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Friday, January 27, 2017

Mayor's 'State of the City' Address Premier at RULE Meeting

From RULE:

RULE is please to host Emeryville Mayor Scott Donahue for a presentation on current priorities of our City Council.  

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

Making our city a great place to live and work!  Come and plan for the year ahead with your progressive neighbors

Where:  5514 Doyle St., first floor common room
When:  Sat., Jan. 28, 10:00 - 12:00

-Mayor Scott Donahue gives the premiere iteration of his "State of the City" presentation....what's coming up, what's important to the new City Council. Have your say.             
-Plans and goals for 2017, all are welcome to have input.

Bring breakfast and tea provided

See you there!  
Judy Timmel, RULE Steering Committee

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Emeryville Public Library: Promised, Not Delivered

Library Bait & Switch?
We Paid $95 Million for a Library, 
Where Is It?

Public Cafe, Jobs Training Center and Solar Panels 
Also Promised But Missing

City/School District Won't Say 

In 2010, the 73% of Emeryville voters who voted to tax themselves $95 million for a public library at the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life and have seen their property taxes go up commensurately now that the Center has been finished these past five months, would be expected to wonder why no such library has been built. These same residents might also wonder why the job training center they also paid for has not been provided at the ECCL, nor has the cafe associated with the library they paid for been built.  Additionally, they voted for solar panels on the roof at the Center of 'Community' Life, presumably saving these same taxpayers money on electricity.  It was all paid for but none of it has been provided.
Distressingly, a year after the Tattler began a campaign to get some public accountability on this paid for infrastructure, we're no farther along as far as answers are concerned.  Officials at the City of Emeryville and the Emery School District still publicly say eventually these amenities will be built but they're not saying when, "We are exploring that" says City Manager Carolyn Lehr.
Privately, two officials who wished to remain anonymous told us they doubt these promised projects of the ECCL will ever get built.

Before the Measure J election in 2010, a public record in documents and video recordings of promises to provide the amenities was built up, leaving the City and the School District now exposed.  Measure J was the ballot initiative that brought the Center of 'Community' Life and was famously oversold as many have pointed out.  What beckoned at the ECCL as an aching to be filled up wish list for politicians seeking favor, easy in 2010, now becomes a sword of Damocles it would seem.

Former City Councilwoman Jennifer West who urged passage of Measure J told the Tattler recently she is particularly concerned about the fact that the public library with its promised public cafe has not been built, "The Council and the staff need to understand this was the goal.  It was sold to the public as part of the ECCL package" she said.
Ms West told prospective voters on her Council blog in 2010 to vote for Measure J, stating, "The library is another need in our area. According to the Oakland Public Library, this geographical area is under served and needs an expansion or an additional library.  A great school needs a library as well and by combining the library needs of both the schools and the public, we can create the efficiencies of scale to serve all users much better."  The former Mayor West used her blog to warn the community to remain vigilant, presciently expressing concern about "trust in our elected officials and leaders on this project".

The jobs training center was to be available for students at Emery but also it was sold to voters as an integral part of the Community Center and its services were to be available to the whole community.  The jobs center isn't even on the radar at this point; Pedro Jimenez, head of the Emeryville Community Services Department told the Tattler, "I'm unaware of it" and he said he doesn't know where it would even go if it were to be built.
Racks of solar panels that the voters authorized and taxpayers paid for at the ECCL were supposed to have been installed offsetting the electrical tab and saving taxpayers money but they have not been and officials would not say whether there are any specific plans to install them.

The public library, the job training center and the solar panels were explicitly part of the Measure J bond project list that was approved by voters in 2010 and likely must be provided by law since general obligation bond financing was used under the aegis of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the laws commensurate with that body.  Failure to comply with the terms of the bond sales could constitute fraud.
The cafe, as promised in City and School District documents as well as elucidated in many public meetings leading up to the vote, is not required by law to build, just ethics.

By 2015, it was becoming clear the ECCL project would not deliver all that was promised prompting then Emery School Board member and now City Councilman Christian Patz to muse, "Philosophically I agree with a lot of the concepts [of the ECCL]" he told the Hechinger Report, "but the execution has not been as promised".
Former Mayor Jac Asher was less circumspect, telling the Hechinger Report she didn't think the shared space idea behind the school/public library then touted would work, being "oversubscribed" as she said it would be.  The small parcel size of the ECCL space would drive this oversubscribing she said and called attempts to work out joint use by all stakeholders a 'logistical nightmare' for teachers and staff.

