Alameda’s Future — It’s Your Choice

Alameda’s Future — It’s Your Choice

 

During his presidency, Franklin Delano Roosevelt went to the airways via radio to bring his “Fireside Chats” to the American people informing them of the issues of the day. On a smaller scale, I hope  you will allow me to come into your home and address measure K1, more commonly known as the Utility Modernization Act (UMA). I am strongly in favor of its passage. 

I will not attempt to influence your vote, but ask you to study the issue thoroughly. There will be pros and cons on this measure, and that is healthy and good. This is known as “democracy at work.”

Following a brief professional baseball career, I married in 1949 and decided to make Alameda our home. Our city has everything we wanted to raise our family. Alameda “The Isle of Style” had fantastic civic leaders who had a vision of “Mayberry RFD,” located within a diversified metropolitan area. What we saw was mindboggling: good schools, excellent city government, tree-lined streets, parks, a golf course, good roadways and views of the bay that are unbelievable. Not to mention the friendliest of people.

I have yet to meet a visitor to Alameda who did not say what a lovely and charming city we have.

Today, under the direction and leadership of our new city manager, Jill Keimach, Alameda is in good hands. Our police and fire departments are second to none. Recreation and Parks and the library are, as always, top-flight departments. All city department heads are amazing professionals who direct dedicated personnel to carry out the necessary functions of city government. My personal favorite is Public Works and the guys in the “street gangs.”

Now to the meat of my message. I am not going to inundate you with meaningless figures, pie charts or what is known in political circles as “bureaucratic gobbledygook.” 

Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) has been a department of the city of Alameda since 1887. It is the second-oldest municipally owned utility in the United States.  Since that time, AMP’s board has unanimously voted to contribute more than $75 million to the general fund. Since 1970, Alamedans paid a Utility Users Tax (UUT) of 7.5 percent on their electric, gas, cable television and telecommunications bills with little or no fanfare. This will not change. 

The exisiting UUT was written long before anyone could envision the tremendous growth in technology. Updating the language of these two laws will clarify all services rendered. When two customers with similar services but different providers pay different taxes, that, to me, is not fair or equal. 

In doing my research under the freedom of information act, I obtained the following data regarding city employees. In the year 2005, all departments including AMP totaled 641 employees. In 2016, the city employed 514, a decrease of 127. Every department is down, but the most alarming is the police department down to 121 from 152 and the fire department down to 102 from 119. This is alarming and staggering. The city is doing more with less.

As we all are aware, Alameda is growing by leaps and bounds. More residents and traffic is on the way, considering the build-out of the West End, notably Webster Street, Alameda Landing, Alameda Point and others too numerous to mention. This is going to put a tremendous strain on all city services. The city must have the means to keep up the demand. 

To me, it’s not should we pass the proposed UMA, but we must pass it. If it fails all Alamedans will feel the brunt of it in future years. 

Let us all follow in the footsteps of those visionaries of the past by continuing their legacy. We should leave to our children and grandchildren the same lifestyle and amenities that were provided for us, nothing more, nothing less. 
Thank you for letting me into your homes. 

P.S. During my 10 years on the City Council, I was always a fiscal conservative and still belong to the Howard Jarvis Tax Foundation.