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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Tower Separation Regulations to be Repealed Just In Time For Onni Developer

"No Connection" Between Regulation Rollback and Desires of Onni Developer, City Council Assures Us

Planning Director Suggests City Staff Expressed Poor Judgment in 2013 When the Regulations Were Crafted 

News Analysis
The City Council members and the staff at City Hall has a tough task they’re engaged in.  They’ve got to move quickly to repeal Emeryville’s existing ‘tower separation’ regulations meant to protect the residents in order to help out a billionaire developer seeking regulatory relief for his proposed towers all while assuring the residents they’re not doing that.  It’s been an illuminating exercise in government chicanery watching the Council members’ strain as they carry water for the developer of the Christie Avenue Onni project and it’s two towers (one at 700’ and one at 200’), all while they deny they’re doing it…sometimes in the same sentence.

After Emeryville's Planning Director Charlie Bryant made a brief presentation at the July 9th Tuesday Council meeting wherein he said staff had goofed when they added tower separation to the city planning regulations back in 2013, he noted the Council is now being offered a chance to correct that mistake by completely rolling back the regulation.  Staffs' findings from 2013 that were made in support of the tower separation regulation were not presented Tuesday night, only that by overturning it, the Council would be "cleaning up" a terrible staff mistake.  Charlie Bryant, Emeryville's Planning Director, without explaining why, tried to quantify the mistake for the Council members, "This regulation was not based on any extensive research, rather it was based solely on staffs' professional judgment at the time" he said.
Emeryville Planning Director Charlie Bryant
The staff made a mistake in 2013 (lack of research)
with the tower separation rules.  He says the City
Council now has a chance to correct the staffs'
lack of "professional judgment".
For the record, tower separation regulations were to protect against overcrowding of high-rise towers; a condition pejoratively called ‘Manhattanization’.
The Council however jumped at Mr Bryant's reasoning Tuesday and “clean up language” was trotted out as the reason for abolishing the tower separation regulation by three Council members.  They assured the citizens it’s only a coincidence that they are “cleaning up” this regulatory burden the Onni developer says is unacceptable, now, just in time for approval for that controversial project.
Councilwoman Dianne Martinez seeking to allay any condemnations from citizens, was unequivocal and she sought to completely uncouple the Council’s action from the wishes of the Onni developer,  “It’s clean up language and it would apply to ANY high-rise.”  she said.  She made no other specific mention of the questionable timing of the rollback.

The wholesale denials that this action the Council is taking has anything at all to do with the Onni project were noted by citizens at the meeting.  One resident who wished to remain anonymous told the Tattler later he found it “curious” the Council members were all so adamant about denying any connection with Onni.  It’s worth noting and it’s also curious that the roll back of the tower separation regulations is happening at the same time the Council is also considering rolling back Emeryville’s family housing ‘unit mix’ regulations, also an existential problem for the Onni developer (or so he has said).  Strenuous denials have been issued from the City Council there as well, about any nexus between rolling back the family housing unit mix regulations and the desires of the Onni developer.  It’s just another coincidence, the Council says.
The Proposed Onni Project
The developer wants Emeryville's  existing
'tower separation' law to be repealed.
The Council says it's all just a coincidence.

Where four Council members left it as self evident that our 2013 tower separation regulations are terrible things that must now be rooted out and rolled back, unworthy of even offering explanation, Council member John Bauters thought a few words about it should be offered to the public.  The tower separation regs are unnecessary, Mr Bauters told the crowd, because future environmental impact reports for projects (presumably that means Onni), will take up any concerns about what the proper distance of towers should be.  That’s a pretty extraordinary plea against the whole idea of city planning but one Mr Bauters bolstered when he said if we don’t get rid of our separation rules, we’re going to get “sprawl”.  The Councilman didn’t explain how that would work and as such, it was presented as another self evident fact.  But the most incongruent evidence for why the Council must roll back the tower separation regulation was presented in a non sequitur he offered up, claiming regulations in general remove the ability for the "Council to review projects”.  Mr Bauters told the crowd that if the tower separation regulations are removed, the Council will get a chance to review (the Onni) project for the public benefit that somehow would not be possible were there to be tower separation regulations on the books.  Again, no explanation of how that works was offered.

Mr Bryant, throwing out a lifeline for the struggling City Council, volunteered that the tower separation regulation, "... was in merely one page out of over four hundred pages of regulations” that were generated by staff as they sought to overhaul the zoning and planning regulations in 2013 he said.

The City Council will finally remove tower separation from the books at their July 23rd meeting when they do a required ‘second reading’ of the ordinance that forever removes the regulations so unpopular with the Onni developer.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Breaking News: Council Continues Minimum Wage Vote

Tonight the Emeryville City Council took comments from the public about their plan to roll back the minimum wage for certain restaurant workers in town and then they voted to not vote.  At least not tonight.
After certifying the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ certification that the voter petition drive to stop the roll back has passed, the Council had three options before them; to repeal the roll back they voted on May 29th, throw the issue over to the voters of Emeryville in a future plebiscite. or  continue the whole thing to another meeting.  It was the first two choices the Council said they didn’t want to make tonight and they directed the City Manager to bring the issue back to them in a future meeting, probably in July.
However, the stalling action tonight means the restaurant workers will receive their raises that were mandated by the original Minimum Wage Ordinance, so it will effectively be as if the Council had voted to repeal their roll back vote.  However, the workers could still see their wages rolled back at a future date, but that decision would have to come from Emeryville voters.  If the Council ultimately says NO to repealing their May 29th roll back, the question before the voters will be, ‘should Emeryville restaurant workers have their pay cut?’.
The Tattler will closely follow this issue as it this space.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Existing 'Tower Separation' Rules to be Overturned to Help Onni Tower Developer

Onni Developer Wants Tower Separation Regulations Repealed
City Council Prepared to Acquiesce 

No Reasons Offered Why Existing Public Policy
is Unacceptable 

News Analysis
What was considered fantastic in Emeryville only a short while ago, now inexplicably and with no new information, is totally unacceptable.  
Apropos to that, the City Council votes Tuesday to, without findings, remove protections against overcrowding of architectural towers in town, a condition of 'Manhattanization' recognized by the City's own General Plan, at the behest of a specific developer who stands to materially benefit from the repeal.  The developer of the Onni project proposal, a Christie Avenue 700 foot apartment tower together with a 200 foot office tower on the same lot is constrained, like every other developer,  by Emeryville's 'tower separation' regulations but he says Emeryville's rules make it so his project "won't pencil out".  The City Council in response, is considering removing the pesky UD-P 35 tower separation regulations from the books altogether, making sure this or any other developers' towers will never again be so constrained in Emeryville.

Emeryville, long known for bending over backwards to accommodate developers, on Tuesday is moving into new territory to assuage the desires of a developer.  Normally, when city regulations are considered for amendment or repeal, new findings of fact are presented that change or negate the original findings.  The Council, if it goes along with the staff's recommendation on Tuesday however, vacates UD-P 35 (and addendums) and all its original findings with no new findings whatsoever leaving open questions about the truthfulness of the original findings; as in were they false?  Did the City of Emeryville make bogus findings of facts about tower proximity for the General Plan ten years ago?  Or is the problem occurring now?  Should the City, for transparency's sake, let us know why the regulations need to be overturned?  Or is it rather that City Hall doesn't even care about policy optics anymore and has entered a new phase of naked (anti-public) policy?

The current City Council members, not seated ten years ago when the General Plan was written, do not owe allegiance to the sentiments that brought us the UD-P 35 tower separation regulations.  But any reading of democratic governance tells us they need to reveal why they disagree and not just rely on facile procedural claims to their authority to reverse the regulations.  Their authority or even the legality to do that is not what's in question.

It's noteworthy that the staff report accompanying Tuesday's City Council decision goes into some detail highlighting the legitimate authority of the Council to overturn the tower separation regulations but nothing as to why they should do so. The report highlights how the Planning Commission had agreed with the Council that tall steel constructed buildings should not have to abide by the City's family unit mix regulations (also a gift to the Onni developer) and then by extension somehow that the Council should now overturn the tower separation regulations as well.  From Tuesday's staff report sent to the Council:

 "At the City Council meeting on October 16, 2018, the Council directed that the Planning Commission reconsider the Planning Regulations unit mix requirements for residential buildings that are taller than the California Building Code allows for wood-frame construction. In this context, staff also identified an additional regulation to be examined, namely the minimum separation of buildings over 100 feet tall, or 'tower separation'."
It's neither cogent nor rational.  The conflating of the two regulations is not warranted beyond a naked and undemocratic greasing of the skids for a specific development proposal and a specific developer, unless the current Council wishes to announce a new pro-development, anti-regulatory regime that's being assembled.  That seems unlikely though, owing to the fact that the new City Council, RULE endorsed with progressive bonafides touted to the rooftops, has always sought to distance themselves from this sort of reputation-proceeding Emeryville city planning ethos from a earlier era.
If for nothing more than transparency's sake, it is hoped Emeryville citizens will get a stated reason from their representatives Tuesday night as to why their laws from a few years ago, considered to be a good thing by all involved, are now suddenly not up to snuff and must be utterly vanquished.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Minimum Wage Petition Drive is Successful: Council Cannot Lower Wage by Fiat

Council Majority Loses Bid to Lower Minimum Wage

Bauters, Martinez, Donahue Constrained 
by Labor/Community Group's Petition Drive

After a dramatic push by the Emeryville City Council to lower the City's minimum wage by decree last month, a coalition of labor and community members has successfully beaten back the edict following a city-wide petition drive, the City Clerk announced today.  The petition, signed by 871 Emeryville voters will now force the Council's hand who on Tuesday must decide whether to reverse their decree or allow the people of Emeryville to decide about the issue in the form of a ballot initiative, probably in November of 2020.

The City Council majority, made up of John Bauters, Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue voted May 29th to amend Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance to lower the wage for restaurant workers.  That action brought a coalition of labor and community members called the East Bay Working Families (EBWF) to begin a petition drive to fight off the Council led attack on the lowest paid Emeryville workers.  Before the State mandated 30 day cut off period, the group had collected the signatures of 871 Emeryville voters, far more than the minimum required 666 (10% of the registered voters in town).  The Alameda County Registrar of Voters certified the count saying earlier today,  “The petition is found to be sufficient to require the City Council of the City of Emeryville to take the appropriate action specified in the California Elections Code.”

The City Council meets Tuesday to decide whether to give up on their bid to cut the minimum wage or let the people of Emeryville decide at a later date.  However, the petition drive is a victory for Emeryville minimum wage workers who would have seen their pay cut starting July 1st.  They will instead now receive their full pay until the people of Emeryville decide to cut their pay in a future election unless the City Council decides to restore the Minimum Wage Ordinance on Tuesday.
The Emeryville City Council Appearing United for the Photo 
The Mayor and the Vice Mayor stand up for the minimum wage.
Their three colleagues now face the wrath of Emeryville voters.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Discord Returns to School District: Emery School Board President Calls It Quits

Emery Board "Not Invested in Much Needed Change" Says Departing President

Citing an intractable culture resistant to change, Barbara Inch, formerly of the Emery School Board,  announced Friday in a letter to the Superintendent of the Schools, she has resigned from her position as Board Trustee, effective immediately.  The resignation comes after a difficult three year tenure for Ms Inch who has served as President of the Board over the last seven months.
The dramatic departure represents the culmination of a progressive drive for transformation at the beleaguered little school district and heralds a return to Emery politics as usual before Ms Inch led a would be progressive majority in a Board takeover in 2018.

Former School Board member Inch, who was elected in a 2016 landslide election having garnered more votes than any elected official in Emeryville history, later helped shepherd the progressive majority into office with the subsequent election of Susan Donaldson, Sarah Nguyen and Brynnda Collins to the Board in 2018.  Ms Inch soon ran into trouble however after Brynnda Collins and Sarah Nguyen dropped out of the coalition, showing by their accumulated votes they are not the progressives they claimed to be.  As such, those defections seem to have been the death knell for the progressive agenda at Emery Unified, the ensuing resignation of Ms Inch only serving to solidify that prognosis. 
Former Emery School Board President Barbara Inch
She was elected by more voters than
any elected official in Emeryville history.
But seeking the change for Emery she promised voters,
she couldn't get cooperation from her colleagues.

Notably, the Friday resignation letter sent to the Superintendent came on the heels of a Wednesday night Board rejection of an issue forwarded by Ms Inch; the naming of Emery’s gymnasium.  Ms Inch and community supporters called for naming the gym after former Emery PE coach Steve Dain who was fired in 1977 for transitioning from a woman to a man.  By attempting to name the gym in honor of Mr Dain, who was once voted Emery Teacher of the Year and is now deceased, Ms Inch had been using the bully pulpit as Board President to correct Emery’s 1970’s error and help serve as an inspirational signal that the District has changed and is a tolerant place welcoming to everyone.  The conservative Board majority rallied in reaction however and immediately began searching for a different person to name the gym after, eventually settling on a different past coach who was not a Transgender person and consequently not fired for being a Transgender person.
The Steve Dain issue seems to have served as a final straw for Ms Inch, “After Wednesday, it became clear to me that the majority of the Board was not invested in the much needed change this district so desperately needs.” the former Board member told the Tattler.

The four remaining Board members will appoint a replacement of their choice to take Barbara Inch’s seat until the next election in 2020.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

John Bauters Wags the Dog (Literally)

John Bauters 
is cutting the minimum wage and he 
Saved a Puppy

To 'wag the dog' means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance.  By doing so, the lesser-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue.  The expression comes from the saying that 'a dog is smarter than its tail', but if the tail were smarter, then the tail would 'wag the dog'.

Poor Emeryville City Council member John Bauters.  He touched the third rail in Bay Area politics.  After kicking over a hornets nest, a couple of weeks of very public self inflicted wounds with his plan to cut Emeryville's minimum wage, he's now facing an accountability moment.  He's not taking all the resultant insults lying down however.  Councilman Bauters brought a cute puppy to the fight.

It all started when, taking a leadership role among his colleagues, he tried to cut the Emeryville minimum wage by Council fiat without warning and done so quickly that the Bay Area labor community would be caught unawares.  The issue has instead blown up in his face.  The labor community rapidly formed a coalition with residents to push back against the plan, starting with a city-wide mailer sent to every voting Emeryville household warning them about the planned wage roll back.  Now, Mr Bauters is facing another PR nightmare; his minimum wage cutting scheme has been petitioned for recall by over 850 Emeryville residents.  The successful petition drive means he's going to have to make a new decision; to give up on his plan to roll back the minimum wage or give the decision to Emeryville voters, probably next March.

Most politicians, facing such an onslaught of push back from a constituency he publicly claims allegiance with would attempt to get out in front of the mounting controversy.  Mr Bauters instead is telling us all he recently saved a puppy.

Did you know that?  You could barely miss it.  He's been telling everyone all about it on his most recent blog entry made after the labor/community pushback kicked into high gear.  He rescued the pup from a hot car.  He's got pictures of the dog wagging its tail after it was saved.  Or is it instead the tail wagging the dog?
In the midst of a boatload of self inflicted embarrassing news, his hand now forced by a legally binding petition drive of outraged residents, Mr Bauters is silent on all that.  He's using his City Council blog instead to make everybody know what a hero he is because he saved a puppy.

John Bauters is a really smart guy.  But his response to the blowback, what anybody could have guessed would come as a result of such a public blunder, leaves us baffled.   It's so overt, you have to wonder if he's totally guileless and he screwed up or is he totally calculating and shameless and this is all part of some grand scheme.  What's really wagging here?
Minimum wage cut?  What minimum wage cut?
Look at this instead!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

John Bauters' & Dianne Martinez's High Campaign Contributions Raise Questions

Nexus Between Votes to Cut Minimum Wage/Votes Against Family Housing & Campaign Coffers?

Bauters, Martinez May Be Looking to Expand 
Political Careers Beyond Emeryville

News Analysis
Beginning earlier this spring, Council members John Bauters and Dianne Martinez have been on a tear, working collaboratively to roll back the progressive agenda in Emeryville.  First the two moved to roll back Emeryville's General Plan provisions designed to make housing more family friendly, then they moved to roll back Emeryville’s progressive Minimum Wage Ordinance designed to help the working poor among us.  These two Council members’ attempts at taking down these two central pillars of Emeryville’s progressive framework, represent a curious and abrupt turn around for these self styled progressives. The duel action by these Council members against the progressive Emeryville body politic has drawn ire and concern from citizens and labor groups, some of whom are pointing to evidence the two may be looking to start up respective campaigns for higher political office outside of Emeryville, a charge neither has publicly confirmed or denied.  This shifting to the right could represent the first inklings by these two Emeryville politicians of the classic 'pivot to the center' political tactic well trodden by progressive politicians.

Mr Bauters, elected in 2016, who arrived on the Council after the landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance (MWO) took effect as well as the family housing unit mix regulations (both enacted in 2015) has shown us that he considers Emeryville too progressive, at least on these two fronts.  Ms Martinez, now in her second term, is also is showing us she considers Emeryville as too progressive but her advocacy in rolling back the progressive agenda, reveals a change of heart.  The Councilwoman, first voted into office in 2014, personally voted for both the MWO and the family housing unit mix during her first term.
Both these legislative votes at the Council were unanimous, it should be noted.

Emeryville City Council Members'
Political Contributions and Cash on Hand (in dollars)

From most recent Form 460s

The three on the left voted to cut minimum wage workers' pay.
The two on the right voted to save Emeryville's
Minimum Wage Ordinance and protect working poor families.

Is Mr Bauters headed next to the State Senate race? 
Perhaps Ms Martinez too or someplace comparable?
Both these 2015 Council led directives are being vigorously pushed back against by the business community.  The developer of the proposed 700’ Onni apartment tower on Christie Avenue has indicated he is unwilling to provide the family housing Emeryville’s law dictates for his project and he is now seeking relief by Council fiat.  The restaurant owners in town are nearly united against the Minimum Wage Ordinance and they too are seeking relief by City Council intervention.

Rumors have been swirling that these two Council members, who’s voting records have taken a turn towards helping the business community could be setting themselves up for their respective futures in politics.  A check of their Form 460 political campaign records of monetary contributions and cash on hand hints there may be something to the rumors.  John Bauters, the most vocal of the two in mounting anti-progressive policy and rhetoric shows a campaign war chest of $25,399.46 cash on hand as of January and Dianne Martinez shows a total of $12,723 in monetary contributions.  By contrast and taking up the rear, Vice Mayor Christian Patz, who has most vigorously defended family housing and the wages of the working poor against the attacks by Mr Bauters and Ms Martinez, shows $753.17 in his campaign coffers while Mayor Medina, who also voted NO to rolling back the MWO, has just $79 available.  Mr Patz, on a side note, won election to the City Council after raising only about $8300, the lowest by any Council member seeking election in recent history.

The Tattler will continue to follow the suspicious nexus between campaign funding and policy that benefits developer and business interests.  We expect to see these funding numbers change as these proposed policy changes grow more pressing.  Watch this space.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Labor Group Identifies Councilman Bauters as "Leader" in Minimum Wage Roll Back Scheme

The labor/community coalition known as East Bay Working Families is really turning up the heat on the City Council majority that recently voted to roll back Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance.  The labor coalition is working to restore the ordinance and they have focused their ire against Council members Dianne Martinez, Scott Donahue and especially John Bauters, whom the group sees as the leader in the scheme to cut the wages of the lowest paid workers in Emeryville.  To that end, 8 1/2 x 11" glossy full color fliers on heavy card stock are being sent to Emeryville voters' homes (see below) in addition to the earlier reported city-wide ballot initiative petition the group has begun.  It would appear Mr Bauters and his two colleagues have poked a hornet's nest by this action against the working poor in our community.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Labor Group Starts Petition Drive to Defend Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance

Bauters, Martinez & Donahue Face Petition Defending Minimum Wage

Labor Across County United Against Three Council Members

A coalition of labor and community groups known as East Bay Working Families has begun a ballot initiative petition drive in response to a recent City Council move to roll back Emeryville’s Minimum Wage Ordinance.  The coalition partners refer to the targeted minimum wage ruling made at the May 29th Council meeting as a “corporate minimum wage loophole” that cuts the wages of restaurant workers in town.  The newly amended legislation, forwarded by Council members John Bauters and Dianne Martinez, provides a carve-out in the existing law meant to protect all workers’ wages, specifically cutting the wages of workers in restaurants with up to 55 employees in Emeryville, including chains with up to 20 locations globally.  The vote to roll back the wages of restaurant workers ended when holdout Council member Donahue joined the two progenitors to the action, leaving Mayor Ally Medina and Vice Mayor Christian Patz in the minority.

From the East Bay Working Families
anti anti-minimum wage campaign

Emeryville's three Council wage cutters are identified by name.
Sent out to 135,000 union members.
The petition now circulating around town, needs to show 661 legitimate signatures of Emeryville registered voters in order for the ballot initiative to be successful, a number a spokesperson for East Bay Working Families predicts will be relatively easy.  “We’re on track and we hope to get 1000” Liz Ortega, Executive Secretary of the Alameda County Labor Council told the Tattler, “we feel comfortable we’ll get it” she added.  The group claims they had obtained more than 200 signatures only two days after they began their drive, an indication that Emeryville’s minimum wage is popular with Emeryville citizens.

Many Emeryville residents joined East Bay Working Families in decrying the May 29th roll back decision, noting that the City Council had only heard from business owners in town.  A business survey conducted nine months before the May 29th vote did not include any findings about or opinions from workers themselves, a fact that is driving criticism of the harried May 29th vote by the Council. Gary Jimenez, a regional vice president with SEIU 1021 noted City Hall’s fact finding asymmetry, “This poorly drafted legislation was written without input from the workers or the community and it shows” he said.  The lopsided ‘business only’ testimony brought denunciations against the two Council members, especially John Bauters whom Working Families has reserved special condemnation, “Is Emeryville turning into ‘Trumpville’? asked Ms Ortega.  She called out Mr Bauters specifically for his attack on the lowest paid workers in town, “Is it Trumpville when we have a councilman like John Bauters leading the charge to cut wages of the working poor?”  She called his action, “very disappointing”.

The new Emeryville legislation freezes wages for the restaurant workers now and allows for small increases over the next eight years when their wage will finally catch up to other minimum wage earners in town.  The workers will have a July 1st expected raise of $1.30 snatched away from them by the Council's action.

That the attack on Emeryville’s landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance came from its former City Council backers, John Bauters, Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue, came as a surprise to labor leaders, “Frankly, we expected something like this from the business community” a member of Working Families who wished anonymity told the Tattler, “…not from the [air quotes] progressive Emeryville City Council” he added.  Other labor leaders added their disapprovals; “Adding a flawed loophole to the minimum wage doesn’t reflect [Emeryville’s] values and is fundamentally unfair” said Kate O’Hara, Executive Director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, a group that helped write the Minimum Wage Ordinance in 2015.  Liz Ortega from the Alameda County Labor Council agreed adding, “One job should be enough to support a family and pay the bills.  The minimum wage in Emeryville is fair and we should not be giving exemptions to restaurant chains” she said.

Working Families, who represent 135,000 labor union members in Alameda County, will have 30 days to gather at least 661 signatures and if they are successful, the City Council must either repeal the restaurant rider to the ordinance or put it before voters, probably this November.

More information on EBWF's protect Emeryville's minimum wage campaign can be found HERE.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Councilman's Impassioned Soliloquy Foretells Less Guarded Speech at Council Chambers

Mr Bauters Crosses the 'Shit' Rubicon

It came during a fervent verbal presentation by Council member John Bauters at the Council chambers Tuesday night; two utterances of the word "shit", resolutely affirmed and meant to underscore how impassioned he was on the topic at hand.  And what 'it' is, foretells an augmented and freer banter at the people's hall, citizens and their elected representatives speaking in a more colloquial, less constrained manner.

It seems like a new day.  Not in 37 years have we heard such language from an Emeryville City Council member in the Council chambers, cameras running.  A major deviation from the heretofore unspoken agreement proscribing such colorful vernaculars, Mr Bauters crossed the 'shit' Rubicon Tuesday night, inviting Emeryville residents to join him on the other side.
It's a position we'll gladly take on.
Council Member John Bauters
Fucking brilliant!

We have always only reluctantly signed on to the tacit understanding that the people's hall should be an evanescent and lofty place where everyday parlance is not raised enough and that citizens need to throw over their natural exuberant language, a cloak of Victorian bourgeois sensibilities.  The public commons have always been a contested place who's defense practically begs for such rakish and spritely speech.   And the new day that now beckons in Emeryville means we will not have to be so guarded as we speak our minds freely in our own hall.

The new decorum makes room for a better and more satisfying kind of admonishment at City Hall as citizens will now ask their City Council, "What the fuck?" and "What kind of shit is THIS?"; a vast improvement over the former, "I wish you wouldn't engage in this public policy..." or some other kind of weak shit like that.
Punctuated expletives aside, naysayers to the new courser polity in the Council chambers can rest assured; the people's hall remains the people's hall, democratic inclusiveness is unchanged by Mr Bauters' invitation to free speech.  Perhaps it's even strengthened.
And we say that's not a shitshow, rather, it's fucking awesome!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Breaking News: City Council Cuts Wages of Working Poor

City Council Action:
Minimum Wage Cut, Restaurant Chains Redefined Helping Corporations with 'Global' Footprint

Breaking News (Emeryville City Hall 8:13 pm)

Tonight the City Council passed a roll back of Emeryville’s landmark minimum wage ordinance with a second and final reading of an amendment that takes away a substantial raise for the poorest workers in town.  The vote broke the same way as the first reading with Vice Mayor Patz who called the amendment "A pay cut [for workers] plain and simple" joining Mayor Medina in voting NO to the roll back.  Council members John Bauters, Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue voted YES to cut the workers' wages.

The language of the wage roll back amendment rescinds a scheduled $1.30 raise for 'small independent' restaurant workers for eight years, making Emeryville one of many Bay Area cities with a $15 or nearly $15 minimum wage.  The wage roll back City Council insurgency, led by members John Bauters and Dianne Martinez was joined by Scott Donahue after Mr Bauters changed the deal, to allow a yearly pittance wage increase until 2027 for these workers (with no increase at all for 2019).  The amendment carve out also redefines the words 'small' and 'independent' restaurants to include corporate chains with up to "20 global locations".
The new law provides that in the year 2027, restaurant workers will finally catch up with other workers in Emeryville, barring another Council driven minimum wage roll back.

The about-face in labor policy converts Emeryville from leadership to near pariah status among the progressives in the Bay Area labor activist community, many decrying the region wide erosive nature of the roll back.  Spokespeople for East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), the East Bay’s premier labor advocacy group, warned the roll back action would embolden anti-labor forces throughout the Bay Area and beyond.  EBASE, instrumental in helping formulate Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance to great fanfare in 2015 was notably snubbed by the Council in its current drive to reverse it.
Despite concern from labor, the roll back policy this time was derived with input solely from the business community and the latest 'Business Conditions Report' aka the 'business study' or MWO study' commissioned by the City and completed last summer.  Critics have complained the study only looked into the business side of the MWO, ignoring labor.  No efforts were made to check the veracity of dramatic claims of sliding business bottom lines or looming bankruptcy by either the study or the City Council in the lead up to the roll back it should be noted.  That, plus the subsequent ignoring of labor concerns by the City Council prompted a chastising response from EBASE Executive Director Kate O'Hara, "The study did not ask businesses to provide specific data from their own experience to back up the opinions they are providing" she said in a letter to the Council. 

Labor backers have noted City Hall’s new minimum wage policy, in addition to increasing suffering, will leave Emeryville now vulnerable to labor shortages with working poor families fleeing to communities paying the same wage but with a lower cost of living.  After the California statewide $15 minimum wage law takes effect in less than three years, this vulnerability could reach crisis proportions with working families decamping wholesale to lower cost cities elsewhere in the state.  This likely eventuality brings into question the City Council majority's exact intent with the roll back.  Tonight they made no effort to address this issue.
A simple check of apartment costs in California reveals Emeryville’s dramatic exposure to the loss of its already stressed low wage workforce.  It’s easy to find a nice one bedroom apartment in Vacaville for $1200 per month.  A comparable apartment in Emeryville would be about $3200…an extra $2000 per month.  Venturing farther afield…say Alturas California, a one bedroom place can easily be had for $500 per month.
Formerly a beacon for the working poor in the Bay Area, Emeryville, after the roll back with its lowest wage at $15, now the same as many other cities, loses its competitive advantage it had to draw higher quality workers.  The City of Emeryville with its putative progressive City Council has used its power to transform itself from a city that sought to solve regional problems into just one of multiple cities adding to the region's problems.

In the coming months, long after the City Council has washed its hands of this, the Emeryville Tattler will, in a planned series of worker interviews, continue to report the effect this historic wage roll back is having on the working poor and their families in our community.  Look to the Tattler to do what the Emeryville City Council refused to do when they passed this roll back of our Minimum Wage Ordinance: listen to those working at the bottom of the wage scale.

Bollards Will Protect Bike Lanes Says Emeryville City Council

Several months ago, the Emeryville City Council began an experimental program on the Horton Street Bike Boulevard when they installed protected bike lanes.  The idea was bollards would be installed instead of the preferred and standard treatment of bikes co-mingling with vehicles by slowing traffic and reducing traffic volume as is called for with Bike Boulevards in general and the General Plan specifically.
The Council is under a lot of pressure from developers and business owners to not reduce traffic volume on Horton Street so they came up with a plan that bikes could safely share the road with vehicles with the use of bollards.  The concept is that with bikes safely behind the bollards, the street could allow for a much higher carrying capacity for vehicles with higher vehicle speeds and high vehicle traffic volumes.
The photos taken today, illustrate what Emeryville police officers say is the "everyday occurrence" of vehicles disregarding the best laid plans of the Council and now blocking the sidewalks as well as the bike lanes on Horton Street.  Before the bollards were placed, everyday occurrences meant that only the bike lanes were being blocked.  Other cities reduce the vehicle traffic speed and volume on their bike boulevards in deference to the premise that bike boulevards should be streets that allow vehicles but are bicycle preferred.
 The Tattler presents a problem that appears to be too tough for Emeryville to solve:

Everyday Occurrence
The Americans with Disabilities Act says 48" clear must be maintained on sidewalks.
Emeryville might have to re-write the ADA codes for Horton Street.

Everyday Occurrence
At least the bikes can get through....

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Council Insurgency Uses Unpresidented Tactics to Roll-Back Minimum Wage Ordinance

Councilman Bauters Pulls Off Upset in Minimum Wage Fight

After Failed First Try, He Pulls Out Secret Plan to Roll-Back Wages
Insurgency Gains Crucial Third Vote by Phone

Councilman John Bauters
Won't call the working poor people
in Emeryville to tell them he
took away their raise they're
expecting on July 1st.
The City Council showed their hand last Tuesday night when a conservative insurgency made up of Council members John Bauters and Dianne Martinez, moved to roll back Emeryville’s Minimum Wage Ordinance with an attempt to strip away the ordinance’s provisions protecting worker’s scheduled raise by use of a subterfuge tactic planned in advance by Mr Bauters.  Councilman Bauters and his colleague Dianne Martinez were hoping to make a majority on the five member Council by trying for a third vote to straight away remove the scheduled raise for working poor families in Emeryville in a motion to amend the ordinance.  When that motion went down to a 2-3 defeat, Mr Bauters, undaunted, brought out his back up plan, made in secret with help from the City Hall staff, to allow for a very small raise for the poorest workers in town, hoping to peel off a third vote.  Mr Bauters and Ms Martinez got their third vote when Councilman Scott Donahue switched over and agreed to so amend the MWO, thereby satisfying a State required ‘first reading’ to change the ordinance.
The Council will vote to change the MWO in the final ‘second reading’ in a special meeting set up for Wednesday night May 29th.

The working poor in Emeryville will have to wait for eight years to get the raise currently owed to them in July if the second reading vote goes like the first.  If Mr Bauters’ now out in the open roll-back plan is successful, the poorest workers in our town will not see their wages rise to what the existing Minimum Wage Ordinance provides for until 2027 instead of July 1st of this year.

Councilwoman Dianne Martinez
Member of the MWO roll back insurgency.
Wanted to hear from business owners,
not workers before she voted.
Phone In Vote
The conservative insurgency is very determined to get under the wire and make the second reading happen before the end of the month when Brown Act provisions would prevent the lawmakers from stopping the July 1st  $1.30 raise the MWO mandates.  After Councilman Donahue told his colleagues he would be out of town on Wednesday the 29th making for a likely 2-2 tie vote that would not be binding, Mr Bauters, citing special legal provisions, revealed allowances for Mr Donahue to cast his vote from his out-of-state location live by telephone as the whole vote is taken.

The legal time constraints forcing the insurgents’ hand will make for a very unconventional event for City Council watchers.  As they proceed to take the final vote to roll-back Emeryville’s landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance on Wednesday at 7:15 pm, the City Council is taking this unprecedented provision allowing City Hall attendees to be witness to the spectacle of a vote taken live by phone. Councilman Donahue’s voice will be broadcast live on speakers in the Council chambers.
It cannot be said this City Council doesn’t think on its feet as they thus remind us of the truism that necessity can drive people to come up with creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

Neither Mr Bauters, nor his two insurgent colleagues it should be noted, have volunteered to place calls to the workers expecting their raises on July 1st, telling them they won’t be getting their raises after all.  It is expected the bosses will give the working poor in our town the news sometime after Wednesday but hopefully well before July 1st so those who need to will have time to secure PayDay loans to cover their daily living expenses.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Breaking News: Minimum Wage Ordinance to be Rolled Back


Tonight the Emeryville City Council voted 3-2 to roll back the City's landmark minimum wage ordinance as had been proposed earlier in the month in response to a blitzkrieg from restaurant owners in town.  In a drive led by Council members Dianne Martinez and John Bauters and joined by Scott Donahue, the Council voted to stop the July 1st scheduled wage increase for Emeryville's lowest paid workers.  After negotiation with Councilman Donahue who held out for a small increase in wages, the ordinance is proposed to be changed to increase wages at a much slower rate than what is written in the existing law.  Council members Bauters and Martinez had wanted no increase at all and only agreed to the small change after Mr Donahue voted NO with the Mayor and Vice Mayor.

Mr Bauters expressed his concern that restaurants would go out of business en masse in Emeryville if the lowest paid workers get the full increase as it exists after hearing from the business owners.  In response to arguments from labor advocates, he reminded the crowd that Emeryville has done enough to help low paid workers and the July 1st increase of $1.30 is unwarranted.
Mayor Ally Medina stated the Minimum Wage Ordinance as it is reflects the values of Emeryville and that she had been elected specifically to support the ordinance as voiced by many voters when she was elected to the Council in 2016.  She and Vice Mayor Christian Patz voted NO to the roll back proposal.

The vote was the so called 'First Reading' of the ordinance change and the Council will vote again at their next meeting in the required second reading before the law is changed.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

E'Ville Eye Editor Says Emeryville Has Criminally Attacked Free Press

E'Ville Eye Tantrum:
News Blog Editor Calls $2000 Gift From the City Too Little, "An Attack on a Free Press"

Rob Arias Resigns From City's Bike Committee 
in Protest

Calls City Council "Criminal", "Unethical"

The Emeryville City Council recently approved a gift of $2000 from the City’s Community Grant Program for this year to the Emeryville Historical Society, an amount that business advocate, local news blogger and Society member Rob Arias says is less than what they had asked for and further, that amount is so little that it constitutes a criminal act of biased retaliation against him he said.  Mr Arias, the editor of the conservative Emeryville centric pro-business blog The E’Ville Eye said in a sharply worded letter to the Council the paltry $2000 subsidy of taxpayer funds granted to his Historical Society group, is so miserly, that it is “biased” and amounts to a “criminal retaliation against a free press”, referring to the fact that he is editor of that news blog.
Editor and Former
Bike Committee Member
Rob Arias

Says the City's $2000 grant is a
"criminal attack on a free press".
He quit his Bike Committee
position in protest. 
An anguished Mr Arias, who in addition to being a Historical Society member, renders services to the group and stands to materially benefit from the City’s largess, told the Council in the rambling and pointed May 6th letter that Emeryville is no longer “worthy of his efforts” and that he is quitting his position “effective immediately” as a member of the Pedestrian/Bike Committee in protest.  The Historical Society had requested a community grant of $7150 for this year.

The Society reported to the Council at the April 16th meeting that they wish to digitize their private collection of some 1000 photos and any subsidy from the City to the group would primarily be used for that endeavor.  The Society, which has no public access address but holds its archive of photos in the home of a founding member who lives in Oakland, said the pictures, once digitized, would be available for viewing online. The group maintained their right to keep the photos as their private property.  The online public presumably would need permission to reproduce the images and pay a fee to do so.  Mayor Ally Medina concurred, telling the audience, “The community doesn’t own these photos once they’re digitized.”  The online photos available for single use viewing would likely have a standard overlay stamp claiming ownership rights.
Regardless of the Oakland address of the photo collection, the Society listed the Emeryville home address of Rob Arias as their place of business for purposes of their grant application.

The City Council, who yearly grants money to groups they believe do valuable work in the interests of the community, gave a total of $73,500 this year to 11 groups such as Head Over Heels gymnasium, Friends of the Golden Gate Library and California Poets in the Schools.  Most, but not all of the groups on the list received the amount they asked for in their respective grant applications.

Reviewing the Historical Society’s request for $7,150, the City Council took issue with the amount of money the group said it would cost to digitize 1000 photos.  Mayor Medina said she checked industry standard pricing for digitizing and reported that the amount cited in their grant application as too high, “Far, far over anything I could find online” she said.

Perhaps the most surprising allegation in the Arias letter is the charge he leveled at the Council as being “out of step with the desires of the community.”  Long time Tattler readers will recognize the irony in that statement.  We have long chronicled the history of Mr Arias’s political editorializing in Emeryville and have noted that in every ballot initiative, measure plebiscite and race for elected office that has come before Emeryville voters over the years, Rob has always backed the losing side.  Not once has he endorsed the winner, making his claim to know the desires of the people of Emeryville a stretch.

City Hall’s lack of full funding to the Emeryville Historical Society’s request has brought out some overwrought if baffling charges in Mr Arias’s missive. Citing the $2000 endowment as a slap in the face, he’s making it out as a City Council crusade against the community and him personally, a “vindictive” attack on “working families” in Emeryville he says.  His letter calls out Council members Christian Patz and Dianne Martinez as “unethical”, projecting their vote to give his group less money then he asked for as “petty and vindictive”.  He added that he believes Mayor Medina is complicit in the Council's scheme to inadequately fund the Historical Society, equating her silence on the issue as an act of “cowardice”.

$2000 is not enough!

Below is the full text of the Rob Arias resignation letter:

May 6th, 2019
Marcy Greenhut - City of Emeryville Environmental Programs Technician
and Committee Secretary
1333 Park Avenue Emeryville, CA 94608

City of Emeryville Staff and Council,
Please accept this letter as notice that I will be resigning from the
Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee effective immediately.
I've enjoyed my time on the BPAC and have developed camaraderie with
many of its members. While I fell short of my personal goals of
improving pedestrian access in my own neighborhood including obtaining
sidewalks on the strip of Hubbard b/t Park & 40th and improving
thoroughfare on Halleck, I felt I made a meaningful contribution to
the city's efforts to be more bike/ped friendly. I'm especially
satisfied with the walking tours I contributed to including the
sponsorship of the 2018 post-ride happy hour at Rudy's where I spent
$250 of my own money.
I'm a 15 year resident with a long track record of advocacy for the
residents and small businesses within our city. I've served on panels,
graduated from EPD's Citizens' Academy and serve on the nonprofit
board of our city-run daycare ECDC. I'm the neighborhood captain for
the annual National Night Out event and created Emeryville's only news
website The E'ville Eye that keeps citizens informed on important
issues. Recently, I turned my efforts toward the preservation of our
city's unique history through my involvement with The Emeryville
Historical Society. I've devoted my personal time to helping modernize
their platform, fundraising and achieving nonprofit status.
Unfortunately, what I witnessed at the April 16th City Council meeting
contradicts everything I hold dear about this city and is out of step
with the desires of our community. For the second straight year, the
Historical Society was recommended for a community grant by a
subcommittee. For the second straight year, the grant was subjected to
unparalleled scrutiny and denied the grant as requested. This is more
than a coincidence. This is bias. This is retaliation against a free
press. This is criminal.
Councilmembers Patz and Martinez' pettiness, lack of ethics and
vindictiveness toward working families and members of our senior
community is deplorable. Mayor Medina's silence is cowardice and
complicity. Any body that ignores the bias that was exhibited and
blatant to everyone in the room that day should be ashamed.
There are many great causes worthy of my personal time and dedication.
If this is the behavior I should expect from those that purport to be
leaders in our community, then this city is not worthy of my efforts.

-Robert Arias

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Breaking News: City Council Considers Minimum Wage Ordinance Roll Back

Business Owners Convince City Council to "Hit Pause" on Minimum Wage Ordinance

BREAKING- (City Hall)
In a major turn around of long standing City policy, tonight the City of Emeryville is considering a roll back of its landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance.  After hearing from individual Emeryville business owners following an agendized presentation of the Minimum Wage Ordinance, the Council suddenly moved to consider overturning central provisions of its hugely consequential ordinance, set to increase workers wages on July 1st.  Expressing urgency, the Council directed the City Manager to make a vote possible before that date.
The roll back action was initiated by Mayor Ally Medina and enthusiastically taken up by Council member John Bauters who called upon his desire to “hit pause” on the ordinance.

Emeryville’s Minimum Wage Ordinance was enacted in 2015 after consideration of business community concerns and testimony from the minimum wage workers in town.  Tonight however, after hearing only from the business community, the Council proclaimed that the provisions for wage increases be stopped before the July 1st wage scheduled increase, a job the City Manager said would be very difficult owing to a lack of time. 
There was very little back and forth among the Council members tonight about the ramifications of this drastic proposal; the majority of their time was spent finagling around Brown Act directives to make sure any vote taken to overturn the ordinance would be legal.

Council member Christian Patz took issue with the cavalier manner in which his colleagues jumped into amending the long standing ordinance.  The other Council members expressed no such reservations.  A special meeting will be announced soon by City Hall so that the State required two ‘readings’ of a change to the ordinance can come in under the July 1st wire.

The Tattler will report in more detail on this fast moving story in the days to come.  Watch this space…

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Emeryville Releases New Minimum Wage Study

Most Businesses Have Accepted the Minimum Wage Ordinance

Restaurant Sector is Still Angry 

Wages Up Regionally as Neighboring 
Cities Follow Emeryville's Lead

The City of Emeryville this week released a revised and recommissioned academic study for its minimum wage ordinance, the results showing a business community that has largely come to terms with the 2105 ordinance, excepting a defiant restaurant cohort who’s animosity towards the ordinance has grown since the release of the first business study in 2016.  The current data rich study, called the City of Emeryville Business Conditions Report and commissioned by the City, is comprised of a comprehensive city-wide business survey with an analytical academic investigation.  It was conducted by the Lorry Lokey School of Business and Public Policy at Mills College, the authors of the first Minimum Wage Ordinance (MWO) study.  This most recent study was completed last summer.

Unlike the first MWO study with it’s look exclusively into the effects on Emeryville’s businesses, the current iteration is more expansive.  Findings have been based on a survey focused on “…how City of Emeryville Labor Ordinances (i.e., Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Leave, and Fair Workweek) have impacted revenues, prices, and employment patterns among local businesses” according to the study’s executive summary.

The survey part of the Business Conditions Report included only Emeryville business owners or managers, workers were not surveyed. The survey, sent out to 319 private Emeryville businesses across the spectrum of business types netted 101 respondents.
All Business Owners' Sentiments About the MWO
as a Percentage

More are neutral and positive about it than against it

but more are against it than in 2016.

Most business owners in all cohorts responded that ‘business is worse’ at a rate of 33% over those who found business to be better (14%) since the MWO was enacted.  However most also found that their productivity had increased 22% versus 19% stating a decline.  Morale has been found to have improved dramatically because of the MWO at Emeryville’s businesses with 33% reporting an increase over 18% stating a decline.  Another factor that has improved for businesses the survey reports, is the number of job applicants for business owners to select from; a 27% increase.  This improvement comes against a generally improving employment rate in the Bay Area that is credited with driving down the number of job applicants in the aggregate at businesses outside Emeryville.
Emeryville businesses have been shown to have increased their prices in response to the challenges brought by the MWO’s implementation by wide margins, especially in the food service sector.

Emeryville's Retail Business Likes The MWO
The green pie slices represent those businesses that
like the MWO.  The red and yellow are those who don't. 
Business owners’ reaction to the ordinance is evenly split the study found, independent of their bottom lines.  After the Minimum Wage Ordinance wage increases hit $15 per hour for small businesses in 2018 ($15.69 for large businesses), business owners collectively responded favorably, seeing it as good or fair at a rate of 21% for those businesses affected by it with an additional 7% expressing favorability for those businesses not affected by the MWO. These numbers were offset by a rate of negativity about the MWO at 24% with an additional 4% of business owners responding negatively whom are not affected by the wage increase.

Food Service Sector Unhappy
Those most unhappy with the MWO, by far, have been shown to be restaurant owners/managers.  An entire section of the study is devoted to them.  Their overwhelmingly negative responses dragged down the overall rate of satisfaction for all business types citywide.  When viewed separately, restaurant owners were found to be dissatisfied with the MWO’s latest wage hike in 2018 at a rate of 67%, owners stating the wage increase negatively impacts their businesses. The category of taxes and regulation, which includes the MWO, are very unpopular with restaurant owners; 41% responding that is their biggest problem in Emeryville, closely following parking availability, 42% of whom found that to be their biggest problem running a business here.

For businesses not in food service, the study shows business owners as mostly favorable to Emeryville’s MWO.  The retail sector generally showed an acceptance of or even support of the MWO.  Overall, about 22% of the retail managers have negative feelings about the Minimum Wage Ordinance, while 47% report support for the ordinance.

Neighbor Cities Raise Theirs
The passage of Emeryville’s landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance caught many municipal neighbors by surprise and many have rushed in to effectively meet Emeryville’s challenge.  Beginning in 2019, the cities of Berkeley and El Cerrito have matched Emeryville’s small business $15 per hour rate while other neighbors have also raised their minimum wages in response to Emeryville’s lead.  This reaction, predicted by the Tattler in 2015, represents a new effective progressive regional minimum wage reflecting the shared values in the Bay Area and serves as a moral counter to previous calls for a ‘regional minimum wage’  at a much lower rate en masse by the business community.
Emeryville's minimum wage, formerly the highest in the nation, has recently been eclipsed by SeaTac Washington.  However, Emeryville's rate increase scheduled for July 1st could put it back on top by a few cents.

Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance Elevates the Regional Wage
A 'regional minimum wage' can be poverty rates region-wide if no city
makes a move to raise theirs
region-wide livable rates if one city moves to raise theirs.

The City of Emeryville Business Conditions Report can be seen HERE.
The first MWO Business Study from 2016 may be seen HERE.
Actual Response From a Restaurant Owner to a Survey Question
The redaction provided by the City of Emeryville
...but you get the picture.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Bauters' Media Blitz Pauses Disruptive Caltrans Project

Backroom Project:
Caltrans Tries to Pull a Fast One

Councilman Bauters Drops the Accountability Hammer

Major Highway Bridge Replacements Would Bring Major Headaches for Emeryville

Caltrans, seeking to take a wreaking ball to replace several bridges in the 'maze' intersection of elevated Interstate Highways on Emeryville's southern border and thereby causing major traffic disruptions on local streets, has run into a wreaking ball to its proposal it didn't intend on; namely the ire of Emeryville City Councilman John Bauters.  The formerly fast tracked project, now on hold largely due to Mr Bauters' whirlwind of activity publicly exposing the proposed traffic diversions, would involve diverting traffic for several months at the intersection of Interstate Highways 80, 580 and 880, one of the most crowded highway intersections in the United States.

After working on the proposal for two years behind closed doors at Caltrans, the transportation agency suddenly announced in March it would proceed with its plan to raze several bridges in order to raise them; adding several feet of clearance to accommodate bigger trucks Caltans says.  The public was given only the legal minimum time to respond, raising the Councilman's hackles.  After he discovered Caltrans has claimed its proposal would have "no impact" on Emeryville and that they had not even bothered to first run their proposal by Emeryville City Hall (or Oakland), the Councilman has taken action publicly exposing the public agency.
Mr Bauters has appeared in no less than four media forums alerting the public about the proposal and the lack of accountability at Caltans.  At his insistence and after a large public outcry as a result of his media campaign, Caltrans has paused the project and agreed to rescind their 'Negative Declaration' planning document that makes the fatuous claim of no impact to Emeryville, a claim Mr Bauters calls "a joke".

Even though the documents associated with the Caltrans proposal don't admit it, Emeryville will likely experience major disruptions over a period of up to two years.  Mr Bauters' blog describes the following problems we can expect: "Traffic snarling on local streets, lower air quality resulting from the displacement of large diesel-polluting semi-trucks into sensitive areas (Emery Unified Schools, our Senior Center and Child Care Center, etc.), noise from nighttime construction and the rerouting of trucks overnight, impacts to our local businesses and economy, the accelerated degradation of local streets, and safety impacts for bicyclists and pedestrians".

A 'Negative Declaration', sometimes called a 'Neg Dec', is a cursory and lower level state required document, much desired by applicants, that precludes a more onerous and expensive Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  Neg Decs can only be approved if a series of questions can be responded to negatively as to the likely environmental impact of a project.   Critics have noted the great financial incentive to lie or exaggerate on a Neg Dec to avoid an EIR.  The Caltrans claim getting Mr Bauters in a huff is unusual because it is a public agency making a non-credible negative claim as opposed to such claims made routinely by private developers.
Here in Emeryville, a notorious example of such a phony environmental claim was made in the late 1980's, before the advent of John Bauters when the developer of the then proposed Powell Street Plaza mall (the Trader Joe's mall) submitted a Neg Dec with a section on archaeological resources.  The developer audaciously answered NO to the question: 'Would this project likely disrupt possible archaeological remains at the site?'  Conspicuously, the site is located directly on the largest Native American midden and burial shellmound on the West Coast.  The same shellmound footprint caused major disruptions years later at the Bay Street Mall located just across the street when the developer of that site dug up a trove of human bones and Native American tools and votives, remains from what was a major center of human activity going back at least 10,000 years.  The developer of the Bay Street Mall was required to produce an EIR and as a result, an archaeologist was on site during the excavations for that project enabling recovery of the objects and reinterment of the human remains.  Because of the less rigorous Negative Declaration of the Powell Street Plaza, no archaeologist was required, leaving the excavation contractor free from any such nuisance prying eyes.

Councilman Bauters' KQED story,  a San Francisco Chronicle article as well as radio interviews are part of the media blitz our Council member has enjoined to bring accountability to this Caltans project.  Readers may get more detailed information on the Councilman's blog.

UPDATE- The Bay City Beacon also covered this story.  Read it HERE.

Alameda County Transportation Commission Meeting
Emeryville City Councilmember John Bauters calls the Caltrans proposal "a joke".
The accountability hammer drops at 26:26.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

City Council Moves to Stifle Public Debate on Uncomfortable Noise Ordinance Subject

City Council Asks, What Would Mitch McConnell Do?

New Tactic Seized Upon:
Disallow Public Debate

Uncomfortable Topics Will Now Go Straight to Vote
No More Presentation of Issues or Debate
Noise Ordinance Waiver Rubber Stamped, Not  Debated

Opinion / News Analysis
Faced with a large crowd and an uncomfortable vote on a developer's Noise Ordinance waiver request they'd rather keep quiet, the Emeryville City Council last Tuesday night employed a new tactic in their ongoing effort to assist developers seeking favors from City Hall.   After reading aloud a waiver request agenda item number (11.1), followed by an empty call for public comment, the Council moved straight to a vote; no staff presentation, no chance for the public to hear about the issues involved, no debate.  It's a tactic that Washington DC's most effective Senate Majority leader in years, Mitch McConnell, would approve of and one, whom Tuesday's spectacle invoked.   
When it comes to developer's requests for waivers to our Noise Ordinance, since 2010, the City Council has shown remarkable consistency for approvals, denying only four out of 19 requests up until last year.  The Tattler has long chronicled the pro-developer bias that exists at City Hall when it comes to these waiver requests, and the April 16th approval is just the latest in a long line, regardless of a new self proclaimed livability-friendly Council.

Charting new territory, on Tuesday, the new Council agreed that since they had already heard a presentation about the specific noise waiver request in question at a previous meeting,  they could dispense with another presentation and any public debate.  This reasoning, erroring on the side of opacity in City government, negated the room full of people at the meeting, most of whom had not been at the previous meeting and whom had an interest in hearing about the request and being given a chance to weigh in.

These are academic and picayune concerns for a City Council, wont to speed up government processes to help those who matter the most in Emeryville.  Avoiding civic and personal embarrassment was likely on their minds as well.  These tactics, the same as those taken up by the great turtle man in Washington notably also serve the same demographic.  It would appear like minds think alike. 
We're looking forward to much more efficient City Council meetings and the chance to get home at a reasonable time, all that uncomfortable public debate having been found by our City Council to be unnecessary.  The business sector helped, the public shut out, government streamlined....Mitch couldn't have done it better.

 The fun begins at 12:09

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Parks Presentation Propaganda

Staff, Council Deception on Parks

Public Policy Failure is Cast as a Success

Opinion/News Analysis
Emeryville City Hall recently hosted a meeting on the state of our city parks now and in the future, after which the citizen attendees and TV viewers came away happy, assured the City Council is working to provide all the planned new parks in town as they’re supposed to.  Some may have gone into the meeting thinking there aren’t enough parks here but not to worry the attendees were told, the City Council is on it.  The parks box is checked and everything's A-OK they learned.  The citizens left the meeting happy…. happy but ignorant.
Were the actual facts about parks in Emeryville revealed, the departing citizens wouldn’t be happy.  They’d be angry.  Because there is a major problem with parks here.  We’re not getting them.  And that’s a problem not even admitted to by City Hall.  What we ARE getting instead is agitprop and evangelism by our government.  The meeting, on March 19th, is revelatory; it was set up to deceive and mollify the people.

The City Council took pains to cajole the citizens into thinking they’re doing fine with the goals the City has with providing parks.  They highlighted the two or so acres of parks they built over the last ten years and referenced their plan to build another three or four acres of parks that have been funded over the next several years.  But what was brazenly left unacknowledged was the 800 pound gorilla in the room: Emeryville is midway through the 20 year General Plan and to satisfy it, the City needs to build not three or four acres but 26 additional acres of parks in the next ten years.  Got that?  Twenty six acres in the remaining ten years after having built only two acres over the first ten years.

After joking about pressure coming from the Tattler on the issue, Mayor Ally Medina opened the discussion, adding some realism for better effect into the otherwise pure whitewash.   She began by interjecting a little mea culpa contrition into the presentation, “We could do a little bit better of a job addressing, as we increase our density,  some of this livability and park space for our ever increasing residential population.” she said.   And then the propaganda whitewash began.

'We're doing great on parks in Emeryville!'
says the City Council
The General Plan, weighing in at 800 pounds,
says something different, but is ignored.
The General Plan is as clear as it is ignored: at least 26 acres of new park land needs to be built in Emeryville over the next ten years.  But the March 19th meeting revealed City Hall has no intention to deliver on that.  The abdication of its duty to the General Plan in general and parks specifically thus represents a public policy failure. The staff obviously put in many hours for the presentation that purposely left out the information the people need to know about the City’s failure providing parks.  We want to know how much paid staff time was spent preparing this hood thrown over our eyes.

As friends of Bill twelve steppers and other drug rehabbers are fond of saying, ‘the first step in solving a problem is acknowledging there IS a problem.  And how it goes for addicts is true too for municipalities seeking to solve their problems.  Cities need to admit they have a problem before they can move to fix the problem.
The Emeryville City Council, going around telling the citizens they’re doing great with building the parks they’re supposed to provide, is reprehensible and irresponsible.  The truth is that they’re asleep at the wheel, using the staff do do their dirty work and Emeryville residents are being cheated out of the parks we’re supposed to be getting.

The meeting in all it's shameless glory, may be viewed here: