Tam to Get Reimbursed; Animal Shelter May Be Saved, Managed by Alameda Group

After the Island’s weekly papers came out Friday, two news stories surfaced late June 17 on matters that have generated much interest and controversy in town.

First, there’s news that City Councilwoman Lena Tam is to be fully compensated for the $44,000 she spent defending herself against charges that she leaked confidential information to former Alameda Point developer SunCal, the local firefighters union and local bloggers and a reporter.

The City Council agreed to take this step on May 19. But the city said it would pay for Tam’s legal bills only yesterday in a news release, which came a week after Tam signed a release absolving the city of any further liability, the Bay Area News Group/Alameda Journal reported.

In another matter, the Alameda Animal Shelter may be saved, at least temporarily, after an eleventh-hour deal between the city and two animal advocate groups was reached yesterday, according to a separate Bay Area New Group/Alameda Journal report.

The city, Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of Alameda reportedly signed a contract yesterday afternoon that could lead to the development of a non-profit organization run by Friends and the Humane Society to operate the shelter and keep its services in Alameda.

The City Council is expected to discuss shelter-related options on Tuesday, June 21. The shelter has five full-time staffers and also pays for the partial salaries of two police department supervisors, according to yesterday’s news report.


Alameda Election Results 2010: Gilmore, Bonta & Johnson

With votes at 48 precincts counted, Marie Gilmore had more than 6,700 votes, putting her in the Alameda mayor’s slot in 2011.

Alameda rivals and fellow City Councilmembers Frank Matarrese had 4,400, with Doug DeHaan in third place at 4,300.

In the City Council race, newcomer Rob Bonta picked up about 6,600 votes, while the current Mayor Beverly Johnson received some 5,700.

Councilmember Lena Tam, who’d been under investigatation earlier this year by the city, had about 5,500 votes. Thus, Tam looks poised to complete the last two years of Gilmore’s unexpired term on the council.

On the school board, newcomer Margie Sherratt had nearly 10,300 votes, while incumbent Mike McMahon had about 6,550.

So there’s a bit of the old and new in store for Island politics next year.


Alamedans Votes on Election Day – At Last!


It’s been quite an election season — and it’s not over yet.

Polls close at 8 p.m. today, Tuesday, November 2.

We encourage everyone to get out and vote. Results will be begin being posted this evening at the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ website, and some races may not be definitively decided tonight — if absentee ballots need to be counted.


A few last minute thoughts and developments: Some residents are getting calls, including this blogger, explaining that James Pruitt is not running on a two-man-campaign team with Clay Pollard; some signs around town are carrying both their names.

Also, keep in mind that every vote really counts with so many candidates running, especially for mayor. Plus, with developments and controversies, involving the Lena Tam investigation, Interim City Manager Gallant and SunCal, there could certainly be some upsets.

Finally, it seems quite possible that candidates most “tainted” by these controversies and the associated divisiveness may have trouble at the polls.

If this turns out to be true, the city could have an easier time than it’s had lately in resolving the most important issues at hand — namely tackling city and school district budget issues and finding new ways to raise revenue, including development at Alameda Point. If this prediction is wrong, the divisiveness could continue.

Either way, Island residents and their new city leaders will need to find ways to heal — and move on.


Alameda Elections: 31 Days and Counting

Tiki Tom’s may have burned down Thursday across the estuary, but it’s still real hot on the Island.

The red, gold and black political mailers that arrived this week call attention to concerns over “red flags” at City Hall, namely Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant, aka ICM.

The mailer was put out by SCC Alameda Point LLC, aka SunCal, who is suing the city over the ending of its exclusive negotiating arrangements and development at Alameda Point.

SunCal’s also set up a website about Gallant, which doesn’t offer any new information or documents to substantiate points in its mailer.

It does point to the city’s investigation of councilwoman Lena Tam as a “personal vendetta” and asks residents to call Mayor Beverly Johnson to see how she defends the ICM.

But it doesn’t go so far as to tell voters who SunCal would like us to elect on November 2 ….


