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Alameda City Council: The agenda

Submitted by on 1, July 27, 2010 – 5:00 am7 Comments

The City Council is getting set to take its customary August recess – but not before holding a special meeting tonight to discuss a dizzying array of business. We’ve already talked about Councilman Frank Matarrese’s request to explore the formation of a nonprofit, local development corporation to manage the redevelopment of Alameda Point and consideration of a plan to build a new campus for VF Outdoor, which owns The North Face and other clothing and gear businesses. But wait … there’s more, including a new budget for next year (more on that Wednesday).

Ballot bits: Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and City Clerk Lara Weisiger want the council to put a few items on the November ballot. They want voters to consider eliminating compulsory arbitration for financial disputes with Alameda’s firefighters union, a move they say will restore local control in making those decisions.The firefighters, who are not allowed to strike, used the right to arbitrate once, in 1990. The arbitration rule does not extend to the city’s other employee unions.

Also on the list are changes to Alameda’s city charter that would:

*Delay the effective date of any ordinance that requires spending money until the funds to cover it are identified; protect the city manager’s right to propose, and the council’s right to pass, a budget – and prohibit a ballot initiative or referendum from conflicting with it.

Alameda’s firefighters put an initiative on the ballot that would require the city to maintain a certain level of fire department staffing.

*Authorize the City Clerk to reject legal advertising bids. Now, the City Council has that right.

*Reconstitute the Public Utilities Board as a six-member body, with the City Manager sitting as a nonvoting member. The board now has five members including the City Manager, who votes. The ballot measure would also require contracts authorized by the board to be in writing.

*Repeal a section of the City Charter that lays out the city’s business hours.

Tuesday’s meeting marks the last opportunity the council would have to vote on the freshly offered ballot measures before their August recess.

Docu-drama: Councilwoman Marie Gilmore wants her dais-mates to discuss and/or take action on what she’s saying is City Attorney Teresa Highsmith’s policy of not releasing legal opinions to council members in advance of meetings on written request, which Gilmore says is a violation of the city charter. Gilmore said at the council’s July 20 meeting that she had asked Highsmith for a copy of her opinion on the city’s legal exposure following SunCal’s insistence that their exclusive agreement to negotiate a development deal for Alameda Point should be extended. But she said Highsmith would only allow Gilmore to read the opinion in Highsmith’s office.

Drawbridge controversy: City officials are getting set to write the U.S. Department of Transportation to ask them to deny Alameda County’s request to slash staffing hours at the city’s three drawbridges. They said Coast Guard policy prohibits them from reducing the hours they operate the draws in order to cut costs, which is the county’s stated reason for wanting the policy change. If approved, they would be allowed to reduce staffing at the Park Street, High Street and Fruitvale bridges from 24 hours a day to seven and a half hours a day, with operators on call to work with four hours’ notice.

It’s a miracle: The council is being asked to consider an agreement with the Alameda East Bay Miracle League to move toward development of 5.5 acres of former Navy land into a special, rubberized ball field for developmentally disabled kids and a common area for a long hoped-for Estuary Park. (The city would renovate soccer fields that are already there.) The city would give the league $50,000 for design development drawings for the field, and would work with them toward a long-term lease for the property, with an anticipated opening day in April 2012.

Trailer terms: The council is set to change its newly adopted ordinance banning recreational vehicles, trailers and boats from parking on city streets. They’re codifying an existing effort by the Alameda Police Department that allows residents to park those types of vehicles on the street for 24 hours in order to prepare them for trips. Residents can call the police department for up to two temporary parking permits for the vehicles per month.

Citation contract: City officials are looking to contract out traffic and parking ticket processing to the City of Inglewood, which has provided the service to other municipalities for two decades. They’re saying that contracting out the services would be cheaper than revamping the city’s existing ticket processing services. City staff will still provide in-person customer service for ticket holders. The cost of the contract with Inglewood is $75,000, or about $3 per ticket.

Cars-housing balance: The council will consider shuffling the cars off the city parking lot that sits at 2216 Lincoln Avenue in order to build an affordable housing development there. If approved, the city will work to build as many as 19 housing units for very low- and low-income developmentally disabled residents on the site, which is just under half an acre.

Real estate management policy: The council will be looking at a new policy to guide use of the city’s real estate, including land it manages under state Tidelands leases. Under the policy, the city manager would be the ultimate arbiter of the policy, which offers a matrix of different uses for the city’s land and management strategies, and the land transactions to take place under it.

7 Comments »

  • Richard Bangert says:

    Clarification needed on that last item regarding real estate management. The Northwest Territories currently does not have a land use plan other than the antique fair and the city’s general plan language. What if the road racing outfit came back with their proposal for road racing? Can the city manager go forward with a lease without the city council’s approval?

    I’m all for maximizing city income on our real estate, but I hope this new policy does not frustrate efforts to conceive a land use plan for the Northwest Territories.

    • Hi Richard,

      I don’t think that is what the land use policy is saying (it’s actually silent on the issue of the council approving leases). What it says is that the city manager will be the ultimate administrative arbiter of whether any given land use meets the criteria laid out by the policy. From the staff report:

      “The City Manager s office is the ultimate decision maker with respect to administrative interpretation of this City Council policy. All transactions under this policy must be approved by this office.”

  • Jon Spangler says:

    Richard is correct, but I am more concerned with the overall checks and balances in City government than with the NWT or any specific piece of real estate. The City Council is responsible for managing City assets and responsibilities, and
    this real estate management policy smacks of another power grab by the Imperial City Manager.

    I do not think that Frank’s plan for AP is workable, although it will have a lot of home town pride/DIY support among those who do not know just how complicated and costly redeveloping AP is going to be.

    The ICM wants to push through a charter amendment to remove binding arbitration with the firefighters, too. (And this comes AFTER the ICM violated state law by not notifying the firefighters that she wanted the City f Alameda to join the county’s ambulance services RFP?!) Shame on her–for being so ignorant of state law and our city charter, as well as for this misguided and anti-democratic attempt to rush through charter changes that suit her political ambitions.

  • Richard Bangert says:

    Hi Michele,

    You point out that the new policy is silent on the issue of the council approving leases. That is exactly my point. Is there a clause in the charter or somewhere else on the books that ensures that the city council is able to have the final say regarding leases?

    The new policy gives the city manager’s office the sole authority to interpret real estate policy and also to approve or not approve a lease. Will the city council retain a similar right to approve or not approve a lease?

    As long as this new authority it limited to interpreting policy, and not vesting the city manager’s office with de facto policymaking authority, then I guess it’s OK. It would be up to the city council to make sure the policy is clear. A recent example of lack of clarity was the famous ten thousand dollar planning board appeal fee for private citizens regarding the theater.

  • ct says:

    I’m in absolute agreement with the concerns raised here about the Interim City Manager being “the ultimate arbiter of the [City’s real estate management] policy.” The ICM has managed to bend three council members to her will and is now trying to unseat the one who dared to disagree with the ICM. Is Ann Marie Gallant someone Alameda should trust to be the ultimate arbiter of anything?

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    What August recess?

    Selling or leasing real property for more than 1 year requires 4/5 vote of council pursuant to Sec. 3-10 of the Charter.

    The City Attorney is acting appropriately by temporarily instituting additional protections on confidential materials. Until such time as TAM is cleared by an investigative agency and not self-serving declarations by those who received allegedly violative materials, tighter controls need to be in place. As GILMORE received emails from TAM that are alleged to be violations of the Brown Act, the City Attorney is simply doing her job. There is no evidence that GILMORE notified the CA, the Mayor, the DA, or anyone that she was being blindcopied emails that were investigated. If the CA continued to send privileged legal opinions in an easily transmittable form to councilmembers, and they were again dispersed improperly (or their content) the CA would be in big legal trouble herself. Legally negligent at the very least, if not criminally culpable. As a City Official, we would have to pay her attorneys’ fees to defend her if GILMORE gets the Council to order the CA to publish to them all without constraint. Do we really want to get to the point where the City is hiring attorneys for staff and the council too? $900 an hour is a lot. And don’t kid yourselves, we are going to get the bill for that, regardless of the outcome of any investigation. Since they are going on recess for August, let the investigation run its course. And for those who keep making unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing by the ICM and CA, would you please provide the specific code, charter or other authority which you claim they have violated? And a factual basis to support the code section violation?

    The only suggestion I would make is that the Charter itself be amended for Council and Mayor’s pay. Make it the same as for general law cities of the same size. Alameda is at the opposite extreme as the City of Bell. We pay our officials next to nothing. And we get what we pay for. $50 a meeting makes it impossible for most persons to run for office, or do a proper job once elected. It would be nice to see Councilmembers who represent all citizens of Alameda. Not just those who are well off, or have been elected by a special interest group and owe their allegiance to that group.

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