Alameda: The year in review
Twenty-ten is drawing to a close, and with it, a decidedly long chapter in Alameda’s history. This year brought with it more than its fair share of big stories (I’m exhausted). Here are the highlights.
Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker announced she wouldn’t seek re-election, bringing her 10-year career on the Board of Supervisors to an end this year. City Councilwoman Marie Gilmore voiced her “reluctant” opposition to SunCal’s Measure B development proposal for Alameda Point, making her the fourth council member to oppose the measure. The City Council granted another reprieve to the Mif Albright golf course, allowing it to stay open until a permanent operator for the Chuck Corica Golf Complex was selected. School board members considered a fresh parcel tax proposal – and a five-year master plan for the Alameda Unified School District. Police arrested Kelly Lee Baslee, 47, of San Leandro on possession of stolen property charges in connection with the theft of $50,000 worth of china, furniture and collectibles from a storage locker belonging to opera star Frederica von Stade.
Nearly 86 percent of Alameda voters opted to reject developer SunCal’s Measure B, which offered a development plan and business deal for Alameda Point. Former City Councilman Tony Daysog announced his mayoral bid, while another former councilman, Hadi Monsef, dropped his. Police called off their search for Katharine Truitt, an Alameda woman who went missing during a hike in Point Reyes. Oakland sued a local couple, Musa and Aiesha Balde, claiming the pair had defrauded immigrants by falsely claiming they could provide legal services and obtain immigration benefits. Park Street paper seller Larry Trippy passed away. He was 60. Parents who opposed Lesson 9, the anti-gay bullying lessons Alameda Unified taught at its elementary schools, launched another suit to stop the lessons. And Alameda police arrested a 14-year-old Wood Middle School student on a weapon charge. Police said the boy allegedly brought a semiautomatic pistol to school because he was being bullied by another student.
Alameda’s Board of Education put the Measure E parcel tax measure on a special June ballot. A federal jury awarded $1.95 million to the company the former Alameda Power & Telecom originally hired to build its telecom system. AP&T had bought the company out with a bond, but the company had argued the utility had failed to pay much of what they expected to get. Leaders at Alameda Hospital worked to cover the nearly $10 million a year they stood to lose when their surgical services contract with Kaiser Permanente ended this month. A group of local residents worked with the city to ask Google to build an experimental high-speed Internet system here while another sought to aid San Francisco in its quest to win the America’s Cup sailing race, which could bring business to Alameda. The city purchased the former Alameda Belt Line property for just under $1 million. City Councilwoman Lena Tam announced she was dropping plans to run for outgoing Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker’s board seat against Wilma Chan, while Mayor Beverly Johnson planned her campaign for that seat. And readers reported their first sightings of wild turkeys in Alameda.
Students at Encinal High School staged a learn-in to protest ongoing state budget cuts to education. The Board of Education okayed a list of books for elementary schoolers in an effort to curtail bullying, which replaced its anti-gay bullying Lesson 9. Point developer SunCal outlined a fresh plan that would be denser than the one they unsuccessfully proposed to voters two months earlier. The Boatworks development project long proposed for a derelict space along Clement Avenue began moving forward after nearly two decades of efforts (and lawsuits). And Alameda Towne Centre announced that Ross was making a return.
Alameda Unified and several local families announced that they were suing the state in an effort to fix the way it funds schools, joining several other school districts, families and interest groups in pressing the suit. The City Council okayed a ban on pot clubs, ten months after one quietly set up shop on Webster Street. The Peralta Community College District settled a lawsuit filed by two students who were reprimanded for praying on the College of Alameda campus. Alameda police sought and captured a couple who kidnapped their dog from the Alameda Animal Shelter after it had been detained for allegedly attacking someone; the dog was later euthanized. Wineseller Diageo announced it was shuttering Rosenblum Cellars’ Alameda wine production and moving it out of town; the winemaker’s tasting room remains open. And Police Chief Walt Tibbet announced he was leaving Alameda for the top cop’s job in Fairfield.
