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Monday, September 10, 2018

RULE Hosts School Board Candidates Audience

Rule announces a School Board candidates forum open to the public:

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

HOST: RULE  510-205-5850
WHEN: Saturday, September 29 from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM
WHERE: Doyle Street Co-housing, 5514 Doyle Street (Common Room, 1st floor) Emeryville, CA 94608

Hello Friends and Neighbors!

Please join us 10 am Saturday, Sept. 29 and meet candidates running for the Emeryville Unified School Board. All five candidates (running for three seats) will make presentations and take questions from the community. This is your opportunity to meet the candidates and share your concerns. This is a particularly important election, as our school district struggles to increase enrollment and test scores, and retain and support good teachers. Please join us, and spread the word! All are welcome!

Each candidate will be allotted 20 minutes. The candidates and their time slots are listed below.

Susan Donaldson          10 am

Katy Brown                    10:30 am

Brynnda Collins             11 am

Ken Bukowski                11:30 am

Sarah Nguyen                12 pm

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Emeryville Police Announces Public Debate Regarding Department Issued Assault Rifles

Captain Oliver Collins of the Emeryville Police Department announced at a community engagement event at the Center of Community Life tonight there will be a future public forum on Department issued AR-15 assault rifles EPD officers have been carrying on their rounds here for several years.  The EPD issuance of the controversial weapons, banned for civilians by the State of California, has been a point of some contention since an Emeryville officer used one of the rifles to kill Oakland resident Yuvette Henderson in a 2015 shooting following a shoplifting event after a pistol was brandished by the woman.  Prior to that shooting, most Emeryville residents were unaware Emeryville police had been issued these consequential guns at some point in the recent past and calls for a public forum on the issue began to be expressed by members of the public.

Captain Collins made the announcement of the future AR-15 forum at the 1st Annual Emeryville 'Barbershop Forum', a series of police department sponsored public forums to build community trust after the tragic BART police shooting of Oscar Grant in 2009.  Top brass of police departments from around the Bay Area attended the Emeryville event tonight including the Chiefs of San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward.  Emeryville's Chief of Police, Jennifer Tejada was notably absent however.

Making the announcement to the crowd of 50 or so members of the public tonight, Officer Collins didn't commit to a date or location for the proposed AR-15 forum but presumably it will take place at Emeryville City Hall Council chambers as part of a 'Special Meeting'. Such community forums commonly occur before regularly scheduled Council meetings.  The Tattler will announce the date and pertinent information as soon as it is made public.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Emeryville's Progressive But Incapable City Council

City Council Incapable of Delivering 
Things We Want,
or Securing Protections for 
Things We Have

As Emeryvillians head to the polls this November, 
Questions Loom

News Analysis
Our elected leaders at Emeryville City Hall have shown themselves to be quite capable of delivering progressive labor protections over the last few years, something the people here clearly want.  These are manifest in Emeryville's landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance and the worker friendly Fair Work Week Ordinance.  Additionally, the City Council has gone a long way towards moving the needle on housing affordability with their noteworthy initiating and forwarding of Emeryville's progressive Measure C, resolutely passed by voters last June.
However, Emeryville's City Council, despite being collectively among the most progressive elected municipal bodies in the progressive Bay Area, is nonetheless incapable of delivering on the most basic checklist of minimum livability standards for the people that live here.  Among them parks, bikes, locally serving retail, peace and quiet on weekends, traffic and family friendly housing.
Perhaps more surprisingly, they can't seem to even protect and retain the things the people like that they already have: trees, home ownership and traditional single family homes.  And to that now add something of public benefit from an earlier era (when conservatives ran the show here); a public fire escape at the police station.  It's a trifling issue compared with the rest but symbolic: this City Council can't even protect and retain a public fire escape at their own police station.

On these livability scores, this progressive Council can't seem to distinguish itself from previous Council iterations who's central guiding principal was always to mollify developers and the business community at the expense of the residents.

