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Monday, May 23, 2016

Bay Street Mall Illegally Issuing Parking Tickets Again

Public Parking Spaces Too Tempting:
Bay Street Mall Again Attempts to Seize 
Public Property

After being sanctioned in 2014 by the City of Emeryville for illegally issuing parking tickets to the general public for meter violations at parking meters on their property and also for charging vendors for use of City owned property, the owners of the Bay Street Mall, are illegally ticketing parked cars again, this time on publicly owned Bay Street the Tattler has learned.  Regardless that overnight parking is allowed on Emeryville's streets, vehicles parked between the hours of 10 PM and 8 AM, designated as non-metered parking times on Bay Street will receive warnings or actual tickets according to Bay Street Mall security officers.

Creeping Private Encroachment
on the Commons
We may not park on our own street
unless we're shopping
according to signs posted 
Bay Street.
The new owners of the mall, '5616 Bay Street Mall Investors LLC', a private real estate corporation bought the mall in 2014 from the previous owner, Washington DC based Madison Marquette Corporation.

An Emeryville police spokesperson was unsure whether the Emeryville Police Department receives a portion of these ill gotten proceeds but indicated any tickets issued for cars parked on Bay Street during those hours are not proper and that any subsequent fines incurred by the public should not be paid.  The Police Department will conduct an investigation into the bogus parking ticket allegations the spokesperson said.
Bay Street has an unusual condition as a result of a negotiation between the City and Bay Street Mall Investors wherein the corporation owns the sidewalks but the City owns the street, a condition that has proved tempting to the mall owner to encroach on the City's easement, the new parking tickets for overnight parking being just the latest iteration.  In another bold move, signs have been put up by the mall owner along Bay Street warning the motoring public that the parking spaces on the street are for "customers only"; a patent falsehood.

For cars parked during metered times that run out the meter, ticket proceeds are shared between Bay Street Mall Investors and the Emeryville Police Department as per an approved agreement made between City Hall and the mall owner.

Bay Street security officers refused to speculate how many tickets and warnings they have issued to (legally) parked cars on the street and the management at the Bay Street Mall didn't return calls for this story.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Typical Saturday Afternoon at ECAP

Here's what it looks like when the government throws itself over entirely to the interests of the top 1% at the expense of everyone else, when both political parties give up on taking care of the interests of average Americans.  We see it every day in Emeryville on San Pablo Avenue as hungry people wait in line for food assistance from the Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program (ECAP).  It only gets worse, regardless which political party is in control.
Thanks to the volunteers at ECAP for stepping up to alleviate hunger in our community.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

'Safe Routes to School'? Maybe, But Not After the 'Flashing Beacon' Lightbulbs Burn Out

Q: How Many Public Works Employees Does it Take to Screw In a Light Bulb?

A: More Than 13

Emeryville City Hall tells us they care about children.  But how much do they really care?  They care enough to apply for a $500,000 grant to install crosswalk flashing warning lights as part of a "Safe Routes to School" federal program.  Unfortunately, they don't care enough to change the lightbulbs when they burn out.  Changing lightbulbs is not a task the 13 employees at Emeryville's Public Works Department is adroit enough to handle.
Safe Routes to Schools?
43rd Street at San Pablo Avenue-
The existing in-pavement flashers are
being removed but the flashing sign
beacons will remain.
Safe....until the light bulbs
burn out.

After securing the grant money, the City is directing the work now starting on three intersections along San Pablo Avenue at 43rd, 45th and 47th Streets in anticipation of the eventual completion of the Center of 'Community' Life at 47th and San Pablo.  These are the crossings children will be using to get to school and button activated flashing beacon signs are the central part of the scope of work.

The problem is we've seen this story before and it doesn't end well...
Simple maintenance and follow through is not big at the Public Works Department.  Consider the crosswalk at 43rd Street and San Pablo.  Ten years ago, anguished parents appealed to the City to help children safely cross that busy street near Anna Yates Elementary School.  The City responded with a $20,000 program to install button activated flashing beacons on signs and in asphalt pavement embedded lights at that intersection; a vast improvement.
(On a side note, now, only the flashing beacon signs will remain at the 43rd Street crossing; the pavement embedded beacons are being removed as part of the new Safe Routes to Schools program, leaving the claims of improved safety in question, at least for that intersection.)
The last flashing beacon light bulb finally burned out a couple of years ago at the San Pablo Avenue/43rd Street crosswalk leaving parents and citizens attempting the traverse at the mercy of busy California State Route 123 (aka San Pablo Avenue) drivers.  Complaints to the Public Works Department over the years about burned out lightbulbs have fallen on deaf ears, all the hyperbolic talk of child welfare and safe routes to schools notwithstanding.

