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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Emeryville Enters Battle Over Definition of 'Assault Rifle'

If AR-15's Are Assault Weapons, Emeryville Residents Might Not Want Them

News Analysis
Battle lines are being drawn in town over the definition of the term 'assault rifle' after the children of Yuvette Henderson filed suit against the City of Emeryville for her February 3rd wrongful death at the hands of the Emeryville Police Department using such a rifle.  Chief of Police Jennifer Tejada has entered into the fray with a campaign to assure Emeryville residents the AR-15 assault rifles carried by the Emeryville police and specifically used in the shooting of Ms Henderson, are merely regular rifles, with nothing 'assault' about them.

While firearm nomenclature may seem arcane, Emeryville's foray onto the battle ground for control of the term assault rifle is also a consequential nation-wide phenomenon breaking along familiar pro-gun right and anti-gun left positions. The issue it would seem is a matter of opinion with each side using the definition to bolster their side.  Cal Berkeley linguistics professor George Lakeoff notably says it's not really possible to settle on a definition because guns in America have evolved into an issue of personal identity.

Chief Tejada's rejection of the word assault to describe the AR-15 squarely places her in the company of the NRA, the Republican Party as well as Fox News and many other right wing pro-gun groups and radio personalities.  On the other side, those arguing that AR-15's are assault rifles is the 1994 United States Congress and the Democratic Party.  In Emeryville the issue has split the blogosphere; the pro-business opinion blog the E'Ville Eye has sided with Chief Tejada and the NRA, insisting that AR-15's are not assault rifles while the Tattler has sided with the Democrats.
'Emeryville's Police Chief
and the NRA Agree:
These are NOT Assault Rifles' 

The problem the NRA and Chief Tejada has with calling the AR-15 an assault rifle is that only fully automatic guns or guns with "selective fire" should carry the 'assault' designation they say.  The AR-15 it should be noted is semi-automatic, meaning a trigger pull must accompany each bullet fired.
Interestingly however, early on, it was the gun industry itself that started calling the AR-15 and other semi-automatic weapons like it assault weapons.  The industry started a program in the 1970's for the militarization of civilian weapons in look, feel, operation and branding.  Later after Congress attempted to reauthorize the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, the NRA and the gun industry attempted to re-brand assault weapons as "modern sporting rifles".  Now, the NRA defines an assault rifle as "a selective-fire rifle chambered for a cartridge of intermediate power".  To ward off anyone trying to define an AR-15 as an assault rifle, the NRA kicks in the following in their official definition,  "If applied to any semi-automatic firearm regardless of its cosmetic similarity to a true assault rifle, the term is incorrect".
The change at the NRA to redefine assault weapons it should be noted followed the Congressional ban on these weapons.  Early on in its effort to support the gun industry who had interest in increasing sales of these military style guns, the gun lobby was happy to call them assault weapons.  They later sharply reversed themselves after it became clear the assault designation would drive public opinion against them as Congress sought a ban.

The suit filed against the City of Emeryville (see below) will presumably harden Chief Tejada's insistence that AR-15's are not assault rifles but it should be noted she made these claims before the initiation of the October 29th suit.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Breaking News: School Board Member Dice Steps Down

Veteran Emery School Board member Melodi Dice announced last night she will step down as Board Trustee after the December 2nd Board meeting after which she intends on moving to Richmond California.  Ms Dice is an Emery student alumni and the last standing member there since the inception of the Emery Center of 'Community' Life (ECCL).   With the resignation of this last link to the ECCL,  none will be left to take responsibility for its shortcomings it should be noted.  Ms Dice has served on the School Board for 13 years.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Do Emeryville Police Need AR-15 Assault Rifles?

Where's the Public Debate About the Militarization of Emeryville's Police?

The Colt AR-15 Assault Rifle
Carried by Emeryville police
and banned by Congress.
The recent shooting of Yuvette Henderson from an AR-15 military style semi-automatic assault rifle by the Emeryville Police Department begs the question; why are Emeryville police officers driving around our town with these rifles, the same guns banned by the United States Congress in 1994's Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  Disturbingly, the Emeryville Police Department has followed the nation-wide trend of the militarization of police weaponry and like within the rest of the nation, this has happened without a public debate.
The shooting of Ms Henderson is vexing and makes reasonable people note there was a time, not long ago, when our Emeryville police didn't carry assault weapons...then at some point these military style weapons were quietly issued.  The public was never consulted or even notified of this substantial increase in the potential lethality of the weaponry if not the culture at our police department.
In the wake of the killing of a citizen by the Emeryville Police Department with one of these new rifles and with a new chief of police, Jennifer Tejada bringing substantive administrative change, now is the time for the necessary public debate about the militarization of our Emeryville police.

