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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Emeryville Reverses Course on COVID Mask Policy

Public Mask Wearing Order Policy Thrown Over to Private Sector

City Hall Places Public Health Trust With Private Developers 

No More Surprise Inspection Visits From the City

News Analysis

The City of Emeryville has initiated a new COVID policy that claims to punish contractors at construction sites in the city for their workers not wearing masks—but only if they get caught—and they won’t get caught because the City will only check for compliance during regularly scheduled construction inspections.  The contractors will be fined $188 if their workers are not obeying the Alameda County mask order but, absurdly, they know exactly when the City inspectors will be coming to their job sites so workers can quickly slip on their masks during the inspection thus avoiding both the fine and public health policy capacity.  How’s that for effective public health policy during a deadly pandemic?  It’s like if the police gave warning to crack house squatters that they’ll be breaking down the doors next Thursday at noon to look for crack and make arrests.  Think there’ll be any narcotics to be found at the crack house next Thursday? 

This ridiculous situation is where Emeryville City Hall is in the fall of 2020 with COVID-19 raging through the population.  It represents a regulatory relaxing of deterrence against rule breakers.  The new COVID policy replaces former policy from last April when the City didn’t give warnings before they came to check on mask wearing compliance at construction sites in town. 

With Americans’ expectations of general dysfunction or even uselessness from their government the new norm, Emeryville’s new public health policy in the face of an exploding pandemic is notably feckless and reckless.  It is after all the preeminent role of any government to protect the health and welfare of the people.  Maxims aside, the COVID policy we’re getting in Emeryville is inverse to the threat level the deadly virus poses. 

Emeryville City Manager
Christine Daniel

 'Emeryville COVID policy
should be relaxed as the 
virus explodes exponentially.'
When the pandemic first took hold last April, Emeryville formulated an effective response to the Alameda County mask wearing order it is charged with enforcing.  Citizen complaints registered with City Hall against workers seen not wearing masks at any of the construction job sites in town would draw a surprise visit from a City of Emeryville building inspector.  Violators were given warnings at first but the City formulated a program of increasing punishments against wayward building contractors.  This policy has been replaced this fall with a new policy where, after receiving a citizen complaint, the City will not send a surprise visit from a building inspector.  Instead, building inspectors have been directed to notice if any workers are not wearing masks at the job sites during regularly scheduled calls for inspection services.  The calls for inspection it should be noted, come from the contractors themselves.

The City’s first iteration of mask wearing compliance at job sites allowed the contractor to mete out punishment against the workers with promises from at least one contractor to the City that offending workers employees would face employment termination.  A public records request revealed that the contractor at the Sherwin Williams building site on Horton Street had violated the County mask order in late August with a City building inspector recording in his report from his surprise visit he saw “12 individuals without masks on.  Four of these individuals were within 6 feet of another worker.”  No workers were reported terminated for that violation nor were any for violations called in after that initial contact by the City.

A new policy without such surprise visits from City inspectors arose sometime after an early September flurry of violations, primarily at the Sherwin Williams site and with some recorded at the “Intersection” site (AKA the Maz Project) on San Pablo Avenue at Adeline Street.  The new policy was clarified by City Manager Christine Daniel who told the Tattler Wednesday, “The City’s building inspectors continue to remind contractors about the requirements and will cease an inspection if proper [mask wearing] practices are not being followed.” 

The new policy, unsurprisingly, is less effective at catching violators at the job sites.  The employees of the contractors are now all wearing masks having been forewarned when the inspectors are arriving at the sites but subcontractors, who aren’t at the site every day have been problematic as it turns out.  The subcontractors apparently aren’t getting sufficient forewarning from the contractors and are consequently getting caught by City inspectors.

The City has stopped relying on the contractors to terminate offending employees, a relic from the first COVID mask wearing policy and now the punishment leveraged against contractors is that the inspectors will leave a site if any workers are seen not wearing masks.  City Manager Daniel reported to the Tattler on Wednesday,  “As recently as Monday of last week an inspection was terminated, a correction notice issued and the contractor was requested to notify all sub-contractors to review the importance of compliance with the County Health Officer Orders.”  The fee for rescheduling an inspection is $188, an amount so low that it can be easily absorbed as a cost of doing business for any large project in town.

So the new policy from City Hall is not effective according to the City itself.  The former policy had a mechanism to catch violators but lacked effective punishment and the new policy is ineffective with regard to both catching and punishing violators.  The result is worksites without workers wearing masks continuously happening in Emeryville since last April.  

