CITY OF ALAMEDA: JOHN RUSSO’S EXIT INTERVIEW: ALAMEDA MAGAZINE 2015: THE TELLTALE SIGNS WERE EVIDENT.

Posted: May 20, 2018 in Uncategorized
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ACCORDING TO THE ALAMEDA MAGAZINE, THE PHOTO WAS COURTESY OF JOHN RUSSO (Wow, thanks John!)

TMC Figured Russo out way before the City of Riverside did.  We had the all laid out for the City of Riverside, but they relied on their staff.  Thanks John for your Riverside legacy, Partnership Compensation Model, Measure Z, 50 year loan lease, Contracts without a Resolution.

Alameda’s city manager counts development progress at Alameda Point and smoothing over employee relations as his main achievements.

Alameda City Manager John Russo, a former Oakland city councilman and city attorney, is headed to Riverside.

Outgoing Alameda City Manager John Russo likes to use sports metaphors. So, when news broke in February that Russo, along with his oversize personality, was leaving the Island for a new opportunity and greater compensation in Riverside, the response from city officials was akin to what small-market baseball teams admit when they land a high-priced slugger in the last year of his rookie contract. “Frankly, we were lucky to have him,” Councilmember Jim Oddie said in the days after the announcement.

Following stints in Oakland, first as a council member and then as city attorney, Russo’s thoughtful wit and razor-like barbs made his hiring as city manager in 2011 as curious as a big fish swimming in a small pond.

By most accounts, Russo’s four years in Alameda were a success. In an understated, yet frank interview, Russo said his greatest accomplishment is not moving along development at Alameda Point, but repositioning the city and public employee unions away from constant back-biting to an atmosphere of shared values and greater economic certainty. There were rumors that Russo’s departure was exacerbated by the surprise results of the fall election, but Russo said the rumors are untrue and that he merely landed an opportunity to fast-track existing plans for moving himself and his family to Southern California. “To the surprise of many,” he said, “I’m not an important person. I am just city manager of a small California city, and later I’ll be a city manager of a bigger city in California.”

However, under Russo’s stewardship, decades of uncertainty over the direction of development at the former Alameda Naval Air Station was resolved following an agreement with the U.S. Navy for the city to limit housing at Alameda Point in exchange for reconveying the land at no cost to Alameda taxpayers. But, Russo said credit does not lie with his actions. “I don’t think I have a legacy,” he said, noting his viewpoint is deeply rooted in his Southern Italian ancestry. “I have a fairly fatalistic view of the world,” he added. “I know no one ever believes this applies to me, but I think I have a fairly modest view of what my role is. This community was ready to make progress at Alameda Point.”

The infrastructure of support preceded him, he said, when the community rallied around an ultimately unsuccessful pitch to lure a new campus for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to Alameda Point. “I didn’t make that happen. That feeling of ‘at long last, we need to do something about the base’ is what drove the process. The public itself was exhausted by plan after plan. Once you get that mandate from the people and the council, it makes it easier to get something done.”

Yet, negotiating the no-cost reconveyance is one of his proudest moments, Russo said, but even then, he believes luck was involved. The Navy’s previous $108.5 million asking price was never going to pencil out for the city, Russo said. Instead, he urged the Navy to erase the uncertainty of the last decade and return to the original offer of a no-cost transfer of the property. “I just wanted to start a dialogue by getting that number down, but they surprised me by saying yes,” Russo said. “With economic development, sometimes you have to throw the line in the water dozens of times to get a bite. We got a bite on the first throw. That was just luck.”

Next, Russo needed to dissuade some councilmembers from being starstruck by large-scale development at Alameda Point, which incidentally, provided an easy stab at legacy-building to a more balanced piecemeal approach. “The city kept swinging for the fences and trying to hit a grand slam by seeking a single entity to develop the entire point all at once,” Russo said. “What I told them is we need a rally of singles, and I will submit that we scored, and we will continue to score.”

