By Don Martin, II
When Antioch Speedway opens for its 57th season of All Star Series racing this Saturday night, they will do so without Larry Damitz. During the offseason, we learned that he passed away. On March 11th, many of his friends and family came to remember him at a special memorial service. His three race cars were on display.
Larry started his racing career back in 1953 and competed or helped others at the race track every year since.
“I’m really not sure what got me started in racing,” Larry shared in an older interview. “I’ve always liked cars and I started working on cars when I was nine. I’ve always been interested in automobiles. Another guy and I knew of a Hardtop that was halfway completed, so we went over and finished it off and started racing.”
He was hooked. He continued to race his Hardtop at the old Vallejo Speedway and Contra Costa Speedway in Pacheco. The competition was much tougher than it is today.
“They had one class, and they had enough cars that they had a C Race,” Larry recalled. “Every car in the Main Event could win. There were always some Main Event cars in the B Main.”
Winning seemed to come easy for Larry in Limited Late Models at Antioch. At 87-years-old, he was still winning and was track champion for the fifth time in six seasons. However, he paid his dues to get that first win.
“I didn’t win a Main Event until 1963,” said Larry. “Everybody that comes out here and they think in their first year they’re supposed to clean house and win a Main Event. They race all year, two years, don’t win a main and they quit.”
By the time Larry was done with Hardtops In the mid 1970’s, his resume included three track championships and a win in the Chet Thomson Memorial 100 lap race. He was second to Gene Dudley by just 8 points at Vallejo in the 1960’s. The highly competitive Super Stock division awaited. He was Vallejo champion in 1978 and Petaluma champion in 1980 and 1981. For good measure, he raced on Friday nights in Chico when he could make the tow and won 11 times in 1977.
It was 30 years into his career when he started racing at Antioch Speedway. He won his first Late Model feature there in 1984. He broke a shoulder blade in a crash there in 1985. After recovery time, he returned and won 10 Main Events in 1986, finishing second to Ed Sans Jr. in points.
“Back then, the configuration of this track was altogether different than any other track,” Damitz recalled. “It was fun to drive. It was a lot of fun. They had it banked right up to the wall, and you had to run right around the wall. I just wanted to come back and run on that track some more.”
Larry ushered in Late Models at Petaluma in 1987 by winning the first championship. He then took on the role of crew chief for his nephew, Milt McGinnis, who won the next two championships. He started racing and winning again after that, but he again took on a helper role with Jim Pettit II. He let Jim drive his car at times in 1991 as Pettit won that Antioch championship.
“Winning the championship definitely wouldn’t have been possible without Larry Damitz and everybody’s involvement in the the whole Sundrop Racing Team,” Pettit recalled. “I mean, there were no balks or anything about me driving their car.”
After that, Larry won another three Late Model championships at Petaluma. Track statistician Harlan Osborne counted 58 wins just in a 20-year span at Petaluma from 1987 to 2007, and there were more than that. As the current decade came around, Larry entered his 80’s with no signs of slowing down. Why was he doing it? He loved cars, he loved the sport and he loved people. Winning was just the icing on the cake.
After finishing second to Mitch Machado in 2010, Damitz won five of the next six championships and two more at Merced. Jim Freethy bears the distinction of being the only driver during that run to beat him for a championship. He wasn’t planning to quit. He would have turned 88 in May and had every intention of competing in his familiar blue and orange Limited Late Model once again. He had over 60 wins just at Antioch, and estimates are that he won over 150 Main Events in his career along with 17 track championships.
The loss of Damitz hit the people at Antioch Speedway pretty hard. Promoter John M. Soares raced with Larry for many years. As Soares enters his 20th season as Speedway Promoter, he had a crew put a special monument to Larry where he used to park. He was an inspiration to many. It wasn’t just that he could still win races at that age, but because he was a genuinely nice and down to earth guy.
