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Monday, February 27, 2012

School Board Votes To Lay Off Teachers

Board Makes First Move Towards
Teacher Layoffs

Tonight the Emery School Board voted to start a State mandated process to lay off teachers at Emery High School.  The unanimous vote to fire at least six teacher positions came after the Board heard impassioned pleas against the action from several parents.  The action initiated tonight will culminate in a March 12th finalization vote by the Board and the actual layoffs would happen in June according to School Superintendent Debbra Lindo.
Board members inveighed against the negative fiscal effects of the cessation of a rental agreement with the Piedmont Unified School District for their use of Emery's middle school facilities, a major source of cash for Emery over the last couple of years.

The School District duly and legally noticed the agenda for tonight's meeting but some parents cried foul for the lack of notification for such an important issue.  Indeed, the notification seemed to have been not enough for any of the parents in attendance; they railed against the lack of transparency and candor from the Board regarding the layoffs.

Board member Josh Simon, jarred by the rancor from the crowd tried to mollify the parents, "We're starting a conversation" he intoned.  Board President Cheryl Webb highlighted that some of the layoffs are being done in response to "programmatic changes" prompted by the impending start-up of the Center of Community Life building project.

It's Not That Bad, It's Only A 'PKS Reduction'
The crowd, while larger than a typical School Board meeting, would likely have been larger still if parents knew ahead of time, the meaning of "Administrative PKS Reductions" listed in the official agenda made public for the meeting.  To the uninitiated, "PKS Reductions" means 'Particular Kinds of Staff' Reductions; a euphemism for teacher layoffs.
The PKS gobbledygook may serve as a diversion from the job at hand tonight but it was noted at the meeting the District had satisfied the minimum legal posting requirements for a public meeting.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Outrage Erupts: Property Owners Association Forms

Lack Of Transparency At City Hall: New Group Forms 

Former city councilman Ken Bukowski recently announced the formation of the 'Emeryville Property Owners Association', a group risen up organically he says, in response to a lack of transparency at City Hall. The organization, meant to serve as a conduit of information between property owners, the School District and City Hall is so far made up of property owners in the north Hollis Street area and is concerning itself at the onset with the North Hollis Underground Utility District.  The District is a new special tax assessment area set up by City Hall, effecting property owners there.  Mr Bukowski explains the organization is attracting property owners, many of whom are business owners, who's interests have been under-represented by City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce.

The North Hollis Underground Utility District has been set up to get rid of unsightly power lines along Hollis Street primarily by Wareham Development, a well connected prime mover and shaker developer in that part of Emeryville.
Mr Bukowski noted that a special assessment district such as North Hollis must be initiated by property owners in a democratic fashion but a lack of transparency from City Hall combined with a desire to help Wareham has resulted in a steamroller project.  Mr Bukowski claims the proposed undergrounding work will be a costly tax for a majority of property owners in the North Hollis area, some of whom were caught unaware by the whole deal until the recently sent city notices of the amount each owner will owe.

Mr Bukowski also noted the interest to be charged the property owners for the undergrounding work is onerous: 6-8% and this is unwarranted.

In the case of North Hollis, Wareham's holdings are so vast that only one other property owner's OK was needed, combined with three holdings of the City of Emeryville, to greenlight the whole undergrounding project.  The city's assessment to itself for the undergrounding work would amount to more than a million dollars, paid from the General Fund according to Mr Bukowski.

The former councilman said out of 21 owners, as few as two were aware the special assessment district was being created and that these affected property owners are clamoring for the collective representation that the Property Owners Association will bring.

At their first meeting, the Property Owners Association also discussed the Emeryville Center of Community Life and the Measure J bonds they must pay.  Mr Bukowski told the Tattler that of the 16 property owners that attended, only three had even heard of the Center of Community Life and the tax they'll have to pay for the bonds.  "This organization is going to be all about transparency" he said, "The people that pay the money should be appraised of the situation" he added.

The group will be open to all Emeryville property owners and will have a website opening soon.

'Visioning' Workshop To Be Held

From the City of Emeryville:

Special City Council Meeting: Visioning Workshop

What are the challenges and opportunities in achieving the City's vision?

How does the elimination of the City's Redevelopment Agency impact the community?

What should be the City's priorities over the next five years?

In the past couple of years, the Emeryville community has adopted a new General Plan and related plans, such as the Climate Action Plan and Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan to frame the City's vision for the next 10-20 years. Now is the time for the City Council and community to come together to prioritize what are the most important projects, programs, and initiatives to be accomplished in the next five years- in the context that the State's elimination of redevelopment will make realizing the community's vision more challenging. The City's 2012-13 and 2013-14 operating budget and capital improvement (CIP) budget will incorporate the priorities set through this facilitated workshop-with the City Council conducting a final review of the operating budget (programs and initiatives) for adoption in late May/early June. The proposed CIP budget (construction projects, such as parks and  pedestrian/bicycle improvements) will be adopted later. 
Visioning Workshop
Tuesday, February 28, 2012: 5:30-8pm.  
Emeryville Civic Center: 1333 Park Avenue

Sandwiches, beverages and snacks will be provided as well as childcare for children 5+ years old. For more information, contact the City Clerk's Office.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Anonymous Tattler Writer Sparks Furor

An anonymous written comment to a Tattler story about the School District last week has the town abuzz with speculation over the identity of the author but more pressingly, the allegations of corruption contained within it.  The writer seems to be an insider at the School District, with an extensive knowledge of the workings there.  In addition to stirring up much consternation around town, the written comment has drawn in at least one council member according to sources close to City Hall.  The unnamed council member is indicating the need to "firm up disclosure standards" at the School District in the event that the allegations made by the anonymous commenter are found to be true.  The writer of the comment piece is invited to contact the Tattler privately to help investigate these allegations, with the pledge that their anonymity will be respected if so desired.
The original Tattler story  dated February 15th, should be read first.  Here then is the anonymous comment piece dated February 16th:

     .             .             .             .
During the search for a new [schools] superintendent, Emery Unified School District (EUSD) staff asked the School Board for someone who would give the district a fresh start.  They were tired of the old ties and backroom politics. Instead, the School Board hired a superintendent who came in the door pushing through a $200,000 contract for the National Equity Project (NEP), formerly known as the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools, i.e. BAYCES - the same group that was here just a few years ago doing school improvement work that failed.  Keyword: “FAILED.”  Who got blamed?  The same people who asked for a fresh start: EUSD staff. The School Board doesn’t care about their morale. 

So what do they care about? Reinforcing the same old ties, the stinking crap we’ve lived with for years.

[Former Emery school Superintendent] 
Tony Smith worked for NEP when he came to EUSD after the State of California took over [running the School District].  The Emeryville Center of Community Life is his legacy.  As a superintendent, he left behind a mess.  Three superintendents later and this small community is still struggling to make sense of that over-sized project.  According to NEP’s website, John Gooding, the architect of Smith’s appointment as superintendent, has been an NEP board member since 2004.  Anakarita Allen, Emery Secondary School Principal, has been on NEP’s board since 2006.  Current superintendent Debbra Lindo also served on NEP’s board up to the point when she was hired by EUSD.  Do you see the ties?  Obviously the School Board wasn’t interested in a fresh start or hiring a superintendent capable of leading change.  If they were, they would expect Lindo and Allen, the two highest paid “educators” in the district, to apply what they’ve learned from NEP instead of our having to pay “their” organization $200,000.

Let’s add up the cost of this scam game: $200,000 contract to pay NEP for school improvement; $170,000 (est) Superintendent Lindo’s salary and benefits; $140,000 (est) ESS Principal Allen’s salary and benefits; and $110,000 (est) AYES Principal Lathan’s salary and benefits.  That’s roughly $620,000 to pay administrators and consultants to improve school culture in a district that serves less than 750 students at two sites that sit three blocks apart.  Although Lathan doesn’t appear to be involved in this scam game, her salary matters in the overall scheme of things.

Here’s an alternative: spend $200,000 to hire a kick ass K-12 school leader who knows what they’re doing, who can build trust by giving the district the fresh start it deserves, and $120,000 to hire someone to assist them.  That’s an annual savings of $100K in administrator salaries alone.  Forget the $200,000 in consulting fees.  That money would be better spent on a community bonfire of the whole ECCL project.

Einstein said it best folks: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”  If bringing NEP back to EUSD isn’t doing the same thing all over again, what is?  It would be different if NEP was productive during their last stint at EUSD.  They weren’t!!!  How much did EUSD pay in consulting fees for NEP when Smith was here?  That’s why none of the officials, including Ruth Atkins, who authorized the new NEP contract, who’ve been shoving ECCL down our throats for years any way they can, can complain about anything.  It’s all one big pile of stinking crap and all of their hands are in it!  The only way we can get beyond this era of insanity is to elect people who will put education first, who are free of these old ties or at least willing to end them once and for all.  Until then, [what] we should expect is failure.

It’s time to revolt. Enough is enough!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Guest Column: Art Hoff

Save Our Elementary School

A longtime Emeryville resident, business and community leader, Art Hoff is a former Planning Commissioner and former president of the School District Advisory Board of Trustees.
Mr Hoff has long concerned himself with the success of the schools in Emeryville and he has been a major philanthropist to the school district, generously giving both his time and money for the betterment of our schools.
Mr Hoff is concerned that the decision makers adjust their planning properly and be open to new iterations as the Emeryville Center of Community Life school/community center is buffeted by large Measure J bond funding perturbations in the wake of Emeryville's skidding assessed valuation.
.             .              .              .    

Anna Yates Elementary, a jewel of a school, just renovated at a cost of $8 Million Dollars, should remain in its present location and not be re-built as part of the Emery Center for Community Life (ECCL).  This would not only provide a better elementary school, it would make available funds to properly complete the ECCL Campus.

Because of the sluggish economy, only $70 Million of the authorized $120 Million will be available for Phase I of the ECCL construction.  Estimates vary, but it could take 10 years for the additional funds to be available.

As a result ECCL will not contain a teaching theatre, a second public gym, a K-3 building and landscaping on the north and south boundaries of the complex. K-3 classes will be held at Anna Yates effectively splitting the elementary school in two.

The School Board is optimistic that they will find the additional money, but it depends on the assessed valuation of the District increasing at an annual rate of 7%.  Last year the assessment role decreased by 7%. 

When the ECCL proposal came before the Planning Commission, a majority of the commissioners thought the site was too small for all the desired uses.  Two telltale items pop up: 1) there is insufficient separation of outside play fields for the lower and upper grade students and 2) the running track which is traditionally a quarter mile oval is in the form of a trapezoid, not suitable for competitive races.

Anna Yates should be retained in its present location and the saved money used to complete the ECCL complex sooner rather than later.  Time is of the essence.  The School District’s enrollment decreased from 802 in 2006 to 718 in 2011 (10%).  And beginning next year the District will have a $1,500,000 deficit (15%) in its annual operating budget.

Art Hoff

Friday, February 17, 2012

Emeryville's New Planning Commissioner

New Professionalism On The Planning Commission?

Opinion/ News Analysis
Emeryville's Planning Commission is well known in the Bay Area as being a friend to developers.  The record is one of business getting more than a fair shake, often at the expense of residents.  This has not been an accident; the city council majority has shown it prefers commissioners to be overtly pro-developer and would-be commissioners who thus find themselves in the good graces of the council majority are the ones that have gotten the appointment.

The February 7th city council selection of Emeryville resident Sean Moss to the Planning Commission seems to be a deviation from the norm.  Mr Moss, a city planning expert, has said that it is imperative for commissioners that there be objective and transparent processes that rely on findings of fact.  A stickler for detail, Mr Moss will likely be a commissioner that insists that the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted. 

Some council members have made public their appreciation for Mr Moss' likely high level of professionalism on the Planning Commission.  But if residents believe their interests will be placed above developer's interests by Planning Commissioner Moss, they may be in for a disappointment.

An E-Mail Record
The Internet, it has been said, never forgets.  And Planning Commissioner Sean Moss has left a written record on his ideas about the role of city planning in a series of public e-mails written in 2009.  In these e-mails, Mr Moss offered musings on the proper role of the Planning Commission with regards to two contentious development proposals at the time: a convenience 'mini-mart' store proposed for the Triangle neighborhood and Wareham Development's Transit Center on Horton Street.  These are musings that the council majority may wish that Mr Moss had not made public in light of their selection of him as Emeryville's newest Planning Commissioner but they're matters of public record.  When viewed discreetly against Mr Moss' normally trenchant planning knowledge, the analysis in these e-mails adds a new dimension to Emeryville's newest Planning Commissioner.   

