Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Writers concerned about $75,000 of school funds spent to improve AUSD public image

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Editor:

Following is a letter sent to Antioch Unified School District Superintendent Stephanie Anello last week:

Dear Superintendent Anello,

We respectfully disagree with your proposal of spending $75,000.00 school funds, as well as the “yes” votes of Trustees Gibson-Gray, Hack, and Ruehlig on this matter.

We thank you for trying to use school money “wisely” and for your work on attempting to get our school district on track.

My husband and I have been AUSD parents since 2005, we’re appreciative that our children have access to quality education. All teachers we’ve encountered, dating from 2005 to today are intelligent and caring with a strong will to see their students succeed.

It’s our observation that our wonderful teachers aren’t provided the full support they need. We, parents/guardians, district leaders and staff must fulfill our obligations, so our teachers can focus on teaching. We feel the demands placed on them are unfair and unrealistic. We are asking too much – that they uphold rigorous instruction; that they provide peer-like support; that they nurture their classroom like a household; that they become counselors and therapists … all of which we expect them to do equally and simultaneously. In addition, it’s important to note that Students’ familial background plays a major role on behavior and academic performance which further amplifies the demand on our teachers.

The troubles of our district aren’t its negative image, it’s the crumbling support from district leadership to teachers which then dominos to students-parents/guardians. Such discord creates negative narrative that spreads in the community and beyond. Chasing a positive image through social media will not solve the problem. The problem is what’s causing the negative image in the first place.

We urge you to kindly reconsider the allocation of the $75,000.00 amount, please if it’s not too late.

Here are some thoughts we had, but we’re sure our community also has pertinent suggestions on how $75,000.00 of school funds can be better utilized within our schools.

  1. Hiring a well-established firm to survey the needs of our teacher through anonymous polling.

1a. Pouring attention and continuing / building genuine collaboration toward a resolution.

  1. Offering a bonus to a current district office employee serving within the public relations department to manage photo and media updates.
  2. Offering parenting support to parents/guardians by a licensed mental health and family professional.
  3. Increasing teachers’ stipend and/or giving year-end bonus.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

April Ussam-Lemmons

Joshua Lemmons

Antioch

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Writer opposes community choice energy, warns people to not be fooled

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Editor:

Don’t be fooled by “green energy” or “renewable energy” groups like Marin Clean Energy and others. It’s simple economics. When you add “middle men” in to the mix, you add additional costs because you’ve not created any more customers nor produced any electricity. Not only that but their “Renewable Energy Credit” system is deceiving. Get the facts. It’s not easy but here it is. These are the facts.

Community Choice Aggregates (CCA’S) including Marin Clean Energy (MCE) are unwilling OR unable to sign the Power Purchase Agreements necessary to generate the renewable power needed by the State to reach our Renewable Portfolio Standards goals (RPS).  In fact, there are currently several solar projects that have been fully approved, permitted (with Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s)) that have not begun construction because nobody is signing the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).  PG&E and the other Utilities, including public utilities like SMUD, have already bought all the power they need to meet the 2020 requirement of 33% RPS.

But the CCAs are NOT signing these agreements.

If we don’t build these projects now, as a State, we lose the benefit of the Federal tax credits (set to reduce to 10% in 2019) which means power costs go up.  It also means that MCE rates will go up noticeably while PG&E’s will remain moderate because of all the cheap long-term contracts they have signed the last 5 years.  MCE signed some of these, but the term is 3-5 years, not 15-20.

There was also a big conversation at the California Energy Commission about the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA*), which is the cost sharing mechanism that the CCAs are supposed to pay to compensate PG&E for the power PG&E bought under long term contracts for its customers that the CCAs have stolen.  Everybody, including the President of the CPUC, acknowledged that this PCIA is not accurately apportioning that cost.  PG&E showed that MCE is paying only 65% of what it owes every month.  That means you and I are subsidizing MCE customers.

*The PCIA ensures that the customers who remain with the utility do not end up taking on the long-term financial obligations the utility incurred on behalf of now-departed customers. Examples of such financial obligations include utility expenditures to build power plants and, more commonly, long-term power purchase contracts with independent power producers.

