Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Electric Car Revolt in Alameda

By Kathleen Richards
Tue, Feb 12, 2008 at 4:12 PM

Almost a year ago to the day, the city of Alameda was celebrating its first electric car dealership on Webster Street. At the grand opening, Mayor Beverly Johnson extolled the city's dedication to sustainability — including its 85 percent "green" utility company, which recently won an award for reducing greenhouse gases, and a promise to include more electric cars in the city's fleet. Today, Johnson has made good on her pledge, but not everyone's thrilled.

Just ask John Shaterian. According to an article in the Alameda Sun, the 65-year-old city gofer and ten-year veteran was fired last month after questioning the safety of an electric car — which he calls a "glorified golf cart" — that he was assigned to drive. Shaterian complained to his supervisor about the door's strength (or lack thereof) and about how, because the car goes no more than 25 miles per hour, it isn't tested for crash safety. He even volunteered to drive his own car as long as he could be reimbursed. But that plan didn't fly. In a letter to members of city council, the mayor, and the city manager, Shaterian says he's not the only city employee who refuses to drive the electric vehicles. But he is the only who was fired — because he works part-time and isn't a union member, he claims.

"I am not against protecting the environment," Shaterian wrote in the letter. "I'm 65 years old. I don't have that many years left and I don't want to cut them short." According to the article, Shaterian hasn't taken legal action yet, and just wants his job back. Karen Willis, the city's human resources director, said the termination was a personnel matter and couldn't comment.

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