Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 23, 2016

Man made disaster

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

Once again there’s an item on the City Council agenda that seems like a no brainer.  Turns out to be a contentious issue.  Members of the City Council bend over backward to appease Mayor Trish Spencer and then she votes against it anyway.

The no brainer: establishing a Disaster Council to bring Alameda in compliance with state law, specifically:

The Disaster Council’s role is to develop and recommend to the City Council the adoption of emergency and mutual aid plans and agreements, as well as related ordinances, resolutions, and rules and regulations, which will benefit the City’s efforts in response to emergencies and disasters.  Work produced by the Disaster Council will be presented to the City Council for approval and adoption.

In addition, having an “Accredited Disaster Council” will allow the City to swear in citizen volunteers as California Disaster Service Workers (DSW).  This will relieve the City of workers’ compensation liability in the event that a DSW volunteer is hurt or killed while assisting during a declared disaster or while participating in official disaster related training exercises. Volunteers sworn in as DSW’s are covered under the State of California’s workers’ compensation insurance plan.

The Disaster Council will allow the City’s emergency organization to obtain legal recognition by the State of California as an official emergency organization.  The City’s Emergency Management Plan will reference this ordinance and is in alignment with its language.  The Emergency Management Plan also provides more detailed guidance and management procedures for the emergency organization to follow when planning, preparing, and training.

The backward bends: Trish Spencer wants to be the head of the Disaster Council, the ordinance designates the City Manager as chair of the Disaster Council.  Tony Daysog and Frank Matarrese want specific language that aligns the ordinance with the City Charter in an attempt to appease the Mayor.

End result: Trish Spencer is the sole vote against the first reading of the creation of the Alameda Disaster Council.  No reason why even though she sort of got what she wanted.

During the meeting both Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Jim Oddie initially wanted to vote on the ordinance without modifications.  They allowed for the friendly amendments by Frank Matarrese and Tony Daysog, both who voted against the ordinance as-is in order to take care of the required business.   If the ordinance had not passed the first reading on Tuesday night, the City Council could not have voted on the next agenda item  to provide workers’ compensation benefits to registered disaster services volunteers which would have exposed the City of Alameda to liability.

I’m sure a Trish Spencer apologist will have some excuse as to why she voted against the creation of a body that would organize the response for the City in the case of a disaster.



  1. A Council member said, “it’s a non-issue.” I think that’s about right.

    Comment by MP — June 23, 2016 @ 8:00 am

    • The context of “it’s a non issue” was the language parsing how members were appointed to the Disaster Council. Not the creation of the Disaster Council in general. The ordinance approving the Disaster Council was a big issue and the item that immediately followed would have never been possible without the ordinance.

      But, you know, leadership and stuff.

      Comment by Lauren Do — June 23, 2016 @ 10:14 am

      • Thanks for watching and reporting on the council meetings (so we don’t have to). Trish’s incompetence on the Council shows she doesn’t understand financial implications of the City’s actions. She is her own embarrassment to Alameda.

        Comment by Cindy — June 23, 2016 @ 10:32 am

  2. There needs to be an important point of clarification here re the assertion “The backward bends: Trish Spencer wants to be the head of the Disaster Council, the ordinance designates the City Manager as chair of the Disaster Council. Tony Daysog and Frank Matarrese want specific language that aligns the ordinance with the City Charter in an attempt to appease the Mayor.”

    There were two substantive items per the Disaster Council ordinance discussed and adopted on Tuesday night. The first was the matter of Disaster Council itself (ie whether the Mayor should be a member of it, as well as Chair it). As clarified by Fire Captain Oliver, the Disaster Council is an entity for purposes of planning. It involves city staff members working with the public and private sector entities from outside of Alameda and local volunteers (example: the state- and county-level disaster preparedness agencies, the Red Cross, persons from religious organization), all of whom with subject matter expertise in disaster planning and readiness. Prior to Captain Oliver’s clarification as to the nature of the Disaster Council, in my discussions with staff and members of the public who sounded me out, I had already determined that the portion of the Disaster Council ordinance having to do with planning (2-24-4) precluded involvement by Councilmembers and the Mayor, as involvement by Councilmembers would, in my opinion, violate City Charter section 7-3 (“Sec. 7-3. Neither the Council nor any of the members thereof shall interfere with the execution by the City Manager of his or her powers and duties.”). It is true that in years past since the 1950s the Mayor had been Chair of the Disaster Council; I am convinced this was a contradiction that simply was not addressed by prior Council until tonight. I expressed these thoughts last Tuesday night.

