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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Another Year Passes, Still No Horton Street Bike Boulevard

It's déjà vu all over again
December 31, 2016 is like December 31, 2015;
Bike Plan Still Being Ignored

Today, the Tattler brings back our ongoing end of December yearly feature: We re-post our original September 2012 story (below in non-italicized print) on Emeryville's Horton Street Bike Boulevard every December 31st and will continue every year until City Hall either stops stalling and implements our Bike Plan or if they refuse, amend our Bike Plan and remove Horton's Bike Boulevard status, additionally they could amend the Plan to allow more than 3000 vehicle trips per day on Bike Boulevards.  Those are their only choices available as dictated by the Plan.  Stalling is not allowed.  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 synopsis in the italics preceding the September 2012 re-post every December 31st here: 

2016 Synopsis-
"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."

In 2016, the Horton Street Bike Boulevard finally died with the signing of the Sherwin Williams Statement of Overriding Considerations. Before that fateful day, the City Council voted to place Level Three traffic calming measures in the form of three temporary speed bumps along Horton Street between 45th Street and 53rd Street.  The bumps went in in November.  It represented no forward movement for the implementation of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard because Horton Street was already at Level Three and because the street still remains substantially more than 3000 vehicle trips per day (the cut off point where a street can be called a bike boulevard).  The speed bumps have been called out as unlikely to succeed in bringing down the volume of traffic by Alta Planning, the writers of Emeryville's $200,000 Bike Plan but may cause vehicle speed to be reduced.  Additionally, the Level Three speed bumps are counter to what Mayor Scott Donahue and Councilwoman Dianne Martinez promised voters in 2014 when they said they would move Horton Street to Level Four traffic calming (chicanes or chokers).  Notably, City Engineer Maurice Kaufman said he would not allow any Level Four or Level Five traffic diversion in Emeryville regardless of the Bike Plan's requirements for it.  But the most important event of 2016 is the Sherwin Williams decision and it's Statement of Overriding Considerations signed by the City Council that says Horton Street will have 4000 vehicle trips per day forever (with more coming every year) rendering a bike boulevard impossible for Horton Street.  This year end wrap up at the Tattler will continue until the City Council finally amends our Bike Plan and removes the bike boulevard status for Horton Street returning it to a regular street.

In 1998, Emeryville adapted its Bike Plan after years of study and $200,000  subsequently 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 the next year (finally came in the form of the November 2016 speed bumps).  Also 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 has been done to rectify that either.  The Tattler investigation of the 45th Street and Horton Street problems was revealed when we reported the City Engineer lied to the City Manager to stop the Horton Street Bike Boulevard.  

Here then is the September 29th, 2012 Tattler story we re-print every December 31st:

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.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Emeryville Suspects: Black Males

Purveyors in Racist Stereotypes: 
Emeryville Police Department 

Black Males Are Suspect, Black Females Too

Our Government Undermines Our Values

News Analysis/Opinion
Emeryville's Police Department releases monthly crime information to the public.  They want us to know that among the crimes committed, earlier this month, a victim was robbed at gun point by three men at 6399 Christie Avenue.  More pressingly they want us to know about the suspects, presumably so we can be on the look out for them.  Who are the suspects? "Three Black males" says EPD.  That's it; three Black males.  Nothing about what direction they fled or what they were wearing or how old they appeared to be or anything else about what they looked like other than the fact they are 'Black'.  But let's not forget Black females. Another crime happened as reported in this month's crime blotter at 3839 Emery Street, the location of Ulta cosmetics store.  The  police want us to know the description of a shoplifter at Ulta who fled the scene; that suspect is a black female you understand.  Again, nothing else has been offered as to the physical characteristics of the female, just that she's 'Black'.  Why are they telling us only the race of the suspects?  What are we supposed to do with this information?

This is how the Emeryville Police Department's publicly offered crime blotter forwards a racist meme about Blacks and crime.  The idea behind the blotter ostensibly is so citizens can know about crime in their town and to disseminate information to enlist the public to help bring perpetrators to justice.  We don't know if the Police Department is withholding other information about the suspects in this month's blotter beyond the fact they are Black.  We imagine that's all the information the police have for whatever reasons.  But why do they feel a need to tell us the suspect's race?  Will that fact help bring anybody to justice without any other physical descriptions offered?  As a faithful copy and paster of the EPD crime blotter every month, why does the right wing blog in Emeryville, the E'Ville Eye also want us to know these suspects are Black?

Why are they doing this?  Is this a public service?
The answer is NO, this information will not help anybody.  It WILL hurt people however.  It will hurt citizens both directly and indirectly.  It hurts everyone. The E'Ville Eye and the Emeryville Police Department are collaborating on a project to perpetuate racist stereotypes.  The City of Emeryville also publishes the racist stereotypes on its website.  It's being done in our name.

How do we know this is racist?  Besides the obvious nature of it, we put it to the test and the Emeryville Police Department itself showed us it's racist.  We called the police after we saw a gentleman walking down the sidewalk along San Pablo Avenue after the E'Ville Eye posted the crime blotter.  The man in question was Black: and that fits the description of the suspects as described by the police.  The police officer came out to take down our information but was incredulous when we reported that we have no information specifically tying the gentleman to the crime.  "How do you know he's one of the suspects (to the Christie Avenue robbery)?" the officer asked us.  "Because you told us he's a suspect" was our response...."because he's black".  The officer responded he thought the tip from us was "ridiculous"...and there's finally something we can agree on.  But the Department as a whole thinks the Black gentleman walking down the sidewalk IS a suspect.  The Emeryville Police Department crime blotter is clear: all Black males in Emeryville are suspects in the Christie Avenue robbery.

It's easy to see why the E'Ville Eye joyfully posts the EPD crime blotter every month; the racist stereotyping dovetails with that blog's right wing views, affirms the reader's predilections towards this kind of sociopathy and drives clicks resulting in more ad revenue for Rob Arias, the editor of that blog.  But why does the Emeryville Police Department do it?  It's hard for us to imagine our police department is purposefully forwarding racist stereotypes (but we should be open to the idea that may be indeed what's being done).  We think more likely it's being done out of ignorance and insensitivity.  This Department is ours, the people of Emeryville.  Emeryville is not racist.  The Police Department needs to cease this odious activity.  If they're going to tell us about suspects in specific crimes, they need to tell us information beyond the suspect's race, otherwise this Department is subverting our Emeryville values.

From the blotter this month:
District 3
6399 Christie Ave., #330: A male victim was robbed at gunpoint. LOSS: An iPhone, a laptop, an iPad, and several other cell phones. Suspects: (3) Black males.

District 5
Ulta, 3839 Emery St. #200: A shoplifter brandished a stun gun at employees and threaten to tase them to avoid detention. LOSS: Fragrances. Suspect: Black female.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Emeryville Paid Contractor $818,000 For an Unusable Bike Path

If You Wear Dentures, Don't Use the New Christie Ave Bike Path

Bone Jarringly Bumpy Asphalt: "Meets CalTrans Specs" 

An important heretofore missing bike path section of the Bay Trail through Emeryville has been completed along Christie Avenue earlier this year but City officials admit the path isn't being used as much as they had hoped, probably because of its extremely rough surface as a result of "poor workmanship" by the construction contractor according to the City engineer.  Even though the work was signed off by the City, numerous City staffers and Council members are complaining about the terrible condition of the asphalt there.  Bike East Bay, the premier local bike advocacy group agreed the path is too bumpy and they suggested City Council members consider redoing the path after receiving complaints about it from their members.  However the Tattler has learned the City paid the contractor who built the path, Tiburon based Redwood Engineering, the final payment in full in April and no recourse for a fix or restitution exists at this point. Any additional fixes would have to be born exclusively by the taxpayers said the City engineer.  The Mayor Scott Donahue refused to comment to the Tattler about any plans to repair the path.

The City engineer and head of Public Works, Maurice Kaufman told the Tattler he's not happy with the low quality of the work done by Redwood, "It wasn't the best" he said after he indicated the bumpy surface nonetheless meets CalTrans specifications, still "It would have been nice to have a smoother path" he said.  Mayor Donahue disagreed, "It's a little bit lumpy" he said but he thought it would serve a useful function for bike safety as a speed inhibitor. Leaving that aside, several bicyclers were observed using the street rather than subject themselves to the bone jarring ride along the new bike path recently as the Tattler filmed the experience from a bicyclist's perspective for this story (below).

Redwood Engineering, originally the lowest bidder out of five contractors originally bid $739,125 for the job but bumped up (so to speak) that number by $79,445 due to "unforeseen additional work" bringing the total to $818,570.  After the added costs unforeseen by Redwood Engineering, their bid price ended up being the fourth highest.
The bids delivered to the City listed lowest to highest:
1. Redwood Engineering Construction $739,125  ($818,0570 actually charge to City)
2. Phoenix Electric Company $749,687 
3. Bauman Landscape and Construction $775,846 
4. Sposeto Engineering Inc. $786,460 
5. Ray’s Electric Inc. $913,650

The City received a grant from Alameda County for $550,00 to put towards the job (funds from voter backed Measure B) leaving Emeryville with a bill for $269,000.
The City made the final payment in April but not before Mr Kaufman rode the path himself to check on the quality of the work, "I wish it rode better"" he acknowledged after he approved the last payment.  Regarding the poor workmanship done by Redwood Engineering on the Christie Avenue bike path, the City engineer added, "I wouldn't want them to do another paving job in town".

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Political Endorsements by Emeryville Police: At Odds With the Will of the People of Emeryville

Emeryville Police Enter Political Fray

Two Council Picks in Opposition to the Will of the People of Emeryville

Next time you see one of these drive by remember
Ally Medina and Christian Patz are no good 
on our City Council.
The people of Emeryville made a mistake in the November election.  We selected the wrong City Council members say the Emeryville police.  Louise Engel and Brynnda Collins would have been good on our City Council.  We should have voted for Ms Engel and Ms Collins say those driving around our town with guns and a right to arrest.  Look who we got instead; Ally Medina and Christian Patz.
The Emeryville Police Department wants you to know the two winning City Council members selected by the people for our town were not worth voting for.  Those of you who voted for Ms Medina and Mr Patz should think about that next time you see the boys in blue drive by.  Those who voted for whom the police wanted us to vote for should think about it as well.

He supports the police say EPD.
Do the other two?
Do you, Emeryville voter?
Starting in 2016, our police department (who in addition to Ms Engel and Ms Collins told us to vote for John Bauters, now on our City Council) has now shamelessly turned into a publicly funded special interest group seeking what all such groups seek; to increase their money and power.  Now imagine an alternative universe where the Emeryville police don't insert themselves so heinously into our politics, instead they just avail themselves to protecting and serving all equally.  It would be an anachronistic place, a previous leitmotif where police are seen as non-political players, just neutral arbiters engaged in peace keeping. Unfortunately, after November that's not our town anymore.
And it's not just Emeryville.  Indeed, nation-wide police endorsing of political candidates seems to be a fashionable thing.  EPD's brothers and sisters at the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Donald Trump for president, something that organization thinks will help foster good relations between the public and police.

Warning: When you see one of
these, don't let it slip you voted for
Ally Medina and Christian Patz.
The Emeryville Police Officers Association, a trade union, is reasonably expected to advocate in its member's interest.  That could even mean entering our electoral politics if a real threat rose up in the form of a candidate for City Council threatening them in some real way.  That's not what happened in the latest City Council contest.  Not one person running was anything but totally supportive of the Emeryville Police and all they represent.  Do the police have information about the winning candidates we don't know?  Are Ms Medina and Mr Patz some kind of clandestine cop haters that want to bring down the department?  The cops aren't saying.  We think that's not what going on here.  We think this is just dirty stupid politics being played by those who shouldn't stoop to that level.

An Emeryville police officer told the Tattler they will likely engage in this kind of political calculation from now on.  He said to expect political endorsements for City Council by the police next time too (strangely he would not say whether the police will endorse School Board members leaving us to wonder why not?).  This is a degradation of our Emeryville Police Department.  If they plan on inserting themselves as a manipulating power in our electoral business like this moving forward, they will have to suffer the inevitable ill effects that come from this sort of rank political gamesmanship.  We don't want that for this group of heretofore professional and highly publicly regarded public servants.  To the Emeryville Police Department: get out of our elections and back into our neighborhoods.
Fine on the School Board...just keep 
him off the City Council says EPD.
'Don't vote for her' says EPD.
Oops!  Too late.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

EPD Exempt From Fire Safety Regulations

Post Ghost Ship Fire:
'Do As We Say, Not As We Do'

Fire Trap at Emeryville Police Department

After the deaths of 36 people in Oakland’s Ghost Ship Fire on December 2nd, East Bay municipalities, looking to avoid appearing cavalier about public safety in the face of intense and building public scrutiny, have been on a tear seeking to root out fire hazards.  In Oakland and Berkeley they've already started finding violations in makeshift warehouse live/work housing settlements.  In Emeryville, they only need to look in the mirror. 
Behold the newly remodeled Emeryville Police Department 2nd floor public lobby: fine so long as there’s not a fire…but if there is, you’re gunna die.  That’s because the only way out besides the elevator is through a set of locked doors that lead to a stairway to the outside and safety; a clear cut major fire code violation.  And a major public safety hazard.

