Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 1, 2015

Elected feel

Filed under: Alameda, City Council — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

Long post ahead but most of it is text of some of the public comment that I have transcribed for you, you’re welcome.  So, I’ll admit when I wrote yesterday’s post I had only caught the tail end of Kevin Kennedy’s comments and then most of the public comment.  There was a quick break to watch the first episode of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt because the husband does NOT like City Council meetings, and then I picked up the viewing again.

When I had written the bit about people not understanding what the roles of the City Auditor and City Treasurer were I had not caught the exchange between Kevin Kennedy, Janet Kern, and John Russo (with cameos by Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft and Trish Spencer) but wow.  And wow.

First, there was some discussion about not having an “agenda” when it came to both the Auditor and Treasurer’s opposition to approving the MOUs.  The problem with this assessment of their motivations is that it fails to take in to consideration what their charter outlined roles and responsibilities are.  They are, per the charter, in charge of a very distinct role in the City.  It was clear from both Kevins comments the other night that those roles have becomes muddied or expanded over the years.  This is why I’m not really joking when I say that there should be a Council Referral to discuss what the roles and responsibilities are of the City Auditor and Treasurer and perhaps, for good measure, a discussion of all the charter level positions.  That way, everyone is clear on what they are and are not supposed to do so that there isn’t this feeling of being “personally attacked” for doing what they perceive to be their job, particularly if it’s not their job.

No one is saying that signing up to be a City Auditor or Treasurer means that anyone has given up their right to speak as a private individual on a matter of importance to all Alamedans, especially folks who have cared enough to sign up for what is a relatively thankless job (although it does come with health bennies and a sweet parking space). But the reason why there are defined roles is so that — on topics that may be tangentially related but not within the job spec — they can provide input like any other resident in Alameda but there isn’t an expectation that they are to be treated any differently than any other concerned citizen in Alameda.

Here’s a few quotes I transcribed from Wednesday night that were revealing and signaled, to me at least, that our City Auditor and City Treasurer might have expanded the scope of their duties over these many years:

Kevin Kennedy:

I appreciate the City Attorney reading that notice [regarding legal liability], I have a couple of questions, well a couple of comments and a couple questions.  Number one, back in 2013 when this opinion was first sought out about setting up a trust I never saw it, just to be perfectly clear, I had no idea it was done, nor did the City Auditor to the best of my knowledge.

Yeah, it’s not in the City Treasurer’s job description to know whether or not the City sought out a legal opinion. And:

What we’re trying to do is work in the financial interest of the City, that’s what we’re elected to do that’s what people ask us to do and that’s what we’re here to do.  This situation’s been very difficult for the Auditor and I because we’ve been working in a very short time frame to try to give you what I think you expect and what the public expects from us which is financial guidance on probably the biggest issue the City faces.

Per the charter, the City Treasurer is elected to recommend an investment policy and monitor it and report to the City Council about that investment policy.  Kevin Kennedy did an amazing job of doing exactly that a few meetings ago and explained — pretty handily — to the City Council about attempting to limit too much the types of investments made depending on political points of view.  The City Auditor is elected to perform annual audits (in this case hire a firm to do it because it’s too much for one person to handle).  “Work in the financial interest” is a vague term that encompasses their specific roles, but is not necessarily what they were elected to do.  Do their comments have more weight than the average joe?  Absolutely, but when they use the pulpit of their elected office to speak on issues that are not within their purview of their elected office then that — in itself — is furthering an agenda.

Kevin Kearny:

We’re the people with financial expertise, we got elected to comment on things.

No. No, you did not. And:

The procedure here is really really flawed, we get this information like two, three days before the public and that’s if we yell and scream. This information before the 16th meeting, we had no idea what the numbers were.

The procedure is not flawed because — in this case — there is nothing in the City Charter that requires that either the City Auditor or the Treasurer receive the information with advance notice.  It’s not within their scope of responsibilities.  Technically on this specific subject they are no different than you or I. And:

It would be nice if we had some kind of procedure in place, I understand the behind the closed doors type thing, we’ve been involved in that too on issues, I don’t want to go into details of why, but we’ve been involved in those things.  I think it would be better if you want us to work together, because I want to get along with everybody, you know, being like, me and him, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid and the end of the friggin’ movie with everyone going “Kevin, what the f?” Bang.  But honestly that’s what it feels like many many times.  My suggestion would be this: as these things go along, maybe you could say, “gee whiz, this is what we’re kind of thinking about.”  You can put up under the cone of silence so we won’t talk to any body.  “What do you guys think?” And we can point out things.

