Write Now.

Showing up at the June 21st City Council Meeting to voice your opposition to the Mayor’s expected approval of the city’s contract with the firefighters…..will be too late. I believe that the current firefighter’s contract—-about to be before, and approved by, Mayor Gilmore—-is not in our best interest. How could it be? It doesn’t take into account the horrific event on Memorial Day!

If you wait, if we all wait, until Tuesday to voice opinions about this, it will be too late; that contract will be a done deal. She’ll sit there, listen to what you say, and vote to approve it anyway.

If you really REALLY want to do something about this, if you want the city to postpone approving the firefighter contract next week, if you think the city should move forward more prudently, then in order to effect that, you must WRITE right NOW: …..

CITY LEADERSHIP: Mayor Gilmore: mgilmore@ci.alameda.ca.us, Vice Mayor Bonta: rbonta@ci.alameda.ca.us, Councilmember DeHaan: ddehaan@ci.alameda.ca.us, Councilmember Johnson: bjohnson@ci.alameda.ca.us, Councilmember Tam: ltam@ci.alameda.ca.us

CITY MANAGEMENT: City Manager Russo: jrusso@ci.alameda.ca.us, Fire Chief D’Orazi: mdorazi@ci.alameda.ca.us, Police Chief Noonan: mnoonan@ci.alameda.ca.us


I offer no fewer than five significant arguments against the firefighter’s contract even being on the City Council’s agenda next week, let alone coming before the Mayor for a vote. One argument is sufficient cause to defer contract approval…five is incontrovertible proof that a postponement and further consideration is warranted:

ONE:  Not a single firefighter has been put on administrative leave for the abject failures on Memorial Day that contributed to Mr. Zack’s untimely death, yet the Mayor intends to approve the firefighter’s contract on June 21st anyway. ThaMNoS! (<<I’m having to say this so often in Alameda, that I’ve decided to create a new word, an acronym of sorts: That Makes No Sense!). Effective employment practices dictate, a., employeee misconduct and failures to perform warrant administrative leave and/or immediate disciplinary actions and investigations, b., the creation of skillful, tactical & strategic, contracts: how contracts are written, influence the quality of service we will be receiving; the firefighters contract should only be approved after the findings from the independent investigation of the Zack Assisted Suicide are published. Without knowing what went wrong on Memorial Day, it makes no sense to approve any contract between the city and her agency responsible for the failures that day. This is particularly true given the fact that the Zack Assisted Suicide comes on the heels of an unexamined AFD history containing a number of extremely serious issues.

TWO: And this is Rosemary McNally’s argument: The city budget does not get discussed by the Mayor and City Council until June 28th. Huh? AFTER the contract with the firefighters is approved? That is backasswards, right?!  Here’s what should happen: first, the entire city budget is sussed out….then, and only then, do we know if any contract or allocation of revenues makes sense for any  city agency.  Right?! DUH.  Mayor looks to be swiftboating all Alameda residents here….political allegiances and payback to the IAFF Local 689 for her November 2, 2011 victory perhaps?

THREE: During City Manager Russo’s blitzkrieg this week, I was told that he oft spoke of cutting back city services, but not a word about cutting back salaries and pay. Interim City Manager Goldman had asked all departments to prepare budgets containing 5 to 10% reductions; but that was not specifically asking for 10% reductions in salaries.  Asking city leadership, management, and some employees to take a 10% reduction in their pay and allowances makes sense. The Mayor should be stating what resources and reimbursements she’s cutting back on (catered lunches perhaps?).  City Manager Russo should be looking at reductions in salaries, overtime stipulations, and pensions in every single city department. Other cities are; why not ours? In particular, CM Russo should be scrutinizing the firefighters contract and talking openly about that scrutiny. Give the guy a break, right? He’s only had two days on the job…which leads me to argument number four…

FOUR: City Manager Russo landed two days ago, on Monday, at our city’s helm and seems to be making every effort to get to know every game in town as soon as possible, meeting with management and influential organizations to get to know them and vica versa.  It would be hasty, don’t you think?, for any binding city contracts to be approved within the first three months of his employment? It takes a minimum of 3 months to even begin to grok the beast that he’s now managing.

First, CM Russo is an attorney with no background-experience as a city manager. Even MORE reason, right?, to proceed cautiously—he has two learning curves: he must learn both the nature of the beast and development new-to-him municipal-management skills.

Second, and moreover, CM Russo should want to be prudent here, given the facts laid out quite glaringly before him about the Alameda Fire Department’s repeated failures to perform that have perpetrated harm on the very Alameda residents they are charged with protecting. Those glaring events are: 2009 FISC fire (asbestos poisoning of an entire city population), 2010 Crude Oil Transfer & Spill (crude oil fumes poisoning of an entire population, crude oil contamination of our estuary), and the 2011 Zack Assisted Suicide. And then there’s that little business of that recent settlement in April 2011 for Del Bono’s (firefighter, paramedic, and IAFF Local 689 political director) misconduct that cost the city $680K. The red flag CM Russo should be looking at: there has been not one disciplinary action against any firefighter. City and AFD management has demonstrated no action to ensure the job performance we buy for our tax dollars will actually provide us what we are paying for: our safety!  And THAT makes NO SENSE!  ThaMNoS!

