Nov 4 2018

The following Letter to the Editor of The Piedmont Post was sent to the Post, but was not published in the Post.  It is published here for PCA readers.

VOTE NO on CC – Unacceptable City Charter changes.

CC  – the “hire, but can’t fire” proposal –  would unacceptably change Piedmont’s successful government by prohibiting the City Council from acting to retain or terminate their chosen Department Heads – Fire Chief, Police Chief, Finance Director, Recreation Director, etc. 

Piedmonters should not enact this law. It promises problems found in other cities where councils have lost their authority and ability to act.  A new government layer will separate Piedmonters from Council authority. 

Only one person, the unelected City Administrator, would be allowed by Charter to evaluate, direct, retain and terminate Council-hired  key employees -Police, Fire, Finance, Recreation, etc.  

Piedmont’s current Charter works and is coveted by others. 

With 22 years in elected office – Mayor, Council Member, Planning Commissioner, AC Transit President and Director, I have reviewed the Charter proposals and found proposals not in the best interest of keeping Piedmont a great place to live. 

The Charter merits updating, but NOT as proposed by Measure CC.  

Keep Piedmont’s Council strong. Await appropriate Charter change proposals.

VOTE NO on CC at the end of your ballot. 

Alice Creason,

Former: Piedmont Mayor, Council Member, Planning Commissioner, AC Transit President, Director, Piedmont Beautification Foundation Trustee

Oct 31 2018

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

The proponents of BB and CC claim they are merely updates to our “outdated” City Charter and will result in more openness and transparency.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

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

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

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

Measure CC abolishes Council authority to discipline city staff.

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

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

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

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

Melanie Robertson, Former Piedmont Planning Commissioner

Oct 30 2018

Keep the current reporting structure of Piedmont’s City Charter.

Measure CC is a power grab and proponents of CC completely misstate the way City Hall is run as justification.

Measure CC is completely ineffective at telling voters what it will do.

First, as written, Measure CC is completely ineffective at telling voters what it will do. It should have read: “Shall the measure to amend the City Charter to reassign authority to terminate City department heads from City Council to the City Administrator be adopted”. Same word count. Such text would be much more informative to the voters and the fact that Measure CC is drafted so poorly should tell you something.

Measure CC reassigns important oversight authority from Council to the City Administrator with no justification on the record.

Second, from the Mayor in a recent news account: “[The Charter] contains language that suggests that the City Council is responsible for managing and directing the work of City officers. The Piedmont City Attorney strongly recommended that this ambiguity be clarified…” Read that carefully – “suggests” and “ambiguity” – if true then simply clarify the Charter language and keep the current reporting structure in place. Instead Measure CC reassigns important oversight authority from Council to the City Administrator with no justification on the record.

Grab or giveaway, Measure CC is bad for Piedmont and reduces the authority of our elected officials. Coupled with Measure BB (fewer meetings, less voter choice), these measures weaken good governance in Piedmont and should be rejected by the voters.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member 

Oct 28 2018

Why I believe that Measure CC should be rejected by Piedmont voters.

Measure CC has no credible factual support in the public record. It is void of any demonstrable need. It is poorly designed. It is totally without conceivable merit. It turns good governance on its head. If adopted Measure CC would only underscore the present Council’s abdication of its responsibility to the public and waste of public resources in proposing to the voters such a vacuous and worthless proposition.

I was a California public agency lawyer for the 34 years before I retired in 2006. One of my primary responsibilities as a lawyer was providing legal advice and legal services regarding the Oakland City Charter provisions applicable to the independent Oakland Port Department. I was certified by the State Bar to provide legal instruction to members of the State Bar regarding the Oakland City Charter, and Bar members who received my instruction received credit toward their mandatory continuing legal education requirements.

The Oakland City Charter provided that the Board of Port Commissioners was responsible to both hire and fire Port officers and employees. Neither the authority and responsibility of the Port’s Executive Director for the day-to-day performance of all non-Port Attorney staff Port officers and employees, nor the authority and responsibility of the Port Attorney for the day-to-day performance of all Port Attorney staff, ran into any conflict with the Board’s exclusive power to hire and fire all Port officers and employees.

Practically, the Board acted on recommendations of the Executive Director or Port Attorney regarding proposed hiring and firing, but importantly the necessity that the Executive Director and Port Attorney justify to the Board in advance of proposed and recommended hiring and firing avoided serious disruptions, damage and liabilities that a runaway Executive Director or Port Attorney could cause.

The hiring and firing authority for top City officers should be unitary so that the authority to hire and authority to fire rest in the same hands, and that authority rightly belongs to the legislative body, not one of its appointed officers. No better day-to-day measure that combined hiring and firing authority will timely inform a City Council of the health and status of the public agency than its receiving advance notice of proposed and recommended hiring and firing of the public personnel responsible for carrying out the very public functions for which the Council or board is primarily responsible.

