Search The Tattler

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where Does City Hall Get Off Pushing Undergrounding Utilities?

Residents Say Parks & Bike/Ped, 
City Says Undergrounding

The recent utility undergrounding debacle covered by the Tattler on March 18th informs us about how it pays to be a well connected developer in Emeryville but what that story failed to elaborate on is City Hall's announcement that it intends to spend more than a million General Fund dollars undergrounding overhead wires on Hollis Street.  We have to ask: How does City Hall see spending limited General Fund money on this?
The people of Emeryville have told the decision makers what they want;  they have said in a loud and clear voice they want parks and bike/pedestrian connectivity, not undergrounding utility wires.

City Hall Should Know What We Want
Residents have been poked and prodded and quarried for more than two years by City Hall.  There were countless General Plan meetings and visioning workshops.  We were asked over and over: What do you want to see the city focus on?  The people spoke and undergrounding utilities came down near the bottom of the list.

The Players:
City Hall power broker
councilwoman Nora Davis
& friend Wareham president
Rich Robbins
So how is it that a plan is spawned by City Hall to spend more than a million taxpayer dollars on something the residents don't want?  We find it interesting that Wareham Development Corporation, the most connected developer in town, does want the undersgrounding to happen.  The aforementioned Tattler story shows how Wareham stands to financially benefit from the undergrounding scheme.  Is there a nexus between the desires of Wareham and the actions of City Hall?

It wouldn't be the first time.

Our city has bent over backwards to accommodate Wareham, often at the expense of the residents.  This most recent betrayal of the citizen's interests is particularly galling however.  We wonder how it will be explained, if at all.
It appears the retraction by one property owner to the undergrounding scheme may have caused the implosion of the North Hollis Undergrounding Assessment District as the March 18th Tattler story illustrated.  That property owner, Andy Getz may have saved other Emeryville property owners and residents from paying dearly for something they don't want.

This undergrounding would have been paid for by the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency before its demise.  In the wake of the Agency's collapse, Emeryville has been left with only its meager General Fund to pay for most everything now.  For City Hall to try to tap the General Fund to pay for this undergounding is egregious; it would come at the direct expense of all the things the residents have said they do want.
It would appear that the people of Emeryville will need to pay closer attention, minding the General Fund.  After all, it's our money.

We would like to say we live in a town that placed the desires of the residents over those of favored developers.  The North Hollis undergrounding scheme puts it into focus for us; that's not the kind of town we do live in.


  1. Psssh...
    Get yo hands off Warehams money!

  2. There will be a gradual changing of the "old guard" in Emeryville. I will run for election to City Council again, and I am sure there will be others who will step forward as well. For those of us who think a democracy is by its very nature "participatory" (and not merely "representative" in the classic republic sense - that's republic, not Republican!), I urge you to register to vote, and to educate yourself on the issues and VOTE. Emeryville has a very small voter base, and a very small turnout due to off-year elections. But that is no reason to let well-financed business candidates elbow aside grass roots candidates.

  3. I'm surprised that Michael Webber hasn't leaned much from the last election. I think it is pretty clear that he got trounced for a reason. He got fewer votes than even poor, tarnished Bukowski! It's not because he was some sort of underdog candidate. It's because he ran with Bukowski's support as a candidate similar to Bukowski. We all know no one wanted that. Now Mr. Webber is trying to refashion himself as some sort or grassroots insurgent candidate. He's willing to say whatever it takes to get elected. He's the Mitt Romney of Emeryville. His befuddled rants on this blog just pander to readers, but they aren't even effective. They just highlight why he was thwarted in the last election. I hope we get some quality grassroots candidates that we can trust to represent us in the next election. We've had a good track record in the last election, it would be a shame to slow that process.

    1. If you think re-electing Nora Davis again is a "good track record" then I'm afraid it's YOU who is befuddled sir. Council member Davis and her sidekick Kurt Brinkman swooped in to stop a popular vote on eliminating Emeryville's infamous business tax cap last November. She won't let the people decide for themselves the wisdom of the regressive tax cap. This kind of thinking is about as right wing as is possible. Nora Davis and the business tax cap: that's our "good" track record.

