Free parking for City employees. Why?

This afternoon, the Oakland City Council’s Finance and Management Committee discussed, among other things, the issue of parking privileges for city employees (PDF). You may have caught the item about this from The Oakbook the other day. If not, here’s the proposal.

One of the issues raised as part of budget discussions earlier this year was the cost of providing free parking in City garages to City employees. Parking spaces occupied by staff are parking spaces not available to the general public. Since we charge to park in the garages, every time we give away a parking space to staff for free, we are losing potential revenue that would come from having paying drivers occupy those spaces.

In order to minimize the lost revenue, the Committee today considered a proposal that would clearly define which City employees are eligible to receive free parking. I thought this was a good idea when they talked about it before, but after reading the list, I have a hard time seeing the point of any of this. Here’s the list of who would get free parking spaces under the plan:

  • City Council: two spaces for Councilmembers (one on-street and one in the garage), plus two spaces each for staff
  • Mayor: one space, plus seven spaces for staff
  • City Auditor: one space, plus two spaces for staff
  • City Attorney: one space, plus seven spaces for staff
  • City Administrator: one space, plus five spaces for staff
  • City Clerk: one space, plus one space for staff
  • Agency Directors and Department Heads: one space
  • Deputy and Assistant Directors: one space
  • “Employees who are required to use their vehicles in the performance of assigned duties or whose work assignments regularly require that they work late hours”: one space, granted on a case-by-case basis by the City Administrator
  • “Employees needing parking on a seasonal basis for the duration of time where there is a need to work late/irregular hours”: one space after 5 PM while they’re working late, granted on a case-by-case basis by the City Administrator

Staff estimates that this will free up a total of 33 parking spaces in the garage, bringing the City around $60,000 extra per year, which is, as District 4 Councilmember Jean Quan noted, “significantly less” money that the Council had expected to get out of the policy change.

The discussion started out strong, with District 2 Councilmember Pat Kernighan asking why the hell the report (PDF) didn’t even mention what all this free parking costs the City. WORD. Then she asked why we aren’t talking about providing monthly transit passes for employees, if we are, as we claim to be, a “transit first” city. Again, WORD.

Assistant City Administrator Marianna Marysheva-Martinez answered that with the combined total of around 200 city employees receiving free parking, we’re looking at a potential total of “just under $400,000 a year in foregone revenue.” Which, obviously. Parking is expensive. But also, WOAH. You would think that a figure like that would get everyone on that Committee pretty worked up and wanting to rethink this whole free parking thing. After all, they all know perfectly well just how staggering the budget cuts they’re going to have to make in just a few weeks are, and $400,000 is kind of a fortune.

Hahahaha! Committee members mostly expressed concerns about the categories of free parking where the City Administrator gets discretion in authorizing the privileges. In the end, they addressed the problem by requesting an annual report of how many people are getting free parking, so they can make sure the discretion isn’t being abused. Way to completely miss the point, which should be why the hell are we giving free parking to anyone? Reserved spaces in the garage, sure. I have zero problem with that. But the rationale behind saying that people shouldn’t have to pay for those spaces, just like everyone else who rents a monthly space, well, it’s just completely beyond me.

What discussion there was of transit alternatives was equally disappointing. I assumed, God knows why, when the phrase “transit pass” first came up, that they were talking about exploring an EasyPass program with AC Transit. No. Instead, the idea that got floated was that since a parking space could be rented for roughly $150 a month and a monthly transit pass costs $90 a month (which is wrong, BTW. AC Transit monthly bus passes cost $80), we could potentially save $60 per person by offering just the employees who were getting free parking the option of taking a monthly pass instead. Holy brain-dead inefficiency.

The Committee suggested we should go do a survey of all the people getting free parking to see if they were even interested in trading the space for a transit pass. Jean Quan suggested that we consider broadening the eligibility for a transit pass to everyone who receives an auto allowance as well, and staff said they would take a look at what other cities are doing and return with a report on the City’s options in March.

What other cities, like Alameda and Berkeley, and other local institutions, like Mills College, the Peralta Colleges, and UC Berkeley do not do is go to the AC Transit ticket office and buy off the shelf monthly passes for employees who elect to take them. They participate in AC Transit’s EasyPass program. With EasyPass, all employees are offered unlimited AC Transit passes loaded on TransLink cards. The cost per employee of the program is unique to every situation, but is based on pricing matrix where the City of Oakland, would, at most, be paying an annual per employee cost less than what the City seems to think it would cost to buy a pass each month.

