City Hall

In Contest For Berkeley Lab Campus, It’s Not the Lab That Counts

August 5, 2011
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Emeryville Councilwoman Ruth Atkin Relents, City Attorney Ballot Initiative to Go Forward

July 28, 2011
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Emeryville Councilwoman Ruth Atkin Relents, City Attorney Ballot Initiative to Go Forward

(Reprinted from the Emeryville Tattler) by Brian Donahue Nora Davis and Kurt Brinkman holdout to the end Barraged with calls and e-mails from constituents, councilwoman Ruth Atkin finally relented today and agreed to permit a November ballot initiative to eliminate the position of Emeryville City Attorney to move forward.  Ms. Atkin’s change of heart marked the culmination of a week of high drama in the City Attorney election fight that started with a solid wall of opposition among her colleagues but ultimately withered, leaving Ms Atkin as the swing vote and exposed to the resident’s wrath. The initiative began last April as a petition to replace the City Attorney with subcontracted legal work for the city, mostly as a cost cutting measure, by council member Ken Bukowski.  Mr Bukowski submitted the signatures to the County Registrar of Voters for certification and it was announced on Friday that the election could move forward if the city council OK’ed the County certification in time.  Problems arose when the rest of the council demurred on a required August 2nd certification meeting, citing long held vacation plans, regardless of council protocol permitting voting by telephone.  Failure to meet on August 2nd would sink the

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Message from Emeryville Councilwoman Jennifer West: City Attorney Ballot Initiative

July 27, 2011
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Message from Emeryville Councilwoman Jennifer West: City Attorney Ballot Initiative

Special Meeting of City Council Required to Get the Issue on the November Ballot (Reprinted with permission from Jennifer West’s Blog).  Enough residents have signed a petition (10% of registered voters) to have a ballot initiative placed on the November ballot. This ballot measure would allow the voters to decide if the city should eliminate the staff position of City Attorney. For many reasons (which I will articulate briefly below and in more detail in future posts), I do not support this ballot initiative. However, I do believe that the city council must show that we hear all 567 people who signed the initiative, and we should place this item on the ballot in November. That is a democratic process, whether we like the content or not (emphasis added).  This process is complicated by the fact that the city council does not have any meetings scheduled before the August 12 deadline that the county has for placing items on the ballot. Like many other cities, Emeryville’s City Council has one summer meeting canceled for our summer recess, and it happens to be the August 2, 2011 meeting. This was decided last December when we determined our meeting schedule for 2011.

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E-VILLE LEAKS: Nice Work If You Can Get It (City Attorney Mike Biddle’s Generous Employment Contract)

July 8, 2011
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E-VILLE LEAKS: Nice Work If You Can Get It (City Attorney Mike Biddle’s Generous Employment Contract)

The Secret News introduces: E-VILLE LEAKS This section will feature verbatim reports, memos, and other city documents that we believe contain important and useful information. Please let us know if you have a document to share. If you wish to remain anonymous, that’s fine. Many of these are public documents, but are deliberately not publicized and thus go unnoticed, often by those most directly affected. ________________________________________________ Here is the employment contract for City Attorney Mike Biddle. This document is public record. A petition to put an initiative on the November ballot to eliminate the position of City Attorney (specifically Mike Biddle) is being circulated.  Signers must live and be registered to vote in Emeryville. Several residents are collecting signatures. City Council Member Ken Bukowski is leading the charge. The rationale is that a city as small as Emeryville does not need a city attorney, particularly one whose annual cost to the city exceeds $275,000 and who contracts out the bulk of the city’s legal work anyway. If you are interested in signing the petition, contact Scott Donahue at (510) 435-1861; Joan Strasser at (510) 653-3174; or Ken Bukowski at (510) 305-0000. We have also included the city staff’s analysis of the cost

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Letter to the Editor: Eliminate Emeryville’s Redevelopment Agency and Eliminate the Abuse

June 22, 2011
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Letter to the Editor: Eliminate Emeryville’s Redevelopment Agency and Eliminate the Abuse

The Redevelopment Agency in Emeryville is a fiasco: money for developers, bankers/brokers, attorneys, and consultants.  Emeryville runs a tight little agency with many city staffers working on mostly redevelopment agendas.  Where do the property taxes go?  They go back into the agency, thereby negating monies meant for cities, counties, and school districts that would normally receive them.  Who pays the bills on the loan interest?  I look to the general fund to see.  Help me understand a city that continues to subsidize big business, while at the same time failing to support the one early education facility in town, and also failing to support family friendly housing — a purported goal of a redevelopment agency. The redevelopment agency — comprised of the city’s 5 council members — has made these deals with corporations in good faith, expecting to get a return for the city.  What are these corporations doing?  Disney Pixar, Novartis, etc., etc.  They are going to the county and demanding that their property taxes be lowered.  So much for your good faith contracts with the big boys in town.  And as for housing, it has been severely compromised, with little or no family housing being built.  Land set aside for family housing was given away