'War on Police' a Right Wing Meme 
Police work is getting safer over time.
In fact it's never been safer than today.
'War on Police'?
Unfortunately, there exists a ready and pat answer from many of the nation's chiefs of police about the rising militarization of police in America and it comes in the form of a false meme about a rising danger to police from criminal's use of increased fire power, what has been referred to as a "war on police".   To the extent that our new Chief of Police may use this fatuous argument, the people of Emeryville stand ready to refute it.  There is no war on police.  In fact the reality is quite the opposite.  Every study conducted on the safety of police work is definitive; it's a safe profession and it's getting safer over time.  Police work doesn't even make it into the 10 deadliest professions in America.  Actuarial studies show construction laborers as facing more deadly threats than cops do.

The 10 Deadliest Jobs: Deaths per 100,000
  1. Logging workers: 128.8
  2. Fishers and related fishing workers: 117
  3. Aircraft pilot and flight engineers: 53.4
  4. Roofers: 40.5
  5. Structural iron and steel workers: 37
  6. Refuse and recyclable material collectors: 27.1
  7. Electrical power-line installers and repairers: 23
  8. Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers: 22.1
  9. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers: 21.3
  10. Construction laborers: 17.4
Out of approximately one million police and law enforcement personnel, with 126 deaths per year, the death rate for police is 12.6 per hundred thousand.
  • From 1970 to 1980 police deaths averaged 231 per year.
  • 1980 to 1989: police deaths averaged 190.7
  • 1990 to 1999: police deaths averaged 161.5
  • 2000 to 2009: police deaths averaged 165
  • 2013 to 2014: police deaths averaged 113.

Further, many chiefs of police and gun lobbying groups nation-wide have used the larger debate on assault weapons to take away from the demonstrative lethality of these AR-15 rifles.  This has come in a denial that the word "assault" be applied to AR-15s from these quarters.  Those loudly asserting the word assault should not be applied to these guns are entitled to their opinions but to use this denial as an attempt to discredit the special deadly effect as recognized by the Congress these weapons have, is not going to be allowed in our local public debate.  We accept what our President and our Congress said about the special lethality of these AR-15 rifles and we hope our new Chief of Police doesn't add her name to those attempting to take anything away from our legitimate concerns regarding these weapons.

Police in Emeryville are well compensated.  They are protected by an able union, their wage provides enough for them to comfortably buy a house in the Bay Area and they receive a generous package of benefits from the people of Emeryville, and that's the way it should be.  Implicit in the bargain is that police officers accept the risk that comes with the job.  We don't want to hear that in order to keep our forces safe, we need to engage in an ever escalating arms race with criminals.  Where do we go next with that argument, rocket propelled grenade launchers?  Are we soon to see RPGs brandished by Emeryville Police?  We hope we don't have to make these absurd points as we begin our public debate.
Are these weapons that the Congress and the President of the United States find so deadly that they were specifically called out in 1994's ban, something we want our Emeryville police driving around with?  Back when police work was much more dangerous than it is today, Emeryville police were armed with their Police Department issued side arms, not assault rifles.  The force could have been issued military style assault weapons back then but in those days, that level of lethality was considered unreasonable.  Why is it an emergency now for this militarization of our police? 

Our police force is ours; it belongs to us.  Are we at least owed a chance to weigh in on this move towards the militarization of our police?
We want answers: why are these military assault weapons necessary for our police to drive around with?  Why has it been considered good policy up until now to leave us in the dark about this?

It's better late than never, so let's start the public debate about the militarization of the Emeryville Police Department now.  We, the people of Emeryville, the owners of the police force, have a right to say how our police are used.
From Newsweek 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Letter to the Tattler: Shirley Enomoto

The following letter was received from Shirley Enomoto:

If you are a homeowner or property owner and thought you had a voice in the recent August 4th PBID (Emery Go Round) election, you are wrong.

I just completed tallying the votes: a total of 1,466 ballots were submitted.  350 voted YES approving the tax and 1,101 votes voted NO in opposition.  The discrepancy in ballots submitted and ballots recorded was caused by boxes not checked or “image destroyed.”