The Alameda County Fire Department as well as the city manager of the City of Emeryville, the chief of police and the chief building inspector have all known about this problem for years as a result of numerous public complaints.  But they've been kicking this embarrassing public safety violation can down the road all that time leaving the fire safety issue still unresolved.  After December 2nd, there will be perhaps a new found sense of urgency. 

Death Trap
The police department's public lobby.
Doors on the left open up to stairs that lead outside.
But during a fire (and all other times as well),
they're locked.
The public officials were all alerted to the condition after the City undertook a major $2.7 million taxpayer funded remodel, finished in 2012.  The construction work which took two years to complete was done ostensibly to improve public safety but the public was safer before when the building's escape stairs weren’t located behind set of permanently locked doors says a fire department employee. The source within the Alameda County Fire Department who wished to remain anonymous agrees the newly remodeled lobby at the police department is a public fire hazard that should be addressed but doesn’t hold much hope for a fix. 

While the City of Emeryville starts its search for fire code violations amid artist's home/studios and local businesses, the hypocrisy is not lost on the fire department employee,  "All businesses in Emeryville are required to have annual fire inspections, however government buildings are not under the same scrutiny. It's a loophole that allows violations to slip through the cracks”, the anonymous source told the Tattler.

It was conjectured that the reason the doors at the police station became permanently locked as part of the remodel, was to save police personnel the trouble of having to fumble for keys as they traverse through two doors that would have been constructed on either side of the former public stairway if public safety had been foremost in the City's mind during the remodel planning stage.

Notified that the Tattler would make this public safety hazard public and perhaps not sensing any irony, officials at the Emeryville Police Department refused to unlock the door for photo documentation of the formerly public stairs for this story.  They also refused comment for this story as did City Hall officials and Alameda County Fire Department officials, save the one employee who wished anonymity.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Rise of the Fake Community Benefits Agreement

Councilman Bauters, Schools Supe Rubio
Push Fake CBAs

Illegitimate Projects Legitimized

Community Engagement Hijacked
by Fake Grassroots Agreements

“A Community Benefits Agreement ("CBA") in the United States is a contract signed by community groups and a real estate developer that requires the developer to provide specific amenities and/or mitigations to the local community or neighborhood. In exchange, the community groups agree to publicly support the project, or at least not oppose it. Often, negotiating a CBA relies heavily upon the formation of a multi-issue, broad based community coalition including community, environmental, faith-based and labor organizations” -Wikipedia

News Analysis
A Community Benefits Agreement is a powerful tool a developer can use to legitimize his project to facilitate a quick approval by a municipality.  CBA’s are also popular with elected officials as any future bad effects brought on by a development can serve to decouple the effects from the politician’s responsibility.  Given the out-sized power of CBA’s, it’s easy to see how they would be tempting to developers and even politicians to abuse for their own benefit rather than the greater community; the very definition of ironic.  This being Emeryville, it should not be surprising that’s exactly what’s happened.    

Here in Emeryville two recent development projects have been sold to the public by developers and politicians using obfuscating tactics of the fake CBA: the Sherwin Williams project and the Emeryville Center of ‘Community’ Life.  In the case of the Sherwin Williams “CBA”, a private and exclusive group of people brokered a deal with the developer Lennar Urban behind closed doors, the greater community shut out of the process and at the Center of ‘Community’ Life, the “CBA” was struck between the Emery Unified School District and the developer Turner Construction, without any community members whatsoever.  Both these projects subverted the purpose of actual Community Benefits Agreements.  

