EMERYVILLE PROPERTY OWNERS ASSOCIATION
November 2012 by: Ken Bukowski
The Emeryville Property Owners Association “EPOA” is a newly incorporated non-profit corporation created to enhance and protect the Emeryville Community, We seek to ensure the City and School District can provide high quality services, and be responsive to the needs and concerns of all segments of the community.
We want to work with the City Council to adopt a standard of professional conduct for City Staff to help ensure every member of the community is treated equally. Rules for professional conduct improve the ability for the City Council to manage the City Staff. We seek to establish greater public awareness of our needs and challenges and encourage community dialogue.
The EPOA seeks to explore opportunities to share our collective resources to increase the benefits for the whole community The small size of our city can offer many advantages we have yet to explore. The EPOA seeks to provide assurance that parties affected by the actions of our city government are notified, and heard, in the formative stage of the City decision-making process. This is an essential element of democracy which is lacking with our current city administration.
We have created a local measure Emeryville Public Notice & Accountability Initiative A ballot measure which will froce the city to provide at least TEN DAYS advance public notice before taking action on agrenda items. The measure will also force the City to notify affected parties by email, whenever the City is contemplating any action which will specifically impact the use of land, or impose any new tax or assessment. The ballot measure is now being circulated and must obtain enough valid Emeryville signatures to be placed on a future ballot for voter approval .
We have established this web page to provide news and information to the Emeryville Community. It is essential to have an INDEPENDENT community organization to keep a watchful eye on City Government affairs. The story below about the Chamber of Commerce explains why they are NOT an effective voice at City Hall. The City Staff has used the Chamber of Commerce to neutralize the voice of business. We know of no circumstance where the Chamber has challenged any actions of the City.
The Emeryville Property Owners Association was created in response to a crisis last November 2011, when 18 property owners, in the North Hollis Area received surprise notice their land was included in the boundaries of a new underground utility district in the North Hollis area. A whopping new $8.3 million assessment. The notice also included an estimate of the payments each owner was expected to make.over 25 years at 6% interest. You would have to receive a notice like this to fully understand the shock. 6% interest is probably twice the going rate. It seems the City Staff, worked together with the largest building owner, to create the boundaries of a new utility district where only three owners could constitute a majority of owners in a district. This is a tactic used to force the minority owners to pay. The district included 42% of the land controlled by the new building owner. The Staff offered three City owned parcels with 5% They had to seek one third party owner with 7% of the land. The 18 minority owners received the above stated notice after the majority was created.. .
The result was going to force an $8.3 million assessment with no regard to the financial impact being imposed on these 18 minority property owners, or the 124 affected business owners. It may be a good idea to underground utilities but this is a major violation of public process.
After the City Council decided to move forward with the creation of the new assessment district, on a 3-2 vote, over the objection of the minority owners, (Council Members Asher and West voting NO) The 18 affected owners organized the EPOA to fight the assessment. These owners had to endure the stress of a multi-million dollar new property tax assessment being imposed over forceful objection. The EPOA was able to convince the third party owner to withdraw his support for the new district, and thereby stop it from moving forward. A horrific circumstance never to be forgotten.
Below please find access to THREE VIDEOS. with all the details of the underground utility district. Video of the November 15, 2011 City Council Meeting when the Council voted 3-2 not to move forward with the Assessment district. That Decision was reversed at the Dec 6, 2012 meeting, shown in TWO videos below. For those who watch the first Video we have separated the Staff presentation from the public comment portion of the meetinig.
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First Video of the December 6, 2011 City Council Meeting with the second Staff presentation to approve the District.
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Second Video is Part 2 of the December 6, 2012 Meeting which includes the Public Comment Portion and the Final decision by the City Council.
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Documents associated with the North Hollis Underground District
First EPOA letter Sent to Organize north Hollis Property Owners.
The Chamber of Commerce is ineffective as an independent voice for businesses in Emeryville. The City provides the Chamber of Commerce with money in the each budget cycle to help fund their operations. The City also provides free office space. Property and Business Owners cannot rely on the Chamber of Commerce to challenge any actions by City Staff.
The EPOA has just been approved as a new non-profit organization. We will establish a membership fee structure to encourage the maximum level of participation at the lowest possible cost. Membership opportunities available soon. Please feel free to provide comments…. of call us at (510) 214-5111
CITY HIRES CHAMBER EXECUTIVE BOB CANTOR FOR BUSINESS OUTREACH
On July 17, 2012 the City Council approved a new Agreement to hire the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce “Chamber” with Bob Cantor, “CEO” specified as the principal to carry out the Agreement.
The City will provide up to $25,000 assistance to the Chamber in the form of a service contract. The Agreement says the Chamber will (1) Assist with Enterprise Zone development. (2) Assist with business attraction, retention, and business expansion opportunities. (3) assist with workforce development. (4) Marketing and Outreach (5) Broadband and wireless upgrades citywide. hold business meetings, distribute information, and etc.
The Emeryville Property Owners Association “EPOA” is opposed to this Agreement for the following reasons.. ?
1. There are no performance standards for outreach to all Emeryville businesses. The previous contract only yielded 5% response from Emeryville businesses.
2. The Chamber & City Staff collectively market the economic Development Resources. Most of the recipients appear to be select Chamber Members. Large business and property owners, such as Wareham. who don’t need economic assistance. Little effort is made to identify Emeryville business owners who need economic assistance. Eligibility standards should be developed to receive economic development assistance.
3. Public money should not be provided for closed door business meetings with City Staff/ Such meetings are not subject to public disclosure, conflict of interest laws, and there is no public record of actions taken. Do these meetings give the “impression” of unfair influence.? The meetings could be a violation (city manager) ethics.
According the the International City Manager’s Association, “ICMA” code of ethics “IMPRESSION OF INFLUENCE”- Members (City Manager’s) should conduct their official and personal affairs in such a manner as to give the clear impression that they cannot be improperly influenced in the performance of their official duties.”
4. Why does the Agreement specifically prohibit the Chamber from disclosing any information about the City, without the written approval of the City Manager..?
The Agreement states, “The Consultant agrees that such reports, information, opinions or conclusions (about the city) shall not be made available to or discussed with any individual or organization, including the news media, without prior written approval of the City. The Consultant shall exercise reasonable precautions to prevent the unauthorized disclosure and use of City information whether deemed confidential or not.”
5. The Agreement allows the City Manager to “ORDER” the Chamber, and its CEO, to carry out tasks, in the form of change orders, which they may not necessarily agree with. The Agreement says, “If the parties cannot reach an agreement on the terms for performing the changed work within a reasonable time, to avoid delay or other unfavorable impacts as determined by the City in its sole discretion, the City shall have the right to determine reasonable terms and the Consultant SHALL proceed with the changed work.”
6. This Agreement allows the City and the Chamber to maintain an improper business relationship, not open to all city business owners. The lack of disclosure of the Staff meetings with the Chamber, fosters an environment for potential “back room deals.”
In conclusion. We find this Agreement contrary to good public policy. It fosters Chamber dependence on public money for their operations. It limits the Chamber’s ability to act as an independent business organization. The Agreement also lacks public accountability.
A full copy of the Approved Consultant Agreement can be found by clicking the below link.