A Frank Assessment

The end of the year is a time of transition for the City of Alameda.  Frank Matarrese leaves the city council, and Rob Bonta steps in.  Mayor Beverly Johnson and Marie Gilmore swap seats.  It’s more than musical chairs, the duties and responsibilities are enormous and challenging.

Our elected council and mayor oversee the activities of the city from approving a budget of about $208 million, to establishing broad policies and objectives, to covering personnel and legal issues.  They sit on the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority (ARRA) and the Community Improvement Commission (CIC).  For this, they are paid $50 a meeting.

There are about 40-50 meetings a year, some lasting to past midnight, and councilmembers must come prepared to tackle each item on every agenda.  They must listen to comments from staff, experts and the public, synthesize what’s been said into an understandable motion, and then quickly decide which way to vote.  After eight years of service on the council (during which he missed only two meetings), outgoing Councilmember Frank Matarrese notes:  “Being on the city council is not as easy as it looks.  Seemingly easy issues always turn out to be complex, and there are unintended consequences for almost every action.”

Besides the formal meetings, councilmembers meet and hear from their constituents.  For many this is the hardest, but best part of the job.  Frank’s parting advice to us is “to stay interested and informed and to take information from as many sources as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask your representatives directly.  In fact, do that first when something really bothers you about the city.  We are lucky in Alameda that our council is so accessible.”  He adds that face-to-face communication is the best, which is the reason he held Town Hall meetings.

Everyone hopes to leave office with something to show for their efforts.  Frank is no exception.  He leaves the council feeling it was a rewarding experience:  he had some part in getting a new library, restoring the theater, establishing long-term plans for city finances, and helping the environment.  While our city is financially stable at this moment, Frank adds,  “There are still huge economic hurdles, but there are opportunities too.  I wish the next council the best.”

I’ll miss seeing Frank in action.  He excelled in his duties.  His last meeting is December 21.  Then Rob Bonta will take his place.  Bonta brings an impressive resume.  I hope he has the kind of personal engagement with the community that I came to admire in Frank. Best wishes Frank, and thanks to all who serve, contribute and sacrifice as our elected leaders.

Originally published in the Alameda Sun

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