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Alameda City Council Baffled – Who Was Watching the Books?

Less than four months after Save Our City! Alameda ran TV ads on local cable warning that the City was in dire financial straits, verging on bankruptcy, the Alameda City Council last night realized that, well, the City is in dire financial straits, verging on bankruptcy.

Interim City Manager Anne-Marie Gallant told City Council that if all necessary and due workman’s compensation and I.T. expenses were paid today, the City’s General Fund would be down to a mere $1.8 million. The total of expenses for fiscal years 2008 through 2010 hidden in interservice funds, but which should be reduced from the City’s General Fund to give a true cash picture of the state of the City’s finances is $4.6 million. Gallant recommends paying that down over the next three years.

An angry City council raked Gallant over the coals with questions like “How did this happen?” This came from long-time Councilmembers like Frank Matarrese and Marie Gilmore who have presided over the steady decline of the City’s finances, but have evidently been unaware that it’s their job, as council members, to watch over things. To add irony to insult, they were grilling the wrong City Manager – the one to blame for hiding the interservice fund deficits in former City Manager Debra Kurita, who the City Council recently packed off with a fat severance package.

It was Debra Kurita who mocked this TV ad (below) in January, assuring City Council that the City’s finances were fine.

City Council was right to demand how we got into this state, but they were asking the wrong person – they should be hauling Ms. Kurita before the dais – and a tax-strapped public – to answer these questions. Ms. Gallant had at least one ally in the audience, however. When former Councilmember Barbara Thomas approached the podium later in the evening to address another topic, she started off saying “It’s not your fault, Anne-Marie, it’s theirs” nodding in the direction of City Council.

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