Search The Tattler

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Measure F: Is There A Take-A-Way?

Will The New Council Take Anything From Measure F?

On Tuesday Emeryville voters soundly defeated Measure F, the measure that would have replaced the in-house City Attorney's office with outside legal counsel, ostensibly, a less expensive option.

The city council majority opposition attacked the measure that had been backed by their former colleague, ousted council member Ken Bukowski, as more costly and ultimately not even legal since the law only grants the city council the power to make such a personnel change at City Hall they said.
The fiscal arguments presented by the opposition never made sense and the invalidating legal technicality presented by the council majority wouldn't normally be something the electorate would invest itself in, leaving one to question why voters rejected Measure F so soundly.

The voter's utter rejection of Mr Bukowski Tuesday and Measure F's close association with Mr Bukowski seems a likely cause for the defeat of the measure, we think.

We hope the new city council will recognize the failure of Measure F may have been at least partially due to this ill-fated association with Mr Bukowski and see greater value in the aspirations of the measure as they go about their city council duties in the months to come.  Measure F ultimately asked for greater transparency and accountability in city government and that's not something that should be pushed aside along with its dejected council member champion.


  1. Measure F and Ken Bukowski both received about the same number of votes, which likely indicates that those who voted for one voted for the other. The opposition claimed that a "good" city council could get rid of a City Attorney without changing the system. Bukowski's experience with Measure F clearly indicated that Mike Biddle should not be working in a City Attorney capacity. Let us hope that our new city council will now evaluate Biddle's performance, and let his contract run out without renewal or additional funds added to his severance package.

  2. I don't think that, in general, City employees should have their positions "politicized" by the City Council. For example, what if the future Director of the ECDC (Emeryville Child Development Center) came to honestly believe that there are intrinsic problems with operation of the Center directly by the City that could only be resolved by outsourcing the entire operation? That would be a position that straddles _policy_ which is clearly in hands of the City Council with _administrative expertise_ that is part and parcel of what the City is paying for, when it hires a Director.

    Now that is not likely to happen with a child care Director, but happens all the time with the City Attorney. The City Attorney can provide endless pros and cons to various City Council Members with different agendas of their own, but the moment they ask him to choose the legally preferable option he runs the risk of "making policy" and being condemned by a Council Member whose toes he steps on.

    That is what I believe happened with Ken, Nora, and Biddle. Ken is a very creative, out of the box individual and probably proposed a lot of ideas that Biddle probably vetoed. Nora is conservative. It is generally easier for any attorney to go with a conservative approach. In the long run, did Ken and Biddle end up with a personal grudge match going on? Yes, I think so.

    My objections to Biddle are the following:

    1. He lost his professionalism in dealing with Ken and tended to ignore him. I don't care if he was _rude_ to Ken but not providing him with the best possible legal analysis and alternate recommendations assessing the risks of each in a timely manner is grounds for dismissal. Biddle was supposed to counsel ALL Council Members, not play favorites.

    2. Biddle constantly "blackmailed" the City into giving him better severance packages in response to Ken's attacks. Come on - where was he going to go in this economy? You don't think he couldn't be replaced at the drop of a hat with someone equal or better?

    3. Biddle sacrificed an attorney employee to layoffs, but made no salary give-backs comparable to the sacrifices asked of our police and other public employees. Post 2008 a replacement could have been hired for half of Biddle's total package.

    4. The Leslie Pollard wrongful termination case was a disaster for the City. There is no reason for that to have happened. Biddle and Delores Turner should have collaborated to either handle the firing properly or to apologize to Leslie Pollard and take her back.

    For these reasons and the accumulated political baggage, I felt and feel it is time to re-do the legal department. I would like to see the City out-source legal for year or two while it takes a deep breath and slowly, carefully looks for new in-house counsel.

    Hopefully the new City Council will just count the votes, 1, 2, 3, necessary to simply not renew Mr. Biddle's contract the next time it comes up. That's what a contract is for, right? Let him go without even the severance package. Don't reward him, just let him go. He isn't a union employee or protected civil servant. He's just a lawyer.

  3. Mr. Webber,
    "but not providing him with the best possible legal analysis and alternate recommendations assessing the risks of each in a timely manner is grounds for dismissal." Where is the proof of this statement?

    "Biddle sacrificed an attorney employee to layoffs, but made no salary give-backs comparable to the sacrifices asked of our police and other public employees" Proof of this statement? Pull his contracts for the past few years and then make that statement.

    "The Leslie Pollard wrongful termination case was a disaster for the City." Proof Please. Why don't you read Ms. Turner's report about the number of discrimination claims filed and the number of employees filing those claims. If I recall, there were several claims filed by 2 employees...I can read between the lines of that report, it sounds like one or two employees were filing claim, after claim hoping to hit the jackpot.

    "Biddle constantly "blackmailed" the City into giving him better severance packages in response to Ken's attacks." Blackmail is a harsh word, where is your proof?

    Mr. Webber, you claim to be a practicing attorney. If this is so, you should know better to make broad statements without facts to back them up. You should also know that Mr. Biddle's "client" is the entire City Council, not an individual Council member.

    If you are going to spend the next two years campaigning, please, please, please, do some research and campaign based upon fact, not innuendo. Finally, you tied you past campaign to Bukowski...he received on 12% of the vote and you only 9%. Perhaps it would be wise to spend your next two years being involved with City Committees, distancing yourself from Ken and stop partaking in smear campaigns of City Staff.

    The City needs good leaders, effective leaders, and, most importantly, a good mix of leadership. What Nora and Kurt bring to the Council is business sense, the understanding of the dollar. What Ruth brings is a civil service heart, and personal understanding of the social impacts of difficult budgeting and how difficult it can be to provide a variety of services to a diverse community. What Jennifer brings is an inclusive perspective and a willingness to learn. We have yet to see what Jac brings, but I suspect it will be along the lines of Jennifer. Having these varied perspectives on the Council hopefully keeps one perspective from being overpowering.

    Slyviachi was correct in her assessment of you, you propone family, family, family, yet Emeryville is made up of families, singles, couples without children, single parents. We are all living in 1.2 square miles and we all want to be heard, we all deserve to be heard. It should not matter if we own or rent, what matters is that we call Emeryville home.

  4. I'll interject quickly here and then let Mr Webber have his say as he no doubt will want to do...

    Just a couple of points;
    You're asking Mr Webber to avail himself of our city committees in order to obtain "experience" before he runs for council again. Just so you know, that sentiment is a Nora Davis debate frame talking point, used frequently to empower Ms Davis and it therefor has no legitimacy as far as I'm concerned. Ms Davis has perfected a beautifully closed loop tautology over the years and it is thus:
    1) Only "experienced" candidates have legitimacy
    2) Only by serving on city committees may one obtain "experience"
    3) Only by Nora's good graces may one be appointed to serve on committees.
    The fact that Mr Webber had the temerity to run against Ms Davis this election makes it extremely unlikely that Nora will permit him to serve on any committees (yes she IS that petty).

    The other point I want to make is to put to rest this notion that we must continue to provide homes and services for singles and childless couples in Emeryville equally as we should for families. This argument would be compelling if we hadn't had a 25 year program of hostility to families from Nora Davis here. We have a lot of catching up to do to truly have provisions for a diverse population and given Emeryville's small size and large amount of relatively new loft housing stock, it is doubtful that we'll be able to provide a equal place for families here anytime soon.

  5. I'm just grateful for some discourse between residents in Emeryville. The goal for me isn't to have the last word or be right every time. The goal is to start dialogues so we can understand each other's point of view better. I really like the last two paragraphs in the anonymous post which clearly took time to write, so once again I am grateful that we are talking in Emeryville. It's the first step to building a community that can actually be inclusive of diverse constituencies, instead of basing itself on hunkered down, defend the ramparts, constituencies. Your description of Ruth was beautiful.

    That having been said, I do stand by my assessment of Biddle; we are all entitled to our opinion.

  6. And yes, it is important to recognize that all residents in Emeryville are important. But historically families have had deeper connections to the communities in which they live than the typical transient population of young urban professionals that occupy the many, many lofts in Emeryville. One of the things that is really great about Jac Asher is that, if I understand correctly, she specifically moved to Emeryville to raise a family and put down roots.

    Families don't have to be 1950's American-traditional, either. In our condo complex there are several same gender couples who are deeply involved in the community - they aren't in Emeryville just waiting for a chance to move somewhere else. Likewise there are several Muslim families here, one of them home-schooling their children. In other areas of town, we have older African American couples that are "empty nesters" but have loving pictures of their children and grand children and sometimes great grandchildren near their kitchen table. They are family too.

    If I sound at times that I don't believe the typical 20 somethings have deeper community connections, it is partly because that is how I was when I was 20 something, and that is how many of the first wave of purchasers at Andante were - just wanting to ride the appreciation up, and move on, then ending up in many cases losing their homes as the economic crash took values down, moving in with friends or relatives or downsizing to apartments in more exciting San Francisco.

    Like Brian says, there are a lot of "people niches" in Emeryville, but not so many for groupings with more than two people, for groupings with kids, for groupings with elders. All are family, and they are underserved for the foreseeable future due to poor housing policies over the course of 24 years.

    The cynic in me would say that having council elections in odd years, and standing by as transient serving housing was built (20 1-bedrooms in a project are much more profitable, per square foot, than 15 units with a mix of 1 br and 2 br), is really a strong formula for letting incumbents get elected and re-elected ad infinitum. Ken is one of the very few incumbents in the past 24 years who was defeated in an election, as opposed to retiring from office. Or stepping down due to illness.

  7. despite mr. bukowski's personal and financial problems, it was he who read biddle's revised contract employment where he increased his severance pay package after john flores left after the leslie pollard fiasco.

    my own assessment with mr. biddle is that at one council meeting i attended, mr. biddle left council chambers to research the brown act. i would think any city attorney would have the brown act memorized frontwards and backwards.