Whoever allowed the Auditor and Treasurer into closed sessions the first time around is probably to blame for this current conflation of duties. While it would be nice to have some way to bring the City Treasurer and Auditor along for the ride, technically, it’s not appropriate unless the City Charter were to change to alter the scope of their duties.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with this exchange which just reinforces the dysfunction that exists in our City government.

Kevin Kennedy: One of the things that was brought up by Councilmember Matarrese was, can we make this legal opinion public.   And apparently there are negotiations reasons why this should not be made public. Well apparently everyone’s seen it except for me and the Auditor and the public.  it’s been shared with the unions, it’s been shared with the Council apparently.  You mention in your comment that the unions were aware of it and had seen it. Is that not true?

John Russo: Incorrect, no.

Janet Kern:  If I can respond to the couple of things you said.

Kevin Kennedy:  Sure

Janet Kern:  In 2012 the opinion that was solicited from the outside law firm was about OPEB, not about a trust, but about OPEB. What the law was, state of the law was on OPEB and they analyzed each and everyone of the MOUs because all of these inclusions are based heavily on the contract language. Unlike PERS, OPEB is contractually driven and so every time you read a case or what have you, it doesn’t necessarily apply to what Alameda’s contracts or MOUs say. You have to look at what the language of what each individual contract is and so this law firm went through every single one of our MOUs and analyzed the legal risks, how strong they were, if they could be amended, those kinds of things and they provided us with that opinion so it was not about the OPEB trust.  Then the Council asked on April 16th, that’s a year and a half later, to update that information and we also asked them to look at the provisions in our proposed MOUs creating the OPEB trust, which this OPEB trust is different than every body elses OPEB trust, or maybe it’s not.  But this is one that is not the same as the PARS  trust that we have that has $350,000 in it, this would be a separate kind of trust.  And the question that was asked was whether it would create an additional obligation over and above the obligation the City has in the MOUs should they be adopted would they create an obligation and the trust itself would not create an obligation in and of itself. And we had that confirmed with the law firm.

The second thing you ask is on the opinion itself, unfortunately, my brethren in audience, who might be listening and who sit on the dais recognize that here is an attorney-client privilege and that even though this is a public body this body also gets the benefit of being able to get legal advice, legal strategy in a confidential way. That is to the benefit of this City. If this City had to tell every body every thing that they were doing at all times, we would be in severe disadvantages, so that is not what is required to be done. The unions are the public. And the unions did not get a copy of this opinion. The opinion in December 2013 was provided to the City Manager’s office for their use in going forward with their negotiations. The City Council, this City Council sitting here received that opinion and the update of that opinion last night. That is not publicly available, the Council has not decided to make it publicly available and I heartily believe that is the correct posture.

Kevin Kennedy: Okay so just, I apologize if I misheard this, just to be clear: at no point in the past or in the current situation has the legal opinion been shared with anyone other than Council and the staff?

Janet Kern: That is correct.

Kevin Kennedy:  Okay, so, basically we’re going to have to trust you on that I guess. I mean, we’re just going to have to go with it.

Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft: I’m sorry, do I understand that? Are you doubting the word of our City Attorney?

Kevin Kennedy:  I’m not doubting the word at all, I’m just saying that the legal ramifications of this are a big issue and we don’t have any information on it.

Trish Spencer: Member Ashcraft, let’s let him continue.

Kevin Kennedy:  It’s fine, it’s fine, I just want to be real clear about it.

Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft:  I’ll be clear about one thing too. The City Attorney, at the behest of the Council, met in closed session last night and did provide the language in our charter that outlines the duties and responsibilities  of the City Manager, the City Auditor, the City Treasurer, and I can’t remember if you included the City Attorney, but I’ve read those and I believe she is acting well within the scope of her duty and we have no reason to doubt her integrity and I’m sure that wasn’t your intent.

Kevin Kennedy: I don’t either, I’m not doubting it at all, I’m just saying that was something we asked for and didn’t get it.

Trish Spencer:  Please continue.