So, one would think, wouldn’t one?, that consideration of the firefighters contract would warrant extreme prudence. Allowing the mayor and her council to vote on it next week destroys any opportunity CM Russo may have to use that instrument to optimize our city’s fire services. The city, thus far, has not been very creative about solving for our financial and failed public service woes. WRITE MR. RUSSO TODAY.  TELL HIM TO TAKE HIS TIME. DO WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU, FOR US, AND WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN BEST FOR MR. ZACK.  Surely, had anyone had the stones to take disciplinary action and make internal changes to correct for the many recent problems, Mr. Zack would still be alive. <<<this was undeniably demonstrated at the June 12, 2011 Wade Out.

REMIND MR. RUSSO of his obligation to perform for us: WE HAVE A CITY-MANAGER RUN CITY, not a Mayor-run city.  IT IS INCUMBENT UPON THE CITY MANAGER TO ACT IN OUR BEST INTEREST. This is Mr. Russo’s first test. Proffering the firefighters contract to the Mayor and City Council at this time makes no sense. It’s NOT in our best interest. Will Mr. Russo choose what’s right for the residents of Alameda? Or will he choose the line of least resistance with the mayor who is said to be compromised by her political debt to the firefighters? Technically, the office of mayor holds very little power, while the office of city manager has the full authority to do what’s right here. IT’S UP TO YOU TO MANAGE UP: tell Mr. Russo today what you think is in your, and our, best interest. Like the firefighters who should have told their incident commander “go screw yourself” and run into the water to save Mr. Zack—Mr. Russo can do what’s right here even if it is in the face of adversity.

Mr. Russo is the first city official to say “It’s unacceptable what happened.” And this: “We are going to retain an outside fire or police chief, somebody with some gray hair in the public safety area who is going to review all of the history of how we got to Crown Beach…”

So it just makes sense to postpone the Fire contract approval. Once it’s known ‘how we got to Crown Beach’, then Mr. Russo will know how to optimize the contract and how to optimize city fire services, right?!  I cannot imagine he’d disagree.

Mr. Russo says he’s intent on creating a lean, optimized government free from the type of corruption that he left behind in Oakland. If he really means what he says, then now is the time for him to prove it. This is not a statement about his resume: anyone would need to take significant time to get to know the highly complex issues around the Alameda Fire Department; there’s just no way for him shorten his time to AFD comprehension down to one week!

Ask Mr. Russo to hold off. Tell him he needs to afford us every protection under his power, and exploit every tool available to him, to forcefully optimize fire services in our city. He does this, then he shows us what he’s made of. And that, my friends, would go a looooooong way towards addressing widespread lack of confidence in our city…you know, the one Mayor Gilmore says she’s so worried about. We’ll be confident when we see a government doing everything in its power to show they are prioritizing our safety and quality of life over all else.

FIVE: We also have new management over at the AFD.  Interim Chief D’Orazi’s been on the job less than one month, and despite having been IAFF Local 689’s president for years, he’s been retired for the last four. And the last four are when the fire, crude oil, and Zack failures have taken place.  Chief D’Orazi needs time to assess and optimize the firefighters contract too. He should back a postponement of the contract vote at city hall. Failing to do so means failing to have Alameda residents best interests first and foremost.

WRITE right NOW!

CITY LEADERSHIP: Mayor Gilmore: mgilmore@ci.alameda.ca.us, Vice Mayor Bonta: rbonta@ci.alameda.ca.us, Councilmember DeHaan: ddehaan@ci.alameda.ca.us, Councilmember Johnson: bjohnson@ci.alameda.ca.us, Councilmember Tam: ltam@ci.alameda.ca.us

CITY MANAGEMENT: City Manager Russo: jrusso@ci.alameda.ca.us, Fire Chief D’Orazi: mdorazi@ci.alameda.ca.us, Police Chief Noonan: mnoonan@ci.alameda.ca.us


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

2 responses to “Write Now.

  • Marie

    Thank you Denise! I greatly appreciate your work.

  • notmayberry

    Actually, Russo FAILED his 1st test, by elevating the status of Mike Noonan, already the highest paid Alameda public employee ever, & the man who told KTVU the reason his police didn’t help Mr. Zack was:”It’s muddy out there. We don’t want them sinking…in distress.” to Police Chief! Canonizing 1 of the worst responders does not inspire confidence. He also sounds inclined to have the investigation done by 1 person (hand-picked by him & city-paid)rather than by a citizens’ commission w/people of more than 1 perspective,[including, oh I don’t know, maybe an MD & an RN?]WHO LIVE HERE!!! As it should be!

    TABLE all discussion of the FFs’ contract until said investigation IS COMPLETE! And, everybody file your LAFCo protest before or SHOW UP in Council Chambers June 20th @ 7PM! Prompt response is clearly not enuf;they must know what to do when they gat there! I’ll take a hero from Oakland/San Leandro over a villain from Alameda in response to my 911 call anyday!

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