Russo disrespectful to public in meetings

I wish all Alameda residents witnessed the July 15 City Council meeting during which City Manager John Russo bickered with and badgered public speakers who were there to speak in support of the Crown Beach/Neptune Point ordinance, and who were there to speak against recent attempted adulterations of this same ordinance by the city and council.

It was not a pretty display by our city government. I've lived in Alameda for 40 years, and I've not seen such interruption of public speakers. However, apparently, there are council rules governing such behavior: my information is that present City Council meetings are governed by the Rules of Conduct adopted by resolution in prior years by the city. These Rules of Conduct state that neither the council nor staff are to interrupt public speakers.

So how did Russo get away with the interruption of speakers? In the past, I've seen Mayor Marie Gilmore handle disputed matters much better; certainly she has spoken up and chided the audience when audience members have vocalized some issue. But Russo has developed a reputation as someone who cannot let criticism or even minor points go by without a defensive response, and frequently an aggressive one. It would behoove Russo, given his authority, power, education, large salary and strong voice, to exercise diplomatic restraint when dealing with the public. Alameda residents deserve to expect restraint and civility from their public officials and city manager.


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If the city manager interrupts and disrupts public speakers, I've been told it is the duty of the mayor to bring the council to order. Unfortunately, that evening our mayor chose not to undertake this authorized role. All in all, it was an unpleasant display to watch or listen to, and the meeting lasted way too long.

If you think my summary or interpretation may be an exaggeration, please review the July 15 meeting yourselves online and come to your own conclusions.

Reyla Graber

Alameda's situation like USS Franklin's

Since 1997, under civilian concern all historic base structures at Alameda Naval Station have suffered the effects of careless guardianship: looting, vandalism, destruction and neglect (in the case of the B.O.Q., its art-deco murals were sent to Sothesby's) a perfect scenario for dreamers or schemers. The public relations machine cranks up, via John Russo, who asserts the complexity of the Point with acronyms tossed about while Alameda pines for former times.

History can inspire us to act in the best manner at times, so let me tell you how a crew in World War II departing Alameda aboard a new carrier, USS Franklin, handled a crisis in March 1945 near Japan. The Franklin, less than 30 miles from Japan, was struck before 7 a.m. by two bombs from a kamikaze bomber in the middle of launching most of its aircraft. One bomb plunged through its flight deck exploding into the hangar deck, setting off more than 800 continuous explosions for the next six hours, sending a dark plume with intermittent orange fire to 3,000 feet.

With each horror-filled explosion, crew members died or were tossed overboard, dismembered. Yet this ship, with a loss of half its crew of 867 fought to save itself, despite a 14-degree list starboard and a request to abandon ship. No matter the specialty in rank or discipline, Big Ben's crew did whatever they could to keep her afloat.

Fleet ships doused the burning hangar deck tethered to her all day long. By sunset, the Franklin had shifted ballast enough to hazard a difficult anchor tow and 60 miles away from Japan, the U.S.S. Franklin was towed first to Pearl Harbor and on to New York, where it became known in naval history annals as "The Ship That Would Not Die." Her surviving crew were the most decorated in U.S. Naval history. What epitomized her crew above others: a selfless devotion to a single vision to save the ship with large measures of bravery, cooperation and courage.

Alameda, a floating city, too, (only 3 feet above water in some places) has no time for indecision, like postponing breaking ground for a veterans rehab facility -- which guarantees public approval by serving those who paid a price for freedom in uniform, which will show Alameda reducing homelessness actively.

Only Frank Matarrese soberly grasps Alameda's dwindling land spaces, with crowded parks and choking streets just outside Alameda Point, and he rightly cautions against overdevelopment. Use the ratio of base-useful areas versus recreational spaces as a guide and proceed reasonably. There sits housing that requires renovation and repair, a great jobs opportunity.

Had the USS Franklin captain pondered, held a consensus vote or sought a lengthy study of the situation, weighed his career hopes, the Franklin would have sunk. An alarming thing the commanding officer, Capt. Gehre, had in common with City Hall's leaders: he boasted and bullied his command and thrived on the protection of other career admirers. However, in the heat of that battle action above, he cowered in his quarters, letting subordinates act and was subsequently removed from command. There was no chance for him to "revise" the rules in combat to suit his ambitions. The kind of leadership required at the Alameda Point solves problems.

Pit O'Malley