The Triangle Mini-Mart Controversy 
In 2009 the Planning Commission approved an application to locate a 'mini-mart' convenience store in the Triangle neighborhood.  The decision was reversed by the city council in a highly charged appeal by Triangle neighbors who packed the council chambers to the rafters.
The store was advertised to sell vegetables and convenience items but the residents instead saw a clandestine ghetto liquor store of the type proliferating in West Oakland.  Residents didn't believe the City Hall staff report that claimed liquor sales would not be permitted at the proposed Emeryville store.  And well they shouldn't have for the staff report was simply wrong.  

Your friendly neighborhood corner store:
wilted lettuce, malt liquor, car fresheners
The Triangle appellants had done some sleuthing and found the owner of the proposed mini-mart was the same person that owned several liquor store mini-marts in Oakland; a man guilty of countless infractions perpetrated by his mini-marts that the police had to frequently be summoned to.  West Oakland neighbors were being victimized by patrons of his stores.  The owner had been hauled up before the Oakland city council and at least one of his mini-marts had been shut down.

Who's Misinformed?  
In response to the roiling controversy, Mr Moss noted that past applicant behavior is no basis to inform government planning bodies including the Planning Commission.  Further, he looked to the staff report that clearly stated "no alcohol would be sold."  Mr Moss also noted in a June 24th e-mail that, "This is exactly the kind of mixed-use development we need around here" adding, "I'm surprised it even needs a use permit".  Regarding alcohol sales at the mini-mart, Mr Moss was adamant, "The conditions that were approved contained a prohibition on alcohol sales" he maintained. 
So according to now Commissioner Moss, the rabble that descended on City Hall in 2009 was misinformed but in fact, it was Mr Moss himself that was misinformed.

Honey, can you pick up a forty 
from Emeryville's new mini-mart 
on your way home?

No Alcohol?  Really?
Any Planning Commissioner should not look to a staff report to make final a decision since a staff report does not carry legal weight.  It is the Conditions of Approval that dictates the parameters of a development and Mr Moss was mistaken about alcohol sales in that document.  The Conditions of Approval for the Triangle neighborhood mini-mart said nothing about alcohol sales and the applicant could have started selling MD 20-20 and "forties" by simply applying for a liquor licence after opening the store.  
Emeryville senior planner Miroo Desai said that the store was not prohibited from selling liquor, contrary to the staff report.  Ms Desai was unequivocal in this, "The conditions of Approval for the Triangle mini-mart do not state that alcohol sales are prohibited" she definitively told the Tattler recently.
At the Tattler, we're left wondering; why is it that the Triangle residents, certainly not planning experts themselves, uncovered the fact that the staff report on liquor sales was bunk but Mr Moss couldn't?  Was it a question of a lack of diligence or something else?
In his own defence, Mr Moss now states that in addition to the staff report, the minutes of the Planning Commission meeting show that the commissioners believed alcohol sales would not be permitted,  "I believe what the official adapted Planning Commission minutes state and there is a discrepancy between the two [the minutes and the Conditions of Approval] and with only these two accurate primary sources I can't say which is correct."

Intransigence On The Transit Center
Mr Moss weighed in on Wareham Development's Transit Center proposal in the 2009 e-mails.  He concluded that the Planning Commission may not consider Wareham's bad record on building low quality development at a condo development on Horton Street called The Terraces, built two years before.  There, leaking windows lead to a toxic black mold problem and brought a massive lawsuit from the home owners association.   Mr  Moss said the people of Emeryville's hands were tied however, we have to consider every project on its merits solely, said he.  Planning Commissioners may not let any applicant's past bad behavior inform any new proposal before them. The law is clear on this he maintained.  
Black Mold in new construction:
  Can City Hall protect us?
Or are our hands tied?

Yet in the real world, government officials both elected and appointed, routinely make judgement calls about the impacts development would have on the community.  It's a critical tool to stop marginally acceptable but nevertheless bad projects from moving forward.  Mr Moss effectively says Planning Commissioners (and council members) are automatons; narrowly deciding about projects from a State mandated checklist.  This simplistic and naive view makes disagreement between government officials impossible and negates the obvious conflict between the two decision making bodies.  The Triangle mini-mart itself, approved by the Planning Commission and rejected by the council, is proof that the merits of a project are not decided by a check list only.

