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Monday, July 14, 2014

Emery Schools Awards Contract for Children's Bio-Metric Scan Data to Corporate Entity

For Profit Third Party Corporation to Control Our Children's Permanent Bio Data

Emery Asks: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? 

News Analysis
It would appear Big Brother is set to arrive this August at an Emery school near you.  If he's not quite here yet, he's busy setting up shop.  That's because the Emery Unified School District has announced to parents that they are handing over to Fujitsu USA, the world's third largest IT service provider,  the contract to bio-metrically scan and store the children's palm data as they que up for lunches this coming school year starting in August.  It's all to save money the School District says but it's a slippery slope for children's personal privacy rights says the American Civil Liberties Union and concerned parents.

A spokesperson for Emery says the bio scan near-infrared palm blood vein readers will improve the speed of the lunch lines and the accuracy of lunch counts and sales.  They maintain Fujitsu, a corporation that partners with thousands of independent software vendors, consultants and systems integrators in its cloud based platform, will not store the children's information for anytime more than each discreet lunch period.  Emery didn't elaborate on how Fujitsu will know who is who day to day among the children without bio database storage however.
Do kindergarteners understand the risks associated
with giving a for profit corporation their permanent
bio-metric signatures? 

Some aren't convinced about the promises of confidentiality coming from the School District on behalf of Fujitsu Inc.
Bio-metric data is notoriously unchangeable.  If it happens that the unique characteristics used for bio-metric authentication are compromised, the affected person has no possibility for revocation or to get new ones issued.  In addition, bio-metric databases themselves can be considered a threat to privacy.  Such data may be used as unique identifiers and thus enable linking to other databases for purposes of profiling.  For instance bio-metric data may be used to identify health risks which may raise future desires for access to the data by health insurance companies, banks and advertising.
Fujitsu says they can be trusted with our
children's bio-scan data forever.  As a corporation,
they will be able to resist temptation to use the data
for something else even if it will increase profits.
Emery Unified stands by them.

Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU in Washington said of the palm scanners in general, "If it's a technology that works really well, it won't be long before you're offering your palm in a lot of different locations, and you will be concerned about who's got access to that information and what they want to do with it."  One parent in another school district said of the lunchtime school lunch bio scanners proliferating in school districts across California, "I understand taking an iris scan of a pilot at an airport so you know who's flying the plane.  This is that level of equipment they're installing in a line that serves steamed corn".

  Emery says parents will be allowed to opt their children out of the bio scanner system by filling out a form available at the schools.
The District didn't say how much money they are paying to Fujitsu to set up the new system but in a letter to parents about the Fujitsu contract they noted they look forward to "the benefits this new technology will provide to Emery children."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Saturday is 'Love Our Neighborhood Day'

RULE Meeting

Residents United For A Livable Emeryville
Come and meet your progressive neighbors and make your city more responsive to YOU!
Next regular meeting:  Saturday, July 19
10:00 - 12:00
Doyle St. CoHousing, 5514 Doyle St., 1st floor common room

-City Council election campaign planning
-School Board candidates invited to answer our questions
-Progress on Sherwin Williams site
-Reports of city committees

*subject to additions and changes
Bring breakfast snacks...............................Coffee and tea provided

  For more information contact Judy Timmel, 510-601-6521 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Developers Complain About Proposed Emeryville Impact Fees

Billionaires Don't Want to Pay Taxes:
World's Smallest Violin

Emeryville is so unfair to developers!  That's what John Nady, gazillionaire CEO of Nady Systems told the City Council on Tuesday.  He's not happy with all the government largess already poured on him from his friends at Emeryville City Hall.  Now they want to raise taxes on him.  It's sooo unfair!  Can you imagine?  If the City Council raises the developer impact fees like they're investigating doing, Mr Nady may have to pay money.  He told the Council he doesn't like paying money.  Now he might have to pay almost as much as he would in other neighboring cities like Berkeley or Oakland.