Personally, I think it’s a no brainer that the City, which loves to bill itself as being so incredibly green and environmentally friendly, is beyond overdue for doing EasyPass. I understand, however, that reasonable people might argue that we can’t afford to start it right now, because it would cost money. I’m not unsympathetic to that argument, and if it doesn’t work out right now because of the budget, well, I wouldn’t think that’s the end of the world either. But I find it mind boggling that no one at the meeting even brought it up as an option. And whether we offer a transit option of any sort or not, there is simply no excuse for sacrificing this level of potential revenue by letting so damn many (or any) people park in the City’s garages for free.


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69 thoughts on “Free parking for City employees. Why?

  1. Karen Avery

    I’m floored. Do they give any justification as to why city employees don’t have to pay for parking? Are they somehow above the common man/woman? Someone seems to think so. The only justifiable one I see is this one: “Employees who are required to use their vehicles in the performance of assigned duties or whose work assignments regularly require that they work late hours”: one space, granted on a case-by-case basis by the City Administrator”. If they are being asked to specifically use their cars on an everyday basis then they should get it paid for and if on a case by case basis, then their parking can be paid for for that case.
    It doesn’t look like Pat will let it happen, let’s hope the other members join her.

  2. John Klein

    Why on earth should any non-elected City employees get free parking? This makes me feel like such a chump. I don’t get it, either.

  3. Livegreen

    They obviously do feel they’re above the common man & woman. I will be writing my City Councilperson and neighborhood listserve about this one. Especially since their alternate propsal will be cutting our Services or taxing us more for them.

    Why do they think they’re so special?

  4. dto510

    The downtown Oakland businesses that are most like the City (ie, big businesses) treat parking as compensation. Few employees enjoy dedicated parking, and virtually all such businesses offer commuter checks to subsidize their employees’ transit use. If certain jobs require reserved parking, that should be reflected as compensation. Since City managers aren’t due for a raise, I say take it out of their paychecks.

    It does make sense to be able to offer free parking on a limited basis to encourage City workers to take on additional, temporary tasks that require evening work, like staffing public meetings.

  5. Bruce Nye

    Dumb question since I ride a motor bike which eliminates parking problems: Does the garage / do the garages in question regularly fill up? In other words, are city employees actually taking up space that would otherwise be producing income? Or is this just symbolically horrible?

  6. dto510

    During the week the City can definitely rent the main garage. It’s a little cheaper than the structure two blocks away, which is full.

  7. Max Allstadt

    It’s only been a few months since the citizens went apeshit over parking tickets.

    The proposal gives extra parking perks the least popular people in this entire city.

    We’ve got a budget crisis like never before and this proposal costs $400k.

    What genius put this on the agenda in the first place? How did somebody so utterly devoid of political sense manage to get a job in government?

    I quote VSmoothe: “Sigh.”

  8. East Lake Biker

    I’m pretty bad at geography but isn’t City Hall in the middle of a major transit hub? Unless city staff is commuting from super far away I would think transit should be a workable option. Giving away parking spaces for evening work doesn’t make sense with me either. AC Transit’s trunk lines and BART run late. Is this a safety issue? That says something right there if staff don’t feel safe in DTO after dark.

  9. david vartanoff

    Agree w/ the rest of you. Not much excuse not using transit to “Oakland City Center”. And IMO same for elected/appointed officials.

  10. Rebecca Kaplan

    I definitely think it’s time to move toward an “eco-pass” type program, also known as EasyPass. Under this system, the City of Oakland would have a negotiated agreement with AC Transit to provide an unlimited-use annual pass for every City Employee. (These would most likely be provided using Translink, so they can be programmed and re-loaded by computer, and not require handing out actual passes each month). The charge for this type of “bulk” purchase would be a much reduced price compared to buying passes seperately.

    In a brief initial discussion with AC Transit, they estimate the charge for this would be about $300,000 per year, to cover all City of Oakland employees for unlimited use. (Exact costs and contract points would still need to be negotiated). A program like this exists for City of Berkeley employees, and is a great way to reduce traffic congestion and reduce parking demand by employees (which also supports economic development by making it easier for customers at restaurants and stores to find parking).

    In any case, I’ll collect more info, and share it with the rest of the Council, but I was pleased to hear this suggested, and I wanted everyone to know that this alternative is definitely possible, and at a price that is only a tiny fraction of what the cost would be to purchase transit passes individually.

    “Transit First” — It can be more than a slogan…

    -R Kaplan
    http://www.KaplanforOakland.org

  11. len raphael

    The car allowance numbers could be a larger number than the present limited free parking and much more subject to abuse.