Superintendent of Emery Unified
School District
John Rubio

Beneficiary of the ECCL fake CBA.
The Center of ‘Community’ Life “CBA” was created by former Board of Trustees President John Affeldt and the Superintendent of the Schools John Rubio as a way to mollify critics of the decidedly undemocratic tactics the School District made use of to push through that project.  Tattler readers will recall how scores of parents and community members denounced the School Board’s heavy handed shutting out of the public as the Board went about their unilateral decision to close Anna Yates Elementary School as part of the Kindergarten through 12th grade vision of the Center of ‘Community’ Life.  This was done despite assurances to the community they would be permitted to weigh in on the wisdom of closing the elementary school as guaranteed by the Measure J 2010 plebiscite that started the ECCL.  
Beneficiary of the ECCL Fake CBA
Sensing exposure to claims of fraud by the community, Mr Rubio and Mr Affeldt sought relief in the form of the warm community blanket of a CBA.  However since a real CBA would also expose the School District to the desires of the actual community and a possible ratcheting back of the K-12 model, Mr Affeldt and Mr Rubio instead delivered a fake CBA, leaving questions about its illegitimacy unanswered.  The CBA was written entirely by the School District with no actual community support, a clear subversion of the purpose of a CBA.

City Councilman John Bauters
Beneficiary of the PARC fake CBA.
The Sherwin Williams proposal was in trouble as developers sought to move the housing project past the new ‘progressive’ City Council majority.  Both the developer and the City Council needed help legitimizing an agreement that would cheapen the public commons as Sherwin Williams demonstrably does.  Further City Council candidate John Bauters was seeking a way to bolster his community visibility as he sought election to the Council in the months before the November 8th election.  Mr Bauters very visibly helped form the Park Avenue Resident Committee (PARC) to negotiate directly with the developer regarding specific amenities for the project, promoting it in his election campaign literature.  The agreement, sold to the public as a CBA by the developer, the City Council/City Hall, and PARC and especially Mr Bauters was not a CBA.   
Beneficiary of the PARC fake CBA.
The PARC, which was comprised of a handful of residents, operated behind closed doors in private and was specifically closed to any individuals not selected by PARC and even more egregiously, Emeryville’s premier community activist group Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE) was specifically not allowed in.  Well known for promoting all resident's interests, the entire community, RULE asked to be able to join as a coalition partner but they were rebuffed by PARC.  
The discrediting exclusivity of the fake Sherwin Williams CBA did not stop the City Council from loudly proclaiming PARC as a legitimate broker of what they characterized as a real Community Benefits Agreement, especially the former Mayor Dianne Martinez, ironically herself a RULE backed Council member.  
However, explicit in the definition of a CBA is the existential democratic nature of it.  The PARC Agreement is not a CBA regardless of what is being proclaimed by interested parties.

The agreements being made in the community’s name now in Emeryville are not Community Benefit Agreements by definition.  Rather they are simple development side agreements.  There is nothing wrong with these kinds of side agreements being made; in fact both of the agreements highlighted here have demonstrably improved the resultant projects, more so the Sherwin Williams project.  Having said that, these agreements being characterized as CBA’s amounts to more than just hyperbole or bombast.  The problem with issuing fake CBA’s as the power elite in Emeryville is doing is that it comes at a cost; actual CBA’s are proportionally cheapened and real community involvement is hijacked to serve an antithetical goal, raising up of the elite and pushing down of the community.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

RULE Assumes Total Power; Residents Replace Business at City Hall

"RULE Block" Bloc Takes Over

RULE Rules; Victory for Residents

First Time Ever; Businesses Have No Representatives at 
City Hall

News Analysis
All five Emeryville City Council members are now RULE backed Council members.  On December 6th, three new City Council members backed by the resident activist group Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE) took their oaths of office and filled out the City Council as they joined the two already elected RULE backed Council members for an unprecedented total RULE takeover of City Hall.  Put this way, as some on the right wing in Emeryville have done, it sounds ominous: a total takeover?  Is it a complete "RULE block" as the anti-RULE pro-business blog E'Ville Eye calls it?  That's pretty disconcerting sounding, but what really is a 'RULE block' anyway?
A total RULE block means Emeryville residents interests will now have 100% representation at City Hall as opposed to what existed in the Emeryville of yesteryear when a 'business block' at City Hall and in the Council chambers looked out after business interests. 

New RULE Councilman
John Bauters
Part of the RULE block 

RULE Block
Emeryville's 2014 election seated Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue, both RULE backed candidates and together they joined their colleague already on the Council, Jac Asher, to form the first RULE majority, the first RULE block as it were.  Now however, Emeryville residents, and their advocate at City Hall, RULE, can rightfully claim their influence and power is not simply part of a 3-5 majority anymore but their power at 5-5 is now complete and total; a remarkable turn of events given Emeryville’s not so distant staunchly pro-business history when resident's interests took a back seat.  

