Sep 15 2018

Bret Black is scheduled to be appointed by the Piedmont City Council as Piedmont Fire Chief at a starting salary of $193,164.  The appointment and employment conditions resolution will be considered at the Monday, September 17, 2018, Piedmont City Council meeting, 7:30 p.m., City Hall.  The meeting will be broadcast live via Cable Channel 27 and the City website under videos. See full employment agreement linked below.

The Council selected Black after interviewing two of the 27 applicants for the position of Fire Chief.  Upon Council appointment, Bret Black will serve as Fire Chief, effective October 1, 2018.

The Fire Chief vacancy occurred when Fire Chief Warren “Bud” McLaren announced his intention to retire, effective July 6, 2018. McLaren had served the City of Piedmont for thirty years.

The City Council retained the services of Peckham & McKenney, a Sacramento based executive search firm. Peckham & McKenney advertised the employment opportunity extensively, using personal outreach, traditional print and electronic marketing, as well as social media. As a result of the recruitment efforts, 27 applicants submitted resumes for consideration. After reviewing each of the resumes and conducting on-line research on applicants who appeared most qualified, the recruiter selected twelve candidates to undergo screening interviews.

The City Council interviewed two pre-screened finalists and selected Bret Black.

“The employment resolution proposed for Council consideration contains all elements common to other Department Heads. The proposed annual salary is $193,164, which is the amount earned by Chief McLaren upon his retirement. Should the City Council approve the appointment and the resolution, Mr. Black’s first day with the City will be on Monday, October 1, 2018.”

“The City Council wishes to acknowledge the special public service rendered by the City’s management personnel. Management personnel consists of all department heads and the City Administrator. Under the operational coordination of the City Administrator, management personnel are responsible for producing the quality and effectiveness of City services, as required by the City Council.”

There will be a 3% annual salary increase for Black during the term of the resolution.

3.1 Salary – Monthly:  The monthly rate of pay for the Fire Chief is $16,097. The rates of pay shown reflect the following cost-of-living increases during the term of this Resolution:

  • % Increase Monthly Effective 7/1/2019 3% $16,580
  • Effective 7/1/2020 3% $17,078
  • If, during the term of this Resolution, any other bargaining unit is offered a cost of living increase greater than the increases shown above for the same fiscal year, then the difference between the increase for the other bargaining unit and the increase provided under this Resolution will take effect for the Fire Chief.

The City Administrator will make recommendations on future compensation for consideration and action by the City Council.

THE CITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION ADHERES TO THE CITY CHARTER BY STATING COUNCIL AUTHORITY FOR BOTH HIRING AND FIRING OF THIS KEY EMPLOYEE.

“10.2 Termination: Pay Upon termination or resignation requested by the City Council, the City will provide the employee at least one (1) month’s pay and benefit coverage as set forth in Sec. 3 hereof, or more at its discretion. This section would not apply in the event of the employee’s voluntary resignation or removal from office involving conviction of a felony, gross negligence or dereliction of duty, dishonest or immoral conduct, intemperance which interferes with job performance or conviction of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude.”

READ the full staff report and proposed compensation agreement linked below:

http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/2018-09-17/appoint-fire-chief.pdf

Sep 5 2018
Let’s Talk Meeting

The Piedmont community met on August 26th to discuss diversity in our city. The meeting was put on by the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee and led by the Let’s Talk program produced by K12 Insight and Sarah Wicht.

The organization’s mission is to foster discussions and acknowledgement of community diversity. The purpose of this forum was to talk about diversity in the schools and the community in general.

The focus of the dialogue was to explore ways for parents to engage their children in this topic of race, gender and identity. The leader of this session was Sara Wicht who is an educational consultant with over 20 years of anti-bias educational experience. Her main tenets are fourfold, that of identity, action, diversity and justice.

The main goals of the meeting were to discuss how our identities influence our actions, celebrate diversity, build understanding for community engagement and learn the tools necessary to have productive discussions on equity topics relevant to Piedmont.

This meeting is held twice a year on consecutive weekend days. The meeting is organized into morning and afternoon sessions. The morning session is arranged to identify our personal opinions and identities, engage in diversity discussions, and learn how to have these discussions without offending or avoiding hard issues.

After lunch we got back together to form an action plan for our community. We engaged in discussion relying on our own opinions. Following this, we practiced learning to listen to opposing views and then to try to come to a resolution on the subject discussed. The format was very productive.

The specific topics were introduced using case studies. In one scenario we discussed hypothetical dialogues between neighbors of different races and some implicit bias that may come through in those interactions.

In another role playing example an Asian student with the highest grade was selected to be a tutor for the math class but the teacher was concerned that because he was the only Asian person, he would feel uncomfortable. Both examples produced productive dialogue surrounding this difficult topic.

The meeting brought out active members of the community mostly in favor of more diversity and awareness. One Piedmont resident offered that “PC shouldn’t be considered as politically correct but rather politely considerate”. This sentiment presented the viewpoint that we shouldn’t be avoiding the topic of race in the classroom or community but rather be considerate when discussing this subject.

Another attendee, a special education teacher who works with children as young as 5, spoke on her experience in the schools, “The district offers professional development opportunities as a way to increase our paycheck and knowledge….Let’s Talk offers ways to talk to kids about diversity”, and held the opinion that the subject of race should be open in the classroom and not held in the same regard as curse words and sex as taboo for topics to teach little kids. I believe that this subject of race and implicit bias is an important matter to continue to include in our classes and should be discussed openly.

by Caroline Kraetzer, Piedmont High School Senior

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On Sunday, August 26th, I attended the Let’s Talk Workshop sponsored by the Piedmont Unified School District, the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee, and the City of Piedmont. The main goal of this workshop was to put residents of Piedmont in an environment where they are forced to talk about diversity or lack thereof in Piedmont. To do this, discussion was mainly focused around 4 central themes: identity, diversity, justice, and action.