On My 13th, Antioch Speedway will hold the Larry Damitz Memorial Race in Limited Late Models. This Saturday night, there will be a special Memorial Lap as Antioch Speedway opens with DIRTcar Late Models, Limited Late Models, Wingless Spec Sprints, B Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars. For further information, go to www.antiochspeedway.com.Read More
On Tuesday, March 21, 2017 at about 1:53 PM, Lafayette police officers were dispatched to a suspicious circumstance at the Chase Bank at 3492 Mt. Diablo Boulevard in Lafayette.
A customer apparently came into the bank and told staff that someone had threatened and beat him while he was at his home on Sweet Drive and told him to withdraw money from his bank account.
The suspect took a shotgun from the victim’s home and forced him into the suspect’s car. They then drove to the bank. The suspect waited in the vehicle while the victim went in and notified bank staff.
Officers arrived at the bank and detained the suspect at gunpoint.
He is identified as 26-year-old Manuel Bustos. Detectives are interviewing him at this time. He will later be booked into the Martinez Detention Facility on charges that include kidnapping, robbery, burglary, and stolen automobile.Read More
On Tuesday morning, March 21, 2017, law enforcement officers arrested 33-year-old Pablo Ruiz of Bay Point for child molestation and distribution and possession of child pornography.
This follows a ten-month investigation lead by detectives from the Sexual Assault Unit of the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff. In April 2016, investigators from the Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force were contacted by authorities in Lynchburg, Virginia, who had identified Ruiz as a suspect who was trading child pornography over the internet. The Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office took over the case. Investigators served a search warrant at Ruiz’s residence and collected a significant quantity of computer evidence. A short time later, evidence was uncovered that Ruiz had sexual contact with at least one minor.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has charged Ruiz with five counts of child molestation, aggravated possession of child pornography and nine counts of distributing child pornography. Ruiz is currently being held at the Martinez Detention Facility in lieu of $1.5 million bail.
Detectives believe there may be other victims. The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information to please contact Detective Norvell at 925-313-2625. For any tips, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866-846-3592 to leave an anonymous voice message.
The prosecution is a result of an investigation by a multi-agency Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is managed by the San Jose Police Department. In Contra Costa County, detectives and investigators from the Walnut Creek, Antioch, Martinez, San Ramon, Concord and Moraga Police Departments, the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office, Probation Department and District Attorney’s Office participate in the task force.Read More
‘Tipsy Tow’ Program Helps Keep Impaired Drivers Off The Road
AAA wants St. Patrick’s Day partygoers to celebrate and enjoy the day safely. To assist, AAA Northern California will offer its Tipsy Tow service free of charge to anybody who feels they’re too impaired to drive.You do not need to be a AAA Member to take advantage of this free service to the community.
“AAA wants everybody to have fun on St. Patrick’s Day, but don’t press your luck if you feel impaired, call AAA and we’ll make sure you get home safely,” said John Moreno, spokesperson for AAA Northern California. “AAA’s Tipsy Tow is free to anyone in need. You can’t beat the price.”
AA’s Tipsy Tow service will start at 6 p.m. Friday, March 17, and will run through 6 a.m. Saturday, March 18. Drivers, passengers, party hosts, bartenders and/or restaurant managers should:
· Call 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357) between 6 p.m. March 17 and 6 a.m. March 18.
· State that they need a “Tipsy Tow.”
· Provide the driver’s name, home address, phone number and vehicle/driver location.
The service will provide a one-way ride for drivers and their vehicle to the driver’s home. If there are additional passengers who need a ride, they will be taken to the driver’s home as long as they can be transported safely in the tow truck. Tipsy Tow does not take reservations.
According to California Highway Patrol (CHP) crash data, during last year’s St. Patrick’s Day, three people were killed and nearly 60 others were injured on California’s roadways due to alcohol related collisions. That same day, CHP made 145 arrests statewide for driving under the influence (DUI).
AAA estimates that a first-time misdemeanor DUI conviction in California can cost approximately $15,649 or more in fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and increased insurance costs. DUI-related costs have risen sharply in recent years largely due to steep increases in fines and insurance for DUI drivers. The estimated cost of a first-offense misdemeanor DUI for those under age 21 is $21,500.
