Another Alameda Robo-Call & School-Board Forums

The Washington, D.C.-based calls (from the 202 area code) came to this blogger on Wednesday and Thursday night.

One question was, “If the elections were held today, who would you vote for as Alameda’s next mayor: Marie Gilmore, Doug DeHaan, Frank Matarrese, Tony Daysog or another candidate?

Another question: “If the elections were held today, who would be your first choice for City Council? Beverly Johnson, Lena Tam, Rob Bonta, Jean Sweeney or another candidate?

And “who would be your second choice for council?….”

(The pronounciation of Matarrese was a bit awkward, so I don’t think he’s paying for the calls.)

The survey also probed how certain my political decisions were — very certain? somewhat certain?

Can voters still be swayed? There’s still a month to go before November 2!

The Alameda political scene has become very frustrating, to say the least. Politicians who promise to (and have shown an ability to) focus more on the fundamentals of city leadership and management should carry more votes than their opponents.

Those who have gotten dragged into the infighting — or appear to be siding more with political interests than with constituents — are not likely to prevail.

There’s also a lot of talk around the Island, of course, about the schools. And the Alameda School Board will have a big impact on how the fiscal constraints will be addressed — and how possible school closures and new parcel tax proposals will be handled.

Two slots will be filled, and the candidates are Mike McMahon, Sheri Palmer, Clay Pollard, James Pruitt, Marjorie “Margie” Sherratt and Rand Wroble.

Forums to meet the school board candidates are taking place on October 5 at Earhart Elementary School (hosted by the Bay Farm, Earhart & Lincoln PTAs) and on October 6 at Washington Elementary School (hosted by the Franklin & Washington PTAs).

The League of Women Voters is also doing a school-board candidate’s forum on at 7:30 p.m. on October 11 at Temple Israel on Bay Farm Island.

Another event is set for 6:30 p.m. on October 19 at the Alameda High School Little Theater on Central Avenue. It has been organized by the Alameda PTA Council and Alameda Education Foundation.

To view information on the candidates go to the website run by the League of Women Voters, which also includes other useful election information.

For those who want to submit questions for the candidates to answer at the October 19 event, go to the website of the Alameda Education Foundation, or AEF.


Wine Walk Comes to Webster Street

The City of Alameda and the West Alameda Business Association (WABA) will host the first “Wine Walk” from 6 to 9 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, September 29, on Webster Street.

The Wine Walk will offer wine tasting from a variety of local wineries, discussions with winemakers, live music, culinary treats and shopping.

For $30, participants will be receive a souvenir wine glass to sample wines from multiple wineries as they stroll in and out of various retail and restaurant locations. (Buy tickets at 1533 Webster St.)

Webster Street merchants and volunteers will share champagne and sparkling wines that can be paired with desserts and chocolates. Also, several area restaurants will offer Wine Walk dinner specials that can be enjoyed before, during or after each Wine Walk.

Participating winemakers include Blacksmith Cellars, Heart o’ the Mountain, R & B Cellars, Rock Wall Wine Company, Rosenblum Cellars and Urbano Cellars.

A similar event will be held on Park Street on October 14.


Alameda Beach Needs Volunteers on Sept. 25


It’s time for a day at the beach – without the swimsuits and towels.

Alameda Public Works Department is hosting the 26th-annual Coastal Cleanup Day at Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach this Saturday, September 25. Volunteers are needed from 9 a.m. to noon and are asked to bring their own work gloves and trash containers, if possible.

“We will provide plastic gloves and bags, if needed, but we would like community members to bring their own supplies and reusable supplies are better,” Kerry Parker, program specialist for the department. “We don’t want to be dumping any plastic while we’re collecting it.”

Public Works is working with Alameda County Industries, East Bay Regional Parks District, Alameda Recreation and Parks Department and other organizations to make the morning cleanup of Crown Beach a success. Last year, more than 500 volunteers picked up about 1,200 pounds of trash.

Matson, the Oakland-based shipping company, has volunteered to clean up another area of the Island. The firm says it should have more than 70 volunteers, including its president and members of a local Girl Scout troop, at the event.

“We really want to get rid of the small plastic items that look like food for birds, but can harm Bay Area marine and wildlife,” Parker said. “It’s important to pick up all the cigarette butts, too, since they don’t break down.”

“It’s remarkable – all the plastic that we pick up,” she explained. “And we encourage people to reduce how much of it they use, since this will cut down on how much ends up in the Bay and in the plastic vortex, or garbage patch, out in the Pacific Ocean.”

Parker says that children 6 years and up are invited to participate in the event, and all cleanup volunteers are encouraged to wear sturdy shoes, sunscreen and hats. Most volunteers will work in the main area of Crown Beach on Shoreline, though a small group will clean up the adjacent bird sanctuary.

To keep track of all the volunteers and the garbage that’s collected, city residents need to register before the event begins and should get to the beach a few minutes before 9 a.m., if possible.

