Advertisement


Rent Increase Survey

Have you submitted your latest rent increase data to the rent increase survey?

City Officials Say Renters Coalition Refused Offer to Arrange Equal Speaking Time at Wednesday’s Special Meeting

A special city council meeting last Wednesday on rising rents in Alameda had overflow attendance. (Action Alameda News)

A special city council meeting last Wednesday on rising rents in Alameda had overflow attendance. (Action Alameda News)

City of Alameda officials have told Action Alameda News that they tried to work with both landlords and the tenants coalition in advance of last Wednesday’s meeting, which turned violent, to arrange for equal speaking time. Landlords agreed, but the tenants group did not.

In a conference call late Friday afternoon, Alameda mayor Trish Spencer and interim city manager Liz Warmerdam told Action Alameda News that they had reached out to both landlords and representatives of the Alameda Renters Coalition in advance of the special meeting on rising rents.

Landlords, they said, agreed to a format that worked in early October for special meeting over another controversial topic that drew a large audience, consideration of a resolution affirming the zoning for the Harbor Bay Club on Bay Farm Island.

This was confirmed separately by landlord Doug Smith.

But Alameda Renters Coalition representatives weren’t interested and were offended at the prospect of being on equal footing with landlords.

After a scuffle broke out the doors to council chambers, “people were genuinely scared,” Spencer said. Two coalition members were arrested, and one city staffer was sent to hospital with a broken hip.

The Alameda Renters Coalition has said that its members were locked out of the meeting, and that landlords began dominating the public comment period. The trouble started roughly an hour into the meeting when they insisted on entry to an at-capacity council chambers.

A review of the video of that first hour indeed shows that most speakers were landlords, but two or three people did speak on behalf of tenants or in favor of the city taking action to create affordable housing.

Ahead of the meeting, the City of Alameda sent press releases advising of expected high attendance for the meeting, and announced that overflow space would be set up in the library, down the block.

In fact, Warmerdam told Action Alameda News, overflow areas with live video feeds were set up in the 360 meeting room next to council chambers, the lobby of city hall, and at the library down the block. Further, she said, a city staffer made rounds at each overflow room offering speaker slips to anyone that wanted to address city council.

Traditionally First-come, First-Served
Traditionally, meetings at Alameda City Hall operate on a first-come, first-served basis, with council chambers open to the public, and speakers slips available to the public, roughly one hour before the scheduled start time for a meeting.

At over-capacity meetings, the meeting chair will typically call three or four names in advance to get them to line up for the podium, and calls go out to the hallway outside of chamber doors, and to overflow rooms, for speakers whose names are called but aren’t in council chambers proper. Members of the public typically aid in tracking down speakers or advising that certain speakers have left, to help facilitate the meeting.

Spencer said that in accordance with normal protocol, she began asking speakers to the podium in the order they submitted their speaker slips. One apparently disabled man, speaking on behalf of tenants, Spencer said, turned down several offers from other speakers to move ahead to the podium, in order to be the final speaker.

(It’s not uncommon for practiced public speakers, familiar with the first-come, first-serve, model, a.k.a. last-submitted, last-word, model, to try to game the public speaker queue, by waiting until the very last minute to submit their speaker slip, thereby speaking last, and getting ‘the last word,’ sometimes even refuting comments made by previous speakers, who then have no opportunity for rebuttal.)

Earlier on Friday, Doyle Saylor of the Alameda Renters Coalition, told Action Alameda News that coalition members planned to arrive at 6 p.m. – the scheduled start time for the meeting – which would put them in the queue behind behind those who arrived before the meeting started.

Catherine Pauling of the renters coalition did not respond to a voice mail or Facebook messages requesting comment.

John Klein, one of the two tenant activists arrested at the meeting, told Action Alameda News through Facebook, “What the City was offering was a blatant violation of the Brown Act, which ARC couldn’t accept, of course.” Pressed for specifics, Klein cited California Government Code section 54954.*

Three tenant activists, including Klein, and Angela Hockabout, a one-time leader in the renters coalition, submitted written comments for the meeting, all of which were available on the City of Alameda website on the day of the meeting.

Hockabout, who said she couldn’t attend, submitted her comments a week in advance of the meeting.

After the melee Wednesday night, Spencer, as mayor, and chair of the meeting, faced calls from other council members, and Warmerdam, to adjourn the meeting.

“I have to think about my staff and keep them safe,” Warmerdam said.

Spencer refused. “If I adjourned the meeting, then we wouldn’t have been able to take any action to help tenants that night. I wanted council to be able to decide that night,” she said.

Instead, Spencer approached Pauling, seated within council chambers, to seek agreement on a 30 minute block of time for each side, landlords and tenants. Spencer then went to the hallway to seek agreement from activists there.

Later, after tenants had spoken, Spencer called a recess and personally ushered attendees out of council chambers to allow those that had been in overflow areas enter.

At least one person, Spencer said, didn’t like that either.

* A California Attorney General guide to the Brown Act notes, “The Act specifically authorizes the legislative body to adopt regulations to assist in processing comments from the public. The body may establish procedures for public comment as well as specifying reasonable time limitations on particular topics or individual speakers. So long as the body acts fairly with respect to the interest of the public and competing factions, it has great discretion in regulating the time and manner, as distinguished from the content, of testimony by interested members of the public. (§ 54954.3(b).)”

