Archive for January, 2012

Busy BART Grows for 6th Straight Quarter

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Watchdog Logo 300x95 Busy BART Grows for 6th Straight QuarterBART, which is busy with labor negotiations, the Warm Springs extension project, the Transbay Tube retrofit and the Powell Street modernization, has just released its fiscal year 2012 First Quarter Financial Report. According to the report:

Ridership: Core system average weekday trips grew 6% and SFO extension trips grew 9% compared to a year earlier. Gains attributed to higher gas prices, higher tolls on the Bay Bridge and increased attendance at sports events.

Sales Tax Revenue: After falling nearly 20% ($36 million) over FY09 and FY10, there have now been 6 straight quarters of growth. First quarter FY12 grew 6% from one year early and was $1.9 million over budget.

Operating Costs: Expenses were favorable to budget by 0.4% ($0.6 million). Labor was slightly favorable ($0.7 million) and non labor very close to budget.

Perhaps that’s why BART distributed 65,000 vouchers for free roundtrip rides in December, compared to 60,000 in the prior year, and gave out 5,000 Freedom Train flash passes on Martin Luther Day. (BART also co-sponsored the 10th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Musical Tribute at the Oakland Paramount.)

Note: The BART Car Replacement Project will replace BART’s existing 669 rail cars and is currently projected to cost approximately $3.2 billion in year-of expenditure dollars.

The overall funding framework calls for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to fund approximately $2.4 billion, or 75% of the total $3.2 billion project costs. BART would provide approximately $800 million or 25%. Phase 1 of the funding plan totals $1 billion and includes project development and procurement of the first 200 rail cars.

None of the five companies that bid for the job are located in the U.S. and although bidders must use at least 60% U.S. materials and parts, federal law prohibits BART from specifying where in the country the final assembly work will be done.

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Next Neighborhood Cleanup in Fairview Park Area

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Cleanup Logo Next Neighborhood Cleanup in Fairview Park AreaThe Antioch Police Department is excited to announce the 31st installment of the Neighborhood Cleanup Program on Saturday February 4, 2012, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Volunteers should report to Fairview Park located at 1301 Crestview Drive.

Volunteers will receive instructions and the equipment necessary to accomplish the goal. The targeted area is within walking distance. Excluding inclement weather, future Neighborhood Cleanup events will be scheduled for the first Saturday of every month and the locations will be announced in advance.

This is a collaborative community effort which involves active participation from United Citizens for Better Neighborhoods (UCBN), community volunteers, and the Antioch Police Department Crime Prevention Commission; Neighborhood Watch Program, Target Volunteers, Volunteers in Police Service, community volunteers and the Public Works Department.

Collectively, “We”, everyone who works and lives in the City Antioch, can make a difference and improve the quality of life. It’s our community and it’s our chance to make a difference.

The City of Antioch Neighborhood Cleanup program is not just for residential neighborhoods. It is a program that will change venues on a monthly basis and it will include business and commercial areas as well. Neighborhoods that are free of trash and refuse are inviting, and a clean community instills a sense of community pride.

Remember, cleaning up your neighborhood can make life better for your family, your neighbors and your community!

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EAST CONTRA COSTA REPUBLICAN WOMEN Meeting

Friday, January 27th, 2012

EAST CONTRA COSTA REPUBLICAN WOMEN FEDERATED WILL MEET ON THURSDAY, FEBUARY 9, 2012, 11:30 A.M. AT VIC STEWART’S, 2270 BALFOUR ROAD, BRENTWOOD. Speaker: Brad Dacus, President, Pacific Justice Institute. GUESTS WELCOME. COST $20. FOR RESERVATIONS AND MENU: (925) 634-5404.

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Possible Gang Shooting on Lone Tree Way

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

On January 25 at approximately 11:49 a.m., an Antioch Police Officer was flagged down by a male and female who advised they had just been shot at while waiting for the light to change on northbound Lone Tree Way at James Donlon Boulevard.

Officers observed the victims’ vehicle riddled with bullets along the passenger side, hood and windshield. No one was injured.

The suspected shooters were in a vehicle that was described by witnesses as a gold colored SUV, possibly a GMC Yukon. The suspect vehicle was last seen traveling northbound on Lone Tree Way. The investigation has revealed that the shooting does not appear to be random and is believed to be gang related.

No arrests have been made and officers are following up with leads. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Antioch Police Department Investigations Bureau at 925-779-6926.

