A Progressive Alamedan

Various writings from a resident of Alameda regarding the political scene. The local perspective of local, state and national politics and a few other odds and ends of local concern. May not be particularly interesting to people outside of the Alameda area.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Guest Post: The truth about Alameda's (Republican) Slate

[I'm hoping to expand the authorship of this weblog. Here's a baby step, where I am forwarding an article written by John Knox White about the City Council "Slate" for the upcoming election.]

Pat Bail, the self-proclaimed organizer behind this machine, is the former President of Alameda Republican Women, Federated (her website used to mention it, but somehow doesn’t seem to anymore). I don’t know much directly about Eugenie Thompson, but I would be wary of anyone joining a slate consisting of a councilmember who uses the term "tar baby and a “community activist” who talks about Chinese-Americans in Oakland double parking to buy their live turtles or whatever they eat. Alameda is a multi-cultural town, and such major cultural insensitivity would seem to scream “inappropriate for city council.”

And then there’s the “agenda":
(As an aside, the slate's “agenda” is really only four points, not six. “Working as a team” and “Not being career politicians” are not an agenda--they are assertions with no plan for action.)

OUR SIX-POINT AGENDA IS SIMPLE AND STRAIGHTFORWARD:
1. Open government: There will be no more behind-the-scenes decisions or developer-driven debates. No more after-the-fact announcements of project plans. Residents will be front-and-center in every debate.


There are many well-noticed public processes. Ms. Thompson’s email exemplifies this. She talks about a community-created transportation plan. The city has been in the midst of creating exactly this plan, headed by the Transportation Commission (regular citizens) and noticed on the front page of local papers, websites, as well as email notices that are available to the entire community. There have been dozens of meetings held over the past two years, with many more to come. The fact that Candidate Thompson is unaware of this should concern anyone considering voting for her since this appears to be a key issue.

2. Highest and best use of taxpayers’ money: The current majority council has approved exorbitantly high public works and redevelopment projects. A prime example is the escalating cost of the Cineplex Project which already has grown to more than $30 million before construction of the project has even begun.


Beyond the theater project, which has a high price tag, what projects are being referred to here? Due to declining sales-tax receipts, the city is running in the red (with the exception of 2006 due to a one-time financial bump). The current council has spent months cutting spending over the past four years in order to successful balance the budget. The majority of city general fund money goes to Police and Fire, is the slate suggesting that we cut police services? Library staffing? Where’s the implied pork and why is it not identified?

This is a classic example of screaming to fix a problem that doesn’t exist! (Like Gov. Schwarzenegger and George Bush, both of whom were going to cut waste and ended up increasing because there was so little to cut). With the exception of the Cineplex project (which I will not argue for or against), what projects have been so amazingly out of whack? The lack of multiple examples smacks of creating a straw-man argument.

3. Community-driven development: We will return the citizens to the helm of city government.
Decisions will be initiated in the community, not with developers. We will protect the sanctity of neighborhoods; upgrade the transit system; and provide new recreational opportunities, affordable housing and safe roadways for Alameda families.


Community-led planning processes for Alameda Point drew hundreds of citizens, and the resulting plan was approved by the city council. Candidate Bail stood up to renounce the majority public comment captured at the meeting. Before becoming a council candidate, Ms. Bail railed against the Webster Street Renaissance project as wasteful--that was also a citizen-led project. She wrote letters to the editor naming Alameda’s Gold Coast as the “Forgotten Neighborhood” as if the most well-to-do area in town was somehow underfunded because her neighborhood was not first in line to underground utilities. The only community Ms. Bail speaks to is herself and small cadre of friends. Her record through the years is very clear on this.

Additionally. the slate talks a lot about Measure A, despite the fact that the council can do nothing about it, and despite the fact that the current council has done nothing but uphold it (even outright ignoring a request for the League of Women Voters to consider creating a ballot measure for the citizens to guide development at Alameda Point).

4. Realistic traffic plan: Let’s look at what is truly feasible to build in Alameda. Let’s not waste time and money debating unrealistic ideas like gondolas that people won’t use, tunnels that will clog and stall traffic, and freeway overpasses at our neighborhood intersections. We can work within our existing infrastructure to provide reasonable solutions to accommodate planned growth.


