Marie Gilmore, mayor
Marie Gilmore, mayor
What skills do you possess that make you uniquely qualified to be Alameda’s mayor?
I have 20-plus years of proven leadership experience as mayor, vice mayor, president of the Planning Board and president of the Recreation and Park Commission. I have a proven track record of working well with others, building consensus and getting things done for Alameda. In addition, I understand the complexities and challenges of the job. I work well with others and have developed strong regional relationships (e.g., my peers in Alameda County elected me president of the Alameda County Conference of Mayors) that benefit Alameda on regional issues such as traffic.
What is the key role the mayor plays in our community?
The mayor has many roles, but the most important is protecting the health, safety and quality of life of our citizens. The mayor must always keep this in mind in leading the City Council in setting policy for city staff. The mayor must also insure that City Hall operates in the most transparent manner possible so that the community may fully participate in our democracy, and the mayor should communicate council policy to the community. Finally, the mayor must be a leader for Alameda in the Bay Area. Alameda is an Island, but we cannot act like it. Many issues facing Alameda are regional issues (e.g., traffic, housing, etc.) and the mayor must have experience and credibility with other regional leaders in order to be able to work well for Alameda’s benefit.
It’s 2025 and the vision you had for Alameda when you were elected in 2014 has come to fruition. Describe Alameda.
The vision and plan for Alameda began in 2010 and is well underway now. In 2025, we will see that the vision and plan has made significant progress. Alameda has retained its charm and small town feel. Alameda Point has a vibrant town center, waterfront restaurants and good jobs emphasizing clean and green technology. We have significantly increased open space and the sports complex is operational. Transportation has improved dramatically with a world-class ferry service and more efficient bus service and shuttles to BART. Bike and pedestrian paths have improved. Thanks to the action taken by the city and its bargaining partners on pension costs beginning in 2010, the city’s pension obligations are significantly reduced. Those problems were 30 years in the making and by 2025 we will have had 15 years of savings and cuts to almost eliminate the problem.
What is your vision for Alameda Point? What proportion of the Point should be developed with housing, businesses, services and open space? How many people should live at Alameda Point, what type of housing should be built and how many jobs should development there produce?
I had a vision for Alameda Point when I ran for election in 2010. We have now moved beyond a vision and towards implementing a plan, which has the following points:
(1) development controlled by the city instead of an outside developer such as SunCal, which has the city responsible for the sale/development of certain phased parcels;
(2) approved with community input;
(3) is financially viable; and
(4) emphasizes jobs/commercial properties, limited housing and vast amounts of open space.
It has been a hallmark of this administration to move Alameda forward by getting things accomplished – such as Alameda Point, which had no movement in the 17 years prior to my taking office.
Thousands of homes are being considered at Alameda Point and along the Northern Waterfront. What should developers offer to the community to alleviate the impacts of new development?
The Navy has capped housing at Alameda Point to 1,425 units without penalty. The current request for proposals at Alameda Point contemplates 800 units and the Northern Waterfront has 728 units either in the application stage or under construction. This development activity is why, just a few months ago, we updated our developer impact fees (DIF). Development impact fees require new development to pay its fair share for the impact of development on the city’s public facilities, such as parks, public safety, and transportation facilities. Developers are required to pay these fees in order to build their projects. A significant portion of development impact fees paid by residential developers will fund new and improved parks and athletic facilities. The Jean Sweeney Open Space Park, Estuary Park Athletic Field Complex, and Alameda Point Sports Complex are examples of projects partly funded by impact fees.
In order to impose such fees, the city conducted a nexus study, which shows how the impact fees are rationally related to the increased development. This provides the city’s legal justification for imposing such fees.
If elected, how will you address the city’s unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities?
We have already started addressing our unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities through cooperation with our employees. Our employees are paying more for their pensions. In fact, they are paying part of the city’s share. Spouses of newly hired public safety personnel will not be eligible for retiree benefits. The city has also established an irrevocable trust for the payment of these liabilities. We anticipate increased funding to the trust as well as asking our employees to help shoulder more of the cost of their benefits.
I believe that working collaboratively with our employee bargaining units is the best way to solve the problem. Before I took office, the city was at war with its bargaining units and could not reach agreement on new contracts. As a result, when the eight-year contract expired the city was forced to continue paying high rates for another four years until I took office. In other words, the prior approach turned a bad eight-year contract into a bad 12-year contract.
The city does not have the unilateral right to cut salaries or pension costs – those items must be negotiated by law. The city does have the unilateral right to reduce employees and services, but such cuts put the health, safety and well-being of our residents at risk (as we have seen in nearby cities). Cities that have taken the litigation approach to this problem have found that approach to be costly, frustrating and not at all successful in arbitration or in the courts.
Given the recent proliferation of big box and other national chain stores opening on the Island, what is your plan to keep small businesses viable in Alameda?
I, along with my council colleagues, shared that concern about big box stores. That's why several years ago we adopted an ordinance prohibiting big box stores in Alameda. There is, arguably, only one big box store in Alameda (Target), which was grandfathered into the ordinance. We have also tried to strike a balance between our residents' competing desires for national chains (e.g., In-N-Out Burger) and making sure that we support our small, local businesses.
While we are attempting to increase the number of businesses in Alameda, we realize that we must nurture our existing businesses. We have worked closely with the Chamber of Commerce and other business associations to promote local businesses through our “shop local” campaign. In partnership with these organizations, we have developed new marketing materials such as our new restaurant guide. In addition, I visit several businesses a month in an attempt to discover their needs and ascertain what the city can do help them grow and thrive. We also enlist their aid in marketing to other businesses. Current business owners are our best ambassadors. The city enthusiastically supports and assists local business association events such as the Art and Wine Faire and the Neptune Beach Community Celebration.
What if anything should the city do to address rising rents? Should the city regulate rents and if so, how?
The city should certainly look into the issue of rising rents. On September 16, the City Council will address this issue and discuss the formation of a task force. However, it is premature to determine if, and how, rents should be regulated.
The task force should provide, at a minimum, information on the extent of the problem, how well regulation has worked in other cities, the cost and how to pay for the program. In addition, consideration should be given to what, if any, changes should be made to the Rent Review Advisory Committee.
In recent years, the City Council has implemented an ordinance permitting developers to apply for permission to build multifamily housing using the state's density bonus and a new housing element for the city's general plan that permits multifamily housing on several properties. Alameda's 1973 Amendment XXVI, known as Measure A, prohibits all types of housing except single family homes and duplexes. If elected, would you maintain these exceptions to Measure A, expand them or eliminate them? Please explain your answer.
First, it must be noted the city has not amended Measure A. However, state and federal laws supersede Alameda’s local laws. I believe the question reflects concern that state law has had an impact on Measure A, which is something the city is powerless to change. The state’s density
bonus ordinance allows multi-tenant housing to be built here that Measure A would otherwise prohibit. (Government Code Section 65915-65916 discusses the state’s density bonus ordinance and how it should be applied. Section 65915(a) provides in relevant part:
- All cities, counties, or cities and counties shall adopt an ordinance that specifies how compliance with this section will be implemented. Failure to adopt an ordinance shall not relieve a city, county, or city and county from complying with this section. (Sec. 65915(a)).
Alameda had no choice except to adopt an ordinance specifying how to implement the state ordinance. Moreover, eliminating Alameda’s density bonus ordinance serves no purpose, except perhaps to prevent certification of the housing element. Even without an ordinance, Alameda is still required to comply with state law regarding density bonus.
In addition, the state requires that cities have a certified housing element. Alameda’s newly certified housing element does not expire until 2023. Cities not in compliance face the possibility of severe penalties, including, but not limited to, the inability to issue building permits (affecting individual homeowners and businesses) or not being eligible to apply for or compete for grants. Alameda received a $200,000 grant for Estuary Park because we have a certified housing element. Without that grant, and others like it, funding for parks and other community desires is more difficult.
It would be irresponsible for the mayor to lead a charge to eliminate the density bonus or compromise housing element certification since such action would provide Alameda no benefit and would place additional financial burdens on Alameda.
A pair of California laws – AB32 and SB375 – outline specific steps intended to address climate change. Which (if any) of the steps outlined in the bills should Alameda carry out locally?
