In 1971, three hijackers took over TWA Flight 106 and diverted the plane to Cuba. One of the passengers on the flight was Jerry McNerney, who is now a congressman from who represents California’s 9th District which includes most of Eastern Contra Costa County in the U.S. House of Representatives. National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel spoke to McNerney about his push to extradite Charles Hill, the last of the three surviving hijackers from Cuba.
SIEGEL: And first, take us back to that day in November 1971. What do you remember of the hijacking?
MCNERNEY: Well, the first thing was that there had been a high-profile murder of a state trooper just west of Albuquerque maybe three weeks before the hijacking. And it was very big news. These folks were very desperate to leave the country. And I didn’t expect, of course, them to hijack the plane I was on. It was an evening flight – or red-eye flight really from Albuquerque to Chicago. And in those days, we didn’t have the jet walks. You had to walk on the tarmac and walk up the stairs to the airplane.
SIEGEL: The other fact about those days was there were a lot of airplane hijackings in those days, particularly in 1971.
MCNERNEY: There had been. And that was of course on people’s minds. And in fact, my parents dropped me off at the airport. And my mom waved good-bye and said now, don’t get hijacked, Jerry. So we walked up the stairs, and I turned around and there was someone with a gun not right behind me but a few people behind me. And then before long, it became obvious that these were the individuals that were responsible for the killing and that they were making an effort to leave the country.
SIEGEL: You mean they actually hijacked the plane while it was still on the ground? This wasn’t in midair?
MCNERNEY: That’s correct, yeah. They just had stolen a truck and burst through the fence, drove up to the base of the airplane and just walked up the stairs. They finally got everyone in their seats. The captain got on the plane and said please everyone be calm, you know, and nobody will get hurt. People stood up and said well, what are you going to do? And so we got airborne and they said well, the hijackers would like to go someplace in Africa, but we’ve warned them that the plane wasn’t an intercontinental plane. And then about an hour later they said well, we’re going to be going to Cuba. And then another hour later, they said well, we’re going to drop off in Tampa, Fla., and let everyone off except the crew, which is what happened. We landed peacefully and were allowed to get off the plane. And they took off and went to Cuba.
SIEGEL: Plane goes off to Cuba, the crew then flies back. Last summer, you wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry asking that Charles Hill’s extradition be part of diplomatic efforts with Cuba. It’s been almost 45 years. It’s still important to you?
MCNERNEY: Well, yeah. I mean, these individuals killed a law enforcement officer. They hijacked a plane and put 150 people’s lives at risk, including my own. I think the one that’s remaining alive should return home and face justice. This is about as serious a set of crimes as you can possibly commit.
According to a Daily Mail article, dated August 13, 2015, Hill, who is now 65-years-old, is one of 70 Americans currently living in Cuba as political asylum-seekers who lawmakers are petitioning Sec. Kerry to have extradited back to the U.S. to face justice. The improving relationship between the two countries leaves their protection up in the air.
The article also states:
Hill was part of a group called the ‘Republic of New Afrika’ which wanted to break off from the United States and found an independent Black nation.
In 1971, while traveling cross-country with two other members of the group, they were pulled over by 28-year-old New Mexico State Trooper Robert Rosenbloom, who later was found shot to death.
The three men were accused of Rosenbloom’s murder, and Hill to this day professes his innocence.
He does, however, admit to hijacking a TWA flight with the other men and flying it to Havana where Fidel Castro granted them political asylum.
For the past 44 years, Hill has built a life for himself in Cuba, living in a home provided by the government.
Cuban government spokesmen so far have said that they will not be extraditing anyone back to the U.S.
Congressman McNerney represent California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Sacramento Counties.
To hear McNerney’s full interview and read the transcript click here.
To read the complete Daily Mail article, click here.
To read and watch an interview with Charles Hill done in 2013 by CNN, click here.
Publisher Allen Payton contributed to this report.
By Jimmy Lee, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff
Investigators from the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff and the D.A.’s Office are investigating an officer involved shooting that occurred Friday morning per the county-wide officer involved protocol.
The suspect who barricaded himself in a house in Byron has been identified as 49-year-old Michael Mallett of Byron.
