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The Mirabella blues

You get the feeling Foster City officials wish that critics of Mirabella San Francisco Bay Parkview Plaza, a major development planned for 15 acres next to City Hall, would just kind of fade away.

But that seems unlikely, especially now that Foster City parents are clamoring for the construction of a fourth elementary school on city land. Some of these parents are well aware that four acres of the 15-acre Mirabella site remain available, since plans for a public charter high school there fell through last summer.

The Foster City Council was never particularly fond of the charter school idea and its backer, the Foster City High School Foundation, so it’ll be interesting to see how it reacts if and when parents of children in the San Mateo-Foster City School District suggest the eastern corner of the Mirabella property as a possible school site.

Regardless, the small but committed group of residents who oppose Mirabella is not going anywhere. In fact, they may be about to amplify their message.

Let’s put aside the questions of the moment — those pertaining to traffic and construction noise and other issues covered by an environmental impact report that the city is currently reviewing — and step back for a look at the bigger picture.

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Posted on Monday, February 9th, 2009
Under: Aaron Kinney, Activism, City Council, Foster City, Planning | 1 Comment »

Brisbane’s new City Hall

The Times ran a couple photos yesterday of Brisbane’s new City Hall, which opened to the public on Monday. We have a few others in the hopper that didn’t make it into the paper. Here’s the facade:

Here’s one of the building’s open staircases:

A worker puts the finishing touches on the audiovisual equipment in the City Council’s new meeting room:

This is where the city planners sit:

Click here for more information on the renovation.

Posted on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Brisbane, City Council, Planning | No Comments »

Dirty deeds alleged in Pacifica

A potentially embarrassing lawsuit filed against the city of Pacifica by former finance director Maureen Lennon reared its head at a recent Times editorial meeting with three City Council candidates.

Challenger Tod Schlesinger cited the suit in alleging that Pacifica’s city government does not operate with sufficient transparency and even engages in wrongdoing behind closed doors.

Schlesinger specifically cited a letter, dated Sept. 30, in which Lennon’s attorney mentioned “rumored attempts” by members of the City Council and City Attorney Cecelia Quick to “hide or destroy documents.”

Councilman Cal Hinton responded to Schlesinger’s accusations by saying the challenger does not have all the facts.

“I know of no inappropriate actions by the city,” Hinton said.

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Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2008
Under: 2008 Local Races, Aaron Kinney, City Council, Corruption, Lawsuits, Pacifica, Political Campaigns | No Comments »

Judith Christensen has her guard up

In September, a campaign committee called “Safe Streets and Quality Neighborhoods in Daly City” was formed to oppose Judith Christensen, who is running for re-election, and supports incumbent Sal Torres and neophyte David Canepa.

So far, the committee, which consists of Daly City firefighters and police officers, has kept mum.

Christensen anticipates that it will release a “hit piece” on her close to the Nov. 4 election to dissuade voters.

“That’s the traditional tactic of that kind of committee,” she said. “They couch their language very carefully so they can’t be sued, but you can say a lot. They can accuse you but they can pose it as a question.”

Christensen doesn’t know what she’ll be accused of, but she is warning voters that something will come. She said the suspense is a little scary.

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Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
Under: 2008 Local Races, Aaron Kinney, Christine Morente, City Council, Daly City, Political Campaigns | 1 Comment »

A local connection to Oaktown scandal

It turns out there’s a local angle to the case of Deborah Edgerly, the former administrator for the city of Oakland.

Edgerly (pictured below and to the right) was fired last month by Mayor Ron Dellums after she was suspected of tipping her nephew off to a gang investigation being conducted by Oakland police.

But that was just one of myriad improper things Edgerly is now accused of having done during her time at the top of Oakland’s bureaucratic pyramid. And many of those allegations are contained in a civil lawsuit filed against her by Millbrae’s finance director, LaRae Brown.

Brown served as Oakland’s controller until March 2007, when Edgerly fired her. In her suit, filed June 8 in Alameda County Superior Court, Brown said she was let go in retaliation after she uncovered all sorts unethical practices taking place on Edgerly’s watch.

Brown said she discovered in 2006 that the city’s payroll and accounting practices were completely out of whack and that Edgerly was overstating the city’s cash balance by $172 million.

But when she took her concerns to her supervisor, she was stonewalled, and Edgerly continued to provide misleading financial reports to the City Council, according to the suit, which surmises that Edgerly wanted to prevent the bad news from surfacing prior to her planned retirement in 2008.

