Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 20, 2016

I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

It can’t be just me that feels like this most recent process for selecting the new City Manager has been a lot more, um, low key, than the last time around.  Add to that even with the relative stability of the economy and the City budget (aka we’re not in doomsday, turn off the lights in City Hall territory) one would think there would have been a lot more candidates trying to fill the spot vacated by John Russo.  According to the staff report recommending that the City Council approve the employment agreement with Jill Keimach this time around, even without any drama with the way the previous interim City Manager departed, there were only 24 candidates that put in an application.


That’s it.

Compare that with the last time around when there were 65 candidates.   Some folks think that the small number of applicants signal that folks in the municipal governance world are aware of the deep dysfunction at Alameda City Hall.  Honestly, given some of the tweets I’ve seen going back and forth between not-Alameda specific journalists about Alameda and our elected officials, I would not be surprised.

From the staff report here’s how it generally played out:

The recruitment was launched in August 2015 and a total of 24 applications were received.  From these, the City Council identified four candidates to interview on November 9, 2015.  The City Council then selected three finalists.

The City Council determined that the three finalists would participate in a series of three panel interviews.  These panels were comprised of a community stakeholder panel appointed by the City Council, an employee bargaining unit panel, and a Department Director panel.  One finalist withdrew and the other two finalists were interviewed by the three panels on December 4, 2015.

Unlike the last time around, we didn’t even get a public pick ’em for the community stakeholder panel.

While I’m still withholding judgment on Jill Keimach (which I have now mistyped three separate times as Kill) I wonder what the applicant pool would have been like if Alameda didn’t seem to have such a weird reputation right now among other city government type folks.

Naturally we’ll probably see the same 4 – 1 vote breakdown on this contract at next week’s City Council meeting.  The one against will probably be the same person who has, apparently, been telling everyone who will listen about how that vote went down.  Again, just reinforcing that whole dysfunctional reputation about the Alameda city government.   That vote against?  Why Mayor Trish Spencer of course.



  1. Two other factors that might explain the smaller applicant pool:

    -Just as a stabilized & growing economy has helped stabilize Alameda’s finances, it has done same to other cities, meaning that few CM’s out there are worried about their own jobs. They have much less need to look around.

    -The last CM wrote campaign checks to some of the people who voted to hire him. Perhaps that turned off a number of potential applicants.

    Comment by dave — January 20, 2016 @ 6:12 am

  2. So I only have a sample size of two: Alameda, California, and Golden, Colorado. Of the two, the contentiousness of Alameda politics makes me want to scratch my head (from the inside). In Golden, the city council has a good time at meetings, teasing each other occasionally, and the city manager just retired after 18 years on the job. Money is not quite as tight as Alameda, but they still have to be careful. We have municipal golf course, which everyone is happy about, even the elk in winter. Looking back, I’m somewhat mystified as to why the Alameda city council and school board seem so dysfunctional. (On the other hand, we did just recall all three conservative members of the Jefferson County school board.)

    Comment by Tom Schweich — January 20, 2016 @ 7:26 am

  3. Using #1 logic since this Council is “clean” wouldn’t there be a bigger pool of candidates?

    Also people don’t job jump when the economy is bad, you want to hunker down and make sure you keep the job you have rather than look for a greener pasture. When the economy is doing well and you feel a certain level of security, that’s when looking is feasible: when you have nothing to lose.

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 20, 2016 @ 7:59 am

  4. 3. – that may be a general rule but wonder whether it applies to the City Manager market. Has anyone broken down the list to compare local applicant versus out of area applicants? Current home buying or rental market may be disincentive to those who would have to move. Let’s do a tweet survey.

    Comment by MP — January 20, 2016 @ 8:31 am

  5. Given that City Manager salaries are in the $200K+ range I’m fairly sure that the cost of housing is not a barrier.

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 20, 2016 @ 8:39 am

  6. Relative cost of living vs. other areas can certainly be a consideration for a candidate.

    Comment by dave — January 20, 2016 @ 8:43 am

  7. Lots of other cities have City management ups and downs. The salary and benefits in Alameda are great but the cost of living is a turn off. Alameda made nationwide news as having the priciest housing alongside San Francisco. No one wants to have to downsize to afford to work somewhere if they don’t have to.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — January 20, 2016 @ 9:00 am

  8. We must survey the tweets going back and forth between City Manager types to really find out

    Comment by MP — January 20, 2016 @ 9:31 am

  9. Why does #1 keep forgetting that John Russo was an elected official (elected City Attorney for Oakland and former Oakland City Councilmember) before becoming City Manager in Alameda. If you look at candidate campaign finance statements, elected officials donate to campaigns all the time, particularly the ones they endorsed. So are you saying elected officials should not apply for the CM jobs?

