Search The Tattler

Saturday, March 31, 2012

8 AM Tuesday: School Board To Vote To Spend $1.5 Million

School Board To Citizens:  
"You Want Transparency?  We Got Your Transparency Right Here!"

The Emery School District says they're all about transparency and citizen engagement....and that's what they are.... between the hours of 8 and 8:30 AM during the week when parents and citizens are working.  Are they believers in transparency at times when the citizens are free to participate? Well...not so much.

After the Oakland School District shut their Elementary School, Santa Fe, Emery has made a play for use of it during construction of the new school at the Center of Community Life.  The cash strapped Emery plans on paying Oakland $1.5 million over three years even though Emery has Ralph Hawley Middle School sitting idle; some might call this a controversial use of public money.
The School Board decided in closed session at last week's regularly scheduled Board meeting to lease Santa Fe School.  California law requires the binding vote for this to be public however so that's obviously where the School Board thinks a 8 AM weekday meeting would come in handy.

'Make sure the controversial votes happen when nobody is looking'...that's how far down the Emery School District has sunk: they're now on par with the anti-democratic tactics used by the Oakland School District.

Emery even made use of a Friday Afternoon News Dump to announce the 8 AM meeting, a well worn tactic elites use to sneak something unsavory past a civically disengaged public.

Oakland School District for it's part used this same weekday work hours tactic to disenfranchise parents as they voted to shutter Santa Fe Elementary, a move that brought the ire of the local school advocacy group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary).  Emery's quashing of parental engagement on Tuesday morning at the High School's Emery Theater invites a BAMN action to our District.

We cry foul to this nefarious anti-democratic action by the School Board.  We implore Emery School District to not lower itself to these divisive Oakland tactics.  We say, let the people have a say in this very important decision.

Emeryville Police Catch Alleged Kidnapper

Re posted from the Oakland Tribune:

Emeryville police arrest man suspected in two sex-related attacks

Updated:   03/30/2012 10:24:17 PM PDT

A 30-year-old Oakland man faces a possible life sentence after being charged 
with four felony counts in connection with sex-related attacks on two women earlier 
this month in Emeryville, police said Friday.
Emeryville police Detective Eric White said both women have identified Bashar 
Aremu as their attacker.
White said Aremu has denied involvement in the attacks, which happened 
March 10 and 14.
Aremu has been charged with two counts of kidnapping to commit a sex crime or robbery, one count of 
sexual battery and one count of false imprisonment. The kidnapping to commit a sex crime or robbery 
charge carries a life with possibility of parole sentence if he is convicted. He is being held without bail 
and is scheduled to enter a plea April 12.
Police said Aremu wore a security guard uniform in the March 14 attack when he followed a woman 
to her car, which was parked in a garage in the 2100 block of Powell Street. The woman, who White 
said heroically "kept her cool," told police the man put a knife to her neck, forced her into her car trunk 
and threatened to rape and kill her.
She was able to open the trunk and escape after the car stopped at the garage's exit.
In the March 10 incident, a restaurant employee said a gunman grabbed her by the throat, demanded 
money and forced her to remove her shirt and lie on the floor in the back of the restaurant before he fled.
Police quickly identified Aremu as the suspect and began

Friday, March 30, 2012

Angry Oakland Residents See Their Local School Go To Emeryville

Re-posted from the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism's Oakland North:

A day after heated meeting, OUSD board votes to lease Santa Fe Elementary to Emeryville

Oakland Tech history teacher Tania Kappner addresses the board on Wednesday morning, with TV cameras behind her.