The Measure E school parcel tax failed by roughly 250 votes, moving school district leaders to make more than $7.2 million in cuts. A few weeks earlier, an Alameda County Superior Court judge had shot down a lawsuit aiming to invalidate the Measure H parcel tax, which plaintiffs claimed was illegal because it taxes commercial and residential properties at different rates; they vowed an appeal. School district officials caused an uproar when they moved Encinal High School principal Mike Cooper to a vice principal’s job at Wood Middle School. Alameda Civic Light Opera shut its doors, with leaders saying it was a victim of the long-running recession. Dr. Jannett Jackson was selected as the College of Alameda’s interim president. Wilma Chan was picked by voters to retake the supervisorial seat she once held, replacing her former staffer, Alice Lai-Bitker. And Quochuy “Tony” Tran was convicted in the Halloween 2007 slaying of Ichinkhorloo “Iko” Bayarsaikhan. Tran, who was 16 at the time of the killing and who prosecutors believed pulled the trigger that night, was tried as an adult.
City officials announced they had opened an investigation against City Councilwoman Lena Tam, claiming she had leaked confidential information to developer SunCal, the local firefighters union and bloggers and a reporter. An attorney hired by Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and City Attorney Teresa Highsmith sought to have Tam removed from office, but District Attorney Nancy O’Malley declined to pursue the case, citing a lack of evidence. Later that month, the City Council voted not to extend the contract granting SunCal the exclusive right to negotiate a development deal at Alameda Point, effectively sending the developer packing.
SunCal sued the city in federal court, claiming city leaders breached their contract with the developer; City Attorney Teresa Highsmith said the city didn’t do anything wrong. A former priest who had long lived in Alameda faced extradition to his native Ireland on child sex assault charges. Fire Chief David Kapler faced questions about his gasoline use when he was photographed fueling a personal vehicle at the city’s pumps; he was placed on leave and ultimately resigned from his job. And the Woodstock Child Development Center was spared the budget ax after families pleaded with the school board to find money to keep the childcare program open.
The Board of Education began discussing plans to close as many as half its schools in the next two years in order to keep the school district’s budget in the black. And county officials threatened to decertify Alameda’s ambulance service if the city didn’t ink a long-stalled contract with the county’s emergency medical services.
A massive, early-morning blaze gutted Tiki Tom’s restaurant. School district officials shuttered swim centers at Alameda and Encinal high schools after learning the city-maintained pools weren’t up to code. The closures caused an uproar in the swim community. Alameda was plunged into darkness for more than an hour during an Island-wide blackout.
Alameda voters (and candidates) weathered what many political watchers called the nastiest election the Island had ever seen. The final results saw Councilwoman Marie Gilmore elected as mayor, with Rob Bonta voted into a City Council seat. Lena Tam retained her council seat, and outgoing Mayor Beverly Johnson earned the last two years of Gilmore’s unexpired council term. Mike McMahon held on for his third term on the school board, with Margie Sherratt joining him on the dais. Robert Deutsch kept his Health Care District Board seat, to be joined by newcomers Elliott Gorelick and Stewart Chen. Police recovered Deuce, a dog stolen from 80-year-old Helen Bignone during an October 30 robbery. The school board voted unanimously to place another parcel tax before voters, this one in March 2011. And county emergency medical services officials said ambulances should no longer take stroke patients to Alameda Hospital, routing them instead into nearby stroke centers while the hospital earns its stroke certification.
Council members learned that City Attorney Teresa Highsmith had taken a job as interim city attorney for the City of Barstow, working for the law firm Highsmith and Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant employed to investigate Councilwoman Lena Tam. As of last week, Highsmith had not resigned or retired from her Alameda job, council members said. Economic Development Director Leslie Little announced she was taking an assistant city manager’s job in Morgan Hill. And police looked into another of the raccoon attacks that seemed to plague the Island in 2010. In this case, raccoons entered a home through a doggie door and attack the residents’ dogs.