Jun 19

Alameda Budget – The Future Shortfalls

Looking at the Alameda Budget going forward is more like a horror movie. The light at the end of the tunnel is a freight train and the pro-growth contingency is furthering the disconnect with budget shortfalls and revenue generation. Check it out:

The Silly Hall fiscal crisis happening is as dangerous as a 10 year with a credit card at a mall.

There are around 8 major developments in progress, and all are coming due in about the next year. Collectively, they could increase the population between 8 and 12% population on the Island. Some estimates say it might increase upwards of 18%. There are many problems a jump in resident population within a short time period can cause. Least of which is traffic, but that is another discussion.

The budget discussion always appears one sided: spending short falls for services, but the supply side needs to be interjected here. Revenue first, growth next. The aforementioned population increase needs to be qualified (as it never is): renters vs. home owners. Renters don’t pay into the property tax base, require more county based services (view $$$ flowing to county not city) and compound finite street congestion. So, the supply side is not being raised here yet service use and traffic are higher.

The City wants to balance its budget on the backs of people who drive, and looking at other municipalities, it is going to result in people driving less. Like the cigarette tax, a diminishing resource is the source of these revenues which will be insufficient to meet future demands. This means the claim of adding 50% to existing revenues by way of tacking on parking fees or increased traffic citations could fall short. If this magic number for parking fees or traffic tickets fails to deliver, what is plan B?

Parking fees and fine numbers quoted ‘add’ $375,000 more to existing revenues of $675,000. So, that is not going to happen. Here is their Plan B alternatives (they just don’t know it yet): drop the speed limit to 20 across the Island? (or 20 MPH zones), or more incidious – the police start a quota based system to hit ‘goals’. Why not just give every ‘resident’ a sticker and have a toll charged to out of town visitors that cross a bridge? (that just slipped out, oops.)

Or, let’s start pitting renters vs. homeowners with differing stickers; renters pay a parking fee, homeowners are ‘comped’ 2 stickers per household. Going further with this, you could just have an Island vehicle tax.

Delving into the municipality madness is dangerous. They may have just gotten more ideas here. The point is revenue along with fiscal restraint can stem the direction we are heading. But first, looking at where the money is being spent and gaining control of this is the beginning.

Look at the basics and the root problem is revealed. Police and Fire are an astounding 75% of Alameda’s budget. Many munis allocate 40%, and even that is high by a majorities standards. Alameda wakeup and tighten your boot straps or suffer the consequences.

Jun 18

Concerts at the Cove Series

The 14th Annual Concerts at the Cove Series will be on the second Friday night in June, July, and August offering the free concerts at Crab Cove. Summer weather, good music, family fun alongside a picturesque bay in the early evening hours. Bring lawn chairs, blankets, and jackets for the fierce bay breezes.

The Lineups:

  • June 14th Fleetwood Mask
  • July 12th The Bob Claire Orchestra
  • August 9th Battle of the Bands

Presented by Alameda Landing with Bear Lincoln, Rudolph and Soulstice performing Pre-concert entertainment at Crab Cove Visitor Center and food sales begin at 4:30 p.m., with bands performing from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

On tap: family-friendly entertainment, music, food and beverages. No alcohol, please. Dancing is part of the fun. Plus, Crab Cove Visitor Center at 1252 McKay Avenue will be open during the concerts and will provide activities that will keep youngsters from 3 to 12 occupied as the music plays, with nature crafts on the deck, a scavenger hunt inside and fish feeding at the five aquariums.

Once again it’s that time of year to walk, bike or run to Crab Cove and catch one of the free Concerts at the Cove! The Concerts at the Cove Series is sponsored and produced by the Rotary Club of Alameda, East Bay Regional Park District, and the Regional Parks Foundation. Proceeds go to scholarships for Alameda students and grants to Alameda-based nonprofit organizations.

