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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Opaque City: Emeryville Clams Up

Is Emeryville Hiding Something?

Unnecessarily Blacked Out Public Info, Violation of Public Records Act

What Could Possibly Go Wrong With This?

Emeryville is acting like its got something to hide.  The public is asserting their right to see their own information that's ensconced at City Hall and the City is in lockdown mode.  Even to the point of breaking the law.
It's all as a result of a still unfolding debacle at the police station.  There the City's incompetence is on full display regarding the lack of a fire escape for the second floor public lobby as reported by the Tattler and the East Bay Times. The whole thing has been a major source of embarrassment for City Hall and so they're responding by battening down the hatches: If no harmful information gets out, then no harm will come to them.  That's what they must think.
How else to explain why the City of Emeryville would return a 100% redacted architect's plan of the police station the Tattler requested under a duly noticed public records request?  Or the fact that the City has utterly ignored another duly noticed request for internal documents related to the City's bungling of the fire escape at the police station?

Emeryville Transparency
The 100% redacted architect's drawings represent a furtive transgression that is particularly outlandish.  Using a spurious argument about another municipality keeping prison plans secret, Emeryville will not let the public see even their own public lobby represented in the drawings.
We're trying to establish what went wrong with the lack of legal egress for the part of the police station that's open to the public and they're saying the public can't even see that limited part of the drawings.  We understand they have an interest in keeping secret those parts that are sensitive, like where the weapons are stored or the fire escape paths of egress for police personnel but the public lobby is already public...we can see it with our own eyes...right now.  We just need to verify about when illegal work was conducted making the lobby a fire trap without a legal escape for the public.  Was it part of the 2012 major remodel at the police station?  Was it done afterward? The drawings would show that.  And then we could answer what went wrong. But the City is throwing a blanket over the whole thing, using their legitimate right to block from view sensitive information about the police as a cudgel against our rights to see the parts we're allowed to see and to block our seeing our government's own failings.  It's as obvious as it is thuggish.

Equally pernicious is the City's total breakdown of the ideals of transparent government with regards to the State of California mandated Public Records Act: they're not releasing documents about the police station fire escape the Tattler requested back in June.  A government agency has 10 days by law to provide duly requested public documents.  In special circumstances, for instance when the request is extremely broad and would necessitate the fetching of a very large number of documents, a city is allowed to take an additional two weeks to produce requested information.  That extra amount of time has come and gone with this request and the City of Emeryville is now in Emery Unified School District territory...meaning the City is keeping company with that highly dysfunctional School District by simply ignoring the Public Records Act.  Again, particularly thuggish behavior.

All this makes us ask, why?  Is it just incompetence the City is hiding?  Or is it something worse?   As one Tattler reader recently commented; how is it the City could think this path they're taking is going to turn out well?  It's like they settled in on the Nixonian tactic of deception by cloaking, either by cool calculation or in a hot panic but either scenario engendered their asking the question, common to all vain and hubristic governments, "What could possibly go wrong?"

The City of Emeryville recommends this company to other cities with lots of secrets to hide-
They're good to repeat customers and they offer bulk user discounts.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Police Station Fire Escape Fiasco Expands: Local Press Picks Up Story

City Hall Recalcitrance Draws Fire From 
East Bay Times

The East Bay Times, who's beat includes Emeryville, reports on the story of the City's continuing failure to provide a public fire escape at the police station after a $3.7 million remodel dating from 2012 broken by the Tattler in 2016A June 21st follow up story revealed a recalcitrant City Council had done nothing to alleviate the illegal condition.  After a July 3rd Tattler story that highlighted a police building plan document obtained by a Public Records Request that was completely redacted by Emeryville's overly secretive Police Chief, now the East Bay Times has joined in, picking up the still emerging story of City Hall incompetence and possible malfeasance.
From today's East Bay Times:

Emeryville police building may get new stairs after safety oversight

By ALI TADAYON | | Bay Area News Group

EMERYVILLE — The Emeryville Police Department is tasked with keeping residents safe, but if a fire were to break out at its building, people in the lobby would have no safe way out unless an employee unlocked the doors to the stairs.