Although he said more needs to be done to put Alameda on solid financial footing, Russo said a thawing of animosity between City Hall and public employee groups over salaries and benefits will greatly aid the city over the next decade. City employees now contribute a higher percentage of their salary to pensions and split the additional costs of medical benefits, Russo said. But they also enjoy pay raises when the city’s revenues increase. (Partnership Compensation Plan, whereby salary increases are tied to City revenue, did it in Alameda, he did it in Riverside.  Was Measure-Z just another Employee Profit Sharing Scheme?)

“What we’ve done here is created a true partnership for good times and bad times,” he said. “That’s a very foundational change in the relationship that had sort of veered from ‘Let’s do whatever labor wants,’ to ‘Let’s go to war with the people who work for us.’”

On the horizon for Alameda, Russo said, is increasingly higher premiums from the state’s largest pension group, the California Public Employee Retirement System, or CalPERS, and greater demand in coming years for post-employee benefits, both of which he said the city is ready to confront. “Alameda has made tremendous strides that will be very important in the coming five to 10 years in dealing with the two big challenges the city faces,” he said. “We’re on a path culturally to being able to have those discussions about those bigger issues in a way that is very businesslike and partnership-based rather than a bunch of symbols and blame and nonsense.”

Despite the accomplishment, Alameda’s fiscally conservative residents, including many who favor pension reform, rarely view Russo as a crusader for their cause. Russo said he relied on the professional opinions of the city treasurer and auditor and “not those taking positions that are founded in emotion or ideology,” he said. “I don’t use Tea Party-type people as my litmus test of my success, not nationally, and not locally. When I was in Oakland, I used to say, ‘I’m sick and tired of people who are sick and tired.’ That path leads nowhere.”   (Russo was not a crusader for the taxpayers of Riverside, remember Russo is part of the Blue Blood Liberal Elite… I’m exceptional due to my background, all others are an impediment.  Case in point whereby public comment is seen by Russo as a formality, not part of the Democratic process of community involvement..)

Some of these same people were often outraged by Russo’s in-your-face style during public meetings over the years. “I make no apologies,” Russo said. Instead, he was defending his employees from unfair attacks from the public and, in some occasions, members of the City Council. “When you stand publicly and accuse good, professional people on my staff of being either stupid, lazy, or corrupt, I think you should expect an answer. If you want to play above the rim, then expect to be rejected from time to time.”  (More revealing examples of the dark mind set of Russo. Did he simply display the classic case of a sociopath?).

Regrets? Russo has had a few. “I’m wrong all the time,” he said. “I just try to be right consistently more often than I’m wrong.” Specifically, Russo said he overreached on Measure C, the 2012 sales tax increase to fund a disparate wish list of city projects. “I just kind of threw it all in together, saying if you’re going to go to the public to ask for money, it should be a meaningful set of projects,” Russo said. Furthermore, elected officials sought additional projects as a strategy for cobbling together the needed two-thirds majority for passage. A more single-minded approach may have been more successful, he said. “I regret that my judgment there wasn’t as good as it should have been. Then again, maybe it isn’t a regret, because the public just didn’t want it.”

Contrary to popular opinion, the reason for his leaving Alameda has nothing to do with Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer’s slow-growth stance for Alameda. Instead, he said, they quickly forged a good working relationship and keep in daily contact. “This is not about whether Trish and I get along. We get along fine. It’s a very friendly relationship. We don’t agree on everything, but it’s not my job to agree. My job is to implement the council’s direction.”

However, he acknowledged conflict exists among the new city council. “There are clearly issues between the mayor and other council members, and there’s dissension there. That’s politics, and it’s not for staff to talk about. They have to work that out amongst themselves whether I’m here or not,” he said. “But that’s not why I’m leaving.”

