Search The Tattler

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas Oaks Club Workers! Healthcare Costs Soar, Families Threatened

Workers Decry Wealth Transference at Oaks Club

Healthcare Charges Up 25% for Minimum Wage Workers
While Oaks President Takes Home $1.6 Million Salary

It appears that children of workers at the Oaks Club will have to go without Christmas presents this year.  That's because the owner of the card room, John Tibbetts, has jacked up by 25% the health insurance rates on his employees, many of whom earn the minimum wage and can't afford the rise says UNITE HERE local 2850, the workers' union representative.  The health care increase, an existential threat to non-management employees' families, drove approximately 40 workers to a protest march in front of the San Pablo Avenue card room on December 14th, where they entered the club to present the owner with the Worst Boss of the Year award for 2017.  Managers at the gambling outfit refused to take the award for Mr Tibbetts but they did threaten to call the police on the workers and Council member Scott Donahue who was witness.
About 40 workers and at least two City Council members
joined the picket line at Oaks Club on the 14th.
Councilman Donahue (center) was threatened with arrest
by managers.

The Oaks Club has not increased its contribution to its workers' health care since 2011 workers say and the recent 25% increase means workers now must pay more than $500 per month for family coverage.
The Oaks Club for its part earned $27 million in gross gaming revenue last year and John Tibbetts himself took home $1,662,784 in personal yearly salary alone, according to the City of Emeryville.  Profit taking is not included in that sum it was noted and so Mr Tibbetts likely took home considerably more than that amount.

The workers are demanding affordable health coverage in their new union contract.  “I make minimum wage. There’s no way I can afford to pay $500 a month for health care for me and my kids,” said Ricardo Vasquez.  “Our boss says we can just go on Obamacare—but Trump and Congress are trying to take away the subsidies we depend on. So, what are we supposed to do?” 
UNITE HERE local 2850 President Wei-Ling Huber agreed,  “Here in the Bay Area, we’re not going to let the most vulnerable people be denied life-saving health care. We need employers to step up and do their part. A multi-million dollar card club can afford to do that. A minimum-wage worker can’t.”

For its part, other than threatening to arrest the workers and Councilman Donahue, the Oaks Club management appears to be standing by the boss; manager Peter Schnieder told the Tattler, "I'm surprised Mr Tibbetts would qualify for that [worst boss] award.  I think he's a fair and thoughtful employer."

The 25% healthcare cost was increased "overnight" creating crisis in workers' families said UNITE HERE and the Oaks Club has offered no commitment to keeping the health insurance "even remotely affordable in the coming years."

Mr Tibbetts could not be reached for comment.

Oaks Club President John Tibbetts was
awarded this 'Worst Boss of 2017' trophy.
His managers refused to accept it but instead
threatened to call the police.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Coterie of NIMBYists at PARC Wins: No "Destination Park" for Sherwin Williams

NIMBYism Wins at Sherwin Williams Park Site

"Destination Park" Shown to be Pejorative in Park Avenue Neighborhood

Full Basketball Court Rejected by Planning Commission: Outsiders to be Discouraged

Reversing an earlier decision, Emeryville's Planning Commission voted NO Thursday night to a controversial basketball court for the planned park at the Sherwin Williams apartment project site in the Park Avenue neighborhood.  The reversal from their decision in November praising a full basketball court came after Lennar Development Corporation and the City Hall staff Thursday made a strongly one sided presentation stating a half court is "more usable" and that basketball players would rather use a half court than a real full court.  Notably absent from the presentation to the Commission this time was the previous verbal insistence to make sure the new park not be made a "destination park" with the specter of outsiders coming into the neighborhood even as the forces aligned against the full court still pursued that goal.
Barring a City Council appeal, due within 15 days, the forces that called on Emeryville's decision makers to discourage outsiders from coming to the new park, notably Park Avenue Residents Committee (PARC) and Lennar, won the fight over for whom the City of Emeryville should be building parks with Thursday's final Planning Commission vote.  Despite their decidedly negative view on building a basketball court for the Sherwin Williams park, the developer voiced agreement with PARC that basketball is not necessarily a bad thing and a court might someday be built as long as it's in some other part of town.
Planning Commissioner Steven Keller
Changed his vote from YES to NO.
He's had a change of heart about basketball. 
Before he thought it would be good at Emeryville's
newest park.  Now he says it brings a rough crowd.

Still, basketball players were left stunned Thursday night after learning the Lennar spokesman told the Commissioners a half court is better because it is "more optional" for the new park, "more flexible" and inexplicably, "A half court will get more usage."  The Planning Commissioners, three of whom last meeting said a full court was a great idea, didn't question these new findings nor did the developer offer any evidence to support the claims.  Further, it was claimed by Lennar that a full court would "change the feel of the space", presumably for the worse and that "a half court looks better."  Again, no evidence to support those claims were forthcoming nor did Lennar qualify the dubious statement that people could use a half basketball court for stretching exercises but on a full court they couldn't.

Commissioner Steven Keller who had at the November Planning Commission study session on the park, joined the majority of his colleagues and asked the staff to come back in December and present a park with a full basketball court for them to vote on, was nonetheless pleased this time with the presentation that roundly rejected that ask by the Commissioners.  Vaguely referencing the earlier PARC and Lennar concerns about outsiders coming to play basketball, and reversing previous claims of the benefits of basketball, Mr Keller this time moved to limit games being played, saying "people get rowdy" playing basketball.

