October 2, 2012

Alameda 2012 Election - Candidate Videos

OMG, OMG, so excited to see an excellent use of "Politubing" at my homey local level! The Alamedan, Michele Elson's online hometown newspaper blog about all things Alameda, just posted some great videos asking each City Council and School Board candidate the same list of questions.

Alameda Local Election '12: Candidate Videos

Can I just say THANK YOU. Baby #3 was born last November and there is NO CHANCE, I was going to have any kind of spare moment to actually attend meetings and speeches to get even a baseline understanding of each candidate. I do care about Alameda. I really do. Have always thought it was a hidden gem. But there's caring and there's reality.

Raise your hand if you have one of those little calendars at home with multi-colors each depicting a certain member of your family and their frazzled schedule? Mine happens to be of the Google Apps variety and I love it. But I have run out of colors and frankly could not put one up for election to-dos.

This has saved me so much time and has alleviated the guilt when you're checking off your voting boxes and quite honestly have no clue about the candidates other than maybe they rhyme with something fun or you think you may have liked one of their lawn signs (and I won't be shy, I LOVE Tom Lynch's yard sign...but I also know him, great guy, President of my kid's PTA a couple of years ago, know he cares and is smart, so he gets my vote sign or no sign).

Alameda, making me proud...

November 24, 2010

Bay Farm Elementary PTA Auction Win = $100, Time & Material = $100, teaching an 8 yr old importance of city government = priceless

WOW! All I can say is WOW. Today my daughter turned 8 years old. That is so young in so many ways and yet it feels like time is ticking away. That's why today was more meaningful to me than most. My favorite saying is "A day is not wasted if a memory is made". Today, was certainly not wasted.

Today Maddie had a tremendous opportunity to become Alameda City Council Member for the day. We won this at the Bay Farm Elementary PTA Auction last winter. Mind you, this was a silent auction win in which I don't remember being a hot item or having that many bids. Frank Mataresse, current Council Member who recently ran for Alameda City Mayor was offering the chance for a child to become city Council Member for the day.

At the time, I remember thinking it was cool but deciding it couldn't be that special if it wasn't getting as many bids as the boating trip with the PE teacher. Was I in for a pleasant surprise! By far this auction item was worth more than any other auction item we could have combined to win. What a tremendous lesson for a school-aged child! I encourage anyone considering a PTA auction item to reach out to your fellow Alameda City Council people and petition for this amazing offering.

All of us take for granted the life lessons we could teach a child each day if we just let them into our world. It's no wonder most kids want to become "teachers". It's what they know! They don't know they may be interested in politics, or police work, or corporate world if they don't know what that's like.

So thank you Frank Mataresse, for inspiring a young child's mind today and for organizing such a wonderful experience. And thanks City Clerk Lara Weisiger and Detective Jill Ottaviano and to Alameda Police and Fire Department who made me proud to be an Alamedan today! This town has some of the nicest, most down to earth people we could hope for. Our daughter (who happened to celebrate her 8th birthday today) will not forget this. You have made a profound impact today. You have made a memory, THANK YOU!

Here's a video medley of the day's event:

You Tube Link:

October 8, 2010

Dear Mr. Spangler...

Dear Mr. Spangler,

Thank you for the welcome to Alameda. I've given your comments thoughtful consideration and here they are.

With all due respect - First, a quick Google search of your name and I can see you indeed have attended an impressive amount of council meetings.

Anyway, let's dissect your comments. You've been following since 1997. So chances are you don't have a preschooler or a grade-schooler that will be in said AUSD schools for the next 13 years. We potentially have differing opinions on how it should be run.

You mention "Mike McMahon is one of the dedicated school board trustees who has been minimizing the damage to AUSD students and their education due to state budget problems since he was first elected eight years ago." But you see sir, I don't want someone who "minimizes" anything. I want someone who PREVENTS it. Remember, I'm pretending to be CEO of Alameda and you don't get a second swing at the bat if you simply "minimized" for eight years. If someone else isn't pulling their weight on the Board, by all means, lets get some names and get some bat swinging started.