Each livability issue can be examined and measured.  We know for instance that every year and getting worse each year, Emeryville residents face a degraded park and open space experience because the City Council hasn't added enough park acreage to keep pace with the burgeoning population rise.  The result is a lowered level of service for residents.  The downward projection is easy to measure: we know the population of the town and we know the park acreage and hence we can see a ratio and note how it has continually gone down, even picking up steam as it does so.  We can see by the numbers how our neighboring cities are passing us by on this, leaving Emeryville residents dramatically underserved on parks/open space.
So even as the Council toots its own horn when a new park is added, it's a ruse; they're not telling us the whole story (because it's uncomfortable for them).

We can measure for the other quality of life issues as well; family friendly housing, units proclaimed as such versus numbers of families they actually draw.  Bike Boulevards; General Plan identified metrics to achieve boulevard status versus actual achieved metrics.  Locally serving retail; number of square feet over time against non locally serving retail.  Noise Ordinance waivers issued against denials. Traffic increases over time in numbers of vehicles and intersection levels of service.

Additionally we can track what we're losing: Number of mature publicly owned street trees cut down over time against those saved.  Home ownership versus renters over time.  The number of detached single family homes in the General Plan identified 'Areas of Stability' that get demolished versus those saved.
When these objective metrics are studied, the current progressive City Council is shown to be no improvement over the previous conservative Council and further it is revealed that they are actually worse in some areas.

The Tattler has long chronicled these livability issues and how our elected officials have been recalcitrant in taking them on between elections.  Without getting into reasons of why this broken polity is a broken record, the Tattler will be going into pure data driven territory for this election season.  Just the numbers.  And we're going to take them to the City Council wannabes, especially the incumbents.  The incumbents are going to explain why campaign promises from four years ago were ignored.  We're going to let them tell the voters why and why not, all splashed out on our pages.

We're not going to take anything away from this remarkable Council.  Credit where it's due; Emeryville has gotten markedly better for those working poor among us who toil at Emeryville businesses with this City Council in charge.  Also, the Council has courageously tried to put a dent in the regional and intractable issue of housing affordability with Measure C's $50 million bond they championed. 
Protections for low wage workers, housing affordability...that's a lot from a little city like Emeryville.  Perhaps it's enough.  But for those who think more can and should be done, the coming election vulnerability can be leveraged to try for accountability.  Look to the Tattler for help in getting that accountability this election season.  Next up: the 2018 Tattler City Council election questionnaire...expect hard questions and lots of hard numbers...tell tale numbers.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Emery School District in Hot Water Over Bottled Water Vending Idea

The Emery Unified School District has drawn the ire of members of the public and at least two City Council members over a scheme made public at tonight's School Board meeting to raise revenue by installing bottled water vending machines on the school campus.  The plan, presented by Food Services and Wellness Director Juliette Dunn, would raise approximately $10,000 per year in revenue she said.  But vending machines selling plastic water bottles to students would also run counter to the District's own waste stream reduction goals, a duplicity not lost on Council members Christian Patz and Dianne Martinez, both of whom wrote trenchant letters to the Board.  
The Board did not take action on the plan that member Cruz Vargas called "great" but vowed to discuss the idea further at a future meeting after noting Councilman Patz's letter.
Mr Patz's circumstantiated and pointed letter to the Board and Superintendent, intercepted by the Tattler, is presented:

Dear Emery Superintendent and School Board,

In reading your AgendaOnline for Wednesday August 22, I was shocked to see that your nutrition plan was investigating vending machines for disposable water bottles.  The goal of the plan was to raise $10,000 per year.  Please reject this plan. Instead, sell branded reusable water bottles.

There are a number of things wrong with this plan, but my top three are,
1)   Raising money off your majority low income students drinking of water

2)   Adding 13,000 to 40,000 water bottles to the waste stream

3)   Teaching students that disposable water bottles are acceptable

The environment and social good should come before revenue.  If it were not against state law, I suspect the plan would have been for the vending machines to contain soda and candy.

To generate that level of income, the school would need to sell anywhere from 13,000 to 40,000 bottles per year depending on cost and sale price.  Assuming the total cost per bottle is $0.25, including cost and maintenance of machines plus staff time to deal with the day-to-day usage, the school would need to sell 13,000 bottles at $1.00 to net $10,000.  The number of bottles increases to 40,000 if the price is $0.50.

