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Monday, January 21, 2019

Emeryville Families Continue to Say NO to Emery Unified School District

47% of Student Body Are Transfers From Other Districts 

Persistent Despite Overall Enrollment Increase

Student enrollment is up this year for Emery Unified School District but inter-district transfers remain stubbornly high, unchanged at 47% despite a multi-year effort to deliver more Emeryville children to Emeryville's schools, the district announced recently.  The mixed results revealed in a power point presentation at a recent School Board meeting show how intractable the problem has been for Emery to attract students living in the district.

District-wide, Emery has 389 Emeryville children enrolled for 2018/19 or 53% of a student body of 732.  That's effectively no change over last year's count of 364, 53% of a student body of 690.  The middle school's decrease in percentage of Emeryville children (drop from 55% to 52%) was offset by good results from Anna Yates Elementary School where 57% of children enrollees reside in Emeryville this year over 55% last year.
Most inter-district transfer students to Emery come from Oakland Unified School District.

The uptick in total student enrollment over last year represents the first substantive increase in more than ten years for the struggling district.  At 732 students Emery has more pupils now than it has had since 2013 and is operating at near full capacity.

Emery's poor record of attracting local children has been attributed to a combination of low test scores and high housing costs among other reasons.
Emeryville's housing stock has also skewed against families as the town continues its apartment building boom.  What few families that do locate in Emeryville have shown a propensity towards either sending their children to private school, chasing higher test scores or transferring them out to higher achieving districts.  The District has for years set a goal to attract more Emeryville children but City Hall hasn't cooperated.  Emeryville's population has more than doubled since 1993 to over 12,000 now but almost no affordable housing for families has been built during that time.

Notably and inexplicably, the School Board majority rejected Emeryville's recently passed Measure C affordable housing bond which prioritizes affordable housing for families.  The Board voted 3-2 to say NO to endorsing Measure C, with then Board President Cruz Vargas leading the charge against it.  Emeryville voters passed the measure by almost 73%, leaving the Emery School Board among the 27% who said NO to affordable family housing.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Emery School Board Member Cruz Vargas: An Authoritarian Without Authority

Last Authoritarian Holdout on School Board,
Cruz Vargas Warns that 
President Barbara Inch 
"Must Be Kept Away From the Children"

News Analysis/Opinion
Normally a body of relative comity, the Emery Unified School Board has lately devolved into a place of ugly ad hominem Trumpist vitriol, member Cruz Vargas leading the charge.  His political will thwarted by his colleagues, the City Council and the people of Emeryville, former Board President Vargas used his place at the dais to warn parents and citizens that their newly selected president, Barbara Inch, must be "kept away from the children".
It seems a nadir for Emeryville's last authoritarian political soap box orator, the ostracized and dispossessed board member who sanctimoniously and without a sense of irony, rejects the title 'politician'.   He's here not to play politics he says, rather he's here for the children.

Board member Vargas has become a curiosity.  Among the authoritarian right wing in Emeryville, formerly a syndicate establishment that for decades ran this town, he's the only one of them left standing from what was the entire elected political class.  But following a righteous two year democratic purge at the hands of Emeryville voters, there's now a near total loss of authority for Emeryville's right wing.  It's been a slow motion train wreak that leaves only the impolitic and obstinate Emery School Board member Cruz Vargas standing athwart the rubble of the once mighty right wing power elite.

Mr Vargas has faced a recriminatory and humiliating onslaught from all comers as of late.  But it hasn't been without merit.  This year he was stripped of his Board presidency by a unanimous vote of his colleagues in an epic take down over unnamed behind the scenes transgressions, called out publicly for his lies by the City Council and then in November, Emeryville's voters denied Cruz a sympathetic Board majority he would have needed to build an army of followers to beat back the progressive tide.  Rather than graciously giving way to the will of the voters, an embittered Cruz Vargas is instead howling against the democratic wave that swept the last of his kind away, now telling anyone who will listen that Emery's new School Board president and architect of his demise (at least as he sees it), must be stopped.  It's for the sake of the children he says.  Literally....Board member Vargas announced at the December 12th Board meeting when the new officers were being selected by the Board, positions taken by all members except for him, his new job on the Board is to keep the chosen School Board president, Barbara Inch, away from children.  "For two years I've fought to ensure that we keep politics and politicians away from our children.  Barbara Inch has shown where politics trumps progress." he said.

