Nov 2 2018

City of Piedmont
Joint Park Commission and
Recreation Commission 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

7:00 p.m.

City Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA

 Receipt of a Report on the Revised Conceptual Plan for the Linda Beach Master Plan and
Consideration of a Recommendation to the City Council on Next Steps

A summary of the distinguishing attributes of the revised plan are as follows:

  •  A California Playscape designed with landscape buffers near the Oakland Avenue Bridge and along Howard Avenue fills the now dormant south end of the park with natural adventure play for all ages
  •  Creation of a new enclosed tot lot (~4000 sq. ft.) for children age 3 and younger at the north end of the park within the existing tot lot footprint with a new restroom building to serve the tot lot, flex space and tennis courts
  •  A Sport Court Flex Space that can serve as multipurpose outdoor recreation program space for all ages (e.g. weekday adult/senior programs such as tai chi, outdoor fitness and painting; afterschool enrichment activities such as jump rope, martial arts, arts and crafts; outdoor and overflow space for Schoolmates)
  •  An artificial turf bocce ball court that makes efficient use of space required for ADA access grading
  •  Multiple picnic areas suitable for small family gatherings
  •  New modern restrooms and storage for community youth sports organizations at the south end
  •  Significant landscape buffers at the south end of the park
  •  Two ADA entrances from Linda Avenue and stair access from the north end of the pedestrian path near Beach School to the tot lot and stair access from the tennis courts to the sports field
  •  Retention of the notable trees on site including the Melaleucas along Linda Avenue and the mature redwoods below the play field
  •  Two tennis courts with north-south orientation and slightly larger offsets than existing courts
  •  The use of permeable surfaces for hardscape areas and paths to create options for green infrastructure allowing for appropriate storm water treatment options to be integrated into the landscape
  •  Phasing approach that allows for the long neglected south end of the park to be constructed first
  •  Allows for a third phase of the project which would add a multi-purpose recreation building to the northwest corner of the park expanding indoor recreation programming opportunities for Piedmonters of all ages (bridge, mahjong, book club, yoga, art, lego, knitting, carpentry, ballet etc.)
  •  Phase three building also creates an indoor/outdoor interface that will accommodate robust and complete full day summer camp offerings as well as after school enrichment activities and small evening and weekend gatherings
  •  Fencing plan allows for controlling park use after hours

READ the prior meeting draft minutes, full staff report, and schematic plan Joint Park and Recreation Commission Meeting 11.7.18 Packet

Oct 31 2018

We’ve all heard that old adage, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” That’s what comes to mind with Measures BB and CC on the upcoming ballot.

The proponents of BB and CC claim they are merely updates to our “outdated” City Charter and will result in more openness and transparency. But when you look at what’s actually proposed, you’ll realize that BB and CC do more harm than good.

Measure BB proposes to change at least fourteen sections of the City Charter.

Although the proponents of Measure BB claim it merely updates the City Charter, it’s so much more than that. It impacts several key areas, among them being the elimination of competitive bidding. BB allows Council to raise and, in some cases, waive competitive bidding thresholds. So voting for this measure gives carte blanche for city contracts to bypass competitive bidding. As written, this aspect of Measure BB could have tremendous negative financial impacts on the city.

Measure BB would also impact the election and meeting requirements of the City Council by eliminating the need for twice-monthly meetings and changing the interval from the current four years to eight years (two terms) before a City Council member could run again. School Board members have this same four-year interval, and they are not seeking a change.

Measure CC abolishes Council authority to discipline city staff.

These proposed changes weaken the authority of the City Council and decrease the public’s opportunities to participate in city government and hold its council members accountable.

Piedmont’s department heads – Police, Fire, Recreation Director, Finance, etc. – are currently hired and fired by City Council, allowing the Council to be aware of the workings of various city departments and providing accountability to the public from their elected representatives. Measure CC weakens this authority by giving all responsibility to the unelected City Administrator to evaluate and terminate city employees. This proposed change creates obstacles that currently don’t exist, removes transparency, and is rife with unforeseen consequences, including potential decreases in morale, increases in employee turnover, and wrongful termination lawsuits.

