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Friday, April 29, 2011

Bukowski Petitions To Fire City Attorney

Council Member Bukowski Starts Petition Drive Against City Attorney

"He [Biddle] is the single largest, unnecessary expense 
the City is paying for." - Ken Bukowski

Emeryville council member Ken Bukowski has called city attorney Mike Biddle out for the final showdown in his long simmering battle over Mr Biddle's employment contract, the Tattler has learned.
As of late, it's mostly been a war of words between the two men but now councilman Bukowski has brought out the big guns in the form of a city-wide petition drive to force out the head attorney and eliminate the paid employee position in favor of an attorney sub-contractor position to be used in an 'as needed' basis.

Beyond his questions of competence on the part of the city attorney, councilman Bukowsi says Mr Biddle's contract is too expensive and taxpayers could save money by sub-contracting out attorney services as most small cities do.  "The city of Pittsburg has a redevelopment agency ten times the size of Emeryville", council member Bukowski told the Tattler, "They use outside legal counsel...they have over a 100 attorneys on staff as a retainer for the same money we pay to only one individual [Biddle]".  He added that our city attorney earns more than the Oakland city attorney, "and we're only a fraction the size of Oakland".

Mike Biddle made $287,448 in total compensation last year according to the Public Employee Salaries Database.

The matter of the city attorney will go before Emeryville voters in November if Mr Bukowski can garner the required signatures from residents before the first week of August.   The councilman has filed the ballot measure with the city and the signature gathering processes should begin "in about ten days" he says.  A total of about 590 signatures will be required to place the item on the ballot.

In a possible conflict of interest, Mr Biddle himself could process the ballot measure against him, including writing the 'objective' voter summation for the ballot measure according to Mr Bukowski.  The councilman expressed displeasure at this prospect and indicated the process should be handled by an disinterested and unbiased outside attorney.

Mr Bukowski has obviously been preparing for the move against Mr Biddle; a table will be set up in neighborhoods throughout the city where he will be soliciting signatures and residents will be able to track the location of the table in real time on a Twitter account Mr Buklowski plans on setting up expressly for the signature drive.  A web page will also be set up so residents can follow the progress, Mr Bukowski says.  The councilman said he will devote four hours a day gathering signatures, informing Emeryville residents about the problems with the city attorney and registering new voters.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Web Site Shows Emeryville's Pat O'Keeffe Pulls In $316,952

Database Compares Municipal Employee Pay:
Contra Costa Times Reveals Emeryville City Manager Among Highest Paid In Bay Area

Emeryville residents finally now have a quick and easy single repository to check on Emeryville's employee compensation and compare them to other Bay Area cities, courtesy of the Contra Costa Times.  A quick search around the newspaper's 'public employee database' site enables viewers to see all base pay and total compensation packages broken down into benefit categories.  Emery Unified School District employees are included in the database.

Viewers should select "Emeryville" in the 'entity' section for all city employees.  To compare with other cities, don't specify an entity.

The database reveals that Emeryville City Manager Pat O'Keeffe is among the highest paid managers in the entire Bay Area with a total compensation listed at $316,952.

The site may be accessed here:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Regressive Business Tax: City Council Is Complicit

City Council's Defacto Claim:
Emeryville Is The Worst City Around, And Now We're Desperate Too

We don't rate, we're not worthy, we're terrible, why would anyone want to do business in a city as bad as Emeryville?
This has been the unstated but clear mantra from the city council manifest by the business license tax scheme it has championed for many years.

Business taxes in Emeryville are low...really low.  The low tax rate is further exacerbated by the infamous cap on taxation for all business income over $117,000 the city council has shepherded for the last several years.  No other city in the entire Bay Area has even remotely such a generous tax scheme for business, especially big business.
The only conclusions that can be reached as to why taxes are lower by an order of magnitude are two-fold: 1) The city council believes that Emeryville is so bad that we need to give away the store to have any chance to attract big business here or 2) they are pro-business ideologues. Either conclusion is unacceptable for us, the residents.