“It should be a beautiful morning cleanup, and we expect nice weather,” she said.

Thanks to the East Bay Regional Parks for the photo.


Alameda School-Supply Drive Collects, Donates 400 Backpacks


The Alameda Education Foundation announced today, September 22, that it had collected enough school supplies from Island residents and organizations to donate 400 backpacks to students in need.

AEF says it thanks everyone that donated school supplies. These donations are needed to support the nearly 10 percent of Alameda Unified School District students who lack a permanent residence; the backpacks are currently being distributed through the McKinney-Vento Program.

AEF also wants to express its appreciation to Tuckers, the Bank of Alameda on Park Street and Color Me Mine for hosting donations bins and to the West Alameda Business Association for providing a collection table during the Concerts at the Cove series. And a special thank you is being expressed to Office Max for its support, AEF says.

In addition, the group wants to acknowledge the Alameda Kiwanis Club for providing support at the Towne Centre Summer Concert Series, selling popcorn and collecting donations, as well as donating over $300 in donations of filled backpacks and additional supplies.

The Realtors of Harbor Bay Realty adopted this effort and provided dozens of filled backpacks, according to AEF, and St. Joseph Homeless and Shelter Services Ministry contributed supplies that filled two vans (see above photo.)

Other supporters include the Alameda Recreation and Park Department, St. Philip Neri and St. Albert’s, who surprised AEF with another van full of supplies. In addition, FESCO- Family Emergency Shelter Coalition — gave a large number of backpacks and school supplies.

AEF also wants to note that Tuckers donated $200 for backpacks, and the Windemere Foundation donated $1,000 to purchase backpacks and supplies.

Finally, Peter Ng and the Fundraising Booth donated 50 percent of proceeds from kettle-corn sales during the Summer Beats Concert series; Alameda Towne Centre provided support and promotion services for the Towne Centre Summer Beats concert series.

While the community has given generously already, AEF says it is still collecting school supplies for 500 classrooms. Teachers need dry-erase markers, reams of copy paper, new office supplies, craft paints, paint brushes, glue sticks and other items.

Thus, community members are asked to give to AEF’s Teacher Supply Store when they have a business or office that is moving or need to get rid of supplies — new and gently used.

Plus, AEF aims to provide art supplies worth at least $1,000 to each school site to support volunteer-driven art docent programs. Musical instruments are also requested for the middle and high schools.

Donations are being accepted at the AEF Teacher Supply Store on Atlantic from 3-5 p.m. on Thursday. To host a donation bin, contact info@AlamedaEducation.org; cash donations are also requested.

AEF says that $5 is needed to buy a backpack for a needy student, and $15 provides a year’s worth of supplies. Donations may be made by check and sent to AEF “School Supply Drive”, PO Box 1363, Alameda, 94501. Contact Christine Strena for more information: Christine@AlamedaEducation.org


Alameda’s Middle-School Volleyball Season Begins


The Alameda Education Foundation has announced its the 2010 volleyball schedule, as part of the group’s 2010-2011 middle-school sports program.

Open to all 6th-8th graders, the teams are based at Lincoln Middle School, Wood Middle School and the new charter Academy of Alameda Middle School. Each school hosts two co-ed teams.

The first match is set for 4 p.m., Tuesday, September 28, when the Lincoln Lions host the Wood Beavers.

The season includes nine regular matches. Playoffs will take place on October 28, and the league championships will be on November 2 at Alameda High School.

AEF has sponsored the middle-school sports programs, after funding was eliminated by the Alameda Unified School District three years ago due to budget shortfalls. It began running the sports program in the winter of 2009.

According to the group, more than 350 students participate in the volleyball (fall), basketball (winter) and track & field (spring) activities.

Foundation members say the organization is actively seeking donations to sustain the program; for more details, write to AEFSports@alamedaeducation.org.

Thanks to AEF for this photo of a 2009 game between Lincoln and Wood middle schools.


The Latest Robo-Calls to Alamedans (Part II) & More Election Developments

Frank Matarrese says he doesn’t know who’s behind the robo-calls targeting his mayoral candidacy. But, he reports, he got one of the calls himself recently.

“I got the call myself on Friday evening and listened through the entire message. There were no mentions of who sponsored it or who it was asking the questions – big money and anonymous,” he said. “We’ve unfortunately seen these kind of hit pieces before, it’s not what Alameda’s about and I think people will see it for what it is.”

Matarrese also said, “The ‘questions’ were misleading and inaccurate.”

In other election news, Alameda City Council candidate Rob Bonta has received endorsements from the Alameda County Democratic Party, the East Bay Young Democrats, the City of Alameda Democratic Club, the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus, the Sierra Club, Alameda Firefighters (IAFF Local 689), Kaya -Filipino Americans for Progress, and the Central Labor Council of Alameda County.

And city council candidate Jeff Mitchell is calling on city leaders to investigate a review of time cards by city staff after a report of September 17 that an Alameda Police Department technician stands accused of embezzling more than $16,000 from the department.