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Posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, City Council, Corruption, Millbrae | No Comments »

America’s next Colma mayor

If you want to be the next member of the Colma City Council, there’s still more than an hour to rush over to City Hall and fill out an application!

The town is looking for someone to fill out the remainder of Larry Formalejo’s term, which expires in November. Formalejo resigned March 13 after an investigation found that he committed several ethical breaches while in office.

The forms must be filled out and returned by 5 p.m. The council will interview potential replacements at a meeting Thursday.

Here’s a brief quiz to see if you have the right stuff to serve.

Your son is arrested for driving on a suspended license and allegedly violating his probation for a drunk-driving conviction. Should you:

a) Bail him out of jail and give him a stern lecture.

b) Continue reading to your other children from their favorite bedtime story: the Colma General Plan.

c) Call the police sergeant who supervised the arrest and ask if he can make some of the charges “go away.”

d) Contact a magician to see if he can literally make the record of the incident disappear.

If you chose “a” or “b,” you may be a strong candidate. If you chose “c” — as Formalejo did, according to Linda Tripoli, an attorney hired by the town to investigate the former mayor’s alleged improprieties — then you should probably take yourself out of the running.

If you picked “d,” please call former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who would like to know if you have any referrals.

Here’s another one. True or false: Lucky Chances Casino, the local card room, is an appropriate place to use your town-issued credit card.

Give up? Well, Formalejo chose “true,” according to Assistant City Manager Laura Allen, who recounted the incident to Tripoli. (The city went with “false.”)

The point here is that it wouldn’t be hard to do a better job on the council than Formalejo, from a civics standpoint, if Tripoli’s report is to be believed.

It’s hard to decide what aspect of the Formalejo affair was strangest. How about the fact that even before he quit, Formalejo’s colleagues on the council didn’t see fit to censure or punish him? Or that he still doesn’t think he did anything wrong? (He said he resigned for health reasons.)

But the richest part of all this may be that Formalejo’s philosophy regarding his town credit card was so out of kilter that his former colleague on the council, Phil Lum, allegedly had to rein him in.

Lum, you may recall, is currently serving an 18-month prison term for failing to report gifts he received from the owner of Lucky Chances. But when Formalejo allegedly tried to bail his son out of jail after that 2006 arrest using the town credit card, Lum had to step in and be the voice of reason, according to Tripoli’s report.

Tripoli could not determine whether that allegation is true, because Formalejo refused to speak to her. Lum was unavailable, she said, as he is sitting in a federal prison roughly 30 miles southwest of Bakersfield.

Posted on Monday, March 24th, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, City Council, Colma, San Mateo County | No Comments »

The life of a mayor

pam-frisella.jpg

Foster City Mayor Pam Frisella learned firsthand last week that you’ve got to pay the cost to be the boss.

Frisella got a number of emails from aggravated Foster City residents after the foghorn on the San Mateo Bridge malfunctioned once again.

Speaking from Sacramento, where she was attending a League of California Cities conference with City Councilwoman Linda Koelling and City Manager Jim Hardy, Frisella said last week that she’s already learned something about her new position: When you’re mayor, people take their comments directly to you, even when you can’t fix things.

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Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, City Council, Foster City | No Comments »

Philanthropy in the highest Digre

digre.jpg

Our sincerest apologies for the huge gap in postings. The Insider went off the rails following the San Diego wildfires and continuing through the elections. We’re now back to our regular schedule.

Speaking of San Diego, when the Insider tagged along with a special California Medical Assistance Team in late October on its mission to help thousands of residents who were turned out of their homes by wildfires, we encountered several members with Bay Area ties.

Among them was Erick Digre, 55, husband of none other than Sue Digre, a member of the Pacifica City Council. (Erick is pictured above with fellow Cal-MAT worker and San Rafael resident Crystal Wright, whose husband is a firefighter for the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department.)

Erick Digre, who works as a ranger patrolling the Crystal Springs watershed, serves with Cal-MAT as a medic. He also volunteers with the Red Cross when he gets a chance.

Digre is highly self-effacing and doesn’t like to talk about his work helping others. Asked why he works for Cal-MAT, he said simply, “I don’t see me not doing this.”

But he was happy and proud to talk about his children. Erick and Sue have one son, a San Francisco firefighter, who’s been to Iraq twice with the Marine Reserves.

Their other son is training to be a combat medic with the U.S. special forces, while their daughter is an emergency room nurse. Oh, and Sue works with handicapped children.

The Insider feels insufficiently altruistic.

Posted on Wednesday, November 14th, 2007
Under: Aaron Kinney, City Council, Pacifica | No Comments »