Alameda: Oops We Did It Again… and on Page A1

The latest political news affecting the Island was splashed across the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday, January 15: “Alameda City Attorney Wants New Job Plus Old One.”

That big splash on what appears to be a slow-news weekend was not what Alameda needs.

The news that Alameda City Attorney Teresa Highsmith took a job as city attorney in Barstow on December 20 without quitting her six-figure-salary job on the Island is now a topic of conversation across the Bay Area.

You can read what people from San Francisco and other areas think about us — and what some Alamedans are sharing — by browsing the comments section of the front-page story.

Here’s a taste:

– Can anyone explain why the taxpayers of Alameda allow themselves to keep getting financially abused by the people we pay to work for us?

– It may not be a conflict of interest for Highsmith to work for Alameda & Barstow, but it smells like a conflict.

– Why put her on paid leave? Why does she still get paid not to work? Fire her!

– The people of Alameda got royally screwed by some shysters, their own laziness, ignorance and diligent oversight. Or maybe it’s just incompetence on the part of the City Council and mayor.

And these are just a sampling of comments.

Others criticize the decision to let City Manager Ann Marie Gallant go, while a few point to Mayor Marie Gilmore and councilmembers Lena Tam and Rob Bonta as being behind the Highsmith mess.

The news about Highsmith first became known on the Island in late December. Thus, the timing of the Chron story is “interesting,” but most likely stems from a lack of other big Bay Area news.

Regardless of the reason, the Chron’s front-page focus on Alameda is not good. Neither is the fact that both Gallant and Highsmith are on paid leave.

“We were blindsided [by Highsmith taking the job in Barstow],” said Alameda City Councilwoman Lena Tam. “We’re not sure what happened. Right now we’re still in a fact-finding mode.”

The slow response does not bode well for 2011 in Alameda. We need to let our politicians know that we support steps to make things better on the Island — and to not exacerbate the sad paralysis our political situation now seems to be in.

The Highsmith fiasco is certainly not how Alameda should be making headlines… even when it’s a slow-news weekend.

Happy MLK Day!

Janet Levaux

  • Jon Spangler

    Mayor Gilmore and the new City Council majority have already moved quickly and decisively to end – not exacerbate – the political paralysis of the past few years under the former mayor.

    The decisions to place Highsmith and Gallant on paid administrative leave were made at the earliest opportunity available in order to move the City of Alameda forward legally and responsibly out of a political logjam. Mayor Gilmore, Vice-mayor Bonta, and Council member Tam are moving on many other fronts as well.

    -The Sunshine Ordinance that Gilmore and Tam kept from being derailed has been accepted and is being reviewed by our boards and commissions.

    -Public comment will now be heard earlier in City Council meetings, making public participation easier.

    Some vocal opponents of these actions have turned up the volume with angry and personalized rhetoric. But I expect the new CC majority to keep making significant progress in the months ahead despite the opposition’s inflammatory and negative attacks.

  • Janet Levaux

    Alameda residents would like the mayor and council to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. But the timing of the Chron piece and Tam’s comment don’t make the city leaders look very responsive. The Highsmith issue first became public knowledge before Christmas. It’s now four weeks since then, and the Chron article says our city leaders are still “fact finding.”

  • Thomas Quintal

    Look, it has been long obvious that the city of Alameda was being dominated by a very strong team of City Manager (Gallant) and Attorney (Highsmith)–this all made possible by a very weak mayor (Johnson).

    The question should be, why did the Chronicle put Tam’s alleged wrong-doing on A1, when her exoneration by the DA was buried elsewhere?

    We all know the answer; innocence does not sell papers. So sad, but so true.

    If there were real reporters at the paper, the City Manager would have been a focus long ago.