People are put into small groups, where they can discuss questions posed by the leader of the session, Sara Wicht, in a more informal manner. After every group is completed, people are then asked to share what their group had talked about with everyone else attending the session. This was an effective way to hear the voice of everyone who attended while not necessarily listening to everyone speak.

In addition to participating in discussions about diversity, attendees also do various activities, each with the purpose of letting people look at the issues discussed from a new perspective. We were asked to figure out what the most important part of our identity is to us, to analyze implicit bias in certain situations, and even mirror exactly what another person is doing.. When we talked about implicit bias, I realized that it is something that happens all around me, all the time. People all around me are unconsciously judging people even when they mean the best. I believe that in order to stop this kind of thing from happening, people must first acknowledge that they are doing it. Having this opinion and speaking with other people about it didn’t scare me at all. In general, the environment was very safe and almost everyone was able to speak about their own opinions.

Throughout the meeting, I had the pleasure of sitting with Piedmont City Councilmember Jen Cavenaugh. She was one of the organizers for the event and feels very strongly about addressing these issues as a town. Cavenaugh believes that talking about diversity and brainstorming ideas about how to improve it in Piedmont is a great step towards positive change. She tries to make sure that each of her family members come to at least one session every weekend this meeting happens, which is at least once a year.

One topic that we discussed were the 8 aspects of identity. We were asked to cross off “unimportant” parts until we narrowed in on the one thing that explains us. I had a difficult time understanding this exercise.

To me, each of the 8 aspects: gender, sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic status, nationality, home language, religion, and ability all contribute to my identity. There is no one of them that completely encompasses my personality. I brought this up in my small group discussion and again later to the big group, and in general, people seemed to agree with me. It was cool to see that my words actually made an impact on other people’s thoughts or opinions.

All in all, attending this workshop was a good experience. I got to learn more about my neighbors and about the issues that Piedmont faces as a town. I think spending my Sunday morning there was valuable and I would recommend it to anyone who is contemplating attending the next one.

By Robin Disco, Piedmont High School Senior

Sep 5 2018
Citizens of Piedmont attended the Let’s Talk Workshop that took place on Saturday, August 25, 2018,  to gain a new understanding of the community they live in and the social aspects involved.

The leader of the Let’s Talk sessions, Sara Wicht, began this first morning session with a mirror activity. In this activity, everyone in the room had to find a partner that they had not talked to that day. The partners decided who would be partner A, and who would be partner B. The direction were for partner B to mirror every motion that partner A made, and then after a minute, the partners would switch roles.

After, a group reflection was held where people could share what they were feeling as they were both the leader and the follower. Many people who had to be the leader the first round said that there was a lot of pressure to lead, and that it was much easier for them to be the follower. They said that as a follower, you have one objective, to follow, but as a leader you constantly have to think about what you are doing and what you are going to do next. I, however, felt that it was easier for me to be the leader once I felt comfortable with my partner. I was partner B, so I had a minute to feel comfortable with my partner before I made him mirror my motions.

After the reflection, Wicht compared the leading and following to that of two people having a conversation. If the follower does not pay attention for even a second because they get distracted or are already thinking up a response before the leader is finished, it can throw the whole conversation off. It is important, in a conversation, for everyone to have a chance to be a leader, and for everyone to be a loyal follower once their leading is over.

Next, each table group talked about which goal was most important for each individual out of the goals Wicht provided for the session. The goals were to demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identity.

Then, transitioning more onto the topic of identity, Wicht led an activity in which she told the group to make a list of 8 things. Each one was a different part of one’s identity; race, nationality, gender, socio-economic class, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.

Then, without giving the participants much time to think in between, they had to eliminate a part of their identity which they found the least defining of who they are until they were left with just one. The table groups debriefed on how it felt to have to eliminate a part of their identity, and whether it was easy or not. Wicht then brought the group back together and said that if you take away a part of you, even if it is not a huge part of your identity, you still will not be you anymore.

“This is a really important issue for this town,” participant Diana Miller said. “We’re in such a bubble here, and Oakland is just right there, and we have so much that we need to do to help improve our minds and our outlooks and our communication and our relationships with people who are not like ourselves, and anything that I can do to make that happen, I’m gonna try.”

Wicht then transitioned into race, focusing on how you see the world, and how the world sees you. She said that a sense of race is developed at a really young age, and therefore there is no time “too early” to start talking about it.

“Silence perpetuates racism,” Wicht said.

Wicht then brought up the idea of implicit bias, and how it is unconscious or automatic. She presented situations, and the group was to determine whether there was implicit bias involved. The groups reflection afterwards was that the situations were too vague and without enough context to just assume that implicit bias was in fact involved in each of the decisions of the people in the situations. It can be with bad intentions, but first we have to see it from every perspective.

“I got some level of satisfaction sitting with students who have the world ahead of them,” Miller said. “There is a lot of mind opening that happened that I think we may not even realize and I think some change has happened in the last three hours.”

by Roni Schacker, Piedmont High School Senior

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Let’s Talk!
Last Sunday I attended one of the “Let’s Talk” seminars that was supported and run bythe Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) and Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee (PADC). The seminar was run by Sara Wicht, who has taught all over the world, including Rio De Janeiro, Minnesota, and California to name a few.

Normally throughout the year PADC and PUSD will have 2-4 Let’s Talk seminars. Other speakers there included Jen Cavenaugh, a Piedmont City Council member, and Randall Booker, Superintendent of PUSD.

