Guess what everyone? She’s back. That’s right Trish “No Vote” Spencer is back with a vengeance. While she would pepper no votes here and there as Mayor, Tuesday night’s City Council meeting was a throwback to her old School Board days when she was the lone ranger standing out there, alone, for some strange principled stance that involves — apparently — continuing to delay everything in the search of some goldilocks ideal of the “just right” amount of public input to make her comfortable enough to vote yes on an issue.
First was the whole rent issue thing. All of the other City Council members wanted to move forward with strengthening the rules based on what was presented to them earlier because — at some point — they have to more forward. Trish Spencer did not. But, based on some of Trish Spencer’s comments at this meeting and other meetings, I’m not 100% sure she understands what precisely the rent group was doing to help stabilize rents in Alameda. One thing that they have NOT presented to the City Council is anything regarding rent control. And by “rent control” I’m referring to “rent control” of the San Francisco and Berkeley varieties, that rent control. She keeps bringing up the fact that new development wouldn’t be under “rent control” and that’s why we shouldn’t do something even that that “something” has nothing to do with the creation of rent control in Alameda. It’s a trigger term that puts the fear of God into most landlords and immediately makes people take very strident and entrenched positions. It’s also disingenuous.
Last Tuesday’s (not yesterday’s )City Council meeting was kind of a mess. I’ll have some video clips to post of City Staff laying everything out there in plain English about Alameda, the Density Bonus, and the State, but it’s a process to get it into a format to be edited on my computer. Anyway.
As usual, even with only two agenda items on the list for Tuesday night, the City Council ran three hours and had to continue the agenda item about the uber Transportation wunderplan for another night. If we’re only going to tackling one agenda item for every meeting, let’s just say it’s going to take a looooonnnggg time to every get anything done around here. But to be fair, the issue of the Density Bonus was a very complicated one.
As you may recall, this whole issue of the moratorium around the Density Bonus was really initiated by Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese at the first meeting of the year when Mayor Trish Spencer tried to get the City Council to repeal the approvals for the Del Monte project, I mean, she tried to give Tony Daysog a chance to air his concerns, I mean, she wanted to give the Council a chance to weigh in on the issue…well whatever the reason, one of the results of the vote. Anyway, this is how the motion was structure with regard to what the task of staff was regarding the Density Bonus:
Another City Council meeting you say? Yes, it felt like we just had one and I haven’t even had a chance to write about that.
It’s a long agenda again, a lot of consent items. There an item to update the City Council on what the “Rent Group”, for lack of a better term, is up to. According to the staff report, facilitator Jeff Cambra wants to go back to the stakeholder group to present possible amendments to the Alameda Municipal Code. It seems fine since it’s going to take staff a bit more time to get the data that was requested by three of the five City Council members.
An item of interest that should be on the shorter side is the City Manager search. At last week’s City Council meeting, it was announced that current Assistant City Manager Liz Warmerdam (Alameda resident!) would be appointed as the Interim City Manager while the City went through the process of trying to find a permanent City Manager. I’m not sure why this wasn’t an “acting” role like when Lisa Goldman provided leadership during the last transition. But *shrug* There are two options being proffered the first is the using the search firm process and the second is the way it was done when John Russo was eventually picked.
I was going to write about Frank Matarrese and his refusal to understand what the term “realistic capacity” meant in terms of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment and Housing Element. Helpful hint Vice Mayor, I wrote about it here. But instead I must write about the rage inducing comment made by Jim Oddie.
Here is it, verbatim:
I was one of those people that drove my kids to school. They were girls, frankly I did not want them walking. And I would make that decision again today if I had to make it.
No. Just no.
Edited to add some clarifying remarks, the edits are in italics.
Have you guys been following new Twitter account @alamedstaff? It is a funny piece of parody in the vein of @fakejeanquan. What makes it brilliant is that it must be how some City Staff people actually feel under this new administration. While on one hand Trish Spencer does a fair amount of “concern trolling” worrying that staff may have “too much on their plates” when it comes to a topic she has no interest in investing further time on (see rental housing discussion and her vote against getting more data to understand the issue from a quantitative point of view). On the other hand it’s pretty clear from her line of questioning she has no faith or trust in staff and their competency to do their jobs.
I mean, it was essentially what this commenter (and Trish Spencer apologist) said in yesterday’s post, she’s “cross examining” staff as though she were their adversary trying to catch them in some “gotcha” moment. This was something that happened a lot when she was on the School Board too. But she seems to have brought that over to the City Council and it appears that City Staff isn’t as willing to be pushed around as some of the School District staff was. Just want to clarify that I’m not saying that AUSD staff was willing to take abuse from Trish Spencer, but that most people were unwilling to put themselves unnecessarily in Trish Spencer’s cross hairs. Add to that the lack of support from other Board Members (Mike McMahon was the notable exception) and you have a no-win situation for staff. I’ll point out as “nice” as some people believe Trish Spencer to be, I have heard, but not written about, an endless number of horror stories from inside the AUSD ranks.
