Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 28, 2015

Lead vs lead away

Filed under: Alameda, School — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

I mentioned yesterday that former Mayor, Marie Gilmore, was the one person that — during the re-opening of public comment — reminded the School Board of their duty to make a decision that night.  The possible fallout of not appointing that night would have been a forced Special Election, but — in the interim — the seat would have been filled by the Alameda County Office of Education, completely removing the local School Board from the equation.

Clearly that was not what anyone wanted.

While everyone else was desperately trying to tell the School Board why their candidate should be the choice, Marie Gilmore said what needed to be heard.  While it would have been better for the School Board to have a frank discussion about the pros and cons of each of the candidates, a straightforward and frank reminder was necessary to move the topic along.

But here I give you a contrast between two Mayors of Alameda: a past Mayor and the current Mayor.

Marie Gilmore appealed to the School Board to make the hard decision between the two frontrunners after the deadlock:

Trish Spencer, on the other hand, waffled from her initial remarks, asking the School Board to first support Gray Harris to then taking a completely different stance  and telling the School Board to appoint one of the other candidates instead as a solution to break the deadlock:

In the end, the advice that was taken was the one that urged the School Board to do what they were elected to do: make a decision.


  1. well, at least she can read.

    Comment by John P. — July 28, 2015 @ 7:44 am

  2. God bless least she came prepared. What I liked about this is her stressing the end of an era, the era of non-collaboration and non-cooperation. I guess we’re saying “good-bye” to the style which hall-marked her tenure on the School Board. All of which should be good for the City Council tenure. Perhaps Leopards DO change their spots…sorta, maybe.

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — July 28, 2015 @ 8:57 am

  3. I am incredibly disappointed that Gilmore seemed to put politics ahead of doing what was right. Gilmore didn’t have to speak in favor of Harris, but she did. She completely disregarded how divisive Harris has been. People seem to put all the blame for past divisiveness on the former superintendent, but divisiveness takes two. Harris (as leader of the union at that time) bears just as much responsibility for the divisiveness as Vital. Nevertheless, Harris was embraced by Gilmore as a paragon of virtue. But I wonder how Gilmore would feel if Harris had presented HER with a stocking full of coal at a City Council Meeting, had led a campaign to hold an important issue hostage as a bargaining chip in labor negotiations (as Harris did with the school calendar), and had threatened to lead city workers on a strike. She might have seen that Harris bears a lot of responsibility for the bad feelings and real harm to the district. In any event, that’s not the type of “leadership” the schools need. Gilmore should know that.

    In the past, I had generally been willing to give Gilmore the benefit of the doubt when it came to accusations of union control. After this, she doesn’t get that benefit anymore.

    Gilmore was right in one respect. She called the board out on their utter failure to show leadership. Barbara Kahn even talked about how lame the board is. Of course, as president of the board, Kahn is the one who should show leadership, but she just threw up her hands like she had no responsibility. We deserve better.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — July 28, 2015 @ 1:13 pm

  4. I am also very surprised and disappointed that Gilmore and Oddie “endorsed” Harris.

    She was a teacher at Otis while my child was there and I was not overly impressed. In addition, from what I observed when she was negotiating the teachers’ contract as the lead AEA representative, she exhibited qualities that were the opposite of collaborative, consensus building, and open to other points of view.

    I personally thought that McKereghan or McMahon would be far superior Board members. Frankly, all of the accolades her supporters touted I believe apply to Mike McMahon 2x over.

    Comment by Dya — July 28, 2015 @ 4:07 pm

  5. Gilmore and Oddie are controlled by the unions so it should come as no surprise that they endorsed Harris. She was often too pre-occupied with union matters to be an effective teacher at Otis Elementary. I think Harris believes she will have an easy election next year with the support of the unions, and doesn’t need the community support.

    Comment by BarbaraK (not Kahn) — July 28, 2015 @ 4:24 pm

  6. It’s true that Harris may think that she can coast by with the support of the unions. And maybe she can. But at what cost? I think her appointment made a November 2016 parcel tax that much harder to pass. So she’ll likely get to oversee the dismantling of Alameda schools and sit back while many members of the teachers’ union are laid off. So a short term gain for the unions may be a long term loss for the “working families” that the unions purport to represent.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — July 28, 2015 @ 5:22 pm

  7. And another thing — anyone else notice that the defenders of the political establishment have been strangely silent since the appointment? Other than Mike Henneberry disingenuously complaining about how he was identified as a union leader, no one has said ANYTHING. No defenders on this blog. Probably because they can’t justify putting politics and personal ambition ahead of all other concerns. Niel Tam would never have done that.

    I suspect the establishment thinks that if they just keep quiet, this will all blow over with time. But if the next parcel tax goes down in flames, we will remember.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — July 28, 2015 @ 7:28 pm

  8. An obvious and cynical use of what’s left of her political power by Gilmore. Hu received the message loud and clear and changed his vote thus earning the support of the Fire Department and Teachers Union in the next election. He’s the savvy politician on the Board. I also don’t think this move furthered the passage of the next parcel tax, but people do forget….

    Comment by Breathless — July 28, 2015 @ 7:54 pm

  9. Irony, I think you are entirely too fixated on Gray Harris. Like predicting her having a negative impact on the parcel tax campaign, when most folks don’t have the feelings you do about her. or maybe any at all.

    As for politicians like Gilmore and Oddie being “controlled” by the unions, I too wanted to believe that some of our politicians were a little more independent, but when I think about it, it’s not that they are controlled at all. They’ve chosen these relationships.