    Thus, it is incorrect to say Councilmembers Matarrese and I “bent over backwards” to appease anyone let alone the Mayor. There was no attempt to “appease” or to “not appease” anyone: as Councilmembers, we sit on the dais and render judgements based on the facts and rules in place, to (in the words of Justice John Roberts) serve like an umpire in a baseball game in calling “ball and strikes,” and not to cheer-lead either for the batter or pitcher. Even more so, in instances when there are no grey areas, then we must be like the late Justice Scalia in applying a strict constructionist view of the charter language — an important point as it relates to the next substantive matter discussed as part of the Disaster Council ordinance.

    The second matter of the Disaster Council ordinance had to do with the role of the City Manager during the course of the real-time disaster (see ordinance section 2-24-6). This part of the ordinance, while embedded in the “Disaster Council” ordinance, has little to nothing to do with the body called the “Disaster Council”, but solely about the powers of the City Manager in the event of a disaster. As indicated in sub-section 2-24-6-a-1, in the event of a real time disaster (presumably of a magnitude and duration requiring exercise of extraordinary powers), the City Manager must first obtain from the City Council a declaration of a state of emergency. This is not a procedural step that comes out of the blue: in City Charter Sec. 3-12, only the City Council can declare a state of emergency. The relevant portion of 3-12 read as follows:

    “Sec. 3-12. No ordinance shall become effective until thirty days from and
    after the date of its final passage, except . . . an ordinance for the immediate
    preservation of the public peace, health or safety, which contains a declaration of the facts
    constituting its urgency, and is passed by a four-fifths vote of the Council, or an ordinance
    enacted in the event of great emergency or necessity passed by four votes of the Council
    and containing a statement of the emergency or necessity. Ordinances for the immediate
    preservation of the public peace, health or safety and ordinances enacted in the event of
    great emergency or necessity, when passed as aforesaid, may be introduced and passed
    at one and the same meeting and at either a regular or special meeting.”

    Moreover, at the point in time Council declares a state of emergency to handle a disaster, the City Council is by City Charter Sec. 6-1 empowered to determine the level of involvement of the Mayor during the course of the disaster. Sec 6-1 read as follows:

    “Sec. 6-1. The Mayor shall be the official and ceremonial head of the City
    and shall preside at all meetings of the Council. He may take command of the Police and
    Fire Departments and govern the City by proclamation whenever the Council determines
    that public danger or emergency requires such action.”

    If the City Manager is not available, nor the Fire Chief and Police Chief, and their respective assistance, in the event of a calamity, the Council may per Sec. 6-1 determine that the calamity is of such a magnitude as to require Mayoral command of the public safety force. Or, even if the emergency is of such a great magnitude, Council may determine otherwise, ie choose another available senior city staff person. But bear in mind 6-1 isn’t simply about taking command of public safety departments, but also about that the possibility that the Council may allow the Mayor to “govern” generally the city in times of emergency.

    You might ask, doesn’t City Charter Sec 6-1 contradict City Charter 7-3, ie the City Council must not interfere with city operations? No, because there is an exception that requires the City Manager to defer to Council’s Sec. 6-1 determination on the role of the Mayor in event of an emergency. This exception is City Charter Sec. 7-2-b, which reads as follows:

    “Sec. 7-2. The City Manager shall have the power and it shall be his or her duty:
    (B) To enforce all laws and ordinances, except as provided by Section 6-1, and he is
    hereby declared to be beneficially interested in their enforcement and to have power
    to sue in proper courts to enforce them.”

    As an aside, the Sec. 7-2-b exception that allows the Mayor to be involved in city operations in times of crises (subject to 3-12 and 6-1), in my opinion, is an important point relative to the matter of whether the Mayor should be a member or Chair of the Disaster Council. What I said to those who said the mayor should be the Chair or member was this: if the city fore-fathers and -mothers wanted the mayor to be involved in pre-disaster city operations (ie planning and preparing by serving with city staff on the Disaster Council), then the founders would have said so, ie draw-up an operational activity exception similar to time of emergency 7-2-b exception. Doing my best Antonin Scalia impersonation, I said, “If you want the Mayor to be involved in disaster planning prior to an actual disaster, then change the law, because clearly the tight-knit, bundled nature of 3-12, 6-1, 7-2-b indicates that the city forefathers and -mothers have already thought about this and decided accordingly.” “But, Tony, wouldn’t it be nice to have the mayor working with city staffmembers in devising emergency response?”, I was asked, to which I responded, no, that’s day-to-day operational activity better left to the experts — our role is to give policy directions to staff, who then fulfill our directions by working out the nuts and bolts details.

