Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 11, 2014

With friends like these…

Filed under: Alameda, Election, School — Tags: , — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

Tuesday night’s School Board meeting was a doozy — as it generally is — there was a parade of PE teachers that essentially said students need PE or else they will all get fat and lazy (paraphrasing).  There was the craziness with the Newark Unified School District which voted to not pass through to an Alameda County consortium of other school districts (Alameda included) money to help credential teachers.   From what I understand Newark Unified is the fiscal agent for the consortium Alameda belongs to and they have decided that they’re going to keep the money to themselves.   Shame!

But the icing on top of the Alameda School Board cake was at the end for two consent agenda items which should have been straightforward for the school board given that they know and we all know that this school facilities bond measure is moving forward and you sort of need to hire professional consultants to help you draft the language for the measure and advise you on financially stuff.

I hope you all see where I’m going with this…

So true to form, School Board Member Trish Spencer decided to be, what’s the word, let’s say “difficult” if we’re going to be polite about it. When the agenda items comes up about hiring Bond Counsel (that’s the lawyer who will draft the legal type language for the bond measure) Trish Spencer asks why the District didn’t hire a pollster.

Of course the District has, traditionally, never hired a pollster and Trish Spencer goes on and on about how much is being spent on consultants but now wants to hire a pollster?   Unbelievable.  Finally Board Member Mike McMahon pushes back a little and asks — for clarity’s sake — if Trish Spencer is asking the School District to hire a pollster with general fund money that would be diverted from the classroom.

I nearly stood up and applauded him at that point.

For those that don’t watch the School Board meetings you miss out on the Trish Spencer show at the end of every meeting where she forces staff to go through every consent item she has pulled — remember consent items are generally just typical every day business kind of things, nothing to get too excited over — and then she systematically votes “no” on almost every single item she has pulled.   Her rationale for voting against personnel actions tend to revolve around “so many people are resigning, so that speaks to a culture problem with the District” because apparently that is the only reason why people would leave this District.   Her rationale for voting against contracts for programs or consultants is because she doesn’t agree with diverting any general fund money outside of the classroom.   So with this context in mind, let’s continue.

Mike McMahon pushes back with this clarifying question, and Trish Spencer immediately gets snippy and defensive, first saying that she will ask her own questions and then Mike McMahon can ask his questions.  When Mike McMahon starts to clarify she interrupts and then raises her voice and says that she doesn’t think that his question is “appropriate.”   So then he says what I gave you the context for up above, that whenever she votes against items she gives the rationale that she doesn’t want to divert money away from the classroom but now she’s holding up this contract approval for the bond counsel because she all of the sudden wants to spend money on a pollster, it’s illogical and inconsistent with her previous positions.  Trish Spencer says that Mike McMahon is misrepresenting her votes — he’s not.   Really.  He’s not.   Anyone who has watched these meetings and have stopped themselves from throwing something at their computer while struggling through Trish Spencer’s logical gymnastics knows that Mike McMahon speaks truth.

Anyway, she then votes AGAINST the bond counsel and AGAINST the financial person for the bond too.   It is confounding as to why she wasted so much saliva over the lack of hiring a pollster — which was not requested by the Board itself to bring back for consideration — when she wasn’t even going to vote for the  two consultants who are actually pivotal to crafting the bond measure in the first place.  At what point are people and organizations who supported Trish Spencer as an advocate for Alameda schools going to realize that very little of what she does on the School Board can be considered beneficial to the students of Alameda Unified School District?


  1. Re 2nd. para. Didn’t your teacher ever tell you that 70 words is too many in one sentence.

    Comment by Jack R. — April 11, 2014 @ 9:43 am

  2. Also, your final bash Trish sentence requires a slight modification:

    Corrected version:

    At what point are people and organizations who supported Trish Spencer as an advocate for Alameda schools going to realize that very little of what the School Board does can be considered beneficial to the students of Alameda Unified School District?