John Russo:Wait one second, wait one second. But what you asked for, it’s customary that you don’t get it. It’s not unusual here.  There isn’t a “well we’ll have to trust you…” with an insinuation…

Kevin Kennedy (crosstalk): No I understand

John Russo: …that there’s something untoward in that.  This is standard operating practice and you, of all people, being involved in a confidential profession would understand that there are certain things that you don’t tip your cards out to the other side, and I wish you hadn’t suggested — because I know I’ll see it on a blog cause I’ve seen things that you said before taken out of context — I wish you hadn’t suggested that somehow labor had received the opinion…

Kevin Kennedy:  (crosstalk) I thought…

John Russo: …because you did say that. And it wasn’t true.

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36 Comments

  1. Regarding my interaction with Ms. Kern, I made a poor choice of words which conveyed the wrong vibe. If you transcribe the next few minutes of the conversation for your readers it will give them a more complete picture of this. I apologized publically at that time and privately during the break to Ms. Kern for the misunderstanding.

    My point about never having seen the 2013 opinion was to clarify an apparent misperception expressed to me over the prior week by some members of Council that we had seen it.

    My question about whether the opinion would be shared with us or the public stemmed from council member Matarrese’s comment at the Apr 16 meeting about finding a way to put some or all of a legal opinion out in the public. The option could also have been for council to waive attorney/client privilege to allow the Auditor and I to read it. Totally up to them, I’m fine with how they chose to handle it.

    The beauty of this blogging stuff is I can go back and edit what I type, correct misspellings, and reread it all before posting. How many times have you or posters here typed up a comment, read it, and thought “crap, that doesn’t sound right” and changed it?

    The tough thing about having a conversation in front of a room full of people and on tv is you don’t have those luxuries, so listeners get to hear the first draft of everything. And being human that’s not always perfect.

    It’s challenging and fun, you should try it some time Lauren.

    Kevin Kennedy
    City Treasurer

    Comment by Kevin Kennedy — May 1, 2015 @ 7:31 am

  2. It’s good we don’t all have the same job, isn’t it? Some get elected to do a job, part of which is to be a disciplined and respectful public speaker. Some write blogs to deepen the discussion, and some comment anonymously. Democracy is a rich tapestry that requires us to play our position and sometimes to play more than our position, and sometimes to move on.

    Comment by Anonymoustroll — May 1, 2015 @ 8:37 am

  3. I’ve listened to the Auditor and Treasuer for years. This isn’t the first time they have said things that elected officials shouldn’t say. Both Kevins make statements that damage relationships and frankly have created a vocal but small contingent of people who are hostile towards Public Safety in our city. They act like they are concerned about “the employee” but it’s my opinion and the opinion of many of the workers that they aren’t concerned at all about us. Their view is consistent with an agenda in this country that has been slowly deteriorating the middle class. But instead of admitting they share that view, they use their positions to act like they are concerned about workers. It’s not just what they say publicly, but it’s also what they say about us when people aren’t watching. So Mr Kennedy and Mr Kearney, if you want people to listen and respect you, you should return that same respect for individuals that don’t see things exactly your way. None of the Police Officers and Firefighters I know are getting rich. I don’t feel my job is any more or any less important than anyone else’s job in this city. We all deserve good pay, good benefits and to have security when we retire. I hope in the future you two can take a look at how you set the tone for the conversation that takes place because it’s getting out of hand. I know my employee group has worked very hard over the last several years to create a good working relationship with the city. It’s not easy all the time but we are committed to it. I challenge you two to do the same.

    Sincerely Jeff DelBono Alameda Firefighters President L689

    Comment by Jeff DelBono — May 1, 2015 @ 9:02 am

  4. “None of the Police Officers and Firefighters I know are getting rich”. .Well, they must be making horrible investments with their $200,000-300,000 salary/benefits then.

    Who are you trying to kid, DelBono? Everyone has access to the annual City Payroll data online, which is listed in order of descending earnings. The first 2 pages have been more than 75% Fire and Police for quite a while.

    It’s one thing to be paid handsomely for your services. It is quite another to misrepresent it and cry “poor me” in public, when the public knows differently. Ultimately, you just destroy your own credibility and turn public opinion against yourself

    Comment by vigi — May 1, 2015 @ 9:32 am

  5. JDB:

    The Kevins care a great deal about the middle class taxpayers who pay your upper class salaries and plutocratic pensions. The taxpayers who earn less than half of you, the taxpayers who will still need public safety after yo’re cashing $200,000 pensions checks.

