Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 17, 2013

In audit we trust

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Public Resources — Tags: , , — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

It’s taken me about a month or so to fully catch up on City meeting watching.   When I came back from from early June vacation I had a “to be viewed” pile of videos that I had missed in addition to current meetings.   Someone told me that I had to watch the budget meeting from June 11 and I had ended up watching the same (wrong) video twice because I wasn’t sure if I had missed something from a very long and very protracted meeting about putting liens on people’s houses who had managed over the years to rack up huge building permit violations.  Needless to say that was not a fun discussion to listen to and brought out the crankiness in many a City Council person on the dais.

When I finally started watch the correct video I settled in to a long, rather dry, discussion of the budget.  And then, public comment.   Generally where the magic happens during any City meeting.   The Mayor called up City Auditor Kevin Kearney and whoa!  Let me just say that I didn’t expect him to stand up and say what he did.   Since the Kevins (City Auditor Kevin Kearney and City Treasurer Kevin Kennedy) are put up on a pedestal in this town by a fair number of people and mostly people who have a lot of complaints with the current administration and City government, I about fell over when he started speaking.  So, video is here (starts around 52 minutes into the video feed).

But here’s a selected transcript for those who don’t have time for video:

I think this is a really tough economic time and what I really wanted to emphasize is — you know I”ve been here a long time — and I want to make it really really clear.  I mean unbelieveably clear.   You guys didn’t create the problem… If anybody comes up to me on the street and says “oh the City Council” or the staff or whatever, this was not created by you.

I think you’ve listened in particular to the Treasurer and I.  I appreciate that just living in Alameda.   Cause I think, you guys up here, you live in Alameda.   I mean, why are you doing this?   You probably love Alameda.  I love Alameda.   I mean, why else — let’s be really frank here — why else would you be involved in doing this?    I mean, you’re a moving target.  Everything that goes sideways you get criticized for.   Everybody has some hidden agenda.   Everybody is…I don’t know what.  I guess that just goes with the territory.   So I wanted to make that very personally clear, that I’ve never said that, I would never infer that, and I defend you continually that you did not create this problem.

There’s always a lot of talk that the financial statements aren’t accurate, there’s money in some drawer, everybody is hiding this, has this agenda and the like, well, I want to address that as well.  The financial statements, every year, are unqualified.  Which, in accounting parlance, means they fairly state the position of the City.  We get awards continually for the reporting purpose.  We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars  on independent people being the outside auditors to perform their functions to ensure that what is printed, what’s put out there, is materially correct.   I guess the beauty of democracy is that you have the ability and the right to say whatever you want, but I would just like to address the public: be upset about something other than saying that the financial statements are misleading, not all encompassing, not correct.   I’m here to tell you that they are.  The outside auditors say they are. The fact that we win awards says they are.  You might not like the allocation or where the money goes, you might not like the leadership of the Council, the Mayor, the City Manager, the Treasurer, the Auditor, you might not like any of those types of things, but that is a completely different issue than saying that somehow everything is misleading.

Next week the City Council will be taking on the issue of Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) which should be a really interesting topic, one of the things to look forward to is to see how other cities have dealt with this liability.   One that particularly stands out after a cursory glance through of next week’s agenda is from the City of Beverly Hills where the bought out some employees’ OPEB through a bond.   More details on that in another post.

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2 Comments

  1. You’re surprised? Really?

    Surprised that the Auditor would make a respectful comment to the council, and then state that the books are accurate? And they are accurate, there’s never been a reason to say otherwise. Seems perfunctory to me.

    I’ll put a finer point on his comments, though. The current council didn’t create the problem (though 1 sitting member did vote for a massive pension increase a dozen years ago) but the current council also damn well better get moving to take it on. The prior council, which included the current mayor, voted in a new public safety contract that will burn through the city’s reserves, with the support of the current city manager. Most of the current council accepted money from the unions that resist needed reform. It is difficult to be optimistic they will do the right thing.

    Kearney is correct and indeed it would be unreasonable to demand the current council, in office only months, to completely fix everything. But praise ought to be withheld until they actually do something significant.

    Will they?

    Comment by dave — July 17, 2013 @ 6:29 am

  2. One of the reasons the Kevins are held in high esteem is that they are reasonable, intelligent men whose only agenda appears to be the good of the city. His comments don’t surprise me either. However, every administration, in every level of government, assumes the burden of decisions that they had no part of but are charged to handle. Too many City Councils of the past have been a bit cavalier about making decisions that they knew the results of which they would never personally have to address. Much mischief can be accomplished within the confines of the law. I’ve never been one to suppose that the City Council is overall corrupt and flush with cash from backroom deals with developers, but I do believe that certain members are inclined to support ideas (for whatever reason) that takes the City in a direction that is not in the best interests of the citizens.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — July 17, 2013 @ 9:11 am


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