Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 6, 2017

FAAS and the furry-ous

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:06 am

Normally I would be inclined to support issues like the whole FAAS funding thing.  I’m not a die hard animal lover, but I do like animals.  I have cats.

However, I have a pretty big problem with the way that FAAS has been framing their side of the story.  First, the petition.  The petition frames the argument as urging “the City to fairly fund Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter” as though what the City is offering is not fair.  That, I would imagine, is a largely subjective argument.  What is fair to the Board of Directors, staff, and die hard supporters is probably much more different than arms length citizens like you or me (those of us who don’t fit into the three categories above).  Do I want FAAS funded? Yes, of course.  Do I want FAAS funded to the detriment of other needy and worthwhile programs? No.

Second, the current fundraising campaign being promoted on FAAS’s website is not for fundraising to run the shelter, but fundraising for marketing purposes.  Specifically:

Help us pay for a private advertising campaign to let the City of Alameda know how important it is that they fully fund Friends of the Alameda Animal (FAAS) to run the shelter.

All funds raised will be used to pay for a series of ads to make the public aware of what is at stake and to let elected officials and public servants know how important this issue is to the citizens of Alameda.

Rather than justify the increase in costs which have largely come in the form of salary increases, new positions that do not bring in any additional fundraising dollars but in fact FAAS projects a reduction in fundraising dollars, instead the public of Alameda is asked to fundraise for a glossy ad campaign so that citizens can storm City Hall to tell the City Council to give FAAS more money.

And third, there’s been a lot of talk about tonight’s Town Hall to reveal new budget numbers from FAAS, but if FAAS was really interested in having the public judge for itself if those new numbers are indeed reasonable, we are told to just go to the meeting instead of those numbers being available on the website.

These three added together, to me, does not signal the best of faith on the part of FAAS.  Rather than justify the need for more staff, huge salary increases at the top, and a Development Director which will take in less money than previous fundraised we are treated to heart tugging photos of puppies.

Remember, in 2012 when this deal was struck FAAS did not say that this structure was unsustainable.  Recall this was the terms of the deal:

Eventually the Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter was formed and this non profit group agreed to take over operations of the shelter as opposed to turning over shelter operations to the County or some other agency.  The eventual lease terms were hammered out which were designed to divest responsibility from the Police Department, but make it so that the arrangement with FAAS worked.  Here are the lease terms from the staff report:

  • The term of the lease is 15 years , with an option to extend for two periods of five
    years each subject to mutual approval.
  • FAAS will pay the City $1 annually as rent.
  • The City will contribute $300 000 in the first year towards the Shelter s operation. In subsequent years , the $300 000 contribution will grow by an escalator based on the Bay Area Consumer Price Index.
  • The City will maintain responsibility for the building s roof, foundation
    heating/ventilation/air conditioning systems, and electrical systems.
  • FAAS will be responsible for general maintenance of the building as well as janitorial services.
  • FAAS will provide all of the general Shelter services such as licensing of companion animals (for which it will be entitled to keep the licensing revenues), holding of strays and owner-surrendered animals, and the provision of after-hours drop boxes.

Additionally the City of Alameda provides two part-time staff people for the duration of the lease.  The lease is set to expire in 2026.

Now the City is offering:

  • Increase FAAS’s total budget from just over $1 million in 2015-16 to nearly $1.7 million in 2016-17
  • Increase direct City funding from $328,000 in 2015-16 to $600,000 in 2016-17
  • Take over pet licensing and deliver a guaranteed $150,000 per year to FAAS
  • Provide an additional $50,000 to FAAS if their new hires are from the Alameda Point Collaborative
  • Take over and pay for payroll services
  • Provide light-duty officers to assist with staffing needs
  • Provide an additional $100,000 in Animal Control Officer staffing
  • Provide $170,000 in building improvements (this amount is being spent this year on a new roof, kitchen upgrades, and heating system)
  • Continue to provide the shelter facility at no cost

I’ll point out that payroll services was a significant cost to FAAS that was called out in the 3rd party budget review at around $25K paid to ADP for run payroll for 8 full-time employees and 4 part-time employees.  Also, the City is offering an incentive to FAAS to hire from Alameda Point Collaborative which would be a wonderful partnership and provide excellent job training skills for Alameda residents.

The “light-duty officers” to help with staffing needs is significant too because they would be getting skilled police officers that are, for some reason or other, on light-duty to help out with additional staffing for the shelter.

