Make fire fix countywide
I received a call last night from a survey company regarding a new proposed sales tax increase that the Contra Costa Transportation Commission is considering for an upcoming ballet. Everyone should know that one half of a cent sales tax already goes to the CCTC. They want to double it.
The caller asked if I would support a new additional one half a cent on top of the already received one until 2039. I told the caller that I already pay one half percent and taxes on each gallon of gasoline are over fifty cents on top of that. I said I would rather spend the other added half penny sales tax to assist our fire districts. Since I already voted "yes" for the original half cent tax, I want to propose to everyone in Contra Costa County a solution to help all county our fire district by adding the other half a penny to them. I would vote "yes" in a heartbeat for the half cent it to go to our fire delivery services in Contra Costa.
As everyone has heard one way or another, the fire districts in this county are having serious financial problems. It also appears that parcel tax measures are not popular and have and will fail. However, consider a half-cent sales tax measure countywide for fire delivery services. If all the fire chiefs in Contra Costa got together to support a county- wide solution along with every citizen and visitor to Contra Costa County, we could solve this issue with a halfpenny sales tax. I would be willing to pay one half of one penny on sales tax because along with everyone else it would create about $75 million for our fire districts throughout the county. So contact your representatives, politicians, mayors, and let's get this critically important fire suppression and EMT/paramedic delivery under control.
John A Gonzales
Dozier better off as charter
Last month the faculty of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School in Antioch filed a petition with its district to convert to a public charter school effective next school year. All indications are that this conversion will happen and there has been overwhelming support for the change from the students, parents, and teachers directly affected by it. However, there has also been a great deal of misinformation circulating among the greater community. In light of this, I'd like to address a few
A common misconception is that, as a charter, Dozier-Libbey will be leaving the realm of public education. This is completely untrue. The school will continue to be a public high school, funded by state money, and serving the Antioch community. By law, Dozier-Libbey must and will remain accessible to all applicants, free of charge. If there are more applicants than seats available, there is lottery to determine who is admitted. Currently, admission to Dozier-Libbey is done by lottery.
Academic performance cannot and will not be used as a criterion for admission. It would be illegal for Dozier-Libbey, as a public charter school, to "handpick" its enrollees in any way. Dozier-Libbey's student population will continue to mirror the demographics of the surrounding community.
A second point of confusion is that the school's conversion to a charter will cost the district jobs and funding. Dozier-Libbey's conversion to a charter school will result in no loss of jobs in Antioch. In fact, the teachers' petition cites the intention to add full-time positions that have not existed previously. Even if current employees at Dozier-Libbey were to transfer to other district schools to avoid the conversion, their leaving would create vacancies in positions that have been historically highly sought-after by AUSD employees, and which would then be open to applicants within the district. There will be no net loss of jobs. The state funding of public schools is based on each individual school's attendance figures, or "ADA."
This will not change with Dozier-Libbey's conversion. The difference is that the school's own governing board will make spending decisions about its own funding rather than those decisions being made by a centralized, school district office. AUSD will lose Dozier-Libbey's ADA revenue, but it will also be relieved of Dozier-Libbey's operating expenses. Dozier-Libbey will pay a lease to AUSD for the buildings and property it occupies, and will pay for any services contracted from the district. In addition, Dozier-Libbey will turn over a portion of its revenue each year to the charter's authorizing agency which may be AUSD.
Check the facts! An excellent resource about charter schools is the California Charter Schools Association at www.cacharter.org.
Dr. Cynthia J. Soraoka, Ph.D., MBA, MSW
Dozier-Libbey Medical High School Teacher and Charter Conversion Steering Committee Member
Fire board has no fixes
The vote of the East County Fire District Board to postpone a parcel tax vote until November is just another indication of the board's inability to solve the fiscal problems that plague the district. After wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars on an outside consultant, the board realizes it has no chance of winning a June victory and a less-than-even chance of wining in November.
If they had any idea as to what they were doing, they would not have wasted all that taxpayer money on a useless consultant and realized they have no chance of gaining more taxpayer money without in-depth and realistic plan to establish and maintain budgetary controls on wasteful spending and impractical and unsupportable compensation and pension packages. They, like the BART Board of Directors, are too deep in the pockets of the self-interested unions to ever achieve a level of acceptable and affordable service for the community.
If the residents and taxpayers of East County are ever to be recipients of adequate and worthwhile fire protection and emergency services, they are going to have to abandon their dependency on government entities and look toward the private sector.
