Dec 14 2014

For 35 years, Christine Harbert, known as Chris, has diligently taken minutes for Piedmont.  She has sat through many long Planning Commission and City Council meetings; yet she has never involved her emotions in the decisions and has kept a poker face throughout.  Her minutes are readily acknowledged as superior for careful attention to detail, timeliness, and accuracy.

Taking minutes for other Piedmont committees and commissions, Harbert has provided a reliable record of official proceedings, an invaluable service to Piedmonters.

Although working on a part time basis, Harbert often found her work virtually a full time job.  Harbert in her retirement is sure to find more time for golf and tennis, for she is as skilled an athlete as a minute taker.

Harbert will be missed and difficult to replace.

Read the staff report including the Council proclamation.

Dec 10 2014

The following announcement has been sent to all Piedmont School District families:

December 10, 2014

PUSD Families,

This afternoon we learned that a few school districts across the Bay Area have decided to close schools on Thursday, December 11th due to the approaching storm.  Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified, Novato Unified, and other north bay school districts have decided to close schools, citing safety concerns for transportation due to anticipated flooded highways and roads.

All schools in PUSD will remain OPEN tomorrowThursday, December 11th PUSD maintenance staff is on-call this evening and has been prepping for the oncoming storm over the last few days.  We have confirmed with Schoolmates that they will also remain OPEN tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Constance Hubbard, Superintendent–

“Together We Teach”Constance Hubbard, Superintendent
Piedmont Unified School District
760 Magnolia Avenue
Piedmont, CA  94611
510-594-2614
Dec 10 2014

The following is a report by Piedmont High School student Claire Wong on her observations of the November 17, 2014, Piedmont City Council meeting.

I attended the November 17, 2014 Piedmont City Council meeting.  The Piedmont City Council convenes on Monday evenings to review and create laws in Piedmont and address other concerns Piedmont residents may express.

The purpose of the meeting was to address ceremonial items, such as the annual Toys For Tots kick-off and the recognition of November as “Safe Digging Month.”  The Council also unanimously approved an updated agreement with Alameda County for the 2014-2017 CDBG Urban County Program.  The chief concern of the meeting was making revisions to the City of Piedmont’s Conflict of Interest Code.

I interviewed Piedmont resident Dmitri Magganas, who spoke at public forum.  In light of the election of Libby Schaaf as the new Mayor of Oakland, Magganas stressed the importance of establishing an open line of communication between Oakland and Piedmont.  “I worked on Libby Schaaf’s campaign,” he said, “and Mayor of Oakland is a strong position.”  Because many Piedmont residents have interests in Oakland, such as offices and businesses, he believes it is in everyone’s best interest to be on good terms with Oakland.  Magganas explained, “In order to ensure that communication and cooperation are established between the two cities, I hope to organize a reception.” At this reception for Oakland’s and Piedmont’s government bodies, Magganas would ensure that communication between Oakland and Piedmont can be firmly established.

At public forum, I expressed my desire for a traffic light at the intersection of El Cerrito Avenue and Oakland Avenue.  Cars often speed down Oakland Avenue and do not stop for pedestrians to cross.  While there is a crossing guard to help students cross the street before and after school, speeding cars are present at this intersection around the clock.  When crossing at night, even a flashlight does not induce most drivers to yield for pedestrians.  In order to make this pedestrian-heavy intersection safer, I encouraged the City Council to consider putting a traffic light there.

by Claire Wong

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.
Dec 10 2014

The following is a report by Piedmont High School student Joe Cumberlich on his observations of the Dec. 1, 2014 Piedmont City Council meeting.

On the night of December 1, 2014, I attended the Piedmont City Council meeting at the Piedmont City Hall on Vista Avenue. These meetings are held every other week throughout the year. Mayor Margaret Fujioka sits in the middle of the council members and leads the debates and motions for actions. In this specific meeting, representatives from the Piedmont Unified School District, and the Turkey Trot thanked the council for cooperation in their respective fundraising efforts.

The first topic that was extensively debated was agenda item number five, the consideration of an amendment to the use agreement with the Piedmont Center for the Arts to facilitate the installation of a disabled lift in the East Wing of the City’s building. This topic was clearly a priority of the City Council because the state requires wheelchair access in all buildings of this type. The issue of the lifts actual installation was the insurance costs brought on by the City, as well as the question of the quality of the lift itself. City Administrator Paul Benoit stressed the importance of the lift, as well as the quality of the lift itself. His points about quality were confirmed by Chester Nakahara the Director of Public Works for the City. The motion to purchase the lift passed and the Council decided to look at insurance at the end of the fiscal year.

Seventh on the agenda was a motion for the consideration of the award of the Linda Beach Field turf replacement project to Fieldturf USA in the amount of $222,204 and authorize the overall construction budget of $265,534. This conversation was obviously a great concern of Vice Mayor Jeffrey Wieler who extensively asked Fieldturf USA representative Andrew Reley about the safety of the materials, and the performance they have as both a playing surface and draining ability. I spoke on this topic because I’m an experienced user of field turf for various sporting events.

The proposed turf is made up of plastic grass and filled in with a mix of cork and sand. This mix is called ‘pure fill’ and is much more expensive than the traditional ‘crushed tire’ fill used at Witter Field. The City’s reasoning for this expense is the potential danger ‘crushed tire’ can have if consumed. Now a person would need to consume several cubic feet of the stuff for a lethal dose. Never the less the parents of small children will be fearful and will complain, making this a worthwhile expense for the City.

USA Fieldturf rep Andrew Reley explained his company’s success with their product, having installed thousands of fields globally. From elementary schools like Beach, to NFL and Pro Soccer fields.  I caught up with him after the meeting.

Me: Why were you at this meeting? What difficulties and problems brought you here?

Andrew: I was here to answer any questions for the City Council on the proposed turf at Beach Field.

Me: What’s the next step for this issue?

Andrew: Going forward we need to meet the needs of the community with prices that meet the budget of the City.

By Joe Cumberlich

Editors’ Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.
Dec 10 2014

The League of Women Voters of Piedmont (LWVP) will hold their annual Holiday Luncheon on Friday, December 12.  The public is invited to attend and hear guest speaker, Piedmont resident Dan Reicher. *

Friday, December 12th

11:00 am – 1:30 pm

Piedmont Veterans Hall

401 Highland Avenue

Reicher will speak on Clean Energy: Technology, Policy and Finance. He is Executive Director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University, a joint center of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stanford Law School, where he also holds faculty positions.

Reicher came to Stanford in 2011 from Google, where he served since 2007 as Director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives. Dan has more than 25 years of experience in energy and environmental policy, finance, and technology. He has served three Presidents including in the Clinton administration as Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Department of Energy Chief of Staff, as a member of President Obama’s Transition Team and Co-chair of the Energy and Environment Team for Obama, and as a staff member of President Carter’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island.

Dan holds a BA in biology from Dartmouth College and a JD from Stanford Law School. He also studied at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and MIT.

An avid kayaker, Reicher was a member of the first expedition on record to navigate the entire 1888-mile Rio Grande (with support from the National Geographic Society) and to kayak the Yangtze River in China. He is married to Carole Parker. Carole and Dan have three children and live in Piedmont.

*Speaker & lunch $30 in advance or $35 at the door. To reserve your spot, visit LWVPiedmont.org and click on the Reserve Now button. Payment via credit card, debit card or PayPal account accepted.

There is no fee for the speaker portion of the program. Lunch following the speaker at 12:30pm. Please reserve your spot by visiting LWVPiedmont.org.

For more information: LWVPiedmont.org 

Dec 7 2014

According to information provided by Nancy Lehrkind, President of the Piedmont Center for the Arts, the Center meets Federal requirements for disabled access to restrooms. Lehrkind notes a restroom on the lower level available for those in a wheel chair or otherwise disabled.  The Arts Center contract with the city of Piedmont required the provision of a lift to access the disabled restrooms on the upper level.

Click here for more information on Piedmont Center for the Arts

 

Dec 5 2014
The following is a Piedmont High School student report on the Piedmont City Council meeting of November 17, 2014 written by Henry Ferguson. -

On November 17, 2014, the Piedmont City Council got together in its meeting to discuss items on its agenda. The council members kicked off the Toys for Tots Drive and announced the Book Drive. The members approved the minutes unanimously. There was a short debate about the Conflict of Interest Code. An announcement about Safe Digging Month was made by a PG&E representative.

The meeting started with the audience going up and making suggestions. One man came to suggest that the Piedmont City Council should communicate with the new Oakland mayor, and two Piedmont High School students suggested that a few stop signs be placed in busy intersections.

The Toys for Tots drive was started with each council member donating a toy to the cause. A PG&E representative reminded people that November is Safe Digging Month and that people should call PG&E before digging in their backyard to make sure that infrastructure is not damaged.

There was a decision made about Community Development Block Grants (CDBG); since Piedmont is too small to receive CDBG grants for funds to fulfill ADA requirements, it shares with other small towns in Alameda County, such as Dublin. The City Council decided unanimously that Piedmont should join together with the small towns to get the CDBG grants.

There was a revision to the Conflict of Interest Code (CoIC) made during the council meeting. The CoIC is a disclosure agreement that says that certain city employees have to disclose financial information, can not accept gifts of a fluid dollar amount, can not make decisions that are in the employee’s own economic interest, and restricts special loans that city employees could get. The revision to the Code would include the City Planner and some other positions to follow the rules put down by the CoIC.

Councilman Tim Rood suggested that the City Engineer should also be obligated to follow the Code, to which Vice Mayor Jeff Weiler disagreed, stating that it would be an invasion of the City Engineer’s privacy. After a short argument, the council members voted unanimously to include the City Engineer and revise the Conflict of Interest Code to meet today’s standards. I believe that a City Engineer has the power to make decisions within his or her interest and that transparency is more important than privacy in this case.

A few statements about the Book Drive and other miscellaneous announcements ended the meeting, one of the shortest in years. I interviewed Councilman Robert McBain to talk about the meetings. He said that as an elected official, it was his duty to be at the council meeting, and no matter how few things there are to do, he will be there making decisions about the agenda items. Next week will see another city council meeting and another set of items to discuss.

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.
Dec 5 2014

The following is a Piedmont Unified School District student report on the City Council Meeting of November 17, 2014, written by Julia Ormond.

On Monday the 17th of November, the five city council members took their seats at exactly 7:30 pm and began their meeting with a discussion of the previous meeting’s minutes. As this conversation swiftly carried out, the minutes were approved and a couple more Piedmont citizens filed in to find their seats.

Once everyone was seated, Mayor Fujioka opened the floor for citizens to speak out on issues they felt needed to be heard. The first who stepped up to the podium was a man who introduced himself as Mr. Maggonas. Throughout his couple of minutes on the stand, Mr. Maggonas urged for a better relationship between Piedmont and Oakland, describing how we as a small town depend on Oakland, and thus need stronger ties with the large city. Mayor Fujioka thanked Mr. Maggonas for his contribution while other city council members nodded their heads in agreement.

Next to speak to the room was Claire Wong, a senior at Piedmont High School like myself. She explained a scenario that repeatedly occurrs on her walk home from school involving an unsafe crosswalk, and asked for the city council to consider a stop light on the street. The mayor scribbled some notes onto her paper and thanked Claire for bringing the problem to the council’s attention.

Next was my turn to speak out, and I explained a similar problem to Claire’s. I described the speeding on my street and asked for a stop sign somewhere along the long hill. The city council members encouraged me with smiles, once again taking notes on my ideas and thanking me for sharing when I was finished. The interaction between average citizen and city council member was not an intimidating one; the light atmosphere in the room allowed for an easy communication between the government and its citizens, which I appreciated.

When no other Piedmonters preferred to speak, the city council members moved on to their next topic of conversation, which was the Toys For Tots campaign. The Chief of the Fire Department, gentleman dressed in an official uniform, explained the importance of giving back to those less fortunate than those living in Piedmont. When he finished, a large bin was passed around and each city council member happily placed a fun toy or two into the bin to kick off the drive. A photographer took a couple photos, the city council members joyfully acknowledged the cute toys they each brought in, and the Chief thanked them all for participating.

Next to be invited to talk was a man named Tom Guarino, a PG&E representative traveling to cities of the Bay Area to talk about “Digging Month”. When I spoke to this man before the meeting started, he explained how he loved the job he did. With a smile on his face, Mr. Guarino described how interesting it was to travel to the different cities surrounding the Bay. Even though he was only there to speak to the city council, it was an enjoyable trip for him because he helped the people of each city become more conscientious.

Mr. Guarino’s job was to talk to the government of every city and explain the importance of calling PG&E before digging anywhere on one’s property. He stressed how digging without the knowledge of what’s underneath the surface can affect people throughout a district. A water pipe could be hit, and it could take days to fix the issue. Luckily, he said, Piedmont had not caused any digging problems in the past couple years, an accomplishment not many other towns could claim.

After his presentation to the city council members, Mayor Fujioka signed a document recognizing the requests of PG&E and officially named the month of November “Digging Month”. When I asked Mr. Guarino what he would be doing next, he said he would continue his travels until the end of the month, then return to his regular job of fixing downed power lines and broken water heaters throughout the Bay Area. As he left, he thanked Piedmont as a whole for its eager support.

Continuing the meeting, the city council members discussed an issue about a “conflict interest code” that concerned adding government workers and helpers onto a list that required these men and women to officially file the jobs they do for the city of Piedmont. While discussing the details of this code, Councilmember Rood chimed in with an idea to add the city engineer to that list. Although he did not officially work for the government, the engineer has advised the city of Piedmont consistently on multiple occasions. Luckily, the engineer already volunteers to file these papers when he does work for the government; in Rood’s mind it was a simple next step in the connection between the Piedmont government and the engineer himself.

Councilmember Wieler completely disagreed, arguing that putting the advising engineer, somebody who is part of a private business, on this list would be an invasion of privacy. Rood and Wieler continued to state their opinions, but in the end Rood convinced me when he said that there is nothing to hide between the engineer and the government; since he already files his government actions, why not make it official? I think that even just advising the government is important; it is not unnecessary to ask someone officially file the interactions. When put to vote, all agreed with Rood’s point of view, even Wieler, albeit reluctantly.

Once this discussion came to an end, the council members relaxed more and began discussing interesting things they had done in the past two weeks. Councilmember Rood told how he was interviewed by a few Boy Scouts on their way to gaining more badges. Mayor Fujioka explained her latest neighborhood safety meeting, stressing the importance of fostering a tight-knit and smart group of neighbors. Lastly, Councilmember Wieler advocated for an interesting art exhibition he saw in Oakland. As the lightweight conversation came to an end, the mayor once again thanked everyone who voiced their opinions during the meeting and officially ended the city council meeting with a strike of her gavel.

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

1 Comment »

Dec 5 2014
- Report on Piedmont Unified School District Board of Trustees Meeting of October 22, 2014-
Written by Nako Narter, Piedmont High School Student

The School Board meets two times every month to discuss matters regarding the Piedmont Unified School District schools. During this meeting, the things discussed by the board included lice and vaccinations almost exclusively.  Board Vice President Sarah Pearson was very passionate and prolific on the topic of lice. In fact, this was the topic of a majority of the meeting. The board discussed how to deal with lice, chiefly in the elementary schools. The way they’ve been doing it since I was that age is having lice checks performed at school, and sending out a few email notifications to parents when a student turns up lice-positive.

Board member Amal Smith asked for clarification on how more notifications would be helpful, which is what Mrs. Pearson suggested, and the response was that awareness was when individual parents could choose to  lice check their own children.

Personally, I disagree with the notion that notifications are what help us keep our children lice-free. However, I do understand the school shifting the responsibility of lice-checking to the parents, especially since it would potentially illicit more thorough checks.

The other topic discussed was also a concern of health: vaccinations. Another member of the audience, District Nurse Joan Edelstein, spoke on both issues. She encouraged people to get their children vaccinated.

I spoke to another member of the audience, Ms. Kashani. She is the President of Piedmont Teacher’s Union, and while no specific difficulties brought her to the meeting, she tries to maintain a good relationship between the union and the board. She wants to keep a close eye on the conversation of the board, since they are the people who ultimately decide whether or not the members of the union get a raise. “It’s purely political,” she says. As she has no particular concerns, there is no next step for her.

I also spoke, although the topic I wanted to address was not on the agenda, and was therefore not discussed at the meeting. The issue was this: I requested that the Wellness Center provide free contraception.

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.
1 Comment »
Nov 30 2014

At the November 17 City Council meeting, Piedmont came into compliance with State of California conflict of interest laws.  All council members present voted to approve the revised policy.  Although a biannual Council review is required by State law, the Council had not reviewed the City policy since 1988.

After considerable discussion, the Piedmont Police and Fire Pension Board members and the City Engineer were added to the list of those required to provide personal economic disclosure on Form 700.  Vice Mayor Jeff Weiler objected to Council member Tim Rood’s suggestion of requiring Piedmont’s consulting City Engineer to be named on the list, because he felt it was unnecessary and an invasion of privacy. When the votes were cast, Weiler voted aye along with the other approving council members, while noting his objections.

The consulting City Engineer has previously been voluntarily providing his financial disclosure information to the City. The City Engineer is charged with the evaluation and oversight of public works projects including contracts, design and construction.

Newly added to the list was the Piedmont Police and Fire Pension Board, responsible for overseeing distribution of retiree benefits, investment of pension fund assets and post employment benefits investments by Osterweis Capital Management.  The assets are valued at tens of millions of dollars.

A question arose regarding application of economic disclosure requirements for specific appointed committees and commissions who interview and advise on auditors, contractors, consultants, bond underwriters, etc. The Acting City Attorney provided advice that the disclosure was not necessary as those appointed bodies did not make the final decision on selection of providers.  In recent years, it has been the practice of the City Council to approve committee and commission recommendations on various providers.

The City Council and Planning Commission along with certain employees have historically been complying with State economic disclosure laws in filing Form 700.

Financial disclosure is intended to alert the public, legal authorities and Fair Political Practices boards to personal interests that might be affected while appointed or elected officials are performing their official duties (i.e., making governmental decisions). Government Code 87500 identifies elected and appointed officials who are required to file Form 700, the Statement of Economic Interests.

Information disclosed can include:

  • Investments in business entities (e.g., stock holdings, owning a business, a partnership)
  • Interests in real estate (real property)
  • Sources of personal income, including gifts, loans and travel payments
  • Positions of management or employment with business entities

The form is required to be filed annually. Filed forms are public documents, available to anyone who requests them.

Read more about Form 700 here.

After the failed private undergrounding utility project costing Piedmont taxpayers over $2 million, the City Council in an attempt to avoid conflicts of interests adopted new policies and procedures for large public works projects.

Legal resolution to determine fault of the costly undergrounding debacle has yet to be resolved despite years of litigation.   Fault is pivoting around the City Council, City employees, contractors, engineers, and legal counsel. The majority of the participating Piedmont employees and City Council members involved in the problematic private utility project are no longer in their positions. There has been no announcement regarding final resolution of the pending litigation.

3 Comments »