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 5 2018

Superintendent Booker Responds to concerns about construction costs of the new high school STEAM BUILDING. The following are excerpts from Superintendent Booker’s letter.  The full letter is linked at the end of this article.

“June 3, 2018

“On May 31, Piedmont resident William Blackwell published a letter describing plans for construction of a new high school STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) building and theater building as “A Costly Mistake.” The District shares his interest in maximizing value and avoiding waste, and has exhaustively reviewed his and many other concepts for modernizing antiquated facilities and adding much-needed science, technology and engineering labs. Mr. Blackwell’s concept is based on inaccurate information and is simply not feasible under rules and restrictions as determined by the Office of Public School Construction and the Division of the State Architect. Additionally, over the past two years, District staff and Board members have met with Mr. Blackwell on multiple occasions to hear his concerns and provide him with accurate information.”

Program Milestones

“The District is on schedule for accomplishing the most pressing goals of the Measure H1 facilities program. This year, the District finalized plans for the new STEAM and theater buildings. The District will submit these plans for State review this summer, and State approval is expected in the Spring of 2019. The District expects to begin construction of the STEAM building in the Summer of 2019, and complete and occupy the building in August 2020. The District expects to begin construction of the new theater in the Summer of 2020, and complete and occupy the building in 2021.

Also this year, the District:

• Completed plans to make a range of safety and security improvements at PMS this summer, including installation of new doors, hardware, and electronic locks.

• Completed plans to add ventilation and climate control equipment at the elementary schools and the PHS 30s building this summer, to prevent classroom overheating and improve the learning environment.

• Finalized plans for the improvement of underground drainage and replacement of the turf and track at Witter Field. The District expects to begin construction of these improvements in the Spring of 2019, and complete this work in the Fall of 2019.

• Completed plans to replace antiquated light fixtures at Witter Field with new LED fixtures this summer. The new fixtures will improve overall field lighting and player safety and promote energy efficiency in accordance with District and community goals.”

More information about the Measure H1 facilities program can be seen at measureh1.org As always, I welcome questions and comments at any time at rbooker@piedmont.k12.ca.us 

Randall Booker, Superintendent Piedmont Unified School District

READ THE FULL RESPONSE BY THE SUPERINTENDENT BY CLICKING BELOW:

Letter re-H1 Bond 6-3-18

Feb 18 2018

The regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Recreation Commission has been cancelled for the month of February.  The next meeting of the Recreation Commission will be on Wednesday, March 21 at 7:30 pm.

Feb 4 2018

Big changes have been suggested for how Piedmont is administered. 

City Administrator form of government is evolving toward City Manager form of government, further limits on Council terms, increase in tax funds held in reserve, reduced meeting requirements, etc.

On the Monday, February 5, 2018 Council agenda is an item that potentially starts a change to long held principles within the Piedmont City Charter. The City Charter is in the domain of the voters of Piedmont, who must approve any changes to the City Charter..

When the Charter was updated and revised approximately 35 years ago, a citizen Charter Review Committee appointed by the City Council was established to develop recommendations for City Council consideration.  After review of the recommendations, the City Council placed the recommended revised Charter on a Piedmont ballot, and it was readily approved by Piedmont voters.

The Piedmont City Charter specifies expenditures, revenues, budgeting, decisions to be made by the Council, decisions to be made by voters, personnel roles, zoning, loan mechanisms, etc.

City staff actions are subject to Council direction and Council action in many instances is subject to citizen approval of major issues such as zoning, taxation, borrowing, and reserve fund limits.  Some staff members over the years have resisted  the requirement of gaining Council approval in a public forum before taking action on policy matters.  The result has led to some policy actions taken without Council authorization.

The City Council has exceeded its authority in some instances, supporting a reinterpretation of the City Charter diminishing voter controls.

Recent issues questionable under the City Charter reinterpretation have been:

  • Election process for selecting a mayor following a resignation
  • Loans taken out without voter approval
  • Refusal to allow a citizen vote prior to making zone use changes

City Administrator form of government evolving toward City Manager form of government –

Piedmont has for generations benefited from its City Administrator form of government, giving citizens and their elected representatives the primary authority and responsibility over numerous governmental actions.  The proposed Charter changes in a number of instances would alter this authority.