The lights went out in the OUSD building at 1:30 pm on Thursday.
The Oakland Unified School District board reconvened Thursday afternoon after Wednesday night’s meeting was adjourned early thanks to chanting protesters who drowned out the board members’ discussion. Nine people were arrested later that night when they refused to leave the chambers as they protested the shutdown of five elementary schools.
To the displeasure of most of the crowd of about 30 people present on Thursday, board voted to lease Santa Fe Elementary School, one of five schools scheduled to close after this school year, to the Emeryville School District for three years at $500,000 a year. The board voted 4-0, with Alice Spearman (District 7) abstaining, and members Jumoke Hinton-Hodge (District ) and Noel Gallo (District ) absent. When the voting concluded, many in the audience booed and someone shouted, “Shame on you.” The board also voted Wednesday to use the facilities for the closed Edward Shands Adult School for Arise High School, a charter school.
Those items were scheduled to be discussed at Wednesday’s meeting before it was interrupted by chanting protesters at 10 pm from a group opposed to the school closures that is calling itself The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary [BAMN].  Board President Jody London called a one-hour recess when the meeting was first interrupted. When board members returned to the meeting at 11:30 pm, the protesters started chanting again and the meeting was adjourned for the night.
A group of about 10 protesters remained in the chambers and about an hour later, at 12:30 am, were asked to leave by police because, according to district spokesperson Troy Flint, “they were no longer entitled to be on the facility. It was after hours and school business was not being conducted.” When some protesters remained, they were arrested under statute 626.7A of the California penal code, or, Flint said, “being on school property when business is not being conducted and been asked to leave.” None of the protesters resisted arrest, Flint said.
At least one of the BAMN protesters arrested Wednesday, Monica Smith, was present at Thursday’s meeting. Smith said in an interview the group had blankets and were “determined to stay here for days” before they were arrested. Smith said she was handcuffed and taken to North County jail where she was released at on Thursday morning.
Smith said the group is gaining support from parents who want to “keep their school open by any means necessary.”
“We’re ready to keep going,” Smith said. “We’re planning on winning.”
The audience for the rescheduled Thursday afternoon meeting was much smaller than on Wednesday, but similarly enraged about school closures. Parents and teachers lined up to criticize the board and Superintendent Tony Smith for the decision to lease the school to Emeryville, with Spearman bringing up that the school was the only elementary school for Oakland kids in the 94608 zip code. “Is this right for children in Oakland to lease this and get $1.5 million?” Spearman asked Smith.
Speakers also criticized the board for its decision to lease the school to Emeryville, for cancelling the meeting last night and then going through the remainder of the agenda in the middle of the next day, when many people are at work.
“The whole dishonesty of this plan, to try to do this behind our backs, and claim it’s about money when it’s really about shutting down the expectations for a better future for the youth of Oakland,” Tania Kappner, an Oakland Tech history teacher and BAMN leader told the board, “and just relegate them to second class treatment and jobs? No.”
The board had also been scheduled to vote on the fate of the Lazear Elementary School building, which would have been turned over to two charter schools—Bay Area Technology School and the Community School for Creative Education—if the board approved. But after the board unexpectedly voted to negotiate a “partnership” charter agreement with officials from Lazear at Wednesday night’s meeting, a decision on what to do with the building was tabled for a later time.
It momentarily appeared the chaos of the previous night had carried over when the power went out in the building about a half hour into the Thursday afternoon meeting, and London chose to proceed with the lights out. Oakland resident Etha Jones was standing at the speakers’ podium, ready to criticize the board for closing schools, when the room went dark. Six police officers moved to line up on the steps near the entrance to the building as the crowd murmured.
“That’s God speaking,” Jones said to the board in the darkness. “God does not like ugly.”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Emery School District Explains $1.5 Million Oakland School Lease

Emery High School Students To Move To Temporary Digs, In Oakland

The Emery Unified School District announced today that they will lease Oakland's Santa Fe Elementary School for three years in order to house High School students while the Center of Community Life is constructed on the site of the High School this fall.  Emery will pay Oakland Unified School District $1.5 million for the use of Santa Fe it was announced.  Emery intends on using available Emeryville taxpayer funded Measure J money to finance the deal.

Santa Fe School, on the east Emeryville border with Oakland, was recently closed by the Oakland School District as a way to save money for that cash strapped School District.

Emery School Superindendant
Dr. Debbra Lindo
Emery School Superintendent Debbra Lindo told the Tattler that even though the Emery School District owns shuttered Ralph Hawley Middle School in north Emeryville, that school is not adequate to house the High School, "We had to find a facility conducive to the High School's programmatic needs.  Ralph Hawley was considered but Santa Fe, being larger was compelling.  We took the opportunity to request it." she said.

