ELECTION 2014: Gilmore, Spencer vying for mayor's seat

ELECTION 2014: Gilmore, Spencer vying for mayor's seat

Michele Ellson
Alameda mayor candidates

Updated at 9:37 a.m. Friday, October 3 in BOLD
Correction: The Alamedan erroneously wrote that as a school board member, Trish Spencer voted against the Measure H parcel tax. The Alamedan regrets the error.

Trish Spencer is running against incumbent Marie Gilmore for mayor. Contributed photos.

Two attorneys with a history of engagement in local politics are squaring off in the mayor’s race this fall.

Incumbent Marie Gilmore, a Boalt Hall-educated lawyer with two decades of experience in city government, is being challenged by Trish Spencer, an attorney, longtime schools volunteer and substitute teacher who’s been on the school board for six years.

Gilmore, who served on the council for seven years before being elected mayor in 2010, cites her administration’s deal with the Navy to win title to hundreds of acres of Alameda Point – a goal that long eluded the city – and contracts with public safety workers that increased workers’ pension and retiree medical costs as evidence of her efficacy over the past four years.

“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,” Gilmore said in response to a questionnaire from The Alamedan.

Spencer has positioned herself as an advocate for people who have lacked a voice on schools and city issues – and as someone who is willing to put the brakes on development in Alameda. During her tenure on the school board, she has earned a reputation for saying no, voting against leasing office space for the district’s headquarters, lessons and books intended to halt anti-gay bullying and two of the three taxes her dais mates have put on the ballot, including the Measure I bond voters will consider this fall.

“I am willing to ask serious questions for the good of the community and do not simply rubber-stamp proposals. In other words, I give all residents a voice in city government,” Spencer said in response to The Alamedan’s questionnaire.

Like the City Council candidates profiled earlier this week, whoever wins the mayor’s race will make decisions on development at Alameda Point and elsewhere on the Island, how to address concerns about evictions and rising rents and how to further reduce Alameda’s unfunded pension and retiree medical liabilities.

Here’s how Gilmore and Spencer said they would address – and how they have addressed – some of the key issues facing the city and Alameda’s schools, and what tools and experience they would bring to the task.

EXPERIENCE: Gilmore started her local political career on the Recreation and Park Commission and served on Alameda’s Planning Board for eight years before being picked in 2003 to join the City Council after Councilman Al DeWitt died (she won her own term in 2004). She was elected mayor in 2010. Spencer joined the school board in 2008 and was re-elected four years later, besting a field of eight other candidates by a decisive margin. Prior to her school board service, she served as PTA Council president.

KEY VOTES: Many of Spencer’s key votes as a school board member have been “no” votes, and school board meeting minutes show that she has frequently pulled individual contracts and other agenda items set for a voice vote and cast what is often a sole “no” vote against them. While on the board, she has voted against leasing office space for the district’s headquarters; the Measure E parcel taxe and the Measure I bond; two extensions of former superintendent Kirsten Vital’s contract and several district office positions, notably a new general counsel; anti-bullying lessons and books intended to protect gay youths and their families, and ultimately, a list of other protected groups; and a swap deal that saw the district exchanging land and cash with the city and housing authority (a deal Gilmore approved). She has consistently voted in favor of approving charter schools and has voted for in-district choice programs – though she voted against the long-term lease that united the Nea Community Learning Center and Alameda Community Learning Center on one campus – and she voted for new contracts for teachers and other district staffers that included their first raises in years. She has also worked to eliminate cell towers from school campuses, and she voted in favor of putting the Measure A parcel tax that’s currently in place on the ballot.

Gilmore’s big votes include approvals of the terms needed to win deeds at Alameda Point and of a host of planning documents that clear the way for development there, along with public employee contracts that both offer pay raises that grow if the city performs well financially and shift higher pension and medical payments onto workers. On Gilmore’s watch, the city has also established partnerships with nonprofits to manage city assets including the Meyers House museum and the Alameda Animal Shelter. And Gilmore voted to put the unsuccessful Measure C sales tax increase on the ballot. But Gilmore has also exercised her right to say no, voting down a controversial plan to give the Mif Albright golf course to a developer in exchange for cash and another property and saying no to city staff’s proposal to hire KemperSports to run the Chuck Corica Golf Complex, in favor of Greenway Golf. She also helped quash efforts to put campaign finance reform rules in place, saying rules proposed were “elitist” and favored wealthy candidates who could self-finance their campaigns. She recently voted to forego a city-sponsored rents task force in favor of a community-driven process despite reservations over whether the community process would produce the results the city is seeking.

UNION ENGAGEMENT: The perceived influence of Alameda’s public employee unions has been raised by voters as an issue in this election cycle. Both Gilmore and Spencer were backed by worker unions in their prior runs – Gilmore by the Alameda Firefighters Association and Spencer, by the Alameda Education Association. Spencer has said she’s not accepting money or support from unions or developers this time out, though the teachers union – which hasn’t formally announced its support for school board candidates – has joined the firefighters in supporting Gilmore for re-election and issued a statement saying they want Spencer to remain on the school board which noted that the union had “invested heavily” in Spencer 2012. Gilmore said donors shouldn’t expect any favors on the dais for their contributions to her campaign.

As to votes that pertained to workers from those two unions, Spencer was part of a board majority that voted in favor of a new contract for teachers that contained their first raise in years, and she twice voted against contract extensions for former superintendent Kirsten Vital, with whom the union had a frosty relationship. Spencer also voted against new district office positions and has expressed concerns about teachers’ lack of engagement in district initiatives like a technology plan, meeting minutes show; the union’s chief had voiced similar complaints about teachers’ lack of engagement in creating the plan. Spencer has also pulled reports detailing staff moves up for discussion to voice her objections to what she felt were a large number of teacher resignations, the minutes show. Spencer did not respond to a reporter’s request to discuss her reasons for the votes.

Gilmore voted with a council majority to approve new contracts that give all of the city’s workers raises - which escalate if the city performs well financially - but also require them to pay more for their pensions and health benefits. After the contracts were approved, firefighters dropped a ballot measure that would have mandated a minimum staffing level for their department, at a cost of about $4.8 million. Gilmore voiced interest in building a new, mid-Island Fire Station 3 and emergency operations center on former Alameda Belt Line property in 2010, before she ran for mayor. She has also voted in favor of allowing the fire department to start a non-emergency ambulance transport service which she said is popular with seniors and has saved Alameda Hospital money, and to hire temporary staff with a federal grant the department secured and replace equipment that was broken or beyond its service life. And she joined most of her dais-mates in granting former Alameda Point firefighters who’ve since joined the city fire department the right to purchase credits that will boost their retirement earnings (in responding to questions from The Alamedan, Gilmore said that when the Naval Air Station closed, the federal government asked the city to prioritize hiring the base’s former firefighters, who were federal workers).

ALAMEDA POINT: During Gilmore’s tenure as mayor, the city has secured deeds to hundreds of acres of Alameda Point and approved plans allowing the development of up to 1,425 homes, 5.5 million square feet of commercial space and 291 acres of open space and parks at Alameda Point, and the city is considering finalists to develop 150 acres of the former Naval Air Station and fielding proposals from developers interested in purchasing other acreage. In her response to a question about her vision for the Point – something Gilmore said is already being realized – she said she focused on retaining city control over development of the property and assembling a financially viable development plan with community input that focuses on producing jobs and open space. Gilmore has cast the housing that would be built at the Point – a third of what the city’s prior master developer, SunCal, had proposed – as an “amenity” for businesses intended to reduce traffic and sprawl, and other council members have pushed for the option to develop more housing there. The council has also signed off on developer fees approaching $1 million an acre to fund roads, utilities and protections from sea level rise.

When asked about her vision for Alameda Point, Spencer said she would prioritize wetland and park development and restoration of commercial and industrial areas, job production, and then residential development, “which would require careful planning to ensure that the public’s health is protected.” Specifically, Spencer said the Point offers an opportunity to create a regional park similar to Crab Cove. Spencer – who noted that she gathered signatures to fight SunCal – said she’s concerned about the risks of contamination and that the Point will be over-developed with buildings, and she said other issues – like sea level rise – need to be fully explored and addressed in development plans.

NORTHERN WATERFRONT AND OTHER DEVELOPMENT: Spencer has been active in efforts to fight development, organizing against former Alameda Point developer SunCal’s proposal to build more than 4,500 homes, opposing Harbor Bay Isle Associates’ proposals to build homes or a hotel and conference center where the Harbor Bay Club sits and to build a new club near the Harbor Bay Business Park and gathering signatures to put a measure rezoning federal property sold to a housing developer for park instead. Gilmore has supported development, offering approvals for Alameda Landing, Boatworks and several affordable housing projects. But she voted against a controversial proposal to give Harbor Bay Isle Associates the Mif Albright golf course in exchange for cash and another property for sports fields. The council hasn’t yet weighed in on a proposal to redevelop the Del Monte warehouse or to build a new Harbor Bay Club, and Gilmore has said she won’t offer her opinion on the latter proposal until it comes to the council for consideration.