There is no price tag on a crash that causes an injury or death.
AAA Northern California offers a wide array of automotive, travel, insurance, DMV, financial services and consumer discounts to more than 4 million members. AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers since it was founded more than 117 years ago.Read More
By Daniel Borsuk
After listening to the health and safety concerns of several Pittsburg residents living near the Keller Canyon Landfill, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 3-2 to reject extending the operator’s land use permit from March 22 to April 22, 2017 to have trucks continue the dumping of construction and disposal materials on the landfill.
At the request of board chair Federal Glover, Supervisors Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill and Diane Burgis of Brentwood agreed with the supervisor from Pittsburg to order the landfill operator, Republic for Northern California, to stop having trucks loaded with toxic C&D materials dumped at the landfill commencing March 22.
“We cannot turn our heads to bad behavior,” said Glover, who noted the operator has not presented to him or the county an alternative during the past 18 months when the county and Republic agreed to a new landfill use permit.
One of the changes in the land use permit inked on Sept. 22, 2015 included stopping the disposal of C&D materials beginning Sept. 22, 2017.
“We are evaluating our options,” Michael Capiro, area president of Republic for Northern California, told the Contra Costa Herald after the board’s vote. “I am disappointed with the board’s action.”
“This is a county wide issue that affects everyone,” said Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville, who voted against Glover’s motion to adhere to the March 22, 2017 direct haul C&D land use permit deadline.
Supervisor John Gioia of El Cerrito also voted against the Glover motion, noting that up to 120 jobs are potentially at stake with this action.
“Extend the date to August,” pleaded Ken Edgecombe of the Operating Engineers Union Local 3. “This landfill creates good jobs.”
Opened in 1992, Keller Canyon Landfill generates about $4.3 million in annual revenue for the county, said Deidra Dingnan, Conservation Programs Manager for the Contra Costa County Department of Conservation and Development. Those funds go towards a variety of county programs such as roads, courts and a mitigation fee program when funds are disbursed in December.
But Pittsburg City Manager Laura Wright said the city has received up to 90 complaints from citizens about health and environmental issues.
“This is unprecedented. These materials need to go to a transfer station,” said Wright.
“Truck traffic has increased and this has been tearing up portions of roadsway on Bailey Road,” said Greg Sorio, who lives near the landfill. This has created a safety hazard to residents using the thoroughfare either as pedestrians or as motorists, he said.
“I want to be fair and I want to be sure we are fiscally responsible,” said Supervisor Burgis. “I want to reduce the costs on the wear and tear on our roads.”
County Administrator Gets 5% Pay Hike
In other action, supervisors unanimously agreed to increase the annual salary of Contra Costa County Administrator David J. Twa 5%, effective Jan. 1, 2018. His pay will rise from his 2017 salary of $319,464.72 to $335,437.96.
Twa, who has served as county administrator since 2008, will also receive an administrative leave increase of 80 hours.
The board extended Twa’s contract through Dec. 31, 2020.
Fire Chief Warns of Rising EMT Crisis
Serving as the Contra Costa ‘County Fire Protection District, supervisors unanimously approved a $46,500 grant from the Tesoro Foundation. The fire district will spend the funds to buy hazardous multi-gas detection devices, said CCCFPD Fire Chief Jeff Carman.
Carman also alerted supervisors to an emerging issue at the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART Station that is putting a strain on the county’s EMT services. Every night at the end of train service, the fire district receives calls from people who’ve been riding the trains all day for shelter and comfort but are then forced off the transit system at closing time. They then call 911 because they have nowhere to go.
“In the last 12 months, we saw almost 600 patients and transported 545 of them to emergency rooms,” he said. “This creates a public health emergency because it takes so many ambulances and fire rescue resources out of service and increases response times for others who may need emergency services.”
Carman plans to address the issue of pooling the resources of BART Fire/EMS, County/Health Services, County EMS, and the City of Pittsburg.Read More
BART’s Warm Springs Extension will open for service on Saturday, March 25, 2017. The 5.4-mile extension connects the existing Fremont Station to the new Warm Springs/South Fremont Station.
