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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Councilwoman West Seeks Ban On Community Center "Legacy" Corruption

Exorcise The Legacy Motive From The New School/Community Center

At Thursday's City/Schools joint council and school board meeting, council member Jennifer West broke from the pack and added her voice to a small but growing group of citizens who seek to prohibit the $400 million Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL) from being used as a vehicle to extol the virtues of specific council members or other politicians.
Ms West's comments serve as a counter-point to mounting charges that the Center is a "legacy project" for aging council members that have dogged the proposed ECCL since its inception.  Council member Nora Davis and other politicians have strenuously and publicly denied the legacy charges, insisting that their motives are pure.
Councilwoman West:
Let's put the community in
the Center of Community Life

Citizens have noted the bronze plaques, extolling the virtues of the city council that invariably crop up upon completion of large public projects in town.  Against this backdrop, some of these citizens are calling for a ban on any such trumpeting of any specific persons affixed to the completed Center of Community Life.

The problem here is less about stopping the politicians from using public money to extol their own virtues and more about stopping base motivations from adversely coloring decision maker's decisions against the public interest.
The actual needs of the community may not be in the fore front.  If the politicians envision a bronze plaque, they may push the design of the Center towards the ego flattering grandiose or ostentatious.  Even while they assure the public of the purity of their generous largess, this temptation to see the Center as a showcase for their legacy may prove too hard to resist for some politicians.

Nora Davis:
Wants another oportunity
to tell everyone how great
she is; set in bronze and paid
for by taxpayers.
Why Risk This?
Why, we ask should we risk this eventuality?
If indeed there is no legacy specter in the Center of Community Life project, then there should be no push back from the council to the citizens who ask for a ban on a bronze plaque there.
What public good is garnered that would offset the risk of an adulterated community center by such a bronze plaque?
Citizens should ask themselves why are the council members guarding so jealously the future bronze plaque if they don't care about their legacy?

We thank council member Jennifer West for helping to remove the citizen's suspicions about the Center of Community Life.  Ms West proposed a alternate idea with regards to a bronze plaque that we applaud: Have a plaque that acknowledges and thanks the people of Emeryville collectively for building the Center.  This idea would give credence to the community in the Center of Community Life and does much to further transparency, a cause that has been near and dear to Ms West.  We hope the other politicians can join with council member West in her community minded proposal.


  1. Keep the plaque, kill the center. More community members need to come to the community meetings on the center to understand how impractical it is to squeeze everything onto the single lot occupied by the high school. This grandiose vision made sense when there was a chance to build the Anna Yates segment on the AC Transit yard, but makes no sense now, and is going to drive the residents at Emery Bay Village nuts. And me nuts when I have to worry every day about two of my kids in an Anna Yates elementary school relocated from its present pleasant community setting to an urban monolith fronting on San Pablo, with high school students and even ADULTS using the community center and library at the same time as kids' classes are in session....

  2. Another danger of endorsing the "Individual Legacy Plaque" for City Council members is the hidden implication that 'a particular political agenda gets things done', e.g. a conservative/pro-development attitude versus a liberal/pro-environmental attitude. Jennifer West proposal is a much better idea, although I personally think the plaque idea in general is money ill spent. Money well spent is service in action, e.g. the Emery-Go-Round.

    Bob Hughes

  3. I would actually rally around the center - and the plaque - if they would just leave Anna Yates where it is. The currently overambitious plan is simply overcrowded, impractical, and one facility (Anna Yates) too many.

  4. more much ado about nothing...

    there are more important matters...the failure to remove okeefe who takes no responsibility for the city's current budget problems, the failure to remove bukowski who hopes to ignore his actions by attending to another issue that does have some merit- ie the city atty , like the city mgr are paid obscenely compared to alternatives that are available , particularly in light of their failed performance..

    and of course the need to vote out the existing council members whose stand on those matters is a matter of public record..

    fyi, the ego of davis or others should surprise no one..

    as an example, several years ago, i proposed that the city install benches with backs facing south along powell and west along marina park so that everyone , including the elderly, could sit comfortably and enjoy the beauty we are blessed with i recall, davis liked the idea and apparently others did as well...

    the council accomplished that- and i don't know who took the one mentioned that it was not their idea..

    these people are not, as the saying goes, menshes...

    walt watman

  5. If you people knew the state of school security at Anna Yates, you would welcome the move to the ECCL.
    You think your kids are safe there?
    Think again!
    I am an employee of the school district, and I can tell you, there are few things that would be easier than snatching a kid from AYES.
    You can easily con students into opening the back gate on 43rd street. You can easily walk right in the front door without the front office staff even looking up at you, and that's if they are even in there. Teachers prop gates and doors open during school.
    It's only a matter of time before something tragic happens there.

  6. I cut and pasted the comment about AYES security to Josh Simon, the Trustee I know from my early days in E'ville. I sincerely hope you are wrong. I will let you know what he tells me.

  7. Josh Simon and Pat Hooper are the two board members that spend the least amount of time at the school. They show up for meetings, and to collect applause at certain events. Never seen them here during regular school hours.

    I would not expect a decent answer from Josh Simon. When the Chronicle came to him with the evidence that Stephen Wesley's credentials were faked, he let the accused talk him out of believing it, or even doing his own research into the matter!
    I'm sure that he will tell you there is no problem.
    There is 0 security people at AYES, and 2 for ESS, and you usually see those guys at the same spot, so you KNOW most of the high school is not being monitored. I had heard talk of cameras for ESS a couple years ago, but nothing ever came of it. AYES has cameras, but no ones watching. Only one person has access and hes far too busy to spend time watching cameras.

    But since EUSD can't pay their employees decent wages to begin with, I don't see any extra money being spend on securing your children.

  8. Thanks for the additional comments. I will keep them in mind. I sort of felt that Josh "sold us out" on the ECCL (as a monument to politicians' egos rather than a good thing for our kids and community) by being a big supporter of ECCL, but since he has kids in school and seemed dedicated I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and since he is the Trustee I know best, I figured I would reach out to him first.

    My problem with government in Emeryville - and the problem, I suspect, for many Emeryville residents - is the feeling of hopelessness that sets in after multiple meetings with City Council and school board members who initially seem helpful, but really just want to placate us so we go away and so they can get back to dealing with the real power players in town, the developers, big businesses, and once in a while, labor.

    I really think we need more open "town hall" style meetings in Emeryville and fewer "this is the way it's going to be" City Council meetings. At the condo association which I ran for five years, if residents showed up, we always devoted almost all the meeting time to hearing them out, we so seldom got concerned input that it always mattered to us. In Emeryville, on the other hand, the 5 minute public comment time seems to have been reduced to 3 minutes, a step in the wrong direction!

    Re your comments on teacher salaries - one of my friends is a teacher in San Francisco, and I asked her why she doesn't work in Emeryville. She told me "too cheap." Then I asked Cheryl at a RULE meeting about this, and she said Emeryville teacher salaries are fine. So, what is your take on this, are school teacher salaries ok or not? Are admin salaries ok or not?

    I would much rather see our tax dollars going into teacher salaries and admin salaries for good people, than into the ECCL. Private schools generally accomplish what they do with their TEACHERS, not their facilities. It's in some ways easier to build a big shiny new school, which gets a plaque honoring the city council, than to deal with the headaches of actually RUNNING A SCHOOL WELL. Clearly the embezzlement several years ago and the resume lies more recently indicate we still don't have a handle on what's wrong in Emeryville.

    FWIW, learning about stuff like this and getting upset about it, is why I decided to run for City Council. I just hope I never forget to LISTEN if I get a chance to serve....