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Thursday, October 19, 2017

RULE Meeting

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

Progressive neighbors making our city a great place to live and work 
Next Meeting:  After a summer hiatus we're back at Doyle St. for Saturday meetings

Where:  5514 Doyle St., first floor common room
When:  Sat., October 21, 10:00 - 12:00
        Council Member Dianne Martinez is guest speaker:  to be discussed.... your concerns (let us know)!
        School Board member Barbara Inch initiates forum on Emeryville families:  "How to attract and retain families in Emeryville"
Bring breakfast and tea provided 

 All welcome...See you there!  Judy Timmel, RULE Steering Committee

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cop in Schools Idea Causes Meltdown Between City Council & School Board Member

Cop on Campus?:
Rift Between City Council and School Board Member Opens

Board Member Vargas Makes a Power Play

Testy Exchanges at Meeting

Vargas to Subvert Will of the Council

In an impassioned imbroglio played out before the cameras on October 5th, Emery School Board member Cruz Vargas, citing student discipline problems at the ECCL campus, proposed to fellow members of the City/School Committee that a full time Emeryville police officer with the right to arrest students exhibiting behavior issues be provided and paid for by the City of Emeryville.  It was an idea that landed with a resounding thud but not before the City Council members present directed a strongly stated contradictory barrage at Mr Vargas leaving him pained but undaunted, pledging to take his idea on the road and go around the holders of the purse strings, straight to parents.  Surprisingly, the cost to the City for such an officer, likely more than $100,000 per year, was hardly even mentioned by the City Council members, concerned as they were over what they characterized as the inappropriateness of the whole thing.  

School Board member
Cruz Vargas

He's going over the City Council's heads
and take his cop in the school
show on the road.
The ‘cop in the school’ idea, called a ‘school resources officer’ (SRO), has many critics but regardless been used by some school districts to bring 'order'.  However, in schools with large numbers of black and brown children, it has been universally panned by pedagogical experts, social justice champions and those concerned with equity issues nation wide.  Police officers trained in arresting adults, thrust into an environment where normal adolescent behavior can be misconstrued as criminal activity, SROs have been credited with contributing to the oft referenced ‘school to prison pipeline’ especially for young African Americans, what Council member Christian Patz calls a “reframe to criminality”. 
Regardless of the popularity of SROs among law and order types, the City Council attendees at the meeting took their turns joining with member Patz soundly rejecting member Vargas’ SRO objective, notably Council member John Bauters who delivered a memorably devastating and indelible riposte from the dais (see link below).  Admonishing Mr Vargas’ claim the SRO would be good for the police as well as the children, Councilman Bauters countered that schools are “not a place for PR for police” adding, “When cops encounter children who are acting like children, their instinct in many cases its treat them with the training they know.”  He talked at length on the negative effects ‘over policing’ has on many African American children before he clarified that he is not anti-police, and specifically not anti Emeryville police he stressed.

Council member Ally Medina expressed concern over inequity resulting from the use of SROs that academic studies have shown.  Noting the lack of training police have in dealing with child psychology, a problem that in America skews against schools with high levels of minority students like Emery, Councilwoman Medina quoted such studies when she addressed member Vargas, “Suspension levels are higher for minority children in heavily secured schools” she said.

Council member Christian Patz told his colleagues member Vargas had not presented a cogent reason why a police officer is even needed at ECCL, noting a lack of complaints over student behavior issues and the large numbers of administrators and teachers on the campus that has a palliative effect on discipline, let alone any possible criminal behavior.  Mr Patz counted 13 administrators on campus making for a top heavy 1:53 admin to student ratio.  If teachers are added, that makes it a 1:14 ratio and if the entire adult staff on campus is added, then there is a 1:10 ratio with students, an extremely large percentage among school districts.  Besides the highly monitored effect this large number of adults watching over the children has on tamping down bad behavior, it is also a primary reason why Emery spends so much money per student, higher than all neighboring school districts it was noted.  Mr Patz reminded Mr Vargas of Emery's low suspension rates and high attendance numbers to further illustrate his point that an SRO is not needed.

"I don't know what it was in my remarks that 
led to the impression I had an open mind on this.  
I want to make it very clear; I'm opposed to it".
-Council member Christian Patz

With a recalcitrant Board member Cruz Vargas and an equally oppositional City Council, a testy exchange between the Council members and member Vargas ensued.  Despite a united front of the City Council against the SRO proposal, the five individuals Mr Vargas would have to sway to pay for it, he saw fit to counter attack, perhaps giving hint to his next move.  After warning them he would go directly to parents to force the issue he scolded the City Council, “I don’t appreciate this issue being politicized” he said adding with vituperative finish, “the majority of the people at this table are out of touch with the parents.”  
Driving his point, member Vargas said he had been to a PTO meeting and gleaned, “the vast majority of parents in the school” support his SRO idea to which Councilwoman Dianne Martinez, who’s husband was at that meeting fired back, “I don’t appreciate you speaking for me as a parent” after asking if he was sure about his “vast majority” deduction, she questioned him; “Are you extrapolating?”   Mr Vargas shot back that the Board supports his SRO idea prompting Mr Patz to inquire, “Are you speaking for the whole Board?”  After some retrenching speech by member Vargas when Board member Barbara Inch volunteered she is not in favor of the SRO idea, it was revealed the School Board had only voted to place the issue on a future agenda to discuss it.  Having caught Mr Vargas in the fabrication of Board support, Mr Patz pounced, “[Putting it on an agenda is] very different than saying the Board supports it. It says the Board supports talking about it”

To get his cop in the school idea funded, these are
the five people Cruz Vargas needs to convince. 
It's the same five he has gone to war with

After the City Council members finally all had their say, none of it supportive of the SRO idea, member Vargas told everyone present he would hold a town hall type meeting about this and that he was happy the City Council was open to the idea of bringing a police officer to the ECCL campus and spending taxpayer money for it.  He thanked the Council for "having an open mind on this" and for their receptiveness for holding a town hall meeting.  Council member Christian Patz was incredulous upon hearing that, "I apologize, I don't know what it was in my remarks that led to the impression I had an open mind on this.  I want to make it very clear; I'm opposed to it" he said.  Council member John Bauters was less circumspect, "Not one Council member should have given the impression to you [that a police officer on the campus is a good idea]. It would be political adventure for you to hold some sort of meeting to do what we have told you is not of interest to us" he protested. 

The entire dramatic City/School Committee meeting may be viewed HERE.
John Bauter's historic speech within the meeting may be viewed HERE.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Emery Schools Drop Precipitously: Now Below Oakland Unified

Emery Ranks Last in East Bay

Three Straight Years of Lowering Test Scores 
Yields Second Worst District in Bay Area Status

Emery Unified School District is reeling after the State of California finally released last spring’s academic testing data, revealing its drop in its ranking to the lowest in the East Bay as test scores have fallen for the third straight year according to the annually conducted California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance (CAASPP).  The bad news for Emery was presaged by a ‘sneak peak’ in mid September when three year Emery Superintendent of the Schools John Rubio, pre-released some of the test score data, possibly with an eye to soften the blow of the precipitous drop in ranking as compared with neighboring school districts shown by the CAASPP report.
 Despite Superintendent Rubio’s attempt to spin the bad news, on his watch, academic performance at Emery has consistently dropped, records show.  

The data just released by Sacramento shows an Emery Unified School District in crisis academically.  The district has become the worst scoring in the East Bay, ranking now lower than districts it was above just four years ago including West Contra County, Pittsburg, San Leandro, Hayward and Oakland (who improved their scores last year).  A quick purview of districts throughout the entire Bay Area shows Emery as second only to Ravenswood Unified in East Palo Alto, a district that consistently ranks as among the lowest in the entire state.

The test score data was announced by City Council member Christian Patz at the City/Schools meeting on Wednesday at the ECCL campus.  Mr Patz made the announcement, which included a handout he furnished, as part of a point he was making as the district was pressing its case for installing a police officer at the ECCL campus, a tangent for that agenda item.  Mr Rubio had earlier, during agenda negotiations for the meeting,  refused to allow any CAASPP test data discussion as an agenda item for the Committee.  The Superintendent, who appeared visibly annoyed by Mr Patz’s action, nonetheless refused to answer Tattler questions about why the testing data should not be an agenda item for the Committee.  It should be noted that the City/Schools Committee, a liaison group consisting of all the elected officials of Emeryville (the City Council and the School Board), invests itself with helping provide "quality education" as one of its goals. 

Test score data, especially from a single year, is a problematic barometer to use to show the quality of education a school district offers.  Studies have consistently shown instead academic test scores show the relative affluence of the parents/guardians; poor children testing at lower rates due to a variety of factors unrelated to the school itself.  However, as test scores show the ranking of neighboring districts, especially when compared with those of similar socio/economic conditions, this data is useful to show a district's trend line in the education of its children.  Test score ranking clearly shows Emery falling after three years of Superintendent Rubio at the helm after a brief period of rising scores and higher ranking before Mr Rubio's term.
Superintendent Rubio's tenure has been a rancorous one marked by an ongoing battle with his teachers that has net the worst rate of teacher retention in the East Bay among other calamitous distractions as the Tattler has chronicled. 
Superintendent John Rubio's Legacy
Academic achievement has plunged at Emery since Mr Rubio
was hired at the start of the school year 2014.
Emery's ranking has fallen to last in the East Bay since 2013, 

the last year before Superintendent Rubio came on board. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

