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Gilmore offers state of the city

Submitted by on 1, February 23, 2011 – 12:03 amOne Comment

The city is working to maintain a balanced budget, implement pension reforms and jump-start a host of development projects in the face of a recession that has brought flat revenues and a battle with the state over Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed elimination of redevelopment agencies, Mayor Marie Gilmore told business owners and others during a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored State of the City talk Thursday at Cardinal Point.

Gilmore said the city is working on plans to revitalize Alameda Point that include “aggressively pursuing” Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is seeking a location for a second campus, in part by offering space at the Point for free. And she reeled off a host of projects that include a long-planned Target that developers are saying could be open by 2013 and housing projects for low-income workers at the Islander Motel and for very low income disabled people on a city parking lot on Lincoln Avenue.

But she said money for road projects and other items Alameda residents may want is becoming harder and harder to find, and Gilmore said the city could consider additional outsourcing deals like its recent handoff of parking ticket fee collections to a Southern California-based concern.

Gilmore also said city leaders are also set to consider consolidating or even eliminating some of the city’s commissions. The city has 18 boards and commissions that deal with everything from public art, film and golf to the library, city planning and civil service.

Gilmore said maintaining and balanced budget and pensions are “foremost in (her) mind.” Gilmore said the city’s labor unions understand the city’s pension problem – Alameda faces future pension obligations that top $75 million – but the solutions they are proposing for helping to fix it won’t help the city deal with its current costs, which Gilmore said will jump by $1.3 million next year.

“The problem is that costs are going up now, but it’s not fair to ask (employees) to fix it over one or two contract cycles,” Gilmore said. She said the city will continue to have a balanced budget, but she didn’t offer ideas for solving the city’s pension dilemma.

Gilmore said the city is moving forward on a host of development projects, including Alameda Point, Target and Francis Collins’ proposed Boatworks development on Clement Avenue. But she said she’s concerned that the proposed elimination of redevelopment agencies could jeopardize those projects.

“I’m going to encourage you to beg, telephone, write and plead to (State Senator) Loni Hancock and (State Assemblyman) Sandré Swanson not to do away with our redevelopment agencies,” she said.

The city has also moved on a host of technological and other projects, including a new website and phone system, and is planning projects that include placing solar panels on the roof of the main library, renovating Krusi Park and installing better equipment for broadcasting city meetings. The city has also hired six new firefighters with money from a federal grant, and its police department is spearheading a new anti-bullying program in Alameda’s schools, Gilmore said. City officials are also working with their counterparts in San Francisco to aid that city’s efforts to host the America’s Cup regatta.

She also offered an update on the state of the Chuck Corica Golf Complex, saying the city is negotiating with KemperSports over configuration of the complex’s two main courses and that the outcome will depend a lot on financing. Kemper offered a 27-hole plan, but golfers have said they want the company to keep the complex’s existing 36 holes. Gilmore also said that a nonprofit will take over the Mif Albright short course, so “that’s now out of the equation.”

“I am committed to keeping golf in Alameda for decades,” Gilmore said. “And that has always been the goal of this entire process, to save golf for Alamedans.”

For more on the state of the city, be sure to check out this video of the event, which was produced by Alameda Currents’ Jeff Cambra.

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