Emeryville is not interested in doing what it takes to satisfy the Alameda County mask order and therefore not interested in helping to stop viral infections, even as cases spiral in our community.  This is not an opinion.  This is demonstrably true, using the City’s own records.  This story is not an editorial or an opinion piece. 

The City Manager failed to explain when and why the City’s new COVID policy was enacted, only that it had been implemented.

$188: Not Much of a Punishment
Letter from the contractor to sub-contractors at 'The Intersection' project.
This violation cost the contractor $188 in a project that will run 
more than $50 million.  The workers don't want to wear masks and neither the
contractor nor the City wants to force them.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

City/School District Fails on Acknowledgment of Wrongdoing Against Transgender Teacher

 What To Do About Steve Dain?

Emeryville Settles on Inaction 

Opinion/News Analysis

Hey Emeryville!  November 20th was national Transgender Day of Remembrance.  A day that honors the memory of the transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.  What did you do to observe it?

The answer is nothing.  Nothing was done by our government in our name to observe the date or even to set its own terrible record right with regard to the mistreatment of transgender people.  Regardless that in 1976, Emeryville fired a transgender teacher for who he was and with lots of recent talk about that not representing who we are emanating from our government, nothing is being done.

Still 47th Street
The City of Emeryville said this sign would 
read 'Steve Dain Drive' by this time.

The just passed national Transgender Day of Remembrance November 20th, followed Transgender Awareness Week November 13th through the 19th; an auspicious time for a ribbon cutting ceremony if there ever was one to reassert our Emeryville values.  But that was not enough to get Mayor Christian Patz to follow through with his pledge to re-name 47th Street Steve Dain Drive.  Mr Patz, who’s mayoralty ends on December 1st, took up the charge for the City, promising the name change after Emery School District failed to acknowledge the wrongdoing of the firing of Mr Dain.

Call it just another failure to honor Steve Dain, who was humiliated by the government here in Emeryville, for being transgender.  That humiliation goes on today following his 2007 passing.  With neither government agency able to do the right thing by Mr Dain and therefore all transgender people, the humiliation is on us, the people of Emeryville.  Indeed, WE fired Mr Dain for who he was and WE refuse to apologize here and now for that act of public cowardice. 

Transgender Flag Flying
at Emeryville City Hall

As far as Emeryville is 
ready to go at this point.

Surprisingly, Mayor Patz claims that 47th Street is already named Steve Dain Drive (it is not).  He says he has done it and he was given an award for it in September.  At the 8th annual East Bay Stonewall Pride Awards ceremony on September 13th, Mr Patz, accepting the award, told the group"I worked with the School Board to honor Mr. Dain, but just as in the 70s, there are too many bigots in public office.  Thankfully, I work with an amazing City Council and together, we were able to rename the street in front of the school Steve Dain Drive."

It's all talk now in Emeryville.  Two elected officials, Christian Patz of the City Council and Susan Donaldson of the School District, rode in to set Emeryville right but both dropped the ball.  Mr Patz let his mayoralty run out and Board member Donaldson wrote a public letter, posted in the Tattler in May, stating that the Board would finally and officially apologize for the firing of Mr Dain.  But without any interest among her School Board colleagues, Ms Donaldson has also quietly dropped the issue.

The electeds in Emeryville (at least two of them) have a message for you Steve Dain: The people of the City of Emeryville didn’t care about you when you were alive and we sure don’t care about you now.  And with that, it seems it's time for Emeryville to move on.  With this unpleasant issue forgotten, it’s back to brunch in Emeryville apparently.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Lack of Guidelines on Fines, City Policy Arbitrary

City Violates Sacramento Election Law

Fails to Fine Late Filing Council Members, Report Council Late Filings

Arbitrariness, Favoritism Rears Its Head at City Hall

Sheri Hartz
Emeryville City Clerk

She failed to notify the FPPC
of Council members' delinquency
and failed to levy fines
against the two Council
members as required.
The City of Emeryville has failed to report City Council election misconduct to the Fair Political Practices Commission and miscarried its duty to fine two delinquent Council members as is required, the Tattler has learned.  In the run up to the 2020 election, Mayor Christian Patz and Councilwoman Ally Medina were negligent in their duty to file political campaign donor information with the FPPC and a Public Records Request revealed the City failed in its duty to report that to the FPPC and to levy required fines against the two procrastinating Council members.  

