Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 23, 2015

Live for the applause

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

So, I was going to write about the City Council meetings, but (1) the Tuesday meeting is not up yet on the internet and (2) the Wednesday meeting was a soul sucking experience and I haven’t even finished with it.

Suffice it to say, I will now announce that I hate Council Referrals. With a burning passion. They are time sucks, that end up, largely, going nowhere because of the lack of staff time and a staff report.

What was hilarious though, was the whole discussion over the Economic Development Commission re-establishment.   There was a bit of pushback from the carryover Council members (Tony Daysog and Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft) who said that there were already lots of discussion prior to the disbanding.  Jim Oddie was interested in supporting Frank Matarrese’s idea — even though Frank Matarrese had already considered tabling his referral once the Economic Development Director had done some sort of update as to Alameda’s economic development activities.

Here’s the funny part though, so Trish Spencer pulls out the old staff report which discussed the EDC disbanding and then said something along the lines of “I don’t know if people knew this conversation had already happened.”  Which was sort of a dig at Frank Matarrese who then responded back, again, paraphrasing, “we don’t need to read the document.”  Frank Matarrese ended up tabling the idea, but not before Trish Spencer had announced that she intended to move forward with the whole Ad Hoc Mayor’s Economic Development committee.  So, I’m guessing that even if Frank Matarrese’s EDC idea comes back, it will not get support for fear of being redundant.

I did want to address something that came up in the weirdo procedural discussion.   First of all, it appeared that this agenda item was supposed to be something that it ended up not being.  I did think it was going to be about how to actually run the meetings and noticing requirements or something like that, but it ended up completely off the rails where at one point someone came up and talked about how they liked not being told what they could and could not do, referring to, I guess the way that Marie Gilmore would ask people not to applaud after individual public comment.

Trish Spencer apparently feels like applauding is no big deal because it doesn’t slow down business.  Here’s the thing, Marie Gilmore never asked people not to applaud in order to speed up business, but rather how applause can be a mechanism to silence people who are speaking from a minority point of view.

Perhaps I am more overly sensitive to this issue because I’m not a fan of public speaking.  I do it terribly and I get very nervous and avoid it at all costs.  I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be an awkward public speaker, wanting to speak from a minority point of view, and be faced in front of a hostile audience.   A lot of other public bodies have not only forbid these expressions but also codified into their rules.  Like the San Francisco Board of Supervisors:

1.3.1. Actions Prohibited during Board of Supervisors’ Meetings.
• Applause or vocal expression of support or opposition

And the City of Richmond, Virginia:

To preserve the order and decorum of the Council meeting, the audience will not be permitted to applaud in support of or in opposition to any matter during the Business Meeting. Applause will be permitted only during the Awards and Presentations portion of the meeting.

One would think given how Trish Spencer loves public comment and public participation she would want to make everyone feel comfortable, particularly people speaking from a less popular point of view.



  1. The introduction of council referrals to the city council meeting format as a non-regular agenda item was done to avoid a) loading the staff with report preparations regardless of pending workload due to one council member requesting action, and b) potentially wasting staff time on pet projects of one council member. There is no staff report by design. It takes three votes to direct the city manager to prepare a staff report. The discussion about whether and when to prepare a staff report is aired in a public discussion as we witnessed on Wednesday. It was instructive to hear the dialogue between the council and the city staff.

    Comment by Richard Bangert — January 23, 2015 @ 8:34 am

  2. She doesn’t get it. She gets fixated on one aspect of an issue and the blinders go up. It was the same thing with the rents discussion on Tuesday. She thinks a 5% cap on increases might be the way to go, but she doesn’t want to gather current data on the rental market because she wants to only look forward and be positive. She has not demonstrated a real ability to consider two conflicting thoughts simultaneously.