The lowdown:

What: Concerts at the Cove
When: Fridays, June 14, July 12, Aug. 9
Where: on the lawn adjacent to Crab Cove Visitor Center, 1252 McKay St. Additional parking at the entrance to Crown Memorial State Beach, at the intersection of Eighth Street and Otis Drive Concert and parking free.
Details: Crab Cove Visitor Center activities and food sales begin at 4:30 p.m., concert from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Information: 510-865-3636 or www.concertsatthecove.com.

Jun 05

ASUD Budget Short Falls: What They Could Learn From Private Sector

ASUD budget number crunching provides an interesting glimpse. For most professionals, projections and budgets are closely monitored throughout a year. Wall Street does this quarterly and punishes or awards those firms by missing or blowing out these numbers. Anyone in sales knows the importance of forecasting and its direct impact to budgeting, projecting and revenue.

ASUD schools approach this process differently, waiting to the end of a fiscal year to look at, adjust and project numbers. Thus, their revenue also fluctuates in accordance. These fluctuations are partly because student populations fluctuate with the island population, Coast Guard personnel, the flight of families to alternative education options, etc. But it doesn’t have to be viewed this way because they reasonably know their revenue within a given year.

What many people do not know is the State provides a fixed dollar amount per student per day for attendance. (Over $100 per student per day in 2003. This is also a main reason why truancy hurts schools. The budget is directly impacted.) There is the revenue. Do the math: one student equals  ~$2,000/month, a class of 30 equals $60,000/month.

This brings up several topics beyond the scope of what will be discussed here, however, consider this set of conditions:

  • how many teachers are making $60,000/year?
  • a teacher’s salary is ‘paidout’/secured after 1-2 months (assuming 401k, health, benefits, etc.) Where is the other 8 months ~$480,000?
  • given certain expenses like school property mortgage, utilities, certain basic operational and local administrative, support, where is the breakeven point?

Now these calculations are only from one class of 30 students. A school with 10-15 classes is a sizeable revenue stream.

This is no different than private sector issues. In fact, the revenue is ‘fixed’ somewhat. Private sector doesn’t have this ‘safety net’. Prospective clients change their minds, decrease or shift their budget allocations and even move with a different proposal (company). Sales projections have to change accordingly, but these are manageable as they are weekly if not daily adjustments. Why does ASUD or schools in general ‘think differently’?

More frequent adjustments could disarm any school board outbursts, diffuse potential crisis situations and allow time for alternative plans to be formulated to either bridge short comings and weight alternative solutions. Also, it would alleviate any panic from families caught off-guard by the poor state of affairs.

But, following the money and a small or modest school bringing in ~$5,000,000 revenue to the district, it seems like better money management is in order. California is falling behind peer states.

Accordingly, the numbers don’t add up; either significant per pupil changes have occurred at the State level or it doesn’t pass the audit test. Neither the State information in the link above nor the ASUD figures tie back to one another. For example, per pupil expenditure by the graphs above are ~40/day. ASUD budget figures calculate ~10/day. More research is definitely needed to find out where the other $60 per student went and in dealing with government figures, is this the smoking gun to our educational woes?

Below is a post from Blogging Bayport Alameda giving us insight, through school numbers, as to how the 2013/2014 school year is shaping up. Of course, they uncovered this at the most recent school board meeting allowing a very short window of time to solve, amend or significantly influence the options.

Negative Percent

Last Tuesday’s School Board meeting there was an agenda item with recommended budgets by school site, the short summary is that most schools sites have cuts.

I put into a spreadsheet the numbers from last year’s budget and compared it to this year’s budget.  The stuff in the light pink is for 2013 and the blue compares this year’s numbers to last years:

 

budget

I dropped into an Infogram the 2013 budget per student as well as the percentage of change in the 2012 number to the 2013 per pupil.  But for those that don’t want to click over I screen capped the screen that shows the percentage change between 2012 and 2013.

elementary high

 

There was some discussion about the projected population, mostly there was disagreement about the projected population of Wood Middle School for next year.   My next project will be to try to compare projected numbers for budgeting purposes and compare it with the actuals to see how accurate AUSD staff got it year by year.   I would imagine that after a few years, staff gets pretty good at predicting this sort of stuff, it would be interesting to show how close they actually get.