    Comment by Good Government — May 1, 2015 @ 11:28 am

  6. Lauren is OK with Rob Bonta speaking for the firemen (who apparently still own him) even though he wasn’t elected to do that. But somehow the Kevins doing what they were asked to do is wrong.

    Hypocrisy: when the rules only apply to the other team.

    Comment by Good Government — May 1, 2015 @ 11:31 am

  7. The City Attorney’s client is the city council. Waiver of attorney-client privilege cannot just apply to Mr. Kennedy, based on his role as defined in the charter because he was not an “expert” retained by the City Attorney. If the council votes to waive that privilege, the confidentiality of the document is waived for everyone, and that includes any member of the union that may use the information in litigation against the city. (See People v. Donovan (), 57 Cal.2d 346) on access to expert appraisals).

    Comment by Alan — May 1, 2015 @ 11:33 am

  8. If I hadn’t attended Wednesday night’s council meeting and witnessed the circus for myself, I would have had a hard time believing that the Kevins were as incompetent and unprofessional as everyone is making them out to be.

    During their time at the podium, our elected city Treasurer and Auditor made a mockery of themselves, appearing completely unaware of the scope of their respective duties, the Brown Act and other state disclosure laws, and how to solve the city’s OPEB problem. Their proffered solutions were to either engage in illegal activity or to do nothing until they found a single solution to a multi-faceted and complex problem – a problem that a group of highly experienced individuals have spent 8 years trying to solve. Seeing as they don’t have any idea what their authority is under the charter, perhaps it’s time they be given a refresher course so that they can stay in their lanes and do their actual jobs.

    In any event, here are three things I think we all need to take a look at when it comes to “the Kevins”:

    (1) They can’t get their stories straight: Kearney acknowledged that they had been brought into the loop by City Manager, then he complained that they knew nothing about the details of the deal until day before public (16 DAYS BEFORE THE COUNCIL VOTE). However, the city attorney confirmed that the Kevins were informed the very next business day after the tentative agreements were reached and the 1st business day upon which they could have been informed under California law. It is their unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that they don’t understand how municipal government works that causes them –perhaps unintentionally, perhaps recklessly– to mislead the public about what can and cannot be done and, therefore, prevents them from fairly and realistically analyzing whether a labor contract, such as the one voted by Council on Wednesday, is a good deal for the taxpayers.

    (2) They are acting outside of their authority: Another example of what happens when Treasurer opines outside his Charter authority his comment to this very blogpost. Kennedy suggests that Council could have waived attorney client privilege so as to allow the Kevins to see the OPEB opinion. This betrays a basic ignorance of how these things work, which I supposed Kennedy wouldn’t know since he is not a licensed attorney. There is no such thing as a partial waiver of the attorney client privilege: you either waive confidentiality or you don’t.

    As a result, Kennedy insinuated that Council could have shown the opinion just to the Kevins, but chose not to. These guys should stick to their roles under the Charter in their areas of expertise and stop misleading the public by talking about things they don’t understand and suggesting that other City officials (like the City Attorney) are hiding something, or lying about the conclusion reached in the confidential legal analysis. Or recklessly accusing city staff of violating the Council’s attorney client privilege by sharing the opinion with labor (but not the poor misunderstood and shunned “Butch and Sundance Kid” – his words not mine). Even after being told publicly by City Manager and City Attorney that opinion had not been shown or discussed outside of Council, Kennedy insisted on cross examining our City Attorney about whether she was telling the truth about what she had just said. That wasn’t a poorly expressed idea; it was an unfounded challenge to City Manager and City Attorney’s honesty. The fact that these two remain clueless as to why city staff, prior to Russo, didn’t want anything to do with them is unbelievable considering the public bashing and reckless insults that they directed at staff on Wednesday night.

    (3) They should give up their taxpayer paid medical coverage: Finally, I call on my fellow Alamedans to join me in challenging the Kearny and Kennedy to lead by example. Since they believe no solution to medical benefit problem exists without scaling back the benefit, they should give up their taxpayer paid medical coverage as the charter role for them does not require more than 10-20 hours of work per year (how long, really, does it take for Kevin Kearney to pick an auditor to do the actual work?) while part time city employees who work 10-20 hours each week get no coverage at all.

