Dec 13 2017

Piedmont as a Sanctuary City, Private Bond Reissuance, Nuisance Abatement Fines, Solid Waste Contract

Code Violation Fees:

On December 4th, 2017, I attended a City Council meeting at the City Hall in Piedmont.  The meetings begin at 7:30 p.m. and conclude when all topics on the agenda have been covered. However, I only was able to attend the meeting from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

During the hours I attended, the meeting centered around discussion on the renewal of a sanitation and waste contract. Before that, the Mayor declared December 4th to be Piedmont High School Cross Country Appreciation Day.

The Council briefly went over plans to increase fines for violations in relation to disturbance of peace in Piedmont. The primary topic the Council spoke on that I witnessed was the sanitation and waste contract renewal, and this took up the bulk of the time.

On the topic of the Sanitation and Waste Contract Renewal, the council members inquired about the reasoning behind the fee increase – originally a 50% increase, but was reduced to 30% in an attempt to meet in the middle on negotiation.

The reason given for the fee increase to begin with was stated as having stemmed from a disproportionate amount of citizens in Piedmont that request backyard trash pickup services rather than curbside trash pickup services. Backyard service requires additional labor and costs – primarily due to increased likelihood of injury resulting from needing to transport the garbage receptacles from backyards. This, along with the general geographic terrain pattern in Piedmont – it being generally hilly – further increases the likelihood of injuries being sustained to workers and thus, in-turn, overall overhead costs to the sanitation department.

The council members were all in favor of reducing the proposed new rate increase, which was ultimately how the 30% rate was settled at the time that I’d needed to leave. No members from the public were able to speak during the extensive staff presentation, so the sentiment held by the members of the public that were present was unknown, though it seemed as though the Mayor as well as the Council were of the belief that they were generally representing the public’s opinion accurately in supporting the need for a renewal on this sanitation contract.

Aside from discussion on renewal of the sanitation contract, very brief discussion was held on the proposed fine increases for violations regarding disturbance of the peace. The majority of the members of the Council were in favor of the increase, with the bulk of any actual discussion being held more on the logistics of how the fines would be judiciously carried out. Council members wanted to ensure that members of the public were in fact given a warning before being issued the increased fine, thus ensuring that the members of the public who continue to violate the policy had received ample notice warning them of their inappropriate behavior, before being subsequently required to pay an increased fine. No Council members in opposition to this (voted Nay) nor did they voice their opinion vocally.


While I was at the Piedmont City Council meeting, I interviewed a local resident by the name of Ray Cornejo, who mentioned he wanted to be there to understand what issues were facing the City of Piedmont, as well as what is being done to rectify them. He stated that he learned a bit about the negotiation process between a city and a company on what is really something of a necessity for it – sanitation.

His reaction to the meeting was overall positive, as he was  able to witness the City of Piedmont hold a thoughtful, and productive discussion on various topics that do and would in-fact affect the residents of Piedmont. The Council’s consideration of the elderly citizens was appreciable, and  the Council fought to represent them by trying to come up with ways to avoid additional financial stress on these members simply because of their physical situation. This was further appreciated and respected. The next step that Ray is taking to continue to have his concerns addressed, is to continue his participation and attendance at future City Council meetings.

My personal opinion on increasing the fines for disturbing the peace is that it is appropriate to have the fine in general, and that preceding the fine with a warning seems appropriate as well. I believe that people in general know that they are doing something wrong – such as disturbing the peace – so the very fact that they continue to do so, in my opinion, justifies a punishment. The increased revenue generated from the punishments could potentially be used to fund local projects.

by Teddy McKenna, Piedmont High School Senior

Staff Report with fines HERE.


The Piedmont City Council consists of five members, including newly elected Mayor, Robert McBain, and Vice-mayor, Teddy Gray King. The purpose of these meetings is to govern the city by holding elections, proposing bills, and passing laws. There is a set agenda for each meeting, including a short period of public forum.

The meeting on December 4th discussed important issues such as the approval of fines for violations of Code Enforcement and Nuisance Abatement provisions of the city code. Fines for these code violations were previously set at tremendous $1,000 a day. However, because the authority for setting fines has recently been shifted to the City Council, Council members have voted to reduce these to a maximum  of $500 after the third violation. It was clearly stated by Councilwoman Jennifer Cavenaugh, that these extreme fines were out of the normal range for Bay Area cities.  All members of the Council voted to approve this motion.

Next, the Council members discussed resolutions related to the City of Piedmont’s Limited Obligation refunding bonds. Council members moved to approve three different motions related to this issue, such as creating new districts for the reassessment bonds.

The last topic of discussion for my period of attendance at the meeting was regarding policy adjustments with the waste removal company, Republic Services. Republic Services has requested an increase in compensation due to the unique circumstances of Piedmont’s topography as well as extra services. The City of Piedmont requested a policy that enabled those residents unable to take their carts to the curb the option for on-premise collection services with no increase in charge. A Republic Services employee made it understood that almost half of  Piedmont residents requested on-premise collection services as opposed to about 10 percent of residents in surrounding cities.

In the period designated for public forum, many different students spoke out. Most students spoke out about issues regarding traffic safety near their homes. However, student Abigail Wilson made the suggestion of officially making Piedmont a sanctuary city, meaning it would limit its cooperation with the government’s immigration efforts. This would serve little benefit to immigrants as very few call Piedmont home, but it could help set an example for surrounding cities. Many cities around the Bay Area have agreed to become sanctuary cities, including San Francisco and Oakland. This is a very controversial topic, as the President has previously reclaimed funding from cities after refusing to cooperate with immigration officers. I am personally in favor of Piedmont becoming a sanctuary city, because it helps create a precedent for other communities in the United States that are having a similar debate. Declaring Piedmont a sanctuary city would also help create a more friendly living environment for minorities in the Bay Area.

After the meeting, I spoke with concerned resident, Paul Pappas. Paul Pappas is a sophomore at Piedmont High, who attended the meeting “for Boy Scouts.” Mr. Pappas was particularly concerned with the lack of street signs in the community. “One problem that was brought up that I cared about was the lack of necessary street signs on certain streets. I think this is a bigger problem than a lot of people realize.” Mr. Pappas is working so hard to make a difference in the community that even after speaking at the City Council meeting he will “bring it up with parents and see what they can do.”

by Jordan Cortes, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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