By Bryan Scott
At their February 28th meeting, the Oakley City Council discussed the community’s inadequate funding of fire and emergency medical services and decided to advance a reallocation program that has a goal of transferring $7.8 million of area property tax funds to the fire district.
“I believe we need to do something now,” said Vice Mayor Randy Pope towards the end of the spirited discussion.
The council agreed to have City Manager Bryan Montgomery draft a letter endorsing the need for improved fire and emergency medical services and supporting reallocating area property tax funds as a solution.
The group also discussed setting aside a 1% share of the city’s growth in property tax funding, approximately $45,000, to be transferred to East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD). ECCFPD is the local fire department that is struggling to provide adequate services with a funding level set 35 years ago when services were provided by volunteers.
Taking action was argued against by City Manager Montgomery. He said that even though the reallocation program sounds simple, it is not workable because so many government entities need to participate, and that the area school district superintendents have gone on record opposing their participation in the program. He also said Oakley residents need to chime in on the issue, and that action needs to come from elsewhere, at the state or county level.
“You won’t be popular with our partners (if you do this); the schools are not going to like this,” he told the Council towards the end of the discussion, appealing to the human instinct to be loved.
Also discussed by the Council was a meeting Councilmember Kevin Romick attended that was also attended by Contra Costa County Supervisors Diane Burgis (Dist. 3) and Karen Mitchoff (Dist. 4). The meeting’s purpose was to discuss last-minute strategies to keep the fourth ECCFPD fire station open beyond this June, when its temporary funding runs out.
Current ECCFPD funding provides for three fire stations to cover a service area of 250 square miles where over 110,000 people live.
Councilmember Romick said that the agency most involved in providing fire and emergency medical services, ECCFPD, did not attend the meeting. Consequently, the same group will come together again on March 21st to review the fire district’s plans and budget.
Scott is Co-Chair of East County Voters for Equal Protection, a non-partisan grass roots citizens action committee formed to address the unequal funding of fire and emergency medical services existing in 249 square miles of Eastern Contra Costa County. About 110,000 residents, as well as those who work and play in Eastern Contra Costa, have services funded at a level one-fourth to one-third of those levels in other parts of Contra Costa County. For more information contact committee Co-Chairs Hal Bray at email@example.com or Bryan Scott firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with them and learn more on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters/Read More
Kiara Chatman advances to state finals in competition that emphasizes language skill and public speaking
In a remarkable achievement, Kiara Chatman, a senior at Deer Valley High in Antioch, took first place in the Contra Costa County “Poetry Out Loud” competition for the second year in a row. The event was held in the lovely Las Lomas High School Theatre in Walnut Creek on February 11th. The Runner-up position went to senior Camila Morales-Jimenez from El Cerrito High in El Cerrito, and Third Place to sophomore Wesley Little from Monte Vista High in Danville.
The three were among thousands of students across the state to participate in the national recitation contest, a program started by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and run by the California Arts Council and locally by the Arts & Culture Commission of Contra Costa County (AC5) to engage high-school students in the presentation of poetry through memorization and performance. Chatman advances to the California state finals in Sacramento on March 12 & 13. At stake are hundreds of dollars on the state competition level and thousands at the national finals of Poetry Out Loud.
This is Contra Costa’s tenth year of Poetry Out Loud competition, and many attendees commented that the recitations just keep getting better and better. Among the many fine recitations, Ms. Chatman’s “The Gaffe” by C.K. Williams, Ms. Morales-Jimenez’s “One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII” by Pablo Neruda and Mr. Little’s “Cartoon Physics, part 1” by Nick Flynn helped secure the final outcome.
The very competitive pool of finalists included students from eleven county high schools: College Park High in Pleasant Hill, Deer Valley High in Antioch, El Cerrito High in El Cerrito, Independence High in Brentwood, Las Lomas High in Walnut Creek, Monte Vista High in Danville, Northgate High in Walnut Creek, Pinole Valley High in Pinole, Truthtrackers Co-Op in Walnut Creek and Making Waves Academy and Salesian College Preparatory, both in Richmond. Countywide, over 2500 students memorized a poem for the program this year.
“To learn a great poem by heart is to make a friend for life,” said John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation. “The national recitation program brings fresh energy to an ancient art form by returning it to the classrooms of America.”