“It’s great that Acting Chief Noonan has announced that he will do an internal review of this incident, but that doesn’t go anywhere near far enough,” Mitchell said in a statement.

Mitchell also questioned why the department technician in this most recent case hasn’t been taken into custody yet.


The Latest Robo-Call to Alamedans

As the signs go up around town for the mayoral, city council and school board candidates, it’s time for endorsements, announcements and – yes – the dreaded robo-calls.

This blogger got one on Friday, September 17, at 6 p.m. The first question was — and I paraphrase: “Do you agree with Frank Matarrese’s support of a vicious political witch hunt or disagree?” Another question: “Do you agree that his actions represented an expensive witch hunt, which wasted lots of taxpayer money?”

Since I didn’t answer the first question, I didn’t get the full five-question survey. So, if anyone got to answer all five questions, feel free to share them here.

However, the robo-call is a bit “off” in terms of its facts, since Interim City Manager collected the e-mails and instigated the investigation of Lena Tam. Then, on July 6, Mayor Beverly Johnson and councilmembers Matarrese, Doug deHaan and Marie Gilmore approved the release of the investigation to the public.

It’s curious that the robo-call tries to link Matarrese, who’s been out and about getting as lots of public exposure, to the Tam investigation and not the other mayoral candidates (and councilmembers) deHaan and Gilmore — or Johnson (who’s running for the council).

The call would imply that its sponsors think that Matarrese is the front-runner and, hence, the one worth some smearing. But for some residents, who agree with the investigation of Tam, the call makes Matarrese look like a local hero.

We’ll reach out to Frank to see what his take is on the robo-call.


Alameda’s Webster Street Jam a Big Hit


The sounds of Foreverland, the Michael Jackson tribute band, help the crowd celebrate the Webster Street Jam this weekend on the Island.

The Saturday night crowd of well over 1,000 people danced and sang along to hits like “Billy Jean” and “The Girl Is Mine.”


Crowd members also enjoyed the food, drink, arts & crafts and other offerings, including activities for kids.


Islanders of all ages said they had a great time… and are already looking forward to next year’s West End event.


Thanks to the West Alameda Business Association, all the businesses that supported the event and the many volunteers that made it such a success.

WABA estimates that as many as 50,000 visitors from in and around Alameda visited the Jam over the weekend. That’s a good majority of Alamedans.


Alameda Politics: Time to Move Forward

The summer (and early fall) have not been kind to Alameda.

The Island has garnered attention from across the Bay Area for the issues engulfing both the Alameda City Council, city administrators and the Alameda Fire Department.

It’s certainly time to regroup, and we should start with some clear guidelines on – for instance – electronic communications, disclosure, benefits, spending on special projects (legal and otherwise). This is quite a list.

One anonymous commentator wrote on the Island of Alameda website: “Alameda is the laughing stock of the Bay Area right now. I know that is tough for some people to hear, but it’s true. In order to get some pride back, staff and any councilmembers involved in this witch hunt need to be accountable now, and not in November.”

It doesn’t seem possible at this time, given present levels of animosity, to resolve the many issues connected with the investigation of City Councilmember Lena Tam before the elections.

However, it is possible to ask serious questions of the candidates running for mayor and city council: How would you work to ensure that we don’t get caught up in lawsuits, public investigations and other matters that distract city leaders from the longer-term issues affecting Alameda?

Perhaps we should start with: What are your definitions of integrity, honesty and civility?

And there’s also the matter of how city leaders and staff members will act in a crisis and resolve controversial matters, such as negotiating with SunCal. We can’t fully anticipate candidates’ actions; they are human, after all.

But, we can certainly probe the candidates and seek to elect those that have (or, at least, appear to have) the ability to reach compromises and act decisively in ways that further Alameda’s interests, rather than their own.

Finally, for these who want to follow the candidates’ campaign documents and contributions as of June 30, 2010, there are disclosure statements available online. Review the folder that’s labeled “2010-07 Semi Annual Filings.”


San Bruno Fire Visible from Bay Farm, Crown Beach

The massive fire, apparently caused by a broken natural-gas pipeline in San Bruno at about 6 p.m. Thursday, September 9, was completely visible across the San Francisco Bay in Bay Farm Island and western areas of Alameda in the early evening.

About a dozen Bay Farm residents discussed the cause of the blaze at 6:30 p.m., when there was still suspicion that a plane had crashed in the Peninsula.

Within the first hour of the blaze, a large cloud of smoke had formed, but it was being pushed south by the wind.

Planes could be seen departing out of San Francisco International Airport, as well as from the Oakland International Airport, and the Harbor Bay Ferry was operating.

One San Bruno resident posted a photo on the Bay Area News Group website, and local TV stations are carrying live photage of the fire.

Flames from the fire reportedly been as high as 50-60 feet high, and several homes and cars have been destroyed in the residential area of San Bruno where the inferno is situated.

Firefighters from Alameda County are helping to put out the blaze.