To remedy the situation and ensure that people can get out of the building quickly, the city proposes building an exterior staircase from the second-floor lobby to the ground that the public could use, Chief Building Official Victor Gonzales said.

The second-floor lobby is where people go to talk to police officials and take care of other business.

Brian Donahue, who runs the The Emeryville Tattler blog and works as a contractor, said he believes the new staircase could cost the city around $300,000. Gonzales did not provide an estimate as to how much....

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Total Censorship With Police Department Fire Escape: 100% Redaction of Public Record

Redact City-
What the City Doesn't Want You to Know About the Police Dept Remodel That Left 
the Building Unsafe:

Police Chief Blacks Out Entire Public Record

Document received from City Hall in response to Public Records Request. 

The City of Emeryville, citing an obscure 1973 case law decision that allowed the government to withhold prison building plans from the public, blacked out building plans of the Hollis Street police department to the public inquiring about the City's failure to provide public fire escape egress at the police building.  The architect plans, produced for the City as part of a 2012 $3.7 million remodel of the the City's Public Safety Building at 2449 Hollis Street, putatively shows a State of California mandated fire escape at the second floor public lobby that was removed, illegally, at some later date.  We say 'putatively' because Emeryville's Chief of Police, Jennifer Tejada, has totally redacted the publicly owned plans so we can't know for sure.  However, the architect, retained by the City for the 2012 remodel, recently assured the Tattler he did provide for public egress at the second floor lobby and the plans, if we could view them would prove it.  The architect, Don Dommer of Albany based Dommer and Associates, upon hearing of a lack of a second floor public fire escape at his building, is conjecturing somebody must have done illegal work closing off public access after his contract with the City was complete.

The Tattler originally brought the issue of no public fire escape at the police station to the City at a Council meeting in 2016 and with an accompanying 2016 Tattler story but City Hall resisted the call to correct the public safety issue, waiting until after a second Tattler story on June 21st.  Assurances are now being offered from the Chief Building official, Victor Gonzales, that the City plans on making the police station legal, in the wake of the June 21st story.  Mr Gonzales is postulating a new set of exterior stairs could be added out the front of the building to make the building code compliant.

As Emeryville City Hall moves to fix the illegal fire trap at the police station public lobby (presuming they will), the public is left with questions of culpability.  Blacked out building plans notwithstanding, the question about when the fire escape was removed is less important to know than who removed it and if that subsequent illegal work was permitted by the Building Department.  Emeryville's Building official Victor Gonzales hinted he might at least share culpability as reported in the June 21st Tattler story when he said, "Everybody makes mistakes" and "I'm doing the best I can."

Chief Tejada's claim the information about the public fire egress at the station is secret and if made known to the public would compromise police safety, is overwrought and the full redaction of this public document is not warranted.  Because government is transparent and not permitted to withhold the public's right to know their business if it is being done to hide government malfeasance, these questions of who removed the public fire escape at our police station will be answered and this redaction impediment will not serve to deter.

The Tattler requested the building plans via a Public Records Request two weeks ago and accompanying the document filled with blacked out drawings ordered by Chief Tejada was the following dubious justification:

”The City of Emeryville finds ...under Government Code section 6255(a) and Evidence Code section 1040, public agencies have been able to withhold building plans for a correctional training facility and detention facility from the public on the grounds that individuals may use the information to plan an escape, which would threaten the safety of the communities. Thus, the benefits of non-disclosure outweighed the benefits of disclosure of the building plans for these buildings utilized by law enforcement....”    

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Tree Photo Tells the Story

What Can We Learn From the Photo Below?

