Oct 2 2018

September 26th School Board Meeting

On September 26th, 2018, I attended the Piedmont Unified School District’s Board of Education meeting. The meeting started with the discussion of the school’s decision to hire substitute teachers to teach the online physics and Spanish classes. A representative for the teachers voiced concern with this, and argued that those jobs belong to real teachers.

I agree with his argument, although this is a very difficult situation for the school, I believe they should be doing more to make teaching at Piedmont High School more realistic.

The second topic was the Giving Campaign. One of the organizers of the campaign announced that the Giving Campaign had just begun, and was off to a great start. She also mentioned that the campaign helps teachers afford bay area living, and their donations will help the hiring situation for new teachers.

Next, Max Roitblat, ASB president, gave a rundown of everything that had been going on events at the high school since the last meeting and the safe driving and consent assembly coming up, the new online courses, progress reports, the senior picnic, and homecoming week.

After this, a Piedmont resident talked about the quality of asphalt around Piedmont recreational areas and issues concerning senior citizens. He argued that Piedmont could be doing more to improve senior recreation facilities, especially compared to some other districts near us, and  seniors should be given income based senior exemption of school taxes, given the abnormally high taxes in Piedmont.

Following this, two senior girls brought up an issue concerning school bathrooms, claiming the girls bathroom has a lot of defects and needs work.

Next, Pierce Mcdonald-Powell, a Piedmont City Planner, talked about wireless electronics in the school system. She gave an update on the wireless communication facilities, and answered questions from the Board.

Pete Palmer, the School construction manager, gave an update on the new STEAM building, the new Alan Harvey Theater, and the new field. He included a timeline and goals for the project, closures of the current Alan Harvey Theater, and Witter Field, and updated designs of the Alan Harvey Theater and STEAM building.

I decided to voice my concern about the rebuilding of Witter Field. I asked how students, especially underclassmen, will be able to manage rides to the temporary practice field at Laney College, and where the home games will be played.

I also argued that deciding to redo the field over the course of just one sport is unfair to that sport, and it would be much more fair to rebuild the field during half of two different sports.  I stated this would hurt the team because we would not have home field advantage, unlike other teams.

This experience was fairly disappointing. Although the topic we debated is still being planned, I felt that the Board could not answer most of my questions. Also, I felt that they ignored my arguments.

Similarly to the treatment of the teacher representative, they thanked me for my opinion and moved on, without addressing any of my concerns. After the meeting was over, I interviewed Megan Pillsbury about her experience. When I asked why she attended, she said she running for a seat on the School Board, and had been attending the past few meetings in order to learn more about the School Board.

by Sachiel Newbrun, Piedmont High School Senior

Sep 21 2018

Renovations are projected to cost millions. 

On September 17th of 2018, the Piedmont City Council met in the Council Chamber of City Hall. The meeting opened with a designated ten-minute period of open comments, where community members can speak on items not listed on the general agenda.

Mr. Maganas, a longtime resident of Piedmont, highlighted a lack of knowledge among parents and students concerning the Peralta Community College system offering college-level classes such as Calculus I and II through Berkeley City College, Laney College, and three others. The Peralta Colleges offer a valuable resource to students hoping to challenge themselves academically with advanced courses. Maganas hoped to increase awareness of this resource among high school students and parents.

Mayor Robert McBain declared September a month of Suicide Prevention Awareness, as a part of the national effort to reduce suicide and self-harm, especially among teens. Council members, such as Teddy King, voiced unwavering support for McBain in raising this issue, as she has lost family members in the past to suicide.

Next, an East Bay Regional Park District Board Member, Dee Rosario gave the Council a report on Measure FF. Measure CC, which passed in 2004, stipulates that twelve dollars a year are received from properties and used for park infrastructure, ecological projects, electrical maintenance, fuel reduction, sewage cleanup, and restroom repair; for example, the Crab Cove Visitor Center is now open year-round thanks to funding from Measure CC, as opposed to only a few months or a season at a time. Measure CC has been rebranded as Measure FF and falls under the same stipulations for funding. Measure FF has been renewed for the next twenty years.

The Council then discussed the consideration of appointing a new Piedmont Fire Chief.  After a lengthy vetting process by two separate panels composed of respected Piedmont residents and others working in law or government, City Administrator Paul Benoit had presented to the City Council the narrowed field of two applicants.

The Council then interviewed the two finalists, selecting Bret Black, currently serving in Clovis, California. This comprehensive search arose following the retirement of beloved community-member Bud McLaren, who faithfully served as Fire Chief in Piedmont for five years. Following a unanimous vote among the City Council members, Bret Black was hired to fill the Fire Chief position beginning October 1st with a starting annual salary of $193,164.

Closing out the agenda, two architects from the Bay Area firm Siegel & Strain – Larry Strain and Roland Lazzarotto -presented a report on potential renovations of Piedmont’s Recreation Center and the Piedmont Veterans’ Hall. Both buildings, are seventy-years old or older and are in dire need of renovation and remodeling.

Though not dilapidated, the floor plan of the Recreation Center is considered archaic, and the plans presented outline a better use of square footage and increased operational efficiency for educational use and programs.

For example, Lazzarotto drafted plans to reorganize the building layout, moving the preschool away from the entrance. In the event of an intruder, the rooms should be ordered in a fashion keeping the youngest children farthest from the main door.

Similarly, Lazzarotto proposed ripping out the driveway and replacing the space with a fenced off play area with shade and soft ground. Lastly, he proposed renovating the defunct attic into an office space and conference room, while installing an elevator to access all three main floors. On each floor, bathrooms would either be renovated or torn out, and modified to meet ADA accessibility standards.

In the case of the Veterans Hall, Lazzarotto sought to maximize efficiency in a similar manner: rip out the stage to create a larger ballroom, while establishing smaller classrooms and multi-purpose rooms on the side. The kitchen would be renovated and brought up to modern standards, in hopes of accommodating future weddings in the new space.

Before he left, I had the opportunity to briefly interview Mr. Lazzarotto about his role at the meeting tonight. He noted that his group, Siegel and Strain, focused on providing sustainable and affordable projects.

During the presentation, Councilwoman Jen Cavenaugh questioned the environmental sustainability of the building, and Mr. Larry Siegel- Lazzarotto’s companion – highlighted their plan to reuse the wood and install new windows, both reducing carbon emissions and waste.

The Recreational Center was in immediate need of increased accessibility; for example, the reception desk lies on the second floor, and is not wheelchair accessible.

Both buildings have outlived their functional use and require restructuring and renovation to meet the accessibility and safety standards of today. Now that the City Council has reached a general consensus and approval of the layouts, Lazzarotto will in the future provide drafts and layouts to City Administrator Paul Benoit.

As the discussion and presentation came to a close among the Council, student Mia Horvath asked City Administrator Paul Benoit- who had been working in conjunction with Siegel and Strain – how renovations and construction would affect public access to the space; for example, the Recreational Center sits at a major thoroughfare that parents drive by to drop off their kids at the Middle and High School. Though the Council did not have an immediate solution, Mayor McBain affirmed that a well-planned schedule would be released in the future to ease traffic and pedestrian flow.

Tim Rood mentioned that these renovations would mean losing access to the services of the Recreational Center for months on end, but Paul Benoit noted that it would be possible to relocate these offices and services for the duration of construction. The plans are currently in development and in their drafting phase, so all propositions and suggestions are subject to change.

The City Council meets on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month to discuss, consider, and announce citywide events, issues, notices, and more.

by Aaron Moy, Piedmont High School Senior

Sep 21 2018

The League of Women Voters Piedmont devised voter issues and questions for School Board and City Council November 6, 2018 candidates.

Press Release:

Earlier this summer, LWVP newsletter readers provided 33 responses to our poll regarding issues and questions for City Council and School Board candidates. Four LWVP board member volunteers then ranked 20 questions from the poll and submitted the top 8 to:

Voters Edge website  (https://votersedge.org/ca).

We highlight the 3 most important issues selected and list the top 4 questions for each race. We also attach more detailed summaries of the poll and of the ranking process as well as the questionnaires used.

The list of issues in the poll were taken from a July 19th, 2018 Piedmont Civic Association website article entitled “TIME to RUN: Contested or Uncontested Piedmont City Council and School Board Elections” This list of issues is licensed under a Creative Commons License and was sorted alphabetically.

For the 33 respondents, chosen from many choices, the top 3 issues for City Council candidates were:

  1. Citizen involvement – open participatory processes
  2. Environmental matters
  3. Taxation increases

The top 4 questions submitted on the Council topics were:

  1. What plans do you have to support the many different populations of Piedmont with city programs and city facilities? And, how do you plan to promote and actively support inclusive practices within city government?
  2. How will you be responsive to citizens and to support and improve citizen involvement in city government?
  3. How can and will you mediate between different interest groups in Piedmont, including evaluating how representative the concerns of vocal minorities might be?
  4. How should the city decide whether and how to plan and pay for a new swimming pool or pools? How important is this to you?

For the 33 respondents, the top 3 issues for School Board candidates were:

  1. Personnel selections
  2. School construction within constraints of bond funding limits
  3. Revenues sufficient to support operations and programs

The top 4 questions for School Board candidates were:

  1. The District has a history of hiring staff and teachers with personal connections to Piedmont and current district staff. How will you reassure city residents that new hires are the best choice for students and the school and that hiring is not unduly influenced by personal connections?
  2. How could and would you increase transparency in district decision making?
  3. How could and would you continue or improve the recruitment and retention of excellent teachers?
  4. If elected, what would be your budgeting priorities? How can the school district prepare for increased pension liabilities? Can you identify areas in the budget when savings are possible?

Read the PCA article  “TIME to RUN: Contested or Uncontested Piedmont City Council and School Board Elections

Sep 13 2018

 Survey regarding tennis & pickleball due 9/16

 Subcommittee Will Hold Community Meetings

9/25 & 9/26
Veterans’ Hall

The Piedmont Recreation Commission Tennis and Pickleball Sub-Committee will be holding two separate public discussions regarding Tennis and Pickleball court usage in Piedmont.

  • Pickleball – Tuesday, September 25th – 7:00pm

  • Tennis – Wednesday, September 26th – 7:00pm

Both meetings will be held in the Veterans Memorial Building – 401 Highland Avenue, Piedmont

You’re invited to join in the conversation, ask questions and voice your opinion or concerns.

Residents are also encouraged to take a > survey regarding tennis & pickleball. The deadline for responses is Sunday, September 16th.

If you have any questions, please contact Steven Chavarria at 510-420-6223 or schavarria@piedmont.ca.gov

Sep 11 2018

Due to a recent Recreation Commissioner’s resignation, the Piedmont City Council will be appointing a citizen volunteer to fill the new vacancy on the Piedmont Recreation Commission.

SPECIAL NOTICE OF APPOINTIVE VACANCY 

 on the Piedmont Recreation Commission

All interested citizens must complete and return the > Commission Application 2018 – Recreation on or before the posted deadline of Wednesday, October 10, 2018.Postmarks will not be accepted.

Applications are also available on the city’s website at www.ci.piedmont.ca.us or from the office of the City Clerk, Piedmont City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, or by telephone at (510) 420-3040.

All applicants must be available for an interview with the City Council on Monday, October 15, 2018, at which time the appointment will be made.

___________________________

John O. Tulloch, City Clerk       Posted: September 11, 2018

>   Commission Application 2018 – Recreation

Learn more about the Piedmont Recreation Commission > HERE.

Aug 31 2018

2nd Reading of Ordinance 741 N.S. Updating Leash Law Provisions, Clarifying Off Leash Areas, Allowing for the Issuance of Administrative Citations, and Updating Outdated Provisions – 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018 City Council Consideration, 7:30 p.m. 12o Vista Avenue, Council Chambers.

RECOMMENDATION Take the following actions related to updating City Code provisions related to dogs:

1) Decide whether off leash hours at Dracena Park should match those of the Linda Dog Park, as recommended by the Park Commission (7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Weekdays and 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekends) or should match the overall hours of the park (5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily)

2) Approve the 2nd reading of Ordinance 741 N.S., Updating Leash Law Provisions, Clarifying Off Leash Areas, Allowing for the Issuance of Administrative Citations, and Updating Outdated Provisions

3) By motion, set fines for the revised provisions at $100 per violation

Read the 18 page staff report HERE.  Maps are not included in the staff report. 

COMMENTS TO CITY COUNCIL:

Robert McBain, Mayor rmcbain@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048
Teddy Gray King, Vice Mayor tking@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048
Jennifer Cavenaugh jcavenaugh@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048
Tim Rood trood@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 239-7663
Betsy Smegal Andersen bandersen@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048
Aug 23 2018

LINDA BEACH MASTER PLAN REVISIONS TO BE PRESENTED
AT JOINT PARK COMMISSION AND RECREATION COMMISSION MEETING WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 5TH AT 6:00PM

At a joint meeting of the Park Commission and the Recreation Commission on September 5th at 6:00 p.m., a progress report will be presented on the revisions to the Linda Beach Master Plan.

The first iteration of the Linda Beach Master Plan was presented to the Park Commission, Recreation Commission, and City Council at meetings this spring. The revisions to be presented at this meeting are based on the robust community feedback received, as well as direction from the City Council. Groundworks Office Landscape Architects, the consultants developing the Linda Beach Master Plan, will present a revised version for public review and comment at the September 5th meeting, which will be held in the Piedmont City Council Chambers located at 120 Vista Avenue.

You are invited to attend this meeting and express your opinion. 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/video.

Public comment is invited and encouraged this meeting.

Written comments may be submitted to the City Clerk’s Office at cityclerk@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.

For further information, contact Recreation Director Sara Lillevand via email at slillevand@piedmont.ca.gov or via phone at (510) 420-3073.

Prior PCA article on scope of Plan > HERE.

———–  Meeting agenda   ——— 

City of Piedmont

Joint Park Commission and Recreation Commission Agenda Wednesday, September 5, 2018 6:00 p.m.

City Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA

This is an opportunity for members of the audience to speak on an item not on the agenda. The 10 minute period will be divided evenly between those wishing to address the Council.

1. Receipt of a Progress Report on the Revisions to the Linda Beach Master Plan and Consideration of Direction to Staff on Further Revisions

Adjourn

Materials related to an item on this agenda submitted to the Park Commission and Recreation Commission are available for public inspection in the City Clerk’s office during normal business hours.

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, if you need special assistance to participate in this meeting, please contact the City Clerk at (510) 420-3040. Notification at least two business days preceding the meeting will enable the City to make reasonable arrangements to ensure accessibility to this meeting. [28 CFR 35.102-35.104 ADA Title II]

In accordance with G.C. Sec. 54954.2(a) this notice and agenda were posted on the City Hall bulletin board and also in the Piedmont Police Department on August 23, 2018.

Aug 13 2018

The Piedmont Recreation Commission will meet on Wednesday, August 15.  Residents are invited to attend the meeting in the City Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue at 7:30 p.m.  The meeting will be broadcast live on Cable Channel 27 and from the City website under videos.

Regular Agenda
1.Approval of Minutes-July 18, 2018
2. Chair’s Report
3. Director’s Report
4. Summer 2018 Recap
5.Update on Schoolmates for 2018-19
6. Update from Subcommittee
on Tennis court use and Pickleball
7. Update from Subcommittee on Skateboarding and Scootering
8. Ceremonial Presentation
Read the Draft July Recreation Commission Meeting minutes to learn about interesting items the Recreation Commission is working on. 
Jul 5 2018

On the afternoon of June 19, 2018,  a City Council/School Board Liaison meeting was held.  Members of the School Board, City Council, and their staff members met at the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) Administrative Offices on Magnolia Avenue to discuss various issues, which included: upcoming summer facilities projects, H1 Bond projects, solid waste management education, recreational renovations, and school safety.

Present at the meeting were School representatives: Board Vice President, Amal Smith, Board Member, Andrea Swenson, Superintendent Randall Booker, Director of Facilities, Pete Palmer, and Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Cheryl Wozniak. Representatives from the City were Mayor Bob McBain and City Administrator Paul Benoit.

The meeting began with Booker introducing the agenda and starting off the conversation with updates on the H1 Bond measure and the issue of the various District Summer facilities projects.  These projects include climate control renovations to elementary school facilities and the rebuilding of the 30’s complex at Piedmont High School for the high school’s new STEAM building, with construction beginning in June of 2019 as part of the H1 Bond measure.

During the April 2019 Spring break, the real projects begin removing the Alan Harvey Theater and drainage work on Witter Field.

“We’re starting these summer renovations at Havens Elementary, where five classrooms on the top floor can reach as high as 90 degrees while teachers are instructing students,” said Palmer. “The new climate control systems we will be installing are some of the most efficient units available on the market.”

Palmer explained that the same climate control systems would be installed in certain classrooms at Beach and Wildwood Elementary schools that are also at risk for reaching high temperatures.

“These new highly efficient systems will allow us to cut energy costs, which means putting more money right back into schools and facilities,” said Booker.

The High School’s new STEAM building will have 7 new classrooms, expanding the capacity of the school’s computer lab facilities. Booker stressed the importance of adding these new classrooms and computer facilities because 50 students had to be turned away from the school’s computer program during the previous school year due to insufficient class space.

“It’s great that we have so many students interested in computer science; however; right now we just don’t have the space.  With these new facilities, we will be able to accommodate everyone,” said Booker.

Booker noted the School District was exploring options to install a new computer system that would cut down on the purchasing of expensive Computer Processing Units (CPU) by allowing as few as one control CPU unit to feed many students’ computer monitors without the need for them to have their own CPU unit.

Palmer related a break in the waterline under Wildwood Schoolmates, requiring a temporary waterline and the closing down of El Cerrito Avenue, as well as P.E Hill, in order to fix the break.

Witter Field will be closed during the installation of new LED field lights, which would be more directive, project less light on neighbors, and be better for player safety visibility. Palmer stated the installation should go quickly unless the current light structures are revealed to have rusted bolts or fixtures, in which case they would need to be cut and repaired during renovation.

Booker discussed the High School Master Plan beginning construction in March 1, 2019, when the closure, salvage and abatement of the Alan Harvey Theater will occur,  along with the closure and drainage renovation of Witter Field.

An inspector from Division of State Architects (DSA) will come to survey the Witter Field area and check its Americans with Disability Act  (ADA)  compliance.  Witter Field has areas of concern, such as the Wildwood steps leading down to the field, which are not ADA compliant, according to Booker.

A passing inspection regarding the ADA and approval from the state are necessary prior to construction, as clarified by Vice President Amal Smith.

City Administrator Paul Benoit addressed the issue of solid waste management.

“We only received one bidder for Piedmont’s solid waste contract. Waste Management as a firm did not want to do backyard service, and Piedmont doesn’t want to give up backyard service. We’ll be continuing to work with Republic Services as our contractor,” said Benoit.

In addition to the City’s new contract with Republic, Abbe and Associates, a green education and waste management consultant, will aid the community, including the schools, in environmental awareness and sustainable living.

When Vice President Smith raised questions as to expectations with Abbe, Benoit replied that the consulting firm’s community-wide involvement will be collaborative with no set expectations or requirements.

Mayor Bob McBain stated that Abbe would work in situations managing waste from City events like the Harvest Festival and everything Abbe does should be constructive leading to reduced waste and proper disposal.

“It’s not gonna work, if it is a burden to everyone,” McBain said.

There are pending renovations and resurfacing of several tennis courts.   Linda Beach Tennis courts are desired by Pickleball players. Pickleball is a hybrid game of tennis and ping pong. The Piedmont Pickleball Association rents the Linda Beach courts on certain weekdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon for $12 an hour according to Benoit, and will continue to do so until school begins on August 13th.

Mayor McBain stated there is the possibility for the City and the Piedmont Pickleball Association to work together in order to resurface the Middle School courts to be used for the sport when not in use by the schools.

Benoit introduced the topic of School Safety which he stated was a big topic.  While School Safety was talked about at the staff level, thus far it had not received extensive discussion at the Council level. School Safety has risen in salience as the national climate around school shootings has intensified at an alarming rate.   There are uncertainties on how to move forward with this initiative in Piedmont, according to Benoit.

Superintendent Booker brought up the implementation of onsite security personnel in Piedmont schools.

“From experience and time spent with Albany High School, I found the presence of a police officer on campus an extremely effective and beneficial resource,” said Booker.

Booker went on to explain that the presence of a security person on campus at the High School, such as one on-duty soft uniform officer from the Piedmont Police Department, would be helpful. These resource officers in soft uniform, meaning they are wearing uniform pants and Piedmont Police Department polo shirts instead of a full patrol uniform, would receive very specific and intensive training to acclimate them to a campus environment. The resource officer would carry the same equipment that other police officers do on their belts, including a firearm.

“I would consider myself a strong advocate for the resource officer as a solution to school safety, as in my experience they are incredibly effective at communicating safety,” said Booker.

The resource officer would report to the Piedmont Chief of Police and the hope is that the officer costs would be paid half by the City and half by the School District.

McBain emphasized the need for the City to find the money for the resource officer and introduce the idea to the community.

Benoit informed the attendees that the City is actively recruiting for a new Fire Chief.

Report by Joe Creason, Journalism Intern

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