MCE and the other CCAs will have significantly higher rates (as much as 25%) than there rates today.  This means some customers will leave and threaten the ability of CCAs to operate.  Plus, their promises of cleaner energy are being proven false.

Michael DuPray

Oakley

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Writer wants police to deal with Antifa, other radical groups that terrorize, injure, vandalize

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Editor:

The disguised and masked Antifa, other radical groups, and individuals must be dealt with immediately by the police when they appear to just terrorize, injure, vandalize, and overall break the existing laws.

They arrive united in purpose, similarly disguised, and with covered faces so they won’t be identified. Our California Penal Code laws clearly make it illegal to; Conspire together (PC 182), Wearing  Mask Or Disguise (PC 185), Assault (PC 240), Batter (PC 242), Assault With A Deadly Weapon (PC 245), to Terrorize/Threaten (PC 422 and/or 11411), Riot (PC 404), Incite To Riot (PC 404.6), Rout (PC 406), Unlawfully Assemble (PC 407), Participating In Rout Or Unlawful Assembly (408), Public Disturbance (PC 415), Threatening With Weapon (PC 417), Vandalize, Damage Or Destroy (PC 594), and so on.

And, it’s unlawful also for the police to willfully not suppress a Riot or Route (PC 410). In addition, any of their superiors who order them to not take action are guilty also.

So, the answer to all of their lawlessness is quite simple. Just enforce the laws immediately and shortly these things will cease considerably. There is your answer.

Ralph A. Hernandez

Antioch

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McNerney asked to oppose bill to gut restaurant menu health labeling requirements

Monday, September 11th, 2017

By Colin Schwartz, Nutrition Policy Associate, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

On Friday, Aug. 25, Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb made it clear that calorie labels on menus are here to stay for all Americans. As Politico put it, “In the era of President Donald Trump’s war on regulations, one Obama-era rule — menu labeling — appears to be surviving.”

Unfortunately, a bill (H.R. 772) is working its way through Congress that would gut these menu labeling requirements, and undo recent progress toward giving Californians the information they need to make healthy choices about what to eat and what to feed their families. Now that the Trump Administration has affirmed it won’t delay menu labeling any further, it’s time for Congress to abandon this misguided effort. We are asking Rep. Jerry McNerney, who represents a portion of Antioch in the House of Representatives, to take a strong stand for informed consumer choice by opposing H.R. 772.

California’s adult and childhood obesity rates have steadily increased every decade since 1990, despite having the fifth lowest adult obesity rate in our nation. The rate also varies by community – currently, 77 percent of Latino adults are obese or overweight. California’s Department of Health Care Services has recognized that despite California’s best efforts, “obesity is clearly a significant driver of health problems and healthcare costs.”

Every Californian should have the information they want and need to choose healthy food for their families. Unfortunately, Congress is intent on curbing the freedom of consumers by denying them basic information about what they are ordering in restaurants. They also seem set on undoing California’s progress by scuttling the menu labeling law through the so-called Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 772).Please see the comparison chart by the CSPI below. This bill ignores the reality that our nation’s top 50 restaurant chains have already committed to empowering consumers by including calorie counts at their locations across the country. Additionally, an independent economic analysis already found that the FDA’s decision to delay the enactment of the rule by one-year could already cost consumers an astounding $15 for every $1 saved by industry. Now imagine the damage H.R. 772 could have on consumers and our economy if signed into law.

This bill is contrary to Californians’ preferences. California passed the first state menu labeling law in our nation in 2008 to support and protect consumer choice. Since the signing of the legislation, California-based chains from California Pizza Kitchen to Taco Bell have shown that menu labeling can be accomplished without sacrificing customer satisfaction.

As Adam Russell of Santa Cruz, CA wrote in response to the FDA delaying implementation of the final menu labeling rule: “People deserve to be able to make informed choices.”

We all must remain vigilant not just about congressional efforts, but the FDA’s final guidance on the menu labeling rule later this year to ensure that the consumer-choice spirit of the rule remains intact. Unfortunately, anti-consumer industry groups and some corporate interests are lobbying Congress hard and against public will to deny Americans choice on a host of critical nutrition issues, including this one. It will only get worse now that the FDA didn’t decide in their favor.        

