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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Council Selects New Planning Commissioner

Tuesday night the city council appointed Emeryville resident Sean Moss to the Planning Commission in a 4-1 vote.  Mr Moss replaces retiring Commissioner Art Hoff.  The vote was contentious as the council received many letters of support from citizens endorsing both Mr Moss and Emeryville resident Sam Kang.

In a highly irregular move, council member Ruth Atkin killed an impeding vote on Mr Kang by substituting an alternate motion to appoint Mr Moss.  The council then voted on Mr Moss:

Ruth Atkin, Nora Davis and Kurt Brinkman and Jennifer West: AYE
Jac Asher: NO.

Mayor West had moved a vote on Mr Kang which was seconded by Ms Asher but Ms West changed her mind and voted with the majority after her initial motion for Mr Kang was deep sixed.

Council watchers expressed dismay at the refusal to allow a vote on Mr Kang.  One RULE member who chose to remain anonymous intoned, "It looks like Ruth Atkins' [hoped for] 'swing vote' status isn't going to swing.  We're going to have to have one more election to finally break up business as usual in Emeryville."


  1. I believe Sean will be a great addition to the Planning Commission. IMHO he is neither pro-development nor anti-development - he believes in guiding development according to the GENERAL PLAN, which is the way it should be: not undermining the general plan with special exceptions, and not looking for a way to block development for projects that fit the vision of the General Plan (the new General Plan, btw, which had tons of resident input).

    My fear is appointing a candidate who is anti-development. Not anti- General Plan "exceptions" but just simply anti-development.

    I also think Sean is a good fit because he is a Triangle condo resident, and brings an additional point of view to the Planning Commission.

    Finally, I think the democratic process worked for once. If you recall, I applied for Planning Commission several election cycles before and when I asked why Ken Bukowski didn't consider me, he told me in open session that the appointments to the Planning Commission were essentially a political plum that rotated from Council Member to Council Member, and it was his turn, and he was making his selection on criteria beyond basic qualifications. A political plum, in short (just as Nora appointed her favorites in her time).

    This time, the entire Council participated. It is to Jennifer's credit that she was willing to be a voice independent from (but not against) RULE, which had a large part in her election. She took the party (RULE) line at first, but when it was evident Sean had a majority she graciously joined in. Ruth is clearly trying to mediate between the development interests (who would undoubtedly have preferred someone pro-development and not pro-General Plan) and the progressive interests (who would clearly have preferred someone out and out anti-development). That is actually the way a democracy is supposed to work - through compromise - as compared with the Republican approach during last years budget crisis.

    If RULE is to be a lasting, revived force in Emeryville politics, it needs to appeal to a broad base of residents and not polarize or alienate moderate interests. I was a little nervous about the whole process when an email from RULE landed in my box not to discuss the pros and cons of Sean vs. Sam nor to invite them to present their positions or debate, but to endorse Sam. All this stuff, even the grass roots level stuff, needs to have deeper community participation, consensus building, and "buy in." If I had had a chance to hear Sam and Sean in an open RULE sponsored forum I would have been much more likely to support RULE's candidate, but lacking that, no matter how much some people in RULE support Sam, I supported Sean instead.

    So long as Ruth is making good choices I won't write her off for failing to be the expected RULE-favoring "swing" vote. In fact it is good to have an independent "swing vote" - as the populist, progressive wing of Emeryville politics, we should be working to EARN her vote, not expecting it nor condemning her when we do not get yet. I simply do not see a vote for Sean as a vote for business as usual. Once you get to know him, I suspect you may even come to begrudgingly like Sean! Let's see what happens with him and keep our lines of communication open with him, not burn our bridges.

    Just my off the cuff, honest 2 cents.

  2. A substitute motion isn't particularly irregular. It has historically happened a lot with Planning Commission appointments. In fact, if memory serves, Councilmember West nominated Sean Moss to the Commission last year, after which one or two substitute motions were made and the result was Buzz Cardoza being reappointed.

  3. To Michael Webber:
    Sam Kang agreed to a RULE interview and Sean Moss did not from what I understand. So it's sort of understandable that RULE would support the candidate that they interviewed.
    Further, I think many progressives would take issue with you claim that to be progressive is to be anti-development. Progressives are pro-resident.
    I think your argument lacks sophistication. Progressives actually are in favor of Smart Growth, that is the increased densities of cities to help stop suburban sprawl. It is the conservative side that supports low slung suburban style low density shopping malls in cities. This is mostly because this style of development with its big parking lot out front to encourage auto use, is preferred by developers...its the most profitable way of developing. Seen this way, a more accurate picture of progressives is that they, in fact are MORE pro-development than conservatives.

    Also, generally it is the gated community, usually associated with conservative living choices and wealthy neighborhoods that are most prone to wallow in NIMBYism. These neighborhoods usually are the most vociferously anti-development.

    Watch your bad stereotypes there, friend.

  4. Addendum to Mr Webber-
    I checked and I found out that RULE did indeed interview Sean Moss (my guess above, that no interview took place was incorrect). It seems RULE was simply more impressed with Mr Kang's interview.

