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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Former Emery School Board Trustee Miguel Dwin fined $4000 by the FPPC

Former Emery
School Board member
Miguel Dwin
California’s Fair Political Practices Committee named former Emery Unified School District Board Trustee Miguel Dwin in a March 18th $4000 enforcement decision against Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson’s 2016 election campaign of which Mr Dwin was the treasurer. Mr Dwin, who lives in Emeryville, was charged with failure to file two required campaign statements on Mr Carson’s behalf as well as four ’24-hour’ reports in violation of Government Code Section 84203.  

Former Emery Board member Dwin was hired by Supervisor Carson in a successful run for the the county’s District 5 office in June 2016 following Mr Dwin’s failed November 2014 re-election attempt for Emery Unified’s Board.  Commission Counsel Jenna C Rinehart’s ruling against Mr Dwin is highlighted in the March enforcement report on the FPPC website (see link below).  

Mr Dwin managed the account for Supervisor Carson who's political campaign netted more than $100,000 that year. 

Former Board member Dwin, who lists as his forte community policy leadership and fiscal management, works for the Berkeley Unified School District as a budget analyst.

Mr Dwin did not return calls for purposes of this story.

FPPC Enforcement Decisions March 18th, 2021

Monday, March 22, 2021

Emeryville Honors Transgender Community: Introducing Steve Dain Drive




Emeryville Rights a Historic Wrong


Today the City of Emeryville has made good on its promise to account for the 1976 wrongful termination of Emery teacher Steve Dain, fired for who he was: a transgender person mentoring/instructing Emeryville children.  Workers arrived at the corner of San Pablo Avenue and the former 47th Street shortly after 1:30 PM and within a few minutes the new street sign proclaiming Emeryville values was installed.  A small group of people gathered at the site to witness the historic event including Mayor Diane Martinez and Councilman John Bauters. 

Only the block west of San Pablo Avenue extending to Doyle Street is named for Mr Dain the City reports. 

The renaming of 47th Street Steve Dain Drive, will forever serve as a reminder that the City of Emeryville will not exclude anyone in our community for who they are and that all are welcome here.  The Emery Unified School District Board of Trustees, the body that facilitated the termination 45 years ago, passed an official resolution on March 10th apologizing for the firing of the popular teacher for "immorality" on the site that now bears his name; 1100 Steve Dain Drive.


Mayor Martinez (left) and Councilman Bauters
brought their four legged companions to witness
Emeryville's latest bending of the arc towards justice.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Breaking News: School Board Issues Apology For Firing Transgender Teacher

BREAKING:

Tonight, the Emery Unified Board of Trustees voted to apologize to parents for the 1976 firing of Steve Dain, a transgender teacher employed by the District, for “immorality” after he had completed gender confirmation surgery.   The unanimous apology comes after two years of rancor, the District sidelining a bid to acknowledge the fired teacher by naming the remodeled gym after him in 2019 and then for more than a year, refusing to draft the resolution they finally did here tonight.   

Steve Dain, a popular 7-12th grade PE teacher at Emery, had won a teacher of the year award from the School Board the semester before he transitioned however, upon returning from summer break and surgery, Mr Dain was promptly sacked.  The Board fired  him at the behest of then Superintendent Lewis Stommel, who also directed that the teacher’s final paycheck be withheld.  Mr Dain hired an attorney and was awarded $19,000 for the termination and his back pay. 

Former Emery Teacher of the Year
Dr Steven Dain
1939-2007

After voting to name the school's gym for a different PE teacher, School Board president Bynnda Collins railed against naming the gym for Steve Dain, chastising advocates for transgender equality, calling the gym naming plan "political".  Council member Christian Patz responding, said Emery's failure amounts to anti-trans "bigotry".  

Talking with a reporter shortly after he was fired by Emery, Mr Dain said his passion in life was cultivating young people and that he “missed teaching more than anything”.   Lamenting about losing his chosen career,  he was thinking of his students, “I miss my kids in Emeryville” he said.