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Support for Investigation of Mortgage Crisis

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

CCISCO and the PICO National Network released the following statement in response to President Obama’s announcement last night to launch a joint investigation into the mortgage crisis:

As clergy and faith leaders on the front lines of what has come to feel like a never-ending housing crisis, we applaud President Obama’s announcement last night that he will be launching a federal investigation into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the crisis.

This is a positive development for the millions of families whose lives have been affected by the reckless conduct of the nation’s largest banks, and for the thousands of everyday people who organized and fought to make last night’s announcement happen. We commend the leadership and courage of Attorneys General Schneiderman, Harris, Biden and others who have continued to demand a stronger settlement and launched their own investigations into the banks.

We will continue to organize to make sure that this investigation holds those responsible for the economic crisis accountable and provides meaningful relief for homeowners commensurate with the scale of the misconduct.

This is the first step towards reaching the broader goal of $300 billion in principal reduction and an additional $50 billion in restitution for those who have lost their homes, especially targeted to the hardest-hit communities. We also need the President to act immediately to make sure that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stop standing in the way of reducing underwater mortgage debt. Only with these pieces in place will we begin to see the housing market, our economy, and our communities make a lasting recovery.

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The Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO) is a federation of 25 religious congregations, 7 different denominations, representing 35,000 families in Contra Costa County. CCISCO is an active member of the PICO National Network and the New Bottom Line Campaign (www.newbottomline.com)

PICO National Network is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. PICO works with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through a network of 48 member federations and 10 state networks. More information at www.piconetwork.org.

CCISCO
202 G St., Suite 1 – Mailing: P. O. Box 883
Antioch, CA 94509
P: (925) 779-9302
F: (925) 779-9303
www.ccisco.org

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Cal Grant Scholarships Available

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla encourages all high school seniors and their families to apply for a college scholarship from the revised Cal Grant program before the March 2, 2012 deadline.

Below are local workshops for students and parents can attend to receive assistance in applying for the Cal Grant. Qualifying students receive from the State of California Cal Grant awards, which provide full financing for tuition and fees at the California State University or the University of California.

Awards are also given to community college students and students entering private California colleges. Students attending community colleges have until September 2nd to submit a Cal Grant application.

Students must apply for a Cal Grant by submitting a Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Form and a Cal Grant Grade Point Average Verification Form. With a Cal Grant, students can be awarded up to $12,192 per year for University of California campus, up to $5,472 per year at California State University campus or $9,708 per year at an independent campus to pay for college or career technical learning, depending on the cost of their college or university, their financial need and the type of grant.

Cal Grants do not have to be repaid. For more information on the Cal Grant Program, how to obtain an application, or how to fill out an application, high school students can contact their college counselors, or call the California Student Aid Commission at 1-888-224-7268. Additionally, the commission has a web site at www.csac.ca.gov, and the website for the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA) can be found http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. You can also contact Bonilla’s office at 925-521-1511.

1/30/12
6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Pittsburg High School
250 School Street
Pittsburg, CA 94565
Danni Le
925-473-2390

2/6/12
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Deer Valley High School
4700 Lone Tree Way
Antioch, CA 94531
Pamela Price
925-756-6792

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Significant Declines Continue in General Fund Revenue

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Watchdog Logo 300x95 Significant Declines Continue in General Fund RevenueIn order to prepare an annual budget, all departments in the City of Antioch are required to submit requests for appropriations to the City Manager by April 1st. In turn, the City Manager must present a proposed budget to City Council for review prior to June 30th, the close of the city’s fiscal year.

At mid-period of the budget cycle, the City Council reviews the budget and makes adjustments as needed, which is why at the January 24th council meeting, members are being presented with the following financial information for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011.

The report noted the following:

