Sunday, December 13, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
A Time for Me to Pause
I always loved Patrick Swayze’s movies (well, most of them!). But most of all, I admired the way he walked through the world – with grace and dignity and kindness. Not surprisingly, he left the world this week in exactly the same way in which he lived.
His death has hit me hard, though. I think it’s because I’ve always felt this connection to him because he made me laugh and feel good at a very dark time in my life. The year Dirty Dancing was released in the theaters, my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was 20 years old. He was diagnosed in August, 1997, and passed away before Christmas. It was a swift and very painful death.
His quick decline was terrifying, and I was angry at his pain and lost as to how to handle everything. One night I went to the movies to get away and saw Dirty Dancing. I was transported into a different world, a more simple world that still held hope and happiness and possibilities. I was always grateful to Patrick Swayze for giving me that. Every time I see the movie, I feel as if I’m that 20-year-old again, gulping in the laughter and the joy the movie brought out in me.
I see a sad irony in that Patrick Swayze died of the same disease as my father, 22 years later. It makes me angry all over again – angry at this brutal disease that slips in unannounced and takes over before most people even know its there.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. There are no early detection tools, few treatment options, and no cure. Sadly, we haven’t come very far in the 22 years since my father passed away.
Many people know that I’m active in my local community, as well as with local and national animal rescue organizations. I have donated money to cancer research, but I haven’t been active in that arena. It still feels too raw and painful. But the time for ignoring it is over for me. I am asking Congress to make pancreatic cancer a priority and support the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act, (HR745). (For more information: http://capwiz.com/pancan/issues/alert/?alertid=12538906).
In January, Patrick Swayze told Barbara Walters, “I want to last until they find a cure, which means I'd better get a fire under it.”
Please join me in the effort to “light a fire under it” to honor the memory of Patrick Swayze and people like my father who have gone before him – as well as all those, like Vallejo’s own Dan Donahue, who “want to last” until a cure is found.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
I’m running for re-election to the Vallejo City Council! I did a lot of soul-searching, talking to my family and my close friends before making this decision. But ultimately, it came down to the fact that I couldn't not run again. A double negative, I know. But I think it best describes the fact that quitting simply isn't an option.
Looking back on the past four years, I’m proud that I've kept my promises of not being beholden to special interests, and bringing truth and transparency into how our government works. I have proven that I can stand up for what is right, not what is necessarily easy. And I have demonstrated that I take my responsibility seriously, I study all sides of the issues, and I do my homework.
I know we can shape Vallejo’s future and get what we all want – clean and well maintained streets, money for after school programs, community events, and senior centers, a fully funded police force and fire houses, quality shopping that keeps our dollars in Vallejo and brings dollars in from other cities.
But to make this happen, we must continue to confront our financial demons, past mistakes and years of, “We've always done it this way.” We must spend within our means, and make that spending based on hard reality and financially sound budget projections. We also must be ready and at the forefront when the national and state financial recovery begins, so we can attract high-quality businesses and clean, living-wage, jobs-producing industries to Vallejo.
It hasn't been easy. It won’t be easy. But lasting change never is. With your support, I look forward to making this change happen together.
Monday, May 04, 2009
After driving by the forlorn-looking Casa de Vallejo the other day, I asked the City Manager for an update on its renovation following last year's fire:
Jules Arthur, Chief Operating Officer of the Amerland Group (the owners of the Casa de Vallejo), provided an update on the status of the project. The actual work on the structure has not begun yet because of the time involved in plan preparation, as well as the delay in approval of payments from the insurance company and lenders. Ameriland indicated that they received bids for work on the lower portion of Casa de Vallejo, and a contractor will be chosen within the next couple of weeks. They project it will be ready for occupancy by late summer. The tower portion of the building received extensive fire damage. Ameriland projects that the tower portion will be ready for occupancy sometime in 2010. Mr. Arthur has committed to provide staff with bi-monthly updates as the work progresses, which I'll post here.
I'd like to see the plans for the renovation, and expect that the historic integrity of the Casa de Vallejo will be maintained.