If the council only wanted to help attract business to our town, they could have simply offered the lowest tax rate, but to pile on the tax cap, worth millions of lost dollars, is something else altogether.

Now. against this backdrop,  the council would like to raise taxes to offset the terrible financial crisis at City Hall.  The message is that even while we're such a bad place for business to locate that we need to give ridiculously generous tax breaks for big business, also now we're desperate.

As the city council decides whether to place on the November ballot, a change to this irresponsible tax regime, residents would be wise to disregard any attempts to politicize this by any council members running for re-election also in November, as surly they will.  They'll tell us they support business paying their fair share.  But we must remember as we go to the polls, it is they that delivered to us and protected the current tax scheme.  We should bear in mind that the city council has let slip through our hands, hundreds of millions of dollars over the years in service to their absurdly pro-business tax scheme.

Here's your new park
While you read their coming re-election campaign literature, you should think about all the money lost due to this extreme tax code they are responsible for and all the parks they say they want and all the bicycle infrastructure and other amenities and how we now don't have the money for them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Higher Taxes For Big Business: Finance Committee

Move For Biggest Businesses To Pay More
Infamous Business License Cap Might Be Lifted

Tuesday night the Finance Committee sent a recommendation to the city council to allow Emeryville voters to decide if  the much maligned business license tax cap should finally be rescinded.  The meeting, held at City Hall and well attended by business owners and residents alike, was also intended to decide about whether the actual business tax rate should be increased as well as a possible tax exemption for small businesses.  The committee decided to pass to the council, all three recommendations for their judgement.  If the council  OKs the recommendations, probably at a May meeting, then the residents will have the final say in the form of a November ballot initiative.

At issue is primarily the lifting of the tax cap; long a point of contention for small business owners and residents alike.  The current law places a cap or upper taxable limit on all business income at $117,000.  Any income over that amount is tax free.  Emeryville stands alone in the entire Bay Area with its tax cap law as no other cities have any cap on taxable business income.
The law effectively makes small businesses pay much more than large businesses.
The city council majority has long defended the cap stating Emeryville is such an undesirable place for businesses to locate that the city needs to create extremely generous tax incentives to attract the largest businesses here.  It is noteworthy however that economic conditions are such that those council members, formerly defenders of the tax cap, are now entertaining the idea of lifting it.

As the law is currently written, even for business income below the cap, Emeryville's taxation is far lower than its neighbors at .08% of gross receipts.  Oakland's rate is .12% while Berkeley sets their rate at .18%.  Neither of the two neighbors places a cap on taxable business income.
The committee said the council will decide if the voters will be able to set a higher rate as well as lifting the cap, possibly in two separate ballot initiatives.

The staff recommended the committee reject a proposal to waive tax fees for businesses with less than $100,000 gross receipts.  City finance chief Karen Reid claimed no other cities in the Bay Area past or present waive fees for small business;  however Emeryville itself waived the business license tax for small business as late as 1999.  That law, extant for 12 years, was overturned by the council after its author, former council member Greg Harper left office in 1999.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Council Member Bukowski's Public Disclosures Worries City Officials

Potential Litigation Cited:
Council Retreats To Closed Session After Bukowski's Disclosures

After months of incriminating e-mails sent to the general public by Council member Ken Bukowski, Emeryville City Attorney Mike Biddle might be preparing to sue the city, sources close to the city reported to the Tattler.  The council retreated to closed session with legal counsel on April 5th to discuss "significant exposure to litigation" based on claims of "defamation and breach of contract" from the voluminous e-mails  from Mr Bukowski.

Council member Bukowski has been claiming Mr Biddle is incompetent and that he is over-paid in numerous e-mails addressed to "unknown recipients" over the last few months. Mr Bukowski has also skewered City Manager Pat O'Keeffe and Assistant City Manager Delores Turner in the public e-mails.

The e-mail disclosures have resulted in many private barbed responses from the City Manager addressed to Mr Bukowski, also subsequently made public by Mr Bukowski.
The City Manager warned Mr Bukowski in a March 24th letter cc'ed to the city council that "You have made public distribution of matters that you have been asked to be discussed confidentially in closed session".  Mr O'Keeffe added that Mr Bukowski's public e-mail disclosures have undermined his ability to lead the staff.

It is believed that Assistant City Attorney Michael Guina is functioning as counsel in this matter owing to the fact that Mr Biddle would necessarily be barred from providing counsel.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Citizen Self Identification Now Not Necessary At Council Meetings 

The previous story 'Emeryville Rules Persist...' dated April 14th contains an error.  After sending the Tattler a copy of the Resolution 09-249 and providing assurance that no subsequent resolution superseded it, the city clerk's office revealed that in fact the city has deleted the section that stated all citizen speakers at council meetings must identify themselves (5.1 B, 2).  The previous law was in violation of the Brown Act but has subsequently been changed to now specifically allow citizens to remain anonymous.

It should be noted that the two other illegal provisions; (5.1 B, 4) that citizens may not make comments directed to any particular council member or staff member and (5.1 B 6) that no citizens may ask any questions of any particular council member or staff person, have remained law in Emeryville.  This was re-codified on April 5th by the city council as Resolution 11-57.

We're making progress in Emeryville; one baby step at a time.

The following are the two e-mails from the city clerk's office; the first claiming Resolution 09-249 is still extant and the latter e-mail claiming Resolution 11-57 supersedes the former.


Good Morning.  Thanks for your patience.  I double checked my most recent emails and Resolution No. 09-249 is the current version.  This conversion came up recently with Michael Biddle and I still have that email that says it was the current policy.

There were new rules of procedures for committees as well.  Let me know if you would like to get those too.  I believe they were approved at the last meeting.

Thanks Brian.


Tom Francis McGurk
Deputy City Clerk
City of Emeryville
1333 Park Avenue
Emeryville, CA 94608
(510) 450-7800 phone
(510) 450-7831 fax


My apologies, this is the current version of the Council Rules and Procedures.   It was associated with the April 5, 2011 agenda item.


Tom Francis McGurk
Deputy City Clerk
City of Emeryville
1333 Park Avenue
Emeryville, CA 94608
(510) 450-7800 phone
(510) 450-7831 fax

Emeryville Rules Persist In Pre-Enlightenment Era

It's Back To The Sixteenth Century At City Hall

Emeryville may be perceived as backwards by some residents, city planners or government watchers in general but what most are likely unaware is just how backwards it actually is.
Take the council 'Rules of Proceedure': In section number 5.0 of  Resolution #09-249, the rules that govern how to run city council meetings, acceptable citizen behavior is addressed.....or maybe a better word is suppressed.  Citizens are advised, when approaching the city council for petition of grievances against their government, to watch out or they may find themselves afoul of the law and arrested.

The extreme anti- democratic and illegal rules contained in Resolution 09-249, adapted by the city council  in  2009, have recently been extended to cover all official city committee meetings, expanding City Hall's claim of extra-constitutional faculty.  

Section 5.1 B, 4 of the 2009 Resolution  clearly states that if a citizen is speaking at the 'public comments' part of a council meeting, they may not direct any comments to the mayor, any particular council member, or even staff member.  Instead, all comments must be directed to the government "body" in the aggregate.
How this manifests itself is counter to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution; if a citizen complains that the mayor or the city manager for instance has done a bad job with some particular public policy, that citizen has violated the law and is subject to arrest.

The  resolution goes on; Section 5.1 B, 6 makes it an arrestable offence for any citizen to directly ask a question of any single council member or staff member at the council meetings.

In addition to the above two unconstitutional Emeryville laws is Section 5.1 B, 2 which states that all speakers must give their names and addresses before speaking, a direct violation of the Brown Act, Sacramento's 'transperancy in government' act.*

Emeryville Resolution 09-249 provides that citizen violators of the enumerated rules are subject to arrest at the discretion of the presiding officer.

After citizens complained of the government overreach embodied in the resolution in 2009, the council chose to leave intact its illegal provisions and this remains the law of the land today.

Constitution lovers and responsible government champions may be heartened to hear that some citizen prerogative remains in Emeryville and it is still legal to look directly at the council members when addressing them and it's still OK to turn one's back on the council members upon finishing one's speaking.

*Note: This section was revised and has since been rescinded.  This correction to the story was made on 4/14.  Please read 'correction' story 4/14 -Editor

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Emery School District To Investigate Loyalty Oath, God Indoctrination

School Board Considers Removing Loyalty Oath, God Praising At Schools

The Emery Unified School District school board announced at their regularly scheduled March 28th meeting, they will debate the prudence of continuation of the daily recital of the Pledge of Allegiance for Emeryville's school children.  The board committed to engaging in a public debate on the merits of the pledge, essentially a loyalty oath, at a future to be announced meeting and possibly changing school district policy as a result.

The monotheistic god Zeus.
The State of California requires each school district have a daily policy of "patriotic" instruction and most districts statewide interpret this as a reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.  The State makes no such claim however, opening up the possibility for other forms of patriotic instruction.  The official policy right now is that the Emery United School District allows each teacher discretion over the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Some pro-pledge parents invoke the State mandated "opt out" privileges that allow parents to have their children to sit quietly while the oath is administered but this has been shown to be a false choice, owing to the coercive nature of classroom interpersonal dynamics and child psychology.

School Board member Cheryl Webb questioned the need for the oath at the March 28th meeting and she indicated since the State of California doesn't require the district to administer the pledge with it's monotheistic god reference, perhaps Emeryville itself should opt out.  Ms Webb said it might be a "good idea" to stop the children's mindless recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and instead have the children learn the Articles of the US Constitution as a more educational implementation to satisfy Sacramento's patriotic instruction requirement.
Ms Webb noted she thinks Emeryville school children should be aware of the Pledge of Allegiance and even to know the words, just not the daily recitation of it, "It is a part of our culture" she intoned.

Zeus, doing the god thing.
Secular humanist parents have long called the Pledge of Allegiance a god indoctrination that has no place in public schools.  Secular and atheist parents have called the praising of god contained within the pledge a subversion of parental rights and an unnecessary and heavy handed government intrusion into inalienable parental rights to teach their children as they see fit about god.  The actual pledge itself, being a loyalty oath, is demonstrably counter to the district's goal of teaching children critical thinking skills.

Is this really what patriotism looks like?
While the School Board has promised to take up this issue, atheist and secular parents may have to wait some time for justice.  Board member Josh Simon acknowledged the importance of the issue but he noted the two most pressing agenda items before the board; the budget crisis and the selection of a new school superintendent, "Don't expect this to be resolved in the next month or two" he warned.  The Tattler will report any developments in this issue.  

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wareham Development: Bad Corporate Neighbors

Wareham: Bad Corporate Neighbor Gets Big Favors From City Hall

Whenever it comes time for City Hall to dole out the corporate welfare, Wareham Development is always there at the front of the line but Wareham isn't very appreciative of the taxpayers generosity and when it comes time to reciprocate with some civic mindedness, they've shown a notable lack of neighborliness.  The current Horton Street bike boulevard debacle is only the latest in a long history of selfish Wareham public policy advocacy.  It seems Wareham is looking out only for their interests, their loud public relations lamentations notwithstanding.

After Wareham's development projects received millions in taxpayer funded subsidies (including the shoddily built leaking and black mold ridden Terraces condos) and after they they received numerous zoning regulation pardons from City Hall and after they received a City Hall backed hostile eminent domain real estate taking from a rival developer, now Wareham says they will not tolerate a bicycle boulevard on Horton Street.  Wareham is worried that cars generated by their developments will be slowed down by bicycles on the street so they're insisting that the bikes be shunted over in a zigzag to an area behind their buildings near the rail road tracks.

Wareham has long enjoyed the support of the city council majority whenever it has asked for special favors from City Hall and the support until now has been reciprocal; the same council member friends have for years been receiving generous donations for their re-election campaigns by Wareham.
While the Tattler has long been critical of the cozy relationship between Wareham and their council majority benefactors, this turn against the Horton Street Bike Boulevard by Wareham is beyond the pale.  Obviously, Wareham expects the same kid glove treatment it has always received and no doubt it expects the council to rule against the bike boulevard regardless of it's $200,000 taxpayer funded study.

