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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Bauters' Media Blitz Pauses Disruptive Caltrans Project

Backroom Project:
Caltrans Tries to Pull a Fast One

Councilman Bauters Drops the Accountability Hammer

Major Highway Bridge Replacements Would Bring Major Headaches for Emeryville

Caltrans, seeking to take a wreaking ball to replace several bridges in the 'maze' intersection of elevated Interstate Highways on Emeryville's southern border and thereby causing major traffic disruptions on local streets, has run into a wreaking ball to its proposal it didn't intend on; namely the ire of Emeryville City Councilman John Bauters.  The formerly fast tracked project, now on hold largely due to Mr Bauters' whirlwind of activity publicly exposing the proposed traffic diversions, would involve diverting traffic for several months at the intersection of Interstate Highways 80, 580 and 880, one of the most crowded highway intersections in the United States.

After working on the proposal for two years behind closed doors at Caltrans, the transportation agency suddenly announced in March it would proceed with its plan to raze several bridges in order to raise them; adding several feet of clearance to accommodate bigger trucks Caltans says.  The public was given only the legal minimum time to respond, raising the Councilman's hackles.  After he discovered Caltrans has claimed its proposal would have "no impact" on Emeryville and that they had not even bothered to first run their proposal by Emeryville City Hall (or Oakland), the Councilman has taken action publicly exposing the public agency.
Mr Bauters has appeared in no less than four media forums alerting the public about the proposal and the lack of accountability at Caltans.  At his insistence and after a large public outcry as a result of his media campaign, Caltrans has paused the project and agreed to rescind their 'Negative Declaration' planning document that makes the fatuous claim of no impact to Emeryville, a claim Mr Bauters calls "a joke".

Even though the documents associated with the Caltrans proposal don't admit it, Emeryville will likely experience major disruptions over a period of up to two years.  Mr Bauters' blog describes the following problems we can expect: "Traffic snarling on local streets, lower air quality resulting from the displacement of large diesel-polluting semi-trucks into sensitive areas (Emery Unified Schools, our Senior Center and Child Care Center, etc.), noise from nighttime construction and the rerouting of trucks overnight, impacts to our local businesses and economy, the accelerated degradation of local streets, and safety impacts for bicyclists and pedestrians".

A 'Negative Declaration', sometimes called a 'Neg Dec', is a cursory and lower level state required document, much desired by applicants, that precludes a more onerous and expensive Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  Neg Decs can only be approved if a series of questions can be responded to negatively as to the likely environmental impact of a project.   Critics have noted the great financial incentive to lie or exaggerate on a Neg Dec to avoid an EIR.  The Caltrans claim getting Mr Bauters in a huff is unusual because it is a public agency making a non-credible negative claim as opposed to such claims made routinely by private developers.
Here in Emeryville, a notorious example of such a phony environmental claim was made in the late 1980's, before the advent of John Bauters when the developer of the then proposed Powell Street Plaza mall (the Trader Joe's mall) submitted a Neg Dec with a section on archaeological resources.  The developer audaciously answered NO to the question: 'Would this project likely disrupt possible archaeological remains at the site?'  Conspicuously, the site is located directly on the largest Native American midden and burial shellmound on the West Coast.  The same shellmound footprint caused major disruptions years later at the Bay Street Mall located just across the street when the developer of that site dug up a trove of human bones and Native American tools and votives, remains from what was a major center of human activity going back at least 10,000 years.  The developer of the Bay Street Mall was required to produce an EIR and as a result, an archaeologist was on site during the excavations for that project enabling recovery of the objects and reinterment of the human remains.  Because of the less rigorous Negative Declaration of the Powell Street Plaza, no archaeologist was required, leaving the excavation contractor free from any such nuisance prying eyes.

Councilman Bauters' KQED story,  a San Francisco Chronicle article as well as radio interviews are part of the media blitz our Council member has enjoined to bring accountability to this Caltans project.  Readers may get more detailed information on the Councilman's blog.

UPDATE- The Bay City Beacon also covered this story.  Read it HERE.

Alameda County Transportation Commission Meeting
Emeryville City Councilmember John Bauters calls the Caltrans proposal "a joke".
The accountability hammer drops at 26:26.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

City Council Moves to Stifle Public Debate on Uncomfortable Noise Ordinance Subject

City Council Asks, What Would Mitch McConnell Do?

