CITY COUNCIL GETS AN EARFUL; RESIDENTS CALL FOR OUTSIDE INVESTIGATION, HALT TO FIRE/POLICE UNION NEGOITATIONS
By Steven Tavares
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Alameda is finding the death of Raymond Zack very difficult to fathom as firefighters and police officers watched and did nothing to prevent it is because their inaction runs stunningly contrary to type.
After 9/11, those involved in public safety were the heroes, risking their lives without a handbook to guide their actions for a catastrophe never before fathomed. The perception of foot-dragging is not typical for this group in popular culture.
“This is a defining moment in Alameda,” said resident Rosemary McNally, who again Tuesday night registered her disappointment to the Alameda City Council and called for a halt in labor negotiations with the two public safety unions.
“Like many in this town, I was pissed,” said James Lester of the inaction surrounding the Memorial Day drowning death of Zack at Crown Beach, Lester, an Alameda resident and Vietnam veteran, recalled his own anguish when leaving fellow soldiers to die on the battlefield.
Patty Rose with arms raised to mimic the actions of Zack standing in the bay waters said, “We killed him.” Others called it “state-assisted suicide.”
Numerous speakers disagreed with Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore’s announcement Tuesday night for an independent review of the circumstances leading to Zack’s death. Among them, resident Liz Williams called for an investigation by outside law enforcement.
“I have no trust in you,” Williams said three times as she pointed to Gilmore and Councilmembers Rob Bonta and Lena Tam. “You are ethically compromised,” she said, while holding a campaign night photograph from last November showing members from the fire department draped on the three in celebration of their victories.
Although the city’s interim city manager Lisa Goldman announced the creation of a link to public documents related to the incident on the city’s web site, one speaker complained requests for information have been incorrectly denied or stymied. “We understand there is a confidence problem,” Gilmore said.
Numerous speakers questioned the city for not revealing the names of those in command during the fateful drowning and calling for those officers involved in standing idle on Crown Beach be placed on administrative leave.
Zack’s death continues to be a difficult philosophical dilemma for many Alamedans. Many noted the embarrassment the incident has brought along with nationwide coverage labeling Alameda as the city that let a man drown while those sworn to protect watched without doing a thing.
“I wonder,” said Joanne Harnett, “have the people who do not believe in God gotten to the people of his town and to our police and fire departments?”
…AND THEN THERE’S ACAP Nothing new was added Tuesday night at the Alameda City Council meeting to the continuing story of ACAP’s demise and the stalling by the Alameda County District Attorney to present findings of wrong doing with its former executive director.
But, it was ironic, the agenda item following the discussion of the Crown Beach incident of inaction was another issue of Alameda’s local government sitting back while bad thing happen.
As you recall, much of the criticism for ACAP’s rapid demise and current bailout of $1.8 million was due to a clear pattern of inactivity by its governing board made up of elected mayors and councilmembers from its 12-member cities. The group scarcely met last year as the bottom was falling out of the program created to combat poverty.
When the burgeoning scandal heated up last February and facilitating almost weekly meetings, the members from Alameda never attended. ACAP’s records listed Mayor Marie Gilmore as the represented absent, but she refutes the case. What is clear is there was confusion on Alameda’s part over whose responsibility it was to attend the meetings and keep the full council abreast of the situation, which in the end, might cost Alameda more than the $140,000 it is on the hook to close down ACAP.
…AND THEN THERE IS HAND WRINGING IN OTHER PLACES When it comes to Alameda, San Leandro officials have very few times to crow about being better than its neighboring island city and this is apparently one of them.
In a letter to the editor, San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy assured residents what happened at Crown Beach will not happen in his city. Cassidy noted two state-of-the-art water crafts exists in proximity of the San Leandro Marina.
“The City of San Leandro is committed to providing timely and comprehensive emergency response for our residents, even in the face of budgetary restraints and continuing economic uncertainty,” said Cassidy.
He did not note Alameda still has what most San Leandrans desire–a Trader Joe’s.