Letter: Mayor Urges 'Yes' Vote on Measure Y

Piedmont Mayor John Chiang outlines possible cuts to the city budget if Measure Y, the parcel tax renewal measure on the Nov. 6 ballot, fails to pass.

Dear Fellow Piedmonters,

Let me explain why I am advocating for and endorsing Measure Y – the renewal of Piedmont’s Municipal Parcel Tax. Measure Y is neither a new nor tax increase, and every dollar collected stays in Piedmont to benefit Piedmont citizens.  

The $1.63 million generated from the 32 year old parcel tax is critical to balancing the City’s $22.4 million budget, at a cost of less than $9 per week for most households.

Some have asked what would be cut if the existing parcel tax, representing 7.28% of the City’s budget, is not renewed. This would ultimately be decided by the City Council, after much public input. Let’s look at some of the possible cuts:

  • Eliminate Library Services - $350,000
  • Eliminate or reduce funding for equipment and facilities reserves - $900,000
  • Draw down the City’s $2.8 million General Fund reserve
  • Reduce police and fire staffing to generate $1.63 million, representing     16.5% of the $9.9 million personnel budget – translating to a headcount reduction of about 9 employees
  • Cut salaries of every employee by over 15% or $1.63 million of the $10.7 million salary budget
  • Reduce maintenance services for public parks, facilities and fields

None of the above options will be easy to implement and many would be very unpopular. How realistic are these choices?  

  • Reduce or eliminate equipment and facilities reserves funding - is counter to the Municipal Tax Review Committee (MTRC) recommendation, is not prudent, and robs from the future to pay for current costs, with failure to replace public safety equipment and maintain buildings impacting service levels
  • Draw up to $1.63 million of General Fund reserves - would leave the City with under a 6% reserve, far below the MTRC recommended 15%
  • Reduce public safety staffing - would impact the quality of services and reduce safety levels
  • Reduce employee salaries by over 15% - will take time, be subject to good faith bargaining and labor laws, with potential turnovers impacting service levels

The City Council has and will continue to take proactive steps to deal with the complexity and rising cost of employee benefits over time, with the goal that any future increase in benefit costs will be covered by employees.  We will be hiring an employee benefits consultant to identify additional options.    

The bottom-line - The City needs the renewal of the parcel tax to remain financially sound and to maintain Piedmont’s high quality services.

Please vote yes on Measure Y.

