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Archive for July, 2009

Mother of Joe Loudon asks DA for more effort in investigation

Marianne Payne, the mother of Joseph Loudon, the Miramonte student who died at an Orinda party on May 23, is not satisfied with the investigation by the Orinda Police Department. She has asked the Contra Costa County District Attorney to help put more effort into the investigation of her son’s death.

The investigation has resulted in three arrests thus far, but Payne believes the Orinda Police have not been following leads that could be critical.

There has not yet been an official response to the letter from police.

To read the complete text of Marianne Payne’s letter to the Contra Costa County District Attorney, visit this link:

Posted on Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
Under: Crime, Orinda, Schools | No Comments »

MOFD firefighter: Chief ‘simply got greedy’

Local firefighters union representative Mark DeWeese sends an e-mail response to my post Tuesday on the subject of Moraga-Orinda fire Chief Pete Nowicki’s pension and contract extension:

Chief Nowicki and the Board continue to tell the media that no rules were broken, and what the Chief and Board did was legal. They fail to understand something that 99% of all firefighters know. Just because something doesn’t break a rule, or isn’t illegal, doesn’t make it right.
Each employee, including the Chief, contributes between 20%-25% of their salary to fund benefits. Chief Nowicki simply got greedy and wanted to take more than his fair share of the pension pot. He convinced the Board to approve an amendment to his contract on Dec. 10th that gave him a substantial amount of extra vacation to add to his last year’s compensation and hence pension as well. None of this extra vacation was ever funded for and the Chief announced his retirement three days later on Dec. 13th to start drawing from his now inflated pension.  No other employees get amendments made to their contracts right before they decide to retire.
The Board and Chief have cut this deal for Nowicki and put an even greater burden on the pension system. They then turn around and tell employees and the media that the pension system is broken and unsustainable. This is all happening when the Local 1230 employees are trying to negotiate 0% raises for the next couple of years to help out the financial situation.

Posted on Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
Under: Moraga, Orinda | No Comments »

San Pablo Creek Bridge to be restored

The City of Orinda and the Orinda Historical Society have agreed to team up to restore the San Pablo Creek Bridge. The bridge was designated as an Orinda historical landmark in 1990 but has seen little maintenance since.

Charlie Vollmar, vice president of the Orinda Historical Society, spearheaded the plan by asking the City of Orinda for its help. The City of Orinda agreed to cover all major repairs to the bridge, while the Orinda Historical Society will fix minor damage and repaint the bridge.

The San Pablo Creek Bridge, which is located at the entrance to Orinda Village, was built in 1920.

The bridge will be painted on Aug. 1 starting at 8:30 a.m. All are welcome to bring a brush and come help out.

Posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
Under: Orinda | No Comments »

Fire in Lafayette near homes

A fire was reported today around 4:30 p.m. near the Lafayette-Pleasant Hill border. Firefighters quickly responded to the area of the fire along Woodside Meadows Road.

The fire burned over two acres of land and came close to several homes. Some residents of the homes in the area were seen preparing to fight the fire with garden hoses, while others chose to play it safe and leave the area until firefighters were able to contain the fire.

Firefighters were able to contain the fire by 5:15 p.m. before any damage to homes or injuries had occurred.

The cause of the fire has not yet been officially released.

Posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
Under: Lafayette | No Comments »

Orinda bears brunt of Nowicki backlash

An Orinda official told me today City Hall has been bombarded with phone calls, e-mails and visits from people angry about Moraga-Orinda Fire Chief Pete Nowicki’s pension after reading this article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. One City Hall visitor even took to yelling in the lobby, apparently.

Whether he likes it or not (or deserves it or not), Nowicki has become the face of pension reform and a target for those who have seen their own retirement funds plunge amid the recession to vent their frustration.

It’s worth pointing out that Nowicki’s pension is funded by the Contra Costa County Employee’s Retirement Association. Money for CCCERA pensions comes from contributions from the employees themselves and the employer, in this case Moraga-Orinda Fire District. And while the MOFD is funded by taxpayer dollars, Nowicki’s pension is not part of any city’s budget and out of city officials’ control.

It’s also worth pointing out that, as the WSJ article said and we have pointed out at the Times, Nowicki played by the rules. Employees covered under the CCCERA plan are allowed to “spike” their salary by converting accruals into cash. CCCERA’s Web site lays out exactly how it’s done.

Finally, it’s also interesting that this outrage comes now, despite articles written by myself, Paul Thissen and Times’ columnist Dan Borenstein on this issue for months. Orinda may be bearing the burnt of the backlash today, but Nowicki’s retirement, pension and rehiring has been public knowledge since at least January.

Posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
Under: Moraga, Orinda | No Comments »

Things to do: California Shakespeare Theater

One of Orinda’s most interesting things to do is attend a play put on by the California Shakespeare Theater.

Cal Shakes is currently performing the play, Private Lives, in which a divorced couple ends up in rooms next to each other on their honeymoons with their new spouses. This play runs through Aug. 2.

Cal Shakes performs at the Bruns Amphitheater, which is located at 100 Gateway Blvd. in Orinda. The entrance to the grounds can be clearly seen when exiting at Gateway Boulevard, the exit following the Orinda exit when heading westbound on Highway 24.

For more information about Cal Shakes, or to buy tickets, visit their website:

Posted on Monday, July 20th, 2009
Under: Orinda | No Comments »

National spotlight on MOFD chief

If Pete Nowicki is trying to shed his image (deserved or not) as the “poster boy” for pension reform, this certainly isn’t going to help. The Wall Street Journal ran a full article today about pensions that focused primarily on Nowicki and his pension after retiring from the Moraga-Orinda Fire District in January.

The article is online here.

Nowicki is on contract through October as interim fire chief until his replacement is found.

Posted on Monday, July 20th, 2009
Under: Moraga, Orinda | No Comments »

NorCal Lamorinda United playing in West Region Final today

The NorCal Lamorinda United men’s soccer team is facing off against the Sonoma County Sol in the final of the National Premier Soccer League’s West Region. The Sol are the number one seed in the playoffs and will host the final today at Santa Rosa High School. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

NorCal Lamorinda United advanced to the final by beating the Bay Area Ambassadors, 1-0, last Sunday in a game at their home stadium, Miramonte High School.

If NorCal Lamorinda United is able to pull off the victory in today’s final, they will be invited to the NPSL’s Final Four Championship Weekend in Madison, Wisc., against the champions of the three other regions.

Posted on Saturday, July 18th, 2009
Under: Lamorinda, Sports | No Comments »

LMSC/LMYA Day at the FC Gold Pride game

At the Saturday, Aug. 1, home game for the FC Gold Pride against the Washington Freedom, the Gold Pride will be offering a special ticket deal for all families of soccer players of Lamorinda Soccer Club or LMYA. The game is scheduled to start at 3:00 p.m.

The special ticket deal includes an endline section seat and a chance to meet and get autographs from the players after the game.

To purchase a ticket through the special deal, visit the following link and enter “Lamorinda” as the promo code:

The FC Gold Pride, who play in the Women’s Professional Soccer League, play their home games at Buck Shaw Stadium on the campus of Santa Clara University.

Posted on Friday, July 17th, 2009
Under: Lamorinda, Sports | No Comments »

Fire ablaze off Highway 24 in Orinda

There is a fire in the brush area off of westbound Highway 24 in Orinda. The fire is located between the Orinda and St. Stephens exits.

Firefighters believe there is no threat to any property, and that the fire should be under control shortly.

Although the fire is off to the side of the highway, the far right lane on westbound Highway 24 has been closed and is causing some major traffic in the area. Vehicles are currently moving about 20-30 miles per hour through the area, but the traffic is slowly building up and slowing down the entire highway.

Posted on Thursday, July 16th, 2009
Under: Lamorinda, Orinda, Roads | No Comments »