The main goal of the meeting was to navigate polarization and find out what Piedmont as a community can do to combat it. The suggested solution was to learn how to discuss opposing arguments respectfully and effectively. Ms. Wicht also stressed that when discussing these issues we must make sure the person does not feel excluded or like an outcast.

First, Ms. Wicht showed us the main parts of a conversation and how they can be kept civil instead of argumentative. She stated that the best way to keep a conversation civil is to, “Ask yourself what you are trying to learn and accept the other side, even if you do not agree.” A conversation is broken into seven different parts that include intention, approach, opener, sparks, reciprocity, exits, and reflection.

Throughout the seminar at our table groups we discussed how to make each part the most respectful and beneficial for each person. As a group we acknowledged that the most important tip for all of these parts of conversations is to be accepting and understand that you do not need change the other’s point of view.

Following the table discussions about conversations, Ms. Wicht pulled everyone back together to talk about “Modeling neighborly behavior.” She considered this to be the second most important part of diversity awareness and inclusion. Examples of neighborly behavior include celebrating diversity, gathering neighbors at public events/discussions, sending inclusive signals to neighbors, and listening to personal experiences.

One of the other people at my table was Megan Pillsbury. Ms. Pillsbury had heard great things about the “Let’s Talk” meetings but this was her first time in attendance.  She came because she felt that she should be a part of this movement for more inclusiveness and diversity awareness. On top of that she was is going to run for School Board and as part of her campaign she wants to take steps to create a more inclusive community.

Previous to her campaign Ms. Pillsbury taught for over fifteen years at Wildwood Elementary School. She wanted to come because she saw that many of her classes were not as diverse as she expected. Ms. Pillsbury hopes to be elected to the school board and take action by promoting diversity awareness for all ages throughout the PUSD school system.

Personally, I thought the seminar was very engaging. It gave me lots of helpful tips for engaging in beneficial conversations when discussing political differences or diversity. Compared to many of the people there, I would say I have more conservative views. During many of the discussion portions I had lots of different ideas than the majority of the people at the table. However, everyone was respectful, accepting and willing to listen, which was really great to see. I would definitely recommend that you check out one of Ms. Wicht’s talks.

by Daryl Tjogas, Piedmont HIgh School Senior

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Let’s Talk!

Last weekend in Piedmont, Piedmont City Council and Piedmont Unified School District held a workshop called “Let’s Talk!.” The workshop is being held on four different weekends throughout the year in the Piedmont Veterans Hall with four sessions each time.

The goal for “Let’s Talk!” is to build a more inclusive Piedmont through conversations with the residents. The workshop attacks problems such as: racial equality, the importance of conversation, and how to build communities.

“Let’s Talk!” promotes attacking these problems with conversation. The workshop teaches people how to listen and respond to ideas that they might not agree with and do so in a respectful and constructive way.

“Let’s Talk” teaches a four step refutation to counter an idea one doesn’t agree with. The four steps are: restate, refute, support, and conclude. This is an effective strategy to argue with someone while still respecting their opinion.

I attended the August 26th workshop. During the workshop, the attendees were put into small groups so they could participate and apply all the skills we learned. This format allowed everyone to practice using the skills we learned and then apply them in the community.

The people in attendance were people who live and work in Piedmont. The people that showed up were people who were looking to share some of their stories and people who were looking to make a difference in their community.

The workshop was filled with many activities to help teach people how to have conversations about difficult subjects. The activities were split between small groups and the whole group. In an activity with the whole group I shared an example of how to practice the four step refutation on how Piedmont High School needs a remodel. After I shared I was reaffirmed by the group that I had mastered the skills they were teaching.

Charlie Richards, a resident of Piedmont who attended the workshop in search of a place that will help build community in Piedmont, claims, “in the community of Piedmont there is comparative wealth and the comparative wealth breeds an independence…creating isolation in the community.” Richards attended the meeting to learn ways to help Piedmont strengthen its community because he feels like Piedmont is divided by ageism and classism.

In the workshop classism was brought up as a major problem for the city because with the lack of diversity, racism is amplified.

All the people in attendance were very supportive and accepting of the varying opinions presented in workshop. Toward the end of the workshop we went over ways to build a more inclusive community using movies, art, and signals of inclusiveness.

All in all “Let’s Talk” taught me and the people of Piedmont that problems such as racism and community building can be improved through the use of conversation.

By Paul Woolcott, Piedmont High School Senior

Aug 28 2018

Bidding procedures, Council authority regarding Council-hired key employees, candidates for City Council, meeting requirements, etc.

On their November 2018 ballot, Piedmont voters will have two ballot measures, BB and CC, proposing changes to Piedmont’s City Charter.  To become law, changes to the City Charter require a majority of Piedmont voters voting on the measures to approve the measures.  The proposed changes are extensive, ranging from how Piedmont government operates to bidding requirements.

 Arguments for and against the City Charter changes have been filed by proponents and opponents. 

Click below to read the pro and con arguments to be printed in voter information pamphlets. 

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Measure BB – Reduction in bidding requirements,  procedural changes, candidacy for City Council, meeting requirements, etc. 

CHARTER AMENDMENT MEASURE BB “Shall the measure amending the Charter of the City of Piedmont to modify procedures for filling of vacancies in elected offices for City Council and Board of Education for the Piedmont Unified School District, modify term limits for the City Council, and making other clarifying amendments regarding City recordkeeping, format of City ordinances, public posting, City contract approval, operation of City Council meetings, and other minor technical amendments, be adopted?”

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Measure CC – Eliminates Council authority over  Council-hired key employees  –

CHARTER AMENDMENT MEASURE  CC “Shall the measure amending the Charter of the City of Piedmont to clarify the duties and reporting structure for officers and employees of the City be adopted?”

