Piedmont should cut city worker benefits
The five majority members of the Municipal Tax Review Committee are to be thanked for presenting some unpleasant -- yet hugely important -- information concerning the financial situation of our lovely Piedmont. Here are some of the surprising, and scary, facts that I was previously not aware of and that I suspect many of the other readers may not be aware:
1) Piedmont has a $40 million unfunded employee benefit liability; which is about $10,000 for every Piedmont household. Looking at it another way, it is $400,000 for every full-time position within the Piedmont city government. (Note: this is an unfunded liability!)
2) The Piedmont city employee fringe benefit costs are now nearly 60 percent of their employee salary, and this has grown from 33 percent in 2004. This is huge growth, especially in these difficult times.
3) The dollar difference between the current 60 percent fringe benefit costs as a percent of the employee's salary costs versus the 2004 amount of 33 percent equates to about $1.9 million per year.
4) The parcel tax, if passed, will generate revenue of about $1.6 million, which is similar to the $1.9 million amount being paid annually, which is in excess to the amount being spent in 2004.
5) To tie things together, it is clear the parcel tax revenue of $1.6 million is needed to pay for the yearly excess fringe benefit of $1.9
Based on all the above, it seems clear to me that we should not be passing the city parcel tax (municipal services tax). Further, that the Piedmont City Council should implement actions to bring Piedmont's employee fringe benefits down to an affordable level and do so while maintaining the quality and quantity of our existing services.
City obliged to fix ballot arguments
At the Sept. 4 City Council Open Forum, Councilman Bob McBain cut off Aaron Salloway's remarks concerning lack of transparency in the private undergrounding debacle and other city financial issues. McBain declared such discussion was "a campaign statement" and wished to stop Salloway because the remarks were not city business. City Attorney Thomas Curry disagreed and opined that Salloway's remarks related to city business and can be allowed.
If Councilman Bob McBain were successful, residents would no longer be allowed to address the council as to how taxpayer dollars are spent. Councilman McBain's "point of order" appears to be an attempt to curtail residents' First Amendment rights and fundamentally alter the long-standing and legally required council open forum.
Salloway eventually resumed his comments and noted the lack of fiscal responsibility as evidenced by the undergrounding and Blair Park failures and suggested an outside negotiator/adviser for all future employee negotiations.
At the same open forum, Ryan Gilbert stated that the city has provided false information in the proponent ballot arguments. The offending statement is the concluding remark of the proponent argument and rebuttal, that the City Council has unanimously endorsed the Measure Y parcel tax.
This is a misstatement, as the council passed no resolution in that regard and has not unanimously endorsed the parcel tax; the council has moved to place the tax on the ballot to be decided by the electorate. The error was then publicly acknowledged by City Administrator Grote, Mayor John Chiang and Councilman Jeff Wieler. Asked directly by Gilbert, Grote stated the city will take no action to correct the ballot and advised that any resident could go to court to correct the matter.
The city has placed the burden of correction of the city-generated ballot misstatements on the voters. The sanctity of the ballot box is fundamental to our democratic system, yet the city will take no action to remove critical false information that it created and acknowledges. Many voters limit their ballot education to election materials, therefore an unequivocal false proponent statement must be corrected by those who made the error in a manner that in good faith reaches all residents. A few minutes of dialogue at a City Council open forum in no way remedies the false concluding statement of the proponent's ballot arguments.
The city should obtain a writ to remove the offending language from the ballot. Alternately the city can notify voters by a citywide mailer. The third option would be a front-page acknowledgment in all local print and online media outlets of the error. For City Hall to take no action means the city will provide false information to voters and take no action to ensure voters are aware of the false statement. Transparency and honesty are fundamental to good governance; at this time Piedmont voters are getting neither regarding the Measure Y proponent ballot arguments.
Beloved community member taken too soon
I was attending a social justice meeting at the Aug. 29 dinner of one of our members when Dorothy Finger met me in the stairwell. She looked as if she was about to cry. I asked her what was wrong. She told me, "Our Anthony, our dear Anthony, had a heart attack."
At first I thought, "Anthony ... a member of our congregation?" But then she clarified, "Our beloved Anthony from the beauty salon."
I asked, "Where is he?" She said, "He's gone. He passed away." I was stunned. I am still stunned.
I'm grateful that he didn't suffer, that it was a heart attack. I believe that in that moment, Anthony Fuschillo, a former alter boy in the Catholic Church, saw the gates of heaven open before him with Saint Peter welcoming him in with open arms.
It's the rest of us who will suffer -- every time we walk into Lincoln Square shopping center on Redwood Road, to pick up something at Safeway, or Hunan Yuan or Red Boy Pizza. Admit it. Don't you look for him, every time you're there, running an errand?
The truth is Anthony touched much more than the hairs on our heads. He touched our hearts. He knew our stories. He remembered our stories. He accompanied us for years in the unfolding stories of our lives, with the presence of a minister.
Tonight, as I go to sleep, as I close my eyes, I say a prayer to Anthony Fuschillo, who made us laugh, who made us beautiful, and who saw the beauty in each one of us, and magnified it.
Sweet dreams, dear Anthony, my patron saint of beautiful haircuts. You are truly one of the saints in light.
Rev. Laurie Manning, MBA, MEd MDiv
pastor, Skyline Community Church United Church of Christ Oakland