A separate mailing takes a different tack at voters: It highlights photos of a cool sailboat cruising along with no captain but flying a sail that says “leadership at the helm.”

The flyer is for Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft for City Council.

But this mailing has this blogger asking: Why hasn’t Ashcraft been more visible as a candidate before now? Has there been some media/public relations leadership missing at the campaign’s helm?

(The same can be said of some other campaigns around town, for sure …)

She’s got Neil Tam of the board of education and Billl Sonneman of the Alameda Education Foundation’s support, fyi.


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 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.”


Second Council Candidate Demands That City Manager Go

Alameda City Council candidate Jeff Mitchell and Alameda resident John Knox White are calling on the city to put Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and City Attorney Teresa Highsmith on immediate paid administrative leave.

The two Alamedans and their supporters are meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 7, at Alameda City Hall, just eight hours after city councilmember Lena Tam asked for Gallant to resign and for Mayor Beverly Johnson to apologize for a county investigation of her.

The district attorney conducting the investigation ruled on Friday, September 3, that there was not enough evidence to support claims that Tam violated the Brown Act by leaking confidential city information. The City Council, though, is poised to consider whether or not it should file a civil lawsuit against Tam in a special closed session on Thursday, September 9.

In a press release, Mitchell says that he filed a citizen complaint with the Alameda County Grand Civil Jury alleging “malfeasance of office and misuse of public funds by Gallant and Highsmith to pursue their secret investigation of Lena Tam — an investigation which many have labeled a political witch hunt.”

Furthermore, Mitchell argues that while an audit of the public funds used in the investigation against Tam has not been conducted, Tam claims the amount may be over $100,000.


As DA Drops Charges, Tam Asks Gallant to Resign

Speaking outside Alameda City Hall on Tuesday, September, 7, City Councilwoman Lena Tam said that prosecutors had dropped their investigation into whether she violated the Brown Act by leaking confidential city information, and they will not refer the case to the grand jury.

In addition, Tam called for the resignation of Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and an apology from Mayor Beverly Johnson.

Tam, who noted that the city could have used the money spent on her case for more civic-minded purpuses — such as the operation of the library — is running for re-election to the City Council in November; one of her opponents in the race is Johnson.

The Bay Area News Group is reporting that the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office notified city officials about the decision not to pursue the case in a confidential letter on Friday, September 3, citing insufficient evidence.

Nevertheless, the Alameda City Council is set to meet in closed session on Thursday, September 9, to consider whether the city should file a civil lawsuit against Tam. According to city officials, Tam was only “tentatively” cleared by the DA.

In July, an attorney hired by the city’s interim city manager said Tam had leaked confidential information, including to representatives from the SunCal, who wanted to redevelop the former Alameda Naval Air Station.

Tam also was accused of leaking information to the Alameda firefighters union and of violating the state’s open meeting law by using e-mails to influence other councilmembers.

Michael Colantuono, the attorney hired to investigate Tam, said in a statement: “It is plain that the district attorney has not given Councilmember Tam a clean bill of health, but suggests instead that the City pursue other remedies (like a lawsuit) or that the voters solve this problem on November 2.”

While the City Council may resolve the issue later this week, Tam’s request for Gallant’s resignation and Johnson’s apology will certainly resonate with voters for the next two months, at least.


Tam to Rally at Alameda City Hall

As part of her City Council campaign, Alameda City Councilmember Lena Tam is staging a rally this morning at City Hall.

Her campaign says the event aims to update the community “on the latest developments on the Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and Mayor Beverly Johnson’s personal attacks on councilmember Lena Tam.”

Some Islanders anticipate that Tam may discuss recent conclusions in the case against her over regarding her alleged sharing of confidential documents and city matters via e-mail. The Alameda County District Attorney’s office began an investigation into these matters in early July.

The event will be held at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, September 7.

Also, the League of Women Voters is planning a forum for City Council candidates at the Main Library at 7 p.m., Wednesday, September 29.