We're not sure why the Emery Unified School District was so insistent to place our new elementary school directly on the busiest street in Emeryville; San Pablo Avenue with its 1600 vehicles per hour speeding through these intersections, but now we're stuck with it.  Presumably, with the new flashing beacons provided by the federal government, children will be able to safely cross (so says the School District) until the light bulbs start burning out.
Unfortunately again, the safety of our children is placed in the hands of the can't-be-bothered-to-change-lightbulbs Public Works Department and its Director Maurice Kaufman.  Too bad we can't get the feds to commit to changing the bulbs...then maybe we really would have safe routes to schools.  All these new lightbulbs being installed is going to be too much for Maurice Kaufman to handle.

How many Public Works employees does it take to screw in a light bulb?  We wish it were merely a bad joke.  The actual truthful answer to that question; more than 13, isn't funny.
Vexing for the likes of Emeryville
Now what do we do?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The City of Emeryville is Anti-Bike

The City Staff Thinks Bikes Are OK*
*as long as they don't inconvenience vehicles

 Mayor, Vice Mayor 
Have a Staff Infection

Emeryville Mayor Martinez
Agrees with the staff:
Now is not the time
to implement the Bike Plan.
She's been infected.
The people of Emeryville want a bike boulevard on Horton Street.  How do we know that?  Well, for one, because it's specified in our city's General Plan and our GP is the most democratically vetted GP of any in the Bay Area.  Our GP even won an award for the record high levels of support from the residents.  Further and more compellingly we know the people of Emeryville want a bike boulevard on Horton Street because that's what they directly voted for in November of 2014 when they cast their votes for Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue both of whom were definitive at the time: a vote for them is a vote for the Horton Street Bike Boulevard they assured us.
The people like the idea of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard but the staff at City Hall sure doesn't.  In fact they've worked for years trying to make sure the traffic calming provisions spelled out in our Bike Plan don't come to pass on Horton (or any other street in Emeryville designated as a bike boulevard).

Vice Mayor Donahue
Agrees with the Mayor.
He's also infected.
The citizens voted for Dianne and Scott, finally getting a City Council majority that appeared to support the resident's desires for a bike boulevard on Horton Street....that's good.  But we were saddened when the two voted down the Bike Plan provision for traffic calming at the now infamous April 5th City Council meeting vote covered by the Tattler.  What's up with that?  They were very clear before the election they would vote for Level Four traffic calming as the Bike Plan delineates and then they reversed themselves and supported the staff who says NO to Level Four calming claimed to be something too restrictive against car traffic.

Staff Infection
The Mayor Dianne Martinez and the Vice Mayor Scott Donahue have been infected by virulent anti-bike sentiment festering at City Hall; they have a staff infection.  After listening to the residents before the election, now they're listening to the staff.  Whereas before they thought there should be a process and we should follow the General Plan's remedy for too much car traffic on bike boulevards, now they think like how the staff thinks; the General Plan is too radical, especially as it pertains to bike boulevards.  Dianne and Scott have joined a long procession of City Council colleagues who have been similarly infected: OK applying stencils to the streets or putting up purple bike boulevard signs but once drivers begin to become inconvenienced, well that's "too extreme" as the City Manager likes to put it.

The lengths the staff is willing to go to stop the Bike Plan's traffic calming is pretty exceptional.
To wit:
The Staff
Their effect is corrosive and infectious on the
body politic if the Council doesn't inoculate
themselves with the disinfectant of 

independence and allegiance to the people.
What's also exceptional is the fact that our two newest Council members are so unexceptional; so far no Council members have shown a willingness to go against the staff on bike boulevards.  But what sets the Mayor and Vice Mayor apart is the iron clad promise they made to voters they would implement Level Four traffic calming on Horton Street if elected.  Other Council members have made vague references over the years to their support of the Bike Plan and about how much they like bicycling and other innocuous stuff.  Dianne and Scott bumped it up a notch with a specific promise.

We're still not sure why this overt bait and switch has happened (other than another outbreak of staff infection).  Vice Mayor Donahue has so far refused to comment.  Mayor Martinez has told the Tattler that while she agrees the staff has a jones against bike boulevard traffic calming that she doesn't share, she's too weak to stop them (presumably) and that Level Three traffic calming is the best we can do, "a bird in the hand..." and so on she said.

After a year and a half with these two progressives on our City Council, we've been worried that the same old pattern would repeat itself.  The fact that there's been no shake up at City Hall has proved to be a harbinger of the status quo being unperturbed by the new condition of a progressive Council majority.  One would expect a radical new direction selected by the voters to be reflected in a new culture at City Hall but these two decided to keep the same crew on.  The same department heads selected by the long ensconced pro-developer Nora Davis council majority have been left be in their corner offices, their power undiminished.  The resultant push back against Level Four traffic calming for Horton Street is what one would expect in such a scenario.

At least two more bike boulevards, 45th Street and 53rd Street, are now over their traffic thresholds and are over due for traffic calming as mandated by the Bike Plan.  After the progressives on the council joined their conservative colleagues in opposing the implementation of Horton Street traffic calming, we expect they'll do likewise for the other bike boulevards.  Barring some major change, we can't see the Bike Plan mandated traffic calming (over level three) being implemented for any street.

Emeryville; the more things change the more they stay the same.  Where's our Jonas Salk?  We're pretty discouraged here.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Community Swimming Pool: Turner Construction Misses Deadline for Opening Day

Community Pool Fails Health Inspection
Opening Delayed Again

Emeryville's community swimming pool, plagued by missed deadlines and cost overruns will not open today as had been planned owing to a "failed health code inspection" and other delays by builder Turner Construction according to the City Manager.  Today's planned grand opening gala of the community pool has quietly now come and gone with nary a wet toe and without a peep to the community from the City or the School District as to an explanation other than individual emails sent to parents and community members that had signed up for lessons and general use.  The City now says it is hoped the pool will be ready by early June but they're not committing.

City Manager Carolyn Lehr told the Tattler the City will honor agreements as codified by policy at City Hall as far as refunding any fees paid by community members that cannot be used.  Additionally she volunteered that any new costs associated with the most recent delays will be born by "responsible parties" as a way of differentiating previous cost overruns that have been absorbed by Emeryville taxpayers up until now.
Emeryville's Community Pool
Taken before the remodel began
several years ago.

The community pool remodel has proven to be a first rate boondoggle for the City and the School District with costs more than 100% over budget and a timeline now more than a year behind schedule.  The pool, part of the community use part of the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life (ECCL) was separated out of a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) agreement for ECCL between the School District, the City and Turner Construction, set up to prevent this sort of overrun.  The fact that the pool was not included in the GMP agreement has left taxpayers exposed to Turner cupidity as the builder seeks a way to recoup losses incurred on the rest of the project, critics have charged.  As protective of the public coffers as the GMP has been (insofar as it has), the agreement does not preclude Turner from clawing back their expenses by lowering quality on the rest of the ECCL project, a tactic they call 'Value Engineering', a tactic they have made liberal use of it should be noted.

Besides being more than a year late, Emeryville's community pool remodel has now cost more than $2 million; double what a pool the same size would cost built new, according to swimming pool contractors the Tattler contacted.  The Emery Unified School District has been the public agency responsible for overseeing the community pool with the City fulfilling its role as benefactor for the ill fated project.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

RULE Meeting

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Emeryville City Hall Staff Doesn't Understand Bike Boulevards

"Like a Squeezed Balloon..."

Emeryville's City Hall Staff Can't Imagine
Bike Boulevards

Analogy for Sisyphean Meaningless Work: 
Squeeze it here and the air goes over there;
you've accomplished nothing says Emeryville.
News Analysis/Opinion
Sometimes a single utterance gives away the whole game...
When a feature of a democratically vetted new polity is described by those entrusted with promulgating it as a flaw, you know there's a fundamental lack of understanding going on.
And that's what's happening behind the scenes at Emeryville City Hall right now.

Case in point: when recently interviewing the department heads management staff, the same curiously quoted axiom kept coming up: the idea of the futility of squeezing a balloon as a stand-in for meaningless work.  What these paid staffers are referring to is our Bike Plan and its provisions for building a network of bike boulevards in Emeryville.
Bike boulevards are corridors set aside primarily for bicycles and central to that endeavor is the requirement laid out in the Bike Plan to strictly limit the number of motor vehicles using these specially designated streets.  The Plan seeks to force cars from the bike boulevards over to regular streets for the safety of bicyclists.  This isn't a bug, it's a feature.
"If the idea is to atomize traffic in town, 
trying to keep an equal amount 
on all streets that the balloon 
analogy reinforces, then there's really 
no such thing as a bike boulevard". 

And yet our City staff can't seem to understand this basic principle, hence the oft repeated balloon analogy.  What they don't understand, they don't want.  At its core is a refusal to accept bike boulevards.  If the idea is to atomize traffic in town, trying to keep an equal amount on all streets that the balloon analogy reinforces, then there's really no such thing as a bike boulevard.  And viewing their actions trying to stop the Horton Street Bike Boulevard specifically over the last couple of years, it's safe to say we now know the philosophic underpinnings to their work: they can't even imagine a bike boulevard.

City Manager Carolyn Lehr
A fundamental lack of cognition:
"Like a squeezed balloon, the traffic
will just go elsewhere, you're
not solving anything" she said
of bike boulevards.
Who has spoken of squeezed balloons at City Hall?  The top brass; our City Manager Carolyn Lehr, our Director of Public Works Maurice Kaufman and also at least one underling.

We call on the Emeryville City staff to educate yourselves about our General Plan, our Bike Plan and Bike Boulevards.  The squeezed balloon image that you've been citing as reason for your dismissive demeanor is actually how it's supposed to work; we're supposed to squeeze traffic off the bike boulevards and onto regular streets.  Remember, it's bikes preferred, cars allowed on bike boulevards.  So stop trying to subvert that basic premise and get with the program.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Emery School District Announces 'The Drought is Over'!

The Drought is Over!

City Council Agrees:
Residents May Return to Their Former Profligate Ways
It's Been "Unusually Wet Weather"

Howdy Mr Raindrop!
We love ya but there's been
just too many of you for
Turner Construction to cope.  Please go
away and come again some other day.
The winter of 2015/2016 will go down as a season of "unusually wet weather" according to Emeryville City Hall (even though the National Weather Service and the California Water Resources Control Board says the opposite). Apparently it's been very rainy in Emeryville.  What else can Emeryville residents make of the request April 5th at the City Council chambers from the School District that City Hall grant a Noise Ordinance waiver based on that watery claim for Turner Construction, the builder of the  Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life (ECCL) to help finish the project?
So there's no confusion and for purposes of disclosure, here at the Tattler, we take the phrase "unusually wet weather" to mean 'more rain than average'.

Emery Schools Superintendent John Rubio made it clear; all the rain this season caught the School District by surprise and now the construction work on the ECCL is behind schedule.  Had it not been so rainy, the schedule would be fine.  The District and their contractor Turner Construction, never planned for the amount of rain we've been getting they say.  How could they?  It's been ever so rainy around here.
And how much rain is that?  Well if one wants to believe the neophytes at the National Weather Service, they'd have to conclude the amount for Emeryville is somewhere between Oakland and Berkeley which has had 94% and 68% of normal rainfall for the season respectively (Emeryville is not tracked specifically).  But what do weather "experts" know?  Turner Construction and the Emery Unified School District knows much more about the weather than the National Weather Service obviously.
Emery Schools Superintendent
John Rubio

Emeryville has had
"unusually wet weather".
Don't believe the Weather Service.
Trust me.