  • The City has experienced significant declines in the General Fund revenue.
  • Property tax revenues decreased 27.5% over two years.
  • Sales tax decreased 6% over 2 years and development fees decreased 8% from prior period.
  • On the positive side, “business type” activities increased the City’s net assets by $7,049,234, mainly attributable to approved water and sewer rates increases that took effect July 1, 2010, as well as savings in personnel costs and contractual services.
  • Therefore, total expenses declined from $90,498,792 in 2010 to $87,506,225 in 2011.
  • Additionally, total long term outstanding debt obligations for governmental activities decreased by $247,980, and total long-term obligations for business type activities decreased by $814,293 during the current fiscal year.
  • The total net increase in the City’s investment in capital assets for the current fiscal year was $3,476,339. Among the significant construction commitments were $2.9 million towards the Marina Launch Ramp and Markley Creek Culvert projects.
  • Overall, the City’s total long term outstanding debt at the end of the fiscal year was $48,992,561. $30,710,000 representing bonds secured solely by specified revenue sources (i.e. revenue bonds), $10,980,498 representing tax allocation bonds and $3,435,545 representing loans payable and $3,866,518 representing leases payable.
  • At the end of fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, the fund balance of Antioch’s General Fund increased by $1,038,047, primarily attributable to higher than projected revenues (primarily motor vehicle in lieu and sales tax) and lower than anticipated expenditures (primarily contractual services).
  • The City appropriated $92,420 of Genal Fund assigned fund balance for spending in the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget.
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Teach Your Children Well

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

By Walter Ruehlig
School Board Trustee, Antioch Unified School District

I often get asked by concerned community members as to what single attention can best advance education? It’s a complex challenge that, truth be told, defies single remedy.

Actually, education can be likened to a three-legged stool, with any one unstable leg, student, teacher or parent, causing potential wobble. The student needs exercise discipline and motivation; the teacher effective communication, passion, rigor, relevancy and classroom management; the parent guidance and strict vigilance.

Needless to say, volumes have been written extolling the crucial role of good teachers. Substantial data, in fact, indicates that a child having three consecutive years with high performing teachers has a virtual lock on succeeding. Given three years with mediocre or poor teachers, the adverse is also more likely true.

Hence, we place great premium on recruiting, and then peer training, the best teachers available. The fact remains, though, that like police officers, dentists, or landscapers, for that matter, there will always be the good, the bad and the ugly in the mix.

One thing, though, that rests firmly in our personal control is effective parenting.

Every three years the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development examines fifteen year olds in the worlds’ leading industrialized nations through the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Reading comprehension and the ability to use what has been learned in math and science to solve real problems is tested.

The U.S., once among educational world leaders, sadly now scores in the middle of the pack, right above Cyprus, and far trailing Finland, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Compelled to find some success denominators, in 2009 the PISA team went beyond the classroom and interviewed 5,000 parents to find out what they were doing. The conclusion shows that students whose parents often read to them during their first years of primary school, performed, regardless of socio-economic status, significantly better. The average difference was 25 points or the equivalent of half a year of schooling.

Little surprise as competent parenting was never, we’d agree, a spectator sport. Spending time with your children by talking, playing, or sharing a family meal, is the most priceless treasure youth can inherit. Reading to your child, though, now there is true ‘quality time.’ Stress, then, the written word by having books and magazines around the house. Lead by example and read to yourself as well.

If you can’t get involved in helping with homework, at least show an interest and ask what your child is doing. Check into School Loop, which allows you to computer monitor your child’s attendance, homework and grades. Let them know you are involved and consider education paramount. Praise and reward their efforts, for filling their bucket of self-esteem insures it can never run short. Know your child’s associations and keep them busy.

“Hanging out” and boredom germinate mischief. Contrarily, youth involved in clubs and organized activities channel their energy with a positively reinforcing circle of friends. Though I think ‘tiger parenting’ can be taken, like anything, to excess, and that some free time is needed to keep childhood from uber- seriousness, it is o.k. to keep expectations high.

Truth be, I am a zealot on parental involvement because I have been hit by lightning twice on family matters. I grew up in Great Neck, Long Island in a predominantly Jewish town. The prevailing question wasn’t ‘if’ college, but ‘what’ college. Little wonder, neighbors routinely entered professions like accounting, dentistry or law or started profitable businesses like furrier or jewelry.

I owe gratitude, then, to my blue collar dad, a chef, for sacrificing so we could move from working-class Queens into a community where expectations were unlimited. I then married a Filippina and, double bingo, again saw the effects of a parental culture dead set on education. Though the Academic Performance Index (API) for Antioch is 727 out of a possible 1,000, with 800 the California goal, the Filippino sub-set scores 835.

Certainly, its’ not Asian Wheaties the kids are eating for breakfast that makes such a profound difference. Credit family values. Of course, there is no substitute for an inspired teacher. We can’t, though, put all our marbles there. We also need better parents. They will inexorably make our teachers better.

As Shakespeare said, “the voice of parents is the voice of god, for to their children they are heaven’s lieutenants.” Teach your children well. After all, isn’t it a funny thing how fortunate parents who have conscientious children usually have fortunate children who have conscientious parents?

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