Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer just declared war on city staff

Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer continues her push
against the city’s Utility Users Tax measure.

A ballot measure allowing the City of Alameda to clean up language in its current Utility Users Tax is becoming the epicenter for a growing schism between Mayor Trish Spencer and city staff.

Last week, Spencer, who opposes the measure now labeled the Utility Modernization Act, defied the rest of the City Council and staff and penned a ballot argument against the initiative.
Now, Spencer has written an additional rebuttal to the argument in favor written by the city. The rebuttal reiterates her initial ballot argument–criticizes the measure for raising taxes and suggests its proceeds will be used on employee salaries and pensions, and not city services.
In the rebuttal, Spencer also attacks the city manager and includes a link to a website that features the salaries and pensions of state and city employees, including Alameda.
“After I voted against Measure__, I believe the City Manager retaliated by falsely accusing me of wanting to bankrupt Alameda and canceling my meetings with City Staff,” wrote Spencer. “To the contrary,  I vote against fiscally irresponsible long-term employee contracts and lack of full disclosure to taxpayers. The City must be transparent and honest with voters, make fiscally sustainable decisions and not create undue tax burdens.”
The ballot measure does not raise taxes, says the city, and is intended to update the city’s existing Users Utility Tax (UUT) to include modern technologies, such as cellphones. The UUT has not been updated since 1970, the city adds. 
Currently, depending on the cellphone carrier, not every Alamedan is paying the tax. In addition, the measure hopes to affirm as a tax, an annual $3.5 million transfer from Alameda Municipal Power to the city’s treasury. If the measure is not approved, says supporters, the city risks losing $5 million a year to its general fund. 

Categories: Alameda, Alameda City Council, Alameda Municipal Power, ballot argument, cellphones, rebuttal, Trish Spencer, Utility Modernization Act, Utility Users Tax, UUT

40 replies

  1. Where are the pro/con rebuttals?


  2. By MW:

    The unions representing the very highest paid city employees should arrange to have Trish Spencer's salary and total compensation set up so that she will always be paid at least ten percent more than any other city employee.

    For instance In a lot of municipalities it is a matter of law that the higher ranking members of upper management, and such as for instance the mayor and the members of the Board of Supervisors, etc, will always be compensated at least as well, and sometimes even more, and depending on the particular city or county, than any of the lower ranking employees, and in such jurisdictions, and not surprisingly, the various municipal unions, and especially the police and firemen, get whatever they want in regard to salaries, pensions, and fringe benefits.


  3. The Mayor and City Council in Alameda are unpaid.


  4. By MW:

    In regard to the post of 10:39, if Alameda's mayor and City Council are unpaid or are only receiving small stipends, and perhaps on the theory that the jobs are part-time, then that is the “problem.”

    The jobs should declared to be full-time, and for starters with the Mayor's salary set at 250K per year and the members of the City Council at 200k per year, and also with extremely generous fringe benefits, pensions, and expense allowances, etc, and it also being specified that the salaries and pensions, etc, of the Mayor and City Council will always exceed that of all other city employees, so that way no matter what any of the unions negotiate in the way of salaries, pensions, medical benefits, or anything else,, the big boys in City Hall will always be even more generously compensated.

    That, for instance, is the deal that Susan Muranishi, and who is Alameda County's Administrator, has, so therefore just in case any County employee should actually manager to work out an arrangement in which his or her salary and/or fringe benefits would exceed, match, or even slightly approach Muyranishi's approx 800K per year, Muranishi would automatically get a pay raise, and so that way she would no longer be forced to struggle by only 800K per year.


  5. Whst, no PERS and free lifetime healthcare? They should move to Hayward.


  6. Proponents are playing with words. the UMA/UUT does not raise tax *rates* but it does increase the amount of tax money raised (raises taxes) by broadening the tax base.

    It was pretty clearly stated by city staff the the goal is to capture an additional $1.5 million per year in tax revenue.


  7. Pretty sure the City Council received health care, mileage reimbursements, and travel expense reimbursement. I'm also pretty sure Madam Mayor gets more than the rest of them.
    Let me clarify, I’m not interested in paying more taxes, but I also don’t think it’s fair that some people are paying the UUT while others are not. My wireless carrier charges me the UUT (which then goes to the city) while my husband’s wireless carrier does not. We live in the same house. Why do I pay the fee and he doesn’t? We use the same city resources.
    Who are you going to blame when the park bathrooms are dirty or the lights aren’t turned on? Who are you going to blame when you hit an unfilled pothole on Lincoln and your rim gets bent? Who are you going to blame when your streets don’t get swept? Who are you going to blame when the library closes for an additional day per week? Are you going to hold the people who voted against the UMA/UUT responsible? Are you going to hold the Mayor responsible? Nope, you’re going to hold City Staff responsible. You’re going to state that they’re overpaid and underworked. That’s bull.
    Have you considered that city staff is working hard to meet the city’s demands as a whole? Have you considered that they are trying their best with the resources they have? But beyond this… is the Mayor, she’s creating havoc in the city. She’s costing the city more in staff resources than Gilmore ever did (the length of council meetings alone…) AND she admits that she is writing the rebuttal in retaliation. That’s a problem! A HUGE PROBLEM!


  8. @1:21

    You're worried about fairness in taxation?

    I gather then that you will be voting against the school district parcel tax, which places a cap on the amount that big property owners will pay, so that, after the cap, the unit rate of the tax steadily decreases as the size of the parcel goes up.

    Under the AUSD tax model, the biggest property owners – those with the most ability to pay – are protected, and pay a lower rate, than average homeowners.

    Can we count on your vote against the unfair school parcel tax?


  9. “…I believe the City Manager retaliated by falsely accusing me of wanting to bankrupt Alameda and canceling my meetings with City Staff,” wrote Spencer.

    So, the Mayor retaliates. Way to lead by example!


  10. “After I voted against Measure__, I believe the City Manager retaliated by falsely accusing me of wanting to bankrupt Alameda and canceling my meetings with City Staff,” wrote Spencer.

    What does that have to do with a rebuttal argument? Nothing. It's a personal, self-serving comment that will now go on the ballot. It's reckless and immature and makes the Mayor look silly. It's something Trump would say and proves her No vote is not in the best interest of the City, but in the interest of Mayor Spencer.


  11. Anonymous at 1:21

    You are correct. Why do some pay it and some don't. Does the Mayor even know if she already pays it?


  12. MW the “problem” is that the position of Mayor is NOT a full time job. It's a figure head position. Cut ribbons, represent the City at Regional meeting, run Council meetings. Not run out and stop people who are legally cutting down trees, not attend every meeting and speak as a private resident after announcing you are the Mayor, not getting involved in every neighbor complaint. Mayor Gilmore got this. Trish has turned this into a full time job that she is not qualified to handle.


  13. July 31st, 5:09pm. I REALLY don't understand your comment about free lifetime healthcare. Obviously, you're not talking about either the teachers nor the classified staff of HUSD. HUSD doesn't pay one DIME towards health coverage for its' employees while they're employed, much less after they retire. You must be talking about a school district that sets policies where they actually care about their employees. HUSD isn't one of those.


  14. @7:12pm

    Pretty clear Alameda city staffers are active participants in this forum.

    I, for one, welcome the Mayor's transparency with regards to the falsity of the statement “does not raise taxes” and the city manager's machinations.


  15. Maybe @ 7:12 is someone with good critical thinking and observation skills, good connections, former staff, or a former member of the AUSD BOE. It's not like the Mayor has kept her quality behavior on the down low.


  16. Or maybe @7:12 is just part of the local Inner Ring establishment that favors the sort of cronyism and questionable conduct that goes along with Gilmore, Bonta, Henneberry^2, Oddie, Harris, etc.


  17. Good leaders are collaborative, consensus building people who are able to get things done. They command respect and hold themselves accountable. Regardless of personal biases towards the former Mayor and City Manager, they were/are successful leaders. The current Mayor seems to be lacking in the areas of collaboration, is unable to build consensus with those who disagree with her, and doesn’t accept responsibility for her actions. You are either 100% for her or 100% against her; and if you are against her than it becomes a personal affront. She’s polarizing, and it’s incredibly unhealthy for the City.

    I wouldn’t have had a problem with her argument against the UMA except she’s on video talking about how the expansion makes it fair. I have a problem with her rebuttal because she admits that she is responding because she feels retaliated against.

    I don’t want my civic leaders reacting to civic duties because their feelings are hurt. I would prefer my civic leaders to give more thought to their actions and statements beforehand.


  18. @1:26 p.m. More of the Inner Ring…


  19. @ 4:22 No, I'm not; nor am I City staff. What's your problem with my remarks or people who are thoughtful and observant? Could I actually be speaking with the Madam herself?


  20. @ 4:22 Inner Ring is just people who disagree with you. People who see the truth. People who are tired of the lack of support for the City by the Mayor.


  21. Hayward city council gets free lifetime health care. Not a bad deal. They also get paid too. One even quit their job to be a council person fulltime. I'm sure they are due for a raise soon. Not 100% sure, but I think they voted to pay for part of their benefits during The Great Recession. My guess it is a lot less than what city employees are paying for their benefits.


  22. @8:26

    Well, which is it. Just people who disagree with me? Or people who know an objective truth?

    It's all subjective, yet you write as if you are an omniscient guru, one of the few truly enlightened Alamedans. That's hogwash, of course.

    Your take on the Mayor is akin to congressional Republicans who obstruct Obama at every step, and then blame him for his administration not accomplishing much.

    Same thing here in Alameda – yourself and the Inner Ring simply have a hate on for Spencer, so, like the racist federal Republicans and how they treat Obama, you must obstruct, criticize, nitpick and contrive false offenses and faux outrage.

