Nov 26 2011

The following letter is in response to a letter by Josh Bernstein published in the November 23, 2011 edition of the Piedmont Post.

Dear Mr. Bernstein:

The perpetuation of misinformation is always unfortunate.

Your recent letter suggested the moderator for the Piedmont Civic Association forum, which was scheduled for November 29, endorsed a candidate, without pointing out that the listing was in error.  No such endorsement occurred. > Click to read more…

Nov 26 2011

The Piedmont Civic Association appreciates the efforts of Conna McCarthy to explain her candidate’s decision to decline to participate in the PCA forum, as well as her good wishes for future PCA forums which she points out “could be a beneficial part of Piedmont’s civic engagement”.   (November 23, 2011 “Viewpoint” in the POST) > Click to read more…

Oct 30 2011

How often in Piedmont do you hear the phrase, “I didn’t know about that ?”

It seems to be a common concern in letters and public forums.  Certain Piedmonters are in the know while others are uninformed. Residents learn about activities that have been going on behind the scenes with only three days notice before a Council action – or even after a decision has been made. > Click to read more…

Jul 19 2011

Isn’t it time for the City’s Municipal Tax Review Committee to come out of the basement and meet in a more public setting, such as the City Council chambers, where meetings can be broadcast to Piedmont residents via KCOM and videotaped for city archives.

This important, nine-member committee of Piedmont residents has been meeting bi-weekly or weekly on Wednesday evenings for the past several months in the Piedmont Police Dept.’s emergency operations room on Highland Avenue.  The committee and City staff sit at tables arranged horse-shoe style around the room, while the audience must find seats in a few randomly placed office desk chairs in the back of the room.  Last week’s meeting drew an “overflow” crowd of about a dozen Piedmonters, requiring four or late comers to either stand or sit on the floor, including the City Administrator. > Click to read more…

May 18 2011

A PCA Editorial urging the Council to videotape budget and CIP meetings and consider funding priorities with all residents in mind

Every year the Piedmont City Council goes through a budget approval process to determine how Piedmont taxes will be spent. Instead of being held in City Council chambers in City Hall, the pivotal initial budget “workshop” meeting will be held on Saturday, May 21, at 9:00 am in the Piedmont Police Department Emergency Operations Center  (EOC) on Highland Avenue.  Meetings held outside of the City Council chambers are rarely videotaped or broadcast.  The only way that Piedmont residents can see and hear the  workshop discussion is to attend the meeting.  (Two prior CIP Committee meetings held in the EOC were not videotaped, as well.)

At the workshop, Department heads and the City Administrator will present their budget requests and respond to questions from the Council.   Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) recommendations will also be discussed.   Further information, direction or explanation of specific expenditures may be requested by the Council from staff.  The public may address the Council or raise questions on a limited basis during the workshop.

Due to previous major events impacting the City’s finances, this year’s budget is important.  Various items having an impact on the budget include: > Click to read more…

May 10 2011

A PCA Editorial: The City has taken over operation of the Piedmont Pool at taxpayer expense.

A Piedmont asset that was built and operated for half a century at no cost to taxpayers has begun to drain funds from the City budget at a rapid rate. City operation of  the pool will exceed the costs borne historically  by a group of volunteers. Numerous assumptions have been made regarding pool usage without adequate operating data.  The only certainty is that swimmers will now be subsidized by Piedmont taxpayers, rather than swim club members. > Click to read more…

May 9 2011

A PCA Editorial urging increased online access  and broadcast of important civic meetings

Piedmont is in the midst of making critical decisions on expenditures.  Meetings are being held, yet not televised on KCOM, nor videotaped, and in some cases no minutes will be available.   Meetings take place in venues other than the City Hall Council Chambers, while the Chambers are available.  Due to the cost of videoing from other locations, only meetings held in the City Hall Council Chambers can be readily videotaped and broadcast. > Click to read more…

Apr 29 2011

A number of citizens appeared before the Piedmont City Council on April 18 to endorse the idea of having an arts center in Piedmont.  The Council was swept up in the new proposal and eager to turn over city property for $1 per year to a new group,  The Piedmont Center for the Arts, which is likely to acquire nonprofit status before the end of 2011.

On April 23 all homes in Piedmont received a letter from the group announcing itself and requesting that tax-deductible contributions be sent to its Center at 801 Magnolia Avenue.  A mailing processor was paid to manage the mailing on its permit and standard bulk rate mailing rates were paid.  Once certified as a nonprofit corporation, the arts group can acquire nonprofit mailing permit, saving money for equipment, art shows, children programs, possibly book reviews, community meetings, etc.

What will the program for the arts center be?  It would be nice to invite all Piedmont citizens to contribute ideas for arts activities and other uses for the publicly owned property. To inform citizens about the building, a public walk through might be included on some of the days City Staff provides access to the new group.  Plans for the “newer” portion of the building (the Sunday school rooms not part of the Arts lease) could be opened for community discussion as part of this process.

Is the enthusiasm for an arts center causing the City to skip over normal steps?  Since Zone B section 17.6.1 requires use of the building only by governmental or nonprofit entities  compatible with their surroundings, why not wait until a certified nonprofit organization has had the benefit of wide citizen input and put together a comprehensive proposal of use, fees, and time allocations to school and recreation programs known to benefit the community as a whole?  The arts center would be even more welcome after the community has been consulted and feels ownership of the idea.  Shall we slow down in order to have a better planned arts center and other uses for all portions of the City-owned property at 801 Magnolia Ave?

The terms of the lease require careful thought. Improvements will be accomplished through community donations and/or community fees, while the lease requires the City to pay the group for costs not amortized at termination.  Water, sewer, garbage, landscape and sidewalk maintenance will be provided by the City.

A long-term lease was required by the Swim Club in order to operate on a public/private basis, but it was a known program that had been developed and operated for almost 50 years.  In the case of the Arts Center, a long-term lease is proposed without knowing the particulars. What Arts Administration expertise and credentials does the group have to run it in a professional manner, a past prerequisite for City owned public benefit property?  While everyone anticipates the facility will enhance our community in many ways, it seems prudent to ensure the Council retains ultimate control over fees and use.

If the arts program is as successful as all hope and anticipate, it could generate significant revenues. These revenues would appropriately be shared with the community by keeping fees as low as possible for residents and providing free use to certain community groups, as the pool did.

In speaking before the Piedmont City Council on April 18, one Art Center Board member and founder confirmed:  “We want this to be used. Our pricing structure for using it is geared toward being always used.” Although this represents a strong commitment to maximizing use, the lease is missing any provisions to keep fees as low as possible, revenue-share with the City, or ensure ongoing reporting and oversight by the City Council of this newest public-private partnership in our town.

Undergrounding problems, the costs of the pool takeover, and the recent League of Women Task Force Report have made citizens more aware and attentive to the potential costs and risks presented from insufficient information and incomplete processes.  The City needs lease provisions which enable appropriate oversight of use, revenue-sharing, fees, and maintenance, while relying on this dedicated volunteer group of arts supporters to manage the facility at great cost savings to the community.

Detail:  Zone B (government zone) requirements per City Code: 17.6.1: Intent.  Zone B is established to regulate and control development of public facilities which are compatible with the character of existing and proposed surrounding uses. (Ord. No. 488 N.S., 10/87)  City Building, Veterans’ Building, or other public agency building, and accessory structures located on the same lot of parcel, for use by governmental entities or other nonprofit entities as allowed by the City.”  (Emphasis added.)

The Council is scheduled at the May 2 Council meeting to take final action on the ordinance approving a lease.

Apr 5 2011

The Chronicle Editorial of March 30, 2011 ignores a number of inconvenient truths when discussing Piedmont payments for Oakland Library services:

1.         Piedmont payments do not benefit the Oakland libraries because Oakland funnels the money into its General Fund.

No Piedmont payments to the City of Oakland go into the Oakland Library budget according to the Oakland Associate Library Director Gerry Garzon.  The Library budget will not increase if a payment is made; the Library budget will not decrease if a payment is not made.  Piedmont dollars are unable to impact on the Oakland library budget.  (Oakland Library Budget Details) > Click to read more…

Mar 15 2011

Piedmont Civic Association Commentary on the Decision-making Process

The decision on the Blair Park proposal requires careful consideration by the Council as Piedmont’s fiduciaries. Piedmont residents have been unhappy because of  recent debacles costing almost $3 million of City funds.  To date, the Blair Park and Coaches Field proposals have cost the City over $200,000.  And no stable figures have been produced on the fiscal implications of the project for Piedmont taxpayers.

To satisfy the burden of due diligence and fulfill its “fiduciary responsibility” in considering this consequential proposal, the Council must examine all of the costs and independently assess liability risks in a long term plan.  The Council needs to know the risks and the costs before accepting a project in any form.

Piedmont property owners want to be protected from another risky liability situation as occurred in the Piedmont Hills Underground District bailouts, Crest Road collapse, and Hampton-Sea View litigation.