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The following letters and other commentary express only the personal opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

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Sep 16 2018

Dear Editor:

I am grateful when quality school board members decide to run for re-election. As the only incumbent, Board Vice President Amal Smith will continue to bring a K-12 perspective to board deliberations and decision-making, keeping the needs of all students first.

In addition to the fiduciary experience she has gained in her first term, Amal brings a wealth of knowledge to the Board with 28 years of higher education budget, finance, and management experience.

Most importantly, Amal brings an unwavering commitment to working collaboratively with others to solve problems with thoughtfulness, common sense, and an open mind.

Please join me in voting for Amal Smith on November 6th. Thank you.

All the best,
June Monach
Former School Board President and Trustee

Sep 5 2018

Dear Editor:

I am proud to support the candidacy of Megan Pillsbury for Piedmont’s most important School Board. When someone so intelligent, even-tempered, and deeply experienced with the most intricate workings of our town’s schools, steps up to serve on the School Board, we all should be grateful. As a beloved and dedicated Elementary School teacher at both Wildwood and Havens, her ever-present concern of the best interests of her students led her to devise new systems of communications between parents and teachers, more academic support and interchange between teachers, and serious curriculum review.

Megan was elected, more than once, by her peers to be Vice President of the teachers’ union because they trusted she could steer a genuine path for teachers, parents and administrators; she worked hard at doing just that. Her experience and training would be invaluable in governing the school decisions Piedmont will soon be facing, such as teacher shortages, STEAM programs and building challenges. Most recently, Megan worked to develop a curriculum for “Amplify Science” at the Lawrence Hall of Science, a digital program for K-3 students. She then volunteered as an outreach educator for the Lawrence Hall programs.

It is time we had the input of a dedicated and experienced academic on Piedmont’s School Board; Megan Pillsbury truly “fits the bill” with her hands-on work right here in our Piedmont schools. She is the perfect candidate at the perfect time to work on ensuring a program of academic excellence for our children delivered by a committed, satisfied faculty.

Nancy Lehrkind
Campaign Co-Chair
Megan Pillsbury for School Board

Aug 31 2018
Community members and students gathered to “build a more inclusive Piedmont through deliberative dialogue”.

Last Sunday, I attended Session I of Let’s Talk, presented by the Piedmont Unified School District, the City of Piedmont, and the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee (PADC).  On this specific weekend of August 25th and 26th, there were four Let’s Talk Sessions, and, to my knowledge, Let’s Talk! occurs on four separate weekends a year.

The main goal of the program is to “build a more inclusive Piedmont through deliberative dialogue”. To do this Sara Wicht, the leader from the Southern Poverty Law Center, informed us of the goals for our session: reflecting on how our own identities influence us; engaging in conversations exploring diversity; and learning the tools for quality conversations.

The central issue that Lets Talk! covers is diversity and how Piedmont, a city that currently lacks diversity, can grow to be more inclusive and, hopefully, more diverse.

In order to understand and then embrace diversity, we first went over the main types: economic and racial.

We also learned the four main domains- identity, diversity, justice, and action, and how all of these domains must fit together. Going along with the theme of identity, we engaged in an activity where everyone wrote down eight different traits about themselves (simple things like gender, religion, and race) and then crossed out the traits one-by-one in the order of least significant to most important until each person was left with one. We then discussed how it was only easy to cross out non-threatened categories that you shared with the majority, how nobody’s identity could be defined with a single relatively generic trait, and how this most important trait may shift depending on the company you share.

I thought it was interesting how nearly all of the traits were things that you were born into and could not self-identify with. It led me to question my group: what actually does shape who you are and what is actually most important to you?

I enjoyed the format of the seminar of small table groups (a mixture of strangers and fellow students) to engage in specific conversations with.

Then, after exchanging views, opinions, and experiences with your table, Sara opened it up to the whole room to share main concepts and takeaways from each group.

At my table, Dave McMartry’s story stood out to me. Dave shared with me that he recently moved to Piedmont and he does not intend to stay because of its lack of diversity. He fears that it will not be a suitable environment to raise his multi-racial children. By coming to Let’s Talk!, Dave hoped to become a better parent, develop a better understanding of what living in Piedmont is like for people of color, and see for himself if this community was taking the appropriate steps to becoming more inclusive.

While most of my table, including Dave, was very understanding and accepting of whatever I said, there was one person that seemed to target me when he spoke. I did not say anything disrespectful or offensive towards him (or anyone for that matter) and I am fairly certain that the source of his targeting was me being white. When he spoke he would say things like “you people do not understand” and point and stare directly at me.

This made me quiet down and keep to myself more, not wanting to upset him (even though I do not know what he was upset about in the first place). I felt very supported by my table group other than this man. After he left, I opened back up, sharing experiences, posing questions, and contributing ideas and opinions.

In the big group though, with everyone, at times the conversation could be slightly hostile, given people with opposing views.  One particularly controversial debate regarded the scenario of asking an Asian child to tutor the rest of the class. This played on the stereotype that Asian kids are “smarter” and “better at math”.  With it, we discussed implicit bias and stereotypes, acknowledging how negative their effects can be.

While most of the other students and I were on the side that if the Asian child was actually the smartest kid and was willing to help the rest of the class, then there is no reason for him not to be a tutor.  Much of the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee disagreed.  They specified that the teacher should go to the next smartest and most willing kid to do it, avoiding the damaging stereotype towards Asians.

I shared how I thought that, in a way, this would be a step too far, going so far around the issue that it exaggerates it. While much of the community did agree with me, one woman from PADC was extremely opposed.

Ultimately, these slight conflicts taught me that politics is not always black and white.

People will always have contrasting views and this makes it impossible to determine a right answer in most cases.  On top of that, there are varying definitions and degrees of being right, just like the issues of equality and equity.  Different people value them differently, making consensus extremely difficult. Yet, that is exactly the thing “Let’s Talk!” was trying to do: bring the community together to assess our discrepancies and come to a successful common ground regarding diversity and for the most part, I’d say they were successful!

By Mariela Cole, Piedmont High School Senior

Aug 30 2018

New Piedmont School Year Brings Foundation Funding and Hiring Crisis at PHS –

On Tuesday, August 21st, the Piedmont School Board held its bi-monthly meeting at City Hall, kicking off the School Board meetings for the 2018 school year.

The agenda was split between the usual items at the beginning of every school year and reports on some of the issues that the School District is already facing.

The meeting began with Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) Board of Education President Sarah Pearson inviting the representative of the teachers’ union, Mr. Kessler, to deliver the union’s remarks on the upcoming school year. He brought up the “palpable energy” of the new school year, the new initiatives in the Middle School, and the excitement in the new teachers. He requested that the administration and School Board have more faith in the teachers’ methods and allow them more autonomy.

Heather Frank, Executive Director of the Piedmont Education Foundation, presented the Giving Campaign’s annual check to the Piedmont Unified School District. The check was a record-breaking $2,708,421 with $1.4 million dollars dedicated to keeping class sizes smaller.

Board Member Amal Smith commented, “Due to the fact that our state budget is being continually cut, without the efforts of the Piedmont Education Foundation, the District would simply be unable to run.”

The Board opened the Public Forum when attendees could address items not on the agenda.  Senior Casey Lane spoke about her grant request for the Diversity Awareness Club. Mentioning that teenagers are basically dogs and follow food,  and she requested that the Board consider the grant in order to continue fostering diversity in Piedmont. The Board in response thanked her for taking charge of such an important action in Piedmont High School.

As Casey was the only speaker not on the agenda, the Board took up its regular agenda with the confirmation of the new Piedmont High School Director of Athletics, Alphonso Powell.  Superintendent Randall Booker introduced Mr. Powell and commented on his vast experience in the Oakland and San Francisco school districts.  Booker ended by saying “That he was most impressed by Mr. Powell’s experience of teaching in a classroom, a rare trait for an Athletics Director.”  Unsurprisingly, the Board approved Alphonso Powell for Athletic Director on a 5-0 vote.

Superintendent Randall Booker provided the Board with insight on the teacher shortage in Piedmont. He listed nine major vacancies at the beginning of the school year and so far five of them have been filled. He explained the reason for the shortage was the exorbitant Bay Area rent, a lack of qualified teachers and every school district fighting over the few qualified candidates that are left. He ended by asking the Board for patience, as while the District could throw anyone into a classroom and call them a teacher, he is making sure that they do the necessary background checks on any candidate before hiring them.

Personally, I believe that the school hasn’t properly communicated any of the issues with hiring to the students and are focusing far too much on new long-term initiatives and not enough on our current students.  As a student, I would love more than anything else to have smaller class sizes and fewer overworked teachers.  Both problems have only worsened this year.

Before the meeting, I had interviewed Superintendent Randall Booker on the hiring crisis and asked how he was communicating the issues brought up with the Board to the students. He responded, “The administration are doing their best to email parents and students in the affected classes and provide updates.”

I then asked him about alternatives to having substitutes who are unable to teach the classes. In response, he commented that, “The school is looking for any possible part-time teachers until a permanent replacement can be found and in the worst-case scenario, the school is looking at online classes that the students can use through their Chromebooks.”  Mr. Booker’s thoughts reflect the administration’s continued efforts to try and appease parents and students, while finding qualified teachers.

On a more cheerful note, Randall Booker showed the Board a video of the first day of school at all six schools. While without a doubt the elementary school kids were cuter than the high schoolers, the video was heartwarming at every school.

The Board meeting ended with each Board Member adding their personal thoughts on the upcoming school year. Of note was Cory Smegal’s comment on Mr. Booker’s keynote presentation. She complimented him on bringing the teachers, faculty and administration together with his speech on working as one team for the children in the District.

After those comments, the Board adjourned at 8:30, managing to end a half hour early despite the busy schedule and hectic start to the school year.

By Sam Orta, Piedmont High School Senior

Aug 21 2018

“Piedmont’s School Board must make policy that provides for all of our children because that’s what all of them are: our children.”   Julie Caskey spoke to, and listened to over 40 supporters on Sunday (Aug 19), where she outlined her emphasis for seeking election to the School Board. “We have to give all of our kids a chance to shine, not just our athletes and mathletes.  We want to instill in each of them a love of learning and provide a place for each to find the inspiration that speaks to them.”  Piedmont’s Vice Mayor, Teddy King, spoke in support of Julie’s election to the School Board, saying that Julie would be collaborative with our city’s government, reinforcing King’s own efforts to build more coordination between the City and the School District.

Having worked on innumerable volunteer activities, including the PMS and Beach Parent Clubs, the Appreciating Diversity Committee, the PHS Site Council, and currently, the H1 Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee, Julie is well prepared to take up the formal responsibilities of a School Board member.  If elected, Julie would add to the only two School Board members with children in Piedmont’s schools, and be the only one with children in elementary and middle school.  Bringing a parent’s perspective to the Board, she wants to create more transparency and outreach for new Board initiatives, getting feedback from concerned parents before new policies are put in place.  As she described to her supporters, “Current parents in our schools know their kids, their kid’s teachers, other kids’ teachers, and the staff, those very important people at each school who make it run like it does.”  The School Board needs more of that on-the-ground connection.

Coming from a family of four diverse siblings, and having four distinctive children of her own, Julie wants to ensure that every Piedmont child, whether high ability, or having unusual ways of learning, or is just a regular kid, all of our children should feel welcomed, included, and inspired within our schools.  She wants to make sure that appreciating and accepting diversity of all kinds is unmistakably the guiding charter of our schools.  To Julie, “Students First” means all students.  As a public interest lawyer, Julie Caskey’s professional life has been that of standing up for and defending women, children, and families that have been marginalized, excluded, left behind.

Julie also emphasized her intention to ensure greater oversight, transparency and accountability in the operations of Piedmont’s school system.  Her legal skills of asking questions and investigating, as well as her skills in negotiating and finding mutually acceptable resolution to problems, will provide our School Board with the talent it needs to assure that the Superintendent and administrative staff are responsive to the values of Piedmont’s citizens.  That is the School Board’s job and is the responsibility that Julie is campaigning to carry forward.  As Teddy King mentioned, “Julie is not afraid to stand up for what’s right.”

Abe Boskovitz and Sharon Sagiv, who has served the School District as a former President of PRAISE, the special education support group, hosted the supporters’ gathering because they know Julie and believe in her willingness to take on School Board responsibility.  But before becoming elected, Julie has had to take on a different job, that of a candidate running for the office.  She spends hours, days, and weeks knocking on doors, offering to discuss School Board issues with neighbors, and gathering acquaintances to help her with house parties, writing letters, canvassing and contributing money.  It’s not fun, nor is it the work she really wants to do.  But it is the work that is necessary in order to serve our schools in the way that her skills and talents can really make a difference.

Bruce Joffe, Piedmont Resident

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. 

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 10 2018

Flawed process for changing the Piedmont City Charter has produced new issues and unknown rationale.  Concerns have focused on such proposals as: Unlimited reserve funds, changes to management of employees, elimination of Council bimonthly meetings, elimination of posted notices, and questionable designations of City officers. – 

The following letter was sent to the Piedmont City Council –

TO: City Council at citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov
RE: Comments Regarding Proposed Changes to City Charter June 3, 2018

Dear City Council:

I am writing to oppose the proposal to amend the City Charter, for two reasons: 1) process, and 2) substance.

PROCESS

I respectfully submit that the process is flawed and should be revisited. Here are some thoughts in that connection:

First, what is the problem we are trying to solve? Although the June 4, 2018 Staff Report states that the City Council has been discussing changes to the Charter since June 2017, it does not contain reasons for the proposed changes. Without a “statement of the problem,” how does the Council know what changes need to be made? And if we make changes to solve undefined problems, might the proposed changes create unintended consequences?

Second, what are the pros and cons of the proposed solutions to the problem? The Staff Report does not provide pros and cons, or alternative solutions to address perceived problems with the current Charter.

Third, shouldn’t workshops be held to determine the level of public support for the changes before they are submitted to Piedmont citizens for a vote? Deciding to put the Charter changes on the ballot without adequate public input is a backwards process.

SUBSTANCE

In addition to having serious concerns with the process the Council is following in this regard, I also have some substantive issues and questions:

Section 2.03. Because the Staff Report does not indicate what problem this “out of office” change attempts to solve, it’s not clear that this change is needed. If there is indeed a problem to be solved, and there’s public support for such change, a corresponding change should be made in Section 7.02 concerning the School Board.

Section 2.07 would delete the current requirement that the Council meet at least twice a month, and instead would only require that the Council meet “regularly.” This is totally inadequate. While I can understand that a twice monthly meeting requirement might be out of step with what is currently considered good governance and might make it difficult for some otherwise qualified candidates to serve on the Council, this change goes too far and could allow meetings only every other month, or quarterly. At a minimum, this section should provide for regular monthly meetings.

Section 2.08 states how the Mayor is selected. Should we consider having the Mayor be elected by the voters, as in many other communities?

Section 2.12(D) would eliminate the requirement to post ordinances on bulletin boards, in favor of using the City website. To ensure that citizens know they should look on the website for ordinances, I suggest that the City also be required to post a notice describing the ordinance (if not including the entire ordinance) in one or more newspapers of general circulation.

Article III’s changes are problematic. First, I’m not sure it is a good idea to give the City Administrator so much power without Piedmont having a citizen-elected Mayor to partner with the City Administrator. If public input indicates support for giving the City Administrator the power to manage and dismiss all City officers, but having the Council keep the authority to eliminate or consolidate these officer positions, then this Article should be overhauled completely (for instance, deleting from the Charter the listing of City officers, since if the Charter states that the City “shall” have certain officers, it’s unclear that the Council could eliminate such positions without an amendment to the Charter).

Section 4.03 proposes to eliminate the 25% ceiling on the General Fund Reserve. This proposal is outrageous. Piedmont’s taxes are much higher than those in comparable cities. Many (those on fixed incomes, or young couples, for instance) struggle to afford the current rates. While keeping adequate reserves is important, there’s been no case made by Staff or the Council that the City needs more than 25% in reserves. The cap should stay.

Section 4.10 governs franchises. It’s unclear what this section is intended to cover. Is this a section that should be considered for updating or deletion?

Section 4.11 proposes to eliminate the requirement that all public projects be competitively bid. This is unacceptable. A requirement to competitively bid ensures that public funds are spent wisely. Competitive bidding should be the rule, and deleting this language opens the door to wasting public funds.

Article V. If the Charter is being examined fully, the Council might consider whether most of the provisions of Article V belong in the Charter, or could instead be moved to an ordinance. While the updating of Section 5.02 is admirable, the law keeps changing. To eliminate the need to constantly update the Charter, it might be easier to simply say that the City will not discriminate on any prohibited basis.

Sincerely,
Kathleen Quenneville, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author. 
Jun 10 2018

End of the year letter …

Dear Families and Community,

It’s hard to believe the school year has come to an end! As we reflect on the 2017-18 school year, educators across the District are feeling great pride in the academic and social-emotional growth of students. Together, let us celebrate students’ hard work and engagement in their learning process.

Please click on the following link for a year-end report that highlights many District initiatives from this year. The District’s ultimate goal is to provide an extraordinary education for all students. Each initiative furthered this goal in one of the following ways: updating and refining our curriculum and instruction; promoting deeper levels of student engagement, critical thinking, and inquiry; providing a safe, appropriate and inclusive learning environment for all students; or adapting our administrative practices and structures to better meet the needs of students and better support educators.

I would like to thank our teachers, staff and administrators for their incredible dedication and for all they do on behalf of our students. They are making a remarkable team of professionals who continually strive to improve teaching and learning. I would also like to thank the many organizations, families, and volunteers who partner with the District to enhance and expand opportunities for our students. I am grateful for this breadth and depth of community support for public education, and proud of what we have accomplished together this year.

Have a wonderful summer!

Sincerely,

Randall Booker
Superintendent of the Piedmont Unified School DistrictMay 31, 2018

Jun 5 2018
     In reply to Superintendent Booker’s response to my recent article “A Costly Mistake”, the salient issue is whether or not the high school can get by without adding eight portables for a period of three years. I am not an educator, but I can add and subtract.

    The high school now has 39 designated classrooms on the campus, two of which are used for other purposes. A normal school day includes seven periods. The Administration building currently has 8 classrooms used by 12 teachers for a total of 52 periods a day, nearly 100 per cent utilization of the 56 total periods. When the Admin building is demolished, there will be 31 classrooms remaining on the campus with a total of 217 teaching periods in each school day.

    The PHS Staff Directory provides the specific classroom and number of periods assigned in that classroom for each member of the faculty. My tabulation shows that at present the Math Science building has a surplus of 8 periods, the Library has a surplus of 18 periods, and MHS has a surplus of 28 teaching periods. If the district temporarily cancels out ceramics, MHS will have a surplus of 32 periods. Total underutilization will then be 58 of the 217 periods, six more than the 52 needed to accommodate all of the teachers on the staff including those displaced by demolition of the Admin building. The 31 remaining classrooms will be no more heavily used than are the existing classrooms in the Admin building — and for 1.5 years under my proposal instead of 3 years.

    Making enhanced use of the library conference room and subdividing just one of the existing classrooms into 4 smaller seminar rooms would provide additional flexibility. The PHS principal’s office can be conveniently relocated across the arcade to the rooms now occupied by the teacher’s lounge and teacher’s resource room in the library. Teachers might, in fact, benefit by sharing the student lounge with the students. And storage space, even if temporarily rented, is relatively easy to provide.

    Other issues may need to be resolved, but the high school can get by without adding eight portable classrooms, and the district could proceed now with the demolition of the Admin building. That much is indisputable.

William Blackwell, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.