With apologies to William Blake or Robert Frost et al, sometimes a single picture can do a better job telling a story than words can...the old 'thousand words' aphorism.  Such is the case with Emeryville's Sherwin Williams street trees controversy.  The Emeryville City Hall staff, seeking to assist the out of town developer Lennar Urban who wants to cut down all our trees abutting their proposed project and seeking to 'unify the streetscape', has gone to absurd, some would say unethical lengths to get the trees cut down.  Consider the testimony the staff provided to the Planning Commission on March 15th.  The Commission might as well vote to kill the trees and plant new lollipop replacements because the trees in question are unhealthy anyway the staff said.
Where the Planning Commission saw the sickly and dying trees the staff wanted them to (culminating in a unanimous vote to cut them all down), the City Council instead agreed with the City's paid arborist that the trees in question are generally healthy.
The ultimate vote is pending following a new argument presented to the Council by a chastened and cloistered staff at some unannounced later date, perhaps in September.

The story can be followed in (verbose) detail HERE & HERE.

Meanwhile, take a gander at the photo below and use your own judgement.  The tree on the left is called "unhealthy" by our City staff and worthy of nothing more than a chainsaw while the tree on the right is "healthy" and is OK to continue to live.  These public policy makers have determined one is desirable and the other is undesirable.  What do you think?

What can we learn from the photo about who's interests matter at Emeryville City Hall?

Looking Down the Middle of Horton Street 
At Emeryville City Hall, the tree on the left is
considered "unhealthy" while the tree on the right is
considered "healthy".
A developer with a chain saw awaits our decision about
these, our street trees.

Who's interests are being listened to at City Hall? 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Despite $3.7 Million Major Remodel, City Forgot the Fire Escape: More Money Needed

Fire Escape Blunder Will Cost $300,000

Exterior Stairs to be Added to Front of 
Police Department Building

Emeryville's Public Safety Building is Still Unsafe

Emeryville's chief building official announced Tuesday the City will likely have to build an external stairway out the front of the two story police headquarters building because the City failed to provide an emergency fire exit during a major $3.7 million remodel of the building in 2012.  The second floor front public lobby at the police department building on Powell Street, is accessible by elevator only and has had no fire escape since 2012 or sometime after, when the building was cleared for occupancy, possibly erroneously, by the City's own Chief Building Official, Victor Gonzales, an "oversight" he says.
Emeryville's Police Department
Existing Entryway
The new fire escape will have to come
out through these upstairs windows, catwalk
over to the left and then down a flight of stairs.
Mr Gonzales, who makes $155,000 per year as head of the Building Department at City Hall admitted the lack of a legal fire escape for the ironically named Emeryville Public Safety Building must be fixed even though he himself signed off on the building. "Mistakes were made and we're working on a fix" he said before he mentioned the external stairs solution.  Preliminary estimates for legal egress stairs range up to $300,000 and would have to be paid via Emeryville's taxpayer funded Capital Improvement Program, a fund with an already overextended and fully earmarked project wish list.
The police building was overhauled in a major remodel completed in 2012, ironically done in part to improve safety, including fire safety, at a cost of at least $3.7 million according to the chief architect for the project.  The Tattler reported a $2.7 million figure in a December 2016 story, a number obtained from the City of Emeryville but the architect reports the 3.7 higher number.

The architect, Don Dommer of Oakland's Don Dommer Associates, told the Tattler he recalled he provided a legal "path of travel" for egress in the event of a fire and that unauthorized work done without benefit of his plans may have been subsequently done.  The Tattler is waiting to receive a set of the plans of the 2012 remodel project to be made available by a public records request, due in 9 days.  The Chief of Police, Jennifer Tejada has requested the plans be redacted owing to their sensitive nature.