City Hall advised that this tax was approved by 71%.  They did not state 71% of the votes.  What is/was not known is that large businesses and developers have a formula by which they voted and of course controlled the outcome whether anyone else voted or not.  In my opinion this “election” was a sham, rigged and controlled.  The official City of Emeryville ballot states “the proceedings for the proposed PBID ae being taken under the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994, Streets and Highways Code, and Title 3, Chapter 9, Article 1 of the City of Emeryville Municipal Code.  The ballot process is required under Proposition 218 and Sections 53739 and 53750 and following of the Government Code.”

A public hearing was required  “pursuant to the provisions of the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994, Article XIII D of the Constitution of the State of California and the Proposition 218 Omnibus Implementation Act.”  This public hearing was held August 4, 2015, at 7:16 p.m., the same day that ballots were supposed to be submitted, not allowing voters ample time to research this tax.

I am trying to get a simple explanation from City Council members on the formula used on how the developers and large business owners were able to control the vote.  So far I have not heard back.

I have complained all along I refuse to pay this tax which appeared on my property tax statement a few days ago.

Please contact your city council members if you agree with my assessment.

Shirley Enomoto has lived in Emeryville for 19 years and has been a "trouble maker"she says, to City Hall for as many years.  A member of Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE) and a long time volunteer for the schools, Ms Enomoto has also long rallied for fair treatment for senior citizens.  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

City Council Moves to Increase Housing Affordability to 12%

Council Makes Bid For Greater Affordability for Renters

Residential Developers to Face 
New 'Bonus Point' Program

But Will It Work?

News Analysis
Last Tuesday, the City Council finally took up the problem of a flawed and overly lenient set of planning and zoning regulations that have heretofore allowed and even encouraged a plethora of overpriced for rent studio and one bedroom apartments to be built in Emeryville over the last several years.  It's been a problem the residents and even the developers themselves have been in agreement about: rents keep skyrocketing and something needs to be done about it.  Tuesday, the Council finally did something about it.  They have imposed a set of incentives to encourage developers to built new residential development with 12% affordable units included in the mix.  But with an opt-out the Council provided allowing developers to simply write a check to the City instead of building affordable units in a project, will Emeryville actually achieve greater affordability moving forward?
The numbers as they say, don't 'pencil out' for a good outcome for affordability.

The Background
Emeryville has been on a major housing spree over the last 20+ years, filling our town with luxury apartment blocks, doubling our population.  Before last November's election when there was a pro-developer Council majority at the helm, developers were given a green light to do whatever they wanted regarding building housing.  Now however they're facing a more circumspect City Council majority.  Developers are insisting we keep up the building boom, citing the economic law of supply and demand, insisting rental rates will finally go down if the Council will only let them build out the last few parcels of land left in Emeryville with market rate housing.  So their solution to the problem of overpriced rentals is to build more of them.  But Emeryville has already built more than its share of market rate housing, especially rental housing.  In fact, we have more than doubled what the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) recommended for our town as documented in their Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).
Ironically, before the decades long building spree, affordability wasn't on the mind of anyone in Emeryville.  The doubling of our housing stock has only served to decrease affordability, despite the contrary proclamations of economic laws from profit seeking developers.
Seeking to disrupt the spiral of unaffordability, the City Council majority last February moved to impose a temporary moratorium on large new residential projects for the last parcels of fallow land left but they were rebuffed by the old guard of the Council in a 3-2 vote requiring a super majority 4-1 vote.  The failure of the moratorium is what is driving this Council majority's new policy proscription.

The Solution
Emeryville isn't completely without affordable units.  The Planning Department at City Hall puts the number at 11.17% city-wide as of now.  The new Bonus Point system proposal seeks to increase that number to 12%, still low by Bay Area standards but an improvement over the current condition.
The developers can still build 'by right' whatever they want regarding including affordable units.  A 'by right' project bumps up against our zoning and planning regulations as spelled out by our General Plan, the document Emeryville residents crafted to make the town they want to live in.  However developers, always seeking ways to maximize their profits, routinely request permission to build bigger projects than the General Plan normally allows, bigger than what they can build by right.  The permission is granted in the form of 'bonus points'.  This is essentially a baked in set of negotiating parameters between the developers and City Hall.  If a developer wants say a taller building, he must provide something to temper the project, like traffic amelioration.  To be included in the new list of bonus points is the 12% affordability plan. Developers will get the points they want to increase their project's density if they build in at least 12% affordable units as prescribed by City Hall.  
'Affordability will move 
from 11.17% up to 12% 
if everything works 
according to plan'

However, the Council is proposing developers can still get their bonus points without building the affordable units on-site by cutting an in lieu check to City Hall who will later build the required number of affordable units off-site in Emeryville.  The idea of off-site affordable units it should be noted, tends to turn its head away from contemporary ideas about mixed income residences peppered throughout the city and embraces the old Robert Moses model of geographically cordoning off housing projects for poor people.

