Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 23, 2015

The long and winding meeting

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

Ugh, so another super long City Council meeting on Tuesday night and turns out the two agenda items that were of most interest to me ended up getting bumped for another day because the meeting was too long.

I feel like this City Council’s inability to actually complete an agenda without having to save items for another meeting is kind of getting a little ridiculous.  Add to that the super late meeting and you wonder what actually is being accomplished other that letting a ton of people speak during non agenda public comment period and then relegating actual agenda items to future meetings.

Neither the issue of adding more meeting because the City Council can’t seem to manage to complete out an agenda at regularly scheduled meetings was addressed on Tuesday night (ironic) and the issue of — well let’s just be real about it — Trish Spencer going rogue at regional meetings was heard on Tuesday night.

I feel like instead of making it easier for the City Council to play on their iPhones during public meetings, perhaps the Open Government Commission could, instead, turn their attention to the Sunshine Ordinance rules that aren’t being followed.

I mean, we can cover issues like establishing some sort of committee figure out how to light portions of the Alameda Theatre marquee, but we can’t actually get around to making sure that we don’t piss off our regional allies by voting against issues that have been deemed as important regional positions to take.

Not that they didn’t deserve it but we spent a huge chunk of time bidding farewell to outgoing City Manager John Russo and Assistant City Manager Alex Nguyen.  For once I’d love for some one to actually pronounce his name in the Vietnamese style, but it’s a tough one, I know.  I feel like maybe the City Council should have started the meeting earlier to take into account that the proclamation and love period was going to run super long.

Anyway, another City Council meeting, another continuance.  Sometimes I feel like it’s only when there is only one item on the agenda that the City Council is actually able to complete the full agenda for the night.  More in detail on the meeting later, I’m still catching up from Spring Break.



  1. new-yen, or win ? or something lease? it’s not G-new-yen right? My wife had students who went by both. The tonality of Vietnamese makes it almost impossible for tone deaf westerners. Even know an American born half Vietnamese woman living in HCMC who can’t master it.

    Comment by MI — April 23, 2015 @ 7:52 am

  2. Vietnamese may have uniquely shaped vocal cords appropriate to the pronunciation of their language. Just like we white Americans needed Native Navajo speakers to be code-talkers during WW2. Doesn’t mean everyone who cannot speak a language properly is “tone-deaf”.

    Comment by vigi — April 23, 2015 @ 9:03 am

  3. “…but we can’t actually get around to making sure that we don’t piss off our regional allies by voting against issues that have been deemed as important regional positions to take.”

    Allies? Or overlords/competitors? Alameda should take positions that are best for Alameda(ns).

    Comment by pbr — April 23, 2015 @ 9:14 am

  4. N(uh)when – skip instantly thru the (uh), like you are about to say the (uh) sound but don’t finish, and let it run together. It’s not about vocal chords. It’s about different mouth shapes and tongue placements that you haven’t spent a lifetime developing muscle memory for.

    Comment by BMac — April 23, 2015 @ 9:54 am

  5. It’s simply a matter of time management and placing a formality to the proceedings. There needs to be a task master and that has to be the mayor. If she hopes hold two terms, she’ll need to step up her game.

    Comment by Bill — April 23, 2015 @ 1:22 pm

  6. Trish Spencer will not be able to tell you about the activities of regional agencies like CalTrans or AC Transit, much less bridge closures. She does not have a cooperative relationship with Alameda’s regional partners.

    Comment by Alan — April 23, 2015 @ 1:46 pm

  7. I’m pretty sure the new public safety contract will guarantee her 2 terms. Her “no”” vote will either be forgotten or look great. Win-win for her.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — April 23, 2015 @ 2:20 pm

  8. While traveling an Australian told me something which may be an urban myth, but it goes like this. In Vietnam and other tonal language countries there is an extremely high percentage of people with perfect pitch, like 80%. He used Japanese an example of an Asian language where tonality is absent and said in Japan the reverse is true and people are 80% tone deaf. My friend whose father is Vietnamese is living and working in Ho Chi Minh City and struggling to learn the language. She ordered a chicken sandwich and got something like sardines. Chicken is “ga”, but of course it depends on how you say it. I doubt very much is 80% of Americans have perfect pitch.