    I haven’t spoken to Lena Tam in months and months, and I really like her as a person, but I have to say I was disappointed that she ran for BART board against Raburn and more than a little fed up that the unions were throwing a hissy fit cause they thought he hadn’t towed the line during the strike. But it’s a hard call when you look to the national scene with Scott Walker and the Hunt brothers.

    But back to Vital/ Harris comparison. Divisiveness does not take two and in fact I know that Vital was the first to act in bad faith, and because of that Gray may have dug in her heels. But lots of folks want to believe that when the union negotiating team came up with a deal which the rank and file ultimately rejected, that when Gray presented it that she was somehow telegraphing that they vote no. That’s all inside baseball, but I actually believe she recommended a yes vote and teachers just didn’t want to accept it. I talked to a lot of teachers.

    Also, Gray is an Alameda resident, parent and long time AUSD employee while Vital was and is a carpet bagger. I hear Capistrano is going swimmingly for her.

    Comment by MI — July 28, 2015 @ 8:15 pm

  10. Wow, sounds like a lot of people don’t like Unions. My opinion is that a person is “pro union”, not controlled by the Union. I’m a pro union guy, but that does not mean that I am controlled by the Unions. I’m also “pro development” but that does not make me controlled by developers. This is the bay area, not Wisconsin folks.

    Comment by John P. — July 28, 2015 @ 8:17 pm

  11. MI, I don’t want to focus on who did what first or worst in Harris v Vital, but I will say that what you know “for a fact” is different than the facts I know. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. In any event, the point that I was making is that in some camps, Gray is viewed as a force for divisiveness. I fall into that camp, and I have plenty of company.

    As for what effect all of this has on the next parcel tax, you’re right that most voters have no clue who’s on the school board and could care less. But going back to a point I made earlier, passing a parcel tax requires real commitment from parent leaders, and I can say “for a fact” that many of the people who have acted as parent leaders in past campaigns are hugely disillusioned by what happened this week. They see someone who has alienated a lot of people being put into a position that will require a huge amount of consensus building. (And if she really failed to lead the union to a consensus on the contract, does that really speak well of her skill in that area without even considering the fact that she has pissed off a lot of people?) It really does seem like personal ambition and politics triumphed over doing what was right for the schools.

    As for anyone thinking that I am on an anti-Union rant, I’m not anti Union and am no fan of Scott Walker’s. Unions have an important role to play. They have done a lot of good and will continue to do a lot of good. The problem that I see is that the personal interests of union leaders are not always the same as the interests of union members. And for public unions, the interests of public unions and/or their leaders can sometimes conflict with the interests of the general public. Usually I’m not one to see “control” when another explanation is even marginally viable, but I do think that many of our local politicians have such fear of the power of the local unions, that they feel it’s necessary for them to toe the union line or suffer the consequences of union wrath. That is a form of control. (John P., you’re not a politician, so of course you’re not “controlled” by unions in the way I’m using that term. If a union gets mad at you what are they going to do? Punch you?) Call me a cynic, but it seems that not many people with political ambitions are willing to stand up and say no to powerful interests — even when it’s the right thing to do. The Harris appointment being a prime case in point.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — July 28, 2015 @ 10:09 pm

  12. Our Vice Mayor just got elected with no support from the Unions, so it can be done. Irony, I hope no one ever punches me, I’m to old to be punched.

    Comment by John P. — July 29, 2015 @ 8:16 am

  13. Of course it can be done. But it’s a lot easier if you have union support.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — July 29, 2015 @ 8:32 am

  14. “If a union gets mad at you what are they going to do? Punch you?” Worse than that, if it’s a public safety union: (Not actually a union, but some people worry about a similar scenario) Our unions have much more integrity, of course.

    Comment by vigi — July 29, 2015 @ 9:26 am

  15. I agree with #11 about the upcoming parcel tax, which unlike the bond, will require 2/3 vote. That’s a higher bar and alienating community groups with Harris’ appointment is not going to help. From the Otis PTA circles, Harris’ and the union’s support of Trish Spencer was all about political quid pro quo. The same can be said of Gilmore, Bonta and Oddie’s support for Harris. When the unions throw fundraisers for you, they expect something in return. Nothing new, but as you said earlier, the moral (and human) side got squashed in the politics.

    Comment by BarbaraK (not Kahn) — July 29, 2015 @ 9:39 am

  16. post #14, vigi for the life of me I can’t understand what this post had to do
    with Unions as no Unions were involved in this incident. please re-read your first sentence.

    Comment by John P. — July 29, 2015 @ 7:34 pm

  17. 11. I agree that it’s pretty futile to do tit for tat on history of Vital and Harris, but have to make a couple more points about the comparison before letting it go and that is that Vital was a professional administrator who was paid a ton of money and she couldn’t even yield to postpone her raise as part until after the parcel tax as part of strategy. Also prior to Gray taking the stint as union president, Vital had been prosecuting a strategy of trying to bargain in public with the her letters. By the time Harris took to the driver’s seat for AEA I think she felt the good will extended by teachers had been run rough shod by administration. (I’m referring to the year that Ann Casper (spouse) and Gray served on executive committee of the union and made great efforts to extend benefit of any doubts to Vital who consequently squandered that good will. Anecdotes from that period may be subjective, but to me many stand as factual). I’ve never defended the antics of delivering coal etc. which ensued, and won’t try, other than to remind people that union people on teachers side are all volunteers and not highly compensated for those activities like Vital who even got an in house counsel to assist for that ride. Continued harping on Gray as divisive figure may become a self fulfilling prophecy with regard to any negative impact on parcel tax.

    Comment by MI — July 31, 2015 @ 9:50 am

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