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Published November 2nd, 2016
Letters to the Editor

Spirit Van Says Thank You

Dear Editor,
To the members of the Moraga Town Council, Town Manager Priebe, and the Moraga community,
Each year, we ask Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda to financially support the Lamorinda Spirit Van Program. This has been a very difficult year for the Town of Moraga to consider funding us as it is focused on financing the repairs to the sinkhole.
I would like to thank Moraga Vice Mayor Dave Trotter for writing a letter of support for the Spirit Van. Because of Mr. Trotter’s letter, a donor who wishes to remain anonymous is matching donations up to $4,500 to help the Town of Moraga provide $9,000 in funding to the Lamorinda Spirit Van Program. In response to these efforts donations are coming in, and another donor who also wishes to remain anonymous has said s/he will make up any shortage. These efforts ensure that Moraga’s usual contribution of $9,000 will continue for 2016-2017. Since the Moraga Town Council has agreed to revisit the possibility of funding the Lamorinda Spirit Van Program in January after more is known about funding the sinkhole repairs, Moraga’s contribution from the town and from private donations may turn out to be more than $9,000. For this financial support, the City of Lafayette, the passengers, and I are very appreciative.
A big “Thank you,” to vice mayor Trotter, the Moraga Town Council, and Moraga community donors for making this happen! Thank you to John Warshaw for setting up the Active.Netdonations site via facebook.com/lamorindaspiritvan! Thank you to Jay Ingram and Kimberly Nelson for setting up the Electronic Reader Board!
Mary Bruns
Lamorinda Spirit Van Program

Lafayette Measure C

Dear Editor,
We strongly urge our fellow Lafayette citizens to vote Yes on Measure C.
All funds raised by the Measure and associated expenditures will be tracked and reviewed by an independent Citizen Oversight Committee. This committee will be an effective check on how these specific dollars are spent.
In addition, our city council has bi-weekly meetings where all citizens are encouraged to speak on any and all matters, including thoughts and ideas pertaining to Measure C funds.
Remember all Measure C monies will be placed in a separate category account so that the oversight committee and all Lafayette residents can see, report and comment on Measure C expenditures.
Protecting open space, reducing downtown congestion — including parking — enhancing police protection and potentially acquiring land for a downtown park are some of the elements Measure C is intended to address.
Please join us to make Lafayette, the town we all love, a better place to live.
Vote Yes on Measure C.
Karen and Tom Mulvaney

Lafayette Doesn’t Need More Taxes

Dear Editor,
I am writing concerning your Oct. 5 Measure C article.
While Prop C is billed as a one percent increase in the sales tax, the increase from 8.5 percent to 9.5 percent is an approximately 12 percent increase. Add to this a potential ½ percent increase from Measure X, bringing the total to 10 percent, this sales tax increase could be nearly 18 percent. And to top it off is a measure to continue the ¼-percent increase that Governor Brown promised would expire.
Were it not for these measures the tax rate should have dropped to 8.25 percent. So this potential rate of 10 percent we’re looking at is in actuality a 21 percent increase, when inflation is under 2 percent. And this comes at a time where homeowners are seeing regular annual increase in their property taxes, increases in other county fees and taxes, and when the city is not only reaping the rewards of these continued increases but is showing a significant surplus each year. Many articles have told the story of how the cost of living in the Bay Area is climbing out of control. Yet, one of the key areas in cost of living are all these numerous tax increases and fees that are popping up everywhere, and on top of these, there are BART increases, toll increases, utility increases … the list is endless. I recently went to book a small airfare and the tax was more than 50 percent of the fare.
Every time a homeowner goes to the hardware store, a parent picks up a hot meal on the way home, this is taking out another bite.
Lafayette should be giving the stretched middle class homeowners a tax break when it has a surplus, not an increase.
Ty Allison

I Voted Yes on C

Dear Editor,
I voted yes for Measure C because I trust the judgment of those supporting it and the members of the city council who unanimously concluded, after extensive hearings, adding 1 percent to the sales taxes is in our interest. Adding to our tax burden is not something they would recommend if they didn’t think it was important. The knee-jerk reaction of most constituents is to oppose all tax increases. In fact 28 percent of voters vote no on every proposal that increases their taxes.
I’m not tied to the priorities listed by the council. They are today’s priorities established by a survey taken that most of us, including me, didn’t take the time to complete.
I wouldn’t mind if someone is able to persuade the council to spend money on something that is not on the list. I trust in local government and our ability to influence decisions that are made. If the 1 percent went to Washington D.C. or Sacramento I’d be voting no.
I do believe there is a correlation between what we invest in the city and schools and the value of our homes. I can’t possibly justify refusing to pay an extra 1 percent on the taxable items I purchase in Lafayette given how much my home has appreciated. I appreciate the stewardship provided by members of the city council, all of whom volunteer their time. Bottom line, I’m a happy camper.
Finally, I don’t think we should take the risk that other taxing authorities will make it impossible for the city to add 1 percent later. The sales tax in Lafayette is already 8.5 percent and the maximum allowed by state law is 10 percent. I think it will reach the maximum even if Lafayette doesn’t add anything to the sales tax burden.
If you can’t afford it certainly vote no on C. But, if you can and still decide to vote no then at least be civil. It is important that we be respectful of opposing views. This much we know from observing the presidential candidates and their talking heads.
Budd MacKenzie

YES on Lafayette’s Measure C

Dear Editor,
For the past two years the city has held community meetings to listen to the thoughts and opinions of residents on a 20-year vision for Lafayette’s future, The Citizens’ Vision.
More than 700 people participated and said that their priorities were to preserve open space, improve traffic flow and parking, enhance public safety, and add a new downtown park to enhance the quality of life in Lafayette.
Voting YES on Measure C will give Lafayette the funds it needs to accomplish those visions of its future.
Anne Grodin

Preserve Lafayette’s Hillsides with C

Dear Editor,
Please vote yes on Measure C. Measure C will give Lafayette resources that will make Lafayette an even better place to live, but most important in our view, that will help Lafayette protect and preserve open space for everyone’s benefit for years to come.
We cannot take for granted that the undeveloped portions of our hillsides and ridgelines will remain undeveloped. Most of the open hillsides and ridgelines that we see are privately owned, and the owners have the right to build – in accordance with the city’s ordinances. The pressure to build will continue to grow, and even with the most exacting application of the city’s hillside ordinances, we will see buildings on the hillsides and ridges, the open vistas will be lost, and trail corridors will be blocked.
Lafayette has simply not had the resources necessary to protect and preserve open space. This is our opportunity to significantly improve Lafayette. We cannot let it pass by.
Please vote Yes on Measure C.
Carl and Sharon Anduri

Disappointed by Measure C

Dear Editor,
I now understand why the East Bay Times recommended a NO vote on Measure C. The “sales tax increase is too much for one bite” and lasts “29 years, a ridiculously long time for a tax that could be used for any government purpose” (East Bay Times 9/20/16). Surprisingly, it requires only a simple majority (50% + 1 vote) to pass.
Measure C lists spending priorities based on survey responses of 4 percent of our residents. There is no legal requirement that the money will be spent on only these items. I am disappointed that what some are calling a “blank check” for the city requires only a simple majority to pass. When you ask citizens to vote for a tax of this size ($100 million) and duration (29 years), it should require at least 2/3 of the votes to pass. If it can’t achieve that threshold, then it is insufficiently supported by voters and should be reexamined to identify its shortcomings.
I happily endorsed and voted for the OTHER Measure C — the school bond we passed in June with over 73 percent of the vote. It required a 2/3 vote and restricted the use of funds to itemized needs. THIS Measure C is starkly different. It requires only a simple majority and does not legally restrict the use of funds.
Unlike Orinda, whose voters passed by 69 percent a 10-year sales tax generating approximately $7 million, and Moraga, whose voters passed by 70 percent a 20-year sales tax generating approximately $20 million, Lafayette’s Measure C would last 29 years and generate approximately $100 million. The magnitude of Lafayette’s proposed tax is out of sync with our neighboring communities’ taxes.
I love Lafayette, but I don’t love Measure C. I hope that in the future our city leaders will follow an approach more similar to those of our school board or our neighboring towns.
Linda Murphy

