Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

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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Watchdog: Where did Antioch Mayor Wade Harper go wrong?

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Watchdog Logo 300x95 Watchdog: Where did Antioch Mayor Wade Harper go wrong?Why was he served with recall papers for the second time in months?

By Barbara Zivica

Antioch Mayor Wade Harper has an impressive resume. He has a Master‘s of Business Administration from John F. Kennedy University (2009), a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Patten University and graduated Magna Cum Laude. He’s had a 24-year career in Law Enforcement, starting with the Emeryville Police Department and ending up as a Lieutenant for the Tracy Police Department (2005 – 2013). In 2008 he was appointed to the Antioch Unified School District’s Board of Trustees, ran for and was elected to the Antioch City Council in 2010 and was elected Mayor in 2012. He’s currently on the Board of Directors for Delta Diablo Sanitation District and Tri- Delta Transit.

His first misstep as Mayor was to pass an “urgency ordinance” at the December 27, 2012 council meeting – a rare second December meeting, especially during the week between the holidays – which had to become effective before January 1, 2013 when a voter approved state law would mandate specific pension formulas for public employees (2.7% at age 55 for police officers and 2% at age 62 for other employee categories). The urgency ordinance amended the September 1, 2012 contract agreement with Antioch’s police officers and misc. employees in which the retirement benefit formulas for new hires was changed from 3% at age 50 for police to 3% at age 55 and the retirement benefit formula for misc. employees was changed from 2.7% at age 55 to 2% at age 62. In other words the “urgency” ordinance restored the 3% at 50 base formula although a cap was put on lateral police hires. The chief would only be able to hire 5 lateral officers at the 3% at age 50 retirement formula after which he’d have to consult council. All new hires (not current PERS or reciprocal system members) would be under the new 2.7% @ 57 formula.

His second misstep as Mayor was acting as the principal officer of Citizens for a Safe Antioch In Support of Measure C, and telling residents that passage of the half cent sales tax ballot measure would enable the hiring of 22 new police officers. Measure C, a general tax measure requiring only 50% approval plus one vote to pass, however, made no such claim. It specifically stated “the revenue would be deposited in the City’s general fund. It could be used for any legal municipal purpose including: police and emergency response; code enforcement, local economic development and job creation; street repair and any other City program and service.”

As for past versus current police staffing: On February 21, 2012 Police Chief Cantando reported that the department was authorized for 102 positions and was projected to be at 90 filled positions as of March 11, 2013.

At the January 27, 2015city council meeting, Cantando presented the council with a report detailing crime statistics, calls for service and staffing. According to his report, the police department has 102 authorized sworn positions including the Chief, 90 full time positions are filled, there are 9 sworn vacancies and 3 recruits were to begin the academy on January 26, 2015. Doesn’t seem as we’ve made much progress toward hiring 22 new officers, does it?

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Payton Perspective: Antioch staff wants Council to require majority vote to place an item on the agenda, Tuesday night

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Payton Perspective logo 300x140 Payton Perspective: Antioch staff wants Council to require majority vote to place an item on the agenda, Tuesday nightBy Allen Payton

UPDATED: Saturday, February 7, 2015

At next Tuesday night’s meeting, the Antioch City Council is being asked by staff to make formal the process Mayor Wade Harper has been following to prevent council members from placing items on the agenda for discussion, without the support of two other council members.

This is in response to my recent Payton Perspective editorial, dated January 27, 2015, (which can be viewed here) criticizing the fact that Harper has been acting unilaterally, without council approval in implementing the practice.

As my previous column pointed out, he stated in an email to me on Friday, January 23 that it’s “not required.”

Yet, staff is recommending that the City Council adopt the resolution, to make it a requirement, based on what they claim is a survey they conducted of 25 cities and special district boards throughout the state. In their report, staff says, without providing the details of the survey in the Agenda, under Item 8 (which can be viewed here) – which is also at the end of the meeting, when most residents have either gone home or changed the channel – “The most common response was that it takes a majority of the Council/Board members to request a future agenda item. In a few cases, some agencies require the consensus of only two (2) Council/Board members. A rare few provided for a single Council/Board member to place an item on a future agenda. A couple also provided for the Mayor to have full authority whether or not an item was placed on the agenda.”

What staff also didn’t share is how many of those were cities versus boards, and how many of the cities are General Law versus Charter cities, which operate differently under state law.

I find it interesting that staff didn’t offer the Council, under Agenda Item 8, the choice to completely eliminate the practice, which Harper has been following without approval, and go back to the way it was in Antioch prior to his term as Mayor.

It’s not required

What staff is saying, is that they want the current practice to continue – even though Harper’s been following it without a council vote, in the first place – but to now require a formal motion, second and vote of at least three council members to place an item on the agenda, instead of the recent practice of just the nodding of three heads.

Perhaps staff didn’t read the email from Harper to me, on which he copied City Manager Steve Duran and City Attorney Lynn Nerland, in which he wrote “A consensus is great, but not required.”

Done to save staff time

They say this started – but still don’t say when – to save time, due to the reduction in staff. But, the economic downturn happened in 2008 and the staff cutbacks began in 2009, when Don Freitas was Mayor, and before Harper was even elected to the City Council in 2010.

Prior to Harper being elected Mayor in 2012, the practice in Antioch for at least the prior 28 years, according to previous mayors and council members, with whom I spoke, before and since the publication of my editorial, was that any one council member could request an item be placed on the agenda and that the mayor, in consultation with the city manager, would determine when to place it on the agenda.

So, it appears a reduced city staff handled things, under the normal practice, for three years without any issue. Plus, now they’re back to full time, five days a week, following the elimination of Furlough Fridays, as of January 11, anyway. So, having each council member request agenda items shouldn’t be a problem.

One agenda item meetings

Some Antioch Council meeting agendas have only one or two main items on them, like last meeting, which had one non-Consent Calendar item, which was for approving the lease of copiers for City Hall. Big deal. The meeting was over before 9 p.m. So, there was time and room to discuss at least one more item, such as Ogorchock’s proposal of funding three more Community Service Officers using Measure O funds, to help alleviate the workload of sworn police officers, thus improving their ability to fight crime, which the mayor and all council members were elected to do.

Besides, how do the other council members even know if they think an item proposed by one member is worth discussing or if the public wants it discussed, if it’s not first placed on a council agenda? They’re just going to make an arbitrary decision to not even hear about it? That’s not effectively representing the people who elected them.

One current example is the effort by former Antioch School Board President Joy Motts and other downtown residents to meet with Duran, about their idea for an event center, possibly on the open lot where the lumber yard used to be. So far he has refused to, because he doesn’t have to, since he hasn’t been given direction by council to do so. Yet, how does Duran know, if no council member has been able to even have the idea placed on the agenda for consideration and council direction given him to meet with Motts’ group? I don’t agree with it being placed on that lot, but do agree council should consider it and staff should meet with them, to perhaps find another, better location for it. If that’s how the mayor and city manager treat another community leader – this started while she was in office – what kind of message does that send to the average Antioch resident about having their concerns or ideas heard?

Forces private, closed door meetings, instead

Should the council formalize this policy Tuesday night, they will be forcing any individual, company or group, in order to line up three votes, to have separate meetings with each of the council members, behind closed doors, in private meetings, instead of in public view during a council meeting, to even have their idea, project or proposal heard, in the first place. That’s ridiculous and an unnecessary additional level of bureaucracy to get something done in Antioch.

And we wonder why businesses go to Brentwood, Pittsburg or Oakley, first, before coming to our city?

Again, the result of this practice severely limits the ability of each individual council member from effectively representing the people of Antioch, who elected them individually.

If a council member is asking for some ridiculous item be placed on the agenda for discussion by both the council and the public, then that will reflect poorly on them. If it becomes a repeated offense, then “we the people” whose government it is, will get tired of it and shut that council member down, one way or another.

Possible Brown Act open meeting law violation?

This proposed practice also brings up the question of violating the state’s Brown Act open meeting law, as former Antioch City Councilman Jim Conley pointed out to me. How can the council vote on an item that’s not already on the agenda without violating that law? Isn’t the vote to place an item on a future agenda an actual item on the current meeting agenda, that requires prior notice to the public, at least 48 or 72 hours before? As Conley stated, and I concur, only urgency items can be placed on a current council meeting agenda, which requires the vote of four out of the five council members. The placing of an item on a future agenda is not an urgency item.

Isn’t it ironic?

After speaking with Antioch residents, as well as current and former leaders about this, today (2/7/15) it hit me that what the mayor did by placing this item on the agenda, was to do so without a consensus of council members. Does anyone else remember this agenda item being discussed at the last council meeting to obtain approval of three council members to be placed on a future agenda? I don’t. Harper violated his own practice, one that staff is recommending be continued, which is rather ironic. Furthermore, Harper placed this on the agenda – or was it staff? – but still hasn’t placed Ogorchock’s idea on the agenda, even after he specifically stated a consensus of council members was not required to do so.

How did Items 3-7 get placed on the next agenda?

Another thing I realized, today (2/7/15), is that staff has been able to place whatever they and Harper have wanted to place on the agenda, since he was elected Mayor, without a consensus of council members. Otherwise, how did Items 3-7 also get placed on the next council meeting agenda? That means staff has had more power than any one of their bosses on the city council for the past two-plus years. As has Harper, who, as a separately elected mayor in a General Law city in California, only has three powers that the other council members don’t have, and denying them the opportunity to place items on the agenda isn’t one of them.

Who cares what other cities do?

I don’t care what they do in other cities or on other boards. Although, I would like to see the detailed results of the survey and ask for one of all the other 18 cities in Contra Costa County. Regardless of the results of the staff’s unscientific survey, we want and expect our council members to each properly represent the people, both individually and collectively.

If any of our council members want to abdicate their responsibility and limit their own ability to fully and properly represent the public, and in effect politically emasculate themselves, so be it. Then, I guess those council members who vote for this don’t need to be on the council nor receive the public’s vote when it’s time for their reelection.

The Council should table this agenda item and just tell the mayor, in his own words, it’s “not required” the next time he says they need a consensus of members to place an item on the agenda. If they want to formalize it, then table the item until the choice for eliminating the practice is included, and if they do the council members need to tell the mayor to knock it off and quit preventing them from doing their job and fully representing the people who elected them. 

To voice your opinion, either attend Tuesday night’s council meeting, which starts at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall, between Second and Third Streets in downtown, and speak during the public comments segment on Agenda Item 8, or email or call the mayor and council members:

Mayor Wade Harper – Email: wharper@ci.antioch.ca.us Tel (925) 437-4300

Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock – Email: logorchock@ci.antioch.ca.us Tel (925) 628-7764

Council Member Mary Rocha – Email: mrocha@ci.antioch.ca.us Tel (925) 207-7220

Council Member Monica E. Wilson – Email: mwilson@ci.antioch.ca.us Tel: (925) 628-0749

Council Member Tony G. Tiscareno – Email: ttiscareno@ci.antioch.ca.us Tel (925) 234-3639

Also, if you will copy City Clerk Arne Simonsen on your email, then he will provide it to Mayor Harper for it to be read into the record at Tuesday night’s council meeting, if you’re unable to attend. asimonsen@ci.antioch.ca.us.

 

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Payton Perspective: Antioch Mayor Harper oversteps authority, limiting Council Members in getting matters heard

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

He’s been acting unilaterally, implementing an unapproved policy

Payton Perspective logo Payton Perspective: Antioch Mayor Harper oversteps authority, limiting Council Members in getting matters heardBy Allen Payton

In California, a separately elected mayor in a General Law City, as we have in Antioch, the mayor has only three more powers than the rest of the council members. Those are to lead meetings, sign documents on behalf of the city and nominate council members and residents to city or regional committees and commissions. That’s it.

Yet, recently it was discovered that Antioch Mayor Wade Harper has been overstepping his authority by implementing a new practice of requiring at least three council members to agree, before an issue any of them bring up, can be placed on a council agenda.

At the end of the January 13th council meeting, during Council Communications, Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock requested that an item for hiring three more Community Service Officers using Measure O funds be placed on the January 27th council meeting agenda. Harper told her she had to get a consensus of the rest of the council to do so. He also told her to meet with City Manager Steve Duran, first.