 

Jun 05

Now serving our all new CLASSIC COCKTAIL MENU

Now serving our all new CLASSIC COCKTAIL MENU

20 retro & revamped recipes!

Get all the details on our Classic Cocktails menu page, but here’s a quick taste to get you started:

  • Aviation – A brilliant classic featuring Aviation gin, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and fresh lemon juice.
  • Blood and Sand – Rudolph Valentino’s dramatic performance as the bullfighter in the silent film classic Blood and Sand was the inspiration for this 1920s cocktail.
  • French 75 – World War I soldiers in the French countryside are purported to have invented this cocktail of gin, lemon juice and champagne.
  • Jet Pilot – An undeniable tropical classic hailing from Steve Crane’s original restaurant, The Luau, which opened in Beverly Hills in 1953.
  • Moscow Mule – This spicy ginger beer cocktail was created in the early 1940s to showcase a new spirit on the American market – vodka – and is still a classic today.
  • Old Cuban – This Prohibition era cocktail sings of old Havana, with gold rum, muddled fresh mint, and sparkling champagne.
  • Pimm’s Cup – The traditional cooler of Wimbledon, made from scratch.
  • Planter’s Punch – Very possibly the first tropical cocktail, the Planter’s Punch was first mentioned in the New York Times in 1908.
  • Tropical Itch – Originally created by Harry Yee of the Hawaiian Village Hotel in Waikiki.
  • Vesper – Casino Royale. James Bond. Sexy, alluring, deadly, and with perfect aim. This recipe is straight out of Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel.

And don’t forget to also check out our SPRING COCKTAIL SPECIALS!

Now serving our all new CLASSIC COCKTAIL MENU
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Alameda’s Premiere Tiki Lounge

May 25

Council Approves Extension to Swim Center Agreement


Alameda City Council has approved a 3 month extension to a joint use agreement for the Emma Hood and Encinal swim centers.

Alameda City Council has approved a 3 month extension to a joint use agreement for the Emma Hood and Encinal swim centers.

Alameda City Council has approved a three month extension to an existing joint use agreement with the Alameda Unified School District for the operation of the Emma Hood and Encinal Swim Centers.

The extension is intended to give the two agencies more time to negotiate a detailed master agreement regarding the responsibilities of both agencies when it comes to funding and modernizing the new facilities.

The need for a master agreement is spelled out in the existing contract, which is approaching expiration.

The City and the school district currently split costs evenly for utilities and maintenance, while capital costs are picked up by the school district.

The two swim centers cost about $308,000 per year to operate.

Two other city-owned pools, one each at Franklin and Lincoln park, are leased for operation by the Alameda Swimming Pool Association, a non-profit.


Council Approves Extension to Swim Center Agreement
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May 25

Crackdown on Business Licenses Coming, City Manager Says


The City of Alameda will be aggressively enforcing business license requirements.Depending on your viewpoint, City Manager John Russo’s announcement at this week’s City Council meeting that the City of Alameda will be aggressively cracking down on business licenses may be either a promise or a threat.

License renewals are due July 1st, and most business licenses in Alameda can now be renewed online through a new service on the city’s website.

Online renewals are cheaper – the processing fee is only $5.00 as opposed to a traditional $20 fee.

Applicants for new licenses must still make the trip down to City Hall, however.


Crackdown on Business Licenses Coming, City Manager Says
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May 25

What’s Open, What’s Closed on Memorial Day in Alameda

The unofficial start of summer is this Monday. How will you be spending
the holiday? Take a look at the list of what is open and what is closed
in San Leandro on May 27.

Closed:

Monday is a holiday for the United States Postal Service so there will be no mail service on Monday.

All city offices and libraries will be closed. The City’s Planning Board Meeting will be canceled that day in observance of the holiday.

The Alameda School District will be closed and there will be no school Monday.

Alameda Recreation and Park Department will also be closed on Monday.

Alameda Police and Fire Departments will be responding to calls but administrative offices will be closed Monday.