City Council Revokes Noise Ordinance Waiver for Public Marketplace Developement

Council Majority Takes Unprecedented Move in Revocation

Dissenting Mayor Donahue Feels Developer's Pain; "They've Been Punished Enough"

Market Place Developer Tim Bacon
"Embarrassed" to be asking for a
third chance to honor his agreement. 
The developer of the Market Place project on Christie Avenue, by twice violating the terms of a waiver of the Noise Ordinance he received, drew a revocation of the waiver by the City Council at the regularly scheduled September 19th Council meeting.  After the City’s Planning Director issued Tim Bacon, Senior Vice President of Public Market LP an unprecedented stop work order on August 29th for job site violations to the waiver agreement, the City Council heard testimony from Mr Bacon who said he was sure the agreement would be followed if the Council would give him a third chance. Unimpressed, the Council voted 4-1 (Mayor Donahue dissenting) to revoke the waiver, a first for the City of Emeryville.

At issue was a 10:00 AM Saturday start up time for the construction as agreed upon as part of a waiver to the Noise Ordinance that precludes weekend construction.  During negotiations with the City Council, Mr Bacon had requested a 9:00AM start up time for his crew but was rebuffed, the Council citing letters of complaint from neighbors to the massive 13 acre 462 rental unit mixed use project.  After agreeing to the 10:00 starting time, workers on the site ignored the order and began starting work early anyway said Council member Christian Patz who documented the violations on two subsequent Saturday mornings.  The developer received a warning from the City after the first Saturday violation.  
Mayor Scott Donahue
The developer has been
"punished enough".

Before the vote on the 19th, a contrite Tim Bacon expressed dismay at his subcontractors whom he said had been violating the agreement and he told the Council he felt “embarrassed” to be even asking for a third chance. He added, “Frankly I was close to asking this be pulled from the agenda tonight because it didn’t seem fair to reconsider it because we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain”.  Mayor Donahue, breaking with his colleagues, said the developer had been “punished enough”.
Weekend work will now not be allowed for the duration of the construction project.

Not once has any developer been taken to task by the City Council for violating the Noise Ordinance or even for violating a waiver.  Since 2009 when the Noise Ordinance was enacted, waivers have been routinely given to developers and numerous violations have been brought to the City’s attention (the Tattler has highlighted several) but the City Council has never taken corrective action until now. 
The City of Emeryville has gotten a reputation over the years for not representing the resident’s interests and taking the developer’s side with regards to the Noise Ordinance and as such, both the stop work order and the subsequent revocation of the Saturday work waiver represents a new direction for the City.
Historic Document for Emeryville
A stop work order has never (before August 29th) been issued to any developer
for a Noise Ordinance violation despite the fact that nearly every developer
has violated the ordinance in our town since 2009.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Emery Schools Chief John Rubio Appeals to Parents: Don't Listen to the Tattler

Rubio Speaks

His Tattler Bashing Letter Claims He's Doing a "Great" Job

The Tattler's revelatory recent story of plunging test scores amid the imposition of racist practices at Emery Unified School District and the role the Superintendent of the Schools has played in that has caught the imagination of parents and guardians at the ECCL campus and caught the attention of the Superintendent who has responded with a widely distributed countering letter.
The September 16th Tattler story reveals that after nine teachers testified at a June 15th School Board meeting that the Superintendent, John Rubio, had installed what they called racist practices at the District, their warnings that a drop in academic achievement for black students would likely be forthcoming have been prescient, at least when using test scores as a metric.
Emery Superintendent
John Rubio

Reporting the teacher's side
is so unfair.
The Emeryville Tattler is
the enemy of the people.  It's
standing in the way of Making
Emery Schools Great Again.
Interestingly, Mr Rubio uses his counter letter to tell parents/guardians how much he respects the teachers; strange to hear after the nine teachers testified against him at the June 15th Board meeting describing a culture of "bullying" by the Superintendent against them.  Perhaps the claims of his respect for teachers are exaggerated.

Superintendent Rubio has been distracted by the Tattler story, so much so that he sent the letter (below) to the parents/guardians of every Emery student, refuting the Tattler story's veracity (without mentioning it specifically).
Mr Rubio accuses the Tattler of posting untruths, a charge we patently decry as false, and we hereby challenge Mr Rubio to back up his claims with specifics. The easiest thing in the world for someone in the Superintendent's position to do who has been called out for a gross lack of leadership is to make blanket claims of a prevaricating press, to shoot the messenger as it were.  We can think of another 'Great Leader' doing the same thing on the other side of the continent.  

The following is the text of the letter from a distracted Superintendent Rubio, received yesterday, with the Tattler's responses in red, directed at the Superintendent:

Dear Parents and Community Members,

The State of California is preparing for their official release of certified Smarter Balanced test scores from last spring.