Before accepting the job of Alameda city manager, Russo and the-Mayor Marie Gilmore had a “personal pledge,” he said, that if he took the job, he would agree to stay for the duration of her tenure. “When she left office, that pledge was gone,” Russo said, and the opportunity in Riverside arose around the same time. Russo and his family already had plans to eventually move to Southern California upon the end of his time in Alameda, he said. “It just moved forward what the family’s plan was by a couple of years.”

Russo’s bump in pay starting in May as Riverside’s new city manager will definitely help the college fund of his twins who will both be attending college starting in the fall, he said. His $296,000 annual salary in Riverside, compared with his $215,000 base salary in Alameda, is basically the difference between taking out a loan for their education and paying for it himself, he said. “I paid my way through college, and I didn’t pay off my school loans until age 43,” said Russo. “And I’ll be damned if I’m going to be paying loans until I’m 80.”

(Before Russo was fired he cashed out over $100K of taxpayer monies.  The traveling snake oil salesman caught the attention of our City, and the taxpayers caught the bite of higher taxes while he skipped town to greener pastures.  But still, the issue of both Russo and Guess’s contract have not been resolved.  Both current contracts violate City Charter as to not having a resolution passed by Council.  If Andy doesn’t put forward an investigation maybe District Attorney Mike Hestrin’s office will.)

From Johnny’s Facebook Page, was his wife holding a premonition of what was yet to come?

Should we now be more aware of Snakes in Suits?

JOHN RUSSO STATES HE LEFT JOB AT THE CITY OF RIVERSIDE, I GUESS HE CONVENIENTLY FORGOT HE WAS FIRED…

BLOCK BY BLOCK: RIVERSIDE PUBLIC UTILITY INCREASES: TAXPAYER ADVOCATE JASON HUNTER INTERVIEWED:  On a side note, the City of Riverside has made it clear to community groups and local radio stations, they will not participate it Hunter is part of the debate.  In fact TMC has been told, Councilman Jim Perry, former City Manager John Russo and former RPU General Manager Girish Balanchandran apparently stated they will not to appear even if they were the only participant.

 

MVGORDIE BLOG SITE: CITY OF MORENO VALLEY CAUGHT MISUSING ITS CODE ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM IN ACCORDANCE WITH HUD REQUIREMENT!  Good read with supporting back up documents.  City Hall can call it an oversight, but the Office of Inspector General states “This condition occurred because the City did not have adequate written procedures or controls to ensure that it met HUD requirements and City staff was not sufficiently knowledgeable of the program requirements.” (Click on the Red Link).

 

FROM THE DESK OF COMMUNITY TAXPAYER ADVOCATE JASON HUNTER: Poll given on Next Door neighborhood web site:  Do you think Riverside Public Utilities staff should get automatic raises if our rates are hiked (without a vote of the public I might add)?  Accordingly in this poll, the Residents of the City of Riverside do not want their representatives to pass this.  If they do, it will be political suicide.  People in Ward 1 keep on wondering why the so called advocate neighborhood group, NOWS (Neighbors of the Wood Streets) continues to be an ineffective voice within the community.

Jason Hunter wrote this to the entire City Council and Mayor, as he believed the unethical/illegal behavior in this City needs to end, and the ratepayers/owners need to be aware of this conflict-of-interest… apparently the whole scenario seems like a lot of racketeering to me quite frankly.  Also, did you know 18% of the proposed rate hike is just plain ole’ new taxes?  Please write your Councilmember or show up next Tuesday at 7pm at City Hall to voice your opinion on a measure that is actually greater dollar-wise than Measure Z (2016 $50+ million sales tax).  Remember the Riverside City Council will decide Tuesday, May 22, whether to start charging residents more for water and electricity.  Get your asses out to City Council on this date!

