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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Yet Another Year Passes, Still No Horton Street Bike Boulevard

It's déjà vu all over again
December 31, 2015 is like December 31, 2014;
Bike Plan Still Being Ignored

Today, the Tattler brings back our ongoing end of December yearly feature: We re-post our September 2012 story (below) on Emeryville's Horton Street Bike Boulevard every December 31st and will continue until City Hall stops stalling and implements our Bike Plan as they are required to do.  This end-of-the-year feature serves as an annual clearinghouse for any news on the hold up of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard over the previous year.   
Readers bored or exasperated with the ongoing story of City Hall inaction on Horton Street can simply read the year end (short) synopsis in the italics preceding the September 2012 re-post every December 31st:  
I wake up every day, right here in 
Punxsutawney, and it's always 
February 2nd (or December 31st 
in Emeryville), and there's nothing 
I can do about it.

2015 Synopsis-

In 2015, nothing happened to implement the Horton Street Bike Boulevard.

In 1998, Emeryville adapted its Bike Plan after years of study and $200,000 spent on it.  In 2013, the City Council agreed to spend $10,000 to study the Bike Plan to figure out how to implement the Horton Street Bike Boulevard required by the Plan.  This $10,000 study is referred to as the 'study of the study'.  The Bike Plan doesn't call for any studies to be done to implement its requirements, it should be noted.  In 2014 City Hall held two community meetings about the study of the study but no action on Horton Street was taken that year or through to the end of 2015.  The 2013 authorized study of the study still hasn't even happened, raising doubts that the 12/31/16 re-post of this story will be any different than today's post.  
Especially disturbing this year is the fact that Emeryville voters elected the progressive City Council majority in 2014 and they have done nothing all year by way of delivering the Horton Street Bike Boulevard even though both Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue both campaigned as being very pro-bike. 

As a side note: In 2014, City Hall found out another Bike Boulevard, the 45th Street Bike Boulevard is also in violation due to too many cars on that street.  Nothing was done in 2015 to fix that problem either.

Here then is the September 29th, 2012 Tattler story:

Major Traffic Calming Long Past Due For Horton Street

Emeryville's premiere bicycle thoroughfare, the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, has so much high speed traffic that it has become unsafe for bicycling.  So says Alta Planning, a Berkeley based urban bike network design firm that was commissioned by the City of Emeryville to study bicycling in town.  The $200,000 study, now incorporated into Emeryville's Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan and adopted into law by the city council lays waiting, ready to be implemented.
The question is, will it really be implemented or will it languish in some dusty corner at City Hall as so many other expensive studies have done?  Given the city council's baleful history of failing to calm the traffic on Horton Street for bicycle traffic and working to improve the street for vehicle use at the expense of bicycling, it seems likely it will be ignored and will remain a major automobile thoroughfare, unsafe for bicycles and becoming increasingly more so over time.  

Central to the Alta study is a limit on the number of cars that may use Horton Street, set at 3000 vehicles per day, before a mandatory set of traffic calming procedures kicks in.  The idea is that the traffic calming fixes will lower the number of vehicles that use the bike boulevard down below the 3000 maximum.  It should be noted Emeryville's 3000 number earmarked for bike boulevards is larger than any other city in the Bay Area. 

A choker is an example of a 'neck-down'
called for by level 4 traffic calming.
The prescribed traffic calming comes in a series of increasingly interventionist levels, one through five, that reduces traffic volume and speed, the last such level resulting in a total diversion for through traffic.  Each level requires two years to adequately assess its efficacy.  

At this point, Horton Street has already gone through the first three traffic calming levels; these involve street stenciling, signage and intersection "bulb-outs".  Now, since traffic has not subsided on Horton (it's actually increased), it's time for level 4 traffic calming to be implemented according to the Plan.
Level 4 calls for "significant traffic calming", specifically, 'neck downs' or traffic limiters such as 'chokers', designed to act like a one lane bridge permitting only one car through at a time.

Here's what the Bike Plan calls for on Emeryville's bike boulevards:

Level 1 Basic Bicycle Boulevard- signs, pavement markings
Level 2 Enhanced Bicycle Boulevard- way-finding signs, reduced delays at intersections
Level 3 Limited Traffic Calming- intersection bulb-outs
Level 4 Significant Traffic Calming- neck-downs
Level 5 Traffic Diversion

Level 5 calls for diverters: This
is called out only if level 4 doesn't
work after two years.
The problem is the Bike Committee has already twice voted on significant traffic calming for Horton Street in years past.  Both times the city council has overridden the committee's findings.  The last time the committee voted unanimously to add such calming, councilwoman Nora Davis explained her veto to the committee, "I have no problem putting paint on the asphalt [pavement markings]" but anything more dramatic than that would draw a veto from her and consequently also from the council majority.

