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Archive for September, 2010

Lamorinda weekend reading

In case you missed it:

Early greatness on the gridiron: Lamorinda football teams are (as of 5:30 p.m. Friday) undefeated.

It looks like Moraga’s got a new town manager.

Lafayette will have to revise its housing element yet again after the state for a third time declined to certify it.

A hung jury means a man accused of vehicular manslaughter in a fatal 2007 vehicle pile-up near Acalanes High School will head to retrial.

State laws prohibiting campaign signs along freeways lead to confusion in Orinda.

The latest standardized test results are in from the state, and (surprise, surprise), Lamorinda schools did really, really well.

A small brush fire in Orinda led to some smoky conditions along Highway 24 on Wednesday.

Festivals abound. Art and Wine in Lafayette. Pears in Moraga.

And it only took me two weeks, but here are the profiles of all five candidates for Orinda school board: Tyson Krumholz, Christopher Severson, Julie Rossiter, Bekki Van Voorhis-Gilbert and Sarah Butler.

Posted on Friday, September 17th, 2010
Under: Lafayette, Lamorinda, Moraga, Orinda, Schools, Sports | No Comments »

OUSD election profile: Sarah Butler

Sarah Butler 2010Last in our series of profiles of candidates for the Orinda Union School District governing board.

In running for the school board, Sarah Butler touts her history of experience volunteering in the schools. The 12-year Orinda resident has been an EFO board member, a School Site Council member at Glorietta and Miramonte, a coordinator for parcel tax measures A (Acalanes) and B (OUSD) and on the Acalanes Budget Advisory Committee, among other positions.

“I feel like I would have a lot to offer because I have a lot of background, not only in the classroom but in key committees,” she said.

Butler has two children, one at Orinda Intermediate and another at Miramonte. She has spent the last few years volunteering the schools but before that worked in environmental planning.

Echoing her fellow school board candidates, Butler said the biggest issue facing the district is the fiscal crisis. In the face of that crisis, she said, the board needs to look at all options for dealing with budget woes while at the same time preserving the district’s reputation for high-quality education.

“We would have to look at all options and the key is having a good community process about it to get feedback from all stakeholders,” Butler said, adding the most important things for the students are quality teachers and small class sizes.

Given the challenges, Butler said the district will have to consider an additional parcel tax and find out if there is community support for such a measure.

“I think it come down to what’s going to come from the state next year and do we live with that or explore other options for revenue as well?” she said. The district can also try for state and federal grants, but those are difficult to get, she added.

With three new members coming to the board, Butler said there will be a combination of experience and fresh faces. But she said she feels she brings a combination of both.

“I already have a knowledge of the school board meetings and how the school board operates,” she said.

Profiles of Tyson Krumholz, Christopher Severson, Julie Rossiter, and Bekki Van Voorhis-Gilbert.

Posted on Friday, September 17th, 2010
Under: Orinda, Schools | No Comments »

Jill Keimach is Moraga’s new town manager

Jill KeimachMoraga didn’t go far to find its new town manager. The council is set to appoint Jill Keimach, currently the community development director in Fremont, to the town’s top job on Wednesday night.

The council began searching for a new town manager after Mike Segrest, who currently holds the job, announced in May he was stepping down for personal reasons.

Keimach has worked for the city of Fremont for six years. Before that, the UC Berkeley alum held a similar position in El Cerrito.

As community development director, Keimach oversees the city’s building, planning and engineering departments as well the Development Services Team, the city’s “one-stop shop” for permits, according to her bio page on the Fremont website. She was most recently in the news in my colleague Matthew Artz’s article about Fremont’s refusal to accept a world where slanted parking is head-in only.

Keimach will begin on Nov. 1 and make a base salary of $168,000 plus benefits, per the employment agreement the council will vote on Wednesday. That’s a significant pay cut for Keimach, who currently makes $206,881 in Fremont, according to Bay Area News Group’s public employee salary database.

The agreement does not include a housing or moving allowance. Some residents criticized the council for giving Segrest a $3,000 monthly housing allowance for a year to help him relocate from Colorado.

A full story will be posted on the Times website later today, but here’s the quote I got from Keimach yesterday afternoon:

I’m very excited about the opportunity. I think the town of Moraga is a wonderful community that appreciates and preserves its open space, and I also am anxious to work with the town on improving or creating a viable commercial core to help with bringing in additional sales tax to the community and I’m anxious to get to know the community and for it to get to know me.

UPDATE 5:00 p.m.: Keimach told me because she is so close to Moraga (she lives in Berkeley) she and the council agreed that a housing allowance was not the best use of the town’s funds. She said she would be open to moving to the town after her kids graduate high school.