You state "governance and business are not the same activity and they require different skill sets". California - how's that working out for you? Oh wait, California is actually run by clowns like me who unknowingly sign petitions that lead to propositions that spring on the demise of the entire state (I'm looking at you Proposition 13). If we would actually let our honest, capable politicians do their jobs, maybe it would be slightly better. But I still don't think they are different skill sets. The skill set is being simply awesome and running/leading something better than anyone (Remember? If you're going to be a bear be a grizzly). You know how top executives can go from one company to a completely different one and still make it rock? That's the skill set.

So Mr. McMahon worked as an executive in a large retail chain so has business experience. You mean Mervyns? Aren't they bankrupt? From Wikipedia:

Mervyns was an American middle scale department store chain based in Hayward, California. It carried national brands of clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, electronics, and housewares. Many of the company's stores were found in shopping malls. Based on 2005 revenue, Mervyns was the eighty-third largest retailer in the United States.

In December 2006, Mervyns had 189 stores in 10 states. However, Mervyns closed all of their locations in Oregon and Washington by February 2007, reducing its store count to 177 stores in 7 states. The company said it closed underperforming locations that did not contribute to the company's success. In July 2008, Mervyns announced it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Three months later (October 17, 2008), the company announced that it would liquidate its assets through a Chapter 7 filing. On October 31, 2008, Mervyn's began the process of liquidating its entire inventory in an effort to repay its creditors, and, by December 31, 2008, all remaining locations were closed. Then, on February 11, 2009, the Morris family announced that they had bought back intellectual property as well as naming rights to the company, their hope being to relaunch as an internet-based enterprise.

I'm sure Mr. MacMahon was not responsible for its demise but that comment doesn't buy me the street cred I'm personally looking for. And don't worry, he's still on my "potential" list. I saw him during the Board's school closure meeting and he impressed me much more than at the candidate forum and I'm still leaning towards partnering "old ways" with "new ways". It's just a matter of which one.

Finally you say "You will sleep better at night if you vote for the best. I did, and I do." The problem is, I was sleeping just fine. Then I started worrying about my children's future. Now I don't sleep at all and had to dust off my old blog site to rant and rave at wee hours of the night.

So honestly, I do appreciate how respectful your comments were in trying to convince me otherwise. My writing style is somewhat sassy but please note that I am truly a nice, respectful person too. And I may still vote for Mr. MacMahon. I'm going to look into it further. Lack of sleep sometimes makes me cranky.

For politubing's sake, can't find a Mike MacMahon video, but here's an inspiring little diddy, I think this organization isn't doing much now but is somehow tied with CSBA.org. I'm not endorsing it, I just liked it...

Alameda City Manager Salary - Perspective

I need ambien...Anyway, I just read Action Alameda's post where they normalized the data reported by SF Chronicle on what City Managers get paid in the Bay area.

Personally, if someone is doing a kick-ass job, by all means, pay them what they're worth. What? Here's a perspective.

Palo Alto rocks. It is in so many ways a wonderful place to live. So much so, that I can't afford to live there. But that's OK. I'm not the jealous type. So their City Manager gets a $1.5 million dollar stipend for a home there (that the city gets back when he/she moves and sells it). Most would just be appalled and decry the evilness of the disparity. But look, if the City Manager is responsible for making Palo Alto the one place everyone wants to live and no one's home is decreasing in value and they have plenty of funds to cover city functions and one of the best school systems around, then it's fair. Pay the people what they're worth, period. Make them earn it, fire them if they suck, but it's OK to incentivize them and have all the weapons in your arsenal to get the best of the best. I want our City Manager to be actively recruited by Google. This is how America should work (oh pipe down Democrats, I'm a registered Democrat and voted for Barack.)

So, the chart is interesting. Alameda falls right around the middle. Alameda City Manager earns about $285K a year and there are about 74K of us. I'm not sure I agree with comparing it to purely population but whatever, I'm OK with this as long as the City Manager is killing it. I don't even know who that is actually (you see know why you're wasting your time reading this? I honestly don't matter much). I know something about an interim City Manager in place but I don't know the details.

