A plea for civility
As I drive around bay area communities this time of year, the roadways are lined with signs of candidates running for office. Nothing unusual here ... until you drive into Moraga and see signs that single out and attack a candidate. These mean-spirited signs -- and there have been various iterations over the past six months -- have set Moraga apart from other communities, and not in a good way.
Over the years, Moraga has developed a bad reputation, and for good reason. As a resident of Moraga for over 28 years, I have watched good, hard-working public officials who are trying to balance the needs of the community viciously attacked by small, vocal groups when they do not get their way. Though the issues have changed, the vitriolic responses are all too similar.
Unfortunately, the result is often stagnation or litigation. What's worse is these vicious, retaliatory behaviors have stymied Moraga's potential to raise financial and social capital.
The latest controversy is over the use of Rancho Laguna Park by off-leash dog owners. Without getting into the details of the debate, one could only hope that the behavior of the dogs is better than that of the owners. By and large, Moraga residents are looking to our public officials to establish rules and conditions that consider fair and balanced access to the park and the health and safety of all that use it.
Ironically, the candidate targeted -- Karen Mendonca -- understands the importance of civility in dialogue. Her academic career included research on the leadership skills that build successful organizations through the practice of civil discourse. In March 2011, she was invited to give a keynote address at Saint Mary's College where she delivered an address entitled, "Civility is a Choice--Even in Politics."
Mendonca is hardworking and accessible. In 2010, she instituted monthly "Ask the Mayor and Town Manager" open public meetings. Karen works collaboratively with the community and town staff in order to make informed decisions that respect the town's history, uphold the general plan and positively shape our future. She is highly deserving of a second term. The editorial board of the Times thinks so, too.
We can do and must do better at working together with civility to achieve the best results for all the people who live in Moraga. In my opinion, we need more candidates like Mendonca to move the town in the right direction.
Prop 30 defeat won't change things
The Times recommends a "no" vote on Proposition 30, Gov. Brown's proposed tax increase. The reasons include "elected officials who simply don't know how to say no to any influential interest group" and "as long as we keep sending they will keep spending."
I'm concerned that even the defeat of the tax increase won't change the attitude of our incumbent legislators. Why don't we vote against the incumbents and give those running against them a chance to better manage the state finances?
Orinda's Prop L is not the way
I disagree with the Times' (Oct. 19) editorial to support an increase in sales tax to repair/maintain Orinda's deteriorating roads. No one wants lousy roads, and I supported the previous bond measures, but this approach is seriously flawed.
First, there is no assurance the increased tax rate will actually yield significantly more revenues as shoppers seek alternatives to avoid the tax increase. Second, even if sales tax revenues increase, how much will be allocated to roads? Third, as your editorial points out, because all the tax revenues go into a general fund, there is no assurance nor adequate control that (any) additional funding intended for roads will indeed be used for the roads -- clearly a show stopper. Bottom line, Orindans need to face up to our deteriorating roads and pass appropriate bond measures to fund repairs and maintenance. Prop L purports to be a workaround, but it's a Mickey-Mouse, flawed approach, with the potential for unintended consequences. It won't solve the problem and it deserves a "no."
In support of Wallace and Follmer
I hope the voters in Lafayette can join me in supporting two excellent candidates for Lafayette School Board, Nancy Wallace and Jean Follmer.
Both candidates have worked in the school district for years and have proved their commitment to educating our children in a safe environment. Ms. Wallace's background as a lawyer and a business professional who has dealt with financial impacts of risk and uncertainty makes her a perfect candidate to deal with the issues that face our district.
Her ability to work collaboratively in building consensus and support and to think out of the box to solve difficult problems are strengths we need in our board members. I can attest to her skills because we worked together on the Special Education Enrichment and Development Foundation (SEED),created to, among other things, provide private financial assistance to both the general and special education children in our district.
We need leaders who think out of the box and advocate for all our children. Please vote for Nancy Wallace and Jean Follmer.
Property tax increase better than 'L'
In an editorial (Oct. 18), the Times endorsed Orinda's Measure L, which, if passed, will increase Orinda's sales tax from 8.25 percent to 8.75 percent. The measure is designed to provide money to fix Orinda's miserable roads.
