Meet the Candidates 2011

October 26, 2011
By

Meet the Candidates For Emeryville City Council

The information below is based on personal interviews with the candidates and is either quoted directly or paraphrased (in the first person), with the exception of information in parentheses.


JACQUELINE (Jac) ASHER (Interviewed by Brian Donahue)

Age 40,  married with two children (one enrolled in the Emeryville Child Development Center and one attending Anna Yates Elementary School);

A Ph.D. Educator at UC Berkeley. She has lived four years in Emeryville.

Where

jacasher.com

What

  • Development:

Cites Doyle/Hollis park as successful land use development but Oakwalk “could have been better”. Oakwalk suffers from a “lack of family friendly common space, the stairs are problematic and in general it doesn’t conform to presentations given to the city in order to define and work toward family friendly housing.” However she believes having said that there are some family friendly units there. She takes issue with the city’s lack of family friendly housing on the whole, “We’ve weighted things too heavily towards studios and one bedrooms.”

  • Center of Community Life

“We need more direct engagement with parents and families already enrolled in the schools. We need absolute transparency with expenditures and the budget for this project to maintain community support. I am very supportive of better facilities for the City’s Recreation programming and the facilities for our secondary school students need to be upgraded. They deserve better.”

  • Family Friendly Housing

Jac agrees with the city’s commissioned Goldman report which concluded there is an exceedingly low amount of family friendly housing here, “We have a significant proportion of families with young children and infants. In order to retain these families we need to provide family friendly housing.” She added, “Now there are council candidates that have made family friendly housing a center piece of their campaigns and to support the $95 million school bond [passed by voters last November] we have to keep families in Emeryville. We need to make good on the taxpayer expenditure, we need kids in the new school.” Asked to define family friendly housing, Ms Asher said, “It’s two and three bedrooms, we need to follow last year’s city commissioned MIG & Associates presentation recommendations vis a vis shared common space, bedrooms with door instead of lofts, etc.”

  • Business Tax Cap

Jac says if elected she would vote to eliminate the controversial business tax cap or let the residents decide for themselves. She says she believes , “What we’re going to see over the next two years is more resident pressure to get rid of it. Emeryville developed many tools to attract businesses (lower rates and the cap), but as we develop into a desirable place to live, it makes sense to revisit these.”

  • Small Business

“In the past, we’ve given loans [to small business], we need more of that. Living in the Triangle, there are local businesses that “anchor” my neighborhood. Arizmendi got help from the City, and it’s now an important and bustling small business that has created good jobs.

  • Emerville’s Economic Development Plan

When I was researching and comparing municipal business license taxes, I found that other cities use their websites to better promote Economic Development. After residents brought this to the attention of the City Council, Emeryville began listing available retail and industrial space in our City. I’d like to see us make further improvements to attract and promote small business growth and opportunities in our City. We need resources to be dedicated to small businesses. We need more locally owned, neighborhood serving businesses in our City.

  • Accountability

“As we grow, we have a critical mass of people that are interested in what happens in City government. In the past couple of years, I’ve seen the city council being more responsive because residents are more organized. That’s a good thing. I want better communication between City Hall and our residents. Like other cities, we should have a podcast of our meetings and news. Not everyone has cable, and we should have multiple ways of reviewing public meetings.”

  • Schools

Ms Asher agrees that smaller class size and higher quality teachers are key to achieving higher academic achievement and to get there, we need , “Good supportive, wrap-around services; before and after school care and recreation programs during school breaks to make sure families can stay in the School District and in Emeryville.” My daughter attends the Recreation Center for after school programs, and my son attends ECDC. Programs like these connect our families to our City and the City needs to do its part to support and encourage these families to stay here and enter our schools by building family-friendly housing.

