Careful What You Wish For, Mayor Spencer

Detractors suggest Trish Spencer needs to develop leadership skills, but the mayor says she is comfortable with her populist approach.


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In short, Spencer’s tenure as mayor has been too brief to yet make any conclusions about her ability, Gillitt said. “It takes time to grow into the role, and they’re also used to Marie and her style. It takes time to adjust.”

Although Spencer was a popular school board member, opponents often called her fractious and noted her tendency for lone dissent. Blogger Do, a longtime observer, said she believes the new office has done little to change Spencer’s style. “I was always curious if Trish Spencer’s troubles on the school board were related to the lack of respect she garnered from her dais mates and whether being in the leadership role would allow her to step up,” Do said. “I have seen nothing in these last three months that has shown any sign that Trish Spencer has some latent leadership ability that failed to manifest itself while she was on the school board. Same script, different cast.”

Do, Like Del Bono, said Spencer has proved to be unknowledgeable on city issues. “She’s been forced to vote against items she herself has brought forward for a vote,” Do said. “She’s clearly not reading her materials or listening to presentations; it appears she’s not fully grasping the material presented, so she fumbles through meetings having zero impact on the direction of the city.”

Indeed, on separate occasions, Spencer’s council colleagues have pushed back against the mayor’s odd penchant for explaining her reasons for voting in a particular way after the vote has occurred. Spencer has maintained that this method is employed at school district meetings, to which Ashcraft once tersely responded, “This isn’t the school board.”

Spencer noted that while she is happy with her working relationship with her council peers, “We are all elected officials; we don’t choose what elected officials we serve with.”

Yet, unflattering characterizations of the mayor have reached beyond the council chambers, manifesting themselves in public recently at an Alameda crab feed when ESPN college football analyst Rod Gilmore, the husband of the former mayor, clashed with Spencer and repeatedly called her “Sarah” in an apparently disparaging reference to Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate. Gilmore said the exchange was being inaccurately portrayed but declined to elaborate on any specific inaccuracy.

Spencer said it was not the first time she felt Gilmore had been rude to her, but she was unfazed by the comment. “Everyone knows my history,” Spencer said. “I’ve been through worse. I’m happy to be mayor and happy about the progress we’ve made.”

The mayor has received support from one East Bay peer. After Do’s video clip was disseminated online, new San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter saw the clip and called up Spencer to offer support and advice. Female mayors now hold office all the way from Emeryville to Union City, Cutter noted. “When a colleague in the East Bay is having some difficulties, I think we all try to help each other.”

Cutter advised Spencer to surround herself on the council dais with the city manager and city attorney, mimicking how San Leandro sets up its council meetings. But that could be difficult given Alameda’s City Council layout, which places Spencer at the center of the dais and city staff flanking council members on each side.

However, the much-discussed video episode did prompt the city to rope off to the public the ramps leading to the council dais.

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