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Union leaders criticize Alameda finance officials’ comments

Submitted by on 1, April 6, 2011 – 12:04 am8 Comments

Union leaders and supporters of Mayor Marie Gilmore on Tuesday fired back at the city’s top elected finance officials, who said last week that the city is heading toward bankruptcy and that public safety workers should take pay and retirement benefit cuts to fix the city’s finances.

They compared City Treasurer Kevin Kennedy and City Auditor Kevin Kearney’s remarks to efforts to eliminate state workers’ collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and said the city’s public safety unions have made “mounds of progress” at the bargaining table since Gilmore became mayor.

“You have a choice on how to resolve this. It doesn’t have to involve demonizing your public service employees and firefighters,” said Jim Oddie, co-president of the Alameda Democratic Club. “The way of the Tea Party that we see in Wisconsin – that’s not the Alameda way.”

International Association of Firefighters Local 689 political director Jeff DelBono said the union had made no headway in negotiations since they began in 2010, but that progress had been made in negotiations with Alameda’s four public safety unions over the past two and a half months. He said he’s hoping to be able to go public with the results of the negotiations sometime in the next few weeks.

“I think everybody needs to hold their comments and to see what happens and see what workers, and firefighters, are willing to do,” DelBono said. “There’s nothing we want more than a healthy employer. We do not want a bankrupt employer.”

Others criticized Kearney for saying some of Alameda’s firefighters “suck.”

“Making a comment that firefighters suck irresponsible. Any public official who makes a comment like that should reconsider their position,” said Mike Henneberry, communications director for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 5.

Some residents criticized Gilmore for an editorial she submitted to local news outlets that called Kennedy and Kearney’s comments about the city’s finances irresponsible. They said they’re concerned about the city’s finances – and hopeful the council will hire someone experienced with managing them.

“I do feel strongly that you need to find somebody for our city manager position that has considerable financial experience,” resident Corinne Lambden said.


  • Moreland Drive says:

    Apple Computer, Oracle, and Google don’t pay pensions at all. UC Berkeley full professors don’t receive pensions as high as Alameda’s firefighters get. Nobody needs to receive a $100,000+ annual pension.

    I am a liberal Democrat, but I will strongly oppose the re-election of any Alameda City official who does not stand up to these absurd pensions. As far as I’m concerned, no policeman has the right to drive a car that says, “To Protect and To Serve” if they are STEALING $100,000+ per year for life for not working. It is THEFT. Nobody, nowhere else can get a job anywhere outside of government with a pension anywhere close to that. END THIS PRACTICE.

    • dave says:

      Retiree healthcare is a much larger problem for Alameda than pensions.

      One often hears news reports about CALPERS, et al being “underfunded” but it’s important to note that despite shortfall, the partial pre-funding of pensions is significant. Healthcare is not pre-funded at all and is instead paid out of general fund each year (paygo). Moreover, pensions are far more predictable expenses and don’t increase at nearly the rate that healthcare expenses do.

      I respect your opinion on pensions and mostly agree with it, but it important to know that healthcare is the larger and more dangerous elephant in this room.

      As for the union officials quoted, I suggest they take a long hard look at Vallejo and San Carlos:

      Vallejo’s retirees had an 80% reduction in their healthcare benefits as a result of bankruptcy. If Alameda’s unions are really interested in serving their members, they’d be wise to accept real cuts now rather than cough up 80% in Chapter 9.

      San Carlos has recently disbanded its police & fire depts and outsourced public safety to San Mateo county. Again, the unions would be wise to pay now rather than later. Here’s hoping they can think ahead.

  • Allen says:

    Why does neither side of the argument, and this is typical, present any numbers. And why doesn’t the 4th estate do its job in this regard? Without data everybody is just blowing hot air.

    I’m much more concerned about the parasitism of the top 1% of us who “earn” and own most everything these days than I am about my fellow members of the middle class doing alright for themselves while providing a valuable service.

  • Steve says:

    John, thanks for the link to the City Employee Salaries posted by Michele a couple of years ago.

    Looking at these salaries and benefits (which date from 2008, if I’m reading them correctly) I’m pessimistic that Alameda will be able to maintain it solvency in the years ahead. And, based on the experiences of other cities and states, I doubt that the unions representing Alameda’s city workers will agree to the level of salary and benefit cuts necessary to avoid bankruptcy. Right now, Alameda is like the fellow who jumps off a ten-story building and remarks, as he passes the 7th story, “So far so good!”

  • Joel says:

    Thanks Michelle for being the pioneer in City Transparency .

    Mrs Gilmore Statement is almost like George Bush when He said we can fight 2 wars, the Irak and Afgan, indeed we did 8 yeasrs later still at it .
    The result for the USA is the same as it was for the Soviet Union.
    Bankruptcy for Alameda is a very viable option, it will force everyone to face reality. Welcome to the private sector lifestyle.
    There is a strong distinction between earning a leaving and taking advantage of a City you do not even reside in .
    They are all crying the cost of leaving is too high in Alameda for them , but then leave in San Ramon , Lafayette, Fairfield Brentwood or Orinda, an interesting fact about most of the Cities our City Employees leave in, their lowest price in Housing is about the Highest price in Alameda , did someone call California the Golden State.

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