TRAFFIC: Spencer said transportation and infrastructure issues need to be dealt with before new development can take place in Alameda, adding that City Hall should consider vans and buses that can connect commuters to BART and other existing transit. But she also voiced skepticism that people will take transit, walk and ride their bikes. Gilmore said the city is requiring traffic management plans that boost access to transit and other alternate travel modes and that city leaders updated developer fees to fund the impacts of development, and new residents and business owners will pay fees to cover basic services like policing and new transit options. Gilmore has sought assurances that the transportation plans proposed to support developments (Alameda Point and Alameda Landing specifically) will work – and that the city will be able to change them if they don’t, City Council meeting minutes show. Alameda Landing operates a shuttle service to BART in Oakland and the city runs another, and Del Monte developer Tim Lewis’s traffic management plan also includes shuttle service, which residents and business owners will pay for. City leaders have also worked consistently over the eight years a reporter reviewed City Council minutes to improve bicycle access and pedestrian safety on Alameda’s streets.

MEASURE A: Neither candidate has said they’re for or against further changes to Measure A, which limits the development of apartments and other multifamily homes in Alameda. Gilmore said city leaders had to permit multifamily housing on anticipated development sites to win state certification of the housing element of Alameda’s general plan – a move that made the city eligible to apply for a park grant and other funds. She also said the state’s density bonus rules – which require cities to loosen zoning and other restrictions in return for affordable housing units – supersedes Measure A. Spencer said any changes to Measure A have to address traffic, parking and other challenges to the city’s transportation infrastructure.

UNFUNDED PENSION AND HEALTH LIABILITIES: Spencer, citing budget projections showing the city could face a budget deficit in five years absent action, said addressing unfunded pension and retiree health costs is “a priority” and that cutting costs “will require serious consideration of funding priorities to start to move Alameda in the right direction.” Spencer has said that everything has to be on the table, but did not provide specifics when a reporter requested them. Gilmore has said city leaders have already gotten the ball rolling on cutting costs, but that there are limits on what they can do. During her tenure as mayor, the council has approved public safety contracts that increased workers’ share of the cost of their pensions and health care benefits and eliminated retiree health benefits for the spouses of newly hired workers, and city leaders won their unions’ consent to reduce benefits and increase the retirement age for new workers as recently allowed by state law. Gilmore said the city can’t legally pursue pension cuts and that court and ballot box efforts to do so in California have been unsuccessful; no California court has ruled against the prevailing wisdom that pensions are protected by the state’s constitution. Under the current contracts, Alameda’s public safety workers pay a larger share of their pension costs than most other public safety agencies in Alameda County, a review of a comparison document provided by city staff and other cities’ benefit information showed. As a councilwoman, she voted for a resolution allowing the council to bargain with workers over retiree health, something some of her dais mates objected to. Going forward, Gilmore said she’d seek to fund the retiree health trust fund the council approved on her watch and to ask workers – whose contracts will expire in 2017 – to pay more for their benefits.

RENT CONTROL: Neither candidate has suggested the city should enact rent control, though Gilmore told attendees at an Alamedan/Alameda Sun candidate forum that the city is having “a very serious discussion” about rising rents. Gilmore said that she hasn’t made up her mind but that if the city did pursue a rent control program, it will be “a very expensive proposition.” She said the city’s Rent Review Advisory Committee could be given broader powers. Spencer, who said she’s a renter, said she thinks the committee is effective in addressing rent concerns and that more needs to be done to promote its existence. She also recommended that renters take a survey being conducted by Renewed Hope to gauge rent increases over the past year and renter concerns.

BUSINESS ATTRACTION AND RETENTION: Spencer questioned the growing number of chain stores on the Island, saying she doesn’t think they are what’s best for Alamedans or that they will draw customers to smaller shops. To support local businesses, she said the city could support local business organizations, organize business fairs and publish business guides on paper and online. Gilmore, who noted that as a councilwoman she voted with her dais mates to restrict the development of big box stores in Alameda, said she’s tried to strike a balance between national chains that people have said they want here and local mom and pop shops. She said the city has initiated a “shop local” campaign and recently released a restaurant guide, and that the city “enthusiastically supports” local business association events like the Park Street Business Association’s annual art and wine fair. Gilmore said she also visits several businesses each month to find out what more the city can do.

CANDIDATE WEBSITES

For additional information, here are links to the candidates' websites.

Marie Gilmore
Trish Spencer

Comments

Submitted by Robert Sullwold (not verified) on Thu, Oct 2, 2014

The piece states that public employees will receive pay raises “if the city performs well financially.” It is true that the 2013-17 MOUs with the public safety unions compute the amount of annual raises using a formula based on increases in tax revenue. But they also establish a minimum annual raise: 1.5% in 2014 and 2% in 2015 and 2016. So firefighters and cops still will get annual raises every year regardless of whether “the city performs well financially” in these three years.

