Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 8, 2015

Off base

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

Tuesday night’s vote was very interesting.  I’ll confess that I haven’t gotten through all of the comments, but I did get through the patch of public commenters that asked for the repeal to go through.   Mind you, that night, the sentiment was very much in line with the large majority asking the City Council to reject the repeal.  One Alameda tweeter kept track:

Some folks are giving Trish Spencer — who should have been at least one vote for the repeal (or at least offering up a motion to move the repeal) — the large benefit of the doubt that she did this in order to hear more and new information about the Del Monte project, as she is now stating as her reason for putting the repeal item on the agenda.   As an aside, really nothing new of any significance was presented or discussed on Tuesday night.  Based on the comments from those asking for repeal, they really really really thought that the repeal would be considered and at least have some sort of support.   Unsurprisingly, the folks asking for the repeal pretty much were all staunch Trish Spencer supporters.

At one point during the meeting, the East Bay Citizen tweeted this:

To which I responded, because seriously, I cannot resist pop culture and politics mashups:

Another tweeter responded:

And both my response and EBC’s was pretty much in the same vein:

Trish Spencer gets points for realizing, very quickly, if in fact she was pushing for the repeal that voting for the repeal was going to be a political non-starter.  She’s said publicly that she does not support the Del Monte project as it was approved.  But even with a distaste for the Del Monte project, it would not look good for her to continue on her lone-wolf style of governance a la her term on the School Board and have a 4 – 1 vote right out of the gate.

However, that she was unable to build consensus among a board of five where one had already voted against the project (Tony Daysog) and another had publicly expressed his doubts about the project (Frank Matarrese) doesn’t bode well for future agenda items where she has a preferred position to push.

Plus, that she was unwilling to support an agenda item that she put forth, well, shows a lack of commitment that her base may be able to overlook this time, but may not be as forgiving in the future.



  1. Re-reading my tweet, I should have completed the sentence — “She said move to repeal was the only procedural way to give the new council a chance to act on the project.”

    From the Alamedan repeal article here:

    “This is the way to give the new council an opportunity – if they want an opportunity – to revisit this project. I think this is procedurally the only way to do it,” Spencer said Monday.

    ?! “If they want an opportunity” ?! So she didn’t know if they wanted to or not?! And instead of speaking to the other members and finding that they are OK with the project as it stands, she made the motion only to find all of this out in the meeting while wasting everyone’s time and casting doubt over the city’s good faith as a business partner?! Plus, if one of the other council members didn’t want the project to go forward, /that/ member could have moved to repeal.

    The complete lack of reason in the above makes me think she had some other motive. Maybe it’s as simple as pandering to her base. Or maybe Hanlon’s Razor applies:

    Comment by ajryan — January 8, 2015 @ 8:49 am

  2. Her base, exceptionally poor winners, have already shown they are perfectly capable of ignoring the reality around them, preferring to spin the spin ad nauseum. I see nothing that supports your optimism for them in the future. I’m thinking about being a little hopeful about Trish herself tho’.

    Comment by Li_ — January 8, 2015 @ 8:54 am

  3. Has someone already said that it’s the impression of some at the meeting is that the Developers, in the meeting-before-the-meeting, let them know in no uncertain terms a lawsuit would be forthcoming if action to rescind passed. Not mean-spirited, but based on the legalities. Faced with this, the council and Mayor sat on the podium while people spoke, each planning what to say to extricate themselves from a “yes” vote to rescind. I.e. they ran into the brick wall of reality.

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — January 8, 2015 @ 9:50 am

  4. “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Hanlon’s razor. Tuesday’s meeting was a painfully embarrassing to watch as an Alamedan when you have an incompetent mayor that didn’t even read the City’s ordinances and procedures on “how to give the new council a chance to act on the project.” This was no different than Spencer’s behavior on the school board. No wonder her colleagues on the school board never elected her as president to run a meeting.

    Comment by BarbaraK — January 8, 2015 @ 10:05 am

  5. “Never attribute to stupidity what can be adequately explained by calculability.” razor’s blade”. Bureaucratic structures in public administrations can be described as management. But whatever they’re called, their success hinges on how they handle and manage things. Bureaucratization of institutions may be a precondition for a modern, highly industrial society. However, the down side to bureaucratization is it can be used as an ‘iron cage’ by a manager if powerful enough or by the management if result goals are shared. If Spencer’s goal is to ‘iron cage’ the bureaucratization of the development process in Alameda, and that ‘iron cage’ method is supported by her supporters then she is far from being an embarrassment to anybody but her opponents.

    Comment by jack — January 8, 2015 @ 10:53 am

  6. Jack, not commenting on the rightness or wrongness of Mayor Herrera Spencer’s actions, but how would that work in our strong City Manager form of government and how would it work on a matter that had already received approval and therefore put the City at risk of a high dollar law suit? I don’t think the “manager” could “iron cage” in these circumstances.

    Comment by Kate Quick — January 8, 2015 @ 10:59 am

  7. post #3 = yeah, that was me yesterday: Different than before, #3.

