Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 23, 2015

Between me and my Sister City

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

All right, this one is a doozy folks.

Not sure if everyone realizes but Alameda just became a “Sister City” to a town in the Philippines called Dumaguete.  The Mayor from Dumaguete visited and everything and apparently little tokens were presented and some formal ceremony was conducted in the Council Chambers earlier this month.  See photo here.

These ceremonies are typically fairly perfunctory, each official says nice things about the other town and everything is hunky dory.  Except, this is Alameda we’re talking about and this is Trish Spencer, Mayor, we’re also referring to, so, naturally, not everything went swimmingly and that was expressed in what can only be called an apology letter from one of the Sister City organizers.

Highlights in clip form because I can’t cut and paste!

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 3.35.03 PM

Before someone says something along the lines of “but Trish Spencer has a lot of Filipino friends…” no.  Just stop right there.  No.  I don’t care how many Filipino friends you have if you can’t think of any better connections to the Filipino community than eating white rice and hugging, then perhaps you should just stick with vaguely pandering comments about “love of family and community” or something like that.

And more embarrassing factoids:

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 3.35.38 PM

Wikipedia! Treating adults like children! Lack of preparation!

More on another day:

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 3.36.02 PM

I feel like more details should have been given with regard to the “carrying on and acting out” since it was pronounced as “shocking” and a cultural faux pas, but the last line is a bit of a kicker, no?

To wrap it all up:

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 3.36.21 PM


  1. I hate fake outrage, like you find on Fox News. “President Obama used the “N” word! P Diddy wore a coat with the Confederate Flag!” It reduces everything to sound bites that sound absurd and distract from actual issues. The slanderous suggestion that Spencer had alcohol on her breath is tossed in there to “bolster” the outrage and demean the Mayor. Is that because the letter writer is promoting the stereotype that Mexican- Americans drink or are unable to hold elective office? “Shocking,”

    Is this about rice, hugging, or using your phone to read notes? Their “gift” was rice. I heard this had something to do with Rob Bonta’s mother, and it is no secret that the Bonta – Gilmore – Firefighter – Perata machine is smarting from their defeat. Shouldn’t you have at least put that in your “doozy” lead?

    And the Mayor DOES have many Filipino supporters which was why she was there…

    Comment by Breathless — June 23, 2015 @ 6:55 am

  2. The letter writer was not Rob Bonta’s mother.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 23, 2015 @ 6:59 am

  3. Where’s the video?

    Comment by MP — June 23, 2015 @ 8:01 am

  4. Working on it.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 23, 2015 @ 8:05 am

  5. Ah, as I read this I didn’t even think of the Bonta machine angle to this. Of course. Not like Spencer doesn’t make it like shooting fish in a barrel or anything. Lauren having Spencer to blog about is like Jon Stewart having Donald Trump entering the GOP race. (Stewart was celebrating that fact as a gift for his last five weeks.)

    Comment by MI — June 23, 2015 @ 8:19 am

  6. You will publish anything as long as it is critical of Spencer. You think you know liable law, but unless she was actually drunk, you have committed liable. It is not impossible even for a public figure, but I think reckless disregard and malice aforethought would be easy to prove.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — June 23, 2015 @ 8:27 am

  7. This letter was sent to the City Council, it is a matter of public record.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 23, 2015 @ 8:30 am

  8. That doesn’t protect you especially because you did not note that. Also, reckless disregard in that you highlighted that “doozy” of a last line. You better hope its true or Spencer has just totally written off any BS you publish.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — June 23, 2015 @ 8:38 am

  9. Independent of whether or not the Mayor was drunk or said insensitive things – it’s clear others have relayed multiple instances of behavior and/or actions that present an image problem for our city.

    So the big picture question-does she care and will she do anything about it? (Cue sarcastic chortle.)

    Personally, as somebody married into an awesome Filipino family-this story pushes my inner Pixar Lewis Black, so I will just keep the rest to myself.

    Comment by Dave S. — June 23, 2015 @ 8:47 am

  10. You’re right Dave S – multiple instances of disgusting behavior by Lauren. If it turns out Lauren has published this without any effort to check and giving no context then I would sue Lauren. Enough is enough, but I’m probably not as forgiving as the Mayor.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — June 23, 2015 @ 8:51 am

  11. Here you go. How to write a story without libel. Lauren, you better hope she was drunk or Spencer does not want to sue.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — June 23, 2015 @ 9:12 am

  12. Lauren, why don’t you come clean about who you got the letter from? It was not just sitting around on the city’s website. Was it received by you as part of an FOIA request – I doubt it. You did not get a copy from the sender. Someone handed it to you so you could publish a hit piece. Who was that person?