In the intervening two and a half years since the last council veto shutting down Horton Street traffic calming, the city has commissioned and now encoded the $200,000 Alta study.

While we acknowledge Ms Davis' forthrightness in explaining to the people why they shouldn't expect safe biking routes in town, we call on the rest of the council to abide by the new Bike Plan they have adopted.  The fact that other such documents have been subverted in the past by the council should not serve as a precedent for inaction on Horton Street.  It's never too late to start working towards livability and rational public policy.  Let's make bicycling safe on the Horton Street Bicycle Boulevard.  It's time for a choker on Horton Street.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Six Months After Passage of Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance: No Decline in Business Viability

More Business Start-ups, Much Fewer Business Closures
All While Lowest Workers See Big Pay Increase

News Analysis
Almost half a year after the passage of Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance, the effect on business viability is revealing itself: slightly more businesses are opening and far fewer businesses are closing.  According to City Hall numbers, there has been no negative effect on business viability in Emeryville despite wall-to-wall prognosticating claims to the contrary made by the business sector last spring.  Predictions of a mass business extinction and exodus were leveled at the City Council in several community meetings conducted and one even foretelling of a crime wave that would be brought on by the increase in worker's pay but nothing of the sort has so far occurred.  In fact, a cogent argument could be made that the implementation of the Minimum Wage Ordinance has actually helped INCREASE Emeryville business viability, or at least business viability has increased in spite of the MWO.

The sunny picture hasn't stopped some in the business community from continuing a dark portrayal of business activity in Emeryville post MWO.  The pro-business opinion blog the E'Ville Eye and its editor Rob Arias spent last spring foretelling calamity and since MWO implementation, used individual business closures as an opportunity to drive its anti-MWO agenda.  Stories of new business openings appearing in the E'Ville Eye in the months since the ordinance took effect, strangely have left the MWO unmentioned.

The new business registrations and business closures tracked by City Hall include all businesses in town, however small business numbers vastly outweigh large business numbers for both start-ups and closures and these numbers have remained quite consistent in their percentage throughout the tracking period.  Going back to April 2014 (the start of tracking as provided by the City's website) and up to the vote on and implementation of the MWO on July 2nd 2015, new start-ups have averaged about 13 per month.  After the MWO took effect, that number has remained very consistent; up slightly at 14 new start-ups per month on average.  The number of business closures however have changed dramatically; before the implementation of the MWO, there were an average of 16 businesses closed per month compared to only four per month since the MWO started.

For sake of clarity, the start-up and closure of residential landlord businesses have not been included in these tabulations because the City separates them for sake of tracking because they don't tax those businesses.  For our purposes, residential landlord businesses are not really germane to the goal of creating a locally serving business community and so we didn't include them.  Notable though, if we had, it would have skewed the number of new business start-ups much higher since the implementation of the MWO, probably because many people are scrambling to take advantage of the rapidly increasing rental prices in Emeryville of late.

It is helpful for understanding to note that the business community also argued vigorously against implementing Measure C, the so called 'Living Wage for Hotel Workers' ballot initiative passed by Emeryville voters in 2005.  The new law called for a minimum wage increase in town up to $9 for some workers and $11 for others (the California minimum wage at the time was $6.75).  Similar predictions were made warning of the destruction of Emeryville's hospitality industry and a mass exodus of Emeryville hotels to Oakland or Berkeley.  Readers should note that was when Emeryville had four hotels.  Now a fifth hotel is under construction at Bay Street.

The numbers below are from Emeryville City Hall:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Donn Merriam: Tattler Takes Back School Board Endorsment

The Tattler Takes a Mulligan:

Donn Merriam's Skewed Worldview:
Loyalty to President Affeldt is What's Most Important 

Lack of Comity at School Board:
Instead of Apologies We Get Total Silence

Donn Merriam
 A bit dickish and a

John Affeldt 'yes man'.
who supplanted...
Emeryville's right wing and the sycophants of the power elite in town have long called on the Tattler to take back what it has said and to that we've always responded; show us where we're wrong and the Tattler will post a retraction and an apology.  Well, consider this a retraction and an apology: we endorsed Donn Merriam for the Emery School Board in 2014 and we were wrong and we apologize.
Donn Merriam sucks on the School Board...we're the first to admit it.  He's served as a bump on a log and a 'yes man' to the current board president's dark and community disempowering vision since he got there.  Before the last election, we thought Donn would be a breath of fresh air, likely better than the guy he beat out, Miguel Dwin; the former yes man for then School Board President Josh Simon.  Now we can't qualify how he's been any better than Mr Dwin, indeed, he's shown to be actually worse in some regards.

In our defense, if you read the Tattler endorsement of Donn Merriam from October 2014, you'll note it was not our fondness for Mr Merriam as much as our realization of the need to get rid of Miguel Dwin that drove the endorsement.  Mr Merriam was a new face and we went with that; a low bar that we admitted at the time.  We now realize, some 13 months later, just how low we set the bar... too low.
...Miguel Dwin
a nice guy but ultimately just
a yes man for Josh Simon.
Donn Meriam on the Emery School Board has been a warm body taking up a seat until Board President John Affeldt needs a second to some wrong-headed policy...then the sleepy Donn Merriam springs into action.  He's part of the 'yes person' culture at the Emery School Board.  It's how the Center of 'Community' Life has been railroaded past dissenters; a strongman in charge on the Board with a bevy of yes people to support him.  We should have known better when we did our inadequate vetting of Donn Merriam last year.

Donn has delivered consistent and unwavering support to President Affeldt's program of shutting out residents as they have sought a forum on the closing of Anna Yates Elementary School just like Mr Dwinn provided for Mr Simon but Mr Merriam has gone a step further than Mr Dwin ever did by also buttressing a program to torpedo comity among colleagues on the Board (brought by Mr Affeldt).  In the unseemly Brown Act debacle still unfolding, Donn has happily joined President Affeldt in attacking fellow Board member Christian Patz after Mr Patz cried foul when he saw three Board members leaving a secret meeting in the Superintendent's office, a Brown Act violation.  Donn Merriam gushed sanctimonious outrage that Mr Patz said the meeting he witnessed was improper.  Later when President Affeldt and Superintendent Rubio admitted the meeting was illegal (under intense media pressure), and it was time for apologies to Mr Patz and the people of Emeryville,  Mr Merriam offered up a big serving of total silence.
We blew it when we endorsed you Donn Merriam and we join the rest of Emeryville in our waiting for the apologies.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Secrecy Reigns at Emeryville's Dysfunctional School Board/District

We Can Trust School Board President Affeldt to Conduct Secret Meetings Ethically 
(Says President Affeldt)

Never Mind What the Law Says, 
It's Better if the Public is Left Out He Says 

Hi, I'm John.
Trust me.
Last night, the Emery School Board voted John Affeldt as President for another term (3-1 Patz dissenting, Affeldt voting for himself).  That's believable for this district; between the guy that conducts illegal secret meetings and the one that thinks the law should be obeyed and the public included, Emeryville gets the school board president that conducts illegal secret meetings.  That's our school district in all its glory, its 'bless your heart' flag flying high.

Which brings us again to the antics of Emery School Board President John Affeldt (and Superintendent of the Schools John Rubio) and the still unfolding secret meeting Brown Act scandal and its attendant coverup.  The Board's lack of contrition after the guilty players (they themselves) were exposed by their colleague, whistleblower Christian Patz, has been a deafening silence.

Why All The Secrecy?
A month into the scandal, after the tepid admissions of guilt from these two (a technical violation of the Brown Act and 'mistakes were made' you understand), we're left facing the 800 pound gorilla in the room: why does this school district feel the need to operate in secrecy to begin with?  Why is it these 'superintendent committees', the same ones the editorial board of the Bay Area News Group calls illegal, why is it that the District is compelled to leave the public out of these meetings?  What are they discussing in these meetings behind closed door that they need to keep hidden from us?

Superintendent Rubio
Secret meetings are wonderful!
It's rare that we do them
but when we do,
they're done professionally,
 & for the children.
Part of the storm of condemnation from the guilty Board raining down on the non-guilty whistleblower member Patz is the outrage expressed by President Affeldt as he self righteously denies doing anything untoward at the November 18 secret meeting with an illegal quorum of Board members.  Seeking to assure Emeryville residents, Mr Affeldt has strenuously and didactically asserted nothing substantial was discussed or voted on at that now infamous illegal meeting or indeed any of the closed door superintendent committee meetings where no records are kept and the public may not go.  But of course, this begs the question: how do we know that, John? 
Are we just to take your word for it?  Your word?  The man who is so narcissistic that he can't bring himself to apologize to the public for his wrong doing on their behalf?  Is it to be: everything will be OK if we just let you conduct School District policy in secret?  And stop criticizing you or looking into your culture of secrecy you've promulgated at Emery Unified School District?
Back Bencher Christian Patz
'Public meetings should be public'.
Yeah, right.