Abject Politics
It's been two years filled with political drama with Cruz Vargas on the School Board, his authoritarian philosophy of education serving as his guide.  An early supporter of and apologist for former Superintendent John Rubio, Cruz moved to protect the alpha-male schools chief as he drove an authoritarian campaign of disruption leading to the worst teacher retention problem in the Bay Area.  Nine departing teachers inveighed against the Superintendent's bullying and racist tactics at a School Board meeting prompting member Vargas to lead a drive to scrub their outgoing speeches from the official record in retaliation.  Dissenting School Board member Inch was the sole vote to allow the teacher's comments to be part of the record as reflected in the official minutes.
Later, as Board President, Mr Vargas led a drive to stop the Board from endorsing Measure C, Emeryville's $50 million affordable housing bond because the School Board has no interest in helping families move to the District, he said.  Dissenting Board member Inch cast a dissenting vote stating that Emery Unified School District in fact does have interest in having families with children afford to live here. Seventy two percent of Emeryville voters agreed with Ms Inch.
Most prominent over the years was Cruz's failed bid to get the taxpayers to pay for a full time sworn police officer to patrol the school campus; the infamous Emery School Resource Officer (SRO) debacle.  After the idea was forcefully shot down by the entire City Council as a sociopathic exercise in service of the right wing's greater 'school to prison pipeline' syllabus, President Vargas swore a quixotic oath to go around the Council.  Using an emotional pleas to parents, Cruz engaged in a pious go it alone political gambit that came up empty handed.  Countering President Vargas, Mayor John Bauters made a legendary speech calling for evidence-based policy on the SRO issue and to be cautious of politicians using demagoguery in its service.

The downward spiral of the delusional former Board President Vargas is quite a spectacle to behold and his displays of abject hypocrisy would make for some pretty entertaining viewing were it not for the disturbing complete unmooring from reality.  In his failed attempt to derail the vote to make Barbara Inch Board President, she the most popular candidate ever elected to the Emery School Board, Cruz Vargas told the audience at the December meeting (again lacking a sense of irony), "Not every Board member should be president."  The guileless former president Vargas added, "It requires a special level of leadership, presence, demeanor, social skills and composure."   Those being words his Board colleagues believe....and acted upon, when they stripped him of his Board presidency.

EUSD December 12 2018 FULL Board Meeting from Emery Unified School District on Vimeo.
Video Legend:
21:12 - 21:50 Cruz tells his Board colleagues they must protect the children from Barbara Inch.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Mayor John Bauters: Democratic Ideals Mix With Good Public Policy

A Mayor of Consequence
Mr Bauters Finishes a Year of Competence 

News Analysis/Opinion
It's not often the Tattler mentions a job well done by Emeryville's politicians- as far the elected's work performance goes, usually no news is good news.  But we're going to make an exception in the case of Mayor John Bauters.  An elected public official who knows the proper role of government mixed with extraordinary political competence has made for that rarest alignment of political stars: a democratic government that reflects with fidelity the desires of the citizenry.

As he rotates back to the City Council sidelines, Councilwoman Ally Medina now taking the role of mayor for the next year, we pause to look back at a year in Emeryville with Mayor Bauters in charge.
Emeryville Mayor
John Bauters

Mr Bauters sees a central role of government as attenuating the growing rift of inequality in our riven society.  And the most important things he accomplished as mayor were designed with that in mind; things like the introduction and shepherding of Emeryville's landmark $50 million affordable housing bond known as Measure C and the daunting but critically needed work of ameliorating homelessness in our community (please see the video below).
In addition, Mr Bauters made community values affirmation central to the bi-monthly assemblies of the citizens, the gripefests also known as City Council meetings, in the form of uplifting 'Community Celebrations'.  These celebratory acknowledgments of the civically virtuous in our town, be they the best of the LGBT community, the African American community, girls in the community or simple citizens officially highlighted before each Council meeting for whom community means a selflessness in giving back, have served to offer to us all realization in the proper role of government.  City Hall, Mr Bauters reminds us, is not here just to fix potholes but to help bind us together into a cohesive community.
Further, Mayor Bauters has kept his focus on budgetary concerns like the payment of an additional $4 million towards liabilities on his watch, saving the taxpayers some $11 million in interest.  He has also reached out to small businesses with a listening series of well attended quarterly town hall events meant to mollify their concerns.

As with any politician of consequence, Mayor Bauters took his share of knocks from the critics for his bold moves on behalf of the community.  He has taken on the label 'progressive' proudly and it has earned him the enmity of the right wing in Emeryville.   The editor of the pro-business blog the E'Ville Eye, Rob Arias has practically made taking down John Bauters a personal crusade.  One only needs to peruse the cesspool that is Mr Arias' Twitterfeed to get a taste of the villainization of Mr Bauters there.
Rob Arias uses his blog and twitter account to promote disdain for homeless people and disdain for those who would help people trying to afford homes in Emeryville while taking on Emeryville's mayor and champion of those issues...that's something one would expect but over the last year, John has kept his focus on what matters.  We remember an issue not related to public policy while we have watched Mr Arias' slimy spectacle; we remember how Mayor Bauters brought to Emeryville a brave young man from Kentucky.  This young man, a recent valedictorian at his high school, had been refused to give the traditional valedictorian speech to the student body there because his hometown cannot countenance that he is gay and gender non-conforming.  Mr Bauters cleared the way for that speech to be in Emeryville at one of our Community Celebrations.  We can't think of a better way to show who we are as a community.
Our City Hall should be used in this kind of way, the way Mayor Bauters sees it, the way the greater Emeryville community sees it.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