Open:

Catch the latest movie at the Alameda Theatre & Cineplex. See a list of movies and show times here.

If you feel like taking advantage of the Memorial Day sales, you can shop at
South Shore Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

BART will be running a Sunday service on Memorial Day. Get the schedule here.

Caltrain will be running a Sunday service on Memorial Day. Get the schedule here.
Save your quarters: Memorial Day is a parking meter holiday

Do you have to work on Memorial Day? If not, what will you be doing? Tell us in the comments section below.

What’s Open, What’s Closed on Memorial Day in Alameda
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May 25

Alameda in chains

So with little fanfare but is definitely a BIG DEAL, the first conveyance of Alameda Point happened last Tuesday and the City Council was positively giddy with the excitement of the whole thing.   It’s hard to get too excited since it’s just a bunch of pieces of paper right now, but the forward progress on the Alameda Point Vision document — I’ll write about that next week — will probably go a long way toward building more excitement for the Alameda Point project.

In more tangible news, Mayor Marie Gilmore announced on Tuesday night that a bunch of businesses have signed letters of intent for Alameda Landing.   The City later put out a press release about this but the businesses are:  the Corner Bakery, Michael’s Arts and Crafts, Habit Burger Grill, and Sleep Train.

Yes, more burgers people.   Apparently Alameda has an insatiable need for burgers that burger company after burger company is looking to fill.

The Corner Bakery is, of course, a chain, but one I wasn’t familiar with.  Apparently it’s a Dallas based chain that is more popular in the East, but the chain made its first Bay Area foray in Pleasanton.  It’s kind of like Panera.

The Habit Burger Grill is also a chain the originated in Santa Barbara, sort of a fast casual model, no drive-thru.

The Michael’s craft store is slated to be a “prototype” version, but I’m not sure if this is a new prototype store or the old “prototype” that you can sort of already see at the Emeryville Michael’s.

All right, just for funsies I guessed, based on the square footage mentioned by the Mayor and basic Google searches of which stores would go where depending on the “In Negotiation” map.   I will say I am surprised that there is no coffee shop yet either Peets or Starbucks (or other, apparently Alameda Landing will be a big launching ground for non Bay Area saturated chains)

landing

I wasn’t sure where the approximately 2000 sq ft Habit Burger would go, but it typically needs patio space, so I would imagine one of the smaller ones smack in the center would be pretty good.

A few dates to remember, June 10, use permits and design review will go before the Planning Board for the commercial side .   June 24, use permit and design review before the Planning Board for “500 Willie Stargell” which can only be the remnant parcel and will probably either be (1) Safeway gas or (2) Drive thru resto (In N Out, probably) or (3) both.    October 2013 is, of course, the Target target opening.  Summer 2014, that’s when Catellus has said that they will have the first phase on Alameda Landing fully built, if not fully leased, but they are extremely confident that they will have it all leased up as well.

In other Alameda Landing news, at the last Planning Board meeting Tri Pointe Homes, the residential developer for the, well, residential portion of Alameda Landing made their pitch for the unit designs through a design review application which was to approve the application except for the frontage on Fifth Street to get a bit more variety in the look.

Alameda in chains
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May 25

But it won’t do that

If you all missed JKW’s comments yesterday about AUSD’s Measure C and what the sort of main talking points were, you can revisit them here.  So given that he shared a copy of those campaign materials with me, the first thing I did was drop all the text into a word cloud generator to pick out the top 50 words that cropped up in relation to the campaign:

wordcloud

Notice, not one of the top 50 words included “Historic” anywhere.

Most of the words refer to basic things like “plumbing”, “electrical”, “air conditioning”, “heating.”

But for those unwilling to accept that the Measure C campaign largely circulated around the need to upgrade aging facilities for all Alameda schools, here are the campaign mailers and doorhangers that were circulated back in 2004.

