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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pledge of Allegiance Out, This Land is Your Land In

Fox News Bait:
This Land is Our Land-
No Allegiance to the Pledge of Allegiance in Emeryville

In yet another sure sign Emeryville has turned away from its conservative former self, last night the loyalty oath to God and country aka the Pledge of Allegiance was booted out of Emeryville and replaced with the lilting lyrics of a soft spoken Great Depression era populist from Oklahoma who's collectivist vision of America is sure to rile the feathers of more than a few conservatives.  The City Council voted to dispense with the standard recital of the Pledge of Allegiance before every meeting to now raising voices in a chorus of This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie at the start of each Council meeting from now on.
A lack of allegiance to the new President
 probably had something to do with the
City Council's decision to jettison
the Pledge of Allegiance.
 Mayor Scott Donahue led the drive to quit with the traditional recital of the Pledge at Emeryville City Council meetings but he acknowledged its positive community unifying effects and he suggested the community instead sing a verse or two of the popular 40's era song about how we're all in this boat together.  The Mayor's Council colleagues were quick to agree the Pledge has no place at Council meetings, especially with its god references but they only reluctantly signed onto the idea of singing and the vote to change the rules and procedures for the City to include This Land is Your Land won in a 3-2 split decision.  Council members Ally Medina and Christian Patz, self deprecating of their singing skills, outright said they would not be singing.
The Council also directed the City Clerk to prepare verses of a pledge to the California Constitution and the US Constitution for the Council members to make before they join the community in the singing in the People's Hall.

The Tattler has long advocated for dispensing with the McCarthyist loyalty oath that is the Pledge of Allegiance, it being quintessentially un-American with its calls for unswerving obedience and relinquishing of agency.  It would appear the Council agreed last night but singing the Woody Guthrie song before every meeting was the Mayor's idea.

The era of the Pledge of Allegiance in Emeryville, decades ensconced at City Hall, is now over; the new procedures are to be installed for the start of the first meeting in February at City Hall.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Wareham Development Seeks $3/4 Million Tax Rebate

Wareham Now Wants Retroactive Tax Credit After Transit Center Approval

Wareham Development Corporation, among developers, Emeryville's largest receiver of government largess, is seeking a retroactive rebate and credit of almost $729,000 from the City's developer impact fee schedule for Horton Street's Transit Center because four bus bays associated with the office tower will assist "public transportation facilities", something the developer claims the City agreed to, an argument that will be presented Tuesday.  A reading of the municipal code however negates Wareham's claim, a fact that will be presented by City Hall staff when the City Council considers whether to grant Wareham the tax relief Tuesday night at their regularly scheduled meeting.

The Transit Center
The 165' tall building will have four bus bays 
(hence 'transit').  The City Council overturned the 
Planning Commission who rejected the 
Transit Center because it has 
"too little public benefit". 
The Transit Center, a beleaguered and controversial project, features a 165' tall office building with 250,000 square feet of floor area and (together with it's parking structure across the street) will have almost 900 parking spaces.  It required special density bonuses to be granted to build the main tower over 100', leaving the developer's rebate in jeopardy the City says.   At issue is language in the municipal code that would preclude the City from giving the rebate to Wareham stating, 'no credit shall be provided against impact fees otherwise owed if an applicant has received a development bonus in accordance with the Planning Regulations for providing the specific facility'.
Wareham CEO Rich Robbins
Emeryville's most connected developer.
Not satisfied with all he's gotten from Emeryville 

up until now, he's been lobbying the City Council 
trying to get them to give him another gift of cash
Tuesday at the taxpayers expense. 

A vote by the City Council in Wareham's favor would rack up one more approbation from City Hall for the Transit Center, adding to the well documented litany of favors already showered upon Rich Robbins, Wareham's politically connected CEO.

The Transit Center project has already received indulgences from City Hall in the form of tax relief and forgiveness from codified internal City Hall adverse constraints; the General Plan was amended to exclude the 55 foot height limit at the future Transit Center site to allow for taller buildings there and the City Council put taxpayers on the hook for financing the project with public money by way of unprecedented tax increment financing, a deal that lets Wareham avoid taxes for 12 years that normally that would be paid to City Hall if the developer were to finance the project with his own money.  Additionally, Mr Robbins announced after approval was given for the project he would not remove all the toxic soil from the project site, regardless of former claims to the contrary; the main reason given for the project by former City Councilwoman Nora Davis and her colleagues.  Unabashedly, concerns over the remaining toxic soil on the site triggered Mr Robbins to get the City Council to agree to a 'no lawsuit clause', making it impossible to make the people of Emeryville whole, should a future problem occur.

Mr Robbins, a perennially favored developer with many friends on the former City Council, for years railed against the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, worried the 1800 car trips per day his project will put onto the boulevard would tend to make the City Council, with the public watching, skittish about approval for the project. However the Council has opted instead to ignore the 3000 vehicle trip per day constraints called out in Emeryville's Bike Plan for the street, letting Mr Robbins put all the extra traffic on the street unimpeded, regardless of its bike boulevard status.  Earlier, Mr Robbins incredulously maintained not one project generated car would use Overland Street (part of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard).  The 'not one car' claim was codified into an environmental document prepared for the project called a Mitigated Negative Declaration and was later found to be fraudulent. The claim drew strong condemnation from Jim Martin, the former Chair of the Planning Commission.
Sensing the irony of the glut of traffic generated by the ostensible bus/train project, former City Councilman Ken Bukowski was moved to publicly proclaim the Transit Center more accurately be called the "Automobile Center".  The Planning Commission rejected the Transit Center and then later again, rejected the Transit Center a second time, calling the project 'too short on public benefit', a cause former City Councilwomen Jennifer West and Jac Asher took up in their dissenting votes against the project on the Council.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pledge of Allegiance: Its Days Are Numbered in Emeryville

Emeryville Patriotism in the Age of Trump

Publicly Administered Loyalty Oath 
At City Hall Should Exit With Trump's Entrance

"I pledge allegiance to the United States...".  "Without benefit of critical thinking, I swear my loyalty"- how's that sound, especially now that Donald Trump will wield near supreme power?  How about, "No matter what Donald Trump has planned for us, I pledge my allegiance to him".  How's that sound?  Those stand-in pledges can now be construed to be at the black heart of the Pledge of Allegiance, an un-American loyalty oath wherein the speaker unthinkingly gives up his or her own agency to do the bidding of the federal government (and by extension, its executive).  Starting on January 20th the beneficiary of that bidding has a new neo-fascist face most Emeryville residents will be uncomfortable with.
The American loyalty oath, before bootcamp-like in its coercive adherence, now suddenly seems positively Pyongyang-like.
The eagle wants us to make a pledge of allegiance:
to ban pesticides and end habitat destruction. 
That is unless the Emeryville City Council does its patriotic duty and dispels with the public administering of the Pledge of Allegiance before every Council meeting; something they have pledged, so to speak, to consider at the Council meeting on January 17th.

A change in how our local government sanctifies its democratic legitimacy is shaping up.  Mayor Scott Donahue is directing the Council to consider all manner of loyalty oath Pledge replacement possibilities to satisfy the function of bringing the community together at public City Council meetings including the singing of the Woody Guthrie classic 'This Land is Your Land' and/or the public recital of Walt Whitman poetry.  It represents an important shift away from the banal provincialism of Emeryville reliant on kitsch sophistry as it is to a more aspirational civic engagement as it could be.

Many towns in the Bay Area don't do the loyalty pledge before their public meetings.  Indeed, there's no law saying the oath must be administered, so why do we do it?  We can see plenty that's put at risk by administering the oath but nothing that can be gained that couldn't be gained by a less authoritarian and demanding avowal such as the populist unifying hosannas from Mr Guthrie or Mr Whitman.

“May we think of freedom, 
not as the right to do as we please, 
but as the opportunity to do what is right.” 
- Walt Whitman

Besides the oath being un-American, we've noticed the City Council, while asking us to join them in reciting the oath, don't like to say it themselves.  Even former Councilwoman Nora Davis (how we love to say that), the premier conservative on the Council, stood silently as do her colleagues whenever the oath is being administered.  It is the crowd in the Council chambers, cowed as they are, that freely give away their agency hands on hearts and sign on to relinquishing their critical thinking rights so wantonly as they speak the words.  The hypocrisy of this Council on this score has been blinding; if you're going to ask us to say the pledge, don't you think at least you yourself should say it, City Council?

Under God
Kicked to the curb: Jesus wants us to
continue praising him at City Hall.
Nonetheless, now it would seem, those days are behind us.  We like the Mayor's idea especially of having the community unite in song with the palliative effects brought on from This Land is Your Land with its Trump-canceling collectivist vision of our community and country.  This will likely get the right wing all agog and agitated, a nice side benefit.
The Council will also consider various non-theocratic pledges, for instance from a contest held by TheHumanist however inspiring as some may be, those represent just more of the same; a pledge.  The government should not ask our community to pledge it anything.  Loyalty is to be earned, not coerced.  We urge the Council to reject the Pledge of Allegiance being replaced with another pledge, even one that kicks Jesus to the curb.

We hope this City Council rejection of the American loyalty oath will spill over to the School District where it's needed at least as much as at City Hall.  We have long been agitating against the Council led administrating of the McCarthyist loyalty oath especially at the School Board meetings.  How blinkered is it we have to ask, that the School District spends so much time teaching the value of critical thinking skills to the students only to subvert that message every School Board meeting when everyone enters collective amnesia and again nearly on automatic, goes through the anti-critical saccharine display of phony rectitude and piety.   Back in the dark days of 2011, the School Board was on the verge of dispensing with the loyalty oath but reactionary forces rose up to make sure the District stayed on the straight and narrow with God and country.

It shouldn't take the terrifying idea of President Trump to spur the City Council into action on this and we're not sure if that's indeed what was instrumental in their turn around; really it doesn't matter.  We just welcome rationality in association with public policy at City Hall and we applaud the Council for this symbolic but still important rejection of heretofore unneeded and unhelpful nonsense.

We're a community here that has allegiances we'd like to proclaim, yes, but we're a community that has allegiance to redwood forests, gulf stream waters and the collectivist idea that the land was made for you and me.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Another Year Passes, Still No Horton Street Bike Boulevard

It's déjà vu all over again
December 31, 2016 is like December 31, 2015;
Bike Plan Still Being Ignored

Today, the Tattler brings back our ongoing end of December yearly feature: We re-post our original September 2012 story (below in non-italicized print) on Emeryville's Horton Street Bike Boulevard every December 31st and will continue every year until City Hall either stops stalling and implements our Bike Plan or if they refuse, amend our Bike Plan and remove Horton's Bike Boulevard status, additionally they could amend the Plan to allow more than 3000 vehicle trips per day on Bike Boulevards.  Those are their only choices available as dictated by the Plan.  Stalling is not allowed.  This end-of-the-year feature serves as an annual clearinghouse for any news on the hold up of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard over the previous year.   
Readers bored or exasperated with the ongoing story of City Hall inaction on Horton Street can simply read the year end synopsis in the italics preceding the September 2012 re-post every December 31st here: 

2016 Synopsis-
"I wake up every day, right here in 
Punxsutawney, and it's always 
February 2nd [or December 31st 
in Emeryville], and there's nothing 
I can do about it."

In 2016, the Horton Street Bike Boulevard finally died with the signing of the Sherwin Williams Statement of Overriding Considerations. Before that fateful day, the City Council voted to place Level Three traffic calming measures in the form of three temporary speed bumps along Horton Street between 45th Street and 53rd Street.  The bumps went in in November.  It represented no forward movement for the implementation of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard because Horton Street was already at Level Three and because the street still remains substantially more than 3000 vehicle trips per day (the cut off point where a street can be called a bike boulevard).  The speed bumps have been called out as unlikely to succeed in bringing down the volume of traffic by Alta Planning, the writers of Emeryville's $200,000 Bike Plan but may cause vehicle speed to be reduced.  Additionally, the Level Three speed bumps are counter to what Mayor Scott Donahue and Councilwoman Dianne Martinez promised voters in 2014 when they said they would move Horton Street to Level Four traffic calming (chicanes or chokers).  Notably, City Engineer Maurice Kaufman said he would not allow any Level Four or Level Five traffic diversion in Emeryville regardless of the Bike Plan's requirements for it.  But the most important event of 2016 is the Sherwin Williams decision and it's Statement of Overriding Considerations signed by the City Council that says Horton Street will have 4000 vehicle trips per day forever (with more coming every year) rendering a bike boulevard impossible for Horton Street.  This year end wrap up at the Tattler will continue until the City Council finally amends our Bike Plan and removes the bike boulevard status for Horton Street returning it to a regular street.

In 1998, Emeryville adapted its Bike Plan after years of study and $200,000  subsequently spent on it.  In 2013, the City Council agreed to spend $10,000 to study the Bike Plan to figure out how to implement the Horton Street Bike Boulevard required by the Plan.  This $10,000 study is referred to as the 'study of the study'.  The Bike Plan doesn't call for any studies to be done to implement its requirements, it should be noted.  In 2014 City Hall held two community meetings about the study of the study but no action on Horton Street was taken that year or the next year (finally came in the form of the November 2016 speed bumps).  Also in 2014, City Hall found out another Bike Boulevard, the 45th Street Bike Boulevard is also in violation due to too many cars on that street.  Nothing has been done to rectify that either.  The Tattler investigation of the 45th Street and Horton Street problems was revealed when we reported the City Engineer lied to the City Manager to stop the Horton Street Bike Boulevard.  

Here then is the September 29th, 2012 Tattler story we re-print every December 31st:

Major Traffic Calming Long Past Due For Horton Street

Emeryville's premiere bicycle thoroughfare, the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, has so much high speed traffic that it has become unsafe for bicycling.  So says Alta Planning, a Berkeley based urban bike network design firm that was commissioned by the City of Emeryville to study bicycling in town.  The $200,000 study, now incorporated into Emeryville's Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan and adopted into law by the city council lays waiting, ready to be implemented.
The question is, will it really be implemented or will it languish in some dusty corner at City Hall as so many other expensive studies have done?  Given the city council's baleful history of failing to calm the traffic on Horton Street for bicycle traffic and working to improve the street for vehicle use at the expense of bicycling, it seems likely it will be ignored and will remain a major automobile thoroughfare, unsafe for bicycles and becoming increasingly more so over time.  

Central to the Alta study is a limit on the number of cars that may use Horton Street, set at 3000 vehicles per day, before a mandatory set of traffic calming procedures kicks in.  The idea is that the traffic calming fixes will lower the number of vehicles that use the bike boulevard down below the 3000 maximum.  It should be noted Emeryville's 3000 number earmarked for bike boulevards is larger than any other city in the Bay Area. 

A choker is an example of a 'neck-down'
called for by level 4 traffic calming.
The prescribed traffic calming comes in a series of increasingly interventionist levels, one through five, that reduces traffic volume and speed, the last such level resulting in a total diversion for through traffic.  Each level requires two years to adequately assess its efficacy.  

At this point, Horton Street has already gone through the first three traffic calming levels; these involve street stenciling, signage and intersection "bulb-outs".  Now, since traffic has not subsided on Horton (it's actually increased), it's time for level 4 traffic calming to be implemented according to the Plan.
Level 4 calls for "significant traffic calming", specifically, 'neck downs' or traffic limiters such as 'chokers', designed to act like a one lane bridge permitting only one car through at a time.

Here's what the Bike Plan calls for on Emeryville's bike boulevards:

Level 1 Basic Bicycle Boulevard- signs, pavement markings
Level 2 Enhanced Bicycle Boulevard- way-finding signs, reduced delays at intersections
Level 3 Limited Traffic Calming- intersection bulb-outs
Level 4 Significant Traffic Calming- neck-downs
Level 5 Traffic Diversion

Level 5 calls for diverters: This
is called out only if level 4 doesn't
work after two years.
The problem is the Bike Committee has already twice voted on significant traffic calming for Horton Street in years past.  Both times the city council has overridden the committee's findings.  The last time the committee voted unanimously to add such calming, councilwoman Nora Davis explained her veto to the committee, "I have no problem putting paint on the asphalt [pavement markings]" but anything more dramatic than that would draw a veto from her and consequently also from the council majority.

In the intervening two and a half years since the last council veto shutting down Horton Street traffic calming, the city has commissioned and now encoded the $200,000 Alta study.

While we acknowledge Ms Davis' forthrightness in explaining to the people why they shouldn't expect safe biking routes in town, we call on the rest of the council to abide by the new Bike Plan they have adopted.  The fact that other such documents have been subverted in the past by the council should not serve as a precedent for inaction on Horton Street.  It's never too late to start working towards livability and rational public policy.  Let's make bicycling safe on the Horton Street Bicycle Boulevard.  It's time for a choker on Horton Street.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Emeryville Suspects: Black Males

Purveyors in Racist Stereotypes: 
Emeryville Police Department 

Black Males Are Suspect, Black Females Too

Our Government Undermines Our Values

News Analysis/Opinion
Emeryville's Police Department releases monthly crime information to the public.  They want us to know that among the crimes committed, earlier this month, a victim was robbed at gun point by three men at 6399 Christie Avenue.  More pressingly they want us to know about the suspects, presumably so we can be on the look out for them.  Who are the suspects? "Three Black males" says EPD.  That's it; three Black males.  Nothing about what direction they fled or what they were wearing or how old they appeared to be or anything else about what they looked like other than the fact they are 'Black'.  But let's not forget Black females. Another crime happened as reported in this month's crime blotter at 3839 Emery Street, the location of Ulta cosmetics store.  The  police want us to know the description of a shoplifter at Ulta who fled the scene; that suspect is a black female you understand.  Again, nothing else has been offered as to the physical characteristics of the female, just that she's 'Black'.  Why are they telling us only the race of the suspects?  What are we supposed to do with this information?

This is how the Emeryville Police Department's publicly offered crime blotter forwards a racist meme about Blacks and crime.  The idea behind the blotter ostensibly is so citizens can know about crime in their town and to disseminate information to enlist the public to help bring perpetrators to justice.  We don't know if the Police Department is withholding other information about the suspects in this month's blotter beyond the fact they are Black.  We imagine that's all the information the police have for whatever reasons.  But why do they feel a need to tell us the suspect's race?  Will that fact help bring anybody to justice without any other physical descriptions offered?  As a faithful copy and paster of the EPD crime blotter every month, why does the right wing blog in Emeryville, the E'Ville Eye also want us to know these suspects are Black?

Why are they doing this?  Is this a public service?
The answer is NO, this information will not help anybody.  It WILL hurt people however.  It will hurt citizens both directly and indirectly.  It hurts everyone. The E'Ville Eye and the Emeryville Police Department are collaborating on a project to perpetuate racist stereotypes.  The City of Emeryville also publishes the racist stereotypes on its website.  It's being done in our name.

How do we know this is racist?  Besides the obvious nature of it, we put it to the test and the Emeryville Police Department itself showed us it's racist.  We called the police after we saw a gentleman walking down the sidewalk along San Pablo Avenue after the E'Ville Eye posted the crime blotter.  The man in question was Black: and that fits the description of the suspects as described by the police.  The police officer came out to take down our information but was incredulous when we reported that we have no information specifically tying the gentleman to the crime.  "How do you know he's one of the suspects (to the Christie Avenue robbery)?" the officer asked us.  "Because you told us he's a suspect" was our response...."because he's black".  The officer responded he thought the tip from us was "ridiculous"...and there's finally something we can agree on.  But the Department as a whole thinks the Black gentleman walking down the sidewalk IS a suspect.  The Emeryville Police Department crime blotter is clear: all Black males in Emeryville are suspects in the Christie Avenue robbery.

It's easy to see why the E'Ville Eye joyfully posts the EPD crime blotter every month; the racist stereotyping dovetails with that blog's right wing views, affirms the reader's predilections towards this kind of sociopathy and drives clicks resulting in more ad revenue for Rob Arias, the editor of that blog.  But why does the Emeryville Police Department do it?  It's hard for us to imagine our police department is purposefully forwarding racist stereotypes (but we should be open to the idea that may be indeed what's being done).  We think more likely it's being done out of ignorance and insensitivity.  This Department is ours, the people of Emeryville.  Emeryville is not racist.  The Police Department needs to cease this odious activity.  If they're going to tell us about suspects in specific crimes, they need to tell us information beyond the suspect's race, otherwise this Department is subverting our Emeryville values.