Vote Yes on Measure C – A Vote for Increased Public Safety

Dear Editor,
I believe Lamorinda residents and especially Lafayette voters should vote for Measure C on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Our residents are increasingly concerned about public safety. Part of the Measure C revenue will be used to further assist Lafayette’s police department in order to ensure we have sufficient personnel and the tools to keep the city safe.
The monies Measure C generates will also help preserve open space and improve downtown parking.
Note the money raised by Measure C will stay in Lafayette, and expenditures will be overseen by a Citizens’ Oversight Committee.
Let’s make Lafayette a better place and vote Yes on Measure C.
Erling Horn

Yes on Measure C

Dear Editor,
I understand that within our community there is some concern over the need for, and transparency around, future expenditures that would result from passage of Measure C and the significant revenue that would be developed by this increase in sales tax. We should always demand clarity when taxes are imposed, but also recognize when they are necessary for the good of the community.
I believe that many of us agree that there are serious infrastructure needs that we in Lafayette need to address, that these have been well-captured by the wording of Measure C, and that we have reason to expect and trust our government leadership to be responsive to the community in the future, based on past performance and the commitment of local folks to pay attention to how our representatives perform.
Measure C addresses local issues, for example by preserving additional open space, addressing parking and traffic concerns and enhancing our police services. A Citizens Oversight Committee will monitor the way Measure C funds are spent, and this transparent process is very encouraging.
I urge my neighbors to vote Yes on Measure C.
Roger Falcone

Measure C is Example of Citizen Involvement

Dear Editor,
Measure C proposes a sales tax increment, a general tax. Since general taxes cannot be legally restricted to specific purposes, voting for a general tax requires a level of trust in those making decisions on how to spend those revenues.
Over the past 20 years, the city of Lafayette has managed to stretch modest city revenues and find additional funds to reconstruct all of the city’s failed roads; develop a successful and vibrant downtown; and build a beautiful Veterans Hall and a library. Through good times and recessions, Lafayette has balanced its budgets and maintained a healthy emergency fund.
All five members of the city council, as well as the new council member, who will take his seat in December, have pledged to make the elements of the Citizens’ Vision for Lafayette the priority for all expenditures of the sales tax revenues. They will seek to leverage those precious revenues to obtain additional funding for the Citizens’ Vision.
A Citizens Oversight Committee will report regularly on the revenues of the sales tax increment and the expenditures made from those revenues. To make that easier, Lafayette’s budget will include a separate budget category for the sales tax revenues so that the committee can see exactly what is received and what is spent.
Measure C is an example of how to make citizen involvement in city affairs work. The financial stewardship the city has demonstrated over the past decades will continue for the coming decades as well.
Love Lafayette – Vote Yes on Measure C.
Mary McCosker

Why Were Signs Removed?

