November 29, 2003

Save Our Services: The Revolution will be Televised

If you're following the thread on other blogs, such as the interesting comments on Ted's related post on Talk of the Point, you know reductions in fire station services are still (pun intended) a "hot" issue. notes today, "Tuesday, December 2, 7pm - Closure of Fire Station 61 is inexplicably NOT on the City Council Agenda. Apparently neither are closures of the Field House, Library and Community Center."

That points to two problems, one short-range, one long-range:

The Council is quickly establishing a strong track record of ignoring the will of its members. A vote is a vote. (And expect more on that later.)

If you attended the Neighborhood Council meeting on 11/19, you know that the members quickly moved and voted to ask that the fire station closure be placed on the December 2 City Council agenda. (Unfortunately, due to confusion about what we were voting on, the other services didn't make it into that motion.) The previous month, the Council voted to send a delegation to City Hall to address the budget cuts. That turned into sending one Council representative to one very busy meeting where we weren't even represented on the speaking agenda.

Regardless of the Council's activities, if you believe Point Richmond services are important, you can show up at the December 2 City Council meeting. Maybe you won't get to speak, but you can carry a sign or wear a t-shirt--and everyone watching the City Council meeting on television will see you. (I'm thinking of wearing one of those silly plastic firefighter's caps sold for children, and/or printing a picture of Station 61 and the library to tape to a piece of cardboard, with "Save Our Services" on it.)

Our right to be formally heard on the City Council agenda can be bargained away (and none too inexplicably, in my opinion), but we can still bear witness. See you there!

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November 27, 2003

Point Richmond Services: Not a Done Deal

The services issue isn't over, even though--disregarding the vote of the Neighborhood Council--the item was removed from the December 2 City Council agenda.

As it stands, the fire department will lose 25% of its firefighting forces, the library will continue to be slashed deeply, and who knows about other services to this area.

Supposedly the city is going to use an "Oakland Model," where City Hall shuts down once a week. But on these furloughed days, Oakland doesn't close fire stations; Oakland shuts down an engine in a 2-company station (one engine, one ladder truck), and the truck stays at the station and goes on medical emergencies. Richmond however, will leave high danger areas totally without any first-due fire protection.

As for the library, the Oakland public library is better funded to begin with. They too have a serious budget crisis, but they are starting with more resources. The Richmond library hasn't bought new books in over three months, and we will see our branch reduced to 12 hours a week. Will the "Oakland model" come on top of or in lieu of these cuts?

We were told on November 19 that it was really important for us to show up and advocate for our services--that this was the only way to have any influence. The next we knew, our legitimate place on the City Council agenda was negotiated away.

We can still show up and hope that we are one of the first seven people to sign up to speak--because that's the only way our voice will be heard at City Hall this Tuesday.

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Turkey Shoot Happening 11 a.m.

YES, be at the Plunge at 11 a.m.! Despite some changes in the Point, this annual event is indeed taking place. Shannon McGowan and others have been calling around. Grab your shoes (or not...) and we'll see you there!

New to the Point? The Turkey Shoot is an annual Thanksgiving Day happening... a little march, a little poetry.

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November 25, 2003

Fire Station Negotiations Underway

Ripped from the headlines of though as David Moore notes, this may not be the last of this story, so stay tuned:

"From City Council Member Tom Butt
"November 25, 2003

"I have been informed by Mayor Anderson today that there will be no targeted closure of Fire Station 61 or any other Fire Station in Richmond. Negotiations with Local 188 are still underway, and the worst case scenario is that each fire station in the City may be closed one day a week on a rotating basis.

"At the request of the mayor and city manager, I have agreed to remove the agenda item I requested for December 2, since the targeted closure of Fire Station 61 is no longer being considered, union negotiations are still underway, and no final decision regarding fire station closures of any type has been made."

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November 24, 2003

December 2 Meeting: SOS! Save Our Services!