    For the city employees who routinely go to and from their office on official biz during the day, it’s cheaper giving them free parking close in, than paying them while they walk further to their vehicles and paying private prices for parking.

    Standard private sector practice is to reimburse employees for parking if they need to come to the office and then drive off site.

    You could win your moral victory and lose the 400k hypothetical savings.

    We could quickly reduce the deficit by requiring all employees to take public transit or bike. That would be good for an immediate 10% of employees taking early retirement.

    -len

  12. John Klein

    The City employee parking proposal on Oakbook is a good start, but I think it’s worth asking for more details. The employees covered by the proposal are:

    • Elected or appointed officials (Mayor, City Council, City Attorney, City Auditor, City Administrator, City Clerk).
    • Staff to elected or appointed officials (specific number of spaces per official).
    • Agency directors and department heads.
    • Deputy, assistant or similar level classifications.
    • Employees who have free parking as a specific benefit documented in their hiring agreement.
    • Employees who use their personal vehicle in the performance of assigned duties.

    There is really a lot of ‘fudge’ room here. For instance, how many “staff to elected or appointed offices” will get free parking? Seems to me that all elected officials could just turn in a list of their entire staff and, presto, they all get free parking. So much for fiscal discipline and any kind of moral authority.

    Which specific agencies and departments are covered? A list would be nice. Will “building officials” in the Planning and Zoning be included? What constitutes a “similar level” classification for deputies and assistants? Does “assistant” mean “Executive Assistant”? These last two categories are way too ambiguous.

    How many employees have a parking benefit as part of their hiring agreement? I suspect this will be a difficult number to determine. It seems unlikely that HR has a list like this and, if not, they’d have to search every employment agreement for it. I doubt HR even has every employment agreement in its custody. In any case, the new parking program should explicitly ban this practice. These agreements simply mean that a new hire was a good negotiator “coming in the door” and managed to snag a free parking space as a perk.

    How often do employees use personal vehicles for their assigned duties? How is this documented, if at all?

    And so forth. There are still lots of questions to be answered

  13. Livegreen

    I know PW engineers who go out in the field use one of PW’s cars. Why can’t the City just have a few of these for Official business, especially for hard-to-commute places or time sensitive matters? Otherwise they use Transit or hail a cab and get reimbursed.

    Even when cars are needed for official business, there’s no reason 200 people need free parking…

  14. len raphael

    still seems on the order of magnitude as our mayor’s travel and entertainment.

    wasteful yes, but if the employees who got free parking all worked very efficiently and effectively, would you fight the employees on this one? yes for the die hard transit advocates, but no for many of us who say pick your battles.

  15. Pat Kernighan

    Judging from the comments above, there is very little sympathy for City employees being entitled to free parking. One of the reasons it still exists is that free parking has been a form of compensation that has existed for many years at the City and has been institutionalized in collective bargaining agreements and individual employment contracts for high level employees like department heads. (J.Klein–probably less than a dozen of those.) In these cases, the benefit is a contractual right and the Council can’t unilaterally take it away. Also, since all City employees just took a 10% pay cut this year, they’re pretty sensitive about losing another form of compensation. Nevertheless, I agree that the current City policy is a relic of another time and we need to start changing it.

    The irony about this perk is that it is mostly the higher paid employees who get it. (Council aides are among the few lower paid people who do.) At the previous Finance meeting on this topic I asked that the next report distinguish between granting a reserved spot (which arguably a Department head should have) and a FREE reserved parking spot. Why should the highest paid people in the City be the ones getting free parking? They are the most able to pay for their own parking. This point was conspicuously absent from the staff report.

    If the City is going to have any kind of transportation benefit, it should be a menu type plan so that cyclists, walkers and transit riders can equally benefit. It might take some months to figure this all out, but the Council should direct staff to get started. I and others were not well informed enough about the Easypass to get this off the ground this morning, but we can correct that next week, especially with the help of our transportation guru RK.

    Final point: Stuff like this doesn’t get changed unless members of the public show up at Council meetings and express their concern/outrage. At the very least, send a lot of emails to CMs well in advance of the Council meeting. Because of the contractual entitlement to this benefit in the current union contracts, I don’t think it’s realistic that the City can just dump the whole policy, but we can start moving toward a less car-centric benefit, and then in future negotiations, move toward eliminating the perk entirely, especially if the financial picture remains as bleak as it is now.

  16. Hayden

    Thanks to the two Council members for posting–I can understand contractual benefits and why they might not be too flexible. At the same time, here’s what the State of California does–just across the street from Frank Ogawa Plaza.