And the check list that Mr Moss said is sacrosanct in the 2009 e-mails is not even complete: the section on visual aesthetics alone contains large holes and is not correlated to any aesthetic cannon.  Nor does the check list concern itself with any intangibles such as the psychology of space a proposed development delivers.  This condition has shown itself to be extremely valuable to creating friendly urban spaces even though it's hard to precisely quantify.  It would take the judgement of a sensitive human being, not operating off a check list to make the proper call in that case.

In a turn around from 2009, now Planning Commissioner Moss states it's not so black and white; he told the Tattler, "There are things the Planning Commission can legally consider and things they can't but that doesn't mean they can only consider facts.  There's room and an important place in the process for discretion and that's why all decisions aren't unanimous.  Planning commissioners aren't technocrats.  As a planning commissioner your own opinion is only a part of the consideration of decision making.  Opinions of the community also have weight and all points of view need to be taken into account when making a decision." 

New Culture At City Hall: Professionalism
The selection of Mr Moss, a city planner by trade, to be Emeryville's newest Planning Commissioner is part of a continuing and conscious effort to raise the level of professionalism at City Hall.  Gone it would seem, are the days when abject pro-developer ideologues were routinely appointed to the Planning Commission.  Over the last couple of years there's been a higher bar raised netting a higher level of professionalism on the Planning Commission and on other politically appointed bodies in Emeryville.  The simple ideologues may be out but the need for being politically connected seems to be still in place
and unfortunately a higher level of professionalism doesn't necessarily mean the routing out of dogmatic pro-developer culture there; at the Planning Commission and elsewhere at City Hall, it's bound to go more covert.  We're wondering if the idea of presenting a public face of seeming professionals, City Hall is merely attempting to increase it's street credibility.

We'll watch the decisions made by Planning Commissioner Moss and his colleagues over coming the years; will the new higher level of professionalism net a more resident friendly city as one would expect it to?  We like to think Mr Moss' 2009 ramblings are nothing so much as intellectual musings without clear policy nexus.
However recent statements from Mr Moss are worrysome.  Asked about the need for more family friendly housing he recently told members of Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE) that there's more family friendly housing then there are families in Emeryville, noting there are single people living in two-bedroom units in his building.
In addition he equivocated when asked if he would place residents interests above developers, "yes and no" he told the Tattler.

Mr Moss has shown himself to be articulate, with a firm grasp on city planning precepts and we hope he'll be less rigid and more supportive of resident's interests in his role of Planning Commissioners than the 2009 e-mails (and some recent comments)  would suggest.  We hope Planning Commissioner Moss will be a force for real improvement for the residents of Emeryville, not as the new breed of Emeryville "professionals".

RULE Hosts Meeting: Getting Progressives Appointed

From RULE:
Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

R.U.L.E.  Monthly Meeting:
Saturday, Feb. 25, 11:00 - 1:00
Doyle St. Community Room, 5514 Doyle St., First Floor

AT this meeting we have 2 interesting activities planned. 

1.  We will prepare for the Visioning Workshop (Feb. 28 at 5:30) by developing RULE's priority list of projects formally funded by the Redevelopment Agency.

2.  We will have the opportunity to meet Riana Robinson of the Boards & Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI). It's a program that recruits and prepares progressive leaders for appointments to city, county and regional boards.  Sam Kang, a RULE supporter and applicant for Planning Commissioner, turned us on to this agency, and highly recommends it to us. The program is run out of Urban Habitat, and the program has been incredibly successful and has been getting national attention.  Riana would like to learn how BCLI can be more supportive of progressive efforts in Emeryville. 

Come and meet some of your progressive neighbors in Emeryville!
Coffee, tea and breakfast snacks (bring some!) served
For more information email me or call 601-6521  
Judy Timmel, Meeting Coordinator

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

School District Has "Backslid" Says City Council

School District Called To The Mat 
By Council

The Emery school board and the city council changed an earlier vote and unanimously granted $200,000 for consulting contractors to assist in a "change of culture" to implement programs associated with the Center of Community Life.  The money request was rebuffed vigorously at a contentious January meeting wherein city councilwoman Ruth Atkin admonished the School District for "going down the wrong direction".

The January request for $200,000 to pay the consultants, the National Equity Project and Partners In School Innovation, jarred council member Ruth Atkin; "If we still need culture change after 10 years, we're going down the wrong direction, we're not being effective" she said adding, "This sounds like the School District has seriously backslid."  Ms Atkin's colleagues chimed in expressing concern about the direction of the District.  Ms Atkin noted the money request seemed to represent a disturbing drift in District policy, "The scale has swung to 'process' from academic achievement" she lamented.

