Get Real v2

Is this just another Exercise in Egoism for those in positions of authority?

What is it with this city?  Do they really think we’re that stupid?

Today I’m talking specifically about Ronald Cowan and his personal, open letter that he mailed to every Alameda resident (I’m assuming, because I got one) telling them to vote yes on Measure A.

“Dear Alameda Voter:”  his letter begins. Just TrustMee, and blindly follow my lead because I’m an important person and I know best.  Seriously?

Mr. Cowan offers no facts, no statistics. Just TrustMees ’cause I’m a GOB.

I found Mr. Cowan’s letter so offensive. Didn’t you?

If you’re going to waste my time (and your money), a SWOT analysis would be nice.  Go ahead, we can take it.  Really. We have brains and minds and we think for ourselves.

So I cannot for the life of me figure out why …  his sayso would have any impact on me or others.  Or why he would have his company (Doric and Harbor Bay Group of Companies) spend the money to write, print, and mail this out?

Oh right, this is Alameda, where magical thinking and anecdotal stories are a., sufficient foundation for decision-makers to act and b., enough to bring residents’ thinking in line with theirs. NOT.

Mr. Cowan thinks his business tenure in our city is reason enough to trust him when he says Measure A is good for us. He thinks it’s enough for us to know that he’s 1., a CEO, 2., a business owner/operator, 3. a 3rd generation Alamedan, and 4. has worked his whole adult life developing business in Harbor Bay Isle.  So we should vote like him?  Seriously, Mr. Cowan: Where’s the beef?

Note to Mr. Cowan: I’m pretty sure, as CEO, you do not make business decisions simply by throwing money at allusions about desirable outcomes and goals! I’m pretty sure you pore over real facts, real data, and authentic analyses before making your decisions. Why would you think we the Alameda Voters make decisions based upon on anything less?  Your letter is an insult to our intelligence and a testament to your lack of respect for Alameda voters.

Ahem. The whole point of democracy and having a vote, is self-determination. The whole point about self-determination is that we can all read up on the issues, we all think differently, and we can make up our own minds.  It may be that some of us will vote the same as Mr. Cowan, but hell!  We should be given the enough respect to have a fact-based discussion brought to us in order to make that decision!

We need facts. We need some effort at real forecasting models about what our city will look like under the *optional* pressures that Measure A will place on our economy.

Mr. Cowan, you must be able to understand my last post.  Given the increasingly difficult conditions we can all expect in our local, state, and national economies, commercial and residential real estate markets this fall and next year, how does having the 2nd highest school parcel tax (as a percentage of Median Family Income) in the SF Bay Area make any sense at all?  What astonishing economic recovery are you predicting for 2012 in order for Alameda’s residents and local small business economy (retail, restaurants, and real estate) to be able to bear this?

The bay area’s highest parcel tax–relative to residents’ wealth–is in Berkeley.  People who live in Berkeley are committed social progressives, so that makes sense.  But what of Alameda? Do people realize that Measure A puts us on that same turf?  I thought we were fairly conservative in this city, not extreme progressives. Our businesses and housing market—in this time of inflation, steep cost of food increases, and unemployment, and now steeply rising gasoline prices—cannot afford Measure A without suffering a decline. Certainly, Measure A will cause further downward pressure on any local job creation!  Except, oh wait: unlike other cities with thousands of jobs within their city limits, the AUSD is our second biggest employer! Second only to the USCG (US Coast Guard).  (<< And with that information, perhaps people can now infer what Measure A is really all about. It’s not about the kids as much as it is about artificially holding up our second most important employer within our city limits. Most cities have several employers far larger than their schools districts.)

As measured against Median Family Income:

FACT: The wealthiest bay area cities with the highest dollar amount of parcel taxes are LOWER than Measure A intends to be

FACT: The wealthier-than-Alameda East Bay cities have parcel taxes are 80% LOWER than Measure A intends to be


Parcel Tax dollar amounts as a percent of  Median Family Income

Fremont: .05%

Pleasanton: .07%

Sunnyvale: under proposed 2011 Measure, .07%

Cupertino/Fremont Joint: .09% — under proposed Measure B, .19%

San Mateo: .19%

Palo Alto: .38%

Los Altos: .32% — under proposed Measure E, .43%

Alameda: .33%  — under proposed Measure A, .51%

Berkeley: .62%


Measure A will put significant downward pressure on the rental housing market, particularly the multiple-unit buildings that serve our middle class and our poorest residents.  The $309 a parcel now pays will rise to several thousand dollars which will be passed directly onto renters.

EXAMPLE / A six-unit apartment building with 9,000 square feet

Currently: Landlord pays $309/year = about $50 per unit per year

Under Measure A: that same landlord will be paying 3,000+/year, or $500+/unit/year

People: are you getting it now??? That’s nearly a 1,000% increase!

Who will be impacted the most?  Those least able to bear this.

Our most needy: Combined with the expected 10% increase in foods this fall (remember poor people spend a larger percent of their disposable income on food, up to 25%), a 25% increase in the cost of gas, the least able to tolerate an increase in their cost of living, our most needy, will be impacted the most.

Our local businesses: the businesses will face a steep increase in their parcel taxes while experiencing a decrease in revenues from

A. Fewer people eating out (steep increase in US cost of food = raised restaurant prices AND more people staying in saving money by eating at home) and

B. Fewer people spending money in shops as discretionary income drops significantly

I’d like just one pro-A person to outline why Measure A works for the city as a whole, and how we’re going to weather what’s coming down our pipeline this fall.  (Hint: they can’t or they would have, right?!) Any business person can see that–FIRST AND FOREMOST—the AUSD needs to develop new, lean strategies for optimizing what and how we provide for our students. The most obvious first one is combining the highschools into a single great school.  Were that done, we’d see a reduction in administrative and facility costs, and an increase in academic and extra-curricular programs for all high schoolers across the board while cutting costs!  (And yes,there are county buses that run from all parts of Alameda to Encinal High, and yes, the young adults in Bay Farm can ‘handle’ the ride, sheesh!).

About Denise Lai

Alive. Swim (fly is the best). Walking with my dog (weims are the best). Life is good. Would prefer people understood negative externalities and prevented themselves from creating them. Feeling the love anyway. View all posts by Denise Lai

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