Monday, April 13, 2009
SB 250 is a bill authored by Sen. Majority Leader Dean Florez that would require Californians to spay and neuter their pets -- or if they choose not to, they'll be required to get a license. Vallejo took in over 4,000 lost and abandoned animals last year. Only 1,000 of them went into homes. The money we spend on sheltering and euthanasia could definitely be better spent in our community. Please help support this bill. Our pets and our taxpayer dollars depend on it.
The first vote on SB 250 The Pet Responsibility Act is this Wednesday, April 15 at 11:00 a.m. in the Senate Local Government Committee. Before Wednesday morning, please call the five committee members and ask them to support SB 250. If you can only make one call, please call the Chair, Senator Patricia Wiggins.
Senator Patricia Wiggins (Chair)
Senator Dave Cox (Vice-Chair)
Senator Samuel Aanestad
Senator Christine Kehoe
Senator Lois Wolk
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Disincorporation was mentioned briefly at a recent Council meeting. I believe it was put out there more to illustrate how truly serious our budget deficit is right now, than something that is currently being considered.
I'm just one of seven Council members, but to me, disincorporation is not an option. Vallejo has too rich a history and too many people who love her to ultimately cede to the County. Last year, bankruptcy was our last and only option to get our fiscal house in order. We need to make that work and get out of it so we as a city can start healing.
We have to work together to fix our structural budget deficit and get out of bankruptcy -- the Council, city employees, Vallejo businesses, and Vallejo residents. But before we do that, we have to balance our budget by July 1, and we have a $9 million deficit. We can't keep cutting services to the public to balance the budget. I don't want to lose more police officers or close more fire stations -- we must start cutting our expenditures. We need our employees to take a one-year pay cut, five to 10 percent depending on salary levels. This must be top to bottom. And every employee should pay 25 percent of their health care costs. That's a start that would get us near our goal of a balanced budget on July 1, 2009.
That would give us breathing room to resume discussions on how to take the next step, which is solving the structural deficit and getting out of bankruptcy.
We'll be talking about the budget again at next week's Council meeting. I certainly hope that everybody is thinking about how they can contribute to Vallejo's recovery. Ideas are definitely welcome, so please e-mail me any suggestions you may have.
- The Fire Department has been meeting with Solano County City Managers and Fire Chiefs regarding preparation of private-public partnership proposals for the Solano County Ambulance Contract.
- The City Manager has been working with the grant writer to prepare the Fire Department State Stimulus Funding Request.
- The visioning process for the proposed development of the 152-acre Solano County Fairgrounds site began with the first community workshop in March. The next community workshop is scheduled for April 8 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the first floor of the County Building in Fairfield. There will be one more community workshop in Vallejo (date/time/location TBA). Brooks Street was hired by the County to lead the visioning process.
- After approving a Use Permit for a bed and breakfast on Mare Island across from Chapel Park, the Planning Commission has requested to review the Use Permit standards for future bed and breakfast establishments.
- Staff is reviewing plan revisions for proposed commercial development at the former Pontiac/Cadillac site located at Sonoma Blvd. and Yolano Drive, as well as a retail commercial center at Broadway and Mini Drive.
- The Code Enforcement Division is preparing to conduct citywide proactive vacant property inspections in anticipation of the amended Vacant Building Ordinance.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I got a phone call from a very nice woman the other day. She’d watched the Council meeting and was concerned that I was showing my anger. She supports me and what I’m doing, voted for me, and really was concerned and wanted me to do well. I thanked her for her comments and really appreciated her taking the time to call and talk to me about it. I’ve found that in politics there are all kinds of criticism, but not often constructive criticism. I appreciate the meaning behind it.
I also looked into myself to do a gut check. I’m a very passionate person, always have been. I think passion is what drives me to keep working hard, keep trying, keep fighting. I know very well that this can be positive and negative, depending on timing, location and control.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at channeling my anger, not letting it overwhelm or become destructive or hurtful to others. I say I’ve gotten better, but not perfect! Amongst my siblings, we all argue who got my father’s Portuguese temper, and it’s probably a tie with me and my brother. He hides it better now though.
Am I showing my anger right now? Definitely. Because I am angry. I’m angry that the Council majority wasted the opportunity that bankruptcy provided us to fix our structural deficit, to get our employee salaries and benefits in line with what this city can afford to pay. I’m angry that the Council majority knew about the $13 million deficit in January when they voted to approve the police and CAMP contracts, giving police free health care and guaranteed raises – and tying our hands from making changes in the future. I’m angry that the Council majority is firing our city manager in the middle of all this mess, leaving us without a management leader, solid experience, or critical financial acumen. I’m angry that I had look into the faces of so many children at the Council meeting last Tuesday as they pleaded with us to save their swimming pool. I’m angry that the national and state economy is hitting us at a time when we are already down, when we can least weather the blows. I’m angry that we’re having to fight our employees in bankruptcy court, to spend money fighting an appeal on whether we are insolvent all the while we sink further and further into deficit. I’m angry that we even had to hear the word “unincorporate” in relation to our future.
I’m angry and frustrated because I want to help fix Vallejo’s problems, but have had to watch a Council majority make decision after decision that takes us further into dangerous waters, sinks us further into the hole.
Should I not show that anger? I don’t think so. I think the residents of Vallejo are angry, too. I think we have to be as honest as possible about what got us here and how we can recover. I think we have to be honest about how we feel about the decisions being made. I think we have to face up to the facts and make extremely difficult and painful choices.
I am angry. Now let’s get on with the tough choices so we can move beyond anger and on to recovery. As President Obama said in his interview with Steve Kroft in response to the citizens' rage over the AIG executive bonuses, "We don't govern in anger."
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
- Vallejo is scheduled to receive $12,273,000 in Economic Stimulus funding. $2,520,000 will be spent on the downtown streetscape, and Sereno Drive and Tennessee Street overlay projects. Transportation projects totaling $9,753,790 will include preventitive maintenance, Ferry Terminal Improvments, the bus maintenance facility, ferry engine repower and Vallejo Station bus transfer center.
- The budget approved by the State of California has eliminated the State Transit Assistance Program until Fiscal Year 2012. This means that Vallejo Transit will lose approximately 15-16 percent of its operating budget, or $1.4 million each year until the program is reinstituted. Economic Stimulus funds will be used for the next two years to help offset this loss. It's obvious that Vallejo's transit system cannot support itself through the farebox alone.
- A recent audit identified approximately $2 million in unpaid parking citations in Vallejo. The Police Department will be identifying major violators and attempt to locate and impound their vehicles. Under the current system, non-payment of parking penalties is reported to the CA Deparment of Motor Vehicles for collection when registration fees are paid. If the violator does not register the vehicle, no further collection efforts are made.
Monday, February 09, 2009
Recently, Tesla Motors announced that they will not locate its head office and manufacturing plant in San Jose. Tesla was not able to raise the $100 million in venture capital funding it had counted on to finance the facility, and has now has applied for $400 million in two federal, low-interest loans through the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program. This federal loan program favors brownfield sites on which closed factories or plants need to be rehabilitated. Sounds like a perfect fit for Mare Island.
Lennar Mare Island (LMI) has been competing to bring Tesla Motors to Mare Island since 2006. Tesla representatives have toured Mare Island and are very familiar with it. Tesla is looking for existing structures totaling 500,000 square feet. LMI is currently preparing a revised summary of available manufacturing and office buildings to send to Tesla. The short-term goal is to have Tesla take another tour of Mare Island. They apparently will select a new site within a few weeks.
Timeline of Tesla Contacts
Tesla finalized its plans to build electric cars. Their search for a manufacturing location included several California locations as well as New Mexico. In August, LMI organized a Tesla visit to Mare Island. LMI and the City discussed possible locations and incentives, and prepared and submitted a site plan.
Tesla announced plans to site their $35 million manufacturing plant in New Mexico.
Tesla cancelled their New Mexico plans. Factors included the long distance from research and development and engineering teams located in the Bay Area, as well as the desire to qualify for California's Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority program worth approximately $1 million to Tesla. LMI renewed their dialogue with Tesla, and the City sent a letter of support. In September, Tesla announced that they selected the San Jose site.
