Furor justified over lip-syncing

Dear Editor:

The furor over Beyonce's false rendition of the inauguration's national anthem is justified in my opinion.

This is an anthem, a hymn of praise to our country. It should be delivered truly and respectfully.

As a U.S. Army veteran and also a singer who has performed it many times over the past half a century (most often for St. Mary's College Athletic events), the audiences have been appreciative of the dignified and live way it has been delivered.

If she was to lip-sync it, why not let one of Obama's girls hold the mic? Beyoncé was just a cardboard cutout as far as I was concerned. This-two-and-a half octave anthem is a challenge to anyone singing it. Better to have had the band play it without a ventriloquist.

Richard Asadoorian

Antioch

Teacher was dedicated

Dear Editor:

As someone who has known Dina Holder my entire life, I am heartsick at the inaccurate and misleading information that has been, and continues to be, reported about her.

Dina has a teaching career spanning 24 years. She is known as a dedicated and caring professional with full credentials to teach special needs children. The incident as it is being reported misrepresents the true circumstances.

Increasingly, we live in a 24-hour news cycle, where the rush to get something online or in print appears to negate the importance of fact checking and asking questions of school district representatives -- who know what really occurred and can create an accurate and truthful report. Instead, we are witnessing firsthand the damage and devastation done to one human being when the rush to judge and report overshadows responsible and accurate media reporting.

Denise Jones

Antioch

Plaza shop owners ask for consideration

An open letter to Oakley City Council, city manager:

Dear Editor:

We are writing to express our concern and frustrations regarding the current construction in the Oakley Plaza shopping center. It seems that the planning of the parking lot construction did not take into account the severe negative effect it would have on the businesses in the plaza.

Any time that work on the parking lot has been done in the past, it was done in stages, so that the entire parking lot was not closed at one time. The closing of the last remaining main entrance to Oakley Plaza has been a nightmare for customers, law enforcement and, of course, we as business owners trying to survive a down economy. Now we also must attempt to survive this construction project.

The last main entrance should never have been closed until one or both of the entrances from Main Street were reopened. According to the city, all paving will be done at the same time. We urge you to reconsider and have the paving done in stages and one of the entrances from Main Street opened until the Vintage Parkway entrance is reopened.

On the first day of the closure of the main Vintage Parkway entrance, we observed two Oakley police cars responding to an emergency call in the Oakley Plaza. The cars exited the Police Department, crossed Main Street on to Vintage Parkway, and then proceeded to what they thought was still the main entrance. Upon realizing that the entrance was barricaded, they made U-turns in the middle of Vintage, and then had to navigate to the opposite lane to enter behind Carpaccio's, where, again to their surprise, a Sysco food delivery big rig was blocking half of the entrance. The difficulty of our own police officers entering the Plaza proves the difficulty our customers have entering it.

Since the construction began, the city has not maintained Oakley Plaza in a manner to be inviting to customers. The sidewalks have an abundance of dirt caused by the construction. Windows are broken and not repaired. The newly installed garbage cans are filthy and never properly closed. Overhead outdoor lights have not been replaced. There is no key to the utility room or the rooftop access ladder (fire department violations). The back lot is once again overgrown. In fact, one of the city inspectors this week told a tenant that he should clean up his own mess -- meaning the filth caused by the ongoing construction. And this was after he left several messages with the project manager requesting that the sidewalk be cleaned as it was filthy and becoming a safety hazard.

We are respectfully requesting that:

1. At least one of the entrances from Main Street be reopened while the Vintage entrance is closed.

2. The necessary repairs be made as noted above.

3. The sidewalk, windows and garbage cans be cleaned at least weekly during the remaining construction period to make a more inviting presence and avoid further damage to indoor flooring, carpet and merchandise.

The above will not completely repair the financial damage that this project has caused us, but it will help prevent future losses. If the city of Oakley is going to continue to promote its "Shop Oakley First" campaign, then they should start by maintaining the shopping area right across the street from City Hall, so that our customers can do just that.

Michael Miu, Silver River;

Miriam Silva, Latina Styles; Thank Lieu Le, Nail Tek II; Gene Buchholz, Hook, Line & Sinker; Ron Brown, Center Barber Shop Oakley

Construction art is beautiful

Dear Editor:

My daughter and I were driving back from Oakley to our chosen hometown of Antioch. We both agreed that there was a cause for praise.

