Mar 15 2019

Dear Editor,

Since changing to Daylight Saving Time (DSL) last Sunday, media opinionators are talking about making it year-round.  Permanent DSL is a terrible, dangerous idea.  Setting the clocks ahead one hour moves an hour of morning light to the end of the day.  That’s great between March 21 and September 21, when there is more daylight than night.  But for the winter-half of the year, we need more light in the morning when kids are going to school.

Our children go to school at about the same time that commuters are starting their treks to work.  Darkness and early morning sun in commuters’ eyes create dangerous hazards.  Later in the day, schools end before most commuters return home, so evening darkness is not as dangerous.

As it is, Daylight Saving Time ends in November, nearly two months past the September 21 Equinox.  Shortening, not lengthening, the DST period would make mornings safer for our children and grandchildren.

Yours truly,

Bruce Joffe, Piedmont Resident

Mar 8 2019

LWVP Biannual Fundraiser 2019

Carla Marinucci

Renowned political journalist Carla Marinucci will speak about the current political environment at a fundraiser for the Piedmont League of Women Voters. 

Carla Marinucci, one of the most notable political journalists in California, is currently POLITICO’s California Playbook reporter. Prior to joining POLITICO last year, Marinucci was senior political writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, and before that for the San Francisco Examiner. She has covered presidential elections since 1996, and six California gubernatorial elections, as well as the administrations of four California governors. In 2013, she was honored by the Society of Professional Journalists with a lifetime achievement award for her coverage of California politics.

  • Date: Sunday, March 24, 2019
  • Time: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. (Refreshments 3:30 to 4:00 p.m.)
  • Location: Piedmont Veterans’ Memorial Building, 401 Highland Ave, Piedmont  94611   See map: Google Maps
  • Tickets: $25 in advance; $30 at the door ($10 student tickets available at the door)
 Purchase your tickets via PayPal with the button below. (You do not need a PayPal account.)

Prefer to mail a payment? Make your check payable to LWVP and mail to Ward Lindenmayer, 40 Highland Avenue, Piedmont, CA  94611. Please note how many tickets you are purchasing.

Editors’ Note: The Piedmont Civic Association is a separate organization.
Mar 6 2019

In 2013, our current flat rate per parcel School Tax was passed by voters to replace the previous Tax based on a five tier parcel size levy, a modestly progressive tax. Our School Board expressed sincere regret at eliminating the progressive tax but believed it had no choice other than to tax all parcels regardless of size at the same rate because of the 2012 Boricas v Alameda USD Appeal’s Court decision.

Of the 3,921 School tax parcels in Piedmont, 76% of Piedmont homes are on parcels under 10,000 square feet (“sf”). These taxpayers previous $1,989 and $2,260 tax became $2,406 in 2013, a 6% to 21% increase.  Owners of undeveloped parcels went from $1,009 to $2,406, a 238% increase. However, a small percentage of taxpayers benefited as owners of large parcels, commercial buildings and multi-unit buildings saw reductions of 7% to 80%. Some large commercial buildings previously taxed at $5,052 went to $2,406, a 52% decrease. 20,000 sf lots went from $3,378 to $2,406, a 29% decrease. A multi-unit building went from $11,907 to $2,406, an 80% decrease.

A progressive tax based on per square footage of building space is used in Alameda and other districts. The current Alameda tax passed by 74% in 2016 was challenged in 2017 on the validity of levying a tax on building square footage. Mar 4, 2018, the Alameda Schools per square footage of building tax was found legally valid in Alameda County Superior Court. Jan 31, 2019, a California appellate court validated a local agency’s special tax calculated on the basis of square footage of improved structures (Dondlinger v. Los Angeles County Regional).

Piedmont Schools previously embraced a partially progressive tax and now has an excellent progressive tax option that is far more equitable by using building per square footage. I propose the following progressive tax:

(1) Tax will be at $1 to $1.05 per square foot of building size. The District will determine the exact rate needed to provide funding at slightly above the current level.

(2) $4,999 will be the maximum tax for any building.

(3) Currently some multi-parcel estates are subject to multiple taxes and some are subject to one tax (GC 53087.4). So that all multi-parcel estates are treated uniformly and given that many multi-parcel estates have large homes that will be assessed at the maximum tax, a contiguous parcel exemption will be included. No property owner for a single home will pay more than $4,999.