This is already the adopted city plan for the West End. That current Councilmember DeHaan is unaware of this should be a concern to anyone considering voting for him. The Alameda Point Preliminary Development Plan, which was passed by the Council (in the guise of the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority), including Councilmember DeHaan, was adopted in 2005. Again, for supposedly active community members, this agenda items seems to speak to a glaring lack of awareness of what they appear to consider a key issue.

5. We’re not career politicians: The incumbents are all career politicians. In contrast, we are three local residents who have mutually agreed that we are interested only in what’s best for the future of Alameda. We will not use our Council seats as a springboard to a higher public office.


It’s interesting that the two council people that they are trying to oust both hold full-time jobs, thereby also being “not career politicians.” And DeHaan hasn’t even finished his first council term before he’s using it as a stepping stone to higher office!

Besides, what does this have to do with anything? We should hold a person’s willingness to run for public office against them if they might someday run for a county or state position? At the end of the day, this isn’t an agenda for the future--it says absolutely nothing about what this group will do.

6. We’re a working team: We know each other well and have worked together successfully. As a slate of three candidates with optimistic attitudes, we can unite the community by providing responsible leadership that is responsive to the needs of all citizens.


The members of this group have shown zero leadership within the city over the past years, Pat Bail is involved in some worthy non-political causes, but has made a career of being against things without ever having a plan to do anything. She’s done nothing to get involved in city meetings to guide development, the budget, traffic, etc. What makes anyone think that all of a sudden she has ideas now?

Eugenie Thompson has unfortunately been absent from public traffic/transportation discussions for years, but now she is going to show leadership?

Lastly, Doug DeHaan has shown anything but leadership at the Council. He voted for the development agreement on the theater, which laid out all the specifics about the project, and he continued to fund the project and even increased funding for it after he became against the project, showing a compete lack of understanding of how the process works. Doug could have voted against Eminent Domain and the theater issue would have stopped immediately, but he didn't--he voted to move forward with the project. Whether or not one is happy with his stated position of being against the theater project, he's confused and his leadership skills are non-existent.

You might have guessed by now that we won't be lending our support to the DeHaan/Bail/Thompson slate in November. Frank Mataresse is smart and does his homework, but if you don't agree with positions he's taken in the past, there are other candidates worth considering.

5 Comments:

Blogger david said...

> OUR SIX-POINT AGENDA IS SIMPLE AND STRAIGHTFORWARD:
> 1. Open government: There will be no more behind-the-scenes decisions or developer-driven > debates. No more after-the-fact announcements of project plans. Residents will be > front-and-center in every debate.

>There are many well-noticed public processes. Ms. Thompson’s email exemplifies this. She >talks about a community-created transportation plan. The city has been in the midst of creating >exactly this plan, headed by the Transportation Commission (regular citizens) and noticed on >the front page of local papers, websites, as well as email notices that are available to the entire >community. There have been dozens of meetings held over the past two years, with many more >to come. The fact that Candidate Thompson is unaware of this should concern anyone >considering voting for her since this appears to be a key issue.

The practice of the majority of this council has been to negotiate deals behind closed doors and then announce them to the public, then ignore public comment. Witness the closed-door decision to buy out Longs to expand the cinema project, and then going public with it, only to find out Longs wasn't interested. Or the Cineplex project overall, during which one planning session citizen opponents outnumbered supporters 7 to 1, but the City ignore the opposition and plowed forward.

> 2. Highest and best use of taxpayers’ money: The current majority council has approved > exorbitantly high public works and redevelopment projects. A prime example is the escalating > cost of the Cineplex Project which already has grown to more than $30 million before > construction of the project has even begun.

> Beyond the theater project, which has a high price tag, what projects are being referred to
> here? Due to declining sales-tax receipts, the city is running in the red (with the exception of > 2006 due to a one-time financial bump). The current council has spent months cutting spending > over the past four years in order to successful balance the budget. The majority of city general > fund money goes to Police and Fire, is the slate suggesting that we cut police services? > Library staffing? Where’s the implied pork and why is it not identified?

> This is a classic example of screaming to fix a problem that doesn’t exist! (Like Gov. > Schwarzenegger and George Bush, both of whom were going to cut waste and ended up > increasing because there was so little to cut). With the exception of the Cineplex project (which I
> will not argue for or against), what projects have been so amazingly out of whack? The lack of > multiple examples smacks of creating a straw-man argument.