City Staff Fails at Sherwin Williams Project to Provide Required Retail Agreement

City Fails to Get Sherwin Williams Retail Agreement in Writing

City Council Comes Up as Empty as 
All the Storefronts in Town

Senior planning staff at City Hall revealed last week the retail component of the Sherwin Williams project mixed use residential development in Emeryville's Park Avenue neighborhood has no written protections that would keep storefronts from sitting perpetually empty despite the City Council expressly garnering a guarantee against that made in 2016.  The Council also directed the staff to protect against the developer renting to chain stores, another condition of approval from November 1st, 2016 that was ignored by the staff and now impossible to enforce.  Time has run out for Emeryville to ensure its retail plan at Sherwin Williams is brought forward; the developer cannot at this point be held to providing for non-formula retail at the site or providing against letting the stores sit empty as was established by unanimous Council vote.  "There are no such protections for either condition" a staff member told the Tattler, "nothing is in writing".
Councilman Scott Donahue
He told voters in October 2014:
"We should require developers to structure
rental agreements that provide for subsidies
and other support to help smaller,
locally serving businesses to succeed."

And so goes the Sherwin Williams project down the same path as virtually every other development with retail over the last 25 years; vague promises made by the developers to providing wonderful neighborhood serving non-formula stores in a timely manner, a paradigm that has spectacularly failed.  City Councilman Scott Donahue  summed it up best at the November 1st 2016 meeting, "It has been difficult for our city he said, The chains have more money, but we have a desire for retail expressed by our community, he added.

The loss of a written retail agreement so adamantly expressed by the Council is especially egregious for the Sherwin Williams project, watched so closely as it has been by community activists including by the Park Avenue Resident Committee (PARC).  Indeed, PARC's entire raison d'ĂȘtre is to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen, specifically at Sherwin Williams.  Emeryville residents would be excused thinking if we can't get a retail agreement that addresses these issues here, we likely can't get one anywhere.

It's been a problem for years here.  Many residential developers in town build associated retail as required by the City but they aren't interested in the commercial rental business and so because the City has never required them to fulfill their retail assurances in writing, the developers simply let the storefronts go empty.  The retail component is chalked up as a cost of doing business by these developers.  Other developers, seeking more traditional profit maximization, will rent their retail spaces out but at the highest rate the rental market will bear.  That generally prices out the kind of retail the residents want, leaving only chain stores.
Amid the exigency of this closed loop paradigm, Councilman Donahue hit upon a new idea to force the developer of Sherwin Williams to underwrite the retail by written agreement with the City, an expanded cost of doing business that actually would deliver, but he and his colleagues failed to follow through, trusting the staff to do as the Council directed.
Councilwoman Dianne Martinez
"Another thing we're hearing from the community 
is the fear of the retail space going empty. 
The landlord might prefer a write-off 
than lowering the rent"
She directed the staff to get it in writing.

The idea that the developers themselves need to underwrite the cost of providing locally serving, non-formula retail has been kicking around in Emeryville for many years but the previous Council saw adding such constraints as anathema to the pro-developer coda engrained at City Hall.  Responding to citizen complaints in 2003, a previous Council attempted to lure better retail instead with a taxpayer subsidy to businesses at the 'Promenade' development, albeit with mixed results.  A coffee shop that received taxpayer subsidies at the San Pablo Avenue Promenade strip mall development promptly went out of business as did a small restaurant but Arizmendi Bakery, also the recipient of start-up help from City Hall has been a success.
The current City Council has so far tried a different approach, attempting to lure the kind of retail the citizens want with a Byzantine system of 'bonus points', an approach that up until now hasn't met with success.  With the failure of the Council to follow up on the staff's directive at Sherwin Williams, the new idea of forcing the developer to underwrite the locally serving retail is an idea that has still not been put into practice in Emeryville.

A viewing of the short video (below) from the November 2016 meeting shows how stark is the recalcitrance of Emeryville's city staff.  The two Council members whom had promised voters to deliver non-formula locally serving retail when they first sought election, Scott Donahue and Dianne Martinez, were adamant.  Councilman Donahue told the staff the developer represented by Kevin Ma of Lenar Development they could lower the rent for the retail if he (Mr Ma) can't find "non-chain neighborhood serving" retail at the market rate and that the rent should go down until it is rented out to the desired tenant.  "We can come up with something simple that they (Lenar) can agree to tonight that would solve this problem and make this a better community." Mr Donahue told the staff.  "I'm all ears to cutting a deal tonight about this" he added.

