Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 14, 2015

What’s going on?

Filed under: Alameda, City Council — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

Just when you thought that these City Council meetings couldn’t get any longer, City Staff decides that it might be in the best interest to add more meetings to the month.  Because they’re SO much fun!  But before I get to the next regular meeting agenda where there is some really interesting things, here’s a little preview of last week’s meeting where the City Council first met in closed session to talk some negotiation business and later during the discussion about OPEB it was clear that one of the members of the City Council was unclear on what she was voting on, or in this case, against.

Mayor Trish Spencer goes on a bit of a tear about how she feels like the information about OPEB is being “pushed through” and wants to schedule the discussion not at the meeting where the budget is being discussed (at an already scheduled meeting, albeit a “special meeting”; it is special because it’s not a regularly scheduled meeting) but at a regularly scheduled meeting.  John Russo pushes back and says that it is impossible because the Sunshine Ordinance requires 15 days notice and the next regularly scheduled meeting is in 14 days.

And then Trish Spencer says:

I didn’t realize that we were talking about doing it on a special meeting and I think the Council, I would like Council feedback on that. I appreciate that.

Mmm…kay….

Then Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft asks the City Attorney if anything precludes the Council from voting on the issue on April 29th when it has been scheduled, the City Attorney says there is not.

Here’s a bit of awesome discussion that I wish I had a clipped video for you all, but I don’t, essentially shows how even something as simple as when an issue has been scheduled is somehow too complex for Trish Spencer to understand and how she completely loses control of the meeting:

Trish Spencer: Do we need a motion to have this item come back on that date? I mean, who sets that calendar?

John Russo: Well, I understood that Council gave direction approving it and took a vote to that effect in Executive Session tonight which is why I’m able to discuss that it’s happening.

Trish Spencer: For that specific date.

John Russo: Yes ma’am.

Jim Oddie: And I think we can kind of control the narrative, if we sit up here and we say, “this is being pushed through,” even though there’s 22 days notice, it’s one of the top two issues facing the City Council, then people are going to think that.  If we do the responsible thing and don’t push that narrative, then I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of people saying that we’re trying to push this.

Trish Spencer: So I’m going to say I think it’s the responsible thing to have it on a regularly scheduled meeting contrary to you suggesting that, that’s my opinion.

Jim Oddie: Point of order we already voted, we decided.

Trish Spencer: So that…

Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft: Is that a motion you’re making Madam Mayor?

Jim Oddie: Point of order, I though we already decided that in closed session.

Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft: That’s true, we did.

Trish Spencer: (cross talk) So I wasn’t, so, I don’t think…

Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft: (crosstalk) We did, and you reported out on it right?

Jim Oddie: If you voted “yes” you could have voted to reconsider, but since you didn’t vote “yes” then I don’t know why we’re talking about this anymore.

Trish Spencer: So I think it’s very important that it be made clear to the public that we’re talking about having a special meeting, I don’t think that was shared as part of the vote that we were discussing a special meeting.

John Russo: I have to say Madam Mayor we did say it was happening at the special meeting of the 29th which was a budget meeting and the reason it was being placed with the budget meeting was because the impacts of the proposal have to be considered as part of the budget.  We had that conversation in executive session just a couple of hours ago.

Trish Spencer: So I don’t have the verbatim of the vote but I’m fine with that, I appreciate that.

I mean, that closed session was a fairly long one, so if Trish Spencer didn’t grasp when the OPEB item was going to be scheduled for a future meeting during that whole closed session discussion, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at that revelation.

There’s much more to discuss regarding this whole “pushed through” remark made by Trish Spencer, but that requires a whole other post.

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14 Comments

  1. Oddie and Ezzy-Ashcraft definitely get the engraved copies of Robert’s Rules. Can someone fill in the occasional follower on the politics of delaying (or not) the OPEB matter?

    Comment by MP — April 14, 2015 @ 8:17 am

  2. 1. did you just try to denigrate two council members for understanding basics of running a meeting to deflect the fact that Mayor Spencer is basically incompetent?

    The point is two fold. Repost from above :Jim Oddie: “And I think we can kind of control the narrative, if we sit up here and we say, “this is being pushed through,” even though there’s 22 days notice, it’s one of the top two issues facing the City Council, then people are going to think that. If we do the responsible thing and don’t push that narrative, then I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of people saying that we’re trying to push this.”

    and : “John Russo: I have to say Madam Mayor we did say it was happening at the special meeting of the 29th which was a budget meeting and the reason it was being placed with the budget meeting was because the impacts of the proposal have to be considered as part of the budget. We had that conversation in executive session just a couple of hours ago.”

    The “politics” of delay will be that rules don’t count and the mayor can keep everybody on the “Alameda Merry-Go-Round” ’til hell freezes.

