Island Talkback: Wisconsin comes to Alameda
By Mike Henneberry
Instead of an April 1 headline blaring “Bankruptcy looms in Alameda’s future,” a more appropriate one would have been “Alameda Tea Party holds coming out party.” The debut of Alameda’s Wisconsin crew began on March 29 with Treasurer Kevin Kennedy’s bombastic performance at the City Council meeting. Kennedy’s theatrics were second only to Auditor Kevin Kearney’s. Both did their best to conjure up a West Coast version of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s attacks on public servants.
Kennedy and Kearney have been preparing for this moment for a few years. The stage was set through the one-sided recommendations of the Fiscal Sustainability Committee and now has broken into the open after the departure of their preferred city manager and the election of a new majority on the city council.
At the meeting, Kennedy and Kearney went after the benefits and pensions of public servants with gusto. Despite the fact that the city has a 25 percent reserve, they repeated over and over the city was on the verge of bankruptcy, which it is not: It is solvent. Their theatrics are a smokescreen for reducing the wages and benefits of working people and silencing their voices at work, the same dynamic currently at play in Wisconsin.
It is not coincidental that the edition of the Alameda Journal following the March 29 meeting had a column trashing Assemblyman Sandré Swanson for his pro-working family views (Marshall Cromer, “My Word,” April 1) and a letter to the editor by Mike Conroy attacking unions and calling for the dismantling of health and pension benefits. This coordinated attack is being executed to make it appear as if there is support in town for the positions of the Republican treasurer and the Liberterian auditor. There is not.
Alamedans proved in the November council election and by the passage the Measure A school parcel tax that they are fed up with the status quo. It is not acceptable to let the good old boy network continue to run things because more of the same won’t resolve the issues that confront Alameda. Instead of attacking the people that make the quality of life in Alameda so high (our park workers, firefighters, police and other public servants) the auditor and treasurer should re-examine their job descriptions under the City Charter and behave accordingly.
If our treasurer and auditor really care about Alameda as much as they say, they should stop trashing its workers and start looking for solutions to get Alameda moving again. First, they could lend a hand in getting Lawrence Berkeley Lab here to correct the fact that nearly a third of the Island is underperforming in terms of property and sales tax, to say nothing of development fees. Posturing about the city going bankrupt, despite a 25 percent reserve, does nothing to get the Island on the right track.
Mike Henneberry is a 47-year Alameda resident, communications director for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 and a member of the Sailors Union of the Pacific.