    Comment by BMac — January 23, 2015 @ 8:36 am

  3. I’m tired of people referring to Marie as “aloof” and even “bitchy” and trying to use request not to applaud to infer that she was suppressing free expression, and Spencer trying to frame herself as saving the day from mean old Gilmore, “See I didn’t do that, and everything worked out hunky dory.” Spencer sees herself as the great populist and her supporters are eager to frame Gilmore as the opposite. Tavares incredibly lame blog recently reiterates all this in the most petty way, literally discussing switching the pictures at city hall. F-ing stupid, vapid, ass kissing.

    Comment by MI — January 23, 2015 @ 8:47 am

  4. On Spencer’s referral about procedure, using time signatures it appears it ran for just short of one hour. At the outset of the next item non-agenda communications, she can be heard to say something about keeping it brief because “I don’t want to discourage people from coming to my meetings. HAA!” Yeah, ha-ha. Is the use of “my” a little Freudian ? I assume she meant meetings over which she presides, but the possessive pronoun to me infers her sense of ownership, like she’s the new Queen of council. Not very democratic notion is it? I let people applaud at MY meetings, cause I’m so GOOD!

    Comment by MI — January 23, 2015 @ 9:09 am

  5. #4. oops. dyslexic about doing math in my head. 2:48 to 3:52, that’s 4 minutes OVER an hour.

    Comment by MI — January 23, 2015 @ 9:14 am

  6. Marie was an excellent Mayor. Yes, she had dome blind spots, but she was solid. No matter what is said now, that can’t be changed. Mayor Spencer will learn her role and will improve as time goes by. Far too early to even evaluate her efforts. I am in favor of applause. It allows people to express themselves and we need that. To expect people to sit in less than comfortable chairs for three hours or more and not express themselves at times is unfair. As Moses once said . . . “let my people go.” 🙂 Give Mayor Spencer time. Lower the criticism and offer solutions.

    Comment by Bill — January 23, 2015 @ 9:43 am

  7. Fact Check: “Marie Gilmore never asked people not to applaud in order to speed up business”. Uh…yes that’s exactly what she often did. She would always say: “We have a lot of speakers tonight, and when you applaud it just takes away from the time of people waiting their turn…blah, blah…or something like that. People ignored her and applauded anyway.

    Comment by vigi — January 23, 2015 @ 10:16 am

  8. Typically Marie Gilmore said, when they had a lot of speakers, that people could just say “I agree with so and so” and not use up their whole 3 minutes to help speed things up.

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 23, 2015 @ 10:17 am

  9. I don’t get why the mayor (whomever that is at any one time) doesn’t make it standing procedure to announce the name of a speaker, and then announce who’s next up, so they can start climbing over people’s knees and speeds the process up.. That would save more time than “hold your applause”. Marie did it at times, but not always.

    Comment by Not. A. Alamedan — January 23, 2015 @ 10:35 am

  10. If trish needs applause she should join the circus instead of trying to govern.

    Comment by notadave — January 23, 2015 @ 11:10 am

  11. It’s pretty telling about her thought processes that Spencer would prefer a committee that’s ad hoc.

    Comment by BC — January 23, 2015 @ 12:13 pm

  12. If Spencer wants applause, then to be fair, she must allow “booing” at “her” meetings. Let the amateur games begin.

    Comment by Alan — January 23, 2015 @ 12:42 pm

  13. I listened to the EDC discussion with little prior background. Based on this discussion alone (Ashcraft, Daysog & Russo’s (?) info about past redundancies, rationale for disbanding the prior EDC and the difference between “ad hoc” and more formal in terms of staffing resources and requirements) I thought that tabling the idea for the time being was appropriate. The idea of starting with an ado hoc committee & evaluating progress in 6 months or so seems reasonable.

    Someone (Aschraft?) pointed out that the mayor gets to appoint members of ad hoc committees.

    As painful as this meeting was to watch, it’s interesting to observe the relationships and irony of having 10 hours of CC meetings in 2 days with nothing really accomplished. I feel badly for City Staff; this is neither a reasonable nor sustainable work schedule.