Emeryville is so mean!  
Developers like 
John Nady
need one of these.
Cry Me a Friggin River
In the wake of the loss of the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency and the accompanied loss of revenue for the City, starting last April the City Council has been entertaining the idea of raising developer impact fees, in an attempt to recover costs incurred by the City attributable to new development.  As it stands now, Emeryville has the lowest such fees of all the neighboring towns and as a consequence, developers here have enjoyed what amounts to a large taxpayer funded subsidy.  It is this subsidy Mr Nady told the Council members he wishes to reap as he develops Avalon Bay, a large residential project on the Berkeley border.  Mr Nady has entered into an agreement with Avalon Bay Communities, a Virginia based REIT development corporation to build the 200 unit project and any increase in fees will scuttle the deal he says.  It would seem Mr Nady's profits are going to be cut into.  Mr Nady instead likes the idea that Emeryville taxpayers help him out with a gift of tax relief.   He wants us to pay for his project. Isn't that special?
A representative of SRM Ernst, the developer of the Sherwin Williams project also spoke out against the idea that Emeryville raise the impact fees at Tuesday's meeting.  It would seem that the sky will fall if Emeryville charges (almost) as much as other cities charge and developers will be crushed, bringing down the whole economy with them, it will be thus or so they say.

John Nady in happier times
Now he wants us to 

cry him a river.
Realize, John Nady has already been the recipient of a huge gift from the Emeryville City Council majority in the form of a lifting of the constraints of the General Plan back in 2009.  The whole city had engaged in a two year, four million dollar process of rewriting our General Plan.  A guiding principle ensconced in the Plan is the idea there be a "central core" of tall buildings radiating out from the Christie/Powell area, building heights lowering as they move away from the core area.  This idea was vetted by the Emeryville residents in a series of town hall meetings.  As a result of the central core concept, John Nady's property, being on the extreme north end of town, was subject to a 55 foot height limit.  But Mr Nady wanted to maximize his profits and sell his land to Avalon.  The height limit would cut into his profits so he appealed to the City Council to help him out.  So Councilwoman Nora Davis and her colleagues in the pro-developer Council majority changed the new General Plan to allow for unlimited height on Mr Nady's parcel.  No findings of fact were presented.  It was simply a gift from the people of Emeryville to John Nady to the tune of millions of dollars in property value enhancement.   They gave this gift, against the wishes of the people of Emeryville to a developer on his way out of Emeryville.

But he's still not happy.  That gift of property value increase as it turns out, only meant to serve as an appetizer for Mr Nady.  Now he wants more from the taxpayers of Emeryville.

Police guard the gated Nady 
mansion in Piedmont.
1%'ers have it so tough!
It's not the first time the private desires of John Nady have crashed into the domain of the greater public.  In 2011, in the style of a bad Hollywood movie script, Mr Nady brought on the ire of the Elem Pomo Indians as he sought to build a vacation home complex on Clear lake's Rattlesnake Island, a Native American sacred site including burial ground.   After Mr Nady purchased the island by dubious means with intention to develop it, his Piedmont mansion was picketed by Native Americans.

While Mr Nady's childish antics at City Hall last Tuesday were certainly entertaining and as the City Council continues to deliberate impact fees moving forward, we've got a novel idea for them both to consider:  If a developer can't make a go of it without (another) government bailout like Mr Nady is saying he needs, they can't make a go of it at all and they don't deserve to be in business in the first place.  This is especially true if the developer in question wants to build a residential project (as opposed to a commercial development) since those projects have been shown to be net revenue neutral  for City Hall: it pays out in resident services as much if not more than what it receives in residential taxes.
  We're tired of the kind of pro-developer favoritism that's been the culture at City Hall and we say to the natty suited John Nady and the other developers who will surely step forward looking for more handouts, we're not listening to billionaire whiners and complainers and their childish claims of entitlements anymore here.
Let's recoup everything we have to pay for these developers.  It's time we raise the impact fees to at least as much as what our neighbors charge.

Video courtesy of the Emeryville Property Owners Association

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Loan Scandal Elevates Mayor's, Councilwoman's Star

Profiles in Courage

Jac Asher & Jennifer West Emerge from Scandal as Heros

What kind of town is it where politicians need to be thanked simply for doing their job?   It's Emeryville; sadly, our kind of town.

So let's get to it.
We thank Mayor Jac Asher and Councilwoman Jennifer West for disregarding the advise of the staff and their colleagues on the Council when the two voted NO to giving a gift of $6 million in public funds to Mall developer Madison Marquette last year, a story of City Hall ineptitude that's recently been highlighted as egregious in a report by the independent Alameda County Grand Jury.
The courageous two councilwomen come out smelling like a rose in the report.  Their colleagues, the other three?  Not so much.  To be less obtuse, they came out smelling like something, just not roses.

"Vote for me and I'll look
 out for your interests"
So we did.  
And so she did.
Why was the vote courageous? Because the two council members risked scorn and repudiation for their vote.
We've seen it before, especially from Council members Nora Davis and Kurt Brinkman: 'Ms Asher and West are filled with hubris, acting as if they are more enlightened and knowledgeable then our professional staff.'  Stuff like that.  But guess what?  They ARE more enlightened and knowledgeable, and their vote against this deal, a deal the Grand Jury called a "failure" of the decision makers to "fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities to the citizenry",  proves it so.
This Grand Jury report, read by people and institutions all over the East Bay is an embarrassment for the City of Emeryville.  It's a civic embarrassment Ms Asher and West heroically sought to avoid with their vote.  They should be thanked...but not by us; instead it should come from those now with egg on their faces at City Hall.  Something tells us it's not going to work out that way however.

A fan of democracy,
transparency and
effective government

There's been a twenty five year pro-developer juggernaut at Emeryville City Hall.  Notice how we say "developer" and not "development".  Because that's the ideological modus operandi that drives the council majority.  It's not that they simply want to facilitate development, it's more critically that they want to help developers...certain favored developers.  In this case Madison Marquette, the same developer they bent over backwards for to help secure free exclusive rights to the fallow land north of the Bay Street mall for almost ten years, a case wherein Emeryville residents ultimately lost everything after Madison got off the pot after not having shat.
In a rare moment of forthright brevity by a staff member, the E'Ville Eye blog recorded former City Manager Pat O'Keeffe admitting this specific general affection for developers he (and the Council majority) has; "pro developer" he called it.

Aside from a few such rare moments of cats being let out of bags at City Hall, the Grand Jury's dispassionate and apolitical take on this rotten deal, happily accommodated by the pro-developer 'council three', should serve as an irrefutable spotlight to those who still doubt the real nature of the culture here in Emeryville.  Plenty have long harped on this issue, including the Tattler, and it's validating and empowering to see such a venerable and respected outside group such as the Alameda Grand Jury agree with us.

The question now is what is to be done with this?  Having found malfeasance but no evidence of overt criminal activity in the case of the Madison Marquette Council vote, it's something the residents themselves will have to decide, possibly in the voting booth or before.

But in the meantime, again, thanks be to Jac Asher and Jennifer West.  They told us they would look out after our interests if we elected them to the City Council, and that's what they've done.  It may be a sad commentary on the state of Emeryville politics to have to say it but thanks for doing your job, you two.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Alameda County Grand Jury: City of Emeryville is Incompetent, Lacks Fiduciary Expertise

Scathing Report:
Nora Davis, Ruth Atkin and Kurt Brinkman Put Developer's Needs Ahead of Residents

City Attorney Mike Biddle is a Dilettante

The independent Alameda County Grand Jury released damning and condemnatory findings this week from a probe into a City of Emeryville scandal involving inappropriate financial dealings that put the needs of Bay Street Mall developer Madison Marquette ahead of Emeryville resident's needs.  At issue is the City Council majority's attempt to forgive $6 million of an $18 million loan to Madison Marquette by the former Redevelopment Agency at the behest of the City staff last year.
The Grand Jury's report excoriates the staff, particularly the City Attorney Mike Biddle and the recently retired Director of Finances Helen Bean for doing the bidding of the favored developer Madison at the expense of the people of Emeryville.  The scathing report also blamed City Council members Nora Davis, Ruth Atkin and Kurt Brinkman for voting to forgive the loan.

The Grand Jury said they were troubled by the fact that significant financial decisions were made with "insufficient research".  The report found the staff and the Council failed to conduct due diligence and that the staff lacks fiscal expertise.  The three City Council members and the staff were found to be incompetent and they failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the citizenry.