    Comment by MI — April 23, 2015 @ 5:16 pm

  9. Ezzy will be the obvious opponent in 2018 if nothing too exciting happens. 2 years into her second term on council, support will coalesce around her. Frank won’t want to “split the vote” again, and can just run to keep his seat for another 4 years in 2018 and wait another cycle. Just a guess.

    I still think that if Site A doesn’t get 4 votes, combine that with the unions, a renters movement and housing advocates, there would be a ready coalition for a recall in 2016. All that would be needed is a good story to tell.

    Comment by BMac — April 23, 2015 @ 5:20 pm

  10. 7. the election was an even split. Does that mean that for 50% citizens Spencer can do no wrong, no matter what? It’s not the no vote per say, it’s the lack of any alternative being offered, as is almost always the case with her no votes. Even without a refined alternative, I want some specific criticisms of the contract Russo has negotiated which indicate some nuanced understanding of the issues at hand. All Spencer can say is that the “timing” is suspicious. Why is that? People bitch constantly that this pension issue is not being addressed but when an attempt to address it is offered ahead of contract expiration, it’s suspicious because why? I think the prevailing wisdom among Spencer ditto heads is that safety employee want to get this done before the next election when there may be an even less friendly group sitting at the dais. That not only assumes Spencer gets re-elected, but that this entire negotiation was fast tracked since she won out of pure fear that waiting will result in a worse deal.

    What alternative would Trish propose? a complete give back of pensions or 100% retirement contribution out of salaries. Would just lay them all off like Reagan did with air traffic controllers? I’m not a good candidate to critique the proposal but from a lay person’s perspective it looks like the ball is rolling and in the right direction. The increases in contributions are beginning to make a difference. Anybody who thinks this whole mess can and should be solved in one fell swoop is not just naive but maybe stupid.

    Comment by MI — April 23, 2015 @ 5:33 pm

  11. Please, sweet Jesus, please recall the Mayor! Don’t just keep talking about it; trust me, people will thank you for it. I just mention the idea to people and they stare at me in wonderment.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — April 23, 2015 @ 5:34 pm

  12. Mark, the incumbent has an advantage. I expect the contracts will be passed which means her no vote has little practical meaning but great political advantage. If the contract extension is good for Alameda (which it does not appear to be) then her no vote won’t count against her. If the contract is bad for Alameda, then her opposition is knee-capped.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — April 23, 2015 @ 5:42 pm

  13. If the contract extension is good for Alameda (which it does not appear to be)

    First, it’s not a contract extension.

    Second, why does it not appear to be good for Alameda?

    Comment by Lauren Do — April 23, 2015 @ 6:12 pm

  14. Well since everyon refers to it as an extension including Jeff DelBono, I guess i must be enlightened. I think the pay increases are overly generous. I think the benefits/working rules/calculation issues are a wash. It doesn’t matter though because that’s not my point.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — April 23, 2015 @ 6:18 pm

  15. Ah, yes, your point is that Trish Spencer will politically benefit for every “no” vote she makes despite never having a viable alternative to her “no” vote or a rationale that makes any sense.

    As to pay increases being overly generous, I would disagree that a potential 2-5% annual increase tied to how well the City does when a cost of living increase is about 1.7% is “generous.”

    Comment by Lauren Do — April 23, 2015 @ 6:42 pm

  16. What does it matter anyway? You will have participated in a successful recall by the time the next scheduled mayoral election rolls around. [For the naive or stupid, I will point out the obvious. Barring actual corruption, a recall will fail and taint the opposition so thoroughly that nothing will be able to redeem them by 2018]

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — April 23, 2015 @ 6:43 pm

  17. I would think that someone who was so wide of the mark in their 2014 analysis would be a little bit more cautious with their punditry. Of course, every Alamedan hangs on the video of the city council meetings just like you. For an alternative take, why not read the island-life blog (since you think Sullwold is sullied). There’s a pleasant fellow with no axe to grind who is not jumping up and down about the disaster of Spencer’s leadership.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — April 23, 2015 @ 6:47 pm

  18. I’m unaware of anyone in the real world expecting pay increases that far above COLA (potentially a full 3%) unless addressing past disparities, but you must travel in different circles than I do.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — April 23, 2015 @ 6:50 pm

  19. Those are pay increases over and above step increases and promotions.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — April 23, 2015 @ 6:53 pm

  20. People can drink a little too much at happy hour and then get behind the keyboard, it would seem.

    And, on 18, yes I do.

