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Friday, August 18, 2017

Follow Up Friday: Pledge of Allegiance Quietly Dropped at School Board Meetings

Loyalty Oath Coercion Deemed Inappropriate at School District 

Follow Up Friday: we look back on previous stories; what's happened after our spotlight shined on it?  If there was a problem identified, has it been solved?  Has there been no change and the amount of elapsed time made the issue newsworthy again by virtue of that fact?  Look to Follow Up Friday to wrap it all up or to highlight for us all how lame our city can be.


First it was the Emeryville City Council meetings, and now it's the Emery School Board meetings: it seems a wave of godless communism has washed over our city.  Or non-divisive rational politics.
A spokesperson from the Emery Unified School District who wishes anonymity reports that Superintendent John Rubio and Board President Donn Merriam have decided the loyalty oath known as the Pledge of Allegiance has no place at School Board meetings and it's been quietly dropped.

Long Time Coming
After decades of dutifully administering the Pledge before meetings, suddenly the Board announced they would consider eliminating the controversial religious and robotic loyalty oath in 2011 after parents complained.  At the time, then Board President Josh Simon told the Tattler he expected they would eventually remove the Pledge agenda item from meetings but cautioned it would take "more than a month or two" of deliberations.

The Tattler long made hay of the mindless recital of the Pledge, noting it had the effect of cancelling out a self stated School District goal that students learn critical thinking skills.  It was an argument that parents took up, several making their views known to the Board.  In the end, the Board deliberations, if they even occurred, stretched on for six more years before they dropped the god and country 'right or wrong' trope and succumbed to rationality based non-divisive meetings earlier this month.

The City Council voted to remove the loyalty oath from public meetings in January after years of cajoling from the Tattler.  It's noteworthy and likely telling the Council finally took action on this fake patriotism right before President Trump took office, avoiding the unseemly spectacle of Emeryville City Council members effectively pledging their loyalty to Donald Trump.
Watching their lips closely over the last few years, it became more and more obvious that neither the City Council members nor the Board members themselves were actually verbalizing the Pledge after they had been asking the public to "stand and join" them each time.
Emeryville from 1896 to 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Acquiescent City Council End Runs Around Noise Ordinance


All Developers Get Free Pass on 
Noise Ordinance 

New Interpretation Strips Ordinance of Meaning

"Public Benefit" Drives Waivers
Diminished Law Exists Only Now in Name


News Analysis/Opinion
The Emeryville City Council moved to greatly expand the conditions for noise ordinance waiver requests from developers on July 25th when the developer of the Public Marketplace was issued a permit to work on Saturdays in order to “finish the project more quickly”.  The new paradigm revealed itself when the Council majority (Patz, Medina dissenting) ceded to the pleading developer after they found that because the project has public benefit, ipso facto a waiver should therefore be granted.  The bold new idea is that any project that has public benefit should supersede and be allowed to bypass the public’s expectation for peace and quiet. To speed the benefit of the project to the public you understand.

How thoughtful of them.

In fact it was a remarkably egregious City Council assessment that turned a deaf ear to the original precepts for Emeryville’s beleaguered noise ordinance but perhaps more astonishing was not what was said, rather what was left unsaid: every development project approved by the City of Emeryville has public benefit.  They don’t get approved around here if they are found to not have public benefit.  And that means every development from now on gets a carte blanche noise ordinance waiver.  It’s taken as a tautology.  And that means there’s no need for the City of Emeryville to have a noise ordinance any more.
Mayor Scott Donahue &
Councilwoman Dianne Martinez

They swear to get developers their
noise ordinance waivers.

Frankly, we’ll miss watching developers squirm before the cameras.  For the new metrics of the noise ordinance finally puts to bed the endless procession of poor, woeful developers sheepishly appearing before the City Council asking for waivers for a host of reasons including the ever popular ‘rain delay’.  Because rain unexpectedly falling in the rainy season is not something that could be planned for so can you give us a break Emeryville City Council? (because who could have anticipated THAT?), made even more brazenly when it was invoked by Turner Construction as they built the ECCL during last year’s worse ever drought in California.  Sometimes developers will dispense with all that and report they should get a waiver just because they really, really want one (as Wareham Devlopment did recently). 
Each time since the ordinance was encoded, developers seeking waivers have publicly contorted or even debased themselves, the Council has felt their pain and granted a waiver, no matter the reason provided.  The groveling spectacle has brought much comic relief to the sometimes boring Council meetings; watching these greedy developers go through their stations of the cross before the Council (themselves also performing for the cameras, feigning resident fealty), on the road to delivering their maximized quarterly profits to their shareholders.
Vice Mayor John Bauters
It's best if we can speed
up these projects.
The noise ordinance only
slows them down.

The new interpretation of the ordinance; dispensing with the sideshow of developers carping about what constitutes a reasonable hardship and simply granting the waivers pell mell based on speeding up public benefit will certainly speed up the meetings and remove embarrassment for all concerned but we have an even better idea. Let’s stop the charade and finally get rid of this asinine noise ordinance of ours.  It’s never worked as it was intended to and has only served to give a sense of legitimacy for our town (see? Emeryville’s got a noise ordinance too, just like real cities).  