Before a shovelful of dirt has been taken, the $200,000 ultimately approved at the February City/Schools meeting will be added to the $2 million of Measure J bond money already spent on the Center of Community Life, a school/community center project to be built on San Pablo Avenue.
Emeryville voters passed Measure J in November 2010 to authorize $95 million in bonds to build the Center of Community Life but crashing assessed valuation in Emeryville has dropped the bonding capacity to $40 million.  District officials note $8 million was recently added by the federal government in the form of a low interest loan. The city's defunct Redevelopment Agency was to kick in an extra $25 million but those funds may now not be available, leaving just $48 million to build a project originally slated to cost $120 million.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Letters To The Tattler: Kevin Johnson & John Cooper

Emeryville Considers Folding The Fire Dept

Emeryville's budget nightmare continues to force cost cutting at City Hall and they are now considering folding Emeryville's independent fire department and contracting out services with the Alameda County Fire Department to help with costs.  This is an idea previously considered several times over the last twenty or so years by the city council but it's always been rejected.  Now the council seems to be serious since negotiations with the County have revealed Emeryville could save up to a million dollars per year and services for residents and fire fighting capacity would actually improve.  Significantly, the Fire Fighters Union is accepting of the current plan.  

Fire Chief Kevin Johnson addresses resident's concerns with the following letter to the Tattler:
       .              .              .              . 

"The Alameda County proposal clearly indicates that both the Hollis and Powell Street fire stations will be staffed-each with an engine company and each with paramedic/advanced life support personnel and equipment.  The service level would continue to be specified and directed by the City.  Alameda County Fire essentially will work for the City of Emeryville under contract and will provide the level of service that is specified by the City.  The proposal contains no reduction in the fire stations that will be staffed and response times will not suffer.  Part of the service involves making regular measurements of service levels and response times and reporting those findings to the City.  If there were any departures from specified service levels, Alameda County would have to make the appropriate adjustments to meet their contract requirements. 

Under the plan, current Emeryville firefighters will remain in the City during the transition and integration into Alameda County .  This transition phase is explained as “incremental” over one to two years.  During that period, Emeryville firefighters learn about Alameda County polices and operating procedures.  They begin to train with Alameda County firefighters and orient themselves with other areas of the County (and Alameda County personnel orient to Emeryville).  In time and after full integration, some Emeryville firefighters may choose to bid into assignments in other areas of the County.  The important point is that this process is planned whereby firefighters receive appropriate orientation and training before movements occur.

Additionally, the proposal includes a subcontract with the City of Oakland Fire Department to provide a planned and coordinated emergency response to augment Emeryville fire units in the event of a larger incident (such as a structure fire).  Currently, Emeryville receives assistance from Oakland but it is not particularly planned or coordinated and it is not through a written agreement.  Thus, the Alameda County proposal provides an enhancement to emergency response.  In any case, service levels will certainly not diminish.    

The concept of the [fire fighting] boat is to place that resource in Emeryville to handle water-based rescues should that type of incident occur.  While rare, from time to time there have been water-based incidents that have occurred in Emeryville.  As we all saw in the tragic case of the drowning at the shore in the City of Alameda , it is much better to plan for, train, and equip emergency personnel to handle foreseeable emergencies that may arise in their community.  Sometimes emergency incident planning dictates use of mutual aid resources from other communities (which Emeryville would still use in the event of a significant water-based emergency) and sometimes it is prudent to provide equipment and training in the community.  The placement of a small boat in the City represents a service level enhancement that would make Emeryville more versatile in terms of its response capability." 

.            .          .           .

Captain John Cooper, Union representative of the Emeryville Firefighters Local 55 also weighs in on the negotiations; in a companion letter to the Tattler, Mr Cooper notes that the rank and file voted for the new plan to contract out with the County in a 21-3 vote:

..."Regarding the three individuals who voted against contracting with Alameda County- The vote was done by secret ballot and those individuals were not specifically identified, however, concerns that were expressed all related to personal pay and benefit issues and not the quality of the service being offered. All members of the Fire Department agreed that the Alameda County Fire Department will be able to provide a much higher level of service than the current stand alone Emeryville model can at a significant cost savings to the City. 

Both of the current Fire Stations will remain open and all currently employed Emeryville personnel will remain employed. If you were to have a structure fire today, you would get 2 Engines and a 1 person Truck with 7 Emeryville Firefighters responding to your house without the use of mutual aid from neighboring Cities. When the Alameda County Fire Department starts providing service in July, you will get 3 Engines, a fully staffed Truck and a Battalion Chief with 16 firefighters arriving on scene without the need for calling for mutual aid. Response times to emergencies will not be affected and the quality of service and medical care you’ve come to expect will remain the same. 

The fire boat is a nice addition as we have responded to numerous water emergencies over the years and always had to rely on the Coast guard for assistance. This will allow us to respond faster with paramedic level care and water rescue capabilities to those people who are on a boat or in the water. 

I have been employed with the Emeryville Fire Department for 25 years and I can say that this solution will provide a higher level of service to the community than you are currently receiving which is saying a lot." 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Letter To The Tattler: Sam Kang

The following letter was submitted by Emeryville resident Sam Kang, recently considered for a Planning Commission appointment.  Mr Kang is an attorney for Greenlining, an advocacy group for small business and low income residents in matters of housing and other concerns.

    .              .              .              .

Dear Emeryville Community,

My name is Sam and I'm an Emeryville resident. Three years ago, my wife and I were lucky enough to buy a home in this great city. We wanted to find a place with friendly neighbors, a diverse community, and a little charm. We considered ourselves blessed when we found such a place in Emeryville. What I didn't anticipate was how much people loved living in this city.

A few weeks ago, Mayor West encouraged me to apply for a seat on the Emeryville Planning Commission. I was flattered that our city's mayor had heard about me. It wasn't long before many of you not only encouraged me to apply, but advocated directly on my behalf. I applied not knowing if I was the best candidate. But I was inspired that so many of you thought I was.
At [Tuesday night's] city council meeting, the council members voted that another candidate was a better fit for the vacant seat - Sean Moss, a planner and an involved Emeryville citizen. Sean is very qualified to take on this challenge and I believe he's going to do a great job. Besides the pleasure of getting to know Sean better, I had an incredible time getting to know all of you better.

Throughout my application process, I had the opportunity to listen to many of you and hear your thoughts about the planning commission. But I encountered much more than that. I was astonished by how much everyday residents knew about the city, both its beauty and its faults. But even with all of its imperfections, your instinct was not to leave Emeryville or become apathetic, but make it your lifelong commitment to make it better. You see Emeryville not just for what it is (which is pretty terrific), but what it can become. Your desire to create a more perfect Emeryville was not just a wish. It was a commitment. You are willing to do everything in your waking hours to realize a better Emeryville. Such faithful commitment can only be described by one word - love.

Your love for this city is palpable and you made me feel it. You made me feel welcomed into the community and your support has instilled in me a love for this city. For some reason, many of you (some who I've never even met) advocated on my behalf for planning commissioner. It was humbling that you saw my candidacy as the vehicle to realize a better Emeryville. 

So this Valentine's Day, I want to reflect and thank you for making me fall in love with Emeryville. This is a great city because of you and your commitment to make it better. In the weeks and months ahead, I would welcome your advice and counsel on how I can help.

In the mean time, my wife and I are going to spend a quiet Valentine's Day together. We haven't nailed down all the specifics yet, but don't be surprised if you see us having a quiet dinner in the city that we love.

With much love,
Sam Kang

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Council Selects New Planning Commissioner

Tuesday night the city council appointed Emeryville resident Sean Moss to the Planning Commission in a 4-1 vote.  Mr Moss replaces retiring Commissioner Art Hoff.  The vote was contentious as the council received many letters of support from citizens endorsing both Mr Moss and Emeryville resident Sam Kang.

In a highly irregular move, council member Ruth Atkin killed an impeding vote on Mr Kang by substituting an alternate motion to appoint Mr Moss.  The council then voted on Mr Moss:

Ruth Atkin, Nora Davis and Kurt Brinkman and Jennifer West: AYE
Jac Asher: NO.

Mayor West had moved a vote on Mr Kang which was seconded by Ms Asher but Ms West changed her mind and voted with the majority after her initial motion for Mr Kang was deep sixed.

Council watchers expressed dismay at the refusal to allow a vote on Mr Kang.  One RULE member who chose to remain anonymous intoned, "It looks like Ruth Atkins' [hoped for] 'swing vote' status isn't going to swing.  We're going to have to have one more election to finally break up business as usual in Emeryville."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

'State Of City' Address Given Directly To Residents

Strange Sounds Heard At City Hall

Japanese subjects heard the most epic and calamitous sound coming from their radios on August 15th 1945.  It was the strangely wispy voice of Emperor Hirohito, urging the people to accept defeat in the war with America.  The Emperor was divine so it was as if god were speaking directly to the people, something no commoner had ever heard.
Similarly, tonight Emeryville commoners heard something never heard before: it was the mayor delivering the annual State of the City address, directly to the people.
Previously, the State of the City speech has been delivered by the mayor to businessmen at Chamber of Commerce functions.  The annual speech has for years been delivered at luncheons around town and accessible only to Chamber members or for those able to pay the entrance fee.
Tonight's speech was open to the rabble; given from the council chambers at City Hall.  It will even be televised over ETV.

The implications of this event are far reaching and novel for Emeryville; residents themselves will get the message that they can be part of the decision making process at City Hall.

This new democratic and inclusionary idea was conceived by mayor Jennifer West.  As audacious as it is, it should not surprise anyone as Ms West has made transparency, accountability and accessibility central to her term as councilwoman as she said she would if elected.

We commend mayor West for this opening of the resident's government to the residents.  It shows respect and a trust given over to the people.  Forgive the histrionics Ms West, in Emeryville we're not used to campaign promises being so faithfully comported and democracy so unabashedly embraced.

His voice was heard by
the stakeholders.
So was hers.

Bay Citizen On The Rocks

The San Francisco Business Times reports on the possible folding of a invaluable source of independent Emeryville news. The Bay Citizen has focused on our town more than any newspaper in the modern era.  It's demise would be a loss for all.

Reprinted from the SF Business Times:

What a short, strange trip it's been

The Bay Citizen's short, strange saga in nonprofit news could be coming to an end

Date: Tuesday, February 7, 2012, 12:11pm PST

Chris Rauber
Reporter - San Francisco Business Times
Email  | Twitter
Bay Citizen, we barely knew ye.
The Bay Citizen, less than two years old as a functioning news organization, has lost its founding editor, founding CEO, chief philanthropist and interim editor in the last few months. Soon, it could lose its independence.
Not quite what the doctor ordered in early 2009, when billionaire Warren Hellman and other Bay Area bigwigs were casting about for a way to salvage the badly listing -- at the time -- San Francisco Chronicle.
That salvage operation morphed into something quite different, a nonprofit news organization intended to play a major role in reinventing journalism in the Bay Area and beyond.
Now, 21st century journalism can use all the help it can get, but it was never quite clear how an enterprise soheavily dependent on the largesse of a single individual -- the late Warren Hellman -- could alter the Bay Area journalistic landscape for the better.
And The Bay Citizen, unfortunately, seems to have lived down to those fears, amid reports on its own site that it may be “absorbed by an older but similar nonprofit news organization,” the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting. (The Wall Street Journal, however, scooped it on parts of its own story.)
Things got off to an odd start, with the young enterprise and would-be partner KQED breaking things off very quickly in early 2010. And the Bay Citizen undermined much of its initial credibility by hiring a CEO with no direct journalistic experience or aptitude, Lisa Frazier, and an out-of-town editor, Jonathan Weber, both at exorbitant and -- many thought -- scandalous salaries, especially for a tiny and quite experimental nonprofit with a lot to prove and not much to show for itself.
The Bay Citizen also joined forces with the University of California at Berkeley’s graduate school of journalism, a program perhaps best known over the last decade or so for its inability to recruit and keep a dean. I discovered the odd nature of the connection personally at the time, when no one at the journalism school would answer phone calls or emails asking for comment on its relationship with the new nonprofit -- an odd stance for a nationally known journalism program.
The organization also formed an equally odd partnership with the New York Times. One would have thought that a long-term agreement to produce San Francisco Bay Area stories for perhaps the most influential newspaper in the nation would have been the salvation of the young Bay Citizen. But instead it served up a long series of “evergreen” news stories of dubious news value to the Times, most of them either old news to Bay Area residents or stories of little particular interest.
Read the rest of the story by clicking HERE.