Yet, in an email on Friday, January 23, Harper admitted it’s not a requirement.

To my emailed questions of when and why this practice started, how can the council avoid the Brown Act Open meeting law by following it, and where is it in Robert’s Rules of Order, which the Antioch City Council has historically followed, to support such a practice, Harper wrote,

By stating that a council member needs the agreement of at least three council persons to have an item placed on the agenda we assure that no one Councilmember acts unilaterally. The city manager usually looks for a nod from at least three council members. I was correct in stating that our practice has been to get agreement from at least three councilmembers. A consensus is great, but not required. Recommendation to meet one on one city manager has no Brown Act violations and is standard practice. We as councilmembers meet with the city manager regularly and can ask questions. These are private discussions between individual councilmembers and the city manager. There are times when the city manager will find it necessary to include additional information in his weekly report to the Council, which is posted on the City web site to share to the community.”

The mayor’s approach and thinking were wrong. A council member does not act unilaterally by having an item placed on the agenda. The action occurs when a majority vote of council members.

So by implementing this new, unauthorized practice, Harper has actually been the one acting unilaterally. He has been preventing each of the council members from properly representing the people who elected them, by placing a matter of interest or concern on a future council meeting agenda for discussion by both the council and public, with a possible vote by the council.

The results of such a practice are it stifles debate and puts any one council member at the mercy of a majority voting block to accomplish what they were elected to do and get things done while in office. Here’s the kicker, until I had learned about this two weeks ago, it appears that no one questioned the practice, including the other council members, two of whom have only been serving since 2012 when Harper was elected Mayor. So, they’ve all been limited in their ability to properly represent “we the people” during that time, most likely unknowingly.

Who came up with this new practice – because it was never put into practice in the previous 18 years of our city’s history – and how long it has been followed, since Harper was elected mayor is unknown, as Harper, Duran and Nerland failed to answer that question after three emails were sent to them all. But, it appears this practice has been going on for the two years he’s been mayor, and without a vote of the council to approve it as a resolution or policy.

Antioch City Clerk Arne Simonsen, who is one of the city council’s parliamentarians, as is City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland, agreed to review the council’s votes over the last two years since Harper was elected mayor and confirmed that there had been no vote on the practice.

Previous mayors and council members agree that this practice was new, under Harper.

In an email response from Simonsen, he stated “During my 8 years on the Council, Mayor Freitas allowed any council member to request an item to be placed on a future agenda. Then it would be up to the Mayor and City Manager to determine when it would be best to put in on a future agenda.” Harper, Duran and Nerland were all copied on his email.

In conversations with the last three mayors that have served Antioch, both Jim Davis and Don Freitas said they were surprised by the new practice. Davis called it ridiculous. Both of them used the approach that any council member could propose an agenda item and it was up to them when meeting with the city manager to determine, based on time management and proper prioritization of issues, when to place it on a council meeting agenda.

The third former mayor, current Councilwoman Mary Rocha, said she couldn’t remember what the practice was when she served in the position from 1996 to 2000 and suggested I contact the League of California Cities.

However, I served on the council with Rocha for the first two years of her term as Mayor and can tell you the practice was the same then and during all four years of my term, as under Davis and Freitas. Both of them were elected in 1998 and served during Rocha’s final two years as mayor. Freitas stated the practice was the same during those years, as well.

I contacted the League of Cities to find out if there is a standard practice by city councils, throughout the state, for council members placing items on an agenda. But there is not.

Eva Spiegel, Communications Director with the League wrote in an email, I checked with our general counsel again and he says that he is not aware whether there is a standard practice for California cities – it likely varies from city to city, and certainly a city council can change what the current practice with a majority vote.”

However, again, the city council never took a vote to approve this new practice.

So, the mayor is correct in his explanation that it’s not required, unless and until it’s put on the agenda and a majority of council members vote to approve it, which is rather ironic. But, as of Monday night, Harper had not yet responded to my last email to him on the subject, sent last Friday, asking him since a consensus wasn’t required “then why did you tell Lori she had to achieve that before having her item placed on the agenda?” and “What are you going to do to rectify this situation and inform the rest of the council?”