(4) $1,099 will be the rate for unimproved lots.

(5) A 2% annual cost adjustment will be included.

(6) The tax may include an income based senior exemption at a rate to be determined so as not to cost the District more than 2% of the what the total tax revenue would be without this exemption.

(7) Compassionate SSI and SSDI exemptions will be included. These are not aged based.

        Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Dec 9 2018

City of Piedmont

Special City Council Meeting

The City Council will find and declare that the whole number of ballots cast and numbers of votes received are as set forth in the attached canvass, that Betsy Smegal Andersen, Teddy Gray King, and Tim Rood have been elected to the Piedmont City Council and that Megan Pillsbury and Amal Smith have been elected to the Board of Education; the City Council will find and declare that the whole number of ballots cast and numbers of votes received are as set forth in the attached canvass and that Charter Amendment Measure BB and Charter Amendment Measure CC have received the required number of votes and have been adopted by the voters of Piedmont. (See election results attachment below.)

 Tuesday, December 11, 2018 6:30 p.m.

Community Hall, 711 Highland Avenue

The meeting and election celebration is open to the public. 

Agenda:

Call to Order    Pledge of Allegiance 

1. Certification of Election Results for the General Municipal Election of November 6, 2018 

2. Swearing In of New Councilmembers

3. Election of Mayor (Conducted by Vice Mayor)

4. Election of Vice Mayor (Conducted by New Mayor)

5. Comments by New Councilmembers

6. Comments by New Mayor

Link to November 6, 2018 election results is below:

http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/2018-12-11/electioncertification.pdf

Nov 27 2018

Piedmont Board of Education Meeting on November 14th, 2018

I attended the Piedmont Unified School District Board of Education Meeting on Wednesday, November 14th. These meetings take place twice a month, usually at 7:00 P.M. at the Council Chambers in the City Hall. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss various topics and issues affecting the school district and community, and if relevant, vote upon various items noticed for that meeting. The public is allowed to attend the hearing, and are permitted to speak out for a limited period of time during the meeting on any relevant issue they see fit to raise. The School Board members are then required to listen to the public’s comments and can take them into consideration.

There was a pre-arranged agenda that was followed for the meeting which outlined the main topics and announcements of interest that were to be covered. There was also a regular agenda item concerning the Consent Calendar, set for the very end of the meeting. The Consent Calendar covered various non-disputed administrative items that required approval from the School Board, such as approving donations benefiting the school district from various organizations throughout Piedmont and ratification of various contracts. The Board unanimously approved the Consent Calendar.

The main issue on the agenda that was discussed at the meeting was the possibility of a School Resources Officer (SRO) being implemented for Piedmont schools. PUSD Superintendent Randall Booker talked about how he and the Chief of the Piedmont Police, Jeremy Bowers, have been considering a position for a SRO since last year after observing “recent events around the world”, especially regarding the safety of schools. It was mentioned that many other school districts around the Bay Area already have a SRO and that this position will help implement the “Safe School Plan.”

Chief Bowers was also in attendance and went up to the podium to further elaborate on what this position entails. He explained that a SRO is a police officer who becomes a part of the community/schools for a positive impact and would play the four main roles of a counselor, teacher, social worker, and law enforcement professional. As a counselor, this position would serve as a resource to support students/staff. As a teacher, this person would do things such as give classroom presentations or educate students on the duties of the police. As a social worker, they would be involved in helping resolve conflicts/issues involving the school community. Furthermore, Bowers said the ultimate goal of this position would be to strengthen the relations between police and students/families, along with improving the overall safety of our schools. However, Bowers added that implementing this position will all depend on funding from a grant that has been requested since the school does not currently have sufficient funds to make this happen.

Discussion regarding the issue of a SRO then followed when Board member Cory Smegal expressed concern over running out of funds from the grant that would be needed since the School District is on a very tight budget. She also added that although she felt this was a good idea, maybe just having the district increase counseling services would be a more cost-effective solution. Smegal also said she is nervous about the idea of the officer carrying a gun on campus and then proceeded to raise questions about whether teachers have the time in their agenda to have an officer educate in the classroom.

Another Board member, Amal Smith, raised concerns over this only being a short-term program and raised questions about what will happen afterwards since this program will only last for about three years.

