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Archive for October, 2009

Search for new MOFD chief continues

Moraga-Orinda Fire District officials had hoped to have the search for a new fire chief wrapped up by the end of September, but they’re well past that unofficial deadline and it’s unclear right now then the district will have a new leader.

The Board of Directors has been meeting with consultants and interviewing candidates for several weeks now. Board President Pete Wilson told me today that the list of candidates is down to three but declined to say much more. The search is being led by consultants Bill Avery and Larry Bienati, who received over 50 applicants for the position. Various stakeholder groups and the board have whittled that number down to where it currently is.

Current Chief Pete Nowicki told me he has not been led to believe they have made a final decision, but added he’s been told not to schedule any more meetings on the issue. He said he would need 3-4 weeks to transfer command of the department to the new chief. His current contract expires Oct. 30, and an extension is on the agenda for Wednesday, so if there’s no announcement of a new chief, how long that extension is could be a clue to how close they are to hiring someone. Under his retirement plan, Nowicki can work as a consultant up to 6 months in a fiscal year, meaning he could potentially work until Dec. 31 since the fiscal year begins July 1.

In somewhat related news, here’s our article about Antioch’s police chief announcing his plans to retire but then come back as a consultant. Nowicki, of course, is “double dipping” as well, and most of the attention focused on the district lately has been on the pension he is drawing concurrently with his salary.

The MOFD meeting is Wednesday at 5 p.m., though it will begin in closed session. It will take place at the fire station at 1280 Moraga Way.

Posted on Monday, October 19th, 2009
Under: Crime, Moraga, Orinda, Roads | No Comments »

Nor Cal Kids Triathlon

On Saturday, Nov. 14, Miramonte High School will be the site of the Nor Cal Kids Triathlon. The event, which will go from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., is open to kids from kindergarten to twelfth grade.

There will be courses set up for all three events in a triathlon: running, swimming and biking. Participants will be timed in each event individually. Winners will be determined in several different age groups.

There is a $40 fee per participant. Additional participants from the same family need to pay a $35 fee. Proceeds from the event go into the Orinda Community Fund.

For more information and to register for the event, visit

Posted on Sunday, October 18th, 2009
Under: Orinda, Schools, Sports | No Comments »

Miramonte dominates Campolindo; Acalanes suffers first DFAL loss

The Miramonte High School football team made a statement in their DFAL rivalry game against Campolindo Friday night, shocking the Cougars with a 30-7 victory. The Matadors missed the shutout by just over a minute as the Cougars scored their only touchdown of the game late in the fourth quarter. The Matadors dominated the game using formations similar to the “wildcat” formation with running backs and wide receivers taking snaps from center. The formations left the Cougars confused as Miramonte rushed for 284 yards in the game.

Acalanes faced off against Alhambra in a meeting of DFAL unbeatens. The Dons came up just short in the end, as Alhambra won the game, 28-25.

Posted on Saturday, October 17th, 2009
Under: Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Schools, Sports | No Comments »

Orinda house fire was no accident

A house fire at 29 Descanso Drive in Orinda on Tuesday was started intentionally, according to police investigators. Evidence of accelerants were found in the home, although police have not yet released the cause of the fire.

A woman and her teenage son were home at the time of the fire. The son escaped the home safely, but the woman required the help of neighbors.

The woman received major second and third degree burns across her body and was rushed to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek.

The fire caused more than $160,000 in damage to the home.

The names of the family were not immediately released by police.

Posted on Friday, October 16th, 2009
Under: Crime, Orinda | No Comments »

Fire up the Wayback Machine for Barney the dog

In tomorrow’s Sun and Times there should be a brief about Barney the toy poodle from Lafayette passing away earlier this month. Some readers may recall that Barney gained international fame when his owner, Donald Miller, registered him to vote to point out deficiencies in the voter registration process. Multiple news organizations from around the globe covered the story, including the Times.

Here’s the original story that ran on the front page of the Times on  March 15, 2002:

Man dogged for registering pet Republican

By Jewel Gopwani
Times Staff Writer

Contra Costa County Superior Court expects Barnabas R. Miller to report to jury duty later this month.

There’s one thing that will keep that from happening.

Barnabas is a dog.

Now the 9-year-old toy poodle’s owner, Donald Miller, has to explain how Barney’s name landed in the pool of prospective jurors.

The Lafayette resident registered Barney to vote a few years ago to prove a point.

“If I can register my dog, then anybody can register, ” Miller said.

Miller, 78, said by registering his dog, he showed that the registration process has gaps that could allow non-U.S. citizens to register and vote.

“You’re supposed to be a citizen. He doesn’t even have a driver’s license, ” said Miller, a retired shop iron worker.

The county and the state are not pleased with Miller’s experiment.

“He can make that a point to his assemblyperson. He should not make his point in this manner, ” said Candy Lopez, assistant registrar in Contra Costa County.

Voters sign the bottom of their registration cards to confirm that all of the submitted information is true.

“The voter is signing under penalty of perjury that the information is correct, ” said Shad Balch, spokesman for the Secretary of State. He said individuals convicted of perjury could be fined and jailed up to four years.

Miller, who signed the registration card, said he didn’t think registering his dog would be illegal. “I didn’t give it a thought, ” he said.

But Miller said he never submitted a ballot for Barney, a registered Republican.

“I have never let him vote, because that would be considered a felony.”

Balch said it is sometimes difficult to tell when someone falsifies information on their voter registration card.

“Registering to vote in California is highly based on the honor system. We try to make it a very simple process, ” he said.

The system has changed since Miller registered to vote almost 60 years ago in Ohio, where he had to show his birth certificate to register.

California had a similar system requiring in-person registration. But Lopez said the state in the 1970s started allowing people to register by mail.

Miller said he’s not sure what he will tell the court. He has a few more days to send an affidavit answering the jury summons.

“I just want to see what comes out of this, ” Miller said. “I hope I can get some reaction of some of the public officials.”

Posted on Thursday, October 15th, 2009
Under: Lafayette | No Comments »

Fatal accident on Highway 24 in Orinda

A taxi driver was killed around 1:40 a.m. this morning when his taxi was hit by a big rig. The accident occurred just east of Camino Pablo in the westbound lanes of Highway 24 in Orinda.

The taxi driver, Adimas Kassie, 33, of Daly City, died at the scene.

According to the California Highway Patrol, Kassie lost control of his car and hit the center divider. While he attempted to drive to the right shoulder, his taxi was clipped by a car, and he ended up in the path of the big rig. When the big rig attempted to avoid the collision, the trailer jackknifed and slid into Kassie’s taxi.

Posted on Thursday, October 15th, 2009
Under: Orinda, Roads | No Comments »

Local art exhibits

The Hearst Gallery, located on the campus of St. Mary’s College behind the chapel, currently has an exhibit on display called “Out of This World: Real & Imagined Images of Our Solar System.” The exhibit combines space art, photography and computers. The exhibit is open through Dec. 13, Wednesdays through Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The Moraga Art Gallery, located in the Rheem Valley Shopping Center, will host the Lamorinda Art Alliance Open Studios on Oct. 17 and 18 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. A special artists’ reception will be held Oct. 16 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. A gallery called “Bold Statements” is also on display at the Moraga Art Gallery until Oct. 31.

Posted on Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
Under: Moraga, Schools | No Comments »

Part of Camino Sobrante closed

So far today it seems like Orinda has borne the brunt of the storm in Lamorinda. Moraga Public Works officials say there have been some rock slides and downed tree limbs but nothing major as a result of the storm.


UPDATE 4:15: Manzanita bridge is open to traffic. Also, per the post office folks in Canyon, the power has “amazingly” stayed on and Pinehurst Road is not washed out.


UPDATE 3:20: More storm-related trouble in Orinda: The Manzanita Bridge, on Manzanita Drive just east of Camino Pablo, is closed due to a fallen tree in the roadway. Public Works crews are on the scene. The city is also reporting overflowing storm drains on some parts of Moraga Way. Camino Sobrante remains closed. And then of course there is that jackknifed big rig that managed to close parts of both directions of 24 west of the Orinda exit (as Shane reported, it’s no longer blocking eastbound lanes).

Lafayette City Manager Steven Falk says aside from some clogged drains, there haven’t been any major storm-related incidents.


UPDATE 1:15: There is an oak tree and several power lines down on Camino Sobrante, the city says. In addition, three power poles need to be replaced. PG&E estimates the road will be closed for 10 hours and the city is saying the most common alternate route is to take Miner Road up to the other end of Camino Sobrante. No other road closures at this time.


A downed power pole has closed a portion of Camino Sobrante in Orinda from Orinda Way to El Ribero, according to an alert just sent out by the city. PG&E, fire and city crews are on the scene.

Have any Lamorinda storm-related incidents to report? Anybody with power out? Post a comment, e-mail or tweet @sosaysjonathan.

Posted on Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Under: Orinda, Roads, Sports | No Comments »

Big rig accident blocks highway lanes in Orinda

The far left lane was blocked in both directions on Highway 24 in Orinda after a big rig driver heading westbound lost control of his truck’s trailer and crashed through the center divider just before 1:30 p.m. The trailer came to a stop on the center divider with each end of the truck blocking a lane of traffic.

The trailer has since been moved and is no longer blocking traffic heading eastbound. It is still affecting traffic in the westbound direction.

The weather conditions have been affecting traffic all day and are responsible for a number of accidents along the Highway 24 corridor.

Posted on Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Under: Orinda, Roads | No Comments »

MOFD distributing sand bags

The coming storm’s the big news topic today. If you’re in need of sandbags, the Moraga Orinda Fire District will be distributing them at two locations for residents who need or want them.

Residents can fill their sandbags at Station #43, 20 Via Las Cruces and Station #44, Station #44- 295 Orchard Road. Firefighters will help fill sandbags for seniors or others who may need it, a district official told me.

For more information contact the district at 925-258-4599.

Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2009
Under: Moraga, Orinda | No Comments »