From the blotter this month:
District 3
6399 Christie Ave., #330: A male victim was robbed at gunpoint. LOSS: An iPhone, a laptop, an iPad, and several other cell phones. Suspects: (3) Black males.

District 5
Ulta, 3839 Emery St. #200: A shoplifter brandished a stun gun at employees and threaten to tase them to avoid detention. LOSS: Fragrances. Suspect: Black female.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Emeryville Paid Contractor $818,000 For an Unusable Bike Path

If You Wear Dentures, Don't Use the New Christie Ave Bike Path

Bone Jarringly Bumpy Asphalt: "Meets CalTrans Specs" 

An important heretofore missing bike path section of the Bay Trail through Emeryville has been completed along Christie Avenue earlier this year but City officials admit the path isn't being used as much as they had hoped, probably because of its extremely rough surface as a result of "poor workmanship" by the construction contractor according to the City engineer.  Even though the work was signed off by the City, numerous City staffers and Council members are complaining about the terrible condition of the asphalt there.  Bike East Bay, the premier local bike advocacy group agreed the path is too bumpy and they suggested City Council members consider redoing the path after receiving complaints about it from their members.  However the Tattler has learned the City paid the contractor who built the path, Tiburon based Redwood Engineering, the final payment in full in April and no recourse for a fix or restitution exists at this point. Any additional fixes would have to be born exclusively by the taxpayers said the City engineer.  The Mayor Scott Donahue refused to comment to the Tattler about any plans to repair the path.

The City engineer and head of Public Works, Maurice Kaufman told the Tattler he's not happy with the low quality of the work done by Redwood, "It wasn't the best" he said after he indicated the bumpy surface nonetheless meets CalTrans specifications, still "It would have been nice to have a smoother path" he said.  Mayor Donahue disagreed, "It's a little bit lumpy" he said but he thought it would serve a useful function for bike safety as a speed inhibitor. Leaving that aside, several bicyclers were observed using the street rather than subject themselves to the bone jarring ride along the new bike path recently as the Tattler filmed the experience from a bicyclist's perspective for this story (below).

Redwood Engineering, originally the lowest bidder out of five contractors originally bid $739,125 for the job but bumped up (so to speak) that number by $79,445 due to "unforeseen additional work" bringing the total to $818,570.  After the added costs unforeseen by Redwood Engineering, their bid price ended up being the fourth highest.
The bids delivered to the City listed lowest to highest:
1. Redwood Engineering Construction $739,125  ($818,0570 actually charge to City)
2. Phoenix Electric Company $749,687 
3. Bauman Landscape and Construction $775,846 
4. Sposeto Engineering Inc. $786,460 
5. Ray’s Electric Inc. $913,650

The City received a grant from Alameda County for $550,00 to put towards the job (funds from voter backed Measure B) leaving Emeryville with a bill for $269,000.
The City made the final payment in April but not before Mr Kaufman rode the path himself to check on the quality of the work, "I wish it rode better"" he acknowledged after he approved the last payment.  Regarding the poor workmanship done by Redwood Engineering on the Christie Avenue bike path, the City engineer added, "I wouldn't want them to do another paving job in town".

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Political Endorsements by Emeryville Police: At Odds With the Will of the People of Emeryville

Emeryville Police Enter Political Fray

Two Council Picks in Opposition to the Will of the People of Emeryville

Next time you see one of these drive by remember
Ally Medina and Christian Patz are no good 
on our City Council.
The people of Emeryville made a mistake in the November election.  We selected the wrong City Council members say the Emeryville police.  Louise Engel and Brynnda Collins would have been good on our City Council.  We should have voted for Ms Engel and Ms Collins say those driving around our town with guns and a right to arrest.  Look who we got instead; Ally Medina and Christian Patz.
The Emeryville Police Department wants you to know the two winning City Council members selected by the people for our town were not worth voting for.  Those of you who voted for Ms Medina and Mr Patz should think about that next time you see the boys in blue drive by.  Those who voted for whom the police wanted us to vote for should think about it as well.

He supports the police say EPD.
Do the other two?
Do you, Emeryville voter?
Starting in 2016, our police department (who in addition to Ms Engel and Ms Collins told us to vote for John Bauters, now on our City Council) has now shamelessly turned into a publicly funded special interest group seeking what all such groups seek; to increase their money and power.  Now imagine an alternative universe where the Emeryville police don't insert themselves so heinously into our politics, instead they just avail themselves to protecting and serving all equally.  It would be an anachronistic place, a previous leitmotif where police are seen as non-political players, just neutral arbiters engaged in peace keeping. Unfortunately, after November that's not our town anymore.
And it's not just Emeryville.  Indeed, nation-wide police endorsing of political candidates seems to be a fashionable thing.  EPD's brothers and sisters at the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Donald Trump for president, something that organization thinks will help foster good relations between the public and police.

Warning: When you see one of
these, don't let it slip you voted for
Ally Medina and Christian Patz.
The Emeryville Police Officers Association, a trade union, is reasonably expected to advocate in its member's interest.  That could even mean entering our electoral politics if a real threat rose up in the form of a candidate for City Council threatening them in some real way.  That's not what happened in the latest City Council contest.  Not one person running was anything but totally supportive of the Emeryville Police and all they represent.  Do the police have information about the winning candidates we don't know?  Are Ms Medina and Mr Patz some kind of clandestine cop haters that want to bring down the department?  The cops aren't saying.  We think that's not what going on here.  We think this is just dirty stupid politics being played by those who shouldn't stoop to that level.

An Emeryville police officer told the Tattler they will likely engage in this kind of political calculation from now on.  He said to expect political endorsements for City Council by the police next time too (strangely he would not say whether the police will endorse School Board members leaving us to wonder why not?).  This is a degradation of our Emeryville Police Department.  If they plan on inserting themselves as a manipulating power in our electoral business like this moving forward, they will have to suffer the inevitable ill effects that come from this sort of rank political gamesmanship.  We don't want that for this group of heretofore professional and highly publicly regarded public servants.  To the Emeryville Police Department: get out of our elections and back into our neighborhoods.
Fine on the School Board...just keep 
him off the City Council says EPD.
'Don't vote for her' says EPD.
Oops!  Too late.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

EPD Exempt From Fire Safety Regulations

Post Ghost Ship Fire:
'Do As We Say, Not As We Do'

Fire Trap at Emeryville Police Department

After the deaths of 36 people in Oakland’s Ghost Ship Fire on December 2nd, East Bay municipalities, looking to avoid appearing cavalier about public safety in the face of intense and building public scrutiny, have been on a tear seeking to root out fire hazards.  In Oakland and Berkeley they've already started finding violations in makeshift warehouse live/work housing settlements.  In Emeryville, they only need to look in the mirror. 
Behold the newly remodeled Emeryville Police Department 2nd floor public lobby: fine so long as there’s not a fire…but if there is, you’re gunna die.  That’s because the only way out besides the elevator is through a set of locked doors that lead to a stairway to the outside and safety; a clear cut major fire code violation.  And a major public safety hazard.

The Alameda County Fire Department as well as the city manager of the City of Emeryville, the chief of police and the chief building inspector have all known about this problem for years as a result of numerous public complaints.  But they've been kicking this embarrassing public safety violation can down the road all that time leaving the fire safety issue still unresolved.  After December 2nd, there will be perhaps a new found sense of urgency. 

Death Trap
The police department's public lobby.
Doors on the left open up to stairs that lead outside.
But during a fire (and all other times as well),
they're locked.
The public officials were all alerted to the condition after the City undertook a major $2.7 million taxpayer funded remodel, finished in 2012.  The construction work which took two years to complete was done ostensibly to improve public safety but the public was safer before when the building's escape stairs weren’t located behind set of permanently locked doors says a fire department employee. The source within the Alameda County Fire Department who wished to remain anonymous agrees the newly remodeled lobby at the police department is a public fire hazard that should be addressed but doesn’t hold much hope for a fix. 

While the City of Emeryville starts its search for fire code violations amid artist's home/studios and local businesses, the hypocrisy is not lost on the fire department employee,  "All businesses in Emeryville are required to have annual fire inspections, however government buildings are not under the same scrutiny. It's a loophole that allows violations to slip through the cracks”, the anonymous source told the Tattler.

It was conjectured that the reason the doors at the police station became permanently locked as part of the remodel, was to save police personnel the trouble of having to fumble for keys as they traverse through two doors that would have been constructed on either side of the former public stairway if public safety had been foremost in the City's mind during the remodel planning stage.

Notified that the Tattler would make this public safety hazard public and perhaps not sensing any irony, officials at the Emeryville Police Department refused to unlock the door for photo documentation of the formerly public stairs for this story.  They also refused comment for this story as did City Hall officials and Alameda County Fire Department officials, save the one employee who wished anonymity.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Rise of the Fake Community Benefits Agreement

Councilman Bauters, Schools Supe Rubio
Push Fake CBAs

Illegitimate Projects Legitimized

Community Engagement Hijacked
by Fake Grassroots Agreements

“A Community Benefits Agreement ("CBA") in the United States is a contract signed by community groups and a real estate developer that requires the developer to provide specific amenities and/or mitigations to the local community or neighborhood. In exchange, the community groups agree to publicly support the project, or at least not oppose it. Often, negotiating a CBA relies heavily upon the formation of a multi-issue, broad based community coalition including community, environmental, faith-based and labor organizations” -Wikipedia

News Analysis
A Community Benefits Agreement is a powerful tool a developer can use to legitimize his project to facilitate a quick approval by a municipality.  CBA’s are also popular with elected officials as any future bad effects brought on by a development can serve to decouple the effects from the politician’s responsibility.  Given the out-sized power of CBA’s, it’s easy to see how they would be tempting to developers and even politicians to abuse for their own benefit rather than the greater community; the very definition of ironic.  This being Emeryville, it should not be surprising that’s exactly what’s happened.    

Here in Emeryville two recent development projects have been sold to the public by developers and politicians using obfuscating tactics of the fake CBA: the Sherwin Williams project and the Emeryville Center of ‘Community’ Life.  In the case of the Sherwin Williams “CBA”, a private and exclusive group of people brokered a deal with the developer Lennar Urban behind closed doors, the greater community shut out of the process and at the Center of ‘Community’ Life, the “CBA” was struck between the Emery Unified School District and the developer Turner Construction, without any community members whatsoever.  Both these projects subverted the purpose of actual Community Benefits Agreements.  

