Buried in the consent calendar is an agenda item about appropriating a little less than $500K from the General Fund to pay for the Rent Stabilization program. Because the City Council has yet to vote on the program fee to help fund the program right now the money to get the program off the ground has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is dipping into the General Fund. From the staff report:
The Housing Authority of the City of Alameda currently staffs the City’s Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC) as part of an existing Services Agreement. In addition, Housing Authority staff have been responding to the public inquiries and managing the City’s rent increase and eviction moratorium that has been in place since November 5, 2015. The Housing Authority is well positioned to carry out the duties of the Program Administrator under the Ordinance. Therefore, staff is recommending that the City Council approve the attached Services Agreement (Exhibit 1). The Agreement has a nine-month term and a $713,000 budget.
As part of its adoption process for the Ordinance on March 1, 2016, the City Council appropriated $300,000 to fund a fee study, as part of its consideration of a Program Fee to pay for the Rent Stabilization Program, and to administer the Program through June 30, 2016. Two hundred and twenty thousand dollars ($220,000) of the $300,000 March 1 General Fund appropriation is budgeted for the Services Agreement. The balance of the funds are paying for the fee study, and Finance Department and City Attorney’s Office activities related to implementing the Ordinance through June 30, 2016.
The term of the proposed Services Agreement with the Housing Authority is nine months, until December 31, 2016. To fully fund the Agreement before the Council has made a decision regarding a Program Fee, staff is recommending an additional appropriation of General Fund monies in the amount of $493,000. This is a contingent appropriation and, in the event that a Program Fee is adopted, the appropriation will be disencumbered and returned to the General Fund reserves. The contingent appropriation is necessary to ensure that the nine-month contract can be carried out based on the work scope and $713,000 budget contained in the Services Agreement.
Another item of interest are the updates the Open Government Commission wanted to make to the Sunshine Ordinance. One of the items that the Open Government Commission wanted to relax the rules on using electronic devices. Personally there is nothing more thrilling than to see a City Council member buried in his laptop during public comment. While there are some legitimate uses for electronic devices during a public meeting, on the other hand if we are going to allow our elected officials to use electronic devices then they should be more forthcoming with public records requests for text messages sent during the City Council meetings. I know I have made one lowly public records request regarding text messages but I did not receive any records for that request and I never got around to following up.
At least San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors have complied — though reluctantly — to these requests. At the very least the City should be collecting these records after every meeting to ensure they are not destroyed in the case that public records requests are made. Personally this is the type of stuff that the Open Government Commission should be working on. Making sure that the public has access to all aspects of the decision making process for our elected officials rather than attempting to streamline decision making by cutting the public out of the deliberation process.