The City Charter has been serving Piedmont well since its last revision forty years ago. It’s not broken. The ballot text for Measures BB and CC don’t tell the whole story. Visit http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/city-council-places-charter-measures-on-ballot/to see what these measures really do.

Please join me in voting NO on Measures BB and CC.

Melanie Robertson, Former Piedmont Planning Commissioner

Oct 26 2018
Who do Piedmonters want to control retention and dismissal of the Piedmont Police Chief, Fire Chief, Finance Director, Recreation Director – elected City Council or the appointed City Administrator?

The City Charter currently states the elected 5 member City Council has the hiring, retention, and dismissal control over the top employee positions – Fire Chief, Police Chief, Finance Director, Recreation Director, etc.

Measure CC  takes authority and control from the elected Council regarding Department Heads and gives authority and control to the unelected City Administrator.

Measure CC forbids the City Council by Charter from continuing to determine if their Fire Chief, Police Chief, Finance Director, Recreation Director, etc. should remain in their positions.  The City Administrator will be the only person in Piedmont able to retain or dismiss the key-employees the City Council recruited and hired.

MEASURE  CC asks, “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?”

Voters will decide whether to keep the City Charter as written or change it by voting Yes or No on Measure CC. The choice is as follows:

  • Keep the City Charter, as is, with City Council controlling  = Vote NO

  • Change the City Charter placing City Administrator in control = Vote YES

 

Oct 16 2018

The City Charter has not been revised in more than 30 years.  It is out of date and contains inconsistencies.  The City Council had several meetings over a two year period to consider changes to the Charter, and actively sought and considered citizen input.  For a detailed analysis of these measures, I recommend the Piedmont League of Voters website, at https://my.lwv.org/california/piedmont/lwvp-pros-cons-city-piedmont-measures-bb-and-cc.

I believe there are two “hot buttons” regarding Measure BB.  The first “hot button” concerns competitive bidding.  Measure BB would remove language that says Piedmont will follow state law on competitive bidding.  As a Charter City, Piedmont has the authority to set its own thresholds for competitive bidding.  By removing that language, Piedmont makes clear that it is exercising its Charter City authority.  It is my understanding that Piedmont does a full competitive bid for any projects exceeding $75,000, and has had trouble getting contractors to bid for low dollar projects.  In my opinion, a $75,000 threshold sufficiently balances the need to wisely spend public funds against the administrative burden on the City and bidders.  The second concerns how long a termed-out Council member would need to wait to run again for the Council.  Measure BB would change the four year waiting period, to an eight year waiting period.  While I don’t agree with this change, I still support Measure BB because this situation hardly ever arises, and I believe that the other changes in Measure BB are desirable and necessary.

Measure CC addresses personnel issues, and it clarifies ambiguous and outdated language in the City Charter.  If Measure CC passed, the City Council would be responsible for hiring all department heads and managing and firing the City Administrator and City Attorney.  The City Administrator would be responsible for managing and firing all City employees except the City Attorney. It is not unusual for a board of directors to hire a CEO of its organization, and to give the CEO the authority and responsibility for hiring, managing and firing all of the organization’s employees.  We cannot expect our City Council, a group of five volunteers, to manage the City’s department heads.  With these changes to the City Charter, we should expect that the City Administrator would confer with the Council in exercising his/her authority, and the Council holding the City Administrator responsible for how that authority was exercised.

Kathleen Quineville, Piedmont Resident

Sep 29 2018

Monday, October 1 Council meeting will begin with a Closed Session for conferences with Legal Counsel regarding litigation.  The existing litigation is Jordan Thobe vs City of Piedmont et al.  In addition, there are two anticipated litigation cases – Initiation of litigation pursuant to Government Code §54956.9(d)(4): (Two Cases)

The regular agenda includes the Consent Calendar starting at 7:30 p.m :

10/01/18 – Approval of the Biennial Update of the City’s Conflict of Interest Code (City Council Policy #24)  

This item includes statements required by the Piedmont Planning Commissioners, Police and Fire Pension Board members , but without explanation does not include the Piedmont Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee members.

10/01/18 -Authorization for the City Administrator to Sign Three Documents Related to the East Bay Sewer Collection Systems Agencies 

Regular Agenda:

10/01/18 – Consideration of a Resolution in Support of East Bay Regional Parks District Measure FF 

10/01/18 -Consideration of a Report on Traffic and Safety Conditions on Oakland Avenue 

Consideration of directing Staff and Coastland Engineers to prepare a proposal for professional engineering services to develop the required designs and construction documents for the crosswalk enhancements at Oakland Ave. & El Cerrito Ave, and Oakland Ave & Jerome Ave.

10/01/18 – Consideration of the Award of the 2018 Street Traffic Striping Project to Chrisp & Company in the Amount of $276,414.95, Determining the Project to be Exempt from CEQA, and Setting an Overall Project Budget of $336,386.40

READ FULL AGENDA  here
The Council meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, City Hall. The meeting will be broadcast live on Cable Channel 27, and from the City website under videos.  For additional information contact the City at 510/420-3040.
Sep 21 2018

Renovations are projected to cost millions. 

On September 17th of 2018, the Piedmont City Council met in the Council Chamber of City Hall. The meeting opened with a designated ten-minute period of open comments, where community members can speak on items not listed on the general agenda.

Mr. Maganas, a longtime resident of Piedmont, highlighted a lack of knowledge among parents and students concerning the Peralta Community College system offering college-level classes such as Calculus I and II through Berkeley City College, Laney College, and three others. The Peralta Colleges offer a valuable resource to students hoping to challenge themselves academically with advanced courses. Maganas hoped to increase awareness of this resource among high school students and parents.

Mayor Robert McBain declared September a month of Suicide Prevention Awareness, as a part of the national effort to reduce suicide and self-harm, especially among teens. Council members, such as Teddy King, voiced unwavering support for McBain in raising this issue, as she has lost family members in the past to suicide.

Next, an East Bay Regional Park District Board Member, Dee Rosario gave the Council a report on Measure FF. Measure CC, which passed in 2004, stipulates that twelve dollars a year are received from properties and used for park infrastructure, ecological projects, electrical maintenance, fuel reduction, sewage cleanup, and restroom repair; for example, the Crab Cove Visitor Center is now open year-round thanks to funding from Measure CC, as opposed to only a few months or a season at a time. Measure CC has been rebranded as Measure FF and falls under the same stipulations for funding. Measure FF has been renewed for the next twenty years.

The Council then discussed the consideration of appointing a new Piedmont Fire Chief.  After a lengthy vetting process by two separate panels composed of respected Piedmont residents and others working in law or government, City Administrator Paul Benoit had presented to the City Council the narrowed field of two applicants.

The Council then interviewed the two finalists, selecting Bret Black, currently serving in Clovis, California. This comprehensive search arose following the retirement of beloved community-member Bud McLaren, who faithfully served as Fire Chief in Piedmont for five years. Following a unanimous vote among the City Council members, Bret Black was hired to fill the Fire Chief position beginning October 1st with a starting annual salary of $193,164.

Closing out the agenda, two architects from the Bay Area firm Siegel & Strain – Larry Strain and Roland Lazzarotto -presented a report on potential renovations of Piedmont’s Recreation Center and the Piedmont Veterans’ Hall. Both buildings, are seventy-years old or older and are in dire need of renovation and remodeling.

Though not dilapidated, the floor plan of the Recreation Center is considered archaic, and the plans presented outline a better use of square footage and increased operational efficiency for educational use and programs.

For example, Lazzarotto drafted plans to reorganize the building layout, moving the preschool away from the entrance. In the event of an intruder, the rooms should be ordered in a fashion keeping the youngest children farthest from the main door.

Similarly, Lazzarotto proposed ripping out the driveway and replacing the space with a fenced off play area with shade and soft ground. Lastly, he proposed renovating the defunct attic into an office space and conference room, while installing an elevator to access all three main floors. On each floor, bathrooms would either be renovated or torn out, and modified to meet ADA accessibility standards.

In the case of the Veterans Hall, Lazzarotto sought to maximize efficiency in a similar manner: rip out the stage to create a larger ballroom, while establishing smaller classrooms and multi-purpose rooms on the side. The kitchen would be renovated and brought up to modern standards, in hopes of accommodating future weddings in the new space.

Before he left, I had the opportunity to briefly interview Mr. Lazzarotto about his role at the meeting tonight. He noted that his group, Siegel and Strain, focused on providing sustainable and affordable projects.

During the presentation, Councilwoman Jen Cavenaugh questioned the environmental sustainability of the building, and Mr. Larry Siegel- Lazzarotto’s companion – highlighted their plan to reuse the wood and install new windows, both reducing carbon emissions and waste.

The Recreational Center was in immediate need of increased accessibility; for example, the reception desk lies on the second floor, and is not wheelchair accessible.

Both buildings have outlived their functional use and require restructuring and renovation to meet the accessibility and safety standards of today. Now that the City Council has reached a general consensus and approval of the layouts, Lazzarotto will in the future provide drafts and layouts to City Administrator Paul Benoit.

As the discussion and presentation came to a close among the Council, student Mia Horvath asked City Administrator Paul Benoit- who had been working in conjunction with Siegel and Strain – how renovations and construction would affect public access to the space; for example, the Recreational Center sits at a major thoroughfare that parents drive by to drop off their kids at the Middle and High School. Though the Council did not have an immediate solution, Mayor McBain affirmed that a well-planned schedule would be released in the future to ease traffic and pedestrian flow.

Tim Rood mentioned that these renovations would mean losing access to the services of the Recreational Center for months on end, but Paul Benoit noted that it would be possible to relocate these offices and services for the duration of construction. The plans are currently in development and in their drafting phase, so all propositions and suggestions are subject to change.

The City Council meets on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month to discuss, consider, and announce citywide events, issues, notices, and more.

by Aaron Moy, Piedmont High School Senior

Sep 21 2018

The League of Women Voters Piedmont devised voter issues and questions for School Board and City Council November 6, 2018 candidates.

Press Release:

Earlier this summer, LWVP newsletter readers provided 33 responses to our poll regarding issues and questions for City Council and School Board candidates. Four LWVP board member volunteers then ranked 20 questions from the poll and submitted the top 8 to:

Voters Edge website  (https://votersedge.org/ca).

We highlight the 3 most important issues selected and list the top 4 questions for each race. We also attach more detailed summaries of the poll and of the ranking process as well as the questionnaires used.

The list of issues in the poll were taken from a July 19th, 2018 Piedmont Civic Association website article entitled “TIME to RUN: Contested or Uncontested Piedmont City Council and School Board Elections” This list of issues is licensed under a Creative Commons License and was sorted alphabetically.

For the 33 respondents, chosen from many choices, the top 3 issues for City Council candidates were:

  1. Citizen involvement – open participatory processes
  2. Environmental matters
  3. Taxation increases

The top 4 questions submitted on the Council topics were:

  1. What plans do you have to support the many different populations of Piedmont with city programs and city facilities? And, how do you plan to promote and actively support inclusive practices within city government?
  2. How will you be responsive to citizens and to support and improve citizen involvement in city government?
  3. How can and will you mediate between different interest groups in Piedmont, including evaluating how representative the concerns of vocal minorities might be?
  4. How should the city decide whether and how to plan and pay for a new swimming pool or pools? How important is this to you?

For the 33 respondents, the top 3 issues for School Board candidates were:

  1. Personnel selections
  2. School construction within constraints of bond funding limits
  3. Revenues sufficient to support operations and programs

The top 4 questions for School Board candidates were:

  1. The District has a history of hiring staff and teachers with personal connections to Piedmont and current district staff. How will you reassure city residents that new hires are the best choice for students and the school and that hiring is not unduly influenced by personal connections?
  2. How could and would you increase transparency in district decision making?
  3. How could and would you continue or improve the recruitment and retention of excellent teachers?
  4. If elected, what would be your budgeting priorities? How can the school district prepare for increased pension liabilities? Can you identify areas in the budget when savings are possible?

Read the PCA article  “TIME to RUN: Contested or Uncontested Piedmont City Council and School Board Elections

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

~~~~~~~~

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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