Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 13, 2018

Council interruptus

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

Another video from the files of “working well together” this is on an item at last Tuesday’s meeting around allocating money to keep AC Transit’s line 19 running at 20 minute headways during commute time.  Eventually the City Council did vote to provide the funding to keep this line at the shorter headways, but man it took some really painful discussion to get there, including this exchange.

I will point out that the answer that Trish Spencer is asking for is literally IN THE STAFF REPORT. If City Councilmembers aren’t going to read the staff reports and then seem shocked about how long the meeting in running, I’m really not quite sure there is any hope for any sort of meaningful meeting management.  If City Councilmembers aren’t going to show up prepared by at least reading the staff report, well, clearly it wouldn’t be wise to eliminate the staff presentations on the agenda items as Trish Spencer’s appointee to the Open Government Commission was pushing for.

Here it is, it’s a cringeworthy and fairly typical interaction between these two Councilmembers.


  1. (1) Overall: good stuff!

    (2) The video clip supports your claim that some of these folks just plain don’t get along.

    (3) The video clip does not support your implied claim that Spencer did not read the report. Spencer was challenging what may be a too rosy assertion in the staff report about the budgetary effect of the proposal.

    (4) Back to point (1) – this is a great Ashcraft-Spencer moment: Ashcraft seems oblivious to the point of Spencer’s question which was directed towards the more specific issue of the general fund portion of the funding by interjecting the obvious, i.e. that half is to come from bond measures and half from general fund; Spencer goes back to raising questions about the specific issue of the general fund portion of the funding; City Manager mildly interrupts Spencer while Spencer is discussing that more specific issue and Spencer mildly tries to resume her point on that more specific issue – a bit of talking over each other, but a non-extraordinary exchange on the specific issue nonetheless; Ashcraft, for some reason (or just true to form), views this as another opportunity to swoop in, speak up, pounce on Spencer, and render the solemn verdict that Spencer was the guilty interruptor. A wonderful performance.

    Comment by MP — March 13, 2018 @ 8:12 am

    • If you watch this without needing to come to the defense of Trish Spencer, you’ll recognize that she does interrupt the City Manager and there’s nothing “mild” about her need to grandstand particularly since she ended up voting for the damned thing anyway.

      I’d be interested in how you explain away Trish Spencer’s rudeness to the hired consultant in this clip:

      Comment by Lauren Do — March 13, 2018 @ 9:00 am

      • How to explain away Mayor’s “rudeness” to the consultant: You won’t find it in this cherry-picked minute YouTube clip. Some believe that it was the consultant who was unprofessional.

        From “Alameda Merry -Go-Round”: “But if staff does decide to try again, we have one suggestion: Find a new political consultant. In five years of watching Council meetings, we haven’t seen a more pretentious and condescending performance than the one put on by Ms. Lew. She began by cautioning Council members not to make any changes in the wording of the ballot question her firm had drafted. She then warned them against identifying themselves as Council members in any ballot argument they submitted. But the real show came later when Mayor Spencer tried to pin her down on the rationale for using bond money for the fire stations, and Ms. Lew behaved as if she was Mitch McConnell dressing down Elizabeth Warren. The “body of research over time was utilized effectively and well,” the consultant lectured the City’s top elected official, “in crafting a measure that effectively captures the priorities of the public.” Nevertheless, like Senator Warren, Ms. Spencer persisted.”

        “Although we hesitate to play the blame game, we wonder just how many of the design and drafting flaws in the proposed bond measure resulted from staff following Ms. Lew’s “expert judgment” rather than using their own common sense. In any event, next time around, let’s give the job of advisor to someone who listens and counsels, not pontificates and dictates.”

        Alameda spends a lot of money on consultants, and it would be nice it we got what we paid for. Apparently we didn’t in this instance.

        Comment by vigi — March 13, 2018 @ 9:45 am

        • Sweet baby jeebus, Sullwold takes his verbal fellatio of our mayor to new and exciting places with this one! Honestly, mentioning her in the same breath as Elizabeth Warren is just embarrassing.

          Comment by Rod — March 13, 2018 @ 11:40 am

      • I don’t feel the need to come to the defense of Spencer in particular. I just didn’t see the video clip as supporting the implication that she had not read the staff report prior to the meeting, for the reasons above, or that her alleged failure to read the report, if true, was the cause of the meeting being prolonged on the point in question. Indeed, if it was “grandstanding” as you suggest, and it might have been, it seems unlikely that Spencer would have chosen to grandstand on the issue of general fund weakness had she not read the staff report describing half of the funding as a general fund draw. Either way, and whether all or only half of the money was to come from the general fund, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to raise questions about that, even if you ultimately vote for the measure.

        I’ll be glad to offer my two-bit opinion on Spencer’s exchange with the political consultant in that other clip, if I haven’t already. My recollection was that the consultant was reframing then answering a modified version of Spencer’s questions, rather than just answering the simple question posed and that the two had some back and forth because of that. I’ll have to look at it again.

        To be sure, there have been plenty of times where Spencer has been the cause of unnecessary squabbling on the dais. She may even top the leader board in that, but she is hardly unique.

        In the meantime, and since Councilmember Ashcraft is all over today’s clip, is your intent to give a nod to her as the embodiment of “meaningful meeting management”?

        In today’s clip, the City Manager had completed her thought by saying that the general fund portion was coming “out of reserve” to which Spencer responded with a reference to a report from the City Auditor concerning the state of the reserve. In the middle of Spencer’s response, City Manager interjects, but Spencer continues to complete her point. City Manager interjects (interrupts) again while Spencer is speaking, at which point Ashcraft interrupts purporting to call a foul on Spencer for interrupting the City Manager.

        Comment by MP — March 13, 2018 @ 7:15 pm

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