Ralph Hawley School was built to house some 200 middle school students and Oakland's Santa Fe School has close to the same number of classrooms but nearly twice the outdoor space, including a baseball field.  Emery High now has approximately 210 students.

Emeryville voter backed Measure J, a $95 million 2010 school bond initiative, provides for interim housing during the construction phase of the Center of Community Life, expected to begin in the fall.

District officials brokered the lease of the Santa Fe School in 'closed session' noting that public real estate deals are generally made without public scrutiny, "Real estate deals are particularly susceptible to being subverted [by would be rouge public malcontents and the like] and the law provides this level of public constraint.  It's standard procedure." said one official.

Emeryville School District To Rent Oakland School

Emery To Spend $1.5 Million On Rental

Breaking News
It has been reported that Emery Unified School District will lease recently closed Santa Fe Elementary School from the Oakland School District for three years.  Presumably, the Emery High School students will occupy the building during the tear down and re-build of Emeryville's school beginning this fall as the contraversial Center of Community Life breaks ground.  It is further presumed the funds for the rental will come from Measure J disbursements and that Emery's closed down Ralph Hawley Middle School will remain closed during the transition.  Emery School District officials could not be reached for comment.

Emery Unified School District will pay Oakland Unified $500,000 per year for three years for the use of the facility.
The Tattler will report further on this story in the coming hours.

Below is a story re-posted from the Contra Costa Times that reports the rental agreement:

Oakland school board meeting turns into sit-in as 

protesters demand schools be kept open

Updated:   03/28/2012 11:11:31 PM PM
The Oakland school board and staff members walked out of a school board meeting Wednesday night after about 
a dozen activists began a protest and sit-in, chanting, "Our children are not for sale." They are demanding the board 
rescind its decision to close five elementary schools.
None of the schools in the district are for sale, but the agenda includes resolutions to lease some of the schools 
slated to close in June to charter schools or, in the case of Santa Fe Elementary, to Emery Unified.
As of 10:30 p.m., those decisions were on hold, as the board and most of the people who had been attending the 
meeting left when the activists began protesting.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

School District Budget Crisis

Another contentious meeting:
Teacher Lay-Offs at Center Of Looming Budget Shortfall

The Emery School Board was inundated again last night with parents, teachers and citizens demanding that budget cuts not come in the form of teacher lay-offs.

It was all budget talks at an overfilled Emery Theater that featured Alameda County School Superintendent Sheila Jordan advising the Board how it could engage in arcane money shifting tactics to stop the 'short horizon' cash hemorrhaging brought on by funding loss due to plunging student enrollment among other reasons.  In addition to laying off teachers, the Board indicated that the School District is facing a looming $1.6 million shortfall beginning next year.  The loss of income from the falling enrollments the District was highlighted as a major contributing factor in the budget crisis as was the fact that the District has stopped collecting money it had gathered by renting out Emery's Ralph Hawley Middle School to Piedmont Unified School District for two years, softening the ill effects of the ongoing cuts coming from Sacramento.

Some 14 people spoke, mostly imploring Board members to not cut the budget at the expense of the actual classrooms by laying off teachers.  Executives from the Emeryville based alternative bio-fuels company, Amyris spoke on behalf of a science teacher they have mentored that has received a pink slip from the District, one of several.

School Board member Josh Simon said the Board is ready to listen to the citizen's ideas for balancing the budget, "We're looking forward to the creativity of the community" he said.

Last night's crowd at the regularly scheduled School Board meeting came on the heels of the March 12th meeting, which also drew an angry crowd of parents, teachers, et al.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Should Anna Yates Elementary School Be Closed?

Tattler Reader Poll

The Emery Unified School District and City Hall want to close down Anna Yates Elementary School and move all the children over to the Emeryville Center of Community Life and its proposed Kindergarten through 12th grade single school campus.
Detractors say the taxpayers only just completed a nearly $9 million remodel of the existing school and that Anna Yates is a wonderful asset that shouldn't be shut down.

Tattler readers can vote for themselves.  On the right hand side bar is a new Tattler feature; an informal reader's poll.  Please feel free to cast your vote on this contentious school closing scheme.  This poll will be up for two weeks.

