The life and times of Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft (according to ChatGPT)

When ChatGPT was released in November 2022, the Merry‑Go‑Round was an early adopter.

Before then, we had read only a handful of stories about so‑called “generative” artificial intelligence.  But ChatGPT, it was claimed, could compose poems and create essays.  It could complete homework assignments.  It could even write blog posts.

The last example was the most intriguing.  Maybe if we let A.I. generate the column, we wouldn’t have to rely on our in-house editor to tighten prolix explanations, cut gratuitous asides, and insert Oxford commas.

We were reluctant, however, to jump in with both feet by giving ChatGPT a column idea and seeing what it came up with.  So we decided to do a preliminary test:  Pick a simple topic that (we thought) would be hard to mess up and prompt ChatGPT to generate a response.

This is the prompt we chose:  “Write a biography about Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, the Alameda politician.”

Continue reading

Posted in City Hall | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

AHA moment

It is often stated, and often lamented, how expensive it is to build new affordable housing in the Bay Area, including the City of Alameda.

The figure frequently bandied about is $1 million per unit.  Columnist Heather Knight of the San Francisco Chronicle used that number for San Francisco as recently as Friday.  And we well remember the piece in the Los Angeles Times reporting that it cost $947,000 per unit to build the 20 affordable units at the Everett Commons project right here on the island.

Continue reading

Posted in City Hall, Housing | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Council’s slush fund

Our topic today is the residual fund balance in excess of policy or fund balance deficits in the General Fund.

Sound boring?

We thought so.  What if we called it, “Alameda City Council’s slush fund”?

Ah, now we’ve got your attention.

Continue reading

Posted in Budget, City Hall | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

The RHNA and the real world

Everyone knows (as the saying goes) that the City of Alameda was the first Bay Area city (and, out of 109 cities, one of only two so far) to get its 2023-31 Housing Element certified by the State Department of Housing and Community Development.

The City thus has carried out the mission assigned by the State and regional agencies of designating sites available to accommodate 5,353 new housing units during the next eight years, including 1,421 units for very-low-income households, 818 units for low-income households, and 868 units for moderate-income households.

But let’s not congratulate ourselves just yet.  In fact, the real challenge lies ahead:  building the housing, particularly the affordable housing, called for by the Housing Element.  Which raises the question:  How likely is it that 3,107 new affordable units actually will be built in Alameda between now and 2031?

Continue reading

Posted in City Hall, Development, Housing | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Sounds like a plan

The City of Alameda loves its strategic plans.

At least the staff who propose them and the Council members who vote for them do.

And the consultants who get paid to prepare them can’t be too unhappy, either. Continue reading

Posted in Budget, City Hall | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ms. Jensen goes to City Hall

This Tuesday, Tracy Jensen will be sworn in as Alameda’s newest City Council member.

Continue reading

Posted in City Hall | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

United they stand

Hell hath no fury like an Alameda “progressive” spurned.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

The Princes of Alameda

For years, the Merry‑Go‑Round believed that the savviest political operator ever to occupy an office at City Hall was former City Manager John Russo.

But in our estimation Mr. Russo now has got himself a rival for the crown:  City Planner Andrew Thomas.

Continue reading

Posted in Budget, City Hall, Development, Firefighters, Housing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

We tell it to the judge

The Court:  “Madam Clerk, call the next case.”

The Clerk:  “Yes, Your Honor.  Next on the docket is City of Alameda v. California Department of Housing and Community Development.”

Continue reading

Posted in Housing | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

Sweet home Alameda

The Merry‑Go‑Round always has been unabashedly – and unashamedly – Alameda‑centric.

Whenever we read a story comparing California cities by various metrics, our first instinct is to see whether the City of Alameda is mentioned.  And if it isn’t, we wonder where our hometown would fit in.

Having encountered more than a few such articles recently, we decided to investigate further.  So today’s column will look at two recent reports, one involving municipal fiscal health, the other school test scores.

In each case, there is both good news and bad news for Alameda.

Continue reading

Posted in Budget, City Hall, Pensions | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments