Gilmore reflects on her mayoral term in State of the City speech

Gilmore reflects on her mayoral term in State of the City speech

Dave Boitano

Photo from the City of Alameda website.

City Hall is better organized, the city is greener than ever before and Alameda Point will soon see development after a 17-year wait, Mayor Marie Gilmore said Tuesday during her annual State of the City address.

Gilmore's address recounted the city’s progress during the past three years that she has served as Alameda's mayor. And she offered plenty of praise for city departments, their managers and volunteer groups who she credited with helping the city survive a deep recession and disastrous political conditions at City Hall.

Gilmore - who's up for re-election in the fall - painted a grim picture of conditions in the city when she took office three years ago. The economy was in meltdown mode, and City Hall was what she called a “bastion of instability” without permanent city manager, police or fire chief.

The city was not cohesive in its ability to deliver public services and the public conversation had “turned sour and accusatory,” Gilmore said.

But the low point was the Memorial Day 2011 drowning of Raymond Zack, 53, who took his own life in the waters off Robert W. Crown State Beach as police and firefighters looked on. Officials said the emergency personnel couldn’t help because of a city policy which prohibited firefighters from doing water rescues after training funds were cut. The policy has since been revoked and a series of improvements have been made - including the recent purchase of a fire boat, which was christened last week.

But the overall state of the city has improved, Gilmore said.

The City Council hired City Manager John Russo in 2011, who in turn hired permanent department heads. The city passed a sunshine ordinance, which Gilmore admitted was “not perfect” but helps the council strive to be more transparent and responsible.

Financially, the city’s budget reserves have risen from 22 to 31 percent of its main budget for services, the general fund, and it is making strides toward addressing pension and retiree health care liabilities by okaying a trust fund to save for future health care costs and with the aid of workers who have agreed to pay more into their pension accounts than the city could require them to pay.

Alameda continues its march toward being a “green” community, the mayor said, with Alameda Municipal Power obtaining 60 percent of its energy from renewable sources rather than the 33 percent required by state law. The public works department, with the help of a community environmental group, has diverted 75 percent of Alameda’s trash from landfills, the highest diversion rate ever, Gilmore said.

The city is also saving money by successfully opposing what Gilmore called “frivolous lawsuits” by former employees. Those included wrongful termination lawsuits brought by former Fire Chief David Kapler, who was photographed using city gasoline to fill up his sports car, and former Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant, whose case was tossed by a judge on Friday. Kapler was ordered to repay the city more than a quarter million dollars in legal fees, and Gallant was also ordered by a judge to cover the city's legal tab in that case.

“We will protect your money,” Gilmore said. “We will not give it away and we will vigorously defend against baseless lawsuits.”

The city is attending mediation with the East Bay Regional Park District, which sued over the council's decision to rezone federal property the district wanted for a Crab Cove expansion to permit housing.

The mayor had good news on the development of Alameda Point and Alameda Landing. Opening day sales at the new Target store exceeded the amount taken in that day at new stores in San Francisco and Marin County combined.

Development will soon begin at Alameda Point, Gilmore said, now that the city has approved a host of planning documents that will clear the way for conversion of the former Alameda Naval Air Station for residential and commercial use. She didn't offer any specific development proposals.

Gilmore said the planning approvals will come as good news to those who want to see the property redeveloped.

“For those of you who have been dreaming about this for decades, we are just about there,” she said.

Comments

Submitted by 39 year Alameda... (not verified) on Wed, Mar 5, 2014

I have been to 1 Alameda City Council meeting...that's all it took for me to be completely disgusted with our Mayor Gilmore...the disrespect she showed the residents of Alameda as they approached the podium to speak was shocking. She rolled her eyes while people spoke, leaned over and had side conversations with her fellow council members ignoring the speakers and her attitude was a great disappointment to the over 72,000 residents of Alameda she is supposed to be representing but clearly has no interest in doing so. It is time to change our systems of appointing Mayors by the City Council. Time to go back to elections where candidates win our votes. For the good of our island let's get this women out!

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Wed, Mar 5, 2014

Hi 39 - quick clarification - mayor is an elected office (and not appointed by members of the council). Mayor Gilmore is up for re-election in the fall.