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — June 23, 2015 @ 9:18 am

  13. I think there are some Breathlessly Unreasonable commenters on this blog.

    Comment by John P. — June 23, 2015 @ 9:24 am

  14. The letter writer’s name is Virginia Savella Harper, who gives only “Alameda and Monterey, CA” as her “address”. but a prelim Google search of her name produces 3114 MLK, Jr. Way as her home. (single-family residence):

    So who is Virginia Savella-Harper? Is she new to Alameda (so new her address doesn’t come up yet)? It is very unusual for a legitimate letter to the City Council not to contain the street address, phone number, or email address of the writer. City Councils get missives from raving lunatics all the time. It is important to consider the source.

    I don’t claim to know all the Filipinos in Alameda, but I have been attending the Filipino Independence Day celebration since it started in 2013, and I don’t remember a Virginia Savella-Harper.

    Comment by vigi — June 23, 2015 @ 9:29 am

  15. OOps- I meant to type “3112 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, Oakland, CA 94609”, not 3114. Sorry. I know how you guys are such sticklers for accuracy. Just click on the link Lauren provided, PCBU.

    Comment by vigi — June 23, 2015 @ 9:33 am

  16. #10: It’s pretty clear who wrote the letter (betting you didn’t get that far…) so if Mayor Soencer thinks she wants this in a court of law (and let’s face it – the discovery phase of said case would be Lauren blog comedy gold!) she should go after the letter writer herself.

    Comment by Dave S. — June 23, 2015 @ 9:34 am

  17. Let me guess..that article in the EBX is by…Steven Tavares! Of course it is! I knew that even before I clicked on it. After that hit piece he did on Spencer in Alameda magazine, we all know Steven Tavares is just Lauren Do in drag.

    Like I said before, consider the source.

    Comment by vigi — June 23, 2015 @ 9:38 am

  18. #17: EBX article also claims audio and video of the event! Now we’re talking!

    Comment by Dave S. — June 23, 2015 @ 9:44 am

  19. Lauren. I didn’t ask who wrote the letter. I asked who you got it from. What really protects you from a libel suit is you are a dishonest and vicious is what you are saying.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — June 23, 2015 @ 9:46 am

  20. Where was Bonta during all this……I almost forgot….. the Filipino’s in Alameda describe Bonta as a phony and will have nothing to do with him…In fact is was the Filipino community that put the new Mayor in office and are her biggest supporters……Same Chicken shit politics by the Grifters in town trying to discredit the new major……

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — June 23, 2015 @ 10:14 am

  21. Actually, discovery would be delicious. Since whoever brought that letter to your attention arguably “republished” it, you might be compelled under oath to reveal who your insider is at City Hall.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------- — June 23, 2015 @ 10:32 am

  22. If Spencer would just prepare for meetings and events, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen. But that’s above her pay grade.

    Comment by Larry Witte — June 23, 2015 @ 10:42 am

  23. Its all Bullshit…You have a Mayor who is doing a fabulous job and is out in the public with the people everyday and attending most events and meetings … She was left a financial mess by the previous Mayor and Council with 100’s of Millions in Pension Liabilities, Health Insurance Liabilities, and 100’s of Millions in Deferred Maintenance of our City Assets like our Streets, Pools, Parks and Buildings.

    We have witnessed the austerity programs in our Park Programs and park assets , and the raising fees to any program or service that a resident or family or child might need that lives here.

    This kind of politics and bullshit all reeks from the Grifters and Losers who can’t stand to see Trish doing a fabulous job….Is she perfect…..Hell no…But she is authentic and honest and Human.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — June 23, 2015 @ 10:57 am

  24. So, let’s see if I understand this post.

    One self avowed hyphenated American racist (per Harper’s ‘all Americans are racists’ quote) is accusing another hyphenated American (Spencer) of being a racist because she mentioned white rice and per her quote ‘all Americans are racist Americans’, then a third party hyphenated American racist (Do) posts an apology letter in which the first racist asks for forgiveness and understanding from a visiting non-American who apparently is not a racist because he’s not American. That’s a pretty heavy burden to lay on a visitor. I’d suggest he skip America next time and head to Canada instead.

    Comment by jack — June 23, 2015 @ 11:13 am

  25. Hey Jack: Golden Gate Wing Dinner Meeting this Thursday, Alameda NAS Museum,

    Comment by vigi — June 23, 2015 @ 11:34 am

  26. I would have to agree with comment #22…if she would just prepare for meeting and events… “people can be unreasonable” is totally unreasonable and as a public figure doesn’t really have a libel case for that reason (can you imagine how many libel cases the President would have) and “unreasonable” probably hasn’t been a part of this blog for 10 years and remember “D.H”.