These are both greenhouse gas reduction bills.
Alameda adopted the Local Climate Protection Plan in 2008. We focus on:
1. Energy efficiency
2. Renewable and carbon-neutral energy generation
3. Reducing emissions
4. Investing in GHG reducing programs
We need to continue to encourage households to use all energy efficient appliances, light bulbs, etc., as well as develop better habits to conserve energy. Alameda Municipal Power periodically provides households with a report card that lets the household know how they are doing on conserving energy relative to other households.
We also need to get people out of single occupancy car trips as much as possible. The city can continue to provide more bicycle facilities – paths, cycle tracks, and safe parking and to advocate for improved, expanded transit options such as AC Transit and ferry services.
We have already converted our entire garbage truck fleet to natural gas. We will replace other city automobiles with electric vehicles when we can (assuming the technology is there for the more specialized vehicles), and as we have the money.
We have also partnered with CASA (Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda) to implement the Zero Waste Implementation Plan which the City Council adopted in 2010. This plan promotes reuse, recycling and conservation programs but also emphasizes sustainability by considering the entire life cycle of products and systems.
Provide a specific example that demonstrates your leadership skills and your ability to work with others. What was the situation, what were your objectives and what was the end result?
After 17 years of no progress, working closely with the Navy and city staff, I was able to achieve transfer of Alameda Point to the City of Alameda at no cost to the taxpayers.
Also, when I took office in 2010, there were several problems at City Hall: (a) key positions had interim leaders (city manager, police chief and fire chief), (b) morale was low at City Hall and (c) the city was at war with its bargaining units over labor contracts. Under my leadership and with the cooperation of my colleagues, that has all changed. We now have talented and dedicated professionals as city manager, police chief and fire chief. Morale at City Hall has never been better in my 20 years of being around City Hall. We have labor peace with our bargaining units and they are now contributing to their pensions and other benefits at a higher rate than most other units in neighboring cities.
As a city leader, how would you collaborate with the school district, nonprofits and other community organizations to best address community needs?
There are many ways in which I work collaboratively with the county, school district, nonprofits and other community organizations. As just one example, I am co-chair of the Alameda Collaborative for Children, Youth and Families. Our membership is composed of a dedicated and diverse group of nonprofit service providers, educators, community advocates for youth and City of Alameda staff. I have the pleasure of serving with my fellow co-chairs, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan and school board member Barbara Kahn. As a result of this collaboration, Alameda has the distinct honor of being named one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People by America’s Promise Alliance (a foundation founded by Gen. Colin Powell) in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Regarding the school district, it must first be noted that the mayor and City Council are legally prohibited from setting policy or making financial decisions for school district. The school district is run autonomously by the school board. However, I have done everything legally within my power to assist the school district whenever possible. For example, we have stepped in to help fund items that the school district cannot fund. For example, not one cent has been cut from after school programs run by the city during my administration – despite one of the worst recessions in recent memory. Also, I led the City Council’s effort to help the school district keep its pools open by providing money to renovate the Encinal High pool and exchanging land with the school district that the school district could more profitably use to meet its future needs.
Is Alameda doing enough to prepare for a disaster? If yes, please describe what efforts are satisfying the need to prepare. If not, what else should the city do?
This is a particularly pertinent question given the recent earthquake in Napa. There is no such thing as being over prepared for a disaster – there is always more that can be done. However, Alameda has taken concrete steps. We have a disaster preparedness coordinator and are about to break ground on a new, standalone emergency operations center. We continue to train volunteers (CERT and ham radio) to assist public safety during emergencies. Public safety participates in local as well as regionally coordinated disaster exercises. Finally, we are encouraging residents to sign up for Nixle to receive emergency alerts on their cell phones.
What assurances can you provide that campaign contributions you receive won’t impact your decisions on the dais?
I chose to practice law over 25 years ago because as a young person I saw firsthand how the powerful can trample on the rights of the people. I became a public servant because I believe people deserve equal treatment AND equal representation. Each and every one of my supporters understands that for me, people come first. Contributors who have a different view are unwelcome in my campaign.