Posted on Friday, September 17th, 2010
Under: Moraga | No Comments »

Gael Rail shuttle back in service

The Gael Rail has begun service once again, providing a safe way for St. Mary’s students and the public to travel from Lafayette BART into Moraga.

The shuttle will take a route from Lafayette BART to the St. Mary’s campus; however, drivers may make stops along the route or at Ascot Drive if it is requested by passengers.

The Gael Rail’s hours are 9:30 p.m. to 12:45 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and 6:30 p.m. to 1:25 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Students can ride the shuttle for free, while it is $2 for the public.

The shuttle will also be running throughout the duration of the Lafayette Art & Wine Festival.

Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2010
Under: Lafayette, Moraga | No Comments »

Moraga council to appoint new town manager

Moraga will likely have a new town manager next week. A resolution appointing a new manager and the employment agreement are on next Wednesday’s Town Council agenda. Current Town Manager Mike Segrest is leaving for personal reasons.

Check back here Friday morning for more information on this story.

Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2010
Under: Moraga | No Comments »

Highway 24 fire in Orinda

A fire started shortly before 1:20 p.m. today near the Orinda exit off of Highway 24 eastbound. The fire spread out overĀ a 2.5-acre area between the Orinda exit off ramp and Highway 24.

Moraga-Orinda Fire District, Contra Costa County Fire District and East Bay Regional Park District fire crews all arrived to fight the blaze. A team of 60 firefighters from the multiple agencies were able to contain the fire in approximately 30 minutes.

The Orinda exit was closed while fire crews contained and fought the fire. Traffic was not affected much due to the time of the day the fire happened.

Posted on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Under: Orinda | No Comments »

Candidates’ forum schedule

Looks like there will be a number of opportunities for Lamorinda residents to hear directly from their local candidates before Nov. 2. Here’s a list of scheduled forums:

Lafayette City Council and Lafayette School District governing board: 7 p.m. Sept. 30, Sequoia Room, Lafayette Community Center, 500 St. Marys Road. Will feature both city council candidates and Lafayette school board candidates. There will also be a presentation Proposition 22, which is aimed at preventing state raids of local funds. Presented by the Lafayette Homeowners Council.

Moraga City Council: 7:30 p.m., Oct. 5, Holy Trinity Serbian Church, 1700 School Street. Sponsored by the Moraga Citizens Network and Moraga Movers.

Orinda City Council: 7-9 p.m. Oct. 13, Orinda Library auditorium, 26 Orinda Way. Sponsored by the Orinda Association.

Orinda Union School District governing board: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7, Glorietta Elementary School, 15 Martha Road. Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley, the Orinda Education Association and the Orinda Association.

Don’t forget, you can always view the Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda council forums sponsored by the Times and the League of Women Voters here.

Posted on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Orinda candidates run into state sign laws

UPDATE #2: Orinda City Clerk Michele Olsen said she called Caltrans about signs along the freeway after receiving about 10 complaints from residents about the signs.

Candidates for public office sign a document when they file saying they will not place campaign signs on Caltrans land, Olsen said.

The city does not enforce freeway campaign sign regulations, she said, but will report violations to Caltrans when there are complaints. She said she has also given out Caltrans’ phone number to some residents, so its feasible the department received some direct calls from Orindans.

This all being said, who reports the violation is in some ways a moot point. State law prohibits campaign signs alongside landscaped freeways. Thus, if a sign is on the freeway, it is in violation of the law and anyone — the city, a resident — has a right to complain about it.

The problem for candidates is it’s difficult to tell where the freeway ends and city roads begins. Caltrans Regional Director Robert Songey acknowledged it’s a complicated issue. So the question then becomes, who is responsible for educating candidates about where signs are and are not allowed? The city? Caltrans? Or do candidates have the responsibility to educate themselves?

UPDATE: Tyson Krumholz said the Caltrans representative he spoke with told him the city called twice about signs near the freeway. Waiting to hear back from the city on this.

Orinda won’t enforce it’s sign regulations (or at least those pertaining to campaign signs) but that doesn’t mean Caltrans won’t.

That’s the lesson local candidates learned when they discovered signs they had placed at the corner of Camino Pablo and the Highway 24 west offramp had been removed.

But the city didn’t take the signs down; the state Department of Transportation did.

Here’s a picture provided by Orinda school board candidate Bekki Van Voorhis-Gilbert of the signs at the Caltrans facility in Walnut Creek.

CalTrans candidate signs cropped.pjg

The partially obscured green sign is for Orinda council candidate Scott Zeller. I’m not sure who belongs to the slogan, “Less Talk, More Action.”

According to California Business and Professions Code article 8 section 5440:

… no advertising display may be placed or maintained on property adjacent to a section of a freeway that has been landscaped if the advertising display is designed to be viewed primarily by persons traveling on the main-traveled way of the landscaped freeway.

State law defines “landscaped freeway” as one that has been improved on at least one side with trees, plants or other vegetation. There are exceptions to the no sign rule, but none of them apply to campaign signs.

How are candidates to tell what falls under Caltrans jurisdiction? The freeway right-of-way will be delineated by a fence, said Regional Manager Robert Songey. Signs cannot be inside of that fence or attached to the fence, he said.

In the Orinda case, Songey said, Caltrans responded to a complaint from an Orinda resident. But he said Caltrans workers will also take down signs if they’re working in an area and notice them, and are especially vigilant during campaign seasons.

Orinda school board candidate Tyson Krumholz said the city should provide more information about where city land ends and state land begins.

“Where that starts and stops, the city should truly define that so CalTrans doesn’t have to waste its time,” he said.

Posted on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Under: Orinda, Roads | No Comments »

Where did the Moraga council minutes go?

The website for Moraga Council candidates Dennis and Eleni Wanken has just about everything you could ask for in a campaign website. Billboard-style labeling? Check. Alternating bolded, italicized and underlined fonts? Check. Images of incumbents with red x’s across their faces? Check.

But the section labeled “Transparency” caught my eye. As evidence of the town’s lack of transparency, the Wankens cite the fact that the town has not posted minutes from council meetings online since mid-2008. This struck me as odd because, although minutes have never been easy to find out the town’s website, I know I’ve been able to peruse them in the past.

I went back to the town’s website today to confirm my recollection and was surprised to find that there are no minutes to be found anywhere, not even from 2008 or earlier. So what gives?

A couple of things, said Town Clerk Marty McInturf. First, she said she is simply crunched for time and can’t always get minutes posted right away. Because of their time sensitivity, agendas and council packets get a higher priority.

But McInturf also said many of the minutesĀ  previously posted were done so when Moraga did not have a town clerk, so she is in the process of “auditing” them to make sure they’re the correct, official versions. The minutes have been taken off the website during that process, she said, but she plans to upload some meeting minutes soon.

Posted on Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

OUSD election profile: Bekki Van Voorhis-Gilbert

Bekki Van Voorhis-Gilbert cropped 2010Fourth in our series of profiles of candidates for the Orinda Union School District governing board.

Bekki Van Voorhis-Gilbert has lived in Orinda for eight years and has two children at Wagner Ranch Elementary School: a son in sixth grade and a daughter in fourth grade. Van Voorhis-Gilbert is a former attorney and professor, but now volunteers in her children’s school, including a stint as the chair of the Parent Education program.

“There’s hardly a day when I’m not at the school doing something,” she said.

Van Voorhis-Gilbert, 44, made news last year as the founder of Save Environmental Education in Orinda, a group that tried unsuccessfully to preserve the job of Wanger Ranch Nature Area naturalist Toris Jaeger. Now, she said, she’s running for the school board to offer an alternative to the status quo. In her discussions with community members over the past year and a half, she said there’s a sentiment that although the district is doing well academically, there is a sense that it has grown unresponsive to the community. To increase transparency, she said, the board should move its meetings from 4 p.m. to later in the day and make board packets as well as the district’s budget available online.

For Van Voorhis-Gilbert, the number one issue for the district is updating its strategic plan to acknowledge the fact that schools are coping with the effects of the recession and identify a way to preserve programs despite funding cuts. Unoccupied classrooms and playing fields as well as the Wagner Ranch Nature Area could be rented out to generate income for the district, she suggested. There should also be a full examination of administrative salaries and benefits, she said.

“Just as most of us have changed our spending habits because of the economic downtown, I think the district needs to engage in the same kind of downsizing,” Van Voorhis-Gilbert said.

The district could already be operating as efficiently as possible, she said, but the community has no way of knowing if it is because the district has not made financial information readily available.

If the district reaches out to the community, the community will respond in kind with donations, she said. And if cuts have to be made, she added, they should be kept as far away from the classroom as possible.

“I think parents will be much more inclined to give at generous levels if they feel they have a say in how it’s being spent,” Van Voorhis-Gilbert said.

As for serving on a board with three new members, Van Voorhis-Gilbert acknowledged the district will lose a bit of institutional memory but added, given the fiscal crisis, now may be a perfect opportunity to bring in fresh faces and new perspectives.

“(The candidates are) five parents, all of whom, I think, are educated and interested in volunteering for a job that’s really tough,” she said.

Profiles of Tyson Krumholz, Christopher Severson and Julie Rossiter. Upcoming profile: Sarah Butler.

Posted on Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
Under: Orinda, Schools | No Comments »