May 2012

A reader e-mailed us the other day to request that we check into claims the three Democratic candidates for the Assembly District 18 seat have made on campaign mailers hitting mailboxes over these last several weeks. So just in time for Tuesday’s election, we deconstruct some claims made by candidates Rob Bonta, Abel Guillen and Joel Young.

It seems as though the city will be taking a step backward if the City Council decides at its June 6 meeting to stop full city-led land entitlement activities and goes with one of the open ended alternatives or, even worse, effectively give up and wait for the economy to improve.

We've got big news today: We're proud to announce a partnership with the Alameda Sun. Starting this week, the Sun will be running stories from The Alamedan website in their print paper.

 

Oh, the heady aroma of Spring on Shoreline Drive. The bushes are all in flower, the ground cover is covered with yellow blossoms and the sweet scent hangs in the air all along the drive.

On a bright afternoon earlier this month, some two dozen landlords and property managers gathered in a meeting room at the main library to discuss the city’s tough new secondhand smoke ordinance.

In what has become an almost perverse annual ritual, city leaders discussed how they plan to address a projected $5.1 million deficit in next year’s general fund budget and bigger deficits in the years to come.

Welcome to The Alamedan, your daily journal of civic affairs and Alameda culture. This is a place where you will find breaking news and analysis of major local issues, dispatches on our people and our culture, event listings, data and more.

 

Welcome to Alameda Street Smarts, a new blog about Alameda transportation issues, news, and views.

We were driving to a Memorial Day picnic when I heard the helicopter, its blades frantically casting aside the blue midday sky in its quest to rescue a man from the chilly waters of the San Francisco Bay.

Alameda’s Public Utilities Board has agreed to shelve a controversial program to move utility wires underground in order to facilitate an overhaul of the program. The decision followed a 10-month review sparked by concerns over plans for a new underground utility district along and around Webster Street.

UPDATE 10:00 a.m. Friday, May 25: An investigator working for the Zack family's attorneys said he has filed the suit.

The siblings of an Alameda man who drowned off Robert W. Crown State Beach last Memorial Day as dozens of public safety officials and bystanders watched are filing a lawsuit against the city and Alameda County.

The suit, a copy of which was obtained by the Alameda Community News Project in advance of an anticipated court filing on Friday, accuses Alameda police and fire managers who handled the drowning of failing to call in the resources needed to rescue Zack and of discouraging bystanders from rescuing him, both actively and by just being present on the beach, endangering his life due to alleged negligence.

Leaders of Alameda’s marine and merchant communities said Wednesday they are overjoyed with the news that America’s Cup challenger of record Artemis Racing is planting its flag here on the Island.

AMERICA’S CUP TEAM COMING TO ALAMEDA

Artemis Racing is setting up their team base in Alameda for America's Cup

City officials announced today that a piece of the America’s Cup is coming to Alameda: One of the eight teams competing in the sailing regatta is setting up shop at Alameda Point.

Artemis Racing, which represents the Royal Swedish Yacht Club and is the challenger of record for the Cup, is leasing a 110,000-square-foot former airplane hangar at Alameda Point. The team has signed a three-month lease - enough to get them through the World Series races in San Francisco this summer - with an option to remain for up to a year, Alameda Community Development Director Lori Taylor said.

“Alameda offers convenient shoreline water access to our racing grounds in San Francisco Bay immediately next to large industrial warehouse space. It is a turn-key option which will allow us to operate efficiently and immediately in 2012,” Artemis Racing’s chief executive officer, Paul Cayard, said. “We all look forward to settling in for this season and making the most of the facility.”

The city has also been designated as an official launching point for accessing the races, with expanded service from its ferry terminals.

City officials said they’re thrilled the 70-person Artemis team has chosen to make Alameda their home away from home, and they touted the array of services, maritime and otherwise, at the team’s disposal.

“We are honored that some of the most elite sailors in the world, commanding the fastest sailing vessels, have chosen to make Alameda their home port,” Mayor Marie Gilmore said. “We enthusiastically welcome the 70-member Artemis Team and their families to our community.”

The city has an America’s Cup committee that has been working to promote Alameda as a destination for teams and visitors, and the leader of that committee expressed his excitement about the team’s arrival.

“Our community is ecstatic about Artemis being here,” said Christopher Seiwald, Chair of the City’s Ad Hoc Committee for the America’s Cup. “It is great news for our local economy that we will be hosting these magnificent catamarans and their crews right here in Alameda.”

The 34th America’s Cup race, which is headed to San Francisco in 2013, is expected to generate $1 billion in economic benefits for that city and draw millions of fans and spectators. Event organizers are hoping the Bay will prove to be a more media- and spectator-friendly location that increases the visibility of the Cup and the sport.

The Cup has been billed as the world’s most prestigious sailing event.

The team, skippered by American Terry Hutchinson, took the match racing championship title in the latest America’s Cup World Series event, which concluded Sunday in Venice. Artemis Racing is in third place in World Series racing so far, holding the top position for match racing and fourth place for fleet racing.

The team became the Challenger of Record in the regatta after an Italian team, Mascalzone Latino Audi, dropped out.

The next World Series event takes place from June 26 to July 1 in Newport, Rhode Island. The Cup comes to San Francisco in late August, when World Series racing takes place, and continues there in October during Fleet Week.

Teams will race for the Louis Vuitton Cup from July 4, 2013 to September 1, 2013, with the winner earning the sole right to challenge defending America’s Cup champion ORACLE Racing for the title.