With this victory keeping basketball outsiders out of the Sherwin Williams park, PARC adds to its accomplishments and builds its clout with City Hall.   The organization which calls itself a citizen's activist group reflects its xenophobic vision for this park, being an exclusive group closed to outsiders despite the self applied epithet 'community activist group'.  When PARC announced its formation last year, they claimed to speak for the community as they formulated what they called a Sherwin Williams Community Benefits Agreement with Lennar but they turned the idea of a CBA on its head.  The discriminative PARC excluded other community members and community activist groups such as Resident for a Livable Emeryville (RULE), those exclusionary aspirations being the antithesis of the democratic essence of a real CBA.  The Tattler has reported on the likelihood that a better, more resident friendly development would have come to pass if an actual CBA were to have been agreed to but City Hall chose to accept the exclusive PARC agreement (and accept PARC's crowning of their agreement as a CBA).  It is likely a real CBA would have net a real basketball court for the park as well as other amenities but this is Emeryville and that's the path not taken with the Sherwin Williams project.

Video of the meeting can be viewed HERE.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Happy Kwanzaa from the Tattler

Emeryville's annual holiday parade was a big hit this year.  The Tattler wishes everyone a happy Hanukkah (as long as it doesn't get too sanctimonious in its religiosity). 

Seen at the parade and driving around Emery since then:

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Emery Schools Worst in Bay Area: Falling Behind

Emery at Bottom of Urban School Growth

Emeryville children get only 3.8 years worth of education for 5 years of schooling 

Alarming New Stanford Study: Bottom 6% Nationwide 

Emery Unified School District is revealed to be dead last among Bay Area school districts in academic growth over a five year period and in the lowest 6% of all school districts in that metric nationwide according to a new study conducted by education researchers at Stanford University.  It's another  bombshell for beleaguered little Emery Unified, still reeling from a terrible showing on the State 'school climate index' and revelations that the district's falling test scores have dramatically dropped Emery's ranking among rival districts as revealed in October.  The new study strongly hints that Emery's poor school climate can account for the plunging academic performance.

The data shows Emery starting out low and then moving lower over five years, counter to what would be expected according to a December 5th New York Times story on the Stanford study.  Emery represents a low performing outlier cohort in a story that highlights how urban school districts with high rates of poverty can overcome that seemingly debilitating existential condition and produce high rates of growth over time, commonly higher than affluent suburban districts.  Unfortunately, the Stanford data proves Emery goes the opposite direction and serves to reinforce negative stereotypes about under performing districts the Times story seeks to disprove.  However the story and data also show how a district such as Emery could turn things around, given better leadership.

Notably, Ravenswood Unified School District in East Palo Alto, the only district with lower test scores than Emery in the Bay Area shows an impressive 4.5 years growth on the five year chart and owing to the fact that testing occurs before the end of the school year, that district is shown to be growing at a good rate, right on par with expectations independent of its high enrollment of disadvantaged students.  Emery's low test scores combined with it's negative growth proves it lags far behind Ravenswood when viewed holistically and therefore it can be fairly surmised to be the worst school district in the entire Bay Area.

It has been long debated whether test scores measure school quality or poverty.  The better measure now being offered by Stanford is one that lists students’ growth rates.  This new database looks not at how students do on a single test but how much growth they achieve over time; five years.
This new measure does not look at where kids start but at where they finish.  This measure gives the advantage to schools that serve students that start out below average, as they have the most room for growth.  And that makes Emery's sharp move down from a low start even more alarming, but conversely, with a change in school climate, more hopeful.

The Times story focuses on Chicago Unified, a similar albeit larger urban school district to Emery with declining enrollment, three in four students coming from low income homes and a tight budget.  And yet Chicago and many other urban districts large and small buck conventional wisdom and their students achieve high growth over time, sometimes leaving rich white suburban districts in the dust, at least as far as growth is concerned.  The study clearly shows the possibility of "separating socioeconomics from what's actually happening in the schools" as the Times story relates.

The data from Stanford doesn't purport to prove what dynamics result in the high growth of these urban school districts however the Times story does indicate at Chicago and other high growth districts, school 'climate' is critical.  It's the culture of student connectedness to their schools that provides the space for academic growth.  As one Chicago principal put it, despite grinding poverty at home for these students and all the dysfunction that goes along with it, at school her students feel "this is where I belong".  Contrasting with Emery, where student alienation is near total; the 'school climate' California Department of Education study showing Emery ranking in the bottom 1% on student/school connectivity.  That study showed how retaining veteran teachers is critically important for helping student connectivity, and at a 37% teacher loss, Emery ranks at the worst of all school districts in the Bay Area.  Emery's worst in the Bay Area teacher retention ranking is a result of Schools Superintendent John Rubio, a three year employee at the district and his shake-the-district-to-its-core, near pogrom on educators.

Emery: at the Bottom of Bay Area Districts
Emery children shockingly only receive 3.8 years worth of education for five years of schooling. One would expect an average student to make five years of growth after five years. The data identifies 4.8 years as the median growth level, which is consistent with expectations as testing usually occurs three to four months prior to the end of the year.

From the Stanford Study
(Emeryville's median income is $74k according to the Census Bureau)