The Noise Ordinance is Unreasonable, It Doesn't Work if There's a Lot of Rain
The School District is way behind schedule delivering the ECCL...a year behind specifically, and they've offered many excuses over the last year for why they can't seem to bring this project in on time.  So now it's the rain.  They didn't plan on rain.  And that's why Emeryville residents must put up with loud Saturday work days from now until August.
The Emeryville City Council agreed.  They felt Turner's pain.  The claim of "unusually wet weather" went unexplained.  The Council apparently was supposed to simply take that at face value.  And so that's what they did.
Last fall Turner asked for a Noise Ordinance waiver without even giving a reason.  Just to increase their profit margins we imagine and again the Council felt Turner's pain.  Now at least they're giving a reason to grant the waiver, it's 'because you can't trust the National Weather Service and all their fancy rain gauges'.  Who are you going to believe after all, Turner Construction and the Emery Unified School District or wacky scientists (and your own lying eyes)?

The drought is over!  So go ahead Emeryville residents! Go ahead and rip out those drought tolerant plantings you put in back when the California Water Resources Control Board was to be believed and go back to Kentucky bluegrass (backyard BBQs will have to wait until the rainy season is finally over).  If you've got a running toilet, it can be ignored.  Luxuriate in 60 gallon showers!  And flush with abandon because apparently Emeryville's had it's own little dark rain cloud hovering over our town all year inundating us.

Below comes from the National Weather Service (if you can believe them):
  • City
  • Last 24 Hours
  • July 1st to   Date
  • Percent of Norm
  • July 1st to date last year
  • Percent of Norm
  • July 1st to date norm
  • Total Season Norm
  • Berkeley
  • 0.08
  • 17.76
  • 68
  • 13.67
  • 52
  • 26.24
  • 27.62
    • Downtown Oakland
    • 0.00
    • 21.82
    • 94
    • 17.17
    • 74
    • 23.26
    • 24.29
    • Source: Weather Underground

Emeryville Police Arrest Oakland Cop

Emeryville's Finest Arrest Oakland's (What?)

Emeryville police arrested an off duty Oakland cop, Matthew Joseph Santos, February 17th after he drew a gun on a house painter at the 40th Street Emeryville apartment complex where Mr Santos lives an Emeryville Police Department official told the Tattler.  The Oakland cop, a rookie on probation, was terminated by the Oakland Police Department and he has been charged with felony kidnapping and false imprisonment by the Alameda County District Attorney. Mr Santos is scheduled to enter a plea on May 23.
The house painter was part of a crew working at the Bridgecourt Apartments 1331 40th Street, waterproofing the buildings, the second time in six years, after residents complained of black mold due to persistent leaks.  Mr Santos forced the painter to leave the scene at gunpoint after he returned home and saw his front door being painted.  A private security guard was witness to the event.

The Bay Area News Group has the story HERE.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

City Council Moves Against Horton Street Bike Boulevard

Council Reversal:
No 'Chokers' for Horton Street 

'Level Four' Traffic Calming Snatched From Consideration,
Horton Street Pushed Back to Level Three

Mayor, Vice Mayor Break Explicit Campaign Promises

Emeryville will not implement a key provision of its $200,000 Bike Plan the City Council revealed April 5th when they voted to negate a contentious traffic calming metric on Horton Street mandated by the Plan, an action requested by City staff, developers and the business community repeatedly over the years.  The provision, the emplacement of certain specific traffic calming devises called chokers on the street, was unanimously approved in 2012 when the Council certified Emeryville's award winning Bike Plan and so the April 5th decision represents a reversal for the City.
 With its signs, stencils and other traffic mitigating measures in place, Horton Street as of now is at traffic calming 'level three' according to the Bike Plan but with the latest reversal, the Council now unanimously disregards the Plan's long passed schedule 'Level Four' traffic calming for the street and instead will implement a different version of a Level Three calming device, namely speed bumps.  Mayor Dianne Martinez and Vice Mayor Scott Donahue, who ran as a slate, broke specific campaign promises by their votes on April 5th.

