Dec 19 2011

Candidate Viewpoint: Independent Cost Estimates on Blair Park

Candidate supports professional, independent evaluation of full cost of Blair Park –

Dear Neighbor,

We Piedmonters have been very generous in taxing ourselves to maintain a high level of municipal services, as you know from the property tax bill you recently received. And the City Council is asking for another substantial jump in property taxes when we vote on February 7. But in recent years, our generosity and trust have not been rewarded by careful management of City expenditures.

As the Council-appointed Municipal Tax Review Committee unanimously found earlier this year, the City of Piedmont is on an unsustainable financial path, headed toward a $2.2 million budget deficit by 2017, some $6 million short of a prudent level of reserves. City financial reserves have already declined by 50% since 2006.

City revenues have been fairly constant in recent years despite the recession. The problems result from undisciplined spending. One contributing factor is City employees’ compensation and benefits, which are at the highest level in the state. Another factor was the cost overrun of nearly $2.5 million in the Piedmont Hills Undergrounding District, a result of the City’s errors and mistakes.

Now the City Council is in the final stage of approving a much larger and far more complex project: creating new playing fields in Moraga Canyon (the “Blair Park” project). As the parent of two kids who played soccer and baseball for many years, I appreciate the desire for more playing fields. But whatever your views, it’s crucial that major City decisions include appropriate safeguards to protect the City from significant financial risk.

As a professional architect and city planner, I agree with the Municipal Tax Review Committee’s unanimous recommendation that the City obtain a professional evaluation of the full cost of this project before it starts. To be credible, that evaluation must be independent of the project sponsors and be detailed enough to allow peer review. Given the project’s complexity, including rerouting an EBMUD water main and excavation and drainage work, there also should be an independent risk analysis of potential costs if construction problems arise.

Yet, when the Council met on December 5, there was no indication that these essential precautions will be taken. If elected, I will insist on these safeguards, along with the resolution of environmental, traffic and pedestrian safety concerns.

It is time for greater care and financial stewardship in the management of Piedmont. I invite you to send your comments to my website,

Best regards,

Tim Rood

Editors Note:  The Piedmont Civic Association welcomes position articles from candidates in accordance with PCA Editorial Guidelines.  Please read “Talk Around Town” for more information on the positions of candidates.

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