Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Guest Commentary: The real reason behind Antioch’s Measure E? Greed

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

By Linda King

This commentary is written with the intention of explaining the real reason behind Measure E on the June 7th ballot in Antioch.

It’s not about the City Council “failing” the citizens of Antioch but more about the intention of the California Grand Casino in Pacheco.  Will Wilkinson, the owner of the Grand, has been successful in previous attempts at “stealing” gaming licenses in Pacheco, San Ramon and Point Molate in Richmond. This is his fourth attempt to “steal” a gaming license and he is using the voters in Antioch to do this. Will stays in the shadows and uses people like Lamar Thorpe to do his dirty work for him; capitalizing on Thorpe’s “political agenda” and his sense of “entitlement” that he should be on the City Council.

The Council has already reduced the number of card rooms in Antioch from five to two. The language in Measure E has already been adopted, except for the unnecessary, costly requirement to have an election whenever there’s a proposed card room amendment. Measure E will prevent the previously approved second one from reopening and offering a fine dining restaurant in the downtown area.

The measure will also ensure Wilkinson’s success in “stealing’’ the remaining gaming license in Antioch and keeping the current owners from selling it along with Kelly’s Restaurant and Card Room on O Street. Al and Estelle Cianfichi, the long standing owners, have been in business in Antioch for over 35 years. They successfully owned and operated two businesses in Martinez and then used the proceeds from their sale and invested them into Kelly’s, over the years.

Al is now 85 years old and a disabled American Veteran from the Korean War 3rd Army Infantry Division Charlie Company. He is the recipient of the Silver, Bronze and Army Infantry medals that were awarded to him at the Antioch VFW Hall in the 1980’s.  Al is the only surviving officer from the battle of Pork Chop Hill in Korea and was injured while carrying another soldier to safety. They were both blown off a cliff from a mortar that went off near them and they fell more than 20 feet, yet survived. Al is a true American hero and has given his lower legs to his country which have been amputated. He is also paralyzed from the neck down and will be spending his remaining days in a hospital bed.

What service did Will Wilkinson from the California Grand perform for the U.S.A? He is from an Eastern European country that does not believe in our democracy or what America truly stands for.  He has un-American values and deplorable business practices, and he is now trying to use the good citizens of Antioch – using the political process for his own personal gain by eliminating his competition. If Measure E passes, it will maximize his profits in Pacheco and take away jobs in Antioch and income for the City of Antioch. It will also keep Al from being able to sell Kelly’s and live the rest of his life in comfort and peace. Is this how we reward our veterans for their service to our country, who have given life and limb so that we can remain a free country?

Wilkinson should focus on his own problems at his “Mega Casino” and not bully the City Council and citizens of Antioch over a six-table card room. The California Grand has invested over $310,000 to pass Measure E and take a disabled war veteran’s retirement away from him without giving it a second thought. What kind of individual does that? Clearly someone who does not hold our values dear and only cares about his own financial gain. He wants Antioch residents to have to travel to Pacheco to play cards and spend their money there, instead of here. Let’s keep “Greedy Will” in Pacheco where he belongs and out of Antioch.

Please vote NO on Measure E. Let’s keep Antioch under local control.

King is Chair of Antioch Friends for Local Control, organized to defeat Measure E

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Letter writer supports Burgis for Supervisor

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Dear Editor:

With the race for the June primaries almost upon us, and six different candidates running for County Supervisor in District 3, what’s a poor voter to do?  I am fortunate to have had the privilege of meeting most of these candidates, and without question, Diane Burgis is, by far, the most qualified and absolute best candidate for this position.

Diane is the only candidate with broad, regional experience – she is currently a trustee on the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) Board, which manages a budget in excess of two hundred million dollars servicing almost three million people, and overseeing its own fire department and police force.  This is an entirely different level of responsibility decision-making than that of a local city council member – with just a local city issues to address.  No other candidate has this breadth of experience and understanding of complex issues and decisions required to address an entire county.

Diane is a leader who knows how to build consensus and bring people together.  Diane has the endorsement of over sixty leaders throughout the county and state, including all of the current Trustees on the EBRPD.  Contrast that with candidate Hardcastle, who touts his 12 years of experience on the Ironhouse Sanitary District (ISD) Board, yet not one of the ISD Directors, current or previously-serving, has stepped up to endorse him.

Join me in voting for Diane Burgis for District 3 County Supervisor – the only qualified candidate for this position.

