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Friday, February 16, 2018

Emeryville Police Excoriates E'Ville Eye Blog

Police Officers Release Letter Refuting 
E'Ville Eye Editor

A recent smear campaign directed at the Emeryville City Council and the Emeryville police from the E'Ville Eye blog has prompted the Emeryville Police Officers' Association to release a letter defending the rank and file against the attacks on their officers, what they refer to as "negative posts" made by Rob Arias, the editor of the blog, and several of his readers.  The letter released to the Tattler late Friday evening refutes claims made by Mr Arias that the EPD is being manipulated by the Emeryville City Council, an alleged conspiracy he says that is responsible for what he calls a spike in crime, caused by the City Council members directing the police away from enforcing the law. 
E'Ville Eye Editor Rob Arias
Alleges the City Council is
manipulating the police.  The police
deny Mr Arias' "negative posts".

Mr Arias has directed the E'Ville Eye, Emeryville's pro-business news blog, in a conspiratorially minded direction with a recent flurry of stories blaming the City Council for driving businesses away and driving up crime because of their support for Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance.  At the same time he is also asserting that back room dealings by the Council have laid plans to stamp out what he calls "police instincts" to quell law enforcement.  Without offering evidence, Mr Arias has informed his readers the Council wants Emeryville's police to be councilors for criminals instead of law enforcement agents because he says the City Council has made an  agreement that arrests are not necessary, rather "criminals will self-rehabilitate if we give them enough chances."   He has called upon the City Council to "stop undermining the force and let them do their job.", a charge specifically refuted by the police officers in their letter.

Any private agreements among the City Council members as Mr Arias suggests would be a violation of the law owing to the California code known as the Brown Act that requires public business to be conducted in public.  The Brown Act, also known as the 'sunshine law',  is clear, especially where a quorum of elected officials occurs behind closed doors as would necessarily be the case if Mr Arias' claims of conspiracy to manipulate the police were true.

The Emeryville Police Officers Association (EPOA), the public service union that represents the rank and file at EPD, is a natural adversary for Mr Arias it should be noted, who has long used his blog to rail against unions, including specifically Emeryville's public service unions.

Here is the letter received from the EPOA:

February 16th, 2018

Emeryville Police Officers' Association Supports Elected Officials

It was recently brought to the attention of the Emeryville Police Officers' Association Board off Directors that certain social media posts attributed statements to unidentified members of the Police Department which in some respects were critical to the relationship between the Emeryville Police Officers;' Association, the Mayor, and the City Council. 
While we continue to build upon our excellent relationship with the City and the community, we are not insensitive to the fact that members are always engaging in conversation with members of our community on various issues.  Some members of the community have their own set of beliefs that may influence their account of contact with our members.  We believe that our members exercise great restraint and discretion in engaging in conversation on topics that may be controversial.  It is our belief members will avoid disparaging our City government or the Police Department. 
Although we do not have any specifics on what was actually said or who may have said it, we have reached out to all our members asking them to be judicious and respectful in conversations about our Police Department and the city's elected officials.
Our police officers have always had a great relationship with and support from our elected city officials.  The police officers, sergeants and elected officials of Emeryville share interest in the safety of the community and are committed to working together to fight crime.  In a small City like ours, EPOC membership has a unique opportunity to make a significant contribution towards a better quality of life for our residents.  It is only in continued cooperation and collaborative effort between the Mayor, City Council, and the Emeryville Police Officers' Association that we will be able to realize Emeryville's true potential.  It is in this unified effort that we believe: Our size is our strength.
Finally, we want to acknowledge that our membership has thousands and thousands of contacts with citizens each year.  These recent negative posts represent a fraction of the number of comments made by citizens about us.  By far and away the majority of our contact with our community is very positive and social media reflects the professionalism and integrity of our members.
We look forward to working with residents, Mayor and the City Council to continue growing the quality of life in Emeryville.
Emeryville Police Officers' Association 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Emery School Board Member Donn Merriam, Announces Re-Election Bid

Audacious Donn Merriam Throws Hat in Ring

Running For Re-Election on Record of Support of 
Superintendent Rubio

November's election season has begun early for Emery School Board, the opening salvo initiated by Board member Donn Merriam in what promises to be the District's first truly contentious board election.

School Board member Donn Merriam has launched a campaign to be selected an Alameda County delegate for a statewide association of school board members, a two year position that would run concurrent with his Emery Board position, putting to rest questions about a possible re-election bid for Emery School Board in November when his term is up.
School Board Member Donn Merriam
Running for re-election as a strong
supporter of Superintendent Rubio.

Notably, Mr Merriam's support
 has never wavered despite the 
Superintendent's terrible record 
that has driven Emery down.
The announcement of Mr Merriam's campaign is a portentous development in a looming and contentious Board election season for the struggling Emery Unified School District pitting Mr Merriam and his existing status quo Board majority supportive of schools Superintendent John Rubio against a probable field of energized opposition candidates seeking to turn the dysfunctional district around.
Mr Merriam has been a controversial Board member, having voted in December 2016 to renew the District’s employment contract with embattled and pugnacious Emery Schools Superintendent John Rubio despite Mr Rubio’s lamentable three year record at Emery frequently splashed all over the pages of the Tattler and the East Bay Times.  It has been widely rumored that Mr Merriam would not seek re-election after the drubbing Mr Rubio has received having so definitively dragged the District down during his tenure.  The beleaguered Mr Merriam is closely associated with the Superintendent serving as the Board’s most ardent supporter regardless of Mr Rubio’s bad record at Emery.

Board member Merriam has stood by Superintendent Rubio even as the Superintendent has led the District into the cellar among Bay Area school districts in academic achievement, dropping its ranking to last place in the East Bay under Mr Rubio’s watch.  Additionally, Superintendent Rubio has earned the notorious distinction of the worst teacher retention of any Bay Area school superintendent, a common metric used by educators to evaluate the efficacy of superintendents.  Mr Merriam infamously threw his unconditional support behind Superintendent Rubio during a 2015 contentious fight when the Tattler and the East Bay Times exposed Mr Rubio after he conducted an illegal and secret Board meeting behind closed doors, the beset Superintendent only admitting culpability and apologizing later, Mr Merriam following suit.

Mr Merriam is hoping to be among the four selected by Alameda County school board members to represent the County among 270 delegates representing nearly 1000 school districts statewide. Such a status would likely bolster his chances for re-election in November, a fact probably not lost on Mr Merriam.  The Emery School Board will vote for four (out of seven) representatives for the august seat on the California School Board Association Wednesday night and among his colleagues Mr Merriam is a likely shoo-in (4-1?) however he is less likely to receive enough votes among the other Alameda County school boards owing to Mr Merriam’s thin resume, lacking in educational bona fides as it is.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Spur Alley Bike Path Betrays Emeryville's 'Bike Friendly' Claims

Coddling a Developer on Spur Alley
at the Expense of Bikes

City Refuses to Enforce Public Bike Path Easement

Bike Path Forsaken

News Analysis
There’s a bike path in Emeryville, putatively on private land but officially recognized in the City’s Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan and legally dedicated for public use by means of a City Hall mandated public easement that could nonetheless get you arrested for trespassing were you so bold as to actually ride your bike on it.  Welcome to Emeryville’s Spur Alley bike path…however ‘welcome’ is not really the kind of word that would be used to describe how bicyclists are made to feel on their bike path. 
 Illegal Sign 
The Spur Alley Bike Path can be used  by
the whole public any time without constraint.
It is not "subject to control of the owner".
Emeryville City staff wants this sign to
remain up, giving police the right
to arrest bicyclists using their own bike path.
The ‘preferred use’ north/south bike route running parallel with and a block east of busy Hollis Street was dedicated when the City placed the route in its Bike Plan in the 1990’s.  Conceived as a way to encourage bikers to use the former railroad spur route instead of the dangerous Hollis Street, the City subsequently secured an easement on the private land that guarantees unrestricted public use of the corridor.  The developer owner of the land sees the easement differently however and he’s placed signage there that tells bikers the land is private property and their use of Spur Alley is provisional. 

