Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Payton Perspective: 33% pay raise for County Supervisors needs to be reversed, can work part-time

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Payton Perspective logo 300x140 Payton Perspective: 33% pay raise for County Supervisors needs to be reversed, can work part timeBy Allen Payton, Publisher

Four members of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, including Federal Glover and Mary Piepho, who each represent portions of Antioch, voted to give themselves a 33% pay raise, on October 28. Their pay, in January, will increase from an already generous $97,476 to more than $129,000 per year. They also tied their future salary increases to what judges in the county get paid. Plus, their action will also increase their pensions.

The question is, why do the Supervisors feel they need a full-time salary for what’s supposed to be a part-time position? They have full-time, professional staff to run the day-to-day operation of the county, namely the County Administrator and his department heads, and all their staff, much like a Council-Manager city. (See county organizational chart, here). Plus, there are the county-wide elected officeholders who run their own departments, including the District Attorney, Sheriff, Treasurer-Tax Collector, Clerk-Recorder, Auditor-Controller, and Assessor, although their budgets are approved by the Supervisors.

But, unlike city governments, in California, a county is actually an administrative division of state government, and has the responsibility for implementing and refining the local application of state law and policy. They don’t make their own laws, as cities do. As a result, the county only has discretionary control over about 15% of its budget.

Plus, the Supervisors only govern the unincorporated areas of the county. Most of the residents in the county live within the boundaries of the 19 cities. Of the 1,049,025 county residents, as of the 2010 Census, 889,740 lived within city boundaries, and only 159,285 lived outside. That’s all the people the five Supervisors actually have to serve, directly. While that’s 30% more than the county’s largest city, Concord, none of their council members are full-time, nor earn anywhere near the Supervisors’ current salaries or benefits.

Supervisors are elected to be policy makers, not full-time officeholders, and merely have to give direction to their staff to implement their policies.

In addition, each Supervisor has their own office and paid staff to be available to county residents and business owners, to deal with their concerns and problems they may have with the county government.

According to their own webpage, following are their “Duties and Responsibilities”

As defined by general law, the duties of the Board of Supervisors include:

  • Appointing most County department heads, except elected officials, and providing for the appointment of all other County employees
  • Providing for the compensation of all County officials and employees
  • Creating officers, boards and commissions as needed, appointing members and fixing the terms of office
  • Awarding all contracts except those that are within the authority delegated to the County Purchasing Agent
  • Adopting an annual budget
  • Sponsoring an annual audit made of all County accounts, books, and records
  • Supervising the operations of departments and exercising executive and administrative authority through the County government and County Administrator
  • Serving as the appellate body for Planning and Zoning issues
  • Serving as the County Board of Equalization (the Board has created an Assessment Appeals Board to perform this function)

They meet as a Board, once a week, on Tuesdays. They choose to hold their meetings during the day, instead of at night, which is unfortunate for their constituents who have day-time jobs. But, that’s another issue I’ll save for another time.

The Supervisors may have chosen to work their positions on a full-time basis, but it’s not necessary.

There are three examples I can think of regarding Supervisors who understood that fact. When Mark DeSaulnier was on the Board of Supervisors, he also owned, operated and worked at his restaurant, T.R.’s Bar & Grill in Concord. When Bob Schroder was a Supervisor, he also worked at his insurance business in Walnut Creek. When Tom Powers was a Supervisor, he was also a lawyer and Realtor in the county.

The only current member of the Board of Supervisors who has a potential other career, is John Gioia, who is a licensed attorney. But, he stopped practicing when he was elected to the Board – by choice.

The current members of the Board need to remember they don’t need to work their positions on a full-time basis and should rescind their recent, ridiculous 33% pay raise.

They should follow the lead of the newest member of the Board, Supervisor Candace Andersen, who not only voted against the raise, stated she will only accept the same average 4% raise the rest of the county staff received. I applaud her actions. That will still give them a salary of over $101,000 per year, which is very good for a position that doesn’t require a college degree, as neither Glover nor Piepho have.