City Charter Measures BB and CC will be on Piedmont November 6, 2018 Ballots.

Updated 8/29/18
Aug 11 2018

November 2018 Ballot Measure Proposes to Alter How Piedmont is Governed through a City Charter Revision  – 

The Piedmont City Charter revision on the November 2018 Ballot requires the City Council to hire key Piedmont employees, such as the Police Chief, Fire Chief, Finance Director, City Clerk, Planning Director, and Public Works Director.  However, the Council would be prohibited from terminating the employees they hired under the proposed Charter revision, which would allow only the City Administrator to terminate those Council hired employees. 

A number of Piedmonters have stated this revision to the City Charter changes Piedmont governance creating an inherently flawed system and should not be approved by Piedmont voters at the November 2018 election.   

Council hired employees would serve at “the pleasure of the the City Administrator,” not the Council that recruited, chose and hired them. 

George Childs, long time observer and spokesman regarding Piedmont governance, wrote:

Our government is supposed to be based on a system of checks and balances. To put the entire responsibility for firing on one individual [City Administrator] flies in the face of this concept. We have seen the dangers in letting one administrator guide major decisions.

Melanie Robertson, former Piedmont Planning Commissioner and active community volunteer writes:

I agree with George Childs’ comment re the dangers of having one individual have sole responsibility for firing city officials. This definitely is not a good idea. Our city officials are hard working, talented and dedicated individuals, and a setup such as this needlessly puts their careers in jeopardy if they don’t happen to see eye-to-eye with the administrator.  It also makes the city more vulnerable to wrongful termination lawsuits. A system of checks and balances is a better alternative for both city staff and residents of Piedmont.

Piedmont voters will have one opportunity to vote on the proposed City Charter changes at the November 6, 2018 Election. 

Jul 19 2018

Now is the time for Piedmonters to step up and seek election to the City Council and Board of Education.  Candidates are needed to fill available seats and guarantee an active and informative election.

Council members recently stated they wanted more and different Piedmonters to seek election to the City Council instead of formerly elected Council members who might be better known.  The Council wanted more citizens to have an opportunity to be elected to the City Council. During recent City Council discussions of the City Charter, the City Council specifically added a proposed provision limiting City Council members ability to seek a return to the Council until 8 years had intervened rather than four years, noting that more Piedmonters should have a chance to be elected.   

The time is now to be a candidate for City Council and Board of Education.  

The Board of Education, according to Piedmont staff, declined a proposed change to the City Charter to exclude former Board members’ as candidates for 8 years, thus former Board members would continue to be able to seek a return to the Board following a 4 year hiatus.  Apparently, there was no issue regarding former Board members seeking re-election to the Board of Education. 

Numerous potential candidates are Piedmonters who have been active on commissions, committees, as volunteers and activists proving they care about their community and its schools.    

There are 3 positions on the City Council and 2 positions on the School Board to be filled at the election on November 6, 2018.

Uncontested elections:

A number of Piedmont City Council and School Board elections have been uncontested in the past, meaning only enough candidates seek election to fill the open positions and all candidates are automatically elected to the positions they seek.  Uncontested elections engender less interest and little discussion of issues, as there is no competition or true election by voters.

ISSUES:

Some City Council issues:

  • potential new bond ballot measure for sports facilities
  • City Charter adherence 
  • zoning changes and construction regulations
  • taxation increases
  • garbage rates and contract terms
  • cell tower installations
  • police officers in schools
  • employee hiring and oversight
  • facility improvements
  • citizen involvement – open participatory processes
  • road and sidewalk repairs
  • fire and emergency safety
  • environmental matters

Some School Board issues:

  • school construction within constraints of  bond funding limits
  • student population changes
  • revenues sufficient to support operations and programs
  • comparisons to other public and private schools
  • school safety
  • police officers in schools
  • taxation increases
  • community engagement and participation through information to community
  • personnel selections
  • prompt responses to students and parents concerns
  • communications between school and home
  • community use of school facilities
  • environmental matters

The time to begin the process is now.

Those interested in Piedmont elective office must act before  the August 10 deadline in completing and filing the necessary paperwork to be a candidate in the November 6, 2018 election.

Candidates need to contact the City Clerk at 420-3040 for an appointment to receive filing information including taking out and returning candidate paperwork.  The session with the City Clerk is projected to take one hour. 

Procedures for Candidate’s

The City of Piedmont will hold its General Municipal Election on November 6, 2018. The nomination period for the three (3) vacancies on the Piedmont City Council and two (2) vacancies on the Board of Education opened on Monday, July 16th. The deadline for submitting completed paperwork is:

Friday, August 10th at 5:00 p.m.  with the City Clerk at Piedmont City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue.

There is no cost to candidates to file for election.

The California Elections Code requires that nomination papers be issued in person to the prospective candidate at City Hall.

It is strongly recommended that residents wishing to take out or return candidate paperwork set an appointment with the City Clerk. 510/420-3040

This ensures prompt service for the candidate and allows the Clerk to devote full attention to the process. Residents without appointments will be seen on a time available basis and may be subject to interruption. Contact the Piedmont City Clerk at 510/420-3040. 

…………..

The Piedmont “Guide to Nomination and Candidacy” is > HERE.

STAFF REPORT ESTABLISHING ELECTION  > http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/2018-06-18/electionprocedure.pdf

………….

If an incumbent does not file for re-election, of which there are 2 incumbents* for the 3 Council vacancies and 2 incumbents for the two Board of Education vacancies, the nomination period will be extended by 5 days as below:

– Elections Code Section 10225.

(a) Notwithstanding Sections 10220 and 10224, if nomination papers for an incumbent officer of the city are not filed by or on the 88th day before the election, during normal business hours, as posted, the voters shall have until the 83rd day before the election during normal business hours, as posted, to nominate candidates other than the person who was the incumbent on the 88th day, for that incumbent’s elective office.

  • *On the City Council there is presently an appointed Council member, who is not considered by law to be an incumbent (Section 13107), but who can seek one of the 3 vacant seats on the Council at the November 2018 Election.

If there is a tie vote Section 15651 shall apply:

In the event of a tie-vote for any office which is being voted on at such General Municipal Election, the provisions of Section 15651 of the California Elections Code, relating to determining the tie by lot, shall apply.

Residents with questions about the process or wishing to make an appointment should call the City Clerk’s office at (510) 420-3040.

Jul 5 2018

On the afternoon of June 19, 2018,  a City Council/School Board Liaison meeting was held.  Members of the School Board, City Council, and their staff members met at the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) Administrative Offices on Magnolia Avenue to discuss various issues, which included: upcoming summer facilities projects, H1 Bond projects, solid waste management education, recreational renovations, and school safety.

Present at the meeting were School representatives: Board Vice President, Amal Smith, Board Member, Andrea Swenson, Superintendent Randall Booker, Director of Facilities, Pete Palmer, and Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Cheryl Wozniak. Representatives from the City were Mayor Bob McBain and City Administrator Paul Benoit.

The meeting began with Booker introducing the agenda and starting off the conversation with updates on the H1 Bond measure and the issue of the various District Summer facilities projects.  These projects include climate control renovations to elementary school facilities and the rebuilding of the 30’s complex at Piedmont High School for the high school’s new STEAM building, with construction beginning in June of 2019 as part of the H1 Bond measure.

During the April 2019 Spring break, the real projects begin removing the Alan Harvey Theater and drainage work on Witter Field.

“We’re starting these summer renovations at Havens Elementary, where five classrooms on the top floor can reach as high as 90 degrees while teachers are instructing students,” said Palmer. “The new climate control systems we will be installing are some of the most efficient units available on the market.”

Palmer explained that the same climate control systems would be installed in certain classrooms at Beach and Wildwood Elementary schools that are also at risk for reaching high temperatures.

“These new highly efficient systems will allow us to cut energy costs, which means putting more money right back into schools and facilities,” said Booker.

The High School’s new STEAM building will have 7 new classrooms, expanding the capacity of the school’s computer lab facilities. Booker stressed the importance of adding these new classrooms and computer facilities because 50 students had to be turned away from the school’s computer program during the previous school year due to insufficient class space.

“It’s great that we have so many students interested in computer science; however; right now we just don’t have the space.  With these new facilities, we will be able to accommodate everyone,” said Booker.

Booker noted the School District was exploring options to install a new computer system that would cut down on the purchasing of expensive Computer Processing Units (CPU) by allowing as few as one control CPU unit to feed many students’ computer monitors without the need for them to have their own CPU unit.

Palmer related a break in the waterline under Wildwood Schoolmates, requiring a temporary waterline and the closing down of El Cerrito Avenue, as well as P.E Hill, in order to fix the break.

Witter Field will be closed during the installation of new LED field lights, which would be more directive, project less light on neighbors, and be better for player safety visibility. Palmer stated the installation should go quickly unless the current light structures are revealed to have rusted bolts or fixtures, in which case they would need to be cut and repaired during renovation.

Booker discussed the High School Master Plan beginning construction in March 1, 2019, when the closure, salvage and abatement of the Alan Harvey Theater will occur,  along with the closure and drainage renovation of Witter Field.

An inspector from Division of State Architects (DSA) will come to survey the Witter Field area and check its Americans with Disability Act  (ADA)  compliance.  Witter Field has areas of concern, such as the Wildwood steps leading down to the field, which are not ADA compliant, according to Booker.

A passing inspection regarding the ADA and approval from the state are necessary prior to construction, as clarified by Vice President Amal Smith.

City Administrator Paul Benoit addressed the issue of solid waste management.

“We only received one bidder for Piedmont’s solid waste contract. Waste Management as a firm did not want to do backyard service, and Piedmont doesn’t want to give up backyard service. We’ll be continuing to work with Republic Services as our contractor,” said Benoit.

In addition to the City’s new contract with Republic, Abbe and Associates, a green education and waste management consultant, will aid the community, including the schools, in environmental awareness and sustainable living.

When Vice President Smith raised questions as to expectations with Abbe, Benoit replied that the consulting firm’s community-wide involvement will be collaborative with no set expectations or requirements.

Mayor Bob McBain stated that Abbe would work in situations managing waste from City events like the Harvest Festival and everything Abbe does should be constructive leading to reduced waste and proper disposal.

“It’s not gonna work, if it is a burden to everyone,” McBain said.

There are pending renovations and resurfacing of several tennis courts.   Linda Beach Tennis courts are desired by Pickleball players. Pickleball is a hybrid game of tennis and ping pong. The Piedmont Pickleball Association rents the Linda Beach courts on certain weekdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon for $12 an hour according to Benoit, and will continue to do so until school begins on August 13th.

Mayor McBain stated there is the possibility for the City and the Piedmont Pickleball Association to work together in order to resurface the Middle School courts to be used for the sport when not in use by the schools.

Benoit introduced the topic of School Safety which he stated was a big topic.  While School Safety was talked about at the staff level, thus far it had not received extensive discussion at the Council level. School Safety has risen in salience as the national climate around school shootings has intensified at an alarming rate.   There are uncertainties on how to move forward with this initiative in Piedmont, according to Benoit.

Superintendent Booker brought up the implementation of onsite security personnel in Piedmont schools.

“From experience and time spent with Albany High School, I found the presence of a police officer on campus an extremely effective and beneficial resource,” said Booker.

Booker went on to explain that the presence of a security person on campus at the High School, such as one on-duty soft uniform officer from the Piedmont Police Department, would be helpful. These resource officers in soft uniform, meaning they are wearing uniform pants and Piedmont Police Department polo shirts instead of a full patrol uniform, would receive very specific and intensive training to acclimate them to a campus environment. The resource officer would carry the same equipment that other police officers do on their belts, including a firearm.

“I would consider myself a strong advocate for the resource officer as a solution to school safety, as in my experience they are incredibly effective at communicating safety,” said Booker.

The resource officer would report to the Piedmont Chief of Police and the hope is that the officer costs would be paid half by the City and half by the School District.

McBain emphasized the need for the City to find the money for the resource officer and introduce the idea to the community.

Benoit informed the attendees that the City is actively recruiting for a new Fire Chief.

Report by Joe Creason, Journalism Intern

Jun 21 2018

PIEDMONT CITY COUNCIL TO HOST TOWN HALL MEETING ON POSSIBLE AMENDMENTS TO THE PIEDMONT CITY CHARTER

Monday, June 25, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers

Comments in this article are in response to the City’s public notice and were written by the Piedmont Civic Association aggregating some of the comments by Piedmonters knowledgeable and concerned about the proposed Piedmont City Charter changes. 

The City’s meeting notice was provided by Piedmont City Administrator Paul Benoit and  John Tulloch City Clerk /Assistant City Administrator, a recently created position,   

Town Hall Meeting – Monday, June 25

“The Piedmont City Council will hold a town hall meeting on Monday, June 25, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers to receive public input on possible amendments to the City Charter, which may be placed before the voters at the City’s General Municipal Election in November 2018.”

“The discussion of possible Charter amendments began in June 2017 and Council has subsequently discussed the issue at meetings on February 5, 2018, March 5, 2018, April 30, 2018, and June 4, 2018.”

BIG CHANGES TO THE CITY CHARTER

The proposed City Charter changes were devised by the City Administrative staff and the Piedmont City Council to potentially be voted upon by the Piedmont electorate at the General Election in November 2018. For the proposed changes to take effect, Piedmont voters must approve the changes.   All portions of the Charter were not considered in the Charter review.  For instance, Piedmont’s method of borrowing money was not taken up, nor was a clarification on the controversial zoning language in the Charter.  Also, when a mayor recently resigned, the Council  arbitrarily created a new position outside of the Charter called an “Acting Mayor.”   These items and others were not addressed in the proposed changes.

A number or Piedmonters and the Piedmont League of Women Voters had asked the Council to involve the community in the City Charter changes, however all considerations were made at the Council level garnering little public participation and no input from City commissions, committees, or a special committee charged with assessing potential City Charter changes.

ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES

Administrative changes, although de-emphasized in the City’s  presentations on proposed Charter changes, represent the greatest alterations to Piedmont’s form of City Administrator government.  Piedmont has had the City Administrator form of government for generations, and most would agree Piedmont has done well during those many years under the City Administrator form of government. As will be read below, authority historically held by the City Council is being transferred to the City Administrator.

The proposals to change the City Charter would take authority from the City Council and transfer it to the City Administrator.

The Council would retain authority to hire Department Heads, such as the Police Chief, City Clerk, Fire Chief, Finance Director, but the Council could not fire their appointees.  The Department Head termination authority would be granted solely to the City Administrator, presenting a new and different complexity to Piedmont  governance.

The City Administrator in Piedmont, by the current Charter language, has the responsibility for the administration of the City – the day to day operations and administration of the City. The City Administrator reports to the Council on employee performance.  The current Charter language states the Council can direct top managers, however the Charter also makes it clear the Council members are not administrators and  as individuals cannot act to “direct” the managers or the City Administrator.

Taking the authority to direct Department Heads from the Council, as a whole, and bestowings the authority solely upon the City Administrator, is governance commonly considered a City Manager form of government with a directly elected mayor, which Piedmont does not have,.   In Piedmont, the Council appoints from their members an individual to be Piedmont’s Mayor.  Piedmont’s mayor has essentially the same authority as the other four Council members other than what is allowed by the Charter or granted by the Council.  In recent years, Council observers have noted more authority has been given by the City Administrator to mayors than the Charter allows without consideration by the  Council as a whole.

 UNLIMITED RESERVES 

The original idea for reviewing the City Charter arose at a Council meeting when it became apparent Piedmont revenues greatly exceeded the Annual Budget 25% limit in the General Fund Reserve. One or more Council members wanted to accumulate larger amounts of money in the General Fund Reserve.  The Charter limit on reserves was intended to stop Councils from excessively taxing Piedmont property owners.

Much of the increase in Piedmont revenues stems from the sale of property resulting in transfer taxes and a higher basis on Piedmont property taxes.  To retain the excess revenues  when the 25% General Fund Reserve limit had been met, the Council has directed the excess  revenue into various newly established reserve funds,  At the same time, the City Council has continued to levy the full voter approved property tax, plus an annual percentage increase regardless of the windfall tax revenues.  The practice of placing excess revenues into special reserve funds has been put into practice without changing the City Charter.

The following language in quotes is from the City notice followed by PCA comments:

“At its June 4th meeting, the City Council directed staff to schedule a town hall meeting in order to allow residents an additional opportunity to review the changes that have been discussed at previous Council meetings. This is an opportunity for residents to ask questions and express their opinions on the proposed Charter amendments prior to the Council placing a measure on the November ballot.”

Unlike past reviews of the City Charter, there has been no comprehensive look at the entire Charter nor an independent committee focused on the pros and cons of the proposed Charter changes.

Presumably, the Council does not want to put something on the ballot that is likely to be rejected by Piedmont voters.  Yet, the Town Hall Meeting comes after Council decisions have essentially been made regarding proposed changes to the City Charter. The Council must now decide if their proposals will be accepted by Piedmont voters and if it is timely to place the proposals before the voters.  Each time the Charter is placed on a ballot, it incurs cost for the City.

“Because the Charter is effectively the City of Piedmont’s constitution, the City Council wants to receive as much resident input as possible on the proposed amendments.”

The Town Hall meeting will not include a comprehensive discussion and exchange of ideas on the Charter changes – the pros and cons – for each public speaker is typically given only 3 minutes to address even this voluminous subject. Decisions were made by the City Council and staff on the proposals to be considered at the meeting.

Depending on citizen input on the proposals, the Council may or may not decide to place the changes on the November ballot.  The Council could defer action pending further consideration of unintended consequences and/or benefits to Piedmont. 

Some of the proposed amendments to the Charter are as follows: [The order of the City changes has been changed here to prioritize important issues first. The most significant proposed changes were previously placed by the City staff toward the end of their announcement, which might lead readers to assume the administrative changes are minor.] 

  • ” In Article 3 – Administration, several changes are proposed to clarify reporting structure for the Officers of the City (Department Heads). At the April 30th meeting, Council directed staff to clarify sections in this article to make clear that the City Council appoints Department Heads, but that they are directed by and serve at the pleasure of the City Administrator.”

This is one of the most important, if not the most important change being proposed to the City Charter. The above statement by the City hints at the split authority of the Council.  For example, the Council would appoint Department Heads, but the Council could not dismiss problem Department Heads, creating confusion and potential problems for the City Administrator, who would be the sole authority in dismissal, “serve at the pleasure of the City Administrator.”

Department Heads in Piedmont have always served at the pleasure of the City Council and could be directed by the Council as a whole, but not by individual Council members.  For example, the Council might direct the Police Chief to step up night patrols: the Council might direct the Finance Director to find ways to save the City money; the Council might direct the Recreation Director to develop more programs for senior citizens. The Department Heads were held accountable to the City Council with advice from the City Administrator.

In meeting identified needs of citizens, the change proposed totally eliminates the Council’s authority to direct Department Heads.  The Council authority would  be transferred to the City Administrator.

Piedmont, as a small city, has thrived under the City Administrator form of government; the City Manager form of government found in other, many larger, cities, with a directly elected mayor, has the potential for creating new problems regarding Council authority and responsiveness to citizens.

  • ” In Section 4.03, the limit on the General Fund Reserve of 25% is proposed for removal. In addition, an aspirational minimum for the General Fund Reserve of 15% of the General Fund operating budget is inserted.”

The General Fund Reserve limit of 25% originated from concern to not levy more taxes than was necessary to operate the City while providing an emergency reserve during an economic slump or great emergency.  The City Council and City staff in recent years have  diverted excess revenues from the significant property and transfer tax windfall into various fund reserves.  There is no language proposed to limit the Council’s ability to tax property owners.

  • ” In Section 4.11, bidding requirements are changed to remove a low threshold for costly formal bidding requirements, rather leaving it to the Council to set the thresholds for formal bidding by ordinance.”

Bidding requirements are one way to publicly open up the procurement of public services, consultants, contractors, and other City needs rather than continuing with current contractors on a long term basis without going through an open bidding process.  Most  cities and the state encourage open bidding to benefit taxpayers and the community at large.

  • “The Council also directed staff to prepare amendments to several other sections of the Charter to remove outdated provisions and modernize language.”

This part of the City Charter proposals presents many questions for it is largely unidentified.  What  provisions and what antiquated language?  Why not list the outdated provisions? New Department Head positions have been added with no general public notice.  Is Piedmont’s bureaucracy inadequate to serve our small community? Once new positions are added to the Charter, employment cost can be greater and more permanent.

  • ” A modification of City Council term limits to lengthen the period of time during which a former Councilmember is ineligible to run for office again from four to eight years after leaving office. (Section 2.03)”

The change listed above is of little impact for the City Council has only had two Council contenders seeking re-election after a 4 years hiatus. One contender was elected, the other was not.  Changing this in the Charter is of debatable value.

  •  “An amendment to the provision for filling of vacancies on the City Council to allow the Council sixty days to fill a vacancy. If the Council doesn’t act within those sixty days, a special election would be called to fill the vacancy. Under current provision, the Council has thirty days to make an appointment and if it doesn’t act, the Mayor can make an appointment. (Section 2.05(c))”

A thirty day period in which to fill a vacant Council seat is common for elective bodies.  Waiting 60 days to fill a vacant seat potentially leaves the Council vulnerable to inaction on important civic issues when there are only four members of the Council and a split vote occurs.  There has never been a time when the Council could not fill a vacant seat during the mandated thirty day period.

  • ” A requirement that the Council hold two regular meetings per month is eliminated. The proposed language would require the City Council to hold meetings on a regular basis. (Section 2.07 (a))\”

Councils throughout the area hold two or more regular Council meetings per month. Language could be proposed to accommodate changes in schedules. 

  • ” The proposed amendments also modernize the prohibition against employment discrimination to include all classes protected under U.S. and state law. (Section 5.02)”

Prohibition against employment discrimination is the law and does not require a Charter change.  Including the proposed language in the Charter will make no change to how Piedmont handles employment discrimination because Piedmont honorably and consistently follows state and federal laws barring discrimination.

  • ” The provision for filling vacancies on the Board of Education is changed to match the proposed amendments for the City Council, as described above for Section 2.05 (c). Staff consulted with the Piedmont Unified School District which agreed that this amendment, along with one other technical amendment to Article 7 should be included in the proposed amendments.”

The Board of Education must take a position on the City Charter changes by resolution. The details of the proposed changes are not noted here.

  • “A marked up version of the Charter containing each of the proposed amendments is available on the City’s web site at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us.   Pursuant to section 9.07 of the Charter, any proposed amendments must be presented to the qualified voters of the City for approval.”

The marked up version has been difficult to follow, making the sweeping changes difficult for the public to understand.

  • “Public comment is invited and encouraged at this meeting. Written comments may be submitted to the City Council at citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov or by US Mail to City Clerk, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611. All comments submitted will become part of the public record.
  • The meeting will be televised live on KCOM-TV, Channel 27, the City’s government TV station and will be available through streaming video on the City’s web site www.ci.piedmont.ca.us.For further information, contact Assistant City Administrator/ City Clerk John O. Tulloch via email at cityclerk@piedmont.ca.gov or via phone at (510) 420-3040.”

The full staff report for the meeting can be accessed > HERE.

COMMENTS MAY BE SENT TO THE COUNCIL MEMBERS AS BELOW:

Robert McBain, Mayor rmcbain@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048 2nd Term Exp. 11/20
Teddy Gray King, Vice Mayor tking@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048 1st Term Exp. 11/18
Jennifer Cavenaugh jcavenaugh@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048 1st Term Exp. 11/20
Tim Rood trood@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 239-7663 1st Term Exp. 11/18
Betsy Smegal Andersen bandersen@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048 Unexpired Term Exp. 11/18
Jun 19 2018

City staff together with Groundworks Office, outside consultants for the Linda Beach Plan, have developed a framework to guide the next iteration of the Linda Beach Plan.

Based on robust feedback from the community, Park Commission, Recreation Commission and City Council on the 35% Linda Beach Master Plan Concept, City staff together with Groundworks Office has developed the following framework to guide the next iteration of the plan.

1. The Skate Spot will be removed from the master plan and a subcommittee of the Recreation Commission will study other spaces in Piedmont to potentially serve this need.

2. The Tot Lot will:
a. be designed to primarily serve children under the age of 5
b. be similar in size to the existing facility
c. keep kids contained in a safe area
d. have natural shade
e. be readily accessible by stroller with adequate stroller parking
f. have access to restrooms and changing tables

3. How and where to best serve the emerging desire for Pickleball in Piedmont will be studied by a Recreation Commission Subcommittee. In the meantime, Pickleball will be removed from the master plan.

4. Two Tennis Courts will remain in the plan but not at full regulation size. North-South orientation is preferred but not necessary.

5. Multi-age recreation opportunities (eg. bocce ball) will be explored for incorporation in the park.

6. Design will emphasize Linda Avenue as the main entry to the park including moving ADA access from Howard Avenue to Linda Avenue.

7. We will continue to examine opportunities for indoor recreation program space.

8. The park will include picnic tables and an area suitable for small gatherings like birthday parties.

9. Significant landscape buffers will be included along Howard Avenue.

10. A stormwater plan will be refined and clarified.

11. The park will be designed such that it can be closed and secured at night.

12. The Master Plan will acknowledge sensitivity to existing trees clearly identifying trees that will remain as well as conceptually noting replacement trees.

The City staff and Groundworks staff are currently working on adjustments to the Linda Beach Park project schedule, but tentatively, the next iteration of this plan is scheduled to be presented at a joint meeting of the Park and Recreation Commissions on September 5, 2018.

Jun 10 2018

Piedmont’s “new waste disposal contract” with Republic Services relies heavily on the company’s ability to properly recycle garden cuttings, kitchen waste, paper, plastics, glass, etc.  Questions have arisen as to whether Piedmont’s waste is actually being recycled or is merely headed to a landfill site?

Republic Services apparently was sending recycling to China. Recently China has decided to stop accepting it and our “recycling” will end up in landfill. At premium prices!

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/09/568797388/recycling-chaos-in-u-s-as-china-bans-foreign-waste

“Western states, which have relied the most on Chinese recycling plants, have been hit especially hard. In some areas — like Eugene, Oregon, and parts of Idaho, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii — local officials and garbage haulers will no longer accept certain items for recycling, in some cases refusing most plastics, glass and certain types of paper. Instead, they say, customers should throw these items in the trash.”

The Piedmont Civic Association made an inquiry to Piedmont’s provider, Republic Services in Richmond, asking about the destination of Piedmont’s recyclable waste.  There has been no response.  Our email, which was copied to the City Council, is below:

~~~~~~~

PCA

PIEDMONT CIVIC ASSOCIATION

June 1. 2018

——Media Inquiry—–

Republic Services

3260 Blume Drive, Suite 100

Richmond, CA 94806

piedmont@repsrv.com

Manager: Richmond, California, Republic Services

RE: Actual disposition of Piedmont, CA recyclable waste

Recently, the Piedmont Civic Association was informed, as validated by the New York Times on May 29, 2018, that much of Republic’s collected recyclable waste is going to landfills rather than going to reuse.

We are asking what is the disposition of Piedmont recyclables including glass, paper, plastic, etc.

The residents of Piedmont have exceeded their goals set for recycling waste materials and keeping reusable materials out of the landfills.

Please promptly reply to our inquiry so we may include your response in the forthcoming article on our well established website:

www.piedmontcivic.org

Thank you,

PCA Editors

editors@piedmontcivic.org