In January, Tesla announced that the San Jose site was no longer feasible given current economic conditions and poor venture capital environment. They also announced that they are seeking a brownfield site so they can qualify for alternative funding sources. LMI has renewed contact with Tesla again. Their brownfield concept is not well defined yet, but it is required for alternative funding sources. Tesla has indicated that if they cannot find an ideal solution, they will expand their search into Southern California as well as other states.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
$700,000 Fee Giveaway to Northgate Developer
At the Council's last meeting, the Council majority (5-2, with Joanne and I dissenting) granted the developer's request to amend the Northgate specific plan and allow the senior housing project to be downgraded to generic multi-family housing. In addition to losing more senior housing, by agreeing to this request the City was prevented from being able to collect an additional $700,000 in additional fees. This will be the final reading of the ordinance.
Negotiated Settlement with Vallejo Police Officer's Association
I wish the VPOA would have agreed to this deal two years ago, even one year ago. As it stands now, though, it's simply not enough. I won't go into all of the details of the settlement now, that will come on Tuesday, but I will say that I have four key issues with this agreement:
- It does not require VPOA to pay a portion of their health care premiums. Every employee in the city, including the City Council, should pay 25 percent of their premiums. And by giving VPOA a free health care ride, that sets up the other employees to ask for the same benefit. Which the City simply can't afford. But it wouldn't be fair to ask IBEW, CAMP and IAFF to pay a portion of their health care, but not VPOA. We should not have different classes of employees.
- Guaranteed raises. This recession, optimistically, will last at least another two years. How can we guarantee raises when we don't know where we'll be at financially next year or the year after? The State will be taking more city funds back, giving IOUs, cutting programs. Our big development projects that we're counting on to bring in new revenues won't come on board for at least two to five years. It looks like we might get Stimulus monies from Congress, but that won't be enough. How can we promise raises when our revenues will at best remain flat, more likely go down further? That is simply irresponsible. We should agree to consider cost of living raises every year, but it would have to depend on our ability to pay.
- Agreeing to pay VPOA attorney fees if the City can't meet the promises in this agreement. That is simply unacceptable. As a member of this City Council, it is my job to look out for the best interests of this City and make sure we are protected. Agreeing to this would be an abdication of that responsibility. Who knows what is going to happen in the next two years? Giving VPOA insurance against future economic downturns is nice for VPOA, bad for Vallejo taxpayers.
- A piecemeal process. Again. Until we know what the other employee groups will agree to, we should not be signing any agreement. What happens if IAFF works the political system in Sacramento and legislatively prevents the City from cutting their wages or benefits (don't think they're not trying to do this). With the VPOA contract signed and IAFF wages and benefits untouchable, that would again lock up 75 percent of our general fund. With the economy getting worse and not better, where will our cuts come from? Not VPOA, unless we want to pay their legal fees when they challenge us. Not IAFF, if they get their backdoor way. We'll be in the same boat we were in before BK, but worse. Cuts will have to come from city services and non-PSU personnel. Agreeing to this now will tie our hands in the future. Business as usual.
- The City submitted a list of 30 local street and transportation projects estimated to cost over $182 million as potential candidate projects for Federal economic Stimulus funding. Our water and sewer lines are old and desperately need updating -- we could help Vallejo by updating our infrastructure and create/maintain jobs, which is what the Stimulus bill is all about.
- Costs to replace streetlights due to copper wire thefts have recently cost the City $64,000. We recently installed a $36,000 vandal proof system that is already slowing down the theft rate.
- The City is working on a Residential Abandoned and vacant Building Urgent Ordinance with Code Enforcement, which will be presented to Council at the end of February. I have participated in several meetings with Code Enforcement and local real estate professionals, who are volunteering their expertise to help draft the best and most useful ordinance.
- The first volunteer anti-graffiti paint-out of 2009 is scheduled for Saturday, January 31 at 8:30 a.m. If you'd like to join us, please call (707) 648-4230 to sign up.
- I am working with local artists to create a mural for the wall on Marin Street next to the barber shop where Jonathon Brunson was killed. The draft theme is "Silence the Violence – Take a Stand." I hope to get broad community involvement, particularly youth.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Just wanted to note an important event happening on Monday, January 19. "A Dream Whose Time Has Come," is a pre-Presidential inauguration and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration being hosted by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Kappa Beta Omega Chapter, and the Vallejo Unified School District.
"A Dream Whose Time Has Come"
Monday, January 19, 2009
10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
Hogan High School
850 Rosewood Avenue, Vallejo