An idea worth having

Bob Wieckowski has a lot of ideas. Sometimes they’re pretty good. When the council gave the green light to Patterson Ranch, Wieckowski suggested the Pattersons donate an additional 5 acres of open space west of Ardenwood Boulevard that the school district could trade to the city, to expand Ardenwood Elementary School onto City parkland.

The next week, the urban planner, known in city circles as Fris, sent this letter to the school district making the offer.


What does the school district think about the offer?
Too early to tell.

Here’s what the superintendent wrote:
I am appreciative that Mr. Frisbie is looking to find ways to help the District address the historic overcrowding in north Fremont. The Board of Education Members and I have held meetings with the community and we have heard a range of opinions about options that meet the needs to new and future residents of north Fremont. I can assure you that there is no easy answer to mitigate the lack of school seats in the Patterson communities of Forest Park, Villa D’Este, Ardenwood and the new Patterson Ranch. While I cannot comment on how the District will respond to the correspondence at this time because our Board has not taken a position on the offer, I know our Board remains committed to working with the community, the City, and the developers to finally address this long-standing concern.

And here’s the first paragraph of the letter, which I know is tough to read:
Patag, a California Limited Partnership with the General Partner, PFM, Inc., a California Corporation
(“Patag”) hereby makes an offer of dedication to the Fremont Unified School District Continue Reading


Fremont budget talk

I don’t always listen too closely to what’s said at city council meetings now that there’s free WiFi inside the council chambers. But this past week, Councilmember Wieckowski said something that grabbed my attention and made me click away from espn.com.

He was trying to make the argument that city folks had taken their lumps and cut the fat to balance the budget, but it didn’t come out right. It sounded — to me — like he was scolding residents for not wanting to tax themselves. Given the news that one in seven dollars spent by Fremont next fiscal year is projected to pay for pensions, I got a little riled up.

The next day, before work, I replayed the first half of the council meeting on my computer and recorded the part that got me peeved.

I don’t know what came over me. I even started feeling sympathy for my editor, who’s a 60+ year-old Fremont resident with no pension and no hope of retiring anytime soon. The editor lost my goodwill Friday by blasting me for mistakenly writing in a photo caption that a group of young Sikhs were from the Fremont Hindu Temple. Oops. I blame Guru Nanak.

Here’s the recording of the part that got my goat:

It’s like the 2012 tax measure slogan from hell. “Vote Yes on Measure ??, because Fremont you haven’t done squat.”

On Friday I asked Wieckowski about it. He said it wasn’t his best showing. And he also said that pensions are a tough issue that have to be addressed.

To pay more taxes to pay a pension is not what someone is going to want to do. It just galls at people. It’s very tough to defend. I get that.

Wieckowski also said that employees will have to decide whether they are willing to give up some benefits to improve public service.

I think public employees get it. It’s a difficult position to defend: You’re entitled to 90 percent of your pay (in retirement). Where else do you get that?


Dreadful loss

Even worse than Eli Manning’s head-first slide tonight was my effort at the ping pong table last month against Fremont’s fiercest 80-year-old atheist, David Mandell.

I thought he’d be weighed down by that pin with with a slash through the word “God,” or slowed by his lack of footwear. But he was surprisingly nimble for an old fart, and he made mincemeat out of me.

My only solace is that Jesus likes me more, and that we weren’t playing for the Harper Street House, Berkeley, USA Ping-Pong Title, which I still hold.

The only thing worse than losing was having to write about it. The story ran Saturday. Read it here.


New life for the Center Theater/Park Theater

From the Argus headquarters on Fremont Boulevard, I’ve seen lots of changes to the Park Theater. In fact, the marquee doesn’t even say Park Theater anymore. As you can see below, it’s now an Afghan Cultural Center, and it’s also soon to be the home of an Afghan television station.


The first big performance will be next weekend by this gent:


I’m supposed to talk to the new folks in charge on Monday, so I’ll have a better idea then as to their plans and whether there’s any shot that they’d sell to the city, which still wants to turn the theater into a community arts center.


Fremont doesn’t want to lead on plastic grocery bags

On Tuesday, the City Council is scheduled to once again consider regulating plastic grocery bags. The city report is out, and it recommends that Fremont hold its horses and save some money by waiting for the county-wide effort that’s supposed to start next year.

The Chamber of Commerce is very opposed to Fremont stepping out on its own with a city-wide ban. If the city did opt for its own ban, which would cost more moolah, but take less time than waiting for the county, the plan would be to ban plastic bags and charge people for paper bags.


Italian living in Irvington

I really like it when developers name their bare-bones projects after rugged English countryside manors or Italian villas. So much more tranquil sounding than Norteño Ridge or IVT Estates.

In Fremont, the City Council is set on Tuesday to approve the Villas at Florio, 22 townhouses at Fremont Boulevard and Carol Avenue that will be about as Italian as the bread sticks at Olive Garden.


Fremont News of the Day

fremontFrom the cops:

Police were called to Washington High School after a teacher overheard a student say she had her dad’s gun in her locker. Finding the locker proved difficult because students often take over vacant lockers, and the student wasn’t in a cooperative mood. Police dogs sniffed 1,100 lockers but didn’t go gaga for any of them.   No gun found.

A guy police label as a “professional crook” got the crap beaten out of him by two guys, one of whom had a baseball bat, outside a 7-Eleven. The crook and one of the other guys were fighting over a woman, and then the third man entered the fracas to back up his buddy, who was fighting the professional crook.  Both men were later arrested in Union City.

A 10-year-old girl was hit by a car on Darwin near Bridgewater. She sustained what appeared to be minor injuries and was taken to Children’s Hospital.

This happened on Wednesday. An officer saw two people who appeared to be trying to break into a truck around Deep Creek Road. He detained one and the other jumped a fence. Turned out they were only trying to tag the truck.

From the wire
Tesla wants to build electric RAV4 in Fremont
The Fremont Bulletin wrote about the City Council’s NUMMI redevelopment discussion


Pacific Commons update

pacific commonsA reader directed me to this page, which contains the minutes of a recent Planning Commission meeting on Pacific Commons:

Here are the highlights:

  • The new movie theater/target development zone will be called “The Block at Pacific Commons.”
  • National, regional and local restaurant chains are interested in the development
  • Don’t expect restaurants already in Pac Commons to relocate to The Block
  • Target will remain at The Hub, but no guarantee about the one at NewPark
  • There’s a lease signed for a retailer at the former Linens N Things and Office Depot space. The leasing brochure shows it as a Toys R Us/Babies R Us.

To see the site plan, click here.

Also, Any Mountain opens Sunday at Pacific Commons.

Newark pension rates are lower than Fremont’s

I spoke to Newark City Manager John Becker, who’s got his own set of problems, but pension rates over 30 percent aren’t one of them.

Where’s Fremont will be paying 36 cents on the dollar next fiscal year to fund police and fire pensions, Newark will be paying a little over 22 cents.

Here’s the breakdown for fiscal year 2011

Public safety pension rate:
Fremont: 36.5 percent
Newark: 22.5 percent

Non sworn
Fremont: 22.9 percent
Newark: 14.2 percent

Part of the reason Newark pays less for police pensions is that Newark police contribute 13 percent of their pay to their pensions compared with 9 percent for Fremont police. Union City police don’t pay anything.

Becker said there are several other factors such as salaries and age of workforce.

Happy Birthday to Mayor Smith. He turns 65 today. He’s been mayor for half his life.



Council meeting odds and ends

I’m not going to have space to fit any of this stuff into a tight budget story I’m writing today.

  • Councilmember Anu Natarajan pushed for community budget workshops were folks could get a better sense of what the city is up against and try to prioritize services.
  • Councilmember Sue Chan said her China trip was planned way in advance and it was just coincidence she missed that vote on the Glenmoor day care center that pitted two of her closest political allies. I asked her how she would have voted. She said it didn’t matter since there were already three votes to approve the day care.
  • The city is still monitoring lawsuits filed against Lehman Brothers, but there’s no guarantee the city will get back the money it lost on its Lehman investment. Bill Harrison raised that question. Very rare for a council member to raise a question on an unpleasant item in the middle of a council meeting.
  • The city is going to hire a lobbyist to fight in Sacramento for aspects of the NUMMI redevelopment.