Approximately seventy percent of your students have been identified as socially economically disadvantaged.  The projection of $10,000 of income means student spending more than that amount.  Emery has about 700 students, meaning each student would be spending between $20 and $30 per year.  That assumes that the student would purchase at the same rate.  It is more likely that the middle and high school students would be the ones making the purchases, increasing the cost per student to $50 to $100 per year.  That is one bottle every two days.

Studies show that water bottle get recycled at less than a fifty percent rate.  About fifty percent of recyclables are never recycled. Using the smallest number of bottles sold, 13,000 at $1.00, only 3,250 would be recycled.  The remaining 9,750 bottles would end up in the landfill or worse, the ocean.  A plastic bottle takes 450 years to decompose.  Double or triple those numbers if the price was lower.

As educators, we are role models.  Students at Emery are learning life long habits.  Making water bottles easily accessible sends the message that they are acceptable.  They are not.  The new facility has quality tap water and bottle fill stations.  There is an opportunity for students to take pride in reducing their waste stream.  Council Member Martinez has worked hard to partner the school with the Alameda County Waste Management
Authority to teach composting, recycling, and responsible citizenship.  Build on that by rejecting disposable water bottles.

A better option for students is a reusable water bottle with a school logo.  We can probably find a sponsor to cover the cost of the bottles.  Ideally, we would distribute them to students sell them to parents, and gift them to partners.  A quick search showed that a nice metal bottle with the school's logo would cost less than $2.50 per unit.  Selling them for $5 per student (700 students), $15 per parent (300) and community members, only 300 would need to be sold to community members to earn the $10,000.  Even fewer if there was a sponsor, which should be easy to find.

Thank you,

Christian Patz

“A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change… Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean. Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish” – The Guardian, June 28, 2017

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Candidates Statements for Emery School Board

Five school board candidates are running in November for three seats making for an historically rare strongly contested Emery Unified School Board of Trustees election, despite their anodyne candidate's statements (presented below).  Although some candidates filed statements with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters for the soon to be printed official Voter's Guide, some did not, presumably owing to the $800 printing fee.  With an eye towards expanding the franchise and informing voters, the Tattler here presents each candidate a chance to present a statement for your consideration.  

Unlike another blog in town, who in presenting the school board statements, held some candidates to a word count standard while relaxing it for others and allowed the embellishment of at least one candidate's statement with a CV, here each candidate is held to the Alameda County standards.  Only up to 200 words are permitted and no other information about candidates are allowed excepting their designation and any website associated with the candidate's election campaign.  Additionally, the Tattler commits to spelling each candidate's names correctly.  
The name order was selected randomly. 

Please note- We could not get ahold of candidate Katy Brown.  She did not file a statement with Alameda County, and apparently does not have a website and so her statement (less than 200 words) is here re-printed from the E'Ville Eye blog, the editor of which presumably she has connection with.  As such the Tattler is not responsible for any possible inaccuracies or problems with this statement and it is posted here only insofar as it can help increase the franchise through voter awareness. 

Brynnda Collins
Emery School Board (Appointed member)
As the current Emery Unified School District School Board President I find myself answering a call for continued change in our district. Appointed to the position of School Board Trustee in 2017, in just a few short months, I have been elected Vice President and now hold the seat of the Presidency.  Currently, I am developing a strong communications structure between staff and community to inform and engage both internal and external stakeholders. My character and leadership – both, courageous and strong has insured a positive impact on the Emery Unified School District family and will continue to do so.

As a proud Emery USD parent of an alumni and past employee, I served as PTO President, School Site Council Chairperson, Youth Development Coordinator, College Career Coach, member on the Instructional Leadership Team, and in the redesign efforts that have built the Center for Community Life. 

Under the direction of new leadership, I am left enthusiastic about continuing to serve. With a strong vision and high expectations for student achievement, quality instruction and teacher retention, I am asking for your support by casting your vote for me to retain my seat on the board.

Susan Donaldson
Mother/Business Owner
I am an Emeryville home owner and parent of an Anna Yates student about to enter 5th grade. She has been at Anna Yates since kindergarten and was at ECDC before that – raised in and by Emeryville! I have been the Vice President and most recently the Secretary of the Anna Yates Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) for the past 3 years. I have been an advocate for the teachers and students of Emery Unified over the last 6 years – attending board meetings, meeting with administration, volunteering and fundraising in and out of the classroom.