Unlike the proposed changes, the City Council, rather than the City Administrator, currently has the responsibility to appoint the top administrators of the City.  Some of these positions include:

  •  Police Chief
  •  Fire Chief
  •  Public Works Director
  •  City Clerk
  •  City Engineer
  •  Finance Director

The process for changing the Piedmont City Charter, foundation of Piedmont governance, will receive consideration by the City Council on Monday, February 5, 2018, on how to proceed with review and any updating of the Charter.

Residents interested in following this issue can attend the meeting, observe the Council live on Cable Channel 27 or from the City website under videos. This item is last on the agenda.

Read the staff report regarding Charter changes HERE.

Read the agenda HERE.

Jan 30 2018

The Crown Castle Corporation filed a complaint in Federal Court against Piedmont prior to completion of the cell tower permit consideration process.  Crown Castle blames the City for its failure to offer complete applications and is suing to overturn the five denials and the conditional approvals on three cell towers. Crown Castle Corporation, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, is “the nation’s largest provider of wireless infrastructure.”

Many Piedmont residents have been outraged at the Council decision to allow conditional approval of the sites.  Opposition has been primarily based on health concerns, unsubstantiated need and aesthetic problems.  

Read a report of the matter below:

http://scientists4wiredtech.com/2017/12/crown-castle-sues-piedmont/

Dec 18 2017

Newspaper had already received pre-approval from City Administrator for a sublease of the public property at 801 Magnolia that houses the Piedmont Center for the Arts.

At the December 18, 2017  Council meeting starting at approximately 10:00 p.m., the Piedmont Center for the Arts was given approval of a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) allowing space to be sublet to one local news organization, The Piedmont Post. The Council approval was on a narrow vote of 3 for and 2 against.

Voting for the motion to approve were Mayor Robert McBain, who praised the newspaper, Vice Mayor Teddy King, who was eager for  approval, and Council Member Betsy Andersen, the newly appointed member of the Council, who inquired about the hours of operation.

Voting “no” on the motion to approve the CUP were Council Member Tim Rood, who had noted his disapproval of the Post and Jen Cavenaugh, who had many lingering unanswered questions regarding the lease and potential of gifting valuable city resources to a business.

Unbeknownst to the public, and evidently, the Council,  City Administrator Paul Benoit had already given permission to the Arts Center to sublet their space to the Post if approval of a Conditional Use Permit was granted by the Council.  Benoit stepped into the Council discussion supporting the Post’s usage of the building.

Numerous questions went unanswered: basis of the lease to the Arts Center’s ability to sublet or use the City’s property at 801 Magnolia for profit businesses, while denying non-profit usage, ability of City Administrator to grant permission to sublet the property without public involvement, hours of operation, unknown sublease conditions, amongst other matters.

The City Code and lease were recently changed by the Council to allow businesses in the Arts Center building.

Dec 13 2017

Code Violation Fees:

On December 4th, 2017, I attended a City Council meeting at the City Hall in Piedmont.  The meetings begin at 7:30 p.m. and conclude when all topics on the agenda have been covered. However, I only was able to attend the meeting from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

During the hours I attended, the meeting centered around discussion on the renewal of a sanitation and waste contract. Before that, the Mayor declared December 4th to be Piedmont High School Cross Country Appreciation Day.

The Council briefly went over plans to increase fines for violations in relation to disturbance of peace in Piedmont. The primary topic the Council spoke on that I witnessed was the sanitation and waste contract renewal, and this took up the bulk of the time.

On the topic of the Sanitation and Waste Contract Renewal, the council members inquired about the reasoning behind the fee increase – originally a 50% increase, but was reduced to 30% in an attempt to meet in the middle on negotiation.

The reason given for the fee increase to begin with was stated as having stemmed from a disproportionate amount of citizens in Piedmont that request backyard trash pickup services rather than curbside trash pickup services. Backyard service requires additional labor and costs – primarily due to increased likelihood of injury resulting from needing to transport the garbage receptacles from backyards. This, along with the general geographic terrain pattern in Piedmont – it being generally hilly – further increases the likelihood of injuries being sustained to workers and thus, in-turn, overall overhead costs to the sanitation department.

The council members were all in favor of reducing the proposed new rate increase, which was ultimately how the 30% rate was settled at the time that I’d needed to leave. No members from the public were able to speak during the extensive staff presentation, so the sentiment held by the members of the public that were present was unknown, though it seemed as though the Mayor as well as the Council were of the belief that they were generally representing the public’s opinion accurately in supporting the need for a renewal on this sanitation contract.