  • Child Development Center

Asked about restoring funding in the budget for the ECDC, Ms Asher said, “The details are still being worked out, but the city is now committed to funding the Center and working with parent leaders. ECDC brings together market-rate and subsidized families under one roof. It brings together residents and people who are employed by the City. It functions as a gateway to our schools, and it deserves the City’s support. Thirty years ago, when Emeryville made the commitment to early childhood education, we were ahead of the curve. We need to stay there.”

  • Ikea

Regarding the controversial Planning Commission decision, reversed by the city council to locate a ‘bulky items’ pick-up center next to Emery Bay Village residences, Jac said, “Residents appreciate the fact that Ikea contributes to the tax base but they want more input into future development and greater responses from City Hall. We need to keep livability at the forefront of all our decisions. The EBV residents were organized, thorough, and their effort means that the ECCL, ECDC, and their own neighborhood will continue to be walkable and more bike-friendly for the future.

  • Pixar

“I was disappointed that Pixar revised their tax statement with the city. I was hoping they would realize that, just as they are no longer a start-up, neither is Emeryville. Further, I’d emphasize that we have only 10,000 residents in Emeryville. Proportionally, those residents have been very generous and we’ve been good neighbors to Pixar over the years. I don’t think it should be seen as burdensome to support such a small community.”

  • Bay Street Mall

Over the years, the city has been continuously extending the Exclusive Rights to Negotiate to mall developer Madison Marquette to develop “Site B”, the fallow land to the north of the mall. Critics have called foul stating the land is being locked up unnecessarily for this one development corporation and we should at least charge money for this exclusive right.

Ms Asher responded, “We need to sit down and talk with Madison Marquette regarding any new extension going forward. We could put out another RFP [Request For Proposal] for other developers if we decide that’s what is best for city.”

Regarding Madison Marquette’s reneging on obligations in their Exclusive Rights Negotiation, Ms Asher said, “All developers need to follow all requirements in any ERN. If you’re negotiating an ERN as a council member, it is your responsibility to get the best deal possible for the residents in our city.”

  • City Attorney Ballot Measure

Jac believes a ballot measure is not the right way to decide about the City Attorney’s performance. She said, “There’s only two staff that report directly to the City Council in our City: the City Manager and the City Attorney. I believe in the Council’s role in oversight and management of these staff. The council already has outsourcing as an option.”  To this she added, “I want to know is what metrics are we using to evaluate city staff, what concrete goals and expectations do we have as supervisors, because now the evaluation process is not transparent enough?”

  • New Ideas

We asked Jac what one service aimed at residents, not currently being offered, should be explored. She responded, “Library services that are more modern. But we need to make it unique to Emeryville and play to our strengths and needs. For example, in addition to traditional library services, we could think about an art lending and a toy lending program. Being close to Pixar, we could have a strong collection of graphic novels and comics.

 

KEN BUKOWSKI (Interviewed by Brian Donahue)

Age 59, Emeryville City Council member now and for the last 24 years. Majored in marketing at NYC Community College.

Ken has sat on numerous community committees including  Save the Emeryville Bayfront. Ken has lived in Emeryville for 34 years.

Where

emeryvilleaction.com

What

  • Development:

Ken says “East Bay Bridge Mall and the Bay Street Mall have worked well for the city, but I don’t know if [San Pablo Avenue's] Promenade project is working; it was supposed to to have 112 town homes associated with it and [the now defunct] Emery Street access to it, the project’s tenants have suffered losses from what would have been their customer base”.  Editor’s note- the Promenade project is where I-Hop and Arizmendi’s bakery is located.

  • Center of Community Life

Mr Bukowski says, “The city’s side of it, the rec center, has been neglected.  Elsewhere, the culture there has been a top-down approach; we should really be asking the community what they want.  We should allow real decision making, like school co-location [abandoning Anna Yates Elementary School for one big school] by the community”.

  • Family Friendly Housing

Ken disagrees with the city’s commissioned Goldman report which concluded there is an exceedingly low amount of family friendly housing here, “I don’t agree.  The reason you don’t have families coming here is because the schools have to be better.  If the schools improved, families would come, irrespective of the status of housing here.”  He added, “We have family housing that is predominantly occupied by single [college] students.  The city doesn’t do any follow-up to ensure that the family friendly housing we do have is occupied with families”.