I have served as a board member on the nonprofit Bay Area Girls Rock Camp for the past 6 years and work with communities and stakeholders to develop programs that empower youth through music. I also have my MBA in Sustainable Business and run an event rental and workshop company.

I would be honored to serve on the Emery School Board to continue to support and fight for the public education all our students deserve.

Sarah Nguyen
As a teacher and a mom, I feel a deep sense of concern and responsibility for children. For the past 23 years, I’ve supported student success one classroom at a time. Now I am ready to work towards students and families in our community having access to engaging, equitable, and socially just experiences at Emery Unified.

I have more than two decades of experience partnering with families, caregivers, teachers, school staff, and community-based organizations towards our common goal of increasing positive student outcomes. Lasting educational change requires the knowledge, experience, and effort that I can contribute as a member of the school board.

I believe every child can succeed and every family should feel welcome and included in Emery schools. That is why I have been endorsed by Emeryville Mayor Bauters, Vice Mayor Medina, Council Members Martinez and Patz, and Emery School Board Member Inch. Please vote for Sarah Nguyen for Emery Unified School Board. Strong schools create strong communities!

Katy Brown
Parent/Tax Accountant
We have lived in Emeryville since before my daughter started Kindergarten, and she attended Anna Yates for K-4. Given some frustrations we had, we explored every non-private school option for Emeryville residents, and none were workable. We’re returning to Anna Yates this year, and I would like to make it the first-choice for all Emeryville families instead of the only option.

I believe public schools can provide our kids with a safe, high quality education that will prepare them for success after graduation, but we need to focus on hiring and retaining great teachers and providing the resources they need to teach our kids effectively. I believe my professional experience can help with fiscal management and decision making, and as a parent, I’m dedicated to making our school the best it can be.

Ken Bukowski
Former Emeryville City Councilman/Videographer
I have demonstrated a long commitment to the kids of Emeryville including helping approve the Emeryville Child Development Center during my time on Council. Two of my nephews attended Emery High, one of whom I had custody of at the time. I was heavily involved with the ECCL project and want to help carry out the vision the community had for it.

This District is lacking the transparency it needs on school issues. When I was on Council, I successfully pushed the city to video record school board. For years, I personally posted these meetings on YouTube to make them available to the public. This district needs to have open and live discussions about the school issues. The practice has been to keep the problems quiet. I don't agree with that approach. If we are not aware of the problems, we can't work together to solve them.

I think it’s very important for the district to accomplish teacher housing on one of the school owned properties that could help improve teacher retention.

I think Emeryville has a unique opportunity to bring this community together which could be a real benefit for our schools.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Emeryville's Disappearing Conservatives

What Happened to Emeryville's Right Wing?

MIA for November's City Council Election

Running for City Council This Time:
Dianne Martinez
Scott Donahue
Ken Bukowski (the populist)

Emeryville's political conservatives, those among us with a predisposition towards ameliorating local business and developer interests as their central tenet of governance, have been a shrinking force in our town of late.  As of Friday August 10th at 5:00 pm however it's now undeniable: Emeryville's right wing, formally potent and authoritative, has for all intents and purposes, winked out of existence.
Or at least they've transmogrified into a picayune trifle.
At 5:00, once the City Clerk's office closed, the deadline for filing candidate papers thus passed and with it any hopes for an ascendent Make Emeryville Great Again movement dashed, we became aware the Tories of Emeryville have ceded November's City Council election to the progressive elite.
It's going to be a re-coronation of Councilwoman Dianne Martinez and Councilman Scott Donahue.
A Black Hole Singularity
Right wingers in Emeryville have
passed through the event horizon.

Conservative voters will get to cast a single protest vote in the twofer election; former City Councilman, the deposed but perennial Ken Bukowski has again thrown in his hat so there will be the appearances of democracy at least.
Dianne and Scott have the endorsement from the resident advocacy group Residents United for a Livable Emeryville and as such they will mop the floor with the guileless Ken Bukowski, like they did last time, securing for RULE and all progressive minded Emeryville residents another two years at least, total representational power.

But it is the folding up of the right wing tent we find so astonishing; their collapse being so complete and final.

Those of us who arrived in Emeryville in the early '80's found a vile little place run by the all powerful Emeryville Industries Association and a corrupt Chief of Police propped up with his dirty patronage machine.  It had been a matter-of-fact kleptocracy like that for years but it was soon to morph into the doctrinal neoliberal quagmire embodied by the "reformist" 30 year Councilwoman Nora Davis.  Her chief sycophant, Ken Bukowski joined her on the Council for decades after forming the Chamber of Commerce, the libertarian replacement for the erstwhile clubby Industries Association.
The whole affair seemed unstable in the progressive Bay Area.  We wondered how year after year Emeryville voters, by reinstating the hubristic Nora Davis, her sycophants and her developer friend paymasters,  they seemed to present a perplexing vignette of a little right wing burg surrounded by normal (progressive) people (in Oakland, Berkeley and such).
Perennial Council Candidate
Ken Bukowski

A Councilman in the 1980's,
he's running again this year.
Formerly a Nora Davis sycophant,
Ken's an ideologue turned populist;
 no longer owned by
the right wing.
After a time, stability finally did assert itself.  Reality caught up with Emeryville, as mass numbers of (normal) new people moved into town and asserted their (normal) desires, unconcerned as they were with Ms Davis's insistence developers be coddled and in the face of promises of livability to be achieved after a great tricking down of prosperity from the developers.  The Ancien RĂ©gime with its facile and Procrustean allegories was in retrograde, its practitioner/leaders decamping en masse. 
It was in the cusp of the new milieu that RULE and the Tattler were born, representing the new Emeryville; a town like the rest of the Bay Area, shorn of its magical thinking narrative from its right wing high priestess.

So it was to be expected our town would cast off its strange and unsustainable What's-good-for-business-is-good-for-Emeryville ideological overlay.   The change has been underway for some years now, the demise of the Chamber of Commerce coming in 2015.
Even still, we can't imagine our former overlords would be so utterly vanquished.  We're going into an election season with no resistance!  Where did they all go?  For all the efforts of our blogger friend Rob Arias, his villainous right wing tropes offered up to the easily manipulated by his heavily monetized E'Ville Eye, there appears to be nobody home in right wing world Emeryville edition.

It's all so weird.

So it's to be a brave new Emeryville.  Now onward comrades to glorious one party rule, this time from the other side.  What could go wrong with that?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

City of Emeryville Makes Police Station Fire Trap Legal by Proclamation

Building Official Promoted to Fire Official Proclaims Formerly Illegal Fire Hazard OK

City Manager Says it's "Less Than Ideal"

Public Safety Still at Risk at Police Station

Unidentified employees at the Emeryville Police Department, operating without authority and in secret, purposely altered their building's approved design by adding locks to a set of public fire escape doors and in so doing permanently blocked legal egress, putting public safety at risk over the last six years.  Such is the City's finding according to James Holgersson, Emeryville's City Manager as presented at Tuesday's City Council meeting.  With the untoward and eyebrow raising official version of the facts, the City finally provided answers to some basic questions in the slow rolling police station scandal.
Left unanswered at the City's revelatory mea culpa meeting however is why in 2012, after the building received final signed off approval from the Building Department and the Fire Marshall following a major remodel, the police felt it necessary to place locks on the doors, taking away the only emergency escape from the second floor public lobby.  Regardless, the City Council failed to act to return the public fire egress on Tuesday, citing a legal technicality freeing them from forcing the police to unlock the doors.

For their part, the police on Tuesday cited unspecified "changes in Police Department security policy functions" in 2012 as the reason for their unilateral locking of the fire doors.  The City Council notably,  didn't bother to ask what the "changes" were that necessitated such a drastic move by the Police Department.
The City Manager reported inexplicably the police might have been "unaware" the locking of the public fire doors would put public safety at risk and that regardless, the Building Department is "rarely notified when such changes are made" (even though by law it is required to).

For the record, it is illegal in Emeryville and other cities to perform unauthorized work on buildings, including work that impacts a fire escape path of egress without permission from the Building Department.  Mr Holgersson is alleging the work performed by the police was not authorized.  Police personnel are not given powers to interpret the fire code on their own and any unilateral claim made by them that they would escort people out of a public lobby in the event of a fire is not recognized by law.  Only a city's fire official could render such a judgment.  Such a judgement for Emeryville's police station didn't exist for the first six years of this scandal.