Susan Morgan

Director, Ironhouse Sanitary District

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Watchdog: On water regulations and a possible rate increase in Antioch

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” - Leonardo da Vinci

Last year Governor Jerry Brown mandated a emergency water cutback in urban areas, although we all know that it’s agriculture that’s using the majority of water in this state.  Ironically,  many California homeowners and businesses do not have water meters and are charged a flat monthly rate. (It’s estimated that unmetered communities use 39% more water than metered communities.)  Although a 1992 state law requires all new homes have a water meter, a state law passed in 2004 merely requires homes built before that date be retrofitted by 2025, nine years away.

This year the emphasis from public agencies is to have residents replace their lawns with water-wise landscaping.  Let me caution those who have been told they can receive rebates to do so.  I took at look at the Contra Costa Water District website.  At first glance your eyes are drawn to the CCWD Lawn to Garden Rebate Program which states “The rebate is $1.00 per sq. ft. with a maximum of $1,000 per single family residence and up to $20,000 for commercial, homeowner associations, industrial and institutional properties.”  What you might not notice folks is the paragraph entitled Potential Federal Tax on Rebates.  That’s right folks, the CCWD will issue a IRS 1099 tax form which you will have to disclose as income when you file your tax forms next year.

CCWD directors also cut a back door deal with the state, agreeing to drop objections to Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnels proposal if the state provides enough upstream water to mitigate an expected increase in salinity if the project proceeds.   Time to replace those directors as well as asking any candidate for local or state office where they stand on this vital issue.

Fortunately,  Contra Costa and San Joaquin County Counties and several environmental organizations filed suit in San Joaqiuin County Superior Court to stop the Metropolitan Water District from purchasing five Delta island tracts which would aid Gov. Brown’s proposed twin tunnels plan, dubbed “Delta Peripheral Canal plan revisited”  a former failed plan to ship our water south.

Additionally, Senate Bill 1713 introduced by Assembly Member Susan  Eggman (D-Stockton), Principal coauthor Senator Wolk and coauthored by Assembly members Baker, Bonilla, Cooley, Cooper, Frazier, McCarty and Olsen would prohibit the construction of a peripheral canal unless authorized by an initiative voted on by the voters of California on or after January 1, 2017 for any infrastructure project that conveys water directly from a diversion point in the Sacramento River to pumping facilities of the State Water Project at the federal Central Valley Project south of the Delta. The bill also requires the Legislative Analyst’s Office to complete a economic feasibility analysis prior to a vote.

NOTE:  In May 2015, the Antioch City Council mandated that residents reduce water consumption by 28%, not water outdoor plants more than three days a week,  not water between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.  or wash driveways, sidewalks or other hard surfaces with hoses that don’t have a shut-off  nozzle, etc.  Restaurants were told not to serve water unless requested by the customer  and residents advised to report violators who would be fined $100 per day for the first violation, and up to $500 a day for continuing violations.  The ordinance has not as yet been redacted.

Council is holding a public hearing on May 24 to raise numerous rates, one of which is water usage.  Is that due to reduced water revenues from water restrictions or transfer of water funds into the General Fund?

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Writer supports “all-around upstanding citizen” Hardcastle for Supervisor

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Dear Editor:

Doug Hardcastle is the best candidate for the job of Contra Costa County Supervisor. He is an all-around upstanding citizen and servant to his country and community. Doug served his country in the military; public office in his community, and owns a business in the county.

Doug is a proven leader and is not afraid to take on the tough issues. His combination of experience, knowledge and commitment to serve the people of Contra Costa is unsurpassed by any other candidate.

Doug Hardcastle has been the first candidate to take immediate action on the incumbent by speaking out against the 33% pay increase that she voted to give herself. This was one example of continued wasteful spending by the county. Fortunately, the incumbent backed out before the increase could be put in place.

We need to elect Doug Hardcastle June 7th, and provide new, strong, proven leadership on the Board of Supervisors. Please join me in voting for Doug Hardcastle on June 7th. To get involved in his campaign, please visit www.doughardcastle.com.

Sincerely,

Carma Dutra

Oakley

 

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Writer has problem with Barr being endorsed by Brentwood Police Officers, supports Hardcastle for Supervisor

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Editor:

Brentwood City Councilman and Supervisorial candidate Steve Barr’s endorsement by the Brentwood Police Officers’ Association is a clear example of what is wrong with California politics and government leadership.

