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Another screening of “Blossoms and Thorns” set in Richmond

The July 14 debut of “Blossoms and Thorns,” a documentary on the Japanese-American families that built a thriving flower-growing trade in Richmond and El Cerrito, was an unquestioned success, attracting more than 600 visitors to the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park Visitor Education Center at 1414 Harbor Way South in Richmond.
If you missed that screening, the short film will be shown again at 2 p.m. Friday at the visitors center, located at the back of the Ford Point Building.

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In case you were going to take AC Transit in Oakland on Monday

Commuters who take AC Transit to downtown Oakland should be aware of the following detours planned from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. for the visit by President Obama:

Bus Detours For President Obama Visit

AC Transit will temporarily re-route buses around downtown Oakland on Monday July 23rd in light of planned street closures to accommodate President Obama’s visit to the East Bay. Consequently, bus riders should expect service delays and disruptions throughout the affected area. .

In preparation for the President’s visit, please note that the following bus lines will be detoured from 11:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. and some regular stops will not be served:

Lines 1 and 1R to Berkeley will serve regular stops on 12th Street at Broadway and on Telegraph Avenue at 24th Street, but not regular stops between those points.

Lines 1 and 1R to Bay Fair BART will serve regular stops on 11th Street at Broadway and on Telegraph Avenue at West Grand Avenue (Line 1) or Telegraph Avenue at 24th Street (lines 1 and 1R), but not regular stops between those points.

Line 11 to the Dimond District will serve regular stops on Harrison Street at 21st Street and on 7th Street at Jackson Street, but not regular stops between those points.

Line 11 to Piedmont will serve regular stops on 8th Street at Jackson Street and on Harrison Street at Grand Avenue, but not regular stops between those points.

Line 12 to downtown Berkeley will serve regular stops on 11th Street at Clay Street and on Grand Avenue at Webster Street, but not regular stops between those points.

Line 12 to downtown Oakland will serve regular stops on Grand Avenue at Valdez Street and its terminal on 10th Street at Washington Street, but not regular stops between those points.

Line 18 to Montclair will serve regular stops on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way at 25th Street and on 11th Street at Franklin Street, but not regular stops between those points.

Line 18 to Albany will serve regular stops on 12th Street at Broadway and on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way at 22nd Street, but not regular stops between those points.

Line 51A to Fruitvale BART will serve regular stops on Broadway at 25th Street and on Broadway at 9th Street, but not regular stops between those points.

Line 51A to Rockridge BART will serve regular stops on 8th Street at Broadway and on Broadway at Grand Avenue, but not regular stops between those points.

Line 58L in both directions will serve regular stops on Grand Avenue at Perkins Street and on Broadway at 7th Street, but not regular stops between those points.

Lines 72 and 72M to Oakland Amtrak will serve regular stops on San Pablo Avenue at West Street and on Broadway at 9th Street, but not regular stops between those points.

Line 72R to Oakland Amtrak will serve regular stops on San Pablo Avenue at Market Street and on Broadway at 7th Street, but not regular stops between those points.

Lines 72, 72M, and 72R northbound will serve regular stops on Broadway at 9th Street (lines 72 and 72M); Broadway at 7th Street (lines 72, 72M, and 72R); and on San Pablo Avenue at West Grand Avenue, but not regular stops between those points.

Line NL in both directions will serve regular stops on Grand Avenue at Perkins Street and on West Grand Avenue at Market Street, but not regular stops between those points.

The Broadway Shuttle to Jack London Square will serve regular stops on Grand Avenue at Webster Street and on Broadway at 11th Street, but not regular stops between those points.

The Broadway Shuttle to Grand Avenue will serve regular stops on Broadway at 11th Street and its terminal on Grand Avenue at Webster Street, but not regular stops between those points.

To facilitate transfers, lines 1 and 1R to downtown Berkeley; 12 to downtown Berkeley; 18; 51A to Rockridge BART; 72, 72M, and 72R northbound; and the Broadway Shuttle to Grand Avenue will serve temporary stops on Castro Street between 12th and 17th streets.

Lines 14, 20, 26, 31, 40, and 88 will operate on their regular routes, but expect delays while traveling through downtown Oakland.