As far as the City of Emeryville is concerned as of now, these promised amenities will be built eventually but they refuse to commit to a date, "I can't give a date..." said Carolyn Lehr Emeryville City Manager, "it's not a simple thing".  However she did acknowledge the City is on the hook for providing the promised infrastructure, "I understand we're charged with bringing it forward" she said.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pledge of Allegiance Out, This Land is Your Land In

Fox News Bait:
This Land is Our Land-
No Allegiance to the Pledge of Allegiance in Emeryville

In yet another sure sign Emeryville has turned away from its conservative former self, last night the loyalty oath to God and country aka the Pledge of Allegiance was booted out of Emeryville and replaced with the lilting lyrics of a soft spoken Great Depression era populist from Oklahoma whose collectivist vision of America is sure to rile the feathers of more than a few conservatives.  The City Council voted to dispense with the standard recital of the Pledge of Allegiance before every meeting to now raising voices in a chorus of This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie at the start of each Council meeting from now on.
A lack of allegiance to the new President
 probably had something to do with the
City Council's decision to jettison
the Pledge of Allegiance.
 Mayor Scott Donahue led the drive to quit with the traditional recital of the Pledge at Emeryville City Council meetings but he acknowledged its positive community unifying effects and he suggested the community instead sing a verse or two of the popular 40's era song about how we're all in this boat together.  The Mayor's Council colleagues were quick to agree the Pledge has no place at Council meetings, especially with its god references but they only reluctantly signed onto the idea of singing and the vote to change the rules and procedures for the City to include This Land is Your Land won in a 3-2 split decision.  Council members Ally Medina and Christian Patz, self deprecating of their singing skills, outright said they would not be singing.
The Council also directed the City Clerk to prepare verses of a pledge to the California Constitution and the US Constitution for the Council members to make before they join the community in the singing in the People's Hall.

The Tattler has long advocated for dispensing with the McCarthyist loyalty oath that is the Pledge of Allegiance, it being quintessentially un-American with its calls for unswerving obedience and relinquishing of agency.  It would appear the Council agreed last night but singing the Woody Guthrie song before every meeting was the Mayor's idea.

The era of the Pledge of Allegiance in Emeryville, decades ensconced at City Hall, is now over; the new procedures are to be installed for the start of the first meeting in February at City Hall.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Wareham Development Seeks $3/4 Million Tax Rebate

Wareham Now Wants Retroactive Tax Credit After Transit Center Approval

Wareham Development Corporation, among developers, Emeryville's largest receiver of government largess, is seeking a retroactive rebate and credit of almost $729,000 from the City's developer impact fee schedule for Horton Street's Transit Center because four bus bays associated with the office tower will assist "public transportation facilities", something the developer claims the City agreed to, an argument that will be presented Tuesday.  A reading of the municipal code however negates Wareham's claim, a fact that will be presented by City Hall staff when the City Council considers whether to grant Wareham the tax relief Tuesday night at their regularly scheduled meeting.

The Transit Center
The 165' tall building will have four bus bays 
(hence 'transit').  The City Council overturned the 
Planning Commission who rejected the 
Transit Center because it has 
"too little public benefit". 
The Transit Center, a beleaguered and controversial project, features a 165' tall office building with 250,000 square feet of floor area and (together with it's parking structure across the street) will have almost 900 parking spaces.  It required special density bonuses to be granted to build the main tower over 100', leaving the developer's rebate in jeopardy the City says.   At issue is language in the municipal code that would preclude the City from giving the rebate to Wareham stating, 'no credit shall be provided against impact fees otherwise owed if an applicant has received a development bonus in accordance with the Planning Regulations for providing the specific facility'.
Wareham CEO Rich Robbins
Emeryville's most connected developer.
Not satisfied with all he's gotten from Emeryville 

up until now, he's been lobbying the City Council 
trying to get them to give him another gift of cash
Tuesday at the taxpayers expense. 

A vote by the City Council in Wareham's favor would rack up one more approbation from City Hall for the Transit Center, adding to the well documented litany of favors already showered upon Rich Robbins, Wareham's politically connected CEO.

The Transit Center project has already received indulgences from City Hall in the form of tax relief and forgiveness from codified internal City Hall adverse constraints; the General Plan was amended to exclude the 55 foot height limit at the future Transit Center site to allow for taller buildings there and the City Council put taxpayers on the hook for financing the project with public money by way of unprecedented tax increment financing, a deal that lets Wareham avoid taxes for 12 years that normally that would be paid to City Hall if the developer were to finance the project with his own money.  Additionally, Mr Robbins announced after approval was given for the project he would not remove all the toxic soil from the project site, regardless of former claims to the contrary; the main reason given for the project by former City Councilwoman Nora Davis and her colleagues.  Unabashedly, concerns over the remaining toxic soil on the site triggered Mr Robbins to get the City Council to agree to a 'no lawsuit clause', making it impossible to make the people of Emeryville whole, should a future problem occur.