Council Second Guesses Its Own Study
Much of the talk at the Council chambers Tuesday centered around the in lieu off-site idea.  The question before the Council was the amount of money the developers should pay in lieu of building the required affordable rental units on-site.  Implicit in that argument is the idea that the money paid should equal what it would take to build the required off-site units.  An Emeryville funded nexus study on this (the Keyser Marston Study) that showed the market in our region will bear some $35,000 in lieu fee per required affordable unit but the City Council regardless settled on a $28,000 per unit fee, the same as what the City of Berkeley currently charges.  However the City of Berkeley conducted a nexus study of their own recently and strangely, that study showed an $85,000 market rate for replacement off-site affordable housing.  Presumably the newly revealed higher replacement costs revealed by the new study will drive Berkeley to increase their developer fees accordingly.

All of this drives the question of what does it really cost to build affordable housing?  Is the City Council hamstringing us by not charging developers what it actually costs to build off-site?  Will taxpayers be left holding the bag?  Or will we simply fall behind and drive down our affordability?  For years Emeryville built affordable housing using the Redevelopment Agency.  Presumably, the cost per unit the Redevelopment Agency paid is known.  These are the numbers the City Council should be guided by.  Barring that, Emeryville's affordability will go up or down over time, showing everyone if this Council's stated desire to increase affordability for our town is genuine.  The actual numbers will reveal all.

The City Council will engage in a second and final reading of the ordinance containing the new bonus point system at the November 3rd Council meeting.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

RULE Meeting

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Closed Door Meeting: Will School Board End Run Around Parents/Citizens & Close School?

Will Our Elementary School Be Sold
Without Public Weigh In?

What Happened to Our Promised Public Forum on 
Anna Yates?

Let's just say transparency isn't their strong suit.
After many years of insisting Emeryville's elementary school on 41st Street be closed in order to facilitate the Emery Unified School District's vision of a Kindergarten through 12th grade campus at the Center of 'Community' Life on San Pablo Avenue, the School Board, under pressure from an angry onslaught of parents and citizens last April, finally buckled, promising to allow and facilitate a public forum on the school's fate.  Now, it appears from a mysterious School Board closed session item just announced, the Board might be ready to break that promise.
Either that or they're ready to commit a massive Brown Act violation.  Not a reassuring eventuality, either way.

The turmoil centers around an announcement made today at the District when an official told the Tattler the School Board will be discussing a "conference with a real property negotiator" for Anna Yates Elementary School in closed session at an upcoming Board meeting, possibly later in the month.  That would mean the School Board intends to either lease or sell the elementary school, presumably to a private charter school, something they have long said emphatically they will not do and it would represent a default on their promise to parents and citizens to allow a public forum on possibly keeping the school open.

If instead, the Board intends on using the announced closed session for internal discussions for how to best use the elementary school for the District's own use, as rumors have indicated they may (but why the real estate angle?), that would need to be a public discussion and it would represent a violation of the Brown Act were it to happen behind closed doors as is planned.
The Brown Act, sometimes known as the Sunshine Act, is a suite of California legal directives that details how public meetings must be held, generally giving deference to the public right to know over government's desire for secrecy.  The law makes it difficult for decision makers to try to end run around the provisions of the Act, in case the School Board may be thinking of trying to get creative in skirting the law.  Of course for the law to be upheld, it has to have a champion and whistle blower and that's where Board member Christian Patz, the sole member among them that has shown an interest in transparency, will stand on guard if needs be (we hope).
Board President John Affeldt
He promised us a public forum on the fate
of Anna Yates Elementary School last April.
We're still waiting.
Is he now planning to foreclose on that forum?

Terrible History
The lack of transparency is what this District is about and it's all over its history. The closure of Anna Yates Elementary School has been doggedly pursued by the District since the Center of 'Community' Life was conceived more than 10 years ago but the District always assured residents they (the residents) would have the final say on that.  After the Measure J school bond ballot initiative passed in 2010, the public vetting of the possible closing of the school was supposed to be addressed in the subsequent design phase of the Center of 'Community' Life public meetings.  That never happened.
In response, some 73 parents and citizens wrote the now infamous May 2012 letter demanding the District honor its promise to allow the community to decide about Anna Yates.  The letter was summarily ignored. Instead the School Board voted unilaterally to close the school in November 2012.  Later in April 2015 after an angry mob showed up at a Board meeting demanding the District allow a public forum on closing the school, Board President John Affeldt relented, promising a meeting on the subject after first warning parents and citizens he had already made up his mind on the closure of Anna Yates, a statement he later felt compelled to retract.