    2. 11:53 person is right. For the last two elections we have voted in new progressive candidates and voted off one old guard member who desperately needed to be. This is important progress and it happened really fast for political progress. Most of us progressives are really happy with the pace of progress. You make us seem greedy and ungrateful. Even I realize that everybody in this city don't agree with me and so all the city council people shouldn't either, but we are making great strides toward a majority. The next election could be it, but maybe we should be leery of this Webber guy, especially if he had Bukowski's support.

  4. Personally, I think the city is better off taking a chance on someone new than voting in the same old cronies over and over.
    If the new person isn't any better than the one they replaced, try again with someone else new next election.
    Voting in the same people and keeping the status quo isn't getting you anywhere.
    Better to take a chance than take the same old crap.

  5. My positions on major topics has not changed since the election:

    1. I believe City Hall is staffed very "top heavy" and continue to believe that the City would be better served by a new City Attorney, or by "outsourcing" legal services. The City Attorney's office is not the only top heavy staff position, however. (We have the same situation in the school district, too many executives and administrators and not enough teachers.)

    2. I continue to believe that it is a terrible mistake to close Anna Yates. Based on recent developments - the operating budget shortfall and pending layoffs - I believe our school district is entering a downward "death spiral." Once the elementary campus is combined with the high school campus, enrollments will plummet; the only students we will recruit will be Oakland students expelled from their district or residence. A charter school will enter Emeryville unless the State Legislature passes a "no charter school in failing school districts" amendment to the current charter school law, and students will transfer to the new charter school.

    3. I believe redevelopment in appropriate levels and cases is a boon for blighted neighborhoods. Emeryville, on the other hand, gave away major concessions in the past without taking into account Emeryville's fine location and the intrinsic appeal of that location. After the largest development boom in history, Emeryville still couldn't eke out sufficient redevelopment funds to give the residents an alternative access to the West Side - that is a major failure. Despite seeing the changes on the horizon, Emeryville couldn't push through the resident serving projects on the table so the funds were committed.

    4. After enduring one embezzling school superintendent, a bankruptcy, and one resume lying school superintendent (who could have been easily vetted at the recruiting stage), we now have a school district needlessly spending $200,000 on "process consulting." Something the City Council questioned, but could not find a majority to vote down.
    -continued -

  6. -continued-

    5. I opposed the outsourcing of the Fire Department, and have cautioned that someday the same proposal will be made about police.

    6. As Brian Donohue has pointed out, the largest and most powerful constituents in town are big businesses and big landlords who don't give two cents about Emeryville residents - and yet they can't even vote! They view us as annoyances a business-oriented City Council will mollify (or ignore) one way or another. I believe all our big landlords have either received, or appealed for, lower property taxes and at the very time when they should be making a more substantial contribution to City coffers, they are making a smaller one. The proposed business license increase was intended to redress the balance, but it was capped and is now decidedly non-progressive - it hits smaller taxpayers harder than larger ones. We need to stop electing "representatives" who take votes from us but end up representing big businesses instead of residents.

    7. I was included as a target on the anti-Bukowski hate piece that went out, but no specific attacks were made against me in the last campaign. Having gotten over 300 votes on a very ad hoc campaign, I assume that I will be getting "sniped at" in the future. If someone with a better chance of winning throws their hat in the campaign, and will continue to make changes at City Hall, I will support him or her rather than split the vote and give the election to a blindly pro-business candidate. Until then, I will let my supporters know that I still care about this City and about them.

    I will be at the RULE meeting on Saturday morning March 24 and would be happy to meet and talk about any issues of interest to residents and other stakeholders (yes, I view business and property owners and city staff and teachers and administrators as stakeholders as well - I want to see the balance redressed, and I want to see Emeryville be more responsive to these changed economic times and not try to proceed with "business as before" - that is no longer tenable).