Blogging Bayport Alameda Questionnaire
4. Explain how you, as a member of the City Council, would address these issues facing Alameda ; falling revenues, increasing costs, deferred expenses and Alameda Point redevelopment.
I will work with colleagues and the community to improve the situation on the revenue-side of the ledger in a fashion that does not raise property or sales tax rates for municipal services. To this end, we need to think about immediate-term economic development opportunities, as well as medium- to long-term economic development strategies:
Implement measure to improve sales taxes collected via business-to-business activities, by working with Harbor Isle and Marina Village to attract businesses that conduct these kinds of transactions.
Implement strategies that well-position Alameda to tap into short-term visitors, such as those who travel from afar to come to Oakland Raider games or Oakland A’s games, as well as those who travel from afar for temporary work in the East Bay region: they are a source of taxable-spending and hotel taxes.
Attract household consumer spending from outside of Alameda, but not by attracting big box retail stores that generate their sales by shifting sales away from locally-owned “mom and pop” stores.
We need to be open to **possible** new opportunities based on full and complete discussion that identifies upside potential and downside risks, such as sales tax on medical marijuana.
While City Hall enjoys roughly $17 million in reserves, to their credit, city staff warns that City Hall will have to enact a combination of cuts and other measures in the near future. In large part, this is because, on the expenditure side of the equation, we know with some amount of certainty the level of expenses that City Hall will incur, as these expenses are driven by labor negotiations in staff, as well as keen understanding of infrastructure needs. As a result, staff is able to say mounting deficits will begin to eat into the $17 million in reserves, such that by end of next fiscal year, the reserve ratio will go from 24% to 17%. What that tells me is that City Council needs to focus on the expenditure-side of the ledger by right now by:
freezing new hiring, freezing wage increases, and freezing step-by-step promotions (in other words, current workers will not be able to get pay increases via step-by-step promotions). Council has entered into some of these steps, to their credit.
But we need to implement harder measures now, as well as rescind some agreements recently entered into, particularly with regard to sharing future new revenue increases as increases to staff pay.
City Hall is already projecting negative fund balance (negative reserve ratio, in other words, of -1% by June 30, 2015): act now, don’t wait around until June 30, 2013 or June 30, 2014.
The City of Alameda needs to spend approximately $2.5 million a year to keep basic infrastructure (roads, streets, sewer, etc) in excellent shape. However, city is spending on average $500,000 a year, though in my last several years on Council we spent $2 million a year.
Create a policy of setting aside a portion of any previous year’s GF reserve in excess of 20% target toward current year’s infrastructure needs, and ensure that funds generated in this manner is **additive** (on top of) to historic baseline amount of funds typically set-aside for infrastructure in the first place. When 20% target is not met, the policy is not triggered.
Create policy of setting aside a portion of Alameda Point’s property taxes toward Alameda Point infrastructure, so that the Point has its own stream of funds separate from funds for infrastructure for historic Alameda: redevelopment is no longer in place at Alameda Point, which means property taxes generated there now and in the future will be generated by the 1% ad valorem mechanism: historically, the City of Alameda receives 26 cents for every $1 in property taxes, with the other taxing entities (BART, AC Transit, mosquito abatement community colleges, etc), splitting the rest. We must set a policy apportioning a part of the 26 cents for every $1 to pay for infrastructure, above and beyond what we apportion already via the typical GF budget process. In other words, don’t let infrastructure deferred maintenance issues at AP drag down infrastructure/deferred maintenance needs of historic Alameda .
Bring back policy of separating small and large capital improvement projects: when I was on Council, I set a policy of separating small and large community infrastructure projects, which were being scored by the same set of metrics, which resulted in small infrastructure needs (like recreation ball fields) losing out to large projects, like street re-resurfacing. That process has been abandoned.
Alameda Point Redevelopment
Tap local money: I created policy of Alameda Point must pay for itself policy: we must continue that, and, in particular by continuing to segregate any new Alameda Point revenue centers (such as the ad valorem property tax discussed above or sales tax generated at Alameda Point) from historic Alameda, so that Point pays for itself. In addition, revenues generated by current leases should continue to be saved for Alameda Point only.
Tap local money: when I was on City Council, I created municipal services district (“MSD”) for Alameda Point, so that properties there would pay a portion of municipal services rendered there via the add-on MSD fee. Even with the change in redevelopment, we must continue the MSD, though hold discussions for reducing the annual fee by some amount, depending on how “new infrastructure district” redevelopment legislation emerges.
Tap state money: help shape emerging infrastructure district redevelopment legislation to benefit Alameda Point specifically.
Tap state money: access state funds for infrastructure, such as State Infrastructure Bank.
Tap federal money: access IRS’ EB-5 program ( http://1.usa.gov/4h1syb ) to encourage foreign investment in Alameda .
Tap federal money: re-use building at Alameda Point for commercial/industrial activity, and finance through federal historic preservation tax credit (http://1.usa.gov/PkzXhr ).
Private sector money: work with community to determine whether Alameda Point should be redeveloped with a single Master Developer or with a slew on different developers: in any event, require private sector partners to bring own equity capital into project.