    Each agency or department in the State building is allocated a limited number of parking spaces in the lot under the building. These are occupied by agency/dept. vehicles, and a portion can be rented by State employees, using a monthly pre-tax payroll deduction. I don’t recall the rate, but as parking rates in downtown Oakland have gone up, it has become very reasonable, particularly for enclosed parking.

    In order to get a space (at least in my agency), you put your name on a list and wait for years until retirements or changes in family situations make one available. There are fewer spaces available than there is demand.

    Bicycle parking (also in the garage) is free. Also, at my agency, there is a subsidized transit program, with the result that the majority of staff take BART, AC Transit, ferries, walk, or bike.

    It is remarkable to me that the City offers free parking to anyone as a benefit, with the exception of elected officials. Those who the City may need to use their personal cars should be reimbursed on a day-by-day basis. Some of these categories–working late?!? City attorney? Wow.

  17. Mike Spencer

    Different parking situation and scenario: the area around new Kaiser hospital on street-sweeping days like today. I planned to get to appointment 10 minutes early. Kaiser garages full, apparently. Circled Broadway corridor for 20-30 minutes as I did not have change on me and did not see the new meter boxes to use debit card. Last thing I want is a $55 ticket on top of being late for medical appointment…..You have to admit that Oakland parking policies favor those with means.. Hopefully, new parking garage being built near Kaiser will cure some of these ills.

    If I have to risk getting a parking ticket downtown to pay or appeal my parking tickets, no free ride for anyone else. Oh, the self-employed and most of us don’t get reimbursed for parking. Sounds petty but the “haves,” as in “have garages” at home and at work, don’t have the same exposure to ticketing.

  18. Helen

    I don’t think anyone answered Bruce’s question, so I will. Yes, the garages do fill up during the day, and paying customers are turned away.

  19. Ralph

    Thank you councilmembers for your posts. I am not totally opposed to policies that are consistent with private practices and make sense, but free parking because it has been a longstanding component of compensation makes no sense.

    My thought would be a parking allowance for executive levels and public transportation support for all.

    I would avoid including parking in the agreement because the some people need to work late. Working late should be the exception, so you can either include reimbursement or a car service.

  20. John Klein

    Yes, thanks Council members. This is one of those areas where it seems like the public is paying more and more money but getting less and less in return. It’s happening on all levels of society: those in positions in which they can cushion themselves from the economic downturn, or exempt themselves from the effects of it, do so rather blatantly and shamelessly.

    I know it’s not completely like this- nobody was complaining about the parking benefit during the boom times. But, the facts are that parking enforcement and fines have gone up city-wide. This is because of the unprecedented finacial problems everywhere and we are all taking hits because of it. It seems, though, that lots of City employees are exempt simply by virture of being part of the system creating the laws. That’s not right.

  21. Karen Smulevitz

    Can Oakland walk the talk? Either we’re green or not. We should reward bikers and transit riders, not commuters with cars. Free parking next to a BART station is obscene. For necessary car trips, even valet parking would be cheaper than monthly spaces and workers with contractural parking perks might be offered an incentive to give up free parking. For what it’s worth in full disclosure, I’m biased: I’m transit dependent.

  22. Livegreen

    To remind our Council members: there was NOT a 10% pay-cut: 5% was the % of “employee contribution” that the City actually paid, & 5% is temporary furloughs that will be restored when furloughs are stopped & services resumed.

    The City still pays it’s 90% contribution share to benefits (just not half of the employees’ share as mentioned above). City Employees start with unparalleled benefits that the 5% in benefits only begin to correct. And forget about equalling any cut that those of us in the private sector have suffered.

    We’re talking about job & house loss out here, and the City is NOT talking about cutting expenses. It’s talking about reducing services, raising taxes, all for the same costs and lack of efficiency we pay for now.

    It’s time for City and staff to contribute in a meaningful way.

  23. dto510

    Pat, I find your comment very disappointing. It is in fact untrue that city workers took a pay cut – they took furlough days, temporarily decreasing their pay but depriving citizens of valuable services. Meanwhile, Oakland’s city workers remain the very highest paid in the entire country, according to the US Census. Only a handful of people have parking in their hiring agreement, and it’s unclear if it those agreements actually say “free parking.”

    It is absolutely clear that the free parking must be cut if it is not contractually obligated. This is an easy way to save $400,000. Also, you can charge the city workers the $90/year an EasyPass would cost, it does not have to come out of general revenue.