"Beyond the theater project" ? Amazing how easily you sweep away $30 million dollars, like it's not your money. The theatre project jumped from $16M to $25M to $30M in short order. And aside from the lobby, the theatre itself isn't going to be restored.

What about the ridiculous "streetscape beautification" projects on Park and Webster Streets, that were in fact designed to _elminate_ metered street parking, so as to be able to justify the need for a new parking garage.

Smaller day-to-day cases of not seeking multiple sources and lowest bids abound.



> 3. Community-driven development: We will return the citizens to the helm of city government.
> Decisions will be initiated in the community, not with developers. We will protect the sanctity >of neighborhoods; upgrade the transit system; and provide new recreational opportunities, >affordable housing and safe roadways for Alameda families.

> Community-led planning processes for Alameda Point drew hundreds of citizens, and the > resulting plan was approved by the city council. Candidate Bail stood up to renounce the > majority public comment captured at the meeting. Before becoming a council candidate, Ms. > Bail railed against the Webster Street Renaissance project as wasteful--that was also a > citizen-led project. She wrote letters to the editor naming Alameda’s Gold Coast as the > “Forgotten Neighborhood” as if the most well-to-do area in town was somehow underfunded > because her neighborhood was not first in line to underground utilities. The only community Ms. > Bail speaks to is herself and small cadre of friends. Her record through the years is very clear > on this.

The point is that the current council majority is ignoring citizen comment on many key development issues. Witness my earlier comments about the Cineplex. It will be interesting to see just how much attention the planning commission pays to citizens on the question of Target at Alameda Towne Center. The question there is not about Target per se, but vehicular traffic across our neighborhoods to a plaza that couldn't be any further from bridges and tubes. The target-free Alameda group has data that belies developer-funded studies in the EIR that downplay the impact.


> Additionally. the slate talks a lot about Measure A, despite the fact that the council can do > nothing about it, and despite the fact that the current council has done nothing but uphold it > (even outright ignoring a request for the League of Women Voters to consider creating a ballot > measure for the citizens to guide development at Alameda Point).

Lena Tam, council candidate, asked City council to put the question on a ballot.

The HOMES people have been actively trying to repeal Measure A for years. Their complaints were acknowledged and thoroughly debunked in the City's Housing Element for 2001 to 2006. That would be six years ago.

HOMES' August newsletter talks about calling a special election to put the question to ballot - presumably with a developer friendly city council after November. HOMES shows no signs of letting up.

The suggestion that council can do nothing about Measure A is wrong - a developer friendly Tam, Johnson, Materrese, Gilmore council could elect to put it to a special ballot in the new year.


> 4. Realistic traffic plan: Let’s look at what is truly feasible to build in Alameda. Let’s not waste > time and money debating unrealistic ideas like gondolas that people won’t use, tunnels that will > clog and stall traffic, and freeway overpasses at our neighborhood intersections. We can work > within our existing infrastructure to provide reasonable solutions to accommodate planned
> growth.

>This is already the adopted city plan for the West End. That current Councilmember DeHaan is >unaware of this should be a concern to anyone considering voting for him. The Alameda Point >Preliminary Development Plan, which was passed by the Council (in the guise of the Alameda >Reuse and Redevelopment Authority), including Councilmember DeHaan, was adopted in 2005. >Again, for supposedly active community members, this agenda items seems to speak to a >glaring lack of awareness of what they appear to consider a key issue.

Putting aside the questions of how honest the APDP is regarding traffic, what about the rest of the City? There are developments going up all over the city that will affect all of the access points, not just the tubes. And congestion from one access point overflows to others.



> 5. We’re not career politicians: The incumbents are all career politicians. In contrast, we are > three local residents who have mutually agreed that we are interested only in what’s best for > the future of Alameda. We will not use our Council seats as a springboard to a higher public > office.

> It’s interesting that the two council people that they are trying to oust both hold full-time jobs, > thereby also being “not career politicians.” And DeHaan hasn’t even finished his first council > term before he’s using it as a stepping stone to higher office!

> Besides, what does this have to do with anything? We should hold a person’s willingness to > run for public office against them if they might someday run for a county or state position? At > the end of the day, this isn’t an agenda for the future--it says absolutely nothing about what this > group will do.