    Yet you fool nobody outside of your circle.


  23. Public funds cannot be used to influence the outcome of an election.

    When the City's public information officer produces videos and writes editorials that advocate for passage of the tax, there may be legal consequences.


  24. Interesting how it was ok for the @10:27 crew to yell from the blogs, letters to the editors, and outside Council Chambers on (12.16.14) about their disdain for Gilmore and Russo, but it's not ok for those who find objection with Spencer to voice it.

    Noted: They love to dish it, but they can't take it.

    Looking forward to hearing from you again @10:27 XOXO


  25. @1:28pm

    Nobody is stopping you from voicing your objection to Spencer.

    I'm just making sure readers know that it comes from a biased, highly subjective, source.


  26. @1:26 pm. The city PIOs op-ed piece is also plain wrong – the staff reports clearly explain that the purpose of the UMA is to expand the tax to make sure certain new technologies are covered, because people have moved away from traditional landline telephones into VOIP, wireless, etc.


  27. @1:59 “Hello Pot, this is Kettle.” Aren't you being highly subjective as well?


  28. @1:26 Using our tax dollars to ask for more tax dollars. That's a hoot!


  29. @2:01. Have you read the staff reports or are you just regurgitating what the Mayor told you? Neither staff says “the purpose of the UMA is to expand the tax”. In fact it says the tax remains the same, but modernizing definitions means the tax rate is applied evenly. Have you checked to see if you are already paying the tax? You probably have not. You, as part of Spencer's Inner Ring, are just spewing her words.


  30. @6:47

    “This UUT modernization will shore up the funds that the City is now losing, an estimated $1.5 million, due to changing technology, bundling of services, and unequal application of the UUT by telecommunication companies.”

    The City defines this as “losing” $1,500,000. Of course, our loss is its gain. We already have over 150 city employees making over $200,000 a year in salary and benefits. The city is “losing” because its employees want even more of our money. Any money left in our pockets is considered as being lost to them. On top of that, they also take $2,800,000 a year from our electric rates. And, they also use our money to fund a political campaign to recover more of what they perceived as being “lost” to them.


  31. @7:44 you clearly do not understand either the UMA or the City's negotiated contracts. Nor do understand the law. You are so deep in Trish's pocket. Or are you Trish???


  32. @9:11 p.m.

    From Slide 2, of the presentation included in the July 5th packet:

    “What is the UMA?
    1.Modernizes our existing Utility Users Tax (UUT)

    – No increase to current tax rates but expands things that are taxed”


  33. From slide 7 of the staff July 5th presentation:

    “This measure will return the UUT revenue in the
    General Fund back to the FY 2007/08 level.

    – Expect to raise approximately $1.5 million”


  34. From the June 7th city council meeting, re: UMA:

    “Over the past several years, every city in Alameda County with a UUT (except Alameda and Piedmont) has successfully secured voter approval to modernize its UUT ordinance primarily to reflect the migration from traditional landline telephone use to new electronic communication technologies, such as wireless and VOIP (“Voice Over Internet Protocol”).

    Modernizing the City’s existing UUT would assure that the 7.5% rate is applied fairly to all consumers so that those that use more advanced technology share the tax burden equally. It also is a tax that is paid irrespective of housing status, unlike a parcel tax that is paid solely by property owners.

    Staff recommends leaving the tax rate the same (7.5%), but modernizing the language of the entire ordinance to ensure equal treatment of all users. While the tax rate would remain unchanged, the modernized UUT with its more explicit and modernized definitions should ensure an increase in collections and thus result in a net benefit to the City’s General Fund. “


  35. Staff is seeking to influence the election in order to line their own pockets at taxpayer expense.


  36. This “update” is, in fact, a tax increase because it taxes things not currently taxed. So says supporter Councilman Frank Mataresse. The current utility tax's section defining what is to be taxed uses 156 words. The proposed “update” uses 1,856. It does not pass the smell test that 1,700 additional word does not add items that are not currently taxed. Clearly, this is a tax increase despite the council's ballot argument to the contrary. $60 per year for each cell phone line and that is just the beginning.


  37. PS
    Mayor Trish Spencer is simply altering the public to the reality of the measure. Thank you Mayor Spencer.


  38. As an outside observer I don't think I've ever seen a mayor who is less fit for the job than Trish. She is a nutcase, through and through, and I pity the poor staffers who have to work with her.


  39. Ok so let me say this about Trish Spencer. A few people on this list have criticized her for not building a consensus or disagreeing with other people in the City. Really? So let’s all be sheep? I don’t always agree with the Mayor but she will fight for what she sees as right, which is admirable. In addition, one thing which Spencer does (that might be the reason behind theses disagreements) is she looks at the “second layer”. Is the golden orb solid gold or just gilded on the exterior? The Utility Modernization act it just another orb filled with lead. Thank you Mayor Spencer for standing up for the people of Alameda.


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