    Comment by M. Malia Vella, esq. — May 1, 2015 @ 12:11 pm

  9. Malia, two comments, first “ignorance is bliss” in their case, second they are just politicians kinda like the people they are criticizing on the Diaz. I would suggest the City Treasurer come to council meetings quarterly and make positive recommendations as to his thinking of what direction the city should be heading in finances.

    Comment by John P. — May 1, 2015 @ 12:59 pm

  10. Jeff and Malia, I’m sure you both are great at what you do in your own arena, but this isn’t it. Keven has backed up and apologized. The vote is in. This issue is done. Keven is still a loyal Alamedan, neighbor and friend. Jumping on Keven now is bad form.

    Comment by Li_ — May 1, 2015 @ 2:08 pm

  11. Li they love to bully…To hell with Form.

    We have seen this Bullying in Alameda by Firefighters and lost 670,000 in Lawsuit…..Same Characters now just bullying the two Kevins.

    Vanderheiden and DelBono both again returned to work in late June 2003, and were assigned to different fire stations and different shifts so they would not have to work together. Although he was working at a different station with firefighters who had not been involved in the DelBono incident, from the beginning there was tension between Vanderheiden and his fellow firefighters who, he claims, ostracized and isolated him. For instance, Vanderheiden said that when he would walk into a room, crew members would immediately vacate the area and refuse to acknowledge him.

    A captain told him he should not attend the annual union ski trip because it would not be safe for him to do so. He was told by Chief Christiansen that if he continued to serve as an instructor in the water rescue program, other firefighters might leave the program. He stated that one captain announced to a class that he never wanted Vanderheiden in his station or on his rig, and that a fellow firefighter went from station to station calling Vanderheiden a dead man.

    http://www.fearnotlaw.com/wsnkb/articles/vanderheiden_v_city_of_alameda-28370.html

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — May 1, 2015 @ 3:05 pm

  12. Trotting out every politician and labor group that the Fireman Donate to and saying what a great deal this is for city looked like Grifting 101……. Was very entertaining and humorous at times.

    Remind me again that Residents are Paying around 1800 a day per fireman in total compensation on average and this is great day and too be celebrated.

    That’s based off of 122 working days per year per fireman.

    Grift On

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — May 1, 2015 @ 3:25 pm

  13. Most commonly firefighters work in 24-hour shifts, reporting to work at 0700 and work until 0700 the next day. Firefighters usually work a total of 56 hours per week (but since these hours are worked on a continual basis, firefighters enjoy a lot of time off). On the average, firefighters work ten 24-hour shifts each month, leaving them to enjoy 20 days off each month.

    BASE SALARY
    56 hour week (24-hours on/48-hours off =122 shift days/year) $2,782/month $33,384/year

    PERSONAL LEAVE (VACATION AND SICK LEAVE)
    20 days/year (one day equals 12 hours of shift)

    HOLIDAYS
    12 days/year (one day equals 12 hours of shift)

    http://www.coj.net/departments/fire-and-rescue/employment/salary-and-benefits.aspx

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — May 1, 2015 @ 3:52 pm

  14. http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/MemberSearch/QuickSearch?FreeText=Vella

    According to the State Bar of California website, there is no licensed California attorney named M. Malia Vella. There’s a Mary Hatsume Vella and a Matthew Vella, but neither sounds even close to M. Malia.

    What do you mean by signing yourself Esq., Vella? If you have not passed the bar to practice law in this state, back off.

    Comment by vigi — May 1, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

  15. you can take your “vibe” and stick it, Kevin. You knowingly and with forethought tried to malign the charter authorized role of the City Attorney, and to expand your role and the Treasurers role as far beyond what the charter allows as you could, and you rightfully got called on it. Don’t pull a Nixon now and try to stonewall. As long as you are trying to put things into context, can you also clarify your personal role in the arguing that broke out in the hallway and brought the meeting to a halt?

    At least one good thing came out of this, you will not have the opportunity to run unopposed again, and in future elections will have to hold yourself accountable for your actions, and that is a great step in the right direction. It will also provide the opportunity for the public to realize that different auditors and different treasurers can have different approaches and answers and still both be right.

    Comment by notadave — May 1, 2015 @ 4:03 pm

  16. From Emerge California:

    Malia is a graduate of Wellesley College, where she earned a B.A. in Architecture and Political Science, and Santa Clara University School of Law, where she earned her J.D.

