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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Minimum Wage: Emeryville at a Crossroads

After 25 Years of Development Featuring Service Jobs,
Will Emeryville Move to Mollify That Model's Rapaciousness? 

Opinion/News Analysis
Emeryville's business community is assembling their forces to push back against a City Council initiated Emeryville minimum wage proposal, set to be decided by the Council in May.  The City will hold a public study session on the subject April 7th.  If these meetings are to be anything like previous meetings when the business community has been asked to pay anything more in our town, they promise to be drama filled evenings.  The Emeryville Property Owners Association is jumping into the fray; they're planning a public town hall style meeting of their own on the subject March 16th, a chance to "educate" the public sponsored by the business community.

 But as these epic Council meeting dates approach, what should Council members expect from our businesses here in Emeryville?  The Council will be asking them how they'll do with an increase in the minimum wage.  It's not against the law for the business community to lie about the effects the minimum wage hike will have on their businesses, if they even know what the effects will precisely be.  Since it's not against the law for them to lie, should we expect them to, especially if by lying they think they might not have to pay as much?  Should past behavior by the business community when they have been asked to contribute more in Emeryville, inform us in any way?  If they have been found to have lied in the past about the effects of City Hall policy on their businesses, should their credibility be at all effected?
How about the working poor in our midst?  Should their plight be considered by the government?  Does City Hall have a responsibility to help the poorest people among us?  Is exacerbating wealth discrepancy and record inequality OK for a government to do?  The City Council has spent a generation saying YES to developers, adding lots of minimum wage service sector jobs in our town; a workforce that can't afford to live here and must commute in from poor parts of Oakland and farther flung locales.  Does Emeryville City Hall have any duty to help the legions of these poverty stricken people they brought to work here?  If the City has the right to do something about it, should they exercise that right?  Is it the government's charge to address this higher calling?  Or should poor people in Emeryville just be left to their own devises?
A premier local restaurant.
The haters among us tell us

 we can't have nice 
stuff like this without selling our 
soul to the devil.
So what's it gunna be Emeryville?
Redwood trees or jobs?
Bucci's or minimum wage?

Any reasonable person that's not an ideologue knows the answers to these questions.  And that's why we think Emeryville will move forward and do the right thing by the poorest among us, because the new Council majority is just that: reasonable and not ideologues.

How High?  What Logic?
But how high should the minimum wage in Emeryville be?  Some are saying we should set our minimum wage the same as our neighbor Oakland: $12.25 per hour.  There is a certain compelling logic to that...but it's a logic based in business marketability.  Of course this business marketability argument means we should be driving DOWN the minimum wage, not raising it up.  Oakland, it should be noted, is considering another rise in their minimum wage soon.
Again, we need to keep our focus where it belongs; the problem is poverty, not marketability.
Another logic could be Emeryville's minimum wage should be set so a person working in our town could actually live in our town.  With sky-high rents in Emeryville, the wage would have to be at least $20 per hour (that's $800 per month at 25% of income at 40 hours per week).

So how high should the minimum wage be?  The answer for Emeryville is $14.42 (Consumer Price Index raised from $14.03 after July 1st).  That's the minimum amount a person has to make working 40 hours per week, to be ineligible for government assistance; food stamps, housing assistance, et cetera.  Anything less than this amount is effectively a wealth transference rate: money being transferred from the taxpayers to business owner employers.  It's yet another government subsidy for business.

Poverty Wages or Sub-Poverty Wages
A wage of $14.42 is a poverty wage, let's not mince words.  A person making this wage will almost certainly not be able to afford to live in our town.  Every cent is earmarked for basic survival.  This person is not making enough to provide for a family.  If Emeryville sets the minimum wage at less than $14.42, we are delegating a class of us to exist in sub-poverty conditions, surviving on government handouts.  Sub-poverty; that's the badge of dishonor we're going to have to wear regardless of any vows we may have made regarding the responsibility of government.

Is Emeryville a City of Non Viable Businesses?
As one would expect, this talk of raising the minimum wage has caused the business community in Emeryville to run around with their hair on fire.  The talk has been pretty heated; they're going to have to lay off their workers or go bankrupt they're now telling us.  They're forming coalitions to fight the wage hike, with big business hiding behind small business.  We heard it, full throated at a recent Council meeting, the minimum wage on the agenda; $14.42 will kill them they say.  By this, what these businesses really mean is they can only afford to pay sub-poverty wages to their workers.
But any business in our midst that can't afford to pay anything but a sub-poverty wage to their employees is not a viable business.  By definition; that's not a viable business.  They're in effect saying  they have business plans that lock them in and they must oppress their lowest paid employees.  Emeryville, they want us to believe, must be a locus of suffering and oppression.  If this is true, these are the kinds of businesses we don't want in Emeryville.  This is a description of a sweat shop.
After a generation of our City Hall bringing lots of development with lots of low wage service sector jobs like fast food and retail, we must remember we created this mess ourselves.  Are we going to now make it a one two punch; first community busting development then oppression against workers?  Is that who we are in Emeryville?

