Saturday, April 24, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
By Brian Donahue
According to critics, the Berkeley/Albany YMCA is an irresponsible, corner cutting daycare operator that has amassed a litany of complaints. The city has fast tracked "outsourcing" as a way to make the Child Development Center pay for itself. Parents and residents have been chagrined by a refusal to consider other options. Many have noted that the city doesn't seem to want to entertain any idea other than immediate outsourcing. The Berkeley/Albany YMCA has stepped into the breach and has been championed as the best operator to take over running the Center, which the City has run since 1979.
April 6, 2010
Members of the City Council,
As you know, parents of children at the Emeryville Child Development Center (ECDC) have been in discussions with the City Council and City staff to oppose the idea of turning over operations of ECDC to a private provider since parents were informed of this possibility in late December 2009.
ECDC parents were told at a March 25, 2010 meeting that the City Manager currently intends to recommend that the City move ahead with a plan to turn over the ECDC facility to the Berkeley- Albany YMCA.
Until now we have largely opposed this move due to the harm that would come from firing all the excellent teachers at ECDC, many of whom we believe would be unwilling or unable to accept a position with the YMCA—if offered—due either to the lower pay and benefits or to the speed with which certain educational requirements would be mandated. However, we now write to inform you of some facts—surprising to us—that suggest that the very safety and well-being of Emeryville's children may be seriously jeopardized by such a change.
Accompanying this letter are copies of public documents retrieved from the California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division (CCL). The documents detail a pattern of substantiated complaints and other cited deficiencies at the Berkeley-Albany YMCA's local facilities. The deficiencies cited range from minor lapses to the truly horrifying. To summarize a few that give us the greatest concern:
● An incident in which a 3-year-old walked out of the Ocean View facility unnoticed by staff and was discovered by a stranger down the street and later returned to the facility by Berkeley Police. (pp 75-76).
● An incident in which a teacher at the Berkeley YMCA 10th St. facility used a threatening voice and caused a child to urinate in their pants. (pp. 46-51).
● A report of a director withholding her attention from a child as a form of punishment and proceeding to ignore the child for an extended period of time. (pp. 39-40).
● An incident in which a teacher at the South YMCA location hit a child in the back of the head during circle time to get the child's attention. (pp. 27-28).
It boggles the mind to entertain the thought that a parent might go to pick up their child and find that the center's staff has lost their child. However, what we believe the accompanying documents reveal is not an unfortunate string of individually horrifying incidents, but rather a systemic unwillingness or inability to operate child care centers within the licensing framework established by California law.
To view Mr. Carver's research and analysis on the subject in its entirety, visit
http://bit.ly/baymca (94 pages of public documents from CCL).
http://bit.ly/ecdctr (15 pages of public documents from CCL).
Saturday, April 17, 2010
D.C.-based Mall Developer Gives Bill to Emeryville Taxpayers
Emeryville residents may have noticed a marked increase in patrol cars at the Bay Street Mall in recent months. It's the result of a stepped up police presence there as police attempt to deter crime and cut response times. “Police are called to secure that mall almost every day,” said Adrienne Robinson, Crime Analyst Technician at the Emeryville Police Department.
Many residents feel as if crimes are increasing at the mall. Those feelings are borne out by the facts. “Crime is going up,” Ms. Robinson said, “especially at the Bay Street Mall." 'General calls for service' have steadily climbed since the mall opened in 2003, rising from 241 then to 357 in 2008.
Particularly troubling is a rapid increase in assaults and instances of grand theft. Only one assault was reported in 2003, compared to ten in 2008. The number of grand thefts (valued at $400 or more), rose from 19 to 28 over the same period. The number of burglaries also increased, jumping from eight in 2003 to 22 in 2008. While there were no reported incidents of battery 2003, there were four in 2008.
Chief of Police Ken James noted that much of the increase is related to the mall's growing popularity, especially young people on (warm) weekends. “It’s become the ‘go to’ place for juveniles,” Mr. James said, noting that Bay Street has become a regional draw for teens.
When the mall was being planned a decade ago, officials anticipated an increase in crime and recommended that the police hire an additional "Police Service Technician (PST)," to handle the additional cases. Mr. James now confirms that the estimate was too low. The department has added a four-person detail on the weekends, bumped up from the normal patrol compliment. “It works out to about 20 extra hours of police overtime pay, just for Bay Street” Mr. James said. “It’s costing us more money than we had anticipated," he added.
Mr. James was quick to add that residents are not experiencing fewer services or longer response times in the rest of the city, since all of the extra police hours spent on Bay Street is paid for in extra over-time. James added that the promised Police Service Technician has not been hired yet.