    Comment by MI — April 14, 2015 @ 8:28 am

  3. actually this is very much like Spencer wanting to explain votes after they have occurred and seeming not to understand the very salient point that the time to explain one’s thinking about a vote is DURING council discussion, for the very purpose that you may be able to influence fellow council persons on their vote in open session. At that meeting the mayor persisted in expressing her incorrect recollection despite the City Attorney explaining what I just stated above. This is Alameda’s ambassador to the world. I heard misgivings after just one regional transportation meeting where she was described as speaking up on a subject which a) she obviously was not up to speed and b) in which Alameda had no stake.

    Comment by MI — April 14, 2015 @ 8:37 am

  4. 2 – No attempt to denigrate; the procedural points seem correct, but was wondering why it is the mayor wants to buy more time.

    Comment by MP — April 14, 2015 @ 8:55 am

  5. MP: I don’t know if she wants to buy more time or simply find a way to stop the OPEB negotiated contract to go through.

    To nutshell: the City and the unions worked out a deal to help control OPEB liabilities now, it seems like Trish Spencer wants to wait until the larger union contract is up for renegotiation before tackling this issue. No idea why. Because three of the five (Matarrese, Oddie, and Ezzy-Ashcraft) seem to be okay with moving forward with this OPEB deal there was a majority (Daysog abstained) the Closed Session deal was to present the OPEB deal at the already scheduled budget meeting (albeit a “special meeting” because it doesn’t occur on every other Tuesday or whenever the regularly scheduled meetings are). According to John Russo, Oddie, and Ezzy-Ashcraft the information was presented during closed session that the OPEB plan would be presented at the meeting on the 29th. The next “regular” meeting of the City Council is on the 21st which wouldn’t allow sufficient noticing per the Sunshine Ordinance and “regular” meeting after that is sometime in May.

    It sounds like a semantic issue of a “regular” meeting as opposed to a “special” meeting, I’m not sure what difference it makes but in Trish Spencer’s mind there is a clear distinction despite the 22 days notice for the special meeting.

    Comment by Lauren Do — April 14, 2015 @ 9:12 am

  6. MP = The rising OPEB liability is probably the city’s single greatest threat to future financial solvency. Some people think that our dear departing city manager should have done more to lessen it.
    For a more in-depth explanation, read:
    https://alamedamgr.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/what-a-way-to-go/

    Comment by vigi — April 14, 2015 @ 9:19 am

  7. #6, I think what vigi means is if you want to hear the other side if the argument try this site. Not more in depth just a different point of view.

    Comment by John P. — April 14, 2015 @ 9:29 am

  8. I said it was more in-depth because in this post, Lauren fails to even mention the concerns of the city treasurer. Talking about the single greatest item in the city budget without mentioning the concerns of the city treasurer (or auditor), is, frankly, shallow.

    Comment by vigi — April 14, 2015 @ 9:43 am

  9. Once again the mayor is the worst spokesperson for a potentially legitimate policy stance. There is an argument that we can control costs better by waiting and negotiating the labor contracts with a new city manager that is, maybe, less cozy with the unions. Also, as our budget picture worsens going forward, maybe we would be able to drive a harder bargain in a year or so, which would save more money than Russo is getting now. I don’t know if that’s the case, but it’s a legit stance. Instead Trish gets lost on another issue and we spend our time talking about scheduling and sunshine instead of actual policy.

    Comment by BMac — April 14, 2015 @ 9:48 am

  10. Even if that were Trish Spencer’s policy stance — and I don’t think it is because that would be way too nuanced for her — the Council voted unanimously just a few meetings ago to start making steps toward chipping away at OPEB liabilities. To then say “we should wait for the contracts to expire or a more confrontation City Manager” is just another way of saying “let’s just kick the can down the road” which is how the City has gotten to the place it is currently.

    By the way, we did have (1) an expired contract and (2) a confrontational City Manager in the form for Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and very little was accomplished on the OPEB front.

    Comment by Lauren Do — April 14, 2015 @ 11:19 am

  11. Like I said, I can’t say what the right approach is, from a negotiating point of view. I’ve only been a close watcher of City Hall for about 3 years now. I am sympathetic with the notion that we are *possibly* overpaying our public safety workers, especially Firefighters, in the form of salary and retirement benefits. I don’t think we are having a problem recruiting and retaining qualified fire personnel. I’ll bet there are hundreds of qualified people for each opening. We could probably spend quite a bit less and get about the same quality of service. Unfortunately most of the burden is from contracts from years and decades past and future personnel and residents will be paying for it.

    Comment by BMac — April 14, 2015 @ 12:29 pm

  12. #11, BMac, that about sums it up. thank you.

    Comment by John P. — April 14, 2015 @ 3:33 pm

  13. Lauren looking forward to see you running as Mayor , it is always nice to be a Monday night QuarterBack , the day after the game .

    Comment by Joel Rambaud — April 14, 2015 @ 10:02 pm

  14. 9., 11. nicely stated. I can’t speak for Lauren, but my comment refers entirely to process, not policy. The long term politics of pensions just aren’t the subject of this post. If the process was manipulated to gang up on Spencer for a political end, that would be a subject for yet another discussion, but it appears that wasn’t even necessary. I am very circumspect about pensions and contracts, but will save comments for another time.

    Comment by MI — April 15, 2015 @ 11:13 am


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