Oct 29 2020

The Mercury News Editorial –

Editorial: Reject Piedmont property tax hike for pool repairs

The Mercury News editorial is copied below:

“Piedmont residents tax themselves to ensure that they have the best schools and premier city government. The average homeowner pays $4,400 in extra taxes for schools and another $635 for city services.

But those taxes also drive up the cost of housing in the exclusive city surrounded by Oakland and further ensure that those with average means will not be able to crack the city’s residential market.

Voters in Tuesday’s election will face two tax hikes. Measure TT, which we have previously recommended voters reject, would increase the city’s tax on property sales to state record-high levels. Now we look at Measure UU, a $19.5 million bond proposal to pay for replacing three old community pools with two new ones. Voters should reject that, too.

Based on the city estimates provided to voters, Measure UU would add an average $263 annually to the tax bill for a home assessed at the city average of slightly over $1 million.

It a bit of a tricky calculation for voters because city officials in the ballot wording obfuscated the projected average tax rate as 2.6 cents per $100 of assessed value rather than an easier-to-understand $26 per $100,000.

It turns out that the city overstated that rate, especially for the latter part of the 30-year tax. The firmer number is that city taxpayers would collectively pay about $1.3 million annually to retire the bonds needed to finance the construction.

To put that number in perspective, the city spends more than that – nearly $1.7 million to be precise – just to cover the interest payments on public employee pension debt. Put another way, most of the pool bond payments could be covered by Measure TT, which is expected to add about $948,462 annually to the city’s transfer tax revenues.

Individually and collectively, the two measures raise a question of, how much is too much? Rather than throwing multiple tax measures at voters, city leaders need to prioritize and look for savings elsewhere.”

Oct 28 2020

I would like to extend thanks to the nearly one thousand volunteers, endorsers, and donors who have come together to support the future of the Piedmont Community Pool.

Passing any measure requires a tremendous amount of effort and money to educate voters about the timeliness, thoughtfulness, and importance of the ballot initiative. Over the last few months, citizens of all ages and areas in Piedmont have volunteered to talk with their neighbors about the critical timing and benefits of Measure UU.

Over 100 donors have contributed to the campaign to provide funds to print flyers and mailers. Student and adult volunteers have spent thousands of hours making phone calls, sending emails, and distributing informational materials door-to-door. Despite the challenges of connecting in person, a comprehensive coalition of city and school leaders, community organizations, and volunteers emerged to support Measure UU. Their message?  A world-class city like Piedmont should have a local pool and all the concomitant programs (lessons, sports, programs) that serve to strengthen our community.

I especially applaud the countless volunteers who have been extra careful about reaching out to their neighbors in safe ways. To minimize direct, in-person exposure, volunteers only conducted phone calls or dropped off flyers with personally written letters detailing why it’s critical to pass Measure UU in November.

One of the most moving letters that I read was from a family that actually doesn’t use the pool at all, but understands the value of building an asset that is appreciated by their fellow citizens: old and young, big and small. Norman Rockwell could not paint a warmer picture of a shared journey.

While our broad political climate has never been more divisive, I am proud to see and say that Piedmonters continue to think and act beyond themselves, always in the best interests of our wonderful community.

Dion Lim, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 28 2020
I am supporting Veronica Anderson Thigpen for Piedmont School Board. I first met Veronica at Piedmont’s MLK Day Celebration in 2019, which she helped organize. Since then, I’ve gotten to know her even better through her work as Co-Chair of the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee.
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In all my interactions with Veronica, I’ve been impressed both by her passion for social justice and equity and by her thoughtfulness, practical instincts and willingness to listen.
With her deep understanding of education policy, honed through her work as a journalist and an educational adviser, she has the expertise needed to help the School Board make the best decisions for our kids.
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As an African American woman who has been committed throughout her career to fighting for social justice and inclusion, she would also bring a fresh perspective to the PUSD board on a wide range of critical issues. And as a collaborative, can-do leader, she would help PUSD translate good principles into productive, concrete actions.
We’re living in a time of unprecedented challenges but also unprecedented opportunity – opportunity to build a society that is more just, equitable and sustainable. Veronica is someone who can help us meet that challenge by taking the amazing foundation we’ve built in Piedmont and expanding its reach to make our city a more welcoming and inclusive place.
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If you share that aspiration for Piedmont’s future, I hope you’ll join me in supporting Veronica for School Board!  
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Sachin Adarkar, Piedmont Resident
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 26 2020

