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Sunday, May 11, 2014

City Attorney Rebuffs City Council on Charter City Directive

City Council Chastises City Attorney
on Charter City Text

Emeryville City Attorney Mike Biddle drew strong reactions from Council members at last Tuesday's City Council meeting as they heard him explain he could not produce a short and focused ballot initiative text to forward to Emeryville voters this November as he had been so directed by them.  Mr Biddle's presentation, produced during the two weeks before Tuesday's meeting, was revealed to be 12 pages of dense legal verbiage.  It was as concise as he could make it he told the Council members.
At the previous meeting the City Attorney had been directed, in a unanimous Council vote, to pattern Emeryville's proposed Charter City initiative on that of neighboring city's charters, some only a few paragraphs long.
The Charter City initiative is being forwarded to Emeryville voters by the City Council in hopes of enacting a real estate transfer tax in response to a critical loss of revenue for City Hall after the Redevelopment Agency was shut down by Sacramento two years ago.  The City Manager has shown how City Hall no longer has the funding to properly maintain the infrastructure already in place in
Emeryville City Attorney Mike Biddle
Chastised by City Council

Emeryville is currently a 'general law' city, a legal construct that gives more power over local matters to Sacramento.  A charter city conversely gives more power to the local voters and would, in the case of what the Emeryville City Council is directing in a November election, enable them (the voters) to OK a transfer tax, something not legal for general law cities.

The City Council was adamant that the language for the Charter City initiative be "short and focused" as Councilwoman Nora Davis indicated.  Mr Biddle was directed to draw up language for the voters approval in November that would make it clear that the current laws guiding the City would remain unchanged but that a real estate transfer tax be initiated at a rate of $14 per $1000 of assessed valuation, two dollars less than the existing transfer taxes of Oakland and Berkeley.  Emeryville now only gets $.55 per $1000, the legal maximum for general law cities.
The Council told the City Attorney they wanted the initiative to be as short as some neighboring cities have done because a long and arcane text in the voter guide would unnecessarily confuse voters and would likely draw NO votes based on ignorance.   Mr Biddle explained Tuesday that he had heard what the Council had directed him to do but he felt compelled to "add some meat" to the spare template language proffered by the Council after he conferred with colleagues.
Mayor Jac Asher summed up the Council's frustration with the City Attorney, "This will look like 12 pages of change [to the voters]" she said.

The Council instructed City Attorney Biddle to go back and bring them a much shorter text, regardless of his reservations.


  1. We're being mis-served by this City Attorney. I remember Measure F a couple of years ago, the "fire Mike Biddle" measure. It lost when the council said the public has no right to fire him only they do. They said they would look into getting rid of him after the election. I see nothing of the sort happened. Why do we continue to allow such bad representation?

  2. I also recall a council meeting several years ago when City Attorney Biddle had to leave council chambers to research the Brown Act. It is seriously time to review his employment contract and make sure he and Patrick O'Keeffe did not pad their retirement benefits when they formed their own "union."

  3. Oh. I get it. He gets paid by the hour!

  4. Well I was also here in the early nineties when Mr Biddle was first appointed city attorney. He helped completely turn the city around. This place was a dump and now is a nice place to live. I remember when there was no city manager and Mr Biddle single handedly performed two jobs. You people on here a bunch of cry baby hippies

    1. Cry baby hippies: People who don't like it when their city attorney is complicit in unlawful termination of city employees costing the people millions of dollars. Cry baby hippies expect competency and ethical behavior in their government.
      As opposed to non-crying reasonable people: they like it when government incompetence costs them millions of dollars and when employees get treated in unethical manner.