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League asks for shallower cuts, deeper thinking

The LWV shouted out to Sacramento Friday with this press release about a “cuts-only” budget proposal, saying there are other ways to save money, and, as a result, programs. Let’s hope that Schwarzengger and the legislators actually see and hear suggestions from their constituents and that any ideas that may work to resolve California’s ugly fiscal condition are considered.

Here’s the full press release.

League Urges Realistic, Balanced Approach to Budget

Sacramento, CAThe League of Women Voters of California today called on the Governor and legislative leaders to reject the idea of a “cuts-only” budget, especially one that decimates crucial programs. Instead, the League advocates a balanced approach to California’s budget crisis that includes new revenues along with targeted cuts to programs.

“We urge you to give priority to protecting the essential safety net for those most in need,” said League President Janis R. Hirohama in a letter to the budget leaders, reminding them that “the primary obligation of government is to protect the welfare and security of its people.” The League believes that the budget must not eliminate such basic assistance programs as CalWORKs and Healthy Families and should avoid further deep cuts in programs such as Medi-Cal, in-home supportive services, and child welfare services. “To make draconian cuts while rejecting proposals for increased revenues would be both short-sighted and unconscionable,” continued Hirohama.

It is unrealistic to rely on cuts alone to fill a budget deficit of this magnitude. The League of Women Voters has long supported revenues that are sufficient and flexible enough to meet changing needs for state and local government services and that ensure fair sharing of the tax burden. Recent polls have shown that a large majority of Californians agree, supporting a budget solution that includes a balance of cuts and new taxes.

A number of viable new revenue sources are on the table, and the League urged lawmakers to consider them. In addition to new taxes or increases in tax rates, possible solutions include repealing corporate tax breaks—included in the budget deals last September and February—that will cost some $2.5 billion per year. Other alternatives that should be examined are fees that can be established by a simple majority vote in the legislature and reductions in administrative costs.

Looking ahead past these extremely difficult times, Hirohama called for serious structural reform of California’s dysfunctional fiscal system. Reforms include eliminating the two-thirds vote requirements that paralyze government decision-making and establishing a fairer, more efficient tax policy. “For the good of all Californians, and for our future,” she concluded, “we expect our leaders to take on this important task. Our state deserves no less.”

For information on the League of Women Voters (men are members, too) go www.lwvc.org.

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AUSD master planning meeting tonight at Haight School

Tonight is the first of three Alameda Unified School District community meetings about the future of Alameda schools. The idea, as I understand it, is to create a master plan for the public school system in Alameda. The meeting starts at 6:30 and Superintendent Kirsten Vital as well as members of the school board will be discussing three possible scenarios for addressing the long term fiscal sustainability of public education in Alameda. They’ll be discussing how dwindling state funding impacts the district, the possibility of chartering the district as on whole, as well as the possibility of generating more funds for Alameda schools at the local level. The meeting is at Haight Elementary.

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Alameda Anti-bullying curriculum meeting continued to Monday May 18

The Alameda Journal‘s report on Tuesday night’s Alameda school board meeting is here. Both KTUV and NBC came to town and did stories. Passions were high in the over-crowded council meeting room, and more than a hundred people who filled out speaker slips left without giving their two cents. At next Monday’s meeting, speakers will be given three minutes to talk…and who knows what will happen if more people show up wanting to weigh in. Here’s info about Monday’s meeting.

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School board meeting tonight: Alameda’s anti-bullying curriculum tonight

So, once again, an Alameda debate has hit the regional news. And the Christian right has picked up the story and run with it. There’s also a lot of heated rhetoric swirling around (check out the comments on this Blogging Bayport post).

I have to confess that the whole debate about this tiny piece of AUSD curriculum makes me sad and weary. It surprises me that in this day and age, in the Bay Area, that we are still so hostile to difference, so obsessed with other people’s sex lives, so afraid of ourselves and the world and others. What the AUSD curriculum aims to do is teach reality: that all families (the majority of families, in fact) don’t look like the Cleavers. Families have all sorts of configurations, incorporating grandparents and cousins, step-siblings and stepfathers, same gender couples and opposite gender couples. That is reality. We can not like it, but, in reality, families have great variety.

The curriculum also aims to address another reality: that kids can be cruel, and they can torment and tease and poke and prod so severely as to destroy lives (just look at suicide rates for gay and lesbian youth). And it is incumbent on us as a society to protect our children, all our children. Pretending that acceptance and cruelty are not serious school issues helps no one.

With all the fervor, tonight’s school board meeting is sure to be a heated one. But if we can remember the basics, live and let live, do onto others, love thy neighbor, I think we can put this in its proper place and move on, continuing on with our work and household chores and other duties and obligations…We can continue on with the life basics shared by and important to all families regardless of their configuration. Because, despite everything, we are all a whole lot more alike than we are different.

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Alameda schools, the anti-bullying curriculum

It would have been hard not to notice that there’s been a lot of heated discussion in Alameda about a proposed addition to the Alameda Unified School District’s anti-bullying curriculum. The Alameda Journal last week ran comments in support and against it.

Local Blogger Lauren Do has been tracing what specifically the curriculum will look like. And, for those of you interested, you can always find heated discussion in the comments on Do’s blog. Sometimes commentors make sense, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re nasty and contradictory, sometimes they’re not.

Opposition to the proposed curriculum runs the gamut. From those who believe that homosexuality is a sin, to those who fear that sexual terms will be introduced at too young an age. You can see all the lessons here. The Rev. Laura Rose, pastor of Alameda’s First Congregational Church, wrote this in a letter to the editor:

For those who object to this sort of curriculum on the basis that it is against a specific set of religious or moral beliefs, I would simply say that respect and tolerance for all people as children of God is the unifying and core principle of every world religion.

But more importantly, equality is the core principle of our Constitution and I believe a curriculum that enables children to see all people (and themselves) in a positive light is critical to AUSD’s mission of making Alameda a safe and welcoming place for all children and all families.

You can read Rose’s whole letter here (though you must scroll down). Happy Monday.

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Alameda: Smoking in doorways

There is almost no time you can walk by the Lemon Tree on Santa Clara Avenue and not get a face full of smoke. Step through the door of some of our nicest local cafes and you will, from time to time, walk through a plume of smokey air. In order to prevent that unpleasant health hazard, many jurisdictions have passed ordinances disallowing smoking in public spaces. California state law, for example, prohibits smoking within 20 feet of the doorways of public buildings. And right now Martinez is considering a host of laws governing smoking in public spaces, including bans on smoking within 20-feet of any enclosed area where smoking is already prohibited as well as at parks, bus stops and public events.

Straight from Wikipedia (for your easy perusal) here is a sampling of bans on smoking in effect in California:

Belmont, October 9, 2007, banned in parks and other public places, as well as inside apartments and condominiums.

Berkeley, March 26, 2008, banned smoking all commercially zoned sidewalks

Burbank, April, 2007, banned in most public places including outdoor dining and shopping areas, parks, service lines and within 20 feet of all building entrances/exits.

Calabasas, 2006, banned in all indoor and outdoor public places, except for a handful of scattered, designated outdoor smoking areas in town. Believed to be the strictest ban in the United States.

Los Angeles, 2007, banned in all city parks.

San Diego, July 11, 2006, banned smoking at all City of San Diego beaches and parks, including all beaches from La Jolla to Sunset Cliffs.

San Jose, October 2007, banned in all city parks.

You can check out Wikipedia’s list of smoking bans from around the country here.

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Alameda School Board approves capacity-increasing plan for east-side elementary schools

The Alameda Unified School Board voted just moments ago to approve the district’s plan for accommodating increased enrollment at several East End schools.

The approved plan includes moving Edison Elementary School’s computer lab into its library to make more classroom space, and adding two portables to the Otis Elementary School campus. Otis will likely have 100 kindergarten students next fall, and Edison will likely have 80. Other highlights: a kindergarten class with be added at Bay Farm, and some students in the Franklin attendance zone will likely be diverted to other schools. You can read the whole approved plan here. Blogger Lauren Do has a bit about the plan. So does Michele Ellson of The Island.

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Orinda passes $502 permanent parcel tax

While many here in Alameda like to blame fiscal mismanagement, administrator pay, unions, or you name if for the financial challenges facing the Alameda Unified School District, other communities are stepping up and funding their schools as the dollars provided by the State of California continue to fall short of what a community actually requires to provide a meaningful education for a community’s schools. Orinda’s parcel tax passed with 70 percent of the voters saying yes.

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For Alameda: still no state budget

With many California employees taking one or two mandatory unpaid furlough days a month and the governor threatening to send layoff notices to the 20,000 state employees with the least seniority, there’s still no budget deal in Sacramento. The no-taxes Republican minority continues to block the Democratic majority.

And lest you think Alameda is alone in its plight to keep the city budget numbers lining up. There’s this: Ventura workers taking pay cuts to save jobs.

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Alameda city budget, compare and contrast

Michele Ellson over at The Island has done a little piece on how the City of Alameda spends its money. For comparison purposes, she set out to find another city with similar demographics:

After narrowing the list down to about a dozen California cities – most of which, incidentally, are facing the same budget problems that we are – I ended up 35 miles southwest of here. What I found was a city that spends far more money on parks and libraries than we do – and less on its fire department, despite the fact that Redwood City’s fire department handles more calls than ours does.

Here’s what she found about Park and Recreation services:

Redwood City spends twice what Alameda does on its parks and recreation services, despite the fact that workers there have only 14 acres more of parkland to maintain. A lot of the amenities offered – two pools, a senior center, a teen center, a skate park, dog parks – are identical to those offered here. But Redwood City pays far more to maintain those amenities, and more to staff programs.

And firefighters:

On the flip side, there’s one department we spend more money on, and that’s fire. We spent $21.5 million to Redwood City’s $17.3 million, with $19 million for workers’ salaries, benefits and overtime to their $14.5 million. Our fire department is over 100 strong, compared to 70 in Redwood City. And our department has a lifetime health care benefit for spouses that Redwood City’s doesn’t.

You can read the whole piece here—and Ellson promises there are more details to come.