Or is Emeryville a City of Viable Businesses?
So far, the businesses in Emeryville have been pretty adamant; they say they can't afford to pay their workers these higher wages.  We must consider that these businesses might be lying (or they don't really know).  It's not like we've never seen business in Emeryville lie before.  Indeed, the loudest screamer against this among business owners so far has been John Tibbets, the owner of the Oaks Club gambling casino on San Pablo Avenue.  He's told the Council he will be driven out of business by a $14.42 minimum wage.  Driven out of business... interesting... that's also what he told Emeryville voters in 1997 when he railed against Emeryville's Measure B, the card room tax increase ballot initiative.  Of course, that turned out to be a lie.
Then of course there's also Measure C, the 2005 'living wage for hotel workers' ballot initiative. Emeryville's hotels all said they would be driven out of business if they had to pay their workers more money.  Incidentally 2005 is when there were four hotels in town, now, after Emeryville voters passed Measure C, we're starting construction on hotel number five.  The hotel owners we now know, were lying.

When it comes time for businesses to pay more to their workers, lying is the default go to place for many.  It's no shocker.  But what will really happen if Emeryville raises the minimum wage to $14.42?  There have been many academic studies done on this subject over many years.  We're not suffering from a lack of scientifically obtained data.  We know that there will be some difficulties for businesses at first as they adjust to the new wage standards.  Prices will likely go up for some of the customers of some of the businesses as they re-coup the higher wages and then a stasis will again be achieved...  except the new paradigm will mean people in Emeryville will be making more than sub-poverty wages and our values won't be undercut.  We also know people have seen enough oppression of the working poor; higher minimum wages and raising up the lowest paid among us is very popular with voters, both in Emeryville and across the Nation.

Hucksters Selling False Choices
Whenever it comes time to do something for the least fortunate among us, the oppressed, the dispossessed, you can count on it there will be those lecturing us on how unrealistic it all is.  We're told we need to be pragmatists; sure we may want to do something about the terrible inequality brought on by a sociopath's view of the role of government and a rapacious private sector, but we're always told not now, not in this way and not if it may cause inconvenience to business or even worse, money.   This time in Emeryville has been no different.  Besides all the poor business owners, some citizen ideologues too have piped up:  This will kill small locally serving business we're being chided.  Raising the minimum wage will be a boon to the biggest businesses because they can afford it.  The small desirable resident friendly businesses, some might say competition to the big business,  will be driven out they say.  So raising the minimum wage presents a choice we're told.  We can have Bucci's restaurant or we can have a raise in the minimum wage.  We can have Farely's coffee shop or we can have a raise in the minimum wage.  We can't, apparently, have both.

Redwood Trees or Jobs,  Bucci's or the Minimum Wage
Emeryville of late is feeling a little like the days of capitalist junk bond financier Charles Hurwitz who in the 1980's acquired Pacific Lumber Company and then said the debt incurred by the leveraged buy-out made the clear cutting of all the rest of the old growth redwood on Pacific Lumber's vast holdings necessary.  Californians were given a Hobson's choice by Mr Hurwitz: jobs or redwoods.
1980's Junk Bond Financier
Charles Hurwitz

He brought it down to a choice:
We can have redwoods or we can
have jobs.  We can't have both.
It was an effective tactic that
dramatically increased his bottom line.
It's a tactic now being repeated
by some in Emeryville. 
This is the oldest trick in the book.   We can't listen to scientists and academicians, about what they have to say about raising the minimum wage.  They're just selling facts.  Instead we're told we have to listen to lying business owners and their army of minions who give us phony false choices.  It's funny we never can seem to get the resumes of those offering the false choice.  How do we know what they know?  We're supposed to simply have faith.  Take them at their word.  Just don't take scientists at their word... because...why exactly?  This is never answered.

We have our own choice we'd like to forward: Should we listen to scientists on the effects of raising the minimum wage?  Or should we listen to the people with money at stake and their apologists?   Who's more likely to be lying?