City to Red Tag its Own Building?
Further complicating the public safety issue in the remodel and the concomitant embarrassment for the City, is a binding Certificate of Occupancy document uncovered by the Tattler that requires the City to vacate the police department building because of the lack of legal public egress.  The April 27th, 2012 C of O document that conditionally permits the Police Department and the public use of the building, mandates the permission for use be revoked and the Certificate of Occupancy be void if the "prescribed codes or regulations of the City of Emeryville are not met".
Second Floor Public Lobby: Fire Trap
The windows will be replaced with egress doors.

In a bizarre turn, the same person who signed off on the police building's fitness in 2012, Victor Gonzales, being the Chief Building Official, is the same person whom the Certificate of Occupancy now requires to 'red tag' the building, causing its forced evacuation.
While the building has been in a technical state of violation, probably since completion of the 2012 remodel project, only since the earlier Tattler story made the lack of legal egress condition known to the Emeryville Building Department in 2016, has it been imperative the building be red tagged.  Before that Tattler story, Mr Gonzales theoretically could have made the argument he didn't know the building lacked a fire escape. However, in the wake of the current Tattler story, the City Attorney, Micheal Guina said he is looking into what could be a conflict of interest or a state of jeopardy; Mr Gonzales being the same person to enforce the illegal condition he signed off on.   Thus being the power of a chief building official.
Beyond Mr Gonzales's obvious reluctance to implicate himself, the only way for the City to obey the core provision of its own legal document, the police building Certificate of Occupancy now, would be to tender an admission of incompetency, an unlikely event.

Still, Mr Guina told the Tattler he will consider the implications of the tricky exigency and report his decision to the City Council soon.

Attempting to defuse what's becoming a volatile situation for City Hall, Mr Gonzales, who's bailiwick is the construction trade, buildings and the public safety therein, told the Tattler Tuesday his oversight is understandable, "I'm doing the best I can. Everybody makes mistakes".  Besides, he said, the public safety has thus far "not been put at risk", "have there been any fires?" he asked.
Damning Document
Portends Homeless Cops
It's "....shall become void", not 'might become void'.

Monday, June 18, 2018

After Rubio: School Board Hopefuls Need a Litmus Test

Emery Unified School District:
Emeryville's Last Bastion of 
Pure Civic Dysfunction

With a New Superintendent and a New Board President,
Will We Have Turned a Page?

We're Guessing NO

The only change that will come will be from the ballot box

News Analysis/Opinion
Last week two more teachers announced they will not be returning to Emery Unified School District in the fall.  That adds to the eight that already announced earlier for a total of ten this, the last year of John Rubio as Emery superintendent.  Really bad, but an improvement over last year's 37% teacher exodus.  Emery, under John Rubio, infamously can't hold on to its teachers. 
Mr Rubio's anti-teacher tactics, described by the teachers themselves as "bullying" and "racist", however bad, are nothing new for Emery superintendents.  The last two out of three supes here tried to outright destroy the teachers union.  The last one, Debbra Lindo, offered to testify against Emery's teachers in the union busting Vergara case after receiving a vote of 'no confidence' from 92% the entire teaching staff in their 2012 Teachers Resolution.  Rabidly anti-teacher policy: It's an ongoing pattern and practise at Emery.

 But now it would seem Emery is changing.  The leadership, if you can call it that, is falling like dominoes; we're getting a new superintendent and just last week the School Board ganged up and kicked President Cruz Vargas out of his leadership position.  Normally you would expect after a substantive course change with that kind of power shift, a move towards competency at least would be forthcoming.  But this after all is Emery, and therefore it's ossified.
Every time a superintendent is removed or a School Board is replaced or a breathlessly announced new program is initiated, we inevitably drift back into the same culture of dysfunction centered around incompetency, lack of transparency, authoritarianism and a general aversion to evidence-based policy.  Politics as usual. The results for Emery where the rubber meets the road, are low enrollment numbers and low student academics resulting in failing school 'growth' and a district-wide lowered ranking.  The only way forward by the way (and the only way not tried at Emery), is to support our teachers, not engage in a war against them, the heretofore default Emery programmatic expediency from an uncreative and ossified School Board.