Emeryville Planning Director Charlie Bryant
Handpicked by former City Councilwoman
Nora Davis, Charlie did not require Lenar to legally
agree to the Council's requirements.  Lenar is free
to leave the Sherwin Williams retail empty
or to rent to Burger King.
Councilwoman Martinez agreed and expressed concern that the retail storefronts not sit empty as so many others have done over the years in Emeryville, "Another thing we're hearing from the community is the fear of the retail space going empty. The landlord might prefer a write-off than lowering the rent"  Ms Martinez said.
The developer however expressed concern that the development process not be held up for anything, "The biggest problem tonight is from a timing standpoint." Mr Ma told the five Council members  'If we would make any amendments to requiring the regulating of the retail tonight, that really throws us off our timeline...  We've gotten to a razor thin timeline with the current approval schedule".  He assured the Council "We will work with the Planning Commission to bring these commitments..." to which Councilman Donahue responded, "I'm satisfied we can say 'no' to your project if you don't come back to us with something definitive in writing that will deliver just what we're talking about."

And then the Emeryville City Council dropped the ball; they never checked on the staff about putting their directives in writing, leaving the citizens with nothing but the same assurances they've always gotten from developers over the last two decades about all the wonderful retail to be coming.  The staff for their part, refused to comment on why they served the developer rather than the City Council they are paid to, "It is what it is" one staffer tersely told the Tattler last week after affirming that the Sherwin Williams developer could rent to any chain store they want to at their project or to not rent out the future retail spaces at all if that serves their pleasure.  It's all up to the developer's whims now.

The November 2016 smoking gun video that 
reveals the Emeryville staff to be recalcitrant.  

Saturday, December 8, 2018


On December 6th, the Tattler erroneously reported that existing Emery School Board member Barbara Inch was endorsed by the resident advocacy group Residents United for a Livable Emeryville when she ran for that office in 2016.  In fact Ms Inch was not endorsed by RULE at that time or since.  Officially that group did not weigh in on the 2016 Emery School Board election.  After Board candidate Cruz Vargas refused to interview with RULE for their purposes of choosing candidates for endorsement, the group didn't request to meet Ms Inch and subsequently no candidate was picked for that office that year.
After receiving tips that the December 6th Tattler story was inaccurate, we reached out to several RULE members who had memory that Ms Inch was endorsed but a checking of internal RULE documents showed Ms Inch was never actually endorsed.  Ms Inch it should be stated, remains popular with many RULE members regardless.
The Tattler got the false information for the story from two RULE members who's memories were inaccurate.  We apologize for the mistake and have corrected the December 6th story.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Alameda County Certifies November Election: RULE Sweep

Election Certified:
RULE Wins Emery Unified School District Board Majority

Councilwoman Martinez Takes Historic 49% of vote

Alameda County Registrar of Voters certified the results of the November 6th elections today, officially confirming the majority takeover of the Emery School Board by the Emeryville resident advocacy group Residents United for a Livable Emeryville.  The election of RULE School Board candidates Brynnda Collins, Sarah Nguyen and Susan Donaldson on November 6th makes RULE endorsed Board members now a majority.  On the City Council front, RULE candidate and incumbent Dianne Martinez sailed to victory with 49% of the total vote; the largest in modern Emeryville history with 3182 votes, representing the largest number of votes ever garnered by a candidate for elective office in Emeryville history.

The historic election cements RULE's power in Emeryville with a popular total RULE backed City Council and now a new super majority RULE backed power base at the School District.  In 2016, RULE crushed the election with the sweep of it's candidates John Bauters, Ally Medina and Christian Patz, shutting down the anti-RULE business backed contenders and turned the previous simple majority into a five for five 'RULE bloc' totality on the Council.  This November's election RULE sweep notably makes the seat of existing School Board member Cruz Vargas the last lonely holdout for the anti-RULE minority in all of Emeryville.

Equally unparalleled in Emeryville history is the fact that RULE has never missed even one call.  Every single candidate or ballot initiative measure (like last June's Measure C the affordable housing bond) RULE has endorsed has passed; a remarkable perfect record dating back to RULE's inception and the election of Councilwoman Jennifer West in 2009 who handily beat her contenders (anybody remember Frank Flores for City Council?). Anyone considering running in two years for the seat now occupied by School Board member Cruz Vargas might want to take to heart the last ten years in Emeryville election history.