    Comment by Cindy — January 20, 2016 @ 9:34 am

  10. I’m sure our mayor and dysfunction played a part. I do think that the strong economy and highest housing costs in the universe at the tippy-top of the market played factors in limiting the pool of candidates as well.

    A juicy city manager contract looks really good during a period where municipal budgets are being slashed an positions could disappear any time. Just like law school applications go way up during recessions, people are looking for somewhere to ride out the down cycle safely.

    Paying $1M+ for a house, and the new tax rate, that is half the size of your suburban McMansion purchased in a cheaper area in 2009 w/ a quarter of the property tax basis would play a large part in many candidates’ interest as well.

    Comment by BMac — January 20, 2016 @ 10:04 am

  11. It’s an exciting time for most cities with major economic growth and lots of interesting projects. City Managers want to grow – and they want to be where the exciting projects are.

    I think the great economy and so many interesting projects in the pipeline all over the Bay Area is one reason we only received 24 applications – but 24 applications is still good!

    And it looks like we made a great choice!

    Comment by Karen Bey — January 20, 2016 @ 10:47 am

  12. -That vote against? Why Mayor Trish Spencer of course.

    I don’t give a damn
    ‘Bout my reputation
    I’ve never been afraid of any deviation
    An’ I don’t really care
    If ya think I’m strange
    I ain’t gonna change
    An’ I’m never gonna care
    ‘Bout my bad reputation

    Oh no, not me
    Oh no, not me

    Comment by jack — January 20, 2016 @ 12:00 pm

  13. Alameda politics are contentious? No, the politics among ‘Inner-Ringers’ is contentious – the rest of us just live our lives and not be taken advantage of.

    Comment by John K — January 20, 2016 @ 1:45 pm

  14. 12 attribution to:
    Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

    Comment by jack — January 20, 2016 @ 4:23 pm

  15. I am happy to see that 4 of Alameda’s Council members are excited to work with the new CM. And the CM was very gracious and appears to be fully on-board with the job. Not sure what Spencer’s point was by her comments but if her goal was to look stupid she succeeded. Alameda’s Charter states the Mayor is a figure head, not all-powerfull, not the final word, not the ruler. Hopefully the 4 Council members and the new CM can work together for the good of Alameda and marginalize Spencer.

    Comment by Eyeroll — January 21, 2016 @ 7:22 am

  16. Any professional who signs on to work for the City of Alameda deserves kudos, IMHO. Our tight budget, complex land use and development issues, and a diverse community with deep divides on many issues make city administration difficult under even the best of political circumstances–and this City Council and Mayor make life even more difficult (one might say unmanageable) than usual. I wish Jill Keimach all the best as our new City Manager. I support anyone who wants to improve our civic processes and expand the range of our transportation, planning, energy, city communication, and development options.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — January 21, 2016 @ 11:06 am

  17. On the always entertaining Save Our Alameda Action! News thing, Spencer gives an exclusive interview from Washington, DC..

    Our estimed mayor revealed the following to our hometown Edward Murrow, apparently unaware of the irony of her statement, given her own suitability for being mayor. “This is not a good time for Alameda to be a training ground for a city manager. We need a city manager who’s ready to go. It’s a great opportunity for her. The other side of that is that it’s a risk for our city. I think she has potential, I don’t think Alameda has time. We need a city manager to lead now. It’s not easy.” Try replacing “city manager” with “mayor” in that statement.

    Comment by BC — January 21, 2016 @ 2:23 pm

  18. I second what Jon Spangler wrote.

    Comment by Bill2 — January 21, 2016 @ 2:40 pm

  19. I second what Jon & BC wrote.

    Comment by John P. — January 21, 2016 @ 4:52 pm

  20. It might be part of a greater issue of people not interested in public service, like in the past. There is a shortage of teacher, cops, etc in this area due to many factors (change in what new employees want, cost of living, small town politics, etc). So, I am surprised that 24 people put in for the top non-elected official job in the city of Alameda, I would have suspected to see less put in. Hats off to all those that did and hope the new CM will be a good one that will be with us for many years.

    Comment by PW — January 23, 2016 @ 2:45 pm

  21. PW, I don’t know if you saw Lauren’s number 5 comment, but the CM job pays something like $225,000 per year plus benefits. I wouldn’t attribute any level of self-sacrifice to the applicants and new hire. It’s a prime, low-stress job (relative to that level of pay). I may be wrong but I assume it also includes a CA-gov-standard gold-plated pension for life.

    Comment by brock — January 24, 2016 @ 9:19 am

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