Given what the agreement was in 2012, the proposed offering from the City is exceedingly generous. The big argument that FAAS has not made — and this is important — is that the City’s offering would some how reduce the standard of care for animals in Alameda or reduce live-release rates.

If FAAS cannot or will not make that argument with evidence, it will be hard for them to justify to regular citizens like you or me that what the City is offering is some how “unfair.”

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11 Comments »

  1. This will be my only post in order to prepare for tonights meeting. I will gladly write more tomorrow. I only read a bit of the post but first. The reason I told people to go to the meeting tonight is that private negotiations were ongoing until the city produced all the information friday. Rather than me determining what is appropriate to release or not in ongoing negotiations, I still am asking people to please attend the town hall.
    Secondly, we lused to have a donor for advertising which we no longer have, so in order to use operating expenses we fundraised seperately for adds for the next two weeks, when hopefully a new contract will be in place.
    Thirdly, pitting Faas against other needy organizations is pointless. The animal shelter for a municipality is an essiential service, part of public safety.
    The animal shelter has never been, could never be, resposible for the city’s budget issues. It is to small of a portion of the overall budget.
    FAAS has never had a salary in the six figures, like every other both private and public shelter in the region have.
    It is quite common for municipalities to contract for service with either a public or private shelter. It is a contract for services.
    The first figure of the city offering to increase the FAAS budget to 1.7 million is quite innaccurate at this point.

    More later I look forward to spending more time clarifying the information. Please come tonight to the town hall Michaans Auctions 6PM. Bring your questions!

    Comment by Janet Davis — February 6, 2017 @ 7:47 am

    • If you add in the in-kind services the City’s offering is nearly $1.7 million. While not a direct all cash payment it is certainly meaningful for an organization that is asking for money from the City to run operations.

      Comment by Lauren Do — February 6, 2017 @ 10:22 am

      • “Rather than justify the need for more staff, huge salary increases at the top, and a Development Director which will take in less money than previous fundraised we are treated to heart tugging photos of puppies.” Ms. Do, the justification for any and all of the shelter’s appeal can be found within the walls of FAAS. The shelter is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, but it is open Wednesdays through Sundays, 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and on Wednesdays the shelter stays open until 7:00 p.m. Any upcoming Wednesday might be a particularly good day to visit, as you would be able to see and appreciate the incredible talents of the burned out commercial washing machine as it lurches across the floor, running its 15th load of the day. You could enjoy a hearty laugh as you watch staff hang towels and blankets over kennel doors because the dryer isn’t working again. Come early for the morning shift! Watch the two kennel staff workers move 38 unwilling dogs around, as they clean, disinfect, dry, and reset all the kennels, inside and out. (Tip: 38 kennels = 76 areas to be scooped, hosed, foamed with disinfectant chemicals, scrubbed with a long-handled brush, rinsed, squeegeed dry, and reset for each dog.) Be amazed at how swiftly yet deftly they feed the rabbits and clean up their messes. Be astonished at how they can medicate perhaps a dozen dogs and cats right on the heels of restocking a dozen areas in the building with 35-pound bags of dog food, with kitty litter, canine and feline canned food, hay for the rabbits, multiple spray bottles of disinfectant, paper towels, water supplies, newspaper, litter boxes, all this while filling out forms detailing the diet and elimination results from the morning’s meal. Delight in their careful attendance to the delicate cases: the tripod cat, the dog whose pelvis is busted in three places, the anxious and fearful pets who are brought in every day. Another not-to-be missed feature of the shelter is their collection of antique hoses! No kennel worker goes home in dry clothes, and this is particularly hilarious in the depths of winter.

        The justification for a reasonable operating budget is plainly on display at Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter. No one could visit the shelter and fail to see evidence of need. There is a passion there, and a dedication to make the shelter run efficiently and successfully despite dismal underfunding. No one on staff is looking to upgrade from a Dodge to a Lexus. You remarked, “Do I want FAAS funded to the detriment of other needy and worthwhile programs? No.” What “other needy and worthwhile programs” in Alameda have been mandated to be funded by the City?

        The cat with Cerebellar Hypoplasia, the dog suffering from intervertebral disc disease or paralysis, the guinea pig with malocclusion, the dog with megaesophagus, and all hit-by-car animals would perish under management of a municipal pound. The shelter’s request for adequate funding is not excessive or preposterous. It takes money to fuel humans’ abilities to heal and home the animals that end up in a shelter.