A city councilman and/or supervisor is on the management side of the negotiation for pay, benefits, pensions, working rules, etc. with labor groups.  Having their endorsement and, in all probability financial support, during the campaign, leads to the distinct possibility of a pay back or reward for that support during contract negotiations.  The second problem with this arrangement is that the only people left out of that negotiation are the taxpayers, the people who have to pay for the results of that negotiation.  It is especially easy to give pay increases and other benefits when you are negotiating with other people’s money.

I support Doug Hardcastle for Supervisor in District 3.  Doug and his wife Linda have owned and successfully operated Hardcastle’s RV in the county since 1972.  He was on the Ironhouse Sanitary District Board of Directors from 2000 until 2012 and a member of the Oakley City Council since 2012, serving as Mayor, last year.  He is Chairman of Transplan (the East County transportation board), Chairman of the State Route 4 Bypass Authority and is Vice Chairman of the Tri Delta Transit Authority. Doug is a successful, independent leader who understands the need for private sector economic development and jobs in East County and has proven his ability to lead in the public sector.  But, most of all, he is working for all the people of East County, not just a chosen few.

Hal Bray

Discovery Bay

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Writer opposes Harper and Wilson for Supervisor, not enough police, too much crime in Antioch

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Editor:

Antioch’s Mayor Wade Harper and Councilwoman Monica Wilson are failures.  Antioch is no safer or better off since their elections.  Their impacts haven’t been positive in many ways.  Their visions for Antioch have allowed Antioch to be a crime plagued community under their leadership.  Don’t vote for them for County Supervisor.

Some of Harper’s primary election campaign platforms was to improve Antioch’s public safety.  He boasted “The City of Antioch will be a safer city on my watch” and “Stopping crime now starts with Police Lieutenant Wade Harper.” It additionally crowed “How about we elect a City Councilmember who has experience fighting crime – well beyond talking about it.”

Harper also promised “more police” and “less crime” in his overzealous support for a YES vote on tax Measure “C”.  What a farce that has also turned out to be, he was one of the main proponents for its passage.  Same Police, similar crime results since.  Monica Wilson was right there going along and not pointing out the farce it’s been.

Antioch’s Police manpower has really not been increased, even with Harper and Wilson at the helm, with almost the same number of sworn Officers as before.  But, they did give big salary and benefits increases to some employee groups instead.  Antioch’s crime rate hasn’t really been reduced, it’s been a misleading dog and pony show when publicly discussed by them and others.

As an example, where are the 20 plus “more” Officers that were promised?  And where is the “less crime” they promised?  Not kept.  Antioch’s high crime rate situation is still way too high!  Antioch’s documented crime rate is higher than the California average crime rate and is higher than the National average crime rate.  Antioch’s is about 46% more than California’s average and about 49% more than the National average.

Let’s face it, Antioch’s Wade Harper and Monica Wilson are failures and should not be voted for County Supervisor.  We can do better without them. There are four other Candidates to chose from and should instead be considered for your votes.

Ralph A. Hernandez

former Antioch Council Member, and

Chair Citizens For Democracy

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Taxpayers Leader: BART contract another giveaway to unions

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

Editor:

Here we go again, folks. Another giveaway contract to BART unions. After a 15.8% salary increase in 2013, the BART board has now agreed to another 10.5% increase.

For that, we taxpayers got very little in exchange except for an agreement not to strike while the contract is in force.  What should have been a no-strike ever clause wasn’t part of the deal.

Unfortunately since its inception BART has been plagued by financial mismanagement.  Among other things it has set little or nothing aside for eventual capital replacement.  Instead it gave away all the money in wages and benefits making it the highest paid transportation system in the country.  It also has the highest fares.

The outrageous benefits were left untouched.  Total compensation (wages and benefits) for the average worker is over $100,000.  For a system crying poor mouth this makes no sense at all.

This new contract is to set the stage for a huge bond measure on the November ballot.  Claiming the system has reached the end of its useful life, BART says it needs $10 billion for capital improvements.  BART claims “its cars are the oldest big-city fleet in the United States”.  The truth, it’s the fourth youngest among fifteen similar system nationally.

And let’s not forget that they spent $486 million on a link to the Oakland airport replacing a completely satisfactory and efficient bus system.

To summarize, BART financial management has been a disaster from its inception.  The BART board has rolled over to the unions, giving away outrageous wages and benefits.  It has both the highest fares and wages/benefits in the country.  It has set little or nothing aside for capital replacement.  It expects the taxpayers to make up for its financial follies.