Irony: Teacher Lay-Offs While Building New School

We're Building A New School While We Lay Off Teachers

Parents and Emeryville citizens have begun to stir; the recent spate of Emery School District teacher lay-offs is causing a whisper campaign about how the lay-offs and the building of the new school and recreation center known as the Emeryville Center of Community Life are conflated.  City Hall and the School District officials for their part, are showing signs they're worried about this kind of thinking taking hold.  They're trying to take the offensive on this issue, forwarding a new meme.
The way they're spinning it, the building of the new school /rec center is totally unrelated to the laying off of teachers.  A March 22nd e-mail to concerned parents from Emeryville City Manager Pat O'Keeffe put it bluntly, "The Center of Community Life is not causing teacher lay offs" he categorically states.

Mr O'Keeffe and the School District are together in this meme.
They note that the Measure J bonds voters passed in 2010 explicitly forbids spending the money on school operational expenses, including paying teachers.  It only authorizes the building of the facilities that will comprise the Center of Community Life.  They are also explaining how $25 million in city money the council voted to give to the project is also earmarked exclusively for the building of facilities.  This is due to the arcane esoterica of Redevelopment Agency funding mandated by the State.
Even though they'd like to pay teachers more and stop the lay offs, their hands are tied they tell us.

False Narrative
All this is just a bunch of hooey.  It's a false narrative meant to divert attention from an uncomfortable truth.  What Mr O'Keeffe and the School District is not acknowledging is that in fact the building of the Center of Community Life is directly responsible for the teacher lay offs.
The only way the School District can increase the operating budget for the schools, including teacher pay, is if the voters of Emeryville vote themselves another tax increase in the form of a parcel tax.  And there's the rub.  The passage of the $95 million Measure J bonding for the Center of Community Life has almost certainly tapped out the voters good will towards the schools.

"The Center of Community 
Life is responsible for 
teacher lay offs."

The last few years has seen the passage of two parcel taxes for the schools in Emeryville in addition to the Center of Community Life.  The voters here have shown great generosity towards the schools; the Center of Community Life alone will cost taxpayers some $400 million by the time the interest on the bonds has been paid (and that's only possible if the city starts to grow its assessed valuation like we did before the recession).
The voters have thus far been generous but their generosity is not infinite.  The fact that we've come up hard against the market realities of Emeryville's plunging Assessed Valuation and its attendant reel back of Emeryville's bonding capacity will help sink any nascent drive to push another parcel tax.

The Center of Community Life is going to be it as far as any extra school spending from more taxes is concerned we're afraid to say.  Perhaps voters will be in a more giving mood after the economy picks up and the middle class in America is restored and the Measure J bonds are paid off.....  In other words, it's going to be a while.

And that leaves us facing teacher lay offs and other cut backs at our schools.

It could actually get worse.  Schools are funded by student enrollment and our enrollment at Emery Unified is dropping.  The more it drops, the more funding dries up and the more cut backs and teacher lay offs we face causing more enrollment drop.  It's a spiraling negative feedback loop and we're already in the loop so to speak.

Perhaps we can call back some of the $95 million dollar Center of Community Life bonds, build a more modest facility by saving Anna Yates Elementary School and find some way to appeal to the voters that a new parcel tax could be swapped for the scaling back of the school building project.  It could be couched in terms of being revenue neutral...perhaps voters could see the wisdom in this and vote themselves another parcel tax.

What's needed is a new path for our schools, a different approach, and it should start with real transparency coming from the School District and City Hall.  We can't just obliviously build the whole Center of Community Life and hope for the best for its operating budget. Let's start by first spelling out where we really are and not just throwing up our hands as Mr O'Keeffe and the School District is doing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where Does City Hall Get Off Pushing Undergrounding Utilities?

Residents Say Parks & Bike/Ped, 
City Says Undergrounding

The recent utility undergrounding debacle covered by the Tattler on March 18th informs us about how it pays to be a well connected developer in Emeryville but what that story failed to elaborate on is City Hall's announcement that it intends to spend more than a million General Fund dollars undergrounding overhead wires on Hollis Street.  We have to ask: How does City Hall see spending limited General Fund money on this?
The people of Emeryville have told the decision makers what they want;  they have said in a loud and clear voice they want parks and bike/pedestrian connectivity, not undergrounding utility wires.

