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Monday, November 7, 2011


YES On Measure F
Measure F asks voters if they want to eliminate the City Attorney position here in Emeryville and instead sub-contract out our legal services to outside law firms.  It is common for a city the size of Emeryville to do this in the Bay Area.

Council member opponents of Measure F seem to be basing their objections on the fact that the Measure was authored by their colleague, council member Ken Bukowski and they say he has a personal beef with our City Attorney, Mike Biddle.  It's just retribution against Mr Biddle by a vindictive Ken Bukowski, they say.  Another argument seems just as likely; the city bureaucracy is trying to protect one of its own with their fight against Measure F.

The problem with the opponent's argument is Mr Bukowski's motives for bringing the Measure are really not material to voter's interests. Voters want effective and frugal government and they don't really care about the infighting among the council members.   Charges of Mr Bukowski's impure motives don't answer to the fact that Emeryville pays way too much for our legal service and Mr Biddle's work here has been sub-par on occasion.  Voters should remember Mr Biddle's role in the wrongful termination lawsuit brought by former city employee Leslie Pollard.  Mike Biddle was the man in charge when the city lost that $4.6 million lawsuit.  Further, voters would be well advised to consider Mr Bukowski's well documented accounting that Mr Biddle has been a self-appointed and unelected change agent at City Hall, engaging in lawmaking that circumscribes the auspices of the elected city council.

But Mr Bukowski, his colleagues, their childish infighting, or even Mr Biddle himself really isn't what Measure J is about. It's about Emeryville residents getting the most effective and responsive government for their money, all the hoopla aside. Voters headed to the polls Tuesday should keep in mind the absudity of what the Measure F opponents are alleging:  They're saying that if we were to eliminate the City Attorney position, it would not save money but actually end up costing Emeryville MORE money, 71% more they've figured.  We've got to ask them how does this comport with the recent survey of California cities, reported in the Emeryville Voters Guide, that incontrovertibly found cities, large and small, that outsource their legal services enjoyed substantial savings over those that maintained in-house legal council?  How is it that only Emeryville, of all those cities, would lose money?  They've not answered this question.

The city council opponents of Measure F are fond of telling us that they're the ones who should decide about Mr Biddle's employment contract, not the rabble.  But we've got to ask them, what are they waiting for?  We think this is simply a case of bureaucratic inertia and its well documented self survival mechanism at play here.  Perhaps the esteemed council members need a nudge from the electorate.


  1. Most cities with an Redevelopment Agency the size of Emeryville's do not contract out legal services. In Alameda County, Fremont and Oakland have a Agencies closest in size to Emeryville. Does either Fremont or Oakland contract out for legal services? No. Why? The legal workload generated by an Agency the size of Emeryville's creates ecomonies of scale that make an in house City Attorney the more economical option. I don't know if 71% more is correct, but I can almost assure you that with Emeryville's legal workload, the cost would be somewhat higher.

  2. The cost arguments are hard to sort out and see who's using the more realistic numbers, but the City Council's argument that voters should not tie their hands and should give them the freedom to choose whichever form of legal advice they determine is most effective is the better argument. I agree they should have let Biddle go a long time ago and maybe this measure will wake them up to that necessity, but THEY should do it. Otherwise Biddle will just bring a lawsuit challenging this measure and it will cost the City even more to sort out. Vote no on F and then let the Council know that you voted against this measure, but expect them to clean house.

  3. I think it's always prudent to be a skeptic. Whenever there's two opposing sides arguing for public policy, always ask yourself who stands to benefit by lying and who has the greater capacity to lie. This formula has always served me well.
    What are the odds for instance that the entrenched power elite in Emeryville with the specter of bureaucratic inertia at play, might be protecting their own? What are the odds they might not be entirely forthcoming with materially factual information which might undermine their position?

  4. To Mr Anonymous @ 2:41-
    You can tell the council you voted against Measure F and that you expect them to "clean house" after the election but do you think there's a chance they'll simply thank you for the vote to protect Mr Biddle and then continue on as they have done? After all, they've protected him all these years up till now, haven't they?. Do you think maybe they'll listen a little harder to the resident's vote of 'no confidence' in Mr Biddle if Measure F passes?

  5. The bottom line in this city is that we need a change. The people in right now, including some of these top end management city employees have forgot who they really work for (they even started their own "management" union). These bums need to be kicked out. I hope this election will bring in some fresh blood like Asher and Webber. I am tired of seeing residents in this city getting the worst of every deal. The accomplishments of the incumbents are nothing as to what better leadership will bring for the residents of this town.

  6. Did it ever occur to anyone that Biddle may be a "made man" because of what he may know? He threatens to file a lawsuit against the City of Emeryville, and then Nora and Ruth try to pay him more money??? There is probably much more going on here than we will ever know about. Biddle has proven to be a major liability to Emeryville, and he should have been canned long ago. Leaders in Asia who shame themselves to that degree often commit suicide. Biddle threatens to sue us. That $4.6 Million loss would have never happened if we had outsourced legitimate legal council. I find it further insulting that ignorant leaders like Jennifer West assumes that the hundreds of voters who signed the petition for measure F were not smart enough to know what they were doing. I signed it, and I knew exactly what I was doing. West is the one who always seems to be confused. She takes up meeting time asking questions which she should research ahead of time. As a small business owner, I am sick of being cheated by Nora and her cronies. We need more leaders who can LEAD instead of following Nora's lead. Thank you -Heather

  7. There is real hope for the City if the voters return two new Council Members to City Hall. And if we pledge to voluntary term limits of not more than two terms. It is important not to get too settled in. When you are new you bring a fresh perspective. When you are used to having your own way, like most of the incumbents, it becomes too easy to forget who we are working for - the residents, the voters.