Opinion-Editorial signed by various Alameda residents.
The City of Alameda is facing the most serious budget crisis in its history. The financial commitments to the firefighters’ union and other unions in the long-range budget currently before the council represent 70 to 80 percent of the total. If this future gross overspending is not resolved immediately, within three to four years, our city could go bankrupt, say both the City Auditor Kevin Kearney and City Treasurer Kevin Kennedy.
We acknowledge the courage and valor of the firefighters who risk their lives to protect the Alameda public; they deserve reasonable wages for their valiant service. We recognize the costs for retirement benefits and health care are increasing. But past union agreements are unsustainable. Other public safety unions throughout the Bay Area like San Jose have stepped up in a mutual collaboration to constructively rework their contracts to help preserve the communities in which they work. If we continue with business as usual, how will we maintain the essential services such as infrastructure maintenance? How will we protect our quality of life that attracted us all to this community?
We, the undersigned, call on the council to deal with Alameda’s budget crisis immediately. Structural changes to city government may be needed. Union employees and other city staff may need to make larger contributions to their pension and health care plans. Switching administration of fire services from the city to county may save money by sharing dispatch and overhead costs.
The point is: alternatives exist. We need an open, active and fully-engaged public dialog in order to be able to identify the mix of near- and long-term solutions that are best for us.
Alameda belongs to all of her citizens, not just those at the helm of city government and their supporters. We are privileged to live in this great community. However, with privilege comes many responsibilities: be informed, share our ideas and preferences with our elected representatives so they can better represent us. The public cannot afford to turn a blind eye to our critical situation. The City Council cannot do their work in a vacuum: let your voices be heard in council chambers. Insist the council do the hard work necessary to craft a responsible budget that safeguards our city’s future.
Eugenie and John Thomson
Eric Cross, Banker
Karin Lucas, Past City Councilmember
Jean and Jim Sweeney
Dr. Carol Gottstein
Dr. Alice Challen
Horst Breuer, Past member, City of Alameda Economic Development Commission
Jane and Jim Burgelin
Don and Miki Roberts
Patricia and Paul Bail
Gretchen and Arthur Lipow