Alameda Mayor Gilmore’s “Hang ’em high!” Letter on Arson Suspects

With news breaking that Alameda police have dropped all charges against Stephen Petersen – whose friends and family have adamantly supported as innocent – for the Park Street arson fires late last month, it’s even more clear that Mayor Marie Gilmore’s “Hang ’em high!” letter to the District Attorney was nothing but a craven act of political theater at the expense of an innocent man, and the arson victims (several families) themselves.

Compounding matters, it appears that an Alameda firefighter – the local firefighters union have been big boosters of Marie Gilmore, Jim Oddie, Stewart Chen and Measure I – had mis-identified Stephen Petersen as a suspect, when it turns out he was in fact shopping at Safeway at 2:20 a.m., the time of the one of the fires he was accused of setting.

That Gilmore should have rushed to publish such a ridiculous letter – did she send a letter to the District Attorney urging prosecution of Lena Tam for allegations of misconduct in 2010? – shows that she doesn’t care about anyone but herself, and the firefighters union whose members boost the campaigns of her and her cronies. The District Attorney needs no urging to prosecute a crime like arson.

This is just one more reason to throw Marie Gilmore out of office on Tuesday.

Vote SPENCER for Mayor!

Vote No on I!

Alameda League of Women Voters Dishonest

The Alameda League of Women Voters is a dishonest organization.

They pretend to be non-political, and provide un-biased information, but the reality is that the board is stuffed with City Hall and Alameda Unified School District cronies who rubber-stamp their friends’ initiatives.

Take Measure I – the League said it evaluated input from both sides of Measure I, including opponents, but made no request for a presentation, presence or information from Save Our City! Alameda, the chief opponent on record in the voter guide. They aren’t saying who from the opponent side they spoke with, but it wasn’t us.

Next, they’ve made an evaluation on Measure I and taken a board vote before holding their forum on October 2nd – so even through they pretend to be democratic and un-biased, by the time unaware voters turn up for the forum next week, thinking they are getting both sides of the story, the Alameda LWV has already decided, and this will undoubtedly bias their presentation, and the questions they accept from the audience.

Don’t trust the Alameda League of Women Voters.

Vote No on I – No more student debt.

Here’s Why You Can’t Afford Measure I

Here’s why you can’t afford Measure I – your taxes keep going up, your utility bills, groceries, gas prices too. Yet your income is stagnating, or worse, declining.

Late last month, Bloomberg Businessweek covered a report by the Economic Policy Institute that confirms what you already know – you’re pedaling faster and faster, but not getting anywhere.

Real hourly wages declined for almost every segment of the U.S. workforce in the first half of 2014, according to a briefing paper released Wednesday morning by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. “The last year has been a poor one for American workers’ wages,” economist Elise Gould, who directs EPI’s health policy research, writes in the report.

As this chart shows, unless you are at the very top of the pile in terms of income, your real wages – ‘real’ means as measured after inflation – have stayed flat or even declined since 2010.

And yet, the school district wants to double what you pay now for school bonds, as shown in the chart below, provided by the bond consultant to the school district. And that’s on top of the parcel tax!

Presentation by bond consultants show that under Measure I, tax bond payments would effectively double, and this is in addition to the parcel tax from 2011.

Presentation by bond consultants show that under Measure I, tax bond payments would effectively double, and this is in addition to the parcel tax from 2011.

You can’t afford Measure I – your real income is declining, and yet the school district keeps coming back for more and more.

Vote No on I

Overview of Measure I

Seeing as how the Alameda League of Women Voters chickened out on offering a Measure I specific debate or forum, we have launched a series of short (20 minute) livestream broadcasts that explain how Measure I works, and why you should vote No on Measure I.

Here is a recording of the Sept. 12th livestream broadcast.

(Having trouble viewing it in this post? Try watching it directly on YouTube…)

Alameda League of Women Voters and Measure I

The Alameda League of Women Voters has chickened out on hosting any kind of debate or public forum on Measure I. Presumably because they know the ballot measure is distasteful, and opponents will tear it apart.

The local league is just an extension of Alameda City Hall and the school district, so they don’t want to give opponents a forum to explain just how bad Measure I really is.

Instead of a debate, or even the traditional nicey-nice “forum” specific to Measure I that the local league is known for, they have announced a broad ‘pros and cons’ forum in early October to discuss all measures – state and local – on the ballot this fall.

Likewise, the City of Alameda Democratic Club – also an extension of City Hall – foreclosed on any opportunity to host a Measure I specific forum, presumably for the same reasons.

They know a 25-year tax measure that, as Harold Mackenzie wrote in the Alameda Sun last week, places, “non-dedicated funds in the hands of public entities without public oversight and control is not a good idea…”

Vote No on Measure I – tell AUSD to go back to the drawing board.

Alameda High School and the Brown Fence

Labor day is the traditional official start of the election season, and sure enough, in Alameda, we saw the obligatory law signs sprouting that weekend.

But for the Alameda Unified School District, the campaign for Measure I (Vote No!), on the ballot this November, started back in 2012, when the ugly brown fence went up around the historic Alameda High School building.

Almost immediately after the Measure A parcel tax passed in 2011, the district started spending on the administration.

Of course, parcel tax money was not to be used on administrators, but what it did was free up a bunch of general fund dollars for the administration to play with.

Right away, the superintendent began hiring administrative assistants, and plotting the move of the administration’s offices from the historic Alameda High School to new, upgraded digs.

No space at the former Naval Air Station Alameda – leased from the City of Alameda on favorable terms – would do. Instead, AUSD administrators had to have a fancy new office in Marina Village, leased from a property owner that contributed funds to the pro-parcel tax campaign.

The lease included options to purchase, to boot; the district wanted out of the historic high school building for good.