Some recent examples include the questioning of City Staff about the make up of the selection committee which I wrote about yesterday. Another example that I didn’t write about in detail but that the Trish Truth blog posted (another link, both are worth watching for an understanding of the “cross examination”) was an agenda item on sewer rates and Trish Spencer cross examined the staff members on the rates they used to justify the rate increase. The staff members handily addressed Trish Spencer’s concerns and deftly swatted away the implication that some how their selected rates that were too high or whatever she was trying to imply. By the way, props to these two staff members who were a great representation of knowledgeable and high competent staff.
Back to that epic City Council meeting, although I really want to write about the Planning Board meeting from Monday night, ooh boy was that some meeting too, but I’ll go through that some other time. Stop being so interesting City Council and City Boards and Commissions. Stop, I can’t keep up.
Anyway, during that City Council meeting from last week, there was an agenda item about the Main Street Area for Alameda Point and whether or not to execute a contract with a consultant company — paid for by a grant from MTC — to start the planning process for that area. According to City Staff the consultant was vetted through staff and a panel with community members represented. Trish Spencer decided that she was going to ask about which community members were on the panel. Here’s how the dialogue went.
Super huge agenda tonight for the City Council, I’m feeling super behind because I haven’t even written everything that I wanted to write about last week’s City Council meeting and now we’re already having another City Council meeting, I guess it could be worse and I would have nothing to write about but still…City Council, stop being so amusing and entertaining, I need to catch up!
So tonight’s City Council meeting has two meaty items in “workshop” format. The last time we had anything close to a workshop was the Special Meeting about how to run meetings and it was chaos. This time around, hopefully, after being reprimanded by John Russo to get control of the meeting, Trish Spencer will have a firmer grip over the meeting. Or she’ll continue to let people speak way over the allotted public comment time and then complain about how there is an “agenda writing” problem and place the blame all on staff. Well tonight there’s only two real agenda items, so we’ll see how long this meeting goes on for and whether we have another “agenda writing” problem tonight.
The first (well the second agenda item) is the whole uber Transportation plan thing that was before the Transportation Commission and Planning Board the other night. Tonight the City Council will vote to put their money where their rhetoric is regarding transportation issues and they can choose to issue a RFP for creation of this uber Transportation plan (approximate costs are $250 – 400K for this strategy alone and could take up to a whole year to actually produce given the levels of community input that are expected). There is no funding identified for this yet so best case the city staff can go out for grants. Some of the City Staff has been very successful at securing grants in the past. But worse case it will come out of the general fund.
The second (but really first) agenda item is around the super hot topic of density bonus. Recall that during the Del Monte discussion some of the people who opposed the project did so on the basis that some how the density bonus was improperly applied and asked that there be a moratorium on any future density bonus approvals until such time that the density bonus application process was all sorted out. Frank Matarrese took up this mantle and here we are.
More from the epic City Council meeting. I finally figured out how to properly make videos work on my iMovie and just in time for this meeting.
For those of you that used to watch Trish Spencer on the School Board and are now following her term as Mayor of our fair City, you will remember that Trish Spencer was big on explaining why she voted “no” every time she voted “no.” On the School Board it was practically every single agenda item that earned a “no” vote from Trish Spencer and so we were constantly bombarded with her usual schtick of “I’m voting against this because it takes money away from the classrooms.” Of course there are no “classrooms” to evoke with the City’s budgets so she’s had to be a little more creative with her “no” vote reasoning.
I don’t even know where to begin, so I’m going to start with:
OMG, that City Council meeting was probably the best City Council meeting I have ever watched.
From a pure entertainment and content perspective it delivered. And it delivered big time. I can’t even express to you how much awesome was contained in this, five, six hour meeting. I haven’t even made it all the way through and it has become my all time favorite tv show episode ever. And I just watched the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills where Lisa Rinna just broke a glass after Kim Richards vaguely threatened to spill some secret about Lisa Rinna’s family. Yeah, the City Council meeting was better than that.
I’m just going to take one moment at a time, because each moment deserves its own special place in the spotlight.
Because narrative cannot alone show you how great it was. Video. Annotated and I boosted the audio in one section for you. You’re welcome.
The Planning Board and Transportation Commission joint meeting lasted about four hours, which was not surprising in the slightest since there were a lot of big issues on the agenda. I’m going to go through some of the more interesting things in another post but thought I would pick on Mayor Trish Spencer again. Only because she makes it so easy to do so.
Now, I don’t begrudge any new elected official from coming to meetings and sitting there to learn about all the nuances that they missed from not paying attention before they were elected. But it’s when those elected officials feel the need to add in their two cents, even as an “individual citizen” that’s when things get a little murky. As Kate Q. pointed out in the comments section, the lines get blurred when an advisory group to a sitting elected body is told by someone on that elected body what their opinions are as a “private citizen.” You can spin the whole “private citizen” any which way you want but the fact is that that private citizen who also has the word “Mayor” tacked in front of her name has a lot more pull than someone who doesn’t.