– Fire Chief Bret Black Announced His Departure from Piedmont Fire Department –

Chief Bret Black intends to leave his position with the City of Piedmont in late November after just over two years as Piedmont’s Fire Chief. He will become Chief of East Jefferson Fire and Rescue in Port Townsend, Washington.

“I have valued my time in Piedmont as part of this team,” said Black. “My fondest memories will be from the relationships and friendships among fellow employees and the community. I feel privileged to have served the residents of Piedmont.”

“The Piedmont community has benefitted from Chief Black’s time in Piedmont,” said City Administrator Sara Lillevand. “His knowledge of the fire service, particularly in the area of wildland fire has helped focus the Fire Department and organization as a whole on this important topic. We will miss his team spirit, sense of humor, and dedication to his profession.”

Chief Black’s professional firefighting career began with Skywalker Ranch Fire Department in 1997. A few years later he relocated to the Clovis Fire Department in the Central Valley. Mr. Black rose through the ranks from firefighter, engineer, captain, training officer, to battalion chief. He began work as Piedmont’s Fire Chief on October 1, 2018.

Chief Black will remain with the City until November 30th and a nationwide recruitment process for a new Fire Chief will commence immediately.

Press Release – Oct. 26, 2020
Oct 25 2020

The City Council Is Not Being Open And Transparent About Measure UU. If They Were, Residents Would Have Received This Measure UU Letter.

Dear Piedmonters,

Before you vote on Measure UU, we thought there were a few things we needed to tell you. We did tell you that the City has no outstanding General Obligation Bonds, but we didn’t mention that we have LOTS of debts – $7 million in sewer loans, $13 million in Post Employment Benefits Payable, and $26 million in Pension Benefits Payable.

Oh, and if our pension portfolio returns only 6.15% instead of the estimated 7.15% (you can get 7.15% on your investments in today’s crazy market with bonds yielding close to zero, can’t you?), our Pension Benefit Liability alone increases to over $43 million.

Speaking of deficits, did we mention that our General Fund – that is, unrestricted money that the City can spend on anything – has a deficit of about $9 million?

We also glossed over the fact that the ordinance we passed estimates that the total cost of the “improvements” is $23 million, but that it allows us to issue $19.5 million in bonds. Guess who is paying for the difference?

We also haven’t mentioned it, but by reading the City Council minutes for the last six months, you can see that we know about the major deficiencies in our ability to deliver essential public services – the Police Chief, Fire Chief, and City Administrator are all on the record as saying that we do not comply with the Essential Services Act, that the fire station may sustain major damage in an earthquake, and that it may cost up to $51 million to fix these problems. That’s why we are looking at creating a Community Facilities District (aka Mello-Roos) to make it easier to issue bonds backed by another special tax on Piedmont homeowners in the near future. And because we generally ask for the maximum amount, it will probably be for the full $51 million.

Finally, we haven’t mentioned that 100% of Piedmont citizens rely on our Police and Fire Departments, while an estimated 25% of citizens use the pool.

So, if we had placed two bond measures on the November ballot – $50 million for Police and Fire, and $20 million for a new pool, we knew what would happen. Citizens would vote to maintain essential services, but they would turn down the pool.

After spending $56 million in 2006 and another $66 million in 2016 on School District Bonds (all that money is gone, and they still haven’t finished their projects), $10 million per year on Measure G, $2.6 million per year on Measure H, and $2.4 million per year on Measure T, citizens are getting a little tax weary. After all, aren’t our property tax rates some of the highest in California?