Addendum – John Klein’s statements for this article were taken from a public discussion on the Action Alameda News page on Facebook, after we had privately messaged him requesting comment for this story, and, separately, expressly asked him to comment “on the record” on the topic in the same public forum. After this story was published, Klein wrote on the Action Alameda News page, “I believe journalistic ethics requires one to ask for permission before quoting a source. You in no way indicated that you were working on a large story. I consider that to be completely unethical and unprofessionwl. You did not say you would quote me in a story along with the mayor on this issue.”

jk-2

jk-1

4 comments to City Officials Say Renters Coalition Refused Offer to Arrange Equal Speaking Time at Wednesday’s Special Meeting

  • This is the most biased, false “news” account I have read to date. Renters were offered 30 min. total, which would be only 10 people. There is ample evidence that renters were not allowed into the chambers, and open seats were denied them. Not enough speaker slips were provided, in violation of the Brown Act. City staffer Bob Haun started the violence, and police officers including the chief assaulted two men in their late 60s and sent them to Santa Rita on false charges. I am most curious why you think the public library is down the block when it is actually across the street. Wouldn’t a resident know this? Also, in true grassroots organizations, organizers don’t speak for all members nor tell them what to do. It is a collection of individuals, not a hierarchical top-down structure. Therefore, the individuals you single out as scapegoats are only the public face of 900+ people who make their own individual decisions.

  • >>Renters were offered 30 min. total, which would be only 10 people.
    City officials said they offered landlords and renters each 30 minutes to make their case. This model has worked before, including at the beginning of October, for the Harbor Bay Club meeting and other meetings.

    Government Code § 54954.3(b) provides for reasonable restrictions on public comment – such as reducing speaker time from 3 minutes to 2, as is routinely done – so long as equal time is given to all sides of the issue.

    >>There is ample evidence that renters were not allowed into the chambers
    I haven’t been able to track down Bob Haun yet, but from the accounts I’ve heard, from watching the video tape, the meeting was already in progress for about an hour. He may have been trying to prevent the crowd from disrupting the in-progress proceedings.

    Having covered, attended, and participated in countless city council, school board, planning board and other public meetings in Alameda, people who arrive late to a meeting tend to quietly enter the chambers and submit a speaker slip without disrupting the proceedings in progress.

    >> and open seats were denied them.
    There are conflicting reports – you say that open seats were denied to renters, a landlord has said that as of 10 minutes before 6pm, the meeting start time, there were still open seats, but most media accounts that cite tenants have the tenants saying that landlords deliberately occupied all the seats in chambers, leaving none available.

    >>police officers including the chief assaulted two men

    The chief? The police chief wasn’t even there. In fact, he told me directly that he left the police station about 5:45p.m. to go to another meeting, and wasn’t at City Hall at all. He certainly wasn’t there while I was at the meeting, and I have yet to see him in any of the videos that have circulated after the meeting.

    >>Not enough speaker slips were provided, in violation of the Brown Act.
    Please cite the statute. So far as I’m aware, speaker slips are not required by law. It sounds like you are confirming though that speaker slips were offered in every overflow room?

    Again, here is the State AG guide to the Brown Act – http://ag.ca.gov/publications/2003_Main_BrownAct.pdf

    >> Therefore, the individuals you single out as scapegoats are only the public face
    Nobody is scapegoating. Doyle, John and Catherine have all been identified as having some kind of leadership or spokesperson position with ARC. Angela Hockabout told me in-person, at a pot-luck meeting at Franklin Park several weeks back, that she used to hold a leadership position with ARC but no longer does. In that discussion at the park, she redirected me to Doyle, to whom I provided contact information to. Doyle never followed-up to my questions that day, after I asked him to.

    >>I am most curious why you think the public library is down the block when it is actually across the street. Wouldn’t a resident know this?

    To-mah-to, To-may-to – here is a map that shows the proximity of City Hall to the Library. City Hall is at the southwest corner of Oak and Santa Clara, while the library is at the northeast corner of Oak and Lincoln. “Across the street” from City Hall, on Oak, is an empty lot. “Across the street” from the library is the police station.
    http://www.action-alameda-news.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/2263_Santa_Clara_Ave_-_Google_Maps.png

  • Janet Butler

    Does this following quote from the article even make sense? “But Alameda Renters Coalition representatives weren’t interested and were offended at the prospect of being on equal footing with landlords.” Who in their right mind would be offended at being on equal footing with any group of people they were to have a discussion with? Was this point of view verified with anyone, or was it just a “she said, he said” sort of thing – sounds like the latter to me. Nonsense.

  • >>Was this point of view verified with anyone,

    Tried to confirm that with Catherine Pauling of the ARC, and she didn’t phone back.

    Tried to get confirmation from John Klein of the ARC, and he didn’t address it, and spoke about the Brown Act instead.

    However, the overall sentiment of the tenants seems to be that the landlords hold all the power, and its the tenants that need to be heard.

  • Lum School Shaker Shocker https://t.co/Hol2sV2Gqm ,
  • Lum School Shaker Shocker https://t.co/Hol2sV2Gqm ,
  • Lum School Shaker Shocker https://t.co/Hol2sV2Gqm ,
  • Post Edited: Lum School Shaker Shocker https://t.co/cSRTbHQnuH #liquefaction #Alameda ,
  • Lum School Shaker Shocker https://t.co/NbF076Aevj ,

Directories