Submitted by karenjoygreen (not verified) on Thu, Oct 2, 2014

Robert, nothing beats deceiving the public by manipulating our language. Thank you for this comment. Take a look at the City of Alameda Democratic Club headquarters in Southshore next to See's candies. If that does not lead one to think the club endorsed Chen, Tam and Henneberry I will eat the proverbial hat. They did not endorse those candidates.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Thu, Oct 2, 2014

Hey Bob,

Thanks for your comment. I checked the firefighters' MOU for 2013-17 and when that was unclear, e-mailed Assistant City Manager Liz Warmerdam for clarification.

She said that if the city doesn't experience revenue growth, the city's workers (firefighters included) do not get a raise. If the city does experience revenue growth in specified general fund categories - property tax, sales tax, utility users tax, transit occupancy tax and property transfer tax - the percentage raise they'll see is equivalent to half the growth, within the range specified in the contract for that year. So for 2014, the firefighters' MOU says they'll get a raise equal to half the city's percentage of revenue growth in those five categories between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 fiscal years, within a range of 1.5 percent and 4 percent.

Hypothetically (since I don't have the actual numbers in hand), if the city saw revenue in those categories grow 5 percent between those two fiscal years, firefighters covered under the contract would get a 2.5 percent raise. But if there was no revenue growth, they would not receive a raise.

Submitted by Sylvia Gibson on Thu, Oct 2, 2014

I am a teacher in Alameda and a member of the Alameda Education Association. To be clear, our union has not officially endorsed any city candidates. We have officially endorsed Solana Hanneberry and Gary Lym for school board. Also, we have officially endorsed Measure I. These endorsements were made with a vote of our rep. council in September. All other "support" of candidates was done in the summer while most teachers were on vacation-- the union gave a financial contribution to one candidate and co-hosted a BBQ for two others. These were not endorsements. Additionally, the AEA president spoke for herself, not for the union members, when she wrote a letter urging Trish Spencer not to run for mayor (because teachers need her voice on the school board). Many teachers who live in Alameda are strong supporters of Trish and want to see her in the mayor's seat.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Thu, Oct 2, 2014

Thanks Sylvia, I appreciate those clarifications. I went back and pulled the AEA letter regarding Trish Spencer's run for mayor, which was sent as a press release; the full text is reproduced below:

"The Alameda Education Association (AEA) reiterates its support for the re-election of Mayor Marie Gilmore, who has been a strong advocate for public education and teachers in Alameda.

"The Association, which represents 540 teachers, counselors and nurses in the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD), is extremely disappointed by the decision of school Trustee Trish Herrera Spencer to campaign for mayor instead of focusing on the responsibilities of her current elected position. Alameda educators expect Spencer to fulfill her obligation to Alameda students and community and serve the remainder of her term on the School Board. Our members invested heavily in Spencer 2012, and worked tirelessly on her campaign for reelection to the School Board.

"Trustee Spencer’s commitment is needed during this pivotal time while AUSD searches for a new superintendent, plans for implementing a possible school facilities bond and prepares for labor negotiations with its teachers and staff. Audrey Hyman, President of AEA, stated 'We believe that at this critical time Trustee Spencer’s focus should be on improving Alameda’s public education opportunities rather than seeking higher office.'”

Submitted by J Spencer (not verified) on Thu, Oct 2, 2014

Michelle - just to extend your clarification about the worker pay increases, if revenues grew by, say, 0.1%, then safety workers would be entitled to a 1.5% raise? Or would there be no raise in that case?

Submitted by Robert Sullwold (not verified) on Thu, Oct 2, 2014

The language in the MOUs about wage increases is really pretty straightforward. After defining the formula for computing raises using what it calls the "BRI index," the contract then says that "wage increases" (for 2014, 2015, and 2016, respectively) "will be based upon" this formula. The next sentence reads, "The wage increase" (for 2014, 2015, and 2016, respectively) "based upon this formula will be a minimum of" 1.5% in 2014 and 2% in 2015 and 2016. (It also specifies maximums).
I suppose that, if the City wanted to avoid paying raises when revenue is flat or declining, it could argue that this language is unclear. But I'd like to be representing the union in that case. Ordinarily, any ambiguity is construed against the drafter (which, in this case, I presume was the City). Moreover, applying a "plain language" test, "minimum" means, well, minimum -- i.e., the lowest raise to which a worker is entitled. Finally, if the City had intended to preclude any raises absent an increase in revenues, it would have been pretty easy to do so -- e.g., by adding a sentence like, "There will be no wage increases in any year in which the BRI index is zero or negative."

