Archive for July, 2011

Alameda Employees compensation

July 26, 2011

Kevin Kearney Kennedy has compiled a listing for employee pay, overtime and benefits in 2010. As he pointed out, there were 200 employees whose annual compensation exceeded $150k and 85% (171) of these employees worked in the Fire and Police departments. With the City voting to approve their employee contracts, here’s some food for (sobering) thought.

The retirees came from near and far, gathering in a muggy auditorium here to listen to an urgent pitch: give back a big chunk of your pension or risk losing it all. This city of 19,000 is broke and headed for bankruptcy, partly because it has promised retired police and firefighters millions of dollars in pensions and benefits that it cannot begin to afford.

Not implying that Alameda is headed for bankruptcy (although Kevin did raise that possibility), but promising millions of dollars in benefits is simply not sustainable.


To Nullify Lead, Add a Bunch of Fish Bones

July 25, 2011

This might be of interest, given the (never ending) cleanup work at Alameda Point.

The principle is straightforward, said Victor R. Johnson, an engineer with Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. “The fish bones are full of calcium phosphate,” he said. “As they degrade, the phosphates migrate into the soil.” The lead in the soil, deposited by car exhaust from the decades when gasoline contained lead or from lead-based paint residue, binds with the phosphate and transforms into pyromorphite, a crystalline mineral that will not harm anyone even if consumed.


NYT: Pacific Pinball Museum

July 18, 2011

In the Sunday NYT

Alameda Island, the site of a former military base, can feel like a 1950s-era small town, with its Craftsman-style homes and neighborhood bars. The addition of a pinball museum, where old-fashioned bonks are more common than electronic beeps, has only heightened that effect.

Mr. Schiess says that though the museum once attracted a mostly middle-aged male crowd, it now skews toward entire families. “Kids can kick your butt at the Wii,” Mr. Schiess said, “but pinball is the great equalizer.”


Public Unions Take On Boss to Win Big Pensions

July 3, 2011

This sound familiar?

The city was on the road to insolvency, he [Jim Righeimer] warned, because public employee unions had pressured politicians into handing over generous salaries and pensions. City workers weren’t fans of Mr. Righeimer, who had been critical of public unions for years. Local police and firefighter groups started mailing leaflets and towing a billboard around town attacking him, implying he had skipped out on numerous debts. Public employees spent more than $100,000 opposing him, and six unions from neighboring regions spent another $33,000 endorsing his opponents.

Costa Mesa, population 110,000, is California in miniature. For years, public employee unions across the state have often used their influence — sometimes behind the scenes but occasionally with public, hardball campaigns — to push for improved worker pay and benefits. They have exercised power beyond their numbers by donating money to lawmakers, burnishing candidates’ credentials with endorsements and supplying volunteers during elections.

Net result: $176bn gap for public pensions (across the country)!

Irking drivers is urban policy

July 2, 2011

In Europe (naturally!). It is unclear if the concept would ever catch on here at home.

While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

Perhaps something to think about if (and when) we ever get around to developing Alameda Point.