When reached for comment, Ogorchock said she had not heard from the mayor about the issue, as of Saturday. Calls to both Council Members Monica Wilson and Tony Tiscareno, asking if they were aware this practice was not authorized and not a requirement, went unanswered, on Monday.

Hopefully the mayor will let the council members know at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

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Watchdog: Illuminating list of appointees for Antioch’s Standby Council Members

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Watchdog Logo 300x95 Watchdog: Illuminating list of appointees for Antiochs Standby Council MembersBy Barbara Zivica

At the January 13th City Council meeting, pursuant to state law and Article 6 of Title 2 of the Antioch Municipal Code which provides for the appointment of Standby City Council Members “in the event of a declaration of emergency and a council member is unavailable due to being killed, missing or having an incapacitating injury” council members nominated their standbys. Standby Council Members are not activated in the event of a “regular” vacancy of a council seat.

I found the Council’s standby nominations to be illuminating, likely to reflect how they will vote on certain issues. Following are those nominated by each council member and approved for appointment by the council.

Mayor Wade Harper:

1. Vincent Manuel – Senior District Representative for Supervisor Federal Glover, October 2011 – present. Division Manager of Neighborhood Development Services for the City of Pittsburg, Administrative Analyst, City of Pittsburg, and Education & Training Program Manager, League of California Cities.

2. Diane Gibson-Gray – Trustee, Antioch Unified School District Board, Executive Director of Arts & Cultural Foundation of Antioch.

3. Robert Miller – Attorney with David Sternberg & Associates, real estate law and estate planning.

Mayor Pro Tem Ogorchock:

1. Allen Payton – former Antioch Mayor Pro Tem and Council Member, Publisher and Editor of Antioch Herald newspaper, C0-Chair, 2013 Antioch July 4th Celebration, Co-Founder, Celebrate Antioch Foundation.

2. William Chapman – Recipient of the 2010 Antioch Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award, retired.

3. Manny Soliz, Jr – former Antioch Mayor Pro Tem and Council Member, Financial Consultant, Thrivent Financial, co-founder Delta Blues Festival.

Council Member Mary Rocha:

1. Louie Rocha, Jr. – Principal, Antioch High and Mary’s son.

2. Jessica Fernandez – Northern California Paper Recyclers and Mary’s daughter.

3. Ken Gray – Diane Gibson-Gray’s husband, retiree of City of Pittsburg, Member at Large on Tri Delta Transit Board of Directors.

Council Member Monica Wilson:

1. Don Freitas – former Antioch Mayor and Council Member, former Contra Costa Water District Board Trustee, retired Director of the CCC Flood Control and Water Conservation District who conducted the failed Clean Water ballot election in 2012. Ran for Mayor against Harper, November 2012.

2. Lamar Thorpe – Came in fourth in 2014 Antioch City Council race. Supported by Contra Costa Labor Council and CC Building & Construction Trades Council. Said he ran Wilson’s Campaign. His campaign flyer said he was born in prison. Denied a sexual abuse charge which occurred when he was in college. Because victim declined to testify, a Finding of Fact report only found him in violation of disorderly conduct for lewd and indecent behavior and was given one year of disciplinary probation.

3. Patrice Guillory – The Education Trust-West, manages statewide coalition of 401 civil rights and education reform organizations to influence state’s regulatory process for implementing the new Local Control Funding Formula.Was campaign manager for Monica Wilson and Political Director for Lamar Thorpe. She’s also Thorpe’s wife.

Council Member Tony Tiscareno:

1. Diane Gibson-Gray (see above)

2. Argentina Luevano – unsuccessful candidate for Antioch City Council in 200 and City Clerk in 2012. Head of California LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens Institute. According to Huffing Post article was chastised by National Director of LULAC for endorsing on behalf of LULAC a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana usage, active in the Kiwanis of the Delta-Antioch.

3. Greg Feere – Chief Financial Officer -Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council (AFL-CIO) Feere touts Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) which are union only agreements that require the contracting agency hire only union members, thus decreasing bid competition and thus driving up project cost.