The Poetry Out Loud program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry: recitation and performance. Poetry Out Loud competitions start in the classroom, then at the school, region, state, and national finals, similar to the structure of the spelling bee. The national initiative is part of an attempt to bring literary arts to students, a critical need in U.S. schools, according to a 2004 NEA report Reading at Risk that found a dramatic decline in literary reading, especially among younger readers.Read More
Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, March 2, 2017, Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-09) introduced H.R. 1324, the Securing IoT Act, which requires that Internet of Things (IoT) devices be certified to be in compliance with cybersecurity standards. The bill directs the Federal Communications Commission, in consultation with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to develop standards that address cybersecurity throughout the lifecycle of the IoT device.
“The proliferation of IoT devices creates immense opportunities for our society, including new jobs and efficiencies in all aspects of our everyday lives. However, the security of these devices has not kept up with the rapid pace of innovation and deployment,” said Rep. McNerney. “Security vulnerabilities in IoT devices are likely to pose threats to our national security and endanger our nation’s economy. This is especially concerning given that at least 20 billion devices are anticipated to be in use by 2020. My legislation, the Securing IoT Act, helps to address this issue by requiring that security standards be established for IoT devices and that these devices be certified to meet those standards. The legislation will help strengthen this market and protect consumers, business, and all the benefits that IoT devices offer.”
Last fall, McNerney raised concerns about the distributed denial-of-service attack on Dyn’s servers, which resulted from security weaknesses in IoT devices, and he joined his Democratic colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in calling for a hearing to examine the matter.Read More
By Allen Payton
The funeral service for Michael Foley, an Alameda County Deputy Sheriff and Antioch resident, will be held this Friday at 11:00 a.m. at the Concord Pavilion.
The 60-year-old was struck by a bus at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on Wednesday, February 22 and died from his injuries, the next day. Foley worked for the Concord Police Department for 29 years, prior to his service with Alameda County.
A message was posted on the Sheriff’s Facebook page on Thursday: “It is with great sadness we report that Alameda County Deputy Sheriff Michael Foley has died from his injuries. Mike started his law enforcement career in 1978 as an Officer with the Concord Police Department. After a long and successful 29 year career there, he retired and was hired by ACSO in 2007. Michael was one of the hardest working Deputies on this agency. He used his experience and wisdom to mentor countless numbers of young officers throughout his career. He was an extremely kind man who loved his family, friends, co-workers and community. He believed in public service and making the world a better place. All of us who were touched by his life will never forget him. He is a role model and a great example for others to follow. Our hearts are broken today. Please keep Mike and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”
On Sunday, Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs escorted Foley’s body from John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek to the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Bureau, according to a post on the Alameda County Sheriff’s Facebook page.
He is survived by his wife Tammie, and children Michael and Tonya. A GoFundMe account has been set up to benefit the Foley family and verified by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. http://www.gofundme.com/deputy-mike-foleys-family-fund According to that site, Foley “chose to work as a deputy at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to put his son, Michael Jr., through college.”he chose to work as a deputy at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to put his son, Michael Jr., through college. After 29 years with the Concord Police Department, he chose to work as a deputy at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to put his son, Michael Jr., through college. We are hoping to lighten the burden of this sudden loss. After 29 years with the Concord Police Department, he chose to work as a deputy at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to put his son, Michael Jr., through college. We are hoping to lighten the burden of this sudden loss.
In addition, the San Francisco Police Credit Union has established an account under the Deputy Sheriffs Association of Alameda County Charitable Foundation for the benefit of Deputy Sheriff Michael Foley. Contributions may take place in person at a local branch, mail or electronically utilizing account #1387350 S5 M Foley Memorial Fund. Funds may be forwarded to SFPCU via mail or electronically as follows:
ACSO DSA Charitable Foundation for Michael Foley 2550 Irving St San Francisco, Ca 94122 Acct#1387350 S5 Routing#321076496Read More
On Tuesday, February 21, 2017, at about 11:40 AM, the Office of the Sheriff was dispatched to a report of harassment that occurred at a fitness center on the 2800 block of Jones Road in unincorporated Walnut Creek.
A Deputy Sheriff spoke to the male victim who was apparently secretly recorded with a cell phone while in a locker room. This happened on February 20, 2017. The video and photos were posted to Snapchat.
The Deputy contacted the 17-year-old suspect, who is not being identified. The suspect was later arrested for invasion of privacy. He was cited for violation of California Penal Code 647(j) and then released to his parents. The investigation into this incident is continuing.
Anyone with any information on this incident is asked to contact the Office of the Sheriff Investigation Division at (925) 313-2600. For any tips, call (866) 846-3592 to leave an anonymous voice message or email: email@example.com.Read More
By Allen Payton
In a strongly worded letter, judges from 49 of the 58 superior courts in California, including Contra Costa County, informed Governor Jerry Brown last week, of their displeasure with the amount of funding for the state’s judicial branch in his proposed budget. They believe the lack of an increase in their budget will have an impact on the communities they serve and are asking for an increase of $158.5 million to the $3.6 billion Brown has proposed in his budget. Courts Letter to Gov Brown 02-16-17
Each of the 58 counties in the state have a trial court, known as a superior court. The judges added their efforts to those by California “Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and the Judicial Council of California…and support their efforts to seek additional funding for the judicial branch.”
Brown’s proposed budget projects a $1.6 billion deficit. According to an L.A. Times article, Brown told reporters at the state Capitol…as he unveiled the state’s budget, that “The trajectory of revenue growth is declining.” As a result his “$179.5-billion plan seeks to resolve the budget shortfall by slower-than-expected growth in public school funding and through rolling back a series of one-time expenses discussed during last year’s budget negotiations.”
All the members of the State Senate and Assembly were copied on the letter from the judges, which states: “We, the undersigned courts, have had the opportunity to review your proposed budget for the judicial branch for Fiscal Year 2017-18. We are seriously concerned with the lack of additional funding proposed for trial court operations and our ability to provide adequate access to justice for those in need of California’s court system,” and “…we wish to inform you and the Legislature about the impact this proposed budget will have not only on the many trial courts throughout the state but, more importantly, on the communities that we serve.”
According to Brown’s budget summary, “the Budget includes total funding of $3.6 billion ($1.7 billion General Fund and $1.9 billion other funds) for the Judicial Branch, of which $2.8 billion is provided to support trial court operations.” That is $200 million less than the $3.8 billion Brown proposed in his budget and $100 million less than was approved for the current fiscal year, which was an increase of $300 million over the previous fiscal year.
The letter cites increases in costs and changes in laws will mean Brown’s budget will have the effect of a “net decrease” to the budget for the superior courts.
“This is due to, among other things, the rising cost of doing business in California (e.g., utility costs, rents, vendor expenses, employee salaries). It also results from governmental actions such as elimination of Proposition 47 funding, additional workload from voter-approved initiatives such as Propositions 57 and 64, legislative changes such as AB 2839 that considerably increase workload without accompanying offsetting funding,” the letter stated.
“The proposed elimination of a court’s ability to place a hold on a traffic defendant’s driver’s license for failure to pay or appear, the latter of which appears to have the unintended consequence of reducing revenues to the trial courts, counties and the state. In Solano and Contra Costa, two courts that have imposed a moratorium on driver’s license holds, both courts have seen an approximate 25% reduction in collections.”
The letter concludes with the requested increase in the proposed state budget for the superior courts.
“We respectfully request that the trial courts be treated in an equitable fashion with the Executive Branch and that the trial courts be funded with a modest annual increase. An increase of $158.5 million—which is the amount requested by the Judicial Council to address baseline cost increases, but which was not included in the Governor’s Budget for next fiscal year—would allow us to keep pace with rising costs of doing business in California and, more importantly, allow courts to preserve the public’s access to justice.”
The budget is expected to be approved by the state legislature and sent to Brown for his signature by the end of June.Read More
By Allen Payton
Antioch nine-year old, Kori Margain brought home the bronze by placing third at the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competition during the Pro Bowl weekend in Florida, on Saturday, January 27, 2017. She was one of four girls to represent the Oakland Raiders nationally, but one of only four girls in the eight- and nine-year-old age group to make it to the finals.
According to their website, NFL Punt, Pass & Kick is “the oldest grassroots initiative at the NFL” and allows children ages 6-15 “to experience the fun of learning football fundamentals in an engaging and supportive non-contact environment.”
“Kori, a fourth-grader, started last November in a local competition,” said her mother Melissa Margain, a former field representative for County Supervisor Mary Piepho. “She won first place, there and moved up to sectionals and team competition, which was held in the Oakland Coliseum before the Raiders game in December.”
Since she was the winner of that competition, Kori earned the right to go the Raiders game, later that day and of course, Mom went with her.
The scores from that day from all the sectionals across the country were then sent to the NFL for comparison.
“They took only the top four scores from each of the 32 teams for each age group to determine who would go to the national finals,” Melissa explained.
Kori competed in the competition for eight- and nine-year-old girls and was one of the top four competitors from the Raiders.
The NFL selected the top four scores in the nation for each age category and Kori’s score was one of them, earning her a spot in the final competition.
During the competition on Saturday, “she placed third in the nation for her scores,” Melissa stated
“They sent the competitors to the Pro Bowl weekend for four days, including a trip to Disney World, interviews by the football players during a media day, and they got to attend the Pro Bowl,” said Melissa.
Asked if Mom got to attend, as well, Melissa responded with a laugh, “I did.”
This was Kori’s second year competing in the contest.
“I participated, last year, too,” Kori said. She made it to the team competition but not to the finals, the first time. Then, for this year’s competition, she said “I practiced with my family” to improve her skills.
“I competed on Friday and went to Disneyworld on Saturday,” Kori shared. Then they went to the game on Sunday.
The most fun Kori said she had was hanging out with her new friends from the competition.
“One from the Oakland Raiders, one from the Chicago Bears, one from the Seattle Seahawks and one from the Chargers,” she said.
Asked if she thinks other kids should participate in the competition, Kori responded, “Yes, it’s fun, you make good friends.”
Her favorite subjects in school are math and reading, and when asked if she wants to play on the high school football team, Kori replied, “No. I’m more into basketball.” She wants to be a WNBA player when she grows up.
A message was posted on the Antioch Unified School District’s Facebook page congratulating Kori for her success in the competition.
“Congratulations to Kori Morgain, 4th grade student at John Muir Elementary, who recently competed in the National NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick competition where she placed third in The United States. Prior to the national completion, Kori beat out thousands of other children in her age category and placed first in her local, sectional, and team competitions. More than 300,000 children throughout The United States participated in the event where they represented a professional football team. Kori represented The Raiders who recognized her at a recent game. Congratulations Kori!”
For more information on the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competition, visit www.nflppk.com.
By Jesus Cano
You don’t have to travel far to witness pro wrestling, as East Bay Pro Wrestling (EBPW) operates in Pacheco and houses bi-monthly shows as part of the independent wrestling circuit. On February 11th they held their Saturday Night Showcase, where every single one of their championships were on the line.
The EBPW Championship was at stake in the main event. Tony Vargas came into the match with the championship around his waist and left with it under his possession, as he forced Jody Kristofferson to tap out by utilizing the Cloverleaf submission hold. Kristofferson is a former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar who competed in WWE’s developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling, which has now been rebranded to NXT.
Women’s action came alive as Shotzi Blackheart defeated Kimberly Diamond via knockout, as Blackheart had Diamond in a gruesome submission that made her become unresponsive to the referee’s drop counts. Blackheart walked away, still the EBPW Ladies Champion.
After winning the gold in the previous show, the team of Sensationally Dangerous defended their tag team titles against Fight Club, where they successfully retained the championship in their first title defense.
During the show, it was announced that EBPW will have their first ever steel cage match, where Perry Von Vicious will clash with former best friend Levi Shapiro. This all coming after Shapiro attacked Von Vicious after his victory against Buddy Royal, where wrestlers in the locker-room had to storm out separate. The steel cage match will be held on February 25th, 2017 where owner Maynard Skynard expects a sellout crowd.
The rest of the card saw Mr. East Bay Pro, Leon Ikusa, defeat Shoop Shellhammer by delivering a heckuva kick after Shellhammer was distracted by disputing with the referee about his officiating.
Shapiro was in action as well, where he stole a victory against Steven Tresario as he pinned him with a fist full of tights. He had a little help from Royal, who was a nuisance to the official while he was at ringside and obnoxiously streamed the match via Facebook live.
EBPW was established on May 16th, 2016, and is family friendly according to Skynard. General Admission is $10.00 while kids 12 and under pay $8.00.
“My main intention is to put on quality wrestling match,” Skynard said. “Come on down Saturday night and have a good time screaming and yelling.”
While EBPW offers live action, it also has its own wrestling academy where Anton Voorhees is the head trainer but Skynard also helps out with training young talent. Of course they offer pro wrestling training, but also provide help with those seeking to become referees, valets and ring announcers. Products of the academy eventually wrestle on the main roster and other promotions in the country.
To learn more about East Bay Pro Wrestling, visit their page on Facebook. They are located on 110 2nd Avenue South #B9 in Pacheco. Their next show is February 25th.Read More
On Tuesday February 14th, 2017, Jason Judkins was convicted of possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to four years in state prison.
The conviction stems from an investigation by the Contra Costa County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Antioch Police Department. On January 6th, 2016, Judkins created an internet posting that he was willing to trade his son for sex. The posting was reported to law enforcement and an immediate search for Judkins was started. He was arrested later that day in Antioch, and it was determined he did not have a child, nor did he have access to children. A search of his cell revealed images of child pornography, as well as e-mails in which Judkins distributed the images to others. The evidence indicated Judkins made the online posting to reach others who would exchange child pornography with him.
Prior to this offense Judkins had sustained two prior convictions for possession and distribution of child pornography. Judkins has been a registered sex offender since 2012 and was living as a transient in Antioch at the time of his arrest. The sentence was handed down by the Honorable John T. Laettner, after Judkins entered into a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office. Judkins will begin serving his sentence immediately.
“This office will hold accountable those individuals who possess and distribute these types of images over the internet,” said District Attorney Mark Peterson. “With National Victims’ Rights Week coming up in April, it is important to remember that when images of a child being sexually assaulted are distributed across the internet, the child is re-victimized each time.”
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 Sheriff’s Office, Probation Department and District Attorney’s Office participate in the task force.Read More
By Bryan Scott
The East County Voters for Equal Protection (ECV), a non-partisan citizens action committee, is organizing a workshop later this month to discuss a proposal to correct the structural funding deficiency that is afflicting the local fire services agency, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD).
Twenty-two local government entities have been invited, including the county, the cities of Brentwood and Oakley, special districts and schools.
The proposal ECV is advocating will improve ECCFPD funding by about $7.8 million, and potentially provide for three additional fire stations, bringing the district’s total to six. There are now just three permanent stations serving 110,000 people spread over 249 square miles.
The proposal relies on the traditional growth in property tax revenues to avoid any cuts in current funding. If the proposal is adopted the increased property tax revenues that 22 government entities can expect would grow a little slower over a three or four year program implementation period.
This proposal is a significant one. It is the type of policy decision that elected officials, the chosen representatives of the public, need to make because it is the general public who will benefit from this program.
Government administrators are naturally opposed to this proposal. City Managers, schools administrators, the county administrator, have all gone on record opposing the solution because their specific government entity would lose future funds.
These government workers are not looking at the big picture. All government funds come, in one manner or another, from the public taxpayers. The money ought to be used to meet the needs of today’s taxpayer population.
That’s why the elected representatives of the people need to make this decision, not those who are paid to operate pieces of the people’s business.
The Ghost Ship Fire occurred in Oakland several months ago. It was a tragedy that took the lives of 36 people at a warehouse in the city’s District 5. Noel Gallo is the City Councilmember who represents District 5, and he stepped forward visibly during the crisis. He is a former school board member who understands the importance of fire and emergency medical response services to a community. Gallo will speak at the fire district funding workshop.
The structural funding problem that has increased response times and reduced the number of firefighters is not a new phenomenon. It has grown as East County’s population has grown, dramatically since the late 1990’s. Attempts to solve the problem with new tax measures have failed three times.
This proposal, if adopted, will address this structural funding problem. It will provide money to East County fire and emergency medical services so that ECCFPD receives an allocation rate closer to the rate that other parts of the county receive for their fire and emergency medical services. The funding allocation rate will then be at about the average for the county’s fire districts.
Shifting public money to a higher-priority service, in many cases a life-sustaining service, is the right thing to do. Three lives have been lost due to inadequate response capability, a fire department official has said.
The proposal being brought forth is not new. It has been talked about for over 15 months.
ECV was formed in January of 2016. The leaders of this group have made 19 formal presentations to public agencies, civic and social groups. They have attended over 46 meetings with elected, hired, or appointed officials, and conducted 10 public committee meetings. Over 75 articles and opinion pieces have been published in local periodicals, online, and in social media by ECV.
It is time for our elected representatives the people to do what’s best for the people.
Bryan Scott is a Brentwood resident and Co-Chair of East County Voters for Equal Protection, a non-partisan citizens action committee whose aim is to improve funding for the ECCFPD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 925-418-4428. The group’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters/.