Life on the Island: Firefighter staffing levels

This week’s Life on the Island, the column I write for the Alameda Journal, is up online. This week it’s about cuts to the fire department, and how they’ll impact services for Alamedans. While on the one hand, no reduction in any public safety staff is acceptable—being less safe, having less access to quick medical care or having fewer firefighters on duty is not okay…no one wants this. But, in reality, these are horrible budget times and not just something, but everything, has to give.

As I write in the column, all city departments have cut back, police and fire by a smaller percentages than other departments. Alameda’s interim finance director Ann Marie Gallant addressed the fire department funding issue at this week’s city council meeting: “We don’t have too many options here. Other department services are going to have to be cut or you go into one time [payments from] cash reserves [to cover the fire department budget].” (All city departments, with the exception of police and fire, have already been cut by eight percent this year.) “Even if you were to solve it for this fiscal year, it doesn’t go away,” said Gallant. “It doesn’t go away until this city has more resources that are discretionary in the general fund to allocate for service levels you would like not necessarily service levels you can afford.”

More on the issue here.


Michele Ellson on discussion about Alameda Point development

If you aren’t visiting Michele Ellson’s The Island blog on a regular basis, you should be. She’s issuing daily reports on all things Alameda. Yesterday she posted an editorial comment on the recently-launched campaign by a group called “Save our City! Alameda,” which opposes development at Alameda Point. (You can watch that group’s ad here.) Ellson looked into the facts and figures presented in the spot—you can read what she found here. And, yesterday, she posted this call for reasoned debate about development in Alameda:

Our Island is facing its biggest issue in a generation, the redevelopment of the former Naval Air Station Alameda. The issues around the redevelopment are complex, and the ramifications of any development or lack thereof are huge. We need to critically examine SunCal’s proposal and any viable alternatives, and we need someone who can honestly and respectfully outline any concerns.

What we have instead is Save Our City! Alameda, which launched an all-out assault on the plan this week based on a conflation of facts and outright misinformation, with the offer of a nice-sounding but largely undeveloped idea to turn the site into another Presidio as an alternative to SunCal’s development plan.

You can read Ellson’s whole comment here.


Meeting tonight about SunCal development at Alameda Point

As you may or may not be aware—we are all busy with so many things, no?—tonight Alameda’s City Council (sitting as the Alameda Redevelopment and Reuse Authority) will hear from SunCal, the company that is working on a plan for developing Alameda Point. Michele Ellson over at The Island has a clear and helpful presentation of the type of development, plans for funding the development, and so on. You can read (or skim) the SunCal plan here and there is some discussion of the ads put on by a group advocating for a different solution to development at the point, here and here. (You can see the ad put out by the new David Howard-spearheaded group, “Save Our City! Alameda,” here.)


Alameda City Council report: cuts in firefighter staffing levels

There has been much talk in Alameda of late about staffing changes in the fire department. Firefighters have been leafletting and also developed this site. There’s also a Facebook group, “Save Alameda Firehouses!”

At last night’s City Council meeting, staff presented a report to council about emergency response time in Alameda and the cost of maintaining current service levels. Most city departments have cut their budgets by eight percent this year; the police and fire departments have been asked to cut their budgets by four percent. In keeping with this target, and Continue Reading


To lowly me in Alameda, Comcast staff reaches out

Yesterday, I had four…make that five different communications from Comcast staff, each one a Comcast employee wanting to make sure my phone service had been properly restored. The first, around ten in the morning, was a phone call from a customer service manager in Hayward. He and I spoke at length about the timeline of my wait Monday. I explained the conflicting messages I got from Comcast folks. He explained how their system works. I asked for a day’s credit for the day without phone service, he said Continue Reading


Alameda City Council to discuss rotating fire station brown outs tonight

Michele Ellson over at The Island has a bit about the brown outs. The meeting is at City Hall and starts at 7:30 p.m. The agenda is here. John Knox White has more on other issues to be discussed at the meeting, including what the hours at the wine bar, the Alameda Wine Company, should be.