Until the BART board and unions wake up and renegotiate the contract it should not be given any more money to mismanage.

The Board must develop a reasonable financial plan and strategy (of which it has none).  It must develop some “backbone” when dealing/negotiating with its unions.

We are giving enough taxpayer subsidies already in sales and property taxes.  We shouldn’t give them any more to mismanage.

It’s time to vote no on any bond measure.

Ken Hambrick, Chairman

Alliance of Contra Costa Taxpayers

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Watchdog: Overview of the Candidates for Supervisor

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Watchdog-LogoBy Barbara Zivica

There’s an old expression about politics that goes like this “All politics are based on the indifference of the majority.” (James Reston). Let me reword it this way – “all politics are local and politicians count on the ignorance of voters.” Do your own research and remember that when candidates are endorsed and elected by unions or a particular political party, they are no longer “independent” legislators.  Newspaper endorsements can also be biased.  Be sure you know the rules.  June 7th is a primary race. The top 2 vote getters will move onto the November 8th general election.

Speaking of endorsements, let’s look at the candidates for District 3, an open seat due to incumbent Mary Piepho‘s decision to retire and District 5, where Federal Glover is again running for re-election.

DISTRICT 3 – Includes most of Antioch, all of south side of Highway 4

STEVE BARR – Current Brentwood City Council member (term expires November 2018)  Endorsed as best pick for Supervisor by the Contra Costa Times.   Here are a few facts you may not know:  Barr switched parties from Democrat to Republican in 2015 in time to run for the seat held by Mary Piepho, who is a Republican.   He is one of two Brentwood councilmen who replaced non-elected directors on the East Contra Costa Fire District Board.  The Board which gave its firefighter a 5% across the board raise, hasn’t solved the lack of fire services in Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Byron and Knightsen.  They tried to pass two taxes but failed both times.  My biggest beef with him is, although he was opposed to a project labor agreement the City used on its new city hall, he was seated on the council when they unanimously agreed to move forward with creating a project labor agreement to build the Brentwood library.  Should we call him a “flip flopper”?

DIANE BURGIS: Executive Director of Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed, sits on the Regional Planning Committee for ABAG.  Prior to being elected to the East Bay Regional Parks District Board in November 2014, she sat on the Oakley City Council, being elected just two years before in 2012. Burgis also served on the Delta Protection Commission, executive Board for the East Bay League of Cities and Transportation, Communications and Public Works Policy Committee for the League of California Cities representing the Woman’s Caucus.  She currently serves as Ward 7 Director of EBRPD and has Piepho’s backing.

DOUG HARDCASTLE -  Owner of Hardcastle RV Center in Oakley, for more than 40 years.  Served as Director on the Ironhouse Sanitary District Board from 2000 to 2012 and President of Board from 2010-2011.  Elected to the Oakley City Council in 2012 and just completed a year as Mayor.  Endorsed by current Mayor Kevin Romick and Bill Baker, former US Representative for California’s 10th Congressional District.  Small business owners are the backbone of the U.S. economy.  Hardcastle is especially concerned about economic development, local jobs, public safety, improved roads and transportation and protecting the Delta and open space. First candidate to  enter the race to challenge Piepho, last fall, before she decided not to run in December.

WADE HARPER – Flip flopper.  In 2008 when getting appointed to the Antioch School Board he committed to running for re-election in 2010,  instead he ran for City Council and then for the Mayor’s seat.  In an accelerated swearing in ceremony in December 2012, held in order to allow  the new mayor and council members to reverse the previously signed contract with APOA, which changed the 3% at 50 pension calculation to a 3% at 55 formula.  This was done in order to avoid having to adhere to a new voter approved law which would take effect on January 1, 2012 reducing the pension formula for new police hires from 2% at 50 to 2.7% at age 55 and freezing benefit formulas for lateral hires.

After committing to being a full-time Mayor if elected, he got a job teaching for the Antioch school district. In June 2014 he implied commitment to allow a citizens group to move forward on plans for a park and event center on the former lumber yard site, then voted to sell it to a developer.  In October 2015 he made a commitment to Senator Steve Glazer to not run for higher office when hired as a field rep.  Two months later, he quit the job to run for Supervisor.  He is endorsed by the Antioch Education Association, the professional organization and bargaining unit for all the teachers of Antioch Unified School District, Councilwoman Mary Rocha, and Councilman Tony Tiscareno, and Rocha’s son, Louie Rocha, the principal of Antioch High where Harper teaches.