At issue are so called 'chokers', a pinching down of the street to one lane in a specific area designated as the Level Four traffic calming treatment intended to drive traffic volumes down to less than 3000 vehicle trips per day.  Bike boulevards are defined as "bikes preferred, cars allowed" streets and Horton Street is the first of Emeryville's network of official bike boulevards that has run into bike safety problems excess traffic volumes brings.
Dianne Martinez & Scott Donahue
Broken promises for Horton Street.
(Photo from their campaign flyer)
Now they think Level Four traffic calming
is too much.
Bike safety must continue to wait
for Emeryville.
Horton has long been a source of contention; developers and business interests wishing to place more cars on the street with the only push back for bicyclists being Emeryville's long ignored Bike Plan.  The street could serve as a safe north south route for bikers through the town but Horton has been plagued by huge numbers of vehicles that only gets worse every year as traffic counts show.  The City responded by writing the 2012 Bike Plan, after spending two years of public meetings and $200,000 on it. Up until now the Plan has withered, the City Council refusing to implement it.  That was supposed to change on April 5th but the Mayor and Vice Mayor changed their minds.

Even as the City Council ignores the Plan, as individual candidates, every four years they universally have told voters they like bicycling and they will implement our Bike Plan.  Mayor Martinez and Vice Mayor Donahue joined their colleagues and voted NO to chokers for Horton Street on April 5th but in 2014 when they were running for Council they told voters they would support the Plan and install chokers.
On October 7th of that year, candidate Scott Donahue told Emeryville citizens:
"I strongly support Emeryville's Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan overall, including maintaining Horton Street as a bike boulevard.  I helped craft the plan, having spent more than 10 years on the City's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.  It is a balanced plan and addresses the needs of all stakeholders."   -Scott Donahue,  2014

Councilman Donahue refused to comment to the Tattler about the discrepancy between what he told voters he would do versus the vote he took on April 5th.
Mayor Martinez was even more explicit in the run up to her election, telling voters on October 9th:
"I support Emeryville’s Bike/Ped Plan and believe that Horton Street should remain a Bicycle Boulevard as defined by that plan, and that we should continue to strive for under 3,000 vehicle trips per day on this street."   -Dianne Martinez,  2014
Candidate Martinez elucidated the need for Level Four traffic calming for Horton Street, taking a more cautious approach than moving directly to Level Five traffic calming what Emeryville's Bike Committee recommended at the time. She directly said if elected she would vote for Level Four traffic calming for Horton Street telling voters:
"In light of the recent community meetings at city hall, I’m personally in favor of Level 4 traffic calming measures, without going straight to the experimental traffic diverters (part of a 'Level 5' strategy) recommended by the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC). "   -Dianne Martinez,  2014

Emeryville's city staff has long been against Level Four or Level Five traffic calming for Horton Street as regular Tattler readers know.  City Manager Carolyn Lehr recently told the Tattler she's against chokers completely, calling them "too extreme."  Ms Lehr moved against the Bicycle Committee and against the Bike Plan's settled bicycle policy by removing Level Four traffic calming from consideration for Horton Street.  Ms Lehr's plan to remove chokers was revealed at a February 1st community meeting to discuss the temporary traffic calming measures, the public not given an option to consider them and weigh in.  Instead, the community was given several Level Three options to consider for the street against the wishes of the Bike Committee.
For her part, Mayor Martinez told the Tattler recently she does not approve of what Ms Lehr and the staff did by taking Level Four traffic calming off the table for consideration.  The Mayor defended her vote against Level Four traffic calming for Horton Street, hinting perhaps someday the Bike Plan could still be implemented, regardless of her vote on April 5th:
"I stand by my original answer from my campaign. I support Level 4 traffic calming short of (Level 5) diverters.  Chokers were not offered to the BPAC as part of the experimental Level 4 calming [at the February 1st community meeting], and that's unfortunate that they weren't reviewed by the public as a potential tool for traffic calming.  However, I'm not willing to wait another minute to implement much-needed measures on Horton.  A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and there is always room to review the effects of the proposed plan and add more calming measures in the future."  -Dianne Martinez,  2016
Vice Mayor Donahue was adamant about following the Bike Plan and installing chokers for Horton Street after the February 1st community meeting (but before his April 5th vote).  Upset at the City Manager and the staff for not including discussion of chokers at the community meeting, he told the Tattler in March:
"I'm disappointed chokers were not presented as an option to be studied at the [February 1st] community meeting but I will insist that they be studied and will put it on the next [Council] agenda if staff will not do it".   -Scott Donahue, 2016
The Councilman refused comment to the Tattler about why he changed his mind.