Aside from discussion on renewal of the sanitation contract, very brief discussion was held on the proposed fine increases for violations regarding disturbance of the peace. The majority of the members of the Council were in favor of the increase, with the bulk of any actual discussion being held more on the logistics of how the fines would be judiciously carried out. Council members wanted to ensure that members of the public were in fact given a warning before being issued the increased fine, thus ensuring that the members of the public who continue to violate the policy had received ample notice warning them of their inappropriate behavior, before being subsequently required to pay an increased fine. No Council members in opposition to this (voted Nay) nor did they voice their opinion vocally.

INTERVIEW

While I was at the Piedmont City Council meeting, I interviewed a local resident by the name of Ray Cornejo, who mentioned he wanted to be there to understand what issues were facing the City of Piedmont, as well as what is being done to rectify them. He stated that he learned a bit about the negotiation process between a city and a company on what is really something of a necessity for it – sanitation.

His reaction to the meeting was overall positive, as he was  able to witness the City of Piedmont hold a thoughtful, and productive discussion on various topics that do and would in-fact affect the residents of Piedmont. The Council’s consideration of the elderly citizens was appreciable, and  the Council fought to represent them by trying to come up with ways to avoid additional financial stress on these members simply because of their physical situation. This was further appreciated and respected. The next step that Ray is taking to continue to have his concerns addressed, is to continue his participation and attendance at future City Council meetings.

My personal opinion on increasing the fines for disturbing the peace is that it is appropriate to have the fine in general, and that preceding the fine with a warning seems appropriate as well. I believe that people in general know that they are doing something wrong – such as disturbing the peace – so the very fact that they continue to do so, in my opinion, justifies a punishment. The increased revenue generated from the punishments could potentially be used to fund local projects.

by Teddy McKenna, Piedmont High School Senior

Staff Report with fines HERE.

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

The Piedmont City Council consists of five members, including newly elected Mayor, Robert McBain, and Vice-mayor, Teddy Gray King. The purpose of these meetings is to govern the city by holding elections, proposing bills, and passing laws. There is a set agenda for each meeting, including a short period of public forum.

The meeting on December 4th discussed important issues such as the approval of fines for violations of Code Enforcement and Nuisance Abatement provisions of the city code. Fines for these code violations were previously set at tremendous $1,000 a day. However, because the authority for setting fines has recently been shifted to the City Council, Council members have voted to reduce these to a maximum  of $500 after the third violation. It was clearly stated by Councilwoman Jennifer Cavenaugh, that these extreme fines were out of the normal range for Bay Area cities.  All members of the Council voted to approve this motion.

Next, the Council members discussed resolutions related to the City of Piedmont’s Limited Obligation refunding bonds. Council members moved to approve three different motions related to this issue, such as creating new districts for the reassessment bonds.

The last topic of discussion for my period of attendance at the meeting was regarding policy adjustments with the waste removal company, Republic Services. Republic Services has requested an increase in compensation due to the unique circumstances of Piedmont’s topography as well as extra services. The City of Piedmont requested a policy that enabled those residents unable to take their carts to the curb the option for on-premise collection services with no increase in charge. A Republic Services employee made it understood that almost half of  Piedmont residents requested on-premise collection services as opposed to about 10 percent of residents in surrounding cities.

In the period designated for public forum, many different students spoke out. Most students spoke out about issues regarding traffic safety near their homes. However, student Abigail Wilson made the suggestion of officially making Piedmont a sanctuary city, meaning it would limit its cooperation with the government’s immigration efforts. This would serve little benefit to immigrants as very few call Piedmont home, but it could help set an example for surrounding cities. Many cities around the Bay Area have agreed to become sanctuary cities, including San Francisco and Oakland. This is a very controversial topic, as the President has previously reclaimed funding from cities after refusing to cooperate with immigration officers. I am personally in favor of Piedmont becoming a sanctuary city, because it helps create a precedent for other communities in the United States that are having a similar debate. Declaring Piedmont a sanctuary city would also help create a more friendly living environment for minorities in the Bay Area.

After the meeting, I spoke with concerned resident, Paul Pappas. Paul Pappas is a sophomore at Piedmont High, who attended the meeting “for Boy Scouts.” Mr. Pappas was particularly concerned with the lack of street signs in the community. “One problem that was brought up that I cared about was the lack of necessary street signs on certain streets. I think this is a bigger problem than a lot of people realize.” Mr. Pappas is working so hard to make a difference in the community that even after speaking at the City Council meeting he will “bring it up with parents and see what they can do.”

by Jordan Cortes, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Nov 14 2017

On November 6, 2017, I attended a City Council Meeting which addressed the third quarter reports of the Piedmont Police Department and the authorization of limited obligation bonds linked to Undergrounding Assessment Districts. New technologies utilized by the Police Department were also discussed.

The meeting began after the Council recited the pledge of allegiance, which is a custom at the beginning of every meeting. Before Chief of Police, Jeremy Bowers, was called to present his report, the City Clerk called for any persons to address a matter not present on the Agenda.

I went to the podium and discussed my gratifications towards the recent developments and improvements to Hampton Park. I expressed that the changes were a great benefit to the City and that it was nice to see brand new turf and foundations. The Council members seemed very pleased with my remarks, giving me happy nods and cheerful smiles.

After my address, the City Clerk called Roy Connors to the podium. Roy expressed his deep feelings about the benefits of constructing telephone lines throughout the area. Roy went on to say that, “I believe that the construction of these lines would greatly improve cell reception and provide reliable phone connections to areas of Piedmont.” The Council members unanimously nodded there heads in agreement and Roy stepped off the podium.

Lastly, a man approached the podium and discussed the recent implications of the disastrous Napa fires and how Piedmont residents should prepare for an event like this. He proposed to the Council the benefits that would be included with fire insurance being provided to residences. The Council agreed that further steps should be taken in order to prepare for a situation like the Napa fires.

After the clerk called for any last comments, the Chief of Police gave his address on the 3rd Quarter crime rates.  Chief Bowers began his address by stating that crime rates have dropped by 15% compared to this time last year. He cited that there were 176 reported crimes last year compared to the 146 crimes reported this year. The Council commended this statistic and he continued by saying that “Robberies have declined from 11 to only 1,” which met with even more praise. Chief Bowers attributed these downward trends to technology, officer awareness, and citizen reports.

Chief Bowers went on to explain how new technologies such as camera’s were providing the identification of wanted criminals. He described a situation which involved the brandishing of a firearm as a means of road rage. The suspect was later identified after he was reported, thanks to the use of high optic cameras installed at the intersection where the scene occurred.

After Chief Bower’s debrief on crime statistics, he delved into the topics of underage drinking and smoking. Bower’s emphasized that the Piedmont Police were not serving to punish kids, but were merely attempting to protect them from the harm that ensues from drinking and smoking. He went on to explain the repercussions of marijuana use and how the police department is cracking down on kids smoking in Piedmont Park.

Underage drinking was also briefly discussed.  Bowers stated, “Recently two girls had to be transported to a hospital for acute alcohol poisoning. The Police Force cares about the short term and long term effects of these kids’ health.” This statement prompted Council member Jen Cavenaugh to commend Chief Bowers on all he was doing to suppress the problems of underage drinking and smoking.

Once Chief Bowers had concluded his report, the City Clerk asked the Council members if they had any questions they wished to discuss. Council member Tim Rood, appreciated the recent decline of car collisions, which has decreased by 20% since last year.

Mayor Robert McBain noted the issue of car thefts stating that, “It is important that we reduce the thefts involving cars.” The Mayor suggested that people should hide any valuables in their cars. McBain concluded his remarks by re-affirming to the public that, “The Piedmont Police are here to help us and protect us.”

I believe that Chief Bowers is doing a tremendous job of reducing the criminal activity in Piedmont and also spreading awareness about the dangers of drinking and smoking. These changes will ultimately benefit Piedmont and new technologies will also contribute even more to a decrease in crime rates. Regarding Bower’s address on kids health, I believe that it was very powerful for him to say that the Piedmont Police Department truly cares for every single Piedmont Unified School District kid. The Police only seeks to enlighten us on the dangers of underage drinking and smoking and are not here to incarcerate any teenagers.

At the end of the meeting, I interviewed a local resident of Piedmont, Lisa Gros. Mrs. Gros attended the meeting with her son who was a Boy Scout, as he was required to attend a City Council meeting. She was intrigued about the topics of drinking and drug awareness and seemed optimistic that her son would never partake in such activities.

I then asked Mrs. Gros how she would take action on the issues of underage drinking and smoking to which she replied, “I will be a role model for my kid and give him the right guidance when the time is right, but for right now I just hope that being openly against underage drinking will be enough to dissuade these kids from partaking in these detrimental activities.”

The City Council meets on the 1st and 3rd Monday’s of every month to address community issues and to hear community input from local residents and officials.

By Kevin Mead, Piedmont High School Senior

~~~~~~~~~

I attended a Piedmont City Council meeting at the Piedmont City Hall on November 6, 2017. The main topic on the agenda at the November 6 meeting included the Police Quarterly report presented by Piedmont Police Chief Jeremy Bowers. The Police Quarterly Report dominated the majority of the meeting as recent crime reports and specific criminal incidents in general were addressed.

Bowers said that the crime rate is continuing to decrease in the past two years. Bowers also was concerned with recent incidents of mail being stolen from citizens, and suggested that citizens should shred old mail.

A big issue was the recent incidents regarding parties in Piedmont where two girls were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. Police intend to be vigilant for parties and be on the lookout for alcohol consumption among teenagers simply in concern of their long term health.

Councilwoman Jen Cavenaugh asked Bowers if the Police Department tracks who hosts these private parties. Bowers responded by saying that the police do take note of that yet try to educate residents about the City of Piedmont ordinances regarding parties.

Another topic in the police report was the policy on marijuana use by young people. Bowers spoke of two officers from the Piedmont Police who went to Colorado to study how the legalization of marijuana has affected the state, and how it will work in California when it is legalized.  Bowers said the Police Department wants to educate young people on the effects of  marijuana use as opposed to taking a strictly punitive approach.

Councilwoman Cavenaugh asked if the police would still enforce the laws and punish young people caught with marijuana, and Bowers responded by saying that they would while emphasizing education and would also increase police controls in the Piedmont Park as that is an area where marijuana use is prevalent.

I appreciate this approach by Bowers as it is important for people to know what they are doing wrong and why it is harmful as opposed to being locked up without learning more about the crime they committed.

After the meeting concluded, I interviewed Bryan Gros, who attended the meeting with his son who is a Boy Scout and must attend a City Council meeting in order to earn his communication merit badge. Gros went there to support his son and he “learned a lot about the Piedmont Police Department.” In terms of his reaction to the police report, Gros said he “appreciated the way that the Police Chief thinks the best way to handle issues is in the community.”

At the beginning of the meeting, there was an opportunity for citizens to speak to the Council regarding any issue. I spoke about the recent protests in front of City Hall regarding the installation of new cell phone towers throughout the City. I said that the cell phone towers were necessary because the service in areas such as Hampton Field is quite bad and is inconvenient and could pose as a safety risk if someone needs to make an emergency call but cannot due to poor service. I also said that cell phone towers themselves do not cause harm to anyone and the protestors are misinformed on the effects of the towers.

The Piedmont City Council meets on the first and third Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The Piedmont City Council addresses issues of public safety and budget issues for the City including various aspects of the City. including the Police and Fire Departments.

by Roy Connors, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors. 
Oct 23 2017

At the October 25 School Board meeting, consideration will be given to refinancing the Piedmont School Bonds.  The link to the information is HERE.

Read the agenda ITEM VII C  information HERE.

Oct 3 2017

“Betsy” Smegal Andersen grew up in Piedmont and attended Piedmont schools.   Betsy followed her mother, Sue Smegal,  in becoming active in Piedmont community issues. Her mother, served on the Piedmont School Board and is well known for civic participation.  Sister-in-law, Cory Smegal is the newest member of the Piedmont School Board.

Image result for Elizabeth Smegal Andersen

After graduating from Piedmont High School, Betsy attended Duke University and went on to UCLA School of Law.  She practices law in San Francisco.  Read about her law practice HERE.

Betsy and her husband, Robert, have two children in the Piedmont schools.

With Betsy’s appointment to the unexpired term of former councilmember Jeff Wieler, the Council will add a third woman to the five member Council.  Betsy’s long time involvement in Piedmont governmental processes and public policy decision-making will add another experienced member to the Piedmont City Council.

_____________________

City Press Release: At a special meeting held on October 2, 2017, Elizabeth Smegal Andersen was unanimously appointed to fill a vacancy on the Piedmont City Council.

After conducting interviews with twelve candidates, the Council chose Ms. Andersen to fill a term that will end when the results of the General Municipal Election of November 6, 2018 are certified, which likely will take place at the first Council meeting in December, 2018.

Prior to her appointment, Councilmember Andersen served on the Recreation Commission, beginning in 2014 and was the body’s Chair from 2016 until she was appointed to the Council. She has been an active volunteer for many years, also having served on the Aquatics Steering Committee and Public Safety Committee as well as several other community organizations, including the League of Women Voters and Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization, among others.

The vacancy on the Council was created by the resignation of Councilmember Jeffrey Wieler on September 5, 2017.