The bill is moving quickly. It has already passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee with Rep. McNerney voting in favor of it and is headed to the House floor (and possibly to the Senate) for a vote, possibly this or next week. 

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has been providing advice and advocacy toward a healthier food system since its founding in 1971. They publish Nutrition Action Healthletter and NutritionAction.com and lead action across the country on nutrition, food safety, and health.

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Stand Down on the Delta 2017 organizer thanks volunteers

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

Volunteers assist veterans during a visit by Assemblyman Jim Frazier (center) during the 2017 Stand Down on the Delta at the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, Aug. 11-14. Photos by Genevieve Mann

Dear Editor:

Delta Veterans Group would like to thank all of the volunteers that served for Stand Down on the Delta, 2017.

With your help, our community was able to provide services for over 260 veterans and their families.

Over 1,150 volunteers came together over 10 days to set-up, serve and tear-down our encampment. Over 5,800 meals were served in just four days.

Veterans received much needed supportive services, medical services, dental care, vision care, and mental health services.  We also had barbers, beauticians, entertainment, spiritual guidance and much more over the four days.  Plus – their animals were cared for onsite by C.A.R.T. – the Contra Costa County Animal Rescue Team.

We were also able to take over 40 veterans fishing on our Delta Shoreline…and yes, they caught a lot of fish…The largest fish was caught by a female veteran for the second Stand Down in a row…

All of this could not have happened without you – the volunteer.

Respectfully,

Gerald JR Wilson, President/Executive Director, Delta Veterans Group – Stand Down on the Delta

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Colleague endorses Graves for Contra Costa DA

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Dear Editor:

Colleen Gleason, a close friend and colleague of mine has written a wonderful endorsement on Facebook. I met Colleen 15 years ago and am humbled by her words. Here are a few sentences from my colleague’s social media post that I would like to share with you:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/paulgravesforda2018/endorsements/

“I’m so excited and proud that my friend and mentor has decided to run for DA of our County. Paul was my homicide supervisor and currently runs the Sexual Assault/Family Violence unit. I also worked closely with him while he was the President of our Association – not only was he amazing at negotiating on behalf of our DAs, but he was instrumental in putting on a successful fundraiser for our local Rape Crisis/Children’s Interview Center every year.

Paul is the type of leader who inspires others; there is always a line of people seeking his solid advice born of experience and common sense. He is the type of leader that people want to follow; when he is heading a unit, other people want to work there…He has handled the pressures of our job in the public eye with grace and eloquence. But, more importantly to me, he is the type of person you can watch handling the little, every-day moments with kindness and integrity… the moments when the cameras aren’t on, when no one seems to be paying attention – the way he treats his staff, victim’s families, opposing counsel, his subordinates – those are the moments when he has impressed me the most.”

Paul Graves

Martinez

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Criminal defense attorneys support Graves for Contra Costa District Attorney

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

Dear Editor:

We are some of the criminal defense attorneys who practice in Contra Costa County.  We are the individuals who defend people accused of crimes.   We have worked with the District Attorney’s Office for decades, and are in a unique position to know what qualities are most important for the District Attorney to possess.

We believe in the Constitution, in fairness and colorblind justice, and that every person accused of a crime deserves competent and zealous representation so that the police, the prosecution, and the system are held to the highest standard.

As the top law enforcement official in the County, we believe our next District Attorney should share these values. They should keep our community safe, but also do the right thing even when it’s not popular.

We need someone honest, trustworthy, fair, ethical, diligent, and compassionate.

We need Paul Graves.

Paul Graves’ energy, ideas and fresh approach to the office as outlined in his public application to the Board of Supervisors reveals the dedicated and honorable public servant that we already know him to be.

What really sets Paul Graves apart is that he has dedicated his professional life as a prosecutor to Contra Costa County, and that he has earned the respect of all partners in the criminal justice system, because he treats every defendant as an individual and is fundamentally fair.

Paul Graves’ judgment has always made him stand out as a fair and ethical prosecutor we can trust.  Even though we represent opposing sides in the courtroom, we know Paul Graves is everyone’s partner in fair and equal justice.