The debacle at the June 14th School Board meeting is emblematic of the culture of decline that has a stranglehold at Emery.
To wit: A power hungry and vituperative Board President pissed off one too many colleagues (as well as the Superintendent) and found himself kicked to the curb.  Stepping in to correct a locus of dysfunction; that would normally be considered a good move made by a public entity trying to center itself around what should be its core duty.  But again, this is Emery.  So what ensued instead was just another political power struggle.  What could have been a moment of accountability  turned instead into just so much more counterproductive churlishness.  Due to Board factious infighting, what the people of Emeryville now have is a School Board president and vice president that none of us ever voted for; in what should be a democratically elected body we now have two unelected and unaccountable leaders.  That's a terrible place to be with a new superintendent coming in.
The Definition of Out Of Touch
He's working for the kids...blah, blah blah.
In reality, Board member Donn Merriam  joined
colleagues Bailey Langner and Cruz Vargas
in saying NO to affordable housing
for Emeryville families. 
72% of Emeryville voters
disagree with them. 

Post Vargas, there is no reason other than pompous impetuosity that the people of Emeryville couldn't have figured into the equation.  What about democracy, Emery? You know, the people themselves getting the chance to have the people they picked govern this public enterprise?

If the Emery School Board weren't so highly dysfunctional, the Board President would now be the people's choice....the one who faced the voters and who the voters said they liked to run Emery; namely Barbara Inch.  But politics as usual has taken hold once again. This is not a good sign.  It foretells that where we're headed is where we've been.  Again.  A new superintendent, who presents us with a moment of great possibility, will be infected by incestuously base and venal Board politics.  Again.

Now presents a rare chance to actually change this District the Board has refused to seize.
It's rare because we have a new superintendent who wants to do the right thing (but needs a competent Board).  Rare, because this time our new superintendent will be the beneficiary of a "threesy" election this November.  Three Board members will be selected by Emeryville voters.  This aligning of the stars could actually change this school district.
But Emeryville voters will have to step up.  We cannot leave this to the usual lying poseurs seeking office.  Anyone running for School Board needs to face a litmus test.  The test need not be anything only needs to be radical for Emery.  Below are the minimum bars needed for prospective School Board members at Emery:

  • Do they accept high teacher retention as a worthy goal? 
  • Will they work to ensure high teacher retention is achieved?
  • If Emery again fails to retain teachers (as compared with other districts), will the prospective Board member intervene?  How exactly?
  • Will criticism from parents or the citizenry be encouraged?  How?
  • Will bad news or flawed policies be openly discussed?
  • Will rational and evidence-based policy be the default?  Will the prospective Board member be open to public discussion and debate, supported by the evidence, about merging Emery with a neighboring school district if that's shown to be the best course for the students?
  • Will all parents be treated equally?  How about law abiding but unpopular and critical parents?  Will they be treated the same as popular and flattering parents by the Board member?
  • Will the Board member generally support teachers over administrators?
  • Will they own up to failures on their own?
  • Will they be available to parents, the citizens and the press?  Even a critical but law abiding press?
  • Do they think it's possible to measure the job performance of a schools superintendent?  How?

Three out of four current Emery School Board members would fail every bar above.  If a majority of School Board members passed the above bars, the end result would be better educational prospects for Emeryville's children.
We need to leverage this new Superintendent's skills with a normal, not dysfunctional School Board.  A normal school board.  That's something Emeryville hasn't had for more than a generation so it's easy to see how naysayers will spin this.  Our normal IS dysfunction.  But it really doesn't have to be that way.
This opportunity may not come this way again for another generation.  We can't squander this: We need to elect three new School Board members that have a progressive vision of public education.  That's Emeryville by the way: progressive.  All we need to do is keep out the ego driven charlatans, poseurs and con men.  We only have to elect the same kind of people we've been electing for the City Council: not necessarily great, just competent and reflective of our values.  That should be an easy lift.  Remember, we recently elected Donn Merriam to the School Board and he rallied against Measure C, the affordable housing for families bond initiative that passed by 72% of Emeryville voters.  Donn would never have passed our litmus test.  We could have stopped the sociopathic Donn Merriam.  Let's make sure we don't elect another sociopath to the Board.