The removal of the Noise Ordinance, if the Council has the cajones to do it, will finally bring some kind of silence, if only poetic;  it’s abolishment will likely happen quietly in the night.  Residents will not notice any change whatsoever in the extra weekend traffic, dust and loud construction.  That goes on unabated in Emeryville, with or without a noise ordinance. 
Earns One Smiling Nora Davis!
Nora Davis Smiles Down on 

Scott Donahue, Dianne Martinez 
and John Bauters.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Follow Up Friday: EBI Pedestrian Path



EBI Path Traded Away, Nothing Gained

City Hall Promises Forsaken

Introducing a new Tattler feature: Follow Up Friday.  We look back on previous stories; what's happened after our spotlight shined on it?  If there was a problem identified, has it been solved?  Has there been no change and the amount of elapsed time made the issue newsworthy again by virtue of that fact?  Look to Follow Up Friday to wrap it all up or to highlight for us all how lame our city can be.

The City of Emeryville has reneged on its own requirement to spend $525,000 to build a replacement pedestrian amenity, money made in trade for removing a developer's requirement to build a bike path at a San Pablo Avenue construction project in 2016.  The EBI pedestrian path, a General Plan mandated pedestrian corridor would have connected 45th and 47th streets and helped pedestrians in the Triangle neighborhood make north/south connections in that notoriously disconnected neighborhood.
  
The EBI Path was "in the can", all the details worked out and ready for construction.  Residents in the Triangle neighborhood would now be using the path except the City Council in April of 2016 voted to amend our General Plan to remove the path at the insistence of the Escuela Bilingue Internacional, a private school on San Pablo Avenue.
At the time, the City Council told Triangle residents they needed more exercise and the removal of the short-cut path would force them to walk more, a good thing.  Providing other reasons to remove the pedestrian amenity, the Council also stated the path would be a safety risk and asserted gang rapists would be lurking there.
Nonetheless, after giving away the path, the Council told Emeryville residents they would use the in-leau fees paid by EBI to instead make a replacement path connecting the same streets but further east.  The Tattler reported that switch would cost an additional million dollars at least but the City officially continued to work towards that goal.
Until recently.
The mid-block replacement connection nixed, City Hall has now also ruled out using the EBI money to open the long lost "Pickle Works" path connecting Doyle and 53rd streets, long a source of frustration for bikers and walkers seeking convenience in our town and once talked about as an alternate thing to spend the EBI money on.  High costs associated with seizing the property from a private land holder is cited as the reason.

Any replacement path would cost more than the $525,000 the City got from EBI and the budget being in turmoil at City Hall such that it is, it appears pedestrian needs, once traded away, will not be addressed by Emeryville. City Hall has no plans whatsoever to replace the lost EBI pedestrian path, the money remains unspent and pedestrian needs unmet.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Alameda County District Attorney Brings Charges in Emery Sexual Assault Case

District Attorney's Charge Questions Emery Schools Superintendent's Aplomb

Rubio Twists in the Wind

News that the Alameda County District Attorney's office has brought charges against a 17 year old student for sexually assaulting a 15 year old at Emery Secondary School last May and not reported to police by the Superintendent brings fresh allegations in the ongoing story against the Superintendent who continues to claim he was correct to not call the police upon learning of the assault.  News of the charges brought by the County was reported by East Bay Times investigative reporter Matthias Gafni today who also alerted readers that Emeryville's Chief of Police has backtracked on initial reports that Mr Rubio had violated mandated reporter law by not calling the police after he learned about the alleged assault (along with another alleged assault the week before at Emery).
Mr Rubio's insistence he did nothing wrong by not calling the police is refuted by Bill Grimm, senior attorney for the National Center for Youth Law whom the East Bay Times story quotes, "School personnel mistakenly believe that they need to conduct some investigation of suspected abuse/neglect before they report [to police]...If in doubt, report!"

The mandated reporter law requires professionals who work with children, including teachers, school administrators, psychologists and others to notify police or child protective services when they receive a report of alleged abuse.  The law states that “No proof of abuse or neglect is needed, only ‘reasonable suspicion’ that child abuse or neglect may have occurred.” 
Emery Schools Superintendent
John Rubio

He says he knows the children lied
about the assaults.  The Alameda County
District Attorney believes the children.
The Superintendent has invoked a clause within the mandated reporter law that permits someone such as a school superintendent to not report if there is absolute certainty no crime happened.  For Mr Rubio, who was not witness to the alleged crimes, to not be guilty of the law's failure to report provisions, he would have to have no doubt whatsoever that the incidents did not take place and be in a position to provide reasonable evidence to support that claim.

However, Mr Rubio's claim is severely weakened by the fact that the guardians of the abused children thought the assaults had taken place and they themselves, without the District's help, filed police reports.  Further eroding Mr Rubio's claims of innocence is today's revelation from the East Bay Times that Alameda County puts enough stock in the belief that at least one assault took place that they directed prosecutors to bring charges in the case.

The East Bay Times story reveals another case of twisted logic needed to clear the Superintendent in our town.  In an interview with the Times and its 500,000+ circulation, Emeryville's Chief of Police, Jennifer Tejada appears to be protecting Superintendent Rubio.  Regarding what the newspaper calls a "backtrack" on Mr Rubio's culpability, Chief Tejada is now positing that Superintendent Rubio could not have known for certain that assaults did not take place and also simultaneously that it is acceptable that he did know that with certainty and that he is therefore innocent of violating the mandated reporter law.  For its part, the Alameda County District Attorney says there is not enough evidence against Mr Rubio to bring charges for violating the notoriously difficult to prosecute mandated reporter law.

Emeryville City Council members have expressed desire to further investigate the case involving Superintendent Rubio and the Emery Unified School District to whom they are contractually bound to with the city/schools campus at the Center of Community Life, the site of the alleged sexual assaults.

The Tattler broke the story HERE.

The East Bay Times story is HERE.