Pothole cities?

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission today released a report ranking pavement conditions of local roads in the Bay Area. The average three-year pavement condition index (PCI) score for 2005-07 was 65 out of a possible 100 points.

Here’s how the various cities stacked up:

* Union City: score of 75

* Newark: 71

* Fremont: 68

Union City and Newark fell in the “good” range (70-79) while Fremont was in the “fair” range (60-69).

Newark was among the cities that saw its score plummet 4 points from last year. Only one other city, St. Helena, saw a greater decrease (-5).


image from Mark Griffith’s site at flickr.com

Newark Manager criticizes police/fire retirement benefit, Fremont manager silent

Tri-City area City Managers were asked last night about a pension benefit that allows police officers and firefighters to retire after 30 years of service and collect at least 90 percent of their final salary every year for the rest of their lives.

Newark’s John Becker didn’t hesitate to answer:

“That’s a huge problem,” he said of the pension benefit which is more generous than those allotted to any other type of public employee. But, he added, there isn’t much his city or others can do about it.

“Public safety unions exert a lot of influence,” he said. “They’re a very influential group at all levels of government.”

Union City Manager Larry Cheeves chimed in, “What John said is absolutely true.”

Fremont City Manager Fred Diaz didn’t say anything.

The forum, on the cities’ budget issues, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and moderated by former Fremont Councilmember Dominic Dutra.

I give Dutra a lot credit for bringing the high cost of public safety employees into the discussion.

It’s rarely mentioned during debates about property tax hikes or burglar alarm response, but it’s hard to have the public safety staffing people want when you’re paying police and fire well more than double the national average.

With The Argus going through yet another round of layoffs, I’ve recently started looking at the The Career Handbook, 2008-09 Edition. According to the handbook, the median salary for police officers in 2006 was $47,460. For firefighters, it was $41,190.

For sworn officers who made at least $70,000 in base salary in 2006, the average salary (including overtime) was $124,226. For firefighters, not including the chief and division chief, it was $136,333.

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New Haven expected to name superintendent Friday

The New Haven school board is expected to name a new superintendent Friday evening.

A special meeting has been called for 5:30 p.m. at the district office, 34200 Alvarado-Niles Road, Union City. The board will meet behind closed doors at first and, around 6 p.m., tentatively is scheduled to vote in public on the hiring of a new supe.

In all, 21 people applied for the position. The board, along with a panel of 20 community members, interviewed the top six candidates two weeks ago.

The new supe will replace Pat Jaurequi, who surprised everyone toward the end of summer when she announced she was leaving to become schools chief of San Juan Unified School District in Sacramento County. (Since school began, David Pava, last year’s deputy superintendent who was preparing to retire this month, has been serving as interim supe in New Haven.)

We’ll have a story in Saturday’s paper about the new leader.


Union City teen enters mayoral race

Kevin Armonio, an 18-year-old who graduated James Logan High in June, has qualified as a write-in candidate for the Union City mayoral race. He is the only person to challenge the current mayor, Mark Green, who is seeking re-election.

Armonio is studying political science at Chabot College. He said he doesn’t expect to win, but he entered the race to gain experience in politics. Ultimately, he wants to become a legislator.

I’ll have a story about Armonio in either tomorrow or Wednesday’s paper. (I’m working on getting a photo of him.)


Tri-City gang stats

I attended a gang and drug awareness info meeting at Washington High last night, put on by members of the Fremont PD and Southern Alameda County gang task force. Here are a few stats I picked up from the meeting:

* There are 3,105 known gang members in Fremont, Newark, Union City and parts of Hayward as of last month.

* About 98 to 99 percent of these gang members reside here.

* About 230 of these gang members are 14 to 17 years old.

* Some gang members are as young as 9 years old.


New Haven superintendent search process debated

There was an article in The Argus yesterday about the search for a new superintendent for the New Haven school district.

Long story short, some community members on the superintendent selection advisory committee criticized the process, saying they wish they had been given the opportunity to interact face-to-face with board members about the candidates. Instead, they apparently were instructed to direct their comments, one by one, to a facilitator while trustees sat in the back and listened. One committee member called the process “incomplete,” and Trustee Gwen Estes said, “It’s hard to call it a `community’ group when the community’s not involved.”

Today, another committee member, Michael Ritchie, sent an e-mail to trustees and others in the district, saying he was clear all along about how things would be handled. He also thanked the board for getting the community involved. Michael has given me permission to reprint his e-mail (in blue text). Check out his take on how things went: Continue Reading


Prop. 8 may have divided neighbors


UPDATE (10/20/08): As you can see, I finally managed to post this photo on the blog, which I had trouble doing last week.

In case you didn’t see it, there was a story in today’s paper about neighbors in Union City who had lived peacefully alongside each other for two decades until now. One family suspects their neighbor got upset when they hung a sign supporting Prop. 8 on a hedge bordering the properties.

The story has generated some buzz already. Unfortunately, the photos online are not the same as the main photo that ran in the print edition. It’s the photo in print that really tells the story. For some reason, I can’t upload that photo to this blog. I’ll consult with our photographers on Monday about putting the photo online (if I remember).


Campaign finance: not for the impatient

One thing I hate about elections season: campaign finance. Sure, it could be important, and even interesting, to know which candidates have accepted money from special-interest groups and who’s backing whom. But getting one’s hands on those financial statements always ends up being a big pain in the butt.

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Union City could dump Make a Difference Day

For the first time since I switched from covering Union City to Fremont last year, I want to go back. Because of Union City’s budget issues stemming from the loss of its illegal 911 tax, the city is considering canceling Make a Difference Day.

My apologies to all the do-gooders there; you guys are great, but, for some reason, after three years, writing about a bunch of average joes cleaning up goose poop at Lake Elizabeth just doesn’t rock my world.

I went bowling with an English teacher friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, and we made a bet. If I won, she’d have to write my Make a Difference advance story, and if she won, I’d have to grade her students’ homework assignment.

She beat me in the last frame.

FYI: No, I couldn’t have actually let her write the story, but I think with some guidance I will be grading homework. Should be an ego boost.