        If the “heart-tugging photos of puppies” seem to you like fluffy manipulation, come visit me for an afternoon shift, 11:00 a.m. till 5:30 p.m. (or later). Wear your crummiest clothes; bleach will ruin anything nice within the first ten minutes of the shift. I have some knee-high rubber boots you can wear, but bring extra socks because the boots leak. If you have long hair, tie it up. Don’t bother to try to make it look nice: the steam and chemicals, and all that sweating you’ll do while running around, will ruin any hairstyle you come in with. Leave your cell phone in the car – you won’t have time for it. Bring a bag lunch. You might get a chance to eat it. Remember not to try to put on latex gloves when your hands are wet. No earplugs are allowed. You’ll have to manually add detergent to the washing machine because the dispenser is broken. The dryer always defaults to a medium heat setting at the end of a cycle, so you’ll have to revert the setting back to high heat for the next cycle. You’ll have to dig through the bin of soiled laundry to run the towels and bedding that are on the bottom first. Stand away from the hoses while you’re using them or you’ll get soaked. Can you scruff a cat? How are you around aggressive dogs? When feeding, try to remember that many of our cats and dogs are on special diets, so be careful not to give the kidney disease formula to the dog that is in liver failure. And triple-check their medications.

        When can I expect to see you? I’m there Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Wednesdays are my early shift (6-11) – would you prefer that? If you come early, I can show you how to scan a dead animal for a microchip before you put the carcass in the freezer. Gloves – always wear gloves; and be prepared to hustle. Let’s see if twelve bucks an hour pays for all that and so much more.

        Chris O’Connell

        Comment by Chris O'Connell — February 18, 2017 @ 10:39 pm

        • Heart tugging again? Everyone’s job is hard. There are gradients of difficult, but is your (or other shelter staff’s job) more difficult that a police officer who is taking their lives in their hands every time they respond to a call because they don’t know who or what is on the other side of the particular door they’re about to knock on, or car they’re about to approach.

          Is your job more difficult than the firefighter who rushes into a burning building?

          Is your job more difficult than the teacher who has the responsibility to ensure that 32 individual humans are educated and do not fall through the cracks?

          Is your job more difficult than the Title I school teacher who has the responsibility to ensure that 32 individual humans are educated and do not fall through the cracks but also deal with kids who come to school hungry. Who come to school without warm coats. Who they know are largely responsible for the care of their younger siblings because the only parent at home has to work multiple low paying jobs that keeps him/her away from home.

          Is your job more difficult than the paramedics who are the first line of defense to save an individual from possible death?

          Is your job more difficult than the immigration lawyer who has to defend the rights of individuals in this country regardless of their immigration status and help prevent families from being ripped part?

          Is your job more difficult than the fast food worker/retail clerk/service worker who stands on his/her feet all day smiling happily into the face of thousands of customers regardless of the verbal abuse lodged their way?

          Is your job more difficult than the social service workers who must come into comes a document family abuse and make a heart wrenching decision to break up a family and then figure out what to do with the children?

          Is your job more difficult than the tenants rights lawyers who use every mechanism they can to keep families in their homes but often come up empty handed because we, as a community, have decided that we don’t need to add supply to meet the demand when it comes to housing human beings and so we allow the market to dictate which human beings deserved warm shelter.

          Did you justify the existence and need for a development director who is budgeted to bring in less fundraising dollars than was raised by FAAS without a development director?

          Comment by Lauren Do — February 20, 2017 @ 7:06 am

        • The firefighter, the teacher, the Title I schoolteacher, the paramedic, the immigration lawyer, the fast food worker/retail clerk/service worker, the social service worker, the tenants’ rights lawyer – all these people become what they are, and do what they do, either because of a desire to follow intense passions that could ultimately benefit them (emotionally, mentally, psychologically, economically, spiritually) or because the positions were available to them given their education and skill sets. When we sign on for our jobs we also sign on for every risk attached to those jobs, whether it means possibly having a burning building collapse around us or suffering bunions from standing all day at a cash register.

