Parking problems for Contra Costa jurors
There are only four Contra Costa County cities where jury trials are held -- Martinez, Pittsburg, Richmond and Walnut Creek -- swelling the jury pools and making parking difficult to find.
That's especially true in Martinez, unless you drive in unreasonably early to secure one of the few "free" parking spaces within walking distance of the courthouse.
There's metered parking, including on the residential streets surrounding the immediate area. However, parking's limited to one hour before a $38 parking ticket is issued to the unfortunate prospective juror who can find nowhere else to park.
At one time, Martinez allowed jurors to place a jury-duty notice on their dashboard for free parking. Realizing a potential windfall, the City Council apparently decided it's in the city's best interest to punish those who can't find a free or unrestricted place to park while performing their civic duty.
Though it's reasonable to restrict jury parking in the downtown business area, it's disgraceful to make jurors pay to park near the courthouse when it's a criminal offense to show up late or not at all.
To be fair to the citizens, who give up their time to serve our justice system, that system shouldn't punish them for doing their duty.
Sanitary district's rate increase is too harsh
The Rodeo Sanitary District has proposed a whopping sewage tax increase of almost 40 percent over three years.
The proposal, which would take effect this year, raises the sewage tax from the current $695 to $962 by the 2015-2016 fiscal years. It is difficult to understand such a catastrophic increase at a time when the economy is flat and most middle-class workers are experiencing declining earnings. The proposed increase is especially harsh for people on fixed incomes, seniors and the poor.
Comparing the proposed district rate increase with the current average rates in surrounding communities indicates an enormous difference. The average rate in Contra Costa County is $397 annually for residential users. That's $565 less than Rodeo residents will be paying than others in the county. The proposed increase represents 2 ½ times the average county rate for the same services.
The district should keep in mind that this is the town of Rodeo, not Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. If the district is in such a dire budget predicament, then maybe it should merge with the West County Wastewater District.
High-speed rail bonds will be similar to BART's
I'm thinking back to the 1960s, when BART was put on the ballot as a wonderful and needed plan.
One of the selling points was that after it was up and running, the revenue it generated would help it pay for itself. Now here we are, more than 40 years later, and the bond is still on our tax bills and rising.
Guess we did not read the fine print and did not realize we would being paying forever. Now we can look forward to the governor's bullet train and our children and grandchildren can take up the burden.
The real price of corporate profits
Steve Butler's recent column in praise of corporate profits borders on parody.
The secrets of their success? They pay fewer taxes (there go pensions and civil service jobs); hired fewer workers (off-shoring, automation); pushed these few employees harder (a personal life?); and stagnated wages, on which a Times front-page article reported.
The silver lining? Larger 401(k) accounts, if you have one, and if it is solvent when you need it.
I would rather see those profits go to defined benefit packages for the employees. Most important, an investment defined society places more value on money then quality of life, social justice and the environment.