Councilmembers Jennifer West and Kurt Brinkman finished off their 5 year terms at the December 2nd City Council Meeting and were both honored for their contributions. Meanwhile, newly elected Councilmembers Martinez and Donahue were sworn in. In addition, Ruth Atkin took the reins as Mayor with Nora Davis assuming the role as Vice Mayor.
Kurt Brinkman & Jennifer West Step down
The first agenda item of the meeting was a resolution recognizing the contributions of outgoing Councilmembers Jennifer West and Kurt Brinkman. Both outgoing Councilmembers were elected in 2009 and served a single, five-year term after the city elections shifted to an even-year cycle to save money and presumably encourage stronger voter turnout. In the statement of recognition read by Jac Asher, the outgoing Mayor cited West & Brinkman’s contributions during their term as:
- Expanded affordable housing and increased city green spaces
- Worked with the Emery USD & the Community in guiding and planning the forthcoming ECCL
- Advocated for better Pedestrian, Bicycle and alternative forms of transportation
- Successfully transitioned Emeryville through the dissolution of Redevelopment
West, who served her term as Mayor in 2012, addressed the chambers by thanking her supporters (and non-supporters) and providing some advice for those stepping in. “Reaching beyond the borders of Emeryville as an elected official was really important to me and I wanted to say to those that will soon be stepping up to the dais that it’s important to recognize what lies beyond our square mile and how our decisions and our thoughts here impact, and looking at it from a regional perspective.” West also expressed frustration with how slow things moved within the city but acknowledged the discourse behind this was sometimes necessary.
“What a gift its been to have the opportunity to serve you … I did my best for five years”. A former public school teacher who obtained her graduate degree in Public Policy at the Goldman School while serving her term, Jennifer West’s profession is as a public policy director with Transform, a transportation advocacy non-profit. West noted that said she plans to fill her schedule by reading books, exercising more and enjoying more dinners with friends.
Kurt Brinkman, who served a combined 11 years for the city including the first six for the School Board and served his term as Mayor in 2013 also addressed those in attendance. “It’s been eleven great years and I’ve really enjoyed my time serving the City of Emeryville”. “I’ve also learned what a good city is made up of, and that’s their staff”.
Brinkman is the President of the Company he founded, Intrepid Electronics whose offices moved from Emeryville to West Oakland. He outlined his commitments to his efforts to help improve West Oakland and provide more opportunities to the youth there. “There’s really a need for what worked well in Emeryville to spill over onto that part West Oakland. For this city to be a great city, we have to help Oakland be a better City.”
Brinkman also addressed his sometimes contentious moments with others on the council. “We had our battles, but we didn’t have any wars” referencing the frequent alliances Kurt had with Nora Davis and Ruth Atkin that sometimes saw opposition with West & Asher who often distinguish themselves as more progressive in their beliefs. Brinkman also took time to acknowledge Aya Nakano, the Emeryville man who was murdered along our border in North Oakland and his own involvement in guiding community efforts to help find his killers. Brinkman’s post-council plans are covered in greater detail in our exclusive interview with him when he originally announced he would not be seeking a second term last June.
Both former Councilmembers were given a ceremonial crystal gavel & grand to commemorate their service.
Jac Asher then went on to acknowledge the efforts of the community in coming together to pass Measures U & V. She thanked RULE, the Council, Candidates, The League of Women Voters, the Chamber of Commerce, the citizen volunteers (including young children), the individual contributors to the YES campaign and the staff for their work and analysis to prepare the ballot measures. “I’m very grateful that the measures passed but it was also a reminder to me why I live here and why it’s so great”. Councilmember Davis acknowledged that three California cities pursued Charter City measures on their ballots and Emeryville was the only one amongst them to pass. She cited the wisdom of the council in demanding that the language of the measure be straight-forward and not vague in its intentions with voters.
Dianne Martinez & Scott Donahue Sworn In
The Council then moved to install the newly elected members Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue by reading from an oath. During public comment, former candidate John Bauters graciously congratulated the winning Councilmembers after a hard-fought campaign. “Congratulations to the two of you on being elected to the City Council and I wish you the very best in the next four years in your service”.
One of the more entertaining moments of the meeting came when Dianne Martinez’s husband addressed the council, that now includes his wife, advocating for a raise. While the framing was awkward and maybe ill-timed, the message was poignant: If we want to attract and keep the best and the brightest to council, we may need to consider a better compensation model that better aligns with our neighbors. Currently, in addition to the $1,090.88 a Councilmember earns per month, they are also eligible for $492.00/mo. in vehicle allowance and $636.20/mo. in-lieu of health insurance. Councilmembers are also eligible for any salaries from regional boards they serve on. If you total this up and they forgo the health insurance, the best-case scenario would be roughly $26,600 per year and break down to about $20/hr. based on the estimated 25 hours per week commitment.
John Fricke, Jennifer West and Kurt Brinkman are all part of a recent one-term trend amongst Councilmembers and West has gone on record citing compensation and time commitments as a reason for her not pursuing a second term as she supports a family in one of the most expensive cost-of-living regions in the country. As a Charter City, the city and residents will have more authority to write ordinances to remedy this if they choose. In lieu of increased compensation, the city could also provide the Council better staff support including an assistant to help better coordinate, schedule & brief them. A directly elected Mayor is another consideration that the city may pursue in the future.
Ruth Atkin assumes Mayorship, Nora Davis appointed Vice Mayor
Ruth Atkin, who was Vice Mayor under Jac Asher, was appointed Mayor as part of an agreed to but still somewhat mysterious rotation. This will be the 15 year Councilpersons 4th term as Mayor. Atkin will outline her priorities for her term at the forthcoming January 28th State of the City Council Meeting but she alluded that addressing Climate Change would be amongst these issues. Nora Davis assumed the Vice Mayor position. The balance of the meeting was spent assigning vacant committee positions including ABAG, The Mosquito Abatement District and Waste Management.