Giant Sucking Sound of Public Money Draining Into Turner's Coffers
Tonight the Emeryville City Council voted to give Turner Construction Corporation some $21 million, more than half City Hall's entire General Fund to build a new community center as part of the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life (ECCL); the end of a nearly ten year process of political partnership between City Hall and the Emery Unified School District.
The money will buy a public project that Mayor Jac Asher, the sole dissenter, says will cram too much on too small of a site that will sell Emeryville's children (and adults) short.
Councilwoman Jennifer West expressed regret that the School District fought so tenaciously to successfully exclude a bike/pedestrian path associated with the project, a path required by the City's General Plan, before she relented and voted to hand over the $21 million. Ms West in June, expressed difficulty coming to terms with voting to give over the money without getting the path, something two of her colleagues characterized as a threat; blackmail, they called it.
Ms West also took the time tonight to announce that the project is now officially behind schedule; the high school portion of the construction, the first part to be completed will now not be finished until November of next year, a date previously set for July, ready for the new school year. Ms West noted the School District had not made the construction delays sufficiently public. Nobody from the Council or the School District attendees explained the reason for the revised date tonight.
Ms Asher, the only Council member with children in the School District, explained the contract the City now agrees to, gives the District the money to build the community part of ECCL but the control of the finished spaces will be delegated to the District. She noted the City will have to rent its own community spaces at ECCL and it will not be available to the public during school hours, "Twenty million for the privilege of renting space part time is not good enough" she said before she voted NO to the deal.
Neither the School District nor the City accounted tonight for a long standing promise of savings in operational and maintenance spending made to Emeryville residents throughout the ten year process of approving the ECCL. The project was advertised to save these monies due to the consolidation of facilities but a likely large increase was announced in July 2013. At the time the District promised to tweak the numbers to somehow show the promised savings at the request of the Council members but tonight Ms West balked at that, noting that the City and the District had decided in the intervening time to increase the scope of the project thereby making an apples to apples comparison impossible.
Tonight's vote makes the entire Center of 'Comunity' Life project a done deal (minus the bike/pedestrian path).
Turner Construction Corporation it should be noted was the single largest contributor to Measure J, the 2010 plebiscite that OK'ed the building of ECCL.