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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Letter to the Tattler: Shirley Enomoto

Recently received from Shirley Enomoto (references are made to the Tattler story of May 9th and earlier stories about how the School Board is refusing to audit Turner Construction for irregularities residents, students and teachers have noted in the recently finished Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life):

I [recently] received the video from Ken Bukowski of the May 10 School Board meeting.  Since my name came up, I want to respond.
Paid expenses for Measure J began April 7,  2010, before voters approved Measure J in November 2010.  The Measure J Citizens Oversight Committee (COC) was formed in March 2011.  During the five months I was a member, the committee did not see any reports of paid invoices.  It was at the June 2011 meeting, held at the Emeryville Senior Center, where a "facilitator" was paid (with Measure  J bond revenue) to acquaint COC members with each another that I decided to quit the committee.  We were forced to sit at round tables with assigned seating,  as if we were in kindergarten.  I had  asked then EUSD Superintendent John Sugiyama (and incoming Superintendent Debbra Lindo seated beside him) what exactly the protocol was for COC members to see paid invoices and what were our responsibilities.   Mr. Sugiyama replied, "I don't know."  This was the night I decided to quit, after mulling it over for three months.  If you check the minutes of the COC meetings, the responsibilities of the COC were discussed for almost a year after the committee was formed.  If you were to ask the original 17 members if they saw each and every penny spent, I'm sure they would tell you "no."
The first report was a manually typed spreadsheet.  No explanations were offered and no account numbers were assigned for each expense.
The monthly reports I did receive, I entered in my personal quickbooks software program.
After leaving the committee, I requested that minutes, agendas, and the monthly report of paid invoices be sent to me.  I had to request this each and every month.  Either my request was not received or the person responsible for the distribution was not there, or the person responsible "forgot."
I strongly feel a financial audit is in order:  specifically to make sure that paid expenses were legitimate Measure J expenses.  The ballot measure states "no administrative salaries will be paid."  Project Director Roy Miller,  Community Involvement Director Hayin Kim, and her assistant, were all paid from bond revenue.  All three have since quit their positions.  Vehicles were purchased.  Almost $200,000 was paid for I-pads, five years before the Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL) had opened.  They are probably obsolete now, if the school district still has them. Brian Donahue stated at the May 10 meeting that they went missing.  Where were they stored?  Was anyone arrested for theft?


Shirley Enomoto
Former member of the Measure J Citizens Oversight Committee


Shirley Enomoto lived in Emeryville for 20 years (she recently moved away) and was a "trouble maker" she says, to City Hall for as many years.  A long time member of Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE) and volunteer for the schools, Ms Enomoto also long rallied for fair treatment for senior citizens in our town.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

'Maz' Building Burns Again

San Pablo Apartment Building Burns Down 2nd Time

Despite two armed guards and 12 security cameras on duty, 'The Intersection' apartment project, also known as the Maz Project burned down Saturday night.  This is the second time for a suspicious fire in the controversial building happening before fire sprinklers were installed, the first fire happening at about the same point in the construction process 10 months ago.
Mayor Scott Donahue noted at least 35 ATF agents will be investigating the fire and he said of the developer, Rick Holliday who plans on building the project a third time, "I admire Mr Holliday's determination. He's probably the most Sisyphean developer in Emeryville history."


Demolition fire crews pulled down the construction crane Sunday night, creating a spectacular scene as the 44,000 pound counterweight crashed to the ground.  The Mayor said the neighboring Avelon senior housing building was evacuated in case of a possible trebuchet effect from the massive crane that could have impacted the Avelon building.

The apartment building has been criticized by many in town owing to it's lack of affordable family units and 100% market rate rental status.  The Tattler called the building a "men's dorm" and a "techie dorm" because of the large number of studio and one bedroom apartments in the approved but yet to be built apartment building.

Video credit: Lillian Schroth

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

School Board President Insists NO Audit of ECCL Project

Rift Between City & School District
Audit Latest Imbroglio

The City Council has suggested the School District Board of Trustees audit Turner Construction, the builder of the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life in order to claw back some money the district might have overpaid for the building project but the Board President is demurring, indicating he is more inclined to try to get money out of its ECCL partner, the City of Emeryville instead.  It's part of a growing rift between the District and City Hall born out of differences in how to divide up cost overruns in the contentious schools/community center project.

The City/Schools Committee, consisting of the membership of the City Council and the School Board, met May 4th and the frosty relations were evident when Vice Mayor John Bauters suggested going to construction giant Turner, who has recently been indicted for bilking clients, to see if there may be recoverable costs to help offset the cost overruns of ECCL.  The idea was embraced by the entire Council but Board President Merriam oddly said it would not be appropriate, a position he has held for quite some time even as he has refused to properly elaborate.
Mr Merriam joined with former Board President John Affeldt last summer in quashing an attempt to audit Turner, citing the existence of the Citizens Oversight Committee (COC) makes it unnecessary.
Emery School Board President
Donn Merriam

'Even though Turner Construction
has been indicted for
fraud and overcharging clients,
we must not audit them'.


At the City/Schools Committee, Mr Merriam expanded on the earlier ruling against an audit citing "multiple layers of reviews" unlike municipalities that were at issue in the Turner indictment.  While Turner is active in the City (and school) building business, they were indicted on Federal charges stemming from a contract with the Department of Energy for work at Laurence Berkeley Labs.  The level of oversight there is several orders of magnitude more intense than at the COC, a fact that would tend to call into question Mr Merriam's insistence there be no audit of Turner for its work on the ECCL.

Just two years ago the County of Santa Clara held Turner to task for cost overruns and delays.  Turner blamed the city for the issues.

Mr Merriam's odd assertion of no Turner audit brings into question who's interests he has at heart.  The ECCL budget went significantly over budget and is still not complete.  Board member Brynnda Collins, when expressing her support for a Turner audit, questioned the quality of the work stating, "Big chunks of metal (are) falling and almost hitting a teacher."  There have been multiple suggestions of design flaws like lack of storage, concrete poured too thin and poor drainage.

It is clear to many there are enough reasons for an audit.  City Council member Bauters stated it could find enough savings to cover the remaining $370,000 the district owes Turner.
Los Angeles Unified School District routinely audits projects.  It should be noted LAUSD is so large that they have a group that audits every project. Turner recently was found to have overcharged them $190,000 on a $98 million project, almost exactly the same size project as ECCL.

Conflict of Interest?
Clearly audits are done and effective tools to protect taxpayer funds.  Which leads back to the question, does Board President Merriam have a Turner connection in his work as an employee of the architecture firm of Deems Lewis Mckinley (DLM)?  A Tattler search of their projects and Turner's revealed no direct overlap.  However it did turn up a project that involved Swinerton Management and DLM.  Swinerton worked on the ECCL project and frequently partners with Turner.

South San Francisco Unified passed a large bond project and used Swinerton to manage the project.  DLM bid on and was chosen to do the work. It is not clear if the Emery Board President personally worked on the project but the appearance of impropriety is evident.  Of course, an elected official should not be in the position to have to chose between what is best for their constituents and their pocketbooks.

The School Board is scheduled to discuss auditing the ECCL project at their May 10th meeting and Mr Merriam should leave the room while this is being discussed.  If he stays in the room, he should disclose the firm's relationship with Swinerton and have the legal counsel provide guidance.  It should be noted President Merriam has been caught violating simple rules of transparency because he claimed he was unaware of the conflict.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Emeryville Noise Ordinance Fails Relevancy Test (Again)

Favored Developer Tests Noise Ordinance,
Residents Lose

Wareham Breaks Law Four Times & is Rewarded By Council

Emeryville's Noise Ordinance, a 2003 law designed to protect resident's reasonable desires for some peace and quiet in a massively re-developing town, traditionally has not been able to stand up to the interests of developers and Emeryville's new progressive City Council, like their conservative predecessors showed us Tuesday they also have no interest in enforcing the ordinance.  In a 5-0 vote, the Council granted a waiver to Wareham Development to work Saturdays starting in May to help the corporation as they work on the controversial 17 story 'Transit Center' office tower project on Horton Street.

The waiver now gives official permission for Saturday work to Wareham who has already been busy working Saturdays in violation of the ordinance.  And tellingly, beyond simply granting a waiver for no reason other than helping Wareham increase its profit margin, the Council also saw fit to pardoning Wareham for the four previous violations of the Noise Ordinance over the last six Saturdays in which the police had to intervene to stop work at the site.
Wareham Gets a Pardon
The City Council is so incensed with
Wareham constantly violating our
Noise Ordinance, they're getting
rid of the ordinance so Wareham won't
have anything to violate. 

Emeryville's Weakest Law
The Noise Ordinance has never been enforced.  Indeed, the whole thing has served a different function; making City Council members look good to the cameras as they feign support for the ordinance.
Usually when developers seek to get a waiver for the Noise Ordinance from the City Council, a reason 'beyond their control' is offered such as an unusual amount of rain (even during a drought year as embarrassingly was the case for Turner Construction and the ECCL).  However Wareham on Tuesday only offered that certain jobs they need to complete for the construction of the Transit Center (welding, pouring concrete) are especially impactful and these components should be done on weekends because...well, no reason was given to that question.  The fact that these components of the job being loud and impactful (precisely the reason why the Noise Ordinance was passed; to protect our weekends from this) was not seen as something the community would object to by the Council, illustrates how inconsequential the ordinance is.

