Alameda Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer

The nine-county regional ballot measure this June to raise an estimated $4.5 billion for local transportation projects, includes significant funding for Bay Area ferries, which are immensely popularity in places like Alameda.

But when the Alameda County Transportation Commission voted last Feb. 1 to issue support for the initiative, known as Regional Measure 3, Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer Herrera attempted to abstain and the move appeared to rankle Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, according to audio of the meeting.

Spencer claimed she was unaware the intra-governmental agency was voting on the issue during its meeting last week. Subsequently, she had not discussed the matter with her colleagues on the Alameda City Council.

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty

“I did not know this was part of this and my council has not taken action on this specifically, so I won’t be able to vote on this,” Spencer told the group of East Bay public officials. Later, during the roll call, she voted to abstain.

Spencer’s vote appeared to signal a rapid response from the Alameda CTC staff, who advised Spencer that revenues from the ballot measure, if approved by voters, would bring $35 million a year in operational funding and $300 million in capital improvement for Bay Area ferries. It’s an allocation far greater than what the ferry system currently receives, said staff, and the singe-largest beneficiary in the proposed ballot measure.

Haggerty said advocates in Alameda had lobbied hard for inclusion of a greater portion of revenues for ferries. “I’m just wondering why Alameda is abstaining?” he said with exasperation.

“Can I respond?” Spencer asked commissioners.

“No. You don’t have to,” said Haggerty.

“Unfortunately,” the Alameda mayor said, “sometimes I have council members that will specifically raise issues if I don’t have a specific authority for things that I vote on.”

Incredulous, Haggerty began lecturing Spencer.

“Trish, I’m really not arguing with you. I’m trying to be respectful. When you’re here, when you’re here, I mean, this is a voting record that could be used against you,” Haggerty advised.

“I don’t let my board tell me how to vote because it’s my voting record and someone could use it against me someday when I’m running for re-election and you should tell your own board that. ‘Don’t tell me how to vote because this is my voting record.’ But you do what you want.”

Spencer quickly changed her vote in support of the measure, but not before San Leandro Mayor Pauline Cutter Russo, an ally and sometimes mentor of Spencer’s, came to her aid, noting some mayors have to be accountable to their city councils. Cutter’s remark, according to the audio, appeared to resonate with some public officials in the meeting room.