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Alameda City Council Votes 3-2 to Divert Measure WW Money to Boys and Girls Club

Dear Editor,

At the Tuesday, December 1st Alameda City Council Meeting, council members voted 3-2 to place the Boys and Girls Club project to build new club house in the West End of Alameda on the list of projects approved for WW Bond monies.

The B&G Club will own the building and have complete control over access and use policies. If approved as a candidate for receiving WW money, the B&G Club would received a $1 million grant and a $1 million loan from the City. The City would advance the money to the Club and repay itself from the $3.4 million in WW bond money to be allocated by the East Bay Regional Parks District, issuer of the bond. I don’t know if the monies are to be advanced now or only after approval of the B&G Club project by the EBRP District’s Bond Council.

The General Manager of the EBRPD explained to the City Council that he could not say that the B&G Club project would qualify as recipient. In fact, he felt it highly unlikely. The arrangement with a private organization to use WW money to build, own, and operate a facility independently of the City was not an arrangement anticipated by the District and may jeopardize the bond’s tax exempt status. Private organizations may act as agents for Cities receiving WW money, operating programs which the respective cities are responsible for, but the arrangement in Alameda with the B&G Club is almost the reverse with the City acting as an agent to supply money to a private organization which will own and operate a facility independent of City control. Even a joint use agreement considered in this case clearly specifies that the B&G Club will own the building and control access. Their club will not be a public park.

The language of the WW bond initiative was clear and explicit. The B&G Club project is not an arrangement described in the initiative. The bond money is clearly mandated for acquisition and development
of public parks and open space. The only exception spelled out in the initiative is the Oakland Zoo. Alameda County voters approved the initiative by a 2-1 margin, overwhelmingly approving the mandated
purpose for their tax money.

Within the guidelines of the WW mandate, cities are free to determine where and when they will use the bond money allocated to them. They must submit a project application for each project they hope to give WW money in March of next year. The District Bond Council will then vet each application within 60 to 90 days. If the Bond Council decides that a project doesn’t qualify under the WW mandate,
the project may not receive WW money.

Councilmembers Tam and Gilmore felt that the WW money could and should be used for the B&G Club project. As Tam summarized, “The City will get an $8 million project for an investment of $2 million.”
Gilmore explained that the B&G Club will help children, something no one disputed, and since helping children helps everyone in the City, the WW money could be diverted to the B&G Club because the
tax payers wanted to help everyone. Both Tam and Gilmore said that the Club can supply services that the City’s Recreation and Parks department cannot and will never be able to provide, and that a
partnership with a private organization is necessary to supply services children benefit from. The Mayor supported Tam and Gilmore because the B&G Club project was a wonderful one and she just had
to do it for the kids. No member of the Recreation and Parks Department or from the Recreation and Parks Commission spoke.

Councilmember Matarrese expressed his support for the Boys and Girls Club programs and listed amounts of money the City had already given them from discretionary funds. However, he voted no because the voter mandate precludes giving the money to a private organization for owning and operating a private club. Vice Mayor deHann voted no because he felt the B&G Club wouldn’t be able to repay the $1
million loan.

Now the ball will be in the East Bay Regional Park District’s court. They will have to decide next year when the project application is submitted whether it qualifies as a recipient of WW money.

— Joe Woodard, Alameda

2 comments to Alameda City Council Votes 3-2 to Divert Measure WW Money to Boys and Girls Club

  • barb

    Which is worse?
    1. Approving something in spite of the language on the ballot, and after warnings from EBRPD?
    2. Deluding the B & G Club into thinking the City can give them the money, and then having that fall through?
    3. Shutting down City facilities because the City feels obligated to give the G & B Club the money that Gilmore, Tam and Johnson promised?

  • No barb, #4 is worse:
    Gilmore’s husband and Mayor Johnson are on the organization’s Advisory Board.