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Monday, February 3, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities: Mayor Brinkman's Emeryville vs Mayor Asher's Emeryville

Two Different Mayors
Two Different Visions
One Placates Business, One Placates Residents

Opinion/ News Analysis
The last two Emeryville 'State of the City' annual addresses were quite different:
In 2013, when he was mayor, Kurt Brinkman said the solution to the town's woes was to keep business taxes low to help out the corporate attract and retain them.  If we help the businesses out, they'll help us out.  All boats will be lifted by a rising tide....a classic 'supply-side' trickle down argument.
This year Jac Asher is mayor and she says Emeryville is a town of ultra low business tax and we need to tax more, almost as much as our neighboring towns do so we can help out the residents like other towns do...we should build more parks, fix sidewalks and other amenities to attract and retain residents; even the vulnerable among us like families, the elderly and the poor.

It's easy to see how some residents can compare what's going on in Washington DC with our own Emeryville City Hall.  The same left wing/right wing dynamic is at play in both places.  One remarkable difference; while the two opposing sides in Washington deliver nothing but gridlock, here in Emeryville, it's the right wing that controls public policy.  That doesn't mean the left wing side has rolled over however.  They occasionally make their voices heard, sometimes to the consternation of the majority.  This year's State of the City address is one such moment.

The last two State of the City mayoral annual addresses, the 2013 speech by mayor Kurt Brinkman and the 2014 speech by mayor Jac Asher, serves to reveal the stark political divide in Emeryville.  And as in Washington, the cultural and political divide in Emeryville makes sense when one sees who the paymasters are; as in who's interests the decision makers are working.

The differences could hardly be more clear as the two competing visions are revealed in these back-to-back speeches (see the videos below).

Mayor Brinkman, despite his avuncular and personable style, uses his speech to proudly note how Emeryville has changed from a industrial city to what it is today; a mecca for corporations and a boon for developers.  He laments the end of the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency and says that because of its demise, the City Council's charge is to placate business even more than it historically has.  Mayor Brinkman makes several shout outs to CEO's and business executives in the audience at the private by invitation Chamber of Commerce fundraising luncheon venue.  He notes that Emeryville is better than Oakland or Berkeley because "We make business happen here".  To make it happen more he says we need to strengthen City Hall's relationship with the Chamber of Commerce.  He says this will help close the gap in funding left over after the Redevelopment Agency but he doesn't show precisely how.

Mayor Asher, in contrast to Mayor Brinkman's exclusive venue gives her State of the City address at the people's hall; City Hall, free and open to all.  She notes that economic health should be linked to services for residents.  Mayor Asher acknowledges the loss of the Redevelopment Agency has meant a sharp drop off in revenue for the City and she shows how the problem isn't going to be fixed without a new revenue source. She makes a dramatic showing of how property taxes only make 6% of the revenues at City Hall and about how it's not really possible to bring in enough money from new business to even fund basic infrastructure properly.  She shows how changing the governing structure in Emeryville like other cities in the Bay Area have done,  by becoming a 'charter city',  will deliver the funds we need (see the Tattler story on this HERE).  She notes how City Hall should work for the residents and comport governance with a social justice perspective, "We talk quite a bit about attracting business in town but we also need to attract and retain people that live here.  In particular we need to work to keep those that are vulnerable close to resources: elderly, families with children and people living below the poverty line.  In short I want us to be a just city."

Videos courtesy of the Emeryville Property Owners Association:


  1. Brian, from one blogger to another: This is when you're at your best. Great Contrast. Great Narrative. Great Story. (Great vocabulary! I had to look up "avuncular").
    Well Done.

    1. Thanks Rob! A real compliment coming from the editor of the E'ville Eye. Let's keep 'em honest with the respective blogs.