NOTE TO READERS:  This story originally contained an inaccuracy and the Tattler issued a retraction on December 8th.  The retraction can be viewed HERE

Asterisks represent RULE candidates
as well as election winners

Friday, November 23, 2018

Protected Bike Lanes Make Their Debut in Emeryville

Bike Boulevards Out, Protected Bike Lanes In

Bike/Ped Plan to be Amended, Writing out Boulevards
Cars & Trucks to Flood Previous Boulevards

News Analysis
Prompted by a rash of vehicles parking in bike lanes and unwanted interactions between cars and bikes, City Hall has embarked on a program to investigate replacing the City's bike boulevard network with 'protected' bike lanes, the first such segment having been recently completed for a part of Horton Street.  The temporary order of business seeks to test physically separating bikes and cars with rubber bollards or concrete 'K rail' in select areas in town as part of a pilot program with an eye towards making the improvements permanent if the City Council and the public finds them acceptable.
New protected bike lanes are being tried on Horton Street
north of 53rd Street.
Difficult to park a vehicle blocking the lane...
The use of protected bike lanes represents a major shift in bike transportation policy for Emeryville that since 1998 has embraced an integrationist policy, the idea that bikers are safest when they intermingle with slow moving cars on bike boulevards versus a segregationist policy, also claiming biker safety, that would separate them (in this case with barriers).  Vice Mayor Ally Medina, the City Council's Bike/Pedestrian Committee liaison and champion of the new segregationist policy says protected bike lanes are likely the best option and the Bike/Ped Plan is in need of an update to reflect the new way of thinking.
Bike boulevards may become a thing of the past, written out of the Bike Plan, if a segregational philosophy becomes the mode of the day in Emeryville.
...except at intersections where desperate drivers
will make bikers swerve out of the protected
lanes into traffic...
difficult with bollards, impossible with K rail. 
The scene of a delivery truck on
Horton Street yesterday.
Arguably more dangerous than
bike boulvards. 

City Hall has not been willing or able to implement bike boulevard provisions in the 20 year old Bike Plan despite its liberal use of purple signs and stencils applied to asphalt declaring specified streets to be bike boulevards.  Any change in the Bike Plan to remove them would be historic.  The required lowering of vehicle traffic volume that's part and parcel of these boulevards have been a sticking point for City Hall.  Regardless that the guiding philosophy of bike boulevards being cars allowed but bikes preferred, Emeryville has encouraged more car traffic on these bike corridors by default, arguing that the extra traffic loading on non-bike boulevard streets in such a case would be unacceptable.  Developers worried that lack of easy car access to their projects would lower their value, have added their voices to this chorus.  Protected bike lanes inversely, allow as many cars as streets can carry, ensuring maximum developer profits while giving politicians cover; enabling them to claim they are working to increase biker safety by removing bike boulevards.

Rush to Protected Bike Lanes
Protected bike lanes are the hottest trend in bike advocacy circles and progressive cities are rushing to install them nationwide, sometimes tripping over themselves to jump on the bandwagon.  It's a trend not seen since the rush for bike boulevards by municipalities 20 years ago when they were the hottest trend.
The Tattler interviewed this biker avoiding the
new protected bike lane: "There's too much debris
in the bike lane.  It's dangerous and you're sort of
trapped in there." he said.
The City will need to invest in a bike lane
cleaning vehicle.
Protagonists point to studies that show how protected bike lanes are safer for urban bikers than either unprotected bike lanes or even bike boulevards.  Studies are generally in agreement on the issue of bike safety, at least for travel between intersections.  Intersections however remain problematic from a safety perspective and some of the studies reveal that intersections are actually more dangerous for a protected bike lane corridor, owing to higher vehicle speeds and higher vehicle volumes generally associated with protected bike lanes over bike boulevards.  The infamous 'right hook' move, that being vehicles turning right at an intersection crossing over the biker's line of travel, is particularly dangerous in a protected bike lane regime over that of a bike boulevard.  The problem stems from the tendency of drivers, not needing to be aware of bikes mid block, suddenly entering into conflict with them at the intersections.  Studies show drivers are much more aware of bikers around them on bike boulevards and they tend to drive accordingly, particularly if the bike boulevard vehicle speed and volume are properly attenuated.
But that has been the problem in Emeryville; there's been a lack of political will to implement the traffic calming measures for our bike boulevards that would make biking safer.  Regardless of the fact that bike boulevards are the law of the land in Emeryville for the last 20 years, City Hall has yet to actually try one.  Even still, the City Council is poised to remove them en masse in favor of the new paradigm.  Vice Mayor Medina put it bluntly; she told the Tattler she is ready to amend the Bike/Ped Plan to get rid of the boulevards in favor of the protected bike lanes if the pilot program shows public support.  That would represent a dramatic break from her colleagues who have steered clear of the controversial move of so amending the Plan, choosing instead over the years, to simply ignore it.
The infamous bike lane 'right hook'.
Not an issue on bike boulevards.

Developers will likely give support to the protected bike lane idea, especially the Sherwin Williams project that will dump thousands of car trips per day on our streets.  New renters will likely balk on high rents if it's too difficult for the car drivers to get to and from their homes that would be the case if the bike boulevards concept were to be implemented.  Protected bike lanes are agnostic on the issue of vehicle speed and volume and traffic could therefore be more atomized throughout our town rather than it bunching up on the arterial streets as it would in a bike boulevard scenario.