In stark contrast, back in 1993 when the East Bay Bridge Mall, (best known for its anchor tenants--Home Depot, and Pak 'n Save), was being planned, city officials urged the hiring of 12 additional ‘sworn’ officers and four PSTs to handle an expected increase in crime created by that mall. The difference in the projections is especially noteworthy as the crime rate is lower at the EastBayBridge mall than at Bay Street. Mr. James said he could not say for sure explain the large discrepancy between the police staffing estimates at the two malls, hinting that perhaps politics were at play.
Bay Street Mall developer Madison Marquette, a Washington D.C.-based real estate investment corporation, refused to comment for this story.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
It takes money to make money, the saying goes and in Emeryville those with the most, naturally deserve generosity from City Hall.
Last Tuesday your city council agreed to provide free rent for the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce----for another five years. Call it the gift that keeps on giving. The agreement comes just as the Chamber's current five year period of free rent was about to expire.
The Chamber of Commerce, which represents business interests in the city and boasts a roster of more than several multi-million dollar corporations as members, made its pitch for continued public largess in a letter to City Manager Pat O'Keeffe dated February 18. In the letter, Chamber CEO Bob Canter said the city should give his organization a gift of rent at no charge because the Chamber made improvements to the space by putting up "high-quality window blinds and having nice-looking Chamber branding on the windows." Mr. Canter added that the Chamber has been "a good neighbor."
Things must be tough for Disney, Wareham Development, Novartis and other Chamber members. After all, "a good neighbor," wouldn't ask to feed at the public trough if it wasn't absolutely necessary. Meanwhile, as the Chamber enjoys it's storefront space free of charge, city officials are enacting all sorts of austerity measures---raising taxes and fees, cutting and privatizing programs and eliminating services because there isn't enough money to go around.
At the same time 31 Emeryville residences have fallen into foreclosure. It's doubtful the City Council will step forward with free rent for any of those homeowners.
The Chamber has enjoyed a cozy relationship with those at city hall for some time.
For many years, taxpayers paid over $40,000 annually to the Chamber of Commerce to cover the costs associated with printing and distributing its newsletter, which trumpeted the Chamber's political views and demonized those who failed to agree. The Chamber also enjoyed exclusive space at City Hall and other city buildings to distribute the newsletter.
The payments were stopped in 2008 under pressure from residents and the formerly glossy newsletter reverted to cheaper newsprint. Mr. O'Keeffe, the city manager, banished all publications from city owned real estate last year after a group or residents asked permission to offer their own publication along side the Chamber's newsletter.
The city insists that the Chamber of Commerce gets no special treatment and is treated like any other private business.
The new arrangement covers the Chamber's rent on its office at 3980 Harlan Street until May 31, 2015. Taxpayers will not be responsible for the Chamber's utilities or janitorial services.
According to a report prepared by city officials for the council; the city for its part gets the advantage of "an ongoing and viable use" for space adjacent to a community room the city leases from Catellus, which built the BridgeCourt complex on 40th Street. The community room was created by negotiation under the development agreement between the city and Catellus in 1998. It is used mostly by the city's recreation department. The city's report says it is important that the room near the community room is occupied. Other private companies, including non-profit resident advocacy groups were not considered for the free rent by the city.
Friday, April 9, 2010
As April 15th approaches, take a look at what your tax dollars have been paying for overseas. Yes, death from above. It seems that to spotters on US attack helicopters operating in Baghdad, a news photographer's camera looks just like an AK-47 or Rocket Propelled Grenade.
From the cockpit, it just looks like a computer game. For the innocent Iraqis and reporters below, it's game over.
Follow this link for some graphic footage.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Nobody likes getting a parking ticket. And while motorists may have strong feelings, Tuesday was the first time I've heard someone equate parking tickets with the Nazi genocide of 12 million people.
At Tuesday's city council meeting, Emeryville Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Canter, urged the city council to act cautiously. "You've heard the Holocaust parking stories from some of our neighboring cities, especially in the Lakeshore area of Oakland," Cantor said while addressing the City Council about meters.
Now, I hate parking tickets a lot. I've gotten three in over 20 years of driving. Two of them were flimsy and unfair, I thought. People may have colorful words to describe meter maids but likening parking tickets to the Holocaust is beyond the realm of decency. It cheapens the deaths of 12 million people, killed for being Jewish, Soviet Prisoners of War, Gay, Romani (Gypsy), Disabled, Polish, Jehovah's Witnesses or Freemasons.
Perhaps worst of all, our council said nothing. Not a peep or gasp, despite the fact that four of them are among groups sent to Hitler's gas chambers.
I believe Mr. Cantor misspoke and used a word he didn't intend. I do not believe that Mr. Cantor is prejudiced. This misstep should not be blown out of proportion. I am not calling for his resignation. Mr. Canter does a fantastic job representing his members, even if I rarely agree with him.
I am calling for a public apology.
It would be nice to hear one by HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY, which falls on Sunday April 11 this year.
You can find the video here click on the video for the April 6 meeting, advance the stream to 36:30 to hear Mr. Cantor.