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Save Oakland Libraries – “Read-In” Monday, June 20 at Oakland City Hall

June 16, 2011
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Save Oakland Libraries – “Read-In” Monday, June 20 at Oakland City Hall

In the face of a major budget crisis, Oakland is considering closing 14 of its 18 libraries, including Golden Gate on the Emeryville border. Other locations to be closed are Asian, Brookfield, Cesar Chavez, Eastmont, Elmhurst, Lakeview, Martin Luther King, Melrose, Montclair, Piedmont, Temescal, West Oakland, AAMLO, and the Tool Lending Library. Monday, June 20, Save Oakland Libraries is having a 14-Hour Read-In in front of City Hall (1 Frank Ogawa Plaza) before the Oakland City Council presents its budget recommendations on Tuesday, June 21. Guest readers, including some local celebrities, will read in 15-minute intervals continuously from 6 am to 8 pm. There will also be a children’s storytime and other activities to be announced.

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Letter to the Editor: City Council Should Address High Cost, Job Performance of City Manager & City Attorney

May 24, 2011
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Letter to the Editor: City Council Should Address High Cost, Job Performance of City Manager & City Attorney

Letter to the Editor re: Should Big Business Pay Their Fair Share? (May 16, 2011) Once again, it is broken record time. While it’s true that great sums of money are involved when we talk about big business paying more of its share in taxes commensurate with profits  – and that’s a good idea – I do not want to lose sight of another important issue involving money: the City Council continues to ignore the excessive salary and benefits given to City Manager Patrick O’Keeffe and City Attorney Mike Biddle, and the question of whether their positions should be open to other candidates. The fact is that the city’s budget deficit is the responsibility, ultimately, of O’Keeffe, and yet he steadfastly refuses to take on that responsibility. His poor performance is continually ignored by the City Council. Neither Biddle’s nor O’Keeffe’s performance evaluations have been made public. Why hasn’t the Council allowed both positions to be posted so other, perhaps more qualified, candidates can apply? Has there been an analysis done of the salary, benefits, and cost reductions possible if the city allowed open competition for both positions? These glaring budget-related issues continue to go unaddressed and citizens continue to pay

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Should Big Business Pay Their Fair Share? City Council Says “Let the People Decide.”

May 18, 2011
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Should Big Business Pay Their Fair Share? City Council Says “Let the People Decide.”

The Emeryville City Council last night ignored Pixar’s pleas and instructed the city attorney to begin preparations for a November ballot initiative on whether business taxes should be raised.  In a stunning 5-0 vote that featured two reversals, the council moved forward two issues for voters’ consideration: raising the tax rate on all businesses, and eliminating the infamous business tax cap, a tax scheme that exempts the city’s largest corporations’ from paying tax on any gross receipts beyond the first $146 million. Emeryville is home to several multi-billion dollar corporations, including Pixar and Novartis. Before the Council vote, Pixar attorney Anna Shimko, a partner in the San Francisco office of Sedgwick LLP, warned of a coming season of “rancor” from the business community as the election draws close.  Such an initiative is “not advisable,” she said, if businesses in Emeryville are to “grow and flourish,” hinting at unwelcome consequences if the initiative goes forward. “I know you to be a responsible and intelligent council” she concluded. Shimko offered the Council a way out in the form of a delayed vote until the next Council meeting so that the business community could give the council additional information and properly apprise the

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Should Big Business in Emeryville Pay Their Fair Share?

May 16, 2011
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Should Big Business in Emeryville Pay Their Fair Share?

For years, the City Council has given the city’s biggest businesses the biggest tax breaks. Residents and small business owners in town have begun to ask why. On Tuesday, the City Council will decide whether to put an initiative on the November ballot asking voters to decide whether the city’s multi-billion dollar businesses should pay what every other business pays. Here’s the story on the city’s current business tax: Every city has a business license tax and every business in Emeryville grossing more than $5,000 must pay this tax. Businesses pay a percentage of their gross receipts whether they earn a profit or not. But the city’s big business — Pixar, Novartis, and Bayer, to name a few — which make billions in profits every year, are required to pay tax only on the first $146 million they earn. The rest is entirely tax-free. The pat reason given by the City Council majority is it must provide incentives so as not to lose big business to other cities. Yet Emeryville is among the most desirable places to do business in the Bay Area (see story in Business/Economy section on Santen moving its US headquarters to Emeryville). So, the City Council

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