Submitted by Robert Sullwold (not verified) on Thu, Oct 2, 2014

Following up on my last comment, here's what City Manager John Russo had to say at the Council meeting at which the public safety contracts were approved: "It’s really very simple. Half of the rate of growth is what they get, but they can’t get less than 1.5% , they can’t get more than 4%, and our current projections, since they’re less than 3%, we anticipate we’ll have the money to pay those wage increases. If you’re asking me whether or not there’s a cost to this contract, the answer is, if you take out the grievance issue, yes, it’s $1.585 million over four years. And do we have $1.585 million over four years, sitting here right now? No, we do not."

Submitted by Karen Bey (not verified) on Thu, Oct 2, 2014

Some of her No votes have been very controversial. One of her controversial No votes was against anti-bullying lessons intended to protect gay youth and their families. Why would anybody vote No against bullying?

Another No Vote was on the Bond Measure to improve school facilities. The San Francisco Business Times ranked Alameda one of the Top Ten Schools for scores in 2014. We were right up there with Piedmont (ranked number 1), Palo Alto (ranked number 2), and Danville (ranked number 3). Pleasanton, Dublin, and Fremont were also in the top ten. Alameda was ranked number 10. We should be building on this recognition – not going backwards.

It would be good to understand her logic behind her “No” voting record.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Thu, Oct 2, 2014

Hey Karen: I took a look through my archives (for The Alamedan and The Island) to see what I wrote in terms of the rationale for the votes you requested info on, and here's what I got:

For the Measure I bond, I wrote that Spencer said she thought the measure, as written, gave the school board too much discretion about how the money would be spent (that story is here: http://thealamedan.org/news/school-board-puts-bond-ballot).

As to Lesson 9 and the subsequent anti-bullying lessons, she originally voted against Lesson 9, my old Island story says, saying it wasn't inclusive enough of other "protected classes" (like race, religion, etc) and that she was concerned kids whose families' religions disapproved of gays would be harassed and bullied.

The second set of votes were to approve maintaining two separate curricula - Steps to Respect and Caring School Communities - and she voted in favor of keeping those without Lesson 9. But Tracy Jensen sought a revote, saying she intended for Lesson 9 to remain, and Spencer voted against it.

The third vote was for a list of 21 books that, as I wrote in 2010, was "intended to broaden representation of people of different races and ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations and people with disabilities in the Island’s elementary schools." Spencer voted against putting the books in classrooms, saying she didn't think the list of books addressed students of different races, ethnicities and nationalities and with disabilities adequately, according to my story on the vote.

Submitted by Karen Bey (not verified) on Fri, Oct 3, 2014

Thanks Michele for the information.

Regarding the bond measure, I would have worked to try and add language to the bill to satisfy my concerns – but as a commitment to “good schools and putting our children first” I would have voted yes on the bond measure. The improvement of our school facilities is vital to our children’s safety and the quality of their education.

Most times in governing, we learn to compromise. If we don’t get all of what we want – but we can get 80% of what we want, we vote yes so we can do the work of the people, and we try and get the 10% or 20% later down the road if possible.

Regarding the anti –bullying – this was not only a local issue but a national issue. The increased rate of suicides in young gay youth due to bullying prompted a national outreach to educate communities – and this was her opportunity to take a stand against bullying, and she said “No”. Her reasons for saying “No” on this very important issue, is of great concern to me.

Regarding her “No” vote against the 21 books – as a woman of color I am very disappointed in this no vote. Our society is becoming more and more diverse and educating through books is an important tool in teaching our society how to live together and respect each other’s cultures. Teaching our children through the books they read is the first step to broadening their experiences and teaching them about tolerance and how to respect other cultures. Her reason for voting “No” on this very important issue speaks volumes.

Submitted by Liz Warmerdam (not verified) on Fri, Oct 3, 2014

All, my mistake. Mr. Sullwold is correct. If the GF revenues are flat, employees still get the minimum.

Submitted by David (not verified) on Fri, Oct 3, 2014

Karen Bey: Voting against a specific list of books that one doesn't think does the job adequately is not the same as voting against teaching diversity.

Submitted by Irene D. on Fri, Oct 10, 2014

On Oct. 9, in the Alameda Sun, a resident explained the rationale behind some of Trish Spencer's votes. The letter to editor says, in part:

"1. She withheld support for the development of an anti-bullying curriculum in the high schools until it expanded from being dedicated to solely LGBT issues to include all bullying. (The board finally expanded the curriculum.)