    State Bar Website

    Comment by Lauren Do — May 1, 2015 @ 4:18 pm

  17. I can assure you, I’m bar licensed in California, so I won’t be “backing off.”

    By the way, Malia is Hawaiian for Mary.

    Comment by Malia Vella — May 1, 2015 @ 4:30 pm

  18. Whoa, outrage. Historical perspective: Kevin Kennedy was first elected City Treasurer in 2000. According to my 1998 hard copy of the City Charter, at that time Article V, sec 5-2 “City Treasurer” read:
    “The Treasurer shall have custody of all monies belonging to the City. The Treasurer shall be responsible for the acts thereof on an official bond.”

    This is a vastly greater role than the much curtailed one defined in the 2012 City Charter, as amended by the Gilmore administration, I believe. It seems that, for the first 12 years of his incumbency, Mr. Kennedy appears to have had a huge responsibility. Does his responsibility for events during those 12 years end when the Charter changes? I don’t know.

    But I would not presume to accuse Mr. Kennedy of unfairly “expanding” a role which was so recently curtailed. Those who do are simply ignorant of Alameda history.

    Comment by vigi — May 1, 2015 @ 4:31 pm

  19. OK, the Treasurer section was changed in 2008. Still a long time.slight

    Comment by vigi — May 1, 2015 @ 4:41 pm

  20. Kevin Kennedy & Kevin Kearney have one sentence job descriptions as treasurer & auditor. Over the years though they’ve been pumped up by various city officials and staff and have obviously become accustomed to it. Their performance the other night shows a naivete and entitlement that is shocking. Call the city attorney a liar? Announce to the world that “you’re Butch Cassisdy and the Sundance Kid” and are “going to jump off the frickin cliff”? Sorry, no amount of “I’m sorry let’s move on” can excuse that and the rest of their antics. Putting aside the theatrics their core principles were intact. They should have been conveyed as regular citizens though not as VIP officials. To be fair Rob Bonta and Sandre Swanson should have spoken in accordance with when their speaker cards were put in too.
    Their positions don’t come out of thin air, they’re shaped by their world views and the philosophies of the Republican Party (Kennedy) and the Libertarian Party (Kearney). They and their followers are fond of saying “it’s just the numbers, nothing personal.” If it were nothing personal then one of Kennedy & Kearney’s adherents (a frequent blogger) wouldn’t have gotten in the face of the firefighters political director and admonished him by saying “You have no right to be here…” They had every right to be there and she and her heroes know it. I guess the Brahmins of the gold coast think they have personal control over “their” employees.
    If it’s just about the numbers, let’s consider these ones: the city has a full finance department. It would be reasonable to conclude that there must be someone in that department that could engage the services of an individual to perform an audit. Further, it would be reasonable to conclude that someone in finance could analyze the city’s investments. I’m not usually a proponent of contracting out work but if the treasurer and auditor’s jobs were handed over to the finance department the city could realize the savings of the health and welfare contributions being made on behalf of Kennedy & Kearney. Both of them are taking coverage and one of them is getting $2500 paid out each month for family coverage. Nothing personal, that’s a proposal that’s just about the numbers.
    Nice try attacking Vella “Vigi.” I will have fun watching that exchange. By the by an awful lot of the same folks that hyperventilate over “transparency” don’t use their real names. The hypocrisy if not the bravery is overwhelming.

    Comment by Mike Henneberry — May 1, 2015 @ 5:20 pm

  21. Maybe we need to change the Charter considering the Quality of our Finance Director who Didn’t even know what Accounting Terms she was using in the last Council meeting and Ezzy Ashcroft had to correct it and point it out a few times.

    Maybe their rolls ought to be changed and lets pay them a lot more.

    What a Goat and Pony show the politicians put on.

    Grift on…… Grifters

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — May 1, 2015 @ 6:50 pm

  22. Interesting that “Cobalt Black Keys Johnson” would characterize elected officials who support working people and their unions as “grifters.” Interesting but not surprising, in the same league as Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.

    Comment by Mike Henneberry — May 1, 2015 @ 7:39 pm

  23. Mike I don’t support Bullies and BS and the Political Part they play in the City ……..Perfect example is Fireman Union President saying at council meeting a few years ago I only make 30 dollars an hour…….He failed to say his total compensation from the city the previous year was 196,000……Works out to about 1600 a Day……….It the meantime we raise and invent new fees in city to support this while decimating park programs and feeing these kids and their families just to participate in Sports…….While we have 40 percent of students living in poverty and receiving free lunches at school.