Dear Editor,
Two “No on C” signs were recovered Friday, Oct. 21, from the Lafayette public works yard, one homemade by a resident, and the other made by Save Lafayette. Both were given to me on Friday after the recovery. Both of these were put up at Springhill and Pleasant Hill Road on Oct. 19. Both were removed by city staff on Thursday, along with possibly other signs at this location (we don’t know how many others, if any). Four signs remained at this location after staff removed these. Neither of these “No on C” signs were in violation of any city signage rules, as the homemade sign was to the right of the bulk of the signs, and the official sign to the left, possibly too close to another sign. Both were recovered by another citizen from the public works yard.
I know that staff was instructed on Friday to not continue removing specifically the “No on C” signs, or at least not to specifically target any one sign over any other. I also know that on Oct. 19, at least one of the official “No on C” signs was in an inappropriate location in the median on Pleasant Hill Road near Acalanes High School. It’s clear that this one should have been removed.
What troubles me is the removal of the homemade sign. It was not in any clear violation of any “reasonable” city signage rules, as it was put in a “reasonable” location at this site. It is clearly homemade, but wasn’t any larger or smaller than the other signs. I have been trying hard to think of any reason that a staffer could have used to justify removal.
The resident who made the sign did reach out to me, and doesn’t feel justified in putting it back up. That is just awful, and should not be how our residents feel about expressing their opinions in our city.
Please, some acknowledgement by staff for the reasons why this one particular sign was removed should be made public. Justifications should be given, or apologies expressed.
Susan Candell

Lafayette School Board

Sturm for Lafayette School District Board

Dear Editor,
As a Lafayette Unified School Board member, I have worked to ensure a world-class education for all students while maintaining fiscal responsibility. I support Rob Sturm because he embraces this same ideal. Rob believes, “We are fortunate to have a wonderful school district and superintendent and fantastic teachers and staff. Nevertheless, there are opportunities to regain fiscal stability and improve upon Lafayette’s academic preeminence.”
California’s unstable school funding requires districts be fiscally disciplined. To protect against cuts in down economies, our district maintains reserves which we have historically avoided spending in up economies. However, we recently approved a budget with an $800,000-plus deficit which leaves us below reserve levels recommended by experts. Projections show our reserves being exhausted within the next two years. When asked about this at a candidates’ forum, the other candidates gave flip responses about passing another parcel tax. Rob Sturm was the only candidate to answer that a parcel tax should only be used as a last resort, particularly given that we recently passed a $70 million bond and a permanent parcel tax. Rob used his professional training to review our budget and identify areas of inefficiency that could be addressed without affecting the education students receive. His assessment is sophisticated, substantive and reflects his professional expertise and a respect for the burden that parcel taxes place on our residents. We need that kind of thinking on our board.
Rob is also dedicated to ensuring a preeminent education for all our students. We provide an exceptional education to most of our students. However, there are valid concerns that we may not be adequately serving our special needs and gifted students. As an attorney with experience providing equal opportunity counseling, Rob has expertise that will benefit our special needs community and our district by avoiding unnecessary legal expenses. Rob also wants to see our district actively consider accelerated academic offerings (an area we have recently reduced). Rob will be an advocate for all our students.
Please vote Charles (“Robert”) Sturm for Lafayette School Board.
Nancy Wallace

Vote Meade and Kindhouse

Dear Editor,
I am writing today to express my concerns regarding recent posts on “Nextdoor” and statements at a recent debate by one of the candidates running for Lafayette School Board.
Last week, a candidate posted messages stating that the Lafayette School District was in dire financial condition. Then, during the PTA Candidate Forum on October 25th, the candidate stated again that the district would be fiscally insolvent by 2018. This type of alarmist rhetoric is concerning. Uninformed stakeholders can easily over react to such language: teachers wonder whether they should look for new jobs; parents worry about losing educational programs; seniors wonder what a district bankruptcy might mean for housing values.
I have been in banking and finance my whole career, I have a pretty solid understanding of what insolvency means: it means your long-term liabilities are greater than your assets and that you do not have the cash flow to service those liabilities. It means you are on a path to bankruptcy or, in the case of a school district, a potential takeover. The Lafayette School District is not insolvent, far from it.
Not only is it supported by an affluent and growing local tax base, but the district owns property all over town (e.g. White Pony) and has millions of dollars of assets with substantial equity value. For these reasons, I was discouraged by what Rob Sturm had posted on “Nextdoor.” I felt sure that going bankrupt in one year wasn’t feasible – and a bit of research proved that feeling to be true.
When Rob claimed district insolvency again during the recent PTA debate, the other two candidates jumped in to correct him. They referenced district data and pointed people to the district website.
I’ve never written a letter to a newspaper before, but what the community is hearing and seeing is distressing. No election is worth causing fear amongst parents, teachers, and citizens of our district. For these reasons, I am clear in who I am voting to be added to the Lafayette School Board: Meredith Meade and Mark Kindhouse. I urge you to do the same.
Alec Thompson

Sturm for Lafayette Schools

Dear Editor,
One of the primary reasons my family moved to Lafayette in 2010 was because of its schools. My family, and the entire Lafayette community, place enormous importance on the level of education provided to our children. We have the best teachers, aides, assistants, staff, administration and school board in the world and, as a family, we are profoundly grateful to them.
I know that Rob Sturm feels the same. It’s imperative that we continue to enable premier education for our kids and I have complete trust and confidence in Rob to work collaboratively with the board to do so. I’m voting for Rob for Lafayette School Board and I encourage you to do the same.
Rob brings a seasoned background and skills that will aid the District in meeting the need to maintain and enhance high-quality academic standards while also ensuring that Lafayette’s School District is operating as cost-efficiently as possible. His experience as a nearly 25-year attorney with a proven track record of fiscal diligence and problem-solving will help the district save substantially in order to ensure fiscal stability and redirect non-value-added spend to productive purposes such as enhanced academic offerings and teacher pay and eliminating the District’s deficit spending.
Not only will Rob will provide the board with a proven leader who has a well-established record of success and ability to bring fresh perspectives to the table, he is a thoughtful, kind and committed resident of Lafayette -- and an exemplary father -- who is fully dedicated to supporting the future of our incredible community.
Please join me in voting for Rob Sturm for Lafayette School Board.
Cameron Burks

Orinda School Board

Weiner, Hoxie for OUSD

Dear Editor,
I am writing to recommend both Hillary Weiner and Cara Hoxie for OUSD school board. I know each of them personally and “professionally” through serving together on the EFO Executive Board. We’re lucky that these two competent women have stepped forward to offer their skills to help ensure the continued excellence of Orinda K-8 schools.
Hillary is the only candidate who has students in the district and will lend this perspective along with her experience holding executive level positions on both the Parents’ Club and EFO boards. Cara’s three-year leadership as co-president of EFO, her proven ability to work with all types of groups and stakeholders and knowledge of this community where she grew up and raised her children are also invaluable assets.
It takes decisiveness, diplomacy and collaboration to get things done on the Orinda school board and these women have those qualities in spades.
Wendy Bond

Moraga Town Council

Korpus Has What it Takes

Dear Editor,
I have served on the Moraga Planning Commission with Kymberleigh Korpus since her appointment several months ago. Since joining the commission I have found her to be thoughtful, attentive to detail, and open to the views of her fellow commissioners. She frequently elevates the quality of both the discussions and decisions. She is always well prepared.
Conflict is to be expected when dealing with some of the complex and contentious issues before us. Each of us brings our own experience and style to the meetings. I believe some of the conflict that has resulted in apparent negative feelings towards Commissioner Korpus is a result of style differences. Her process is lawyerly and methodical. In planning meetings her questions build a structure of facts that moves toward an informed decision of the situation at hand. She often brings to light information that would otherwise not be explored without her persistence.
For the time she has been on the commission, I have found her to be intelligent and analytical; she does thorough research on the topics presented. Her legal training enables her ability to thoroughly analyze the decisions before us. She is aware of the potential loss of our semi-rural look, school over-crowding and increasing traffic congestion due to consequence of growth.
I support Kymberleigh Korpus in her run for Town Council. As a longtime Moragan she is committed to maintaining the quality of life and character of our town, which makes Moraga the special place it is.
I have written the above opinion as a private citizen.
Suzanne D’Arcy