New RULE Councilwoman
Ally Medina
Part of the RULE block
The election on November 8th, the fifth consecutive RULE election sweep (every RULE candidate won their seat), added RULE backed candidates John Bauters, Ally Medina and Christian Patz.  It marks the wholesale accession to power for the resident's advocacy group and a total abdication of power by the business community and business advocacy groups the E’Ville Eye and also Little City Emeryville (a new organization that has inserted itself into Emeryville politics and casts itself as a replacement for the vanquished Emeryville Chamber of Commerce). 

New RULE Councilman
Christian Patz
Part of the RULE block.
Business Block
The win on November 8th consolidating total power for an advocacy group was remarkable but not unprecedented in Emeryville history; the 1997 election of Chamber of Commerce backed candidates Gary Caffee and Dick Kassis added to three other already seated Chamber backed Council members, netting the business community an eight year 5-5 total lock on power (from a 4-1 simple majority earlier).  The Chamber leveraged that power in the form of City Hall sponsored give-a-ways to the business community, automatic green lights for developers seeking approval for projects and even for itself when it secured City Hall sponsored free rent and cash grants to publish its newspaper all paid for with public money. Before 1997 you’d have to go all the way back to the 1960’s through the 1970's (before the Chamber existed) with the Emeryville Industries Association to see a similar 100% business block on power at City Hall.

Existing RULE Council members
Mayor Scott Donahue & Dianne Martinez

Both part of the RULE block.
Predictably, now that RULE enjoys the same level of power that the business community used to have, business advocates have cried foul.  Notably among the detractors is Rob Arias, the editor of the pro-business blog the E’Ville Eye who has even before the last election used his blog to chastise RULE, to insinuate the democratic resident advocacy group is somehow illegitimate, characterizing them as secretive, somehow even dangerous or nefarious. 

Former RULE Councilwoman
Jac Asher

Part of the RULE block.
She gave RULE a shout out as she stepped
down on Tuesday night.
As the locus of power has shifted to the residents, Mr Arias, who also is a co-founder of Little City Emeryville, has raised alarms about what he sees as the improper vesting of so much power in one organization.  It is remarkable that Mr Arias, for all his histrionics on the recent shift of power in Emeryville, sees crucial 
distinction between a business interest lobbying group and a citizen advocacy group both petitioning their government as one between a magisterial elite that should be shown great deference and a rag tag bunch of (hippie?) residents worthy of little more than derision.  Vexing in this calculation for Mr Arias no doubt is the unavoidable 'problem' that only citizens can vote, not businesses.  The whole idea of the franchise of course is the empowerment of resident citizens, and RULE, a democratic group open to all residents and advocating as they do for pro-resident change, represents that empowerment. 
Not prone to transparency (a quality at odds with the title 'journalist'),  Mr Arias has steadfastly refused to answer questions about his favorite punching bag, RULE for this story, regardless of the optics that creates. 

Contrary to RULE, groups such as Little City Emeryville and the former Chamber of Commerce are anti-democratic private clubs, restrictive in their memberships.  Of course, business advocates never publicly reveal their advocacy so bluntly as this.  Usually attempts are made to invoke resident's interests using the classic trickle down economic proposition, in this case: what's good for business is good for Emeryville.
Former RULE Councilwoman
Jennifer West
Before the RULE block when

RULE was in the minority. 
This plutocratic view of governance, with its whiff of desperation may be derided by most around here as too easy but it must be acknowledged and respected for what it is: a potentially effective stalking horse ripe with utility by would be demagogues and interlopers among us, even those who count themselves as journalists.

Former RULE Councilman
John Fricke
Before the RULE block when

RULE was in the minority.
But even as Emeryville slips into a new era, a ‘post land use’ era what with the last large developable sites having been developed, there's no guarantee a City Council entirely backed by RULE will be looking out exclusively after resident's interests.  Indeed, recent pro-business moves, by the RULE majority made before the formulation of the new total RULE block (the unnecessary give-a-ways at the Marketplace development, Sherwin Williams and the Anton/Nady project) are echoes of the days when business was king in Emeryville.  

