THE SECOND STORY | August 6th, 2009

You’re FIRED!

(The group who attended our annual National Night Out front porch party last Tuesday seemed to like the dessert! We had the largest attendance yet. I figure at least 30 neighbors came over and jawed a bit. McGruff the Crime Dog showed up with the Police Chief and other officers. It’s always a nice time to see people but this year seemed especially caring. Notice the remnants of the word ‘neighbors’ on the chocolate frosting that topped the white cake with raspberry filling. Yummy from Costco! We have great neighbors! Yay!)

First of two rants this week…
I attended the city council meeting last Monday night on request of the Local Government Relations Committee of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce. The city budget was before the council as was the decision of whether to have a special election in November. The special election would be for one item: the initiative sponsored by the Alameda Fire Department. The proposal would put before the citizens, rather than let city management or leadership decide, the issue of whether we should ramp up the staffing and service of the fire department. I was asked to let the council know that the committee was not in favor of the special election, which would be a cost to the citizens of about $400,000. Not only does the city NOT have any money for a specialized special election, the initiative fails to say how the proposal would be funded. Hhmmm.

So after saying I was speaking on behalf of two parties, I finished up with the the Chamber position in about 45 seconds. Then I said the next party I was speaking for was… ‘MYSELF!’ Keep in mind that I have some minor goals when I speak in front of the council or the planning board. Beside getting my point across, I want to look directly at each member, speak directly to each one, get each one to smile back at me, maybe get some laughs out of the audience, and not to drone on or repeat what others have said.

This is the gist of what I said, sans notes, and I was still outta there with time to spare on the three minute clock. In fact I never even got to the yellow warning light.

“We have heard tonight that there is no extra money in this city. We have heard that we can’t afford to pay down, much less pay off the 76 million dollars we have in unfunded liabilities dedicated to retirement benefits, most of which go to fire and police. I am against spending money for this special election.

I want to blame somebody, anybody, everybody, for the mess we are in. I have thought a lot about who to blame. It’s not the police and fire fighters we need to blame. It would be easy enough to figure out who was in city management and which council members were in place when these exorbitant benefits were approved. Yet it has occurred to me that I am to blame!

We are to blame. I’ve lived here since 1973 and I’ve voted in lots of elections. And it’s the elected officials who have hired city management who have encouraged approval of those union contracts. Few if any, seem to have considered the future effects of their decisions on the city and its citizens. I helped put those decision-makers there. And shame on me. But I can tell you that the citizens are watching their elected officials much closer these days. (There was strong eye contact between me and each council member, maybe with even a sense of relief that I wasn’t directly persecuting them.) And it is no longer possible for you to look at a spreadsheet and pretend you know what it means. If you don’t know what a line item is, you have an obligation to ask at a public meeting. And you don’t give up until you get it.

I am in awe of our current City Manager and how she effectively and bluntly communicates to us the reality of the mess we are in! (At that point, Anne Marie Gallant caught her breath in surprise.) It’s about time we all heard the truth. And I am bummed that we are losing David (Brandt) our Assistant City Manager, who is accepting opportunities in small-town Oregon. (A smile on David’s face showed up.) But be warned, council, you are being watched and scrutinized, and will be held accountable. (Every council member was nodding.)

So I’m done. Good night.” (Lite laughter emitted from the audience.)

I looked around the room after taking my seat. It seemed every city department head was in attendance. And due to the budget considerations I bet they were! As I left the room, people said thank you. I was told later that night and the next morning that Council members DeHaan and Matarrese both elaborated on the comments the “man” made about blame. One person said that the people in the room were very clear that a woman made those comments. But that’s not the point. The point is maybe people got the point.

And then at our house, the next night, at the National Night Out event, the Police Chief and a couple of other managing officers, and the head of Alameda Muni Power and some of his co-workers came directly to me and said how much they appreciated my comments. I was shocked… and most grateful that what came out of my mouth the night before was lucid and heard. When I arrived at that meeting I had no idea what I’d say…but by the grace of God….oh, well.

Second of two rants this week...

As one of two designated brokers at Harbor Bay Realty who are called on when our Broker of Record is unavailable, I have the occasional opportunity to review and discuss purchase contracts with clients of Harbor Bay Realty agents. Often these meetings involve multiple offer situations. And so it was for about three hours late this afternoon.

Folks, if four of the six agents who wrote offers on behalf of their clients knew how stupid and incomplete their offers looked to me and the seller of the property, they would die of embarassment. If the clients of each of those four agents had any clue about the contradictions between what their lenders said they could do versus what the contract said they wanted to do, and that their offers were often incomplete, they’d fire their agent!

Once again, I’ll say that this is NOT rocket science. And after speaking at length late today with my best escrow officer, it is time Buyers’ agents started wising up and stopped writing offers on short-sale properties asking the seller (who is actually the lender because the lender has to approve what the seller has accepted) to pay for reports, for repairs, for financing fees, for escrow and title fees, and for transfer taxes.

Take a memo consumers and agents….if you want your short sale offers accepted CLEAN THEM UP, MAKE THE FINANCING SIMPLE AND CLEAR AND VERIFIABLE, EAT THE COSTS, AND GET TO THE REAL BOTTOM LINE. It’s the lender who makes the decision and you’d better make it easy for that lender to choose your offer. Of course, there is the alternative choice: you just keep wasting your time writing offers that never go anywhere, and miss whatever is left of the deeply discounted market. How’s that work for ya?

Maybe it’s time the agents started having a 90 minute meet and greet conference with the prospective buyers BEFORE properties are shown and offers written, so it can be determined if the market can meet the buyers’ expecations, if the agent can meet the buyers’ expectations, AND if the buyers can meet the agent’s expectations. That meeting may not be an easy one to conduct, but if the facts of how a particular market works are actually undersood by the agent and then explained to the buyers there would be less grief in a transaction, less disappointment, less frustration, fewer heartaches, fewer surprises, fewer restless nights, fewer offers written, and more offers accepted. Now how would that work for ya? Maybe better, huh? And if the expectations for any of the parties can’t be met realistically, MOVE ON!

Alameda real estate this week….

Active listings 168, 180 last report
Pending listings 113, 112 last report

Tuesday Tour 7 w/4 repeats

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

New 5

BOM (back on market) 5

Price changes 9

Pending 17

Sold 8

Expired 8

Withdrawn/cancelled 4

Alameda real estate awards this week…remember this is only my perspective!

None seemed worthy. Only 7 on the tour and 4 were repeats.

So that’s a wrap….carry on! best, Marilyn

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I arrived in Alameda in 1973, as a new bride...with husband Carl Schumacher, both of us from Newport Beach. He was embarking on his career as a Naval Architect (i.e. yacht designer) under Gary Mull. Please see the 'ABOUT ME' page in this website! to see how it has all turned out! I'm so blessed!