Superintendent of Emery Unified
School District
John Rubio

Beneficiary of the ECCL fake CBA.
The Center of ‘Community’ Life “CBA” was created by former Board of Trustees President John Affeldt and the Superintendent of the Schools John Rubio as a way to mollify critics of the decidedly undemocratic tactics the School District made use of to push through that project.  Tattler readers will recall how scores of parents and community members denounced the School Board’s heavy handed shutting out of the public as the Board went about their unilateral decision to close Anna Yates Elementary School as part of the Kindergarten through 12th grade vision of the Center of ‘Community’ Life.  This was done despite assurances to the community they would be permitted to weigh in on the wisdom of closing the elementary school as guaranteed by the Measure J 2010 plebiscite that started the ECCL.  
Beneficiary of the ECCL Fake CBA
Sensing exposure to claims of fraud by the community, Mr Rubio and Mr Affeldt sought relief in the form of the warm community blanket of a CBA.  However since a real CBA would also expose the School District to the desires of the actual community and a possible ratcheting back of the K-12 model, Mr Affeldt and Mr Rubio instead delivered a fake CBA, leaving questions about its illegitimacy unanswered.  The CBA was written entirely by the School District with no actual community support, a clear subversion of the purpose of a CBA.

City Councilman John Bauters
Beneficiary of the PARC fake CBA.
The Sherwin Williams proposal was in trouble as developers sought to move the housing project past the new ‘progressive’ City Council majority.  Both the developer and the City Council needed help legitimizing an agreement that would cheapen the public commons as Sherwin Williams demonstrably does.  Further City Council candidate John Bauters was seeking a way to bolster his community visibility as he sought election to the Council in the months before the November 8th election.  Mr Bauters very visibly helped form the Park Avenue Resident Committee (PARC) to negotiate directly with the developer regarding specific amenities for the project, promoting it in his election campaign literature.  The agreement, sold to the public as a CBA by the developer, the City Council/City Hall, and PARC and especially Mr Bauters was not a CBA.   
Beneficiary of the PARC fake CBA.
The PARC, which was comprised of a handful of residents, operated behind closed doors in private and was specifically closed to any individuals not selected by PARC and even more egregiously, Emeryville’s premier community activist group Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE) was specifically not allowed in.  Well known for promoting all resident's interests, the entire community, RULE asked to be able to join as a coalition partner but they were rebuffed by PARC.  
The discrediting exclusivity of the fake Sherwin Williams CBA did not stop the City Council from loudly proclaiming PARC as a legitimate broker of what they characterized as a real Community Benefits Agreement, especially the former Mayor Dianne Martinez, ironically herself a RULE backed Council member.  
However, explicit in the definition of a CBA is the existential democratic nature of it.  The PARC Agreement is not a CBA regardless of what is being proclaimed by interested parties.

The agreements being made in the community’s name now in Emeryville are not Community Benefit Agreements by definition.  Rather they are simple development side agreements.  There is nothing wrong with these kinds of side agreements being made; in fact both of the agreements highlighted here have demonstrably improved the resultant projects, more so the Sherwin Williams project.  Having said that, these agreements being characterized as CBA’s amounts to more than just hyperbole or bombast.  The problem with issuing fake CBA’s as the power elite in Emeryville is doing is that it comes at a cost; actual CBA’s are proportionally cheapened and real community involvement is hijacked to serve an antithetical goal, raising up of the elite and pushing down of the community.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

RULE Assumes Total Power; Residents Replace Business at City Hall

"RULE Block" Bloc Takes Over

RULE Rules; Victory for Residents

First Time Ever; Businesses Have No Representatives at 
City Hall

News Analysis
All five Emeryville City Council members are now RULE backed Council members.  On December 6th, three new City Council members backed by the resident activist group Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE) took their oaths of office and filled out the City Council as they joined the two already elected RULE backed Council members for an unprecedented total RULE takeover of City Hall.  Put this way, as some on the right wing in Emeryville have done, it sounds ominous: a total takeover?  Is it a complete "RULE block" as the anti-RULE pro-business blog E'Ville Eye calls it?  That's pretty disconcerting sounding, but what really is a 'RULE block' anyway?
A total RULE block means Emeryville residents interests will now have 100% representation at City Hall as opposed to what existed in the Emeryville of yesteryear when a 'business block' at City Hall and in the Council chambers looked out after business interests. 

New RULE Councilman
John Bauters
Part of the RULE block 

RULE Block
Emeryville's 2014 election seated Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue, both RULE backed candidates and together they joined their colleague already on the Council, Jac Asher, to form the first RULE majority, the first RULE block as it were.  Now however, Emeryville residents, and their advocate at City Hall, RULE, can rightfully claim their influence and power is not simply part of a 3-5 majority anymore but their power at 5-5 is now complete and total; a remarkable turn of events given Emeryville’s not so distant staunchly pro-business history when resident's interests took a back seat.  