ODESSA LEFRANCOIS -  Retired Navy veteran, 12th year county health services employee and civil rights activist. Says her priorities are better health care delivery, especially to vets, better regional transportation infrastructure, unfair labor practices and community issues concerning seniors.  She is 2nd Vice President of Local Union 1 and President of the NAACP East County Branch.  Entered the race last Novemberl, to challenge Piepho.

MONICA WILSON – Elected to the Antioch City Council in 2012. Her press release states her successes include helping grow local businesses and making public safety a top priority, securing local measures to hire and support more police officers.  Frankly, she’s overstating her qualifications and accomplishments.  Residents are now paying for two tax measures and experiencing a continuing understaffed police, code enforcement and animal control department.  She has been endorsed by SEIU (Service Employees International Union and the Democrat leadership machine in the county.

DISTRICT 5 – Includes most of the portion of Antioch north of Highway 4

ANAMARIE AVILA FARIAS – current Martinez City Councilmember, elected in 2012, and current Board Member for the Juvenile Hall Auxiliary of Contra Costa County.  Was a member of the Martinez Planning Commission for 8 years and served on the Parks and Recreation and Marina Commission.  Employed for nearly 10 years with the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing & Community development and in 2015 was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown Jr. to serve as a Board Director for the California Housing Finance Agency.  She is currently a Board Member for the Latino Caucus and has numerous union endorsements.

CONRAD DANDRIDGE -  Former member of the Pacheco Municipal Advisory Council, This is 2nd time Dandridge, ran for the Board.  In 2006 he ran for District 4 Supervisor seat in unincorporated Martinez.   Susan Bonilla won that race.  Dandridge is a program analyst for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in Oakland.  Claims to know District 5 well due to having worked s a Census Bureau field operations supervisor all over Contra Costa.  Doesn’t believe Glover is an effective advocate for District 5, especially the unincorporated areas.

FEDERAL GLOVER -  Former Pittsburg City Council Member, Served as Mayor from 1998 to 1999 and has been on the Board of Supervisors since 2000.  He’s now running for his fifth term in office (no term limits in local government but there should be). His campaign manager is Mary Jo Rossi, whose name has come up in regard to backroom deals concerning the Navy land plan.   Glover is another “flip flopper”.  In the past he promised voters he’d  “hold the line” on growth. However, campaign finance reports show he received at least $38,000+ from groups often seen to be in opposition to environmental concerns i.e. $$20,000 from Chevron and Tosco, $56,000+  from developers (the largest $15,000 from Homebuilders Assoc, $6,830 from Alves/Paramount, $5,000 from PROPAC and from Seeno $3,175.   He’s voted for over 6,700 homes – 1,500 in Alamo Creek, 200 in Discovery Bay, Oakley -  sphere of influence addition for homes (2,000 acres) in addition to over 5,000 homes he approved in Pittsburg.  He also told residents (Contra Costa Times 1/14/2000 ) “It’s time to stand up and own up to the fact that our ability to bring BART further east is not going to happen.”   Voted to give himself a 60% raise in 2006 then another 33% in 2014. But, after county staff and residents gathered enough signatures to force a referendum in 2015, Glover voted to reverse his vote on the 33% raise. Instead, he voted for a 14% pay raise, last year although the county employees only received a 4% raise. He’s endorsed by the Democratic Party of Contra Costa.

MIKE MENESINI – Former Martinez Mayor for 18 years and Councilman for eight years. He works in San Francisco as an Assistant District Attorney. Unsuccessfully ran for County Supervisor in 1992, Superior Court judge in 1994 and Contra Costa District Attorney in 2002. Left the city with a $30 million shortfall in pension and retiree health plans and only 64 percent of the funds they should have. Also allowed for pension spiking by the city’s police force and expensive, lifetime retiree health insurance benefits from their first day on the job, for themselves, spouses and children up to age 26.

DAN ROMERO – Mayor of Hercules. Joined the Hercules City Council in 2011 following the recall of previous members.  Reelected in 2012. Had to deal with the $38 million mess from redevelopment spending by previous councils. Weathered controversy and attacks by fellow council member over who should be Mayor. Supported 2004 Franklin Canyon Measure M, which down zoned the area to one home for every 40 acres. Side note for Antioch residents – Romero voted to hire Steve Duran, as City Manager, who later left to become Antioch’s City Manager. He owns an insurance agency in Pinole.

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