On Thursday at about 10:06 PM, Deputy Sheriffs went to a home on the 2700 block of Hoffman Lane in Byron to serve an arrest warrant. The $1.15 million dollar arrest warrant was for a 49-year-old man for 12 counts of child molestation. The investigating agency was the Office of the Sheriff.
Deputies made contact with the suspect, who walked out of the residence with a firearm. He refused to comply with the Deputies and went back into the home and barricaded himself. Deputies were able to evacuate other occupants in the home. Negotiators arrived on scene and began to communicate with him. Negotiations were sporadic but the suspect continually talked about not surrendering, not putting his gun down and harming himself.
The Sheriff’s Office SWAT team was called out at this morning at 3 AM as negotiations continued. Numerous announcements were made into the house for the man to surrender. At about 9:30 AM, chemical agents were deployed into the home. The suspect came out of a window armed with a handgun. He did not comply with commands to drop the weapon. He was shot when he raised the gun at Deputies. Deputies administered life-saving measures. He was pronounced deceased at the scene by the fire department. The officer involved fatal incident protocol was invoked.
The Office of the Sheriff Investigation Division would like to hear from anyone with any information this incident. Detectives can be reached at (925) 313-2600. For any tips, please email: email@example.com or call (866) 846-3592 to leave an anonymous voice message.Read More
Sacramento, CA – State Senator Steven Glazer released the following statement regarding the crisis facing Bay Area BART commuters, on Friday.
“We are in a transportation crisis in my district. Thousands and thousands of people are arriving late for work, school and important meetings because BART failed to get in front of these foreseeable problems.
“The maintenance problems at BART have not just occurred overnight. They have been years in the making due to financial and leadership failures by the BART Board and management.
“These failures have been reflected in unaffordable employee and management compensation, wasteful spending on public relations and image building, inoperative security systems, and the inability to keep the trains running during strikes. These management breakdowns are also reflected in the paralysis that has resulted in the clear underfunding for maintenance, track, technology and train improvements.
“Our transportation system is an essential service in the Bay Area. Without the public’s trust in the leadership of BART, future investment in the system is in grave jeopardy.”
Glazer represents District 7 in the State Senate which covers most of Contra Costa County.Read More
By Allen Payton
The deadline for candidates for Contra Costa County Supervisor to file papers to run in the June election was at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 11. However, the deadline was extended to Wednesday, March 16 in the race for District 3 Supervisor because the incumbent, Mary Piepho didn’t file for reelection. All six of the candidates expected to run for her seat filed their papers by the deadline.
Andersen Again for Two Terms in District 2
No one filed to run against District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen so she will get a free pass, this election.
Five Candidates in Fifth District by 5 PM, Federal files for Fifth Term, Farias not furious
But, some last minute maneuverings at the County Elections Office occurred on Friday, March 11th in the race for District 5 Supervisor, in which incumbent Federal Glover is seeking a fifth term. This time he will have four opponents, but not five, because one potential candidate who attempted to file at the last minute failed to qualify.
Glover was the first to file his papers, having done so on March 2nd. Martinez resident Conrad Dandridge, listed on the ballot as a Program Analyst, who began the process before any other candidate for the seat back on January 4th, filed his papers that day. Another candidate, Hercules Mayor Dan Romero had also filed his papers before 4:00 p.m.
Then, with less than an hour until the deadline, Martinez Vice Mayor AnaMarie Avila Farias filed her papers to run against Glover. About 10 minutes later, after she walked out of the Elections Office with Vince Wells, President of the county’s Professional Firefighters union Local 1230, former Martinez Mayor Mike Menisini, who had pulled papers on March 1st, walked in with former County Supervisor Tom Powers and political consultant Ray Sloan, and filed to run in the same race.
Then another Hercules resident, nursing administrator Deborah Campbell, a Democrat, who had pulled papers that same day, walked into the office with County School Board Trustee Jeff Belle, a member of the County Republican Central Committee. But, after she filed her papers, it was determined that Campbell did not have the required 20 valid signatures of registered voters in the district on her nomination papers, according to Elections Office staff. Since it was after the 5:00 p.m. filing deadline, she did not qualify for the ballot.
According to witnesses, Mary Jo Rossi, the consultant for both Glover and Concord Councilman Tim Grayson’s campaign for State Assembly, remained in the County Elections Office until 5:25 p.m. with Deborah Campbell, although the office closed at 5:00 p.m. Both Rossi and Campbell walked out of the building at the same time, the only non-county employees still in the office, that long.
According to a witness who chose not to be identified, Farias was “livid and witnessed what appeared to be political games going on” and believes Rossi recruited Menesini and possibly Dandridge, as well, to split the vote in Martinez to hurt Farias and help Glover.
When reached for comment, Farias stated “I wasn’t livid. But there is definitely a political machine at work in the county.”
Referring to Menesini, she said “I was surprised to see one of my former colleagues who lost for reelection in 2014 running for higher office.
“But, I think the more the merrier running for office,” Farias continued. “Because, at the end of the day it’s my constituency and voters who will decide.”
“It keeps you true to your elected office and true to who you are,” she added. “I like options. Don’t you?”
When reached for comment Rossi denied the accusations about recruiting Menesini.
“I have nothing to do with Mike’s candidacy,” she stated.
Menesini could not be reached for comment.
It was also speculated that Campbell was brought there by Belle to meet Rossi, and was recruited to help split the Hercules vote with Romero, which could also benefit Glover.
But, Belle said he didn’t recruit her.
“No. I did not,” he said. “I was simply assisting her with paperwork. I tried talking her out of running.”
Asked if he introduced Campbell to Rossi, Belle replied, “No. I don’t know Mary Jo Rossi.”
“In fact, I was there to consider filing for the Republican Central Committee,” he added. “I did not file…because of my lack of time to the committee. I plan to become an alternate only.”
However, according to the County Elections Office “Unofficial Candidate Report” (3 -11candidates_16jun07_detail) dated 3/11/16 at 5:24:22 PM, Belle had never pulled papers to file for the Contra Costa Republican Central Committee. (See pages 28-30, 921 Rep Central Committee, 3rd District Rep)
Rossi further dispelled the notion of being connected to Campbell.
“I don’t even know Deborah Campbell,” she stated.
When asked why she was at the Elections Office so late and walking out at the same time as Campbell, she responded, “I did not. They are misleading you.”
Asked if Rossi was there at 5:00 p.m. asking for copies of candidate statements (which are public records, but weren’t available to the public until the following Monday), she did not respond.
Firefighters union president Wells was apparently upset about what he witnessed. On his Facebook page, later that evening, he made the following comments:
The “right to vote”; which is a major part of our democracy; includes “the right to run for office if qualified”. The shenanigans that have occurred in the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors race, especially for District 5, are appalling. As a veteran and as a member of a family of veterans and U.S. Citizen, I am personally offended by what I witnessed by representatives of people in elected offices regarding this current election cycle. I have a front row seat. More to come!
Wells did not respond to a request for details of what he saw that motivated his comments.
District 5 stretches from the north side of Antioch, through Pittsburg and Bay Point, along Highway 4, includes Martinez, and stretches all the way to Hercules and the west side of Pinole, in West County.
Six Seek Supervisor in District 3
In the District 3 race for Supervisor the following candidates filed in the following order: NAACP East County Branch President Odessa Lefrancois, who began her campaign last November, was the first to file papers on Wednesday, March 9th. Oakley Councilman Doug Hardcastle, who began his campaign last September and was the first to start the process on January 12th, filed his papers on Thursday, March 10th, the same day as Antioch Mayor Wade Harper, who announced his campaign in December, after Piepho announced she would not be running for reelection.
Both Antioch Councilwoman Monica Wilson and East Bay Regional Parks District Board Member Diane Burgis, who also entered the race since Piepho’s announcement, filed their papers on Friday, the 10th. But, Burgis said that night, she was one signature short of the 20 required on her nomination papers and would be back this week to complete the process, which she did.
Brentwood Councilman Steve Barr, who was the last to jump into the race, filed his papers on Monday, March 14th. No other candidates pulled or filed papers in the race before the Wednesday, March 16th deadline.
The district includes most of Antioch, Oakley, Brentwood, Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Byron and Knightsen in East County, as well as Blackhawk, Diablo and Camino Tassajara in the San Ramon Valley.
If no candidate receives a majority of the votes in June, the top two candidates for Supervisor in each district will face off in November.Read More
Quality Matters is the county’s new child care rating system
Concord, CA – Kids who attend quality child care programs do better in life. That’s the message of a new campaign in Contra Costa County to educate parents about the importance of selecting quality child care for their children.
The campaign, called Quality Matters, also publicly launches Contra Costa County’s new system to rate and improve the level of quality licensed child care programs provide to young children. First 5 Contra Costa, the Contra Costa County Office of Education, and the Contra Costa Child Care Council are sponsoring the campaign.
“The important message to families is that quality matters when choosing an early learning or child care setting for their child. Research shows that children in quality child care are more successful academically and in life,” said Sean Casey, Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa. “Quality Matters is improving the quality of child care in our county and will provide parents with tools they need to identify quality programs.”
To date, 104 licensed child care programs in Contra Costa County are voluntarily participating in Quality Matters. Providers receive training, coaching, support and incentives to meet or exceed quality standards. Most Quality Matters sites are located in low-income communities or serve children with high needs – the children least likely to receive quality child care. Sixteen counties in California are piloting child care rating and improvement systems using common criteria and standards.
The new campaign features ads in English and Spanish on buses, transit shelters, supermarket carts and online, and promotes the qualitychildcarematters.org website which includes tips for locating and paying for quality child care and ratings for participating programs. So far, 83% of child care programs have either met or exceeded quality standards in areas proven to have the greatest impact on children’s learning and development. These include staff education and training, child-teacher interactions, and providing safe and enriching environments and age-appropriate instruction.
“With the majority of a child’s brain developing during the first five years of life, the quality of care a child receives during this time is critical,” said Ruth Fernández, program coordinator of the county’s Local Planning and Advisory Council for Early Care and Education, which is housed at the Contra County Office of Education. “Quality Matters provides a set of standards to define quality for parents and for providers. Over time, and with adequate state funding, it will help guide parents in choosing the best care they can for their children.”
Signs of Quality Child Care:
- Teacher-Child Interactions: Providers that interact positively with the kids in their care.
- Ratio and Group Size: Small group sizes and a small number of kids to every adult.
- Learning Activities: A mix of creative, fun and educational activities that are right for a child’s age and help them learn new skills.
- Staff: Warm and knowledgeable staff who have a lot of training and rarely quit. Providers have taken classes or earned degrees in Early Childhood Education.
- Environment: A rich learning environment with varied materials, activities and routines. Areas are healthy, clean and safe.
- Child Health & Development: Providers make sure children receive health screenings and that children are developing on track.
First 5 Contra Costa: First 5 Contra Costa helps young children start school healthy and ready to learn by investing in programs focused on children during their first five years, the most important time in children’s development. First 5 is leading the effort to create a countywide quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) for Contra Costa child care programs. Funding for Quality Matters is made possible by First 5, a federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant and a California State Preschool Program QRIS Block grant. Learn more: www.First5coco.org.
Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) – The Contra Costa County Office of Education’s mission is to be the premier county education agency providing bold leadership, high quality programs, and innovative services. The CCCOE administers the California State Preschool Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) Block Grant and partners with First 5 Contra Costa, the Contra Costa Child Care Council, and the three local Community Colleges to administer the county’s QRIS Initiative. Learn more: www.cocoschools.org
Local Planning and Advisory Council for Early Care and Education: The Contra Costa County Local Planning and Advisory Council for Early Care and Education, a program of the County Office of Education, works to promote quality child care through community assessment, advocacy, resource development, and collaboration with other organizations. Learn more: www.plan4kids.org.
Contra Costa Child Care Council: The nonprofit Contra Costa Child Care Council is the only child care resource and referral agency serving all of Contra Costa providing a wide range of free and low cost services and programs. It partners with parents, child care providers, businesses, and the community to promote quality care and early education so that children are ready for school and parents can work. Learn more: www.cocokids.org.Read More
Conde Nast Traveler magazine has named Concord, California as one of 10 Best Places in the World to Retire. Chosen number seven on their list, according to their website, the magazine described Concord as follows:
“Located only 30 miles east of San Francisco, Concord is a big little city, home to farmers markets, excellent health care facilities, and free community activities throughout the year. Other bonuses are its location on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system, and a crime rate below that of San Francisco, despite its proximity and connection to the city. Concord is also one of the few U.S. cities to have a working drive-in theater, which is perfect for indulging in an evening of nostalgia.”
