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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

City Council Moves 'Charter City' Idea Forward

Tonight the City Council voted unanimously to start a process that could lead to a November ballot initiative permitting voters to decide if Emeryville should become a charter city; an alternate style of municipal governance that increases local control at the expense of Sacramento.  The idea was first broached in January at the State of the City annual address by Mayor Jac Asher.  Mayor Asher says by becoming a charter city, Emeryville voters could decide if a real estate transfer tax should be imposed, offsetting the major loss of funds Emeryville has experienced in the wake of Sacramento rescinding the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency.

Even though all five Council members ultimately voted to instruct the City Staff to bring a specific charter city proposal for their consideration at a future meeting, Councilman Kurt Brinkman struggled with the idea at first, "The City has been run well with the current structure" he lamented.  Further, he added, if real estate transfer taxes are increased it would cause inequity, "It's not fair that renters don't have to pay this fee" he said.  Such a tax would be on the backs of residents Mr Brinkman said, albeit homeowners and only those selling their homes and leaving Emeryville.  The City Clerk noted home sales are a small percentage of real estate transfers in Emeryville (businesses being the lion's share) and if the people decide to raise the tax, it could be possible to craft a ballot initiative to carve out most homeowners by exempting properties less than a set amount.  The Council instructed the staff to present several specific proposals for their consideration at the future meeting.

Mayor Asher stressed the importance of getting our fiscal house in order after the demise of the Redevelopment Agency.   She stressed the fact that neighboring cities have become charter cities,  imposing transfer taxes to fill voids in their budgets after their redevelopment agencies were taken away.  Ms Asher called a transfer tax a "new economic tool" to help Emeryville move forward as our neighbors have done.


  1. according to the league of california cities, 121 california cities are charter cities including alameda, albany, berkeley, fresno, gilroy, hayward, mountain view, oakland, richmond, san francisco, san leandro, and vallejo.

    I fully support this ballot initiative.

  2. 100% Opposed to a Transfer Tax. Emeryville has enough. Our Budget is bloated with a bunch of bureaucrats who go to meetings, and flap their jaws. How many of them have put their own money into losing projects, such as Kaiser, ECCL, etc. I say, "Get to Work". There is already enough funds to support our limited size, and mostly developed properties. We're nearly done. Leave the taxpayers alone!

    1. Actually, Emeryville hasn't had enough. In every tax category from business taxes to hotel taxes to plan checking fees and much more, this city charges less taxes and fees than our neighboring cities do...usually far less.
      You and I have been around and around on this. The deal here is we (Emeryville) don't generate enough money, now that the Redevelopment Agency is gone, to even pay for basic services let alone things the people want like new parks. We have to find a new source of revenue to be able to afford things we want.

      If you are opposed to a transfer tax increase, that's'll be able to have your say at the ballot box because this thing is going before the people. We, the people of Emeryville, are going to be able to decide for ourselves about this. I presume this idea of the people deciding for themselves is something you're amenable to. You know...democracy...perhaps I'm being too presumptuous.

    2. I also agree that we need to hold our leaders accountable with the ample money they already have to deal with running this city. If they cannot budget parks and sidewalks without raising taxes, we need new leadership.

  3. "It's not fair that renters don't have to pay this fee." Well, here's an idea:
    1) Find a way to tax the absentee landlords. That shouldn't be difficult.
    2) Exempt homes below a certain price from the transfer tax, but no need to exempt high-priced properties.
    3) Elect city officials who do make good use of the additional funds.
    4) Promote home ownership so more residents have a financial stake in the future of the city. How about this as an interim goal: that it take more than 600 votes to be elected to the City Council !!