Aug 13 2017

No tax deduction allowed for ratepayers paying for city waste services.

Placing the cost of City Waste Services on private home garbage ratepayer billing rather than using the Piedmont General Fund Budget eliminates the tax deductibility of a legitimate municipal service, which should be covered by the Municipal Services Tax. 

How much municipal cost for waste services will be shifted from the city budget to individual residents’ in their required monthly waste removal charges? The recently received Republic Services bid provides no breakout of the cost of providing the city service that is billed to ratepayers.

Questions have also been raised about the ratepayer fees for City services without a benefit to the individual ratepayer, which may be considered an unauthorized required tax.  

Simultaneously, the City Council is moving ahead on considering a change to the City Charter to allow the city to accumulate more than the Charter prescribed maximum reserve of 25% of the annual budget. The city has been experiencing unprecedented increases in excess revenues which have been placed into various city reserve funds. Rather than using existing money for ongoing municipal services, such as city waste removal or the greatly needed pavement of substandard or damaged sidewalks, the city continues to ask for more funding from Piedmonters.

The voter enacted Piedmont City Charter states:

“The Council shall establish a fund known as the General Fund Reserve in an amount not to exceed twenty-five (25%) of the budget for the purpose of maintaining municipal services during periods of reduced revenues to the City, as well as meeting unforeseen contingencies and emergencies of the City.”

Council Moves Forward to Contract with Sole Source Bidder – 

On July 17th, the Piedmont City Council accepted the proposal submitted by Republic Services for waste collection services beginning on July 1, 2018, notably imposing huge rate increases particularly for backyard services and no rate break for seniors or the disabled.

Numerous residents have expressed dismay and shock at the cost of procuring only one bidder and the expensive end result.  It is not unusual for sole source procurement to result in unacceptably high costs. No breakout of the cost to go 30 feet into a backyard versus 100 feet or up many steep steps was offered.

Piedmont resident Alan Kong recommended “a re-procurement … with a non-responsive” penalty or  “a more stringent annual renewal cap.”

Despite the long lead time, a new less complex RFP for Piedmont property owners will not be sent out in an attempt to acquire waste removal charges in line with other communities. Detailed contract negotiations will proceed on the basis of the lone bid by Republic Services.

Concerns over the huge increase in rates for garbage collection have produced suggestions from a range of individuals.

“From what I have read in Mr. Benoit’s report may be indicative of inappropriate discussions by the proposers. In some industries such as sanitation/waste disposal, where there is limited to no competition, the eligible participants will divide territories/cities. Periodically these territories/cities will be redistributed in an RFP re-bid process. It seems odd that 2 proposers declined to bid altogether while of the remaining 2 proposers (Waste Management and Republic), there was a formal “no bid” citing safety. 

“Perhaps a re-procurement should be enacted with a qualifier that a non-responsive proposal will penalize/disqualify that party from future contract award considerations. Or implement a more stringent annual renewal cap (no greater than a legitimate index + X%, annually…and tie the contractor into a 5-10 year term contract with a stringent termination clause).

“However this is resolved, the seemingly damaged party will be the residents of the City of Piedmont. There are easy answers to this situation.” Alan Kong

~~~~~~~~~~~

“What the City has left out in its online explanation of the process and in response to Mike Rancer’s thoughtful comment, is that Waste Management, which services many Oakland streets right next to Piedmont, wanted to use a different type of cart that matched to a lift on the trucks which would reduce their concern about worker injury. Piedmont did not want to investigate this thinking backyard service would not be possible. The Jan. 17 2017 staff report included my letter and research material; that material has Oakland provider Waste Management’s rate sheet which clearly shows Waste Management providing both curbside and backyard service.”  Rick Schiller

~~~~~~~~~

“Are the City’s requirements asking for something that is far too expensive? Maybe relaxing some of the requirements would result in lower prices, and more competitors for the contract.”  Bruce Joffe

~~~~~~~~

“Maybe the problem is that Piedmont is too small to generate competitive bids or economies of scale. Given that Piedmont is completely surrounded by Oakland, and many of our streets cross the boundary into Oakland, has the city considered talking to Oakland about joining their contract and consolidating services to improve efficiency and lower our cost? It would be the height of negligence if our City Council simply rolled over and accepted this non-competitive bid. ”  Michael Rancer

~~~~~~~~

“Those are enormous rate increases – did Republic provide a quantifiable basis? They admitted they blew the last bid – you have to wonder how good this estimate is. And their flat rate for backyard makes no sense – all Piedmont backyards are not created equal. Staff’s formula may have been too complex for Republic, so make it simple – scale backyard service to lot size.

“Bad month for ratepayers – sewer, garbage and water rates all go up.”  Garrett Keating

~~~~~~~

“Rick Schiller is to be commended for the extensive research and persuasive recommendations that he made.

“I hope that the shocked ratepayers will remember this when City Council election time comes around again. As a reminder: “Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: Should you not fear me?”

“Politics tends to be forgotten. Writing those quarterly checks is the “gift” that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving. ” Jim McCrea

~~~~~~~~~

“July 14, 2017
Piedmont City Council
c/o John Tulloch, City Clerk

July 17 Agenda: New Republic Services refuse contract.

Dear Mayor Wieler and Council,
It is what it is: one bid from Republic Services. Regrettably the preliminary cost estimates are for substantial increases of 60% for curbside service and 120% for backyard service. Considering the considerable increases, it is most unfortunate there will be no accommodation for seniors over 70. Staff indicated such an accommodation leaves the City vulnerable to legal challenge yet, perplexingly, this specific accommodation is common elsewhere and has not been legally challenged.

The Staff Report states “backyard service would be available to disabled residents at curbsides rates.” What is the mechanism for disabled qualification?
Mr. Benoit indicated, when we spoke at the Linda Triangle opening, that the new contract would include unlimited curbside green waste. This is most appropriate in lush, expansive Piedmont with its many large lots. Unlimited curbside recycling also seems appropriate and is in harmony with Piedmont’s embrace of ecological concerns.”   
Rick Schiller

~~~~~~~~~

“I find it odd and inconsistent that Piedmont finds a senior exemption of backyard service at curbside rates contrary to State law as many Municipalities have this exemption. In Marin County Almonte, Alto, Belvedere, Corte Madera, Homestead, Marin County, Mill Valley, Strawberry and Tiburon provide exemptions for backyard service at curbside rates for (1) any age 70 Senior on signature alone that requests the service and (2) any disabled person with a doctor’s letter. The City of Berkeley has the same two exemptions and lowers the qualifying age to 62 and does not require a doctor’s letter for the handicapped exemption (form and code attached). City of Albany has both a disability exemption and an age 62 low-income discount exemption (see attached p 7). Santa Clarita has an age 60 low-income discount exemption (see attached p 7). No doubt there are many more California cities with an age based senior exemption of backyard service at curbside rates.”  Rick Schiller

~~~~~~~~

“I think that there should be a provision that someone at age 75 (or pick a comparable age) or older should automatically be entitled to backyard collection at curbside rates. Will some noses get out of joint if they are thought to be “too old” to haul the cans to and from the curb and they don’t feel that way? If so, let THEM opt out of the reduced rates. “ Jim McCrea

~~~~~~~~~~

“I have not followed the Piedmont waste issue closely, but I did have a caution that may be useful. The City of Oakland spent a great deal on staff, consultants and public time to craft a detailed and specific RFP that outlined a great number of demands and requirements. Unfortunately, their efforts were rewarded with only one responsive bid from their current provider, Waste Management. This caused no end of trouble for the city ending up with recirculation of the EGO, eventual litigation and very increased rates. The 2016 Grand Jury report covers this problem pretty well. Piedmont should not repeat Oakland’s path on this. Also, collusion between garbage companies is not unknown. ”  Michael Henn

~~~~~~~~~

“Good news- the proposed contract has significant reductions in service levels in that unlimited recycling/composting and individual curbside pick-ups are eliminated from the contract which should lower rates. These services were likely the reason rates were increased so much in the last contract so their elimination now should lead to lower rates. Likewise, the scalable backyard service formula should result in a more accurate (and higher) rate for this service, again leading to a rate reduction for curbside service, the majority of Piedmont’s service.

“Bad news – for recycling, this contract is a serious step backwards. Specifically, the contract calls for a 60% diversion rate, a rate the city had already achieved before the advent of the cart system 10 years ago. And it ignores the 75% diversion rate that council set by resolution – the stretch goal for this contract is 70% by 2028. Many other east bay cities are achieving 75 % and our city has routinely been above 70%. Staff assumes that with the reduction in unlimited recycling, green waste will go to the landfill instead and result in an underestimate of our true diversion rate – this happened in the past. But it won’t now – Alameda County has banned the dumping of green waste in land fills and green waste is now properly sorted and credited. The contract should at least adjust the diversion targets to 65, 70, and 75% at a minimum to maintain the current level of recycling in town. To do the right thing, the contract should set the target at 75% as directed by Resolution 38-08.

“General Plan Goals and Policies: the staff report lists the numerous goals and policies this contract addresses (wish that had been done with chapter 17 revisions) but many are really not related to this service contract. To make true headway with our Climate Action Plan, this contract should require the use of biodiesel vehicles – this is likely the largest source of truck traffic GHG emission generated by the city and the city could achieve major reduction by mandating this in the contract.”  Garrett Keating

~~~~~~~~

“May I suggest that a requirement be included that the carts be placed back on the curbs after emptying. When the carts are left in the street, as they usually are, they occupy parking spaces where parking is very limited to begin with. I asked the company to include this in its instructions to its drivers, but compliance lasted approximately one week. This is a minor irritation but an irritation nonetheless.”  Susan McCreary

Read prior PCA article HERE.

Read City web page on waste services HERE.

Jul 22 2017

THE ONLY BIDDER WANTS MUCH MORE MONEY AND THE CITY WANTS RATEPAYERS TO PAY FOR CITY AND SCHOOL WASTE.

Backyard service proposal leaps from $61.08 to $131.43 per month.

While Piedmonters have complained that the current rates for waste collection are too high, Republic Services, Piedmont’s current collector, was the only bidder offering to provide service to Piedmont under a new contract.

The City Council hired a special consultant, Garth Schultz of R3 Consulting, to advise on the expiring contract with Republic, but only Republic responded with a bid.

In the most extensive public outreach seen in years, backyard service was repeatedly pointed out to be a desired service by many Piedmonters.

Piedmont with its significant population of senior residents, lugging carts back and forth to the curb presents issues.  The proposed new contract will increase the costs for “backyard” service from the current $61.08 to $131.43 per month. Curbside rates will go from $55.11 per month to $88.65 per month.

Republic Services rejected the City’s RFP request for variable backyard rates.  Republic would only consider an additional flat fee for backyard pickup rejecting the notion of individual rates for each home based on distance, terrain, etc. for backyard service. 

Reduced rates for seniors or the “handicapped” needing backyard service is not part of the proposed contract unless they qualify under unspecified rules. (See p3 of the staff report linked below.)

Resident Rick Schiller “asked Council by email and the City what is the qualification for the handicapped discount and received no reply (see my Jul 14 letter which I posted in comments). ”

Schiller further states: “Early in the process, I gave the City a list of many regional cities that have this discount, including nine in Marin County. The City’s own consultant on this, Garth Schultz, was quizzed on this by Tim Rood and Garth commented that I was correct and such a discount is common.  The City told me such a discount is not legally allowed which is odd when it is “common” and has never been legally challenged elsewhere.”

All Piedmont property owners are required by law to pay for waste services with the contracted service provider.  Ratepayers through their service charges will be paying for the waste service for all Piedmont public schools, all City buildings, various authorized special events, all municipal waste in parks and the corporation yard, plus all sidewalk bins.

According to the City’s Request for Proposals, part of the ratepayers fees will be returned to the City for the following City benefits:

  • Reimbursement for the Procurement Process
  • Transition Payment
  • Franchise Fee
  • Annual Service Rate Adjustment payment
  • Performance Review Payment

Under the proposed new contract Republic will be required to expend $75,000 per year to educate Piedmonters on how to properly dispose of and limit their waste.

Bulk pick ups will be allowed to increase in volume and multi-family dwellings will be newly allowed bulk pick ups. There will be no charge for any recycling waste cans.

Most Council members seemed unimpressed by the increase in the rates being charged.  One justified the increase because Piedmonters were stated to be currently receiving a bargain for service.  Looking for ways to eliminate the use of the diesel fuel used to power waste trucks, one Council member expressed concern; however, the Council was told refueling stations in the area for other fuels were not available.

In  the fall of 2016, resident Rick Schiller commented to the Council:

“In early 2015, I did a rudimentary survey of weekly garbage service cost in surrounding cities. At that time the Alameda three full size bin weekly service was $36.07 monthly. Berkeley’s was $35.93. The Chronicle reported the 3 bin weekly Oakland service as $36.82 monthly. However, a friend living in the windy, hilly streets of Montclair put her service cost closer to $30 monthly. In contrast the current Piedmont charge is about 80% higher. In the past service providers have taken advantage of Piedmont’s lax contract procedures and the false belief that all residents had no financial concerns. I urge you to control the garbage service costs.”

To read other regional comparison rates provided by Schiller, click here.

The matter will be continued to a future meeting following the City’s “consultant’s” attempts to further negotiate with Republic Services on a new contract.

Read the staff report here.

Readers may send comments to the City Council, as follows:

Jeff Wieler, Mayor   jwieler@ci.piedmont.ca.u  (510) 428-1648

Robert McBain, Vice Mayor   rmcbain@ci.piedmont.ca.us  (510) 547-0597

Jennifer Cavenaugh  jcavenaugh@ci.piedmont.ca.u  (510) 428-1442

Teddy Gray King  tking@ci.piedmont.ca.us  (510) 450-0890

Tim Rood  trood@ci.piedmont.ca.us  (510) 239-7663

Or to:

citycouncil@ci.piedmont.ca.us.

To send via U.S. Mail, please use the following address:

City Council
City of Piedmont
120 Vista Avenue
Piedmont, CA 94611

*Article updated July 23.

Jul 17 2017

Recreation Commission Agenda Wednesday, July 19, 2017 7:30 p.m. City Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA

Call to Order Public Forum: This is an opportunity for members of the audience to speak on an item not on the agenda. The 10 minute period will be divided evenly between those wishing to address the Commission.

Regular Agenda

1. Welcome

2. Approval of Minutes – May 17, 2017 and June 21, 2017

3. Chair’s Report

4. Aquatics Coordinator Transition Plan

5. Update on PRD Adult Programming

6. Updates on Facility Master Planning Projects

  • Aquatics
  • Recreation Department/Veteran’s Hall
  • Linda Beach Playfield
  • Coaches Field

Announcements, old business

This meeting can be viewed on Cable Channel 27 or on the City of Piedmont website.

 

Jul 1 2017
In case you missed it, there was an interesting pair of front-page headlines in last week’s Piedmonter. City Council: “Budget OK’d; municipal sewer taxes rising in July.” Education: “District withholds teacher raises.” Let that sink in for a minute and then ask yourself – which would you choose, paying more for sewers or paying teachers what they are owed? To answer that, you need to know a little about Piedmont’s sewers and a little about the teacher retirement fund.
 .
Like Piedmont overall, our sewers are the best in the East Bay. That was not true 20 years ago but after EPA made all East Bay cities replace their old lines, Piedmont increased the Sewer Tax and every few years replaces sections around town – this summer’s work will take the city to 80% completion, 8 years ahead of schedule. The Sewer Tax increase amounts to about $25 per parcel and raises an additional $60,000 to bring annual sewer revenue to $2.4M. Piedmonters rejected a 50% increase in the Sewer Tax a few years ago, and it’s a good thing they did – the need was not there.
 .
The need is there for the School District. At a recent School Board meeting, the business official said that District teachers will not get their 2017-2018 salary increases in order to maintain educational programming. The reason – school districts must increase their annual contributions to the underfunded employee pension funds (CalPERS and CalSTRS). The state has mandated these annual increases from the districts going forward and they represent a real problem for maintaining the School District’s current programming – read Rick Rausenbush’s assessment at http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/01/31/piedmont-my-word-increased-pension-payments-threaten-states-schools/ to see how bad it could get for the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD.)
 .
So back to the question, sewers or schools? That seems like a no-brainer given the condition of our sewer system and the PUSD projected deficits but it’s not that simple. City revenues and School revenues are two different pots of money and they don’t share. That’s too bad because the mantra of any resident, new or old, is that they came to Piedmont for the schools and stayed for the community. With the robust housing market, the City’s revenues are at all time-highs, thanks to the home sale transfer tax and property reassessments. In addition, the City benefits from state revenue increases more than PUSD – the new gas tax will increase City funds for street paving (TBD) and permanent funding increases to state public safety funds will bring $100K to Piedmont. As a result, the City has added two positions and is giving out 2% raises. The picture is not so rosy for the School District – the school has cut positions and programming and, according to the Superintendent, more cuts may be needed. For more details, see city and school budgets at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/2017-06-19/1718budget.pdf (City) and www.piedmont.k12.ca.us. (School.)
 .
Another way to understand this funding disconnect is to look at how the City and School District maintain required annual reserves. Each is required to maintain reserves as part of their budget – for the City, it is up to 25% of the General Fund, for the School District, minimum 3%. For the past several years, the City has met this cap by transferring over $1M in General Funds to special accounts – this year $800,000 to Facilities Maintenance, $400,000 to Equipment Replacement. For the School District it is just the opposite – the school budget had to be reduced by over $400,000 this year in order to meet their reserve requirements.
 .
The Piedmont City Clerk recently proposed removing the 25% cap written into the City Charter so even more reserves could be held by the City. Instead, Council directed staff to undertake a review of the City Charter and address the 25% cap and other ambiguous Charter provisions. Perhaps there can be new Charter provisions so the City and School District can “share the wealth” so to speak. Such language won’t be forth coming from City Hall so residents should weigh in when this City Charter review comes to Council.
 .
Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont Council Member
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jun 29 2017

Public Hearing before East Bay Municipal Utility District

on July 11, 2017

19% rate hike has not been shown to be needed.

The following letter is from:

Alameda County Civil Grand Jury Association

Local Chapter of California Grand Jurors’ Association

June 27, 2017

Board of Directors, East Bay Municipal Utility District Alexander R. Coate, General Manager
375 11th Street
Oakland, CA 94607-4240

Dear Mr. Coate and EBMUD Board Members:

The Alameda County Civil Grand Jury Association (Association) is a 501(c)(3) organization that consists of former members of the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury (Grand Jury). Although not affiliated with the formal Grand Jury, our organization’s purpose includes determining whether the agencies subject to Grand Jury investigations have complied with previous Grand Jury recommendations. The Association is a chapter of the California Grand Jurors’ Association.

In 2013-2014, the Grand Jury investigated the East Bay Municipal Utility District. After reviewing EBMUD’s rates and rate-setting practices, the Grand Jury found that EBMUD did not disclose sufficient information in its June 2013 Notice to enable consumers to understand the need for a rate increase. Consequently, the Grand Jury’s investigation found a greater need for transparency in EBMUD’s public notifications regarding rate increases. With this in mind, the Grand Jury’s first recommendation in its 2013-2014 Report stated in part:

EBMUD should provide the public with a complete and objective analysis in connection with future rate increases, including all factors that drive the recommended increases.1

Specifically, the Grand Jury was concerned with EBMUD’s failure to inform the public of all factors underlying the proposed rate hike. Equally important, the Grand Jury was particularly concerned that neither the unfunded pension liability nor the rate hikes of the past ten years were disclosed in the 2013 Notice. Based on these findings, the Grand Jury made a second recommendation in its 2014 Report:

EBMUD must provide live streaming of board meetings, televise on public access channels, and have online access of past meetings available on the EBMUD website.2

In September 2014, EBMUD responded to the Grand Jury’s recommendations. EBMUD reported that it would implement the second recommendation in its next budget cycle.

  1. 1  See 2013-2014 Grand Jury Report, Recommendation 14-26 at p. 105.
  2. 2  See 2013-2014 Grand Jury Report, Recommendation 14-27 at p. 105.

To achieve enhanced transparency, EBMUD promised the Grand Jury that it would:

(1) “Explore alternative ways to present rate information that may aid customers as they seek to understand … projected rates;” and

(2) “Investigate adding audio or video of Board meetings.”3

We note that EBMUD’s website still lacks any links to live streaming or video archives of meetings of the Board of Directors. We believe that public access to such videos would enable EBMUD consumers to better understand why rate increases are needed. Certainly, costs for the projected rate increases include compensation and pension liabilities. However, no mention of labor costs or pension liabilities were found in the 2013 notice. The Grand Jury recommended that EBMUD “provide the public with a complete and objective analysis in connection with future rate increases, including all factors that drive the recommended increases.”

Now in 2017, EBMUD has notified the public about a meeting to be held July 11, 2017, regarding an impending rate hike. As in 2013, the 2017 Notice of Public Hearing is silent regarding the role that unfunded pension liabilities and employee compensation play in contributing to rate increases. We believe that the District’s omission of pension liability in the 2017 Notice constitutes a failure to follow the 2014 Grand Jury’s recommendation. “All the factors that drive the recommended rate increase” should include the reimbursement of unfunded liability if, in fact, a portion of customer receipts will be used to pay down the pension debt. EBMUD previously indicated that pension cost “was not a major driver of the rate increases.”4 However, with an unfunded pension liability of $462 million,5 EBMUD appears compelled to increase rates every year. We have observed that the Alameda County Water District has indicated retiree benefits as one reason for rate hikes in its notices to ratepayers.6 For the purposes of transparency, we urge EBMUD to inform the public in future notices that pension liability and labor costs are factors behind its rate hikes.

The Grand Jury’s first recommendation also stated:

The analysis should contain the financial impact of the proposed rate increase on a broader range of water or sewer consumers (for example, the 25th percentile point, the 50th percentile point and the 75th percentile point) as opposed to just a district-wide average. The analysis should also include a history of prior rate increases. (See 2013-2014 Grand Jury Report, Recommendation 14-26, at p. 105.)

The 2017 Notice cites a great deal of district information, but omits details regarding historical rate increases as recommended by the 2014 Grand Jury. We believe the public would not know that similar rate hikes averaging four times the rate of inflation have been approved by EBMUD, and that with the proposed rate increase, the cost of a unit of water (100 cubic feet, or CCF) will

3 Response to 2013-2014 Grand Jury Report dated September 2014, pages 3 and 9.
4 Response to 2013-2014 Grand Jury Report dated September 2014, page 6.
5 EBMUD Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for FY2016, Page 80.
6 ACWD Notice lists four reasons for justifying a rate increase. The fourth reason refers to retiree benefits. Mailed in 2017, the ACWD Notice states “financial analyses make it clear that the proposed rates increases are needed to . . . fund retiree benefits obligations.” (Page 2 of Notice of Increase in Water Rates, located at http://www.acwd.org/DocumentCenter/View/1530 .)

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have increased from $1.42 to $3.45 from 2003 to 2017. If the 2017 rate increase is approved, customers’ water bills since 2003 will have increased by 143%. Without such history, most consumers will not recall the last time their rate changed or appreciate that a protest of such hikes may be appropriate.

EBMUD’s 2014 response to the Grand Jury’s recommendations essentially said that it is sufficient to have historical rate information available online in its Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports and budgets. However, we have found that these documents are not readily available or comprehensible to the general public. Regrettably, we do not find EBMUD’s position consistent with the transparency that the public deserves. Indeed, it would be time- consuming for most ratepayers to locate and digest rate information in such lengthy documents.

We believe it is commendable that EBMUD provides ample details regarding water flow charges and water service charges to its customers, and that it provides examples of the impact of rate increases to the consumer’s bill. Unfortunately, the example in District’s 2017 Notice cites the impact to a single family’s bill that used 8 units and 6 units. This example is limited and unclear for residential consumers. The 2017 Notice lacks specific examples of rate changes aligned to the consumer’s water usage percentile levels. The 2014 Grand Jury report specifically recommended that EBMUD should provide the public with an analysis that contains “the financial impact of the proposed rate increase on a broader range of water or sewer consumers … [at] the 25th percentile point, the 50th percentile point and the 75th percentile point . . . .” Information regarding low-level users versus high-level users is absent from the 2017 Notice. We believe consumers will more readily appreciate the proposed rates by receiving information about how the increase impacts residents at their usage levels.

We have noted that in 2015, during a prior rate increase consideration, the Bay Area News Group summarized EBMUD rate increases. (Please refer to the following table.) We believe consumers need to know how their usage levels will impact their water bill once the proposed rates are implemented. A table like the one published below, could easily be included in future notices issued by EBMUD.

EBMUD water rate increases7

Usage

Level and percentile

Gallons Used

per per day month

Monthly Bill 2014-15 2015-16

Change Amount %

Low 25

98 2,992

$29.07 $34.06

$4.99 17%

Median 50

172 5,236

$37.80 $45.10

$7.30 19%

High 75

295 8,976

$55.80 $70.35

$14.55 26%

Higher 95

738 22,440

$132.08 $183.79

$51.71 39%

Highest 99

1,476 44,880

$264.68 $383.59

$118.91 45%

Average

246 7,480

$48.60 $60.00

$11.40 23%

7 Bay Area News Group, “Steep water rate increases eyed for EBMUD customers,” East Bay Times, published March 24, 2015. (Amounts in Monthly bill column reflects the base rate increase and a drought surcharge.)

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We conclude that despite the 2014 Grand Jury report and recommendations, and despite EBMUD’s response to those recommendations promising a commitment to transparency, the 2017 Notice is not an improvement in transparency over the 2013 Notice. For EBMUD to comply with the recommendations of the 2014 Grand Jury Report, the District should provide improved public notices that include (1) historical rate charges; (2) a cost impact analysis that refers to water usage percentiles; and (3) all factors responsible for driving up the utility rates, including quantifying the role of pension liability on the proposed rate hike. In the 2017 Notice, none of the three items is set forth. We therefore request that EBMUD explain how it plans to implement the 2014 Grand Jury recommendations in all future notices pertaining to rate increases.

Consistent with the Association’s purpose, we shall continue to monitor the completeness of future EBMUD notices. To assist us with our monitoring please provide the Association with the following: (1) documents demonstrating your efforts to add video links of EBMUD board meetings to your website; (2) documents provided to the public that detail reasons behind the 2017 rate hikes; (3) copies of presentations given to the public in the last two years relating to rate hikes planned for 2017 and 2018; and (4) a history of rate increases for the past six years, as was done in the 2016 Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (p. 136), with the addition of the resulting price per unit in a new column.

Please send your response to the undersigned at 6288 Girvin Drive, Oakland CA 94611. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter and look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,

Janet Clark

Janet Clark
Alameda County Civil Grand Jury Association President

cc: Ray Souza, 2016-2017 Grand Jury Foreman

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Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors. 

Correspondence regarding the 19%rate increase can be sent to:

Board of Directors, East Bay Municipal Utility District Alexander R. Coate, General Manager
375 11th Street
Oakland, CA 94607-4240

Jun 4 2017

Piedmont Post Claim about Measure H1 Plan is Inaccurate –

The May 31, 2017 Piedmont Post headline asserts: “School Board to spend $57 million on one building; Balance of $9 million from H1 bond not enough to pay for theater.”  Apparently, the Post reporter or editor failed to read the memo to the Board setting forth what was included in “Option 2B,” which the Board approved.

The memo is available online as the supporting material for the May 24, 2017 Meeting Agenda, Item VIII.A,> https://agendaonline.net/public/Meeting.aspx?AgencyID=1241&MeetingID=44038&AgencyTypeID=1&IsArchived=False

Among other things, it clearly states: “OPTION 2B 3-Story Main High School Building on Magnolia + New Theater.”  And it includes: “Modernize the vacated 20s building, converting antiquated science labs to general classrooms.”  And further: “($526,500 in FFE for 27 new or modernized classrooms),” which are the classrooms in the new STEAM building, new AHT [Allan Harvey Theater] and modernized 20s building.

At this point, these are all estimated costs.  However, Piedmont residents should understand what is actually included in Option 2B.

Richard Raushenbush, Former Member, Piedmont Board of Education

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jun 4 2017

The staff reports for the meeting are:

06/05/17 – Approval of a Modification to a Conditional Use Permit for Sarah Baldwin, DMD at 1375 Grand Avenue, Suite 101

06/05/17 – Introduction and 1st Reading of Ord. 732 N.S. Making a Technical Correction to Section 8.1 of the City Code to Clarify that the 2016 California Fire Code is in Effect

06/05/17 – Authorize the City Administrator to Sign a Letter of Support Authorizing Participation in the 2017 East Bay SunShares Program

06/05/17 – PUBLIC HEARING Regarding the Proposed Budget and Fee Proposals for FY 17-18 and the Levy of the Municipal Services Tax and Sewer Tax

a. Presentation of Report from the Budget Advisory & Financial Planning Committee

b. Report on the FY 17-18 Budget Proposal

06/05/17 – Introduction and 1st Reading of Ordinance 733 N.S. Amending Chapter 17 of the City Code Related to the Grand Avenue Sub Area of Zone D

06/05/17 – Report from the Chief of Police Regarding Diversity Education and Outreach as well as Collaboration with PUSD and Other Stakeholders (Oral Report)

06/05/17 – Consideration of the Award of Contract for the Linda Avenue Crosswalk Improvement Project to Bay Construction in the Amount of $328,672.80 and approval of an Overall Construction Budget of $406,515

06/05/17 – Consideration of the Operational Analysis for the Aquatics Center Master Plan Conceptual Design

The agenda for the City Council – Monday, June 5, 2017   < meeting.

May 22 2017

 Heated School Board Meeting Airs Personnel Dispute and Hate Incidents –

    The Piedmont School Board met at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10th, in the City Council Chambers. Though the agenda of the meeting was to go over logistical policy for Piedmont schools, such as reviewing tax allocations from the H1 Bond Measure or evaluating math classes for the Common Core curriculum, the first hour of the meeting was dedicated to heated commentary from the community about the Athletic Director, Victor Acuna, and the current hate incident controversy at the high school.

    Concerned community members argued both on Acuna’s behalf and against him. Some of the controversy surrounding the new Athletic Director is attributed to the non-renewal of the former coach of the Piedmont High School Boy’s Basketball team of over two decades, Coach Lavdiotis.

    Since Lavdiotis’ contract was not renewed, some community and regional individuals sparked disagreement with Victor Acuna’s dismissal of an upstanding community member and beloved coach.  One speaker in particular, Alicia Kalamas, Piedmont resident, brought up Acuna’s personal life, pointing to custody litigation and his previous position at a high school in Arizona. However, other community members supported Victor Acuna, saying that his decision was justified, and that Coach Lavdiotis may not be the best coach for the Piedmont High School Boy’s Basketball team any longer.

    Board trustee Andrea Swenson expressed her frustrations with the Acuna controversy, stating that she is tired of the character assassination of the Athletic Director, which she feels is perpetuated by The Piedmont Post; she received a standing ovation for her comments in support of Acuna.

    Other non-agendized items that community members spoke about were the hate controversies at the high school. Earlier that week, members of the Piedmont High School community and the Piedmont community at large learned of anti-semitic, racist, and homophobic incidents at the school through a student-held assembly.

    Multiple community members spoke about the hate incidents. Police Chief Bowers spoke about his role in addressing the hate incidents. He stated that since none of the eight victims have come to the Police Department about the hate incidents, they cannot be classified as hate crimes. Still, he asserted, the community must come together and protect the victims during this time, and that he sympathizes with the victims of the incident. Other community members also discussed the anti-semitic incidents in front of the Board, conveying their concerns as parents and asking for accountability and answers.

    When I addressed the Board about the hate incidents, I also mentioned the issue of accountability and transparency. I spoke about my experience as a student watching the high school’s assembly and the lack of details or clarity that the assembly provided. I walked the Board through what specifically was going through my mind as I attended the assembly, and how I had to ask around afterwards for details on the incidents, confused and unaware. Concluding my speech, I requested the School Board to explain what exactly was happening with the anti-semitic incidents so that the students knew about what horrible things were going on within our student body. As a student, I was and still am confused about the discriminatory incidents at the high school due to a lack of a clear explanation from the administration. I believe that the administration should have a transparent conversation with the members of the community in order to resolve things, as opposed to keeping the incident under wraps.

    After comments from the audience, the Board continued with the agenda, which involved recognizing Hilary Cooper for Volunteer of the Year, which included working to pass Measure A parcel tax and reviewing two possible math courses for Piedmont High School, Integrated Math 3 and Honors Math Analysis.

     I spoke to Michael Brady, Director of Alternative/Adult Education, who expressed his support for the math courses. Mr. Brady, who was there to give a presentation to the Board on the H1 bond program, told me that it was a relief to hear about the courses.

    “It was very nice to see closure on the math instruction,” Mr. Brady told me, “because it is the culmination of literally years of work.”

    Mr. Brady also expressed his support of the community members and their concerns.

    “People can speak about non-agendized items because it’s a part of the democratic process. People can speak to the items not on the agenda and have the ability and freedom to do that.”

    The School Board meets every second and fourth Wednesday of the month. Though they have an agenda, any member of the community can become involved in deliberations by expressing their concerns to the Board at the beginning of every meeting and when agendized items are considered.

by Victoria Hou, Piedmont High School Senior –

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
May 22 2017

Discrimination and hateful actions impact park.  

Summer Camp programs have a high rate of registrants. 

by Alex Paton, Piedmont High School Senior – 

I attended a Recreation Commission meeting on the 17th of May 2017. During this monthly meeting, issues regarding parks and recreation throughout Piedmont are discussed by commission members and residents of Piedmont. Fundamentally, these meetings provide an opportunity for the community to discuss and brainstorm potential improvements within the Piedmont parks and recreation system.

During the meeting on May 17th, four main issues were discussed. The first of these issues was the anti-semitism, racism and general hate that has been drawn to attention throughout the community, and how this has manifested throughout the parks. The city and community are working together as a whole to move forward from these incidents and display a positive message for the younger members of Piedmont. Specifically, graffiti at Hampton park is being removed and cleaned up, and older members of the community are being encouraged to speak out and set a positive example of coexistence.

Next, the upcoming summer programs in Piedmont were discussed. There was great optimism throughout the commission as there are now 175 camps offered over 10 weeks this summer and so far, camp registration is up 22% from this time last year. Camps offered range from arts and crafts to cooking to athletics. In addition to more opportunities for campers this summer, there is also more opportunity for counselors and CITs. Greg Wick, Piedmont High Senior,  gave positive reinforcement for the new opportunities for counseling this summer and expressed his disappointment for the lack of working opportunity he experienced in the past. Overall, the Recreation Commission was overjoyed and thankful for the early success.

The recent improvements at Hampton Park were then discussed. The sixth and final basketball hoop was put up since the last meeting and just about every aspect of the park is complete. Trees which fell on and near the basketball courts have also been cleaned up and appropriate repairs have been made. I believe that the basketball courts are nice, however there is a potential hazard when the ball goes off the court and rolls down a hill. I expressed this observation and concern during the meeting, to be met with a nice reply from Carrie Graham Lee. She said they were going to put in a low net to stop this issue from occurring. I am in favor of this much needed improvement. Although not official yet, Elizabeth Smegal Andersen stated that Hampton Park is complete and open for recreation!

Lastly, updates on facility master planning projects and the Capital Improvement Projects Review Committee [CIP] were given. Aquatics are being studied for cost, meetings with the architect for the Veterans Hall have nearly concluded, Beach playfield is being evaluated for updates and Coaches Field is being reassessed for use analytics. The CIP Review Committee is also continuing to review public safety issues, such as the poor lighting at the intersection of St. James and LaSalle.

Once the meeting had concluded, I interviewed a citizen who attended the meeting. This resident of Piedmont, named Garrett Schwartz, was drawn to the meeting because of previous decisions made by the commission that he did not necessarily agree with. He did not have any current issues to be addressed, instead just wanting to “see the inner workings of the Commission and understand their decision making process”. I have to say, if everyone was so involved with the local government as Mr. Schwartz, our society would see great improvement.

 ~~~~~~ A second report on the May 17 Commission meeting  ~~~~

By Olivia Tefft, Piedmont High School Senior –

    At 7:30 p.m. on May 17, 2017, six commissioners met for a Piedmont Recreation Commission meeting. The commissioners were:  Kobi Eshun, Carrie Graham Lee, Betsy Smegal Andersen, Chairwoman, Jeffrey Dorman, and Steve Roland.  Also, present was Recreation Director Sara Lillevand.

   The purpose of this meeting was to go over recreation issues in Piedmont, ranging from summer camps to the maintenance of public parks and fields. This meeting also touched upon public safety in the schools and on the streets of Piedmont.

   One of the main points of this conference was to inform the audience of the summer activities offered through the Piedmont Recreation Department. Sara Lillevand informed the commission and the audience of new programs, like Summerfest ‘17, an affordable summer camp program facilitated by Schoolmates, and Camp Hampton, which will utilize the newly renovated Hampton Field. Lillevand also pointed out that summer camp revenues have increased 22% this year, and over 3,000 participants are registered (76% Piedmont residents).

    Two audience members, Piedmont Seniors Chris Conn and Greg Wick, spoke to Lillevand about the issue of overstaffed PRD summer camps. She acknowledged the difficulty of parsing out the perfect amount of CITS [Counselor in Training Staff] for each summer camp, but also mentioned that this problem should be mitigated this year with the high summer camp enrollment.

    The Hampton Park Improvement Project was also discussed. Lillevand informed the audience that all of the basketball posts have been put up as of today, and that the tennis backboard was put up last week. Hunter Stern, an audience member and senior at Piedmont High School, asked about hate speech graffiti that this field might be subject to, considering the outbreak of hate speech at PMS and PHS. Lillevand told him that no hate speech graffiti had occurred yet, but a conversation definitely needs to take place for the maintenance of this park.

   I agree with Hunter – I definitely think this pristine field could suffer from hateful graffiti, and I think protective measures should be put in place to prevent something harmful like this.

   Some other smaller issues that were brought up were Linda Beach Play Field and Coaches Field Master Planning, as well as uneven pathways at Crocker Park due to old trees that push up the pavement.

    The “4 Corners” intersection was also addressed because safety issues for pedestrians and drivers have arisen due to this intersection. Krysia Olszewska, an audience member, spoke about this intersection, recounting how it is difficult to see cars on the right side of the road, and therefore improvements should be made.

    At the end of this meeting, I interviewed Commissioner Steve Roland. He has been involved with the Recreation Department since 1996, and was also a sports coach for his 3 children when they participated in rec sports. He wanted to stay involved in the community after they all graduated, and the Recreation Commission was the perfect extension to continue his civic involvement. The main issue he focused on is upgrading park facilities like Coaches Field and Beach Field. He understands the difficulties of these renovation as addressed in these meetings because of difficulty getting funding for these projects. He mentioned that Hampton Park was a combination of private donations, East Bay Regional Park Bonds, and City funds.  Coaches Field and Beach Field would require similar funding. The main step he is taking in addressing this issue is continuing to participate in these meetings and trying to raise awareness and funds for these projects.

The Recreation Commission meets once a month to discuss recreation issues.

Editors Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
May 11 2017

The Piedmont City Council continues the practice of working on the City Budget without benefit of recordings or broadcast. The public is welcome to come to the meeting and speak to the various issues related to the budget: capital expenditures, revenues, taxation, employee benefits, new projects, roadways, sidewalks, trees, recreation, public safety, Schoolmates, planning, sewers, or any other issue related to City budgetary matters.  

Special City Council Budget Meeting

Saturday, May 13, 2017

9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

East Wing, 801 Magnolia Avenue (across from Piedmont High School)

Agenda:

1. Overview of the Proposed FY 17-18 Budget by the City Administrator

2. Presentation by the CIP Review Committee of Project Proposals for FY 17-18

3. Review of Departmental Budgets for FY 17-18

a. Police

b. Public Works

c. Recreation

d. Fire

e. Administration

f. Other Funds Budgets

City announcement:

The Piedmont City Council will consider the proposed annual budget for fiscal year 2017-2018 at three separate meetings. A Saturday work session will be held in the East Wing of 801 Magnolia Avenue on May 13, 2017 beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Public hearings regarding the proposed budget and the levy of the Municipal Services Tax and the Sewer Tax will be held during regularly scheduled City Council meetings on June 5 and June 19, 2017.

The public is invited to attend these meetings and speak to the City Council about spending priorities for the city in the coming year.  Click to visit the 2017-2018 Proposed Budget page, where all sections of the budget are available for download.

For questions on contents of the budget, please contact Interim Finance Director Jim O’Leary via email at joleary@ci.piedmont.ca.us or by phone at 420-3045 with any questions.

If you wish to write to the Council regarding the budget, please send an e-mail to the City Council at citycouncil@ci.piedmont.ca.us or send a letter via U.S. Mail to Piedmont City Council, c/o City Clerk’s Office, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, 94611.