Public Use?
Bikers would be understandably confused by the plethora of signs informing them Spur Alley is an official City bike route at the same time threatening them with arrest at the behest of a private ‘controlling’ owner.  The Emeryville Police Department is not confused however and they have acknowledged that bicyclists will in fact be arrested if they fail to vacate the bike path if the owner tells them to leave.  It’s a conundrum; the City guarantees the right to pass unconditionally through the same piece of land its own police department says NO to.

This bike route starkly reveals how what the City of Emeryville says about bikes runs into the reality in the field; the deference City Hall pays not to bikes but to developers and the business community.   Citizens attempting to use this City recognized bike route could get a very clear correction for believing in the good faith of Emeryville and its Bike Plan with its oft repeated claims of bike love…as clear as a pair of handcuffs.  

Not A Bike Friendly History
The history of Spur Alley is a Cliff Notes summery of bikes in Emeryville in the aggregate, revealing a city that’s long on talk and short on action.
After the city attorney secured the use of the alley for bikes in a deal with the developer in 1998, the City with help from the Bike Committee, dedicated Spur Alley as a Class 3 bike path in the forlorn Emeryville Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan.  Unsatisfied, the developer wanted to increase the value of the leases to his tenants (among them the popular gymnasium Head Over Heels) who were clamoring for more parking. As a result, the City Council, under pressure from the developer, ultimately voted to allow private parking on the bike path easement.  The bikes, a tolerable nuisance to the developer at the onset, now turned into an unacceptable impingement on his bottom line and he appealed to the City Council, who voted 3 to 2 (Atkin, Fricke dissenting) to allow private parking on the public bike easement.  The public was still to be allowed use of the bike path, the City Council assured the public at their July 17th 2007 meeting, just not in striped bike lanes on the easement as was originally planned. 
This sign is also up at Spur Alley 
sending a conflicted message to bicyclists.  
The oft repeated trope about being a
"bicycle friendly city" is betrayed on Spur Alley.
Emeryville's actual views on bicycling are
more complicated.

Earlier, Councilman John Fricke noticed the staff wasn't taking Spur Alley seriously as a bike route, "second class status" he called it (in the normal parlance unrelated to official bike route class designations).  He noted in November 2006 the developer had closed the alley for construction but hadn't even gotten an encroachment permit as would be required for any public easement as he testified at a  Council meeting (see video below).  The staff responded that they had "forgotten" Spur Alley had a public easement and so that's why the developer shouldn't be taken to task for the illegal closure. 
Mr Fricke's charge that the staff wasn't taking bike use on Spur Alley seriously was further bolstered after they worked with Pixar to eliminate the southern section of the planned bike route.  Pixar, seeking a private campus expansion, twice re-routed the path jogging it over closer to San Pablo Avenue, rendering it useless for bike use.  The southern segment of Spur Alley disconnected as the City and Pixar made it, is now reborn as Joseph Emery Skate Park.

After the Council voted to allow the developer use of the public bike easement for his tenant's exclusive parking use in 2007, the developer, unsatisfied with his victory and wanting more, unilaterally ratcheted back his agreement and without permission from City Hall, put up the signs that deny the public the right to use their path and signal to police their right to arrest the public for so using it.

A City Seized With Inaction
Emeryville Likes These Signs
from the League of American Bicyclists.
They're posted all over town.  The designations
are based on a city's bike plans, not how the
plans are implemented (or not implemented in
the case in Emeryville).
The City has been alerted to the illegal signs for years but they have refused to act to protect the negotiated public easement on the alley.  The latest such attempt came in 2017 when then Mayor Scott Donahue told the staff at City Hall to direct Public Works to remove the signs that claim biker’s rights are constrained by private property on Spur Alley and warn the developer against putting up such signs in the future.  “The staff doesn’t appear to want to take the signs down” the mayor told the Tattler after it became clear there was no interest to do such a thing.  The signs are still up, warning bicyclists against using their own bike path and serving as a testament to who's interests are valued at City Hall.  

