Emery Go Round – Special Board Meeting – Feb 15, 2013 – EPOA Issues and Concerns

The Emery Go Round Board had a Special Meeting on Friday, February 15, 2013 in the community meeting room at Bay Street. Below please find a copy of the audio recording of the meeting and the agenda packet.

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FEBRUARY 15, 2013 BOARD PACKET

The Board approved a contract with a new operator. Drivers seeking to continue employment are forced to switch to the new operator. At least 20 of the same drivers have already switched to the new operator. There could be some delays in service.

The EPOA  is concerned about the escalating assessments for Emery Go Round Service. Unlike a for-profit corporation, where increased use brings additional money to cover the costs, in this circumstance, higher use just means higher assessments. We believe the existing Property/Business Improvement District “PBID,” is no longer the appropriate mechanism to pay for the service. The existing financing structure is generally used to provide improvements to business districts in specific geographic areas where each contributor receives direct benefit.

The Emery Go Round serves most of the city, It provides a necessary public benefit. It was created when the City brought several large business owners together who previously provided their own individual shuttle service to BART for their employees. The City created a Property/ Business Owner Assessment District “PBID” which was approved by 70% of the property owners in the District to provide on-going funds to operate the service.

Property Owner approval in this type of District is a “weighted” vote, which depends on the amount of property controlled by each individual owner. As an example if there are 200 individual owners, If only 10 owners control a majority of the land in the district, the remaining 190 owners are forced, by law, to participate in the district, and pay the assessment.

A NINE member Board of Directors was created. SIX seats were assigned to the largest contributors. ONE seat assigned to the Chamber of Commerce (for no good reason); ONE at large seat assigned to represent all of the smaller property owners, ONE Seat for Board member who owns property designated for residential rental units. The members representing to last to seats have to be elected by a property owner vote. A majority of this Board has the power to control the amount of the assessments for all the participating properties. Any objection to the assessment can simply be overruled by a majority of the Board.

Property owners in this District are locked into paying this on-going assessment,  something they may, or may not agree with…?  The Emery Go Round has become essential public bus service for the Emeryville Community. To their credit, the Board has done an excellent job responding to the public need. A professional bus operator has been hired. The buses are clean and the service is reliable..

Small property/business owners should not be expected or locked into paying for on-going increases to provide improved service to the general public. Like many new businesses which start out with a specific purpose adjustments soon become necessary to meet unanticipated needs.

The Emery Go Round has demonstrated the real need for a pubic bus service in Emeryville. Most people who live and work in Emeryville recognize the Emery Go Round as their only access to public transportation. Even if they seldom use the service, it is there when they need it. Emeryville is not well served by AC Transit, and we don’t have a Bart Station..

With approximately FOUR years left before the expiration of the current PBID assessment, and continued escalating costs it is time for the Emery Go Round Board, and the City to seek another source of funding. Members of the new EPOA have asked the Board to examine other ways to pay for the service. We believe the public use of the bus system violates the State Law for PBID assessments, by providing a public benefit,  rather than the type of direct benefit which is supposed to be specific to participating business owners. The boundaries of this Assessment District includes properties which  are not paying for the service.. A legal challenge to this assessment methodology may result in a decision which could bring an end to the service. This would be devastating to the community.

The first way to assign proper equity or responsibility for the costs is to determine who is using the service.

By law, AC Transit is the only bus operator in the East Bay with the authority to collect a fee from the public for bus service. The labor unions have locked that into place years ago with State Law to eliminate the potential for non union bus operators.

Just recently, an unexpected vacancy has occurred on the Board for the person holding the seat for the Residential Director. The unexpired term can be filled by the Board. One of the members of the EPOA, Francis Collins, has applied for the seat. Typically, the Board simply finds a replacement and makes the appointment. However, now that someone who has not been pre-selected by the Board is interested, the selection process has become riddled with various problems. They seem to be attributed to the unwillingness of allowing anyone, other than a predetermined candidate, to be chosen.

Some of those problems include, failing to send out a notices of the Board vacancy to all eligible parties, failing to provide public notice of the nominating and other committee meetings, and providing an inaccurate legal opinion for Board Members who wish to telecommunicate from out-of-town . The nominating committee met without public notice, and seems prepared to make a recommendation  with no ability for Collins to get meaningful consideration.  The new board member would very likely have already been chosen, but there was not a quorum at the January meeting.

The EPOA input to recommend a different assessment methodology as well as to influence the decision of the new Board Member seems unwelcome. Audio recording of the Board meetings and posting those recordings on this web page seems to be a problem. Attempts to audio record or participate in the Committee meetings have not been allowed, since no public notices of those meetings have been provided.  The present go away and leave us alone is destructive. Failing to recognize the Emery Go Round as a pubic bus system, failing to determine actual ridership to assign fair levels of assessment is an invitation for future problems. The EPOA has been told to take our concerns to the City Council.

However,. the sole purpose of the Board is to oversee the management of the bus operation, and to make recomendations to the City Council regarding the assessments. We are waiting for the result of the “fair” selection process to fill the vacant seat. There are two candidates, and both seem to be qualified. However, Collins is a major property owner in Emeryville, and other states, with over 40 years of hands-on experience. Collins was raised in an orphanage and has made the right decisions to achieve his success. The other candidate is a residential property manager for the new Avenue 64 residential project, a relatively new person in town.  He is a long time, and respected member of the Emeryville business community and a major participant in the new EPOA.

The fairness of the process to select board members and finding equity for the funding of the bus service is essential.  We also urge the Board to provide proper notice of all committee meetings as required by law.

We would like to suggest one potential funding option would be to explore imposing a QUARTER CENT SALES TAX for all retail sales in the City. This would be paid by people who shop in Emeryville. It would provide a new source of money to pay for the service, and some of the funds could be used to encourage transit use for people who work in Emeryville. This solution would provide immediate relief for the small business owners. There may be other creative solutions. We don’t believe the existing formula to pay for the service is a long term does not continue to work. We hope the Board will see the present assessment methodology is a growing unfair burden for small property and business owners which may not be sustainable in the long term.

Below please find the current assessment roll for the service.

EMERY GO ROUND ASSESSMENT ROLL

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