April 2012

City Councilman Doug deHaan is asking his dais-mates to once again consider long-discussed campaign finance rules. The council is scheduled to take up deHaan’s request at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Bob Blomberg got his first invitation to play in the Alameda Commuters Golf Tournament at the tender age of 15.

“I was scared to death,” Blomberg recalls.

Voters heading to the polls on June 5 will consider a second tax in addition to Alameda’s Measure C sales tax increase for equipment and facilities: Trustees for the Peralta Community College District have placed a parcel tax measure on the ballot.

Teachers brought last week’s pre-school picket to the school board on Tuesday, with dozens of sign-waving teachers packed into the back of council chambers as parents spoke on their behalf.

When Alameda Natural Grocery owner Donna Layburn was growing up in Moss Beach in the 1970s, she had bees in her coastside yard. So when she learned that honeybee populations were dwindling due to a mysterious malady, she decided to do something about it.

State funding uncertainties have pushed school districts across Alameda County to raise class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, reversing more than a decade’s worth of efforts to maintain classes in those grades at 20 students or less.

City leaders eager to move forward with plans to revitalize Alameda Point are pinning their hopes on new legislation that could allow them to use future property tax dollars to pay for roads, schools and other new public facilities at the Point and other defunct military bases.

Newly released documents lay out school district administrators’ rationale for insisting that the district retain the right to keep class sizes in kindergarten through third grade remain at 25 teachers per student.

Alameda’s City Council has signed off on a plan designed to make local government more accessible and to better engage residents in the city’s decision-making efforts.

The council also agreed to reduce and consolidate its boards and commissions, though council members held off on some of the changes under consideration.

Alameda’s school district leaders want to connect West End families with health care, social services and an array of other supports in order to boost students’ academic performance and their families’ well being. And they’ve earned a $20,000 grant to help them plot out partnerships with local civic and community organizations that can provide those services.

A plan that would improve commute access to Alameda from Oakland is the top priority on a list of road, bicycle, pedestrian and transit improvements the City Council is set to consider at its regular meeting Tuesday night.

Editor's Note: Thank you for your support!

I just wanted to offer my thanks to everyone who turned out for our Friday Night Flights fundraiser at Angela’s Bistro & Bar, and also to the folks at Angela’s and at Mercy Wines, who donated their wonderful wines to our first-ever fundraising event.

The fundraiser is a weekly event started by Angela’s co-owner Saboor Zafari to raise awareness and money for local nonprofits, and it’s co-sponsored by a different winery every week (the schedule is here). Mercy is a locally owned winery, and they’ve got tastings by appointment at Angela’s (more on that here).

Every dollar you invest in the Alameda Community News Project makes us better able to keep you posted on the decisions your elected officials are making and the way your tax dollars are being spent. It allows us to explain why negotiations over the teachers contract are so heated and what’s going on with efforts to revitalize Alameda Point. And it will also allow us to build the site into a true informational hub and digital village green, where members of our community can exchange their thoughts in an informed and civil way.

We are already providing daily coverage of local institutions that rarely see a reporter – including your hospital and your schools – and in-depth coverage of critical issues like local tax measures. And we plan to provide much more. But we need your help.

I can honestly say that there is nothing I hate more than asking for money. And I wouldn’t be if I didn’t think high-quality, nonpartisan news was such an essential resource. If you value what we’re doing and you want to see it continue and grow, you can support us by clicking the “Donate” button to your right to quickly and easily make your tax-deductible contribution.

Thanks, as always, for your support … and keep an eye on this space for some new reporting features we’ll be rolling out over the next several weeks and the full, non-beta version of the site, which is coming May 28.

Managers at Alameda Municipal Power are set to engage in a massive planning effort to prepare the 125-year-old utility and its workforce for changes in the technology it will use to deliver electricity to homes and businesses.

Alameda Free Library patrons have an alternative to the traditional stack of books they can check out of the system’s three libraries: The library and more than a dozen others have partnered to offer titles that can be downloaded onto your Nook, Kindle or iPad.

Ruth Abbe has been working to promote recycling in Alameda and beyond for over 20 years. But the Alameda Unified School District, she said, was a tough nut to crack.

Becky McMahon drives to work every day, though she loves the idea of bicycling instead.

“It just doesn't work out for me because I have to drop my son off at school first,” said McMahon, who added that she has to be to work by 8 a.m.