So, think carefully before you vote on measure UU. We’ll see you soon with our new $51 million bond request. You will HAVE to vote yes to maintain city services, but you can vote NO on Measure UU.

Andy Wasserman, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
10 Comments »
Oct 25 2020
I’m writing to encourage Piedmonters to elect Hari Titan to the Piedmont School Board.

Hari is a BIG supporter of Piedmont schools.  He has extensive experience in finances and a desire for the Piedmont schools to be the best they can be. Hari found many ways for our tax dollars to go further by paying for school bonds as we go, just like a fixed-rate mortgage.  By not deferring property taxes, Piedmont taxpayers saved $26 million.

Hari also fought for the cost-effectiveness of new construction for the high school theater and STEAM building, allowing for more seats, better acoustics, handicap access, net-zero energy use, and earthquake safety.

Hari has also fought for listening to our local epidemiologists and transparent school closure and reopening criteria. Hari will make sure we get back to educational excellence safely and as soon as possible.

Please join me in voting for Dr. Titan for the school board this year.

Patty White, Former Piedmont Mayor

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 – Titan:  7 years of valuable aid to schools –  

Our home values are linked to Piedmont’s  historical reputation for excellent schools.   That reputation is starting to falter as evidenced by the unexpected loss of 81 students from our school district this year.  Once lost, it will take years to recover our reputation.

Titan is the School Board candidate who will add thoughtful management and responsible oversight to the School Board.  Since 2013 he’s contributed over 500 hours of time which produced well-conceived recommendations that saved our schools and taxpayers MILLIONS of dollars.

Our current school board is disproportionately influenced by the unions and our country-club society.  Board decisions are too often unanimous with little public deliberation and are often dismissive of thoughtful public input.  Titan will return  transparent governance to the school board.

My decision to vote for Titan is based on the content of his character and intellect.  His experience as a businessman, mathematician, scientist, and STEM college professor brings valuable diversity and professional acumen to the board.

Membership on the school board should not be a popularity contest.  Titan is the responsible candidate we need.

Dai Meagher, retired CPA, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Oct 25 2020

High Fire Danger Remains

Pacific Gas and Electric Company has reduced the number of homes in Piedmont which are slated to be affected by the Public Safety Power Shutoff scheduled to begin on Sunday evening, October 25th.

The PSPS will be focused on the eastern portion of Piedmont. Residents can look their address up on PG&E’s web site to see whether they are slated to be affected by the planned outage. Extreme fire danger remains for the entire City.

The National Weather Service has predicted sustained winds of 25-40 MPH and gusts to 60MPH for the hills. These high winds, combined with predicted low humidity are causing the extreme fire danger.

All Piedmonters are advised to be prepared for wildfire and power outages during this wind event.

The East Bay hills will be under a Red Flag Warning issued by the National Weather Service from 11:00 a.m. Sunday, October 25th through 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday October 27th.

During this time of high fire danger:

• Do not use power tools such as mowers and weed trimmers in a way that can easily ignite dried vegetation. Have a fire extinguisher nearby if you must use these tools.

• Ensure clear access for Fire Engine on your street and driveway. Fire engines need at least 12 feet of clearance and more on tight turns.

• Do not use outdoor flames of any kind, including barbeques. Piedmonters are urged to be Ready for Wildfire and prepare themselves for wildfire.

Community members can:

• Get Ready by creating defensible space around their home, hardening their homes against fire, and by installing fire resistant landscaping.

• Get Set by creating a wildfire action plan and preparing family emergency kits

• Be Ready to GO! if an evacuation is ordered.

The Piedmont Fire Department is adding additional staffing due to this predicted wind event.

Additional information on how to be prepared for emergencies can be found in the Public Safety Committee’s Get Ready, Piedmont brochure.