  5. mr. webber:

    i attended the planning commission meeting jan. 26 when the commissioners were to "consider" the applicants. after questioned by buzz cardoza, charlie bryant informed us that eight applications had been received: three were new and five had previously submitted their applications. he said that the five applicants had been contacted to see if they were still in the running and that their applications may or may not have been updated. applicants also had the opportunity to attend this meeting and speak for three minutes. only lois brown and samuel kang showed up.

    as it turned out, two of the five applicants had not been contacted by the city including sean moss. and he was not aware, as possibly the other applicants, that they could have attended this meeting, introduced themselves and offered their three minute vision of emeryville.

    furthermore, the applications were available online included with the agenda for the jan. 26 meeting.

    during the vote on her substitute motion, she all but stood up endorsing sean moss. the upshot is that ruth atkin made a motion that should another vacancy arise as this one, the council will hold a special meeting to interview all applicants instead of this loose, disorganized, haphazard method.

    i supported samuel kang because i heard him speak and read his application, not where he lives. also mr. moss made several comments that i totally disagreed with such as there is sufficient family housing but not enough outdoor amenities. and he did not know what community benefits meant.

    so please, do not blame r.u.l.e. because you did not know the backgrounds of the applicants.

  6. I met Sam Kang some time ago and was so impressed with his clarity of thought, ability to hold multiple perspectives, be mindful, and really care about working with diverse groups of players. His resume demonstrates that many, including Alameda and State level players feel the same. I am looking for young, bright people to support politically as Emeryville transitions from one generation to the next. I have also met Sean Moss, another young person who cares about the city. My reason for supporting Sam, and I find that I think about him often in terms of the city's political future, is that he is a big thinker, bright and creative, and frankly this is what the city needs right now. Sean is also part of the new generation of Emeryville residents that should be given attention. However, he is not of the same calibre as Sam. And this is no offence to Sean, it is just as it is. I hope both Sam and Sean and their families continue to stay in Emeryville and work to make the change we need. I am excited that these young men care enough to be involved and want the city to be their permanent home.
    Ruth Major, resident since 1984

  7. @ Shirley, Ruth -

    I just wish the RULE process had been more open and involved more of the membership (I paid dues in January though I have not filled out any formal application - if one is required), not to mention the public in general. I don't want to see RULE fall into the same situation as the CIty Council, where a small inner circle makes all the decisions without input from the larger community which is aligned (or potentially aligned) in interest. Consensus building is very important to me.

    That having been said, I am glad we have not one, but two, new, young voices in Emeryville! I read Sam Kang's letter to the editor and it was very gracious.

    @ Brian - kudos for the fact finding. You remain as always our best fact-checker and b.s. deflater in town. BTW, have you been getting the courtesy (not legally required) email notices of the COC meetings? I seem to have been "dropped" from their list, unless my Spam filter is eating their emails (I checked my Spam box to no avail).

  8. So, it looks like Michael Webber is all right with subverting democracy when he likes the outcome.
    Smooth, real smooth.

    Both candidates should have been voted on.
    These city council appointments have got to stop, it's what keeps getting Emeryville in these messes cause your city council just LOVES cornyism.

  9. I am never alright with subverting democracy. Democracy means honoring an open and transparent process. It doesn't mean one candidate or another is destined to win because in the eyes of his or her supporters he or she is the "better" candidate.

    My gripe with City Hall is that there is less openness and transparency than I think the community deserves.

    In terms of particular agendas, it is up to us as an electorate to groom, select, and support candidates that will most closely align with our interests and be good for the community and be effective. If we are not doing that this year - at least in terms of getting to know potential candidates - next year will go to entrenched interests, not new voices.

    In terms of my personal opinion I will be frank and honest:

    I like John Fricke's core principles, but felt he was not inclusive of the entire community and lost effectiveness as a result.

    I believe Jennifer West has matured, in a remarkably short time, into an effective, balanced leader.

    I applaud Jaq Asher's election because she deeply cares about our community and redresses the prior imbalance (business interests vs. residents' interests) and is a person of deep personal integrity (as reflected by her hold-out vote for Sam).

    I think Ruth Atkin is vital in terms of providing balance to the City Council. Sometimes she will be on the residents' side and sometimes on the side of the business interests - but we (as residents rather than other stakeholders) can never afford to push her to the business side by overly criticizing her for a particular vote, and making her think we forget the good she has, and will, do. Calling our disappointment to her attention is one thing and explaining rationally, not emotionally, why we wish she had made a different choice is one thing. Unduly "attacking" her is counterproductive in the long run.

    I do not believe Brian D. "unduly" attacked her. He was simply letting her know that we have an active electorate that is concerned about her decision. Anyone who hasn't been "attacked" by Brian at some point in Emeryville isn't being honest in their opinions. Brian's job is to deflate arrogance, push for openness, and turn over the rocks with their dirty secrets hidden underneath when politicians lie ... or fail to deliver.

    I do believe it is important, as a counterbalance, for some of us to come to her defense rather than let her think we don't recognize her voice or its validity. For that reason I believe it is unfortunate that readers here see Ruth's vote as a subversion, and not an expression of, the democratic process.