The findings presented to the City Council included the admission that the police operated without permission from the Building Official or the Fire Marshall and that the locked doors violated the California Fire Code and left the public with no legal fire escape for six years.  The City Manager revealed that a correction to the violation only occurred starting sometime after July 1st of this year when the City Council elevated the chief building official, Victor Gonzales to include the title of Emeryville Fire Official.  Mr Gonzales, with his new title subsequently ruled the locked doors OK because he says, the Police Department has given their promise to escort the public to safety in the event of a fire.  The State grants the Fire Official of any municipality authorization to so ignore the Fire Code it was noted.

"Less Than Ideal"
The City Manager, James Holgersson told the City Council that although the locked fire escape doors at the police station are now legal by proclamation from Mr Gonzales (as of July 1st), public fire safety there is still not good; a condition he called "less than ideal".  The Alameda Fire Department agreed with the City Manager; an Emeryville representative calling the condition "less safe" than the California Fire Code's provision that the public be able to vacate a building on its own in case of fire.

The City Manager, after noting the less than ideal public fire safety at the police station recommended the City Council approve one of three solutions that would comport with the Fire Code. Mr Holgersson's recommendations were not popular with the Council who said NO to all three citing Mr Gonzales's new ruling that the law doesn't mandate such a public fire escape.
The three fire escape choices offered to the City Council Tuesday included a new exterior stairs added to the building, moving of the public lobby downstairs and the construction of a new ground level public lobby addition to the building.  Of the choices offered to the Council, inexplicably left out was the cheapest and easiest; the simple return to the previous condition; that being taking the locks off the fire doors.

New 'In House' Fire Official
On June 21st, before Victor Gonzales was elevated to Emeryville Fire Code Official (on July 1st), when he was serving only as the chief Building Official, Mr Gonzales told the Tattler, regarding the lack of a fire escape,"Mistakes were made and we're working on a fix."  The City of Emeryville is now maintaining the "fix" is to make Mr Gonzales the Fire Code Official and then deem what was formerly illegal, now legal by proclamation by this in house fire official.  Notably, an independent fire official, as Emeryville had prior to July 1st, might have ruled in favor of the California Fire Code version of a fire escape, causing the City embarrassment and costing money.  In that case, Mr Gonzales himself would have been on the hot seat as chief Building Official owing to his failure to act to protect the public over the six years, warned as he was about the situation.

The City Council failed to act on Tuesday and did not indicate a plan to cure or correct the "less than ideal" public safety situation at the Emeryville Police Department building regardless of the still lingering questions the public has a right to know the answers to.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Stanford Health Care Draws Labor Dispute

Stanford Health Care Low Wage Policies for Contractors at Odds With Emeryville Values 

Stanford Health Care, a large out patient health services clinic on Hollis Street that opened up just last year to great City Hall generated fanfare is in the midsts of a labor dispute with a local union for hiring contractors that don't pay prevailing wages and/or provide sub-standard benefits.  The primary union in the dispute, Carpenters local 713 says they set up a protest on Hollis Street because Stanford Valley Care, a Stanford Health Care affiliate is not operating in good faith and is undermining community values by "denying its workers area standard wages and benefits."  Other Bay Area Stanford Health Care centers have been the site of similar protests.

The sting of a labor dispute is perhaps a bit more painful in Emeryville.  The town has distinguished itself by seeing to it workers here are paid a living wage, our Minimum Wage Ordinance famously is among the most progressive in the nation.

Just a few years ago with hopes brimming for a respected community health facility to be realized for our town, Stanford hosted a gala ribbon cutting ceremony, attended by local dignitaries as work was begun building the Hollis Street clinic site. The full City Council was in attendance along with the CEO David Entwistle as the politicians took to the mic, pouring on the bombast about how Emeryville's newest corporate partner will be an asset to the community, "Stanford has worked at integrating into our community" gushed then Mayor Scott Donahue, large scissors proudly at the ready.