During a Public Safety Power Shutoff, please call 911 to report any emergencies which occur. Please hold non-emergency calls until after the PSPS event has concluded. Residents can call Alameda County 211 for resource referrals.

PRESS RELEASE LINKED BELOW:

PSPS 10252020

Oct 25 2020

Power Shutoff Expected to Affect EBMUD Critical Facilities

Sunday – Tuesday, October 25 – 27

Regardless of whether your house loses power, your use of water affects available water in case of East Bay Hills fire during this PSPS. Residents are advised to store two gallons of water for each member of their household. 

EBMUD has topped off reservoirs and has backup generators in place to provide power to critical facilities in the event of a PG&E power shutoff. EBMUD asks that customers in areas served by affected reservoirs reduce water use indoors and turn off outdoor irrigation to conserve water in our local reservoir tanks to leave as much water in the reservoirs as possible for firefighting.

  • Minimize water use during a PG&E Power event to leave as much water in the reservoirs as possible for firefighting.
  • Shut off irrigation.
  • Reduce indoor water use.

EBMUD will make information available as the situation develops.

For updates follow EBMUD @ebmud on Twitter, Nextdoor, and Facebook

For PG&E PSPS check pge.com/psps

PG&E shutoffs begin Sunday 10am with the majority between 3 and 9pm as conditions are monitored.

Power should be restored Monday night through Tuesday night.

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East Bay Regional Parks closed all Sunday and Monday: Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area, Lake Chabot Regional Park, Leona Canyon Open Space Regional Preserve, Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park, Roberts Regional Recreation Area, Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, Tilden Regional Park and Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.

Oct 23 2020

– PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs Possible for Portions of Piedmont –  Street Names – Emergency Instructions – 

As Early As 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 25th Pacific Gas and Electric Company has announced their intent to conduct a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) which will include portions of Piedmont as early as Sunday, October 25th at 8:00 p.m. They estimate that power will be restored no later than Tuesday, October 27th at Noon. Other power outages may occur as a result of this wind event.

All Piedmonters are advised to be prepared for power outages during this wind event, which may or may not be proactive Public Safety Power Shutoffs.

Click below to read the full announcement, including street names and emergency instructions:

 Public Safety Power Shutoff 2020-10-25

Oct 23 2020

I’m writing to you today in strong support of Conna McCarthy’s candidacy to serve on the Piedmont City Council.

To me, Conna McCarthy brings the best of public service to Piedmont’s civic life. She is smart, has a long history of volunteerism for the Piedmont schools and as a Recreation Commissioner.

In addition to her extraordinary work here in town, Conna’s commitment to progressive values stretches beyond Piedmont and has left an impact throughout the state of California. She’s led
voter registration efforts with Martin Luther King III, she’s advocated for women and people of color, she knows how to build coalitions and she gets the job done.

Conna is a consummate professional who knows how to listen to the needs of our beautiful community.

Please join me in supporting Conna McCarthy for Piedmont City Council.

Teddy Gray King
Vice Mayor, City of Piedmont

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I am writing in full support of Jen Cavenaugh’s campaign for  re-election to the Piedmont City Council.  We met in 2011 when I was new to the city and our children attended Beach Elementary together.  

Over the past three years, I have gotten to know Jen better, both professionally and personally, through PADC (Piedmont Anti-Racism and Diversity Committee).  She is a strong advocate for inclusivity and truly listens to the perspectives of all stakeholders.  Her ability to build rapport, make strong connections, skillfully collaborate, and take action make her an ideal thought partner between the city and community members.

Her experience and background in management and business has proven to be an asset to the city and her deep understanding of fiduciary and fiscal responsibilities benefit both the city and the residents of Piedmont.   Her track record as an active volunteer and as a current City Council member speaks to her level of dedication and commitment to public service.  She will continue to serve the city well as a leader with integrity. 

I urge you to vote for Jen for re-election to the Piedmont City Council.

Jodi Biskup, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.