Without throwing out a few tawdry "for the children" platitudes this Board and school district so often uses when their wrongheaded policies are exposed to the light of day (or when their backs are against the wall, their culpability in illegal activity is exposed), let's just say, NO, we're not going to just trust you.  You have to stop conducting the people's business behind closed doors; we're paying for it and we have a right to know. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Public Forum Announced on Emeryville Police Department's Use of AR-15 Assault Rifles

A local arm of a national police watch organization known as the Anti Police-Terror Project is hosting a public forum Sunday on the Emeryville Police Department and their use of AR-15 assault rifles in the wake of the shooting of Yuvette Henderson earlier in the year by Emeryville officers.  The forum, to be held at NUHW Hall, 5801 Christie Avenue #525 is titled Emeryville Police With AR-15s: Are We Safer?

According to the Facebook site dedicated to the event, in addition to EPD, the forum will include talks on the increasing militarization of police departments nation wide with detail on the Bay Area, specifically the Oakland Police Department.  Public policy analysts and activists will examine the impact of coordination between police departments and US Immigration Enforcement on latino communities.  The day will also feature spoken word and music performances.
The organizers to the event say the forum is intended to serve as the launch of a broader campaign to end the militarization of the Emeryville Police Department.

The Tattler weighed in on police use of these AR-15 assault weapons HERE and HERE.

All are invited to the forum and organizers would appreciate for interested parties to sign in at the Facebook site. The event starts at 2:30 and is expected to last until 5:00 PM Sunday December 13th.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

School Board President Affeldt Responds to Brown Act Scandal

Emery School Board President John Affeldt has submitted the following letter today for Tattler readers to consider regarding fallout from the November 18th Emery School District Brown Act violation (please see numerous previous Tattler stories for background, starting with the opening November 23rd story).  The letter is the text from the verbal response given at the School Board meeting of December 2nd by Mr Affeldt.

Statement of John Affeldt, EUSD Board President 

As Supt. Rubio has noted it was a technical violation of the Brown Act to have a third board member be present to observe a Superintendent’s committee meeting on November 18th . We all regret this error; I am sorry it happened on my watch, and we will make sure this does not happen again.

Let me emphasize, there was no substantive consequence as a result of Member Merriam’s presence on November 18th. No actions were taken, no decisions were made. What is more, the information generated at the Superintendent’s committee meeting was immediately shared with the full board and the public at the board meeting that night. The only discussion by board members on November 18th as to whether to support the bond issuance was had in public at the full board meeting. The sole purpose of the Superintendent’s committee meeting was to update the list of known and potential outstanding ECCL construction costs. The Board as a whole, when discussing the bond item at its prior public meeting, had requested that such a list be presented to the Board at the meeting on November 18th .

That this meeting occurred as it did was an honest mistake. I and the other board members present at the meeting relied on staff’s understanding that it was not a violation of the Brown Act to have a third board member observe the meeting, but not participate. There is such a rule, but it did not apply in this instance. Staff were confusing the fact that additional board members are permitted to silently observe publicly noticed meetings of two-member committees of the board. This was a superintendent’s committee meeting and, as such, is not publicly noticed. In that case, the non-participation of the third board member does not prevent a quorum from being formed. As the Supt. has noted, the Board will undertake additional training to refresh all of us on the Brown Act, most likely at our semi-annual retreat early next year.

I appreciate Member Patz informing us of the fact that he believed a Brown Act violation had occurred. I was wrong in my understanding that it had not. Yet, Mr. Patz did more than convey that belief. On November 18th , he made very inflammatory claims about what occurred at the Superintendent’s committee meeting—asserting that board members intentionally used the meeting to act as a “cabal,” to discuss and “pre-determine” passage of the bond. And, he did so without even first asking his fellow board members what had taken place. I take issue with anyone who is willing to make assertions with reckless disregard for whether they are true or not. When any person, much less a public official, makes an unfounded, inflammatory assertion, they sow confusion and undermine open and honest civic dialogue. We don’t all have to agree. But we all should refrain from making unfounded accusations of intentional wrong-doing against each other.