A Piedmont resident named Richard Turner spoke up by suggesting that we should not have preconceived notions about this officer and that “hard, tangible metrics” must be put into place to evaluate if the goals of the SRO are being achieved. He also proposed the question of whether or not the funds from the grants needed are restricted solely for this program or if they could also be put to use elsewhere.

On the issue of what the extent of the SRO’s duty of a law enforcement official should be, Board member Doug Ireland stated that he felt it was appropriate that arrests may have to be made if students are caught with possession of drugs/alcohol on campus. He added that “you should always be careful what you wish for” and that extra precautions should be taken before introducing a SRO.

On the same debate of law enforcement duties, another member of the public stated that they wanted to see more consequences for students if they are caught performing illegal activities, and that the school has a history of taking a “blind-eye” on problems such as these in the past and are not doing everything in their power to stop this. Additionally, they said that a figure of authority serves as a powerful position and public schools are at a disadvantage to private schools because private schools have more funding for safety measures such as this.

In response to the guest speaker’s prior comment about how the School District is not doing enough to address concerns of illegal activities, staff member Cheryl Wozniak described how the school is in fact aware of these issues and spoke out about the anonymous reporting system for students that was put into place a few years ago. She explained that this system works by forwarding complaints to the administration and confirmed that it is being put to use by students/teachers in the District.

Then, Piedmont High School student Betty Hosler spoke out in front of the Board by expressing concerns that students may be overwhelmed by having an officer present on the campus and that many will view this as a negative development in that the school is out to get them in trouble instead of help them. She continued by saying that in order for this program to work well, the school must make their intentions very clear to their students since their ultimate motive can easily be misinterpreted.

In my opinion, the implementation of a SRO will be a benefit to us students and help create a safer environment on campus, especially when taking into consideration the real threat of physical violence, drug use, and vaping — all of which are major challenges that today’s schools face.

Although it is clear some students/families will be strongly opposed to this idea, especially given that the officer may be armed, I strongly feel that the advantages outweigh any real disadvantages. Threats of violence and substance abuse are difficult challenges for our schools, which also happen to be important law enforcement issues. Therefore, our police officers should be part of the solution because they are trained to respond appropriately under these situations.

The second main topic that was discussed concerned the Review Process of the Reorganization of the Board. The Board members brought up that Reorganization of the Board takes place every December Board meeting (December 12th this year) and that each elected official serves from when they are elected until the following December.

It was also noted that they fill officer positions on the Board through mutual agreement, but they cannot do so until Alameda County finishes counting all of the votes regarding the election of School Board members.

After the meeting concluded at 8:45 p.m., the first person I decided to interview was Megan Pillsbury. After I asked what brought her to the meeting, she told me that she came to observe the general process of how these meetings work due to recently being elected to the Board and will serve on it for the next term and wants to continue to attend every meeting she can. I then asked her if there was any issue in particular that was of great interest/concern to her and she told me it would be the proposed SRO position. She explained she still has many unanswered questions about having an officer with a gun around students.

The second person I interviewed was Sarah Pearson, who was there because she is the President of the Board. Likewise, she told me she is interested in learning more about the SRO, but is slightly hesitant about the budget issue and is always extra cautious when trying new things. Moreover, she found PHS student Betty Hosler’s comments about how students may perceive the officer insightful and has been reading up on as many studies as possible that deal with what types of interventions from schools have been most valuable to students. She also looks forward to reaching out to other schools and their students to hear about their opinions on their own officer in the future.

By Wilson Van Gundy, Piedmont High School Senior

Nov 21 2018

The race narrowed to under 50 votes between School Board candidates Amal Smith and Julie Caskey.

As of this publication, none of the previously announced results changed; only the number of votes changed. 

Apparently, the many ballots sent by mail or placed in the community ballot boxes were not counted on election night, hence the reporting delays in Alameda County.

On November 17, 2018, the Alameda County Registrar of Voter posted the following results.  Candidates elected and measures approved are noted with an *.

