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Sunday, January 26, 2014

'No Lawsuit Clause' : City Lets Wareham Off the Hook

Councilwoman Nora Davis: "We don't like to let people off the hook in this city, right Mike?"

Mike Biddle, City Attorney: "Yes we do"

Sometimes it comes off without a hitch at the dog and pony shows known as Emeryville City Council meetings.  But sometimes, well, let's just say it doesn't come off as planned.

Take last Tuesday's Council meeting; a little back and forth, meant to play to the camera, between Councilwoman Nora Davis and City Attorney Mike Biddle didn't quite turn out as the councilwoman expected.  The interplay ended up revealing a darker truth about Emeryville... a corner of the covering having been lifted a little.

Councilwoman Nora Davis
Excuse me while I manage
these critics.....
Councilwoman Davis was trying to mollify critics of the "No Lawsuit Clause" agreement of the 'Transit' Center development on Horton Street.  The clause stipulates that the developer of the site, Wareham Development is let off the hook for toxins not known about now but subsequently discovered as they conduct their clean up work at the site.  By signing off on the agreement, the Council forever signs away the ability to sue Wareham or anyone else to protect the people of Emeryville.  The Council abrogates their fiduciary duties, saddling the taxpayers with added financial responsibilities should something go awry.  The agreement offers Wareham security and comfort while offering the people of Emeryville nothing but a possible debt of unknown quantity.

The Council finally approved the entire contentious development Tuesday night leaving many residents in dismay over the No Lawsuit Clause but also the agreement that lets Wareham leave significant levels of highly toxic waste on the site under a proposed tower, a reneging of a previous agreement to properly clean-up the site by removing all the toxins.

As Emeryville residents tried to take stock of what was given away Tuesday night, the particular repartee between Councilwoman Nora Davis and City Attorney Mike Biddle was a moment of clarity, emblematic of the sycophantic depths attainable by this Council majority.
City Attorney Mike Biddle
The agreement lets Wareham off the hook.
They must be offered comfort at
the expense of Emeryville residents.
Ms Davis started out agreeing the No Lawsuit Clause offered up by the city staff for approval by the council was a non-starter.  Ms Davis laid it all out; playing to the camera, she showed how she's looking out for the resident's interests with a question for Mr Biddle, "I'd like to hear from Mr Biddle on this 'no suit clause'.  If we could have a little more clarification on that because I think it's a cause of concern for the Council and the community.  We don't like to let these people off the hook in this city."  To which, Mr Biddle responded with a lawyerly yes, we DO like to let people off the hook in this city....leaving Councilwoman Davis speechless; her propaganda moment wilting on the vine.

Mr Biddle explained to Ms Davis' definitive statement about letting people off the hook, "It's been a negotiated position between CBS [the owner of the site before Wareham purchased it], Wareham and the City when they move forward with the clean-up pursuant to the plan we approved that we would release them from any future claims."  Mr Biddle went on to say other developers in Emeryville have been similarly let off the hook with regard to toxic site clean-up releasing them from future claims; notably Madison Marquette, the developer of the Bay Street Mall.  He said these developers want protection from the City coming back after them for additional clean-up if additional toxins are discovered or anything else that may go wrong.  "We're releasing them from any ability of the City to pursue them based on what we know today.  This provides [Wareham] some level of comfort that the City will not pursue them."

Wareham's Rich Robbins
The man behind the curtain
As the City staff, who recommended to the Council to over-ride the Planning Commission decision and approve the Transit Center said, this site is a "toxic waste dump" and should be cleaned up.  But repellent to Emeryville residents, the project as approved lets Wareham off the hook for the toxic waste dump that will remain because of the significant quantities of poisons that get left behind, forever entombed beneath the new building.  And once again the three Council member majority show their allegiance to Wareham: for also repellent to Emeryville residents is how Wareham is also let off the hook in the case that we need to sue them later. The No Lawsuit Clause agreed to by Nora Davis, Kurt Brinkman and Ruth Atkin works in the interests of Wareham; disadvantage Emeryville.

The people of Emeryville DID get one thing in the embarrassing fiasco however.  We did get to see Council member Nora Davis publicly blow it: her legendary and prodigious political acumen revealed to be less than prodigious.  We got to see the curtain lifted and Wareham's CEO Rich Robbins at the controls.

Video courtesy Emeryville Properties Association

1 comment:

  1. Mike B is simply a lackey for the City Council. They hire him and he reports to them. Maybe if we cannot get a new Council majority, we can get a new City Attorney who will better protect the interests of the Residents.