Referendum under way

There is currently a referendum effort by county employees, including their main union, Local 1 and the Deputy Sheriffs Association, to place the raise on the ballot and reverse the decision of the four Supervisors. For those who agree it should be rescinded, you can learn more by visiting www.cocodsa.org/referendum, attend one of their meetings this week or next, sign the petition, and even get your own petition to gather signatures, to help place it on the ballot.

This is one time the people need to rise up and send our elected representatives a strong message that what they did was wrong and needs to be reversed.

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Ruehlig says thank you for election, offers his thoughts, approach to serving

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Editor:

I am truly humbled by the vote of confidence for my rejoining the Antioch School Board. The public charge brings great gravity and I promise my all to meet expectations. As for those who didn’t vote for me, I respect your exercising the ballot box.

Communication motivates me, be it listening, talking or writing. Trust that you won’t be kept in the dark guessing what’s happening in our schools and whether a spade is being called a spade. I value straightforwardness and have always answered every constituent e-mail and phone message. That practice and an open door remains.

Balance and inclusiveness will be prized. That means dialogue and partnership with yeasayers and naysayers, liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites, Common Core enthusiasts and detractors, students, teachers and parents. We will choose bridges over moats.

I stand on the shoulders of my predecessors and know that much good has happened in our district, on my watch, I hope, and on others. It is imperative, though, to call out not only the good, but the bad and the ugly. We don’t want to dwell on negatives, but we are not about denial.

After the year-end holidays, I will be kicking off a monthly community-wide coffee meeting for input. I’ll also be looking into starting a web site as a community sounding board on current issues and ideas for best practices on pressing subjects like campus safety, increasing parental involvement, rebuilding our reserves, addressing the achievement gap and raising overall test scores,

I’ve been asked what it feels like to rejoin the A.U.S.D. after a two year hiatus. Obviously, sobering, as these turbulent times present formidable challenges, Invigorating, as well, as the batteries are super-charged and having had distance from the District proved enlightening, Much the same, I imagine, as someone reentering school after work or military experience. I come now with newfound degrees of appreciation and, hopefully, wisdom. There are no surprises for me about the economic, labor, legal, bureaucratic, societal and demographic components entangled in all we do. For better or for worse. it’s not just about the kids.

I have always believed that good leadership stirs. It is all too tempting to fall into the cozy and comfortable and become part of the ‘Club’. My break has redoubled my resolve to keep professional distance and to work even harder at being a necessary gadfly. You can get along without always going along.

Like with parenting, our foremost objective as a Trustee is not to be friends, but to do our stewarding job. Granted, we don’t profit anybody by being in-your-face confrontational. Congenial can coexist with needed tough love. Part of that is asking the hard questions. Civility, respect and support are expected, and, when due, we lavish praise generously; but, when appropriate, we also prod and poke and hold toes to the fire.

As adults we can afford taking a little heat if it means we are holding ourselves accountable for the good of our kids. After all, we owe the future generation the best possible educational system that we can deliver.

Walter Ruehlig

Antioch School Board Trustee-Elect

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Watchdog: Antioch Council set to give 13% pay raises, more to city staff tonight

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Watchdog Logo Watchdog: Antioch Council set to give 13% pay raises, more to city staff tonightBy Barbara Zivica

Antioch residents, upset regarding continuing high crime statistics which supposedly were to be addressed by Measure C (a half cent sales tax increase) but weren’t, just passed Measure O, a business license tax measure which applies to all rental units and whose revenues, like Measure C, go directly into the General Fund and can be used for multiple purposes. In light of previously negotiated increases for sworn personnel and no sizable increase in the police force, does it sound a bit like the old shill game of paper, rock and scissors?

