Keeping ’em on the job

When City Manager Eric Levitt presented his revised Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget last week, the staff report made his priorities clear: “First, the approach to the budget is to limit layoffs. . . .  We anticipate bringing back part-time employees . . . [and] are presenting a budget that does not lay-off any full-time employees at this time. . . .”

That’s good news, to be sure, for those who work for the City of Alameda (and the unions that represent them).  Our municipal employees are certainly better off than many other workers throughout the state:  2.3 million Californians lost their jobs last month, and, as the Los Angeles Times reported Friday, “employment experts fear that many of the job losses could be permanent.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether Alamedans anxious about the City’s finances will have cause to applaud Mr. Levitt’s approach of maintaining full employment for City workers while looking for cost reductions elsewhere.

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Charter follies

Last week, Council met on three consecutive nights to consider the recommendations made by a subcommittee appointed in December 2018 to propose revisions to the City Charter. Indeed, two of the meetings were devoted exclusively to that topic.

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They like bikes

Last week, as we pedaled behind the new white tricycle along its 14‑mile route across the island, we saw that signs had gone up at the corner of Versailles and Central Avenues announcing that Versailles was “closed to thru traffic.”  The purpose of the auto ban, we later learned from a City press release, was to “provide more space for physical distancing and physical activity for the duration of shelter in place order.”

So yesterday at the end of our ride we decided to take a look for ourselves.

Over the space of the five blocks covered by the embargo, we saw two families riding bikes and another walking the dog.  No one was “social distancing” – but there weren’t enough people on the street to require it anyway.  We suppose that, at least for the three groups we passed, the street closure was fulfilling its purpose.  Still, we wondered why the City had decided to do it in the first place.

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Who’s getting aid from the City

You can tell a lot about elected officials’ priorities – and their politics – when you look at the decisions they make about who is entitled to get financial assistance from the government during the coronavirus crisis.

Take the federal “Paycheck Protection Program,” which offers forgivable loans for small businesses.  According to news reports, the Democratic leadership wanted to make sure that a chunk of the money went to minority- and women-owned businesses; some Republicans wanted to ensure that none of it went to Planned Parenthood.

Both efforts only partially succeeded – but each gave its backers something to brag about to their core supporters.

Today, we’ll look at the decisions made by the Alameda City Council about providing financial assistance for Alameda renters and small business owners during the coronavirus crisis – and what those decisions say about the Council members’ priorities and politics.

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The coronavirus and the City budget

More than 2,100 U.S. cities brace for budget shortfalls due to
coronavirus, survey finds, with many planning cuts and layoffs

That was the headline in the April 14 edition of the Washington Post over a story about a survey conducted by the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors of the economic impact of the coronavirus on local governments.  The story went on to report that more than 1,100 cities across the country were preparing to scale back public services, and almost 600 cities predicted they may have to lay off some workers.  Local leaders in 1,000 cities said the reductions probably would affect their local police departments and other public safety agencies.

So far, at least, the City of Alameda appears to have escaped a similar fate.

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What Alameda is doing to prepare for the coronavirus

Relentlessly (if parochially) focused on all things Alameda, the Merry-Go-Round began to wonder, as we watched and read the stories about the coronavirus (aka COVID-19) crisis, what our local public agencies were preparing to do about it.

So we decided to find out.

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Midway crisis

Three years after Council proudly adopted a plan to replace 200 dilapidated units of housing for the homeless at Alameda Point with a complex containing 267 new housing units and a community center, the fate of the endeavor remains very much up in the air.

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