    This money that we pay must come from somewhere.
    The only Austerity Program I See in this town is taking away money that use to be used on the kids and their families on recreation and sports programs and watching our city assets , like streets ,sidewalks , buildings, pools, and parks deteriorate.

    To Clarify the Grifters are the Sideshow politicians that the Fireman’s Union brought in to make a real mockery of this whole Unauthentic show of support….. Everyone can see thru this BS.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — May 1, 2015 @ 9:16 pm

  24. It appears from the rail they’ve lost sight of what they’re there for and have become self-serving and has put our City in Financial Peril.

    Feeling that the city is Safe Financially and not locked into unsustainable Salaries, Benefits and Pensions doesn’t make most feel Safe when you sacrifice everything else for a few.

    That’s my take……When I look at Big Picture and watching Ms OTT say the city is broke and we can’t even tear down blight around apartments were renting last 15 years and looking like slumlords.

    5 crab feeds and 5 BBQ’s don’t give back to the Kids and families that have had to pony up the millions that have been lost to their recreational programs while their streets and sidewalks and pools remain like third world country.

    Maybe my priorities are wrong and not seeing things clearly.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — May 1, 2015 @ 9:49 pm

  25. #21 and #23. One of my takes on the meeting you refer to is that is was “round up the usual suspects” – the supporters, for the most part, of each side were known folks. There were a few on both sides who were new faces. I think it rather natural that union folk would support union folk, if especially, as they said, they all live in this community. It is probably pretty natural that those who believe that civil servants are over compensated do-nothings and that the City is going to hell in a hand basket should come to once again restate their case. I don’t believe that any of the people supporting the public safety employees were devious, manipulative cheaters that the name “grifter” implies. If we all argue our cases from facts and not from personal judgments about other people we would be more effective debaters.
    Our City, just as every City and County in California has an unfunded liability problem, created many years past by generous contracts given by people who are gone from politics some of them twenty years or more. We are trying to work on it. We are establishing a trust fund to help (not solve) the issue. We are getting contracts that have concessions. Our revenues are growing and there is a possibility that our planning and incremental steps toward solutions may work. Yes, the city cut back in those lean last eight years and yes parks and rec and maintenance suffered. I am hoping we will be able to restore some of those things if our revenue picture continues to improve. Whether we are doing too much, too little, or the wrong things is what should be debated; not how evil people who are not your “like-thinkers” are. That is civic engagement at its best!

    Comment by Kate Quick — May 1, 2015 @ 9:56 pm

  26. Bullies and grifters, BS and BBQ’s we live in third world conditions…..blah, blah. I’m sure you two (one?) were out walking precincts for the school bonds in past elections. But of course we’d have no way of knowing that since you’re hiding behind you pen names because you’re afraid of bullies. OK fair enough see you at the 1400 Club.

    Comment by Mike Henneberry — May 1, 2015 @ 10:04 pm

  27. Kate lets lay it all out on the table…….Lets bring in CALSTERS, Jerry Brown, and all the Cities and Counties and State and work out a SOLUTION…..Quit Jerking everyone one off by saying everyone facing same problem and NOT doing frkn thing……Let’s solve it ONCE and for allllll.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — May 1, 2015 @ 10:06 pm

  28. In California 58% percent of our Students live in Poverty and Receive Free lunch at School……….The Families and these kids can’t keep getting fee’ ed into ground by local Cities just to participate. While we keep giving huge Salaries and benefits to employees while cutting their money…..Something is really FU.

    While we kicked the can down the Road last few years our DEBT increased and Pension Contributions Escalated….Your plan didn’t work. Small Steps into Kate QUICK Sand.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — May 1, 2015 @ 10:25 pm

  29. And then there’s this: http://calwatchdog.com/2015/05/02/ruling-pension-bonuses-shows-obstacles-ca-reform/

    Long-retired pensioners get pension bonuses in years when pension fund investments do well? Sheesh.

    I wish my parents had insisted I should work for the state goverment when I grew up. it’s a can’t lose situation.

    Comment by vigi — May 2, 2015 @ 12:25 pm

  30. I’d be in favor of raising the Mayor’s recompense to $100K and Council members $50k per year.

    Comment by jack — May 2, 2015 @ 6:29 pm

  31. It’s not like that’s big bucks for this city that can in one fell swoop determine the compensation extension for employees who may lose their job because of economic factors that the City has no clue the reason for but God damn it sure feels good.