Left out of the new equation conspicuously however are pedestrians and people who value 'low and slow' quiet streets.  Removing bike boulevards in favor of protected bike lanes fails to accommodate their interests.  The higher vehicle speeds and heavier traffic on former bike boulevards morphed into protected bike lane streets are more dangerous to pedestrians at intersections and less aesthetic to lovers of quiet places.   Emeryville being Emeryville, even in the age of our new progressive City Council, it is possible these non-developer interests may ultimately not make the cut.

The Rise of Protected Bike Lanes in the U.S. from PlacesForBikes on Vimeo.
Protected Bike Lanes: The hippest thing since sliced bread.  Bike boulevards apparently are yesterday's news.
The video shows how popular protected bike lanes have become but makes a fatuous claim that vehicle speeds go down on streets with protected bike lanes.  Compared with streets with regular bike lanes, vehicle speeds are shown to be higher and compared with bike boulevards, even more so.  Bike boulevards are shown to bring down vehicle speeds the most of all bike corridor infrastructure solutions. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Sarah Nguyen, Brynnda Collins, Susan Donaldson Win School Board Race

School Board Election Breaks for 
RULE Candidates

RULE Backed Incumbent Council Members
Dianne Martinez & Scott Donahue Also Win

With all five precincts reporting tonight but the election results not final, the hotly contested Emery School Board race appears to have swung for two change agent candidates Sarah Nguyen and Susan Donaldson with 1149 and 781 votes respectively or 29% and 19% of the total vote.  Incumbent Brynnda Collins who also can claim victory,  garnered 1123 votes or 28%.  Losers Katy Brown and Ken Bukowski are taking up the rear at 654 and 225 votes representing 16% and 5% respectively.  The three winners are all endorsed by the resident activist group Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE) as well as the Democratic Party of Alameda County.

The City Council race is breaking as expected tonight with RULE backed incumbents Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue winning with 1471 and 1191 votes reflecting 49% and 39%.  Ken Bukowski came in at 319 votes or 10 %.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Letter to the Tattler: Ken Bukowski

Teachers Union Snubs Ken Bukowski and Their Own Democratic Process
As Emeryville's election period begins, the Emery Teachers Association president, Ericka Castillo has drawn fire from community members.  When she recently announced her union had used a democratic process in the selection for their School Board candidate endorsements, it was learned one candidate had been snubbed; Ken Bukowski.  Mr Bukowski is now rightly asking how can the teachers union know not to vote for him if they didn't even hear his ideas for the District.  The snubbing of Mr Bukowski and the democratic process represents an unfortunate soiling of the ETA's reputation as well as a disservice to Emeryville voters.  
Mr Bukowski reached out to the Tattler to help the community hear his ideas for our schools the Emery Teachers Association isn't interested in hearing.
Here is School Board candidate Ken Bukowski's letter-  

Regarding the recent School Board endorsements, I would like to say the president of the Emery Teachers Association (the teachers union) is misguided about the election process.  Of course, the ETA has the right to endorse whomever they wish and I was not endorsed this time.  However, I take issue with a recent misleading statement about the School Board endorsements made by the president of the ETA,  Ericka Castillo.  She told the E’ville Eye blog her union’s candidate vetting process was fair; "the process was extensive and democratic” she said.
Her comment is an insult.  This misleading response makes you believe all the candidates were "extensively" considered, and apparently those not chosen were rejected.  What she’s not admitting though is the ETA did not reach out to all the candidates for School Board.
We were not asked to complete a questionnaire and not every candidate was interviewed.  This in mind, I have to ask, what information was provided to the teachers to make the their ranked choice decisions?
This highlights the ongoing problems the District has had with a lack of transparency.

I'm running for the School Board because I'm concerned about the kids.  I've seen this District go bankrupt twice.  And now, we are on the same road again.
The first time the state ordered the District to sell the Middle School, but (we) the City refused to re-zone the property to accommodate the buyer.  Instead the school was leased and that money helped turn the District around.
The second time it went bankrupt is when the District decided to operate three schools again.  The City ultimately ended up bailing out the District.  The City recognized the District could not afford to operate three schools so we combined all the children in one building so the City could help share the costs.
The resultant ECCL was thus planned to help make the District solvent. However, at the last minute, the full $95 million bond issued to pay for the ECCL could not be sold in the bad market of the Great Recession.  The project was consequently scaled back to reflect the new fiscal realities.  But the necessary elements for the District to be solvent, formerly elucidated by a chaste School Board were simply eliminated.
As you can see, we have a big problem.

The Emery School District is top heavy with administration.  The cost of operating a separate district takes away funds which could be used for the kids education.  But there is a real opportunity for the District to develop teacher housing on the surplus sites (the former elementary and middle schools) thanks to a bill by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond created for this purpose.  I talked with Tony about it for Emery and he said he would love to see his bill help leverage State money to supply teacher housing here.
Having teachers in the community full time would be a great advantage.

