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COUNCIL OKAYS BOYS AND GIRLS REQUEST ON 3-2 VOTE

Submitted by on 1, December 2, 2009 – 6:00 am12 Comments

buildingThe City Council decided Tuesday night to ask the East Bay Regional Park District to allow the city to spend $2 million of its regional park bond money to help build the club, even as park district management expressed doubts that the request would be approved.

Rick Sherratt, who sits on the club’s board of directors, said they’ll start construction on the new facility this month.

“As of tonight, we do plan on moving forward and starting the project,” Sherratt said after an emotional hearing that saw more than two dozen residents make their pitch both for the club and for city-owned parks and open space projects.

Mayor Beverly Johnson, who cast the pivotal vote, said she had gone back and forth about whether to vote to amend the city’s Measure WW funding project list to add the club. But she said she thought the new club could serve all of Alameda.

“If we could run programs like the Boys and Girls Club runs, I think we would. But we can’t,” Johnson, who sits on the club’s advisory board, said. (Gilmore’s husband, Rodney, is also on the advisory board.) “Together we can serve all the kids of our community.”

Johnson and Councilwoman Marie Gilmore, who voted with Councilwoman Lena Tam to okay the request, said the park district should bear the burden of deciding whether the project is eligible for the money.

Councilman Frank Matarrese and Vice Mayor Doug deHaan voted against the request, saying that while they find the project worthy, they didn’t feel it reflected the will of the voters or that it would ultimately pass muster with the park district.

“It’s not about the worthiness of the Boys Club. It’s about the funding, and is the funding really available,” deHaan said before casting his no vote.

Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant had recommended the council include the Boys & Girls Club’s request on its project list contingent on receipt of a letter from the parks district’s bond counsel saying the money could be used for the project.

But a district manager said the letter wouldn’t be coming until after the request is submitted. And he said that while partnerships like the budding one between the club and the city are worthy and could be the way of the future, the district’s attorneys could shy away from giving a green light to the request.

Dave Collins, the park district’s assistant general manager for finance, said the funding request could pose two issues. Since the club, and not the city, would own the facility, it could be considered a private use. If the district allows more than five percent of the bond money to be used for such private uses, it could lose the tax-exempt status it enjoys on the bonds.

The Oakland Zoo – which is on land owned by the City of Oakland but is run by a non-profit – is specifically named in the language of Measure WW, Collins said. But he said it’s not yet clear whether it falls under the five percent cap or if it would be separate, he said.

“There is serious doubt that this project will be (eligible),” Collins said. “I would urge any party involved not to make binding financial commitments or assumptions based on this matter.”

Collins said the district’s attorneys would look at the application if it is submitted after the end of the application deadline, which is March 30, 2010. He said the district could have a determination on whether the club’s facility would be eligible for the money within 60 days of the deadline.

Collins said that either way, the city will still get its $3.4 million local project allotment of WW funds. Meanwhile, Sherratt said the club will continue to raise money in the event the request is not approved.

“We’re still out fundraising. We’re not just sitting on our thumbs,” Sherratt said.

The city would request $2 million to help build the $8 million facility, and the club would be required to pay $1 million back over the next five years. If the request is approved, the club would have to front the money and would be reimbursed by the park district.

A draft use agreement between the club and the city has been written and will be submitted with the club’s funding request, Sherratt said.

A who’s who of local residents, including much of the club’s leadership, implored the council to approve the request, saying it will provide desperately needed services for at-risk youths and many other residents that the city can’t provide on its own.

“These children need you to vote on this,” said Nick Cabral, who attended the club’s programs in his youth.

Others had argued that the city needs the money to meet its own park needs.

“This is a wildly inappropriate use of our recreation funds,” former Councilwoman Barbara Kerr said.

12 Comments »

  • J.E.A says:

    Michele,

    Perhaps you could explain something to me…….How is it acceptable for Mayor Johnson and Ms. Gilmore (both that have ties to the B&G’s Club) to vote on such an important issue as this…..Shouldn’t they have recuse themselves from the vote. This all seems crazy….They sit on the Advisory Board and then vote to give them 2 million dollars of park money to that organization. Hopefully you can clear this up for me……..I'm sure I must be missing something……..

  • Joe McNiff says:

    Michele,

    I think this was a wise vote and I support the decision that the Interim City Manager and the City Council Members took to support the Boys and Girls Club. This community needs programs that keep our children active, and anyone that went by the old club can tell you that it was a vital service provided to all members of the community. No one was excluded as long as they followed the rules and treated each other with respect. This city will benefit greatly from this endeavor. The location is also important because it serves an area of the city that has needed services more than other areas for many years. I say this with over 24 years of service to this city and as the former School Resource Officer for Encinal High.