As our little city struggles with an image it likes to forward to the world about being a bicycle friendly community versus the actual on the ground conditions as directed by a not-so-friendly-to-bikes business sector the City is in bed with, a bike facility that was supposed to be built long ago serves as emblematic of a dichotomy, vexing an Emeryville that wants its bicycle bonafides but without having to deliver amenities for bicyclists.  
Spur Alley is the bike corridor promised but never delivered, a public right of way for bicyclists secured by City Hall but given over instead to business interests, the signs canceling the public easement serving to mock the City Council who gave away this public asset for nothing and who still refuse to make amends to the bicycle community. 

Video courtesy of the Emeryville Property Owners Association

"Spur Alley is being treated as though it has second class status" said Councilman Fricke in 2006.  "We forgot about Spur Alley" replied the staff, proving the Councilman's point.  Biking on Spur Alley: what was forgetful in 2006 later became something for City Hall to actively limit and constrain. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

RULE Meeting: School Board

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

School Board Candidate Discussion

Hello Friends and Neighbors!
Please join us Saturday, Jan. 27 for the next meeting of RULE.  Share a late breakfast and coffee, meet your progressive neighbors, and speak your mind!

This month's meeting will focus on the Emeryville School Board election in November and how we can recruit qualified, knowledgeable candidates - vital to improving the quality of education the district provides.
We would love to hear from all members of the community, but particularly parents and teachers. What insights can you share?  Are you interested in running?  Do you know someone who is?  Maybe you have suggestions about how to recruit good candidates.  There will be three seats (out of five) open this election. 
Please spread the word. All are welcome! 
If there are other (or related) issues you want to discuss, please call the host and we will add it to the agenda.

Hope to see you there!

Doyle Street Co-Housing
5514 Doyle Street (common room, 1st floor)

Saturday January 27th at 10:00 am

Lillian Schroth host 
(510) 205-5850

To make your town a more livable place!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Councilman Bauters' Blog Takes on Train Noise

Mayor Bauters Attempts Long Standing Train Noise Fix

Public Invited to Help

Blog Drives Public Policy Using Facts as a Foil Against 
E'Ville Eye Hyperbole 

Mayor John Bauters is using his Emeryville-centric blog to activate the long simmering issue of excessive train horn blaring with a citizen drive to secure grant money for infrastructure to quiet the neighborhoods adjoining the tracks.  The issue, a source of much agitation especially for those Emeryville residents living near the tracks on the north end of town, has been taken up by many City Council members over the years, notably at election time, but Mr Bauters' efforts seem to be real and on the verge of success.  He is requesting residents to help in this effort by use of a letter writing campaign (see letter below).

It is the latest from Councilman John Bauters who has been a whirlwind of activism on the public's behalf since he took office starting with his prodigious blog he began shortly after being elected to office in November of 2016.  The no nonsense John Bauters' Blog has been used effectively to impart valuable information for residents and has stood above the blog sites other Emeryville City Council members have edited over the years not least in its rigorous density of information.
A recent January 1st blog entry, Closing out 2017: Progress on Priorities is especially impressive with its plenary list of footnotes and links that will long serve as a central repository of factual information on Emeryville's progress moving forward with the City's priorities up through 2017.
Also impressive is how Mr Bauters' March 2017 blog entry Information on the Halleck/Beach Dog Park, effectively used his blog to shut down a politicized issue of a dog park across the border in Oakland proposed by local blogger Rob Arias who sought to use it to keep homeless people out of his Park Avenue neighborhood.  Animating Mr Arias was a not-so-hidden attempt to increase his standing and that of his monetized blog The E'Ville Eye in the eye of the public by huckstering his dog park idea, PT Barnum style.  Councilman Bauters was viciously attacked by a hurt Rob Arias after the Councilman led a drive to kill the ill-advised dog park; a return to rationality after Mr Arias' self promotional foray into what should be public public policy.  Mr Bauters' blog post defending his Halleck/Beach Dog Park action was a non-political tour de force of purely rational public policy featuring a total lack of hyperventilating bombast to serve as a counterweight to the poisonous  E'Ville Eye missives.

Now, Mayor Bauters is using his blog to remind us the train noise issue looms with a deadline of January 25th and he urges residents to help write emails to secure the funding to finally do something about this vexing problem for Emeryville residents.
 Mr Bauters submitted the following letter to the Tattler to help towards that end:   

Dear Neighbor,

The City Council is actively pursuing a competitive grant that would bring us the funding necessary to install infrastructure at the 65th, 66th and 67th Street railroad crossing that would allow us to create Quiet Zones that silence the Amtrak train horn.

I am working with city staff to pull together an application and we need your help!

Attached to this email are two letters. The first letter is a letter I am submitting on behalf of the city council with our grant application.

The second is a draft letter we wish to submit from you, the residents and community members who stand to benefit from winning this grant award.

We would like to sign as many resident names onto this letter as possible to show how much the community supports the city's efforts to bring Quiet Zones to Emeryville. You can help us by doing the following easy steps:

(1) Read both of the short letters attached to this email.

(2) If you are willing to sign on in support of this request, please send an email addressed to both:

(3) In the subject line of your email please write: "Quiet Zones"

(4) In the body of your email please provide only the following information:

  • Names of any adults in the household who wish to sign on to the letter
  • List whether you are a resident, business owner or employee
  • Your physical street address (we will not publish this, it is only to confirm for the grant review team that those signing the letter are from Emeryville if we are asked to provide proof)

Only your name and affiliation to our city (resident, employee) will be listed at the bottom of the letter.

(5) Once you have sent us your sign-on, please forward this email to your neighbors and ask them to sign on as well.

We must submit the application on January 25th.

I will post a final copy of the letter we submit on my blog site after we file the application. You can find my blog site at

Thank you for supporting our community and helping us create a more livable space for everyone to enjoy!


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

At Emery a Second Place Finisher Rises to Top: the Selection of Board President Cruz Vargas

Democracy Stalls at Emery Unified School District

Politics Trumps Fair Play

The People's Choice, Barbara Inch, Skipped Over in Favor of the Rubio Supporting Vargas

New School Board President Cruz Vargas
The people's second choice but the
Board's first choice.
Even after he was caught in a lie, the
Board majority 'Vargas for President'
steamroller rolled on.
In a controversial move at their end of the year December 13th meeting, the Board of Trustees of the Emery Unified School District disregarded the people's choice of Barbara Inch and instead elevated  the less popular Cruz Vargas to the position of Board president for a one year term.  The Board's move to crown Mr Vargas as president also gives a big thumbs up to the Superintendent of the Schools John Rubio, a man strongly disliked by the teaching staff at the struggling district.
The 4-1 vote (Inch dissenting) for the bellicose Mr Vargas, a strong supporter of Mr Rubio, will likely fortify the disputatious Superintendent as he continues on his scorched earth campaign against Emery's teachers, taking last place on his watch among Bay Area school districts in teacher retention.

The Board seemed to be saying they like the direction the district is going in by elevating Mr Vargas, one of the Superintendent's biggest supporters. The move, an affirmation of the status quo of an entrenched Superintendent, caused some Emery watchers to muse about the future of EUSD, a district reeling from a flurry of bad news coming in the form of a devastating academic study from Stanford University and continuing State reports of falling test scores.

School Board Member Barbara Inch
The most popular elected official in
Emeryville is critical of Superintendent
Rubio's public policy. She's the people's
choice but not the Board's choice.  They
want a Rubio flunky as Board President.
Further highlighting the political nature of the Vargas pick is the fact that open lying on the part of member Vargas was not enough to sway the support he has from his Board colleagues.  Mr Vargas last October 5th told colleagues on the City School Committee on an open mic that the "vast majority of parents at the school" are supportive of putting a police officer in the school, a lie that City Council member Dianne Martinez exposed in front of the cameras.  Mr Vargas' supporter on the Committee and on the Board, Bailey Langner used her position as Committee Chair to chastise Ms Martinez and deny that Mr Vargas had lied.  However, a viewing of the video of the meeting shows Mr Vargas in fact did lie; a fact apparent to meeting attendees (and video watchers) all except Ms Langner.
Still however, the revealed and scurrilous fabrication told by member Vargas at the October meeting was not enough to stop the 'Vargas for Board President' steamroller.

Member Inch has been the Board's sole critic of Mr Rubio's policies and the vote to bypass her regardless of her popularity with the people in favor of the obsequious Cruz Vargas, is conspicuous.  The December 13th vote sidelining Ms Inch and elevating Mr Vargas, the second place choice of Emeryville voters in a two person race, also sends a message to the people of Emeryville that their vision for their school district as personified in their choice for School Board, is not something this Board is interested in.
Emeryville voters like the vision of Barbara Inch over that of Cruz Vargas, who with 2773 votes, won her November 2016 election to the Board with more votes than any person has ever received for any office in Emeryville electoral history.  Mr Vargas, with 273 fewer votes, came in a distant second place in the two person race.
Ms Inch's popularity with Emeryville voters however was not enough for the School Board to rise above the politics at play and they voted instead for the second placer Cruz Vargas who promises to retain and buoy Mr Rubio as chief at Emery even as the district sinks.

Elected Official
Election Year
Votes Received
Percent of Vote
Difference from Barbara
Barbara Inch*
Nora Davis**
Dick Kassis**
Ruth Atkin**
Cheryl Webb*
Jennifer West**
Jac Asher**
John Affeldt*
Dianne Martinez**
Donn Merriam***
John Bauters*
Cruz Vargas***

*= Most votes EUSD; **= Most votes City Council; ***= Votes for EUSD Board

Emery USD had several years without or uncontested elections

Barbara Inch received more votes than any other candidate for local election in 
Emeryville history. While acknowledging that her election had a larger voter 
turn out, her percent of the vote was greater than others, the largest percentage 
in modern Emeryville history.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas Oaks Club Workers! Healthcare Costs Soar, Families Threatened

Workers Decry Wealth Transference at Oaks Club

Healthcare Charges Up 25% for Minimum Wage Workers
While Oaks President Takes Home $1.6 Million Salary

It appears that children of workers at the Oaks Club will have to go without Christmas presents this year.  That's because the owner of the card room, John Tibbetts, has jacked up by 25% the health insurance rates on his employees, many of whom earn the minimum wage and can't afford the rise says UNITE HERE local 2850, the workers' union representative.  The health care increase, an existential threat to non-management employees' families, drove approximately 40 workers to a protest march in front of the San Pablo Avenue card room on December 14th, where they entered the club to present the owner with the Worst Boss of the Year award for 2017.  Managers at the gambling outfit refused to take the award for Mr Tibbetts but they did threaten to call the police on the workers and Council member Scott Donahue who was witness.
About 40 workers and at least two City Council members
joined the picket line at Oaks Club on the 14th.
Councilman Donahue (center) was threatened with arrest
by managers.

The Oaks Club has not increased its contribution to its workers' health care since 2011 workers say and the recent 25% increase means workers now must pay more than $500 per month for family coverage.
The Oaks Club for its part earned $27 million in gross gaming revenue last year and John Tibbetts himself took home $1,662,784 in personal yearly salary alone, according to the City of Emeryville.  Profit taking is not included in that sum it was noted and so Mr Tibbetts likely took home considerably more than that amount.

The workers are demanding affordable health coverage in their new union contract.  “I make minimum wage. There’s no way I can afford to pay $500 a month for health care for me and my kids,” said Ricardo Vasquez.  “Our boss says we can just go on Obamacare—but Trump and Congress are trying to take away the subsidies we depend on. So, what are we supposed to do?” 
UNITE HERE local 2850 President Wei-Ling Huber agreed,  “Here in the Bay Area, we’re not going to let the most vulnerable people be denied life-saving health care. We need employers to step up and do their part. A multi-million dollar card club can afford to do that. A minimum-wage worker can’t.”

For its part, other than threatening to arrest the workers and Councilman Donahue, the Oaks Club management appears to be standing by the boss; manager Peter Schnieder told the Tattler, "I'm surprised Mr Tibbetts would qualify for that [worst boss] award.  I think he's a fair and thoughtful employer."

The 25% healthcare cost was increased "overnight" creating crisis in workers' families said UNITE HERE and the Oaks Club has offered no commitment to keeping the health insurance "even remotely affordable in the coming years."

Mr Tibbetts could not be reached for comment.

Oaks Club President John Tibbetts was
awarded this 'Worst Boss of 2017' trophy.
His managers refused to accept it but instead
threatened to call the police.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Coterie of NIMBYists at PARC Wins: No "Destination Park" for Sherwin Williams

NIMBYism Wins at Sherwin Williams Park Site

"Destination Park" Shown to be Pejorative in Park Avenue Neighborhood

Full Basketball Court Rejected by Planning Commission: Outsiders to be Discouraged

Reversing an earlier decision, Emeryville's Planning Commission voted NO Thursday night to a controversial basketball court for the planned park at the Sherwin Williams apartment project site in the Park Avenue neighborhood.  The reversal from their decision in November praising a full basketball court came after Lennar Development Corporation and the City Hall staff Thursday made a strongly one sided presentation stating a half court is "more usable" and that basketball players would rather use a half court than a real full court.  Notably absent from the presentation to the Commission this time was the previous verbal insistence to make sure the new park not be made a "destination park" with the specter of outsiders coming into the neighborhood even as the forces aligned against the full court still pursued that goal.
Barring a City Council appeal, due within 15 days, the forces that called on Emeryville's decision makers to discourage outsiders from coming to the new park, notably Park Avenue Residents Committee (PARC) and Lennar, won the fight over for whom the City of Emeryville should be building parks with Thursday's final Planning Commission vote.  Despite their decidedly negative view on building a basketball court for the Sherwin Williams park, the developer voiced agreement with PARC that basketball is not necessarily a bad thing and a court might someday be built as long as it's in some other part of town.
Planning Commissioner Steven Keller
Changed his vote from YES to NO.
He's had a change of heart about basketball. 
Before he thought it would be good at Emeryville's
newest park.  Now he says it brings a rough crowd.

Still, basketball players were left stunned Thursday night after learning the Lennar spokesman told the Commissioners a half court is better because it is "more optional" for the new park, "more flexible" and inexplicably, "A half court will get more usage."  The Planning Commissioners, three of whom last meeting said a full court was a great idea, didn't question these new findings nor did the developer offer any evidence to support the claims.  Further, it was claimed by Lennar that a full court would "change the feel of the space", presumably for the worse and that "a half court looks better."  Again, no evidence to support those claims were forthcoming nor did Lennar qualify the dubious statement that people could use a half basketball court for stretching exercises but on a full court they couldn't.

Commissioner Steven Keller who had at the November Planning Commission study session on the park, joined the majority of his colleagues and asked the staff to come back in December and present a park with a full basketball court for them to vote on, was nonetheless pleased this time with the presentation that roundly rejected that ask by the Commissioners.  Vaguely referencing the earlier PARC and Lennar concerns about outsiders coming to play basketball, and reversing previous claims of the benefits of basketball, Mr Keller this time moved to limit games being played, saying "people get rowdy" playing basketball.

With this victory keeping basketball outsiders out of the Sherwin Williams park, PARC adds to its accomplishments and builds its clout with City Hall.   The organization which calls itself a citizen's activist group reflects its xenophobic vision for this park, being an exclusive group closed to outsiders despite the self applied epithet 'community activist group'.  When PARC announced its formation last year, they claimed to speak for the community as they formulated what they called a Sherwin Williams Community Benefits Agreement with Lennar but they turned the idea of a CBA on its head.  The discriminative PARC excluded other community members and community activist groups such as Resident for a Livable Emeryville (RULE), those exclusionary aspirations being the antithesis of the democratic essence of a real CBA.  The Tattler has reported on the likelihood that a better, more resident friendly development would have come to pass if an actual CBA were to have been agreed to but City Hall chose to accept the exclusive PARC agreement (and accept PARC's crowning of their agreement as a CBA).  It is likely a real CBA would have net a real basketball court for the park as well as other amenities but this is Emeryville and that's the path not taken with the Sherwin Williams project.

