2018: Year in Review
Looking back on Alameda’s news the last 52 weeks
Part 1: January thru June
Jim Franz ‘Retires’
The year began with the city giving Jim Franz, aka the “Energizer Bunny,” a royal send off. Franz moved to Alameda in 1981, where he got a job with the Red Cross and volunteered to sit on Alameda’s Social Service Human Relations Board.
His involvement in community affairs so impressed his fellow Island City dwellers that they named him “Man of the Year” and “Humanitarian of the Year.”
When Franz retired on Jan. 11, he was serving as the city’s community development coordinator. “I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him,” a high-ranking city official told the Alameda Sun on condition of complete anonymity.
It turned out that the source was correct. Despite rumors that aliens were attempting to abduct (or had possibly abducted) Franz from his farewell party, the Alameda Sun was hearing from him as late at Dec. 16.
Teachers Take to the Streets
The Alameda Education Association (AEA), the union that represents teachers in Alameda’s public school system, began reaching out to businesses along Park and Webster streets on Jan. 23.
Teachers wore red T-shirts while visiting shops in the city’s two major business districts. They asked the business owners to post AEA signs in their windows. The signs feature an anchor, the teachers’ campaign logo.
“Alameda educators ‘anchor’ the community, hence the logo and sign with anchor theme” said AEA president Judith Klinger.
The teachers hoped to convince Alameda businesses and their customers to support AEA’s efforts in ongoing salary negotiations with the school district. Alameda Unified School District salaries are the lowest in Alameda County, the teachers pointed out. AEA also wanted the community to know that a first-year teacher with family medical coverage takes home just $31,000 in that first year.
City Dedicates Estuary Park
The Alameda Recreation and Parks Department held a grand opening ceremony for the new Estuary Park on Jan. 20. The eight-acre park is located at 200 Mosley St. on the estuary just east of Alameda Point and the Main Street Ferry Terminal.
The park is built on land that was conveyed from the Navy to the City of Alameda in 2009. The property had lain dormant for years.
Facilities at the park include a city football field, a lighted synthetic turf field for soccer, football, lacrosse and rugby and the “Challenger Field” that provides inclusive play opportunities for children of all abilities.
Time for a Change
During this year’s Black History Month, Alameda historian Rasheed Shabazz introduced the idea of renaming Haight Elementary School (pictured below as it appeared in 1875.) He reminded Alamedans that many students of color were attending a school named for an avowed racist.
Many remember Henry Huntly Haight as the governor who signed the University of California’s birth certificate.
Shabazz pointed out, however, that Haight, who lived on Alameda’s West End, used the powers of his office to prevent citizenship and voting rights from being extended to non-white California residents. The Democratic majority followed Haight’s lead and rejected the 15th Amendment in January 1870.
Athough enough states soon ratified the amendent to place it as part of the Constitution, it took California more than a century to ratify the 15th Amendment, finally doing so in 1962.
The 15th amendment granted African American men the right to vote. The amendment declared that that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
Just this month, the community voted to change the school’s name from Haight to “Love.”
Ocean Cleanup Finds a Home
Five large patches of garbage, called gyros, swirl around the earth’s oceans. The largest clogs aquatic life in the Pacific Ocean. The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch nonprofit has designed a system to help clean up that mass of refuse and debris.
The company opened operations at Alameda Point, where it began assembling its 2,000-foot long system. This system would sweep concentrated plastic from the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”
The company plans to sell the debris to recyclers. Ocean Cleanup assembled its system on dry land, lowered it into Seaplane Lagoon and towed it out through the Golden Gate on the way to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Honoring our women
On Feb. 10 Girls Inc. of the Island City held its signature Women Who Dare awards luncheon.
This annual event honors strong, smart and bold women and teens who inspire girls to triumphantly beat the odds, discover their power and potential and achieve their dreams.
The event featured young ladies from the Best Foot Forward Program who had completed several weeks of workshops in preparation for hosting the event.
This year’s luncheon attracted a sell-out crowd of 350 supporters who witnessed inspirational speeches from the five outstanding awardees:
- Cammie Harris, educator and principal
- Amy Patick, Ph.D., scientist, consultant and nonprofit director
- Joey Gong, senior, Alameda Science and Technology Institute
- My Tam “Tammy” Tran senior, Encinal High School
- Weezie Mott, Honorary Award, chef, educator.
Council Puts City Manager Jill Keimach on Leave
Mayor Trish Spencer emerged from a closed-door session and announced the City Council voted unanimously to place City Manager Jill Keimach on paid administrative leave at the conclusion of a lengthy Council closed session meeting Friday, March 9. The decision came after Spencer said the Council reviewed the final investigative report involving the hiring process of current Alameda Fire Department (AFD) Fire Chief Edmond Rodriguez in October 2018.
The City Council had received the final report from its independent investigator Michael Jenkins from the California law firm Jenkins & Hogin. Spencer said that the report contained confidential advice regarding potential legal action.
Spencer did not reveal what the City Manager did that led to the Council’s decision. However, the Council agenda described the closed-door session with the words “Significant exposure to litigation” and “City exposure to legal action.” Keimach was placed on leave with full salary and benefits.