The head of Alameda’s teacher’s union is casting teachers’ decisive rejection of a tentative contract agreement as a referendum on the administration of Superintendent Kirsten Vital, while Vital is questioning why the union’s leaders would present the deal only to dismiss it as “inferior” after teachers voted it down.

Proponents of a measure that would prohibit city leaders from selling or trading parkland without voter approval turned in more that 10,000 signatures to Alameda’s city clerk on Thursday, with the city acknowledging about 50 percent more signatures than they will need to qualify for the ballot.

Measure C will remain on ballot

Alameda’s Measure C sales tax initiative will remain on the June 5 ballot, and the ballot will go to voters without an argument against the measure, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Evelio Grillo ruled that city officials followed the law when they denied a ballot argument against the measure that came in four days after a posted deadline despite “grave concerns” that the seven-day turnaround for ballot arguments was too short.

Measure C opponents had argued that the city should have allowed 14 days for ballot arguments, but Grillo ruled that the law allows a shorter deadline for measures that share a ballot with other election matters. They had also asked the judge to delete Measure C from the June 5 ballot and voter pamphlet, and to require that opponents’ arguments be included.

In denying opponents’ request to strike language from the ballot, the judge ruled that they failed to prove the city’s ballot statements were false and misleading as they claimed.

“It's disappointing of course. Alameda voters will be denied a chance to hear both sides of the issue,” said David Howard, spokesman for opponents of the measure. He said anyone interested in the measure could read opposing arguments on that campaign’s website.

The measure's proponents said the judge made the right call.

"This was the right outcome for protecting the rules of the electoral process," a campaign spokesperson said. "The judge was not ruling about Alameda or Measure C."

City Manager John Russo commented on the ruling on Twitter.

“Alameda residents get to decide City's future, not bogus lawsuits,” Russo wrote.

The City Council unanimously voted on March 7 to put the measure on the ballot. Proceeds from the 30-year, half-cent sales tax would pay for a new Fire Station 3 and emergency operations center, a new pool and lockers, renovations to the Carnegie Building and three other fire stations and city vehicles. Money would also be put toward the construction of an all-weather field.

Ballot arguments were due to City Clerk Lara Weisiger’s office on March 15, but Measure C opponents tried to file their ballot argument with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters on March 16. When they tried to file with the city clerk on the following Monday, their ballot argument was denied because it was turned in too late.

Yes on C campaign: http://www.preservingalameda.com/

No on C campaign: http://www.milkingalameda.com/

Correction: An earlier version of this article offered inaccurate information about public meetings and approvals for the Park Street Streetscape project. Planning Board and City Council meetings held in 2009 and 2010 that were referenced in the article included discussions about a master street tree plan. The Project regrets the error.

Schools chief writes to community about stalled teacher negotiations

Last week after reaching a tentative agreement on finances and class size, the teachers union rejected the agreemet. This week, school district chief Kristan Vital wrote a letter to clear up what she stated are misunderstandings in the community about negotiations between the teacher's union and the district. She said the parties will be back at the bargaining table after the spring break is over.

Two candidates vying to operate the Chuck Corica Golf Course pitched their proposals at a City Council hearing Tuesday, causing one audience member to change her mind on the spot about which proposal she preferred.

The next chapter in Alameda’s long-running golf saga is set to be writ tonight when the City Council is expected to tell city staffers how they feel about a pair of proposals from companies seeking to become the long-term operator of the Chuck Corica Golf Course.

Updated at 8:42 p.m. Monday, April 2

Alameda Hospital is in big financial trouble and cannot survive as it is. Lack of patients, competition from surrounding hospitals, and today’s form of healthcare are forcing change that will either doom our hospital or provide opportunity to improve urgent and emergency medical care within our Island City.

Managers at Alameda Hospital are asking the board that governs it for the okay to start an orthopedics program, the latest in a line of efforts aimed at building volume – and revenue – at the hospital. The board will discuss the proposal at its meeting tonight.

Dear Members of the Alameda Community:

Last Friday, the AUSD teachers rejected a contract that was tentatively agreed upon during intense negotiations with the District representatives and their own Union representatives. As President of the Board of Education, I am personally disappointed that this agreement was not ratified by AUSD teachers.

Updated at 6:47 a.m. Monday, April 2

A pair of sailors who were injured when their yacht was hit by a wave during an around-the-world sailing race were being cared for on the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf on Sunday.