In Measure CC, the present Council for no good public reason effectively proposes to grant a veto power to the City Administrator over the Council’s hiring decisions. The Measure CC proposal by the present Council and each of its Councilmembers is a disgraceful failure to carry out their public obligations. The lack of any credible rationale for the proposed Measure CC suggests, at best, unanimous Councilmember thoughtlessness and laziness.

Thomas D. Clark, Piedmont Resident

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Oct 25 2018

Proponents of Measure CC overstate the ambiguity of the City Charter.

First, the Charter defines two job categories: officers (department heads) and employees (everyone else). The current Charter is clear that Council hires/fires and provides direction to officers. The Charter does not say that Council will “manage” departments.

For the City Administrator, the Charter states:

“The City Administrator shall be the chief administrative officer of the city and shall be responsible to the City Council for the administration of all City affairs placed in his/her charge by or under this Charter.

The administrator shall have the following powers and duties:
(1) Shall appoint, discipline, and, when deemed necessary for the good of the City, suspend or remove City employees except as otherwise provided by law, this Charter or personnel rules adopted pursuant to this Charter.
(2) Shall supervise the administration of all departments, offices and agencies of the City, except as otherwise provided by this Charter or by law and except further that the internal administration of each department shall remain with each department head.”

Two points. Google “chief administrative officer” – by definition it says this position does not have the authority to dismiss department heads. All other authority is clearly defined in the Charter – the City Administrator supervises all departments and can fire employees while department heads administer their departments.

So drafters of the Charter crafted a very specific management structure for the city, yet proponents claim this is not how City Hall is run. If so, is the question really that of an ambiguous Charter or City Council and City Administrator who aren’t following the Charter?

Department heads have been disciplined by Council and Council implemented a performance appraisal program to evaluate department heads. Specific examples of problems with the management structure would help voters understand why they need change it.

And judging by the satisfaction most Piedmonters state with city services, they don’t want a change.

Vote NO on CC.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member

Oct 17 2018

Who are the Politicians in Piedmont?

BB seeks to prevent the “recycling” of politicians which leads to the question – who are these politicians in Piedmont? Measure BB defines politicians as termed-out councilmembers running for office again 4 years after stepping down. By that definition there are only two at the moment in Piedmont – myself and John Chiang, both termed-out from Council in 2014. Over the past 50 years in Piedmont, only one termed-out councilman has run again after 4 years and he lost. So BB is a red herring – termed-out councilmembers rarely if ever run again in Piedmont.

A look at candidates over the past 20 years in Piedmont (see table) shows that incumbency and campaign contributions are likely the biggest impediment to first-time candidates. Two trends are evident – candidates with established volunteer records win and first-time candidates with no or nominal volunteer experience have to raise from $12,000 – $20,000 to run and in some cases, that was not enough to win. First-time candidates face the greatest hurdles from sitting councilmembers, not termed-out councilmembers. Limiting that incumbency and campaign spending would be the best way to encourage first-time candidates but BB does neither.

Election

Candidate

Campaign Contributions

Election

Candidate

Campaign Contributions

Election

Candidate

Campaign Contributions

2000

Matzger

4589

2006

Allen

2349

2012

Fujioka

22,336

Labadie

4838

Chiang

10,333

McBain

10,773

Friedman

9000

Rood

18,553

Keating

2959

Bostrom

ND

2002

Friedman

12335

2008

Fujioka

19,334

2014

King

11,741

Wieler

9461

Gilbert

28,275

Rood

4872

Bruck

1701

Barbieri

13,957

Wieler

950

Rapson

4134

2010

Wieler

7065

2016

McBain

8651

Chiang

8415

Cavenaugh

16,115

2004

Barbieri

ND

Keating

3154

Levine

6256

Watters

8608

Bostrom

ND

If there are politicians in Piedmont, they are not returning to run again so BB is unnecessary. In fact, one could say that wanting to serve again is the sign of a volunteer – most politicians move on. Another sign of politicians is that they show their true colors once elected – why weaken voter choice by limiting who can run against such candidates?

BB is not needed and in fact will strengthen incumbency, making it harder for first-time candidates. BB does not “modernize” Piedmont’s charter – only one other city in California was found to have this 8-year rule.

Vote in favor of Piedmont volunteers and vote NO on BB.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member

Oct 17 2018

The ongoing School Board election campaign has resulted in misrepresentations about the District’s sale of Capital Appreciation Bonds during the seismic bond program, and the refinancing of those bonds.

I served on the School Board during the seismic program, but anyone can review the meeting agendas and materials to understand the facts. A good place to start is the 2014 Seismic Safety Bond Program Financial Summary, http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/bond/SSBP_Finance_Summary.pdf. Below are some relevant facts:

First, the District and the School Board clearly understood the difference between Current Interest Bonds (CIBs) and Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs), as well as Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs) and Bond Anticipation Notes (BANs). These financing mechanisms, their pros and cons, were discussed in public meetings back to 2006. Very roughly speaking, CIBs reduce total interest payments by levying taxes at a higher rate to pay down the debt starting immediately, while CABs reduce the immediate tax rate at the cost of greater total interest payments by deferring repayment of the debt. Board carefully considered which options were feasible and prudent under the circumstances, and made financing decisions following public discussion.

