the general fund to pay for expenses. However, subsequent year General Fund budget projections show estimated increased costs that would exceed estimated revenue requiring the City to fund the possible extra expenses by transferring money from the fund balance (cash reserve) to pay its bills.

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

The City is required to report the estimated total of all debts it does not have the money presently available to pay for as unfunded liabilities. The City has a number of long-term obligations (bond payments, pensions, other post employment benefits, etc.) it is responsible for paying. In some cases, the expense is predictable from month to month like a mortgage payment, while others vary from year to year.

The term “unfunded” should not be taken to mean that the amount of the “unfunded” liability is all due and payable at one time. While the City has a number of large financial obligations, it is only required to make payments towards paying off the total amount owed. For example, if one has a $540,000 mortgage on a $600,000 house and is paying the monthly payment of $3,200 per month on a regular basis, the unfunded liability is $540,000, but the obligation to pay that amount is spread out (amortized) over a number of years. Consequently, the actual amount one must pay is $3,200 per month.

In order to have enough money to pay for long term debts and other general fund obligations, the City must increase revenue and decrease expenses.

The City’s general fund gets most of its money from the City’s share of property tax and sales tax generated from sales that occur within the city limits. Consequently, a strong housing market helps increase the amount of property tax flowing to the city while expanded retail sales will increase revenue to the general fund. The City should work with the business associations and commercial property owners to aggressively market Alameda to potential businesses. This marketing effort should include the existing buildings located at Alameda Point. Additionally, the City should be achieving full cost recovery of the services it is entitled to collect fees for.

There are a number of steps the City might take to reduce expenses including:
increasing efficiency through the use of technology and simplified processes,
evaluating the use/value of a particular service to residents
forming more public private partnerships
consolidating job responsibilities
participating in good faith in the collective bargaining process

4. Explain how you, as a member of the City Council, would address these issues facing Alameda;

falling revenues
At this time, revenues are projected to remain flat or increase slightly. This statement assumes that Proposition 30 will pass and the state will not raid the City’s revenue stream as it has done in the past.

increasing costs
See response to question 3

deferred expenses
In the past, this item has not been accurately estimated in the budgeting process due to the prioritization of other expenses. The City must include increased amounts in the budget to start building a fund to cover the most serious deferred maintenance expenses.

Alameda Point redevelopment
Step 1: Aggressively market the rental of existing buildings to potential tenants to increase revenue without additional cost. When necessary, provide free rent to cover the tenant cost of building code upgrades, seismic improvement, hazardous waste abatement, etc.

Step 2: Work towards implementing the 1997 Vision plan with sufficient flexibility to take advantage of specific development opportunities, especially if those opportunities provide jobs.

5. Explain your position on employee negotiations and the role of the public in this process.

As a professional mediator, I can appreciate the need for confidentiality in the back and forth process of negotiation. In deed, state law provides that the information and settlement offers in lawsuit mediations may not be disclosed and used against a party in order to promote frank discussion and encourage settlement. I believe the public policy behind this rule applies to employee negotiations as well.

6. As an elected official what is your specific role in promoting civic engagement as opposed to staff’s role?

All elected officials have an affirmative obligation to be accessible to residents. This accessibility extends to outreach to impacted individual or group stakeholders when decisions that the City is making will have a major impact on them. The City Clerk had a notification system in place where residents can sign up for specific topic alert emails based on the subject of their choosing. This system should be advertised so that residents can have advanced notice.

7. Who is funding your campaign and which groups and individuals have endorsed your candidacy?

At the present time, I am the majority funder, and I continue to receive funding.

Endorsements – Elected and Appointed Officials

Lena Tam – Alameda City Council
Alice Lai-Bitker – former Alameda County Board of Supervisors
Doug Siden – Ward 4 Board Member, East Bay Regional Park District
Margie Sherratt – Board President, Alameda Unified School District
Mike McMahon – Board Member, Alameda Unified School District
Ron Mooney – Board Member, Alameda Unified School District
Elsa Ortiz – Board President, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District
H. E. Christian Peeples – Al-Large Director, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District
Robert Raburn – BART board
John Knox-White – Board Member, City of Alameda Planning Board
Tracy Jensen – Commissioner, Open Government Commission

Endorsements – Union and Democratic Party

Alameda Fire Fighters Association
Alameda Fire Managers Association
Alameda Police Officers Association
City of Alameda Democratic Club
Alameda Labor Council AFL-CIO
Alameda County Democratic Party

Affiliations listed are for identification purposes only

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

Hilary R. Clinton

Mrs. Clinton has committed her life to public service and demonstrates her strong leadership abilities when advancing ideas and resolving challenges. In her role as First Lady, she went beyond the traditional job description by introducing and actively advocating for healthcare for all Americans.

When faced with a personal crisis in her marriage, she handled the highly emotional situation with grace and dignity. In her bid for getting the nomination of the Democratic Party for the presidency, she was a fierce competitor but always kept the debate civil. And, when she did not get the nomination, she put her own interest aside to further the party’s objective of getting Mr. Obama elected. Finally, in her role as Secretary of State, she is well respected and able to be effective in the world community.


  1. #7 seals the deal: no vote for a union puppet

    Comment by Jack Schultz — October 3, 2012 @ 6:42 am

  2. jeff cambra is useless

    Comment by mom — October 3, 2012 @ 7:27 am

  3. 1. Hey, he didn’t get AEA endorsement. Isn’t that enough ?

    Comment by M.I. — October 3, 2012 @ 8:25 am

  4. Thanks Jeff…

    Comment by Jack Richard — October 3, 2012 @ 8:25 am

  5. Jeff Cambra sounds like he would be a *rational* councilmember. He has my vote!

    Comment by BarbaraK — October 3, 2012 @ 12:19 pm

  6. Right on, he made a rational decision to shut down a belly-up failing business which, he says, was the hardest decision he’s ever made. Now if that’s the hardest decision he’s ever had to make, I don’t think he’s experienced enough to be a grown-up, let alone a Council member.

    Comment by Jack Richard — October 3, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

  7. Jack I agree…….Our family Business the “City ” is underwater and Belly up….He doesn’t have the Luxury of Shutting it down…Our major reason for being upside down are employee costs….His major supporters are the Employee Unions and the employees…How can he honestly represent the city residents to handle our # 1 issue….Politics as usual in Alameda…Pass the Snorkel.

    Endorsements – Union and Democratic Party

    Alameda Fire Fighters Association
    Alameda Fire Managers Association
    Alameda Police Officers Association
    City of Alameda Democratic Club
    Alameda Labor Council AFL-CIO
    Alameda County Democratic Party

    Comment by John — October 3, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

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