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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Holy Smokes!

What a mess!  City staff made a mistake by not telling the city council that the amendments to the marijuana (cannabis) ordinance they were considering had not been properly noticed to the public.  Instead of admitting and fixing their mistake, they keep making matters worse.  They have essentially delegitimized the votes of both the new city council and the open government commission.

It all started on October 16, 2018.  City staff failed to inform council members that they could not add a new provision to an ordinance without that provision being publicly noticed.  Unaware of staff’s error, the council proceeded to vote 3-2 in favor of doubling the number of allowable retail stores from two to four.  A second reading on these amendments was required, and the matter was scheduled to return.

On October 30 a citizen’s complaint was filed, alleging a violation of the city’s Sunshine Ordinance–namely, that the agenda item referred to “delivery only” businesses, not retail.  Instead of resolving that complaint before the second reading, council finalized their decision on November 7. Continue reading

Posted in Alameda Businesses, City Hall, Open Government | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Taking the Initiative

The new year started with a bang at city hall.

On January 2, 2019, the city council decided to put a measure on the ballot that challenges the McKay Avenue Open Space initiative previously qualified by citizens wanting to zone 3.65 acres of federal property near Crab Cove as open space.  The council also decided to hold a special election on both measures in April, which will cost taxpayers between $580,000 and $730,000.  Waiting for the November 2020 general election would only cost $25,000. Continue reading

Posted in Elections, Housing, Parks and Open Space | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

Will the real progressives please stand up?

Here we go again.  It is unfortunate that yet another Alameda mayor has been elected without majority support.  Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft won the seat with only 41.97 percent of the vote.  Blame it on Alameda’s use of a plurality voting system, which does not require that the victor receive at least 50 percent of the votes cast.

The question is whether Alameda has some true progressives who will initiate changing Alameda’s electoral system from plurality to ranked-choice voting. Continue reading

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Best bargain on the ballot!

For only $1 a month we can keep Crown Beach maintained, the Crab Cove Visitors Center open year-round, and much more.  What a bargain!

Measure FF continues for 20 years the East Bay Regional Park District’s current parcel tax of $12 a year for single-family parcels and $8.28 a year for multifamily units.  Each proposed project/commitment that Measure FF will pay for is spelled out.  Measure FF not only helps park operations in Alameda, but other East Bay regional parks as well.

It’s no wonder the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, Save the Redwoods League, and a host of other environmental organizations support the East Bay Regional Park District’s ballot measure. Continue reading

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Fill in the Blanks at Encinal Terminals

We’re almost there.  The Master Plan for the Encinal Terminals project near Clement Avenue will be back before the city council on September 4.  This time the controversial swap of public tideland is off the table.

The revised and improved master plan calls for reserving the 6.4 acres of public tidelands, now dubbed the Tidelands District, for marine, maritime, commercial, recreational, and visitor services.  The plan also keeps all the key elements in last year’s plan, including the 589 housing units.  And the aging concrete wharf will now be the owner’s, not the city’s, responsibility in perpetuity.

The problem is that the proposed master plan does not say what or when anything will be built in the Tidelands District.  It only lists what could be built.  But no promises, not even doubtful ones. Continue reading

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