March 14, 2012
Less than 6 months after the last cleaning, the walls are getting darker with every passing day. Time to call CalTrans (again).
And while we’re on the topic, what is with the lack of FM reception in the tubes? Really annoying to have Aaron Copland’s Hoedown abruptly dissolve into static.
February 8, 2012
Starting in 2013, taxpayers will have to comply with a law that prevents property owners from deducting some property taxes on their income tax returns.
Federal and state laws generally limit the real estate deduction to ad valorem taxes, which are calculated as a percentage of the property’s assessed value. Any tax that is a flat amount per property or benefits a specific property is generally not deductible. There are some minor exceptions, however, and property tax statements do not spell out which charges are not deductible.
Until this year, almost everyone, including tax preparers, ignored this law and deducted 100 percent of property taxes.
Interesting to see the FTB choose a property tax statement from Alameda to illustrate the deductible and non-deductible taxes
October 30, 2011
This is a good start, the next steps are to ensure the replacements are “reasonably” mature trees and not twigs. That and to ensure that similar snafus don’t occur again.
The City failed to notify the general public recently that the 2nd phase of the Streetscape Project on Park Street would begin with the immediate removal of the trees between Lincoln Ave and Webb Ave and from Central to San Jose. There is no excuse; this was a mistake. The sight of tree-less stretches of Park Street shocked and dismayed many, many Alamedans as they were going about their regular routine on the street. We acknowledge that people were justifiably angry with City Hall for this unwelcome surprise.
The “after” visuals look good, but the question still remains: could this have been achieved without the destruction of the mature trees?
October 23, 2011
It was depressing to walk around Park St last evening. Many people stopped by to read the condolence messages that were displayed on the pathetic looking stumps that serve as a reminder of the carnage.
There is no dispute that the plan to remove all the trees between Central and Encinal was explicitly mentioned in the staff report and voted 5-0 by the City Council. I’m sure the staff reports contain some very fine prose, but I don’t know if reading them is the first thing most Alamedans think of when they wake up every morning.
The bigger questions are:
- Why wasn’t there a taped notice on each of the trees announcing the imminent removal (as is usually done elsewhere)?
- Did the City fear a backlash if there was an advance notification?
- Was it really necessary to remove several mature trees? It will be another decade or so (atleast) before we have anything close to the majestic canopies that were brutally felled.
- What part of Alameda is Spanish for “grove of poplar trees” or “tree-lined avenue” wasn’t clear to the City Council?
October 18, 2011
As many of you may have noticed, the walls are covered with soot from the automobile exhaust and are slowly turning pitch black in many places.
Turns out it is not a simple matter of just hosing down the walls. The runoff has to be collected and disposed off separately to meet the EPA standards, ie: they cannot let the runoff into the storm water drain as it will eventually enter the bay. Unlike the Caldecott tunnels, the Alameda tubes do not have the ability to divert the runoff into the sewer drain (this also explains why the Caldecott walls are much cleaner). As a result of the additional costs, CalTrans is deferring the cleanups.
I suspect that if more people complain, CalTrans will act. As it currently stands, the tubes are not a great advertisement for Alameda. You can also reach CalTrans at 510-286-0315.
October 17, 2011
There’s been a lot of chatter about how the 25mph limit is no longer strictly enforced. In my own (admittedly) unscientific observations, I often see cars speeding on Lincoln Ave, Otis Dr as well as on Webster St (as they exit the tube). This is especially bad at the intersection of Stargell and Webster as cars try to beat the light in both directions, often jumping the red light.
In checking with APD, looks like there were approx 1400 speeding tickets issued between Jan-Aug 2010 vs approx 860 for the same period this year. That is correct, your eyes were not deceiving you. The number of speeding tickets has dropped nearly 40% over the past year.
APD promptly responded to my request for clarification. To paraphrase the response: the drop is due to a significant staffing reduction in the Traffic Unit (3 three officers and a sergeant were lost due to injury, and 2 positions were lost in the most recent round of budget cuts). The traffic unit has gone from 6 motorcycle officers plus a sergeant to one officer and one sergeant. This is a temporary setback and they are working to fix it.
I look forward to having the traffic unit back in full strength so they can start (re)enforcing the speed limits.
September 26, 2011
From the NYT:
In the small towns nestled throughout the Ozarks, people like to say that everybody knows everybody’s business — and if they do not, they feel free to offer an educated guess. But of late, more people in this hardscrabble town of 5,000 have shifted from sharing the latest news and rumors over eggs and coffee to the Mountain Grove Forum on a social media Web site called Topix, where they write and read startlingly negative posts, all cloaked in anonymity, about one another.
FROM ALTON, MO. (POPULATION 871)
“Has anyone noticed she is shaped like a penguin. She looks like that penguin character on batman. Id hate to wake up next to that every morning. Fat slobbery cow. I feel sorry for fred.”
This is perhaps the mildest of comments … yikes!
August 31, 2011
Some people give back to their community. Then there’s Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell, who’s really giving back. As in $800,000 — what would have been his compensation for the next three years. Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than a starting California teacher earns. “How much do we need to keep accumulating?” asks Powell, 63. “There’s no reason for me to keep stockpiling money.”
I certainly recognize that no two circumstances are alike, nor this is a clarion call for every school superintendent across the country to give up their paychecks. But it does put things in rather stark perspective when you consider that AUSD’s Superintendent was just awarded a pay hike. Whilst the actual increase in her salary may not amount to much in the grand scheme of things, you have to be really tone deaf to ask for and accept a pay hike under the present circumstances.
Also interesting to see that Powell is responsible for 35 school districts with 195k students … that is more than 2x the entire population of Alameda and 35x the number of school districts!
August 30, 2011
To offset severe state budget cuts to Alameda schools, minimize school closures, and protect the quality of education, student safety, class sizes, excellent teachers and staff and to restore prioritized cuts to music, athletics, advanced placement courses, shall Alameda Unified School District levy a temporary, 4-year emergency tax of $120 per residential parcel and 15 cents per square foot for commercial/industrial parcels (see the voter pamphlet), with exemptions for seniors, citizen oversight and all funds staying local?
The parcel tax would fund community priorities for the schools, including small K-3 class sizes; recruitment and retention of teachers; neighborhood schools; Advanced Placement courses; music, media, PE, and drama; programs to improve student performance; high school athletics; technology; secondary school counselors; and adult education.
The school board approved a new, four-year contract for Vital on a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, with board President Ron Mooney, Vice President Margie Sherratt and trustee Niel Tam voting for the contract and trustees Mike McMahon and Trish Hererra Spencer voting no. The contract retains Vital’s $204,225 salary for this year and grants her an annual 3 percent raise, full medical benefits and performance pay of up to $15,000 a year. It’s in effect through June 30, 2015.
Union leaders said they think the district is spending too much money on administrators. They said the district has added several administrators this year at the expense of front-line workers.
Can’t wait to see AUSD spin this one!