    Comment by Jake. — June 23, 2015 @ 11:40 am

  27. Thanks for the heads up vigi. Unfortunately I’m two states away.

    Comment by jack — June 23, 2015 @ 12:23 pm

  28. I wonder if the firefighters can file a libel suit against Sullwold for pulling photos from Facebook and making accusations about their credibility and consistently slamming them in almost every post. I will need to consult our lawyers that specialize in anti-SLAPP. Since Lauren’s blog was quoting (cutting and pasting) from a letter that was sent to the East Bay Express, it is likely that the author sent copies to the local media, as the event happened on city property.

    Comment by Alan — June 23, 2015 @ 12:27 pm

  29. It’s the allegation of being drunk you idiot. If that’s not true, then Lauren’s republished it. The protections afforded someone when talking about a public figure make it difficult, not impossible, to prove libel. Lauren by putting it out there in the way that she has is likely liable for libel. Only that Spencer doesn’t want to mud wrestle a pig is what truly protects her. You can say all sorts of things but an assertion of fact (and this is not couched as opinion) republished even from the public record without anything other than an approving “you go girl” is libel. Look it up.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------ — June 23, 2015 @ 12:34 pm

  30. Actually the letter said “under the influence of alcohol” and didn’t use the word “drunk.” I don’t drink alcohol myself but am pretty sure there’s more on the drinking alcohol spectrum than just “drunk” and “not drunk.”

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 23, 2015 @ 1:27 pm

  31. That’s going to be your defense?

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------ — June 23, 2015 @ 1:30 pm

  32. I think the only proper response to your line of inquiry can be summed up thusly:

    “U Mad?”

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 23, 2015 @ 1:33 pm

  33. Don’t get the reference but I guess I am done with the pig today. See ya tomorrow.

    Comment by people can be unreasonable ------ — June 23, 2015 @ 1:36 pm

  34. What would Virginia have said if the Mayor didn’t show up at all? I’m sure it wouldn’t have been pretty. You show up, you do your best, you can never please everyone. If I was Filipino, I would be embarrassed that Virginia Savalla-Harper presumed to speak for me. She owes her community in Alameda an apology for being so ungracious.

    Comment by vigi — June 23, 2015 @ 1:42 pm

  35. Did Virginia Savalla-Harper supply the Mayor or City staff with any kind of outline on Filipino culture and history and protocol? If not, then shame on her. Obviously Virginia Savalla-Harper, much like people can be unreasonable and vigi, has an agenda. Thank goodness their agendas are so unmistakable.

    Comment by eyeroll — June 23, 2015 @ 2:55 pm

  36. There’s trouble on both sides of the water on this one:

    “Dumaguete Vice Mayor Woodrow Maquiling Sr. defended the accusations that the trip of the city’s delegation to Alameda City, USA, is highly irregular in the absence of any imprimatur from the Sangguniang Panlungsod”

    Don’t sue me “people can be unreasonable” you big-bad-scary-law-expert you! I’m just the messenger!

    Only Alameda (and her sisters) could make such a hash of something so inconsequential.

    Comment by Brock — June 23, 2015 @ 3:12 pm

  37. This is a completely concocted Dump being made with the ODIE iferous Scent of a few Bonta Blowhards who have lost their way and and are grasping for any toilet Paper to spew their garbage. I guess when you have lost your own people and have zero credibility with your own this is how desperate things get.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — June 23, 2015 @ 4:12 pm

  38. @36 LMFAO! I know what an imprimatur is , but what’s a sangguniang panlungsod?

    Good thing we already have 2 other sister cities in other countries..

    Comment by vigi — June 23, 2015 @ 6:45 pm

  39. It’s a City Council = See Virginia, wikipedia is good for something… better than people should get their pinoy news from you!

    Comment by vigi — June 23, 2015 @ 6:49 pm

  40. Trish was gonna say that she loves eating lumpia, but that would have sounded even more racist, cause, you know, you can buy lumpia frozen at Lucky’s…..

    The comments over at the EBX under Tavares article are interesting.

    Comment by vigi — June 23, 2015 @ 7:05 pm

  41. Anybody who’s spent time in the PI know it’s baluts and adobo. I loved the sound of cracking chicken bones eating an egg.

    Comment by jack — June 23, 2015 @ 7:36 pm

  42. vigi, at least one comment on EBX was completely wrong in miscasting Bonta’s mom as THE complainer.

    “It seems a bit lede-burying to wait for paragraph 10 to note in passing that the complainer is Rob Bonta’s mother.” Really, that was the lead?

    From paragraph ten; “The mother of Assemblymember Rob Bonta was also part of the drive to forge sister city ties between Alameda and Dumaguete City.”

    It’s easy to infer that she might also have been offended, but the commenter seems presumptuous.

    Unreasonable, you’re the expert. Should Rob’s mom should sue that commenter for libel ?

    Trish does not need to drink alcohol to behave inanely. I actually sympathize that her word garble may have simply been nerves or being ill prepared. Trish is not a great extemporaneous speaker The night of the safety contract vote she made a crack about how the fire department wouldn’t like it if the room were filled beyond capacity and immediately guffawed at her own joke with a loud “Hah!”. What is interesting is that from the quotes in that article Trish thought everything went swimmingly. “So, why then did they invite me and my husband to the Philippines next November?” Maybe they were being polite? The complainer seems to verify that.

    The precise problem I had in the one conversation Trish attempted to strike with me was how because my wife was a teacher she seemed to assume that we would be in her camp. There was no sounding me out. Basically tone deaf. It made me ill at ease and I sort of walked away. I wish I had been better prepared to engage her, but it weirded me out.

    Comment by MI — June 23, 2015 @ 8:20 pm

  43. It’s too bad, but when I see Trish in Peet’s or recently in line at the movies, I almost panic because I’m forced to confront all these strong feelings and just can’t imagine what I would say to her. “Hello, madame mayor. Ahem.” A back slap and a big hug?

    I can’t jump on this band wagon in terms of using this particular incident to try to nail her as racist. Seeing actual video would be quite helpful in being able to decide what happened, but absent that, it’s just too bad if members of Filipino community took offense. They are welcome to their own interpretations, but I have to chalk it up to Trish being a little obtuse. More or less a cringe moment as opposed to outrage. The flip side are posts like 23. which froth about how “fabulous” she is, which really goes too far. As usual, the truth probably lies in between. While it was never enough for her critics, I do feel that at various junctures when it was warranted, Marie Gilmore could keep it real by speaking directly to criticism. So far, it seems that Trish just shrugs off criticism without a lot of regard for her very slim margin of victory with remarks like 99% of her email is supportive. Gilmore haters like Unreasonable can rail here about Marie being aloof eye roller, etc., but even defensive emotions are real compared to sheer daffiness exhibited by current mayor..

    I was meaning to take the opportunity to send email about whether she allows the fellow on Transportation Commission to serve another 4 years or tries to oust him. I guess if I run in to her I should try to summon the nerve to ask her if she has a plan for that slot. Has that situation been resolved?

    Comment by MI — June 24, 2015 @ 9:54 am

  44. MI: Right now because Chris Miley has not been reappointed he is technically “off” the Transportation Commission. Same with Dania Alvarez on the Planning Board. Those seats are vacant (and empty) until someone is appointed to fill the spot. Have to check with the City Attorney’s office about whether they stay on or have to leave, I’m getting conflicting information.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 24, 2015 @ 10:28 am

  45. Before you imply anything sinister, the City is scheduling interviews with all applicants, and re-applicants, to city boards and commissions, before final selections are made. That is a good way for the new mayor and council to meet everyone who will be on the boards and commissions. Understandably, this will take awhile. but it results in a much more transparent process.

    Comment by vigi — June 24, 2015 @ 11:13 am

  46. vigi, it actually slows things to a crawl and is not transparent. Only the mayor is interviewing, not the council, so no everyone doesn’t get to meet everyone. Because the selection process is going so slow, several commissions can now not meet as they can not get a quorum. If the mayor really wanted to be so hands on, she could have started this process much earlier, instead of waiting until seats had termed out.

    Comment by notadave — June 24, 2015 @ 11:25 am

  47. @46 =You criticize the mayor for interviewing the people who are going to be on the commissions she works with. You criticize the mayor for attending commission meetings so she has first hand knowledge of what is going on. Then you criticize the mayor for “not knowing what is going on” (in your opinion, not mine)? Well, what is she supposed to do to make you happy? Your criticisms are internally contradictory and make no sense.

    Comment by vigi — June 24, 2015 @ 11:51 am

  48. I’m sure some applicants have gotten calls to come in for an interview before they were nominated but in the past I thought it was done by reading application and deciding, or that the applicants were simply known by nominating mayor. Beverly Johnson never called me, I just was told I had gotten the nod for HAB, but there was only one other applicant. It would be great if it was a committee process which involved council but that is not the process, so it’s fine if Trish actually interviews all the applicants. I just have a negative feeling about not allowing a seated and willing board member to stay if they are well qualified and have served well. Anybody who the mayor nominates as a replacement should have the potential to bring additional expertise, but if they are simply anti- bike lane, that doesn’t sit well.. This has always been a rubber stamp process, but the council does have to ratify the nomination right? So what if there is dissent and a majority of council won’t approve Spencer’s new nominee?

    Comment by MI — June 24, 2015 @ 4:41 pm

  49. You’re right, MI, in the past it was just by application, not necessarily an interview [at least I didn’t have one]. The interview includes staff, not just the mayor. I think it is a better idea than just by application. The mayor must have some questions to ask applicants-I know I would. At least this makes it look a little less “rubber stampy”.

    Comment by vigi — June 24, 2015 @ 4:55 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Create a free website or blog at