  • Business Tax Cap

Council member Bukowski says if elected he would vote to eliminate the controversial business tax cap or let the residents decide for themselves.  He says “I’ve already voted for that once.  I don’t think it’s right to have a cap, but cap or not, businesses should report their full gross receipts.  Hiding this by businesses is not right”.

  • Small Business

If elected, Mr Bukowski would help small business by, “…creating retail condos where the [Redevelopment] Agency writes down the cost of the for sale units.  This would help by providing a unique opportunity for small business and community buy-in could be provided by involving them directly in the process”.  He also said, “We need a new business membership organization that supports small business”.

  • Emerville’s Economic Development Plan

Regarding this plan, Ken says the goal of helping encourage more street level retail space should be curtailed, “…until renters can be found to occupy all the existing empty storefronts in Emeryville”.

  • Accountability

“There should be annual meetings of residents.  Every voter should be sent a questionnaire and the answers should be reviewed at the annual meeting.  The council should then adopt goals and objective based on the resident’s feedback”.

  • Schools

Ken agrees that smaller class size and higher quality teachers are key to achieving higher academic achievement, but he added, “It’s really a School Board question.  I can’t really answer to that”.

  • Child Development Center

Asked about restoring funding in the budget for the ECDC, Mr Bukowski said, “I opposed the contracting out of services at the ECDC and the elimination of the Infant Program there.  I was instrumental in the creation of ECDC and I will continue to support the city’s operation of the Center.”

  • Ikea

Regarding the controversial Planning Commission decision, reversed by the city council to locate a ‘bulky items’ pick-up- center next to Emery Bay Village residences, Ken said, “We obviously need more community meetings prior to the approval of major development projects in the residential neighborhoods”.

  • Pixar

Ken indicated that Pixar is not paying its fair share in the city, “I think we’re going to look at a payroll tax.  If you have some businesses that have sales outside the city and they’re avoiding paying taxes here, a payroll tax is the best way to solve the problem of these large corporations moving their sales elsewhere”.

  • Bay Street Mall

Over the years, the city has been continuously extending the exclusive rights (Exclusive Right to Negotiate) to mall developer Madison Marquette to develop “Site B”, the fallow land to the north of the Bay Street mall.  Critics have called foul, stating the land is being locked up unnecessarily for this one development corporation and we should at least charge money for this exclusive right.

Council member Bukowski responded, “I don’t think we should be charging money but Madison Marquette has not followed through on the council adapted requirement to update residents every six months, so we shouldn’t renew their [exclusive] option.  We should entertain proposals from other prospective developers at this point”.

  • City Attorney Ballot Measure

Ken believes a ballot measure in Emeryville is the right way to decide about the City Attorney’s performance.  He said, “It’s the only option the voters have if the elected officials aren’t doing their jobs.”  He added, “We shouldn’t allow the City Attorney to be a policy maker, which is what he now is.  We want the City Manger to exorcise control over the City Attorney because right now there’s no fiscal control, no accountability or even a budget”.

  • New Ideas

We asked Mr Bukowski what one service aimed at residents, not currently being offered, should be explored.  He responded, “We should have city-wide free wireless Internet with high capacity fiber optics for faster service.”  He added, “I’ve been working on this for a couple of years.  Voters should sign my city-wide voter petition about this (and other resident interest issues)”.

 

MICHAEL WEBBER (Interviewed by Brian Donahue)

Age 61, married with three children (all attending Emeryville public schools).

Attorney, commercial real estate.  degrees from USC & Stanford Law School.

Formerly president of Emeryville’s Andante HOA.  Has lived six years in Emeryville.