  24. Ralph

    John,
    has all enforcement gone up? true the city did direct enforcement to ticket for infractions which had for years been ignored but a study conducted in the 1st quarter indicated that for the 1st qtr fewer tickets were issued y/y.

    Personally, I hate how low the fines are. If you have a free $50 to pay continually for a parking violations, then the fine is too low. I’d like the fine set high enough so that when you get socked with the ticket, you will not think about doing it again.

  25. Naomi Schiff

    Speaking of contributions: As tough as things are here, some places are unbelievably worse. Contribute to earthquake relief for Haiti if you feel so moved! My company has just sent money to Red Cross, but you can also donate through UNICEF or Doctors Without Borders, or consult Zennie Abraham’s list.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/abraham/detail??blogid=95&entry_id=55157

    A 7.1 earthquake devastated the West Oakland freeway, downtown buildings, chimneys all over, downtown Santa Cruz, the SF Marina, the Bay Bridge, and caused 63 deaths in 1989. Imagine the impact upon densely-populated, concrete-block-constructed Port au Prince of a much more disastrous hit!

    (And be grateful for our wealth, our government resources, and our building codes.)

  26. Jenn

    Councilmember Kernighan wrote: The irony about this perk is that it is mostly the higher paid employees who get it. (Council aides are among the few lower paid people who do.)

    What do Council aides make? The ones I know and the jobs I’ve seen posted don’t qualify as “lower paid” in my book.

  27. Leslie Bonett

    I worked for a City Council office, though I did not need or have a parking spot. BUT the Councilmembers’ staff do need parking spots. Most of them work very hard and have schedules where they are frequently off to meetings and events in the districts, day and night, and returning to City Hall for work, inside meetings, etc. They serve the constituents all over Oakland. Their schedules are TIGHT and WE and they cannot afford the time to use public transit in most cases. Close parking saves the time and stress of other methods, so they can keep their focus on city business. In most cases, this is worth it, and it is a small perk against salary reductions and increased costs.

  28. 94610BizMan

    This sentence from PK’s post is so depressing: “Stuff like this doesn’t get changed unless members of the public show up at Council meetings and express their concern/outrage.”

    So our CC representatives don’t have the spine to do their job without in the room “outrage” or conversely if enough people can stage “outrage” at a CC meeting the council doesn’t have the spine to do what is right for the city.

    Of course with the Kids First fiasco and the whole long budget slide into the abyss this should NOT be a surprise.

  29. oakie

    Given that Oakland employees are shown to be overpaid by 20% above the Bay Area average (which is, itself, demonstrably overpaid compared to other places), and the extraordinary overspending by this city relative to revenues and what is suitably called ‘spending like a drunken saior,’ why in dog’s name should there be an iota of compensation for parking or transit passes? And it’s not just downtown. I’m sure there are many examples, but the Rockridge library marks off half the available parking on the property for use by employees. [And this to a place with extraordinarily excellent transit services and what used to be called "banking working hours"] What is the excuse?

  30. Livegreen

    Although I disagree with Pat Kernighan’s description of the adjustment in compensation for City Emoloyees as a “pay-cut” I do welcome her chiming in and at least sound open to the idea of a change in this benefit.

    Though I agree with BizMan & V they should stand up for what is right on their own, history has been that the public can be unforgiving. Sometimes for the right reasons, but often not. & if they want to either get reelected or stick their neck out, they should b shown some support. Oherwise they’re just going to get yelled at and vilified.

    I for one will take PK’s advice and email my CC. I will also post on our neighborhood listserve….

  31. Livegreen

    PS. You think Kids First is a cave-in? Heck that’s for kids. Take a look at the video of the CC giving Your Black Muslim Bakery funds (Russo in his prime). It was on the Tribune website ias part of the Chauncee Bailey project, if u can still find it there…

    If not V might b able to get a copy. Politically it is VERY enlightening…

  32. jack b dazzle

    It is not just the money, it is the frame of mind. Thing have to change in Oakland. Pat, stop making excuses for the lack of change.

    Whenever their is a crisis, someone has to stand up and be a leader to set an example. Why doesn’t some council member (or the mayor) give up their parking spaces? Why do we keep having to bribe people to come to work in Oakland? Why does it seem like every person in city government has a feeling of entitlement. Shouldn’t reality start setting in. Where are our heros?

    FYI, the mayor of ny and a lot of NYC council people take the subway. I actually got to see the mayor on the subway in NY during the election. It was inspiring. I am sure it was not a regular thing for him, but at least he got up and set an example. That is really all we are asking for.