With our new City Council majority seated, we're not going to listen to these nattering nabobs of negativity.  Emeryville is going to increase our minimum wage so the working poor no longer earn a sub-poverty wage at one of the many retail and fast food establishments we've built over the years here.  And we're not going to leave anyone behind with special exemptions or carve-outs in our new polity.  All are going to be lifted out of sub-poverty.  We may allow small businesses in town some extra time to ramp up to our new minimum wage.   But we're all going to get there because while we may have made terrible choices in Emeryville in the past, the choices we make now are not going to be the one's ginned up by the business community, they're going to be the real choices for the betterment of our whole town.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Tattler Celebrates Five Years

The Emeryville Tattler turned five in February and we're re-posting some of our favorite stories and the reader's favorites during our month-long celebration.  As the news cycle permits, look to see some of these oldies but goodies re-blasted. 

We continue the celebration with a piece from Sunday 8/22/2010.
The Apollo Crematorium, a source of much consternation in the Park Avenue neighborhood, continues on with it's dirty business in our town even after several attempts by City Hall to shuffle it off to Richmond and other locales.  As we posted this story, Oakland was fighting off Emeryville's attempt to move the crematorium to that town.  Apollo's tenacity bested the assisted living community of 40th Street neighbor AgeSong, since replaced by another assisted living entity Bay Side Park.

Here's the story, titled "I See Dead People", one of our reader's faves:  

August 22, 2010
There's Dead People On The Side Of The Building

Don't accuse the dearly departed of not leaving a mark.
It's certainly not true of those cremated by Apollo Crematorium, one of the state's most busy incinerators of human remains.
The longstanding Emeryville business, whose attempted relocation to Richmond was scuppered by protest, continues to operate where it always has. But the once heavily industrial area is now blossoming with chic loft residences and sprouting trendy businesses.
Richmond residents, already enduring refinery releases, successfully blocked the move in 2007 citing mercury toxicity, presumably from burnt fillings.
Meanwhile, though the crematorium and its smokestacks have been hemmed in by development, it is no longer invisible to casual observers.
An off-white ashen smear mars more than 100 square feet of the metal-clad side of AgeSong, a $29 million assisted living facility with about 160 residents. The discoloration reaches all the way up to the building's roof deck.
While death is ultimately part of life, having 3,000 to 4,000 cremations a year drifting past your window, maybe a little bit more of a reminder than necessary that life is after all cruel, brutish and short.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

March Against Emeryville Police Shooting

A crowd of more than 100 people assembled at the Emeryville Police station on Powell Street and marched to the site of an Emeryville police civilian shooting on Hollis Street this morning.  Several police patrol cars escorted the peaceful crowd.

Police can be seen atop the police station filming protesters.

Moratorium Victory Pyrrhic for Developers, Mayor

Onus Now on Developers, Mayor to Deliver on Housing

Family Friendly, Affordable, Ownership Housing

Opinion/News Analysis
Champagne glasses may have been clinking as giddy developers relished their victory in beating back the 45 day residential building moratorium in the Emeryville City Council chambers in a special meeting on the Friday before last.  But as the sun rose Saturday, aching heads from over-imbibing were undoubtedly made worse by the realization that the victory isn't all it seemed to be for developers in Emeryville, indeed theirs is a pyrrhic victory.   Because now they're going to have to deliver their residential development projects to the Council for approval, and they're going to have to impress the new progressive majority...the same three Council members that said YES to the moratorium.

Mayor Ruth Atkin
in Hot Seat

We're going to deliver
affordable family friendly
housing MY way, the
empower developers way
(strange it hasn't
worked up 'til now).
The developers have a little 3-2 problem;  Asher, Martinez, Donahue versus Atkin, Davis.  That's the new guard versus the old guard.  It's a problem for them because while a 4-1 super majority is needed for a building moratorium, to approve a specific development proposal, there needs only to be a simple majority.

Councilwoman Jac Asher got it right when she said from the dais, developers themselves would benefit from a moratorium.  The new majority is big on planning in our city and they intend on updating City Hall's regulations to make them comport with planning documents (and the resident's values).  A moratorium would have provided time and a space to do that.  Developers would have benefited because they would have known ahead of time, how to craft a project that would stand a chance of being approved by the new majority.  Now, they have no idea and onward they're going to march forward with project proposals that will not be approved, wasting their time and money.

Generally, it's a good idea to work with and co-operate with the people that lord power over you.  That's a lesson Emeryville developers are going to have to learn the hard way.