Video of the meeting can be viewed HERE.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Happy Kwanzaa from the Tattler

Emeryville's annual holiday parade was a big hit this year.  The Tattler wishes everyone a happy Hanukkah (as long as it doesn't get too sanctimonious in its religiosity). 

Seen at the parade and driving around Emery since then:

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Emery Schools Worst in Bay Area: Falling Behind

Emery at Bottom of Urban School Growth

Emeryville children get only 3.8 years worth of education for 5 years of schooling 

Alarming New Stanford Study: Bottom 6% Nationwide 

Emery Unified School District is revealed to be dead last among Bay Area school districts in academic growth over a five year period and in the lowest 6% of all school districts in that metric nationwide according to a new study conducted by education researchers at Stanford University.  It's another  bombshell for beleaguered little Emery Unified, still reeling from a terrible showing on the State 'school climate index' and revelations that the district's falling test scores have dramatically dropped Emery's ranking among rival districts as revealed in October.  The new study strongly hints that Emery's poor school climate can account for the plunging academic performance.

The data shows Emery starting out low and then moving lower over five years, counter to what would be expected according to a December 5th New York Times story on the Stanford study.  Emery represents a low performing outlier cohort in a story that highlights how urban school districts with high rates of poverty can overcome that seemingly debilitating existential condition and produce high rates of growth over time, commonly higher than affluent suburban districts.  Unfortunately, the Stanford data proves Emery goes the opposite direction and serves to reinforce negative stereotypes about under performing districts the Times story seeks to disprove.  However the story and data also show how a district such as Emery could turn things around, given better leadership.

Notably, Ravenswood Unified School District in East Palo Alto, the only district with lower test scores than Emery in the Bay Area shows an impressive 4.5 years growth on the five year chart and owing to the fact that testing occurs before the end of the school year, that district is shown to be growing at a good rate, right on par with expectations independent of its high enrollment of disadvantaged students.  Emery's low test scores combined with it's negative growth proves it lags far behind Ravenswood when viewed holistically and therefore it can be fairly surmised to be the worst school district in the entire Bay Area.

It has been long debated whether test scores measure school quality or poverty.  The better measure now being offered by Stanford is one that lists students’ growth rates.  This new database looks not at how students do on a single test but how much growth they achieve over time; five years.
This new measure does not look at where kids start but at where they finish.  This measure gives the advantage to schools that serve students that start out below average, as they have the most room for growth.  And that makes Emery's sharp move down from a low start even more alarming, but conversely, with a change in school climate, more hopeful.

The Times story focuses on Chicago Unified, a similar albeit larger urban school district to Emery with declining enrollment, three in four students coming from low income homes and a tight budget.  And yet Chicago and many other urban districts large and small buck conventional wisdom and their students achieve high growth over time, sometimes leaving rich white suburban districts in the dust, at least as far as growth is concerned.  The study clearly shows the possibility of "separating socioeconomics from what's actually happening in the schools" as the Times story relates.

The data from Stanford doesn't purport to prove what dynamics result in the high growth of these urban school districts however the Times story does indicate at Chicago and other high growth districts, school 'climate' is critical.  It's the culture of student connectedness to their schools that provides the space for academic growth.  As one Chicago principal put it, despite grinding poverty at home for these students and all the dysfunction that goes along with it, at school her students feel "this is where I belong".  Contrasting with Emery, where student alienation is near total; the 'school climate' California Department of Education study showing Emery ranking in the bottom 1% on student/school connectivity.  That study showed how retaining veteran teachers is critically important for helping student connectivity, and at a 37% teacher loss, Emery ranks at the worst of all school districts in the Bay Area.  Emery's worst in the Bay Area teacher retention ranking is a result of Schools Superintendent John Rubio, a three year employee at the district and his shake-the-district-to-its-core, near pogrom on educators.

Emery: at the Bottom of Bay Area Districts
Emery children shockingly only receive 3.8 years worth of education for five years of schooling. One would expect an average student to make five years of growth after five years. The data identifies 4.8 years as the median growth level, which is consistent with expectations as testing usually occurs three to four months prior to the end of the year.

From the Stanford Study
(Emeryville's median income is $74k according to the Census Bureau)