The Secret News has the whole story covered HERE.

Regional Minimum Wage Proposal: Emeryville Mayor Jac Asher Joins East Bay Mayors

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

East Bay mayors looking to raise minimum wage together

Updated 5:45 am, Monday, June 23, 2014

East Bay mayors are moving forward with a plan to adopt a single minimum wage for the region in order to share the benefits and burdens of raising salaries for the lowest-paid workers.
The proposal, initiated by Berkeley MayorTom Bates, calls on Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Alameda, Albany and El Cerrito to adopt a minimum wage of $12.82 per hour by 2017. Richmond already has adopted its own minimum wage, $12.30 by 2017.
"It makes so much more sense if we were all on the same page, for the same amount," Bates said. "This way we can share enforcement duties, and no city would be at an economic disadvantage."
Bates' plan is modeled on Oakland's proposal, which goes before voters on Nov. 4. The primary difference is that the wage would only jump 11.6 percent the first year, instead of 36.1 percent as proposed in Oakland. Bates' plan also does not include mandatory health benefits or sick leave, which he said should be handled individually.
The advantage of a regional plan is that cities with higher minimum wages would not lose business to neighboring towns with lower minimum wages, he said. They could also share paperwork and economic analyses, as well as enforcement duties.
Several mayors said they support the idea and plan to push for it with their city councils.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said a regional minimum wage, especially if it's lower than San Francisco's $15-per-hour proposal, would give the East Bay an economic advantage in attracting business but still help its lowest-paid workers.
"We're trying to get this coordinated," Quan said. "It shouldn't be more difficult for one city to raise its minimum wage. ... It'd be much easier for all of us if this was a coordinated effort."
One hitch is that each city has its own economic nuances, which might be better addressed on smaller scales. Oakland, for example, has mostly rebounded from the recession, but some sectors of the economy are still fragile and should get specialized attention, she said.
Nonprofits and summer youth employment programs should also have exemptions, she said.
Emeryville Mayor Jac Asher said the City Council plans to look at the idea in July.
"My feeling is that we need to raise workers' wages, and we need to do it immediately. People are really having a hard time," she said. "I absolutely understand what Mayor Bates wants to do, and if there's some way to get a regional minimum wage, I'd be very supportive."
Her colleagues on the council might not be as receptive, she said. Even with a regional minimum wage proposal, each city will still have to navigate difficult political waters with its own business and labor communities, she said.
"Even Berkeley has had a hard time with this," she said, noting the Berkeley City Council's revisions and delays to that city's minimum wage plan. "I think, no matter what, we'll all be fighting battles over this."

Monday, June 16, 2014

RULE Meeting: Emery School Board Candidates Interviews

Residents United For A Livable Emeryville

Come and meet your progressive neighbors and help your city function in a good way!
Next regular meeting:  Saturday, June 21
10:00 - 12:00
Doyle St. CoHousing, 5514 Doyle St., 1st floor common room


-School Board candidates invited to answer our questions for purposes of possible endorsement

-City Council member Ruth Atkin presents a plan to fund the Emery-Go-Round

-Reports of city committees

-How to recruit more members
*subject to additions and changes
Bring breakfast snacks...............................Coffee and tea provided

For more information contact Judy Timmel, 510-601-6521 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

RULE to Vet School Board Candidates

Emery School Board November Candidates: Take Heed

The citizen's activist group Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE) has announced they will interview candidates with an eye towards endorsement for November's Emeryville School Board election.  Foraying into Emery School District Board Trustee elections will be a first for the group, long active in vetting and endorsing City Council candidates.
RULE will be conducting the interviews of School Board candidates on June 21st at 10:00 AM at the Doyle Street Co-Housing 1st floor common room, 5514 Doyle Street.  All interested people, candidates and the general public are encouraged to attend.  Depending on the number of candidates seeking endorsement, the following July RULE meeting (to be announced) may also be reserved for interviews.

Below are the questions to be asked of all School Board candidates:

1. What is your view of charter schools? How should the District respond
to any applications it might receive to create a charter school within
District boundaries?

