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Sunday, August 1, 2010


Elected Officials Vote 10-0,
How Are Residents Going To Vote?

The recent 10-0 vote by the City/Schools Committee to move the Center of Community Life forward with a $95 million November bond initiative is an indication that the expensive school rebuild project is either the greatest thing since sliced bread or that dissenters have been silenced.

The City of Emeryville used taxpayer dollars and hired Oakland based political consultancy firm The Lew Edwards Group to make sure the November 2nd initiative passes. At an earlier City/Schools meeting President and CEO Catherine Lew told city officials that there must not be even a single dissenter among their ranks or else voters might get spooked about the project. In what may be a coincidence, the remaining straggler committee member critics of the Center of Community Life, fell into line shortly after the warning by Ms Lew.

This latest anti-democratic action adds to what has become a low water mark in Emeryville politics. Emeryville residents should be allowed to hear real objective analysis about this, the largest public construction project in our history especially since the resident's money is being used for it.

We are reminded of the words of former School District Supervisor and champion of the Center of Community Life Tony Smith who said the Center needs to be "kicked by critics and dissenters and kicked hard" if it is to succeed. Mr Smith thought that critical and even dissenting views would only strengthen the Center of Community Life, a view current city officials no doubt consider quaint.

As if consciously turning a page, shortly after Mr Smith left Emeryville to head up the schools in San Francisco, an Emeryville committee he formed, open to all residents called the 'Partners for Community Life' became an exclusive club, open only to supporters of the City of Emeryville's vision of the incipient project. The idea of the committee is to help shape the Center of Community Life. It is ironic indeed since the Partners Committee helped produce a video last summer (again at taxpayers expense) to sell the Center of Community Life staring none other than Tony Smith.

The City likes to point out that they've hosted forums where people can say what they wish about the Center of Community Life. They say they're writing down everything the public says at these meetings. This has been the sum total of public participation so far. We say this isn't good enough. We expect better transparency and a real debate with a taxpayer funded project such as this. So far, we've gotten neither.


  1. Tony Smith heads up the Oakland, not San Francisco

  2. i say again, vote no on the bond for the community life center when the city council refuses to act to decrease expenditures (salaries /benefits of city manager and city attorney ) refuses to do something to increase revenues ( eg not ignore the failure of the contractor to obtain a commercial lease for marina ).

    Recall that there is a town in LA county that was paying its city mgr $800000 and is being investigated; emeryvile pays its city mgr $200000 + benefits.. and retains a council member found guilty of campaign violations...

    Nobody seems concerned enough to insist that this be examined, particularly given the city mgr's failed performance viz budget deficit...

    I would suggest a sign or two held by several people perhaps in front of city hall, or at bay street, indicating the salaries of the city mgr and the city attorney, and that there are city worker lay offs, a budget deficit...

  3. Note To Readers-
    Tony Smith in fact is the superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District now. Before that, he was a supervisor of the San Francisco Unified School District and before that he was the Emery Unified School District superintendent.

  4. Walt:
    The Emeryville City Manager makes a comparable amount to City Managers in othe Bay Area cities. A very quick search of municipal salaries yeilded no fewer than 22 Bay Area city managers who make more than Emeryville's. Almost every City manager in the Bay Area makes between $200,000 and $300,000 per annum. Emeryville is in no way comparable to the City of Bell scandal.

    Also, most cities in this state have a budget deficit in some form right now. Differtent cities have plugged this hole in different ways. It is almost impossible for cities to effectively budget when the state takes away millions each year. There is no way to know how much the state will take away each year since the state budget is almost always late and therefore adopted after municipal budgets are due.

    Furthermore, that issue is not relevant to the Center for Community Life. The measure we will be voting on is entirely a school bond to be levied by the school district. The City would provide redevelopment money for the project, but that is separate from the school bond and completely separate from the City's general fund.

  5. Well, aren't we being a little over-dramatic. A vote by a duly elected body in a public forum is hardly an "undemocratic action." If that's undemocratic then democracy doesn't exist in this country.

  6. The development of the Center of Community Life is undemocratic because dissenters and critics are being systematically purged. From every decision maker's position, those who would disagree with the particular vision of this thing being promulgated by the 'gang at the top' are coerced, cajoled or stopped from interjecting any alternate vision. Any public policy regime that quashes dissent like this cannot be properly called democratic.

  7. I disagree with the commentator that says it's unfair to compare Emeryville's City Manager with the city manager from Bell California. Pat O'Keeffe may be paid "only" $225,000 per year but he's doing a bad job. One needs only to look as far as the Lighting and Landscape tax program he ran to realize this guy is overpaid. It's really telling that the city council has not even said one thing about the horrible job O'Keeffe did with this. They've circled their wagons and the taxpayers are holding the bag.

  8. The failure of the LLA was due to the City Council not reaching out to the business community. The business community had the votes to pass the assessment as a block. The chamber had indicated that they supported it and then changes positions. The Council failed to effectively reach out to the business community and so it failed. Their role as elected officials is to reach out and get things done and they dropped the ball. The City Manager can only put forth ideas. It is up to the Council to actually get out there and get things done.

  9. To set the record straight, the City Manager Pat O'Keeffe, assured the City Council that the Lighting/Landscape tax referendum would easily pass. He met with the largest businesses ahead of time to get their assurances and then he crafted the referendum to make it so the business votes would have more value than the resident property owners since he thought the resident vote was not as easy to predict. The City Council simply gave the go ahead. This was Pat O'Keeffe's blunder.