So in my wee little blogosphere universe, I'm pretending to be CEO of Alameda (I'd be just a HORRIBLE CEO...), and this CEO wants her minions to be nothing but the A team. I want them going out there making every Bay Area resident just dying to get across our little bridge to get a glimpse of our heaven. Our houses are bigger than most of those in Palo Alto. We have a beach and boats. It takes us 20 minutes to get to the city on a scenic ferry ride. We have a freaking awesome view of the city. You want to be us. You want to live in our houses, shop in our shops and go to our schools because we are heaven on earth. Do what it takes, brand us that way, use all creative (but ethical) means of making every Alameda crazy proud to be here and never wanting to leave. Keep that hometown feel, that's great branding. Everyone wants to live on Birdwell Island (Clifford the Big Red Dog's home...that place is just dreamy). And keep the best and the brightest here too. The money will follow. And by all means, make it so random moms aren't compelled to blog about the city. In fact, during elections, people should forget there even is an election and there should be no one running because it's just running so swimmingly. Like we tell our kids - "If you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly." I'm sure we stole that from some place but whatever.

My husband is right, Alameda is so focused on chiseling away at costs but costs are easy. You basically know what they're going to be and can only do so much to get them down. But the sky's the limit if you get creative on how to bring revenue into the city. You won't need to shut down an elementary school to save $304K (that number is ridiculous by the way, I won't get into why here). And all you die hard Alamedans that have been here 20+ years and don't want anything changing - wake up, 1/3 of the island left years ago along with its revenue. It already changed.

(And I'm not talking creative ways of getting revenue like lets fine responsible homeowner $1,500 right before Christmas for failing to get a permit for like-for-like replacement of her windows and do it by stopping the work while there were gaping holes in her house so of course we had to pay. Merry Christmas to you too Grinch. Yup, I'm still bitter. Like-for-like! Why would you need a permit for that? It's not a fire hazard??? Our licensed contractor had never heard of such a thing, paid for half of the fine and decided never to work in Alameda again.)

I'm talking creative revenue that thinks big and beautiful. That Farmer's Market you shut down here on Bay Farm a couple of weekends ago for failing to get their little license that takes 2 months? Don't make them pay $1.5K or whatever it was for their little permit. Make them pay a percentage of their profit and not a crazy amount but enough that makes it so that you want their Farmer's Market to succeed. That steady stream of revenue will be more than $1.5K I promise. I've yet to see a Farmer's Market that brings a town down. Maybe that's not legal, I don't know California is crazy.

Anyway, so that chart would have been even more interesting if it compared how much revenue the city generates. Fine if the City Manager makes x% of total revenue. If you base it just on population, poor little San Jose City Manager gets peanuts and should think about quitting soon. So $285K for a town that is running on red does sound like a lot, unless that person is going to be the next Mark Hurd (no I don't mean that little scandal, I mean, he got into HP, shook things up, took out dead weight and turned things around sometimes while being wildly unpopular).

Anyway, for Politubing sake, here is a snippet of Alameda's interim City Manager Mary Gallant talking about Chuck Corsica Golf Course. (Why 'interim', isn't the City Manager hired by the mayor? I'm not looking it up, I need to sleep)...

October 6, 2010

Candidates for Alameda School Board 2010

Tonight I attended a meeting at Earhardt school that presented five of the six candidates who are up of for election to Alameda's School Board in November 2010.  Or at least most of the meeting. Crazy insomnia has me up writing about this again. Here is my take...

First, dear candidates...this meeting was nothing less than an interview for your desired job. So what I'm looking for is someone who is prepared and qualified enough for me to offer him/her the position. The room had maybe between 100-200 people attending and I heard the mutterings "Oh, this is a full house". Really? Aren't there like over 70,000 Alamedans? Sure this was a Bay Farm forum but even then, guessing there are at least 7-10K Bay Farmians (hahhaha!). Point is, I'm willing to bet most of us lead fairly busy lives and don't pay close attention to this level of politics. For the most part, I've left your position blank when I've voted because I don't know who you are. So for me to actually come here what you have to say, well let's just say the adage "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" is spot on. I probably won't have time to research you any further than tonight. So I would expect nothing less than for you to dazzle me.

So who dazzled and who fizzled in my mind, let's go in order of this handy little sheet that was given out...