Let's use a litmus test this time.

Emeryville voters: Imagine a school district that's not in the news....a school district quietly doing its job.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Cruz Vargas Ousted in School Board Shake Up

Cruz Vargas Forced Out as Board President

Brynnda Collins Voted in New President

Breaking News
Tonight, the Emery School Board took dramatic action against their colleague President Cruz Vargas, stripping him of his presidency in an unprecedented mid season forced "reorganization" initiated by unknown Board member(s) and outgoing Superintendent John Rubio.  Mr Vargas attempted to stop the vote that ousted him, invoking ultimate authority, by a unique interpretation of Board bylaws that would require the president to approve the agenda of any attempt to place such a vote before the Board.
Mr Vargas told the assembled crowd that since he did not approve the issue to be placed on the agenda and that therefore the Superintendent "did not follow appropriate Board bylaws" by bringing it to discussion and ultimately a vote, then any such vote to strip him of his power would not be binding.  However, Mr Vargas could not get any Board members to support his attempt to stop the vote and an attorney retained by the Board attending the meeting disagreed with his attempt to scuttle the referendum and the vote proceeded without incident.
Former Emery School Board President
Cruz Vargas

His colleagues removed him from
Board President position.

Unspecified malfeasance on the part of Mr Vargas has been cited as reason for tonight's dramatic purge according to rumors but no District employees would confirm the allegations on the record.  Without any supporters among his colleagues, the vote tonight leaves Cruz Vargas on the Board but without position; the lowest level Board member.

Further exacerbating the dramatic negative public perception at Emery tonight is the Board's untoward and anti-democratic selection of Brynnda Collins as the new president.  Ms Collins was appointed to the Board of Trustees by the Board itself and she has never faced the people of Emeryville, winning an election.  Compared to Board Member Barbara Inch who is demonstrably the most popular politician in Emeryville history.  Ms Inch won 2773 votes when she ran for the Board in 2016, more than any other elected official on the School Board or even on the City Council.
Regardless, Ms Collins acceded in a 4-1 vote tonight (Merriam dissenting) of her colleagues while Bailey Langner, another appointed Board member who has never faced Emeryville voters, becomes the new vice president, in also a 4-1 vote (Inch dissenting).  Mr Vargas, once he lost his gambit to stop the vote, voted for Ms Collins to be the new president.

Regardless of the vote of no confidence by Mr Vargas's colleagues, Mr Rubio, who's final Emery meeting as Emery Superintendent will be later this month, is credited with bringing the item to a vote; giving credence to rumors of a growing rift between the Superintendent and the now former Board President.  Speculation among the public, already circulating regarding rumored behind the scenes misdeeds and peccadilloes by Mr Vargas, will likely run free in the wake of tonight's Board action.  As such, the Tattler will report any substantiated revelations moving forward.

Mr Vargas has refused to answer questions from the Tattler regarding his controversial tenure as Board President.

Monday, June 11, 2018

New Schools Superintendent Named for Emery

The Board of Trustees of the Emery Unified School District has selected Dr Quiauna Scott for their new Superintendent of the Schools after a two month search process.  Ms Scott, who had recently been Director of Instruction at Union City's New Haven School District, will take her seat as Emery's newest chief in July.  After several seasons of rancor at Emery, District officials are hoping Ms Scott will help turn the struggling little school district around after back to back dysfunctional superintendents have brought Emery low.
Dr Scott replaces embattled four year Superintendent John Rubio who subjected Emery to the worst teacher retention record in the entire Bay Area while overseeing a student academic slide during his term.
Dr Quiauna Scott
Emery's newest Superintendent

A politicized advisory committee, hand selected by the Board majority, helped winnow down the pool of nearly 20 candidates and in a closed door process, the School Board interviewed three finalists before voting on Dr Scott unanimously.  In a nod to existential problems at Emery, candidates were questioned on the District's teacher retention record as well as the district's ongoing problems with enrollment including difficulties the district has had attracting Emeryville parents, especially for their older children.