    Comment by Jack R. — April 11, 2014 @ 9:50 am

  3. O.K. Lauren, maybe its just you and me, but I don’t think she has helped the children, the district, or the teachers. Far to negative, and thinks her job is to disrupt meetings. Generally we elect people to get things done, not stop everything from working.

    Comment by John P. — April 11, 2014 @ 3:17 pm

  4. Hey, she went to Cal in the 70’s! Disrupting meetings was how everything got done.

    Comment by Jack R. — April 11, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

  5. Thanks Lauren, for pointing out that Trish Spencer is not on the School Board to help the students or teachers of this District. Even her supporters (sic) can’t defend this latest bit of lunacy. Are they finally starting to realize that the Empress Has No Clothes?

    Comment by Not a Trish Fan — April 11, 2014 @ 10:20 pm

  6. Lauren’s argument is not compelling. Bond counsel [lawyers] undoubtedly cost way more than a pollster, and a pollster’s results are rapidly visible to the public, unlike the results of the counsel, which usually must be subjected to a suit to reveal the quality of the work. Thank goodness Trish is more sensible than the majority rabble in the gallery.

    Trish is a lawyer, & it takes one to know one. McMahon is not, & doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    Comment by vigi — April 12, 2014 @ 3:21 pm

  7. I have never hired a pollster but I have hired bond counsel a time or ten. In the case of a muni bond such as what the district proposes, counsel’s primary role is to determine if the bond issue meets the standard of tax exemption, which any school bond easily does. This is simple boilerplate legal work and is not pricy. Counsel’s secondary role is to determine if the OS is properly written, also very standard. Bond counsel is rarely a significant expense.

    Comment by dave — April 12, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

  8. Now that Pappy is realistically unavailable have tried any of the ‘poor man’s Pappy’…WL Weller?

    Comment by Jack R — April 12, 2014 @ 6:32 pm

  9. Centinela Valley school district spends up to 10 times more on attorneys’ fees than nearby school districts

    This school year, Centinela Valley’s bond measures are responsible for the largest portion of its legal fees — 24 percent, Hacker said. The school district has successfully floated two voter-approved construction bond measures since 2008, each worth $98 million.

    When a district issues bonds, it is required by law to disclose a significant amount of financial background to potential investors. Those requirements, and others, take a lot of legal work, Hacker said.

    Comment by interesting times — April 12, 2014 @ 8:17 pm

  10. “remember consent items are generally just typical every day business kind of things, nothing to get too excited over” Whenever Lauren makes a remark like this, she raises suspicion that she is being paid propaganda fees by someone. That is exactly what Government wants you to think. Sometimes this may be true, but it is always possible that an item is on the Consent Calendar because someone doesn’t want the public to take Too Much notice of it. while still being able to claim transparency, since it was “on the agenda” & publically noticed.

    I wonder how many items on the Bell City Council Consent Calendar contributed to the looting of Bell’s city funds by Bell’s city administration.

    Pulling items from a consent calendar for discussion always means someone is Paying Attention, & Trish should be applauded for it.

    Comment by vigi — April 13, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

  11. Issuing a bond without legal counsel would be completely irresponsible — and the absence of legal counsel would likely make the bonds less desirable to investors. As a lawyer, Trish should know that. Then again, I’ve been alarmed by her legal ignorance in the past, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — April 13, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

  12. More than “less desirable” the lack of a legal opinion would make the bonds un-issuable. It’s sine qua non.

    Comment by dave — April 14, 2014 @ 7:20 am

  13. what is the point of polling? who is polled and what are they asked? it seems like a finger in the wind thing people are always criticizing. A lot of people pass the bar, which is no mean feat, but “I’m a lawyer” doesn’t mean as much as one’s experience, and there are a lot of areas of expertise. I’ve never been clear about Ms. Spencer’s history of practicing law.