    Sullwold isn’t sullied (how clever!) but he wears his learning awfully heavily. If he was as smart as he thinks he is, he wouldn’t need to cloak everything in legalese. The really bright members of any profession can make their cases clear to people outside their field. Sullwold is long-winded, uses the royal we excessively, and hides behind jargon.

    Comment by BC — April 24, 2015 @ 9:35 am

  21. He’s also usually right.

    Comment by dave — April 24, 2015 @ 9:41 am

  22. Perhaps, but his pomposity might be less grating if he got himself an editor.

    Comment by BC — April 24, 2015 @ 9:46 am

  23. Is there such a thing as a blogger without an ego?

    Comment by dave — April 24, 2015 @ 10:09 am

  24. Good point. It’s like trying to find a self-effacing presidential candidate.

    Comment by BC — April 24, 2015 @ 10:26 am

  25. Sullwold is a blowhard. As a lawyer, I find his case analysis to be first-year material, grabbing anything on Lexis-Nexis that even mentions the topic he is writing about, whether or not it makes the point.

    Comment by Alan — April 24, 2015 @ 10:36 am

  26. BC, even if we traveled in the same circles, I’m sure I would go out of my way to avoid you. Care to actually show an example of what you are talking about because I can’t find anything close. The last AEA contract was considerably less.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — April 24, 2015 @ 12:29 pm

  27. Chortle! I sincerely doubt we travel in the same circles.

    The current increase in demand for housing isn’t caused by people getting COLA adjustments in their wages. To help you in your quest to find industries that offer more-than-inflation pay increases, here’s a hint: There’s an area to the south of here (off the island!), referred to some as “Silicon Valley.” And there are people who work in finance or technology across the bridge in “San Francisco.” The increases are doing terrible things for the local housing market and inequality, but they nevertheless exist.

    Comment by BC — April 24, 2015 @ 1:30 pm

  28. 17. Describing Sullwold as ” a pleasant fellow with no axe to grind” is a little disingenuous, even for somebody who totally agrees with him. I respect even your right to an opinion, but everybody has an agenda, and Bob is no exception. But I still appreciate his number crunching.

    My reaction to the existing contract was that it seemed like a wash for the City, where the give backs by employees were roughly canceled out by raises. And if employees do give up more today they get it back when they retire. The up side of this proposal is that it sets precedent for the increased contributions, and best of all a trust fund, though the meaningful impacts of that trust don’t seem immediate; and the guaranteed annual raises of 2% are hard to swallow. Sullwold’s worst case scenarios of impacts for annual % compounded, don’t inspire a lot of enthusiasm. I’m not qualified to critique his method, but it looked like straight forward math.

    But, to me the bottom line in this particular discussion is not whether this proposal is great, so much as whether anybody who opposes it is offering any detailed counter proposals, including Sullwold, who despite his detailed deconstruction doesn’t even speculate what might be a better compromise let alone his ideal solution. And in the back ground there seems to be a conspiracy theory about doing this ahead of contract expiration which don’t make sense to this outside observer.

    What is significance of the time line for this to be discussed and voted on? I hear the “15 days is not enough time for review” argument, but as a hypothetical, what if everybody abstained? would it just die?