Build Our Way To Cheap Rent?
Integrity is not big with developers.  They lashed out at the moratorium with a disjointed and absurd idea; planning is not needed or even wanted they say because if a town plans how to develop, that will drive up rents.  Emeryville is in no position to get what it wants because the town's hands are tied; developers must be put in charge to keep rents low.  Not mentioned by them is the fact that they keep building luxury apartments (because that's how they maximize profits) and rents will not be lowered this way.  In fact rents will be pushed up around town.  Also not mentioned is why this deregulation idea of theirs has delivered precisely what they now say is no good; high rents (and lack of family housing).  This argument of theirs is just more lies on their part and those citizens who spoke out, forwarding the bogus low rent meme, are tools for this shameless developer money grab.

Mayor Atkin In The Hot Seat
The Mayor, Ruth Atkin, who threw in with the developers with her vote (as did developer's perennial favorite Councilwoman Nora Davis) now has a heavy burden to bear.  Having won, she's going to have to make sure her way, the anti-moratorium way, delivers the kind of housing we want and need.  Councilwoman Jac Asher and her colleagues had their idea how to do it but Mayor Atkin shot that down.  Now Ms Aktin is in the hot seat .  Emeryville residents want affordable housing, ownership housing and family friendly housing.  Ruth Atkin now has to see to it it gets done that way.  Ms Atkin, it's worth noting, never explained why her way, the same way we've been developing this town for a generation, hasn't worked up 'til now.  For their part, developers laid it on thick and heavy at the Friday special meeting; they will deliver affordable family friendly housing if only the moratorium is defeated.

"I just think this [the moratorium] is the wrong way to go about doing this" Mayor Atkin said as she killed the moratorium.  Let's see how she does, doing it her way.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Emeryville City Manager Sabrina Landreth to Move to Oakland

From the East Bay Express:


Schaaf Hires Emeryville City Manager Sabrina Landreth to Be Oakland’s City Administrator

By Steven Tavares

Oakland had to only look across its city limits to find its next city administrator. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced the hiring of Emeryville City Manager Sabrina Landreth late Friday.

click to enlargeSabrina Landreth.
  • Sabrina Landreth.
Landreth is a native of Oakland and a UC Berkeley graduate. She also served as Oakland’s budget director and was a deputy city administrator before leaving Oakland to become Emeryville’s city manager in 2013. The Oakland City Council must confirm Landreth’s appointment.

“This is the single most important decision I will make as mayor,” Schaaf said in a statement. “Restoring stability to the City Administrator’s Office is vital to achieving sustainability in Oakland. Given the importance of this role, we were committed to conducting a robust search of top-notch professionals to identify a candidate that would bring competence, integrity and energy to City Hall — Sabrina is that person.”

For the rest of the story click HERE

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

RULE Meeting

Emeryville Police Chief Announces Resignation

Ken James, Emeryville's Chief of Police told a shocked City Council tonight he will retire from the force on June 30th. The announcement was made at the end of the regular City Council meeting, gasps audible from the crowd.  Upon his retirement, Chief James will finish a 40 year career with the Emeryville Police Department he said.

The Tattler Celebrates Five Years

The Emeryville Tattler turned five in February and we're re-posting some of our favorite stories and the reader's favorites during our month-long celebration.  As the news cycle permits, look to see some of these oldies but goodies re-blasted. 

We continue the celebration with a piece from Tuesday January 11, 2011.
Republican Party apparatchik and Christian evangelical Sam Hardage, CEO of Woodfin Suites Hotels had just been forced by Emeryville (and the courts) to pay his Emeryville workers their back wages as mandated by Emeryville's Measure C, the 'living wage for hotel workers'.  City Council members (except Ruth Atkin) all fought against Measure C before the election but were obliged to enforce it once Emeryville voters passed it.  Mr Hardage spent far more on attorney fees fighting Emeryville then he owed his workers.  The victory for Emeryville culminated in the wages being distributed to the workers after a nearly five year battle including big weekly protests in front of the hotel on Shellmound Street and the largest protest march in Emeryville history (from the hotel to City Hall) .  After his defeat, Mr Hardage decided he had enough of Emeryville and he sold the hotel to Hyatt House and left town with his tail between his legs.

Here's the story, one of our faves:  


Woodfin CEO & Christian Evangelical Laments:
In Emeryville It's 
Woodfin Workers: 1, Jesus: 0

Woodfin Hotels CEO Sam Hardage tries to do the Lord's work.  A self-professed Christian evangelical, he's a member of the Council for National Policy,  a right-wing group pushing what it terms Christian precepts on policy-makers.  It's also why Mr. Hardage fought so hard against Emeryville's 'Living Wage ordinance for Hotel Workers' and then refused to disburse unpaid wages, even after ordered to do so by a 'secular' court.  As a good Christian, Mr. Hardage was presumably following Christ's example. After all Jesus would certainly never have paid His workers what they earned if He had owned a hotel chain back in the day in the Bethlehem/Nazareth metropolitan region.  Mr. Hardage put up a good fight but in the end the Woodfin workers proved more than a match for Sam or Jesus.
Sam Hardage: Works
for Jesus and against
his employees.