RULE's accession to total power has an extra cautionary tale for haters who would take on the group in the story of John Bauters and his two year pivot; Mr Bauters ran as an anti-RULE City Council candidate in 2014 and lost. Perhaps sensing the rising power of RULE, this year Mr Bauters patched up relations with the group and sought and received RULE's endorsement.  This time RULE members even worked on the Bauters campaign (as well as the Ally Medina and Christian Patz campaigns) by phone calling and precinct walking.

The November 8th three for three election of Mr Bauters, Ms Medina and Mr Patz continues RULE’s uncanny ability to pick winning candidates for public office.  The fact that every single RULE candidate that has ever sought office (at the School Board and the City Council) over five election cycles has won speaks to the highly centrist nature of the group, regardless of the loud condemnations from extremist right wing organizations and individuals in Emeryville.  RULE demonstrably has its finger on the pulse of Emeryville; it is the pro-business ideologues at E'Ville Eye and Little City Emeryville who can't win elections anymore that are, by definition, the extremists. 
The E'Ville Eye
RULE hating pro-business blog.
Big loser in the November 8th
Emeryville election.

The 'Business Block' advocate
refuses to answer questions about RULE
even as the blog continues to report on it.
Little City Emeryville
Founded by the E'Ville Eye.
Business lobbying group;
Chamber of Commerce replacement.
Loser in the election.

Longs for the salad days of the 
'Business Block'.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Emeryville Loses Two Game Changing Council Members; Our Worst and Best Ever

Nora Davis: Worst Council Member Ever

Jac Asher: Best Council Member Ever

News Analysis
December 6th, 2016, is a red letter date in Emeryville history.  On this date our town is presented with the final curtain call for two influential political personages; one with more than a generation in command, the other having logged a scant five years at the helm. Both however have been extremely consequential.  The retiring two represent near polar opposite views of governance; one from old Emeryville with its very limited vision of the role of government, a hands off pro-business approach, the other from our new way of imagining ourselves with a more active role for government expressing our values in the public arena.  On December 6th, we lose both these City Council members; Nora Davis, very likely the worst Council member we’ve ever had and Jac Asher, almost certainly the best we’ve ever had.  
120 Years:
Very likely Emeryville's
worse Council member ever-
Nora Davis
As they now take their leave and head for the exits, it is an auspicious moment to take stock in how these two have come to represent their conflicting views of the proper role of governance in our town and also to note that Ms Davis’ pro- developer/business philosophy, while long dominate, will likely have no role in Emeryville’s future.

120 Years:
Almost certainly Emeryville's
best Council member ever-
Jac Asher
Councilwoman Nora Davis, having served almost 30 years on the City Council, longer than any other in our 120 year history, used her prodigious political acumen to consolidate power and craft our town as developers have seen fit.  Ironically given her position of wielding near supreme power for decades and her wall-to-wall civic boosterism rhetoric, Councilwoman Davis always felt Emeryville was not worthy, not a real power center municipality.  This was reflected in her perennial and central philosophic position that the best Emeryville could ever hope for is that developers would pay attention to us.  
Ms Davis has always been fond of reminding citizens that when she started out on the Council, Emeryville was a blank slate; mostly abandoned factories and nineteenth century warehouses and such.  A blank slate and ripe for development it was and Councilwoman Davis was wont to give the town over to developers.
Of course as everyone knows, developers DID pay attention to us and the town that was built is the town that reflects Nora Davis’ philosophy.  It is not a town that was planned, regardless the copious planning documents ensconced in City Hall, rather it is a town built by developers chasing market ephemera seeking to maximize profits for their shareholders.  Ms Davis’ vision is to put developers in the driver’s seat and she has always maintained that is how we will get the best town possible.  Her vision has never wavered, even as it became increasingly clear that Emeryville is actually blessed with an envious geographical location and seeing developer’s interests as intrinsically sacrosanct, she never leveraged our strengths to drive a higher quality of development that would have served the resident’s interests. 

Ms Davis always placed business interests at the top of her agenda during her near 30 years in power but her biggest legacy is to be found in the built environment and her predilection to empower developers as her default position.  Along with her colleagues of like mind, the Councilwoman changed our town plenty over the years but not in ways that the residents would benefit with her ‘put developers first’ philosophy.  Quite the opposite actually.  Over her tenure, the primary things people claim to like in their neighborhoods have gotten measurably worse, like acreage of parks per resident, traffic and congestion, affordability, home ownership, locally serving retail and family friendliness.  The Emeryville Tattler will present documentary evidence of this slide and Ms Davis’ role in it with a series called The Emeryville Truth & Reconciliation Project coming soon.