    Joe McNiff

    President, Alameda Police Officers Association

  • To set the record straight about the roles of the Boys & Girls Club Advisory Board, you need to know that our Advisory Board consists of a group of prominent people who lend their name in support of the Club, they receive no monetary or material benefit in exchange for their support, are donors to the Club, and support the Club by attending the events we sponsor. They have no governance responsibility, do not attend the meetings of our Board of Directors, and do not vote on any issues that come before our Board, including any issues pertaining to our building project.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    No one questions the general validity of the purpose. Only the means used to usurp voter authorized funds from that clearly approved to another not even contemplated by the voters. With all the TARP and other bailouts taxpayers are being forced into, one more really won't matter. But this vote says a lot about our local elected officials, and the special interests they serve.

    There was clearly a conflict of the spirit, if not the letter, of the law when two councilmembers who have such strong ties to the B&G Club, chose to vote to take 2 mil $ tax money and give it to Club. This teaches children it is not about doing things fairly; and there is no need to follow the rules like everyone else. No need to keep the promises made to the voters before taking their money.

    Boys and girls, just go to the head of the line if you know a councilmember. No need to comply with CEQA, or to care about right or wrong. You need a private place to play. And we'd rather build you that private place to play than keep our parks in good order where everyone can share open space.

    Poor EDRPD! They now have to bite the bullet, pay bond counsel, and set the precedent of allowing ALL sorts of unrelated private enterprises get in line for WW park money unless they have the courage to say NO to this well meaning, but still Special Interest.

  • J.E.A says:

    I must have a very different outlook on life than the other people in this town. If I sat on a Advisory Board for an Organization and an issue came up about that organization, I would never think about voting because there is no way I could be impartial. My working with the group would cloud my judgment about what is right or wrong for the rest of the town. That is why people recuse themselves from votes, so Joe Public can feel things are fair and square. Right now I don’t feel that. You know my Dad always said “it is all about whom you know” and in Alameda that truly seems to be the case. I feel disheartened about our local politics and I do know it will be a long time before I vote on something ever again that City Council will have control over. B&G’s Club is a good group but as far as I can see only 3 council members should have been voting……..

  • Scott says:

    This new building will fit right in with the west end of Alameda's makeover. You can already feel the west end being flipped upside down for the better. I can not imagine what the area will look like in the next 5 to 10 years. Everyday a new project is starting on the west end to better all of alameda. Kepp up the good work.

  • Denise Shelton says:

    Emerson's full quote "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines" applies here. This was not "even contemplated by voters" at the time because the vote occurred before the economic crisis. If we are not open to adjusting our priorities in light of the current reality, (like AUSD when the base closed and enrollment fell to the detriment of the budget)it will be like wasting water in a drought. And by the way, when did "private enterprise" take on such a sinister connotation? Some people are talking about the Boys and Girls Club like it was some whites only polo ground. Private enterprise steps in and picks up the slack when public enterprises are unable to meet the community needs. And where do you think public enterprises get the money (taxes) to fund their programs? Special interest? Everything worth fighting for is a special interest issue or it wouldn't generate the passion needed to address it.

  • Jack B. says:

    Denise, aren't you concerned that if indeed this moves forward… that it decreases the chances of voters passing another tax for the sake of the parks? The parks still need money, and this kind of switch only adds fuel to a pending tax revolt.

  • Liz Snyder says:

    It is unfair to characterize this issue as anything but what it is: Should voter-approved park bond monies be diverted to the B&G's Club?

    Everyone, including EBRP, was caught off-guard by this last-minute request put forward by Councilwoman Tam.

    While it was expected that Lena Tam would stay her course, it was politically safe and expedient for Councilwoman Gilmore and Mayor Johnson to throw the ball to EBRP.

    Councilman Frank Matarrase took the bold and leadership role in framing the issue at hand by saying he could not go against the intent of the voters and support directing voter-mandated money elsewhere.

    Now EBRP has the most to lose because they take the risk of voters not trusting the Park District's intentions or allocations on future ballot measures.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    One expects Special Interests to campaign and wine and dine our officials. One does not expect an elected official to take the reins and lead the race without even a legal opinion as to whether or not this will qualify for the WW funds in the first place. Think how broken hearted the boys and girls are going to be if EBRPD says "NO". The Council for whatever reason, simply passed the buck. And for Johnson and Gilmore, who are both lawyers, to have blithely ignored the representations that were made to the voters before they were asked to vote for WW, it is of special concern. Fraud is defined as a false representation made for the purpose of having someone or thing rely on that false representation. And someone actually relying to their deteriment on that representation. Apparently the voters were defrauded in this case. As elected officials of the City of Alameda, Tam, Johnson and Gilmore, ought to be highly favoring their own special interest, Alameda's own parks.

  • E T says:

    Clearly, this request for nearly half of the total WW funds for our community is being syphoned in this end run by Boys and Girls club.

    Our parks go begging so the money can be handed out to a private organization that IS NOT A PUBLIC PARK?!

    Sorry, but it is a rip off, and most sensible taxpayers know that.

    Let's hope EBRP does the right thing.

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