Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 24, 2020

Hands off

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

I listened to the City Council meeting on Saturday night which was supposed to present to the City the plans on the re-imagining the police department and public safety in the city of Alameda and I have to say that I am concerned.

It feels a bit like the City Council subcommittee lost its way when coming up with that plan on what to do next.  I literally had to reopen the agenda item for the meeting from June 29 to recall what goal the City Council was trying to work toward.  That’s bad because it speaks to a lack of clarity and an opaqueness to the process which is already a difficult one to have from the start.  When you have speakers that night who express a lack of understanding about what the process is and these are people who want to see this move forward and succeed then you have clear failures of communication on what we should all be expecting.

So what was the result from Tuesday night?  Well, the result is that the City Council has essentially washed its hands of this entire process.  How so?  The subcommittee decided that it would be best that the steering committee and the resulting task forces be able to talk “freely” and so wanted to ensure that the groups were not bound by pesky open government laws like the Brown Act.  In order to do that the Council is not able to give any direction or guidance on this process at all.

I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

The City Council.  Your elected body who is supposed to represent you, the people, is unable to give ANY direction AT ALL otherwise it would fall under the Brown Act.

Here’s what falling under the Brown Act would do.  It would have public noticing expectations, there would not be the ability for members to discuss any topic with a majority outside of the noticed meetings, and it would be staffed by City staff.   While I heard, and understand, the logic of the subcommittee that there might be people and groups that the steering committee and task force committee might meet with that desire anonymity because the topics are very sensitive, there are ways around this but still having the meetings public.  And I get the desire to have the steering committee and the task forces design their own goals and processes and not let “the man” tell them what to do and how to do it, but in the end the result is supposed to inform policy in Alameda, there are public expectations for these discussions to be held in the public and observable by the public.

This process should be one that is unimpeachable from the start because there are people who will — deliberately or otherwise — misunderstand the goal of these discussions and resulting work.  Starting off by saying that these meetings can happen without public observation is giving fodder to the claims that the process will not be inclusive to everyone, particularly the skeptical.

But the biggest issue with this is that it sounds like, by design, the steering committee and the task forces will do all the heavy lifting.  While there were discussions about stipends and meals, we’re talking about a group of BIPOC folks (as there was a stated goal of the majority of the individuals be BIPOC) tasked with addressing systemic issues and institutions in Alameda.  This expectation of largely unpaid and uncompensated labor is extremely problematic.  While I don’t think that was the intent of the subcommittee it’s an issue that no one has addressed.  Given the structure that no directions can come from the City Council to the City Manager in order for these groups to be beyond the scope of the Brown Act, it’s up to the City Manager to make the determination if and how these individuals doing this hard work will be compensated.

Maybe this will all work out, but at this point I’m uncomfortable with the lack of public noticing and a guarantee that all work will be publicly observable and the lack of addressing of compensation for the work of BIPOC members of Alameda on this massive policy change.

8 Comments »

  1. Granted: this is in general a very sensitive (and, in the particulars here, a somewhat complicated “process”-wise) topic.

    But would at least someone stick up for the Council majority position on this, so that we in the peanut gallery can follow along a little better – at least, before it gets worked out differently in a non-publicly observable way?

    Merci.

    Comment by MP — July 24, 2020 @ 11:34 am

    • Malia Vella just did:

      Comment by Lauren Do — July 24, 2020 @ 11:47 am

      • Thanks.

        I take it that the argument here in favor of a more consultant-like model is expediency and time (the other model simply being expected to take too much time), rather than some attempt to shape the agenda or to back off on centering particular voices. Either way, I guess the buck will necessarily stop with the Council?

        Comment by MP — July 24, 2020 @ 12:01 pm

  2. Also, for the record, can anyone tell me how the vote discussed above broke down?

    I understand that preparing transcripts of Council meetings probably costs money, and that to expedite preparation of those transcripts would probably require a premium. When are the draft transcripts typically ready and delivered to the city?

    At the risk of creating some confusion between draft and approved minutes, is there some way to get the draft minutes out there – other than by individual request – sooner than the posting of the full agenda for whatever subsequent meeting (sometimes weeks later) approval of those draft minutes is scheduled?

    Yes, there is video posted, which is good, but navigating through it to get to relevant parts can be clunky, especially depending on how well the internet is performing at the time.

    Comment by MP — July 24, 2020 @ 11:55 am

    • No vote taken. Subcommittee indicated that they wanted the Steering Committee and task forces unfettered by the bonds of the Brown Act and that they wanted the Steering Committee to be able to be as fluid as possible. Any vote or direction taken by the Council that night would have made it a Council “thing” and therefore need to be under the Brown Act. Only way to get unfettered process is by having it be a City Manager “thing.”

      Subcommittee (Mayor and Malia Vella) were obvious pro this model. Jim Oddie was also on board also called the Brown Act rules designed by white people and therefore suggesting, I guess, that BIPOC aren’t able to work within the confines of the Brown Act, I’m not sure where this line of reasoning was going. John Knox White expressed an inability to support this City Manager “thing” process though why he didn’t press for a vote, I don’t know. Tony Daysog was also not a fan about this not being Brown Act compliant.

      There are never transcripts of city meetings only minutes. I’ve never tried to get draft minutes before but it’s a possibility. Video starts at 4:15:15 ish on the feed that’s available on Facebook.

      Comment by Lauren Do — July 24, 2020 @ 12:04 pm

      • Thanks again and for the correction re “transcript” versus “minutes”. They are two different things – the former being verbatim and the latter more of a summary.

        From what you describe, I guess on this one, one would want to go straight to video to find out where the lines of reasoning were at least starting.

        Comment by MP — July 24, 2020 @ 12:35 pm

  3. was anyone concerned about putting this in the hands of the CM? “This” being a process of sorts to re-define, re-imagine our police force, when this is the same CM that just hired a police union lawyer to investigate wrongdoing by some of our police officers? No oversight as to how he populates the steering committee and all the subcommittees? This can’t end well.

    Comment by abronto4900 — July 24, 2020 @ 12:42 pm

  4. If the Brown Act has been revised, then I may be out of date.
    I found this CC meet to be confusing at best, but I don’t know if I heard it all. Going in, I thought the CM was supposed to have been getting a public steering group together whose assignment was to A) use information from council meetings, other public meetings, public comment, etc., about policing to formulate a list of topics to be discussed at some version of a Town meeting. B) using final list of topics, to bring together community members who would devise and developed the actual town meeting at which all members of the public would be asked to comment and develop goals for the unbundling and rebundling of tasks now falling to our police. All of this would be monitored by, through, the CM and staff. Once done, (Brown Act starts here with proper noticing, etc.,) the CM and staff would present the results to the CC who would direct the staff as to next steps.

    At the meeting, I saw a CM who had nothing to say and had done nothing to move forward on getting public input in any way.. CC who didn’t articulate much of anything that would move the process along and seemed bogged down on how to notice or not notice meetings that may or may not be influenced by Brown Act. The city attorney, when asked, did not help by essentially allowing that when in doubt, assume Brown Act. He made no attempt to help the CC out. There was one public comment that, almost verbatim, would have been a good starting point, but nobody took it up. I’d say more time was taken adding time to the agenda than solving what to do with issue.

    It has been my understanding that as long as the CC is not involved further than asking CM to go get public input and come back with a report of findings, then there is no possibility of legislation, so no Brown Act. The public can meet and do anything it wants as long as the CC stays away. And staff can help too. Has this changed?

    Comment by Li_ — July 24, 2020 @ 3:07 pm


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