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September 19, 2006 > City Council Resumes Sessions

City Council Resumes Sessions

by Jessamyn Edra

Resuming sessions after a summer recess, the September 12 meeting of the Union City City Council began with the sobering statements of six Chinese immigrants. Bian Xu Zhuang, Ming Hwa Cheng, Jingrn Shang, Changhe Shang, Ruilan Cheng, and Yaquin Nelson all spoke out against organ harvesting and persecution allowed under the current Chinese communist regime. Some of the speakers were aided by a translator, who was moved to tears, at times, by accounts of unjust imprisonment and bloody torture.

The six speakers urged Mayor Mark Green and councilmembers to support the ongoing international investigation of organ harvesting in China. Later in the evening, Vice-mayor Richard Valle met personally with members from the group to ascertain the best way for the city to show its support. The group is asking for Union City's aid in a letter-writing campaign that will be discussed further at a later date.

From there, the meeting moved on to less emotionally charged topics. Valle led a discussion on suggested procedures during development negotiations. The discussion springs from Mayor Green's private negotiations with Union Square developers, Avalon Bay. Valle favors an ex parte forum similar to policies employed in cities like Gilroy, Marysville, Lawndale, and Lodi. An ex parte forum is one that is apart from normal council reports. Meaning, literally, "one-sided," Valle sees ex parte as "a method to report out to the community and fellow councilmembers" of activities like Green's. And he proposed that such ex parte communications be presented in written form.

Councilmember Carol Dutra-Vernaci agreed with Valle's general sentiments about disclosure, but she stated bluntly, "As far as ex parte communications, I think that's overkill." She continued to say that the written reports Valle favored "just kills trees and provides a record-keeping burden." Councilmember Jim Navarro echoed her statements.

Mayor Green led the city council in a compromise for a narrow definition of ex parte communications. He suggested that once an item has been put on a city council agenda, a verbal disclosure at a public hearing will be sufficient to inform community members. Council agreed to this definition. Valle praised it as a sign of the "goodwill and progressiveness of the council."

On the note of public hearings, Valle discussed the idea of a Community Benefits Committee that would open the floor to ideas for community projects, such as building a school for special needs children or providing more youth programs. He described the committee as a way to "listen to the community" and produce wish list of projects instead of the city dictating what occurs in terms of development and programs.

On another agenda item, the council unanimously approved a use permit for land and an existing building at 33377 Croation Way in Union Square. Springfield Holdings proposes to build four condominiums inside the structure. The permit allows for automotive repairs and other service uses. It also permits an industrial planned unit development. This item had been carried over by the council several times.
Council meets again in regular session, Tuesday, September 26 at 7 p.m.

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