More information:

Alameda Waterfront website

America's Cup Ad Hoc committee

America's Cup website

Artemis Racing website

Teachers and parents crowded into council chambers Tuesday night to urge a swift resolution to negotiations toward a contract for Alameda’s teachers and an end to the rancorous public airing of bargaining details.

On the afternoon of May 7, just a few weeks before the tragic anniversary of the drowning death of Raymond Zack, Alameda police and firefighters responded to a call of swimmers in distress less than a half mile from where the 53-year-old Alameda man died.

This is my 19th year at Alameda Little League and I have enjoyed every year immensely. We have a great community and a great environment for our kids to develop into strong people and that is Little League’s primary purpose.

Let’s value teachers as an asset.

Two weeks ago, we asked the community for their questions regarding negotiations over a new contract for Alameda's teachers. Today we publish responses from Superintendent Kirsten Vital and Alameda Education Association President Gray Harris.

On Thursday, May 17, the Otis PTA hosted an information session between Kirsten Vital, Alameda Unified School District superintendent, and Gray Harris, Alameda Education Association president. Each party was advocating their positions, which is course is why they were there. However, what struck me during this process is that all this arguing and advocating needs to stop going on in public.

This week, city officials released 2011 salary data for hundreds of city employees. Some 50 city employees earned salaries and benefits totaling $200,000 or more. Police and fire managers held nine of the top 10 spots on the earnings chart, taking home more in pay and benefits than the directors of any other city department.

Foreclosure filings are declining here in Alameda and across California, recent data show, though local real estate professionals said the numbers don't reflect a “shadow inventory” of homes with troubled mortgages and others lenders own but haven't put on the market.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to negotiate with Greenway Golf for a long-term lease at the Chuck Corica Golf Complex. A lease could be negotiated in 45 days and sent to the council for its approval.

Editor's Note: Coming Soon!

Nearly three months ago, we set up shop with a beta version of a new local news and information website and a promise of more to come, soon. Well, soon is just about here. In less than two weeks we'll have that (slightly) more fully realized site we promised. As of May 29, you'll come to know us by our new name: The Alamedan.

Over the last several weeks we've been rolling out new features, including a running news feature focused on Alameda Point, a Fact Check feature and a full event calendar. And we'll have additional content for you when The Alamedan makes its debut. (We'll also be setting up a page to honor our donors, so feel free to contribute now to be on that inaugural list.)

Thanks, as always, for taking this exciting journey with us. We're looking forward to serving you better. If you've got any questions or suggestions, feel free to e-mail me at michele@alamedacommunitynewsproject.org.

School district officials have released dozens of grievances filed over the years Kirsten Vital has served as Alameda Unified's superintendent, documents that cast fresh light on teachers’ claims of a lack of respect from school administrators and on the reasoning behind new rules on teacher evaluations and discipline their union wants included in a new contract.

Croll’s Pizza will be set upon by a mob on Sunday, and its owners couldn’t be happier.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Daniel Puertas, who owns Croll’s with his mother and brother. “It’s pretty great.”

State finance officials are questioning nearly $370 million in payments city officials say they owe on their former redevelopment projects, more than a third of the amount they say their remaining redevelopment obligations will cost.

A vote by Council on May 15 to make Greenway Golf the long-term operator of the Chuck Corica Golf Complex is a vote for the future.

A deeply divided Alameda City Council may end up walking away from the city’s latest proposal to prepare Alameda Point for development, with some council members saying they think the city should focus on existing tenants and forget about moving forward with new development plans for a few years.

Alameda Unified’s top human resources official offered the district’s version of negotiations over next year’s school calendar on Tuesday night, one of the most hotly contested and closely watched items the district is negotiating with its teachers.

Q&A: Union, district will answer your questions here.

There's been a lot of information floating around regarding the negotiations for a new contract for Alameda's teachers. Are you wondering what it all means? Alameda Education Association president Gray Harris and Alameda Unified School District Superintendent Kirsten Vital have agreed to take your questions right here on the site, so if there's something you'd like explained, you can post your question in the comments section on this post or e-mail them to me at michele@alamedacommunitynewsproject.org.

We ask that you please keep your questions on-topic, and we also want to let you know that neither side will be able to answer questions about active bargaining. The deadline for questions is noon on Friday. After that we'll forward questions to Harris and the district (so let us know who your question is for, please), and we hope to have answers posted for you next Friday, May 18.

We thank the union and the district for their willingness to support our efforts to engage and inform you about this important topic.

The board governing Alameda Hospital on Monday signed off on a pair of service agreements intended to boost the hospital’s finances as its available cash fell from nearly two weeks’ worth to little more than enough to cover the hospital’s bills for two days.

When Jim Franz was a schoolboy in the 1940s, bullying was kids getting pushed around on the playground. But in the intervening years it’s come to be recognized as something more mental and verbal than physical, and its reach has extended from the finite frontier of a schoolyard blacktop to the infinite reaches of cyberspace.

Sixteen years ago, Allen Bennett signed on for the proverbial three-hour tour at Alameda’s Temple Israel, offering to fill in for a few months while the temple’s leadership looked for a new rabbi. Now he’s retiring to a life of volunteerism, activism – and visits to the nation’s parks.

Welcome to the maiden voyage of our new Fact Check feature, which is designed to help you navigate the sometimes murky waters of political discourse in Alameda.

Members of Alameda’s City Council offered stiff opposition to Councilman Doug deHaan’s request they consider a campaign finance reform ordinance Tuesday night, saying it would make the council accessible only to the wealthy and would strip working families of their political power.