Councilwoman Davis used her clout to green light a huge amount of development clearing out historical buildings, leaving our town with virtually no old buildings.  Market forces being what they are, this ‘new building condition' promises to lock our town into what we now have for the foreseeable future.  Like it or not, after the build out of the last few approved projects now in the pipeline, there’s not going to be any substantial change in Emeryville’s built environment.  As a result, our town, a town with tremendous potential 30 years ago is now substantially set owing to developer returns on investments.  The town we see is Nora Davis’ town, unerringly built by her developer friends according to the protean dictates of real estate market particularities over the past years.

Jac Asher, having served for five years at the dais on the other hand, has not been a pro-developer ideologue.  She inherited a town largely decided by her colleague Ms Davis. Instead of bringing development, Councilwoman Asher concentrated on two things; bringing fiscal health and stability as well as accountability to City Hall and reshaping our government to reflect Emeryville values.  
For all Nora Davis’ crowing about Emeryville’s budget, it has been Jac Asher that has actually delivered on that score.  Whereas Ms Davis produced austerity budgets with her lowest-in-the-Bay Area developer fees, Councilwoman Asher wasn’t blind to Emeryville’s real estate value and she worked to increase our developer fees and other revenue streams to reflect that value.  
Most consequential though was her work to change our town to a ‘charter city’, thereby bringing in literally millions of dollars every year to our General Fund.  Ms Asher fought the entrenched right wing in our town and the largest lobbying organization in Sacramento, the California Association of Realtors who pulled out all the stops to defeat the charter city ballot initiative.  Vastly outspent by these real estate special interests, she used her own money to inform Emeryville voters of the utility in becoming a charter city to enable us to tap into real estate transactions as other cities do.  Jac showed us she isn’t opposed to development but she worked to ensure developers paid their fair share for the benefit of the whole community.   
Before the charter city vote when Nora Davis ran the show, Emeryville collected 55 cents per 1000 square feet of building, now we collect $12 per 1000, still less than our neighboring cities but a vast improvement - bringing huge relief to our formally strapped budget now and into the future.

Councilwoman Asher wasn’t interested in collecting money from developers and businesses, leveraging our real value, just to do it.  She has had a goal in mind; to steer City Hall to provide amenities for residents and to use the largess of government to help the least fortunate and most vulnerable among us.  From her single handed saving of the Emeryville Child Development Center (Nora Davis fought that) to dramatically increasing funding for the Community Services Department, Councilwoman Asher used her turn in power to turn our city’s direction 180 degrees to a place that reflects our values.  
In addition to the help she has brought to residents, she has also used City Hall to offset Nora Davis' legacy and atone for the decades of chain store formula regional shopping mall development in our town and all the non-livable minimum wage jobs produced as a result.  With Emeryville’s landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance Councilwoman Asher was instrumental in passing, Emeryville now has moved from a locus of suffering and oppression to a place that treats the lowest paid among us with dignity, with a living wage (alas, we’re still an auto-centric place filled with suburban style shopping malls).  Again, in contrast to Ms Davis, Ms Asher saw our town as having value that can be leveraged to bring something positive for the whole community.

During their respective eras, the two Councilwoman concluded opposite findings about our town that propelled their competing visions.  Nora Davis saw an Emeryville of little value while  Councilwoman Jac Asher saw Emeryville as having great value.  One was essentially negative, the other positive. One used public policy to enrich the wealthiest among us, the other used it to enrich the whole community.  
It is Jac Asher’s vision for our town that has been shown to have resonance with Emeryville’s values; she wasn’t a push-over for developers and business interests and she kept a community perspective on the proper role of government. And that makes Jac Asher the best City Council member this city has ever had.  Ms Davis in contrast can fairly be put at the bottom of the heap, at least in modern Emeryville history.  
Regarding the 30 year tenure of Nora Davis versus the five years for Jac Asher; that’s been a disturbing pattern reflected in other City Council members over the years here in Emeryville.  It’s been our reoccurring bad fortune based on the lack of a community newspaper that the best Council members tend to be short lived here while the bad ones tend to go on and on.  And on and on and on in Nora Davis’s case.

And so they leave us now, these two game changers for Emeryville; one who over a generation squandered a never again to be seen opportunity in service of a select corporate elite only to open a path for the other who clawed back at least a way forward from that cynicism to reveal a polity that works for the whole community.