Paul Graves provides the character, experience, and integrity our community needs to move forward.  We want the Board of Supervisors to know that as defense attorneys dedicated to the Constitution, fairness and colorblind justice, Paul Graves has our highest recommendation.

Blackie Burak

Derek Ewin

Dan Horowitz

David Larkin

Thomas McKenna

Tom O’Connor

Dan O’Malley

Chris Varnell

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Unhappy with Supervisors’ appointment process, coalition sends Interim DA applicants questionnaire; will hold forum Aug. 12

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Demand transparent, qualifications-based process to avoid conflicts of interest, secret deals

A press release issued on Friday, states “a community coalition of organizations and individual voters from Contra Costa County called on all candidates for the interim District Attorney position to complete a public questionnaire about where they stand on a variety of issues that matter to the organizations, ranging from bail practices and criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, worker and consumer protection to police accountability and the environment. The coalition issued the questionnaire after the Board of Supervisors failed to adopt a fully transparent and community-first process at their August 1 meeting. This coalition is also working with local organizations and volunteers to host a candidate forum on Saturday, August 12, in Concord.”

Of the twelve applicants, the Supervisors narrowed the field to five. (See related article, here).

The responses to the questionnaire will be made public before the forum.

View the questionnaire, here: CoCo Interim DA Community Questionnaire_FINAL

WHAT: Contra Costa Interim District Attorney Candidate Forum

WHEN: Saturday, August 12, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

WHERE: Church of the Nazarene at 1650 Ashbury Dr., Concord, CA

WHO: The forum is co-hosted by the ACLU of Northern California; Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE); Contra Costa AFL-CIO Central Labor Council; Contra Costa County Racial Justice Coalition (CCCRJC); Courage Campaign; #cut50; Democratic Party of Contra Costa County; East County NAACP; Safe Return Project; and Smart Justice California

According to their website, the ACCE “is a grassroots, member-led, statewide community organization working with more than 10,000 members across California…dedicated to raising the voices of everyday Californians, neighborhood by neighborhood, to fight for the policies and programs we need to improve our communities and create a brighter future” such as raising taxes on businesses and individuals to increase funding for education, working to preserve and expand affordable housing, and “raise the floor on wages and benefits.”

On the CCCRJC website it states that the organization is opposed to the expansion of the West County Detention Center.

The Courage Campaign states on their website that it “fights for a more progressive California and country” by focusing on three priorities of economic justice, human rights, and corporate and political accountability.

The mission of #cut50 is to “making communities safer while reducing the number of people in our prisons and jails.”

The press release also states that, “at a public hearing on August 1, the coalition pleaded with the County Board of Supervisors to adopt an open and transparent selection process for choosing the interim District Attorney that includes a community selection committee. The coalition urged the Board to avoid conflicts of interest by revealing whether they have ever received an endorsement or monetary support from any of the candidates, and pressed the supervisors to develop a system for ranking the candidates based on their qualifications and alignment with local values, over a consensus-based decision-making model that could be swayed by backroom deals. The coalition had previously sent a letter requesting similar action to the Board on July 6th, which was never acknowledged.”

A spokesperson for the coalition, Director of Contra Costa County Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) David Sharples, said, “We want a district attorney who reflects the values of Contra Costa voters. The selection process should focus on whether each candidate is qualified for the job, aligns with local values, has the highest level of ethical standards, and is ready to take on the challenges faced by our community, not the candidate who is the most well-connected. If the board won’t be transparent about this process, then we will go straight to the candidates so they have every opportunity to explain where they stand on the issues and why they are the best candidate.”

The coalition’s press release concluded with the following: “Contra Costa voters have bucked the position of their District Attorney and repeatedly voted for meaningful criminal justice reform over the last several elections. In 2012, 72 percent of county residents voted in favor of Proposition 36, which reformed California’s Three Strikes Law; in 2014, 66 percent of voters supported Proposition 47, which substantially reduced the penalties for several crimes; in 2016, 69 percent voted in favor of Proposition 57, which significantly expanded early parole opportunities for people serving time in California prisons; and 61 percent voted in favor of Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana and retroactively invalidated several types of prior marijuana-related criminal convictions.”

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