Jan 18 2011

Council Member Wieler’s Taliban Article Stirs Up a Storm

Editor’s Note: Controversy has arisen regarding Councilman Wieler’s article, “Piedmont’s Taliban”, published on January 12 by the Piedmont Post.  Residents have objected to the intemperate labels applied by the Council Member (“nihilists”, “bomb throwing”) and the Piedmont Post (“Taliban”) to those who may express opposition to parcel tax measures.  The unfortunate comparisons were made as the Council Member attempted to outline his perspective on democracy in Piedmont, asserting that exercising one’s right to vote against a council member is appropriate, while exercising one’s right to vote against a parcel tax is inappropriate.  Excerpts from the article, responsive letters, as well as a written copy of the original public comment which prompted the “Piedmont’s Taliban” article (obtained exclusively by PCA), have been published together to provide full perspective.

Councilman Wieler’s article in the Piedmont Post could not be reprinted in full here, because Councilman Wieler stated that the article was copyrighted by the Post.  However, excerpts illustrating some of the controversial comparisons are provided here.

Excerpts from Councilman Jeff Wieler’s Article titled “Piedmont Taliban”:

“Piedmont has its own band of ragged nihilists hiding in the hills.  A leading opponent of the proposal to build sports fields on city land in Blair Park has started the bomb-throwing, beginning with the threat to oppose the next Piedmont School District Parcel Tax.”  . . .

“So why are these people trying to put a gun to the heads of the School Board and the City Council?” . . .

“In a democracy, we get our own way by persuading others, not by throwing bombs.  Timothy McVeigh was less persuasive when he blew up the federal building and a day care center in Oklahoma City.  People have strong opinions on abortion, but blowing up abortion clinics is not how we debate the abortion issue in a civilized society.  . . . Civilized countries have political processes.”


Ralph Catalano’s original public comments before the Piedmont Board of Education at its meeting on December 8, 2010.

Piedmont homeowners are among the most highly taxed in the State.  I was, therefore, reassured by Mr. Raushenbush’s concise estimate of the costs the District would incur over the next decade to preserve recreational facilities as well as by his plan to pay those costs.  It was a report and plan that a taxpayer could understand.  I was, however, subsequently disappointed to learn that the plan was put at risk by a proposal to involve the city.

The city has not, to my knowledge, released a “Raushenbush Report” accounting the costs we incur by virtue of aggressive expansion of city recreation facilities. (sic) We should all recall that in 1987 Piedmont voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to finance the expansion of recreational facilities at Beach School, Dracena Park, Hampton Field, Havens School, Moraga Canyon, and Witter Field.  Despite this rejection, the City went on to upgrade or build recreational facilities at each of its sites.  We all know that the City funded construction largely from the parcel tax.  We do not, however, know how much we pay for maintaining those facilities or how much we put aside, if anything, for capital replacement.  The city’s budget makes it impossible for the average homeowner to discover these costs.

We will soon be asked to extend the city’s parcel tax.  Piedmont voters have a right to know how much of its yield would go to maintain existing and proposed recreational facilities.  I, and others, have asked the city for an accounting like Mr. Raushenbush’s to inform our votes but have gotten no response.

I believe that the City’s incompetent handling of the undergrounding fiasco and related litigation, as well as Council indifference if not hostility toward Moraga Canyon residents and Swim Club members have put the city’s parcel tax in jeopardy.  I plead with you to avoid putting the (School) District’s parcel tax in similar jeopardy.  Please implement the original Raushenbush recommendations. Please do not partner with this City Council.  At the very least, insist that the city produce its own “Raushenbush Report” before you consider such a partnership.

Ralph Catalano
Piedmont resident


Letters in Response to Councilman Wieler’s Article:


To the Editors:

The recent horrible event in Tucson reminds us of how fragile and precious life is, of how a single madman can cause so much suffering. Some have suggested Sarah Palin’s venomous rhetoric is in some way responsible for the acts of this deranged soul. Evidently such criticism struck a nerve with her as she went on the offensive by labeling her critics guilty of “blood libel.” Perhaps the best defense is a good offense.

Councilman Wieler’s Piedmont Post column likening Blair Park opponents to bomb throwing Taliban terrorists is strikingly similiar in tone to Sarah Palin’s offensive and unfortunate remarks. As the darling of the Tea Party Ms. Palin’s agenda is quite evident. As the darling of the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization Mr. Wieler’s agenda is equally clear. Mr. Wieler is correct, he defeated opponents apposed to Blair Park development. His candidacy was based on assuring the Blair Park proponents of his vote. Regardless of what has been said or expressed before Council he has not disappointed. I expect he will continue to repay in kind.

With the Blair Park proposal already costing taxpayers significant dollars and millions of public funds recently being wasted, City Hall will have to act more responsibly. In our democracy taxpayers have the right to stop the flow of money from their wallets into the public trough. Mr. Wieler evidently believes anyone exercising these rights and expressing their opinion is a terrorist. He will probably include the 1,364 Piedmonters who voted against Measure E when he reports the terrorist filled enclaves of Moraga Canyon to Homeland Security.

The burden now shifts to Mayor Barbieri who must ask Mr. Wieler to recuse himself from any matter concerning Blair Park. Although not legally binding, such a request will restore a fair process which currently does not exist.

Rick Schiller
Piedmont resident

To the Editor:

Particularly after the horrific events in Tucson, I thought Councilman Jeff Wieler’s column in the Piedmont Post this week, which compared Blair Park sports complex opponents to bomb-throwing Taliban members and said they were putting “a gun to the heads of the School Board and City Council” by threatening to advocate against renewal of the parcel taxes, went well beyond bad taste.

It’s bad enough that the Piedmont Post allows a City Council member to have a quarter page each week while refusing to publish many opposing views, but for its editor, Gray Cathrall, to condone this kind of violent rhetoric by an elected official is, to me, truly disgusting.

I’m encouraging people to write the local papers and City Council about this.

Tim Rood
Piedmont resident


A Letter from Morrisa Sherman published by the Piedmont Patch


A Letter from Jim Semitekol, Piedmont Resident published by the Piedmont Patch ________________________________________________________________________

The Response of Ralph Catalano to Council Member Wieler’s Article

Councilman Wieler recently claimed in his Piedmont Post column that my neighbors and I had put the extension of the city’s parcel tax in jeopardy by disagreeing with the City Council.  My response to Councilperson Wieler is as follows.

The City Council majority, not my neighbors or I, spent $2.2 million to underground utilities in Piedmont’s most exclusive neighborhood despite city policy that the benefiting homeowners must pay undergrounding costs.

The City Council majority, not my neighbors or I, refused an independent audit of staff and Council behavior leading to the $2.2 million subsidy.

The City Council majority, not my neighbors or I, would have authorized another risky undergrounding scheme had not private citizens successfully sued to stop the folly.

The City Council majority, not my neighbors or I, publicly vilified those citizens and spent $400,000 in a failed attempt to defeat them in court.

The City Council majority, not my neighbors or I, has nearly destroyed the Piedmont Swim Club through capricious and arbitrary changes of policy during negotiations with the Club.

The City Council majority, not my neighbors or I, spent $1.6 million to build a soccer field at Havens School while failing to enforce use restrictions at the Beach and Witter soccer fields.

The City Council majority, not my neighbors or I, has spent at least $160,000 to subsidize the planning of a private sports complex on public land in Moraga Canyon.

And now, Councilperson Wieler has used his privileged access to local media to call my neighbors and me “bomb throwers,” and “Taliban,” and to liken us to the murderous traitor Timothy McVeigh because we dissent from the above decisions.  He argues we deserve this intimidating vitriol because our dissent puts the passage of the City’s parcel tax in jeopardy.

I respectfully suggest that Piedmont voters will decide their position on the City’s parcel tax based on the behavior of the City Council.  If that ballot measure is in jeopardy, the Council, not my neighbors or I, have put it there.

Ralph Catalano
Piedmont Resident

(All letters express the personal opinions of the authors. All statements made are the opinion of the specific writer and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.)

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