Although Ms Scott has been in public education for 19 years, both as a teacher and an administrator, this will be her first stint as a schools superintendent.

The Board will officially appoint Dr Scott as Superintendent at their June 14th meeting.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

"Unhealthy" Trees Must Be Cut Says Staff: 'Trust Us' They Say

Council Members Medina and Martinez, the Staff is Lying to You,
What More Evidence Do You Need?

Do You Value Our Street Trees or the Staff?

An Open Letter to Council Members Medina and Martinez

As a City Council member, how would you know if your support staff, those paid to provide objective analysis to assist you in your public policy decisions, were subverting you?  Would you get a clue for instance if they told you street trees a developer wants to cut down are "unhealthy" if you can see with your own eyes said trees are bigger, fuller and leafier than trees across the street the staff says are healthy?   How about if you didn't want to trust your own lying eyes?  What if the City's own paid arborist confirmed the trees in question are in fact healthy?  Would you then begin to suspect the information the staff is providing isn't reliable?
Would you start to think perhaps the staff has a hidden agenda if, at a City Council meeting where they were urging you on behalf of the developer to vote to cut down the trees, they told you it's urgent and you had to decide about the trees that evening but then later after discussion when it became clear  to them the Council majority was going to vote to save the trees, then the staff changed their minds and said there's suddenly plenty of time and to postpone the issue for a later meeting?  Would that tend to make you think the staff aren't exactly straight shooters?
How about if you knew that every time a developer requested approval to cut down our street trees, every single time since 2003, some 81 trees in all, the staff recommended YES regardless of the Urban Forestry Ordinance?

Emeryville's City staff says these trees are "unhealthy"
Good only for a chainsaw.
The City's own arborist on the other hand
calls them "healthy".
Would any of that help you to realize these employees of yours, handpicked by a former Council majority that infamously worked primarily in the interest of developers, are hiding information from you that would tend to make you vote to save our trees?
At least two of your colleagues, Scott Donahue and Christian Patz appear to have gotten the message about the staff at the Planning Department (Mayor John Bauters is conflicted out and can't vote on this issue because he lives closer than 500 feet from the project).  We're wondering why you two haven't gotten it.  What more do you need?  The people of Emeryville are waiting for their interests to be taken up by you.

So who is it specifically, that can't ever see the value in our Urban Forestry Ordinance?  It's Emeryville's Planning Director Charlie Bryant, the left over from the days when Councilwoman Nora Davis helped usher in every proposed development project including all the suburban style low slung auto dependent shopping malls we're now saddled with.  He's the same guy that recommended approval of every developer requested demolition of all those single family homes in our General Plan identified Zones of Stability over the years.  You'll recall Mr Bryant wanted to tear them all down on behalf of all the developers but also he didn't want you to know the homes in question were even in the Zones of Stability and therefore to be saved (barring extenuating circumstances).  Charlie didn't want you to know, so he kept that information hidden from you for years as you voted to let developers bulldoze all those historic single family homes.  He only started informing you these homes are in the Zones of Stability after the Tattler exposed him, by the way.

All those years, he chose not to divulge that critical information that would tend to make you, the City Council, vote to save the homes.  Just like how he's now kept from you the arborist's report, commissioned to inform you on the health status of these Horton Street trees the developer of the Sherwin Williams project wants to cut down.  He thinks it's better if you're not informed and to just take him at his word these trees are unhealthy and should be cut down.

