Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 29, 2016

Process over outcome

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

Folks, here’s what political purity looks like on a local level.  At last week’s City Council meeting there was an agenda item on the mid-year budget.  The discussion went as well as discussions typically go at the City Council.  There was, as usual, confusion about what had previously happened.  Long drawn out conversations about emails from the public about very specific niche issues that would have been better with a summary from staff as opposed to an interrogation by Mayor Trish Spencer.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Anyway, this was an agenda item that was supposed to be heard several meetings ago, but because of the Council’s inability to actually get through an entire agenda item in one night this agenda was heard meetings later.  Some of the issues that needed to be resolved included:

  • The Recreation and Parks Department is requesting $25,000 for the Encinal dock replacement that was condemned due to safety concerns. Replacement is needed to give public an access to the facility.

  • The Library is requesting $15,000 to cover the cost of state-wide minimum wage increases that became effective on January 1, 2016. This increase was not included in the department’s adopted budget.

The agenda item also included:

  • At the time the FY 2015-16 budget adoption, the City Council approved the addition of an Information Technology Director position with a funding split 50%/50% between General Fund and Alameda Municipal Power (AMP). Staff later determined that 75%/25% allocation between General Fund and AMP is more appropriate based on the work demand. Staff is proposing a workforce change for the IT Director position. Sufficient General Fund budget is available within the existing department budget in FY 2015-16 to accommodate this change. FY 2016-17 Budget will be adjusted during the mid-cycle process and will be brought to the City Council for approval in June 2016.

  • The Urban Forrest capital project overseen by the Public Works department has a Project Manager I position to manage the project. The Department staff is requesting a Project Manager II classification as it is more suitable to handle responsibilities of this project requiring management with independence. Therefore, staff is proposing a workforce change to modify the City’s authorized positions in Public Works Department to replace the Project Manager I position with a Project Manager II position. Sufficient appropriations are available to accommodate this change in FY 2015-16. FY 2016-17 Budget will be adjusted during the mid-cycle process and will be brought to the City Council for approval in June 2016.

This agenda item needed to be approved so that the Departments, like Rec and Park, the Library, Public Works, and AMP can continue to do business and manage their budgets.  However, Mayor Trish Spencer did not agree with the process of combining the workforce changes and budget allocations into one motion even though they both are, you know, things that affect the budget.  She attempted an earlier bifurcation of the two, but no other City Council member even bothered to give her the benefit of a second.

So rather than offer any substantive reason to vote against allowing the Library to have money to pay its hourly workers the state mandated $15 $10 per hour and giving Rec and Park money to fix a public dock, instead Trish Spencer decided to stand her political ground and vote against these budget changes because she disagreed with the process not the substance.

The problem with this sort of ideological purity is that it the responsibility lies with everyone else to be the adult in the room.  There is no expectations that the ideologically pure to ever need to compromise or make the hard decisions.  In the end, much like she did on the School Board, it allows Trish Spencer to frame herself in whatever narrative is most convenient at the time she needs to discuss her history and her votes.  It may be politically savvy but it certainly is not leadership.


  1. Pretty dumb move considering that the library MUST pay the miminium wage increase somehow and if they have to lay off staff or reduce hours open to do it, people will not be happy. Maybe she just wants to make sure she doesn’t get reelected.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — April 29, 2016 @ 6:39 am

    • No 2 is not in reply reply to your post. Rather I was confused by something Lauren wrote about the Library adjustment “So rather than offer any substantive reason to vote against allowing the Library to have money to pay its hourly workers the state mandated $15 per hour……”

      Comment by MP — April 29, 2016 @ 6:57 am

  2. I don’t think the library budget adjustment for 2015-2016 is to cover a $15 minimum wage

    Effective January 1, 2016, the minimum wage in California is $10.00 per hour.

    Earlier this month Gov Brown signed legislation Monday raising California’s mandatory minimum to $15 an hour by 2022

    Read more here:

    Comment by MP — April 29, 2016 @ 6:40 am

    • Other Councilmembers spoke about it in terms of $15 per hour. However, regardless of the amount the request for adjustment reflects the need to pivot due to the 1/1/16 State action.

      Additionally, attention to the plight of hourly/part time workers was something that was particularly of concern to Trish Spencer months ago when she suggested that city departments like the Library and Park and Rec were retaining part time employees to avoid paying benefits. Now she just doesn’t want to allocate the additional money to pay them at all because no one else wanted to bifurcate the budget item into two different resolutions.

      I have edited the original post to reflect $10 per hour.

      Comment by Lauren Do — April 29, 2016 @ 7:16 am

      • I’ll have to look at the video of the meeting. The raise in the minimum wage to $10 effective Jan 1 2016 was known a long time before the City Council adopted FY 2015-16 Budget on June 2, 2015. The State was creating posters to announce the 1/1/16 increase to $10 no later than a year before the budget was adopted. I’m not suggesting anyone did anything wrong by this, and don’t know enough of the background, but on its face it doesn’t seem so much to be a need to pivot due to the 1/1/16 State action as much, perhaps, as a need to correct for an oversight in the FY 2015-16 Budget when it was adopted. Or maybe the library needed increased hours?

        Mayor may have been making a point about budget process in a not great way, but I doubt she really, really is trying to cause layoffs or make the city liable going forward for paying less than the minimum wage unless her preferred budget process was followed.

        BTW, I’m all for the library getting the money it needs.

        Comment by MP — April 29, 2016 @ 8:59 am

        • Google search: “What is the average annual salary for Library Services Director? How much does a Library Services Director make? The median annual Library Services Director salary is $100,255 with a range usually between $85,637-$121,899.”

          Alameda’s Library Director made $217,294 in salary & benefits in 2014. Meanwhile, the library has removed all paper towels from the patron restrooms, and cut back on the number of hours the computer lab computers can be used. There still are no CD readers in the regular computers.

          Giving the library more money rarely results in improved services.

          Comment by vigi — July 14, 2016 @ 1:46 pm

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