Archive for the ‘Letters to the Editor’ Category

Letter writer questions power of State Democratic Party versus local club endorsements

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Dear Editor:

The conundrum of the California Democratic Party versus the local Democratic club endorsements. The California Democratic Party endorsement of Susan Bonilla in the State Senate District 7 race was based on the outcome of a vote of 75 local people authorized to vote in this internal party process. A total of 44 additional votes were gathered by Bonilla thanks to a greatly discredited rule that allowed any state legislator currently in office to get ‘proxy’ votes from anywhere in the state. Advantage Incumbents. (The rule’s been removed from the Party By-Laws, but not officially until May, so it was still ‘legal’ to use this procedure).

The Democratic clubs within Senate District 7 that have chosen to make endorsements represent a larger group of people.

Joan Buchanan endorsements:

Rossmoor Democratic Club – 600+ members

Diablo Valley Democratic Club -  70 members

Tri-Valley Democratic Club – 60 members

San Ramon Democratic Club – 73 members

Susan Bonilla endorsements:

Concord Democratic Club – approximately 20 members

Do the math.

Sue Hamill, Walnut Creek

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Antioch recall leader responds to Mayor Harper’s response

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Dear Editor:

Mayor Harper’s response to the recall can be summed up in a few salient points:

Mayor Harper has sworn in 10 police officers.

The mayor’s claim is years late.  In 2010 he started his getting tough on crime and had zero tolerance to crime.campaigns.  Again in 2012, same thing and in 2013 was going to hire 22 officers.  In 2010 the Antioch Police department staffing was authorized for 102 positions, they had 90.  In 2015 they are still authorized for 102 positions and they still have 90. Doesn’t seem like much of an emphasis on zero tolerance or being tough.

Mayor Harper claims the recall will cost $198,994, the cost of two officers.

The mayor’s claim is so exaggerated it is ridiculous.  Measure O cost one-fourth of that amount and is likely to be the same if not less and if an officer costs $100,000 then why didn’t he authorize the hiring of 42 officers instead of spending over $4.5 million on overtime in 2011, 2012 and 2013.  That was OT only, not benefits or base pay, OT only.  Obviously the city had the money.

Mayor Harper says “under his leadership” he got a grant for $625,000 to hire 5 officers.
The mayor’s forgot to mention that is for 3 years only.  What happens to the 5 officers when the funding runs out after 3 years.  When is this going to happen since it took 5 years to get to a net zero in police staffing?

Mayor Harper says, “Police Department conducts weekly crime suppression operations – one of which resulted in 87 arrests in just a five-day period.” 

Which is a true statement, but if you were at the council meeting when the chief explained there were 150 officers and 8 agencies involved and only 7 of those 87 arrests were Antioch’s.  Yet another gross exaggeration by the mayor.

Mayor Harper states twice, regarding safety that, “Our families deserve to feel safe, ” and “Nothing is more important than keeping our neighborhoods and children safe.” 

Mayor Harper, the problem is we don’t need to “feel safe”, we need to “be safe” and if nothing is more important then why haven’t measures been taken to ensure success in maintaining safety of the neighborhoods and children.  Ensuring safety is not abandoning children after a couple of visits to Deer Valley Plaza and then coercing the AUSD to hire security to detain the children and let the APD arrest them.  What happened to “no child left behind”.  The Deer Valley Plaza takeover by Strategic Threat Management has done nothing but move the problem to neighboring establishments.  What the Mayor has been successful in is promoting their disrespect of the APD and fear of the STM.  They know the APD won’t arrest them so they go where they are safe. Their fighting, en mass, has not stopped, just moved.  Their problems have not been addressed, just moved.

Mayor Harper claims to have, “ended work furloughs city-wide”. 

That is correct, but only after withholding information from the voters to ensure passage of Measure O.  The City of Antioch received the following payment and never let anyone know until voting had started on Measure O it appeared passage was successful. The following payments were received and the information withheld on:

Apr, 2014 – $2,698,000+

Jun, 2014 – $550,000+

Oct, 2014 – $269,000+

A total of over $3.5 MILLION

The City of Antioch waited over 6 months to bring the city back to full-service for the sole purpose of withhold that information to help ensure the passage of Measure O.  Measure O only passed by less than 600 votes.  How people do you think would not have voted for Measure O had they known how much the City of Antioch was sitting on.  How many city employees would have preferred to be working full-time instead of waiting nine months.  How many residents and business do you think would have preferred to have the city full-service instead of waiting nine months.

Mayor Harper wants everyone to believe that he is powerless and does not have the ability to do what he said he was going to do.  The fact is, he shouldn’t, the reality is, he does.  A recent article in the Antioch Herald exposed another power play by Mayor Harper to take control of the city council for the last two plus years.  The City Manager not only condoned what the Mayor has done, he supported it and argued that it’s existence has been around long before Harper, a fact dispelled by the prior mayors and council members.

The fact is that the leadership of the City of Antioch must be changed and replaced with person(s) that care about Antioch, not just political aspirations. 

Mayor Harper makes all kinds of claims and promises, but the reality is none of them are real or have happened.  What is real is how much the average person is losing because of higher costs and lower housing resale amounts, both of which amounts to huge losses in revenues to the city.  Additionally, residents end up paying higher auto and housing insurance premiums.  Shopping visits include trips to other cities for security reasons and because so many businesses have moved out of Antioch.  The list goes on and on and is never ending – all because of a lack of tolerance toward crime and being soft on crime.

Rich Buongiorno

Antioch

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Letter writer questions 2,841 new homes proposed for southeastern Antioch

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Dear Editor:

How many people in Antioch are aware that huge new housing developments are being planned? Do people know what kind of impact this will have on traffic, city services, and taxes?

We need to have a Town Hall meeting to inform the Antioch residents of these new expansion plans.

Such a meeting should be widely publicized using every kind of outreach tools available. The information presented to the public should cover general topics about the potential impacts to the city and a general description of each new area including maps.

In the recent City Manager Weekly Reports, there are three housing developments under review that will add 2,841 new homes in southeastern Antioch. That area is mostly rural now, so this will add a lot of requirements for new services such as fire service, police service, water and sewer maintenance, code enforcement, animal control, traffic lights, etc.

Will these be high-density housing areas with cluster houses, small lots, and narrow driveways serving multiple houses?

What sort of fees will these developers pay to cover the cost of building new schools, fire stations, and expanding city services? Will the new residents pay annual assessments to cover a portion of the ongoing new costs to the city?

Joseph Ramus

Antioch

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Letter write questions the need for Antioch recall

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Dear Editor:

Rich Buongiorno…“$33K for a recall is nothing”…

Not able to be, blindly for, or against any faction or person. Nope, can’t. My thoughts and opinions were and continue to be formed via a life long habit of “going in” to learn and understand.

In late August, 1993, on our second day in Antioch, we made a first shopping trip to a local grocery store. By the entrance was a “Recall The Mayor” group. They asked us to sign their petition and my husband said, “Not interested.” Coming out of the store with a cart full of bags, we were greeted by much more aggressive calls to sign. We chose to remain silent while proceeding to the car and unloading of the groceries into it’s trunk.

Our silence set off two in the group. They followed us, waving the petition and shouting at us. I remember accusations of “being part of the problem”, “stupid irresponsible snobs” and we got into the car to “dam commuters.”

Some years later, a couple of new council members had a public TV program where they railed angrily against anything to do with Southeast Antioch. A common theme was to warn possible new citizens about “miserable, crowded schools” and unimaginable traffic. They leveled accusations, specifically naming various people and institutions in town for destroying Antioch’s quality of life. Anger and complaining was vented over “gentrification.” “Wasteful street landscaping” and unaffordable taxes were stressed.

A year or so later an uproar was raised to a new city code requiring storage of RVs and boats out of sight. Southeast residents were routinely charged with ruining Antioch’s quality of life. I subscribed to the Ledger-Dispatch to learn more about my new town. Unfortunately, the paper’s columnist, Clay Kallam, could find nothing good with the town. In disgust, I cancelled my subscription. Later I would try again and Mr. Kallum’s constant negative droning would lead to me to cancel my subscription, again.

An Antioch, “Old Timer” told me about the anger and loud complaining that resulted from the building of the new police station. I researched and read the stories about that new building on 2nd and L Streets. The opposed citizens nicknamed it “Taj Mahal.”

After 22 years in Antioch, it seems that whatever the civic problem arises, it must always be “someone’s” fault. Some one, one person. Some one isn’t doing their job. Come to think of it, during last November’s election, voter turnout was a low record for Antioch. Some one, one person must be at fault. Below is a list from aU.S. federal government website of our duties as citizens.

  • Support and defend the Constitution.

  • Stay informed of the issues affecting your community.

  • Participate in the democratic process.

  • Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.

  • Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.

  • Participate in your local community.

  • Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.

  • Serve on a jury when called upon.

  • Defend the country if the need should arise

Could it be we are asking our leaders to do our jobs, as well as theirs? Another thought that comes to me is that if $33K for a recall is nothing, couldn’t it be better spent on, say, a season’s after school part time jobs, with students running enrichment activities on-site at our beautiful parks?

Hilda Parham

Antioch

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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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