  33. Ralph

    BizMan, you have a valid point re PK’s post. If something is financially irresponsible, then it is financially irresponsible whether the public speaks on it or not. We trust council to be responsible and act in our best interest but comments like PK’s make me wonder who council truly serves.

  34. Livegreen

    Right, about PK’s statements. They do need to lead & be responsible. But we also need to offer support when they do. Not just offer criticism. I applaud the bloggers here who regularly show up at CC meetings or watch it on cable & report here (thanks Ralph, for the info abt the Chief’s proposal for a curfew).

    Before you all started showing up, it was only the vested interest groups that showed up at these meetings, not supporters of practical solutions. We must continue to shine the light and increase the numbers who make their voices heard.

  35. dto510

    I completely agree with CM PK that change doesn’t happen without a strong push from the public. I’m with LIvegreen – I just emailed the Council and I’m going to speak on Tuesday in favor of saving $400,000 by cutting free parking and instituting a employee-paid $90/yr EasyPass.

  36. Andy K

    E-mailed my council person. Free parking has got to go – even in good times, even if you have to work late.

  37. MarleenLee

    Not long ago one of my neighbors emailed the entire City Council to support what I was doing, and urge them to take action in a certain way. My neighbor’s email was strongly worded, and referenced voting for somebody else if they wouldn’t support what he was advocating, but it wasn’t rude or outrageous. Nancy Nadel emailed him back, “Thanks for the threat.” Those were her exact words. I thought this was exceedingly rude and disrespectful and did nothing to encourage public participation.

  38. Ralph

    ML,
    At times, Ms. Nadel’s emails leave a little, scratch that, a lot to be desired. But your neighbor can’t stop communicating

  39. John Klein

    Yeah, you gotta show up. Blog posts or emails are not enough to change City policy. I’m sure some politicians hope you stay home, blogging, and not attend meetings. That makes their lives so much simplier. Do you think lobbyists only blog about what they want? No, they are down there in the faces of city officials all the time. So am I and so is any one else who really wants something. You need to do the same.

    The reason NN doesn’t write much is shown by ML’s post – if NN, or any City official writes something a person doesn’t like, it gets plastered all over the internet in five minutes. Like I said, you gotta show up. Sometimes, scratch that, most of the time, email isn’t enough.

  40. MarleenLee

    JK, I “plastered” that quote on the internet not because I didn’t like it, but rather because I thought it was so outrageous and clearly had a chilling effect (or intent) on public participation. It is hard enough for people (not me, but most people) to find the time and/or guts to speak their mind. So when they do, they should not be insulted by City officials for making the effort. To the credit of the City officials I have dealt with (I’ve never dealt with NN), they have always been polite and respectful to me, and I do appreciate that.

  41. John Klein

    ML, no need to get defensive. Care to ‘plaster’ the original email that NN was responding to, just so that we have the complete interaction? Perhaps you are mistaken in your assumption that council members must be polite all the time. NN emails says she was threatened – that doesn’t sound very polite, either. I’d like to know more about the nature of that threat.

  42. MarleenLee

    JK – guess you’re a NN fan. I didn’t think NN was “threatened” by this email. If she was, then her skin is too thin for the CC. Anyway, not to totally derail the conversation here, but here’s the email from my neighbor, and NN’s response – all verbatim, except I’ve deleted my neighbor’s name and address (he provided both).

    Oakland Voters are Watching Your Measure Y Lawsuit Actions

    As a concerned Oakland taxpayer of 22Y and neighbor to Marleen Sacks. I am very concerned with this council’s actions not only in the inability to manage the measure Y funds as required, but also the lack of a committed response to the measure Y lawsuit filed by Marleen.

    Please keep in mind that the citizens of Oakland will be watching and will vote people out of office if necessary – especially for those on the council that have an interest in the upcoming mayoral race (Jean Quan).

    Thanks,
    _______
    =======================================================

    This is the response I received from Nancy

    Thank you for your threat.

    Sincerely,

    Nancy

  43. KenO

    No free parking for city employees.

    Oaktown has the MOST BART stations of any “SF” Bay Area city! Why must these city workers drive?

    Of course, most suburban tech companies provide oodles of free parking for THEIR employees: Google, etc. But those companies actually make a profit and PAY taxes, unlike any level of government.

    Of course I could be biased here… I love riding ACT and BART most of the time. And I usually bike.

  44. Ralph

    I will derail the conversation; it would be nice if our council members were more responsive in their communication. If our congressional delegation is able to provide a response, then I think our council members should be able to respond especially when you consider that the council member is dealing with far fewer people.