Where

www.webberforcitycouncil.com

What

  • Development:

Michael says “the explosion of lofts has not worked well for Emeryville at all, primarily because lofts appeal to childless owners and renters who are mostly interested in a close commute (to San Francisco)”.  He cites San Pablo Avenue’s Andante project of a successful residential development.  He says, “Andante has single level floor plans with one entire building dedicated to two bedroom units suitable for small families.”

  • Center of Community Life

Mr Webber says, “The city needs to get true community involvement there by actively reaching out to its effected constituencies such as parents, adult rec center users students, teachers and employees.  Right now there are community meetings but they have been less well publicized than the community wide notices announcing the opening for instance, of the new Park Avenue plaza”.

  • Family Friendly Housing

Michael agrees with the city’s commissioned Goldman report which concluded there is an exceedingly low amount of family friendly housing here, “The drive towards one bedroom condos and lofts was caused by pure greed.  Smaller units are much more profitable than larger units.  The lack of well configured three bedroom units is especially disturbing”.  He says if elected he’ll, “Insist on a much higher percentage of two and three bedroom units in future housing with attention paid to the safety of stairs and railings if multi-level.  These are essential to families with small children”.  He says family friendly housing can be primarily defined by, “…the number of bedrooms but also the intrinsic safety for small children.  Sound deadened floors, also, since the jumping and playing of kids can be especially disturbing to downstairs neighbors”.

  • Business Tax Cap

Michael says if elected he would vote to eliminate the controversial business tax cap or let the residents decide for themselves.  He says “My preference would be to eliminate it but institute a sliding scale so smaller businesses are not repressively impacted and so larger businesses have some relief after a certain amount, to be decided by voters.”  He added, “I agree that the present and proposed structures are both unfair by taxing small business from the first dollar but letting the larger businesses escape all impact in excess of the cap.”

  • Small Business

If elected, Mr Webber would help small business be, “Streamlining the permitting process, especially where a conditional use permit is required.  I would implement loans to help small business to help with their initial tenant improvement build out.  These don’t need to be at low interest rates- the problem with small business is not with repaying the loan and interest but getting a loan in the first place.”

  • Emerville’s Economic Development Plan

Although Michael said he wasn’t familiar with the specifics of the plan, he said, “If the plan calls for more storefront retail then it must include a solution for this retail success, which is sadly lacking in Emeryville at present.”

  • Accountability

“The only time the council is accountable to the residents is when The Secret News or the Tattler or organized constituencies such as RULE get wind of previously buried agenda items and pack the council chambers to protest.  This is not a healthy state of affairs.”  To increase accountability, he would, “Use social networking to constantly update all residents with info on important agenda items at both the council and committee level”.

  • Schools

Mr Webber agrees that smaller class size and higher quality teachers are key to achieving higher academic achievement, but he added, “Under the traditional model teacher quality is number one, class size number two.  An emerging viewpoint to the extent the district can become like a second family to the students, providing breakfast and after school meals and homework labs and guided rec activities, we can aid families that are struggling to create a sense of community and home”.

  • Child Development Center

Asked about restoring funding in the budget for the ECDC, Ms Webber said, “I would like to support the center with a higher percentage of revenues but I would not want to create a disruption to the center in terms of operating efficiency and actively marketing to new families.  The problems with ECDC run much deeper than the current fiscal crisis; they have accumulated since the center was first established.”

  • Ikea

Regarding the controversial Planning Commission decision, reversed by the city council to locate a ‘bulky items’ pick-up- center next to Emery Bay Village residences, Michael said, “The most important approach to an issue like this is to publicize it to the effected neighbors-really publicize it, not just follow, the letter of the law- so they can provide input before the process has gotten to the point where it is almost impossible to stop without packing City Hall with angry residents”.

  • Pixar

“I don’t believe Pixar pays its fair share, particularly in light of the gifts of public streets that were made at Pixar’s request.  When Pixar was paying full property taxes and business taxes, the situation was different, but now Pixar benefits from reduced property tax assessments due to the recession and since its acquisition by Disney, books no gross receipts through its Emeryville location”.

  • Bay Street Mall

Over the years, the city has been continuously extending the exclusive rights (Exclusive Right to Negotiate) to mall developer Madison Marquette to develop “Site B”, the fallow land to the north of the mall.  Critics have called foul, stating the land is being locked up unnecessarily for this one development corporation and we should at least charge money for this exclusive right.

Mr Webber responded, “Once any form of development right has expired, including this ERN, the rights should not be renewed without meaningful compensation given to the city.  In the commercial real estate world, options are never free.”  He added, “As a condition of any ERN renewal we should require a definite development schedule with forfeiture of an agreed penal sum if the development is once again delayed.  As part of the negotiations with the developer, we should raise the specter of taking this particular development opportunity to other developers”.

  • City Attorney Ballot Measure

Michael believes a ballot measure is not the right way to decide about the City Attorney’s performance.  He said, “A ballot measure is a last ditch effort to get a city attorney that has transformed a performance based at will employment into a lifetime sinecure to pay attention to the mistake they have made”.  He added, ” I believe the city attorney position has become so controversial that it is better to start with a clean slate by not renewing (Mr Biddle’s) contract.  That said, I’m voting in favor of Measure F because it seems to be the only way to get a timid but stubborn city council’s attention”.

  • New Ideas

We asked Michael what one service aimed at residents, not currently being offered, should be explored.  He responded, “Here is an inexpensive but high value idea:  I would like to see hoop style bike racks at all areas where the Bike/Pedestrian Committee has identified a need.  Unlike other cities, we don’t have an abundance of parking meters where bike can be locked and in any case, parking meters place bikes too close to cars.”

 

RUTH ATKIN (Interviewed by Ruth Major)

Age 53; happily married to a woman.

MSW degree.  Social Services Admin/Program Manager for HICAP, providing Medicare Counseling assistance to seniors.

Past member of  Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)  the Shellmound Memorialization Committee, the. HOA Board
at Emery Bay Village.   Emeryville City Councilperson since 1999.  Has lived in Emeryville for 21 years.

  • Development

Bay St did not work, as it turned its back on the city.  The housing does not interact with the street.  It is a popular destination for the youth and speaks to the shopping mall culture of our youth.  I hope to see ECCL be a gathering place for youth, that isn’t linked to the commodification of relationships.

Not much has been developed in the last five years because of the economic slowdown.

Magnolia Terrace is an example of good development.  It is for developmentally disabled folks and it is close to major transit, accessible and a safe harbor.  It’s pretty green with reusable construction materials, low impact and restored an old house.

  • ECCL

Both public institutions, the school and the city, inform, involve and engage the community.  ECCL can show that there is something in it for the entire community.

  • Family Friendly Housing

It’s an interesting report and I would not find fault with it.  I like its recommendations.  This question is more about the planning commission.  Those with a passion for planning should make sure they get appointed.  The delivery of housing doesn’t go to the council. Most projects stop at the planning commission.  Lots of kids grow up in cities.  We need common areas, that signal to parents that they are safe, welcoming, enclosed space for children..  The housing committee has had presentations from Bridge Housing on family friendly living in urban cities.  People know how to build urban family friendly housing. There are too many live, work spaces.  We need bedroom doors that close, mixed income living, attention to common areas, play areas, games, computers in the common room, a community outdoor changing space, volley ball, basketball etc., and CC&Rs that welcomes families.

  • Business Tax

I don’t know whether voters will want to vote again because they will have just voted on the business cap.  A petition will need 10% of the registered voters; collecting signatures would be another way to test the water.

I don’t know what the revenue loss is in the long term or the short term.  Going back so soon is an open question in my mind.

  • Small Business

There were issues with permits, the mobile food vendor against the small brick and mortar restaurants for example.  The resolution for this was a task force with the stakeholders who brought recommendations to the council.  This was an example of democracy in action. They worked it out, and I think the recommendations helped brick and mortar small businesses feel supported.  People want choices on where to eat.