That was Stanford has been revealed to be just another corporate entity that does not honor labor.  Overheated politician talk of 'community asset' and 'integrating into our community' now serves as a reminder that building community is a unglamorous and ongoing process, best when it's free from glad handing and self congratulating politicians.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

City Hall Doubles Down on Fire Hazard at Police Station

City Explores New Addition at Police Station to Solve Fire Escape Problem

Price May Climb to $1 Million or More
on Work Deemed Unnecessary

Staff Doubles Down on Lack of Accountability 

Police Station Runs Afoul of California Fire Code

Complaint Opens Investigation

An internal City Hall memo, recently intercepted by the Tattler brings new revelations about how the City's police station building came to be in violation of the California Fire Code and left the public vulnerable in the fast moving Emeryville police station fire escape scandal: illegal and non-permitted work was performed, adding locked doors blocking off escape. The addition of the locked doors was done sometime after the 2012 major remodel of the building the memo states, by unknown people, presumably police personnel.   Equally intriguing and inexplicable is the assertion made by the memo's author, City Manger James Holgersson, that by placing locked doors blocking egress for the second floor public lobby, the City is not in violation of the Fire Code but he is advising that the City Council spend money to add a legal fire escape nonetheless.
Mr Holgersson is suggesting that the City of Emeryville go above and beyond the legal minimum to the tune of a million dollars or more and provide a fire escape that's not necessary (according to his reading of the California Fire Code).

In anticipation of Tuesday's City Council agendized discussion on the lack of a fire escape for the public lobby at the Powell Street station, the City Manager released the memo to the Council informing them the City is not bound by regulations spelled out in the California Fire Code requiring public buildings to provide emergency legal egress because he says the police have promised to escort citizens out of the building in the event of a fire.  However, the California Fire Code, a state mandated suite of regulations that govern egress for both public and private buildings, does not provide the police escort idea as an acceptable permanent replacement for the delineated 'paths of egress' codes spelled out in Chapter 10 of the voluminous document.

Interim City Manager James Holgersson
Emeryville should spend up to a million dollars
on a fire escape at the police station even though
it's not legally needed he says.
The Alameda County Fire Department has opened an investigation into the matter as a result of a Tattler complaint.

Mr Holgersson, acknowledges in the July 11th memo that the police escort idea, legal in his mind, is nonetheless sub par and the City is presented with "the opportunity to reassess and how to improve the public access and egress in the building."  As such, the Council is being directed to consider one of three what he asserts are voluntary improvements to help the public with emergency egress.  The three choices consist of building a new set of exterior stairs out the front of the building (as the Tattler reported on June 21st), moving the public lobby downstairs or building a new addition to the police station on the ground level and put the public lobby there.  A local building contractor gave a cost estimate for the solutions ranging from as much as $300,000 for the stairs, $750,000 to move the public lobby downstairs to as much as $1 million or more for a new addition.

Chapter 10 of the California Fire Code, BE 1003.6 Means of Egress Continuity clearly states "Paths of egress shall not be interrupted by a building element." Section 1031, Maintenance of the Means of Egress as well as BE 1025.2.6, Doors within the Exit Path all address the illegal condition at the police station.

The memo claims "changes in police security policy functions" after the completion of the 2012 $3.7million police station remodel brought the locked set of doors blocking the public fire escape, work performed without a building permit by unknown person(s).
Any work done without the benefit of a permit, especially work that would constrain a public fire escape is a violation of the California Fire Code as well as a violation of the Emeryville Building Department and Public Works because it involves a public building.

More Redactions
In related news, a Tattler Public Records Request for documents related to the police station fire escape was answered by City Hall on Monday, several days after what the law allows.  The document dump, some 138 emails in all, mostly detail discussions about how and when internal meetings about the issue should take place.  The City, adding to the already redacted information presented to the Tattler, is withholding an unknown number of documents that speak substantively to the issue, citing the following:

The City asserts that certain other documents are exempt from disclosure under Government Code, § 6254(a) as they are preliminary drafts, notes, or interagency or intra-agency memoranda that are not retained by the public agency in the ordinary course of business, and because the public interest in withholding those records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

The Tattler has run a number of stories on the fire hazard at the police station, starting in 2016 but has hit a wall of redacted information on this issue.  City Councilman Scott Donahue said he intends that the City make a legal fire escape that comports with the California Fire Code and also that accountability will follow, regardless of any assertions to the contrary from the staff, "We will find out what went wrong" he said.