The Island City’s elder statesman, an East Bay civic leader for decades, Anthony “Lil” Arnerich passed at his Encinal Avenue home on March 9. An Oakland native, Arnerich attended McClymonds High School. Casey Stengel, who later went on to coach the New York Yankees to greatness, signed young Lil to the Oakland Oaks in 1948. Two years later Lil began working for the Park and Recreation Department in Alameda. He stayed on the job for 36 years, “retiring” in 1986.
In 1988 Lil was appointed to the City Council. The following year he won a seat in his own right, as well as the title of Vice-Mayor. He served the city as its Vice-Mayor until 1991 and remained on the City Council until 1996. The city will remember Lil for his contributions to Alameda’s youth. To thank him for this and his other accomplishments, the city renamed the Upper Washington Park Baseball Field to Arnerich Field.
Locals Protest Gun Violence
More than 500 people showed up for a “March for Our Lives” vigil on March 24, at Park Street and Santa Clara Avenue. The crowd swelled with Alamedans showing their support for the children and expressing their wishes to see an end to gun violence in schools. The demonstrators proceeded down Park Street stretching in a line estimated at five blocks, serenaded by loud cheers and honks of passersby.
When they arrived at Big Five Sporting Goods Store at South Shore Center, the demonstrators were met peacefully by the store’s security staff who allowed them to stay on the premises to express their disapproval of assault-style weapon sales at the business.
Two students addressed the crowd about their fears of going to school and being shot. Organizers, spearheaded by Alameda’s Christ Episcopal Church, encouraged all in attendance to join the letter writing campaign to Big Five.
Tragedy on Webster Street
The City of Alameda recorded 2018’s first homicide after a 61-year-old woman died of injuries she sustained outside the Pho Anh Dao restaurant, 1919 Webster St. The Alameda County Coroner identified the victim as Cindy Le, 61, of Alameda.
According to the Alameda Police Department (APD), Le and a 28-year-old man suffered injuries during a robbery attempt about 11 p.m. on Friday, April 6. Le passed away on Tuesday, April 10.
APD Lt. Wayland Gee said that when police officers arrived on scene, they learned that there had been a robbery attempt at the restaurant and that the suspects had fled. Two men were later arrested and convicted of the murder.
Marking a sad anniversary
Business and community leaders gathered at the Rock Wall Wine Company at Alameda Point to hear Interim City Manager Liz Warmerdam deliver her State of the City address.
At the same time students assembled along Central Avenue at Encinal High School and began marching to the winery. They were coming to deliver a message of their own to those attending Warmerdam’s address.
When they arrived at Alameda Point the students lay prostrate outside the winery to protest gun violence at schools across the country. They were reminding the community leaders of the 20th anniversary of the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School in Colorado.
None of the students lying on the pavement were born when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 students and one teacher at the school.
AUSD wins lawsuit
The Alameda Unified School District reached a stipulated agreement with Nelco, Inc., Santa Clara Investors II and Edward Hirschberg in and ongoing legal battle over how the Alameda Unified School District can levy a tax on commercial property owners. This lawsuit went to trial on Sep. 27, 2017. At stake: Did the parcel tax structure apply the tax uniformly? The plaintiffs claimed — as they had in the two previous lawsuits — that the parcel tax structure was not “uniform” because of the cap and because owners of parcels without buildings would pay no tax. In the end, the judge disagreed with the plaintiffs.
Honoring our veterans
Traditionally a month to honor veterans, May 2018 had a special meaning. On Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, the city marked the 20th anniversary of the opening of Veterans Memorial Park on Bay Farm Island. Mayor Trish Spencer opened the services and Marine Corps veteran Joe LoParo reminded those present at the ceremony of Alameda’s proud history as a military town. “We must remind ourselves that Memorial Day is not a day for a family barbecue or to celebrate a day off work. It is a time to remember and honor loved ones that have sacrificed their lives so we can enjoy our freedom every day,” LoParo said.
Marina plans approved
At its May 29 meeting the Planning Board unanimously approved the Alameda Marina master plan and the adoption of the plan’s environmental impact report; the vote was 5-0. Pacific Shops, Inc. owns the property, which consists of 27 acres of land. The City of Alameda owns the 17 acres of waterfront property, which it has leased to Pacific Shops, Inc.
Coast Guard hosts Valor Games
The U.S. Coast Guard teamed up with the Northern California Regional Paralympic Sport Program and the Far West Wheelchair Athletic Association to host the Valor Games Far West on Coast Guard Island. Veterans or active-duty service members with disabilities took part in sports adapted to the athletes’ needs. Events included a biathlon, sitting volleyball, weightlifting, archery and martial arts. This marked the Valor Games’ sixth year and the fifth year the U.S. Coast Guard hosted the event on Coast Guard Island.
Golf course opens
The city celebrated the opening of the newly renovated Jack Clark South Course at Corica Park. Mayor Trish Spencer joined Greenway Golf partner, Ken Campbell, to cut the ribbon. Golf, city and Chamber of Commerce dignitaries attended the June 22 celebration. The city will open the course for play the following day with Alameda Appreciation Day.