"2. When our business community sued the school district to invalidate a parcel tax (Measure H) that taxed them at a different rate than residences, she advised the school board to place the parcel tax paid by these businesses in escrow pending resolution of the litigation. The board ignored her advice, lost the case and now faces a multi-million dollar obligation to refund the taxes. She supported the subsequent parcel tax (Measure A), which addressed the concerns of the business community.

"3. She voted "no" on the recent land swap with the city because the school district failed to get an appraisal of a portion of their land behind the Del Monte warehouse. The majority of the board described the land as worthless tidal lands, notwithstanding the fact that a very active private marina is operating on the site.

"4. She voted "no" on Measure I, the proposed $179 million school bond issue because the ballot summary statement fails to inform the voters that the issuance of the bonds would result in an additional real estate tax with no opt-out for seniors of $60 per $100,000 of assessed valuation and because $90 million of the bond is allocated for high schools before the board has decided how the schools will be utilized.

"5. She voted against outgoing Superintendent Kirsten Vital’s raise and the lease of the new district offices at Marina Village.

"6. She voted against "Plan B," which would have closed Franklin, Otis and Washington elementary schools, while keeping open Edison, Haight, Lum, Paden, Ruby Bridges, Earhart, and Bay Farm elementary schools. She agreed with parents that Otis is a larger campus, adjacent to a Krusi Park, thus able to accommodate more students, than Edison."
http://alamedasun.com/letters?page=3

Submitted by Mike McMahon on Sat, Oct 11, 2014

Just to clarify a few facts.

Alameda Unified School District has had over $5 million in a specific reserve that was established years prior to appeals court ruling against Measure H.

The portion of their land behind the Del Monte warehouse was worthless to Alameda Unified School District because the land was never owned by the District. The 2000 land swap between the City and AUSD that transfer Mastick School to the city attempted to transfer the portion of their land behind the Del Monte warehouse to the District. But because it is designated as Tidelands Trust, the District could never legally take title.

Senior exemptions are not legally allowed for tax measures that are based on an ad valorem assessment.

Everyone acknowledged the Historic Alameda High School was not seismic safe and employee safety needed to be addressed. After six months of studying all options, individual Board members and community members did not present one viable option to Marina Village office space.

Submitted by Karen Bey (not verified) on Sun, Oct 12, 2014

Nice try! It’s too late to go back and make excuses for voting “No” on just about everything that came up for a vote. Trish has a reputation for voting “No” instead of working with others to build a consensus.

Especially on important issues like gay youth bullying, and the school bond measure -- Trish is on record voting no!

If you can get 80% -90% of what you want, you vote yes so you can get things done, and you try and get the other 10% or 20% later down the road if possible.

Her record is out there.

Nice try!

Submitted by Karen Bey (not verified) on Sun, Oct 12, 2014

Marian - I think it's important to look at one's accomplishments while in office to measure whether or not someone is effective or not. There's nothing on Trish's record to show any accomplishments. In fact -- it's quite the opposite. Saying "No" to everything is not an accomplishment. Marie has the respect of her colleagues on the dais and has widespread respect and support both locally and regionally.

Submitted by Mark Hersman (not verified) on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

Trish Spencer has been on the Alameda School Board for the last six years, but a quick check of each candidate's websites shows that every other member of the School Board is endorsing Marie Gilmore. Those who work the closest with Ms. Spencer don't endorse her. Mayor Gilmore builds consensus and gets things done, Ms. Spencer creates unnecessary conflict and creates frustration and animosity.

Submitted by David Kirwin (not verified) on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