He died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 68. 

After the District received a lot of bad press from the Tattler and the Bay Area Reporter following the gym naming failure in 2020, Board member Susan Donaldson proposed to her colleagues that the District issue an apology but that also proved to be a non starter.  The City, sensing a lack of commitment from Emery Unified, moved to rename 47th Street, the address of the high school where he taught, Steve Dain Drive.  The City’s renaming efforts have brought praise from the press but also a new round of ire against Emery Unified for their recalcitrance.  Tonight that finally gets put to rest.

Here is the text of the Resolution passed tonight: 

The Emery Unified School District Board of Trustees would like to apologize for the employment termination of teacher Steve Dain.  Mr. Dain was terminated after returning from gender confirmation surgery in 1975.  As a district, we understand the personal hardships, needless expense and over arching injustice Mr. Dain incurred fighting the unjust decision preventing him from returning to Emery High.  We regret the harmful actions taken by the district at that time.  Mr. Dain was right to expect to return to his job.  In no uncertain terms, the current school board would never support the termination of a person due to their gender and/or sexual orientation just as we would not support any negative action based on bias.  To ensure that such discrimination does not take place in the future, Board Policies and Regulation now expressly reflect that no student, teacher or staff person may be subjected to discrimination, harassment or bullying based on sex, gender, or sexual orientation (among other protected categories).  (See Board Policies and Regulations 0415, 1312.3, 4030, 4031, 4119.1, 4119.11, 4219.1, 4219.11, 4319.1, 4319.11, 5131.2, 5137, 5145.3, 5145.31, 5145.7, 5145.9, https://emeryusd.k12.ca.us/policies.html].  

Additionally, inspired by past and ongoing events affecting our communities, students and staff, we have formed an Equity Committee of board members, staff and students to examine our history as a district, pursue inclusion and celebrate our diverse community.  This committee shall henceforth be known as the Equity and Inclusion Committee.  We also see this as an opportunity to include the Curriculum Committee in plans for incorporating LGBTQ and gender inclusive professional development training and resources specifically designed for educators and youth-serving professionals.  

In closing, we understand that it is important to face and acknowledge past injustice to move our community forward towards a brighter and more inclusive future.  Thank you for entrusting us with your children's education and safety.  We do not take the task lightly and we will continue to strive towards excellence and inclusion for all. 


Sunday, March 7, 2021

Councilman Reveals Inept/Corrupt City Staff Regarding Trees at Biomed Project

 City Staff Bid Allowing Developer to Cut Trees

Ends With Bauters' Rebuke 

Information Hidden From Commissioners  

Council Member Pounces on Staff, Saves Trees

Council member John Bauters (on right)
He has a 'Loraxian' view of the urban forest but he's
thankfully, more effective than the actual Lorax.
Photo Lea Suzuki/SF Chronicle

Emeryville was on track heading into the February 25th Planning Commission meeting to allow the cutting of nearly 176 trees associated with Hollis Street's Biomed development proposal but for the actions of Councilman John Bauters who, citing a City statute that protects privately owned trees, forced the city staff  to save 90 trees following their initial recommendation for removal.   After the City Hall staff prepared their report that mistakenly gave the Commission a green light to kill the trees, Councilman Bauters, monitoring the Commission, wrote a February 24th email excoriating the staff for failing to reveal to the Commission their option to save the trees as is preserved in Emeryville’s municipal code.  

The Planning Commission, in response to Mr Bauters’ email, voted to save many of the trees that would have unnecessarily been cut down if they had listened to the staff.  A sharp eyed Councilman John Bauters, noting the error in the staff report, ultimately managed to save 90 trees from being cut outright but further got an agreement to plant more trees than what the staff had asked of the developer – 45 trees in all.

The tree cutting, as first presented by Emeryville Planning Director Charlie Bryant, forwarded Biomed's desire to cut down 22 public street trees associated with their development proposal as well as 154 trees on their property, as they had requested.  The public street trees are protected by Emeryville’s Urban Forestry Ordinance (UFO) but privately owned trees are not.  However, a section of the municipal code does provide some protection for privately owned trees in Emeryville but Mr Bryant failed to notify the Planning Commission of that. In the case of the proposed Biomed facility, the Planning Commission's hands are not tied as Mr Bryant indicated in his staff report but rather, the law does grant the Planning Commission an option to save the privately owned trees there.

Councilman Bauters, who is operating with the Biomed project as a private citizen due to proximity conflicts, quoted Emeryville Municipal Code Section 9-4.503(c) that outlines the process for the discretionary review of a project on private property involving existing trees.  Mr Bryant, in his staff report, did not reveal to the Planning Commission the following from 9-4.503(c):

“For projects on private property that require discretionary City approval, the Director, Planning Commission, or City Council, as the case may be, may require that existing healthy on-site trees be preserved and incorporated into the project unless this is shown to be infeasible.”

Mr Bauters, calling the omission “an appealable error”, stated the City of Emeryville had failed to consider the feasibility of preserving on-site trees.  He questioned the motives of the City for hiding information that could lead to saving trees adding, “from the beginning, the application has been presented, considered, debated and developed with the presumption that their preservation was a foregone conclusion.”

Emeryville's Biomed Center of Innovation™
View looking south at Hollis Street
The Planning Commission after receiving Council member Bauters’ email asked the staff to provide the information that had been denied them and upon receipt, they voted to save 77 of the private trees and they went on to insist 13 of the 22 proposed publicly owned street trees be saved, also at Mr Bauters’ request.  The staff had insisted underground pipes associated with the construction of the Biomed project would necessitate the cutting all 22 public trees, a conclusion the Council member showed to be false.  

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the City staff has ruled public street trees be cut in error.  There has been a pattern and practice of giving Emeryville’s decision makers false information that would rule in developers’ favor regarding cutting down our trees.  In 2018, the staff told the City Council that the developer of the Sherwin Williams project be allowed to cut some 14 trees, again owing to underground pipes; a falsehood revealed by the Tattler.  In that case, the staff hid a critical arborist report from the Planning Commission that they likely would have cited to save the trees. After a protracted public battle, the trees were mostly all saved. 

Mr Bauters also caught the staff falsely advising decision makers to cut publicly owned trees before the February 25th debacle.  In 2016, he managed to save 21 of 30 proposed tree removals associated with a PG&E pipeline renovation project on 53rd Street after the staff had told the Planning Commission to allow all 30 trees be cut.  The staff was forced to remove the agenda item at Council member Bauters’ behest after he demanded the legal agreements and maps showing pipeline proximity from PG&E.  Eventually, it was revealed that there was no agreement with the City as staff had claimed, and that the pipeline PG&E thought was under the sidewalk was in fact under the middle of the street.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

March 5th, 47th Street to Transition to Steve Dain Drive

 City Honors Fired Transgender Teacher After Emery School District Balks 

Introducing Steve Dain Drive

School Board Digs In Its Heels Against Honoring Its Fired Teacher


The City of Emeryville has announced it will officially change the name of 47th Street to Steve Dain Drive on March 5th when employees from the public works department add the new signs to the existing street sign posts.  Both the old street name and the new name will be posted for a period of 18 months the City reports but they will start calling the street by its new name in March.  Only the portion of 47th Street West of San Pablo Avenue will get the name change.  

In an announcement made last May, the City took on the task of honoring the late Steve Dain, a teacher at Emery Unified School District who was fired by the district in 1976 after he surgically transitioned from a woman to a man.  City Council members expressed anguish that Emery School Board members had stopped a grassroots drive last year to honor the teacher the district had fired for “immorality” and it was suggested the City could act on its own by renaming the street, correcting the historic wrong. 