Here is a longer excerpt from Mr. Cantor's comment
"...let's learn a lesson from our neighbors to the north of us and especially to the south of us on what not to do. Certainly we need to enforce the meters and violations. If someone is parked and expired they need to be cited. If they haven't paid at all they need to be cited. Let's do it fairly and reasonably. You've heard the Holocaust parking stories from some of our neighboring cities, especially in the Lakeshore area..."
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
It turned out to be a bluff. Gun enthusiasts vowed to swamp City Hall Tuesday night with over 100 speakers to try for a reversal on the gun store ordinance that passed 'first reading' by the council on March 16. As it turned out, not even one speaker addressed the council against the ordinance. Two speakers from the Legal Community Against Violence affirmed the modest nature of the regulation proscribed by the new ordinance.
All the threats and intimidation from the gunners turned out to be just a bunch of heat and light amounting to nothing. Emeryville residents were more than a match for a co-ordinated effort by the NRA. The council passed the second reading of the ordinance 5-0, and the ordinance is now law.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Despite admitting that officials presented false documents to help win approval of a towering office building and parking garage, officials said they will not reconsider or revisit the decision. "It's already been approved," said Charlie Bryant, Emeryville's planning director.
Bryant cautioned that any new information arrived too late to make a difference for the so-called "Transit Center," an office tower and parking garage that violates the city's zoning and general plan in several respects. The building will rise along Horton Street, Emeryville's only Bike Boulevard. Opponents have claimed that the building will attract so much traffic that Horton Street will no longer be safe for bicyclists. Bike lanes were removed from most of the route since it was declared a Bike Boulevard.
In documents submitted for the proposed building, analysts said that not a single commuter to the new building would use the northern part of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, a fact later disproved.
The Tattler alerted county officials to the error and city officials were forced to compile new traffic figures. Mr. Bryant on Monday said that the new numbers released in a memorandum would not affect the decision since the increase in traffic for Overland Avenue would be small enough to not constitute a 'negative impact'.
Oakland-based traffic consultant AECOM recalculated the numbers at Mr. Bryant's request after public pressure grew. The firm stated in a report "we recognize that it is certainly possible, and probably likely, that some level of project traffic may use Overland Avenue". Upon completion of the calculations it was found in fact the original Mitigated Negative Declaration was in error. Mr. Bryant said he was unwilling to comment as to why he didn't investigate the curious no traffic finding on his own after Planning Commissioners expressed disbelief. "I choose not to answer" Mr Bryant exclaimed.
Negative Declarations are documents generally issued to non-controversial projects unlikely to damage the local environment. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required in cases where a project may cause such damage. Activists maintain that an EIR should be completed because of the project's location and size. The Negative Declaration document was used by both the Planning Commission and the Council and it informed them of important environmental impacts and as mandated under the California Environmental Quality Act. The document was ultimately used to approve the nine story project.
Friday, April 2, 2010
At least that's how NRA members are characterizing the proposed gun store ordinance. The city council, for its part, sees a set of reasonable and rationed regulations similar to rules applied to other businesses. The regulations have the backing of the City Attorney and the Chief of Police.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Despite a heroic and fast response by first responders, including mutual aid from Oakland, the councilwoman could not be freed in time. The councilwoman's name is being withheld until family members can be notified.
Both said they would support the installation of traffic barricades or "diverters" if recommended by a traffic engineering firm set to study travel patterns.
Recently elected Councilman Kurt Brinkman praised 'traffic calming' measures taken in the Triangle neighborhood, saying they have made the area a "safe place to walk" and that prior to the installation, Adeline Street, was "nothing less than a drag strip with cars racing through the neighborhood." The comments suggest Mr. Brinkman would support moves to bring a similar level of safety to Horton Street, the city's main crosstown bicycle route.
Both Mr. Brinkman and colleague Jennifer West agreed that the recently approved 'Transit Center' office tower will bring a large number of vehicular commuters to the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, where the nine story office tower and garage will be built. Both support the city's hiring of a traffic engineering firm to address the problems. Both also said that safety is paramount to encourage cycling on Horton.
Both council members told the Tattler that they will give great deference to traffic experts, especially when taxpayer funds are spent to implement their recommendations. Both also said they would support diverting traffic if that is what is recommended.
Planned bike paths and routes along a former railroad spur just east of Hollis Street and a second route along Shellmound Street were cast away by city officials believing the codified plans impeded development. The committee floated a 'Horton Street Bike Boulevard' as a third best alternative.
Hoton, once connected to Overland Street is the last such route possible for cyclists traveling north or south through Emeryville. After the committee completed planning the bike boulevard in 2003, it received a series of rebuffs from the council. Horton Street it turns out, is highly contentious. Developers demanded the council scale back bike route plans in favor of maximizing the street for cars.