Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 29, 2015

Looking back

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Public Resources — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

In preparation for tonight’s meeting where some militant Alameda residents have threatened to come out and speak out to the City Council about the proposed labor MOUs.  They even went so far as to place flyers on cars in residential neighborhoods too… I thought it would helpful to post all of the historic MOUs that have been approved over the years for the labor groups.  Not the managers but the rank and file police and fire department staff.

Many many thanks to the City Clerk and Human Resources office of the City for helping to compile all this information.  Muffin baskets for everyone!

Just to follow up on my post last Friday regarding how reliable the Sacramento and South Pasadena cases are if the City Council were to rely on those two opinions alone to decide that they were in the clear to unilaterally change other post-retirement benefits, unlike the case of Sacramento where there were clear caveats every year, it seems that the promise of health benefits for retirees and their dependent (until recently changed for new hires) was memorialized as early as the1993 MOU with the police bargaining unit.   In fact, the language stayed virtually unchanged for a long time until around 2008 when the City realized that putting $16 per employee into the Flexible Spending Account probably wasn’t going to cut it and that rate increased to $101.  Things became increasingly different in 2010 which was the result of the influence of John Russo and working collaboratively with the bargaining units instead of being at odds with them.

While some folks will be appearing tonight to urge the City Council to wait before taking more steps to chip away at the OPEB liability, what I think has worked has not been years of talking tough but yet doing nothing, but continuing to dialogue with the understanding that an MOU doesn’t need to run out its entire duration but there can be more action taken while putting into place shorter term solutions.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point to Councilmember Jim Oddie’s OpEd on this very issue, excerpt:

Employees will contribute to the OPEB trust out of their paychecks, in amounts which increase up to 4 percent of their wages. For the first three years of the contract, they will contribute $3 million while receiving a minimum of $1.2 million in salary and benefit increases over the entire extension (no increases in 2019 and 2021 with any increase based on a salary survey). This is a fair price to pay for the flexibility to fund OPEB.

Critics argue that the salary increases will hurt us on the PERS side, but keep in mind three key points. First, before the current contract, public safety employees went seven years with no raises. Second, while state legislation capped mandatory employee contributions for pensions at 12 percent, Alameda negotiated 15 percent contributions from our employees — the highest in the Bay Area. Finally, the city has no control over PERS and depends on decisions made by the state.

An independent actuarial firm evaluated the impact of this deal on our future OPEB liabilities and projected a cumulative savings of $47.3 million to the city over 30 years. While this doesn’t fully fund future OPEB liabilities, it provides the framework to finish the job.


  1. Who needs a raise with great benefits and built in salary hikes? What is the attrition rate at APD and the Fire Department? (Very low) Compare this to the San Jose police department where at least the union could show officers were quitting to seek higher pay. There is no good argument for raises give the unfunded liability. There is a great argument for much higher contributions.

    Comment by Breathless — April 29, 2015 @ 6:40 am

  2. 1: Many of the opponents of the proposed MOUs–Breathless included, perhaps–seem to be unaware that state law limits how much public employees can be asked to contribute to their pensions ***unless those higher rates are negotiated into a contract*** like the one I hope the City Council will approve tonight.

    The ultimate solution(s) will have to come from the Legislature and the Governor, and are beyond the control of the City of Alameda alone, but Alameda is being more responsible and proactive than most cities in this pension funding crisis.

    Given the problems that the City of San Jose has had since it unilaterally reduced public safety worker’s benefits and staffing levels in a ham-fisted and illegal attempt to lower its costs, I would never use them as a role model: they have experienced both rising crime rates and huge legal costs. I would hate to see our community reach that level of dysfunction.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — April 29, 2015 @ 7:36 am

  3. Seven years without a pay increase? Sounds like most people. Why should they be immune to financial realities? Let’s face it, Alameda is one of the cushiest jobs going for public safety folks. They will complain but when is enough enough? The rest of the population is tired of having to sacrifice to make their great compensation even greater. Pensions and benefits are the exception these days, not the rule.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — April 29, 2015 @ 7:38 am

  4. 3. You just said in your.previous post that “crime appears to be up.” Now you say that public safety jobs in Alameda are cushy. Do you want more cops to control the crime that you claim is rising, or do you want the rising crime to vanish on its own? Or is the rising crime phenomenon a bunch based on social media?