Emeryville has the most diversified revenue base as any city in the state of California.  Our eggs are not all in one basket.  We upgraded the Utility Users Tax, the landscape and lighting failed and now we have the business license tax measures.  Our revenue side is multifaceted.

  • Emeryvile’s Economic Development Plan

We have attractive lab space, enough for start-ups and spin offs, R & D.  I’m proud that we were the first home to stem cell research although it eventually went to SF.  We have regional partners, the east bay green jobs corridor, Rubicon in Richmond promoting local job training and placement. We reap the benefits of a university next door.  We have one of our shuttles that are running on a biofuel being developed in town; synergies can happen and research goes on.  With so many energy issues facing the world Emeryville residents can be proud about what we have achieved.

We lost businesses such as Adobe and Sybase which provided business to business sales tax, which helped our tax base.  Overall percent of sales tax hasn’t changed, but the loss of business to business brings more retail and that has its problems with traffic congestion that impacts the quality of life for residents.

Subsidizing mom and pop businesses; I don’t know any other city that has actively promoted and tried that.  Cuppa Cabana had challenges and we tried a lot to promote this small business.  We need neighborhood serving retail, but I’m not sure there is enough support to make it happen.

  • Accountability

Jac Asher said it best; you e-mail us [the council] and you get a response.

  • Schools

I think this is a question really speaks to the school district, the teachers and administrators. This is not in the City’s jurisdiction.

  • ECDC

Yes, I do support ECDC.  I am on public record as not wanting to outsource ECDC.  It is my stand toward public education, and I hope to see ECDC get the resources it needs.

  • IKEA

I don’t begrudge IKEA wanting to increase its sales, but 53rd and Hollis was the wrong location.  I have a major conflict around mix use and the noise for residents.  During my first term in office I had the noise ordinance greatly improved. There was a quaint aspect to it, regarding street hawkers and wares.  Mixed use is vital in such a small city but we need to be smart about what fits next to each other.  I preferred to have housing where Wareham’s Emery Station Greenway is going.

  • PIXAR

Probably not, but I am not privy to this.  The council does not get a business by business breakdown.  Under Disney Pixar is a different company.  We had another relationship with the original Pixar, such as the $2 million art donation.  The Oakland Tribune editorial mentioned that the ballot will close loopholes in the Burbank/Emeryville situation.

  • Bay St Mall

I’ve talked about Bay St, would I give another extension, probably not.  The next opportunity is September 30th, 2012, until then we cannot break our contractual agreement.

I’m open to considering alternatives.  Philosophically, I’m not committed to retail.  What kind of uses go well together, I’m open to exploring alternatives.

  • City Attorney

I’m against the city attorney ballot measure.  I’m satisfied that the legal department does their job.  Mike Biddle has a difficult role.  His function is to protect the city from liability, and that will cause tension.    Again, the Oakland Tribune’s editorial describes this.  Look at Measure C, it cost over $100,000,000 because an outside party [Sam Hardage] refused to settle and was funding his fight as far as he could.

  • New Ideas

When we were talking to Kaiser one of the creative ideas was to allow anyone in the 94608 area to buy an individual policy with Kaiser.  We are small enough to facilitate something like that.  I’m open to unique benefits for the community.

 

NORA DAVIS

Has not responded to the request for an interview.

 

 

 

2 Responses to Meet the Candidates 2011

  1. Michael Webber on October 26, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Thanks for all the time it took to put this together!

  2. wa on November 3, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    candidates who offered position statements differ on many of them and i would like to see them publicly argue about them…

    davis,who offers no position statements, has outlived her usefulness and should be replaced if no other reason than her refusal to make a statement…

    bukowski, guilty of campaign violations, should be ousted..

    that leaves atkins, webber and asher to fight it out for my vote…

    in absence of any real argued distinction amongst them, i will only vote for the ones who offer the least platitudes..

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