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Zeller out-raises Orinda rivals, with caveat

Scott Zeller technically has raised more money than his Orinda City Council rivals, according to campaign reports filed Tuesday. Why technically? Nearly two-thirds of his contribution total, $10,000, is from himself. Take that out, and Amy Worth leads by far. Numbers are for this calendar year through Sept. 30:

  • Tom McCormick: $2,547 in contributions, $2,836.04 in expenses and $1,548.84 cash in hand
  • Dean Orr: $9,713 in contributions (including $1,490 from himself), $3,640.66 in expenses and $6,072.34 cash in hand
  • Sue Severson: Filed a short-form report saying she has spent under $1,000. Severson also sent a letter to City Clerk Michele Olsen saying she has not accepted campaign donations and has spent $977.07 on signs, ads and fliers.
  • Amy Worth: $14,832 in contributions, $14,878.95 in expenses and $4,097.92 cash in hand. Worth also has a $3,817.29 outstanding loan from herself.
  • Scott Zeller: $15,020 in contributions, $9,493.63 in expenses and $5,526.79 cash in hand

Posted on Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
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Lafayette fire station off brownout list for now

Contra Costa Fire Chief Daryl Louder found out today that just because Lafayette is not included on the district’s “brownout” list doesn’t mean Lafayette residents aren’t going to tell the board not to close that station anyway.

Here’s the news from today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, which I just watched online: The fire district, for now, is not considering closing fire station 16, on Los Arabis Drive, in Lafayette. The district does plan on browning out a station in Pittsburg as well as removing a unit from the downtown Walnut Creek station.

But Louder admitted that plan depends on the district obtaining new revenue in the near future through a parcel tax, special assessment or some other means. If that doesn’t happen, he said, “There will be draconian cuts in (fiscal year 2011-12).” And the board, without making any final decisions on what stations would be browned out, wants to have a study session to further look at the issue.

Mindful of that fact, a number of representatives from Lafayette Homeowners groups spoke to the board about the importance of Station 16.

“I’m not going to let that sit still because I know it’s not settled yet,” said George Figone.

Posted on Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
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Lamorinda weekend reading

Weekly prep football watch: 3-0 for all three teams.

Weekly epic-ness: Lafayette native with cerebral palsy scales El Capitan.

Neither the Dollar Tree nor Dollar Tree opponents are happy with the Planning Commission’s now-appealed approval of the store. (Maybe they’d prefer an In-N-Out?)

A gas leak in downtown Orinda late Wednesday night prompted the evacuation of 14 residents.

It’s a surprisingly quiet Moraga-Orinda Fire District election. Here’s some more info on the two people running.

Live near St. Mary’s? It might be loud tonight.

Posted on Friday, September 24th, 2010
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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
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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 minutes  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
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Moraga Pear Festival coming up

The 2010 Moraga Pear Festival will take place at the Moraga Commons on Saturday, Sept. 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The festival will have a variety of entertainment, activities and contests for adults, kids and families throughout the day.

The feature contest of the festival is the Pear Recipe Contest. Entries into the contest must be delivered by noon and include the recipe, the cook’s contact information, and, of course, a sample of the food item. Winners will be announced at 1:00 p.m.

There will also be a children’s coloring contest with entires being accepted until 1:30 p.m and winners being announced at 2:30 p.m.

Pear pies will be for sale throughout the day.

Posted on Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
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OUSD election profile: Julie Rossiter

Julie Rossiter 2010.jpgThird in our series of profiles of candidates for the Orinda Union School District governing board.

Julie Rossiter has lived in Orinda for six years. She is a lawyer, although she is not currently practicing, and has volunteered in the schools in a number of capacities in recent years. She is currently the Del Rey legislative representative to the Las Trampas Creek Council and has also served as treasurer for the Del Rey annual fund and the Measure A representative to Del Rey. She has three children: a son, 12, and two daughters, 10 and 4.

Rossiter said she attended public schools growing up on Long Island in New York and that her mother was a librarian. She’ll have children in the district until 2020, she said, and “I’m a concerned parent trying to make a difference in my kid’s education.”

The biggest issue facing the district, she said, is the budget (no surprise there). Orinda is fortunate because of all the local funding it gets through donations and parcel taxes, she said, but the board’s most difficult task is always trying to provide the best possible education while coping with budget cuts.

When it comes to solving the budget problem, Rossiter said nothing should be taken off the table, including another parcel tax.

“I don’t think anybody wants to go out and (ask for) more taxes and money,” she said, but the reality is Orinda is one of the worst-funded districts in one of the worst-funded states. Despite that, she added, it still manages to be one of the best districts in the state.

“I do think when you’re looking at cuts try to keep it as far away from the classroom as possible,” Rossiter said. The board should look at ways to increase its operating efficiencies as well as pursue federal and state grants, she said.

Because there will be so many new faces on the board, Rossiter said, it’s important to bring in the best people possible. She said her experience as an attorney means she has strong analytical skills and the ability to process large amounts of information. And even though there will be three new board members, those that remain have a great deal of knowledge, she said.

“I’m excited about running and I look forward to serving on the board and trying to maintain the great education in Orinda that our students are receiving,” Rossiter said.

Profiles of Tyson Krumholz and Christopher Severson. Upcoming profiles: Bekki Van Voorhis-Gilbert and Sarah Butler.

Posted on Thursday, September 9th, 2010
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On the agendas tonight: Dollar Tree, signs

Orinda City Council
7 p.m., Orinda Library Auditorium, 26 Orinda Way

Staff has included an agenda item on the city’s recently-passed new sign ordinance, which has come under fire as potentially limiting political speech. The staff plans to bring the issue back to the council in the future, but are giving council members a chance to provide feedback tonight.

The new ordinance went into effect Aug. 20 and places a number of limitations on “temporary portable signs,” a category that includes campaign signs. Among them:

  • Each property may only have one sign
  • Candidates are limited to a total of four signs on public rights of way (within four feet of roadway) in residential districts, and only on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • No campaign signs are allowed in the downtown without a sign permit

City Clerk Michele Olsen sent an e-mail to City Council and school board candidates on Aug. 30 detailing the new regulations. On Sept. 1, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California sent a letter to the city saying the one-sign-per-property rule limits residents’ right to free speech and the time constraints on public rights of way favor commercial signage over campaign signs.

“The First Amendment constrains a government’s ability to impose restrictions on the display of political signs, and (the new sign ordinance) simply goes too far,” wrote ACLU legal director Alan Schlosser.

On Sept. 2, Olsen again e-mailed the candidates informing them the city would not be enforcing the new regulations but asking them to “use your best judgment when placing signs in the Public Right of Way.”

The council will also be getting an update on the upcoming downtown plan workshops tonight. The agenda and staff reports are available here.

Moraga Planning Commission:
7:30 p.m., Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School, 1010 Camino Pablo

Another go-around for the Dollar Tree application. Here’s a recap for those just joining us. Planning staff will bring back to the commission an updated resolution that approves the store but places a number of conditions on its interior appearance, such as maintaining a “showroom” rather than a “warehouse” display.

The staff report is also very clear that planners do not agree with residents who claim the store will have a negative impact on home values, saying based on their research (done, apparently, primarily on the Internet) only two types of businesses send assessments downward: nuclear power plants and oil refineries.

“The argument that a Dollar Tree store will bring down home prices in Moraga or start a downward spiral for the stores in the Rheem Center is totally unsubstantiated by any factual information,” according to the staff report.

You can find the agenda packet for tonight’s meeting here.

Posted on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
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Lamorinda council debates

Got 30 minutes? Check out these roundtables of council candidates from Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda. They were taped last week and moderated by my colleague, Times political editor Lisa Vorderbrueggen. They’re about a half-hour each.

Lafayette City Council:

Moraga Town Council:

Orinda City Council:

Posted on Friday, September 3rd, 2010
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New cafe/bakery and day camp coming to Lafayette

La Boulange, a café and bakery, is set to open Sept. 1 in Lafayette after final inspections were successfully completed last week. La Boulange will be located at 3597 Mt. Diablo Blvd. The successful chain has stores open throughout San Francisco, two in Marin County and one in Danville. For more information, visit their website at

Sienna Ranch, located off of Deer Hill Road in Lafayette, recently had its request to amend its land-use permit approved by the Planning Commission, so that the facility can be used to host camps, classes and other events. For more information about Sienna Ranch, visit

Posted on Wednesday, August 25th, 2010
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