It's important for me to put these ideas on the table and I think it sets a bad example when you don't have a fair process from the ETA.
I’m running for the Board to help the district avoid bankruptcy for a third time.  Misleading information put out from those who are supposed to help is not appropriate.  I  sincerely hope the ETA can have a fair endorsement process in the future and show appreciation for every candidate.

-Ken Bukowski
Candidate for Emery School Board

Sunday, November 4, 2018

City Council Candidates Questionnaire 2018: Dianne Martinez

Presenting the Tattler's 2018 City Council Candidates Questionnaire.  Three candidates are running, Ken Bukowski, Scott Donahue (incumbent) and Dianne Martinez (incumbent) and their names were randomly selected for the order of presentation.

Dianne Martinez
Council member/Parent

Do you favor implementing or amending Emeryville’s General Plan rather than ignoring it as a general rule?
Emeryville’s General Plan sets forth principals and goals.  Are there times when we need to amend our General Plan to account for unforeseen circumstances? Yes. That doesn’t mean that the spirit of the document has been violated. 

Name the three biggest problems facing Emeryville right now and how would you deal with them?
1) Housing Affordability – The Emeryville community recently passed a $50M affordable housing bond.  Council will be working diligently to prioritize projects that will leverage additional funding, and have the greatest impact.

2) Homelessness – The City has increased its investment into homeless services and expanded its homeless strategy to include support for a regional coordinated entry system, shelter beds and more. I will continue to support our efforts to get people off of the streets and to keep vulnerable residents from losing their homes. 

3) Income Inequality – I’ve worked to institute a minimum wage that is a living wage, and a Fair Workweek policy that gives scheduling notice to our retail and fast food workers so that they can plan their lives. I am in favor of keeping labor policy enforcement strong in the City.

Our General Plan has much in it that isn’t being realized, especially in the areas generally known as ‘livability’; measurable things such as parks, bicycling accommodation, or even intangibles like the need to create a “memorable” place.  During election season, politicians sometimes demagogue the things that are wanted but aren’t getting implemented.  Acknowledging these livability issues specifically, how can voters recognize when a politician is playing the role of a demagogue? 
In 2014, [Council member] Scott [Donahue] and I did campaign with “livability” as one of the tenets of our joint platform.  In our time on Council, we have expanded the Emeryville greenway, and after many years of negotiation,  we’re close to breaking ground on the South Bayfront Pedestrian / Bicycle Bridge.  We also worked for a secure source of funding for the Emery Go-Round until 2023.

City planners universally measure park and open space in terms of ‘level of service’ calculated by number of residents or users per acre of park land.  Using these metrics, Emeryville is shown to be well below average among cities our size or indeed for any city in the Bay Area*.  How can we get closer to average Bay Area levels of service for park land?
Our General Plan calls for more green space, and I’m confident that the City will have real opportunities to realize this goal in the next ten years.  I think that the residents per acre of parkland calculation can be useful in order to compare cities to one another, however, I believe that this measure does not stand alone when looking at the overall health of a City. 

The General Plan calls for 26 acres of new park land to be furnished by 2029, the date the Plan expires.  However, since the Plan’s certification in 2009, Emeryville has added approximately two and a half acres*.  Acknowledging it should reflect the desired and possible, do you think our General Plan should be amended to show less park acreage than it now proposes, owing to the reality of the large amount park land?
I don’t think the General Plan needs to be amended.  I think we need to keep lofty goals.  As a County, we have a goal of less than 10% compostable or recyclable matter in our landfills by 2020.  Are we close to that goal? No. Has that been our North Star for setting policy that is getting us closer to that goal? Yes. 

According to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and its corollary planning document, the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), our town now has more than 200% of our recommended market rate housing.  Do you feel it’s more important to keep adding to this number than to build more park space?  Will your tenure on the City Council reflect your views on this?     
I think the biggest problem in the Bay Area (and in California) is our lack of affordable housing, and the lack of housing in general.  My tenure on Council will reflect this prioritization. 

Over the last 25 years Emeryville has morphed from a city of homeowners into a city of renters as developers seek to maximize profits by building lots of rental only apartment buildings*.  Is this something you’re satisfied with?  If not, how will you address this issue? 
Home ownership is definitely better than rentals when you’re trying to create a deeply rooted and invested community. As a Council we can encourage, but not mandate, that residences be developed for purchase and not rental.  We can focus some of the proceeds of our recent affordable housing bond measure to create more ownership opportunities. 

For more than 10 years, vehicle traffic on the 53rd and 45th street bicycle boulevards have exceeded the number allowed by the Bike Plan, despite its deadlines that have come and gone.  The newest deadline facing the City to calm traffic as the Plan provides is September 14th, 2019.  Will you commit to either following the Bike Plan or amending it for these two streets? 
I'm willing to look at the data and make an informed decision. 