WHERE: City Hall, Council Chambers
WHEN: December 2, 7:00 pm
QUESTIONS? City Clerk's Office, 510-620-6513

Follow the buzz about the December 2 City Council meeting on these threads:

Ted Cuzzillo's blog, where he has a great summary at

Track David Moore's site (David, you need an RSS feed!):

As Tom Butt says, we need to REALLY BE THERE in great droves on December 2 at the City Council meeting. It doesn't appear that we're going to see a huge organizing activity from the Neighborhood Council itself. We as residents have to decide to just do it.

Ted points out that a crowd of 700 would be a third of the registered voters in the Point. I don't know where the "700" number came from--it seems to be a WOM (Word of Mouth)--but we need a turnout well into the triple digits.

Let's dignify our presence in the city and show that the same folks who can show up waving signs over wigwags or new construction can be there to SAVE OUR SERVICES.

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November 22, 2003

Fire Station Closure

Tom Butt reported tonight, "The city manager and the fire chief have published a memo that purports to explain why Fire Station 61 was selected for closure. According to analysis using a computer model, Fire Station 61 is the only Richmond fire station that can be closed and still retain a 95% response time of 6 minutes or less. Attached to the memo are printouts of the response models and other backup information. Dave Moore has offered to scan the entire package and make it available on sometime later this weekend."

Interesting! Now, will the city explain why it spent all that money on seismic upgrades of a facility that they are now claiming isn't necessary? Stay tuned. Thanks to David for uploading the docs--we wait with bated breath!

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November 21, 2003

The Stepford Husbands

Ted and Spence Ogling Bridge ToyAt the November PRNC meeting, Ted Cuzzillo and Steve Spencer are just two of the members clearly yearning for their own Richmond Bridge model kit for Christmas. An interesting question is whether we in the Point will help advocate for pedestrian and bicycle access after the bridge work has been completed. By the way, I read a complaint this morning that the bridge work will continue until 2005, but unless you'd like to see the bridge closed down completely for a month, I don't know how else they could do it. Given that two years ago we were worrying that chunks of the bridge were falling into the Bay, I say thanks and Mazel Tov to CALTRANS on this project. And isn't it groovy that we now have our very own Trader Joe's right in El Cerrito, so we don't have to go over the bridge so often?

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November 20, 2003

PRNC 11-2003: The Un-Minutes

Once again, I present my own take on the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council, with the understanding that I left at 9:30 and didn't hear the committee reports, and that I write about what interests me--this is in no way a blow-by-blow report. However, I do try to give my best analysis of the state of a major issue in front of us: the projected closure of Fire Station 61, and the drastic reduction in library services that will lead to limiting our own local branch to 12 hours a week.

Be prepared to show up at City Hall on December 2, to fight for local services with loud voice and stamping feet!

Kris Kringle comes to the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council

Even in the bleak midwinter of our budget crisis, Shirley Butt thought to suggest that we bring goodies to the December PRNC meeting. Let's turn it into a festive event (at least until the fur starts flying over the latest micro-issue). I'll do up a batch of the holiday biscotti. Perhaps the folks getting laid off January 1 can bring doggie bags!

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

November 29 we're having Caroling in the Point. I will accept small bribes in order not to participate in this event.

Land Use Committee

No one showed up for the meeting. Hence, no news. (Hmm... I get nervous when anyone claims there is no land use news. Fred, get your deerstalker cap, and let's head to the Planning Department for a little ground-based reconnaisance.)

Beat Report

They also were MIA this evening. (It's remarkable that the meeting hadn't even gone to committee reports by 9:30, given how little was on the agenda. Ah well, natured abhors a vacuum.)

City Manager Retires

By now you have all heard that Isaiah Turner has retired. Jay Corey, who is now an assistant city manager for economic development, will be the interim city manager.

The Budget Crisis: Be Dainty or Be Heard

The PRNC president made an effort to attend the City Council meeting earlier this month to make a case for keeping Station 61 open. However, our chance to make our case at this meeting was precluded because a swim team fighting to keep a pool open had taken all the open spots.

Tom Butt took the floor for a special budget report. As has been done in the past, Butt laid out the background of the budget problems in very Boolean either/or terms: the employee unions were asked to "share" the costs (through permanent concessions to benefits and salaries); the alternative is massive layoffs. According to this analysis, the problems with the budget are directly caused by, and cured, by employee benefits, particularly retirement packages for fire and police.

The employee-benefit crisis is an analysis accepted without question by no less a prestigious publication than the West County Times, but I'll go way out on a limb here and say this doesn't sound right, particularly with a city management core that requires $18 million annually to function, not to mention the cost of retrofitting the old building and housing these folks on that comfy corporate campus on the piers.

I say show me the money--as in the budget. Not the parts of the budget you want me to see, but the whole damn enchilada. Butt said, "When the city passed the budget for 03-04, the city council knew the city was in the red." I still want to know, why did they all vote for it, and who is "they" if not the same Council Butt sits on?

Tom fared better on his strategy suggestions. Citing his thirty years of experience, Tom said the only way we could make an impact on the city council was to show up and "be rowdy," in his terms. The PRNC president made a plea for a Ghandian approach, which Tom (and the rest of us) received somewhat skeptically. Tom replied, "The only way we could turn this around is to turn out 700 people to a city council meeting. ... A massive outpouring is the only thing that will change the mind of the City Council. ... Gotta be loud, gotta be boisterous.”

A resolution was passed asking Butt to place the fire station on the December 2 agenda. The motion on the floor was not restated prior to voting; after the vote, Artrese asked if we were supporting the fire station, or all services, and like several of us, seemed surprised that the resolution was limited to fire services.

PRNC Continues to need Adult Supervision

At this point, the PRNC meeting devolved into an extended discussion that was not on the agenda and should only have been allowed with a vote to suspend the rules for a set period.


Everyone perked up for the CALTRANS dog and pony show about the Richmond Bridge Retrofit. We were warned CALTRANS would be closing the bridge down to one lane earlier very shortly, and advised there is now 400 feet of brand new bridge out there (I experienced a frisson of anxiety, thinking about how many times I drove over the old, corroded bridge, visions of my car plunging into the the Bay). We were pretty much entranced by the model bridge they brought to the meeting, and I think they could have told us we would have to jump from our cars and swim to San Rafael and we would have stood there nodding.


Morty Presament from Richmond Planning came to talk about Seacliff and the Petromark Property. He explained he wasn't familar with the project. After questions about landslides and runoff, he encouraged us to phone the Planning Department if we had questions. Uh huh.


Cathy, the acting director, spoke about the impact of the cuts on the library. I'm going to transcribe their paper flyer and write a separate entry. Given its limited funding and resources, the library provides exceptional service. We need to keep their doors open and help them find ways to get better, more stable funding.

See you December 2 at the City Council meeting.

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Best Toy of the Year

At the November PRNC meeting, a CalTrans engineer uses a model of the equipment used on the Richmond Bridge seismic retrofit to demonstrate upcoming repairs. The bridge will be shut down for 12 hours a night, 4 days a month, while CALTRANS completes repairs on heavily corroded portions of the trestle. Keep on top of closures and progress at the bridge Web site.

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November 19, 2003

PRNC Minutes, October 2003

Here are the draft minutes for the October 29, 2003 meeting of the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council (PRNC).

PRNC Minutes, 10-2003 (PDF)

Full text follows...

Meeting called to order 7:35 pm
Officers present: President Don Woodrow, Treasurer Artrese Morrison, Second Vice President Fred Frye, First Vice Presidents Jeff Lee and Rod Satre. Secretary Sheila Davidson was unavoidability absent. Satre took the minutes.
Beat Report: Cpl. Lester Lawson: Phone 510-620-6901, pgr 262-3474, message 621-1222 ext 7060 & Sgt. Joseph Silva: Phone 510-620-6635, pgr 925-306-7890
Total of: 9 thefts: 7 auto, 1 residential, 1 commercial
Officer noted that enforcement of lights in tunnel is going to be picked up both ways. Fines are expensive!! Bicycles are to be walked in the tunnel, on the sidewalk.
Parking on street is limited to 72 continuous hours. Beyond that, the vehicle is subject to ticketing. Boats are not supposed to be stored on streets.

Land Use and Design Review: all three items approved as recommended by the Committee:
1. 160 Washington (Point Richmond Market): Informational only for 1000 square foot remodeling, recommended to articulate the front of the building and allow for street frontage access for public use such as tables and chairs to complement the planned deli in the store. This alternative was in lieu of architect and owner plans to take space out of the back side of the building.
2. 300 Block Western Drive: Lot split and reparcelization, Kowlowski owner: Street frontage allowed to 50 width with criteria that the 50 lot width continue for 40% of “level land depth of the site.
3. 514 Western Drive: studio, King applicant, advised to come back with 2nd dwelling unit request next month
Treasurer’s Report:
Bishop Alley $694.87, Ferry Point $629.23, Wig Wag $2,970.94, General Acct $3,284.31

Old Business:
Port of Richmond, Jim Matzorkis- Executive Director
Anticipated activities:
Point Protrero marine terminal , Shipyard 3, 100 acres end of Canal Blvd long ago, 53 acres were found to be contaminated and remediation of the area needed to be capped with 24 inches cover per DTSC (Department of Toxic Substance Control) this project site will be fully paved at the end of the year and ready for parking and port storage

Over the last 20 years, most of the port had been used for auto import. Over the last 15 years, the importers have switched to domestic manufacture. Most international shipments shifted to southern California. As the container business has taken over the Southern California port area, auto imports are possibly moving to Richmond’s Port. For Richmond, what used to be 200,000 cars/year dwindled down to several thousand cars per year. With the shift from Southern California, the Port expects increases to 150,000 cars per year in the future. $3 – 4 Million /year new revenue and Port would be profitable. 150 to 200 new jobs. This would be next to the proposed Hanson Aggregate project.

Inbound auto activities also would include final finishing and local distribution. Rail service now typically one way drop will be able to have two-way with the import autos of (Hundayi and Kia). Trucking about 5 – 10 trucks per hour from 8:00 AM to 4:PM
Rail switching involves set-ups of full and empty rail cars and pick up and loading on port property.

Terminal 4’s future likely links to future of Point Molate.

REACT – Richmond Fire Department Richard Kalayjian, filling in for Chuck Davis on REACT program: Richmond has a Richmond Emergency Action Team (REACT) 4 week program for 10 to 15 people with training of valuable skills that will be needed should we have a sizeable earthquake 66% probability in the next 25 years.!!! YIKES!... Could be tomorrow!!!
Traing Program includes:
Good activities with hands-on training in the program:
Utility control- gas, water , electricity
Dealing with hazardous materials, many found under your sinks!!
Hands on fire extinguisher training at the Fire Department’s Training Center on Cutting Blvd
ADVICE from RFD: You should have one extinguisher in the kitchen and one in the garage and one in your car. Recharge your extinguisher no less frequently than every two years. If you buy the single-use extinguisher, after three years they are likely of no good as the chemicals settle out and harden.

When disaster strikes, you should be prepared for no less than 72 hours of independent survival in the case of an emergency with no transport and services available.
Budget Cut information:
Station 61, in the Point is slated to be closed, contrary to prior promises by the fire chief last April. Stations closest to Point Richmond will then be #62 at 7th and Hensley and the one at Cutting Blvd (by 12th). Station #64Bayview and #68 at Hilltop are more distant. Point Richmond is a High Fire Risk (HFR) area. See and go to services for GIS information on HFR areas unique to the Point. Questions raised included: Why close the fire station nearest/in the HFR? Why close the “…only Richmond fire station upgraded for earthquake survivability.” Why put citizens in Point Richmond at greater risk by lengthening response times for fire and health emergencies?

ACTION ITEM: Bonnie Daley, Sarah Eels pointed out that we need to act now! Sarah , Don Woodrow and others will gather perhaps as many as five persons and meet with Isiah Turner, following a letter discussing our PRNC concerns. Passed unanimously by voice vote.

Old Business: November 6th Planning commission meeting regarding 130 East Scenic and two standard and one substandard lot on Pacific @ High

Other old Business: Frog Town: Jeff Lee: The site does not support a wetland, Rod Satre is to write a letter for the President to Planning Director, Building Regulations, Whareham Development and USACE indicating an alternative site along Canal Blvd and no future permits or new construction until such time as a satisfactory wetland is restored under USACE 404.
For the Good of the Order:
Pat Pearson reported that 13303 Executive Order deals with oil installations and handling in Iraq, not US.
Other reports: Bruce Beyaert: City of Richmond will dedicate the new Lucretia Edwards Park at the Foot of Marina Way South, by the water.
TRAC : Bruce Beyaert reported on behalf of TRAC, the Trails for Richmond Action Committee, that the Lucretia Edwards Shoreline Park at the foot of Marina Way South will be dedicated and opened with celebratory ceremonies on Thursday, Oct. 30. The Bay Trail on the shoreline of this spectacular two-acre park connects the doorstep of the historic Ford Assembly Building with the trail already completed though the Marina Bay area all the way to Buchanan Street in Albany. This includes new Bay Trail recently completed by East Bay Regional Park District along the shorelines of Central Avenue and Isabel St.. Closer to Point Richmond, Toll Brothers has paved the new Bay Trail along Seacliff Drive from Canal Blvd. to the crest of the hill and along the Seacliff Estates frontage on Brickyard Cove Rd. Cooperation from Brickyard Landing Homeowners Association is critical for the trail to be extended westward along Brickyard Cove Rd. Toll Brothers is required to continue the Bay Trail past the front of Brickyard Landing only if the land is made available.
Undergrounding of power lines: Ed Gingrich. Although the City Council Finance Committee approved an advance against the potential bond issue of $70,000 to hire an Assessment Engineer exactly 2 years ago, the funds were designated to come from the Capital Improvement Project fund (CIP fund) which, unfortunately, did not contain any unallocated funds.
After many telephone calls from the Committee representative Gingrich, City Engineer Rich Davidson found a way to come up with the funds. He determined the CIP fund had $2 million in allocated funds waiting in limbo for completion of some drawings. The fund had been earning interest and the interest was unallocated. Davidson applied to have the earned interest allocated to the undergrounding study in early October.
Since then, the interest income monies have been frozen until a study of the current financial status of the City can be reviewed. This is now expected to be completed by Nov. 1. If approved, it then goes to the City Council for approval of a contract with the Assessment Engineer.
There will not be much the Undergrounding Committee can do until the completion of the assessment figures. At that point, the Committee needs to organize an education blitz to advise Pt. Richmond residents of the pros and cons of undergrounding.

Safety Committee: Bill York and Joan Gatten. the Police Department’s role in an emergency includes public safety and disaster relief. Phone 510- 232-1214 for the animal control office if you are having trouble with for skunks and raccoons or you can call 510-620-6643 for the watch commander if you think you have a problem with animals.
Still looking for first aid training, REACT meets on the second Wednesday @ 7:00-8:30 pm at the Methodist Church. Next meeting is November 12th

PRAM: Elana Dolberg (Point Richmond Association of Mothers) reported that the Community Center and the Field House are slated to be closed and a petition is out to keep them open. PRAM is working to raise funds to avoid the threatened closures.Meeting adjourned at 9:10 pm.

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PRNC November Agenda

Here is the November 19 agenda, in PDF and searchable text, for the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council (PRNC).

PRNC Agenda, 11-19-2003 (PDF)

Plain Text Version follows...

Don Woodrow, President; Rod Satre and Jeff Lee, First Vice-Presidents; Fred Frye, Second Vice President; Sheila Davidson-Rollin, Secretary; Artrese Morrison, Treasurer
Point Richmond Neighborhood Council
Point Richmond Community Center
139 Washington Avenue
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
7:30 pm
7:30 Call to Order.
7:31 Agenda Review. 2 minutes
7:33 Reports & Announcements from Board Officers / Significant Correspondence/Review of
minutes. 7 minutes
7:40 Report of Beat Officer. 15 minutes
7:55 Summary of Design Review & Land Use Committee recommendations. 10 minutes
As we go to press, there are no items scheduled for the Committee. Any late-appearing items will be considered for information only. Action on them cannot be taken until the January meeting.
If you are aware of someone planning to construct or modify a building in the Point, please have them contact Nancy Mengshol 510-215-5604 before the 7th of the month to arrange a review by this committee. The Committee meets on the same day as does the Council, at 6 pm, in the meeting room of Interactive Resources, 117 Park Place, Point Richmond. NOTE: It is important that applicants discuss their project with their neighbors before review by this Committee.
8:05 Old Business
* Update on Richmond/San Rafael Bridge seismic retrofit and related repairs by
Ms. Tatiana Ortega and Mr. Ramses Sargiss of CALTRANS. 15 minutes
* Update on Seacliff Estates (Brickyard Cove) and developments at the Petromark
Property, Terminal one and other planning issues which may arise. Mr. Morty
Presament of the Richmond City Planning Office.

8:50 New Business. If needed: 15 minutes

9:00 Public Forum / General Announcements. 10 minutes total with as many as five speakers speaking for 2 minutes each. Please sign up with the Board prior to this segment. Note: Items are for public information purposes only; no action can be taken on items brought up in this segment. If you have an action item, please contact a board member prior to the 7th of the month to have it considered for next month’s Council meeting agenda. If needed: 10 minutes
9:10 Reports of Neighborhood & City Committees (if available)
* Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council – 2 minutes
* Point Richmond Safety Committee – 2 minutes
* TRAC – 2 minutes
* PRAM – 2 minutes
9:18 Reports of Point Richmond Neighborhood Council Committees (if available)
* PRNC Funds Committee – 2 minutes
* By-Law Revision Committee – 2 minutes
* Mini-Parks – 2 minutes
* Point Molate Reuse Committee – 2 minutes
* Wigwag Committee – 3 minutes
* Underground utilities committee – 2 minutes
9:30 Design Review and Land Use Committee: If needed: 10 minutes
If you want to learn the details of a project under review this month, you should attend the Design Review and Land Use Committee’s meeting at the time and place noted above. Any of the items listed below not placed on the consent calendar by the Committee or taken off the consent calendar during the review of projects will be heard at this time.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
For further information regarding the above agenda items, excluding Design Review and Land Use Committee matters, contact Don Woodrow at 510-234-3107 or

The Baltic Restaurant is hosting a Crab Feed fundraiser benefiting the Richmond Plunge on November 30th, from 3 pm until 7 pm. Included in this family-style crab feed is a wine-tasting with the winemaker present, canapés, music by the Hot Club and a special presentation to Sari Armington honoring her and her late husband Nick for all their efforts to promote the Plunge’s restoration through their documentary film, The Plunge Time Laps Through History.
The menu consists of fresh Dungeness crab with melted butter, tartar sauce, potato salad, deli slaw, tossed butter lettuce with pomegranates, gorgonzola, scallions, almonds, lemon and olive oil, fresh baked bread, wine (one bottle per couple) and apple cranberry cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert. Price: $75 for one or $120 per couple. Call the Baltic for reservations at 235-2532.

If you prefer to receive only the e-mail version of the monthly newsletter, please e-mail Fred Frye at and ask to be put on the “e-mail only” list. Please include your name and street address so that we can remove your name from the bulk-mail list.

A group of people in the Point with Ed Gingrich (510-236-2775) as its contact person has begun to work toward moving underground the wires now hanging from poles along our streets. Contact Ed if you are interested in working with this group.

December 5: Last day to submit projects to the Design Review and Land Use Committee for
consideration at their December 17 meeting. Projects submitted after this date
will not be heard until the December meeting. Contact Nancy Mengshol at 510-
215-5604 or
December 5: Last day to submit suggestions for topics for consideration at the December 17
meeting of the Council.
December 17: Meeting of the Council. (7:30 pm, Point Richmond Community Center, 139
Washington Avenue.)

- 3 -

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November 17, 2003

Save Our Fire Stations

This Wednesday, 11/19, is our Neighborhood Council meeting (a week early, due to the upcoming holiday). Show up and sign up to speak on behalf of our local services! (And remember, you need to sign up in advance to speak during the public forum.)

This one-page flyer clealry outlines the impact of losing Station 61. Response time to emergencies and fires will be DOUBLED from six to twelve minutes. In a community with narrow streets and old Victorians, losing these precious recovery minutes would be disastrous.

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November 11, 2003

Dot in the Sun

Autumn in the Point is so loverly!


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November 10, 2003

Cat Responds to Budget Woes


Emma is trying to stretch every dollar...

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Follow the Money

That was Deep Throat's tip in the Watergate scandal, and my hunch is it applies to Richmond's budget crisis, as well. Expanding on the earlier thread, it would be great to do some ferreting to see which city departments have grown the most in the last 25 years.

Allowing for very modest increases in fire and police staffing--and these appear to be fairly low per capita growth patterns--but where are the other 350 employees sitting? How about growth patterns in the last five, three, and one year(s)? After all, if you grow your department by 50% in one year, it's not much of a "cut" to reduce your department by 10% the following year.

And let's not forget contractor dollars--I'd be curious to see the total "real" labor costs for Richmond.

The entire budget requires analysis--not just the parts of the budget the city is attempting to steer discussion around.

For example, I understand that city hall proper required seismic upgrades. This itself may have spurred some significant and unavoidable costs. But it's fascinating to me that these upgrades required a move to a fairly nice corporate campus located far from the city center. How much is this all costing us, what's the timetable for returning to downtown Richmond, and did we have less costly alternatives? Were all of the related costs essential--or is this another case where key labor groups in Richmond are shouldering the burden--and the blame--for supporting the city in could boil down to "lifestyle choices?" (Good grief, the foyer for that corporate campus is larger than the West Branch for the library!)

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November 06, 2003

Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?

The 11/5 emergency budget meeting for Richmond public services was notable first and foremost for the glaring absence of Point Richmond residents (though kudos to Joan Gatten and her attache for attending). I don't know why for Point Richmond residents fire, police, library, and park services are everyone else's concern, but this meeting was largely carried by inner Richmond residents, and good for our colleagues beyond the Cutting Avenue cordon sanitaire for holding up that flag.

Note: although David Moore's points to the middle of this particular entry, there have been many more posts on My Point related to the budget cuts. Track them from the main page.

It's our city, people. The services described affect us directly. Did you know the Fire Department may have to close the Point Richmond firehouse (#61)? Did you know the Point Richmond branch may have to reduce service to 12 hours per week (and as a library administrator, I realize keeping that branch open is a gift in itself, given the costs associated with keeping open a physical plant)? Is it really all right with you that we rack up all kinds of unpredictable costs by closing our jail and forcing police officers to drive all suspects to Martinez? That alone will easily incur hundreds of dollars per incident, big or small.

Thursday night (11/6) there's a big meeting at the Planning Board, because quite a few people are in a tizzy about builder Raymond Chandler squeezing McMansions on space barely capable of handling one large house. I don't have fire in my belly on this issue. How can I get worked up about Chandler's mcmansion-on-a-napkin project when this has been pro forma for Point Richmond development? If exploiting lax oversight of zoning laws was a crime, the Richmond jail would be overflowing. Apparently "variance" is another term for "immediate approval, particularly if we know you."

The other reason I can't get worked up about this Planning meeting is that I'm disappointed in how much energy has been directed to this one issue when Richmond is in fiscal turmoil. Where are the phone trees, the impassioned e-mail messages, the sense of urgency, the streetcorner discussions when we're talking about losing our local firehouse, seeing our library almost disappear, and watching the police department be forced to divert its capabilities toward shuffling drunks between downtown Richmond and Martinez?

Point Richmond, where are your priorities? Is it that you don't care about anything you can't see?

At least one Councilmember has portrayed the slash-and-burn budget proposal as a done deal. I'm not unsympathetic to the idea that we need to look more closely at cost-sharing of benefits--but that's a really slippery slope. When the budget situation improves, will cost-sharing be shifted back to the city, as appropriate? Cost-sharing is, after all, another way of saying "salary reduction." I also haven't seen a budget model demonstrating how cost-sharing helps us get out of the multi-million-dollar deficit, or a plan for getting out of cost-sharing once the crisis is over.

More seriously, when we ask how we got into this mess, the standard answer is to blame it on the unions. I'm baffled (o.k.--downright skeptical) that in one year we could go from relative feast to famine, and it's all the firefighters' fault. Even if there were a kernel of truth in this, didn't the City Council members play a major role in this mess by approving the employee salaries and benefits that got us in this mess in the first place? And could this really be the most significant reason we are suddenly in a massive deficit? How did we get there so quickly?

Speaking of creative funding ventures, both the police and the library departments came up with interesting ideas. A police officer suggested instead of closing the jail (and incurring possibly tens of thousands of dollars of unmanaged costs through the need to schlep all suspects to Martinez), Richmond could bring in revenue by serving as a regional jail for East Bay cities that currently drive suspects to Martinez. This would fly in the face of the concept of exploiting city services for personal gain, but nonetheless it deserves serious consideration.

The acting director of the Richmond Library also unveiled a great idea, albeit not one to tide them over the very-short-term pain: establish a tax district for the library. Many city libraries across the country (and as close as Berkeley) have adopted special tax districts, which meet several objectives: library funding is largely "off the plate" for the municipal budget, leaving the city to focus on other services; library funding is predictable, which leads to better, more cost-effective long-range planning; for the extraordinary range of services you can get in a modern public library, the very modest tax for supporting it is always more palatable than the annual line item in a city budget. You look at what the library's request for local funding, and you say "for cryin' out loud, compared to everything else, this is bupkas."

Everyone knows this is going to be a hard year. There will be cuts, and these cuts will be felt across the board. But Richmond residents at this meeting were working together toward patchwork solutions that at least had the sense of commitment to long-term fiscal recovery. Their eyes were on the prize.

Posted by kgs at 05:02 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 01, 2003

Kudos and Welcome-Backs

First, welcome to Ted Cuzzillo, author of Talk of the Point, who after a long silence has returned with a flurry of news and commentary. Ted's take on Point goings-on is entertaining, and his observations are spot-on. Don't miss his take on the recent election!

Second, thanks to Jay Allen of MT-Blacklist. This product blocks sp*m from Movable Type comments. It was painless to set up, and within minutes I had scrubbed away months of ugly sp*m.

I have a lot to say about Wednesday's meeting, when time permits. For right now, take note that the city Planning Department was a no-show for the second month in a row. They're supposed to talk to us about the Hanson Aggregate project. This is a plan to "improve" this area by bringing in a company that will build the largest facility in Richmond and dramatically increase the amount of truck traffic. The presentation that we saw in July raised a number of questions from Point residents--and heck, we don't want to stand in the way of progress, but this company may take more than it gives. If Hanson is so desperate to build in Richmond, what can we get from them? And why won't the city talk to us?

Posted by kgs at 08:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack