Archive for the ‘Letters to the Editor’ Category

El Campanil foundation says thank you, announces winners of raffle rundraiser

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Dear Editor:

On behalf of El Campanil Theatre Preservation Foundation, I would like to thank all of those involved with our recent Gift Basket Raffle Fundraiser. Our goal was to sell 1000 tickets and raise $10,000. We met our goal and exceeded it by nearly $500! We congratulate our winners Floyd Furgeson of Discovery Bay, Leslie Munson of Antioch and Ali Shironi of Antioch.

A very important part of any raffle is the prize donors. We are very thankful that Southwest Airlines, Disneyland and many local businesses donated the wonderful prizes which were a part of each gift basket.

I want to let our Executive Director and Board know how much their time and support in procuring prizes and selling tickets is appreciated.

Finally, we are all eternally grateful to every person who purchased at least one raffle ticket during these past few months.

As a Board, we are committed to do everything possible to continue to sustain our local landmark and treasure, El Campanil Theatre, bringing quality entertainment close to home at affordable prices.

Ron Yarolimek

Foundation Board President

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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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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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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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Walter Ruehlig offers reasons for running, again for Antioch School Board

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Dear Editor:

As Yogi Berra would have it, it looks like deja vu all over again. Seems once again that  I can’t escape my sanity being questioned. Ten years ago I contemplated a race for Antioch School Board. I asked the late,great, Mno Grant his opinion on my throwing a hat in the ring. He told me it depended upon how big the hole was in my head.

After all, Antioch had suffered a spate of scandals, including a 9.8 million dollar deficit and entry on the ignominious county Fiscal Watch List. Running for office was like asking to be tarred and feathered.

In the end, I threw abandon to the winds; ran twice; and was deeply honored to win twice.  I was fortunate to play a role in summarily getting us off the Watch List, restoring public trust, starting a streak of seven of eight years of API score increase and initiating the linked pathways, career themed model that shined the reform spotlight.

In 2012,  I began a two year hiatus from school governance. Again, friends question the size of the hole in my head as I now  vie for office. It certainly isn’t for the money that I consider giving up having a real life. Heck, by my calculation,  the $400 monthly stipend comes out to about $4.85 hourly compensation. That’s if you don’t deduct the spent  gas and the paying functions you attend. 

Why then entertain abandoning the return to normalcy and of enjoying time for family, exercise, reading and hobbies? I guess I’m guilty of caring. 

I care about the eight million dollar settlement and the six 5-7 year old autistic kids who were physically and emotionally abused. I care about the achievement gap of minority, foster kid and English language learner students. I care about the overwhelming majority of our kids who graduate unqualified for U.C. system entry.  I care for twenty six million dollars in deficit spending.  I care about having a chair at the table for students of all niches; traditional, alternative. academy, charter, home study, remote and independent, I care about the disconnect between downtown and the grassroots that has spawned teacher dissatisfaction and parental revolts.

And yes, I care to the point of a sick stomach about schools, from elementary upwards, reporting their classrooms and yards riddled with disruption as an admittedly small number of kids terrorize teachers and fellow classmates. That’s outright unacceptable. 

Surely, we can do better than denial. Yes, Houston, we have a problem.  In fact, an emergency. Transparency, communication, partnerships, common sense and consequences seem shortchanged.

I may not have all the answers, but I promise not to sit and hope that answers somehow drop in my lap; I’ll demand accountability, respectfully disagree when needed, ask questions, civilly poke and prod staff, and stir the pot with dialogue and best practice research. Together, we can start by breaking open the silos and getting all stakeholders to the table; students, parents, teachers and community leaders. We know it all starts at home, so we need engagement.

Simply put, I don’t want to wallow in, and wring hands over, our litany of challenges. I want, instead., to vigorously seek out solutions because our kids and teachers deserve the best education that we can give them and that begins with safety…and, your Honor, yes, if caring translates to a hole in the head, then I am guilty as charged.

Walter Ruehlig

Antioch

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Writer says Antioch needs to pass Measure O to avoid bankruptcy

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Dear Editor,

Voting Yes for Measure O is one of the most important things Antioch seniors, homeowners and business owners can do at this moment in time.  This city is on the brink of bankruptcy while thugs and filth try to turn Antioch into another ghetto.

Public records show that the California Apartment Association (CAA) in Sacramento CA along with other out of town groups have contributed over $173,000 to defeat Measure O.  Our group of seniors, the Friday Morning Breakfast Club has raised about $13,680.  It is hard to understand people that have business investments in Antioch demanding they should be exempt from paying for a business license.  The money they contributed to defeat Measure O could have been used towards the business license and the revenue could have gone for city services, paving the way for a safer, cleaner Antioch.

The CAA and their cronies lie when they say Measure O is dishonest.  Please don’t let out of town special interest groups deceive you.  You can go online to “antiochmeasureo.com” and read the facts.  Please vote Yes on Measure O.

Marie Livingston

Antioch

 

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