The non-profit organization East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), recently announced that Woodfin workers finally received their back pay, some $125,000 in a negotiated agreement divided among 54 workers.  Woodfin for its part, hired a phalanx of attorneys and fought the workers and the City of Emeryville for four years in an effort to impose upon the employees the moral philosophy of Jesus Christ: that the wealthy dwell upon a mountain of riches and dispatch the less fortunate to penury and pestilence. Mr. Hardage and Woodfin spent an undisclosed sum on their losing cause, a figure likely exceeding what was owed to the hotel maids.  After their bruising loss, they have indicated they now intend on obeying Emeryville's laws.

Nora Davis:
Not too fond of
working families.
Measure C, the ordinance that mandates a living wage for hotel workers in Emeryville was passed by voters and implemented five years ago in December.  During that time, Measure C has delivered a cumulative 1.2 million increase in employee wages. The ordinance increased the pay-rates by up to $5 per hour (most received less), putting up to $5,000 a year into the wallets of working families, helping them make ends meet without relying on public assistance.

Ken Bukowski: He's poor so
why should workers make money?
The Measure was passed by Emeryville voters on November 8, 2005 and was endorsed by the Alameda Labor Council, UNITE HERE Local 2850, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Assemblywoman Loni Hancock.  54% of Emeryville voters approved Measure C despite $115,000 spent by the Chamber of Commerce and the hotels to defeat it.  Local politicians who worked to defeat the living wage in Emeryville include Council members Nora Davis, Ken Bukowski and Dick Kassis.  Political operative and Chamber of Commerce political action committee (EMPAC) chairman John Gooding also joined in the fight against the living wage.  See Tattler story (May 18).

Another loser: John Gooding,
strangely he works for Barbara Lee
and against living wages.
Mr. Hardage, in addition to spreading Jesus' word, has sat on many conservative councils and public policy think-tanks including the Council for National Policy, an umbrella organization for social conservative activists described by the New York Times as a "little known group of the most powerful conservatives in the country".  Mr. Hardages' colleagues on the CNP board included Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.   Mr. Hardage also sits on the board at the Adam Smith Institute, an anti-government libertarian think tank that is among the most effective groups advocating for privatization of government functions in the United States.  Rounding out the list of powerful appointments is the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger  appointed State Commission on Judicial Performance.
Mr. Hardage was the Republican nominee for Governor of Kansas in 1982 and was twice an elite 'Bush Pioneer,' the highest echelon of campaign donors that each bundled contributions of more than $100,000 for former President George W. Bush campaigns.

The impressive political work of Mr. Hardage was joined by our own Emeryville City Council members and Jesus in their fight against living wages for Emeryville workers.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Local Activist Uncovers Gross Negligence on the Part of Emery Unified School District

"Slipshod Protocol" on School Parcel Tax

The Emery Unified School District has had a long history of failure to notify Emeryville's fixed income senior citizens of their rights regarding special school property taxes and trying to get them to do right by our elder citizens has been a near full time job for Emeryville senior citizen activist Shirley Enomoto.   Ms Enomoto's main complaint is that the School District has been derelict in it's duty to properly inform seniors when they are able to opt out of paying property taxes for a series of parcel taxes meant to augment the District's operating budget as voted on by residents over the years.   In a recent E-mail to District Superintendent John Rubio, Ms Enomoto now brings fresh charges against the District of "gross errors" in what she says is "another example of lacking and slipshod protocol for the senior exemption."

 The parcel taxes designated to help Emeryville's schools, passed by Emeryville residents were former Measure A in 2003, an extension of the Measure A from an election a couple of years ago and Measure K in 2014.  They all allow for property taxes to be levied for a list of school improvements.  There is a sentence in last November's Measure K language stating, "Senior Exemption- Any one application for a qualified applicant will provide an exemption for the remaining term of the parcel tax so long as such applicant continues to use the parcel for his or her principle residence."  Ms Enomoto checked the language from the previous Measure A parcel tax and found the exact same sentence.  The problem is that the District, for those years when Measure A was in effect, repeatedly told all Emeryville seniors they had to re-apply every year (or two) for the exemption, in direct contradiction to the actual law.  Ms Enomoto at the time believed the District's false claim about the need for seniors to re-apply annually or bi-anually but ironically engaged in a battle with them for notification requirements for seniors' right to seek an exemption every year, a burden that proved too onerous for the District.