Vice Mayor Ron Leone was elated to hear the news.
“That’s great to hear,” he said. “Concord is a great place to live and retire. We have a lot of amenities and we’re close to everything.”
On the list in order are Coronado, Panama; Penang, Malaysia; Cascais, Portugal; San Miguel de Allenda, Mexico; Killarney, Ireland; Corozal, Belize; Concord, California; Grand Haven, Michigan; Santa Fe, New Mexico and Louisville, Kentucky.
See photos and descriptions of each city, here. http://www.cntraveler.com/galleries/2016-03-03/the-10-best-places-in-the-world-to-retire
PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University announced students from Contra Costa County have made the President’s Honor Roll for the 2015 Fall semester. Following are the students and cities in which they live.
Antioch: Mikah Erin Nunley
Clayton: Trista Danielle Vieira
Danville: Cole Trevor Furukawa; Emily Elise Geranen; Alyssa Nicole Gonzales; Brittany Elizabeth McIntosh; Sydney Elizabeth Melin; Taylor Ann Nixon; Colette Margaret Smith; Shannon Nicole Steffen; and Hannah Stewardson.
Martinez: Rob Noel Toney; and Brandon Cooper Townsend.
Orinda: Casey Coyle Harrington; and Allison Rae Kostecki.
San Ramon: Alexandra Siobhan Farley; and William Alan Roberts.
Walnut Creek: Courtney Margaret Fitterer; Olivia Josette Lowry; Allison Morgan Milligan; and Sydney Leigh Swenson.
The President’s Honor Roll recognizes students who stand above the rest with excellent academic performance. To be eligible for the honor roll, undergraduate students must be enrolled in a minimum of nine graded hours in a single term at WSU and earn a grade point average of 3.75 or earn a 3.50 cumulative GPA based on 15 cumulative hours of graded work.
The data displayed in the President’s Honor Roll may be affected by students who restrict the release of some or all information about themselves.
For more information on WSU, visit https://wsu.edu.Read More
CONCORD – On March 16, 2016, the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) Board of Directors unanimously approved Ernesto Avila to fill the Board vacancy left by the retirement of Board President Joseph Campbell. Avila will participate in his first Board meeting representing Division 3 on April 6, 2016. The Division 3 seat along with two other board positions will be up for election in November 2016.
Avila lives in Concord and currently is Vice President of a private engineering firm. His LinkedIn page states he is Owner of Avila and Associates Consulting Engineers, Inc. His background includes 32 years of engineering experience. Over a decade ago he was an employee of the CCWD, then accepted a position running a water agency in the Monterey area and finally started his own engineering firm. He has been a Planning Commissioner with the City of Concord for the past 10 years and is an active member of the Concord community.
CCWD received applications from ten highly qualified candidates, and from those, selected six individuals for interviews conducted at the March 16 meeting. Following interviews and deliberations, the Board appointed Avila to represent Division 3.
“Board members unanimously agreed that Mr. Avila will uphold the Board’s commitment to represent the needs of our customers and provide high-quality water service with enthusiasm,” said CCWD Board Vice President, Lisa Borba.
All applications and documents related to the selection process were made available for public review on the website and at the District offices.Read More
Join us Sunday, March 20th at 6PM for a viewing party of Open Roads with Doug McConnell featuring a segment on Marsh Creek. Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed invited our friends from Save Mount Diablo, the John Marsh Historical Trust & the Independence High School Outdoor Wetlands Learning (OWL) Program to participate in a quick look at Marsh Creek top to bottom.
We will have food and soft drinks for $10. This is a family event!
You can attend without eating just sign up for a free ticket.
When: Sunday, March 20, 2016 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM (PDT) – Add to Calendar
Where: Providence Bar & Eatery – 2085 Main Street, Oakley, CA 94561 – View MapRead More
Sign up for a FREE two-day workshop and paint a self-portrait as a way to self-understanding and self-expression
The Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County is offering two-day self-portrait painting workshops at no cost to all Contra Costa County Veterans. Workshops will take place in Martinez at ARTU4iA, a working art studio led by noted artist John Kleber. No art experience required. All painting materials will be provided.
MARCH 16 & 23, 2016
6:00 – 9:00 pm
If you are a Veteran living in Contra Costa County please register at AC5.orgRead More