The freeway is showing a really creative artwork in the walls. Looking carefully, one sees graphic and beautiful imprints of the reeds and grasses growing in out Delta. Peering out of the grasses is a beautiful Great Egret. He appears to be searching for his dinner. Superb bas-relief!

This is wonderful art, and surprising in an era of fiscal austerity. I commend the Caltrans staff who are giving us something unique and wonderful in our freeway walls. The artistic effort seems a salute to the beauty and wildlife of our great Delta. We went out of out way to find a safe place where we could see the works more clearly. Thank you for giving us some art that reminds us of how fortunate we are. It is rare to see art in a construction project.

Linda Locke

Antioch

City needs to be fiscally prudent

Dear Editor:

As promised, one in my hat collection still stands ready to be eaten should this current Antioch City Council buck its union label. So far, the fedora hasn't come close to the carving knife as big labor, big government and big spending rule the local roost.

Let me first applaud this council for working hard and getting out into the public, especially the tireless, impassioned Wade Harper. Kudos, too, for, the Council's 3-2 vote rejecting pot dispensaries from sporting their shingle in Antioch. The food union workers were disappointed, but, in the end, two of the usual four member voting bloc showed that they are not, in fact, monolithic. Hats off for the independent thinking.

Timing is everything in life and Antioch's current plate is simply better off without the attendant issues of pot dispensaries. Common sense considerations of city reputation, setting teen example, and police manpower shortage prevailed. After all, Pittsburg, with half Antioch's rate of crime, voted 5-0 against allowing dispensaries and didn't even consider the topic deserved discussion.

I wish, though, that I could be as cheerful about the holiday time emergency vote on retirement packages circumventing the new state reform by four days. The new council voted 4-1 (businessman Gary Agopian objecting) to scrap the deal made earlier in the year to bring new police pensions back from 3 percent at 50 to 3 percent at 55. On top of that, in a Christmas-giving frenzy, they threw in a bonus to twenty-one incidental city employees, increasing pension accruals from 2.0 to 2.7 percent yearly at age 55.

Let's count the reasons why all this hurt so bad: 1. Let's, for arguments sake, assume it a sensible proposition that we will, in fact have trouble recruiting experienced officers without such a package (which many of our neighbors, tellingly, don't have). Why, though the incidental, non-police personnel giveaway?

This was not Chief Cantando's thrust or intention when he initially proposed the police sweetener. The package simply got hijacked by city staff wanting to be "fair." 2. The earlier assumption is just that, assumption. We are speculating and rolling dice that this deal will attract seasoned officer. Agreed, early on still, but note, not one officer has yet been hired from this. 3. What kind of an example doe this set to reverse a deal painstakingly negotiated earlier in the year? What does it say to the four or five other city bargaining units? They must be salivating. 4. Consider the shaken trust level of Antioch voters, who invariably will someday be asked to pay a sales or parcel tax for additional police services? Kiss that proposition goodbye. 5. Where's the sobriety? City staff claims that this will only cost Antioch $23,670 a year, which if inflation, shortfalls and unfavorable actuaries don't bite us, amounts to us paying some $700,000 over, say, thirty years. That's no pittance but, worse yet, a citizens committee that went to city hall raised no hackles when they showed staff calculations of three million in real actuarial benefit.

Who, then, pays the rest? The Public Employees Retirement System gets stuck. Is that fair? Isn't that the very reform we all want -- where one city can't sock it to others by passing on their largesse? Is three million dollars, even if not all comes from the Antioch pot, not an inordinate sum to bet on a gamble that might attract only a handful of officers? How much is that per recruit? Brotherly love aside, won't we all eventually get dinged with increases for a system shortfall, just like insurance payoffs aren't free?

I, for one, begrudge no one generous retirement. If only we could wave a magic wand and let every citizen in the country eat of the fatted calf. Fact is, though, we just can't keep printing and spending money without becoming Greece. Sound budgets and sound pension plans are not made by wands but by sharpened pencils -- not made by politicians who rise and shine wanting to give things away -- but by bean counters who are paid to object.

Antioch is facing a two million dollar-plus deficit next year. We have tens of millions already in unfunded retirement liability. We also owe it to the state not to take advantage. This council, which has charitable, good-intentioned people who like to please, simply has to learn the operative fiscal word of this age, no.

Walter Ruehlig

Antioch

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