New RULE Councilwoman
Ally Medina
Part of the RULE block
The election on November 8th, the fifth consecutive RULE election sweep (every RULE candidate won their seat), added RULE backed candidates John Bauters, Ally Medina and Christian Patz.  It marks the wholesale accession to power for the resident's advocacy group and a total abdication of power by the business community and business advocacy groups the E’Ville Eye and also Little City Emeryville (a new organization that has inserted itself into Emeryville politics and casts itself as a replacement for the vanquished Emeryville Chamber of Commerce). 

New RULE Councilman
Christian Patz
Part of the RULE block.
Business Block
The win on November 8th consolidating total power for an advocacy group was remarkable but not unprecedented in Emeryville history; the 1997 election of Chamber of Commerce backed candidates Gary Caffee and Dick Kassis added to three other already seated Chamber backed Council members, netting the business community an eight year 5-5 total lock on power (from a 4-1 simple majority earlier).  The Chamber leveraged that power in the form of City Hall sponsored give-a-ways to the business community, automatic green lights for developers seeking approval for projects and even for itself when it secured City Hall sponsored free rent and cash grants to publish its newspaper all paid for with public money. Before 1997 you’d have to go all the way back to the 1960’s through the 1970's (before the Chamber existed) with the Emeryville Industries Association to see a similar 100% business block on power at City Hall.

Existing RULE Council members
Mayor Scott Donahue & Dianne Martinez

Both part of the RULE block.
Predictably, now that RULE enjoys the same level of power that the business community used to have, business advocates have cried foul.  Notably among the detractors is Rob Arias, the editor of the pro-business blog the E’Ville Eye who has even before the last election used his blog to chastise RULE, to insinuate the democratic resident advocacy group is somehow illegitimate, characterizing them as secretive, somehow even dangerous or nefarious. 

Former RULE Councilwoman
Jac Asher

Part of the RULE block.
She gave RULE a shout out as she stepped
down on Tuesday night.
As the locus of power has shifted to the residents, Mr Arias, who also is a co-founder of Little City Emeryville, has raised alarms about what he sees as the improper vesting of so much power in one organization.  It is remarkable that Mr Arias, for all his histrionics on the recent shift of power in Emeryville, sees crucial 
distinction between a business interest lobbying group and a citizen advocacy group both petitioning their government as one between a magisterial elite that should be shown great deference and a rag tag bunch of (hippie?) residents worthy of little more than derision.  Vexing in this calculation for Mr Arias no doubt is the unavoidable 'problem' that only citizens can vote, not businesses.  The whole idea of the franchise of course is the empowerment of resident citizens, and RULE, a democratic group open to all residents and advocating as they do for pro-resident change, represents that empowerment. 
Not prone to transparency (a quality at odds with the title 'journalist'),  Mr Arias has steadfastly refused to answer questions about his favorite punching bag, RULE for this story, regardless of the optics that creates. 

Contrary to RULE, groups such as Little City Emeryville and the former Chamber of Commerce are anti-democratic private clubs, restrictive in their memberships.  Of course, business advocates never publicly reveal their advocacy so bluntly as this.  Usually attempts are made to invoke resident's interests using the classic trickle down economic proposition, in this case: what's good for business is good for Emeryville.
Former RULE Councilwoman
Jennifer West
Before the RULE block when

RULE was in the minority. 
This plutocratic view of governance, with its whiff of desperation may be derided by most around here as too easy but it must be acknowledged and respected for what it is: a potentially effective stalking horse ripe with utility by would be demagogues and interlopers among us, even those who count themselves as journalists.

Former RULE Councilman
John Fricke
Before the RULE block when

RULE was in the minority.
But even as Emeryville slips into a new era, a ‘post land use’ era what with the last large developable sites having been developed, there's no guarantee a City Council entirely backed by RULE will be looking out exclusively after resident's interests.  Indeed, recent pro-business moves, by the RULE majority made before the formulation of the new total RULE block (the unnecessary give-a-ways at the Marketplace development, Sherwin Williams and the Anton/Nady project) are echoes of the days when business was king in Emeryville.  

RULE's accession to total power has an extra cautionary tale for haters who would take on the group in the story of John Bauters and his two year pivot; Mr Bauters ran as an anti-RULE City Council candidate in 2014 and lost. Perhaps sensing the rising power of RULE, this year Mr Bauters patched up relations with the group and sought and received RULE's endorsement.  This time RULE members even worked on the Bauters campaign (as well as the Ally Medina and Christian Patz campaigns) by phone calling and precinct walking.

The November 8th three for three election of Mr Bauters, Ms Medina and Mr Patz continues RULE’s uncanny ability to pick winning candidates for public office.  The fact that every single RULE candidate that has ever sought office (at the School Board and the City Council) over five election cycles has won speaks to the highly centrist nature of the group, regardless of the loud condemnations from extremist right wing organizations and individuals in Emeryville.  RULE demonstrably has its finger on the pulse of Emeryville; it is the pro-business ideologues at E'Ville Eye and Little City Emeryville who can't win elections anymore that are, by definition, the extremists. 
The E'Ville Eye
RULE hating pro-business blog.
Big loser in the November 8th
Emeryville election.

The 'Business Block' advocate
refuses to answer questions about RULE
even as the blog continues to report on it.
Little City Emeryville
Founded by the E'Ville Eye.
Business lobbying group;
Chamber of Commerce replacement.
Loser in the election.

Longs for the salad days of the 
'Business Block'.