          You write, “Is your job more difficult than the tenants rights lawyers who use every mechanism they can to keep families in their homes but often come up empty handed because we, as a community, have decided that we don’t need to add supply to meet the demand when it comes to housing human beings and so we allow the market to dictate which human beings deserved warm shelter. [sic]” We employees and volunteers at FAAS use every mechanism available to return lost animals to their homes and to maximize the mercies due them after they’ve been dumped, abused, injured. We take up the gauntlet when landlords decide that pets are no longer allowed in rental units. We provide secure, safe haven for pets left behind when their owners go to jail or become incapacitated to the point where they cannot care for them anymore. We respectfully handle remains of pets and wildlife and, whenever possible, alert an owner who is missing a pet that it has been turned in, deceased. We have now met with financial crisis because a portion of our community appears to be insistent that we don’t need to add funding to meet the demands of housing, grooming, feeding, socializing, and providing medical care for Alameda’s vulnerable population of animals that wind up on the shelter’s doorstep. So I would say my job is equally important as the other occupations listed in your philippic. You won’t hear an Alameda firefighter complaining about his oxygen tank being having been depleted for the last six weeks because he has protections in place. Local 689 has his back. Pets don’t have unions, and neither do shelter workers in Alameda. What you consider “heart-tugging” is really good faith collective bargaining without the power of a union behind us.

          “Did you justify the existence and need for a development director who is budgeted to bring in less fundraising dollars than was raised by FAAS without a development director?” I DID NOT. If I could even make sense of your claim I would be compelled to exact grounds for such a prophecy (if that’s what it is), and I mean from sources who have no dog in this race.

          Comment by Chris O'Connell — February 21, 2017 @ 5:07 pm

        • “Everyone’s job is hard.”

          That makes all the job comparisons that follow this comment immaterial.

          Pick a Wednesday. 6:00 a.m. Ring the buzzer; I will unlock the door for you. Don’t forget your lunch.

          Chris O’Connell

          Comment by Chris O'Connell — February 20, 2017 @ 9:33 pm

  2. Typo alert
    We used to have a donor for advertising, which we no longer have. In order to NOT use crucial necessary funds for advertising during this time, we raised the money seperately last week.
    Change.org petitions are free, and a couple ads in the local papers is not a glossy ad campaign.
    There are thousands of people wanting to know what is going on and what they can do.

    Comment by Janet Davis — February 6, 2017 @ 7:52 am

    • “Thousands”? you don’t say! That would be some kind of Alameda public participation record, since winners of our elections don’t always get that kind of enthusiasm.

      Comment by vigi — February 6, 2017 @ 10:06 am

      • News flash-FAAS has thousands of avid supporters in town. We had 500 at our fundraiser on the hornet alone last year. The tremendous community outpouring in donations and volunteer hours is what brought this about.
        Communities no longer tolerate dismal pounds. The shelter world has undergone a tremendous progressive change in the past five years, and it was 100% community driven. It did NOT come from the shelter establishment, but 100% community participation, demand and involvement.

        Comment by JSD — February 6, 2017 @ 1:20 pm

  3. I couldn’t attend the townhall tonight. Is tomorrow night, at the council meeting, the first time that the public will have both the city and the “new” FAAS numbers? That doesn’t seem like great process, but perhaps tomorrow night is simply the night for the numbers to be put in front of council….and they vote in two weeks on a proposal? Good governance and good decision-making rely on good data, provided in a timely manner so that the representatives we elect to make decisions on our behalf can be clear in their reasoning. Here’s hoping.

    Comment by Gaylon — February 6, 2017 @ 7:14 pm

  4. Nice crowd tonight at the town hall. Spotted in the audience were Alameda pols Spencer, Ashcraft, Keimach, and Chief Rolleri. The FAAS Board
    presented a 25 minute explanation of the issues that face the organization and a new proposal to the City of $908,000. They took
    thoughtful questions from the audience and appropriately dispelled some misinformation that seems to be floating out there.

    City Manager Keimach also took questions from the crowd and stated that she is supportive of what FAAS does and believes that the two
    sides are close to striking a deal.

    FAAS is not on the city council agenda tomorrow night, however, they will be taking public comments from attendees. Feb. 21st is the big day
    for the council vote.

    The Alameda Merry-Go-Round blog provides a very interesting perspective on this entire matter and may offer substantive clarity:

    https://alamedamgr.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/give-us-shelter/#more-8109

    Comment by Roberto Marinelli — February 6, 2017 @ 9:28 pm


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