The John Affeldt promised meeting is to be a first public vetting of the idea that Anna Yates Elementary School should be closed and we eagerly await Mr Affeldt to make good on his promise made last April to allow this.  But if this upcoming closed door mystery meeting with real estate agents represents yet another reneging and another foreclosure on the public's right to weigh in on this important community issue, Emeryville parents and residents alike will have every right to kick out these arrogant and duplicitous School Board members.  The story of the closure of our elementary school in Emeryville is one of the worst examples of government malfeasance in our town's history...and I needn't remind anyone of our terrible history on that score.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Surging Seas: Republicans or Not, Here We Come

In the event the Bay Area can't get it together to build the largest, most complex and the most expensive dike ever built in the world (across the Golden Gate, up to 335 feet deep with violent currents moving 2.3 million cubic feet per second) over the next few decades or so (the replacement of the Bay Bridge eastern span took 25 years), Emeryville's moistened future can be viewed at the link below:

We're Screwed! 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Chosen Builder for Sherwin Williams Site Implicated in Bribery and Influence Peddling Scheme

Criminal Allegations:
Crooked Builder Selected to Develop Emeryville's Sherwin Williams Site

Lennar Urban Illegally Paid Concord Mayor 
With Project Pending

The East Bay city of Concord is reeling this week after it has been revealed their mayor illegally accepted money from Lennar Urban, a prominent builder under consideration to build a major housing project in that city and also selected to build the Sherwin Williams Project, a major housing project for Emeryville.  An unnamed number of Concord city council members have also been implicated in the Lennar bribery and influence peddling allegations that were capped on Tuesday with a dramatic turn when investigating Concord City Attorney Mark Coon leaped off a building to his death.

Mayor Tim Grayson accepted $16,800 from Lennar while the City has been considering selecting Lennar to be the lead builder for the 12,000 housing project know as the Concord Reuse Project, a proposal for the development of the existing Concord Naval Weapons Station.

Lennar, a large San Francisco based developer took over Emeryville's Sherwin Williams project as the primary applicant late last year with original developers SRM Earnst and Thompson Dorfman continuing to participate.

Concord has placed the Reuse Project on hold while the investigation of Lennar continues.  Emeryville officials were unavailable for comment on the implications for the Sherwin Williams Project from the Lennar allegations.

Readers can read more HERE and HERE.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Construction Delay at Center of 'Community' Life; High School Won't be Ready on Time

High School at Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life Behind Schedule Again

Not Opening in January as Promised

The Superintendent of Emeryville Schools has conceded that Emery High School at the Center of 'Community' Life, will not be ready for students at the start of the new semester in January as had been promised earlier, leaving students without a certain school location as of now, the Tattler has learned.
The new delay, apparently a problem with the elevators at the two-story school, is the second one for the beleaguered project, coming on the heels of an earlier construction delay that pushed back the opening of the school to January 2016 from the original August 2015 proposal.
Emery's Superintendent, John Rubio, refused to comment on the latest delay.

Superintendent Rubio told the Emery School Board at their September retreat that Turner Construction, the lead construction company contracted to build the Center of 'Community' Life, would finish construction in March 2016 and that students could move into the new facilities at that time, in mid semester.  Mr Rubio indicated he was in negotiation with the Oakland Unified School District seeking to secure a new agreement to continue Emery's current arrangement to lease Oakland's Santa Fe School.
Emery has been using the Santa Fe Elementary School as its temporary site for Emery High School as the new school is being built at the San Pablo Avenue site of the Center of 'Community' Life.  The lease with Oakland was earlier re-negotiated to cover the first construction delay, adding an additional $1.5 million dollar cost for Emery, but Oakland at the time cautioned there would be no more lease extensions because they intend to remodel the school to get it prepared for the start of the 2016/17 school year for their own students.  Presumably Oakland agreed to the latest re-negotiation with Emery because they determined it would not interfere with their remodeling plans for Santa Fe School.
In addition to twice missing the finish date, the Center of 'Community' Life is also over budget and the School Board is exploring issuing another school bond to pay for the cost overruns.  Among others, the swimming pool has come in at least 200% over budget and has caused much consternation among City Council members since City Hall is on the hook for the extra costs.

Superintendent Rubio noted he intends on issuing a statement regarding the newest construction delay soon.