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Letter to the Editor: A City Retiree Weighs in on Alameda's Budget Issues

Marion Miller says cut down on management costs and stop blaming pensions.

Dear Editor:

As a former city employee who worked at what used to be the Bureau of Electricity, then Alameda Power & Telecom and now , and President of Alameda City Employees Association (ACEA) for 10 years, I can see what a lot of, in my opinion, the city's budget problems are.

1.  Salaries for all the top managers are way too high. 

2.  There are too many managers throughout the city:

     a. We only need one assistant to the city manager.  

     b. We only need one city attorney and one assistant city attorney.   

     c.  Alameda Municipal Power only needs one assistant general manager not four.

     d.  The laying off of employees who actually perform the work necessary to keep our city safe and clean doesn't save that much money. Their salaries haven't been the drain on the city coffers, it's management salaries.

     e.  Instead of constantly hiring consultants, use city staff. Too often their talents are overlooked and expensive consultants are used.    

     f.  Freeze the salaries of the management/supervisory staff so that compaction between the groups can be restored. In other words, freeze the supervisors' salaries until they are no more than 7 percent above the employees, the supervisor's manager's pay should be no more than 7 percent above the supervisor, etc.

 3.  Blaming pension costs on employees is unfair. The city management offered the pensions because that's what they wanted. For example, Jim Flint, former city manager signed off on the 3 percent at 50 for public safety because he had added a "me too" clause to his contract so that's what he got. Keeping the pension as they are is the right thing to do because it's not the pension that are hurting the budget, it's the city's management of those funds. 

4. The city's contribution to PERS was 18 percent of the employees' salary in 1982. However these contribution costs varied from year to year. The years that little or no contribution was required, instead of putting the money they saved into a fund for years when the percent went up, they spent it. 

5.  The way the budget works is if there's money left over in June, they rush to spend it on anything they can because their new fiscal year starts on July 1 and they fear that if they don't use money budgeted, they won't get as much in the new budget. A considerable amount of money could be saved if they stopped this practice. 

6.  Make the large contractors pay the same permit fees the citizens pay instead of either not charging them or lowering their fees. 

7.  Stop pushing for more homes to be built in Alameda. Instead focus on taking care of the parks, streets, sidewalks, etc.  And, new homes do not bring revenue to the City. Businesses do. 

8. The City Council needs to rely on the city auditor and city treasurer for help in getting the budget back on track, after all, they are the experts who the citizens of Alameda voted into office.

Marion Miller

Your letters to the editor are always welcome. Send them to eve@patch.com.

Marie paoletti June 22, 2011 at 04:53 PM
We are loosing business to the "right to work states" which do not allow union participation. obviously there is not a level playing field. Try raising a family on $5.00 per hour. "right to work states" are not affected by the Federal minimal wage. So the business owner gets a hugh profit. The same for businesses that move out of country. Profit is the only name of the game.Employing people here at a decent salary does not weigh in the decisions.
John June 22, 2011 at 06:08 PM
Marie Texas has a relatively low rate of unionization–about a third of California’s. Nevada Is about the Same as California within one Percentage point . Oregon has Higher percentage than California of employees in Unions. Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by state http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.t05.htm
Marie paoletti June 23, 2011 at 12:36 AM
John. thanks for the info and the web info. My nieces and nephew are from North and South Carolina and are always making comments about our unions and telling how much better it is in their states. A friend of mine moved with his company from Calif. to Texas and it was not union there, his wage was cut drastically. His wife worked in hotels and her minimum wage was different than in California. It is good to have the facts you provided since I was mostly going off of experiences of friends, family and the lawsuit in Washington state, concerning moving of union jobs to North Carolina . I appreciate your input.
John June 23, 2011 at 12:50 AM
Maria You being President for the Alameda Employees Association for 6 years and then making misleading statements like this is so far out of line and reasons why the Citizens of Alameda Don't trust our own Employees. "We are loosing business to the "right to work states" which do not allow union participation. obviously there is not a level playing field. Try raising a family on $5.00 per hour. "right to work states" are not affected by the Federal minimal wage. So the business owner gets a hugh profit."
Marie paoletti June 23, 2011 at 06:29 AM
I' sorry you feel this way, most City employeesare good and trust worthy Don't judge them based on what you think of me

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