Here was the logo, and more likely than not, probably the lawn sign since it looks very lawn sign-y.

logo

Door hanger, front and back:

doorhanger

Mailer #1 front and back:

mailer1back mailer1front

Mailer #2 front and back:

mailer2back mailer2front

Mailer #3 front and back:
mailer3_back mailer3_front

The only mailer that mentions Historic Alameda High School is the second one and in that case, it would be a stretch to argue that one or two lines in one out of many pieces of campaign literature is a “main selling point.”     It’s unfortunate that there wasn’t enough money to fix everything on the list — I don’t hear too many people crying for the Phase V projects at Franklin, Wood, Bay Farm, Longfellow, and Woodstock that didn’t get completed either — but that was a pretty hefty list of needs.   Now as we have seen, the costs for HAHS would have taken up at least 1/3 if not more of the money collected from Measure C (plus the funding from the State).   Instead of attempting to recast Measure C as something it was not, we should probably be talking about a new bond measure and how much should be raised if we are going to, sigh, do the full scale renovation of the HAHS and all the other facilities projects.

For a while I thought that if HAHS was going for the full monty the two bonds should be bifurcated, now I think it should be one mega-bond so that the folks who are gung-ho for the HAHS for reasons varying from nostalgia to loving all things “historic” will be part of a coalition to help ALL schools and not just one particular one.

But it won’t do that
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May 25

That’s something that a teacher can’t teach

Remember Garfield High I referenced a few posts ago under “how much does historic restoration of a high school cost”?   Well some more interesting things have been going on there when it comes to actual education at that High School and in Seattle in general.   Earlier this week after months of boycotting the high stakes standardized testing unique to that school district the district caved.   The tests called MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) had been used to evaluate teachers even though the test itself was not designed to do so.

It took a petition and nearly all of the teachers at  Seattle high schools to refuse to administer the test to their students to get the school district to back down on its position.   I’m sure that most of the complaints about the MAP tests are the same that you would hear from all teachers about the assorted standardized tests floating out there that are largely useless except to be used as an arbitrary measure for people who haven’t stepped foot into an actual classroom in forever to complain about how “good” or “bad” a particular school is without an actual reference point to the quality of the teaching or the educational value of the curriculum.

Anyhow, the efforts of the teachers and the community members resulted in the Seattle School District deciding that the MAP would no longer be mandatory for high school graduation and it would be up to the school leadership to decide whether or not to administer the test.

Since I’m on the subject of education in general, the Alameda Magazine has in its latest issue probably my favorite feature ever  in the Alameda Magazine.   Every year they have profiles of graduating Alameda students who are doing amazing things as high schoolers.   This year’s crop is no exception to the impressive Alameda students that have been featured in this series.    For example check out Emani Pollard from Encinal High School, yes she is daughter of Clay Pollard who ran for School Board in 2010.   While I strongly disagree with Clay Pollard’s politics, his daughter is breathtakingly well rounded and, well, impressive.    And check out from ASTI Andy Lau (two AA degrees!  job! volunteers! ) and Leon Liang (AA! College teaching aide! Tutors college students! Revising college lab manual! Elementary school volunteer!).   I love the kids in these profiles, it really always leaves me in a better mood.

Every year I read this I grow more and more impressed by little Alameda Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) located at the College of Alameda.   It’s a magnet Alameda Unified School District high school and the big selling point is that if the student is diligent enough, that student can graduate high school with an Associates of Arts (AA) degree from the Peralta College family depending on the subject selected.   While the limitations of ASTI is that there are no Advanced Placement classes, the only real reward of AP classes is the ability to transfer those credits to college credits and the fact that they pad your GPA by an extra 1.0 resulting in the seriously strange looking 4.83 GPAs that kids these days can earn.    ASTI kids can exit with AA degrees which shows colleges that they are able to handle college level coursework and might be an even bigger leg up for college admissions.

Anyway, when the comments around here bitching about the schools always get me down, I always think of these profiles and while most of these kids are just about as motivated as students as you’ll ever get, it is thanks to Alameda schools that cultivated and provided them with (some) of the opportunities that they had to excel.

That’s something that a teacher can’t teach
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