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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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Payton Perspective: Supervisors correct mistake on pay raise thanks to people power

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Payton Perspective logo Payton Perspective: Supervisors correct mistake on pay raise thanks to people powerBy Allen Payton

On Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Supervisors voted to rescind the 33% pay raise that four had voted themselves in November, to avoid a referendum that had garnered almost 40,000 signatures.

I applaud the supervisors for correcting their mistake, which is what the original vote was. I also applaud both the Deputy Sheriffs and the members of Local 1, the county employees’ largest union, who led the referendum effort.

They were exercising our nation’s constitutionally-guaranteed rights “to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances” and our state’s right to a referendum, giving the people the opportunity to undo bad government decisions.

The public was rightfully upset and it showed by how quickly the signature gatherers were able to obtain the necessary total to place the issue on the ballot.

But, the supervisors were able to prevent that from happening, by taking a new vote on the pay raise.

Unfortunately, it appears that some of the supervisors still didn’t get the message, as they continued to make arguments to support their original vote. The humorous thing was that they called it an “adjustment.”

The supervisors had already received a 60% pay raise in 2007, taking their salaries from about $59,000 to over $95,000. The 33% pay raise was on top of that and would have give them a total annual salary of over $127,000. They argued that had they received a 4% raise each year since then, it would have totaled 32%. But, that doesn’t take into account the fact that we had an economic downturn in 2008 and no pay raises were appropriate for years after that.

The bottom line is they were all elected knowing how much they would get paid and earning over $97,000 a year plus a generous benefits package, is pretty good, especially for a second household income for most of them.

Since it’s their responsibility to set their own salaries, the supervisors could have done it when the previous employee contracts came up for approval, and at the most, tied it to the San Francisco Area Consumer Price Index, instead of 70% of the salaries of Superior Court Judges, a position which requires not only a college degree but a law degree, as well. That’s seven years of college. As I touched on when I wrote about this subject, previously, there is no educational requirement to be a county supervisor.

Had they tied it to the CPI, they would have only received a 2.7% pay raise this year and a total of 14.5% since 2009. But, even that would have been too much, in light of the economic downturn and remember, when they raise their pay, it also increases their retirement benefits.

Trying to play catch up all in one fell swoop, years later was just not right and should never be attempted, again.

Hopefully, now they will follow the lead of the newest member of the Board of Supervisors, Candace Andersen, who is the only one to vote against the pay raise, and would only accept what the employees received of about 2-3%, this year.

We shall see. At least for now, the four supervisors, who voted for the raise, were reminded who’s really in charge, here. It’s we the people, and when they do something with which we disagree, we will rise up, take back control of our government, even if for a brief time, and set things straight.

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Common Core implementation will prove costly error for California

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Dear Editor:

I don’t usually like to make predictions. By nature, I’m a cautious person. So, when I do, finally, determine to go out on a limb and tell others what I think the future holds, I want it to be as near as possible to a certainty.

Such is the case with the current direction of education in the state of California. This year, school districts throughout the state are implementing the Common Core standards, and, more importantly, the teaching techniques supposedly designed to align with them.

My prediction: This program will prove to be the largest education debacle in the history of the state. The vast majority of the students subjected to this program will fail to achieve proficiency in either mathematics or English, regardless of grade level. The gap in performance that exists between students in affluent communities (or who are homeschooled) and those who, under the new Local Control Funding Formula are considered disadvantaged, will widen. This will happen in spite of the millions of dollars sent to local school districts in the form of Supplemental and Concentration Grants designed to help these same, disadvantaged, students.

How can I be so sure? Two reasons. One, my fourteen years of experience as a teacher and administrator at private schools informs my prediction. Second, we only have to look at New York, a couple of years ahead of us on the curve, to see how things will go.

For the last fourteen years I’ve been a math teacher at private schools. I’ve taught across multiple grade levels, from 2nd grade through 12th grade. I’ve taught courses from basic arithmetic through algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. I’ve seen what works, and what doesn’t. By the time my students finished 8th grade, they typically scored in the 90th percentile or above on the Stanford Achievement Test.