    Comment by Alison — January 23, 2015 @ 1:58 pm

  14. 6. Bill, I endorsed your previous post of similar sentiments, but my patience is eroding quickly. Out of chambers antics like the Taraves blog don’t help. Also, for somebody who has serious complaints about length of meetings, her actions seem contradictory. I realize this last meeting was not all her referrals but it was all more or less pandering as opposed to substantive and her agenda item alone did run over an hour. I freely admit that despite agreeing with you on principle, my feelings about her are hardly neutral. I’ve barely spoken to her, but yeah it’s personal. I watched tape of Joni Ernst’s non-response to SOTU address and it gave me chills thinking of Trish, particularly Spencer’s the profile in Alameda magazine. It’s fine to do a fluff piece on a new elected and I would give a pass, but I was annoyed by the level of personal mythologizing. Ernst weird comments about wearing plastic bread bags over her shoes on raining days while slogging to school had a strange local echo. Spencer’s at swearing in, something like “chin up, straight ahead”.

    Comment by MI — January 23, 2015 @ 4:06 pm

  15. Agree, MI, SOTU made me puke, response made me throw up.

    Comment by jack — January 23, 2015 @ 5:56 pm

  16. SOTU had some content, though it is always mostly big pander. It was his list of stuff which has improved under his six years and though he can’t take credit for all of it, he shouldn’t take the blame for most of what Repblicans constantly try to make stick ( like everything bad and then some. Benghazi!) Obama also had the impromptu comeback about having won both elections after somebody clapped when he basically referred to being done with elections. Vapid Ernst made it all the way through her teleprompter read maintaining same big phoney enthusiasm like she was introducing herself to first grade class. ( where was Fox News to scream about her relying on teleprompter like they’ve done with Obama?). But if she had a live audience I doubt she would be quick enough to ad lib. She promised to put all sorts of stuff under the Christmas tree but didn’t even begin to lay out a plan for one of them and that is because there is no plan, so Republican strategy hasn’t changed. But Mitt, who didn’t pay income tax, is now squawking about how bad the economic divide has become while Obama was in office. That makes me puke.

    Comment by MI — January 24, 2015 @ 9:03 am


    “5. Grumbling also forges bonds. In part, that’s because grumbling with someone is risky. When you grumble, you put on a critical performance. That means your grumbling has to be interesting. If it’s not, then it’s just grousing, whining, bellyaching, bitching, moaning, kvetching, or carping—and even people who enjoy grumblers won’t tolerate bellyachers. (The worst offense is wildly off-base grumbling: it reveals you as misinformed, or worse.)”

    Comment by MI — January 24, 2015 @ 9:27 am

  18. Hard to tell, Irons, if all your regular grumbling is because it’s the dominant part of your basic human behavior or because your occasional wildly off-base grumbling is an attempt to forge bonds that lie on the other side of positivity and contentment.

    Comment by jack — January 24, 2015 @ 10:23 am

  19. sure Jack. how about yours?

    Comment by MI — January 24, 2015 @ 10:35 am

  20. Nah, I’m just bored.

    Comment by jack — January 24, 2015 @ 11:05 am

  21. Alison, don’t feel too badly for City Staff. They are all handsomely paid, well above the median income for Alameda residents.

    Look up their compensation here:

    Comment by vigi — January 24, 2015 @ 11:56 am

  22. EBMUD, where Lena Tam works, refuses to comply with the California Public Records Act, and disclose employee pension plans.

    Comment by vigi — January 24, 2015 @ 12:00 pm

  23. MI, it’s long but watch the whole thing and you’ll begin to understand what’s really going in Rock Wall’s sensorium (it used to be in Lawrence, Dakota)

    Comment by jack — January 24, 2015 @ 12:15 pm

  24. If you want to look up our former mayor, you must use her maiden name. Apparently, Marie L. Robinson, not Gilmore, was the Mayor of Alameda. Fancy that.

    Comment by vigi — January 24, 2015 @ 12:21 pm

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