Hercules finances and Measure A
The Citizens Finance Advisory Committee was established as a watchdog of Hercules finances to ensure city funds are spent responsibly and toward the services our community values most.
To avert bankruptcy caused by past fiscal mismanagement, City Hall already cut 40 percent of its workforce, slashed salaries and benefits and reduced basic services. Also, the new city leadership has instituted reforms such as eliminating cronyism, improving transparency and aggressively pursuing legal actions against corrupt officials.
Hercules, however, still faces challenges in resolving budget deficits and regaining financial stability.
Though 2012's Measure O prevented immediate cuts to our police force, unfortunately, our reserve funds are completely exhausted. Without Measure A, which is in the June ballot, Hercules will have to consider dissolving its police department and contracting out public safety services to the county.
If Measure A is enacted, the advisory committee will oversee the disposition of funds for consistency with what was promised, such as keeping the Hercules Police Department local and not outsourcing these critical public safety services.
Please get the facts on Measure A and remember to participate in this year's special election in Hercules.
Virgil de la Vega
Hercules De la Vega is chairman of Citizens Finance Advisory Committee
Against Tassajara development
This is in response to the May 12 guest editorial by Donna Gerber, "Board of supervisors must stick to Urban Limit values."
I am a Contra Costa County resident and have lived here for more than 30 years. I am in agreement with recent editorials against development in Tassajara Valley near San Ramon.
I simply think there are times when the Board of Supervisors owes it to the voters to say "no" to development outside the urban limit line if the ULL is to have any meaning.
I also read the ballot measure language attached by link to the Times editorial and it is very clear the proposed development does not meet the criteria that we voted to impose.
Brenda de la Ossa
Enact stiffer penalties
John Schank's letter regarding an "epidemic" of gun killings missed the root of the problem.
More regulations will affect only those who are law abiding. To have an impact on gun violence, we should have a minimum 25-year sentence for anyone using a firearm to commit a crime.
Make prosecution mandatory and not a plea-bargaining tool. Make sentencing mandatory, so a judge cannot reduce the sentence. And make it a crime that is ineligible for parole.
It's time to finally hold those responsible for gun violence accountable. The youths who shot the paramedic in the Berkeley hills "did it for fun."
In Alameda County, gun-related homicides are routinely reduced to an eight-year voluntary manslaughter sentence; with good behavior, out on parole in four to five years. And often it is a parolee committing the crime.
The criminals will still get the guns; no gun registration laws will change that. And they will still commit the crimes. But if they knew any crime committed while in possession of a firearm carried a guaranteed 25-year minimum sentence -- for juvenile and adults -- then we might get some gun control.
Support proposed loan program
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, after only four months in office, has tackled the student loan program as her first proposed legislation.
This program is rightly designed to help youths acquire a college education, a very expensive endeavor; in most cases beyond the reach of most middle-class parents.
Currently, the student loan program operates at a 3.4 percent interest rate. At this rate, the government's getting approximately 36 cents return for each dollar loaned. On July 1, this rate will double to 6.8 percent. Consequently, most students graduate with a huge debt that will shortly double.
Warren highlighted major banks receive billion of dollars in loans from the Federal Reserve at less than 1 percent. She proposed changing the student loan program to receive at least the same rate we offer to big banks. Warren asked, "Does our government really need to make a profit from our children trying to better themselves with a college education?"
We must do what's right to help our young people by giving them the same opportunity as banks that are "too big to fail."
If you agree with Warren's proposal, contact Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer without delay. Tell them you support Warren's bill.