Now, it doesn’t feel right to end it right there. On reflection, it has occurred to me that Mr. Patz may have acted as he did because of a fundamental lack of trust of his fellow board members. Now, we may have different styles; we may have different personalities; we may have different objectives. But we are all on this Board together and we have to lead this district together.
To do that, we have to trust each other. So, I’m going to propose that the Board, at its retreat in the early part of the coming year, explore engaging some kind of intervention where we can work on the trust issues that currently exist so that we can move forward together. We have many important items before us in the coming year, including addressing our composition between Anna Yates and ECCL and opening the ECCL facility. I look forward to continuing to work with all members of the board and the school community on these and other matters.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Smoking Gun Video Reveals School Board President Lied to the People of Emeryville

Brown Act Scandal Smoking Gun

Affeldt Caught Contradicting Himself

Conscious Violation, Not a "Mistake"

A smoking gun video recording of an Emery School Board 'retreat' last summer has surfaced showing the school district's attorney teaching the Board members about the Brown Act open-meetings law that directly contradicts the Board President's and the Superintendent's recent claims of ignorance of the law after a colleague caught three Board members privately meeting behind closed doors before a regular Board meeting November 18th, 2015.  The video of the September 13th 2014 Board retreat makes it clear the Board understands that a private meeting with three of them in attendance would be illegal,  exactly what they did this last November and then denied under questioning from a fellow Board member that the meeting was illegal.
Emery School Board President
John Affeldt

After the Tattler first broke the story and the greater Bay Area press helped turn it into a major public scandal, Board President John Affeldt and Schools Superintendent John Rubio have consequently admitted that, yes they had indeed violated the Brown Act with the private meeting, a "technical" violation but it was a "mistake" based on them not knowing the law.  Mr Affeldt had originally claimed the fact that one of the three Board members in attendance at the private meeting didn't participate in the discussions, in effect made the meeting legal, something the 2014 video (below) shows he knew to be false when he made that statement.

After Board member Christian Patz made a complaint about the private closed door meeting he witnessed at the November 18th public Board meeting, Mr Affeldt, an attorney,  attacked him and strenuously denied that a quorum of three Board members meeting in private where Board business is being discussed behind closed doors constitutes a Brown Act violation, instead he said it's "completely within the Brown Act and appropriate".
However, the 2014 video shows the entire Board listening to Mr Affeldt agreeing with and reiterating what the District's attorney stated about how it's illegal for three Board members to even be in a private room together when District business is being discussed.  Immediately following that, Superintendent Rubio says that to have meetings with three Board members in private would be unfair to the public because they wouldn't have the ability to participate.

Relevant attendance at the 2014 Board retreat besides Superintendent John Rubio included Board members John Affeldt, Melodi Dice, and Christian Patz.

Smoking Gun Video Table of Contents:

10:55 - 13:57   The District's attorney tells the Board "collective concurrence", or action taken by the Board based on an illegal quorum meeting, is not needed for a Brown Act violation to have occurred, simply a private quorum meeting where Board business is being discussed is a Brown Act violation. 
13:57 - 14:14   The Smoking Gun: Board President Affeldt reiterates and explains to the rest of the Board it's illegal for more than two of them to meet privately where District business is being discussed. 
14:14 - 14:27   Superintendent Rubio adds his view that if more than two Board members were to meet privately to discuss District business, it would be unfair to the public because they would not have an opportunity to participate.   

Video courtesy of the Emeryville Property Owners Association

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Emery School Board President, Superintendent Called to Account by Local Press

From the Contra Costa Times and the Oakland Tribune:
Daniel Borenstein: Six decades after Brown Act passage, elected leaders still hold 
illegal meetings
By Daniel Borenstein © 2015 Bay Area News Group

Emery Unified School District board member Donn Merriman; John Affeldt, president; John Rubio, superintendent; and Melodi Dice, vice president, clockwise from upper left, are photographed during a board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in Emeryville, Calif. The board members and superintendent participated in a Nov. 18 that was in violation of California's open meeting law. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

The principle underlying California's local government open-meeting law is simple: The public's business must be conducted in public. Yet 62 years after the passage of the Brown Act, some elected leaders still don't get it.

The most recent example comes from Emeryville, where a majority of school district trustees met privately with the superintendent and construction manager before a board meeting last month. They say they reviewed costs for a joint city-school district project for which the board later that night approved issuance of another $4.5 million of bonds.

It's amazing that elected officials hold such closed-door gatherings more than six decades after Gov. Earl Warren signed legislation outlawing them. Indeed, these are the very sorts of meetings that led to the Brown Act.

For the rest of the story please click HERE.