The four recent violations of the ordinance by Wareham have been assigned police department 'event numbers' but no provisions within the ordinance itself provides for a remedy for the residents or punishment against violators, leaving the resident's interests unsupported except by the City Council, if it were of a mind to support them.  However Tuesday's Council action, rewarding lawbreakers, tells the developer and business world that regardless of recent City Council elections, their interests are still sacrosanct in Emeryville at least when it comes to crashing and banging on weekends in our town.


Caught Again!
Transit Center workers get caught working on another Saturday in violation of our Noise Ordinance.  The workers tried to palm off the loud concrete form work as "cleaning" but they were cited (no fines) by police for violating the ordinance.  Wareham Spokesman Geoff Sears told the City Council Tuesday that workers have merely been "dewatering" the site after rain storms, a claim not supported by the observations of the Emeryville Police.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Maurice Kaufman 'Resigns'

Nora Davis' Star Begins to Set

Two Down, Two More To Go
News Analysis/Opinion
Long time Emeryville Public Works Director, Maurice Kaufman surprised many in town Monday when he announced he intends to quit effective in May, giving no reasons other than his desire for a new direction in his life.  This resignation of a department head at City Hall leaves speculation open that the major change in elected public officials in Emeryville last November, the election of three new progressive Council members, is the driving force behind this major shake up.  Given the particulars, we can say with few reservations that Mr Kaufman, hired by and the champion of former Councilwoman Nora Davis, was likely forced out.  This being a personnel matter and therefore not subject to public scrutiny, it’s all tight lips among the Council members and City Manager.  But to this consequential change we say: it’s about time and don’t let the door hit you on the way out Maurice. 
 Some were surprised as noted but not us; a severely out of balance polity can only continue to exist for so long before one way or another a correction is bound to take place. What is surprising is why it took so long to push Maurice along towards the exit.  

Primarily a traffic engineer, Maurice Kaufman had his time here but now he’s a dinosaur, a left over relict from the Nora Davis years when developers (and the cars they bring to a community) were king.  We remember when Maurice told us he's fine with traffic calming for bike safety as long as it doesn't impede car traffic.
Traffic Engineers Like Efficiency
Maurice Kaufman likes cars moving quickly
and efficiently.
 

Mr Kaufman was selected by Ms Davis to support her pro-business/developer philosophy, a role he performed quite well over the years.  It’s just that the people of Emeryville finally decided they’d had enough of that and they ‘voted with their votes’ for a change.  So slowly (very slowly) now the staff at City Hall is starting to finally show signs that the will of the people is being placated. With the head of Public Works gone it’s two down, two more to go on that account. 

Keeping on Nora Davis’ staff at City Hall with the new City Council was/is a piece of regrettable Californication in Emeryville.  A little have a nice day, we could never do anything so harsh as to fire somebody flawed public policy.  And the City Council continues to leave the remaining Nora Davis selected department heads on at their continuing peril.  For surely as night follows day, the will of the Council has been and will continue to be subverted by such a staff.  Want evidence of that? 
Here’s a little taste down through the years of Maurice Kaufman, Nora Davis’ favored City Hall staff manager (partial list): 



Imagine if there were ever another Democratic President elected in Washington (that would mean Donald Trump decided to allow it, admittedly a stretch)...now imagine if she decided to leave in place Trump's staff and cabinet and tried to govern.  That's what's been going on in Emeryville.  Elections as they say are supposed to have consequences.  
To the City Council: We're finished with Council member Nora Davis...she had her 30 year run and now it's time to move on.  Insofar as you gave Maurice Kaufman the heave ho last Monday, let's keep that momentum going.

So long Maurice Kaufman. We wish you all the best and no hard feelings… it’s just your time has passed in Emeryville.  Next!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

E'Ville Eye Editor Rob Arias Throws Another E'Vile Temper Tantrum

We Must Fight Blight!* Says Rob Arias
*Homeless People

Opinion
Rob Arias, editor of the right wing pro-business blog the E'Ville Eye; a guy who always has a disparaging word for the working poor in our midst and who can always be counted on to crank up the hyperbolic invective against his favorite punching bag, homeless people, made quite a spectacle at the April 18th City Council meeting, even by his own pugnacious standards.  Down slammed the box filled with drug paraphernalia in theatrical fashion while he proceeded on with his infantile rage, voice cracking, about how the City Council is not doing it's job.  And by that Rob means they're not clearing away homeless people (from Oakland near Emeryville's border).

Rob's increasingly aggressive behavior against homeless people now finds obtuse expression in his attempt to highjack the City's Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to spend Emeryville taxpayer money on.... a dog park in Oakland.  Wait...what?
I am here to distract you.

Emeryville's right wing found themselves without a mooring after the Chamber of Commerce collapsed a couple of years ago and Rob, ever the entrepreneur, saw a niche to re-fix the pastiche of Emeryville's right wing around his new blog and make money while he's at it.  The demise of the Chamber of Commerce wasn't a random thing.  Rather it happened as a result of our citizenry's increasing expectation that their institutions should reflect their values. That left a small but angry base of right wing support for Rob's project.
Besides making money, Rob has used his blog for attacks on labor and homeless people.  He seems to hold a special kind of hatred for homeless people, seeing them as a problem best solved by clearance sweeps.  We remember Rob inveighing against 'those people' using Joseph Emery Park as "targeting" of the park.  Rob demanded the Emeryville police make sweeps of homeless people out of West Oakland at a Public Safety Committee meeting; they are drifting into his neighborhood he told the committee.  He's going to be a father he said and this will not stand he warned them.  Homeless people should not be seen by children...think of the children, he says in an attempt to shame the City to go all extra-legal on 'em.

After he was told Emeryville is not going to use its police to clear homeless people out of West Oakland near his residence, Rob came up with another idea: let's create a buffer at the border in the form of a dog park under the 40th Street Bridge he started calling the Halleck Beach Dog Park.  He used his blog to gather his minions and ultimately they descended on City Hall to berate and hector City Councilman John Bauters at an informal meeting the Councilman called to address the issue.  After explaining in his lawyerly way, the myriad problems with Emeryville locating a municipal park in Oakland, not the least of which is the large and ongoing expense that would be incurred, Mr Bauters skillfully separated the crowd away from the red herring of the dog park and exposed their true desires; they want to keep homeless people out of Emeryville, the dog park is just a means to that end even if some of them like dogs.

Councilman Bauters' blog and his (rather wonky) story on the Halleck Beach Dog Park may be viewed HERE.

The Halleck Beach Dog Park
Clean, no blight.
Never mind the use of a sociopathic overlay while formulating public policy and its attending problem of Constitutional prohibitions, we're not going to use our local government to adapt Rob's new word for homeless people unveiled at the John Bauters meeting, 'blight', nor sign on to do to them as the old Redevelopment Agency did to blight in a more decorous and genteel era when the word was merely used to describe decrepit buildings, not people.
Adding to the current state of callous narcissism emanating out of Washington and taking over the polity, Rob Arias is our own little local installment in this growing culture of cruelty sweeping the nation.


Like all (privileged) children who disparage authority not doing their bidding, Rob cries 'it's not fair' to the City Council...'you should be pushing MY agenda...clearing away homeless people and protecting my real estate investment.'  Many techie newcomers to Emeryville, those for whom we have built housing here exclusively over the last twenty years, obviously agree with Rob.  These are his readers.  They are concerned, besides wanting to know about the latest ramen shop and crime blotter (with its Black suspects), many of them attended the meeting about the dog park.  They scolded Councilman Bauters; Rob's right, Emeryville should remain "clean", no blight here they insisted.  That's Rob's community.

Like so many others on the right wing, Rob co-opts the language of the left; he calls himself a "community activist" and he is an activist (for his specific community) although not one normally associated with that title.  What Rob has done for community activism, he's also done for blight.  Community activism now includes reverse Robin Hood policies and blight now includes poor people (that need to be cleared out) in Rob Arias' Emeryville.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Superintendent's Role in Emery's Rolling Teacher Retention Crisis Revealed

John Rubio On The Defense

Problem Worse Than Initially Reported
37% of Teaching Staff Leaves

Rubio Fiddles

Emery Unified School District's Superintendent John Rubio is facing charges of gross incompetency after it has been revealed he made an executive decision to spend just 1% of parcel tax proceeds out of $2.5 million on retaining teachers that has exacerbated a rolling crisis; teachers quitting Emery en masse. That and the fact he has made work life intolerable for many of the 53 teachers hired by Emery according to teachers themselves.

The regularly scheduled Emery School Board April 12th meeting brought a dramatic public showdown as Emeryville's Mayor led parents and teachers in demanding account from district Superintendent John Rubio for an ongoing and unprecedented exodus of teachers over the last year regardless of the glut of cash received from the taxpayers to stop it.  Mayor Scott Donahue, responding to a Tattler story March 18th and a follow up story March 22nd, requested the Superintendent account for public tax proceeds spent specifically to retain teachers at the troubled district and to get to the bottom of a culture that has manifest a leadership vacuum resulting in 20 teachers leaving in the last year alone (the number may actually be 21, we're still waiting for confirmation from an uncooperative School District).

Candid or truthful answers were not forthcoming from the Superintendent, leading the Board to call for revisiting the issue at a later meeting.  This despite Mr Rubio’s attempt to put the brakes on citizens such as the Mayor (who had made the request for the issue to be on the Board meeting agenda for the April 12th meeting) from making agenda item requests in the future in a proposed bylaws amendment.  The bylaw amendment idea was also shelved by the Board but not before Board member Barbara Inch quoted from Sacramento mandated education code that specifically empowers private citizens the ability to place legitimate school related issues on school board agendas.

$20,000 out of $2.5 million 
spent on teacher retention 
net a loss of 37% of the 
entire teaching staff.

Despite Emery’s abysmal record on teacher retention, by far the worst of any school district in the entire Bay Area, Mr Rubio gave the Board a glowing presentation of his work retaining teachers that inextricably highlighted “improvements” in the number of teachers rushing for the exits this year over last year.  It was a claim refuted by current City Council member and former School Board Trustee Christian Patz, who attended the meeting and noted this year’s teacher retention will not be substantially known until late May, when school districts all over the State view teacher resumes for hiring in the fall.  Added to that and rounding out the final numbers would be Emery teachers vacating after that, up until the end of the year.
Mr Rubio noted “only seven" teachers had left since January 1st, a number he used to show an improvement over last year however Mr Patz told the Board that at this point last year, also about seven teachers had had separated from the District (and that number subsequently rose to 20 by year's end).  The Tattler checked Mr Patz's claim and based on Board minutes, found the number the same; seven teachers had left by this time last year (see chart at below).


When it comes to job satisfaction, Emery teachers are voting with their feet. The numbers are disturbing.  The 20 certified teachers who quit last year, including the five who left mid year, represents a loss of some 37%, far worse than Oakland Unified School District who lost 7% of their teaching staff during the same period.  The next worse district in the East Bay Area is Berkeley Unified who lost 2% of their teachers.  The other districts large and small around the Bay Area all hover around 1.5% teacher loss.

These numbers are likely attenuated by the money spent by the District on retention as determined by the Superintendent.  Of more than $2.5 million taken in last year from Measure K, the parcel tax Emeryville voters passed in 2014, records show only 2% was spent on teacher recruitment and retention, about $41,000.  Ostensibly, only about $20,000 was spent on retention exclusively, a number that dovetailed with the Superintendent’s testimony that teacher retention, feeble by any standards included, “dinners with the Superintendent” and free refreshments served during professional development seminars.  The "signing bonuses" the Superintendent claimed were paid by Measure K parcel taxes last year and count as teacher retention actually came from outside donations specifically earmarked for that purpose; another point corrected by Councilman Patz from the floor.

Notably, Board President Donn Merriam so far is sticking up for Mr Rubio; he voted YES to renew the Superintendent’s contract when it came up for review last December against the admonitions from then School Board member Patz.  It should be noted Mr Merriam, who refused to comment to the Tattler for this story, was aware of the rolling crisis of teacher retention at the time.  The Tattler endorsed Mr Merriam when he first sought election to the Board in 2014.
The Tattler noted in a story in 2014 about Measure K that promoters had refused to quantify how teacher retention would be supported by the ballot measure, but ultimately ended up endorsing it.

Teacher retention is commonly cited as one of the twin poles parents and educators use as a barometer to determine a school district’s function. The other most commonly used metric, test scores, continues to be a stubborn and intractable problem for Emery.

Teacher retention
A summary of departures:
All Certificated
24
Administrators
2
AYE
18
ESS
2
Total Teachers
20
Other Certificated
3
Mid Year
5




Below is a record of Certificated and Administrators staff that separated from Emery USD from Jan 2016 to Jan 2017.  This material is part of Emery USDs public record listed on each Agenda under 'closed session' with a link to actions taken.  AYE refers to Anna Yates Elementary School and ESS is Emery Secondary School (the High School).

Board Meeting Date
School
Effective
1-13-16
AYE
1/15/16
3-9-16
AYE
6/30/16
3-9-16
AYE
6/30/16
3-9-16
AYE
6/17/16
3-9-16
AYE
3/2/16
3-9-16
AYE
6/30/16
3-9-16
Admin
6/30/16
3-23-16
AYE
6/30/16
4-27-16
AYE
6/30/16
5-18-16
AYE
8/10/16
5-18-16
AYE
8/10/16
5-18-16
AYE
8/10/16
5-18-16
Counselor
6/17/16
5-25-16
Speech
8/10/16
5-25-16
Nurse
8/10/16
6-8-16
AYE
8/10/16
6-8-16
AYE
8/16/16
6-22-16
AYE
8/10/16
8-10-16
Admin
7/7/16
8-10-16
AYE
7/19/16
8-24-16
ESS
8/10/16
10-12-16
AYE
9/9/16
1-11-17
AYE
18/28/16
1-11-17
AYE
12/16/16
1-25-17
ESS
1-25-17


Taxpayer Funded Measure A (&K) Expenditures
Note: Measure A is slated to sunset and will be subsequently replaced with Measure K,
passed in 2014 and due to sunset after 20 years.  Both parcel tax measures tax at the
same rate. Emeryville residents are very supportive of their public schools. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wareham to Receive $208,000 in Public Funds

Council Gives Wareham CEO Rich Robbins
Gift of Public Money

Corporate Profits Remain Private But Risk is Made Public

Mayor Scott Donahue
Giving Wareham $200,000
of the people's money is nice
but $500,000 would be better.
In an unprecedented act of City Hall-to-developer largess in a city long known for its extraordinary generosity to developers, the Emeryville City Council, acting on a recommendation from the staff, voted Tuesday to give a lavish gift of $208,000 in public money to Rich Robbins of Wareham Development Corporation for the controversial 'Transit Center' project on Horton Street.  The City will write a check to Wareham, drawn from public funds because Mr Robbins, the CEO of Wareham and a major player among developers in town, thinks it's unfair to him that the City increased its development impact fees before the Transit Center was finished and that he should get any additional money he paid returned to him.  The final amount agreed to by the City Council Tuesday ends the contested cash back request from Mr Robbins begun in January when he asked the City for $729,000.

Councilwoman Ally Medina felt Rich Robbins' pain Tuesday night and argued to give Wareham $208,000, however her two colleagues Mayor Scott Donahue and Councilwoman Dianne Martinez thought Ms Medina was too stingy with the people's money and held out for a gift of $500,000 instead; the amount recommended by staff.  All three pointed to the public benefits the citizens will reap from the Transit Center project.  The City Attorney, Michael Guina reminded the Council members that returning the money to Mr Robbins is strictly voluntary and they are under no legal obligation to do so but that fell on deaf ears among the majority on the Council.
Ms Medina's argument ultimately held sway and the City of Emeryville will now write a check for $208,420 to Mr Robbins for building the project the Planning Commission twice voted down due to its "lack of public benefit".  The two figures bandied about Tuesday night ($208,000 and $500,000) represent two visions of what was characterized as "fair" by their respective City Council champions Tuesday but neither had any legal basis, opening up the City to possible lawsuits from other developers similarly taxed and looking to be made whole.
Councilwoman Dianne Martinez
Yes, let's make it a cool half million.

Mayor Donahue told the Tattler after the final vote, "Fees are paid or improvements are made to provide a city for reimbursement for public services.  When infrastructure is provided that the fees pay for, having that fee is a kind of double charge."  The Mayor added the cash back to Rich Robbins is "prudent" and speculating about future Wareham development projects in Emeryville, he cautioned, "We'll have to negotiate with Rich in the future (for our benefit)."
Councilwoman Medina expanded on the idea of "fairness" after the vote, stating she felt constrained by "the intent of [the City of Emeryville's] credit policy for transit impact fees' regardless of the City Attorney's concise release from any such (legal) constraint.

The dissenting Council members, John Bauters and Christian Patz, relied on the City Attorney's view and also the need for future transit public infrastructure improvements.  Mr Bauters reminded everyone of the considerable impacts the Transit Center will bring, especially as pertains to bike safety with the glut of cars from the 823 parking spaces the project will provide, "We're going to put a lot of cars on [the Horton Street] Bike Boulevard" he said noting the money, fungible as it is, could help ameliorate that safety issue and help other transit needs the City has.
For her part, Ms Martinez agreed the Transit Center will have a negative impact but she said she is more concerned with being "fair" to Mr Robbins.
Councilwoman Ally Medina
After what the City Attorney said,
$500,000 might sound too generous...
Let's settle on $200,000.

Mr Bauters noted developers, when they put together a project, take a risk that a municipality might change the rules (including the fee schedule) and they are not required to be made whole following such a public policy change.  "Development equals risk" he said Tuesday, raising the specter of the much derided federal government's fealty to Wall Street and their propensity to help them keep corporate profits private while socializing the risk.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Teacher Retention Story at Emery Draws Fire: Jobs Numbers Cloudy


The teacher retention story we posted on March 18th has generated many questions, as Emeryville residents feel let down yet again by the School District.  Certain people at Emery Unified felt the story was misleading.  At the Tattler, we take pride in telling both sides of the story and printing retractions when we are wrong or corrections when needed.  Information coming in from Emery independent of listings in a California education jobs resource contradicts it and at this point it's not clear exactly how many teacher positions the District is looking to fill.  The Superintendent refuses to talk with the Tattler.  One thing that IS clear however is the basic charge of the story, that Emery faces a teacher retention crisis, still stands.

First and foremost the Tattler did not make up facts for this story as the critics at the School District imply, for the March 18th story we printed the publicly available numbers from School Board meetings and Edjoin, the education job clearing house in California.  Our search of Edjoin listed 18 job positions representing 35 vacancies at Emery.  When we contacted Superintendent Rubio for a second source, he chose not to respond.  His assistant has now asserted that there are only seven vacancies in the District.  The table below lists the jobs posting.  Either the District is falsely advertising jobs, lying, or both.  The Tattler believes both, as they have five different listings for an Elementary Art position. 

Position being recruited
  Comments
Counting as
MS science
Listed with HS position
1
HS science
Listed with MS position
1
Art
5 different listings
1
Elementary 1-3
Ad states 3 openings
3
Elementary 4-6
Ad states 3 openings
3
MS math
Listed with HS position
1
HS math
Listed with MS position
1
HS English
Listed with HS position
1
MS English
Listed with MS position
1
Kindergarten 
Ad states 3 openings
3
MS Social Science
Single listing
1
Special Education
Single listing, likely more needed
1
Total
18

Edjoin lists the following for certificated positions in Emery:
"Your search returned  18  job postings for a total of  35  job vacancies. Please click a job title below for detailed information about a specific posting. You can sort your results in both directions (ascending/descending) by clicking on a column header."

It is possible that a majority of the posted positions are anticipated and not actually vacant, yet if the district only has seven vacancies, why have they posted 12 different job titles? 

The question the community most asked as a result of the March 18th story is what do neighboring districts have posted.  Some said the large numbers at Emery are because of the general teacher shortage or this is just how education is today.  Looking at neighboring school district's jobs postings clears this up.
Looking at Edjoin, the neighboring districts to Emery had significantly fewer positions listed.   A search of Edjoin on March 20, 2017 showed only Oakland had more job opportunities posted.  However Oakland has 500 times the number of teachers but only ten times the number of postings but also, Oakland is in a hiring freeze at the moment. (Teacher FTE sourcing comes from the California Department of Education reports in 2015 except for Emery which comes from the Emery Board meeting on March 7, 2017 'fiscal assumptions'.)

District
Teacher Postings
 Admin
Teacher FTE
Percent Open
Berkeley
14
1
686
2.0%
Albany
3
0
224
1.3%
Oakland
187
33
2683
7.0%
Piedmont
3
0
179
1.7%
Alameda
8
2
576
1.4%
Emery
18
1
53
34.0%


The Tattler welcomes Superintendent Rubio to provide a written response as to why Emery is advertising positions that are filled.  He has at his fingertips all of the staff that were employed at the start of this school year and all of the teachers that have left or will leave the district at the end of the year.  Based on the personnel actions from the School Board meetings this school year, several teachers have left mid year, Mr Rubio can add to that the number of teachers that have resigned or been given non-reelection letters.  California law requires teachers to be notified by March 15 if they are being let go at the end of the year.  Most districts allow teachers to resign instead of being fired.  Other teachers may choose to give notice later after they have found a new job, so the numbers will not represent everyone, but will tell the story.
We invite Superintendent to take public account of his record on teacher retention by engaging with the community rather than shutting down engagement.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Failure: Teacher Retention Project at Emery Schools


Teachers Head For The Exits at Emery Unified
 School District

Newly Built Schools & Parcel Tax Notwithstanding
Emery Can Not Hang On to Its Teachers


News Analysis/Opinion
Will Emery Unified School District ever deliver on its promise to educate?
We've certainly done our part; Emeryville voters have up until now given Emery Unified School District whatever it asks for, be it bonds or a parcel tax.  What about the other side of the partnership?  When is Emery Unified going to deliver a school we can send our kids to?  

The success of a school or school district can be judged on many levels, academic achievement (test scores), employee satisfaction or turnover, balanced budgets, among other items.  Emery Unified specifically has made teacher retention a priority and the district extended a parcel tax, Measure K (2014) who's ballot language stated unequivocally: to recruit and retain qualified experienced 
teachers and staff.  Emery's Superintendent John Rubio, has failed on all these counts even with new school buildings at the Center of 'Community' Life and the extra parcel tax funds.  This invariably has a negative impact on the students that go to our schools.

"There is a shortage of good teachers, treat them poorly, they will go to better-paying districts where they are supported and appreciated."

Emery Unified reported in their budget update in March 2017, that there are 53 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions or “Certificated Staff”, which could include a Speech Therapist, Psychologist, and Nurse.  Currently, there are 21 vacancies posted for the “Certificated Staff” for 2017-18 school year at Emery Unified (see edjoin.org keywords: emery unified).  They are also looking for 10 Substitute Teachers.  They're going to need them.
This does not reflect well on a district of Emery’s size.  It is clear that there is a not a positive working environment, teacher morale is low and something is deeply wrong.  The departure of two teachers at Anna Yates during the middle of this school year is especially troubling.
One would be bright spot at Emery it was noted is a decrease in the payroll budget, however given that new teachers (and less experienced teachers) are paid less and this is responsible for the decrease, any good news is substantially attenuated.  
Emery Unified Schools Superintendent John Rubio
From his histrionic December 2016
letter to the Emeryville community:
"Last spring, we carefully paper screened over 250
teacher applicants to hire the best and the brightest
teachers we could find for your children."


Emery Unified has not delivered on its promise to Emeryville's voters who passed the Measure K parcel tax.  It is not recruiting nor retaining the number of quality teachers our kids deserve. Administration staff also plays a role in the stability of a school. With only one Administrative vacancy, this would appear to be progress. However, the posted position is for the elementary school principal and represents the third elementary Principal in as many years.  Add to that two high school principals, two curriculum directors, and the turnover in administrators at the critical positions is just as high.   It also begs the question, how are Measure K parcel tax funds not being spent on Administrator salaries (as required by law) when there are more administrators than recommended by the state.  Why a district of Emery’s size requires twelve administrators is unclear. That is one administrator for every 57 students (based on an enrollment of 682 students).

From Emery USD March 2017 budget report:
Position
FTE
Posted Jobs
Posted Vacancies
Certificate (teachers)
53.0
18.0
35.0
Administration
12
1.0
1.0
Classified*
17.9
5
5
Total
82.9
24
41

* The classified positions are all for coaches and don't speak to employee satisfaction.

Why does this matter?  Because pedagogical experts and ordinary Emeryville citizens know that teachers are the key to academic achievement.  When 40% of your Certificated (teaching) staff need to be recruited for the upcoming school year, it raises eyebrows.  What can we expect our student progress towards math and english proficiency to look like this year?   We will find out our State scores in August.

This year, Superintendent John Rubio will be ending his third year with Emery Unified and given there are only 71 non-management positions, that is one manager for every six employees, six and half if you don't count the Superintendent.  With a school district that top heavy, we should expect some accountability for the unacceptable current state of affairs at Emery Unified School District.  Current Emeryville City Council member and former School Board Trustee Christian Patz, who during his Board tenure often publicly jousted with the Superintendent spoke to the obvious, "When I voted against renewing Dr Rubio's contract, I did so because I was aware of the negative culture in the district.  Teachers and administrators told me they feared retaliation if they spoke out.  There is a shortage of good teachers, treat them poorly, they will go to better-paying districts where they are supported and appreciated."

Superintendent Rubio refused to comment for this story.
This is what we get for all the money we've spent.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Emeryville Loses Summary Judgment in Yuvette Henderson Case

Judge Says Reasonable Person Could Surmise Police Used Excessive Force in Shooting


Federal Judge Donna Ryu ruled earlier this week against the City of Emeryville's request for a summary judgment in the civil wrongful death case brought by the family of Yuvette Henderson who was shot and killed by an Emeryville police officer in 2015, an action that will either bring a trial or a settlement.  In a sharply worded 20 page ruling, Judge Ryu threw out the request brought by the police to dismiss the case based on an internal EPD investigation in 2016 that cleared the police of any wrongdoing.

Federal Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu
Yuvette Henderson was "six feet away from her gun" 
and "turned away from it" when the 
Emeryville police officer fired the kill shot.
Judge Ryu noted a jury could plausibly decide Yuvette Henderson was wrongly killed because "Henderson did not pose an immediate threat to [the police officers] and because she was unarmed and wounded and because although she carried a gun, she had not previously fired or aimed at [the officers]."  The Judge added it is plausible a jury could reasonably decide the Emeryville police use of lethal force was "unreasonable and excessive" and that the officers had "several reasonable alternatives to lethal force."  Additionally, Judge Ryu noted forensic evidence and witness accounts contradicting the police version of events could plausibly sway a jury.
  
The Emeryville Police Department's 'not guilty' conclusion arrived after the investigation conducted by the police against itself wrought the civil case brought by the Henderson family, a criminal conviction having been precluded.
As a result of Judge Ryu's ruling, the case will now either go to trial or it will be settled and that decision will be made on March 28th.
An Emeryville taxpayer funded compensation looms as a likely scenario, attorneys following the case told the Tattler Monday.
Public interest in the Yuvette Henderson case
has not waned since the 2015 shooting.  A
large crowd waited for entry into Judge Ryu's
 courtroom for the summary judgment hearing
last month.

RULE Meeting

From RULE:

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

Making our city a great place to live and work!  Come and plan for the year ahead with your progressive neighbors.


Where:  5514 Doyle St., first floor common room
When:  Sat., March 18, 10:00 - 12:00

         Agenda:

         -Council Member Dianne Martinez is our guest speaker

          -Planning and goals for RULE in 2017

Bring breakfast snacks....coffee and tea provided
See you there!  Judy Timmel, RULE Steering Committee