    But, to repeat, the City Charter also says that the Mayor has a role to be played in real-time disaster subject to Council guidance. And the Disaster Council ordinance provision regarding the powers of the City Manager (2-24-6) failed to delineate the process by which the Manager could assume the powers listed in 2-24-6. Hence, my motion to append references to relevant sections of City Chart Sec. 3-12 and City Charter Sec. 6-1 to Disaster Council ordinance section 2-24-6-a-1.

    Ah . . . . . . . now you say, “But, Tony, if you’re intent is to delineate a role for the Council and Mayor during a real-time crisis, couldn’t you just insert a language that says all provisions of the Disaster Council shall be consistent with the City Charter, and since the City Charter includes 3-12 and 6-1, isn’t that sufficient?” Per Charter Sec. 3-8, Council may act in one of three ways, “by ordinance, resolution or motion”. The City Charter right now allows the declaration of the disaster on a resolution basis, which could be passed on a 3 to 2 vote. But if a declaration of disaster is passed by resolution on a 3 to 2 vote, handing extraordinary powers (e.g. declaring martial law, having armed police patrolling Park Street and the Park Street bridge to prevent looting in event of a massive earthquake) to the City Manager, that tells me there’s substantial division on powers being handed to the City Manager. When it comes to giving the City Manager extraordinary powers via ordinance sub-section 2-24-6, by following Sec. 3-12, we lay out a framework leading up to providing such powers to the City Manager (or, howsoever the trigger of Sec. 6-1 is pulled, the Mayor): the framework in 3-12 entails findings in the form of “statement of the emergency or necessity” and “declaration of facts”, and it requires 4 votes on what constitutes the appropriate powers being given to the City Manager or mayor during times of crisis, and its an ordinance whose effect is immediate, not requiring 30 days.

    Comment by tony daysog — June 23, 2016 @ 2:23 pm

    • “we sit on the dais and render judgements based on the facts and rules in place, to (in the words of Justice John Roberts) serve like an umpire in a baseball game in calling “ball and strikes,” and not to cheer-lead either for the batter or pitcher”

      Isn’t the City Council an executive-legislative body? This statement would apply to a judicial body, which isn’t what the City Council is.

      I certainly DO want the City Council cheer-leading for good ideas and policies (and cheering against bad ones).

      Comment by brock — June 23, 2016 @ 3:42 pm

      • Tony Daysog seems forever confused about the role of the City Council which is to make policy decisions and give direction to the City’s executive arm: the City Manager. Not micromanage executive decisions or act as the judicial wing of the City of Alameda.

        Comment by Lauren Do — June 23, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

        • I didn’t really read his comments that way. Questioning or thinking about whether an ordinance or proposed ordinance is consistent with the Charter hardly amounts to acting as chief judge of Alameda.

          Comment by MP — June 23, 2016 @ 5:04 pm

      • Tony has written quite a convoluted wordy argument which I cannot totally follow. But I think Beverly Johnson’s letter [Correspondence 2] expresses the salient points important to me, no matter what the Charter says. To wit, “it is imperative to have the presence of elected officials…Removal of the Mayor would leave the Disaster Council with no representation from those elected by the people”
        Mayors are elected and remain in their terms. They know the people they serve. They also have to live in the city, which is currently not the case with the city manager, fire chief, or police chief. I don’t think the city “founders” [1860-1900?] ever contemplated a time when the city manager and public safety chiefs did not live in the city they serve. They are basically hired hands, and as we have seen in the past 10 years, managers and chiefs come and go at the drop of a hat, shuffled from city to city by their managing agents. I would rather have the person who has a personal stake in the city as head of the Disaster Council.

        Of the 13 East Bay cities whose disaster councils were presented by staff, 10 have the Mayor as head of the DC. Mayors of neighboring cities generally get to know each other, which is important for expediting mutual aid in a disaster. [we all remember how poor coordination of mutual aid totally failed Raymond Zack].

        Somehow I can’t see Lauren Do making the same argument if Ann Marie Gallant was the interim city manager and Marie Gilmore was the mayor.

        Comment by vigi — June 24, 2016 @ 10:01 am

  3. Thank you.

    Comment by tony daysog — June 23, 2016 @ 2:24 pm

  4. to quote Lauren Do, “Trish Spencer wants to be the head of Disaster council”. she is a disaster and already head of the council, so what more can you ask.