    Comment by MI — April 14, 2014 @ 8:50 am

  14. Dave, you’re absolutely right, I understated the consequences of not having bond counsel. Without an opinion letter from bond counsel, the bonds will be unmarketable. So by voting against the retention of bond counsel, Trish effectively voted to tank the bond. As far as Trish’s legal expertise goes, she obviously has zero understanding of municipal bonds, and it’s my understanding that she hasn’t practiced law in many years.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — April 14, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

  15. 8

    Weller 12 YO is good stuff but getting harder to find. 25 or 30 bucks, drinks like 50.

    Elmer T Lee is really fine and also a great buy for 30-35 It’s not wheated like the Weller, so you can have each style on hand and alternate. Lately I lean toward Lee but it goes back & forth over time. It’s getting hard to find too, Lee recently died & that started a run on the brand. When you see it, buy 2.

    For just a few extra bucks after that I really like Johnny Drum Private Stock and Pure Kentucky XO, both run 35-40. The Johnny is a recent find, have sampled it only twice, including last night in memory to an old friend who passed yesterday. It had the smoothness and complexity that the moment called for.

    I also like Rock Hill farms at 50. It’s not a bargain in the way that Weller and Elmer Lee are but it has a particular touch of molasses/caramel that really works, particularly in hot weather.

    Have not found a suitable replacement for the VW rye, and likely never will. That is probably the best whiskey I will ever have, and who knows if I’ll ever have it again.

    Comment by dave — April 14, 2014 @ 12:38 pm

  16. 14:

    The AEA promoted Trish’s candidacy, and Trish opposes upgrades to dated, substandard facilities. The teachers REALLY need to fire their union, it does them no good.

    Comment by dave — April 14, 2014 @ 12:46 pm

  17. 15). There are more distilleries in downtown Portland Oregon than there are in Kentucky. Realizing that the craft distilleries are a significant threat, Kentucky has eliminated the tax on aging barrels of distilled spirits which negates the tax advantage of craft distilleries. But there is a lot of competition in the high end craft spirit phenomena. At this point ETL and Weller, amongst many other Buffalo Trace juices are still the go to bourbons for everyday sipping. Unfortunately, Van Winkle has become undrinkable due to its price and I fear Weller isn’t far behind. BevMo has Weller Private Reserve at 20 but the only way to get 12 or Antique is on-line and with shipping becomes very expensive.

    I have two open bottles of Van W, rye and Pappy 20 and don’t expect to open another since they have become an icon and an investment instead of sublime libation. Jesus, from Justified, Japan to Smithsonian everybody knows the brand. The brand has become like the unopened pack of cigarettes in ‘King Rat”.

    I did find a guy in Detroit that had a Rip VW 10 and a VW 12 at 300 and 320 and two PVW 15s. He said he just sold two PVW 20 at 750 each. I wanted the 10 and 12 and offered a K if he’d include the PVW 15. No dice, so I ordered the 10 and 12(ungodly expensive but I’ve got to fill in my VW family) Nice guy, when I told him I have the # 807 of the total of 1200 Old Rip Van Winkle commemorative 23 YO uncut 114 proof decanter sets he became very interested in doing a trade of some sort.

    Fire the union!

    Comment by Jack — April 14, 2014 @ 10:42 pm

  18. I always thought the best VW bourbon is the 12 YO Lot B. In general, I find 12 years, give or take, to be proper aging. The times I’ve sampled 20 or 25 year old juice it was all wood, no whiskey. The extra years send the price skyward but do not help the taste, IMO.

    I got turned on to VW several years ago while doing business in Kentucky. In those years it was a premium pour but not the global phenomenon that it is now. It moved, to be sure, but you’d see it on the shelf for a couple weeks after release date. For a long time a bottle of the rye for 50 bucks was a nice xmas splurge, something to serve guests by the fire. Now it’s some crazy global chase, like an internet IPO, which kills the pleasure of a nice dram by the fire.

    Sometimes I regret not stockpiling it, but really, that would be silly. Drink it slowly, it’s for an occasional sip not an every day at 5PM thing, but enjoy it. That’s what it’s for.

    Try the Johnny Private Stock.

    Comment by dave — April 15, 2014 @ 6:27 am

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