The scandal involving Council members Jim Oddie and Malia Vella has been dominating the local news recently, with the result that other stories have gone unreported.
Here are a few of them:
Latest Planning Board nominee nixed
In yet another stinging defeat for Mayor Trish Spencer, Council rejected, by a 3-2 vote, her latest nominee for a seat on the Alameda Planning Board.
This time, the unsuccessful candidate was a man calling himself “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Supporters had hoped that the nominee’s humble background – his mother bore him out of wedlock; he worked as a carpenter – would earn him the votes of the Council’s leading “progressives,” Council members Malia Vella and Jim Oddie. But it turned out that carpenters’ union records contained no evidence that Jesus ever had joined the union, and both Ms. Vella and Mr. Oddie voted against him.
As with Ms. Spencer’s prior failed Planning Board nominations, the deciding no vote was cast by Councilwoman Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft.
“Jesus seems like a fine and upstanding gentleman,” Ms. Ashcraft said. Nevertheless, she was “concerned” that, during a personal interview with her, the candidate claimed to be the Son of God. “There’s only one divine being in Alameda,” the Councilwoman declared, “and that’s John Knox White.”
Mueller expands probe
Special counsel Robert Mueller announced today that his investigation into the manipulation of social media to influence the voting public was being extended to Alameda.
Specifically, Mueller disclosed that his investigators are looking into several phony Twitter accounts that have been deployed to spread defamatory falsehoods about Mayor Trish Spencer. The names used on the suspect accounts appear to have been taken from lists of commenters on local anti-Spencer blogs and frequent speakers at Council meetings.
According to Mueller, the tip-off that the tweets are coming from a common source was that all of them employ rudimentary vocabulary and consist mainly of name-calling. “They read like they’ve been written by a twelve-year-old – or the President,” he said.
Mueller said that the local Twitter accounts did not appear to have been set up by the Kremlin. Rather, the tweets had been traced to servers located in a building on Clement Avenue. The exact location has yet to be determined, but Mueller said it had been narrowed down to the Alameda firefighters’ union hall and a nearby martial arts studio.
PAC begins new campaign
The political action committee calling itself “Alamedans United” is gearing up to ensure that next November’s election results in a 100% pro-labor, pro-development Council.
Auditions will be held at the Alameda firefighters’ union hall for potential candidates seeking a spot on the PAC’s slate. The aspiring Council members will be judged on how well they can dance to a tune played by IAFF Local 689 president Jeff DelBono and how high they can jump in response to a command given by UFCW Local 5 communications director Mike Henneberry.
In addition, the Council wannabes will compete in a specially designed “Monopoly” game in which all of the little green houses have been replaced with multi-family apartment buildings. The winner will be the one who can put the largest number of housing units on the board without triggering a “call for review” by Mayor Trish Spencer.
The PAC also is working on attack ads for use in the campaign. Councilman Jim Oddie has supplied surreptitiously recorded video of his recent overseas trip with the Mayor showing that Ms. Spencer was unable to converse with her hosts in their native language. This video will be posted on Twitter with the hashtag, #SpencerHatesAsians.
Alameda Point sold
The City of Alameda announced that it has agreed to sell the former Alameda Naval Air Station, now known as Alameda Point, back to the U.S. government.
Under the deal, the City will lease back half of the acreage for use as a combination recreation/training facility for the Alameda fire department. The other half will become a wildlife refuge in keeping with Alameda’s self-designation as a “Sanctuary City.”
Existing businesses will be given the opportunity to relocate to the Del Monte warehouse or Encinal Terminals, if and when either project actually gets built. The senior City staffer at the Point, Jennifer Ott, will be reassigned to the new multi-million-dollar Emergency Operations Center, where she will be responsible for keeping the sole employee who works there company.
Planning Board president David Mitchell praised the deal as “perfectly consistent” with the City’s “vision” for the Point. “It’s a ‘mixed-use’ development, isn’t it?” he said.
But housing advocates bemoaned the loss of the 800 housing units planned for the site. “Where are all those people going to live who want to move here to get out of states that voted for Donald Trump?” one asked.
Street renaming proposed
The group calling itself the “Alameda Progressives” has presented Council with a comprehensive street renaming program designed, a spokesperson said, to “wipe the oppressors off the map” of Alameda.
Under the proposal, streets bearing the name of industrialists (Gould Court, Dow Court, Stanford Street); generals (Jackson Street, Marshall Way, Sherman Street), and Republican presidents (Hoover Court, Lincoln Avenue) will be renamed. Johnson Avenue and Roosevelt Drive will keep their names, but “(D)” will be added at the end.
In addition, new names will be given to streets with the same names as other historical figures who were white males, such as authors (Anderson Road, Emerson Terrace, Lawrence Road, Jack London Avenue, Swift Court, Robert Louis Stephenson Avenue); artists (Benton Street, Gainsborough Court); composers (Mozart Street, Purcell Drive, Souza Court, Verdi Street); photographers (Ansel Avenue and Adams Street), and hockey players (Orr Road). Marcuse Street will be spared from renaming on the assumption it honors New Left guru Herbert Marcuse.
Clinton Avenue also will retain its current name, but “Hillary” will be added in front of “Clinton.”
Russo enters mayoral race
The already crowded race for mayor of Alameda gained a new entrant when former City Manager John Russo declared his intent to run for the office next November.
Russo, now the city manager in Riverside, said he had been following events in Alameda closely – “I read the Alameda Merry-Go-Round every week” – and was disgusted by the performance of the current Council. “When I was there, Jeff DelBono could count on Marie and me to get him whatever he wanted,” he said. “Now Oddie and Vella can’t even deliver a fire chief!”
Russo also criticized Council’s failure to expedite the pace of multi-family residential development. “By now, there should be high-rise apartment buildings all along the northern waterfront,” Russo said. “Tim Lewis is going to stop giving these guys money if they can’t get the job done.”
His mayoral campaign will focus on green issues, Russo said. He pledged that, if elected, “I’m going to have Alex find me one of those lime bikes, and I’ll put on my earbuds, crank up the Whiffenpoofs, and ride it all around the island.”
Councilwoman Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, herself a potential contender for the mayor’s job, welcomed Russo’s candidacy. “He seems like a fine and upstanding gentleman,” she said.