    Comment by MI — April 24, 2015 @ 3:26 pm

  29. 18. It’s all the “real world”, but as much as I hate to agree with you, what is the justification for raises above COLA when we have such burdensome pension liabilities ? I’ve used teachers as a comparison in the past also. How do you rank the importance of public employees? Maybe it’s futile, teachers don’t put their lives at risk to do their jobs ( at least not in Alameda), but they also don’t get retirement at 50, or health care for life, or a lot of other things. And the stress and hours for conscientious teachers is serious. Frankly, life for safety employees in this town seems relatively tame compared to what. Not an environment teaming with hostile cop killers or acres of industrial warehouses filled with toxic chemicals which catch fire every month. A fireman I talked with at Peet’s told me the majority of calls are medical emergencies, which is great because the fewer fires the better.

    Comment by MI — April 24, 2015 @ 3:29 pm

  30. I agree, MI.

    One thing I have never understood is why you need a fire truck to accompany an ambulance to a medical emergency. I don’t think they do that anywhere else in the world. And that it’s in the rules isn’t really an answer. And it’s noisy too.

    Comment by BC — April 24, 2015 @ 3:47 pm

  31. BC. I get it. You are a delusional a**hole and that is who you mostly associate with. Those industries you speak of do not have contracts structured like the public safety ones. They do not receive guaranteed annual raises. They receive raises when they ask for them, when they are reviewed (if they get a scheduled review which may be in their company’s HR policy, but doesn’t mean they get one), or when they switch jobs (either within the company or by jumping ship). They do not have defined benefit plans and the majority do not have post retirement health benefits. Here’s another clue for you; most don’t make as much as the firefighters.when you include base and overtime. So fail all around for your point. The funniest thing is that you basically agree with me since you agree with MI who although he “hates” it, agrees with me. A&&HOLE!!!

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — April 24, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

  32. MI, I do agree with you and that’s my point. (BTW Island-life is not Sullwold and that is who I was directing people to.) The political reality is noone will care if Spencer had an alternate plan or not. Her no vote will look good next to the yes votes if the financial situation does not improve. Her no vote will be forgotten if the financial situation does improve.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — April 24, 2015 @ 5:39 pm

  33. 32. You are right. Sullwold is Alameda Merry Go Round. Interesting reading.

    Comment by Kate Quick — April 24, 2015 @ 7:26 pm

  34. 30. I wasn’t complaining about the fire trucks, just commenting that most calls are no fires. from AFD FAQ: ”

    The Alameda Fire Department is required to comply with the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services protocols call for medical emergencies. These protocols require a fire engine or truck with at least one paramedic to be on scene at all emergency medical calls. They also require a transport provider (ambulance) to respond with at least one paramedic to all emergency medical calls.

    Interesting this FAQ answer doesn’t explain why it is a requirement of the county.

    Comment by MI — April 25, 2015 @ 9:49 am

  35. 32. I can’t believe because you think the political reality is that nobody will care whether Spencer has an alternate plan, that is O.K.. That’s essentially saying most voters don’t care if the mayor is competent, they are all about the torch and pitch forks.

    Comment by MI — April 25, 2015 @ 9:52 am

  36. 31. ” You are a delusional a**hole and that is who you mostly associate with.” PCBU, amazing how, without fail, all your ad hominem attacks on others apply perfectly to you.

    Comment by MI — April 25, 2015 @ 9:56 am

  37. 31: Zowie! I love you too! But, really, more happy-hour posting? You ought to have been precise in your statement in 18. You could have saved yourself a lot of needless upset.

    Comment by BC — April 25, 2015 @ 12:49 pm

  38. Oh. All a misunderstanding about what I was asking. Of course, so sorry.

    Go ahead and please give me a eference to a contract where 5% per year raises are possible for non-merit/performance based purposes (because the revenue trigger is not up to the firefighters). I won’t even stipulate that retirement eligibility should be at 50 or that any contract provision for post retirement benefits cannot be renegotiated or that there is no discharge in bankruptcy (all part of this contract). I’m guessing that you agree that this is generous but that you can’t exactly say so given who you are (BTW, who are you?).

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — April 25, 2015 @ 2:17 pm

  39. Better when you post before 5 PM, isn’t it?

    I agree this is generous. But, hang on, Mr. (or Ms.) Combustible, I can’t exactly say so, can I, given who I am? And yet I did. What a riddle!

    Comment by BC — April 26, 2015 @ 8:46 pm

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