John Chiang, Mayor

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Eric Lindquist November 02, 2012 at 06:10 PM
To suggest that either the proponents or opponents of Measure Y do not have the "best interests of our community at heart" is an inappropriate and unfounded opinion. There are well-defined issues that this City Council needs to address. There are union negotiations for contracts expiring in December 2013 and June 2014. There is an election for three City Council members in February 2014. Send a strong message to our City Council--demand progess on issues that threaten the long-term financial health of our community. Citizens can review progress made on pension costs and other issues and vote on both the parcel tax and new Council members in 2014. It is not business as usual. Vote No on Measure Y.
Eric Lindquist November 02, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Wrong dates in my comments---union contracts expire in December 2012 and June 2013. Thus, these negotiations can be completed prior to a vote on the parcel tax in February 2014.
Rick Schiller November 02, 2012 at 06:48 PM
City Council does "not have the best interests of our community at heart" if they only use illogical scare tactics to pass this tax. They do not have the best interest of ALL residents if they refuse to acknowledge that failure of Measure Y will give them a critical tool in negotiation the upcoming contracts: the electorate has spoken and the time for employee cost sharing is long overdue. The time is now to utilize the thoughtful work of the MTRC in controlling costs and implementing risk assessment that will last for many decades rather than continue on an unsustainable path with a short term taxpayer funded band-aid.
karen barbieri November 02, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Eric, it's fine to demand progress on issues that threaten long term financial health of the community, but it's extremely unwise to do so by hamstringing the council. Do you really think it makes sense to cut off these tax revenues for awhile, to punish the council for not following your advice to the letter, but then try to reinstate the tax in a year or so? That's what you've been arguing but do you really think that will happen, and how would you do that? And how much damage would occur in the meantime? Further, my opinions about both the opponents and the necessity of passing Measure Y are neither inappropriate nor unfounded. I have watched the people who are currently opposing this measure for 8 years since I paid attention to city council proceedings, and I believe they are pushing their own various agendas at the expense of the city as a whole. And, 12 years ago if the Piedmont EMT's had not arrived at our door in less than three minutes and been incredibly effective in reviving my husband, he wouldn't be here today. The doctors at the hospital told me this. If I'm not entitled to an opinion on that then who is? Those who want to defeat Measure Y may want to experiment to see which services will be cut, how bad the effects will be and take their chances, but I'm not willing to do that and I don't think it's fair for them to impose their experiments on the rest of us.
karen barbieri November 02, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Ryan, the only thing that's glib is the opponents claim that existing services won't suffer in any way. There is absolutely nothing to back up that assertion. And honestly, I don't think my friends and neighbors are concerned about being cut off socially over Measure Y and I certainly don't wield that kind of power. They should, however, be afraid of reduced essential services in years to come if Measure Y doesn't pass.
Ryan Gilbert November 02, 2012 at 10:33 PM
One add to my previous comment: The Measure A result was 2000 yes, 1949 no. So it was a 51 vote plurality in favor, but 634 votes shy of a 2/3 majority.
Tim Rood November 02, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Put another way: 1,949 voted against Measure A despite being told to do so by the Council, the Post, and the group that Ms. Barbieri identifies with. In the same election, 2,063 voted for me despite being told NOT to do so by 4/5 of the Council, the Post, and the group that Ms. Barbieri identifies with. In 2014, who will 4/5 of the Council, the Post, and the group that Ms. Barbieri identifies with tell you to vote for?
garrett Keating November 02, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Karen - that is an incredibly derogatory remark about the No on Y group for which you should be ashamed. This "small group" contains many city volunteers, several longstanding, many appointed by this Council. Most members of the No on Y Committee have served on major city commissions and I dare say are more knowledgeable about city services and finances than you are. It is an entirely ideological dispute about how to direct Council to be fiscally responsible and address significant deficits in the city budget and voters are entirely within their right to vote again Measure Y if they feel their tax dollars are not being properly managed. No one has done the arithmetic on Measure Y but with over $6M in reserves, there should be little immediate impact on city services and virtually none on public safety shoudl Y be defeated.