Yes, Doug is running for a higher office - a higher office within Alameda to serve Alameda. As opposed to other council members that seem to aspire to offices with the County or in Sacramento, and might use their city council seat to further that aspiration at the expense of people in Alameda. Lena Tam for one, with her Wilma Chan/Don Perata connections certainly seems gunning for Sacramento.


> 6. We’re a working team: We know each other well and have worked together successfully. > As a slate of three candidates with optimistic attitudes, we can unite the community by > providing responsible leadership that is responsive to the needs of all citizens.


> The members of this group have shown zero leadership within the city over the past years, Pat > Bail is involved in some worthy non-political causes, but has made a career of being against > things without ever having a plan to do anything. She’s done nothing to get involved in city > meetings to guide development, the budget, traffic, etc. What makes anyone think that all of a > sudden she has ideas now?

> Eugenie Thompson has unfortunately been absent from public traffic/transportation discussions > for years, but now she is going to show leadership?

Eugenie, for one, continues to be active in traffic planning, and her civil and traffic licenses are current. She continues to perform traffic engineering consulting for a number of Bay area projects.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Michael Krueger said...

I cannot speak directly to the Webster St. project, but to say that the Park St. streetscape project was designed to eliminate street parking is an outright lie. The final project did remove some spaces, but far fewer than would have been eliminated by earlier proposals. Throughout the planning process, representatives of the merchants fought tooth-and-nail to preserve as much street parking as possible.

I represented Alameda Transit Advocates on the Park St. Streetscape Committee back in 2001. I remember defending the plans for accessible transit boarding areas and pedestrian improvements against charges that too much parking would be removed, despite the fact that long-term plans called for a parking garage.

I also remember working on a compromise plan to consolidate the bus stops on Park St. (in other words, to reduce the total number of stops) as a way to preserve as much street parking as possible.

Another decision driven in part by parking concerns was the use of curb extensions to create transit plazas at the remaining bus stops: Because the buses do not need to move out of the traffic lane, pull over to the curb, and pull back out again, the bus zone can be shortened, thereby preserving some parking spaces.

To dismiss the streetscape projects as "ridiculous" is a slap in the face to the community members and merchants who worked hard to bring them to fruition. These projects involved a large amount of public comment and community participation over a long period of time, and I think most Alamedans are quite pleased with the results.

2:24 PM  
Blogger david said...

I guess "beauty" is in the eye of the beholder...

3:21 PM  
Blogger david said...

Oh Michael - I meant to ask. Who, exactly, was pushing for the initial proposals for Park Street that had fewer parking spaces?

5:31 PM  
Blogger Michael Krueger said...

Since 1999, transit advocates (myself included) have been working to see that all bus stops in Alameda have unobstructed curbside access. Prior to 2001, parking was legal in nearly every bus stop in Alameda, including the heavily used stops on Park St. Stops without curbside access are not only unsafe and inconvenient for transit riders, but also prevent the use of the wheelchair ramps on AC Transit's newest buses.

The initial proposal for Park St. was simply a straight application of AC Transit's standards for bus stops to all of the existing stops in the business district. This would have required 80 to 165 feet (depending on the type of stop) of no-parking zone for each bus stop in each direction, with the corresponding loss of street parking.

The compromise was to consolidate bus stops, thereby reducing the number of stops and increasing the spacing between them. This means that buses move faster because they make fewer stops, but it also means that transit riders have to walk farther to and from their destinations. Transit advocates agreed to support the consolidation plan. I can't speak for all the other advocates, but in my case the merchants' strong desire to preserve street parking tipped my opinion in favor.

The transit plazas are a more clear-cut case of a "win-win" for transit riders and merchants. They preserve parking by allowing shorter bus zones, but unlike stop consolidation, the plazas offer nothing but advantages to transit riders: they enhance pedestrian safety by reducing the street crossing distance, they provide more space for amenities like bus shelters, benches, and trash cans, and they allow buses to stay in the traffic lane, which speeds up service by eliminating the time required to pull back into traffic. The only trade-off is that drivers and bicyclists may find themselves behind stopped buses, but the fact that Park St. has four lanes means that they can still pass safely.

6:50 PM  

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