Newly selected Mayor Jac Asher led off the inaugural city council meeting of 2014 with her State of the City address. “A just city” was a running theme throughout the speech as Asher looked to couple the Economic health of our city with the services we offer to children, the elderly and those being left behind by rising rents & property costs. Asher, a Triangle neighborhood resident & parent of two, is no stranger to the podium as a Lecturer in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley. The 42 minute video presentation captured on the EPOA YouTube Channel includes a summary of the various departments within the city with a fiscal overview by first year City Manager Sabrina Landreth. Asher also introduced the intriguing idea of Emeryville becoming a charter city with the idea of recouping some of the funding lost from the dissolution of Redevelopment money.
Additional topics covered include:
- Affordable Housing
- Community Services
- Childcare & Youth Recreation
- Our Financial Health
- In-progress or proposed economic development and housing projects
Why Childcare Matters
Asher addressed the “Crisis” of Childcare where she pointed out could cost a mother of two upwards of $2800 per month. “I think we want families to stay in the city? I HOPE we do, and in our region … but we need to remember that childcare can price them out”. “Childcare allows people to work”.
“I believe that secure housing that is affordable gives people a base to work from. If they’re not worried about the rising cost of rent and if their housing situation is secure, then we’ve removed a barrier of participation in our community”. Without redevelopment, there is no ongoing tax increment revenue to support affordable housing.
2014 Public Works Projects
- The Joseph Emery Skate Spot
- Senior Center Renovation
- Peninsula Fire Station Rehabilitation
- Sidewalk improvement program
- Public Works Yard & Emergency Operation Center renovation
- South Bayfront Pedestrian Bridge (Funding still pending)
City Budget & Expenses
Becoming a Charter City
As the city struggles to regain its footing in the post-redevelopment era, a new direction was proposed to recoup some of this lost revenue. Mayor Asher introduced the idea of Emeryville becoming a Charter City (Currently Emeryville is a “General Law” City). There are currently 121 charter cities in California including our neighbors in Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, Alameda and Piedmont. Apparently most metropolitan communities are incorporated as Charter Cities. The transition would have to be put in front of the voters this fall. The conversation is just getting started on how the Charter direction of our city will benefit us.
The pros & cons outlined in this Examiner.com article outline that “the chartered city, in essence with its own constitution, has greater say in its activities and governance; the elected officials have executive powers. Managers run the general law cities and the elected officials have no executive powers. That is to say, no elected official has authority over day-to-day operations. The only advantage in being a general law city is when there is lack of local resources, in other words the community cannot stand on its own. Larger communities that have long developed that “stand alone” ability and should consider chartering — putting local control in the community where it belongs”. Additional differences are outlined in this “General Law City v. Charter City” Comparison chart on the League of California Cities website (PDF).
Another important consideration would be that Charter Cities allow for a “Strong” or directly elected Mayor and the city can establish council members’ salaries beyond the pittance they currently receive (About $13,000 annually – roughly that of a minimum-wage worker). Councilmember West has gone on record as this being a reason for her not seeking re-election as she has had a hard time striking a balance between the 20 hours + a week that being on the council demands in addition to working full-time and being a mother of two.