Mr Robbins, a perennially favored developer with many friends on the former City Council, for years railed against the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, worried the 1800 car trips per day his project will put onto the boulevard would tend to make the City Council, with the public watching, skittish about approval for the project. However the Council has opted instead to ignore the 3000 vehicle trip per day constraints called out in Emeryville's Bike Plan for the street, letting Mr Robbins put all the extra traffic on the street unimpeded, regardless of its bike boulevard status.  Earlier, Mr Robbins incredulously maintained not one project generated car would use Overland Street (part of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard).  The 'not one car' claim was codified into an environmental document prepared for the project called a Mitigated Negative Declaration and was later found to be fraudulent. The claim drew strong condemnation from Jim Martin, the former Chair of the Planning Commission.
Sensing the irony of the glut of traffic generated by the ostensible bus/train project, former City Councilman Ken Bukowski was moved to publicly proclaim the Transit Center more accurately be called the "Automobile Center".  The Planning Commission rejected the Transit Center and then later again, rejected the Transit Center a second time, calling the project 'too short on public benefit', a cause former City Councilwomen Jennifer West and Jac Asher took up in their dissenting votes against the project on the Council.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pledge of Allegiance: Its Days Are Numbered in Emeryville

Emeryville Patriotism in the Age of Trump

Publicly Administered Loyalty Oath 
At City Hall Should Exit With Trump's Entrance

"I pledge allegiance to the United States...".  "Without benefit of critical thinking, I swear my loyalty"- how's that sound, especially now that Donald Trump will wield near supreme power?  How about, "No matter what Donald Trump has planned for us, I pledge my allegiance to him".  How's that sound?  Those stand-in pledges can now be construed to be at the black heart of the Pledge of Allegiance, an un-American loyalty oath wherein the speaker unthinkingly gives up his or her own agency to do the bidding of the federal government (and by extension, its executive).  Starting on January 20th the beneficiary of that bidding has a new neo-fascist face most Emeryville residents will be uncomfortable with.
The American loyalty oath, before bootcamp-like in its coercive adherence, now suddenly seems positively Pyongyang-like.
The eagle wants us to make a pledge of allegiance:
to ban pesticides and end habitat destruction. 
That is unless the Emeryville City Council does its patriotic duty and dispels with the public administering of the Pledge of Allegiance before every Council meeting; something they have pledged, so to speak, to consider at the Council meeting on January 17th.

A change in how our local government sanctifies its democratic legitimacy is shaping up.  Mayor Scott Donahue is directing the Council to consider all manner of loyalty oath Pledge replacement possibilities to satisfy the function of bringing the community together at public City Council meetings including the singing of the Woody Guthrie classic 'This Land is Your Land' and/or the public recital of Walt Whitman poetry.  It represents an important shift away from the banal provincialism of Emeryville reliant on kitsch sophistry as it is to a more aspirational civic engagement as it could be.

Many towns in the Bay Area don't do the loyalty pledge before their public meetings.  Indeed, there's no law saying the oath must be administered, so why do we do it?  We can see plenty that's put at risk by administering the oath but nothing that can be gained that couldn't be gained by a less authoritarian and demanding avowal such as the populist unifying hosannas from Mr Guthrie or Mr Whitman.

“May we think of freedom, 
not as the right to do as we please, 
but as the opportunity to do what is right.” 
- Walt Whitman

Besides the oath being un-American, we've noticed the City Council, while asking us to join them in reciting the oath, don't like to say it themselves.  Even former Councilwoman Nora Davis (how we love to say that), the premier conservative on the Council, stood silently as do her colleagues whenever the oath is being administered.  It is the crowd in the Council chambers, cowed as they are, that freely give away their agency hands on hearts and sign on to relinquishing their critical thinking rights so wantonly as they speak the words.  The hypocrisy of this Council on this score has been blinding; if you're going to ask us to say the pledge, don't you think at least you yourself should say it, City Council?

Under God
Kicked to the curb: Jesus wants us to
continue praising him at City Hall.
Nonetheless, now it would seem, those days are behind us.  We like the Mayor's idea especially of having the community unite in song with the palliative effects brought on from This Land is Your Land with its Trump-canceling collectivist vision of our community and country.  This will likely get the right wing all agog and agitated, a nice side benefit.
The Council will also consider various non-theocratic pledges, for instance from a contest held by TheHumanist however inspiring as some may be, those represent just more of the same; a pledge.  The government should not ask our community to pledge it anything.  Loyalty is to be earned, not coerced.  We urge the Council to reject the Pledge of Allegiance being replaced with another pledge, even one that kicks Jesus to the curb.

We hope this City Council rejection of the American loyalty oath will spill over to the School District where it's needed at least as much as at City Hall.  We have long been agitating against the Council led administrating of the McCarthyist loyalty oath especially at the School Board meetings.  How blinkered is it we have to ask, that the School District spends so much time teaching the value of critical thinking skills to the students only to subvert that message every School Board meeting when everyone enters collective amnesia and again nearly on automatic, goes through the anti-critical saccharine display of phony rectitude and piety.   Back in the dark days of 2011, the School Board was on the verge of dispensing with the loyalty oath but reactionary forces rose up to make sure the District stayed on the straight and narrow with God and country.

It shouldn't take the terrifying idea of President Trump to spur the City Council into action on this and we're not sure if that's indeed what was instrumental in their turn around; really it doesn't matter.  We just welcome rationality in association with public policy at City Hall and we applaud the Council for this symbolic but still important rejection of heretofore unneeded and unhelpful nonsense.

We're a community here that has allegiances we'd like to proclaim, yes, but we're a community that has allegiance to redwood forests, gulf stream waters and the collectivist idea that the land was made for you and me.