Alameda Councilmembers Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft,
Frank Matarrese, Mayor Trish Spencer at a council
meeting earlier this year.
An Alameda City Council meeting dripping with animosity and confusion reignited controversy over Mayor Trish Spencer’s decision to actively oppose Measure K1, the ballot measure to update Alameda's existing utility users tax. This time the flare-up occurred during a meeting Tuesday night that included a push by Spencer to further fund Alameda’s animal shelter.
While there was little opposition to the need for supporting and possibly upgrading the Friends of Alameda Animal Shelter's ability to care for its cats and dogs, councilmembers were nonetheless wary of the financial hit any additional funding might incur.
Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, also running for re-election this fall, however, asserted Spencer was acting hypocritically by advocating greater funding for the shelter while also opposing Measure K1, which the city estimates will translate into a $5 million reduction to the general fund, if defeated on Nov. 8.
“I think it’s disingenuous to be throwing out this need for more funding while at the same time cutting it away,” said Ashcraft. Spencer quickly claimed Ashcraft had improperly advocated for the ballot measure during the public meeting, but City Attorney Janet Kern had no response.
Earlier, when referring to Measure K1, Ashcraft added, “It should be simple housekeeping, but it has been opposed by others and our mayor… We are in a precarious position of not knowing what our budget is going to look like after Nov. 8. We’re keeping that in mind.”
Alameda’s Utility Modernization Act ballot measure, indeed, appeared destined to be a non-controversial initiative that will not raise new taxes, but seeks to update the current UUT to include cellphone fees not recognized by some telecom carriers, according to its proponents. The measure also aims to affirm as a tax the annual $3.5 million transfer from Alameda Municipal Power to the city's general fund.
But Spencer opted to author official rebuttals to Measure K1, arguing it raises taxes and its proceeds would instead flow to city employee salaries and pensions. But beforehand, Spencer had voiced support for Measure K1 in outtake for a video created by the city.
Meanwhile, the amount of comity at Tuesday’s session was already showing signs of devolving earlier in the meeting with several councilmembers constantly talking over each other.
Prior to nearly two dozen dog and cat-loving public speakers were slated to address the council, Ashcraft and Spencer began bickering over how to proceed, in addition, to whether clarifying questions could be made by another councilmember. “Can I finish my sentence?“ Spencer told Ashcraft. Later, Spencer quipped, “I hope you’re agreeable, member Ashcraft,” to which Ashcraft muttered an unidentifiable retort. Councilmember Frank Matarrese also appeared perturbed. “Can I finish my sentence, please,” he told Spencer later in the meeting.
The confusion continued as Ashcraft and Spencer parried over whether further queries could be made after the question was called by another councilmember and differences between two competing motions after the council had voted.
Soon it appeared the entire five-person council was bickering all at once before Spencer called for a recess. But the discussions continued as some rose from their seats. The wild confusion led Malia Vella, a city council contender on the ballot next month, to tweet, “This. Is. Chaos.”