karen barbieri November 02, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Garrett you've lost me. I stand by everything I've said here, and refer you to Guy Saperstein's letter to the Post, as I think he explained the opposition better than I ever could. But what strikes me is that, if Piedmont has such a healthy reserve, it looks like the council has been doing a good job, which is completely at odds with the claims of the no on Y group.
Tim Rood November 03, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Karen, since you brought up Mr. Saperstein's ad hominem attack on Ryan and me in the Post - Piedmonters not as well connected as you may be interested to know that Mr. Saperstein was chair of the Piedmont Hills Utility Undergrounding District and a prime instigator of the City's failed, meritless anti-SLAPP lawsuit against the Piedmonters who successfully challenged the Hampton/Sea View undergrounding district. The anti-SLAPP suit cost Piedmont taxpayers $685,000 in legal fees. Mr. Saperstein also attacked me in the Post for having a conversation with Oakland planning staff to better understand that city's issues with the Blair Park EIR. Apparently Mr. Saperstein feels the need to keep up his attacks, even after Piedmont taxpayers dumped $2.5 million into subsidizing the undergrounding of his home, Council member Bob McBain's and 142 others.
garrett Keating November 03, 2012 at 12:11 AM
I wouldn't rely on Guy for an objective assessment of the No on Y campaign - he was an ardent supporter of the PHUD undergrounding (lives there) and probably objects to No on Y's charatcerization of that fiasco. Piedmont real estate has been doing a good job - the healthy reserve is due to almost entirely to Piedmont's rising property tax revenues over the past 20 years - unfortunately Council didn't account for pensions/benefits and now the City is facing a $40M liability. I really don't see how you can stand by that comment. It' fine to debate the issues and but to label others as "detractors" who don't have the city's best interest at heart - that is an attack on character and is out of line.
karen barbieri November 03, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Well, as Ryan says, we'll just have to agree to disagree. After listening to the accusations against the current and past council from the No group, which have been constant, personal, inflammatory and not based on reality, it's sort of funny to hear the indignation coming from that sector when their own motives are questioned. I think Guy called it like it is.
Melanie Robertson November 03, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Wow! If the undergrounding district contained only 144 homes, then that means each of those homeowners received a bail-out of $17,361.00 from the citizens of Piedmont. Perhaps those who are concerned with the City's financial future could simply refund the money.
garrett Keating November 03, 2012 at 02:52 AM
I guess so. I don't think Guy is right but he is consistent - question undergrounding and be personally attacked in the Post. Council certainly has been critiqued by the No Group but our "motives" have not been questioned.
Ryan Gilbert November 03, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Good night everyone. Karen, say hi to Dean. After the election I'm sure we'll all have a lot more to talk about and Guy can get his poison pen out once again as his always does the Wednesday before an election in the Post. One thing we can all love about Piedmont is the predictability of some of its characters. Good night and good luck!
Guy Saperstein November 03, 2012 at 05:55 PM
The letter in question: It is instructive to note who is leading the campaign in support of Measure Y and who is leading the opposition. In active support of Measure Y are nine former Piedmont mayors and the current Piedmont Mayor, John Chiang---all of whom have had actual responsibility for running the City of Piedmont and providing for Piedmont's fiscal health. Leading the opposition are two men, Ryan Gilbert and Tim Rood, who each ran for City Council and lost. They are two men whose ideas and proposals were rejected by the voters. They are two men who have never governed in Piedmont [or anywhere else, for that matter]. But having been unable to obtain majority votes for City Council, in the grand tradition of Howard Jarvis, and aided by the Proposition 13's 2/3 super-majority voting requirement, they want their minority ideas about budget management to hamstring Piedmont city government and diminish the type of city services that have made Piedmont the envy of every community in Northern California. There is absolutely no chance that Rood and Gilbert's fiscal ideas will ever represent a majority in Piedmont and there is no chance that Measure Y will obtain less than a majority of votes in this year's election. But what Rood and Gilbert are counting on is that by getting 1/3 of the votes, plus one, they can put themselves in the position to dictate fiscal policy for Piedmont and enforce their minority ideas. We shouldn't let that happen.
Guy Saperstein November 03, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I am now convinced more than ever that Mr. Rood is a hot-head who doesn't take the time to get the facts. There is not a shred of support for his claim that I was "the prime instigator of the City's failed, meritless anti-SLAPP lawsuit." In fact, I had absolutely NOTHING to do with the City's lawsuit and when I saw that the City had filed an Anti-SLAPP cause-of-action, I told people that I didn't think the anti-SLAPP statute was available to cities, as it was designed as a remedy for individuals. Ten minutes of legal research would have confirmed that, but the law firm the City hired apparently failed to do that research and missed that issue.
Eric Lindquist November 03, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Mr. Saperstein, it is you who needs to do some homework for some basic facts. Please read your voters' pamphlet. It is a majority of the MTRC leading the campaign to vote No on Measure Y. You are correct in stating that our elected officials are responsible for the fiscal health of our community. Who is responsible for the $4 million wasted on mismanaged undergrounding and sports field projects? How, then, did we end up with a $40,000,000 unfunded retirement liability? That's $10,000 per Piedmont household. And, while being misinformed and not understanding the facts, your letter was mean-spirited. Demand fiscal responsibility from our elected officials. Vote No on Measure Y
Neil Teixeira November 03, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Karen, You and I have known each other since grammer school, we have a lot of years (decades) in this little town, we all care about Piedmont. In your letter, you use of the phrase "stick it" and you claim that the No on Y people are just a "small" group that does not have the best interests of our community at heart. Lets all review the reality of facts and arithmetic: 144 of your PHUUD little group got bailed out to the tune of 2.5 million. Bad legal advise (Kurtin lawsuit) from your group cost us $685,000 Crest Road wash out costs $300,000.....plea from your group....again. Blair Park gift......(after Nov 6 vote) it will be $350,000...your group again. You were a member of the PRFO legal team? etc, etc, etc............... You stated that Piedmont has a reputation for great services and schools. Karen, you forget to mention Piedmont also has the reputation of a Ol two-tiered City where a small group (larger lot owners) of citizen's has a unfair/unhealthy influence on the administration, direction and decisions at City Hall. The math record (2+2=4) tells us: its your group that is "sticking it" ! The whole "Let Them Eat Cake" social culture-club is bankrupting Piedmont. So Karen, who really has.....the best interests of our whole community at heart? Vote No on Y Neil Teixeira
karen barbieri November 03, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Wow there's so much misinformation in this last one that it's hard to know where to start. I wasn't involved in either of the undergrounding districts, although I will observe again that one is still involved in litigation against the engineering firms to recover the funds that the city had to spend and the other is a result of a citizen suing the city because he lost the vote. I'm not part of the legal team for PRFO. Nor did I have anything to do with a flood on Crest, but I'm glad our city fixes things like that. What your comment illustrates is that the No group is trying to tie Measure Y to issues like undergrounding and Blair, Crest, etc, which one or another of them opposed. There isn't any connection, never has been, that's why their comments are so misleading.
Guy Saperstein November 03, 2012 at 08:36 PM
I always know when I have written a good letter because my friends love it and my targets whine about it.
Ryan Gilbert November 03, 2012 at 10:14 PM
This target is not whining. I know your poison pen well. You follow the same modus operandi every election cycle and are always very personal. Your friends may love it and may even laugh, but stop to think ... maybe they are laughing at you ... not with you.
Guy Saperstein November 03, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Sounds like whining to me. Yes, I remember you well from the election several years ago where you tried to sell yourself to voters as some kind of environmental hero and I called you out for never having done a thing before the election to protect the environment. Hopefully, you learned something from that experience and are not as big a phony as you were then. But maybe not.
Ryan Gilbert November 03, 2012 at 11:07 PM
So I'm a "phony", Tim's "a hot-head"... Who next? Sticks and stones may break by bones, names will never hurt me.
Dixie Jordan (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Ladies and Gentlemen: This isn't high school - let's stick to the issues and skip any name-calling and personal attacks, please. Many thoughtful comments, some a bit over the top in personal remarks. I really don't want to have to step in and moderate comment by comment - even Patch editors like some free time on weekends! Thanks, Dixie J.
Rick Schiller November 04, 2012 at 05:22 AM
In response to Mr. Saperstein’s comment characterizing Tim Rood as a “hot-head,” I first became aware of Tim when we were both following the City Council Undergrounding “Audit” sub-committee. Independently Tim and I (and others) shared many of the same concerns over the lack of meaningful investigation. I found Tim’s analysis factually accurate and his comments reasonable, cogent and precise; this is not the work of a hot-head. As to Mr. Saperstein’s comments concerning the City’s ill-advised Anti-SLAPP motion against the Kurtin’s, it is unfortunate the City was not afforded Mr. Saperstein’s expert opinion requiring “ten minutes of legal research” as the total taxpayer bill was in excess of $600,000. Perhaps City attorney Peyton should have advised appropriately. A web search reveals a letter on Mr. Saperstein’s letterhead cautioning Bert Kurtin and others that “Any attempt to stop this [undergrounding] project at this late date by litigation also would put you and your clients at risk pursuant to California's anti-SLAPP statute.” URL: http://bkurtin.wordpress.com/. Letter: http://bkurtin.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/saperstein-threat.pdf As Mr. Saperstein states, the City could not avail itself of Anti-SLAPP. Were the undergrounding districts contemplating an Anti-SLAPP motion in the event of litigation? I would appreciate clarification of the apparent contradiction in Mr. Saperstein’s May 2009 letter and his Patch comment now.
Guy Saperstein November 04, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Your facts are partly wrong and partly incomplete. There is no letter "on my letterhead" and no letter "cautioning Bert Kurtin." The letter you refer to was written by Judge Carl Anderson on his letterhead and co-signed by me to the lawyer representing my Glen Alpine neighbor John Nady when his lawyer threatened a lawsuit to stop the completion of a district which 67% of his neighbors had voted in favor of. Had Nady filed his threatened lawsuit, the neighbors would have considered an Anti-SLAPP action against him. I have never suggested the Anti-SLAPP statute was available to a city, the city never consulted me about any aspect of their litigation with Kurtin and I played absolutely no role in the city's litigation against Kurtin. There is some irony in this whole affair which you are missing. Kurtin had a dead-bang losing case on the merits---no chance whatsoever of prevailing. But when the city brought the losing Anti-SLAPP action, it gave Kurtin leverage in the litigation he never would have had and ultimately forced the city to abandon the litigation on the merits, thus sinking the Seaview undergrounding district, which had obtained a clear majority in voting. Thus, while opponents of undergrounding complain about the city's Anti-SLAPP action, it was, in fact, the reason why Kurtin's otherwise losing lawsuit was able to override the clear majority of his neighbors' support for undergrounding.
Bert Kurtin November 05, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Guy Saperstein is either lying or has lost his memory when he responds to Rick Schiller: “the letter you refer to was written by Judge Carl Anderson on his letterhead and co-signed by me ….” Rick’s posting last night is entirely accurate. In Mr. Saperstein’s signed letter to me on his very stylish letterhead prior to the filing our lawsuit against the City, he wrote that “We wish to warn you that any such action would risk incurring millions of dollars in damages to the neighborhoods for which you would be held responsible.” Not shy about tooting his horn, he bragged to me that he “once obtained more than a million dollars in damages and attorneys fees in an anti-SLAPP action.” Mr. Saperstein might now claim that he was just offering a bit of friendly advice in trying to dissuade us from doing what we did, but there is no way that anyone could possibly construe his words as anything but a threat. An accomplished attorney such as Guy Saperstein should know that when he either blatantly lies or can’t recall the facts, he no longer is credible.
Guy Saperstein November 05, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Kurtin may be right. The letter Schiller referenced says exactly what I wrote to the Patch, but months after Nady backed off his threat to sue our neighborhood, Kurtin, who lived in a different neighborhood, was reported to be intending to sue our neighborhood---which we thought was completely ridiculous. At that point, I may well have sent him a letter warning him that if he did, we would fight back, including a possible Anti-SLAPP action. In any case, if I wrote him a letter to that effect to him, it worked because he did not sue our neighborhood. And the claim that I once obtained the largest Anti-SLAPP verdict in California legal history is correct.
Mike Henn November 05, 2012 at 11:10 PM
I am sorry to see how personal and off-target this discussion has progressed, relative to what was in Mayor Chiang's original opinion piece. I respectfully suggest that the undergrounding issue be put to rest. It is history. Mistakes were made and the city was legally on the hook to pay for it. That's all there is to it. I wonder why no one called John on his proposed alternative of lowering employee salaries by 15%. Public employees have contractural protection written into the State constitution. I had worked for four differerent East Bay jurisdictions for collectively 41 years and I never once saw an employee's salary go down. In budget crunches, those with the least senority and lowest salaries get laid off while the rest go right on with their step raises built into their contracts. Piedmont salaries are high but not out of line according to the prevailing wage surveys. That is how salaries and benefits are set in local government. It's not a good system because it bears no relationship to the economic viability of the respective jurisdictions. But the public employee's unions in Sacramento have been calling the shots since before Willie Brown was Speaker of the Assembly. And they will remain in charge until some measure like Prop 32 finally passes. Cities that have tried to save money by just asking employees to contribute more to their pensions or health plans are being sued. Even the Governor's recent Anti final year salary spiking is being challenged in court.


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