The new station includes 2,082 parking spots, including 42 electronic car charging stations as well as intermodal connections to A/C Transit and VTA buses.
“This will be history in the making,” said BART Director Tom Blalock, who serves Fremont and has been a leader in making the extension a reality. “This will bring BART service to the residents of fast growing south Fremont. They’ll have a reliable, environmentally-responsible alternative to driving on the sometime nightmarish Nimitz Freeway.”
One day before beginning service, BART will host an Opening Celebration. At 10 until noon on Friday March 24, 2017, BART will welcome neighbors, elected leaders and anyone interested in the new station. on the day of the celebration, free shuttles will run from Fremont Station to the new station every 15-20 minutes from 8:45 am to 1 pm.
The station is located at 45193 Warm Springs Blvd.
Click here for a video of BART’s newest extension. In addition, view the video of the tour of the tunnel beneath Lake Elizabeth as part of the extension.Read More
Supervisors to hear ban on juvenile hall residential fees
By Daniel Borsuk
Contra Costa County has closed a $99,810,000 lease revenue bond transaction as a result of an innovative agreement with Wells Fargo Bank. The transaction closed on Friday, March 3.
Some $9.7 million will fund capital improvement projects within the county’s health services department, including its hospital and clinic system. The remaining $90.1 million will be used to refinance existing county bond debt at historically low interest rates. Ultimately, the county and Wells Fargo negotiated a 10-year term at an interest rate of 2.33%. This will save taxpayers more than $9.1 million in today’s dollars.
“The county’s ‘AAA’ bond rating through Standard and Poor’s has allowed us to take full advantage of the low interest rate environment and maximize cost savings for our taxpayers,” board chair Federal Glover said. “Ultimately, this means more tax dollars are available to provide services to our residents.”
“Through the strong leadership of the board of supervisors and assistance of our employees, the county has been able to emerge from the Great Recession on a sound financial footing,” County Administrator David Twa said. “The willingness of Wells Fargo to purchase close to $100 million of our bonds at such a favorable interest rate is evidence of that.”
Contra Costa County is rated “AAA” by Standard and Poor’s and “Aa2” by Moody’s Investor Service. Both credit rating agencies have attributed their high ratings for Contra Costa County to very strong financial management, with policies and practices well-embedded in county operations. They have also pointed to a strong local economy with a large, diverse tax base.”
Morgan Territory Road Repair Resolution
The County Public Works Department received its marching orders from the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, when they passed a resolution calling for the “expeditious” repair and reopening of storm-damaged Morgan Territory Road.
The board voted 4-0 in adopting the resolution introduced by Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood. Supervisor Candace Anderson of Danville was absent.
County Public Works Directors Julia Bueren told the Contra Costa Herald preliminary repair costs for Morgan Territory Road that was destroyed by rain-soaked landslides during late January’s torrential rainstorms, could cost $2 million to $2.6 million in state emergency funds.
“Even that is a preliminary estimate,” Bueren said. “This is a large and complex slide.”
The February torrential rainstorms damaged the road when the hillside slid onto the thoroughfare, causing mounds of dirt 100 high and 300 feet wide.
The massive landslides also caused the disruption of water and PG&E service to residents living in the area.
Bueren said the county is studying three alternate routes for up to 1,000 residents living in the area of the damaged roadway. “This is of the highest priority,” she added.
Supervisor Burgis said Morgan Territory Road is subject to additional destruction.
“There is a hillside that is still moving,” she said.
Board Vice Chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill noted Morgan Territory Road residents are still living under difficult conditions.
“The Contra Costa Water District couldn’t get water there for seven days so they began to provide bottled water,” she said.
Glover credited the various county departments, including the Sheriff’s Department, Public Works, Contra Costa Fire, and San Ramon Fire that worked together during the Morgan Territory Road disaster.
