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ALAMEDA HAS A BUDGET … And don’t ride your bike in the park, Jimmy!

Submitted by on 1, June 18, 2008 – 10:30 amNo Comment

At around 10 p.m. Tuesday, the City Council finally began to tackle the final hurdles to approving a budget for next year, chief among them the controversial elimination of over $800,000 in fire department overtime, which would lead to rolling brownouts of the Island’s fire stations. After three hours of deliberations and comments from about 15 Alamedans who came to plead their case for the fire department, the crossing guards, the Meyers House and the trees, it was a done deal. Sort of. On the plus side, the city got a gift last week in the form of an improved bond rating, which allowed them to refinance millions of dollars in bonds for the police station, the new library and the golf course at a savings of about $850,000 over two years. The council also shifted around some money, pulling a $25,000 subsidy to maintain the Meyers House Museum (hellooo, volunteers?) and another $7,500 for the Alameda Museum that to keep the lights on at one city park and maintain summer programs at others. But they still need to figure out how they can avoid rolling blackouts of the city’s fire stations (can you say parcel tax?). Higher fees helped the department restore about $300,000 of that overtime budget, but at a burn rate of about $6,000 a day per Fire Chief David Kapler, that won’t last long. The council is looking at whether the replacement of nine department staff that left due to retirements etc might slim the OT budget, and they may also hold off on buying new trucks slated for purchase this year. Firefighters had said that replacing eight firefighters whose positions were frozen in 2005 would help solve the department’s overtime problem, though Councilmember Marie Gilmore said the city doesn’t have the money to do that (keep in mind, the city is in contract negotiations with its public safety unions right now). And while the Police Department put together an additional $93,000 to help pay for some of its school crossing guard program, it is slated for a restructuring that has some guards seeing red. While the budget has passed, there’s more work to do: The council needs to come up with some revenue-generating solutions to help it close the rest of its $4 million budget gap for next year. A parcel tax for public safety seems to be their chief consideration. Stay tuned …

And by the way, we want to follow up on an item we posted yesterday about the city’s plans to ban skateboarding on its property due to complaints about skaters hanging out at the new Civic Center Parking Structure. Somehow, it has turned into an outright ban on riding bikes, scooters and skates in any of the city’s parks. Apparently, Mayor Beverly Johnson doesn’t like the “clutter” that posting signs prohibiting such activities would create in our civic places, so she proposed an outright ban instead. And here’s the kicker: the council wants to deputize its park directors to hand out tickets to scofflaws (i.e., children). The council, I believe, has to discuss this one more time before they can make it final. John Knox White over at Stop, Drop and Roll has the full skinny on this stinker on his site; I’ll direct you to him because frankly, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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