Thought you might be interested in Council’s resolution approving a Benefit Document between the City and the Management Bargaining Unit (term October 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2016) to be voted on at their meeting on Thursday, November 13. Here are some of the highlights:

Effective the first full pay period in January 2015, all classifications shall receive a 3% salary increase, which will match the salary increase provided to Operating Engineers Local 3 and Public Employees Union Local 1 in 2014. Excluded are classifications of Water Treatment Plant Superintendent, Water Treatment Plant Supervisor and Water Quality Analyst who already received the adjustment.
Effective January 2011, 2015, the current 36 hour work week/10% salary reduction is eliminated and all employees in the Unit will return to a 40 hour work week. The action was required based on “trigger” language in the 1/11/2011 Tentative Agreement of General Fund revenues (excluding new revenues such as Measure C)

Effective upon ratification, the second “trigger”, a component of the January 2011 Tentative Agreement is eliminated, which eliminates the reinstatement of previously negotiated but not implemented COLA salary adjustments.

Effective January 11, 2015 the City’s deferred compensation contribution is reinstated (prospectively).
“Me too” Clause agreement, meaning increases or decreases negotiated with either Local 1 or OE3 will be implemented for this Unit.

During the first full pay period in January 2015, increase the Employees’ contribution to the Employee’s share of the PERS rate by 1% and increase the employees contribution to the Employer’s share of the PERS rate by 1%.

This keeps the total Employee contribution at 8% for Classic/Legacy employees but all on the Employer contribution side. PEPRA covered employees hired on or after 2013 shall be required to pay 50% of Normal Cost as required by statue.

NOTE: The annual fiscal impact of the COLA salary adjustment returning to a 40 hour work week and reinstating the deferred compensation contribution is $631,867. Of this amount, $441,640 is General Fund money for both the Management Bargaining Unit and Confidential Employees Unit.

The City provides two floating holidays per year in addition to the usual 12 holidays off. Twelve Tier I management employees will receive 96 hours of administrative leave, 10 Tier 2 employees ten hours of administrative leave and 15 Tier 3 management employees will receive 40 hours of management leave.

Executive Management employees will also be allowed to cash out up to 80 hours of their annual vacation accrual during each calendar year and Senior and Mid Management Profession employees will be allowed to cash out up to 40 hours of their annual vacation accrual during each calendar year.

Elected Officials and, with the City Manager’s approval, all Executive Management employees, except those positions who are assigned a City vehicle, shall receive a monthly auto allowance, Those who do not receive a car allowance shall receive reimbursement at the rate established by the Administrative Memo which also outlines the process for employee reimbursement for books and tuition up to a maximum of $1,000 a year for approved college classes.

How do you feel about your vote for approval of Measure C and Measure O now?

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Belle’s wife writes to defend Jeff, says he ran because he cares

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Dear Editor:

Price of Caring. My name is Carmen Belle.  My husband, Jeff Belle, is a candidate for the County Board of Education, District 5 (Pittsburg, Antioch and parts of Brentwood and Discovery Bay).  The Times recently printed an article based on mostly malicious, untrue or unjustly sensationalize information, from Jeff’s ex-wife.  In the article, the Times reporter did not  disclose that he had gotten the information from Jeff’s ex-wife through Jeff’s opponent Cynthia Ruehlig; he also took Ms. Ruehling’s word that my husband had threatened her.  This is not true and is unsupported by any other source.

I knew my husband’s background when we married.  We have worked for six years to pay off his former tax liens, paying them off in December, 2013. Today Jeff has no liens or debts and there are no warrants for his arrest.  We have worked hard to clear his name and live a good life.

My husband is certified and registered as a Respiratory Therapist by the National Board of Respiratory Care.  When he came to California he was working at a V.A. (federal) facility and did not need a California Respiratory Care license but maintained an Oregon Respiratory Care License, as required by federal medical centers.

He then started his company, Respiratory Care Institute, managing and tutoring students on clinical rotations for on-line universities offering respiratory care programs; he was no longer caring for patients. Since he was not involved in patient care, we believe he did not need a state license.  There is no fraud or criminal behavior involved in his behavior.  He has a valid dispute with the California Respiratory Care Licensing Board and we are confident we will win the dispute.  

When Jeff decided to run for the County School Board he had been on the Dallas Ranch PTSA for two years.  He was distressed to see violence in our daughter’s middle school, and the inability of the school’s administration to adequately resolve the violence. Also, the County School Board was missing in action and chose to ignore the escalating culture of violence for both student and teachers.  He chose to run for the County Board of Education out of concern for the safety and education of the children in the County. Jeff has the courage, insight and resolve to make a significance in our educational system, specifically in district five.

When my husband began his campaign we hoped to have a spirited debate with his opponent about the issues of education in California.  We knew there was the possibility his ex-wife would continue with the stalking she has burdened us with for the past 6 years.   She has polluted his reputation with many people in the county as she stalked him via social media.  She finally reached Cynthia Ruehlig and, through her, the Times reporter.

The question I would ask is why would Jeff run, risk humiliation and harassment, for himself and his family, if he did not care so deeply for the children of the county. Why open himself up for scrutiny for a position that pays little, has significant responsibility and a large time and energy commitment if you do not care?

His ultimate reason comes from his background.  An African-American man raised in a small town in the State of Oklahoma. He wants for all children what he had little of as a child and young man: opportunity and the education required to take advantage of that opportunity.  Yes, he has made poor decisions in the past, but has overcome those decisions to be a respected person in our community, serving honorably on several County and City of Antioch Commissions and inspiring many of his former students to attain the highest credentials in Respiratory Care; and inspiring his son, Joseph Belle to earn a Masters degree from Cambridge University. Our daughter Sarah and I are proud of him and we ask only that you give him the opportunity to serve the all the children and parents of Contra Costa County.

To God his glory!

Carmen Zavala-Bell

Antioch

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Letter writer: Local officials need to get the message on taxes and spending

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Dear Editor:

Since 2008 Californians’ median household income has remained flat while the cost of living and taxes have increased. It would be one thing if our tax dollars were always well spent by government. Unfortunately, our politicians are not as careful with our money as we would be if we were allowed to hold onto it.

Case in point is the $349,000 in wages and benefits doled out by the Brentwood Union Elementary District to former Superintendent Merrill Grant in 2013, making him the seventh highest paid K-12 employee in the state.

That’s despite the fact that Grant had been fired in February of that year for mismanagement of the special education scandal that has socked the district with $9 million in legal costs with possibly millions more in payouts to come.

Then there are our county supervisors, including East County’s Mary Piepho and Federal Glover, who recently voted themselves a 33 percent pay raise. Don’t you wish you could do that? Their $129,227 salaries are in addition to their health insurance, $7,200 car allowance, retirement savings account and pension – adding up to more than $200,000 in compensation per year.

The supervisors, who have pled poverty in contract negotiations with county employee unions, will now have to open up the compensation floodgates, sticking taxpayers with the tab or cutting back on services.

The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, which has been closing stations, lavishes half of its budget on retirement expenses, wasted $125,000 on a tax hike PR firm, wasted tens of thousands more on a failed tax hike mail ballot and raised the chief’s pay to nearly $140,000.

ECCFPD will spend tens of thousands more on another attempt at a tax hike, despite receiving an extra million dollars in property taxes this year due to the rebound in the housing market.

The Oakley City Council raised City Manager Bryan Montgomery’s salary to nearly $210,000. Three years ago the council attempted to secretly grant Montgomery a sweetheart mortgage deal costing taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars – until forced to rescind it after a newspaper article generated taxpayer outrage.

On Tuesday voters nationwide spoke loudly that they want to rein in the tax-and-spend policies of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Unfortunately, in blue California it pretty much remains business as usual with government of, by and for government employees.

Dave Roberts

Oakley

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Payton Perspective: It’s time for different approaches to battling Antioch’s crime

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

Budget cuts, contracting with private security firms, help from retired police officers needed

Payton Perspective logo Payton Perspective: Its time for different approaches to battling Antiochs crimeBy Allen Payton, Publisher

With the continued crime problem in Antioch, and the need for additional officers, and in light of the city’s financial challenges, in spite of the passage of both Measures C and O, it’s time for new approaches in the police department’s efforts.

No more business as usual.

Budget cuts needed

First, the Council needs to relook at the budget and cut things from lower priority items that are costing the General Fund, such as the $300,000 subsidy to the Antioch Water Park, which could be used to pay for more police, instead. This year they’re allowing outside food in, which competes with their own snack bar, reducing total revenue. It should be run like a business or the Council should consider contracting out its operations. I proposed the idea to Water World, when it first opened. But they were building their Concord water park at the time. Perhaps they’d consider taking it over, now.

In addition, the Council needs to set a policy in place to limit overtime for police officers. The city has spent over $4.4 million in 2011, 2012 and 2013 on police overtime. That’s about $1.46 million per year which is equal to 11 police officers. Now, some of that overtime is necessary for police officers to attend court hearings. But, most of it isn’t. It’s time to redirect those funds to pay for more sworn police officers who will be out on the street fighting crime.

Measure O spending

The city doesn’t need to spend $800,000 per year to eliminate Furlough Fridays. Instead of the current four nine-hour days for a total of 36 hours per week, they could just put the staff to work eight hours on one day, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and seven hours per day 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the other four days, also 36 hours per week. That will allow the public access to services at City Hall Monday through Friday and preserve the $800,000 for hiring more police.

Contract with private security firms

Second, the Council and Chief Cantando need to seriously consider contracting with private security firms, which can expand the police force immediately, at a much lower cost per officer than a sworn police officer on the Antioch force.

Many of the private security company employees are retired police officers and military veterans with all the necessary training to fulfill the role. The city can set standards for whom a company will employ for the contract with the city, ensuring safeguards are in place to protect the rights of citizens, while reporting, responding to and reducing crime.

Allow former police officers to volunteer

Finally, the VIPS program needs to be expanded and include retired police officers who can put their experience, knowledge and skills to work to supplement the police department’s efforts.

When I first proposed the Volunteers In Public Safety program back in the late 1990′s as a member of the Antioch City Council, it was envisioned to be like San Joaquin County’s S.T.A.R.S. program. That program puts to work retired Deputy Sheriffs as volunteers to provide eyes and ears to the department and a police presence throughout the city. I expected the VIPS to drive the patrol cars to provide a deterrence in the neighborhoods. 

While I appreciate the good work the current VIPS members do to supplement the efforts of the APD, the program should be expanded to include retired police officers. There are some in Antioch and elsewhere who are willing to volunteer their time and expertise.

One specific idea is to form a Volunteer Investigative Support Unit.

Greg Glod, a former Antioch Police Detective, who spent 26 years with the Secret Service and is now the Deputy Director of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., is spearheading the effort. Joining him are retired Antioch Police Sgt. Larry Hopwood and Detective Ron Rackley.

They want to assist the department, first with cold cases, and believe they can obtain a National Institute of Justice grant to offset any costs.

Across the country, they are going to grassrooots efforts with a volunteer force to support the police department,” Glod stated, recently. “Retired police officers, researchers and academics are forming investigative support units.”

Following are links to the national VIPS website and two examples of public safety volunteer programs in California.

According to the site, www.policevolunteers.org, “The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) www.theiacp.org manages and implements the Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) Program in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice…”

To view information about the San Joaquin County Sheriff Department’s “award winning, nationally recognized” S.T.A.R.S. volunteer program, click here.

To view what San Diego’s Police Department does with their volunteer program, click here.

To view another volunteer program in Charlotte, NC, click here.

First cold case

The first investigation the former Antioch officers want to work on is the cold case of Suzanne Bombardier, who was 14 when she was murdered in June, 1980, after being kidnapped, raped and stabbed through the heart. Her body was dumped in the river.

We want closure for the family and ourselves, too,” said Rackley, who took the original report. “We believe there are still more investigative leads available.”

There are suspects in the case that can be investigated,” stated Glod, who was a juvenile sexual assault detective at the time and worked the case.

For more information about the case, click here.

A more detailed article on the effort to close the Bombardier case will be published in the future.

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Letter writer says Measure O opponents hide names, faces

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Dear Editor:

The financial backers of opposition to Measure O have yet to reveal their names or faces to the people of Antioch. The No on O Coalition has reported receiving contributions of $173,575 as of 10/24/14. The donations have been made by apartment complexes, partnerships, associations, and PACs (Political Action Committees) without revealing the names of the landlords behind the donations.

I have no respect for the out of town landlords and other donors, who did not appear to argue their cases at the several City Council Meetings when Measure O was considered. Instead they sent their lawyers, property managers, and, in one case, a secretary, to plead their cases. Or, they depended on the CAA executive staff and their attorney to make their arguments. They have essentially hidden behind their employees and the CAA to avoid any direct questioning of their motives. Since the hearings, they have hidden behind a small group of Antioch senior citizens they have somehow misled to claim Measure O will harm seniors and is unfair and dishonest. These few seniors appear on mailers and in video clips. I don’t know how they can conscious such abuse of these seniors who were apparently coached to believe and make untrue statements.

They have also hidden behind their Sacramento political consultant, Media Associates, to conduct telephone “surveys” calling Antioch voters to present a series of cleverly worded questions and statements to convince voters to oppose Measure O. Apparently the opponents have recently renewed the telephone campaign as I received such a call yesterday evening from a boiler-room operation located in San Diego. Media Associates also developed signage for the No on O campaign with negative slogans calling Measure O unfair, dishonest, a tax on seniors, and other slogans twisting the truth. Media Associates also has produced a series of slick mailers with similar lies including a particularly offensive one with a cartoon of Pinocchio with an elongated nose engaging in a sexually suggestive act while calling our elected City officials liars and untrustworthy.

We are down to the final few days of the campaign and still do not know the names or faces of the big money backers of the opposition. I urge all concerned citizens of Antioch to jump-in and help get out the yes vote on O! Don’t let nameless faceless fat cat outsiders tell us how to run our City with their dishonest slogans, slick mailers, twisted facts, and outright lies.

Larry L. Harrison

Residents for Fairness – Yes on Measure O

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Writer provides update on Measure O campaign expenditures

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Dear Editor:

I am a 45-year resident of Antioch,a senior, a homeowner, a professional businesssman (Consulting Civil Engineer)and a member of the “Residents for Fairness – Yes on Measure O” campaign committee. I have been promoting a yes vote on Measure O by writing letters to both the Internet and paper news media, helping with placement of 200 small signs and 20 large signs about town, and distributing flyers to voters’ homes explaining Measure O. A total of 2,500 flyers were printed and distributed over the past week by our committee members. I personally distributed over 1300 flyers. Unfortunately, due to a shortage of volunteers to continue distribution, the program was discontinued after Saturday 10/25.

The “No on Measure O Coalition” has through 10/24 raised funds to out-spend the “Yes on O” committee by a ratio of 13 to 1. According to their Form 497 Contribution Reports filed with the City, they have raised $173,575 from eleven contributers with the funds mostly coming from out-of town real estate investors and associations located in Dallas Texas, Scottsdale Arizona, Los Angeles, Roseville, Sacramento, Oakland, and Walnut Creek. The California Apartment Association in Sacramento contributed $50,000 alone. Only two of the eleven contributing entities are located in Antioch: Oak Village Apartments and ENN Property Management.

In contrast, the Yes on Measure O committee has raised only $13,680 through 10/27 from Antioch citizens and local organizations. Fortunately, we do have a knowledgeable dedicated group of volunteers conducting a minimum cost campaign. I urge all concerned citizens of Antioch to jump-in and help during the final days until Election Day to get out the yes vote on O. Don’t let the big money outsiders tell us how to run our City with their slick cartoons, twisted facts, and outright lies!

Larry L. Harrison

Residents for Fairness – Yes on Measure O” Campaign Committee

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