trish Spencer is the only one who seems willing to ask the reasonable questions, the only one who reflects the values and desires of most Alamedans. The anti-bullying fiasco was so poorly dealt with by the school district that it was a giant leap in alienating the community. And what did it accomplish besides loosing the community's goodwill, and the lawsuit to stop the District from using "CHARACTER MATTERS"? A blind man could see the damage that would be done to the relationship between the community and the BOE by the adoption of Lesson 9 at that time, so Trish was right for standing her ground to try to prevent the damage. Likewise if you have been sued for the way you wrote a parcel tax, noly fools would try to repeat the same mistakes - the question isn't "Why did Trish vote 'No'"; The question should be "Why did anyone on the BOE vote 'Yes'?" (Stubborn blind foolishness) The same should be better known about the inanity of Measure I - Renters may vote for it, if out of jealousy they want to punish Alameda property owners, but the only property owners that will vote for it are the ones that are ignorant or extremely ill informed. I was one of only a handful of people at the 1st public meeting on the master facility plan and heard the architect warned not to try to push planning too fast. So what did the District do? Pedal to the metal to get it on this ballot for the expected low turnout. The plan was horrifying. The District broke it up by school so public meetings were tiny - I was the only parent - non district employee, at any of the Master Plan meetings for Lincoln Middle school. Why was the district's plan horrifying? - Because so much of it had already been completed with the 2004 Measure C Bond. So at the LMS meetings the plan changed from building 6 portable classrooms, redesigning the parking lot and drop-off zone, replacing the completely serviceable lockers and fire alarm system, to whatever wish the teachers present at the meeting wanted. That is not the way to create a facility master plan.
For 8 years I sat on the Measure C oversight committee. Measure C was a $63M bond measure for school facilities. By my calculations AUSD, (actually Alameda property owners), still have over $180M to pay on the repayment of those bonds. That is because BOE member Forbes wrote it to have a back-loaded repayment plan. While AUSD has yet to pay $1M/yr on MC, that will now begin to rapidly escalate and AUSD will be paying $5M or more - up to $10m/yr to pay off those bonds approved in 2004.
I never got satisfactory answers when asking the CFO how AUSD was going to be able to come up with the repayment funds without digging into the operating budget or increasing the ad valorum tax which the bond promised not to do. As a member of the bond oversight committee, that was my one request for the Committee's final report - explain to the public the repayment plan. AUSD did not, perhaps could not. Now both the Superintendent and CFO are gone. BTW the public should know the district, not the committee wrote all the committee’s reports, often we never saw the reports.
The BOE members than as now, seem anxious to support Alameda developers. I do not know why, but look at it – Forbes and friends wrote the bond to use 1/3 of that bond to build Ruby Bridges which was built for the new west end developments rather than making the developers pay for the schools their construction would require. Most of that planned development has still not materialized.
Today, McMahon and friends give away land deals to support and benefit more development, and claims shore front and estuary property has no value. Anyone believe that? Anyone believe you have to have title to land to profit from the income produced by the marinas operating on the parcel? Is he saying it was the earlier cronyism in 2000 that simply gave away the Mastic property for worthless futures on the estuary property? They also just gave away Bayfront property adjacent to Encinal HS, as well as the property near north Park St to be developed.
Karen Bey, I completely disagree with you – Trish Spencer is the BOE member I can count on to be thorough, honest, and to represent the needs and desires of Alameda, and the students, current and future. As mayor, I expect the same from her which is a far cry from what I have seen or can expect of Mayor Gilmore. As CC member Gilmour always seemed to know how she would vote before any discussion, yet during development discussions her statements evidenced that she was unfamiliar with the agenda item’s documentation. Of course she will vote in favor of every major developer, (until it’s clear resident’s will override her as was happening with Suncal) Of course she and Tam will approve AFD’s desires and AFD will be spending money and time to get her re-elected. Never mind that AFD’s contracts bring the city closer to bankruptcy and that if their contracts were 30% less Alameda would have no trouble staffing the departments.
Alameda needs more people like Trish Spencer. She and Frank will get my vote.

Submitted by David Kirwin (not verified) on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

Mike McMahon,

While I appreciate all the time you have volunteered to sit in with the BOE, your voting and statements often puzzles me.

Not everyone acknowledged the historic building AUSD left was not safe. It is safe, but it does not meet Field Act requirements so it cannot house K-12 students. Big difference. It was pronounced safe many times, in fact do you know how many times, before AUSD found someone to say it was unsafe?

Which specific reserve held $5M, and was it earmarked for refunding the MH taxes collected? How much is needed if all who are owed refunds as a result of the court judgement, request it? Is that "reserve account" separate from the emergency reserves the district is required to maintain? Is it separate from the Maintenance reserves the District is required by law to maintain?

Who has been keeping all the rent monies the marina's have collected on the parcel behind del Monte the last 14 years - the parcel that you claim is worthless? Are you aware that by far, the majority of profitable businesses do not have title of the land their business occupies? Don't you think an amount equal to the profits that land has made for the owner, or City, is owed to the district, even if it has to come from a different bucket? What has happened to it??

Who appraised the bay front property next to Encinal High that was also given away in the last AUSD land swap / giveaway? Is bay-front property with views of SF also worthless in your opinion? Any chance Encinal might have someday been able to expand is now gone - How could you morally vote for that?

How can voters trust this BOE?
And now the BOE is supportive of AUSD's insatiable appetite for funds without plans for how to use them? How much would the repayment of that Bond cost Alameda property owners, and how long will it take. Please explain the bond repayment plan for that, as well as the repayment plan for Measure C - the 2004 Bond.