“The county was doing what it does best, acting as a team,” he added. Also at the meeting, the Supervisors recognized Ruben Aguilar and Michael Stevens for their 56 years of combines service with the Public Works Department. Aguilar has 36 years with the department and Stevens has 20 years of service. Both men responded to the initial closure of Morgan Territory Road when it was damaged in the storm in late January.
Ban Proposed on Juvenile Hall Residential Fees
A Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors committee voted on Monday to recommend to the full board that a permanent moratorium be imposed on charging residential fees for incarcerated juveniles.
Citing financial hardships on parents of youths held as wards of the county at either the Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility in Oakley and Juvenile Hall in Martinez, the Public Safety Committee directed the Probation Department and County Administrator to bring before the full board by May a resolution to stop the practice of charging fees to juvenile residents.
The Probation Department first began assessing the fee in 2003 at a rate of $17.03 per day per minor until 2010 when the state permitted counties to increase the fee to $30 a day. The state passed legislation so counties could assess fees in order to recover costs for the actual cost of care of a minor in detention at a juvenile hall facility.
But the increasing fees made it difficult for the county to recoup costs from parents or guardians of juveniles held in county facilities. The Probation Department has $16.9 million in accounts receivable outstanding through June 30, 2016, David Twa, County Administrator noted in a report presented to the committee. He attributed $8.55 million to Juvenile Fees and $8.34 million to Public Defender fees.
If the full board adopts the committee’s recommendation to make the moratorium permanent, the county will join Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Kern counties that do not assess juvenile hall fees.
“These fees cause great economic burden on families of juveniles incarcerated in our facilities,” Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond said.
“At some time we had to put an end to collecting these fees,” said Glover, the committee chairman.
Information in Twa’s report revealed flaws in the way the county assessed the juvenile hall fees. There are cases where an undisclosed number of families are due refunds because of being overcharged as far back as 2011.
“Families were improperly assessed and billed,” said Rebecca Brown, president of the nonprofit organization Further The Work. Brown said the financial impact of these juvenile hall housing fees charged leave have a big financial impact on the families of youths incarcerated in county juvenile hall facilities.
“Earlier efforts to remedy these financial problems were impossible to accomplish,” she said.Read More
San Ramon, CA – Bishop Ranch, EasyMile, GoMentum Station and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) announced Monday that two EZ10 Shared Autonomous Vehicles (SAV) will begin operation at Bishop Ranch, northern California’s premier business park in San Ramon. This marks the beginning of the second phase of testing for a pilot demonstration project authorized as part of California Assembly Bill 1592, which enables testing of electric, low-speed, multi-passenger, autonomous vehicles that are not equipped with a steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator or operator. This is the first such pilot program in California.
“We are excited to be at the cutting edge of innovation in driverless technology with the United States’ first pilot demonstration for EasyMile shuttles here at Bishop Ranch,” said Alexander Mehran Sr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sunset Development Company. “We’re continuously striving to find ways to elevate the customer experience at Bishop Ranch and deliver innovative and valuable amenities. Autonomous shuttles have the ability to improve safety, benefit the environment, reduce congestion and make existing roads more efficient.”
“The Contra Costa Transportation Authority and GoMentum Station look forward to partnering with Bishop Ranch and EasyMile to test the next generation of transportation in Contra Costa County. This technology offers an innovative new approach to helping travelers get to transit stations, business districts, and other local amenities without the hassle of driving and parking. We expect that EasyMile SAVs will solve the so-called “first-and-last-mile” challenge — a solution that could be replicated by many urban and suburban communities across the United States,” said Randell Iwasaki, CCTA’s Executive Director.
“At EasyMile, we are proud of our work to transform the way people move through cities around the world. Our shuttles allow commuters to quickly, easily, and safely get where they need to go, without having to depend on a car. We are excited to partner with Bishop Ranch, GoMentum Station and First Transit as our operating partner in bringing this technology to the United States,” said Gilbert Gagnaire, EasyMile President.