New Tactic Seized Upon:
Disallow Public Debate

Uncomfortable Topics Will Now Go Straight to Vote
No More Presentation of Issues or Debate
Noise Ordinance Waiver Rubber Stamped, Not  Debated

Opinion / News Analysis
Faced with a large crowd and an uncomfortable vote on a developer's Noise Ordinance waiver request they'd rather keep quiet, the Emeryville City Council last Tuesday night employed a new tactic in their ongoing effort to assist developers seeking favors from City Hall.   After reading aloud a waiver request agenda item number (11.1), followed by an empty call for public comment, the Council moved straight to a vote; no staff presentation, no chance for the public to hear about the issues involved, no debate.  It's a tactic that Washington DC's most effective Senate Majority leader in years, Mitch McConnell, would approve of and one, whom Tuesday's spectacle invoked.   
When it comes to developer's requests for waivers to our Noise Ordinance, since 2010, the City Council has shown remarkable consistency for approvals, denying only four out of 19 requests up until last year.  The Tattler has long chronicled the pro-developer bias that exists at City Hall when it comes to these waiver requests, and the April 16th approval is just the latest in a long line, regardless of a new self proclaimed livability-friendly Council.

Charting new territory, on Tuesday, the new Council agreed that since they had already heard a presentation about the specific noise waiver request in question at a previous meeting,  they could dispense with another presentation and any public debate.  This reasoning, erroring on the side of opacity in City government, negated the room full of people at the meeting, most of whom had not been at the previous meeting and whom had an interest in hearing about the request and being given a chance to weigh in.

These are academic and picayune concerns for a City Council, wont to speed up government processes to help those who matter the most in Emeryville.  Avoiding civic and personal embarrassment was likely on their minds as well.  These tactics, the same as those taken up by the great turtle man in Washington notably also serve the same demographic.  It would appear like minds think alike. 
We're looking forward to much more efficient City Council meetings and the chance to get home at a reasonable time, all that uncomfortable public debate having been found by our City Council to be unnecessary.  The business sector helped, the public shut out, government streamlined....Mitch couldn't have done it better.

 The fun begins at 12:09

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Parks Presentation Propaganda

Staff, Council Deception on Parks

Public Policy Failure is Cast as a Success

Opinion/News Analysis
Emeryville City Hall recently hosted a meeting on the state of our city parks now and in the future, after which the citizen attendees and TV viewers came away happy, assured the City Council is working to provide all the planned new parks in town as they’re supposed to.  Some may have gone into the meeting thinking there aren’t enough parks here but not to worry the attendees were told, the City Council is on it.  The parks box is checked and everything's A-OK they learned.  The citizens left the meeting happy…. happy but ignorant.
Were the actual facts about parks in Emeryville revealed, the departing citizens wouldn’t be happy.  They’d be angry.  Because there is a major problem with parks here.  We’re not getting them.  And that’s a problem not even admitted to by City Hall.  What we ARE getting instead is agitprop and evangelism by our government.  The meeting, on March 19th, is revelatory; it was set up to deceive and mollify the people.

The City Council took pains to cajole the citizens into thinking they’re doing fine with the goals the City has with providing parks.  They highlighted the two or so acres of parks they built over the last ten years and referenced their plan to build another three or four acres of parks that have been funded over the next several years.  But what was brazenly left unacknowledged was the 800 pound gorilla in the room: Emeryville is midway through the 20 year General Plan and to satisfy it, the City needs to build not three or four acres but 26 additional acres of parks in the next ten years.  Got that?  Twenty six acres in the remaining ten years after having built only two acres over the first ten years.

After joking about pressure coming from the Tattler on the issue, Mayor Ally Medina opened the discussion, adding some realism for better effect into the otherwise pure whitewash.   She began by interjecting a little mea culpa contrition into the presentation, “We could do a little bit better of a job addressing, as we increase our density,  some of this livability and park space for our ever increasing residential population.” she said.   And then the propaganda whitewash began.

'We're doing great on parks in Emeryville!'
says the City Council
The General Plan, weighing in at 800 pounds,
says something different, but is ignored.
The General Plan is as clear as it is ignored: at least 26 acres of new park land needs to be built in Emeryville over the next ten years.  But the March 19th meeting revealed City Hall has no intention to deliver on that.  The abdication of its duty to the General Plan in general and parks specifically thus represents a public policy failure. The staff obviously put in many hours for the presentation that purposely left out the information the people need to know about the City’s failure providing parks.  We want to know how much paid staff time was spent preparing this hood thrown over our eyes.

As friends of Bill twelve steppers and other drug rehabbers are fond of saying, ‘the first step in solving a problem is acknowledging there IS a problem.  And how it goes for addicts is true too for municipalities seeking to solve their problems.  Cities need to admit they have a problem before they can move to fix the problem.
The Emeryville City Council, going around telling the citizens they’re doing great with building the parks they’re supposed to provide, is reprehensible and irresponsible.  The truth is that they’re asleep at the wheel, using the staff do do their dirty work and Emeryville residents are being cheated out of the parks we’re supposed to be getting.

The meeting in all it's shameless glory, may be viewed here: