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 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

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. 

~~~~~~~ 

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?”

~~~~~~

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
Jul 14 2018

Council would hire, but could not fire.

Facing a strong Administrative staff proposal to diminish the Piedmont City Council’s authority and control, the Council appeared confused, lacking clarity or direction.  Council members questioned issues as basic as whether the Council or the City Administrator should hire and fire the City’s top managers – Police Chief, Fire Chief, Finance Director, etc.

The City Council had paid little attention to the City Charter until there was a desire to accumulate ever greater amounts of revenue in reserve, without clear and specific purposes.

Overriding the unlimited reserve issue became the Administrative staff desire to change how Piedmont is governed. 

The review and changes to the City Charter had been pushed by former and resigned mayor, Jeff Weiler, who wanted the City to not only have a permanent, potentially escalating parcel tax, but who wanted the City to garner and retain in the General Fund Reserves unlimited amounts of revenue.

The City Council asked the Administrative staff to look at the City Charter and propose changes.   The Council was eager to allow the staff to construct their proposals independent of Council originated ideas. Individual Council members were to privately, outside of Council meetings,  submit to the City Administrator Charter changes they wanted.

The Administrative staff came up with a monumental proposed change to Piedmont’s long-held system of governance. The Charter changes proposed will significantly reduce Piedmont’s City Council’s long-held authority and Council responsibility for City services.

City Administrator, Paul Benoit, proposed that the City Council should no longer appoint top Department Heads, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Finance Director, Public Works Director, etc., he, the City Administrator, should have complete hiring and firing authority.

The Council did not totally accept Benoit’s proposal and chose to continue their long-held practice of hiring key positions.  The Council however, relented on Benoit’s proposal to allow him, the City Administrator, to be the sole individuaauthorized to fire key staff members hired by the Council.

The Council, in deference to Benoit, who is well liked by the Council, was also willing to forfeit their right as a Council to direct the Police Chief, Fire Chief, etc.  The Charter revisions as proposed will require all Council direction to go through the City Administrator, even if the Administrator position is vacated or terminated.  If there is a conflict with the City Administrator and a Council hire, the only choice the Council will have is to fire the City Administrator.

Mayor Bob McBain wanted to totally relinquish to the City Administrator the Council’s hiring and firing authority, but this was not supported by other Council members.

The City Administrator proposed governance is a form of governance traditionally found in cities with directly elected mayors who have more executive authority than Piedmont’s largely ceremonial Council-selected mayor, rotating among  their members with limited powers as set out in the City Charter. 

Council questions regarding Charter language stating the Council has authority “to direct” their appointees led to further Council confusion.  Despite specific existing language in the City Charter stating Council members as individuals are not allowed to direct staff members, Benoit argued he did not want the Council as a whole to be able to direct staff members even during Council meetings or emergency situations.

Individual Council members have been known to direct staff without the knowledge of the Council as a whole perhaps encouraged by a City Administrator.  It can be easier and faster for an administrator to gain direction from one person, a Council member, the mayor, than from a majority of the Council as required by the City Charter. 

The City Council and the City Administration, including the City Attorney, in recent years have not been attentive to the intent or language in the City Charter.  Since Piedmont’s long-term attorney retired, a great amount of knowledge on the City Charter has apparently been lost or ignored.

In considering proposals for changing Piedmont’s City Charter, the City Council has held a number of poorly attended, fragmented public meetings.  No independent committee, as in previous years, was formed to carefully consider the complex and important City Charter despite a number of citizen requests. Because of various voids in the questionable proposals, it is obvious  the entire Charter was not carefully considered nor discussed leaving many questioning the process and the proposals.

Significant current issues were never considered during the Council Charter review process. 

Some examples are:

  • requirement for voters to make zoning changes
  • borrowing money for more than one year
  • Council officer vacancies
  • bid advertisements and notifications

The Council agenda for Monday night appears to acknowledge that the Council, City Administrator, and City Attorney have not upheld Piedmont’s City Charter. 

The Council agenda items for the Monday, July 16, 2018 meeting rebuffs the City Charter when it states “Conform to Modern Practice.”  No one would want the City Charter to perpetuate unlawful practices; however, “Modern Practices” infers and confirms non-compliance with Piedmont’s long successful and practical City Charter.  Prime examples of ignoring the Charter are the usurpation of Council authority, borrowing money, and negation of voter approval for zoning changes.

The Council decided to separate the governance issue from the remainder of the Charter revision proposals after sensing the potential opposition to turning over long-held Council authority to the City Administrator.  Piedmont voters will find little transparency in the attempt to change Piedmont governance as noted in the staff report below:

Amendments to the City Charter to Clarify the Reporting Structure for Officers of the City, Clarify the Departments Responsible for Maintenance of Park Lands and Recreational Facilities, and Make Other Amendments to Conform the Charter to Modern Practice 

 Council dropped notion of unlimited General Fund Reserves.

When Kathleen Quenneville, a local authority on civic governance, told the Council that the Charter proposal to eliminate the cap on General Fund Reserves would not be supported by voters, the Council promptly removed the proposal, as it is their desire to not initiate opposition to Council proposals since a prospective voter approved future facilities bond measure is being considered.  Concern was expressed by Council members wanting to keep voters positive about Council actions and proposals, leading to the unlimited General Fund Reserves being dropped, and the separation of City Administration governance from other proposals.

This article does not describe the many other proposals suggested by the Council, however urgency does not appear to be present.  Items continuing to be of concern are:

  • Inconsistencies between the School Board and Council elections – School Board members could seek re-election after sitting out for 4 years, whereas City Council members must sit out for 8 years, unknown in other communities
  • Extension of time to fill Council vacancies from 30 days to 60 days

The Charter change matter will be considered by the Council at 7:30 p.m., Monday, July 16, 2018 in City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue.  The meeting will be broadcast live on Cable Channel 27 and from the City website under videos.

Comments can be made to the City Council 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

Below are the staff reports: 

07/16/18 – Consideration of the Following Actions Related to the Possible Amendment of the City Charter

a. Approval of a Resolution and Measure Proposing Amendments to the City Charter to Modify Term Limits for the City Council, Modify the Procedures for Filling of Vacancies in Elected Offices, and Make Other Amendments to Conform the Charter to Modern Practice

b. Approval of a Resolution and Measure Proposing Amendments to the City Charter to Clarify the Reporting Structure for Officers of the City, Clarify the Departments Responsible for Maintenance of Park Lands and Recreational Facilities, and Make Other Amendments to Conform the Charter to Modern Practice 

07/16/18 – Consideration of Options Regarding a Direct Argument and a Rebuttal Argument Regarding the Charter Amendment Measure on the November 6, 2018 Ballot

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

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

 

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 2 2018

Piedmont City Council to Consider Proposed Charter Changes June 4, 2018, 7:30 p.m. City Hall:

If the City Administrator’s requests to change the City Charter are approved, the City Council could take a back seat in Piedmont’s governance.

Piedmont City Administrator Paul Benoit proposed eliminating the long-time appointment power of the City Council in the City Charter. 

The City Council has always appointed and hired key administrative positions – Police Chief, Fire Chief, City Clerk, Finance Director, Public Works Director, etc. However, the Council told Benoit on April 30, 2018 they wanted to retain the Council’s hiring authority per the City Charter.  Yet Benoit apparently convinced the Council that he, the City Administrator, should be the sole individual authorized to fire or terminate key managers, taking authority away from the Council in an unusual change to Council authority.

Readers will find the administrative changes repeatedly diminish the authority of the Council forfeiting their authority to the City Administrator.

The form of government proposed by Benoit is usually termed a City Manager form of government joined by a strong mayor, which Piedmont does not elect.  Oakland has a City Manager form of government as does Alameda and Astoria, Oregon, where Benoit was employed for many years prior to coming to Piedmont. Each of these cities have a separately elected Mayor.  Piedmont’s mayor is elected from within the Council  by the five Council members. 

Many are familiar with Oakland struggles, but perhaps less familiar with Alameda’s recent troubles when the Council terminated their City Manager over a hiring situation. Piedmont has not had such disruption and the City Council has worked collaboratively when selecting officers such as the Fire Chief, Police Chief, and others.  It has been stated that it is better to have 5 members of the Council selecting  the City officers rather than one unelected person – the City Administrator – making the selections and terminations.

Despite pleas for an independent committee to study and evaluate proposed changes to the Piedmont City Charter, none was formed by the City Council.  The Administration driven proposals have moved forward following a Council Study Session.  

This PCA article points out some of the critical issues, but as with any City Charter the devil is in the details, of which there are many.  The Council, apparently, will be presenting forums after they decide what should be placed on a Piedmont  November 2018 election ballot to seek required ratification

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Below are various changes noted by City staff as substantive.  Readers will note in the full draft linked below there are many other important issues.

   The pros and cons of the changes have not been presented by staff.

Important administrative changes of the Charter were listed last in the staff report linked below. The order has been changed here. 

  • ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROVERSY: Council would hire top managers, but could not fire them. In Article 3 – Administration – Council directed staff to clarify sections in this article to make clear that the City Council appoints Department Heads, but that they will be directed by and serve at the pleasure of the City Administrator.
  • The Council acted against the recommendation of the City Administrator and decided to retain their long held ability to select and appoint (hire) Department Heads per the current Charter requirement appointments for Department Heads, while letting the City Administrator be the only individual who fire the Department heads.
  •   ISSUE: The Council relinquishment of their ability to also terminate (fire) Department Heads –  the Police Chief, Fire Chief, Finance Director, City Clerk, etc. presents potential new problems for the City Council authority.
  • New positions have been added to the list of permanent City of Piedmont positions.  The number of  Department Head employeeswill be permanently placed in the City Charter potentially making it more difficult to consolidate or eliminate positions. 
  •  ADMINISTRATIVE AND POLITICAL;  NO LIMIT ON AMOUNT OF RESERVE FUNDS. 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.
  • Elimination of the amount of money the City can place in reserve, while continuing to tax property owners has been one of  the more noticed proposed changes to the City Charter.  The original goal of limiting reserves was to control taxation without a purpose. In recent years, the Council and Administration has circumvented the limitation by building up reserves in numerous specials funds presenting a bountiful amount of money stored by the millions for special purposes.   The change appears arbitrary. 
  • ADMINISTRATIVE AND POLITICAL: BIDDING and PURCHASING:  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.
  • Many City service providers are currently not obtained through a formal bidding process. Regardless of cost to the City, old friends, contractors,  and work companions often continue for years without ever going through a formal procurement process.  Some suggest Piedmont has not always performed due diligence with the millions of dollars spent for outside services and have suggested stronger language rather than more relaxed requirements. Piedmont adopted a stronger procurement, liability and project policy led by the League of Women Voters of Piedmont.  There has been no comment on the impact of the proposed Charter change to the policy. 
  •  
  •  The proposed amendments also modernize the prohibition against employment discrimination to include all classes protected under U.S. and state law. (Section 5.02)  This makes Piedmont Charter language compliant with U.S. and state law without impacting Piedmont’s current compliant practices.
  • 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. There is no validation provide for the Board of Education position on the Charter change. 

POLITICAL: LIMITING SERVICE BY FORMER COUNCIL MEMBERS.  The proposal would increase the period of time during which a former Councilmember is ineligible to run for office from 4 to 8 years after leaving office.

 Only two Council members have in the past 3 decades attempted to be re-elected following 4 years of ineligibility.  One former Councilmember was not re-elected, another was elected, but recently resigned over a scandal.  A local newspaper’s publicity for those two candidates influenced the election more than the candidates’ efforts.

POLITICAL: HOW LONG SHOULD THE COUNCIL HAVE TO FILL A COUNCIL VACANCY.   An amendment to the provision for filling of vacancies on the City Council would be extended to allow the Council 60 days rather than just 30 days to fill a vacancy.

 Recent history has proven the Council has been able to readily fill numerous Council vacancies within the allotted 30 day time period. The intention of the Charter was to expeditiously fill a vacancy for a full Council composition of 5 members rather than unnecessarily remain at 4 or fewer members. 

  • CONTROVERSIAL: WHEN TO HOLD COUNCIL MEETINGS 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.

    Change could be arbitrary. 

    Residents often plan their public participation schedules around knowing when the Council will meet  – the first and third Mondays of each month. With recent changes to the Zoning Code, not knowing when the Council will next meet to consider a matter opens up conflicting issues. From high school students to public participants, having regularly scheduled meetings, a standard for most cities,  is beneficial.  If three (the required amount) Council members cannot attend a regularly scheduled  meeting, then the meeting would fall to the next day or week. Going on the City Council is known to require certain meetings per month thus allowing the Council and public set dates for planning purposes. Scheduling of matters can be crucial to the consideration of many issues and the orderly functioning of government.  Reducing the frequency of Council meetings puts them at a disadvantage in providing the leadership the citizenry expects of their elected officials.

Amendments are also proposed to a number of other sections of the Charter to remove stated outdated provisions and modernize language. Click to read a marked up version of the Charter containing each of the proposed Charter amendments.

READ the full STAFF REPORT > HERE.

Citizens are invited and encouraged to comment 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.

May 23 2018

PUBLIC NOTICE –

CITY COUNCIL TO CONSIDER A RESOLUTION DECLARING PIEDMONT A SANCTUARY CITY

At its regular meeting on Monday, June 4, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall, the Piedmont City Council will consider a resolution declaring the City of Piedmont as a sanctuary city and affirming Piedmont’s long-standing practice of providing service regardless of immigration status.

The City Council has taken several actions over the past two years to quell the fear and anxiety felt by the community resulting from possible changes to federal immigration laws and enforcement policies. On November 21, 2016, the City Council and the Piedmont Unified School District Board of Education jointly committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and civil community through City and District policies, programming, and leadership. On March 6, 2017, the City Council affirmed the action of the Alameda County Mayor’s Conference which had passed a resolution 1) Condemning violence and hate speech; 2) Expressing solidarity with all those targeted for their ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, ability, or nationality; and 3) Expressing support of immigrants and refugees. In taking this action, the City Council unanimously stated its support for the recitals and declarations made in that resolution.

SB 54, the California Values Act, which was signed into law by the Governor on October 15, 2017, prohibits law enforcement from acting as agents of federal immigration authorities. Since 2014, the policies and procedures of the Piedmont Police Department have prohibited police officers from contacting, detaining, or arresting someone based solely on the suspicion that an individual is an undocumented immigrant.

The Council is considering this action after receiving requests from residents to do so at several City Council meetings.

The text of the draft resolution is below and also available on the City’s web site at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us

Public comment is invited and encouraged at this meeting. Written comments may be submitted to the Piedmont 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 City Administrator Paul Benoit via email at > pbenoit@piedmont.ca.gov or via phone at (510) 420-3040.

  Posted: May 23, 2018

The Resolution to be considered by the Council:

RESOLUTION _______
A RESOLUTION DECLARING THE CITY OF PIEDMONT AS A SANCTUARY CITY

WHEREAS, the City of Piedmont is a community that celebrates diversity and prides itself on being a place which welcomes persons and families of all backgrounds and nationalities; and

WHEREAS, the City of Piedmont is committed to recognizing the dignity and civil rights of all of its community members, including the right of all community members to live, work, and study in a city that does not subject them to prejudicial treatment or discrimination; and

WHEREAS, members and friends of immigrant communities across the country, including members of our community, may be experiencing fear or anxiety resulting from potential changes to federal immigration laws and enforcement policies; and

WHEREAS, on November 21, 2016, the City Council and the Board of Education jointly committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and civil community through City and District policies, programming, and leadership; and

WHEREAS, on March 6, 2017, the City Council affirmed the action of the Alameda County Mayors’ Conference in passing Resolution 01-17, entitled, “A RESOLUTION OF THE ALAMEDA COUNTY MAYORS’ CONFERENCE CONDEMNING VIOLENCE AND HATE SPEECH, EXPRESSING SOLIDARITY WITH ALL THOSE TARGETED FOR THEIR ETHNICITY, RACE, RELIGION, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER, ABILITY OR NATIONAL ORIGIN AND IN SUPPORT OF IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES” and unanimously stated its support for the recitals and declarations made in the resolution; and

WHEREAS, on October 5, 2017, the Governor signed Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, which prevents state and local law enforcement agencies from acting as agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, instead reaffirming their focus on community policing; and

WHEREAS, since 2014, the Piedmont Police Department’s policies and procedures have prohibited police officers from contacting, detaining, or arresting someone based solely on the suspicion that an individual is an undocumented immigrant; and

WHEREAS, the Piedmont Police Department affirms that the enforcement of immigration violations by local police erodes and damages the public trust that is so vital to maintaining public safety for all; and

WHEREAS, the City Council desires to continue to demonstrate its commitment to all of our community members by declaring that the City of Piedmont is a Sanctuary City;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Piedmont does hereby resolve as follows:

SECTION 1. The City of Piedmont hereby reaffirms its ongoing commitment to protect the rights of all people in our community by declaring that the City of Piedmont is a Sanctuary City.