Founded in 2014, EasyMile is a high-tech company specialized in developing software for the automatization of all kind of transportation systems, powering autonomous vehicles for both goods transportation and smart mobility solutions. They have already successfully deployed SAVs in Finland, France, Spain, Norway, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Dubai, Singapore, and Switzerland. The Bishop Ranch pilot program marks the U.S. debut of the EasyMile SAVs, which if successful, is poised to become the first publicly accessible SAV technology for Mobility-on-Demand (MOD) in the country.
EasyMile is a high-tech company specialized in developing software for the automatization of all kind of transportation systems. The company provides shared driverless transportation for the last mile that complement mass transportation solutions, the EZ10. This ‘green’ service addresses short distances that are too long to walk to, from a transport hub to a final destination where cars are either ‘off limits’ or where parking space is limited or non-existent. It also provides a service for short distances within confined sites. EasyMile autonomous vehicles operate either on demand or follow a set route calling at all stations.
About GoMentum Station
GoMentum Station in Concord, California is where the Contra Costa Transportation Authority leads and facilitates a collaborative partnership among multiple automobile manufacturers; original equipment manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers; communications suppliers; technology companies; researchers and academia; public agencies and other partners. At GoMentum Station, technology, innovation and commercialization will converge to define the next generation of transportation network infrastructure. More information about GoMentum Station is available at gomentumstation.net
About Bishop Ranch
Bishop Ranch, owned and operated by Sunset Development Company, is built on a legacy of sound planning and smart growth. Located on 585 acres in the San Ramon Valley, it is the largest mixed-use business community in Northern California. For nearly four decades, Bishop Ranch has continually, carefully grown to become a dynamic center for the modern business. Today, the prosperous surrounding communities — 192,000 residents within a six-mile radius — enjoy an average household income of $162,000.
We are home to 30,000 employees at 600 companies in more than 30 industries. Among the tenants are many Fortune 500 companies including AT&T, Chevron, General Electric, IBM, PG&E, Robert Half, Bank of the West, Toyota and Berkshire Hathaway. Numerous small businesses in high tech, bio/clean tech, and social software, such as Affiliated Computer Services, Aon eSolutions, Cognizant Technology Solutions and AGIS Network have chosen to locate in this diverse and thriving business environment. Bishop Ranch offers a unique flexibility for the space requirements of companies large and small, and its tenants occupy spaces from 150 square feet to more than 1 million square feet.
Employees at Bishop Ranch enjoy a wide range of amenities and on-site services, including award-winning transportation programs, high-end food options, professional seminars and networking opportunities, special offers and discounts, gourmet food trucks and a farmers market.
About The Contra Costa Transportation Authority
The Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) is a public agency formed by Contra Costa voters in 1988 to manage the county’s transportation sales tax program and oversee countywide transportation planning efforts. CCTA is responsible for planning, funding and delivering critical transportation infrastructure projects and programs that connect our communities, foster a strong economy, increase sustainability, and safely and efficiently get people where they need to go. CCTA also serves as the county’s designated Congestion Management Agency, responsible for putting programs in place to keep traffic levels manageable. More information about CCTA is available at ccta.net.Read More
By Allen Payton
A film shot in Antioch, last fall by Antioch High School graduate and director Anthony C. Ferrante – of Sharknado fame – will premier on Lifetime’s LMN TV channel, this Sunday night at 8:00 p.m.
Entitled, “Forgotten Evil” the movie was filmed in various locations in Antioch for a few weeks in August, including Antioch High School and the historic El Campanil Theatre in downtown Rivertown and included Antioch residents as extras. (See related Herald article.)
The movie synopsis is, as follows: Renee awakens, sinking underwater inside a tightly tied sack. Struggling, she somehow breaks out from her underwater coffin. When she awakens again, she remembers nothing. Without a past, she is released from the hospital and forced to start a life anew. Amongst the new faces that enter her life, there is an old one, one that she does not recognize–her husband. As he grows closer and closer, those around her fall victim to deadly accidents. Now Renee must remember her past if she is to have a future.”Read More