Oct 21 2012

OPINION: Why Did The City Sue and Vilify Piedmonters?

Vote No on Y to stop City intimidation and silencing of residents –

For the first time in my 21 years as a Piedmont resident, I will vote against the city’s parcel tax. I do so for several reasons that other dissenting voters have described at this website and elsewhere.  These include reckless growth in the cost of city government and incompetent management of capital projects.   But another reason arises from a darker, more insidious circumstance that I, perhaps like other Piedmonters, had until now chosen to ignore rather than confront.  I refer to the City Council’s use of its privileged position and of city resources to intimidate citizens who speak out against Council catering to special interests.  The most egregious example of this reprehensible behavior came when a Piedmont homeowner objected to the Council’s attempt to manipulate the results of a neighborhood vote on utility undergrounding.  After the Council refused to comply with its own rules on the fraction of positive votes needed to implement undergrounding, a homeowner in the proposed district went to court to ask for relief.  Rather than defending the city’s interests in the suit, the Council instead chose to counter sue under provisions that would have inflicted heavy financial penalties on the homeowner.  The court, in ruling for the homeowner, noted that no competent lawyer would have brought the city’s suit.  The Council, however, included 3 presumably competent lawyers and had a City Attorney on staff.  As Piedmonters, therefore, we can draw no inference other than the Council intended to intimidate the homeowner, and any others who resisted undergrounding, into silence.  That attempt to intimidate a citizen cost Piedmont taxpayers over $600,000 in legal fees and settlement costs.

The Council’s behavior in the undergrounding affair has been mimicked in other circumstances.  Critics of the Council’s Orwellian claim that giving private sports clubs a public park was somehow a “gift” to taxpayers were repeatedly ridiculed and vilified by Councilpersons at public hearings and in newspaper columns written by Councilpersons.  The City Planning Commission, composed of citizen volunteers appointed by the Council, was, moreover, demeaned and criticized by Councilpersons when it unanimously rejected the sports clubs’ incompetent and dangerous plans for a proposed soccer complex. The City Administrator publicly acknowledged that the pro-parcel tax ballot statement falsely claims unanimous Council support for the tax but admits doing nothing about it.  Even more astonishing, Councilpersons have claimed that citizens do not have the right to speak against the parcel tax at Council meetings!  And now, as recently documented on this website, Councilpersons publicly vilify the Chairperson of a city tax advisory committee, which the Council appointed, who spoke out against the parcel tax.

Before casting your ballot this year, ask yourself a simple question; if the incompetent and abusive oligarchy Piedmonters have suffered over the last 5 years does not cause you to withhold a discretionary surtax, which state of affairs would?

Ralph Catalano, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.  The Piedmont Civic Association does not support or oppose candidates or ballot measures.

2 Responses to “OPINION: Why Did The City Sue and Vilify Piedmonters?”

  1. cheers to Ralph Catalano for highlighting the use of intimidation by Piedmont City Councils & City Administration/employees over the years. I have experienced it for 34 years in “lower” Piedmont. Key residents rule the roost and Piedmont officials/employees are the enforcers.

  2. Ray Catalano’s articulate letter highlights the ongoing practice at Piedmont City Hall of forcing resident’s to undertake litigation just to preserve their legal rights which the City should be protecting. The City’s action was malicious and intended to harass its own residents. Presiding Superior Court Judge John True in his Mar. 23, 2010 ruling characterized the City’s motions as follows: “The motion is “frivolous” if it is “totally and completely without merit” or filed “for the sole purpose of harassing an opposing party.” Judge True further stated: “Defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion was so deficient, in fact, that the Court did not have to determine whether Plaintiff was able to show through the presentation of admissible evidence that he would probably prevail on the merits.” Laymen’s translation: City’s motion was dead on arrival.

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