City Hall Should Know What We Want
Residents have been poked and prodded and quarried for more than two years by City Hall.  There were countless General Plan meetings and visioning workshops.  We were asked over and over: What do you want to see the city focus on?  The people spoke and undergrounding utilities came down near the bottom of the list.

The Players:
City Hall power broker
councilwoman Nora Davis
& friend Wareham president
Rich Robbins
So how is it that a plan is spawned by City Hall to spend more than a million taxpayer dollars on something the residents don't want?  We find it interesting that Wareham Development Corporation, the most connected developer in town, does want the undersgrounding to happen.  The aforementioned Tattler story shows how Wareham stands to financially benefit from the undergrounding scheme.  Is there a nexus between the desires of Wareham and the actions of City Hall?

It wouldn't be the first time.

Our city has bent over backwards to accommodate Wareham, often at the expense of the residents.  This most recent betrayal of the citizen's interests is particularly galling however.  We wonder how it will be explained, if at all.
It appears the retraction by one property owner to the undergrounding scheme may have caused the implosion of the North Hollis Undergrounding Assessment District as the March 18th Tattler story illustrated.  That property owner, Andy Getz may have saved other Emeryville property owners and residents from paying dearly for something they don't want.

This undergrounding would have been paid for by the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency before its demise.  In the wake of the Agency's collapse, Emeryville has been left with only its meager General Fund to pay for most everything now.  For City Hall to try to tap the General Fund to pay for this undergounding is egregious; it would come at the direct expense of all the things the residents have said they do want.
It would appear that the people of Emeryville will need to pay closer attention, minding the General Fund.  After all, it's our money.

We would like to say we live in a town that placed the desires of the residents over those of favored developers.  The North Hollis undergrounding scheme puts it into focus for us; that's not the kind of town we do live in.

RULE Meeting

From Residents United for a Livable Emeryville:

Hello RULE members and supporters;  We would like to invite you to attend our next meeting.  It's a great way to meet your progressive neighbors and to get things done in Emeryville that are pro-residents.  

Saturday, March 24....11:00 - 1:00
Doyle St. Cohousing community room
5514 Doyle St., First Floor

Coffee and tea provided;  breakfast treats are pot luck

Main topic of discussion:  The Center of Community Life- new information about it makes it a RULE centric issue...we may want to take a highly visible, leadership role.

Also on the agenda will be a continuation of the topic:  elections in Emeryville, should we eliminate off-year elections as a way to increase voter participation?

Esoteric Arcanery: We will continue our discussion about the definition of the Steering Committee within RULE.  Who is on it, what does one have to do to get on it?

Other topics are welcome, as we do have some time on this agenda for additional items..let me know what you want to talk about!

See you there!  Call me at 601-6521 for more information or respond to this email.  Thanks, Judy Timmel, Meeting Coordinator

Sunday, March 18, 2012

City Hall Pushing North Hollis Undergrounding

City Hall In Bed With Wareham: Undergrounding Utilities

For the last two years the city of Emeryville has joined with Wareham Development Corporation to pursue the undergrounding of overhead electrical wires in the North Hollis Street area through use of a special assessment district authorized to levy taxes on property owners; a move that has raised the ire of many property owners in the district.  The property owners have cried foul since Wareham would recieve taxpayer cash back for undergrounding work it has already done on its own accord, an
unwarranted benefit from the cozy relationship it has cultivated with City Hall.

The assessment district funding for North Hollis undergrounding is part of a long term city plan to ultimately remove overhead wires throughout the city but unlike North Hollis, the utility undergrounding work for other parts of the city up til now has been paid for by the now defunct Redevelopment Agency and developers.
The North Hollis Assessment District extends along the Hollis Street corridor from just south of Powell Street up to the Berkeley border.