For up-to-date route information, riders are urged to phone 511 and say “AC Transit” or go online at www.actransit.org

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Division and dysfunction on the Richmond City Council

A marathon City Council meeting in Richmond last Tuesday saw lots of discussion and eventually shouting between members Corky Booze and Jovanka Beckles, but little accomplished as far as actual business on the agenda.
That prompted Mayor Gayle McLaughlin to issue a statement titled “The situation at City Council meetings”:

Dear friends,
I am compelled to make a statement about the current state of affairs at Richmond City Council meetings.
Those of you who follow City Council meetings know how much chaos and discord exists. I want to share my feelings about this.
There is dysfunction on this Council, but the dysfunction does not come from the Council as a whole. This dysfunction comes from one councilmember. It is truly a shame that this councilmember disrupts time and time again the needed business under discussion at the Council meeting. He forces us to deal with chaos, disruptions, and vitriolic speech that bring harm to the entire city of Richmond .
It is the people of Richmond who suffer from all of this. It is the people of Richmond who are being held hostage because this councilmember refuses to adhere to the rules of the City Council. As chair, my job is to keep the meeting moving forward. When discussion becomes unproductive, I necessarily need to move us on. Discussion not only becomes unproductive, but as I said, it becomes chaotic, disruptive and vitriolic in its content….and it is this one councilmember who will not adhere to my role as chair. He feels that once “he has the floor” he has it until he has fully finished attacking and insulting me, other councilmembers, members of the City staff, and/or certain members of the audience. Then when the frustration level of other councilmembers has reached a limit and they intervene (after I have intervened unsuccessfully with him talking over me and talking over the gavel – as I call him out of order), we have even more chaos on the Council. I have called and will continue to call recesses of the Council meeting when such situations occur.
One of our others councilmembers, who has suffered his insults incessantly, conveys the situation in an explanatory way like this: “You have one councilmember beating up on another. The first councilmember attacks and attacks with the other councilmember not fighting back, recognizing that the public can see the despicable behavior exhibited and judge for themselves. Yet the beating continues until the councilmember under attack, now on the floor suffering more jabs, decides she has had enough and stands up and pushes back. The first councilmember and his supporters in the audience call out: How dare you push back? You are being “unprofessional.”
This, my friends, is where the current state of affairs on the Richmond City Council is at. One councilmember is managing to hold a city hostage.
This MUST not continue. Many of us have looked toward changing the composition of the City Council in order to shift toward a better Richmond , and we will continue to do that. We have made so many gains with good councilmembers being elected in recent years. We will make more gains in November, and in subsequent elections. But we are currently dealing with something that is immediate in nature.
We are dealing with a battering situation, the result of which, if allowed to go on, will be highly destructive for our city. As a result, I will be more strictly enforcing the rules of the City Council, as per my role as chairperson, provided to me by the Charter of the City of Richmond in accordance with the Constitution of the State of California. Disagreement on issues is expected and can be productive, but where we are at right now is something altogether different.
I call on all members of the City Council and members of the audience to adhere to my call for order during meetings when I put out such a call. The disruptive nature of our Council meetings MUST be reversed.
I will not relinquish my parliamentary procedure duties. I will not let one councilmember hold the city hostage.
Thank you for your support at this critical time. We shall prevail, even among setbacks, to bring forward a political culture whereby the people’s business can be addressed in a healthy and productive way.
Sincerely,
Gayle McLaughlin
Mayor, City of Richmond

Her comments brought this response from Resident Felix Hunziker to McLaughlin and the Richmond Progressive Alliance:

Madame Mayor,
If you, the RPA-elected councilmembers and Tom Butt, actually represented your constituents there might be good reason to agree with your statement below. But instead you act unilaterally, promoting your personal ideology at every opportunity while disregarding many who hold different points of view, so I disagree with your assessment of the Council’s dysfunction.
The Sugar Tax, for example, was sweeping legislation that was nevertheless crafted without community outreach or coordination with local merchants. Residents had only 4 days to react to the agenda item and while many expressed concerns, no attempt to mitigate them was ever made. On the recent campaign contributions ordinance there are likewise numerous concerns but again there is no sign that these are being considered and it will undoubtedly pass as written when it finally comes to a vote. There are many similar examples but those above should suffice.
I agree that Corky’s conduct can be reprehensible; I cringe at some of his antics and if he doesn’t change soon he can forget about being reelected. But you have failed to represent the broader public and appear beholden only to your political allies – and for a resident who cares about Council decisions that’s far worse. Corky may consume a lot of time with his incessant questioning but frankly I’m thankful for it because otherwise no hard questions are ever asked. The time spent by Corky is also considerably less than the time the Council expends on partisan measures that have nothing to do with City business (Gaza resolution, recent teacher’s union letter, etc.), or the amount of time the RPA speakers spend at the podium repeating the same message.
I honestly believe you want the best for our City and I’m appreciative of the undeniably good projects that you and your colleagues have undertaken. But the dysfunction you’re attempting to address is merely a symptom of the damaging partisanship that you as a group continue to exercise rather than the behavior of one councilperson. In reality it’s the RPA who is holding the City hostage and if you truly wish Council relations to improve then I suggest you begin by collaborating with those who hold different points of view, both on and off the dais.
Respectfully,
Felix Hunziker
Richmond, California

