Schools should go back to basics
I was astounded to read that only 27 percent of students in Liberty Union High School Districts are proficient in math, according to an article in the Times. That means that 73 percent aren't proficient.
I suggest the school district, the unions and the teachers stop worrying so much about having the right computers, and stop with all the "social justice," environmental and feel-good subjects, and just teach.
All a good teacher needs is a blackboard, a book and a piece of chalk. If this sounds overly simplified and old school, it is. Because the "new schools" way sure isn't working, is it?
Plan reduces local control
The One Bay Area Plan, which undermines local control, is touted as the solution for urban sprawl, highway congestion, air pollution and social inequity. There's considerable public opposition to the plan which seeks to have us live in "pack 'em and stack 'em" high-rise developments adjacent to subsidized transit that continues to fail to attract sufficient ridership.
Although cities and counties are not obligated to adopt the plan, they won't get One Bay Area grants (money for transportation improvements) if they don't!
Gov. Jerry Brown just signed legislation permitting Alameda and Contra Costa counties to seek voter approval to raise their county sales tax for transportation. What's next -- a vehicle miles travel tax?
Volunteers can help fight fires
I have 35 years of service with the East Contra Costa Fire District and its predecessor. I started as a volunteer firefighter and later the name was changed to paid-on-call fighters, and then reserves.
Not long ago all firefighters in East Contra Costa were volunteer firefighters. There were hundreds of us. In fact, the majority of the present paid firefighters, including the chief, started as volunteers. When the present consolidated district came into existence paid-on-call firefighters (POCs) were slowly replaced by full-time firefighters who were then supported by paid-on-call reserve firefighters. We trained weekly, much like the paid firefighters, and were regularly paged, day and night, to cover empty stations and to fight large structure and vegetation fires. This worked well and kept the cost down. We were proud to serve our communities, and the small amount of pay was not a factor.
I have the utmost respect for all of the East Contra Costa firefighters, but the paid firefighter union local 1230 hierarchy didn't like volunteers, or reserves, because they wanted more professional firefighters on their rolls.
The union even forbid their members from helping to train the reserves. Unfortunately, the fire department administration and the fire commission didn't have the courage, or the will, to deal with the union. I retired from active fire fighting before the financial problems were revealed, but did work for the district in a part time support roll until I was laid off. I then volunteered to continue with no pay, or to train a replacement. That offer was rejected.
Who actually runs the East County Fire District? Is it the fire commission and the chief, or is the local 1230?
The large majority of firefighters in the U.S. are volunteers, some of them in large departments. I do not advocate that our fire district return to a volunteer district, but that the East Contra Costa Fire District return to being a true combination district with trained volunteers working alongside paid firefighters, and in support rolls.
It works in many communities around this country, why not here? It will take time to rebuild the volunteers, but it will ultimately save the district millions of dollars. I note that the Brentwood Police Department is resurrecting their reserve program -- why not the fire department?
Retired firefighter, Brentwood
Plant more trees in Antioch
The city of Antioch has been lacking in natural beauty for decades now.
Some of Antioch issues include the scorching summer heat, which runs deep into fall and spring. There's very little shade outdoors to protect children playing in the sun. Rarely would you find anyone outdoors exercising or walking their pets because it's just too hot to be outside.
There's always loud city noise from cars honking to loud shout- outs. No matter what time of day or night, you are guaranteed to hear dogs barking or loud traffic. The scenic view of Antioch is practically nonexistent. The view you do get is full of smoke coming from the refineries. It's safe to say that Antioch isn't fulfilling its potential and we, the people, are the ones missing out on a much more beautiful and higher quality of life.
The city of Antioch needs to plant more trees along Highway 4 and in surrounding neighborhoods. Trees will mask the unsightly views like the refineries and muffle loud noises, therefore creating an eye-soothing canopy of green. It's quite simple but will make a huge impact on our whole community.
Planting more trees will not only clean the pollution from the refineries, but provide oxygen, and combat the greenhouse effect. Trees also will cool the streets and city and bring more people to be active outdoors. For that matter, the whole state could use more trees, considering the obesity rate among adults and children.
Trees will reduce UVB exposure, in turn reducing the most common cancer (skin) in the U.S. Single family homes can also cut summer air conditioning by up to 50 percent thus reducing carbon dioxide and other pollution emissions from power plants.
Another positive benefit that may surprise you is that trees reduce violence! For the city of Antioch we need anything and everything that can reduce the violence. Neighborhoods and homes that are barren have shown to have greater incidence of violence in and out of the home than their counterparts. Tress even reduces the level of fear. Property values can even rise by as much as 15 percent with just some trees! They also increase business traffic. Studies show, the more landscaping and trees that businesses have, the more business will flow in.
Basically, we need more trees. Everyone in and around Antioch is really missing out on the potential and all the goodness that it so easily obtained. How can we be OK with all the benefits that we don't have? We can reach out to organizations for help, along with community leaders. I hope that this letter reaches out to somebody that is just as interested as I am, and we can make our community one of beauty.
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