Letter to the Editor: Transparency needed on land, cash deal

Letter to the Editor: Transparency needed on land, cash deal

Letters to the Editor

State law *permits* but does not *require* public agencies to negotiate real estate deals, like this Alameda Unified School District/City of Alameda land swap announced yesterday, in closed session.

Negotiating in closed session is arguably a necessity when dealing with an arms-length entity, like a Catellus or SunCal, etc.

However, it is far less defensible that two local public agencies (the Alameda Housing Authority is just an extension of the City of Alameda) - who are presenting themselves as working together for a common good - should negotiate such a land deal behind closed doors and refuse to release specifics or answer questions.

Many of you campaigned on, or continue to preach, "transparency." AUSD states "transparency" as one of its guiding principles. Let's have some of it.

I'm calling on the governing bodies of AUSD and City of Alameda to jointly pass resolutions - before the final votes on this deal - to release specifics on the negotiations that have led up to this grand bargain.

Allowing public participation on a deal that has already been presented as fait accompli without any context is meaningless.

Alameda parents, taxpayers and voters deserve answers to questions such as these, and more:

1) What exactly is the nature of the conflicting claims over the so-called "contested" Tidelands Trust property?

2) Was the City of Alameda threatening or planning to sue AUSD to get title to the Tidelands Trust property?

3) If the Tidelands Trust property is worthless to the school district, why did AUSD accept it in trade for the Mastick property back in 2000?

4) What use does the City of Alameda envision for this Tidelands Trust property?

5) Why couldn't AUSD simply release restrictions on the $4.6 million of low-income housing fund dollars in straight exchange for $4.6 million in cash to fix and maintain the swimming pools?

6) Beyond the limited cash provided in this deal, how does AUSD fund swimming pool repairs and maintenance on an ongoing basis now?

David Howard

Comments

Submitted by Susan Davis (se... (not verified) on Mon, Mar 3, 2014

We understand that you are frustrated with the fact that this proposal was discussed and negotiated “behind closed doors.” As you note, one of our guiding principles is “transparency.” However, in some cases, legal matters do need to be negotiated behind closed doors.

In regards to your questions about the relative worth of various parcels/funds and the various decisions made about those parcels, we urge you to look at the transaction as a whole, rather than at its individual pieces. The goal of this proposal is to put pieces of land into the hands of the agencies that can make the best use of them. So it is not, as Superintendent Vital stated several times at the last Board of Education meeting, so much about the “cash" involved. It is about the "value" of the land to the individual agencies and the communities they serve.

In regards to your comments about the Tidelands parcel: We can’t comment on a prior deal made by a prior administration, 14 years ago. We can say, however, that this current proposal is the result of all three agencies looking at our community now and making decisions about how to exchange money and land in a way that benefits not only the agencies, but the community as a whole.

There are still plenty of opportunities for the public to comment on this proposal, as each agency will be discussing it in public meetings this month. We would suggest you attend those meetings, listen to the presentations, and make comments then.

The three meetings are scheduled for:
•AUSD: March 11
•Housing Authority: March 13
•City: March 18

I hope that helps and thank you for your interest in this proposal.