Randy Wrobel - The Rebel
At first Mr. Wrobel, you scared me with your initial presentation that you were against Measure E. I thought, "Oh no, he's here to just stir up trouble." But you know what, in the end, you were one of the candidates that impressed me the most. Mr. Wrobel is running on a platform that calls for us parents to take back control of our child's education and if needed, turn that energy and financing into opening up Alameda charter schools so that we are not dependent on state under-funding or crazy union sanctioned regulations. That sounds good to me.

A friend is suggesting I go see Waiting for Superman that pretty much talks about our existing messed up public school system and the inevitable change that is needed. Trust me, if you think public opinion about our existing school system is a passing fad, I think you're missing that we are in the midst of "the winds of change".

I also appreciated that he wasn't flat out against a parcel tax. His vision is getting a parcel tax approved that fits within the realistic abilities of most business owners here in Alameda while funding the schools for at least the immediate future. My take is he doesn't want giant parcel tax, just enough to get us through the crunch then spend the resources and time to figure out if there are indeed charter school options. As a vocal advocate of AlamedaSOS.org, this still sounds good to me. I don't want a Parcel Tax for the sake of plugging a hole. I want the zeal that is surrounding this to translate into real change.

So Mr. BPM consultant, I'll be looking for you to be able to action said plans. I was a BPM consultant in my time and made lots of pretty PowerPoint but had little practice actually getting things done, not to say that's you. The way I see it, there are 2 public hearings scheduled to discuss the Parcel Tax. Let's see if you are not too busy with the campaign and actually show up to these to help drive the consensus you'll need from lots of vocal groups. Oh, and do a little spell-checking next time you write up something that will be given to the general public that is deciding your future. (points deducted for pointing out my mispelling and grammar errors) Just sayin'...

Margie Sherratt - The Cheerleader
Impressive lady indeed. I heard something about Principal at Alameda High, teacher, counselor, District Administrator...you go girl. Why anyone would want to come out of retirement to take on another monumental task, let's just say I'm glad that we have you. You didn't overly dazzle me with responses to your questions but I like that you have experience from "the other side". I can see you partnering up with one of the renegade  board members and creating a nice checks and balances. The more I get to know public schooling, the more I'm appalled at how poorly it's run. One of my daughter's favorite, ridiculously talented, and ambitious young teachers (Ms. Bianka Hamil from Bay Farm Elementary), was let go this year because she was a first year teacher. Really? Because that's how I'd run my business for sure. Let's fire the gung-ho young workers since they have nothing on the stale-would-like-to-be-retired-soon alternatives. So you have that working against you. You're part of the system that I feel needs fixing. However, I know things just don't change on a dime and I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that you could take your experience to spearhead a change that works within the confines of what we have today. Rome wasn't built in a day.

James Pruitt - The Comic
My favorite line of the night was when the question whether a candidate would need to preclude him/herself from making a decision on any specific school issues because of conflict of interest Mr. Pruitt responded "When I left Haight School, Lyndon B. Johnson was still president". HA! I like that you have experience with labor relations and building consensus, that seems important to me in this divisive atmosphere we're brewing. However, I wasn't feeling that you would have the ability to actually lead a board into consensus for a true renovation of the system. I get the feeling that especially us new Alamedans, we are really amped about a revolution,  not just a change. This town has ridiculous potential but moves like molasses in implementation of anything truly innovative. I'm skeptical you would foster that fast enough unfortunately.

Clay Pollard - The Class President
When we walked in the room my 4 year old (yup, couldn't pay a babysitter for this, sorry) piped up "Mommy, is that Barack Obama?" Now before you get riled up about the obviously racial remark, note that he doesn't think all black men are Barack. Only stately and impressive ones. I was definitely impressed by Mr. Pollard.

I like that he was the first to mention that we are building a sense of doomsday within Alameda that isn't helping anything. A good portion of my preschooler parents who will have their children starting Kindergarten next year are changing their minds about public and deciding on private institutions. The more kids go to private school, the less public funds there are for Alameda. With the degeneration of our public school system, comes the reduction in our housing prices. With less affluent families moving in, less sales dollars are generated for Alameda. Maybe that's not how it works but that's how I view it.