The Times editorial stated, "Orinda's decaying streets need $52 million of repairs in part because official couldn't rally two-thirds voter support for past bond measures to fix them."
However, the Times' editorial should have reported that a January 2012 voter survey commissioned by the City of Orinda showed that 69 percent of Orinda's voters are very willing or somewhat willing to "pay $80-$100 per year to repair city roads." The survey was conducted by the FM3 company of Oakland. The 69 percent figure is higher than the 67 percent needed to raise Orinda's property taxes to support better roads.
While Measure L is helpful, the Orinda City Council should have asked for a property tax increase. Taxpayers who itemize their deductions on their federal tax returns can get a deduction for state and local taxes. There is no deduction for a higher local sales tax.
The Orinda City Council has missed a great opportunity.
Richard S. Colman
Why are we asking you not to vote for Karen Mendonca? The reasons are many but, space limits me to this:
Ms. Mendonca featured open space and ridgeline protection as the central premise of her campaign and is now running for re-election on the same platform. Unfortunately, her record on open space during her first term was dominated by a terrible decision to approve the Rancho Laguna II development in the scenic corridor next to Rheem Boulevard.
She cast the deciding swing vote in a 2-1 decision to approve a final version of this project which will remove the crest of a 1,500 foot section of Rheem Ridge to make way for a road and houses.
Ms. Mendonca also manipulated Moraga's established tradition of mayor and vice mayor succession. Instead, Ms. Mendonca made a backroom deal to nominate and then vote for Howard Harpham. He voted consistently with Mendonca.
People in Moraga have consistently voted to keep Moraga's open space and preserve the status quo. Yet Mendonca keeps pushing for development.
Fire insurance problem in Lafayette
Have your fire insurance rates skyrocketed? Mine have -- by 65 percent, or about $1,100 -- all as a result of a huge mistake.
If your home is within five miles of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Station No. 17 on St. Marys Road in Lafayette, your fire insurance rates may have been similarly affected by this error. The problem, in short: Station 17's existence was deleted from a national database.
When I noticed my annual fire insurance premium increase, I called my insurance company. They said a little-known fire protection code that affects my rates had increased on a scale of 1-10 from a 3 to the maximum of 10. This essentially meant that my home had no organized fire protection -- that it was up to me, with my bucket and garden hose, to battle fires. The representative stated that the code had been changed effective June 1, and that that was the reason for the huge premium increase.
This made no sense to me. I knew that my local fire station, No. 17, was only 1.5 miles from my home (less than 5 minutes), that it was fully staffed and operational and that a fire hydrant was located less than 400 feet from my front door. I called our district fire marshal, Louis Brouchard, to make sure that Station 17 was not slated for closure (it was not), and whether or not other homeowners had called him about this (no, they hadn't yet). But this sounded strange to him also.
At my urging, our fire marshal contacted an organization called the ISO, which manages a national database of fire agency and district information. The ISO rates all fire agencies in the nation on their level of preparedness to battle house fires, on a scale from 1 to 10. The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District's rating has been a "3" for many years — and still is. All homeowners/fire insurance companies in the nation rely on the information contained in the ISO's database to calculate fire insurance premiums for their insureds (us).
Fire Marshal Brouchard was dismayed to learn that the ISO had deleted Station 17 from its database by mistake. The ISO promised to correct its error, but so far hasn't.
So our insurance companies believe we are being protected by a fire station over on Livorna Road, over 12 miles and 30 minutes away from my home. Your insurance premium renewal may reflect this error; check your renewal bill carefully, then make sure your garden hose and bucket are nearby.
"Support Moraga by reelecting Mike Metcalf to the town council.
A long-term Moraga resident and community leader, Mike has proven his passion and competency. He's active inside and outside of town government (recent example being helping to erect the new play facility at Camino Pablo Park), with many accomplishments.
Mike truly knows the Moraga General Plan; he was a major contributor to its last revision. And Mike follows through in applying it. While on the Planning Commission with him, I directly observed that for each issue, Mike researches the subject, takes citizen input onboard, carefully considers the individual merits and then acts.
I like Mike's passion, follow-through and balanced approach. Moraga wins with Mike Metcalf. Please join me in voting for Mike Metcalf.