We will insist that the unanimous wishes of the bike/pedestrian committee and the vast majority of Emeryville citizens be honored by the city council and to Wareham we say shame on you for this latest example of bad neighborliness.

For more on this story please read the Tattler story of April 5th and search "Wareham" in the Tattler search engine.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cyclists Given a Fighting Chance

Committee Makes Definitive Vote: YES To Bikes On Horton Street

Emeryville's increasingly dangerous main bicycle route won a rare victory last night, when a city advisory board unanimously adopted measures aimed at limiting the surging number of motor vehicles using the road.
The vote came in defiance of Emeryville's largest property owner, San Rafael-based Wareham Development Co., and one of the city's most important employers---Swiss Pharmaceutical behemoth Novartis.
Members of the city's Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee unanimously adopted a proposal that reduces the speed limit on the city's so-called 'bicycle boulevard' to 20 miles per hour and also forbids more than 3,000 motor vehicles from driving on it per day. If traffic exceeds that level, a series of speed bumps or other measures to discourage motor vehicles would be installed.
The 'bike boulevard' consists of Overland and Horton Streets from 65th to 40th. It connects with bike routes in Oakland in the south and a bike lane that leads to a bike path in Berkeley's Aquatic Park.
The most heated part of the committee vote was one defining exactly what a 'bike boulevard' is. Several years ago the city council chose to erase bicycle lanes already along the streets and designate the route a 'bicycle boulevard.' However, the council never bothered to define the term.
Bicyclists, who 20 years ago could ride just about anywhere in a then, largely industrial Emeryville now compete for road space with all the traffic generated by the city's big-box retail boom. Frequent close calls and even road rage are becoming more common.
After years of complaints about growing dangers faced by people choosing to walk or ride a bicycle in Emeryville, the council commissioned a new $200,000 bicycle/pedestrian plan from Alta Planning, a Berkeley consulting firm. But the report brought sharp condemnation from both Wareham and Novartis.

Wareham's Emery Station East: This and other Wareham
developments on Horton Street have added substantially
to the 4600 cars per day.
In a sharply worded letter to the city, Wareham reiterated previous proclamations that cyclists don't belong on Horton Street and instead should be relegated to an non-existent street west of its property along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.  Geoff Sears, representing Wareham said the plan would "negatively impact" cars commuting to proposed new office buildings including the council approved 'Transit Center' on Horton Street.   According to Mr. Sears, cars and trucks need unimpeded access along the entire length of Horton Street to access Wareham property and that cyclists would hamper such access.
In an April 4th letter, Mr. Sears complained that the 'bike boulevard' plan was too friendly to bikes and was written from a "bicycles only" perspective.  The letter also reminds city officials that Wareham is the single largest property owner in the area and warned that Wareham's operations would be at risk if Horton Street were a bike boulevard.
Novartis also wrote a letter to the city complaining that they need more cars on Horton Street.

The plan developed by Alta and approved by the committee calls for traffic calming measures to be employed if vehicle speeds regularly exceed 20 MPH or if volumes rise above 3000 trips per day.  No specific traffic calming measures were adopted by the committee Tuesday but they generally range from side walk intersection 'bulb outs' to traffic diverters.

City traffic counts show vehicle traffic on Horton Street is already over 3000 trips per day along much of the boulevard and that it spikes to more than 4600 per day near Wareham's developments.  The 'Transit Center', an office tower proposed for the vacant lot to the north of the Amtrak station will bring many more cars onto the street.

Monday's committee vote makes the third time the body recommended traffic calming measures.  Twice before, the city has moved against the bike committee; once at the transportation committee level and once by the city council.  The newest vote for bike safety on Horton Street also could be crushed by the transportation committee or the city council in upcoming decisions.
However, Monday's vote carried more weight than previous ones because it supports a new $200,000 document commissioned and paid for by the city.