Many communities across our great nation and the state of California have made the decision to privatize their fire department services with successful and cost effective results. Perhaps it is time for the citizens of East County to explore alternatives to the failed and very expensive system that is not achieving a desirable and effective return on their investment in fire and emergency services.
Of course, the timorous class will run around in circles and cry: It won't work, it can't work! These are the people who insisted our long ago ancestors remain in their caves because to venture into the world was dangerous. We may have to tolerate them but we don't have to accept their fears and foibles.
Private fire departments and emergency services are working all over our country and in many areas of California. Our present system of government services is an overly expensive and weight around our necks that is dragging property taxpayers to the point of revolution against any further tax load. What have we got to lose by taking the fire district into the private sector? It just might work and save us a lot of money, grief, and annual beg-a-thons and threats for more and higher taxes.
Obesity lowers quality of life
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every three American adults are obese and one in every five American youth are obese, yet many don't take first lady Michelle Obama's efforts to prevent childhood obesity seriously. Obese Americans are at higher risk of suffering from chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and certain types of cancer. In 2001, Surgeon General David Satcher announced that soon obesity would be the number one killer of Americans and that policies had to change immediately. "We are in danger of raising the first generation of Americans who will live sicker and die sooner than their parents," said U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said.
While it might not be polite to police the bodies of others, it is important for Americans to realize that obesity is not-so-slowly turning the United States into a nation of chronically sick people with lowered quality of life. It is time for Americans to stand with our first lady and become part of the solution so that we and our children can lead long healthy lives.
Becoming part of the solution is as easy as making two choices for ourselves and our children every day of our lives. Those choices are: To enjoy aerobic physical activity for at least 30 minutes five times a week and to make better food choices. Regardless of our age, race, or economic status all Americans can benefit from regular physical activity and eating a balanced diet. Many claim that they don't have the time or money to exercise or eat a healthful diet, but I implore these people to remember that chronic disease will probably cost them a lot more, especially if it is their children that have to suffer from it.
Lidia Anain Bjorkquist
Outlaw strikes on BART
I support BART Board Member Joel Keller's efforts to outlaw strikes by BART workers. BART workers have the ability to inflict great economic damage and personal inconvenience by holding the transit system that we taxpayers pay for hostage to their demands. The last BART strikes make clear the need for an alternative way to settle labor disputes.
I was shocked that BART Director James Fang took personal offense to the proposal. "It's slapping me in the face because it is saying that you can't do your job to get this solved," said Fang.
Guess what? Judging by the outrageous salaries, benefits and workplace privileges that BART workers enjoy, you're not doing your job. BART benefits are based on how much BART workers can extort from the system rather than a reasonable compensation considering the skills and efforts required for the job. Mr. Fang should not take this proposal as a slap in the face. He should take it as a well-deserved kick in the butt. I urge all BART riders and taxpayers to flood the BART board with emails and letters supporting Joel Keller and the ban on the BART strikes.
Ronald P. Rives Esq.
People make a difference
During these last few years, it feels as though our youth has gotten lazy in their acts of political movements.
Last year, many college students showed their pride in marriage equality by changing their display picture on Facebook to a picture of an equal sign, to symbolize their opinions. A year before that, many users changed their display image to a black screen to symbolize disdain for censorship during the Stop Online Piracy Act scare. We keep finding new ways to show our disappointment in the decisions made by our government, but what we lack is the actual drive to do something about it. Do these people genuinely believe that by changing their display image, they're somehow making a difference to the politicians in charge? Where are the letters to Congress, urging members to change their minds?
There was a time in our history, not too long ago, when we were more willing to do something about the government's decisions. We held marches, we wrote letters, and we had rallies. Today, it has died down to a gentle hum of a few supporters here and there writing blogs complaining about the government when instead of writing a blog, they could be writing a letter. George Ouzounian, an American author and satirist, made an attempt to make a real difference. On his website, he asked his fans to pick three major companies in support of SOAP. Once the three companies were picked, he asked his fans to write a letter to each of those companies and inform them that we, their consumers, were disappointed in their decision to support SOAP. We were then asked to inform them that we'd be boycotting the company until they changed their stance. Ouzounian also included a list on his website to politicians in support of SOAP. He asked us to write a similar letter to them, only this time, we were to say they lost our vote.
Ouzounian had the right idea, the only problem was that he does not have the people power we need to make the right difference. What we really need is a politician or public figure, like an actor, to come out and make a stand, giving directions on what to do. If we have a face to the kind of movement we need, then more would-be activists would feel the drive to go out and make a change.
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