2. What, in your view, is the primary mission of the District?

3. As an individual trustee, how would you want to interact with
teachers? Would you want to meet with teachers as a group, individually,
and if so, how frequently? Or would you primarily rely on the
superintendent or public Board meetings to communicate with teachers?

4. What is the appropriate role of standardized tests? How would you use
the scores? Should scores be used to evaluate the performance of
administrators or teachers?

5. In recent years the District has fired or reduced the hours of some
staff in favor of outsourcing school services such as the breakfast and
lunch programs. When is it appropriate to outsource an existing school
service? What factors should guide these decisions?

6. What role should a Trustee play in District fund-raising from
businesses, non-profits, and grant-making institutions?

7. The District controls three properties. How should it allocate
resources amongst these properties? Assuming the completion of the 
Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL) in 2016 and the use 
of the San Pablo Avenue site for K-12 instruction and administrative 
offices, what should the District do with the Anna Yates and 
Ralph Hawley sites?

8. Should Emeryville schools receive contributions directly, or should they be 
managed by a third party?

This year's School Board election will contest three seats, those now occupied by current long time School Board members seeking re-election; Melody Dice and Miguel Dwin and also a newcomer; the recently appointed member Christian Patz who was selected this spring to fill in for recently departed Josh Simon.

RULE says they hereby invite these three people to be interviewed and any other Emeryville residents  considering running for School Board Trustee this November.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Vergara Case: Emery Unified School District, Right Wing Victorious Against Teachers Unions

Emery Plays a Part in the Infamous 
Vergara Case
News Analysis
A Los Angeles judge ruled against California teachers and in support of a Silicon Valley billionaire today in the much watched Vergara Case, a lawsuit with major Emery Unified School District connections.  It's a case that has pitted school privatizers and anti-union right wing forces against teachers and public school supporters.  Emery Unified sent two strong anti-teacher's union supporters, former school superintendents Tony Smith and Debbra Lindo to argue in support of billionaire plaintiff David Welch (57).  The case will have repercussions far beyond California as the plaintiff vows to take the case nation-wide, a prospect that has drawn cheers from all manner of conservative pundits and right wing think tanks across the land.

Both Emery superintendents supplied the plaintiff with 'letters of declaration', using their Emery credentials to bolster their case that teachers are to blame for the poor state of education in Emeryville and in California.
Silicon Valley Tycoon David Welch
The Republican billionaire used
Emery School Superintendent's
help to argue that teachers unions
should be deep sixed. 

The plaintiff used Emery's superintendent's letters of declaration to argue that only the destruction of the teachers union and tying teacher pay with student test scores can save education, something that needs to be done "for the students".  The idea is that well qualified teachers will flock to school districts that offer no job security and pay poorly although neither Emery superintendent nor anyone representing the plaintiff has shown how this will work.  The Vergara plaintiff argued good teachers aren't interested in due process and instead clamor for their job and pay to be dependent upon the capricious whims of superintendents and other things beyond their control like student poverty and associated dysfunctional home life.

Emery Unified: Anti-Teacher Incubator 
Emery, being such a small school district, has played an over sized role in today's victory against teachers.  The district here has long taken an adversarial position against its teachers, most notably when the School Board resolved to support Superintendent Lindo over the teachers in the infamous Teachers Resolution fight.  Tony Smith and his program of shutting down schools, cutting teacher pay and turning over public schools to private charter corporations while he served as Oakland's superintendent is still revered by the School Board here at Emery.
Emery's role in the anti-teacher/ pro-privatization movement has come to be that of an incubator.  The district here collects those with disdain for teachers and elevates them to superintendent.  After attaining superintendent status, Emery sends them out into the world where they can help right wing causes and inflict damage to teachers statewide.
It's a recipe that has rankled teachers here at Emery.  Emery Teachers Association president Dawn Turner told the Tattler today, "We have the dubious distinction of having provided not one but two former superintendents as expert witnesses on the Vergara case.  They are using students to forward a right wing agenda".  Ms Turner echoed her colleagues vow, "We will fight this" she said.

In a tragicomic irony, the ruling in Los Angeles today comes right on the heels of last week's "Teacher Appreciation Week" here at Emery.