Gentlemen, (I’m sure no pun intended)

RPU employees that put together this rate increase have a direct, material, financial conflict-of-interest in presenting this rate increase. I would urge you, for their sake (if not your own), to vote ‘no’ on the proposed utility rate increases. As you are probably aware, the Partnership Compensation Model (PCM) includes Utility Users Tax within the Balanced Revenue Index, which is used to calculate Executive, Senior Management, Management, Professional, Supervisory, Para-professional and Confidential Units automatic annual raises. The Utility Users Tax is currently 6.5% of all electric and water utility rates/charges. Ergo, the higher the rates, the higher the UUT, the higher the BRI change…the higher salaries go. I warned you guys prior to the passage of Measure Z that the PCM was terrible policy, essentially a bribe to get all employees to back certain revenue enhancements…but 6 of you (including the Mayor) were blinded by your need for instant gratification. The cows are now returning to the barn. I intend to allow the law of unintended consequences to fully play out if these ludicrous rate increases are passed next Tuesday. The PCM needs to be restructured or thrown out all-together to remove these perverse incentives.

Sincerely, Jason Hunter

CALL AND SEIZE CITY HALL, BE IT YOUR DESTINY TO MAKE THEM HONEST:

CITY OF RIVERSIDE ORGANIZATIONAL CHART

MAYORS OFFICE:

Mayor William “Rusty” Bailey     951-826-5551 (office), 951-801-8439 (cell), email:   3mayor@riversideca.gov

CITY COUNCIL:

Ward 1 – Mike Gardner     951-826-5991 (office), 951-941-7084 (cell), email:  mgardner@riversideca.gov

Ward 2 – Andy Melendrez  951-826-5991 (office), email: asmelendrez@riversideca.gov

Ward 3 – Mike Soubirous 951- 826-5991(office), 951-515-1663 (cell), email: msoubirous@riversideca.gov

Ward 4 – Chuck Condor 951-990-9819 (office), email: cconder@riversideca.gov

Ward 5 – Chris Mac Arthur  951-826-5991 (office), 951-990-9719 (cell), email: cmacarthur@riversideca.gov

Ward 6 – Jim Perry 951-826-5991 (office),  email: jperry@riversideca.gov

Ward 7 – Steve Adams  951-826-5991 (office), or 951-826-5024, email: sadams@riversideca.gov

TMC, RATED RIVERSIDE REGIONAL COUNTIES MOST, “SCANDALOUS,” “NEGATIVE,” “WARPED,” “RAUNCHY,” “LOW CLASS,” “VISIONS OF GRANDEUR,” “FULL OF B.S.,” “REPREHENSIBLE,” “IGNORANT,” “MISGUIDED,” “BULLYISH,” “INDECENT,” “REPUGNANT,””IMMORAL,” “FILTHY,” “VILE,” “SICK,” “PERVERTED,” “DEFAMATORY,” “STUPID,” “PATHETIC,” “DESPICABLE,” “DISAPPOINTING,” “BELOW THE BELT,” “A NEW LOW,” “SHOCKING,” “OFFENSIVE,” “OBNOXIOUS,” “INAPPROPRIATE,” “HURTFUL,” “MEAN SPIRITED,” “DISTASTEFUL,” “EMBARRASSING,” HORIFFIC,” “SLANDEROUS” “FIT TO BE VIEWED FROM THE REAR” AND MEZZSPELLED, “MISSPELLED” AND “OPINIONATED” BLOG SITE! YES WE ADMIT WE OUR ALL OF THAT AND MORE, WHICH IN CURRENT TERMS IS KNOWN AS “UNPOLITICALLY CORRECT.” TEMPORARILY BLOCKED BY THE CITY OF RIVERSIDE AT PUBLIC ACCESS SITES WITHIN THE CITY, THEN UNBLOCKED. I GUESS YOU CANNOT DO THAT ACCORDING TO THE ACLU. RATED ONE STAR OUT OF FIVE IN TERMS OF COMMUNITY APPROVAL RATINGS.. … AGAIN, THANK YOU COMMUNITY OF RIVERSIDE AND THE CITY OF RIVERSIDE EMPLOYEE’S FOR YOUR SUPPORT! CONTACT US: thirtymilescorruption@hotmail.com

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