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Call for Alameda City Council to Delay Vote on Firefighters Contract

Dear Editor,

I write today to ask every Alamedan to email the Mayor, Council members, City Manager, and Fire Chief, and urge them to postpone the approval of the firefighters contract by the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday, June 21, 2011.

Please consider my arguments for a postponement.

First, Mr Russo is new on the job. Anyone this new on this job would require more than one week to gain enough comprehension about a city and her agencies, particularly one with so many ongoing and historical issues and problems as the AFD, to be able to be confident that a contract is appropriate. Waiting a minimum of three months until he has a better grasp on managing the City of Alameda is simply common sense; he’ll do a better job of it after knowing and understanding more.

Second, Mr. Russo’s resume does not include city manager experience. He’ll have two learning curves then, not just the one of getting familiar with this particular city but he is also gaining city-manager skillsets on the job too.

Third, it makes no sense for the firefighters contract to be on the City Council docket prior to the city budget approval.

Fourth, and most importantly, it makes no sense for the firefighters contract to be approved prior to the knowledge gained from the outcome of the independent investigation of the Zack Assisted Suicide. Unless and until it is known what’s gone wrong at the AFD, any new contract between the City of Alameda and firefighters continues that which is currently in place. Continued exposure potential and very real harm, from AFD substandard performance, is unacceptable. We’ve seen a man die. We’ve seen the entire population of Alameda be contaminated with friable asbestos and crude oil. What will be next?

Fifth, although the recently appointed Interim Fire Chief D’Orazi is intimately familiar with the AFD, he has been retired for four years. And during those four years we’ve seen the 2009 FISC fire, the 2010 Crude Oil Transfer & Spill, and now the 2011 Zack Assisted Suicide. There’s a trend there, right? It’s safe to say that in under one month Mr. D’Orazi cannot be up to speed–no one could–on what’s really gone wrong within the organization in his absence. He cannot possibly already know what’s best to do about it, correct? In fact, in the time he’s been retired and off the AFD force, I have not heard of a single disciplinary action or other correction being made to ensure fire services will not repeat past failures. Approving a contract that does not take into account the nature of the endemic problems (as evidenced by the FISC fire, Crude Oil Transfer, and Zack Suicide) at the AFD or include solutions therefor, can only be classified as hasty. And cannot possibly create results that are in our, all Alamedans’, best interest.

We’ve suffered through an unplanned and sudden change in city management on December 28th. What we need now: a smooth city-management transition that can only be gotten by moving forward considerably more prudently than Interim City Manager Lisa Goldman under Mayor Gilmore has planned.

I urge every Alamedan to write our new full-time non-interim city manager, the fire chief and the mayor and city council members. Demand prudence be exercised. Request postponement of approval of the firefighters contract until after the Zack Assisted Suicide investigation is complete.

CITY LEADERSHIP: Mayor Gilmore:, Vice Mayor Bonta:, Councilmember DeHaan:, Councilmember Johnson:, Councilmember Tam:

CITY MANAGEMENT: City Manager Russo:, Fire Chief D’Orazi:, Police Chief Noonan:

Thank you.

Kindest regards,

— Denise Lai, Alameda

5 comments to Call for Alameda City Council to Delay Vote on Firefighters Contract

  • 93gobears

    An alternative writing of the above letter:

    I understand that the Alameda City Council intends to vote on a new firefighters contract on June 21, 2011. I believe that this vote should be postponed until after the transparent investigation of the death of Raymond Zack is complete as I understand that the Alameda Fire Department (AFD) played a significant role in the Raymond Zack death and that their current management structure will be a major part in the investigation.

    I believe that this vote should be postponed for the following reasons as well:

    1) I understand that Mr. Russo has only been Alameda City Manager as of June 13, 2001. Prior to three days ago Mr. Russo was still the City Attorney for Oakland and he had no experience as a city manager. I feel that more than one week on the job is required to gain enough comprehension about the City of Alameda and its agencies in order to confidently negotiate and personally own an arms-lentgh transaction tying the City of Alameda to a contract for years to come. Waiting a minimum of three months until he has a better grasp on managing the City of Alameda is simply common sense; and

    2) I question the appropriateness of having the firefighters contract on the City Council docket prior to the city budget approval, especially considering that the AFD is undergoing a major, publicly viewed investigation of its management, policies and practices. This appears to me to be a rush to sign a contract prior to the release of information regarding an investigation which Mayor Gillmore declared would be “transparent” to the public. Unfortunately, I fear that “transparency” means nothing after the fact of a signed contract.

    We’ve just recently suffered through an unplanned and sudden change in city management and I am affraid that we are continuing down that path to deleterious effect. What we need now is a smooth city-management transition that can only be gotten by moving forward prudently.
    I implore you to delay your vote on new fire department contract.

    Serious consequences may arise otherwise.

  • Barb

    93gobears: Your No. 2 point is well taken. No one in their right mind would rush to approve a contract given the City’s current fiscal prognosis of bankruptcy in 5 years, without giving the newly retained City Manager a chance to have his input. Unless his input and the condition of our City is irrelevant to his performance. Or the Council plain doesn’t care. In the years to come, he can sit back and place the blame on them. They will be out of office, and he will claim his hands were tied from the beginning. IT WILL ALL BE A BIG JOKE ON ALAMEDANS. If the Council votes to approve it without his input, it is saying this is not a Strong City Manager run City. And it is a big statement to the public, voters and residents that competent management and not coming anytime soon. We do not matter.

    The photos of Gilmore and Weaver posted here would make the City’s press release laughable if it weren’t so sad.
    “The cooperation between City management and the IAFF demonstrates an improvement in labor relations,” said Mayor Marie L. Gilmore. “By working together, we have saved $300,000. In this difficult budget cycle, every dollar counts.”

    Dominick Weaver, Alameda Firefighters Association President, shared the Mayor’s enthusiasm, noting “The firefighters are pleased to have been able to work with Mayor Gilmore and City staff to find a solution to the staffing measure issue. We realize that with the uncertain economic times, a measure like this could put unsustainable constraints on the City. We look forward to a continued collaboration with the Mayor and City Manager to assure the highest level of support for our community safety needs.”

    ZACK’s LIFE WAS WORTH AT LEAST THE $300,000 HE SAVED THE CITY and all the “staffing” that AFD is now afraid to come forward and boldly seek with the Mayor in their pocket. I am sure all of us would rather have had Mr. Zack treated competently and humanely and be alive. Thank you Madame Mayor and AFD for avoiding an even further embarassment to Alameda by allowing AFD to remove this doomed Measure from the ballot.

  • joel

    actually just going over the material mailed by Captain Weaver of the Alameda fire Dept october 1st , he accuse Mr Dehaan of creating an unsafe situation in Alameda while all alone He was aware we residents were not protected ,to quote capt Weaver:I take no pleasure in pointing out these disturbing facts about Mr Dehaan’s record, but at this time , I felt we could no longer remain silent and let Mr Dehaan blatantly mislead Alameda voters and potentially jeopardize the safety of residents, firefighters and visitors to the City of Alameda” end quote .With private ambulance and rescue the sad Suicide would never have been an issue , private are not bound by self written rules,the least we can ask is for Mr Weaver’s resignation pure plain and simple, you want to be a polititian be one in your own town , since you are not an Alameda resident. please note The Police Dept work hand on hands with the Fire Dept , not once Captain Weaver mentioned the safety of the Police Officers , not once , we do have outstanding result with the Alameda PD nothing but political mediocrity with the firefighters and we are supposed to trust them with our lives …

  • Barb


    Better take swimmming lessons than trust the fire fighters. Who knows what “PROTOCOL” they will be following, what they will be doing instead of authorized training, and with money budgeted for water rescues. Thank goodness for Frank Weeden and other like minded persons, who established strong swimmming programs in Alameda decades ago. The Lincoln and Franklin pool associations have trained hundreds if not thousands of adults to qualify as lifeguards. Too bad the firefighters didn’t call one of our local swim teams. But then they couldn’t even ask the County Fire Department which had the right equipment, trained personnel and the will to save someone. What is noticiable is the complete solidarity of experienced firefighters – not on Alameda’s payroll- They are as distraught as Alamedans at this most unprofessional and dishonorable conduct. Harakiri? Please?

  • alamedavigilante

    OK, yall wrote/it didn’t work. In fact, CC spit in our face by putting said item on the Consent Calendar instead of the Regular Agenda. That means APPROVAL WITHOUT ANY DISCUSSION!!! Unless WE, “Public Speakers” show up & move it TO the Regular Agenda.Don’t get all cynical on me or move away, now. I hope to see yall there!

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