    Comment by John P. — June 23, 2016 @ 3:35 pm

  5. A note on correct term use: only the President can “declare” a state of emergency. Local and state governments “proclaim” that state of emergency, and thus essentially persuade the President to declare, which comes with it that helpful federal assistance.

    Comment by Neighbor Lee — June 23, 2016 @ 4:50 pm

  6. Antonin Scalia and John Roberts? If those are the folks you are trying to emulate on the Alameda City Council, thank you for making the choice clear for the residents.

    Comment by BMac — June 23, 2016 @ 5:02 pm

  7. Tony, aka Antonin, don’t go hunting with Dough.

    Comment by Jack — June 23, 2016 @ 5:08 pm

  8. I did not read much of Mr. Daysog’s comment, which may or may not be relevant to my comment, but anybody who serves on the body should be required to take CERT training.

    Side comments on my CERT experience: I finally got around taking CERT. I chose consecutive Saturdays because the classes are doubled up so one can get through it more quickly. It’s a pretty big time commitment and I was disappointed that the one class which was most important to me was cancelled, because of a personnel change where the new person who was to teach the class had a schedule conflict with his “day job” at AFD. It took a while before make up classes were offered by which time I was physically unable to sit all day because of a back injury.

    The class I still need to take was on methods of fire suppression. My interest stems from my supporting some additional emergency water supply in case we have catastrophic pressure loss to hydrants post quake, which seems likely since we are at the end of EBMUD supply line. As a lay person I freely admit I’m not qualified to second guess the pros, but also don’t trust them 100% to be straight up with the facts. I spoke at council last year when there was extra general fund dollars on the table and the AFD proposed purchase two tanker trucks to be filled by the fire boat. They recommended this over a more expensive salt water pump system for cost and logistical reasons which on the one hand made sense but on the other I have reasons to question, but no means to judge the answer. But I never got to ask anyway. Before this item appeared on the agenda, I had connected some dots by getting local contractor Ken Gutleben, who has been a proponent of the pumps for many years, to meet over breakfast at Jim’s with an AFD staff person. There are more details than I have time or general inclination to get into here, but my feeling is that there is a political angle to every decision at AFD. No judgement about whether than is justified , just my opinion/ observation.

    FYI- the purchase of the tankers was authorized. My quandary has been how much fire they can suppress and how much fire there may be to suppress in a worst case scenario. As a builder with knowledge of some of the realities concerning this hypothetical situation I consider myself better qualified to guess than a lot of lay persons, but by no means an expert. Funds for additionaI study of options were denied at the same meeting. I cannot remember the precise capacity or GMP of the tankers or fire boat. Nor can I recall the cost of tankers of proposed cost of the study without referring to notes which I may have misplaced. I did write an op ed to the Sun, which got almost no response save one letter about capacity of inherited infrastructure at the old NAS.

    I know how I feel when clients second guess my professional opinions on things about which they know nothing, so taking CERT was a first step in getting up to speed an all things emergency. This post gives me an opportunity to express one more opinion about the new Emergency Headquarters being built in conjunction with replacing the fire house on Grand Street. Since they are literally joined at the hip, it makes it more difficult than it might be to judge the EHQ, but for various reasons I feel it will be more than adequate. I’ve used the term “gilded lily”, which may or may not be fair, but I’d like an assessment from outside our city because even professionals suffer subjectivity from time to time.

    Comment by MI — June 23, 2016 @ 5:49 pm

    • oh, additionally the massacre of innocents in Orlando got me to thinking about triage training which is counter intuitive. The only 911 tapes to be released so far are between EMTs and it was interesting to hear them. Long and short is that one training gives a person some orientation to what is involved but after only a few months I already need a refresher. The counter intuitive part of about triage is that you are doing preliminary assessment and almost no treatment except stopping people from bleeding out. You run around and tag people by severity so when EMTs do arrive it saves time. Bad calls by inexperienced people can cost lives but it’s better than nothing.

      Comment by MI — June 23, 2016 @ 5:57 pm

  9. Ha ha, if only the Gop was that smart. Historically the Democrat party wrote the book on lies and subterfuge. In 1856 Preston Brooks a fine slaveowning Democrat congressman from South Carolina attacked Charles Sumner a fine abolitionist senator from Massachusetts with his walking cane in the Senate chamber and caned him into unconsciousness because Sumner criticized slaveowning.

    When we start seeing Trump caning Hillary for killing seals who hauled on the embassy’s roof to protect her sorry ass then maybe the gop will have regrown any balls they may have ever had.

    Comment by Jack — June 24, 2016 @ 5:38 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at