    What I find frustrating council members getting set in a position. At that point, our elected officials do not care about your concerns; they are going to do what they are going to do.

  45. Steve Lowe

    Hey! I showed up and stated my piece (pro Mike Lighty), and no one else uttered a single negative word about him that night. As a matter of fact, all the comments about his dedication, intelligence and independence were totally positive, one even stating that she was opposed to him when he first came onto the Planning Commission as a probable Jerry clone. She was happy to say that all her former qualms had been dispersed and that she (representing her hardly inconsequential labor association) was thoroughly behind Mike. But still – without the usual meandering opining or, for that matter, any discussion at all – four mysterious votes no.

    So showing up and speaking is largely meaningless: it’s really all about who holds the cards in the ongoing power plays at City Hall that hamstring this city’s efficacy, taking trick after trick while the rest of us have to deal with the visionless, moribund, oppressive atmosphere that hangs over this city like the sword of Damocles. Who in the world would want to invest in such a place?

    Maybe some of the people who routinely apologize for those who voted no that night can explain what was really going on – and how that kind of negativity somehow contributes to a better Oakland?

    ????

    – S

  46. Max Allstadt

    John Klein,

    Nancy has a habit of making snarky responses to emails. Because they’re emails, this is a pretty well documented habit.

    That said, Marleen’s friend did mention voting people out of office. Not the most effective way to reach a politician. Politicians are people too. Opening a conversation with “we’re gonna vote you out of office” isn’t wise. There are much better icebreakers. If I held Nancy’s office and I got that email, I certainly wouldn’t be inclined to respond with flowers and a box of See’s candy.

  47. John Klein

    I’m an NN fan, but have gotten snarky responses from her, too. Know that about her, and now let’s get back on the topic, shall we?

  48. MarleenLee

    Max, FYI, the guy wasn’t a friend; just a neighbor. I’ve actually never met him. I probably would chosen different words myself, but I’ve heard the City Council take a lot worse abuse on the dais and they politely say nothing, which is the appropriate response (unless somebody is really out of line). Elected officials have to take a lot of criticism; that’s part of the job; the only power most citizens have is to be able to vote them out of office, so he was just stating the obvious. I think snarky emails from elected officials to constituents are an affront to civility and democracy. We’re paying a fortune (KTOP, Sunshine Ordinance administration etc.) to enhance open government and public participation, which is great. NN”s email took as 10 steps in the wrong direction.

  49. Livegreen

    I agree with JK & Ralph, let’s get back to the topic in V’s heading and how to make a difference…

  50. len raphael

    I’ve attended a few cc meetings and will continue to attend and even speak.

    The comment made by PK, has also been made by Naomi, that you have to communicate w the cc members before the public meetings if you want to persuade them (unless you can muster dozens of shouting teenagers like Kids First or you’re the BART manager). They are unlike to change at the last minute in front of the public.

    So not obvious to me that showing up in person and speaking will exert any more influence than blogging.

    I think we’d exert more influence if we started ABO pac and each of us contributed to it. Heck, if each of us just got 3 other people to contribute to candidates and forgetabout a pac.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  51. len raphael

    Unintended consequences of eliminating free parking: make very very sure the cc doesn’t eliminate free parking for all attendees at council meetings. no better way to reduce public attendence at cc meetings than to make us pay to have a say.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  52. Pat Kernighan

    Getting a substantial number of emails, sometimes even a handful of emails, a couple of days prior to a Council meeting can influences the outcome, especially on an issue that is low profile. If your position is counter to that of an organized constituency which is going to send us 50 messages, then it is really important to have at least some people writing in on your side. Yes, sometimes CMs make up their minds early and you can’t budge them, but not always. It is refreshing to hear from “average citizens” rather than just the organized interest groups.

    BTW, the employee parking item is #10.18CC on the Consent Agenda for next Tuesday’s Council meeting. The Consent agenda is usually heard between 6:00 and 7:00pm.

  53. Hayden

    The Bay Area is a non-attainment zone for at least ozone and PM-10, and I wonder whether it qualifies for coverage under the 1992 State parking cash-out law, which applies to employers of 50 people or more. The only difficulty is that it doesn’t apply when the employer owns the parking it is subsidizing:

    http://www.arb.ca.gov/planning/tsaq/cashout/cashout_guide_0809.pdf

    This could be a convenient way to wean employees off of free parking and onto public transportation.