    Ajryan: You forget the Hour of Lawsuit Threatening immediately before the meeting. What was Trish supposed to do when it came to Item 6A-say “this item will be removed from tonight’s agenda, due to an unforeseen imminent threat of litigation”-with the developer sitting in the third row? How would that have played out?

    Comment by vigi — January 8, 2015 @ 11:13 am

  8. I’m surprised at Steven Tavares’ tweets. I thought he was a more astute political observer. But he has been off his game as of late-note his retraction in the January 2015 Alameda magazine. It is not being a lone wolf to put an item on the agenda in response to dozens of Alameda citizens asking: “why was the Del Monte project submitted for final approval without a complete plan, apparently against the rules for passing a city ordinance?” I was at 2 of those citizen meetings with Trish in December.[no other council members were there-no Brown Act violation] Not everyone can make it to every council meeting.

    Responding to the request of a substantial number of citizens by agendizing a question of interest to them…that’s part of the mayor’s job.

    Comment by vigi — January 8, 2015 @ 11:28 am

  9. I have no idea what Spencer’s motives are, however as you know, the CM works at the pleasure of the Council and can be removed by the Council.

    Comment by jack — January 8, 2015 @ 11:53 am

  10. #5 jack, your razor makes it sound like stupidity and calculation are mutually exclusive, but in this case I think it’s a pretty clear example of a stupid calculation.

    #7 vigi, do you have first hand knowledge that a lawsuit was threatened? In your #3 yesterday you said “apparently.” Well according to me you “apparently” make up whatever the hell you want. Kidding aside – do you really think the mayor was only just becoming aware of the possibility of a suit at 6:00 on Tuesday? If that’s the case she didn’t do enough beforehand to determine if it was a good idea. Do you really think the vote would have gone differently if this alleged threat hadn’t happened?

    Comment by ajryan — January 8, 2015 @ 11:59 am

  11. 9

    This particular CM has a ong term contract, council can remove him but it will be expensive.

    Comment by dave — January 8, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

  12. I believe Mayor Spencer has a law degree, so to say she may not have been aware of any legal troubles down the road is a stretch. Also to place this item on the agenda without any further information, as was brought up by the league of women voters was not a good idea, nor was it transparent. My opinion is that it was placed there as “red meat ” for her supporters.

    Comment by John P. — January 8, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

  13. 10
    Most anyone would call anything they didn’t agree with as being stupid in one form or another. It all depends on what the manager’s desired effect is as to whether actions taken are ‘stupid’. If actions hinder the manager’s desired effect then ‘razor’s blade’ is indeed rather dull.

    11 “will be” or “would be”?
    Maybe they could get him on Charter Sec 7.2 (N)

    Comment by jack — January 8, 2015 @ 1:19 pm

  14. John Russo’s contract expires in June of 2016, not that long before this Council can make a change if they so wish. Also, they can terminate him without cause with 60 days notice and four months severance.

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 8, 2015 @ 1:27 pm

  15. 12. John P. A lot of folks have law degrees or licenses, but that doesn’t mean much. I’ve made a lot of references to my spouse having been a lawyer, but that was mostly to emphasize how much salary she walked away from to teach. There’s basic legal dos and don’t but law is specialized. But maybe her law degree is moot since she had the opportunity to consult the City Attorney like the rest of council.

    I think it was read meat too and her thinking probably stopped there. That meat turned rancid before her constituents could chew it.

    I appreciated Oddie’s request that she explain why she placed it on the agenda before he made his comments because that might effect what he had to say. The reasons might have included challenging the noticing of the special meeting, the special meeting itself etc., but when she demurred she was not very articulate (as usual) and got to hide behind all the comments which had gone before.

    If it was not procedural then she had no real business to pull it up merely based on wanting this council to have an opportunity to “act on the project”. Is she going to go back through the whole last six months or so and see what other things the previous council did which she and or her posse don’t like and bring them back so the new council can “act” on them? Also, it was mentioned that this council will be getting to revisit many aspects of the project as the process moves forward, including TDM etc.

    Comment by MI — January 8, 2015 @ 5:18 pm

  16. I think Russo will opt out of a new contract. He’s way better than wasting his time here.

    Comment by jack — January 8, 2015 @ 6:16 pm

  17. Rumor is ……back to Oakland….Jean is gone and he’s friends with the new mayor….but it’s only rumor…

    Comment by J.E.A. — January 8, 2015 @ 7:03 pm

  18. I think he burned his bridges back to Oakland by his comments about Oakland when coming to Alameda.

    Comment by jack — January 8, 2015 @ 7:15 pm

  19. Let’s do a wait and see…..

    Comment by J.E.A. — January 8, 2015 @ 7:17 pm

  20. You’re right, different times.

    Comment by jack — January 8, 2015 @ 7:24 pm

  21. Interesting article in the SF Business Times on the Del Monte project. It didn’t paint the new mayor in a very good light.

    Comment by Jake. — March 23, 2015 @ 1:59 pm

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