The district’s high school is located on the future Steve Dain Drive, the same school where Mr Dain taught 45 years ago.  The AC Transit bus yard is the only other entity that will have a Steve Dain Drive address.
School Board President
Brynnda Collins

Refuses to comment regarding
the district's role in the
firing of its transgender teacher
for "immorality".


The City Council took over the job of acknowledging Mr Dain after the School Board reversed themselves upon having made an initial move towards naming their newly remodeled gym for the fired teacher.  Since then the Board has reneged on a plan to pass an official resolution apologizing for firing the teacher who had once been awarded the title of teacher of the year at Emery.  Notably, the Board’s refusal to acknowledge the wrong done against Mr Dain by the district comes at the same time they have been honing their public message of "inclusionary equity".

The City has not announced plans for any official March celebration associated with the name change but there is talk of a street closing block party perhaps in the fall of 2021, depending on the status of the COVID pandemic by then.

Both AC Transit and Emery Unified School District have been notified of the impending renaming of the street City officials said.

School Board president Brynnda Collins and Superintendent of the Schools Quiauna Scott were both contacted to comment on the refusal of the district to account for the firing of Steve Dain and its failure to apologize but both leaders refused to respond.  

Monday, January 11, 2021

"Hyper-Local" Emeryville Blogger Rob Arias Purchased Home in Pleasant Hill in 2019, May Be Forced to Sell His Home Here

 Emeryville Booster/Blog Editor Reportedly Moved Out of Town in 2019

Possible Violations Against City's Affordable Housing Program

Editor Rob Arias Tells His Readers He Still Lives in Emeryville


The self styled 'voice of the community' hasn't
been seen in the community for quite some time.

Emeryville blogger, local booster and political pundit Robert Arias, apparently moved to Pleasant Hill nearly two years ago.  A move would tend to undermine Mr Arias' public positioning as the voice of the Emeryville community, if he's sleeping each night in another county.  The move would also have real consequences.  Mr Arias may have violated stipulations in an Emeryville affordable housing program by apparently retaining possession of one of City Hall's few subsidized units, if the Park Avenue unit in question is no longer his primary residence.

The Tattler learned Mr Arias apparently jumped ship in 2019, closing escrow on an 1,163 square foot, two story home with two bedrooms and two baths, in May, according to public records, in the Contra Costa County community.  At the same time, he has apparently retained his Emeryville unit, purchased (in 2003) through the City's Below-Market-Rate affordable housing program, rather than selling it to a qualifying buyer or obtaining a waiver as the housing program requires. 

Having built a fairly successful, heavily monetized web presence in Emeryville, offering generally positive coverage- the digital equivalent of an old time small town newspaper’s proud, if boosterish coverage, Mr Arias hasn't volunteered anything publicly on his E'Ville Eye about any move 30 miles to the east.


The E'Ville Eye editor purchased this
Pleasant Hill home in May 2019.  
According to Emeryville’s low income housing assistance regulations, BMR owners must live in their units as a ‘primary residence’ for at least 10 months per year.  Living elsewhere represents a breach of contract.  Renting out a BMR unit is also a violation, though it is unclear that this has occurred. The program requires the sale of units to applicants meeting the city's income guidelines, (just as Mr Arias had in 2003) after the owner relocates.  The goal being having a supply, albeit a small one, of affordable housing for purchase in Emeryville. 

BMR unit owners, even though they receive assistance in the initial purchase, are allowed to realize property value gains over the tenure of their occupancy.  By law, Mr Arias would be allowed to keep 20% of the sale price above his initial investment.  Being across the street from the long-planned ten-acre, 500-unit, Sherwin-Williams development and new public park now under construction, Mr Arias’ unit has likely increased in value in recent months, a windfall he will be able to realize the longer he holds the unit.

This story will continue to evolve as new facts are revealed and we will report as our investigation continues.

Mr Arias declined to comment for this story.  

Rob continues to tell his readers he lives in Emeryville.  If the City's housing assistance director finds he has defrauded City Hall's BMR program, Mr Arias will be forced to sell his unit.  Bio pulled from his E'Ville Eye this week.