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Group lobbies Richmond on Bay Trail priorities

The Trails for Richmond Action Committee is rallying its supporters as the City Council prepares to decide on allocating legal settlement funds to Bay Trail projects in the city.
The item is on the Richmond City Council agenda for Tuesday.
TRAC sent the following message Sunday to its email list:

This Tuesday, the Richmond City Council will decide how to appropriate the $669,000 it has received as compensation for lost shoreline recreation caused by the Cosco Busan oil spill. TRAC asks that you go to http://www.pointrichmond.com/baytrail/whatnow.htm by end of day Monday, July 23 where you may easily send an email letting the City Council know your preferences among the several Bay Trail projects being considered.

As described in the attached report, the Public Works Director recommends that $235K of these funds be used to complete the Shipyard 3/Brickyard Cove Bay Trail Gap Closure, and that the entire balance of $434K be used to fund upgrades of existing Bay Trail in the Marina Bay area. TRAC prefers that more be allocated to closing gaps in the Bay Trail, rather than spending 65% of the funds for upgrading existing trail sections. TRAC fully supports allocation of the recommended $235K to the Shipyard 3/Brickyard Cove Bay Trail Gap Closure, but would like to see $254K used to supplement other grant funds to complete the Plunge Bay Trail Gap Closure Project as requested by the City’s Engineering Dept. The remaining $180K (27%) could used to upgrade existing Bay Trail sections in Marina Bay.

After reading the attached staff report, please go to http://www.pointrichmond.com/baytrail/whatnow.htm by end of day Monday, July 23 where you may easily send an email to City Council saying how you’d like them to allocate this $669K among Bay Trail Projects.

If you’d like details, click on the project links below:

Shipyard 3/Brickyard Cove Rd. Gap Closure

Plunge Bay Trail Gap Closure
Marina Bay Trail Upgrades

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Historic Point Richmond train signal makes triumphant return

A worker was busy Tuesday with the reinstallation of the historic train crossing signal in Point Richmond known as a wig-wag. The signal, one of two non-operating devices retained in the district after a preservation campaign, had been missing since it was toppled by a sinkhole a year ago.

A year after a broken water main created a sinkhole that knocked over one of Point Richmond’s two historic wig-wag train signals, the beloved clanging semaphore is being put back in place.
As El Cerrito resident and railroad buff John Stashik notes, “neither wig wag actually works as the street crossing of the BNSF yard lead has flashing lights and gates. But the Point Richmond neighborhood appreciates their unique wig wags and they are considered historic icons of ‘The Point.’
Work preparing for the reinstallation started last week and by July 13 the signal was out and awaiting placement.
A crew was working Monday on the finishing touches.

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El Cerrito issues a statement on its legal challenge to state payment demand

The following release issued today by the City of El Cerrito outlines points of the city’s legal action challenging a demand for payment of $1.7 million to the state as part of the dismantling of the city’s redevelopment agency.
It includes remarks that Mayor Bill Jones plans to make at tonight’s council meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Ave.

EL CERRITO CHALLENGE’S “TRUE UP” PAYMENT

El Cerrito, CA: At the Tuesday, July 17, 2012 regular City Council meeting, Mayor Bill Jones will make a statement regarding the City of El Cerrito’s lawsuit filed last week against the Contra Costa County Auditor-Controller, the California Department of Finance, and the California Board of Equalization. The suit challenges the unlawful $1,756,794.67 payment demanded by the County Auditor-Controller on July 9, 2012.

A copy of the writ is available on the City’s website at http://el-cerrito.org/index.aspx?nid=745.

Mayor Jones’ statement to be delivered tonight will include the following key points:

· It is disappointing that we feel the need to file a lawsuit against the State of California and Contra Costa County in order to get the State to follow its own Constitution.

· Before filing the lawsuit, City Staff met with the State’s Department of Finance (DOF) on July 10th and outlined, both verbally and in writing, our interpretation of AB1484 as it relates to El Cerrito. The DOF unceremoniously rejected the City’s factual arguments out of hand and without serious consideration. The City saw no other alternative but to file suit.

· Among the many provisions of the hastily-passed AB1484 is the unprecedented possibility of the taking of the City’s general fund state tax revenues to pay for redevelopment agency bonds and liabilities. This shifts the burden of liability to the Cities. The ability of the State to reach into the Cities’ general funds to take revenues threatens the City’s public assets and our ability to continue to provide local services to our residents. It may also set a dangerous precedent for the future. AB1484 allows the DOF to take action against the cities without due process, public comment and review, and outside the scope of proper governmental transparencies.

· We do not take this action lightly and embark on this path only after intense study of the issues and on-going discussions with the State and County. We take this action to protect our resident’s public assets, the General Fund revenues, our current level of services and the employees that deliver these services.

On Thursday, July 12, 2012, the City of El Cerrito and the Successor Agency to the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency filed suit in Sacramento Superior Court against the Contra Costa County Auditor-Controller, the California Department of Finance, and the California Board of Equalization.

The suit challenges the unlawful $1,756,794.67 payment demanded by the County Auditor-Controller on July 9, 2012.

The El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency was dissolved on February 1, 2012, by implementation of ABx1 26, also known as the Dissolution Act, which had been enacted by the State of California in June 2011. On June 27, 2012 The California Legislature hurriedly adopted and Governor Brown signed AB 1484 to modify and “clean-up” provisions in Dissolution Act. These new provisions included an attempt by the State to retroactively reallocate tax increment distributed prior to February 1, 2012 and property tax revenues without a 2/3rds vote of the legislature, both violations of the California Constitution.

AB 1484 requires the County Auditor-Controller to calculate a “true up” payment by the Successor Agency of unneeded funds that can be redistributed to other public agencies serving El Cerrito. The Contra Costa County Auditor-Controller relied on a flawed methodology provided by the Department of Finance that failed to take into account the Successor Agency’s obligations to pay debt service payments on its bonds and to fund two affordable housing projects.

On July 9, 2012, the County Auditor-Controller demanded the Successor Agency pay an additional $1.75 million for the “True Up” payment. The Successor Agency has refused to make the payment because it would result in a default on its next bond debt service payments and interfere with the Successor Agency’s ability to fund its contractual obligations on two affordable housing projects, amongst other obligations.

The amount of the housing contractual obligations in dispute is approximately $781,152. However these two projects leverage millions of dollars of public and private investment in El Cerrito. These two projects alone represent over $50 million of economic investment in our community, including over $7 million already invested by El Cerrito’s former RDA, to create 120 units of affordable rental housing with easy access to transit for families, persons with special needs and seniors.

AB 1484 allows the State Department of Finance to impose penalties and for the State Board of Equalization to withhold the City’s sales and use tax revenue until the amount of the True Up payment and penalties are recouped by the State. The True Up payment demanded from the El Cerrito Successor Agency totals about half of the City’s General Fund reserves and a $1.7 million loss would have the potential of significantly hindering City services.

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Cole Porter musical classic at Masquers Playhouse in Point Richmond this weekend

A concert version of the Cole Porter musical “Kiss Me Kate” will be presented at 8 p.m. July 13 and 14 and 2 p.m. July 15 at the Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place in Point Richmond.

“Chaos ensues when two former lovers play opposite each other on stage while their current lovers also take part in the production,” promises the Masquers. “Mix in a few gangsters, a hefty I.O.U., and some unexpected romance, and this musical is sure to have you on the edge of your seat.”

All seats are $25, and proceeds benefit the all-volunteer Masquers.

The cast includes Anna Albanese, Arthur Atlas, Nancy Benson, Ted Bigornia, Peter Budinger, Craig Eychner, Coley Grundman, John Hull, Mary Kidwell, Kathe Kiehn, Heinz Lankford, Robert Love, Joan Nelson, Michael O’Brien, Shay Oglesby-Smith, Steph Peek, Michelle Pond, DC Scarpelli, Gill Stanfield, Jennifer Stark, Pam Drummer Williams and Vicki Zabarte.

The show is directed by Joe Torres and music directed by Pat King.

For tickets, call 510-232-3888 or visit www.masquers.org.

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Documentary on Richmond flower growing families to debut on Saturday

The flower-growing trade built by Japanese immigrants in Richmond and El Cerrito early in the 20th century survived and even thrived despite an often-hostile environment.

Challenges during more than a century of operation included formation of the Anti-Japanese League of Alameda County in 1913 to the Great Depression to forced removal of Japanese-American families during World War II to freeway construction that claimed swaths of nursery property.

The last of the standing greenhouses that were once common near San Pablo Avenue have been cleared for a new housing development in Richmond, but the story of the flower-growing families is captured in a new documentary that has its public debut July 14 in Richmond.

“Blossoms and Thorns: A Community Uprooted” will be presented at screenings at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the new Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park Visitor Education Center at 1414 Harbor Way South.

The afternoon will include a 2 p.m. panel discussion with filmmaker Ken Kokka, cultural historian Donna Graves and members of several nursery families. Journalist George T. Kiriyama will be the moderator.

The showing is sponsored by Contra Costa Japanese American Citizens League, the Rosie the Riveter park and the Rosie the Riveter Trust, and the city’s Arts and Culture Commission.

For more details, call 510-232-3108.