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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

National Night Out Emeryville

From the Emeryville Community Services Department and the Emeryville Police Department:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Horton Street Bike Boulevard is Coming But Businesses and Council Members Say No

Who Are You Going to Believe on Traffic?
Independent Traffic Engineers or City Council Demagogues?

Davis/Brinkman Emerge as Would Be 
Climate Science Deniers
 to Stop Bikes on Horton Street

News Analysis/Opinion
Should public policy have a rational basis at Emeryville City Hall?  Most would say yes to this but Kurt Brinkman and Nora Davis have a different take.
So badly do council members Brinkman and Davis want to do the bidding of developers and the business community at the expense of the residents, they've now resorted to a similitude of climate science denial; rationality nowhere to be found.  The two council members are now publicly stating that independent traffic studies using the scientific method, prepared by reputable traffic engineering firms, and retained by the City itself, are not to be believed; "Hard to believe" they both said specifically after casting aspersions on engineers and the idea of a cogent polity emanating out of City Hall.  Instead of science we're supposed to believe their vague unsubstantiated impressions about traffic; an alternate view that, incidentally they would have us believe, would help their developer friends and businesses.
It's all being done by these two Council demagogues to try to stop traffic calming measures coming to Horton Street, an eventuality that favored developer Rich Robbins of Wareham Development and other connected business owners on the street say they don't want.
Nora Davis
Scientists have a hidden agenda
They're not to be believed.

Traffic calming is coming to Horton because there are too many cars and trucks using the street.  This isn't an opinion, it's's the law.  Traffic is controlled on Horton Street and other streets in town that have been designated as 'bicycle boulevards' by the City's Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan, a document ensconced into law by a vote of the Council two years ago.  The Bike Plan provides that certain identified commuting bike boulevard thoroughfares are meant to exist primarily for bikes (but motorized traffic is also allowed).  Central to this provision is the mandate that no more than 3000 vehicle trips per day be permitted to use bike boulevards for safety and to encourage bike use.  The 3000 number incidentally, was arrived at when the Bike Plan was drafted because Emeryville business concerns wanted a higher number than what our neighbor to the north, Berkeley allows for their bike boulevards (that being 1500).  The actual daily traffic counts on Horton Street as measured by the traffic engineers range from 4800 all the way up to 12,000 near the Amtrak station, a gross violation of the Bike Plan.  The Plan calls for mandatory traffic calming to be used to force vehicle traffic below the 3000 threshold.

Emeryville's new award winning Pedestrian/Bike Plan, completed in 2012, took two years to formulate.  It was vetted at many public meetings with the help of the Bike Committee, city staff, citizens and Berkeley's Alta Planning at a cost of $200,000.  It was certified by a unanimous vote of the City Council.

Kurt Brinkman
Who's your daddy?
Why believe scientists when you can
believe us and our developer friends?
Obstructionist Tactic: Deny
This Bike Plan however is something council members Kurt Brinkman and Nora Davis can't countenance now even though they themselves voted to certify it.  The two are using a well worn tactic of the right now that a regimen of traffic calming is (past) due: they're denying the traffic counts, denying the science.  Mr Brinkman said at the July 15th City Council meeting (on video below), "I drive that road almost everyday and I don't see very much activity on Horton Street.  I know there were some traffic studies that were done a number of years ago but I just question how much traffic is going on on that street.  It's hard to believe."  Nora Davis piped up,"It's hard to believe. You could shoot a gun down there most of the time".  Traffic studies, schmaffic studies.

As the Horton Street Bike Boulevard finally comes to a head, the two science denier council members are likely planning to deliver a crowd of pitchfork and torch wielding business owners and selected residents to loudly say NO! to traffic calming at a meeting (or two) scheduled for September.  They may wish for the political cover a hoped for angry mob can deliver.  This remains to be seen but one thing can be relied on; any move by the City Council to stop traffic calming for Horton Street will be met with a legal requirement for them to vote to change the Bike Plan (and the ordinate General Plan) to either increase the number of permissible vehicle traffic trips on the street (something considerably higher than 12,000 per day) or delete the Horton Street Bike Boulevard all together.  However lot's of people like the Horton Street Bike Boulevard and a vote by the Council against traffic calming there will not come free.  Davis/Brinkman demagogic rhetoric aside, accompanying a No vote will be a hefty political price that will be paid.

Video Courtesy of the Emeryville Property Owners Association 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Controversial New Principal Hired by School District

Teachers Cry Foul:
Anti-Teacher Record Follows New Principal

Summer vacation, normally a quiescent time at the Emery Unified School District is turning out to be a time of great consternation after the School Board certified the hire of a controversial new school principal last week.
Anna Yates Elementary School teachers are railing against the hiring of the new employee, Dr Russom Mesfun after it was revealed that Mr Mefun was named as a defendant in a successful 2008 lawsuit brought by teachers at his former place of employment, Lodi Unified School District.  The charges brought against Mr Mesfun at San Joaquin Superior Court show a administrator hostile to teachers that includes violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act for unlawful retaliation and discrimination and also defamation, wrongful termination with negligent hiring supervision and retention among others.  Lodi Unified ultimately settled the suit for $250,000.
Mr Mesfun had been Principal at the Central Valley town of Lodi's Christa McAuliffe Middle School before he resigned in the wake of the lawsuit.

Dr Russom Mesfun
The selection of Mr Mesfun at Emery was initiated by two panels consisting of district administrators, two teachers and a School Board member but the School Board as a whole had the final say in the matter.
  In a July 17th letter drafted to all the elementary school teachers at Emery after the selection of Mr Mesfun, new Superintendent Dr John Rubio, a champion of Mr Mesfun, said it was important that a "strong leader" be chosen for principle at the school and that there were "no other candidates that came anywhere close to Mr Mesfun in terms of experience and leadership ability."
However, teachers at Anna Yates expressed dismay at the prospect that Emery would hire a new principal with such a polarizing anti-teacher record, pointing to the baleful and divisive tenure of the recently deposed Superintendent of the schools Dr Debbra Lindo.   Ms Lindo's anti-teacher tactics brought on a response known as the Teacher's Resolution; a litany of abuses against Emery's teachers at the hand of Ms Lindo.
Teachers at Anna Yates who expressed desire for anonymity told the Tattler they hoped the selection of Mr Mesfun would not mean the start of a new season of anti-teacher culture and action directed at them by Emery Unified.  "It doesn't inspire a lot of confidence" one such teacher said after noting the retirement of Ms Lindo had brought hopes of a reset of teacher relations for the administration at Emery.

The San Joaquin County Superior Court complaint against Mr Mesfun may be read HERE.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Emery Schools Awards Contract for Children's Bio-Metric Scan Data to Corporate Entity

For Profit Third Party Corporation to Control Our Children's Permanent Bio Data

Emery Asks: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? 

News Analysis
It would appear Big Brother is set to arrive this August at an Emery school near you.  If he's not quite here yet, he's busy setting up shop.  That's because the Emery Unified School District has announced to parents that they are handing over to Fujitsu USA, the world's third largest IT service provider,  the contract to bio-metrically scan and store the children's palm data as they que up for lunches this coming school year starting in August.  It's all to save money the School District says but it's a slippery slope for children's personal privacy rights says the American Civil Liberties Union and concerned parents.

A spokesperson for Emery says the bio scan near-infrared palm blood vein readers will improve the speed of the lunch lines and the accuracy of lunch counts and sales.  They maintain Fujitsu, a corporation that partners with thousands of independent software vendors, consultants and systems integrators in its cloud based platform, will not store the children's information for anytime more than each discreet lunch period.  Emery didn't elaborate on how Fujitsu will know who is who day to day among the children without bio database storage however.
Do kindergarteners understand the risks associated
with giving a for profit corporation their permanent
bio-metric signatures? 

Some aren't convinced about the promises of confidentiality coming from the School District on behalf of Fujitsu Inc.
Bio-metric data is notoriously unchangeable.  If it happens that the unique characteristics used for bio-metric authentication are compromised, the affected person has no possibility for revocation or to get new ones issued.  In addition, bio-metric databases themselves can be considered a threat to privacy.  Such data may be used as unique identifiers and thus enable linking to other databases for purposes of profiling.  For instance bio-metric data may be used to identify health risks which may raise future desires for access to the data by health insurance companies, banks and advertising.
Fujitsu says they can be trusted with our
children's bio-scan data forever.  As a corporation,
they will be able to resist temptation to use the data
for something else even if it will increase profits.
Emery Unified stands by them.

Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU in Washington said of the palm scanners in general, "If it's a technology that works really well, it won't be long before you're offering your palm in a lot of different locations, and you will be concerned about who's got access to that information and what they want to do with it."  One parent in another school district said of the lunchtime school lunch bio scanners proliferating in school districts across California, "I understand taking an iris scan of a pilot at an airport so you know who's flying the plane.  This is that level of equipment they're installing in a line that serves steamed corn".

  Emery says parents will be allowed to opt their children out of the bio scanner system by filling out a form available at the schools.
The District didn't say how much money they are paying to Fujitsu to set up the new system but in a letter to parents about the Fujitsu contract they noted they look forward to "the benefits this new technology will provide to Emery children."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Saturday is 'Love Our Neighborhood Day'

RULE Meeting

Residents United For A Livable Emeryville
Come and meet your progressive neighbors and make your city more responsive to YOU!
Next regular meeting:  Saturday, July 19
10:00 - 12:00
Doyle St. CoHousing, 5514 Doyle St., 1st floor common room

-City Council election campaign planning
-School Board candidates invited to answer our questions
-Progress on Sherwin Williams site
-Reports of city committees

*subject to additions and changes
Bring breakfast snacks...............................Coffee and tea provided

  For more information contact Judy Timmel, 510-601-6521 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Developers Complain About Proposed Emeryville Impact Fees

Billionaires Don't Want to Pay Taxes:
World's Smallest Violin

Emeryville is so unfair to developers!  That's what John Nady, gazillionaire CEO of Nady Systems told the City Council on Tuesday.  He's not happy with all the government largess already poured on him from his friends at Emeryville City Hall.  Now they want to raise taxes on him.  It's sooo unfair!  Can you imagine?  If the City Council raises the developer impact fees like they're investigating doing, Mr Nady may have to pay money.  He told the Council he doesn't like paying money.  Now he might have to pay almost as much as he would in other neighboring cities like Berkeley or Oakland.

Emeryville is so mean!  
Developers like 
John Nady
need one of these.
Cry Me a Friggin River
In the wake of the loss of the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency and the accompanied loss of revenue for the City, starting last April the City Council has been entertaining the idea of raising developer impact fees, in an attempt to recover costs incurred by the City attributable to new development.  As it stands now, Emeryville has the lowest such fees of all the neighboring towns and as a consequence, developers here have enjoyed what amounts to a large taxpayer funded subsidy.  It is this subsidy Mr Nady told the Council members he wishes to reap as he develops Avalon Bay, a large residential project on the Berkeley border.  Mr Nady has entered into an agreement with Avalon Bay Communities, a Virginia based REIT development corporation to build the 200 unit project and any increase in fees will scuttle the deal he says.  It would seem Mr Nady's profits are going to be cut into.  Mr Nady instead likes the idea that Emeryville taxpayers help him out with a gift of tax relief.   He wants us to pay for his project. Isn't that special?
A representative of SRM Ernst, the developer of the Sherwin Williams project also spoke out against the idea that Emeryville raise the impact fees at Tuesday's meeting.  It would seem that the sky will fall if Emeryville charges (almost) as much as other cities charge and developers will be crushed, bringing down the whole economy with them, it will be thus or so they say.

John Nady in happier times
Now he wants us to 

cry him a river.
Realize, John Nady has already been the recipient of a huge gift from the Emeryville City Council majority in the form of a lifting of the constraints of the General Plan back in 2009.  The whole city had engaged in a two year, four million dollar process of rewriting our General Plan.  A guiding principle ensconced in the Plan is the idea there be a "central core" of tall buildings radiating out from the Christie/Powell area, building heights lowering as they move away from the core area.  This idea was vetted by the Emeryville residents in a series of town hall meetings.  As a result of the central core concept, John Nady's property, being on the extreme north end of town, was subject to a 55 foot height limit.  But Mr Nady wanted to maximize his profits and sell his land to Avalon.  The height limit would cut into his profits so he appealed to the City Council to help him out.  So Councilwoman Nora Davis and her colleagues in the pro-developer Council majority changed the new General Plan to allow for unlimited height on Mr Nady's parcel.  No findings of fact were presented.  It was simply a gift from the people of Emeryville to John Nady to the tune of millions of dollars in property value enhancement.   They gave this gift, against the wishes of the people of Emeryville to a developer on his way out of Emeryville.

But he's still not happy.  That gift of property value increase as it turns out, only meant to serve as an appetizer for Mr Nady.  Now he wants more from the taxpayers of Emeryville.

Police guard the gated Nady 
mansion in Piedmont.
1%'ers have it so tough!
It's not the first time the private desires of John Nady have crashed into the domain of the greater public.  In 2011, in the style of a bad Hollywood movie script, Mr Nady brought on the ire of the Elem Pomo Indians as he sought to build a vacation home complex on Clear lake's Rattlesnake Island, a Native American sacred site including burial ground.   After Mr Nady purchased the island by dubious means with intention to develop it, his Piedmont mansion was picketed by Native Americans.

While Mr Nady's childish antics at City Hall last Tuesday were certainly entertaining and as the City Council continues to deliberate impact fees moving forward, we've got a novel idea for them both to consider:  If a developer can't make a go of it without (another) government bailout like Mr Nady is saying he needs, they can't make a go of it at all and they don't deserve to be in business in the first place.  This is especially true if the developer in question wants to build a residential project (as opposed to a commercial development) since those projects have been shown to be net revenue neutral  for City Hall: it pays out in resident services as much if not more than what it receives in residential taxes.
  We're tired of the kind of pro-developer favoritism that's been the culture at City Hall and we say to the natty suited John Nady and the other developers who will surely step forward looking for more handouts, we're not listening to billionaire whiners and complainers and their childish claims of entitlements anymore here.
Let's recoup everything we have to pay for these developers.  It's time we raise the impact fees to at least as much as what our neighbors charge.

Video courtesy of the Emeryville Property Owners Association

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Loan Scandal Elevates Mayor's, Councilwoman's Star

Profiles in Courage

Jac Asher & Jennifer West Emerge from Scandal as Heros

What kind of town is it where politicians need to be thanked simply for doing their job?   It's Emeryville; sadly, our kind of town.

So let's get to it.
We thank Mayor Jac Asher and Councilwoman Jennifer West for disregarding the advise of the staff and their colleagues on the Council when the two voted NO to giving a gift of $6 million in public funds to Mall developer Madison Marquette last year, a story of City Hall ineptitude that's recently been highlighted as egregious in a report by the independent Alameda County Grand Jury.
The courageous two councilwomen come out smelling like a rose in the report.  Their colleagues, the other three?  Not so much.  To be less obtuse, they came out smelling like something, just not roses.

"Vote for me and I'll look
 out for your interests"
So we did.  
And so she did.
Why was the vote courageous? Because the two council members risked scorn and repudiation for their vote.
We've seen it before, especially from Council members Nora Davis and Kurt Brinkman: 'Ms Asher and West are filled with hubris, acting as if they are more enlightened and knowledgeable then our professional staff.'  Stuff like that.  But guess what?  They ARE more enlightened and knowledgeable, and their vote against this deal, a deal the Grand Jury called a "failure" of the decision makers to "fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities to the citizenry",  proves it so.
This Grand Jury report, read by people and institutions all over the East Bay is an embarrassment for the City of Emeryville.  It's a civic embarrassment Ms Asher and West heroically sought to avoid with their vote.  They should be thanked...but not by us; instead it should come from those now with egg on their faces at City Hall.  Something tells us it's not going to work out that way however.

A fan of democracy,
transparency and
effective government

There's been a twenty five year pro-developer juggernaut at Emeryville City Hall.  Notice how we say "developer" and not "development".  Because that's the ideological modus operandi that drives the council majority.  It's not that they simply want to facilitate development, it's more critically that they want to help developers...certain favored developers.  In this case Madison Marquette, the same developer they bent over backwards for to help secure free exclusive rights to the fallow land north of the Bay Street mall for almost ten years, a case wherein Emeryville residents ultimately lost everything after Madison got off the pot after not having shat.
In a rare moment of forthright brevity by a staff member, the E'Ville Eye blog recorded former City Manager Pat O'Keeffe admitting this specific general affection for developers he (and the Council majority) has; "pro developer" he called it.

Aside from a few such rare moments of cats being let out of bags at City Hall, the Grand Jury's dispassionate and apolitical take on this rotten deal, happily accommodated by the pro-developer 'council three', should serve as an irrefutable spotlight to those who still doubt the real nature of the culture here in Emeryville.  Plenty have long harped on this issue, including the Tattler, and it's validating and empowering to see such a venerable and respected outside group such as the Alameda Grand Jury agree with us.

The question now is what is to be done with this?  Having found malfeasance but no evidence of overt criminal activity in the case of the Madison Marquette Council vote, it's something the residents themselves will have to decide, possibly in the voting booth or before.

But in the meantime, again, thanks be to Jac Asher and Jennifer West.  They told us they would look out after our interests if we elected them to the City Council, and that's what they've done.  It may be a sad commentary on the state of Emeryville politics to have to say it but thanks for doing your job, you two.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Alameda County Grand Jury: City of Emeryville is Incompetent, Lacks Fiduciary Expertise

Scathing Report:
Nora Davis, Ruth Atkin and Kurt Brinkman Put Developer's Needs Ahead of Residents

City Attorney Mike Biddle is a Dilettante

The independent Alameda County Grand Jury released damning and condemnatory findings this week from a probe into a City of Emeryville scandal involving inappropriate financial dealings that put the needs of Bay Street Mall developer Madison Marquette ahead of Emeryville resident's needs.  At issue is the City Council majority's attempt to forgive $6 million of an $18 million loan to Madison Marquette by the former Redevelopment Agency at the behest of the City staff last year.
The Grand Jury's report excoriates the staff, particularly the City Attorney Mike Biddle and the recently retired Director of Finances Helen Bean for doing the bidding of the favored developer Madison at the expense of the people of Emeryville.  The scathing report also blamed City Council members Nora Davis, Ruth Atkin and Kurt Brinkman for voting to forgive the loan.

The Grand Jury said they were troubled by the fact that significant financial decisions were made with "insufficient research".  The report found the staff and the Council failed to conduct due diligence and that the staff lacks fiscal expertise.  The three City Council members and the staff were found to be incompetent and they failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the citizenry.

The Secret News has the whole story covered HERE.

Regional Minimum Wage Proposal: Emeryville Mayor Jac Asher Joins East Bay Mayors

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

East Bay mayors looking to raise minimum wage together

Updated 5:45 am, Monday, June 23, 2014

East Bay mayors are moving forward with a plan to adopt a single minimum wage for the region in order to share the benefits and burdens of raising salaries for the lowest-paid workers.
The proposal, initiated by Berkeley MayorTom Bates, calls on Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Alameda, Albany and El Cerrito to adopt a minimum wage of $12.82 per hour by 2017. Richmond already has adopted its own minimum wage, $12.30 by 2017.
"It makes so much more sense if we were all on the same page, for the same amount," Bates said. "This way we can share enforcement duties, and no city would be at an economic disadvantage."
Bates' plan is modeled on Oakland's proposal, which goes before voters on Nov. 4. The primary difference is that the wage would only jump 11.6 percent the first year, instead of 36.1 percent as proposed in Oakland. Bates' plan also does not include mandatory health benefits or sick leave, which he said should be handled individually.
The advantage of a regional plan is that cities with higher minimum wages would not lose business to neighboring towns with lower minimum wages, he said. They could also share paperwork and economic analyses, as well as enforcement duties.
Several mayors said they support the idea and plan to push for it with their city councils.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said a regional minimum wage, especially if it's lower than San Francisco's $15-per-hour proposal, would give the East Bay an economic advantage in attracting business but still help its lowest-paid workers.
"We're trying to get this coordinated," Quan said. "It shouldn't be more difficult for one city to raise its minimum wage. ... It'd be much easier for all of us if this was a coordinated effort."
One hitch is that each city has its own economic nuances, which might be better addressed on smaller scales. Oakland, for example, has mostly rebounded from the recession, but some sectors of the economy are still fragile and should get specialized attention, she said.
Nonprofits and summer youth employment programs should also have exemptions, she said.
Emeryville Mayor Jac Asher said the City Council plans to look at the idea in July.
"My feeling is that we need to raise workers' wages, and we need to do it immediately. People are really having a hard time," she said. "I absolutely understand what Mayor Bates wants to do, and if there's some way to get a regional minimum wage, I'd be very supportive."
Her colleagues on the council might not be as receptive, she said. Even with a regional minimum wage proposal, each city will still have to navigate difficult political waters with its own business and labor communities, she said.
"Even Berkeley has had a hard time with this," she said, noting the Berkeley City Council's revisions and delays to that city's minimum wage plan. "I think, no matter what, we'll all be fighting battles over this."