City Clerk Sheri Hartz told the Tattler it is “generally the City’s practice to work with filers toward compliance rather than to assess fines”.
However the FPPC is clear that barring any municipal guidelines permitting fines to be waived or reduced, the fine schedule defaults to the State suggested $10 per day for every day a candidate is late on filing the proper disclosure forms.  Because the City did not disclose the existence of any such municipal guidelines in the Tattler Public Records Request response, the City is presumed to not have any guidelines and is therefore not free to ‘work with filers’ and waive the fines, lest public policy at City Hall descend into capriciousness.  

Mayor Christian Patz
He owes $1010 in fines
for late filing his campaign
contribution forms.
Following a November 8th Tattler story on the late filings and the assessment of fines to be applied against the two Council members, City Attorney Michael Guina cited government code §84200.8 that unequivocally permits the City, at its pleasure, an exception to waive a portion of the fines the Tattler quoted specifically because the Council members ran unopposed in the election.  Without the exception taken, Mr Patz and Ms Medina would owe $3130 and $1310 respectively, as reported by the Tattler.  With the exception taken and the City invoking §84200.5 (its right to forgive the Council members), Mayor Patz who filed his late Forms 460 the day after the November 8th Tattler story, now owes $1010 for his 101 days late filing at $10 per day and Councilwoman Medina owes $30 for her three days late filing.  Owing to a lack of existing municipal guidelines delineating how late fees are to be assessed, the City is supposed to fine the City Council members these amounts and failure to do so would represent a breach of FPPC protocol for the City of Emeryville and would raise the specter of capriciousness and political favoritism extant at City Hall.

Ms Hartz did not answer in the Public Records Request as to why she failed to report the Council members' late FPPC filings as she is required to do.

The FPPC may levy additional fines against the two Emeryville City Council members at the rate of $5000 per violation, at their discretion.  The Tattler will be reporting to the FPPC, the Council members’ and the City Clerk’s failures to disclose the required filings. 

Councilwoman Medina has acknowledged her late filing of her Form 460.  Responding to the November 6th Tattler story, she said she had “whiffed”, whereas Mayor Patz's acknowledgment of his culpability in his late filing came solely in the form of his rush to file the forms the day after the Tattler story.  Mr Patz refused to comment for this story. 


OOPS!  Mayor's Math Error!
A screen shot of Mayor Patz's late filed Form 460.
The day after the November 8th Tattler story, Mayor Patz finally turned in his late campaign contributions form.  He shows his major contributors to be the politically connected CEO Rich Robbins of Wareham Development and political lobbyist/schmoozer, the oily John Gooding
In his flustering rush to file his form, Mayor Patz didn't add up his numbers correctly.  Ending Cash Balance should read $4542.04, not $5964.30. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Mayor & Councilwoman Failed to File Campaign Finance Documents; Fines Possible

Election 2020:

Mayor Patz, Councilwoman Medina Fail to File Campaign Finance Accountability Forms

City/State Could Levy Fines

Mayor Christian Patz and Councilwoman Ally Medina, re-elected to their respective City Council seats on Tuesday, failed to file several periods of required campaign finance election forms with the City of Emeryville the Tattler has learned.  The required form, issued by the State of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), Form 460, delineates campaign contributions critical for electoral campaign accountability.

A quick perusal of the City’s website shows Ally Medina missing her last two filings of the last five required and Christian Patz missing his last three filings.  Council member John Bauters, who also ran for re-election on Tuesday, is shown to have filed every Form 460 required of him on time. 

The missing forms, called the Recipient Committee Campaign Statement Form 460 are filed under the California Political Reform Act and are considered public records, available for public inspection.  There are no provisions for extending deadlines according to the FPPC, the body tasked by the State with overarching enforcement.  

If a candidate’s election committee fails to file a Form 460 campaign statement, the FPPC may levy a fine of up to $5000 per violation according to the FPPC website.  Additionally, the State provides that the City of Emeryville may fine candidates $10 per day for every late filing.  As of today, Councilwoman Medina is late some 131 days and could be fined $1310 while Mayor Patz, at 313 days late, could be facing a $3,130 fine from the City of Emeryville.

The City is required by the FPPC to keep guidelines that dictate how election fines for delinquent local candidates are to be levied but none could be found on the City’s website.   Failure to provide the required guidelines could result in penalties issued against municipalities the FPPC website noted. 

The Tattler has made a Public Records Request with the City of Emeryville for information regarding these election violations and we will report as we are made aware.

What Happened To Election Accountability?
Screen Shot From the City's Website
Only Council member Bauters has fulfilled his required FPPC election obligations.