April Meeting Recap

By Hilary Crosby  

Since our agenda was to vote on endorsing measures and local candidates for the June 3, 2014 ballot, we had many interesting guests at our April meeting. Our first guest was Supervisor John Gioia.  He spoke about Measure C which is a mail only ballot that was already in process by the date of our meeting.  Even though many of the attendees had already voted in favor of the measure, Supervisor Gioia provided a comprehensive overview of the measure.

Our next guests were Mark Swalter Communications Director for West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) who came on behalf of Dr. Bruce Harter.  And don’t worry – he brought the power point and the projector, so we saw a lot of pictures of kids, school yards, teachers and community members.  Once we had the slides, WCCUSD Board member Charles Ramsey talked about Measure H, and the importance of passing this parcel tax.

Measure H will provide $270 million and the debt service will be phased in over a few years, beginning with $10 per $100,000 and going up to $36 per $100,000.  In addition to the capital upgrades, there will be funds included to leverage earthquake preparedness money.

WCCUSD school board member Madeleine Kronenberg added that our current capital programs are well managed, and have had consistently good audits. The ECDC endorsed Measure H unanimously.

Lisa Coronoa, a volunteer with the Kensington community district spoke about Measure L, a bond to upgrade the Kensington Community Center (KCC) which has had no major improvements for 30 years.  Measure L funds will be spent to make it accessible and safe.  The measure polled 70% in support.

The improvements will include Earthquake retrofitting, renovating the kitchen and bathrooms, and improved access for people with disabilities.  The bond will generate up to $2 million – tax will be $14 per $100,000 per assessed value.

Kensington Community groups have contributed $280,000 to this campaign and it has been endorsed by Senator Loni Hancock, Supervisor John Gioia, and Assembly member Nancy Skinner, and the El Cerrito Democratic Club as of our vote at the April 22 meeting.

We also considered Measure E for the Contra Costa Community College District.  Basically, this is a parcel tax of $13 for every $100,000 in assessed value; it would provide funding to improve our community colleges.

Our students need science, engineering, math and other technical courses to get ready for their careers.  For every dollar we invest in our community colleges we get back $2.30 in savings and future taxes.  Plus our community college students are guaranteed transfer credits to the University of California and California State University.

The opposition to this is measure is the CoCo Taxpayers Rights members and the tea party people.  It needs 55% to pass. The ECDC voted to endorse this measure.

Next we heard from Karen Sakata, candidate for Superintendent of West County Schools.  She is currently the Deputy Superintendent.  Her mother is the first Japanese American woman to earn a degree in Pharmacology.  She instilled appreciation for the value of education in Ms. Sakata.  She has a degree in Psychology from UC Berkeley, and a Masters degree in Speech Pathology.

This mixes her love of science with her love for working with students. She has 16 years of experience in special education as speech pathologist; she also has experience as a program administrator, a resource specialist, and spent 14 years as a principal.

She believes principals have the best training for superintendent since they have to deal with facilities, budget, personnel, discipline, and curriculum.  She believes strongly in shared decision making, and building strong leadership teams including teachers, staff, and parents.

But her most important job was as a parent; she wants for all Contra Costa students what she wanted for her own two sons: choices, well educated, opportunities, and chances to express their talents and find work they love.

She brings two things to the position: Innovation and Continuity.  She has been in county office, and she plans to innovate with an emphasis on early learning preschool – grade 3, technology, and an emphasis on school safety including behavioral, mental health, social emotional health.

She thinks vouches and charter schools can help underperforming students, and sees the role of the county office to act as an appellate body to evaluate requests for charter schools and where appropriate, to approve them.

Her opponent did not attend our meeting, and provided no materials.  The ECDC endorsed her.

Finally we heard from Ayore Riunanda, who is the only Democrat running for County auditor/controller.  He had already been to one of our meetings, and he was endorsed.

Al Miller stood up to acknowledge the 16 volunteers from the ECDC who joined with EB Peace Action handing out flyers on Global Day of Spending.  They distributed 400 flyers and Plaza and 600 at Del Norte.  The overall action was able to reach 11 more BART stations this year than last year.

Helen Dickey asked us to call Berkeley city council members to ask them to raise minimum raise to $10 hour.