Measure K's language is nearly identical to Measure A insofar as it addresses property owners but Ms Enomoto also notes Superintendent Rubio removed language in Measure K, extant in Measure A, that would have protected seniors that are renters.  The sentence voters approved in Measure A  but taken out of Measure K is, "in addition, should state law ever permit, there should be an exemption for property exclusively rented or leased to those 65 years and older."
The District has not said why they have retracted this privilege to seniors that rent.

Ms Enomoto told the Tattler the School District charged the taxpayers to retain legal advice for the implementation of Measure A and for the District to falsely tell seniors they must re-apply for the exemption constitutes a breach of trust, "conniving" she called it.  She indicated she will be closely watching the District moving forward with Measure K.

Measure K has an expiration date of July 1, 2037.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Tattler Celebrates Five Years

The Emeryville Tattler turned five in February and we're re-posting some of our favorite stories and the reader's favorites during our month-long celebration.  As the news cycle permits, look to see some of these oldies but goodies re-blasted.  
We start off the celebration with a piece from Monday July 29th, 2013.
Emeryville's Director of Planning, Charlie Bryant had just announced every street tree fronting the former high school on 47th Street was slated for demolition to make way for the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life.  Mr Bryant's absurd claims to justify the killing of the trees made us realize we had failed to see that even though he's on the City Hall payroll, Charlie's really more of an artist than a city planner.  The revelation conjured up bombastic art and literary criticism from our college days.  
The trees in the story are all gone now having long since given way to the chainsaw.
Here's the story, one of our faves: 

July 29, 2013
Charlie Bryant, Artist

Interesting but his work is a bit derivative   

Opinion/Art Criticism
Charles Bryant
Emeryville Surrealist
"Ceci n'est pas un arbre"
"This is Not a Tree"  2013
Who could have guessed our own Planning Director, Charlie Bryant, would emerge as an appropriationalist artist of the surrealist genre?
Art lovers at last Thursday night's Planning Commission were treated to a Charlie Bryant premier, an original art work he unveiled from his dais he calls "This is Not a Tree", a semantic flight of fancy homage to the well known 20th century Belgian surrealist, Rene Magritte.  But whereas Magritte's seminal 1929 work, 'This is not a pipe' is oil on canvas, Mr Bryant's 2013 piece is purely conceptual in nature.

"Upright Bushes"
Rene Magritte
Belgian Surrealist
"This is not a pipe" 1929
Charlie unveiled his would be demuirgic conceptual art during his normal day-to-day work of city planning in Emeryville, in this case at the July 25th Planning Commission meeting. As the Emery School District was presenting their application for the contentious Center of 'Community' Life project, one permit dealt with the cutting down of all the existing trees on 47th  Street.  Since Emeryville has an Urban Forestry Ordinance and permission must be sought to cut down trees, Mr Bryant stepped in to reassure any tree loving Commissioners that the decision before them wasn't as dire as it seemed, "They're not really even trees [on 47th Street],  they're more like upright bushes" he told them.

As Michel Foucault, the late French post-structuralist philosopher and social theorist reminds us in his dissertations regarding Magritte; this work is a rhetorical gestalt, a 'sign symbol' that forces the viewer to confront seemingly nihilistic linguistic and semiotic ambiguities.  The appropriated phenomenological asymptotic epistemologies inherent in Mr Bryant's work can be seen as less than seminal in this regard.
His 'tree period' really amounts to nothing more than a cheap rehash of 85 year old ideas.

Perhaps Emeryville residents should see this as it really is: less art (or even city planning) and more deceitful cheapening of the public commons.
This is really not a tree

Friday, February 13, 2015

Residential Building Moratorium Loses at City Council

Moratorium Vote Fails 
Even though 3 Vote YES 
& 2 Vote NO

Tonight the Emeryville City Council voted NO in a special meeting to a proposed 45 day residential building moratorium in a three to two vote even though three Council members said YES.  A moratorium vote in Emeryville specifically requires a super majority of four votes.  Developers turned out in force from around the Bay Area urging a NO vote after many promised to amend their former bad ways and start building better projects.
Council member Jac Asher brought the moratorium at the last Council meeting citing a disconnect between what Emeryville residents want and what City planning documents demand versus what is actually being built by developers.    Of chief concern is family friendly housing and more affordable housing.  Council members Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue agreed with Ms Asher while the old Emeryville guard, Nora Davis and Ruth Atkin said NO to the moratorium.
 Ms Asher said the City needs time to reconsider how to bring policy to best deliver what the residents are asking for.

Developers pulled out all the stops trying to turn the tide against an increasingly agitated City Council.  Many of them said they WILL start delivering family friendly housing from now on if the Council would just not pass the moratorium.  One developer stood by his guns claiming there's no way the Council can force family friendly housing.  City Attorney Mike Biddle quoted from federal housing policy stating a family can be comprised of only one person making the whole notion of family housing moot.

The majority of speakers said if the City pauses for 45 days to consider how livability should figure into policy, housing prices will go up and we have to instead pick up the pace of building to keep rental prices low.  Emeryville residents need to stop clamoring for livability and join the region in the push to maximize density everywhere for the good of everybody was the message.  The idea being promulgated is we can build our way to cheap rent if we are willing to let developers call the shots.  Emeryville, they said has been remiss, the City has not been building nearly enough housing.  The word "crisis" was bandied about by several anti-moritorium speakers.   It appeared to be a case of "get the government out of the way of progress".

Invective and superlatives were thrown around by the throng of developers;  the moratorium is a "shockwave", 'unfair", "punishing", and it "puts us in jeopardy"... if a moratorium were approved it would "hurt the City's [pro developer] reputation" they said.
But it was Councilwoman Nora Davis who was the most animated.  The moratorium ordinance is, "one of the worst things I have ever looked at" she told the overfilled Council Chambers.  She didn't stop there, "It's a fraudulent document" she said adding Sacramento will cut off funds to the City were it to pass.  She reserved the most virulent ire to the timing of the issue, noting the City Council shouldn't try to conduct policy at times when developers will be inconvenienced and any Jews among them would be burdened, "It's an insult coming Friday night before a three day weekend.  And it's the Sabbath" she said.  Developers were forced to hold off on starting the long weekend for three hours while the Council voted NO to the moratorium.  Presumably, the Jewish developers made peace with God before exiting the Council Chambers, victorious.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Elementary School Principal Quits After Six Months Paid Administrative Leave

Mesfun Quits, 
Emery on the Hook for $100,000
Superintendent Assumes Responsibility

The Tattler has learned controversial Anna Yates Elementary School principal, Russom Mesfun has quit his job effective January 1st, having served not one day on the job, even though he has drawn pay, close to $66,000, from the Emery Unified School District up until that date.  The total amount the District could be out for no work performed by Mr Mesfun probably is in excess of $100,000 after attorney fees are considered.
District Superintendent John Rubio, who defied warnings from parents and teachers by hiring Mr Mesfun told the Tattler last July he assumes full responsibility for the hire after a Google search of Mr Mesfun's past revealed a plethora of charges against him including a successful lawsuit brought by teachers filed against a school district who had hired him.   Charges also included harassment of teachers under Mr Mesfun's charge at several previous districts where he was an employee.
Superintendent John Rubio
Likely cost the District more
than $100,000 over the
Mesfun debacle.

Emery Superintendent Rubio would only report Russom Mesfun has been on "paid administrative leave" at Emery up until now.

As the School Board considered whether to give Mr Mesfun their OK at a regular Board meeting last summer, Mr Rubio told them Mr Mesfun would make an outstanding principal.  The Board voted 4-1 to hire him with only new member Christian Patz holding out, sternly warning his colleagues against the hire.   Superintendent Rubio seemed to acknowledge Mr Patz's warnings when he assured the Board members he would have the new Anna Yates principal "on a short leash".  The leash was indeed short, leading only up to the first day of school last August, where Mr Mesfun was a no show

The District still will not say why Mr Mesfun never materialized after his hiring but rumors have swirled around Emery that he had harassed teachers before the academic school year started last August. 

The District has since hired a new principal for Anna Yates Elementary School.

The District this week is paying a law firm over $31,000, a large percentage likely earmarked to freeing the District from Mr Mesfun, bringing the total cost to Emery for Mr Rubio's bungled hiring of Russom Mesfun, likely over $100,000, or almost $200 per student, the cost of a Chromebook.  

Happy Birthday to the Tattler

Five Years of Kicking Ass and Taking Names

It's our birthday!  Today, the Emeryville Tattler celebrates our fifth year of takin' out the trash and takin' it to The Man.
During that time, we've made a lot of enemies (and a few friends). We've been called every name in the book from a long list of detractors.
So who's not celebrating with us?  The list is as long as it is authoritative: the City Council, the School Board, the Planning Commission, the Chamber of Commerce, the City Manager, the Planning Director, the City Clerk, the School District, City Hall, the developers, the business elite, the Public Works Director, the City Attorney, right wing lobbying groups, various City Committees, trustees, hall monitors, in fact just about anybody running this town along with their cavalcade of obsequious sycophantic minions.