He mentioned the schools needed to be focused on the children and the academics and that we needed to find good alternatives for funding. Yup, yup and yup. He mentioned that we are tainting the reputation of Alameda and not doing enough to foster respect from the community about the capabilities of the Board and Alameda schools in general. He has home-schooled, private schooled and public schooled his own child. All options that constantly run through in my head. Would I want a successful business owner that has experience in these arenas running my Board? So far so good. His Parcel Tax plans calls for a fair tax that spans a shorter period, is accountable and line item specific and directed at maintaining minimum student/teacher ratios. Again I say yup. I'd rather my child attend less days (I can make those up with enrichment camps) versus having everyday be a struggle for attention. His written responses where the most eloquent and well thought out of all of the candidates. Now I'll be looking for Mr. Pollard to be involved in the upcoming Parcel Tax debates and put his plans into action as well.

Mike McMahon - The Incumbent
Ah Mr. McMahon. Was that smugness I detected in your demeanor? You do know this is your job interview right? You're running for a controversial third-term and yet you seemed at times bored at having to be present at all. Yes, I did agree with many of the points you made but sir, you did not impress mama-newbie here. Maybe I voted for you before, can't remember. You're probably great. You get extra points for having a Twitter account and following Bill Gates (but one deducted for not following me back). I know how elections go too, incumbents usually win. I would just ask that if re-elected, you take this as an opportunity to start a new job, not just continue the one you have. You have the experience that we would need to get plans into actions but do you have the ability to convey revolution, consensus and optimism? Your short answers to the written questions only solidified my thoughts that you were not serious about your commitment to the task. These are of course, my personal gut feelings so take them with a grain of salt. Good luck and please, I'm a parent of a student in one of your schools, do what it takes sir.

Sheri Palmer - The No Show
Well Ms. Palmer, I'm sure you had a perfectly good excuse not to attend your interview. The thing is, you need to interview to get the job. Also, in your written description you write "I am a parent of three daughters, 2 dogs and a parakeet"...blink, blink...OK, maybe our daughters know each other so I'll be kind but sorry, not getting my vote.

Points deducted from any candidate without a web site or Twitter account. What? Well sorry but I want a 2010 candidate using all out of the box technologies at your disposal.

Finally, because this is of course a "politubing" blog and online videos need to be a part of it, here's a great snippet from Bill Gates talking about America's public education....

September 30, 2010

Alameda School Funding Issue Debrief

Well tonight I attended my first town hall meeting about the proposed school closures in Alameda due to school budget issues. Here are my initial two take-aways:

1) Holy crap
2) Alamedans are a brave, eloquent and inclusive bunch.

I went to the meeting thinking "Wait, wait, wait, let me get this straight. You want to close Bay Farm? Wha? I bought a house across the street from it at the height of the market 3 years so my wee-ones could that school that scored 10 on greatschools.org! Bring on mama bear."

Some pissed off Washington parents spoke (and I was very impressed with their extremely valid points), then a presentation was given with several options of the different (but same) crazy scenarios with impending MEGA-elementary schools and potential 7th grade High School freshmen who aren't even wearing training bras (OMG, I just did the math, my daughter would be 11!!! double holy crap).

Then the floor was given to the community to sound off. First, I was half expecting people with picket signs and marauding manic moms to just have a go at the board. Was that disappointment I felt when lo and behold, people ever so patiently waited politely in line to state their opinions? Wow, this ain't no Jersey Shores.

Almost every person had a question or comment that made sense, effectively made their point, and was considerate of other people's opinions. Pat yourself on the back Alamedans, nice job.

The part I was less impressed with was when the floor was given back to the Board. Many Board members (nice to meet you Board, this apathetic mom hadn't even known who you were until tonight, sorry about that) also had eloquent responses.

But I wasn't really wanting to hear what they thought at this point because I know they've been thinking about it for way longer than me (thank you by the way).

However, I would have rather seen this meeting being actually facilitated by someone (maybe from Switzerland), who wrote down specific questions the community had asked then gave the board the ability to respond directly to those questions. We would understand if they didn't have all the facts at that time but some questions were probably already easy to answer. Some questions were answered but it was somewhat confusing.

The way it was done, I'm not sure what happens to those comments and questions that the community voiced. Will there be a website that lists them with the answers below? That would be nice. I would have also preferred that they put the options back up on the screen because it seemed the Board was saying they prefer option 1 & 4. Um, I couldn't remember either option, can you repeat?

I also don't get the time line. If today was a public hearing and most community comments/questions asked that the Board go back and present a plan that had less "close this, save that" and more enlightened alternatives that takes the essence of Alameda into consideration first, I don't get when they would have time to do that. So why have a public meeting? They have to present their plan by law by December 14th. I'm thinking they are not going to go back and take a retreat in some secluded island to come up with a totally innovative and completely out of the box alternatives to what they've already spent most of their time on.

So I heard basically (sorry, I was busy searching Trulia on my iPhone by that point) "something, something, present our school closure options by December 14th, something, something, Parcel Tax is the only way to cover us for SOME of the money, something, something, Parcel Tax option needs to be presented in November so it can be in the March ballot." Oh, and I also heard most board members stating they also agreed mega-elementary is not the way to go, whew...for now....oh.

So I came back home, looked up Option 1 and that looks like to me that proposed scenario saves Bay Farm for next year but closes Lincoln & Wood and brings class sizes up to 32. And again, that's for now. What was that name of that Realtor again? Kidding...kind of...

So for concerned Alamedans that don't have insomnia (again) or time to digest this, here is my suggested action plan. Rest up because it will be a busy Fall...

1) Attend Monday's (Oct 4th) Alameda Mayoral Candidate Debate (I don't know how all of this works but something tells me we need a Mayor that's going to start kicking some ass around here).

2) Research why Measure E didn't pass, from what I've seen, the opposition had tons of valid points. Turns out they are eloquent like-minded Alamedans too.

3) Decide your educated stance on this whole thing and then tell a neighbor. I don't like Measures either or the words "only way" but it sounds like unless Bill Gates decides to take Alameda under his wing, we need a Parcel Tax to avoid immediate doomsday scenarios and frankly, we don't have enough good Realtors for that option.

4) Attend the next Parcel Tax public hearing (October 14th) - there are only two public meetings on this, then you can't whine that it's a terrible tax plan.

5) Pay attention and vote in November 2nd election and please don't write in Mickey Mouse, doesn't help any of us.

6) Attend November 23rd Parcel Tax Public Hearing meeting. Wait a minute, that's the day before Thanksgiving (and my lovely daughter's birthday). Seriously? Come on people. This is the last one before it goes to vote. Happy Birthday honey, we're off for a fun evening in your first civic lesson. Mama doesn't want you dating burly seniors at age 12.

7) Join AlamedaSOS.org so you can help spread the word. They are not coming up with the Parcel Tax plan. They are just smart enough to think ahead and organize so they can help communicate the Measure so doomsday doesn't happen immediately.

If you are opposed to Parcel Tax or thought it was poorly written, now is your chance to get a smart option in place. Don't just oppose it later because you're freaking Goldilocks and need the perfect option either. I don't want a stupid Measure that I pay into either but it's probably still cheaper than private school and if it comes to this, I'll just start shopping at the next town I move to which won't be yours. I'm starting to swear, that's a cue I need to go to bed.

Good night whoever cares out there.

Alameda SOS Proposed Lawn Sign

AlamedaSOS lawn sign
Wee, found my old blog site. Still seem to be completely apathetic. Life is too busy. But found a couple of new causes that is "stirring" me. So using my old platform for it.

We live in Alameda (great, now my identity theft score is probably rising). Anyway, schools have no money and they are proposing shutting some down in a couple of years. The Measure that was meant to keep things alive did not pass over the summer and others are expiring. Not that I think those are the right answers but for what it's worth - it's really, really bad now. Did I mention we moved here because of the school? Did I mention we bought at the height of the market? Niiiice. It's a perfect town storm brewing.

I'll post some content on this topic here later but image here is a tongue-in-cheek proposal of what our next lawn sign should be. Have to give credit to husband for funny idea. But his idea is to actually have most of Alameda put their houses up for sale for real to drive media attention. Hmmm....

Read more about AlamedaSOS here.