Alameda has work to do. The city has "identified over $200 million in deferred maintenance in Citywide infrastructure and over $500 million in new infrastructure needs" according to a staff report. Tomorrow evening, City Council will be discussing a potential funding measure to repair and improve Alameda's infrastructure. Here's a public comment that I emailed in support.

Dear Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft, Vice Mayor Daysog, and Councilmembers,

I'm pleased to see that City Council is considering a funding measure to repair and improve Alameda's infrastructure.

I'm writing in as an individual who lives in Alameda and also co-owns an Alameda-based small business. Both residents and businesses will strongly benefit from a locally-controlled means of addressing the city's backlog of maintenance and handling newer challenges, including:

  • rising bay levels and also groundwater due to climate change
  • smoke and public safety power shutoffs due to wildfire
  • traffic hazards due to unsafe driving of vehicles that are ever increasing in horsepower and hood height
  • unaffordable and limited housing due to chronic under-building relative to our highly performing regional economy

For all these important reasons, please do move ahead with polling and with strategizing for a successful infrastructure funding measure.

If I may also add three more thoughts for your consideration:

All of these efforts to support public services and infrastructure complement each other โ€“ ideally the city will make strategic choices of how to schedule its own infrastructure measure relative to other local, regional, and state measures.

According to a fact sheet from the state Assembly, if it is passed "ACA 1 will lower the necessary voter threshold from a two-thirds supermajority to 55 percent to approve local general obligation (GO) bonds and special taxes for affordable housing and public infrastructure projects." According to the California League of Cities, "this measure will give California voters a chance to do for cities, counties, and special districts what they did for school districts more than 20 years ago."

Fund both "hard" and "soft" infrastructure

The audience has been large and excited at City Council meetings regarding the Emma Hood swim complex and the new city-owned swim complex. It's not just the physical infrastructure that energizes folks โ€” it's the activities and the lessons and the competitions that people can imagine and look forward to.

Councilmember Trish Herrera Spencer was extremely negative when she voted against the city putting 50% toward fixing the Emma Hood swim complex. (Thanks to the rest of the City Council, the measure to match funds with the school district to fix the shared pool complex did pass.) Then she was extremely positive when at a different City Council meeting she voted for the city putting 100% toward a new city-owned swim center. What sense does that make?

Similarly City Council's meetings regarding Dignity Village and other supportive housing projects draw large and engaged crowds who care about the care and help to be provided within those facilities.

When thinking of what is in-scope for this infrastructure funding measure, don't be limited by what is "infrastructure" in the literal concrete sense โ€” also consider how the list of proposed projects can strengthen the services and programs that the city provides to residents, businesses, and visitors. Infrastructure projects that are both "hard" and "soft" can help to make Alameda not only more physically resilient but also more livable, inclusive, and equitable.

What a missed opportunity that the Biden-Harris administration's proposals to "Build Back Better" with combined physical and social infrastructure were sliced, diced, and partially defeated at the federal level. Still, the massive support for physical infrastructure is useful โ€” more on this below. And the vision of expanded federal support for families, caregivers, and workers is worth continuing to pursue.

Leverage and maximize county, state, and federal funds

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021 is investing $1.2 trillion dollars toward infrastructure throughout the US. Much of this is being awarded on a competitive basis to local governments. The City should design its infrastructure funding measure to emphasize how local funds will further enable Alameda to compete and win these federal funds. This isn't a zero-sum competition โ€” Alameda already collaborates with neighboring cities and with the county. By having flexible funds under local control, Alameda could be even better equipped to lead on complicated infrastructure efforts that require multiple phases of planning, design, and grant applications. For example, the systematic changes that may be required to guard Alameda, San Leandro, and Oakland from rising bay and ground water levels. This is a message worth sharing repeatedly with voters and taxpayers: local funding will be put toward effective and efficient use by the city to pursue further matching funds from county, state, and federal sources.

Thanks for your time,
Drew Dara-Abrams

Build back better with an infrastructure funding measure on Alameda's local ballot

Alameda has work to do. The city has "identified over $200 million in deferred maintenance in Citywide infrastructure and over $500 million in new infrastructure needs."