Members of the Piedmont Unified School Board:

*Megan Pillsbury      3389      31.71 %

*Amal Smith               2833       26.51%

  Julie Caskey               2785      26.06%

  Hari Titan                    1669      15.62 %

 Write-in                             12        0.11%

Members, City Council – Piedmont 

* Betsy Smegal Andersen     4796     34.38%

* Teddy Gray King                   4377      31.38%

* Tim Rood                                 4255     30.50%

   Sunny Bostrom-fleming       451        3.23%

   Write-in                                        70        0.50%

Measure BB: Reduced requirements for contract bidding and Council meetings, increased years to prevent former council members seeking re-election from 4 to 8 years.

* Yes         3923        65.07%

    No          2106        34.93%

Measure CC: Requires top officers of the City to serve at the pleasure of the City Administrator rather than the City Council.

* Yes           3887       66.54%

   No             1955       33.46%

For any further, yet unlikely, updated results, click below:

https://www.acgov.org/rovresults/236/index.htm

Nov 16 2018

Correction Provided by Piedmont School Board Member

The Piedmont Post November 14 cover story on campaign finances reported that my campaign “self- funded roughly $6,500”. That is incorrect and would be a surprise to my campaign’s fundraising volunteers and to the dozens of campaign donors.

I did start my campaign with $2,200 from my 2014 campaign. During this 2018 campaign, my campaign raised $5,000, six donations of $100 or more and the remaining donations of $99 or less. One of those $99 donations was from my husband in support of the campaign. I did not self-fund.

Total spending on the campaign was just shy of $6,700. Because I did not need the funds, I declined the CTA donation. When I close the campaign account, the remaining funds will be donated to the Piedmont Education Foundation endowment fund.

Respectfully,

Amal Smith

Re-elected Piedmont School Board Member 

Nov 6 2018

UPDATED: The following are results from Piedmont voters as of 5:04 p.m. on November 9, 2018.  Those elected and measures approved are noted with an *.

School Board:

* Megan Pillsbury    2662    32.19%

* Amal Smith      2243    27.13%

   Julie Caskey     2091    25.29%

   Hari Titan      1265   15.30%

   Write-in       8    0.10%

City Council:

*Betsy Smegal Andersen   3714   34.55%

*Teddy Gray King     3367    31.32%

*Tim Rood     3276    30.47%

  Sunny Bostrom-fleming    348    3.24%

  Write-in    45     0.42%

Measure BB

*Yes     3049     65.21%

   No      1627     34.79%

Measure CC

*Yes     3013    66.62 %

   No      1510    33.38 %

Final results are pending until completion of all ballots counts and the election results have been certified. The results should be considered firm.

Readers can view any updated Piedmont results at:

https://www.acgov.org/rovresults/236/index.htm

Nov 5 2018

Win or lose on November 6, I want to say thank you.

First, thank you to everyone who supported me in this school board campaign. My biggest thanks to my couldn’t-have-done-it-without-him, uber-campaign-volunteer husband, Rick Smith, who brought his own expertise to the campaign, took on all tasks with good humor, and has been fully and selflessly supportive throughout my time in public service. Deep appreciation to Mary Ireland who, amidst all the work she is involved in, found time to develop and manage my website and design some of my materials.

I am grateful to my campaign committee who signed up early and provided insight, support, and wise counsel: honorary co-chairs Doug Ireland, Valerie Matzger, and Sue Smegal; and committee members Conna McCarthy, Cathie Geddeis, Hilary Cooper, Charlotte Ero, Anne-Marie Lamarche, June Monach, and Rich Raushenbush. And I am honored by the Piedmonters who publicly endorsed my campaign, sent in contributions, agreed to lawn signs, hosted events, voted for me, and were gracious and generous with their encouragement.

Thank you to my fellow candidates. Campaigning with you made me reflect more fully on what I want to accomplish, hone my message, and up my game. It is so important for our democratic process to have choices for open seats and our community is well served by your participation.

It is a privilege to serve this community and to work alongside smart, dedicated, savvy, direct, thoughtful people, from co-school board members, to district leaders/teachers/staff, parents and students, and
civic volunteers. It is my experience that we all work with integrity and honor, keeping our commitment to our true north principles of “kids first” and “all means all.”

I am honored to have served this community for 18 years and, if things go the way I hope, will be honored to serve another four. And if they don’t, then I wish the new board members all the best, knowing they will bring their best selves, as well as their unique perspectives and expertise to this board and this incredible community.

Respectfully,
Amal Smith, Candidate for Re-election, Piedmont School Board

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