City Hall, the School District, corporate board rooms; why aren't they celebrating our special day?  It's because we're mean. Our stories are condemnatory and relentless. We don't like to run feel good fluff pieces (except for this one).  Emeryville boosterism makes us retch and we refuse to promote Emeryville business; we don't accept advertising, we're not looking for clicks or praise.  We don't want money.

We're not big on stories when the town gets it right...only when they screw it up. We wake up every morning ready to throw a wrench in the gears.  If it's bad or embarrassing to Emeryville, we'll print it.  The worse it gets, the more we like it.  We love expensive boondoggles. We're all over the Peter Principle.  We flip over flagrant flim flam foolery.  Our stock in trade is top-down malfeasance, hubris and incompetence.  Tax cheats among the elite are something we relish.  Dark back rooms, corruption and ideological dogmatism make us giddy.  Politically connected developers getting special attention get special attention from us.  Conceit and abuse from the powerful and the official we'll cover all day long.  We're keeping score of the pegs and cocksure blowhards, be they at City Hall or from the business community, are always made to be taken down by a few.

We're not normally of a mind to be so demonstrably celebratory but today we unabashedly celebrate the Tattler's five year birthday!  Over the next month, we'll re-post some of our faves and some of our reader's faves from the archives and you'll be able to see what they mean when the rich and powerful call the Emeryville Tattler filth.  It is a blasphemously debased and biased piece of offensive and reprehensible trash.  A repellent and untowardly fallacious bastion of yellow journalism; despicable in its nature and ostentatiously godawful in its vile and untruthful characterizations.  It's venal and detestable.  It makes a mockery of all that is good and pure and pious in the world as it plods along its loathsome and purulent five year trajectory, soiling and defiling everything it touches.  It's really icky.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Talk of Emeryville Building Moratorium Brings Threats of Lawsuits From Outside Business Interests

In the wake of Emeryville's game changing recent election, the Emeryville City Council is considering implementing a temporary moratorium on residential development to carve out enough time to prudently discuss the City's regulations regarding this type of development.  City Hall has been barraged by residents upset at the massive scale and impacts of several proposed projects all coming before the Council at once.  The idea that even a pause would be considered is causing outside business interests to act as if their hair were on fire.  Threats of lawsuits have already erupted that Emeryville residents would have the temerity to consider rethinking the pro-development paradigm in the town.

From the San Francisco Business Times:

Battle brewing over proposed Emeryville residential building moratorium
Feb 11, 2015, 2:38pm PST UPDATED: Feb 11, 2015, 3:53pm PST

Reporter- Roland Li
San Francisco Business Times
Email  |  Twitter
The Emeryville City Council plans to vote Friday on a proposed moratorium on residential construction, a move that has drawn criticism from public policy groups and developers and could lead to legal challenges if it passes.
If at least four of the five Emeryville council members vote to approve the ordinance, approvals for projects seeking entitlements would be frozen for 45 days. The meeting will be held at 5 pm at Emeryville's Civic Center, 1333 Park Ave.
The City Council would have an option to extend the moratorium following another vote. It wasn't immediately clear if the ordinance would also extend to projects that have already received building permits. Multiple requests for comment to the city attorney, Michael Biddle, weren't returned.
The moratorium is a sign that Emeryville, a historically pro-development city, is being swept into a regional housing debate in the face of severe affordability issues that every city in the Bay Area is facing. A moratorium on housing is unprecedented in the Bay Area, opponents said, though residents in Foster City in San Mateo County recently called for just such a move.
Jac Asher, the Emeryville City Council member who proposed the moratorium, said it would give the city more time to study housing issues and develop policies. A draft of the ordinance is expected to be ready Wednesday night, said Asher.
“Issues like family-friendly housing, affordability, ownership have been concerns in our city for a long while. Time and again these issues are talked about as priorities and designated as such in our planning documents," said Asher. "We need to ensure that our plans and goals are well-aligned with our policy-making. The moratorium provides staff time to do an analysis and report back to council."
Ruth Atkin, the mayor of Emeryville, agreed, saying “there's a lot of frustration about the rents going up and up. We've had some high-profile people being displaced."
For example, Emeryville's poet laureate had to move out of the city because of increasing rents, she said. Atkin said that the city would like to see larger apartments for more families and also support more for-sale units rather than apartments.
Atkin said three major projects would be affected by the potential moratorium: redevelopment of the Sherwin Williams factory site, AvalonBay's 6701 Shellmond St. and the Public Market mixed-use project. The first two projects total 720 units and it's unclear how many units might be included in the Public Market project.
For the rest of the story click HERE