These results didn’t happen overnight. Over the years, I used a variety of texts, and teaching methods, checking the progress of my students weekly with tests measuring cumulative proficiency with the subject matter, and annually, with the aforementioned Stanford Achievement Test. When progress stalled, or overall results failed to show a high level of proficiency, changes were made. No matter how much I liked a curriculum, if it didn’t produce results, it was gone.

The experience I had in successfully taking students to a high-level of proficiency gives me great confidence when analyzing teaching programs.

In teaching math, what works, year-in and year-out, is a steady, incremental development of math concepts, with an emphasis on memorizing the algorithms that most efficiently lead to the correct answer. Couple this with time spent having students practice what has been learned (i.e., working out problems in class), and you are virtually guaranteed success…regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or any other factor.

I also know, from experience, what doesn’t work. Lengthy lectures, teaching students multiple ways to solve a problem, having students solve problems in groups, letting students take turns guessing about how they might solve a problem, and having students write out long explanations to justify their reasoning are all methods which fail to deliver results. Unfortunately, some of these failed ideas are what is being pushed on teachers as Common Core is rolled out. At the same time, the methods that guarantee success, memorization, learning the most efficient algorithms, and practice, are being thrown out.

The second reason I can be sure of my prediction is based on the experience the state of New York has already had in the implementation of Common Core. New York got a head start in Common Core teaching techniques when the program began to be implemented during the 2011-2012 school year. During the 2012-2013 school year, all mathematics instruction for grades 3-8 was Common Core aligned.

We have only to look at the results of the program in New York to see where our educational program in California is headed. An Internet search reveals scores of articles and videos denouncing the program. Most students in the state failed to achieve proficiency during the high-stakes testing process. Students have gone from loving, to hating, school. Parents have crowded school board meetings demanding an end to the program. It has even become a major issue in the current race for governor, with most candidates calling for its suspension.

While there is still time to stop the looming disaster that is Common Core in California, I don’t expect that to happen. Those who make policy for the education establishment in our state are running full-tilt toward the Common Core canyon, and there appears to be no brake-man on this runaway train. Those children who remain on board seem doomed to academic failure for the next few years.

Is there any hope? Yes, for some. The only students who will have any chance at avoiding this fiasco are those that are homeschooled (and not through the public school ‘homeschool’ options now popping up across the state), or enrolled in the few private schools that have not bought into the new teaching methods.

Why will homeschoolers and some private school students avoid the problem? Because most of them use curriculums that focus on the very successful methods that I mentioned above. Programs like Saxon Math, and A Beka, which provide repeated practice of standard algorithms remain popular with homeschool families in particular, and for good reason. In a 2009 study commissioned by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the average homeschool student was found to perform 34 percentage points ahead of his average public school counterpart.

New York recently released half of the questions used for their latest Common Core assessment tests. After reviewing the math questions, and comparing them with the concepts taught in the Saxon math curriculum with which I’m most familiar, I concluded that students who use this or a like curriculum, will not just continue to outperform their counterparts. Their peers, having to wade through the extremely inefficient methods used in the Common Core program, will lose even more ground. Thus, ironically, the gap between homeschooled and public schooled students will actually widen as Common Core, supposedly adopted to ‘save’ American education, moves forward.

Last week I spoke with William Estrada, Esq., Director of Federal Relations at HSLDA regarding my prediction. HSLDA has been an outspoken critic of Common Core. Even so, Estrada confirmed that the position their organization has taken against it is not because the new standards will put homeschooled students at any disadvantage. Referring to various college entry tests, he said, “At this point, it appears that these tests (like the Common Core standards themselves) are being dumbed down, which could actually result in homeschoolers doing even better on these tests.”

As they say, forewarned is forearmed. There’s not much chance that the state education train will change direction. But at least some parents can still get their children off at the next stop. Either way, 2016 will be an exciting election year, as California parents, like their New York counterparts, begin to flood school board meetings and other forums to demand changes and reverse the disaster that is coming with Common Core.

John Crowder

Crowder is the Herald’s local government reporter, and a former private academy administrator and teacher. This commentary was originally posted at educationreformer.org in October, 2014.

 

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