Second, the Board authorized the sale of CABs (Series E) to allow seismic renovation work at Wildwood and Beach Schools to proceed, rather than defer such work for years until older bonds were paid off, which would have left our children in seismically unsound buildings, increased construction costs, and lost access to the “replacement school” in Emeryville. (If you want more detail, the CABs were sold to repay the BANs that were sold to allow the District to obtain QSCBs—see SSBP Financial Summary. QSCBs were near-zero interest bonds that must be repaid in 15 years and saved the District about $40 million, http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/aboutpusd/agenda.minutes/QSCB_012511_presentation.pdf ). Pursuant to statute, anticipated tax rates to repay bonds issued under Measure E were limited to $60 per $100,000 in assessed value. The District could not have sold CIBs to fund this work as the tax rate to repay the bonds would have exceeded the limit. Selling CABs deferred the repayment, and the taxes to make repayment, until other bonds were paid down and thus complied with the limit. See, e.g.,

http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/aboutpusd/agenda.minutes/2011_12/050813packet.pdf at pp 2-3.

I do not recall anyone, including current School Board candidates, appearing before the School Board at the time to argue that Wildwood and Beach work should be deferred for years to reduce total interest payments. Wildwood and Beach parents vocally supported proceeding with the work.

Third, refinancing bonds to save money is not a new concept. Even before the CABs were sold, the Board and District anticipated re-financing them as soon as it was possible to do so (call dates were set as soon as feasible given market requirements). See May 8, 2013 Minutes at 3-4, http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/aboutpusd/agenda.minutes/2011_12/050813minutes.pdf. The District and Board had a history of refinancing older bonds when interest rates come down, and had done so in 2009 and 2014. See http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/aboutpusd/agenda.minutes/2014_15/10-22-14_Packet.pdf. The Board refinanced Series B CABs in 2015. http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/aboutpusd/agenda.minutes/2-11-15_Agenda.pdf.

In Fall 2017, the Board and District identified options for refunding the 2013 Series E CABs and held two public meetings to obtain input.

http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/2017-CAB-Refunding-Options-Summary.pdf

http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Background-Refunding-of-Outstanding-CABs-or-NOT.pdf

http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/blog/2017/12/15/district-saves-taxpayers-more-than-26-1-million-with-bond-refinancing/

The Board elected to refinance the 2013 CABs with CIBs, saving Piedmont taxpayers $26.1 million.

http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/blog/2017/12/15/district-saves-taxpayers-more-than-26-1-million- with-bond-refinancing/. According to Minutes of the Nov. 8, 2017 meeting, however, “Hari Titan encouraged the Board to wait for at least a year on CAB refinancing.” https://agendaonline.net/public/Meeting.aspx?AgencyID=1241&MeetingID=12755&AgencyTypeID=1&I sArchived=True. Fortunately, the Board correctly chose to proceed with the refinancing in December 2017 as interest rates have continued to climb.

Fourth, the School Board, well aware that CABs keep current tax rates lower only by increasing total interest payments, has chosen CIBs over CABs when available. In 2014, when proposing a bond measure to fix Alan Harvey Theater, the Board ruled out using CABs as the feasible tax rate supported the CIB option. No one on the Board was advocating CABs. See January 8, 2014 Minutes at 7-9, http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/aboutpusd/agenda.minutes/2012_13/1-8-14_approved_minutes.pdf.

In short, claims about misuse of CABs in the past do not reflect the facts. This School Board election should focus on solving real challenges to maintaining Piedmont’s high quality educational system.

Rick Raushenbush, Former Piedmont School Board Member

Oct 9 2018

The League of Women Voters of Piedmont is hosting an election forum in advance of the November 6, 2018 General Election.

The Forum will feature candidates for City Council and School Board, as well as speakers for and against changing the Piedmont City Charter – ballot measures BB & CC. 

Piedmont Election Forum

Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018 

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Piedmont City Council Chambers

There are four candidates for City Council and four candidates for School Board who will present their positions and take questions from the audience.

Names are listed below in the order found on the ballot. 

Candidates for City Council are:

Tim Rood    Incumbent

Betsy Smegal Andersen    Appointed Council member

Teddy Gray King    Incumbent

Sunny Bostrom-Flemming

Candidates for Board of Education are: 

Julie Caskey 

Megan Pillsbury

Hari Titian

Amal Smith    Incumbent

Measures BB and CC

Presentations will be made for and against Measures BB and CC, the proposed City Charter changes, followed by questions from the audience.

Home viewers can tune in live to the Forum on Piedmont Cable Channel #27 or by going to the City of Piedmont website under videos.  The Forum will be available after October 11 on the City website under videos:  League of Women Voters, October 11 Forum. 

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