From year to year, we have seen our test scores fluctuate. This is year three and they have not fluctuated, they have stayed at the bottom of the area.

The over all percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards in English and in Math increased from May of 2015 to May of 2016, and those overall percentages went back down to about the same 2015 levels this past May. The scores dropped below the 2015 levels. It should also be noted the there was a shift in who was tested in those years, 2015 to 2016.

This is not a surprise to our school staff. Consistent positive growth takes time, a district-wide focus on classroom instruction, having a great teacher in every classroom, and a concerted effort on the part of all members of our community. Zero growth over three years is not the same as consistent positive growth. It is zero growth.

If you break the data down by grade level and into different groups, we see that our English language learners are doing great in some areas and not as well in others. We see our African-American students outperforming African-American students in neighboring districts, and our English language learners greatly outperforming English language learners in neighboring districts but still not doing as well when compared to last year. The terms "great" and "greatly" are not the correct modifiers. Statewide, 13% of ELA students were proficient or above in English Language Arts and 12% in Mathematics. In Alameda County, the scores are the same in ELA and slightly higher in Math (13% and 15%). Emery’s scores are about the same in English and slightly higher in Math (12% ELA and 18% Math). This is not doing great. Nor did African-American students greatly outperform nearby districts. Emery was one or two percentage points above our neighbors in Oakland and Berkeley, that falls within the statistical error rate. Countywide, 26% of African-American students met the ELA standards and 16% met the Math standards compared to 20% ELA and 17% Math in Emery.

As an organization, we have to face our challenges and recognize areas for improvement, while we continue to work to be the best we can be. After three years, zero growth is the best we can be?

We know that the quality of the teaching staff is critical in improving student achievement. We interviewed over 200 applicants in person last spring for seven teaching positions. Your process is to interview 30 candidates for each position? That seems inefficient. Industry standard is 3 to 5. To be extremely diligent, 10 should be more than adequate. If you are interviewing 30 candidates for each position, that is not something to brag about. At the elementary level, which most of these positions were, you could be seeing 60 candidates for the same job. This is a point of pride? Did you screen the same ratio, 30 to 1, of candidates to interview? It would be impressive if 6,000 teachers applied for the 7 positions. This reads like you did zero resume screening and just interviewed everyone.

If you measure the quality of our schools by the quality of our teachers in each and every individual classroom, then this year looks like it will be our strongest in the last four years. All the teachers that have left were not good teachers? Does this include the Yale Scholars that have left? The past Teachers of the Year?

For the first time in three years, I can walk through all of our three schools: the elementary, the middle, and the high school, and see strong teachers in all of our classrooms. I think this is uncommon in public schools, and yet we have now achieved it. Your disrespect for public schools and teachers is impressive. The majority of public schools have strong teachers in every room. It seems the common denominator of the halls you walk is you. Maybe you have only worked at schools that struggle.

By strengthening our staff through the hiring of high quality teachers who joined the ranks of a group of high quality veteran teachers, we will see test scores increase this spring. If this is a goal, it should be quantified. Given that one in five students is proficient in Emery, test scores could go up by simply asking students to guess on multiple choice questions.

I know that having test scores that go up and then back down opens our district to negative attacks, untrue exaggerations, and an attempt to shame the district and our teachers online. Reporting on bad test scores is not an attack by fake news and only the School Board should be shamed. As for untrue exaggerations, see your above uses of "great" and "greatly".

Our teachers are working extremely hard, and they don't deserve that. Hard working and effective are two different things. Emery teachers would be more effective if leadership did their job and not require teachers to participate in 20 to 25 unnecessary interviews (in addition to all the interviews driven by the constant replacing of teachers because Emery, under your leadership, has the worst teacher retention of any school district in the East Bay).

No matter where we are sitting, we are improving, and we will continue to improve. We will do it by holding each other up and supporting one another as we continue to improve our practice, our strategies, and our great program offerings (e.g. Scientific Adventures for Girls) which cannot be found in most other schools. As we want to avoid exaggerations, programs like Scientific Adventures for Girls are available on most campus and Scientific Adventures is on eight school campuses, four libraries, including Golden Gate across the street from ECCL, and one club.

We have every reason to believe that our scores and enrollment will go up as we move into the 2018-19 academic year because of the changes we made this year. Based on your previous statement that the drop in test scores was not unexpected, did you not have this expectation last year? You made bold claims about EUSD being a destination district this year, you have this year’s enrollment, is it up or down?

I would welcome anyone to come walk through the hallways and visit the classrooms in our schools and see our students, our great teachers, and great administrators all working hard. What time on Monday should we be there?

My glass is half full, I have a positive mindset, and it will remain that way because that's how we support, build up, and respect our teachers. When 1 in 4 students have met the standard in English, that is not half full, that's one quarter full.

We are all committed to do this work, because we are committed to the success of our children.

We will build off of our positive improvements in areas where we are doing well, and we recognize and will make changes where we have to improve - that's the work to be done every day and every school year. We should be interviewing 30 Superintendents, is that the work?

Thank you,
Dr. John J. Rubio

Thank you,
Emeryville Tattler (redlined responses)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Early Release of Test Scores Reveals a Failing Emery School District

Prospects for African American Students 
Dim at Emery

Teachers Warning of Consequences of "Racist Practices"
Appear to be Vindicated

Black Students "Not Served"

News Analysis
Emery Unified School District released an early peek at last season’s yet to be officially released state sanctioned student test scores at Wednesday’s School Board meeting revealing a school wide drop in academic achievement and a district with vexatious problems educating African American students specifically. The disturbing figures come on the heels of a June 15th School Board meeting where nine teachers rose to give warning of such negative consequences as a result of “racist practices” implemented by School Superintendent John Rubio.
 At the Wednesday night meeting, high school principal Jessica Goode said the numbers she called “repugnant”, showed that African American students “are not being served” at the beleaguered school district despite an attempt by Mr Rubio to spin the data to show the opposite.

The presenter of the data at the meeting, Dr Kell, an Emery administrator, indicated the District has formulated a plan to deal with the plunging test scores involving "integrating horizontal and vertical coherence" and a call to "improve the organizational climate" among other ideas. The three Board members attending the meeting Wednesday night seemed to take the bad news in stride but member Cruz Vargas said he was happy the District had come up with a plan to turn the numbers around for next year.
School Board Member
Cruz Vargas

A self described "numbers man",
Cruz didn't say anything about the low
test score numbers but he's happy
there's a plan to turn test scores
 around for next year.

The taxpayer investment of $100 million in a new school campus last year had no affect on a persistent pattern of falling test scores at Emery since Superintendent Rubio was hired three years ago. Despite a decade of promises that the gleaming new facilities at the Emeryville Center of Community Life would help bring up scores on their own, the bad numbers revealed Wednesday were seen by the Superintendent as a chance to countervail the charges of racism from the teachers by using the data to show a rising African American student cohort as compared with others even as test scores within that cohort still showed a decline.

District Spins Racial Achievement Gap 
The achievement gap is measured as the difference between the highest achieving racial cohort, traditionally Asians at Emery and their inverse, African Americans.  Mr Rubio took pains to show a closing gap between academic school year 2015-16 and 2016-17 by using plunging test scores of Asian students, an 11% drop, contrasted by African American student’s drop of 4% netting a 8% drop in the achievement gap in English Language test scores.  The exercise in abject legerdemain by Mr Rubio net a 9% drop in the math achievement gap using the same tactics, leveraging a 12% drop in Asian student test scores against a 3% drop for African Americans.  If the Superintendent was queasy massaging the numbers to show student success by highlighting one group of student's relative uptick by leveraging the failure of another group, he didn't show it.

Rubio Celebrates 'Student Success' 
While the Superintendent unveiled his brand after he was hired by the Board in the form of a new slogan for Emery, “Partners Power Student Success”, Emery Unified’s state testing results have deteriorated since the implementation of the new slogan, this year’s being the worst yet. The preliminary data given Wednesday proved 75% of students did not meet the state standards in English Language Arts.  Last year less than 1 in 3 students met the English Language Art Standards.   Only 30% of the students were proficient or above in ELA, tied with Oakland Schools.  Now down to 1 in 4, it’s possible Emery has dropped below Oakland.  In Math, the story is even worse.  About 1 in 5 students met the standard for mathematics.  Only 79% of the students failed to meet the standard. Last year, Emery was 1% higher than OUSD causing speculation about if that stays true, or given the trajectory, if Emery is now already at the bottom of Alameda County Schools.

A Brief Rise Before Rubio, Then Return To Failure 
The goal of building the Emeryville Center of Community Life was to build on the success that Emery achieved after coming out of receivership.  From 2007 to 2010, Emery improved its academic achievement each year.  Testing was suspended by the state as California transitioned to the Common Core and computer based ‘Smarter Balanced’ assessments.  Testing resumed in Mr Rubio’s first year with the district and that’s when the progress stalled, then reversed.  Each subsequent year as test scores are released, Emery struggles to paint a rosy picture and urges patience until a new plan takes effect for the next year.  Last year at a presentation by the new high school principal, Ms. Goode, she described her plan to improve math performance.  One Board member at the time, Christian Patz (currently a City Council Member) questioned how the new plan was different from the previous plan.  Ms. Goode did not have an answer.
The same could have been asked of the newest plan, rich in arcane academic jargon but lacking in detail, regardless of the excited exclamations from Board member Vargas who as a self described “numbers man” has said he understands that ‘rebranding’ matters and the use of words like ‘innovation’ are good tools to flash.

Black Students Not Served
There were some positives in this year's test scores, white students improved their math and language arts scores by 5%.  Interesting since Mr Rubio worked hard to change Emery’s previous mission statement which included the phrase, “To End Racist and Classist Practices.” Since that change, outgoing staff have told the school board about their concerns about how people of color are treated on campus.  Now the achievement gap, the difference between the how students of color do versus white has grown, despite the Superintendent’s attempt to obscure that fact.  White students attending Emery were twice as likely to have met the standards in math than African American students.  The gap was even larger in English Language Arts.  The achievement gap at Emery is significantly smaller than the gap in state test scores (based on prior year tests) because white students in Emery score well below the state average, as do African American students.  Asian students in Emery had the biggest decline, dropping double digits in both Language Arts and Math.  English Learners remained about the same, while Latinos, the fastest growing group at Emery and the state, matched the District’s 5% drop.

It should be noted that the scores reported come from the district’s presentation to the school board on September 13, 2017.  The state has not yet released scores to the public.  Comparisons to other districts or the state for this story were made using last year’s scores and the numbers just pre-released by Emery.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

City Staff Holds General Plan in Contempt

Contemptuous Staff and Weak City Council Means the People's Will is Ignored

Family Friendly Homes Keep Getting Torn Down Because That's What the Staff Wants

The feeling that (a person or) a thing is beneath consideration or worthless.

News Analysis

For the upcoming City Council September 5th meeting, Emeryville’s city staff, in seeking to grant a developer permission to tear down two houses on Doyle Street, has prepared a report for the Council that deprives them critical information that the two single family houses are in a General Plan protected ‘zone of stability’ and shouldn’t be torn down.  This comes after the staff also hid that fact from the Planning Commission in July.  
It’s not a mistake; the failure to inform the Council (and the Planning Commission) about such houses has been an ongoing issue for the staff ever since the General Plan was implemented in 2009.  It’s part of a pattern and practice that’s been firmly established by a recalcitrant Emeryville city staff that’s contemptuous of our General Plan.

Contemptuous is not too strong a word. Seven times in the last two years, homes in the zone of stability have been proposed by developers for demolition.  In seven out of seven cases, the staff has recommended the Council approve demolition.  That fact tells us the staff, specifically the Planning Department, doesn’t like the zone of stability provisions within the General Plan. Rather, they prefer to tear down homes in our town, zone or no zone.  But more tellingly and more contemptuously, for seven out of seven of those cases, the staff has seen fit to deny the City Council and Planning Commission the fact that the houses in question are in the zone of stability; the very information the decision makers need to make an informed decision.  In fact not once in eight years has the city staff informed the decision makers the information they need to know that a home in question is in the zone of stability.  It betrays their not-so-hidden contempt for democratic processes and contempt for our General Plan.
City Manager Carolyn Lehr
During her tenure at least four houses
in the zone of stability have been demolished
or approved for demolition in accordance

with her recommendations.
As an overseer of the Planning Director, she 

has made sure the City Council has
been unaware the homes were 
in the 
zone of stability as they 
approved destruction.

The ineradicable protections of the zone of stability language notwithstanding, the staff is free to recommend the Council approve a tear down for any home a developer wants to demolish, even those in the zone.  It’s their job to recommend whatever they feel is best, given their encircling directives.  However they are not free to withhold information, especially as derived from our General Plan, that could effect the elected official’s decisions.  Clearly, of all of the houses demolished since 2009, the fact that they were in the zone of stability if made known to the Council, would have affected their decisions about tearing them down.  There is a chance some might have been saved.

The Tattler has alerted the Council and the staff of this governmental breakdown for years but the staff persists in keeping the Council members in the dark regarding homes in the zone of stability.  There’s no conceivable rational argument to be made there’s anything going on here other than a rouge agency pressing its desires by means of deception... and that constitutes contempt.

It should be pointed out that the General Plan represents the will of the people of Emeryville.  The stuff in there is what we want.  We know that by virtue of the fact it’s in the democratically vetted Plan.  We know the staff doesn’t like the General Plan.  It probably feels constraining to them. We know the City Council up to now has not done the people’s bidding with regard to the zone of stability, otherwise at least some of these homes would have been saved over the years.  
We also know that the type of housing protected from demolition by the General Plan, detached single family homes, represent the most family friendly housing there is.  That’s been well documented.  The people of Emeryville had an innate sense of this when they crafted the General Plan.  The elite in Emeryville don’t care about any of that as judged by their record on this.  
Regardless they’re being kept in the dark by the staff, we shouldn’t be facile about this; the Council has been busy tearing down this family friendly housing stock, built before the term ‘family friendly’ was invented, and over the last two or three years, the Council has been trying to build new “family friendly housing” by use of developers.  The result has been disappointing by any metric.  Emeryville continues to be the worst city in the East Bay as far as families go.

The politics in Emeryville is locked.  The pro-developer former City Council majority hired the staff we have and the new ‘progressive’ Council majority so far hasn’t found the strength to impose its own vision for development in our town.  Perhaps it puts too much stock in the juris prudence artifice of stare decisis.  Appearently the people, as they say, will have to wait.
Earns Two Smiling Nora Davis'!
Nora Davis smiles down on her 
hand picked city staff.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Emeryville Police: Babies and Batons

Emeryville sent their police to help Berkeley PD keep the peace at an anti-Nazi rally at Berkeley City Hall today. The peaceful demonstration included many Bay Area social justice organizations, including labor groups such as SEIU and clergy from interfaith groups.  The protest was attended by many families including lots of babies.  Emeryville police were there, in muscular force (if not their awareness of the bad optics) with full riot gear and they donned their gas masks amid the grandmothers and baby carriages.
Notable among the police forces: virtually no other police (including Berkeley and Oakland) had the gas masks on.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: 8/28 10:35  An Emeryville police spokesperson reports that some Berkeley police had gas masks on (perhaps five or so) at the time.  Oakland police did not and neither did the vast majority of Berkeley police.  The babies there also did not have gas masks on.
Today at 1:30 PM in front of Berkeley City Hall, Emeryville sends its representatives:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Follow Up Friday: Pledge of Allegiance Quietly Dropped at School Board Meetings

Loyalty Oath Coercion Deemed Inappropriate at School District 

Follow Up Friday: we look back on previous stories; what's happened after our spotlight shined on it?  If there was a problem identified, has it been solved?  Has there been no change and the amount of elapsed time made the issue newsworthy again by virtue of that fact?  Look to Follow Up Friday to wrap it all up or to highlight for us all how lame our city can be.

First it was the Emeryville City Council meetings, and now it's the Emery School Board meetings: it seems a wave of godless communism has washed over our city.  Or non-divisive rational politics.
A spokesperson from the Emery Unified School District who wishes anonymity reports that Superintendent John Rubio and Board President Donn Merriam have decided the loyalty oath known as the Pledge of Allegiance has no place at School Board meetings and it's been quietly dropped.

Long Time Coming
After decades of dutifully administering the Pledge before meetings, suddenly the Board announced they would consider eliminating the controversial religious and robotic loyalty oath in 2011 after parents complained.  At the time, then Board President Josh Simon told the Tattler he expected they would eventually remove the Pledge agenda item from meetings but cautioned it would take "more than a month or two" of deliberations.

The Tattler long made hay of the mindless recital of the Pledge, noting it had the effect of cancelling out a self stated School District goal that students learn critical thinking skills.  It was an argument that parents took up, several making their views known to the Board.  In the end, the Board deliberations, if they even occurred, stretched on for six more years before they dropped the god and country 'right or wrong' trope and succumbed to rationality based non-divisive meetings earlier this month.

The City Council voted to remove the loyalty oath from public meetings in January after years of cajoling from the Tattler.  It's noteworthy and likely telling the Council finally took action on this fake patriotism right before President Trump took office, avoiding the unseemly spectacle of Emeryville City Council members effectively pledging their loyalty to Donald Trump.
Watching their lips closely over the last few years, it became more and more obvious that neither the City Council members nor the Board members themselves were actually verbalizing the Pledge after they had been asking the public to "stand and join" them each time.
Emeryville from 1896 to 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Acquiescent City Council End Runs Around Noise Ordinance

All Developers Get Free Pass on 
Noise Ordinance 

New Interpretation Strips Ordinance of Meaning

"Public Benefit" Drives Waivers
Diminished Law Exists Only Now in Name

News Analysis/Opinion
The Emeryville City Council moved to greatly expand the conditions for noise ordinance waiver requests from developers on July 25th when the developer of the Public Marketplace was issued a permit to work on Saturdays in order to “finish the project more quickly”.  The new paradigm revealed itself when the Council majority (Patz, Medina dissenting) ceded to the pleading developer after they found that because the project has public benefit, ipso facto a waiver should therefore be granted.  The bold new idea is that any project that has public benefit should supersede and be allowed to bypass the public’s expectation for peace and quiet. To speed the benefit of the project to the public you understand.

How thoughtful of them.

In fact it was a remarkably egregious City Council assessment that turned a deaf ear to the original precepts for Emeryville’s beleaguered noise ordinance but perhaps more astonishing was not what was said, rather what was left unsaid: every development project approved by the City of Emeryville has public benefit.  They don’t get approved around here if they are found to not have public benefit.  And that means every development from now on gets a carte blanche noise ordinance waiver.  It’s taken as a tautology.  And that means there’s no need for the City of Emeryville to have a noise ordinance any more.
Mayor Scott Donahue &
Councilwoman Dianne Martinez

They swear to get developers their
noise ordinance waivers.

Frankly, we’ll miss watching developers squirm before the cameras.  For the new metrics of the noise ordinance finally puts to bed the endless procession of poor, woeful developers sheepishly appearing before the City Council asking for waivers for a host of reasons including the ever popular ‘rain delay’.  Because rain unexpectedly falling in the rainy season is not something that could be planned for so can you give us a break Emeryville City Council? (because who could have anticipated THAT?), made even more brazenly when it was invoked by Turner Construction as they built the ECCL during last year’s worse ever drought in California.  Sometimes developers will dispense with all that and report they should get a waiver just because they really, really want one (as Wareham Devlopment did recently). 
Each time since the ordinance was encoded, developers seeking waivers have publicly contorted or even debased themselves, the Council has felt their pain and granted a waiver, no matter the reason provided.  The groveling spectacle has brought much comic relief to the sometimes boring Council meetings; watching these greedy developers go through their stations of the cross before the Council (themselves also performing for the cameras, feigning resident fealty), on the road to delivering their maximized quarterly profits to their shareholders.
Vice Mayor John Bauters
It's best if we can speed
up these projects.
The noise ordinance only
slows them down.

The new interpretation of the ordinance; dispensing with the sideshow of developers carping about what constitutes a reasonable hardship and simply granting the waivers pell mell based on speeding up public benefit will certainly speed up the meetings and remove embarrassment for all concerned but we have an even better idea. Let’s stop the charade and finally get rid of this asinine noise ordinance of ours.  It’s never worked as it was intended to and has only served to give a sense of legitimacy for our town (see? Emeryville’s got a noise ordinance too, just like real cities).  

The removal of the Noise Ordinance, if the Council has the cajones to do it, will finally bring some kind of silence, if only poetic;  it’s abolishment will likely happen quietly in the night.  Residents will not notice any change whatsoever in the extra weekend traffic, dust and loud construction.  That goes on unabated in Emeryville, with or without a noise ordinance. 
Earns One Smiling Nora Davis!
Nora Davis Smiles Down on 

Scott Donahue, Dianne Martinez 
and John Bauters.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Follow Up Friday: EBI Pedestrian Path

EBI Path Traded Away, Nothing Gained

City Hall Promises Forsaken

Introducing a new Tattler feature: Follow Up Friday.  We look back on previous stories; what's happened after our spotlight shined on it?  If there was a problem identified, has it been solved?  Has there been no change and the amount of elapsed time made the issue newsworthy again by virtue of that fact?  Look to Follow Up Friday to wrap it all up or to highlight for us all how lame our city can be.

The City of Emeryville has reneged on its own requirement to spend $525,000 to build a replacement pedestrian amenity, money made in trade for removing a developer's requirement to build a bike path at a San Pablo Avenue construction project in 2016.  The EBI pedestrian path, a General Plan mandated pedestrian corridor would have connected 45th and 47th streets and helped pedestrians in the Triangle neighborhood make north/south connections in that notoriously disconnected neighborhood.
The EBI Path was "in the can", all the details worked out and ready for construction.  Residents in the Triangle neighborhood would now be using the path except the City Council in April of 2016 voted to amend our General Plan to remove the path at the insistence of the Escuela Bilingue Internacional, a private school on San Pablo Avenue.
At the time, the City Council told Triangle residents they needed more exercise and the removal of the short-cut path would force them to walk more, a good thing.  Providing other reasons to remove the pedestrian amenity, the Council also stated the path would be a safety risk and asserted gang rapists would be lurking there.
Nonetheless, after giving away the path, the Council told Emeryville residents they would use the in-leau fees paid by EBI to instead make a replacement path connecting the same streets but further east.  The Tattler reported that switch would cost an additional million dollars at least but the City officially continued to work towards that goal.
Until recently.
The mid-block replacement connection nixed, City Hall has now also ruled out using the EBI money to open the long lost "Pickle Works" path connecting Doyle and 53rd streets, long a source of frustration for bikers and walkers seeking convenience in our town and once talked about as an alternate thing to spend the EBI money on.  High costs associated with seizing the property from a private land holder is cited as the reason.

Any replacement path would cost more than the $525,000 the City got from EBI and the budget being in turmoil at City Hall such that it is, it appears pedestrian needs, once traded away, will not be addressed by Emeryville. City Hall has no plans whatsoever to replace the lost EBI pedestrian path, the money remains unspent and pedestrian needs unmet.