What are your views on Emeryville’s parking plan?
The parking plan is coming back before Council on October 30th.  As you know, we have a new City Manager, and her analysis has not yet been presented to us. I do believe we need parking management. 

In 2010 Emeryville voters authorized and property owners paid for a public library at ECCL.  The voter’s will has been ignored and the library has not been provided.  Will you make getting this library a priority during your tenure?

The General Plan provides for housing to be built in our town in certain areas.  The Plan gives guidance as to particulars for all housing; things like density, massing, etc. North Emeryville and the Triangle neighborhood have a plethora of traditional detached single family homes that the Plan addresses.  What do you think the General Plan has in mind for these neighborhoods, specifically set aside and identified as ‘Areas of Stability’ as opposed to other housing neighborhoods in Emeryville?  Why is the word ‘stability’ used and how does that differ from the other housing without that protection?
“Areas of Stability” is a phrase that appears in our General Plan. This does not mean there will be no change.

Since its certification in 2009, the Urban Forestry Ordinance has failed to protect our street trees (only two were saved)*.  Also, developers who cut down our trees are supposed to pay fees as the UFO delineates but they have almost universally not been levied*.  Would you favor amending the UFO to reflect reality at City Hall; the desire to make it easier to let developers cut down our street trees and not pay us for it?
From my point of view, Council (especially our mayor) and staff have worked diligently to carefully consider the removal of trees.  I know of many trees that private entities have lobbied to remove, but have been saved. 

How can Emeryville get more locally serving non-formula retail (a stated goal of the General Plan)? 
Brick and mortar retail is suffering as an industry, across the nation. The General Plan was written before this trend.  One exception is cannabis related retail, which I have worked to bring to our City, beginning with my work in 2016 to lift our outright ban on cannabis and cannabis delivery.  Now we have one operational dispensary and another on the way.  Council has proposed a competitive tax scheme that should attract more businesses in the manufacturing, testing, and distribution sectors.  I believe that creating a strong cannabis business center will indirectly and directly benefit other businesses in Emeryville.

How can we know if Emeryville’s family friendly housing policy is successful?  
I presume you are asking about our Family Friendly Design Guidelines.  One measure would be whether or not families are staying in Emeryville and keeping their children in our schools. 

If an inexpensive and easy way is found to provide both, 1) security needed for the police station as well as, 2) a California Fire Code approved fire escape for the second floor public lobby there, would you commit to a public inquiry into that with a mind to fixing what the City Manager calls a "less than ideal" situation?
We have already addressed this issue at Council.  

Are you concerned with the militarization of Emeryville’s police forces, specifically the issuance of AR-15 Assault Rifles.  How about .50 caliber rifles or weapons with even greater lethality in the future?  Some cities have not gone down this path.  Should the public specifically be part of the debate about this in Emeryville?
I have a problem with members of the public having access to AR-15s.  As pertains to Emeryville Police Department, I’m more concerned with “use of force” policy and de-escalation tactics than the actual tools they use to do their jobs. 

Questions for Incumbents Only:

The Sherwin Williams project approval will not help Emeryville housing affordability (comes in at about 11% which is equal to our existing percentage) and the park acreage to be built will actually take Emeryville backward (527 Residents Per Acre versus Emeryville’s existing 472 RPA ).  Also, as part of the approval, you signed a ‘Statement of Overriding Concerns’ that explained how this project is more important than building the Horton Street Bike Boulevard as per our Bike Plan's specifications.  Given the park and bike problems associated with this project and considering our 200% of ABAG recommended market rate housing already built in Emeryville, why did you feel it was so important to OK this project?
I take issue with the assumptions made in your question, but I’ll be brief in my answer.  We are in a housing and affordability crisis – the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime.  We are 2 million units short in the state. I think the ABAG recommendations are too low, and I don’t think that we stop building housing when we get to a recommended number when there are people on our streets and people at risk of losing their homes. 

In 2014 when you ran the first time, you both pledged to deliver ‘level four’ traffic calming for the Horton Street Bike Boulevard because the street was at ‘level three’ and the Bike Plan called for the next level to be implemented.   A traffic count conducted before the election showed excess vehicle traffic on the street, necessitating the installation of level four traffic calming measures (as laid out in the Bike Plan).  After the election, instead of bringing level four traffic calming, you both instead installed a new level three measure, thereby contradicting your promise.  The Tattler several times asked for explanation from the two of you but you both chose not to explain your change of heart on this matter.  Will you now tell Emeryville citizens why you did what you did?
I accepted the staff recommendation.  To my memory, this was approved by the BPAC as well. Also to my memory, not one member of the BPAC came to the Council to speak against the staff recommendation. 

*Source: the City of Emeryville