Rich Robbins:
President of the influential 

Wareham Development 
Assessment districts are formed by a vote of property owners in the proposed district, with 50% (by geographic area) needed to create a taxing entity.  Wareham Development, the largest landowner in the proposed North Hollis Assessment District district, was an early supporter as was HFH Ltd, another property owning firm on Hollis Street.  After it became clear these two large property owners' acreage was not quite enough to reach 50%, the city itself, being the owner of three small parcels of land, threw their vote in, tipping the total just over the 50% magic number.
Other property owners in the district found the prospects of being forced to pay for the assessment district onerous and they are forming their own association, the Emeryville Property Owners Association, to challenge the Wareham/City Hall juggernaut.
 The CEO of HFH Ltd, Andy Getz, has subsequently withdrawn support for the district, leaving Wareham and City Hall as the sole supporters, putting the undergrounding work on hold.

Members of the nascent Property Owners Association noted their objections to the heavy handed tactics used by the city and Wareham, including hints of back room deals, at a city sponsored meeting last week.  Some of the property owners have expressed displeasure that Wareham has already paid for the undergrounding of utilities as part of the Planning Department approval process for its new development projects in the district and that Wareham would receive back hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city if the assessment district is formed.  The city required Wareham, a San Rafael based corporation, to underground the utility poles for the Hollis Street block north of Powell Street as part of the conditions of approval for the new EmeryStation Greenway building last year and Wareham would receive cash back for the portion of undergrounding it has done not immediately adjoining  their new building.  The other property owners would split these costs with Wareham. 

If the North Hollis undergrounding proceeds by way of the North Hollis Assessment District, the city will help pay for the work, more than a million dollars, paid out of the General Fund.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Emeryville Police Seek Kidnapping Suspect

From the Emeryville blog the E-Ville Eye:

Emeryville police seeking kidnapping suspect

Bashar Aremu is a suspect in an attempted kidnapping on March 14.
Emeryville police have identified a man 
who  they believe kidnapped a woman 
in a parking garage in the 2100 block of 
Powell Street (near the Hilton Garden 
Hotel) Wednesday night, forcing her 
into the trunk of her own car before she 
managed to escape. Investigators have a 
warrant for the arrest of Bashar Aremu, 
30, and are asking for the public’s help 
to find him. They say he is 6 feet tall, 
230 pounds, speaks with an accent, and 
might be working as a security guard.
Police say Aremu might also have been 
responsible for a March 10 robbery of a 
woman in a nearby business, who reported a gunman grabbed her 
by the throat, demanded money and then forced her to disrobe and 
lie on the ground in the back of the store.
If you see Aremu do not approach him, call 911 immediately. 
If you have information regarding the above incidents contact 
Detective Eric White at (510) 596-3734.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Emeryville Police Chief Receives Cal Police Chiefs Award

Colleagues Grant Emeryville Top Cop  Prestigious Award 

The California Police Chiefs Association awarded its most prestigious award, the Joe Molloy Award, to Emeryville Police Chief Ken James March 14th at the Installation Banquet in Sacramento, during their 35th Annual Training Symposium.  CPCA President Dave Maggard, Chief of the Irvine Police Department, presented Chief James with the award for his dedication and service to law enforcement and to the California Police Chiefs Association.  This award embodies the characteristics represented by the late Chief Joe Molloy of Anaheim; professionalism, leadership, energy, and commitment to the mission of the Association. 

Emeryville Police Chief Ken James
Chief Maggard said the selection of Ken James to receive this award was an easy one to make, “Chief James has served the association as the chair of our Firearms Committee for many years and had tirelessly advocated on our behalf on all of the firearms legislation that has been introduced”  he said.
“Additionally,” emphasized Chief Maggard, “Chief James fought successfully – against great odds—last year to have Cal Chiefs 'Open Carry' bill, AB 144, get to the governor’s desk and be signed into law.  He led this year’s fight not only on behalf of our members, but on behalf of public safety and the safety of those in our communities.  His tenacity on this issue is what enabled the bill to pass. Through it all he has steadfastly stood for what is best for the safety of our communities”.  He added, "Chief James’ record of commitment and contribution on a statewide level is greatly appreciated.  He is highly respected within the law enforcement community, and I was honored to present Chief James with the award for the work he has done for Cal Chiefs, for law enforcement, and for public safety.”

The California Police Chiefs Association represents the state’s municipal police chiefs whose agencies protect over 78 percent of the citizens of California.