Democracy on Front Burner

Democracy is at the forefront of today’s political debate.  Alameda is no exception.

Alameda’s plurality voting system allows top vote-getters to win, even when a majority of voters did not vote for them.  And lopsided expenditures contribute to the impression that the election of certain candidates is inevitable.  There are ways, however, to ensure that a minority of voters or big-monied interests do not control the outcome of our elections.

This month the Alameda League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering voters, is hosting a two-part online forum to educate voters about ways in which democracy can be strengthened in Alameda.

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Funding the Police

Alameda is joining numerous cities across the country in rethinking how we provide policing before next year’s city budget is prepared.  What level of policing we want and expect from the Alameda Police Department (APD) will determine the funding we provide.

Recently the League of Women Voters and AAUW hosted an online discussion with the APD to inform the public of current police policies and practices, and the challenges and opportunities we face.  Michele Ellson moderated the discussion.

The panel featured Interim Police Chief Jeffery Emmitt, former Police Chief Paul Rolleri (Ret.), and Captain Matt McMullen.  They fielded questions about recruitment and training, daily operations, staffing, accountability and oversight, data collection, use of force, and building trust and legitimacy.

The populist rallying cry to “defund the police” lost some steam by the end of the discussion when it became apparent that the APD has already been defunded. Continue reading

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Shameful Demolition of Homeless Housing

Rehabbed units on right

What a shame.  What a waste.  There is decent former Navy housing for the homeless near the Main Street Ferry Terminal just two blocks from Target, but our city is tearing it down.  Meanwhile a for-profit developer has upgraded similar units that were built next door in the same year and is getting market rate rent for them.

The three- and four-bedroom apartments were constructed in 1969.  Their interiors were remodeled and new dual-pane vinyl windows installed shortly before the Coast Guard families vacated the Navy-owned site in 2005, leaving the units pretty much in move-in condition.

In 2019 the Navy gave the city 13 acres containing 96 units of vacant housing in this area known as North Housing.  The sole purpose of the land conveyance was to provide housing and services for the homeless. Continue reading

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Start Paving the Way to Recovery

There is no better time than now to finish repaving and restriping Park Street.  The COVID-19 shelter-in-place directive provides an opportunity to get the job done with the least amount of disruption to our local businesses.  Plus, the upgrade would be a nice welcome-back gift to our merchants when things return to normal.  The city’s Public Works Department has pointed out some challenges to making this happen though. Continue reading

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Infrastructure Ballot Measures Should be Focused

On March 17, the city council will discuss placing measures on the November 2020 ballot to raise revenue for city-infrastructure needs.  Items at issue include upgrades to streets and sidewalks, city buildings, and handling the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.  Both tax increases and bond measures are being considered. Continue reading

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Watchdog has no bite

On February 18, the city council stripped the Open Government Commission of its authority to enforce the Sunshine Ordinance, Alameda’s open-government law.  The commission no longer has the power to nullify an action passed in violation of the Sunshine Ordinance and order corrective action through a rehearing.

The commission can now only “recommend” not “order” corrective action if a violation occurs.  While all the councilmembers agreed with this change, Vice-Mayor John Knox White and Councilmember Malia Vella wanted to wait until the commission had a chance to come up with new language that would give some teeth to its potential “recommendations.” Continue reading

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Unchecked Executive Privilege at City Hall

So authoritarian.  An effort is underway to amend the enforcement provision of Alameda’s Sunshine Ordinance, its open-government law.  The change would grant the city council the sole right to police itself when a violation occurs, unless the matter is taken to court. Continue reading

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Get Pumped

Sea level rise will eventually come, but a much more immediate threat to Alameda is flooding caused by stalled, prolonged storm systems.  Major storms are becoming more common as the changing climate causes erratic, unpredictable and devastating weather events.

In October, Alameda property owners will have an opportunity to help prevent future flooding and Bay pollution by voting to increase the “urban runoff fee” that appears on annual property tax bills. Continue reading

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Take a Hike (and a Survey)

As the East Bay Regional Park District celebrates its 85th anniversary and makes plans for the future, they want to know what features and activities locals would like to see added, and what you think can be improved.  All are encouraged to participate in a survey that also teaches about some of the issues the district is facing throughout its 73 parks in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

What park issues are important to you?  Keeping mountain bikes off narrow hiking trails?  Planting more trees?  Restoring natural habitat?  Having more camping opportunities?  Whatever it is, now is an opportunity to be heard. Continue reading

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Enviros Turn the Tide

What started off under the radar ended up in the spotlight.

On June 18, the city council unanimously rejected a lease at Alameda Point for a digital data storage facility that would have been part of “the cloud.”  Just six weeks earlier, four councilmembers wanted to bring it back with minor tweaks to the language of the lease. Continue reading

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