    Comment by jack — May 2, 2015 @ 7:01 pm

  32. 20 Mike: I am satisfied that Malia-mary Hatsume-Vella is what she claims to be. No harm in asking. We have seen frauds before. I for one find it annoying that Lauren Do doesn’t post as much information about herself as she does about everyone else. I also find it odd that you cannot find Marie Gilmore on Transparent California under the name Gilmore. You have to look for Mayor Marie Robinson. That is just weird.

    Comment by vigi — May 3, 2015 @ 4:34 pm

  33. taking time this a.m. to watch the public comments from Wednesday. I was lead to believe there would be a mass out pouring of “haters”, which I referred to as a “parade of pin heads”. I think I’m at about twenty so far and most are in favor. Those that object are not as intolerable as first speaker, certainly not “pin heads”, but many of those in support are making feel good remarks which are gratuitous and even windy. The first teamster who we’ve seen speak many times over the years, “Where I come from a deal is a deal”, in a loud aggressive delivery. Made me appreciate John Knox White making a similar point, among others, in a more nuanced fashion. I’m always starving for comments which shed some actual light as opposed to platitudes. More later perhaps, but I concur with comment by Bill on today’s thread that the mayor is creating bad precedent by not being more vocal about time limit. Unless somebody is really at closing remark, shut them down and let it be known that when it’s your turn to stick to protocol.

    Comment by MI — May 4, 2015 @ 11:59 am

  34. most of you on either side have moved on, but I’m still reeling under the weight of all the data. I’ll get there eventually.

    I buy the thing about our bargaining units agreeing to contribute more than any other in the region, because that is fact. Good for us, and for them. And I get that if we chose to “go to war” with these bargaining units, an arbitrator would use comps like those regional entities and we would likely come out worse than signing this contract. That pretty much sold me on signing the contract.

    But as I’ve watched all the video comments and let them sink in, one thing which comes up again and again are percentages and how much of a moving target they can represent. At 15% contribution, our units contribute more than any other in the region. fact. If their pay is more, then the amount represented by that 15% is more, and the 4% OPEB contribution is more. It’s great AFD contributes more, but the raises to back fill those contributions are more by virtue of being a percentage of a larger amount. And the pension amounts are MORE. So, if as JKW stated, under minimum 2% raise scenario ( as opposed to 5%) weighed against 4% OPEB our units could experience a net loss in pay. In principle that is terrible, bad, not good. But relative to any number of comparisons, I’m not sure how much how bad I could feel if that occurs.

    I want to stop here and comment that John was the only speaker to cut to the heart of the “what’s the harm in waiting until we learn more?” argument. He pointed out that the only alternative outcome of waiting to double and triple check numbers would be to renege on this deal. Nothing beats honesty.

    To continue, I hate to admit it, but after a number of feel good speeches in favor of the contract, Paul Foster of all people, got my attention with his list of comparisons for ratio of costs to square miles of areas served. I don’t think we want to emulate Vallejo, representing the biggest delta, never the less it was another metric for slicing and dicing, and an interesting one. Simply quoting percentages of the general fund spent for safety seems slippery. All I recall hearing for eternity have been percentages of general funds, but during this meeting I was introduced to the fact that many departments, like public works for example, draw from various pots with various funding sources besides taxes. Therefore, while cost of safety is 79% of general fund, taking all available funds into account it stands at 35%. Just when I was beginning to think I could keep up I get blind sided.

    the time lines for the various percentages and mechanism are extremely important when attempting to contrast any given percentage against another. Note to self. next time take notes. Raises kick in on one given year, 4% OPEB another, trust gets $5million from City at this point in time but won’t yield until it accrues interest, etc. Oh, and the whole trust is based on a projection of 6.5%. Some feel it’s overly optimistic. I was under the impression that trust was specifically for OPEB, but one late speaker said she learned from Russo that night that it is for pay as you go. Really? I missed that. Russo didn’t respond to that question, just said all the stats have been posted on the city web site. Yikes!,

    Maybe Mastick should have a class on municipal budgets. seriously.

    Comment by MI — May 4, 2015 @ 5:42 pm

  35. #35 = Don’t you mean Paul Foreman, not Foster?

    Comment by vigi — May 7, 2015 @ 12:04 pm


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