SECTION 2. City employees will serve all residents, and city services will be accessible to all residents regardless of immigration status.

SECTION 3. The City of Piedmont recommits to pursuit of a policy agenda that affirms civil and human rights, promotes civic engagement, and ensures that those targeted on the basis of race, religion or immigration status can turn to government without fear of recrimination; and we reaffirm the value of a diverse society, the beauty of a community composed of myriad cultures, and the right of every person to live freely and without fear and discrimination in our community.

SECTION 4. City of Piedmont officials, employees and agents shall not inquire into the immigration or citizenship status of an individual, except where the inquiry relates to a legitimate law enforcement purpose that is unrelated to the enforcement of a civil immigration law.

SECTION 5. The City of Piedmont will continue to uphold the prohibitions placed upon it regarding information sharing with federal immigration authorities by SB 54.

SECTION 6. The City of Piedmont strongly condemns any and all statements that promote or provoke hate, xenophobia, intolerance or racism against any person or persons.

SECTION 7. The City of Piedmont understands and accepts its obligation to comply with federal law. Nothing in City of Piedmont policies is intended to violate 8 U.S. C. Section 1373 and 8 U.S. C. Section 1644.

SECTION 8. The City of Piedmont will continue to review its policies to ensure that they reflect Piedmont’s status as a Sanctuary City, as well as compliance with the United States and California Constitutions, and the mandates of federal and state law. Such review may include the possibility of revision to other City policies such that they comply with the spirit and intent of this Resolution.

[END OF RESOLUTION]

May 15 2018

All Piedmont residential electric service accounts are to be enrolled in alternative service plans depending on Council action Monday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m.

The City Council will consider enrolling all residential electric service accounts in Piedmont into either the Brilliant 100 Service Plan or the 100% Renewable Service Plan offered by East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) during its regular meeting on May 21, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue. Doing so will be an important step in achieving the City’s climate action plan goals. Residents are encouraged to attend.

During its May 7th meeting, City Council received an informational report (http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/2018-05-07/EBCEupdate.pdf) delineating the three service plans that (EBCE) is offering to its customers. Formed in 2017, EBCE is the community choice aggregate for participating jurisdictions throughout Alameda County. Electrical customers in these jurisdictions, including Piedmont, will receive cleaner, greener electricity, as well as local control over their energy supply through EBCE. Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) will still deliver the electricity, maintain the lines, and handle billing.

Both the Brilliant 100 and the 100% Renewable Energy service plans are completely carbon-free and will help Piedmont reach a goal in the recently passed Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2.0 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Should, the Council select it, the 100% Renewable Energy service plan would fulfill another goal of the CAP, which calls for 100% renewable energy as the default enrollment service plan for Piedmont residents.

EBCE has asked jurisdictions that wish to opt in their residential accounts to a service plan other than Bright Choice to make this decision by June 6th, 2018. If jurisdictions take no action, all residential electrical accounts will be automatically be enrolled in the Bright Choice service plan (85% carbon- free).

Regardless of the Council’s decision regarding the default, Piedmont residents and businesses will still have the option to enroll in any of the three EBCE service plans or to continue purchasing their electricity from PG&E by making that choice before or any time after the November launch of EBCE’s service.

Residents currently enrolled in PG&E’s assistance programs such as the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE), Medical Baseline, and the Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) program will retain the same discounts when receiving EBCE service. Also, Piedmonters with on-site solar energy systems can be enrolled in any of EBCE’s three service plans starting in 2019. These customers will be enrolled in the month of or the month after they receive their 2019 annual True-Up Statement from PG&E. In regards to residential customers with rooftop solar energy systems, EBCE has indicated that at a minimum it will match the net energy metering offering provided by PG&E.

The agenda report for this item can be read HERE. 

Public testimony is invited and encouraged during the May 21st meeting. Written comments may be submitted in advance of the meeting to the City Clerk’s Office 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, the City’s government TV station, and will be available through streaming video on the City’s web site www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/video.

For more information on EBCE, please visit EBCE’s web site at https://ebce.org/, or contact Annie Henderson, Vice President of Marketing and Account Services for EBCE at ahenderson@ebce.org.