And then the fence went up,

This was the beginning of the campaign for a $180 million tax bond measure (Measure I) that has no detailed spending plan, and nothing that binds the school district spending tax payer money in accordance with what voters think they are voting on.

Measure I is completely irresponsible – it provides no detailed spending plan, and does not commit to voters in advance exactly how the money will be used.

The Measure I implementation plan? It’s a hoax – it’s not part of the ballot measure, read it carefully.

Fixing the historic Alameda High School building? Measure I does not commit to doing that. The so-called ‘Measure I implementation plan’ is not part of the ballot measure.

It was only a massive public outcry by teachers and residents that the district didn’t go forward and spend millions to buy their lush new office building.

AS a community, we can’t afford to protest and demonstrate with each and every bad spending decision that would surely follow the passage of this ‘superbond’ tax measure.

The only way to ensure that AUSD uses your tax dollars wisely is to Vote No on Measure I, and tell the district to go back to the drawing board.

Vote No on I.

Measure I Commits No Funds to the Woodstock Child Development Center

As another example of how Measure I funds will be used to serve Alameda’s one percent, notice how the measure commits no funding to the Woodstock Child Development Center.

According to the Woodstock Child Development Center website, “Child Protective Services and Families who fall under the McKinney-Vento guidelines shall be admitted first. Within this priority, children receiving protective services through the county welfare department shall be admitted first.”

The McKinney-Vento reference is a reference to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act, which is federal law that ensures educational enrollment and stability for homeless children and youth.

The school district, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that the Woodstock Child Development Center facility deserves no funds, and is in need of no improvements, so that the schools in the wealthy neighborhoods of Alameda will have more funding.

Read the measure.

This is a just another reason to Vote No on Measure I.

School District Sleight of Hand on Measure I Implementation Plan

The Alameda Unified School District is engaging in some sleight of hand in its selling of Measure I, a 25 year, $180 million tax bond measure, to the media.

District officials keep pointing to a June 10th, 2014 “implementation plan” that outlined how funds could be spent.

But that implementation plan is not what taxpayers will vote on come November 4th. The implementation plan is not part of the ballot measure, and, if Measure I should be approved by voters, there is nothing to compel the school district to spend funds in accordance with the implementation plan.

Read the measure carefully – it incorporates by reference the facilities master plan, which has a price tag of over $600 million, but it doesn’t incorporate the implementation plan.

The implementation plan is irrelevant – it’s the language of the ballot measure that will guide any spending of funds, and that language is vague and open-ended. Even the proponents admit that it will come down to project-by-project board votes on how the money is spent.

Voters should not approve any tax bond measure like this without knowing specifically, in advance, how the funds will be spent. Measure I does not do that.

Vote No on I

Alameda School District Asks for Tax Measures With Increasing Frequency

In recent years, the Alameda Unified School District has been asking voters to approve tax measures with increasing frequency, but there doesn’t seem to be a corresponding increase in the level of efficacy of Alameda schools.

In 1997, the district asked for a four-year $50 parcel tax which voters did not approve.

In 2001, voters approved a $109 parcel tax, which was increased to $189 in 2005, and extended for seven years.

In 2004, voters approved a $63 million tax bond measure (Measure C) which ballooned in total cost to three times that amount, due to the use of Capital Appreciation Bonds, which defer interest payments. Those bonds will burden Alameda families for decades to come.

In 2008, the district asked voters to approve Measure H, another, more complex, parcel tax. Ultimately, the courts ruled that part of this tax – the levy on commercial property – was illegal, and that the district would have to provide tax refunds. That process is still playing out, but is expected to cost the district millions of dollars.

In 2010, the district tried to replace measures A and H with a new parcel tax (Measure E) – and correct the mistakes made with Measure H, but voters rejected the measure.

Undeterred, the district plowed ahead in 2011 with Measure A, another complicated tax structure that levies 32 cents per square building foot on property. Strangely, the district capped the annual payment at $7,999 per year, which benefits commercial property owners at the expense of homeowners. The measure squeaked by. It was set for seven years.

Now, in 2014, the district wants voters to approve a $180 million tax bond measure; the $180 million amount is sure to grow to $200 million and beyond, when interest payments over the expected 25 year repayment period is factored in.

And the district is already planning a replacement parcel tax for the last one.

Alameda families are burdened with too much student debt, and they are tired of the district coming back to ask for money over and over again.

Measure I is Irresponsible – No more student debt!

Vote No on I.

How AUSD’s Measure C Bond Debt Ballooned to Three Times What Voters Approved

In 2004 critics of Measure C, the $63 million tax bond measure that Alameda Unified School District, correctly predicted that the total repayment amount, including principal and interest, would grow to almost $200 million.

Of course, that’s exactly what happened, due to the school district’s use of so-called capital appreciation bonds, which defer interest repayment for years.

Since 2004, capital appreciation bonds have become notorious for burdening school districts up and down the state of California with crushing debt. You can read about it here.

In one of her final letters to the community, in May of this year, former AUSD Superintendent Kirsten Vital acknowledge that taxpayers are still paying off that debt; they will continue to due so for decades to come. It’s a tremendous amount of ‘student debt.’

You see this debt expense on your tax bill, under ‘Voter Approved Debt Service – School Unified.’

You can see how much you currently pay for the Measure C bonds on the left side of your tax bill.

You can see how much you currently pay for the Measure C bonds on the left side of your tax bill.

You can see our summary spreadsheet of the repayments, based on AUSD documentation.

The school district has 17 school campuses for less than 10,000 students. The price tag attached to the facilities master plan came in at more than $600 million – Alameda families simply cannot afford to maintain this many school campuses.

Rather than asking Alameda students and their families to take on more debt, AUSD needs to consolidate its facilities.

Vote No on I.