The July 11th memo may be read HERE

Friday, July 20, 2018

Emery School Board Majority Violates Brown Act (Again)

Again With the Brown Act Violation:
School Board Can't Seem to Get It Right

New Superintendent's Baptism By Fire

Board Member Donn Merriam
Violates the Brown Act routinely,
but at least he's sanctimonious 

about it.
The Emery Unified School District's Board of Trustees, known for their ongoing problems with transparency, especially violations of the government accountability sunshine law known as the Brown Act, again violated central quorum provisions of the Act at a special July 13th emergency meeting, the first meeting attended by Emery's new Superintendent of the Schools.  The District, despite having been repeatedly caught violating the Brown Act over the years and having responded with stepped up training sessions administered by their attorney, has had great difficulty staying within the provisions of the law.  The July 13th meeting, conducted without a proper quorum, is technically void and any decisions made at the meeting are consequently not lawful.  It is unclear if the District will acknowledge the encumbrance such an illegal meeting engenders and calls to the District went unanswered.

In their usual vacation month, in what should have been a simple housekeeping event to cross 'T's and dot 'I's, the Brown Act challenged Emery School Board once again managed to bungle it.
Board Vice President Bailey Langner
She's an attorney who doesn't know
about the Brown Act.
The emergency meeting, a one item meeting, was set to clear up an undisputed procedural exigency regarding election order; an item the previous Superintendent John Rubio likely missed at the last regularly scheduled meeting, incidentally his last at Emery.  The problem stemmed from the fact that two Board members, President Brynnda Collins and Barbara Inch were both out of town and unavailable, however member Baily Langner, also out of town, phoned in to the meeting via telephone conference call from her employer's law firm office in San Francisco.  Only members Donn Merriam and Cruz Vargas were present in the room.  The three Board members conducted the meeting in that configuration but the Brown Act, very clear on such meetings, delineates that it is expressly not legal to have one member calling in (with two members not in attendance) from outside the District's boundaries.

Member Donn Merriam has been on the Board for almost four years and has been present at three different Brown Act trainings and Board Vice President Bailey Langner, the Chair of the July 13th meeting, is an attorney and one would expect her to know about the Brown Act.  Member Cruz Vargas, recently ousted from his position as Board President by his colleagues, read the school bylaws around meeting agenda items and claimed that the other Board members didn't understand them yet he was silent during this meeting.  Mr Merriam, it should be noted, was quite sanctimonious in his denials of his previous violations of the Brown Act even in the face of the Superintendent acknowledging the Board's culpability, as was the case in a particularly egregious event reported on by the Tattler and the East Bay Times in 2015.

Ousted Board President 
Cruz Vargas
This latest bungling of the Brown Act by the Board majority could have reverberations in the upcoming election season.  Both Donn Merriam, who was elected to the School Board in 2014 and Bailey Langner who was appointed to the Board but who's term is up, could be seeking election to their seats this November.  Mr Merriam, who has shown a fondness for developers and who has opposed transparency and audits seems especially vulnerable.  Ms Lagner, in addition to showing a laissez-faire view of the Brown Act and transparency in general has been criticized by parents and teachers for being detached from District concerns.

The July 13th meeting, the first Board meeting attended by Emery's new Superintendent Quiauna Scott represents a veritable baptism by fire for the new Schools Chief, a quick introduction to the lackadaisical view the Board has on transparency and legal mandates.

GOVERNMENT CODE 54953 (3) If the legislative body of a local agency elects to use teleconferencing, it shall post agendas at all teleconference locations and conduct teleconference meetings in a manner that protects the statutory and constitutional rights of the parties or the public appearing before the legislative body of a local agency. Each teleconference location shall be identified in the notice and agenda of the meeting or proceeding, and each teleconference location shall be accessible to the public. During the teleconference, at least a quorum of the members of the legislative body shall participate from locations within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction, except as provided in subdivision (d which only applies only to Health Agencies). The agenda shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to address the legislative body directly pursuant to Section 54954.3 at each teleconference location.