In Alameda: My comcast phone service repaired around 6:30 p.m.

When the Comcast repairman arrived just as we were eating dinner, he was friendly and kind. It took him about a half hour of moving here and there in our house (he said that there was a short on the line…though, in the years we’ve lived here we’ve never had any difficulties at all) to restore phone service.

He only showed up two hours outside the window THEY told me, about six hours after I expected him, based on my first conversation with my first Comcast rep of the day. My favorite part about dealing with Comcast is that no one appears to be accountable. I called Comcast four times today and spoke to four different operators in four different cities. There is no way to speak again to someone you’ve already spoken to, and there is no way to make contact directly with any of the people relevant to the situation—the local dispatcher, the local technician. How hard would it be to set up a system where customers can call their local dispatcher to find out where their technician, and when s/he might be expected? Each time I called Comcast, the phone call took more than eight minutes. And, I got to do my favorite (in the sense of not favorite) thing which is enter my phone number on the key pad and then tell it again to the operator when I speak to them. Ergh.


Waiting for Comcast in Alameda

So it’s an hour after the time the Comcast operator-guy told me the Comcast technican would be coming to, hopefully, restore phone service to my house. I called Comcast again and Stephen from the Comcast Call Center in Winnipeg told me—he was quite friendly and polite, btw, just like Alonzo was earlier—that there’s no notation on my account to come at noon, and that the window for coming to my house is 12 – 4.

I reiterated my inability to be here for the whole time slot, and asked that a technician be asked to come earlier. Stephen said he couldn’t reach a technician directly, but that he could call dispatch. I asked him to call me back after he had done that (I have very few minutes on my cell phone, which I rarely use.) He said he didn’t have the ability to make outbound calls from his center. I said that Alonzo, who helped me earlier (I forgot to ask where he was located), had called me back when we were disconnected…had in fact asked me for my number so he could do so. But Stephen said he didn’t have that ability.

After three minutes on hold, he came back and told me that the technician who is supposed to come my house is on a call nearby and has been there for twenty or thirty minutes already. My hope is that he will be here soon and phone service will be restored. The second phone call to Comcast took just under nine minutes. Is anyone else having Comcast phone service troubles?


“Save our City! Alameda” runs new ad

A group called “Save our City! Alameda” has launched a 30-second ad. Here’s a list of supporters of the group (you’ll have to scroll down to see all the names), which include David Howard, Pat Bail, Art Lipow and David Kirwin. You can watch the ad (which I happened to catch as I was flipping channels the other night) below.

Here’s Lauren Do’s analysis of the the claims made in the spot, and also more info about “Save Our City! Alameda” from Michele Ellson over at The Island. And here’s the Alameda Journal story on the current state of Alameda Point development plans.


Comcast, where is my dial tone?

I was feeling pretty jolly about my new Comcast phone, internet and cable service (installation was seamless) until, uh, this morning when I found I had no dial tone. A dial tone, as you know, is important for one’s ability to make and receive phone calls. As such, I have not been able to make and receive phone calls this morning. Though, yesterday, I was able to do so. Which was nice then.

Moments ago, I called Comcast on my handy cell phone, and spoke to a nice young gentleman named Alonzo. He said, no problem that he could reboot my phone modem by remote. He rebooted and tried to call me on my home phone but, still, nothing. As Alonzo found, if you call my number right now you get the Comcast voicemail center which I don’t need to use (as old-fashioned as it may be, we have an answering machine) but don’t yet know how to uninstall. In any case, Alanzo said he would send a technician over at noon today. Actually, at first he said, “Will you be able to be home between twelve and four today?” To which, I replied I am not. So we agreed on him trying to get someone here at noon. Which, mercifully, I am able to be here for. Though, as we all know, many others are not able to be home mid-day to receive a phone technician. Hopefully my phone service will be restored by, say, 1 p.m. Details to follow.

As you likely know, Comcast bought Alameda Power and Telecom‘s telecom portion a few months back. Anyone else having Comcast troubles? Comcast successes?