I wanted to express my support for What's Up Downtown and the re-visioning of Downtown Orinda. I was raised in the area and am fortunate to be raising my three children here. As we all know, most of the redevelopment and new commercial investment has headed to Lafayette. I don't know that we want to, or could, mirror Lafayette for a variety of reasons, but Downtown Orinda presents a special opportunity to create a center that brings together a city split by a large highway. With the right balance of housing, retail and open space, we could create a true "community center" that would encourage us to spend meaningful time downtown rather than driving through it or parking to shop for daily needs. I appreciate all of the efforts and look forward to supporting the rebirth of downtown Orinda.
I would also like to encourage others to support Darlene Gee and Inga Miller in their pursuit of seats on the Orinda City Council. It is with their leadership, and that of all the council members, that we can find a path to creating a thriving downtown Orinda.
Gee and Miller for Council
To the Editor,
When it comes to responsible revitalization for downtown Orinda, Darlene Gee and Inga Miller are the only proven candidates for the Orinda City Council who share a community-focused and action-oriented approach.
As a mother of three young children (ages 4, 9, and 11), a local psychologist - and childhood-native of Orinda - I long for an attractive, pedestrian-friendly downtown that celebrates its history and character, while providing cultural amenities. I wish for fresh produce for my children, locally-made products, and entertainment that connects families. Why do I have to drive to Rockridge, downtown Lafayette, or Fourth Street in Berkeley for shopping and entertainment?
Darlene and Inga also recognize our local environmental treasures like the San Pablo Creek which desperately needs restoration to preserve its native wildlife. Did you know that river otters, salmon, and trout once swam through our creek? Did you know that Orinda boasts the largest number of creeks in our county? Just imagine what a stroll through this natural habitat could offer our children in their educational and social-emotional development. Berkley renovated Strawberry Creek for its residents - it's time we offer our community the same access to our very own under-utilized natural resources.
Vote Inga and Darlene for downtown revitalization and San Pablo Creek Restoration.
Nadine Watters, PsyD
Orinda CA 94563
I am writing in support of Craig Jorgens for Director of the Moraga-Orinda Fire District (MOFD). Craig and I served together on the Orinda Roads Commission, where I had an opportunity to see him in action. Craig is a businessman and engineer and I have been impressed with his creative management and financial skills. These are skills the MOFD Board needs as it strives to ensure the safety of the public and the financial stability of the District.
Craig's abilities, experience and creativity will be of major assistance to MOFD as it faces a number of complex problems. For example, despite progress in recent years, MOFD's unfunded pension liabilities and the poor emergency response times in much of northern Orinda remain significant and unresolved issues. Importantly, I would expect Craig to seek full understanding of these issues and to seek effective solutions without necessarily being bound to past practice.
Keeping us safe and staying on the cutting edge of firefighting technology is another area where Craig's skills as a manager and an engineer will help MOFD. Among Craig's many accomplishments, he has led a business whose success depended on effective management of new technology. Craig demonstrated his leadership with regard to new business practices on Orinda's Roads Commission by identifying full depth recycling as a promising technology and asking the City to look into it. We now use full depth recycling and the result is better roads at lower cost.
Craig Jorgens is a non-politician who will search earnestly for and promote the right solutions -- not those with the most immediate political appeal. Most importantly, Craig will listen to everyone, work to bring us together, think "out of the box," and be willing to take the actions required to keep MOFD financially solvent, effective, and on the cutting edge of technology. We need him as a Director. Please join with me in voting for Craig.
Protect Moraga's Outdoor Space
I was astonished by both the size and the composition of the crowd at the Sept. 9 food trucks event at Moraga's Hacienda de Los Flores. The lawn was overflowing with young families, and more were pouring in when we left. The same kind of crowd covers the hill at the summer concerts in the Commons. It is quite a different population from the one I encounter at the shopping centers during the week, when I feel like I'm living in Leisure World. I hope some of those young residents have the interest and can find the time to succeed us older volunteers because this is how Moraga has become the kind of desirable place that caused them to move here.
The event also reminded me of the need to protect the few level, public, open areas that we still have in this hilly town. Looking at the many picnic tables on the Hacienda lawn, I thought about one of the proposals to make the costly Hacienda self-sustaining. A few B&B rooms in the building wouldn't be enough to make that kind of operation feasible, so the consultant as proposed that several units could be built on the far side if the lawn. I believe that we should kill this idea before it gains any traction. The lovely grounds constitute the Hacienda's main attraction, in my judgement. The building was fiddled with for years, and the result is neither historic nor an architectural gem. It is also essentially unusable for recreation purposes. Events such as Octoberfest, Cinco de Mayo and Hacienda Nights are primarily outdoor activities that require that large, lovely lawn.
I hold the same view with regard to the Commons Master Plan. It is comparatively small to serve as our principal park, and very little of the open land is level enough to be usable for additional facilities. A specialized play structure for the all-abilities is going to be built next to the tot lot, but I believe we should protect the big lawn and the adjacent picnic area under the trees. The housing projects on Moraga Road, Camino Ricardo and Moraga Way are providing us with enough crowding.
Vote Chew for BART board
I have been a Moragan for 30 years. I am very proud to have another Moragan running for District 3 BART Board. I believe Ken Chew, our former member of the council and mayor, will bring refreshing leadership and positive changes to the BART system.
Ken Chew stands for safe, clean and welcoming trains and stations. He stands for more supervision, training and maintenance so trains run on-time. Distinguishing himself from other candidates, Ken Chew is against the $3.5 billion bond on the November ballot. He believes the bond issue is untimely since the current board already planned for two upcoming fare increases with BART already operating on an annual deficit. The $3.5 billion bond will be an additional financial burden to the system. I believe Ken Chew is on the right track. BART must first manage BART's existing assets, improve working relationships with labor and staff, and increase operation efficiency. Only when we see results, then and only then, should BART consider a bond issue.
Dr. Ingrid Kwee
Rob Sturm and Meredith Meade for Lafayette School Board
People move to Lafayette for the schools. Our high quality schools provide our children with a great education and keep our property values high. We need to protect our investments.
I have served on the Lafayette School Board for the last four years, currently as board president, and I've decided not to seek reelection in November. In addition to my work for the district, I'm highly committed to advocacy for all public school students of all learning levels. With two open seats, I have a keen interest in making sure the most qualified individuals are elected.
Rob Sturm is one of those candidates. As a practicing labor attorney, Rob Sturm is comfortable navigating complex situations and decisions. Rob has a remarkable eye for the budget and I am confident he will quickly work to address the nearly $1 million deficit in the 2016/17 budget and help restore the district's past practice of fiscal responsibility. I voted against our current budget. Rob also believes that every student should be challenged at every level of learning. I have serious concerns about our math tracks at Stanley as I believe we have limited the potential of our top performers and I've shared the details of my concerns with Rob. I know Rob will work with the district in a respectful, collegial and professional manner. Rob's a very likeable fellow and his integrity is unquestioningly impeccable.
I am also supporting Meredith Meade for the Lafayette School Board. As the immediate past two-year president of LPIE that followed a two-year president term on the Lafayette Elementary PTA, Meredith is steeped in knowledge regarding the relationship between LPIE, the parent clubs and the district. She is already familiar with our curricular offerings and would be able to contribute meaningfully from day one. I have worked with Meredith on a number of items over the last seven years and I can personally attest to her unwavering commitment to our students and to our community.
Please join me in supporting Rob Sturm and Meredith Meade for the Lafayette School Board! This is a very important election for our district.
Wiener, Hoxie for Orinda School Board
I am very proud of what we have achieved since I joined the Orinda School Board. In the past year and a half, we have:
Hired a new superintendent who has a bold vision for taking our schools from excellent to world class;
Achieved an increase in our credit rating from AA to AA+;
Initiated a new policy and program for the Wagner Ranch Nature Area which will open it to educate all of our students in science, conservation, ecology, history and social studies;
Began a new, strength-based student safety program for all students every year;
Installed a district wide solar system at no cost to taxpayers which will save $300,000 per year in utility costs.
This November, we will be voting to fill two seats on the school board. We have made significant progress in these last few years, and we have much more that we want to accomplish for our students. We need to finish the change we have begun.
We need new board members who can work together collaboratively - even in times when we have different visions for the best path forward. We need new members who have a record of positive contribution to and accomplishments for the district. We need new members who thoroughly understand the roles and responsibilities of a board member.
For these reasons, I am supporting and urging you to vote for Cara Hoxie and Hillary Wiener.
Cara Hoxie attended Orinda schools as a child, and her children have as well. For the past 8 years, Cara has served as president of the Orinda Education Foundation. She has worked to create a collaborative fundraising model which will ensure the private funding that our schools depend upon.
Hillary Wiener has served as president of Glorietta Parents Club, and on the Superintendent's Fiscal Advisory Committee. She is on the board of the Educational Foundation of Orinda and is a parks and recreation commissioner for the city of Orinda.
Both these women have the proven ability to make sound fiscal decisions, work collaboratively, and will be the trustees we need on our school board.
Korpus' Arguments are Flawed
At recent Moraga Planning Commission meetings addressing the Moraga Town Center Homes Project, Kymberleigh Korpus, who is a planning commissioner and town council candidate, strongly argued to impose changes to previously approved project characteristics. Kymberleigh also submitted similar arguments to the Moraga Town Council for their Aug. 24 meeting which addressed this project. I personally disagree with Kymberleigh's approach because:
1. Kymberleigh's arguments were counter to counsel from Moraga's town attorneys that the town has no legal standing for changing project characteristics once approved. The town attorneys are trained and experienced in municipal law, and have the resources to substantiate their counsel. I believe that town attorney counsel should not be dismissed without a sound basis.
2. The Municipal Code is subject to interpretation, and Kymberleigh presented her interpretation. Instead of substantiating the credibility of her arguments, Kymberleigh claimed she "had not been proven wrong," and that Moraga staff "had not proven themselves correct" (e.g., see Kymberleigh Korpus' Aug. 18 communication to the town council, which is available via Moraga's town website). While this tactic might be viewed as inferring credibility, in fact, it's fatally flawed and is something that I consider unprofessional.
3. Kymberleigh issued the unsubstantiated arguments via social media.
My personal assessment on the impact of Kymberleigh's actions are:
1. Misrepresentation of the legal status of the project at this stage. In fact, implementation of Kymberleigh's recommendations would have almost certainly subjected Moraga to a losing lawsuit, just as the town lost the Palos Colorados Project court case in 1998 because the Town Council changed already approved project characteristics.
2. Unjustified and inaccurate broad public criticism of town staff.
3. Needless expenditure of town staff resources in both time and costs.
Therefore, I do not recommend Kymberleigh Korpus for Moraga Town Council.
I communicate the above as a private citizen. I have over 14 years of combined experience on the Moraga Design Review Board and Moraga Planning Commission. I offer to meet with individuals and groups to address questions both on this communication and recent development projects in Moraga.