Jun 2 2012

OPINION: City Processes Cause Community Divide

The following commentary was published by The Piedmonter and submitted to the Piedmont Civic Association:

The bad process that led to the Undergrounding debacle was made worse by the sham City “Audit” which included two members of the City Council who voted for the giveaway, then investigated themselves and accepted their own report.  The staff liaison was the City Administrator who bears the ultimate responsibility for the taxpayer loss.

City Hall had little desire for taxpayers to know why two million dollars were used for private benefit. During the Undergrounding an additional $275,000 of taxpayer money was taken for “storm drains” on Crest Road, drains that were never intended to be installed.  Rather than reclaim taxpayer funds or investigate, the City’s solution was to reclassify the theft as “street repaving.”  The City’s response to the Kurtin’s Undergrounding lawsuit was a frivolous defense that ate another $550,000.

The Undergrounding Debacle led both the LWV Task Force and 2011 Municipal Tax Review Committee  to recommend standard practices for any major project in town, including monetary risk assessment, independent construction management and contingency fees.  None of these recommendations were present Dec. 5, 2011 when four Council members voted approval of the Blair Park Project.  What was present was (1) the City Engineer’s report which found the PRFO supplied numbers lacking sufficient detail for a meaningful examination (2) a proponent project manager (3) no recommendation for contingency fees (4) Planning Commission findings that the project was ugly and deficient in all respects, and (5) an unanalyzed traffic plan that included an experimental roundabout.  This was a flawed and biased process.  Apparently as a tactical maneuver, Piedmont Recreation Facilities Organization (PRFO) has withdrawn the project because of the expected success of the Friends of Moraga Canyon (FOMC ) and pending Oakland litigation.  Residents asked that Council rescind the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in hopes of bringing our community back together.  Instead, the Council chose to honor the PRFO intent: “The EIR may be useful if there is any future project developed at Blair Park. ” (blairpark.org)

”The PRFO “Gift” just keeps on giving as taxpayer cost approaches $470,000.   The Feb. 7 dramatic defeat of Measure A should have been a wake-up call to City Hall that the electorate was disgusted by biased City processes and an unneeded tax measure.  But on May 7 the Council had only high praise for PRFO, further deepening the community divide.  The bad process is not a result of ignorance, our populace is too bright.  Piedmont government is by some for themselves and calculated deception is the result.  I am not a recipient of this generosity, yet I pay the same high parcel taxes.  Until we have real community discussion and input, and a City Administrator who serves all residents equally, my only recourse is to vote down City parcel taxes.  I will not waste my money and feed elite special interests.

Rick Schiller, Piedmont resident

Editors Note:  All opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

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