    Separately, I have trouble with the concept that there is *any* entitlement to free parking, except for elected officials (for that matter, among those who should pay for parking I include workers at private employers, as well). People find it convenient enough to drive–and the costs to the public of accommodating that are high enough already. It makes sense to charge drivers the market rate for parking.

  54. len raphael

    hayden, not ok to make residents pay anything for parking at night next to city hall so they can volunteer their time to participate in civic affairs. if you want to require them to have at least two people per vehicle, i’m cool with that.

    no way i’m gonna waste 45 minutes to take a bus downtown each direction at night when driving and parking takes 15 minutes each way.

  55. CitizenX

    Hayden, the City owns all three garages mentioned in the report. The parking cash-out would not apply.

  56. CitizenX

    What Councilmember PK is NOT saying is the City Council wants you to email and, especially, show up to meetings and speak your mind, because the Council is reluctant to take on the employees and unions over this issue. Yhey live in fear that the employee organizations will organize around making sure they are not reelected. If the public outcry is large enough, they can tell the employee groups “What can we do?” and take the issue on. Leadership in action.

    Regardless, this benefit is arguably a subject of bargaining, so the City Council is unable to do anything unilaterally.

  57. CitizenX

    It is odd that this issue is not being discussed with the closely related issue of car allowances. Car allowances, in most every case is simply additional compensation. The City Attorney has seen fit to grant his staff of lawyers a monthly stipend under Section 5.6.2.2 of the Local 21 MOU.

    The language reads “If the City determines that the nature of the work assigned to a represented employee, requires the use of an automobile on a regular basis for more than one-half of the represented employee’s work schedule, the represented employee may utilize a private vehicle and the City shall reimburse the represented employee at the following rate per month…”. The section also calls for reimbursement of any miles driven under the existing IRS rate.

    An interesting report or public records request would be a listing of City Attorneys Office employees receiving the monthly car allowance benefit and a listing of actual mileage reimbursements. Show me one of the lawyers who actually usr their cars one half of the workday and I’ll eat my legal briefs.

  58. len raphael

    years ago the private sector replaced car allowances with documented mileage reimbursements. a fixed car allowance is just an excuse for additional compensation. for all i know it counts as additional pension spike.

  59. Hayden

    I can’t speak for the private sector, but at the State, you are required to get reimbursed for mileage, trip by trip–sounds similar to what Mr. Raphael is describing.

  60. dto510

    CitizenX, there is nothing in the staff report that says that free parking is a benefit accorded to city workers in a collective-bargaining agreement.

  61. Steve Lowe

    Still and all: four no votes for a Mayoral appointment, and not a single reason given why (on a Council where bogus justification for this or that errant vote is rarely in short supply). Just “no” in the face of only positive input from the public, and no one coming forth to protest or even say boo. So what’s that all about if it isn’t simply a raw power play having nothing to do whatsoever with good governance?

    And some people wonder why other Commission seats remain empty…

    – S

  62. Frankie D

    For a city like Oakland that prides itself on being urban, progressive and green, why do we always maintain such suburban practices like car allowances for (non department head) city employees and free downtown parking? This should have ended at least 20 years ago. If you have staff that has to routinely go in the field they use the city’s fleet vehicles, with city paint jobs and logos, parked in a city lot, or walk, bike or take public transit. Its actually embarassing that this is even a topic of discussion in 2010. However, thanks for the info from the comments on this blog and I will contact my Councilperson prior to Tuesday’s meeting and voice my opposition to this policy.

  63. Patrick

    I thought PK’s first post was very enlightening. It is an admission that Councilmembers are ruled by that which is politically expedient. Furthermore, stating that city employees have taken a 10% cut, which is patently false, begets further questions: does PK not know that the employees have not taken what most people would define as “a 10% pay cut” or is she just comfortable with spreading misinformation? Either is unacceptable.

  64. Livegreen

    In her Newletter Jean Quan says the discussion on the $8-9 million in remaining budget cuts has been delayed until later in Feb to give staff enough time to review options. Is this true & if so does that include Parking Spots? Or will that still b discussed Tuesday?

    Related, I wonder how much time they will give themselves to review these further City Staff recommendations? Is there some time or is it the day of, or is it different each time?

  65. CitizenX

    “CitizenX, there is nothing in the staff report that says that free parking is a benefit accorded to city workers in a collective-bargaining agreement.”

    dto510, that is true. Nevertheless, it is an existing benefit afforded quite a few employees and was included in a number of employment offers. Even though it is not explicitly spelled out in the labor agreements, I believe it is ARGUABLY a mandatory subject of bargaining under the NLRA.