What is the value, and what are the liabilities of accepting ownership of the base property listed as historic on the national registrar?

Thank goodness Spencer has the balls to stand up for the citizens of Alameda. Too bad she was too often alone in doing what makes sense.

Submitted by resident user (not verified) on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

Candidate McMahon should explain his voting record as member the City of Alameda's Successor Agency which was responsible for re-appropriating the $$$millions of State redevelopment funds that had annually/previously funded to AUSD and the City's coffers before being reneged due to poor state economy in 2012. Frankly, it is way too telling so I don't expect we'll hear anything about it.

Submitted by Betsy Brazy (not verified) on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

As an aside, maintaining an active California law license only requires paying an annual fee and attending 25 hours of training within a three-year period. It has no bearing on the candidates' characters or merits.

Submitted by Betsy Brazy (not verified) on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

Consensus-building and compromise are key to successful governing, whether it's a school board or Congress. I do not expect to agree with every decision made by the people we elect, but I should agree with some of those decisions.

Submitted by Karen Bey (not verified) on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

The problem is that if you can't build a consensus and work together with your team members, you get nothing done. It does no good to have a dream or an idea but can't lead others to help you accomplish it. That's what many people are saying about Trish who has experienced trying to work with her. She can't lead.

As it relates to her vision -- she doesn't appear to have one. I've yet to hear her articulate vision -- other than saying "No". She says "No" but offers no solutions. Sorry, but that's not leadership.

Submitted by Godwin (not verified) on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

Gosh, Marian, have you never heard of Godwin's law? (Once someone brings up Hitler as a comparison, that side loses).

And keeping a bar license active is no great feat. You just pay the dues of an active member and verify every three years that you have completed your continuing education requirements.

Submitted by David Kirwin (not verified) on Fri, Oct 17, 2014

Consensus vs leadership
MS Bey, I respect Trish more for doing the right thing without consensus than I would for her going along with the cronies who continue to rip off Alameda residents in as many ways as has been ongoing for far too long, by both City Council and Board of Ed.
If we had more Alameda residents who were as intelligent and willing to stand up for what is right as Trish Spencer, not only could she have an opportunity for team consensus doing the RIGHT things for stakeholders, Alameda would have far fewer problems, better schools, less traffic, higher general fund balances or more amenities for students and residents.

Alameda is an island with serious troubles, a school district the community clearly does not trust because of the BOE’s actions, a city council bent on marketing our once lovely island of homes, as a mecca for hungry developers ready to treat alameda as though instead of being separated by the estuary, that we had all the vehicle access and mass transit options as Oakland, Emeryville and Berkeley. It’s shameful that the BOE & CC are being run by self serving politicians, instead of community activists like Trish, who want to do what is best for the majority of the community.

Submitted by Karen Bey (not verified) on Fri, Oct 17, 2014

David -
In a recent article, the San Francisco Business Times has rated Alameda Schools as one of the top ten schools in the Bay Area. We were right up there with Palo Alto, Piedmont, Danville, and Albany. We have an opportunity to build on this and fix our schools as more and more young people move here with children who are willing and have the money to pay the taxes to improve our school facilities.

And developers are lining up to develop in Alameda in one of hottest real estate markets the Bay Area has ever seen. Real estate transfer taxes, development impact fees, transportation demand fees, and other related development fees are just some of the fees the City will receive due to new development will help us pay down our pension deficit, develop new parks and maintain them, improve our transit system, and pay for other community benefits. It will put us on a stronger footing and it will provide thousands of new high paying jobs.

So it depends on whether you see the cup half full or half empty -- I happen to see all of the above and see the cup half full.

Submitted by David Kirwin (not verified) on Sun, Oct 19, 2014

KB - Clearly you believe in the pyramid scheme of endless development. That we need all the endless development schemes to bail Alameda out of present debts, yet with each new piece of new development the city's financial responsibilities and costs increase, thus we will need more and more development to bail us out ad infinitum as the cost spiral ever increases. Alameda is a small island with limited capacity to move people on and off to daily earn their income to cover the increasing cost to live here. Perhaps you believe that only by increasing supply of homes can you lower the housing cost. It hasn't worked that way in Manhattan or SF, or Berkeley. I'll point out Alameda is different from those other cities because we do not have mass transit - no trains, no subways, no BART, no way to control or attenuate the growing traffic problems also being made worse with the planned developments on the other side of the estuary. The development you talk about can only lower the quality of life in Alameda in many ways.

As far as your stated rating of the school by SF Business Times, I could not find such an article, but I did see they base a lot on what they call subscriber content. I am therefore unsure of the value of such a rating from them, and I have never said Alameda has bad schools.