Also unmentioned at the April meeting was the fate of the Sherwin Street trees. a different set of trees abutting the Sherwin Williams project.  Those trees were voted to be cut by the Planning Commission on the recommendation of the staff.  The reasons offered by the staff on these trees have nothing to do with underground utilities like the Horton Street trees.  No, the Sherwin Street trees must be cut down because they don't fit the staff's vision of a "unified street scape", an aesthetic vision not supported by the Urban Forestry Ordinance it should be noted.  Breezily, the Planning Commission dutifully voted to kill those trees the arborist also deemed "healthy".  Incidentally, the City Council never got a chance to weigh in on the Sherwin Street trees.
But back at Horton Street, 'underground utilities' should by now be seen as a ruse.  The real staff plan is to do the developer's bidding and cut the Sherwin Williams trees down using any argument that seems plausible.  Underground wires, unseen and scary seem just the ticket.

These "unhealthy" trees seem to be
doing the job we expect trees to do.
The last time you, the City Council talked about these trees was April 17th at your Council meeting.  You'll recall the staff said you must decide right then and there and you should vote to cut the trees because there will be utilities under the street and sidewalk from the project that will most likely kill the trees anyway.  There is no time to waste the staff told you...the situation is urgent: the schedule won't permit you any time to reconsider this at a later meeting.  "Is there two weeks?" asked Councilwoman Ally Medina.  You all were told NO.  But then Councilman Christian Patz, feeling gratuitously pressured asked the staff, "Why didn't we foresee this as a problem when we did the Conditions of Approval?" at an earlier meeting, months before.  Clearly irritated at being given what he called a Hobson's choice and feeling unnecessarily backed into a corner, Councilman Patz wanted to know why the staff didn't do it's job and give the decision makers ample time to decide.  We want to know that as well.  We also want to know why you, Councilwomen Martinez and Medina, aren't also concerned enough about this.  Mr Patz's question incidentally, went unanswered at the April meeting.

It's now June 10th, 54 days after the staff initially and breathlessly told you there's no time left to decide about cutting down the Sherwin Williams trees.  After your colleagues on the Council made it clear to the staff they would vote NO at the meeting, after the staff then quickly reconnoitered and said they'll bring the issue back with more information about the trees (maybe they can be saved?), now it's 54 days later and the staff still hasn't brought the issue back to you.  What are they waiting for?  What before was cast as burning now has turned into lackadaisical.  They seem totally unperturbed.  It looks like it wasn't so urgent after all.  The staff was yet again found to be working in the interests of a developer, sowing a frantic and hasty City Council vote.  This shouldn't surprise anyone paying attention over the years.

They'll come back at you presumably with some new reason to cut down the Sherwin Williams trees at a future City Council meeting.  At this point the staff should have zero credibility.  Nothing they tell you moving forward should be trusted.  Regarding these trees, you should seek outside counsel.

With such a terrible record of your staff hiding information from you, why do you, Ms Martinez and Ms Medina so willingly assume they're on the up and up every time?  We want to save our mature street trees here in Emeryville.  How can you know that?  Because of our democratically vetted Urban Forestry Ordinance.  We don't care about developers and their Emeryville City staff minions.  We want you to see the forest for the trees.  We care about our public commons including our trees and we want you to as well.
This City Council is progressive like the people of Emeryville are.  The staff sure isn't.  Why can't we seem to get past this anachronistic pro-developer staff and usher in a new staff that reflects the desires of the people of Emeryville?  We're not paying you to be nice and to go along to get along...we're paying you to work on our behalf.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Breaking News- Measure C Wins

Measure C Wins With 72% of the Vote

Election Night Breaking-
Emeryville's contentious housing affordability Tuesday vote was called early this morning by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters: YES on Measure C winning 72% to 28%.  At one o'clock this morning the county reported all five precincts in, votes totaling 972 for to 386 against.  Measure C had to pass with two thirds of the total votes.
The Tattler will report more on the story later as Measure C news comes in.