Oct 14 2018

Where is the Disaster Preparedness Information Citizens Need?

October 18, 2018 is the 10th Anniversary of ShakeOut, officially occurring at 10:18 am.  By understanding your risk, you can minimize or avoid injuries, damage, and long-term financial consequences.

California Office of Emergency Services alerts Californians:

“Preparedness is everyone’s job. ” ​

The State suggests that refer to this website to learn the hazards in your area.

San Francisco offers its citizens the latest information, detailed preparation information, and training through a series of neighborhood emergency response team classes:

San Francisco Disaster Preparedness & Response Curriculum:
The goal of this program is to help the residents of San Francisco be self sufficient in a major disaster situation by developing multi-functional teams, cross-trained in basic emergency skills.  Through this program, individuals will learn hands-on disaster skills that will help them as members of an emergency response team and/or as a leader directing untrained volunteers during an emergency, allowing them to act independently or as an adjunct to City emergency services.  There is no cost  for the neighborhood training, and the class sessions are approximately 3 hours.

Class Session #1 Earthquake Awareness, Preparedness, and Hazard Mitigation
Earthquake type, magnitude, history and probability
How to prepare before it happens
What to do when the earth starts to shake
Class Session #2 Basic Disaster Skills
Natural gas, water and electrical controls, why, when and how to shut them off
Types of fire, and using extinguishers to put it out
Hazardous Materials awareness in the home, on the road, and all around you
Terrorism Awareness
Class Session #3 Disaster Medicine
Health considerations for the rescuer
Opening airways
Stopping bleeding and shock position
S.T.A.R.T. triage
Minor injuries and burns
Class Session #4 Light Search and Rescue
Different types of construction and where to look for damage
How to classify damaged buildings
Building marking system
Interior search patterns
Lifting heavy objects and mechanical advantage
Victim carries
Class Session #5 Team Organization and Management
City Disaster Plan and where the NERTs fit
NERT Incident Command System, managing the disaster
Disaster Psychology
Class Session #6 Skills Development and Application
Final Exam Review
Extinguishing fires
Triaging and treating moulaged victims
Extricating a victim trapped by heavy timbers
Interior search for reported missing persons
Exterior building damage assessment
Award of Achievement and course evaluation
Oct 10 2018

Endorsement Letter for Amal Smith

I have had the pleasure of sitting next to Amal Smith for the last four years as fellow school board members. Together, we have participated in countless board workshops, interview sessions, liaison meetings and more. That is to say, I’ve seen her in action. She is thorough, prepared, thoughtful and smart.

During our four years together, she has been a steadfast advocate for our students and steward of our school district. She has tirelessly given her time and talents to something we both consider our town’s greatest asset. And it has come with challenges. If you’ve followed our work, you know we are sometimes faced with tough decisions, limited choices or unpopular outcomes. If you haven’t, know that the requirements to prep for and decide on issues ranging from personnel, curriculum, discipline, finance and long term planning are
challenging. They demand a level head, perspective, wisdom and an abiding faith in our mission.

Amal Smith is the best candidate running for this office with the requisite skills and experience to do the work that needs to be done. That is why I strongly endorse her candidacy for this year’s school board election. Please join me in voting her in for another four year term.

Doug Ireland, Piedmont School Board Member

1 Comment »
Oct 9 2018

Council authority or City Administrator authority?

Piedmont City Charter changes are in voters’ hands.

Piedmont ballot Measure CC on the November 6 ballot, if approved by a majority of Piedmont voters, will end the City Council’s authority to both hire and fire key-employees.  Voters will find Measure CC at the end of their Piedmont ballot. 

Piedmont’s City Administrator initiated the City Charter amendment removing the City Council’s authority to evaluate, direct, and fire the Council-hired key-employees – Fire Chief, Police Chief, Finance Director, Recreation Director, etc. 

Under Measure CC, key-employees chosen by the Council would no longer serve “at the pleasure of the City Council;” they would serve “at the pleasure of the City Administrator.”

Opponents to Measure CC, changing the City Charter’s reporting authority, have emphasized the need to retain the City Council’s authority and not transfer their authority to a City Administrator on key Council chosen employees – Police Chief, Fire Chief, Finance Director, Recreation Director, etc.  

Piedmont’s system of governance is based on a “strong” five member City Council. Unlike many other cities, Piedmont does not have a  “strong” mayor. The Council elects Piedmont’s mayor from amongst their five members.  Piedmont’s mayor has little authority, except by City Charter or Council direction.

Neither the City Council, nor the mayor, directs the day to day administration of the City. This task is designated by Charter to the City Administrator. Working collaboratively with the City Administrator, the City Council currently hires, evaluates, compensates, directs, and fires key employees. Individual Council members are not allowed by Charter to individually direct City employees. 

Measure CC would remove Council authority in interactions with key-employees except hiring.  Council authority over key-employees, including evaluations, direction, and firing, would be transferred exclusively to the City Administrator.  Under the proposed Charter change, the Council would be forbidden to govern as currently allowed and long practiced.  This change would essentially transform Piedmont into a version of City Manager government.

Piedmont’s current City Administrator originally proposed that the City Administrator would have total authority to hire, evaluate, direct, and fire key-employees without Council involvement thinking this would be a better administrative process. 

The Council chose to retain their hiring authority of the key- employees, while in the proposed Measure CC, relinquish to the City Administrator their authority over evaluations, directions and terminations of their Council hired key- employees.

The concept of Measure CC – the Council hires, but cannot fire law – is a new and untested system.  There have been no reports of problems resulting from Piedmont’s current form of government.  Rather, Piedmont’s successful government structure has been sought out by others.

Measure CC is presented as a package on the ballot, meaning the various parts are inseparable from the whole, and must be voted upon as a whole.

The ballot language for Measure CC states:

Measure CC – 

CHARTER AMENDMENT MEASURE  CC “Shall the measure amending the Charter of the City of Piedmont to clarify the duties and reporting structure for officers and employees of the City be adopted?”

Arguments for and against have been filed.  Theses arguments can be read below by clicking on each item.  Additionally, the arguments can be found in each voter’s Voter Information Guide.

Partial Outline of Measure CC items:

  •  SECTION 3.01 – Officers and Employees
    This section is amended to clarify that the City Administrator and City Attorney are appointed, directed, and serve at the pleasure of the City Council. It also clarifies that other officers of the City are appointed by the City Council, but are directed and serve at the pleasure of the City Administrator.
  •  SECTION 3.03 – City Administrator
    This section is amended to clarify that the City Administrator is responsible for the direction and removal of officers of the City, with the exception of the City Administrator and City Attorney.
  •  The following sections are amended to clarify the reporting structure mentioned above and to make other minor clarifications:
    SECTION 3.05 – City Clerk
    SECTION 3.06 – City Attorney  SECTION 3.07 – Department of Finance SECTION 3.08 – Police Department SECTION 3.09 – Fire Department SECTION 3.11 – City Engineer SECTION 3.12 – Planning Director
  •  SECTIONS 3.10 – Dept. of Public Works and 3.13 – Dept. of Parks and Recreation In addition to being amended regarding the reporting structure mentioned above, these sections are amended to place the responsibility for maintenance of park lands and recreational facilities in the Public Works Department, which conforms the Charter to long standing practice. The word “Parks” is also struck from the name of the Department of Recreation and the title of the Director of Recreation to reflect this amendment.

Read the full City staff report HERE

Oct 9 2018

The League of Women Voters of Piedmont is hosting an election forum in advance of the November 6, 2018 General Election.

The Forum will feature candidates for City Council and School Board, as well as speakers for and against changing the Piedmont City Charter – ballot measures BB & CC. 

Piedmont Election Forum

Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018 

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Piedmont City Council Chambers

There are four candidates for City Council and four candidates for School Board who will present their positions and take questions from the audience.

Names are listed below in the order found on the ballot. 

Candidates for City Council are:

Tim Rood    Incumbent

Betsy Smegal Andersen    Appointed Council member

Teddy Gray King    Incumbent

Sunny Bostrom-Flemming

Candidates for Board of Education are: 

Julie Caskey 

Megan Pillsbury

Hari Titian

Amal Smith    Incumbent

Measures BB and CC

Presentations will be made for and against Measures BB and CC, the proposed City Charter changes, followed by questions from the audience.

Home viewers can tune in live to the Forum on Piedmont Cable Channel #27 or by going to the City of Piedmont website under videos.  The Forum will be available after October 11 on the City website under videos:  League of Women Voters, October 11 Forum. 

Oct 7 2018

Voters will decide November 6, 2018 on whether or not to change the City Charter by Measure BB.

Amendments to Piedmont’s City Charter require approval by a majority of Piedmonters voting on the proposed Charter changes, Measure BB.  If BB is rejected by voters, the City Charter stays the same until such time as voters approve changes.  All parts of Measure BB are presented as a package, meaning the entire measure is considered an inseparable whole.

The City Council placed Measure BB on the ballot following consideration of the proposed amendments at a number of meetings. The concepts for the changes were generated internally by City staff and the City Council.

Opposition has arisen against Measure BB.  Arguments opposing Measure BB have primarily focused on lack of transparency and expenditure problems associated with elimination of contract bidding requirements, removal of the Council’s bi-monthly meeting requirement, and extension of wait time for Council members seeking re-election.

BB changes a variety of Charter rules: removal of thresholds for City contract bidding, record-keeping, public notice requirements, elimination of the two required monthly Council meetings, and allowance of sole source contractors and consultants, plus more.

BB doubles the length of time a former Council member must wait before seeking re-election to the City Council to a wait time of 8 years instead of 4 years out of office.  The School Board did not choose to change the 4 year time period before former Board members could seek re-election to the Board of Education.

Look for Measure BB near the end of your Piedmont ballot to vote “Yes” or “No.”

Measure BB, as proposed on the ballot: 

CHARTER AMENDMENT MEASURE BB “Shall the measure amending the Charter of the City of Piedmont to modify procedures for filling of vacancies in elected offices for City Council and Board of Education for the Piedmont Unified School District, modify term limits for the City Council, and making other clarifying amendments regarding City recordkeeping, format of City ordinances, public posting, City contract approval, operation of City Council meetings, and other minor technical amendments, be adopted?”

Arguments both for and against Measure BB can be found in every voter’s Voter Information Guide. The arguments are also linked below:


A partial outline of the proposed Measure BB Charter changes are noted below:

  •  SECTION 2.03 – City Council Term of Office
    Lengthens the period of time in which members of the City Council who have served two full terms on the Council must wait before running for the Council again from four years to eight years.
  •  SECTIONS 2.05 (C) and 7.04 – Filling of Vacancies on Elected Bodies
    Lengthens the period in which the City Council and Board of Education have to fill a vacancy in their respective membership from thirty to sixty days. Provides that if the respective body does not act within the sixty day limit, a special election will be held to fill the vacancy.
  •  SECTION 2.07 (A) – Meetings
    Removes the requirement that the Council meet twice in each month, replacing it with a requirement that the Council meet regularly and sets a goal of meeting twice in each month.
  •  SECTIONS 2.07 (C) and 7.06 – Meetings
    Removes archaic, unnecessary, and difficult to implement provisions which allow for fewer than a quorum of members of either the City Council or Board of Education to compel the attendance of other members at a meeting.
  •  SECTION 2.12 – Ordinances in General
    Conforms the enacting clause of ordinances to modern practice.Modernizes the requirement for posting of ordinances, requiring that they be posted electronically, rather than on the city bulletin board. Also directs the City Clerk to post ordinances in a manner which ensures maximum availability to the public, especially in times of emergency.
  •  SECTION 2.15 (A) – Authentication and Recording; Codification; Printing Modernizes this section by removing the requirement that ordinances and resolutions be kept in a fully indexed book. The City’s electronic records management system presently serves this function.
  •  SECTION 3.02 – Official Bonds
    Removes the requirement that the City maintain faithful performance bonds for certain officers of the City, as faithful performance is now covered under the City’s insurance programs.
  •  SECTION 4.11 – Contract Work
    The amendment to this section removes reference to the state law threshold requirements for public bidding, which would clarify the City’s authority to set public bidding requirements for contracts pursuant to local ordinance.
  •  SECTION 5.10 – Appointments and Promotions
    The proposed amendment to this section modernizes the prohibition against employment discrimination to include all classes currently protected under U.S. and state law, as well additional classes that may be added in the future.

READ the entire City staff report HERE

Oct 7 2018

We have lived in this beautiful city of Piedmont for twenty years. As working professionals, we don’t have hundreds of hours to attend long board meetings and read dense financial reports filled with complex financial calculus.  That’s how Dr. Titan found out about the expensive financing schemes that did not improve the schools but cost taxpayers unnecessarily high interest charges.  We’re grateful to Dr. Titan, a father and mathematician, for devoting his time and interest on the finances of our schools since 2013.  He helped save us $26 million once and he might save an additional $26 million dollars!  Piedmonters will be well served with Dr. Titan on the School Board.

Wayne Leong and Suzanna Chan, Piedmont Residents

Oct 7 2018

We are pleased to offer our endorsement of Amal Smith for School Board.

Amal is a valued member of our school board who is deeply invested in our community. We appreciate her commitment to giving back to the district after benefitting from a solid K-12 education for her two sons. Amal is a champion of student wellness and we admire her passion for ensuring that our students are both happy and high achieving.

Amal has a proven track record of working well with others through her prior volunteer work in Piedmont and her endorsements by all of her fellow current school board members. Further, her experience in higher education at both the University of California and UCSF is an asset in navigating the complex relationships between the many stakeholders of our school system: students, teachers, administrators, staff and parents.

With her deep background in finance, Amal will be especially useful in what we expect to be continued turbulent years ahead with regard to budget. With CalSTRS using an unrealistic expected rate of return of 7%, Piedmont must expect further erosion of our operating budget to fund pension liabilities. Amal is the kind of financially savvy operator we will need to analyze our expected shortfalls and cooperate with others to address them.

School Board representation requires a heavy investment from both the candidate and the community. Let’s take advantage of the four years Amal and Piedmont has invested and reap more fruitful work from a capable professional who is already up to speed on our district’s issues and dynamics.

Dion and Amy Lim, Piedmont Residents

Oct 6 2018

On Wednesday, September 26th I attended a School Board Meeting at City Hall. At the front of the room sat the Board Members, Ms. Pearson, Ms. Smith, Mr. Ireland, Ms. Smegal and Ms. Swenson. Ms, Pearson sat in the middle as the president. Beside the Board Members, were Mr. Booker, the Superintendent of the Piedmont Unified School District, and Max Roblait, a student representative.

School Board meetings are to inform the District leaders, as well as the public, about what is going on in the School District and allow the public to express their concerns, show their support for a certain policy or advertise upcoming events.

After reciting the pledge of allegiance, Mr. Kesler, representing the teachers’ union, addressed grievances about the new online Ingenuity courses. Specifically, teachers were denied the responsibility of looking over the online classes. The administration, instead, hired substitutes. Mr. Kesler explained that because substitutes are not as qualified as teachers, students will get a poorer experience. Though cheaper in the short term, it is not in the best interest of the school. This matter has already been decided on, but Mr. Kesler was asking the Board to reconsider their previous decision. I agree with Mr. Kesler and the teachers’ union.

Part of the reason there are online courses is because Ms. Hutin-Lee left the school, leaving many of her fellow teachers upset and angry. This issue furthers teacher discontent, and frankly it is not worth the trouble. The administration should stop trying to cut corners with unqualified substitute teachers, and just do the online courses right by hiring regular teachers.

A representative of the Giving Campaign announced their fantastic launch. On the first day, the campaign raised a record $200,000. This money will go to help school staff, increasing their salary. Sending out gifts encourages good teachers to come to Piedmont and stay in Piedmont.

If I could have talked to the representative, I would have told her my opinion of online donations. Because donating money online is less personal, many people tend to donate less or even skip donating entirely. “Back to school” donations have been at an all time low since the online system was established. Friendly human connection at fundraisers and events will encourage people to donate more.

Max Roitblat, the president of ASB at Piedmont High School, informed the meeting that Ingenuity Online courses had launched, as stated previously by Mr. Kesler. Students have given the courses mixed reviews. While some students enjoyed going at their own pace, others felt that they were falling behind schedule. Students in Spanish courses also noticed that they scored more poorly on their online Spanish quizzes.

Max reported that the Senior Picnic went smoothly.

Then, Max addressed upcoming PHS events. These include the Safe Driving and Consent assemblies on October 25th and 26th. Accompanying these assemblies is a Parent Preview Night for parents to get involved.

On Friday the 28th, was the Homecoming Football game and on Saturday the Homecoming dance, with this year breaking a record for ticket sales. Mr. O’Regan was chosen as the Court Grand? Marshal this year. There will be an ASB Halloween event.

Sitting in the audience, it was exciting to get sneak peaks on upcoming ASB events.

The meeting opened the floor to any audience members who had something to say.

First was a man named Mr. Rick Schiller, a long-time resident of Piedmont. He brought up two seemingly-unrelated topics: pickleball and taxes. He was able to connect the two, as both relate to senior citizens in Piedmont. Fixing the tennis courts would really help the elderly who play pickleball there.

Schiller noted tax exemptions, similar to those in many other cities, would help relieve elderly financial stress. Giving tax exemptions would not have to cost the School District too much, if it was based on income.

PHS students Charlotte Diggatno and Mikaela Vawter addressed their grievances regarding the girls’ bathrooms. Bathroom stalls are not locking, causing people to get walked in on. The bad lighting in the 30’s building bathrooms are hazardous and have been broken for years. Becoming a major issue, the poor quality of the girls’ bathrooms needs to be changed. All Board members showed their support for the two girls, and promised to solve the problem.

A woman came forward to present new changes in Piedmont’s wifi configurations. New connections are being formed for better internet connection in Piedmont. The changes have already begun, but the lady wanted more  people to be informed. She came to the School Board meeting: to reach out to the schools, which are in the heart of Piedmont. Though her information didn’t directly pertain to the schools, she was able to get her message across to many.

The main event of the meeting came at the very end: the plans for the H1 PHS construction project. Costing millions of dollars, construction on the new STEAM building will begin in July next year, 2019. Plans for the new-three story building containing 20 classrooms, were shown by projection onto a drop-down screen. Mr. Palmer talked about the project in general, eliminating confusing details so all present could understand. Besides the new building there will also be a brand new theater and renovated field.

Because Witter Field will be under construction next May, the senior and 8th grade graduation will be held at the Paramount Theater. This is a hot spot for graduations, used by Bishop O’Dowd High School and many colleges. The theater contains more than enough room with 2800 seats. From the theater, buses will leave for Grad Night.

After the presentation of the complex blueprints, Ms. Pearson, the Board President, asked if any audience members wished to speak about the project.

Having a question prepared, I volunteered to go first. A few years ago, when the Alan Harvey Theater was renovated with new theater cushions, I took home some theater seats they were going to dispose of. They are currently reupholstered in my basement private theater. Slyly looking for an opportunity to get more free stuff, I asked the Board what will become of all the current theater seats, stage props, lights, desks, science supplies and more.

At first I was nervous talking at the podium, however, because I knew Mr. Booker and Max, it wasn’t so bad. Mr. Palmer, eager to answer my question, returned to the podium and explained that all the supplies will be salvaged, saved or sold. (I couldn’t take any of it.) Mr. Palmer’s answer satisfied my curiosity about where the stuff would be going. More PHS students asked questions about backstage crew at the new theater, new teachers and sports practices.

The meeting ended with the board members discussing their last two weeks. Many of them went to the Beach Pancake Breakfast that I volunteered at the weekend before.

At the very end, as people were packing up, I went up to the Board Members and showed them some of the “courtroom” sketches I made during the meeting. To keep myself focused, I usually doodle people and things around me. They liked seeing my drawings and joked that I should sit in every other week and make official sketches of their meeting. I was pleasantly surprised by how nice and friendly the Board Members were, despite their professionalism during the meeting.

On my way out of City Hall, I ran into PHS Principal, Mr. Littlefield. I asked him why he came to the meeting. “Whenever they talk about the high school, I’m usually there,” he told me as he got into his car. “This time I was here because of the new building designs.” I asked him what he thought about the meeting. “Typical,” was his answer. I thanked him and waved goodbye.

By Natalie Jeng, Piedmont High School Senior


Oct 6 2018
Support for transparency and inclusiveness of our school planning and decision-making process.

I’m writing in support of Julie Caskey’s campaign to serve on our Piedmont School Board. I hope your readers can benefit from this perspective.

My wife and I moved to Piedmont from nearby Oakland a few years ago, soon after our first baby was born. Frankly, we were ambivalent. We had heard a lot about Piedmont: some good, some bad, but always with conviction.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long after moving in for most of our concerns to disappear. Our neighbors have been amazing – welcoming, considerate, and clearly proud of the community they have built. And who can complain about a fire department that will not only respond in minutes, but is also willing to host a 3-year old birthday party?

That said, there is one question that remains for us and the other new parents we meet – will the schools be a good fit for our kids? We each have our own apprehensions about our children’s education, especially in the context of public schooling. For some, the issue is academic rigor. For others: diversity and inclusion. And of course, there’s nowhere near enough math. Or art. Or sports. Or…

You get the point.

But there’s one concern all new Piedmont parent all share: that our concerns won’t be heard. This is especially true for those of us who don’t have the benefit of familiarity with the system, the process, or the individuals managing Piedmont’s schools.

I’m voting for Julie Caskey for the Piedmont School Board because one of her biggest priorities is improving the transparency and inclusiveness of our school planning and decision-making process. No matter who we are, each of us wants to know that our issues and concerns are being heard, and to at least understand how our input fits into the process, even if we can’t always get the result we want.

Julie is one of those great neighbors that I’ve gotten to know since moving to Piedmont. She has spent her whole life advocating for those in her community, professionally as a civil rights and child advocacy lawyer, and personally as a volunteer, most recently focused on our children and schools here in Piedmont. Even more important: she has four wonderful children, including one in elementary school, so she still remembers what it’s like to be new parent and freaked out about just about everything, but especially our kids’ education. I hope you’ll join me in supporting Julie’s candidacy for the School Board.


Ilan Gur, Piedmont Resident

Oct 6 2018

The Piedmont Recreation Department (PRD) has announced that it will not hold the annual Haunted House at 358 Hillside Avenue in 2018. This will be just the third time in 30 years that Piedmonters will not be spooked and scared by PRD staff in the Recreation Department building during the last week in October.

Staffing changes in the Schoolmates program have reduced the available time staff has to build and create the Haunted House. Previously, Schoolmates staff spent a significant portion of October, when not caring for students, developing and building the frights that were enjoyed by visitors to the Haunted House.

“Though the haunted house is a Piedmont tradition, our priority is delivering quality care before and after school at Schoolmates,” said Recreation Director Sara Lillevand. “We believe that quality would suffer at Schoolmates sites if we were to shift resources to the Haunted House during this time of transition.”

Over the next six months, Recreation Department staff will examine different approaches to creating, building and staffing the Haunted House and determine whether a feasible model exists to continue this fun but complex three-day event in future years.