    Comment by Larry Witte — April 29, 2015 @ 8:04 am

  5. Denise, I’ve been wrestling with the convoluted formula and the idea of raises when I haven’t raised rates for ten years, but just because pensions have become exception, what are you advocating, abolishing them? And benefits? Really? Unfortunately the entire world seems to be entering a new era of austerity, but while pensions and benefits have become the exception over the last 30 years or so, executive salaries have sky rocketed and more and more wealth is being horded by a smaller and smaller group of elites. I’ve also said that our police and fire fighters do have it good. Alameda would be the first place I’d apply if I wanted to do either, but not because of the benefits, but the community. I think it is important to try to maintain perspective in terms of where Alameda falls in the big picture. This contract is relatively progressive. I agree with Jon in 2. We aren’t served by having an antagonistic relationship with these bargaining units. But most of all I’m bothered by people like yourself who make sweeping objections without suggesting specific alternatives. Are you saying pull the rug, police and fire should be weened to the point of having no pensions just because many tax payers have none? The security is what draws people to these jobs. It doesn’t make sense that because I don’t have it nobody else should have it. That’s the race to the bottom.

    Comment by MI — April 29, 2015 @ 8:27 am

  6. I want to be a public employee :
    I would then be able to take a nap in the “unvisited corner of the point , during working hours .
    hide in bay farm not yet developed area
    hide in the alley between home depot and the corning glass factory
    Watch the soap opera during working hours
    use City truck to haul away anything I have and have the City pay for the disposal ,
    replace the side walkway in front of their house , while the 80’s something old peoples take a chance every time they step on their located next door.
    Have the city install restricted parking height on the four corner of the intersection near house , while no one else in the city has such restriction ……not even the kids going to school .
    Going fishing during working hours on the Oakland estuary
    Using City truck ,only to get busted by Oakland PD thinking these 2 truck were stolen …
    Going to the flea market with City truck??
    Using City vehicle for late night business in downtown San Francisco 2AM
    Filling up gas guzzler vehicle at public work ” it goes that way you put the card on the reader and fill as many vehicle as you want your grand mother , your lover etc… ” , in case you think the Fire Chief was the only one think again ,
    Getting our vehicles hand detailed , we have to travel well .
    Get paid for commuting , $200 000 .00 job they cannot afford the wear and tear on their vehicle from Fairfield , Lafayette , Moraga , because they cannot afford to leave in Alameda , It is too expensive . We do! how do we do it.

    When they go shopping they want immediate attention and insult other peoples by telling them they are all they do all day is standing with their fingers up “you know what” , why can’t they work , kind a funny coming from peoples which have brought slacking to a science .

    At a time when every worker in the entire USA see benefit slashed , it is the time Gov. State , County and City Employee experience the same . are we leaving in the same Country ????
    Better than that we leave in a very Democratic part of the State , my only guess is that Democracy has reverted to the last Century meaning of the plantation.

    Incase they believe the list is too short there is more , much more .

    Comment by Joel Rambaud — April 29, 2015 @ 8:57 am

  7. Interesting debate :
    we have promised these benefits and have no one else but blame the peoples which have been put in place , some object to Police Fire Dept benefit ,
    while the very same one are promoting Company like Google , Apple high tech and insurance among some , All these Co offer close to nothing insurance for their Employee , free meal , great incentive for commute , free parking , bonus for new car , that is when they simply do not give their employees a new one under the Co name . Incidentally all these companies are the largest tax {should I say evader} putting their assets in Country which have no meaning for them but for the sole purpose of not paying taxes , they do not mind however clogging the freeway with their car as they find commuting using public service not good enough for them .
    Pay your taxes it will benefit the entire society .
    Apple product are made in China by semi slave worker , apple has the world largest edge fund in the world ……tax free

    Comment by Joel — April 29, 2015 @ 9:12 am

  8. The best way to fix inequality is not by attacking workers with decent benefits. The decline in workers’ fortunes has everything to do with the decline of unions, and it’s good some workers still have unions. Of course there should be negotiations to address problems in underfunded benefits–problems that took decades of unwillingness to address them by politicians of all stripes. But to criticize workers with good benefits smacks of envy, an ugly emotion, and is just what the right wants you to do.

    Comment by BC — April 29, 2015 @ 9:17 am

  9. Thank you so very much Lauren (and City Staff) for this excellent summary placing the MOU situation in historical context. I personally would like to see a flier handed out at the City Council chamber door tonight with the following summary of today’s blog: “In preparation for tonight’s meeting, we hope you had time to review the history of Alameda’s MOUs. The promise of health benefits for retirees and their dependents was memorialized as early as the 1993 MOU. The language of that MOU remained virtually unchanged until around 2008 when the City realized that a contribution of $16 per employee was not going to cut it. The rate increased to $101. The solution continued to evolve as of 2010, the result of John Russo working collaboratively with the bargaining units.

    Tonight, some will urge the City Council to wait before taking further steps to shore up the OPEB liability. The record shows what has NOT worked has been years of talking tough with no action. What HAS worked is dialoguing and collaborating with interested parties. An MOU now is final. It does not need to expire for further action to be taken. Further work can continue after putting in place this CRITICAL shorter term solution. To slam on the brakes now flies in the face not only of the good will earned, but threatens to turn back the clock to a time Alameda was mired in fruitless bitter partisanship. Our City deserves the best moving forward. This agreement is a sure step in that direction.

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — April 29, 2015 @ 9:35 am

  10. THAT’S ” an MOU now is NOT (Repeat NOT) final.

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — April 29, 2015 @ 9:38 am

  11. What are the options if Alameda does not have the money to pay the retirement benefits? Either: Generate more income? How shall that be done? Increases in building permits? Raise parking fees? Sell more land to developers to build more homes and shops to increase the tax base? Or: Reduce liabilities? By cutting benefits? Reduced staffing? Reduced services? Or: Both?

    The side effects of both are onerous and seem to be undermining the quality of life in Alameda. How it’s determined is going to come down to the real numbers. How much are we in the hole for and what’s the maximum pain that can be tolerated by all of us – the ones directly affected, and the rest of us that end up paying for the side effects of lousy roads and massive shopping malls and ugly housing developments.

    Comment by Adrian Blakey — April 29, 2015 @ 11:39 am

  12. I’m not eager to invite anything here, but Joel: what has made you so embittered? It fairly drips from your post.

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — April 29, 2015 @ 1:53 pm

  13. #6. Joel, everything you list here is something that should be reported as misconduct. If you know of these things going on, why don’t you document them and send them in? Send a copy to the newspapers; they will be very interested. Most government agency codes of conduct say that if an employee knows about misconduct and does not report it, they are just as much in trouble as the person who is committing the transgression.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — April 29, 2015 @ 4:52 pm

  14. Council just finished shortly before 11 p.m. and they had to forego the last items. All four of the contracts up for approval passed, with the Mayor and Councilmember Daysog voting no on all four. I think we need a clip of the Mayor’s explanation of her vote because, and maybe it is because I am tired and ready to go to bed, I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying. Something about the City spending more than it was taking in, but during the meeting a second year of a fairly large surplus was being projected. Am I confused? Was the comment meant to be about the unfunded liability, not the City revenues and expenditures? I’d like to see it again to get it right. Maybe I can ask her directly tomorrow evening at the League’s Meet Your Public Officials event 5-7p.m. at the Harbor Bay Community Center.

    Comment by Kate Quick — April 29, 2015 @ 11:13 pm

  15. Kevis how naive can you be? No matter what government codes of conduct say, government workers rarely get onto “trouble”. And they certainly cannot be fired. Haven’t you been paying attention? Michele Leonhard, DEA Chief, just told Congress she could not even fire DEA agents who participated in sex parties funded by the very drug cartels they were investigating-and that story got a lot of publicity. The agents are still “on the job” and Leonhard is retiring.

    The City of Oakland couldn’t even successfully fire Officer Robert Roche {East Bay Express, April 22-28,2015]: He was fired, but his arbitrator got him re-hired.
    “. Roche was the cop who lobbed a tear-gas grenade at Occupy Oakland protesters who were trying to help injured Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen. The arbitrator ultimately ruled in Roche’s favor and ordered OPD to rehire him with back pay ”

    So much for the usefulness of publicity and the empty threat of getting “in trouble”.

    Joel is just being Joel. He may be cynical, but there is usually truth in there. Kudos to Joel for not being an insufferable Pollyanna.

    Public Safety eats up 80% of the City’s General Fund Budget. That is a disparate amount, which leaves little for other vital city services. In case you were unaware, the mean salary of Alameda city employees is well above the mean income of Alameda residents.

    Comment by vigi — April 30, 2015 @ 10:15 am

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