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City Hall Confidential

Submitted by on 1, November 19, 2010 – 12:02 amNo Comment

Alameda may have a new business association in its future. Leaders of Alameda’s numerous business associations have been meeting with Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant to discuss combining forces into a single Chamber of Commerce.

Alameda currently has four business groups: the Park Street Business Association (PSBA), West Alameda Business Association (WABA), Greater Alameda Business Association (GABA), and the Alameda Chamber of Commerce. All told, they received about $225,000 in financial assistance from the City of Alameda last year. But under a current draft proposal, the city may end up with a single “Greater Alameda Chamber of Commerce” with four staff members which would receive $250,000 a year from city coffers.

Two of the organizations, PSBA and WABA, were created by the City Council under California’s Property and Business Improvement District law, and as such, they assess annual fees to run the associations and for maintenance that are separate from the city’s subsidies. According to Kathy Moehring, executive director of WABA, the merchant fees are “not enough to do everything that needs to be done” in the districts and she said the city’s $82,000 annual subsidy is needed to keep WABA whole financially.

Under the current draft, the newly created chamber would employ an executive director, an executive assistant and two marketing managers who would be responsible for membership duties and specific projects  in the Park Street and Webster Street districts. The new entity would likely have a main office in the Park Street area with a satellite office on Webster, though like the rest of the plan this is not final. Also included is a salary for the executive director position that is $40,000 higher than any of the current business organizations’ executive directors make.

PSBA Executive Director Robb Ratto  – who denied rumors he’s already been tapped to head the new chamber – said that the draft was still very much a work in progress, but that it was expected that a final proposal would go to the PSBA Board of Directors at the end of November, and that the current plan is expected to go to the City Council for approval at their meeting on December 7.

On Monday, members of GABA received an email from Patty Jacobs, GABA project and event coordinator, that invited members to a Thursday night meeting where:

“…we bring an important unveiling and discussion of a proposed restructuring of all the business associations, (does not include the Association of Realtors) under a large umbrella Chamber of Commerce.  It is proposed that WABA and PSBA be under the direction of the Chamber of Commerce, which would control all finances, be the sole governing board, be renamed “The Greater Alameda Chamber of Commerce,” and financed in a major part by the City of Alameda. GABA has been left out entirely from the proposed plan, and it will not receive any future funding from the City.

This plan is scheduled to be presented by the interim City Manager at the Dec. 7 City Council Meeting.  It is also not going through the usual department channels of Development Services, Business Development Division, but through the City Manager’s Office. It is moving very fast.

Reached for comment, GABA Board President Harry Hartman said the e-mail’s tone was not reflective of GABA’s position on the matter. “We’re trying to look at this from a positive perspective,” he clarified, adding that nothing has been approved and that discussions are continuing, and that he is participating in organizational meetings on the subject every Monday. Hartman added that a Greater Alameda Chamber of Commerce could be a real benefit to the city. It was a sentiment reflected by others, whether they voiced concerns about the process or not.

“In a practical sense, we could probably get more done,” Hartman said.

Sources say that the issues is moving forward rapidly because of the precarious financial situation of the Chamber of Commerce and that if swift action is not taken, the city could see the chamber disappear, setting back any efforts to create a unified organization. There is talk that the December 7 council action will also provide bridge money for the existing chamber. What is going to be proposed to the City Council is still unclear.

More to come.

A whole new look

Apparently the women in the Planning and Building Department could join building inspectors and code enforcement in wearing uniforms some time in the future. There were preliminary discussions on the topic after Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant passed along concerns that the women in the department were wearing outfits that showed a little too much skin, especially around the neckline.

Reached for comment, Gallant said said it’s common practice for code enforcement, public works and other city employees to wear uniform clothing and that the city has had an “excellent and positive response” to the shirts from the public and employees.

“It was a thought to offer shirts to all counter employees in planning and building for uniformity sake. But, it is not in the top 20 priorities right now,” Gallant said. “The ‘complaints’ you referenced were raised with my office,as a result of public complaints/ comments that dealt with this and other counter issues.”

Job Opening

Two recent job postings on Craigslist, one of which has now been removed, claiming to be from “a real estate development company located in the East Bay … looking for a Spokesperson to lead community efforts in an anti-growth community,” have raised some eyebrows and started a new round of accusations about SunCal and our community. A SunCal rep denied his company posted the job ad, as did Aidan Barry, who oversaw both APCP’s Alameda Point project and Catellus’ Alameda Landing project and now works for developer Americap.

The language of the postings is leading some community members, who spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting, to suggest that SunCal is starting a new PR phase with regards to Alameda Point.

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