Feb 7 2014

OPINION: Discussion Continues on City Pension Bonds and Prior Issues

The following two letters from Tom Clark and Bruce Joffe were sent to PCA. On February 4, Piedmont voters overwhelmingly approved Measure A, the restructuring of Piedmont’s CalPERS side fund pension obligation. See previously published letters on the PCA Opinion page.

 Mr. Mix, very well done!

I commend your standing firm in your reply to the response by Piedmont Council member Wieler.

As a member of the public you deserve respect when you speak to important public issues such as the Piedmont pension bond measure, particularly when, as here, you obviously have sought out the relevant facts, focused on the issues and made your public comments with all the intentions of a good, conscientious citizen.  This is all true notwithstanding that  I don’t agree with all of your comments and that yesterday I voted Yes on the Piedmont bond measure.

Your comments on important matters of public interest in Piedmont are, and always will be, greatly appreciated by me and many other Piedmont residents.  We don’t have to agree with you to show you decency and respect for your efforts. The only way our democratic system works is for individuals, like you, to remain forever vigilant to uncover the truth behind the conduct and representations of public officials. Many public officials want only to hear and read praise, and talk (in the words of George Orwell) in a manner “designed to make lies sound truthful . . . and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.  With the best of our wonderful democratic heritage in mind, I want to express my respect for those like you who are not afraid to stand up to the powers that be and comment publicly, in good faith and directly on point, eye-to-eye on public issues to public decision makers.  Moreover, I appreciate your gift of an outline to which Piedmont residents can refer when the pension refinancing appears on the Piedmont Council agenda.

For all that you have done, you should not to be scolded.  You should be applauded.

And let’s take just a brief look at the record of the Piedmont Council of experts touted by Council member Wieler.

This is the Council of experts that wasted over $2 million in badly planned and poorly executed electric line undergrounding projects, including being forced by court order to pay with taxpayer funds the legal costs by objectors to one project because of the City’s legal defense.  This is the Council of experts that rushed through approval of an out-of-scale city sports complex (Blair Park) that Council members and City staff promised would cost taxpayers nothing, but when the badly planned project crashed and burned it left Piedmont taxpayers holding a bag with hundreds of thousand dollars of losses.  This is the Council of experts that tried to scare the community into voting for an unnecessary tax increase for the sewer fund, a fund from which the Council transfers large amounts for unsubstantiated  overhead to the general fund and uses the money to cover such things as the Blair Park sports complex losses and the electric undergrounding losses.  We proved with the City’s own public records that City officials violated the Brown Act and used public funds to promote the sewer tax ballot measure. We proved that failure of the tax would not, contrary to these expert officials’ false claims, make the city a sewer outlaw before EPA and leave our gutters running brown.  Our grass roots disclosures and opposition killed the tax and proved that Piedmont’s sewer system was fully in compliance with all relevant laws and EPA mandates. Our sewer system have worked fine and our gutters have remained clean without the new sewer tax.

Thank you very much for your time and effort in speaking out to our local government and voters.  Your future involvement on public issues in Piedmont and elsewhere is most welcome.

Tom Clark, Piedmont Resident


Hi Tom,

It’s too bad we didn’t have this conversation a few weeks before the election.  I read Mayor Chang’s reply on Piedmontcivic.org and voted Yes because it looks like we’d be paying lower interest, and that our city council is not stepping into the CAB trap.  This is complicated stuff for folks who don’t regularly travel along bond-financing highways, and we have to trust our city council members to do the deep studying and find the best approach for Piedmont citizens.

Unfortunately, the mistakes outlined by Tom Clark have eroded confidence that our city council has the knowledge and capability to make the right decision.  Well, looking forward, a sage once observed that “Good judgement comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgement.”  Let’s hope our city council has learned from past experiences.

Bruce Joffe, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

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