Fritzky for Town Council

Dear Editor,
I am a mom active in a BSA Troop #234 in Moraga. I have assisted serving on the parent committee for our troop with town council candidate Jeanette Fritzky when she was the troop’s Treasurer. I would like to share with you why I feel that this woman is the person for the position on the Moraga Town Council for this upcoming election.
I was very secure and confident with Jeanette Fritzky when she was our BSA Troop Treasurer. She has the skilled communication that facilitates understanding of financial details with poise. She demonstrated being able to communicate effectively not only to the parents in the troop/parent committee, but to the Scout Master, other scout leaders and to our local scout district She accounted for our financial budget and assisted with planning, fundraising and cost-cutting where needed.
Many members in our parent committee not only are active in our troop as scout leaders, but have very high level positions of responsibility during their daily professional lives as business and government leaders. They all respected her integrity, consistency and ability to help maintain a balanced budget of the Troop.
These parent members all appreciated Jeanette’s impeccable manner in documenting, and reporting with transparency and consistency in a timely manner. When Jeanette suggested needed interventions or changes, the Troop Committee too acted by listening to her. This is where the Jeanette’s philosophy for her campaign of “LISTEN. REASON. ACT.” stands out to be tried, and true to me.
Jeanette, also dedicated her time and talent to our troop even though her son had accomplished his Rank of Eagle Scout. I trusted her credibility, not only by working with her on a monthly basis for a year. I am also impressed by her educational and professional work history as well.
She has also worked on the Survey For Moraga Residents involving our major shopping area in Moraga, as well as having served on the Moraga Park’s & Recreational Committee. I believe Jeanette Fritzky is not only capable but also has the ethical professionalism to become elected to the Moraga Town Council.
Cheryl Ku

Wykle, Korpus for Town Council

Dear Editor,
The Town of Moraga is losing its precious semi-rural character and quality of life. The upcoming Town Council election will determine the future of Moraga.
Graig Crossley, commendable as his many years of public service are, cannot be counted on to protect Moraga’s scenic corridors, hillsides, ridgelines and vistas from over-development. He fought against MOSO as a former council member, and he has not changed. He is part of Moraga’s old guard, which has given all it could and earned the right to retire.
Jeanette Fritzky, though apparently accomplished in her private and professional life, has no experience in Town planning and processes. She has yet to develop a voice of her own, and appears to take guidance and direction from Moraga’s old guard.
What is needed now is an infusion of new energy by those who have shown leadership and dedication to Moraga’s core values and principles. An ideal candidate would also demand greater governmental transparency and accountability, while encouraging a more openly participatory process.
Kymberleigh Korpus is such a candidate. As my colleague on the Moraga Planning Commission, I have seen her carefully examine facts, listen to and challenge opinions, and actively engage the public. She asks tough questions from all sides of the issues, and gives clear reasons for her decisions. Even though some Planning Commissioners have opposed her candidacy because they object to her willingness to question the merits of others’ decisions and to take a stand against the approval of the City Ventures project, they have come to grudgingly respect her due diligence and ability to identify important issues. She has demonstrated the needed experience and leadership, and needs your support to ensure the town adheres to its own policies and procedures, and is held accountable (e.g., Key Performance Indicator metrics).
Roger Wykle will bring his calm, capable, and creative analytical skills to enable the new solid majority in the Town Council to ensure Moraga’s bright future.
Thus, as a private citizen, I urge you to vote for Korpus and Wykle for Moraga Town Council.
Ferenc Kovac

Candidate Responds to Criticism

Dear Editor,
This letter is in response to Mr. Immel’s letter dated Oct. 19.
Mr. Immel is making his recommendation based on 30-year-old information. Who makes decisions for tomorrow and the future based on 30-year-old information? I hope Moraga does not.
Let me be clear: I am absolutely in favor of preserving and maintaining Moraga’s open space and ridge lines. Open space was one of the main reasons my wife and I were drawn to Moraga, as is true for many Moragans.
In terms of the issue from 30 years ago, at the time the Town Council felt that the Moraga Open Space Ordinance (MOSO) would actually limit the council’s ability to preserve and protect open space. After the vote to pass MOSO, developers filed suit to overturn the vote of the residents. The town council, including myself, used all of our legal means, then costing tens of thousands of dollars, to successfully defend the MOSO vote in court.
Two items he did not include: First, when mentioning Mulholland Ridge, he missed the briefing I received from the then Planning Director where he said I could not start from “0 units” when considering this development. The end result was several streets caped off with a few houses and over 300 acres of open space from behind Scofield Drive across the Mulholland Ridge to Camino Ricardo.
Second, in 1974, when the town incorporated, the county projected a population over 50,000 for Moraga. The town council, including myself, worked to eliminate the freeways through town that would have supported that population. Instead, the Moraga Country Club has a longterm lease providing open space and adding nine holes for their golf course.
In the past decades, it is clear MOSO is the cornerstone protecting Moraga’s open space and ridgelines. Mr. Immel and I may have disagreed on the method, but I did and continue to support preserving Moraga’s open space and ridgelines.
Graig Crossley

Out Town, Our Future

Dear Editor:
I ask with great urgency that Moragans vote for Roger Wykle. I keep hearing so many comments about the size and density of projects that are being built now -- e.g., on Moraga Road across from the Rheem shopping center, and on Camino Ricardo (where the homes are now spilling over on the backside of that hill and can be seen from the Moraga shopping center). Don’t know about you, but the “story poles” that once were put up relating to these developments NEVER gave me any idea of the true mass of these buildings. And that’s only the visual impact. The traffic and other results of the fine folks who move in aren’t things that can be reversed. But the MANY future proposed developments are still in our hands right now with this election!
Roger Wykle was one of the few town council members who voted against these projects, who has championed a cautious approach to development, and who has stood firm for the protection of Moraga’s remaining open space. Because the town is about to adopt new rules governing hillside and ridgeline development, we absolutely need his voice on the next council to protect what remains of our semi-rural town.
And for those wondering, I believe Korpus and Fritzky also have histories that display thoughtful support for our Town in this way, and will receive my vote.
Karen Chin

Orinda City Council

Can Orinda Preserve its Semi-rural Character?

Dear Editor,
Be careful what you vote for: semi-rural vs. more congestion.
In well-established Orinda, known for its excellent schools and safe environment, a key election battle is surfacing between those supporting local control, semi-rural values, and organic growth versus the big money pro-real estate development interests.
Some residents are concerned that city council candidates, construction executive Darlene Gee, and real estate attorney Inga Miller, who want to hire the Urban Land Institute, to lead the process of evaluating Orinda’s downtown, will invariably lead to new massive multi-story condos, increased traffic congestion, and major violations of Orinda’s General Plan.
Favoring semi-rural values, adherence to the general plan, code compliant buildings (to 35 feet), and organic growth, are candidates Dr. Bruce London, a retired radiologist, and educator Linda Delehunt.
The outcome is significant, and might be a role model for neighboring cities, as it represents an understanding that population density, overbuilding, and municipal code violations become major impairments to safety and quality of life issues.
Chris Kniel

Does Gee Represent Developers?

Dear Editor,
Darlene Gee, appointed to the Orinda City Council in July, 2015, states: “None of my campaign contributions are from development interests” (letter to the editor, Lamorinda Weekly, Oct. 19). Ms. Gee is seeking a full four-year term on the Orinda City Council.
A review of Ms. Gee’s campaign contributions from July 11 to Sept. 24 reveals that Ms. Gee has indeed received campaign contributions from development interests. Contribution to Ms. Gee’s campaign were reported on Sept. 29, 2016, by the Orinda City Clerk’s office.
Ms. Gee is a vice president of the HNTB Corporation, a construction and engineering firm. According to HNTB’s website, HNTB has done work for BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit).
On Sept. 16, Ms. Gee received $1,000 from the HNTB Holdings PAC (political action committee) located in Kansas City, Missouri. On Sept. 6, Ms. Gee received a $200 contribution from Grace Crunican, the general manager of BART and a resident of Alameda.
From her fellow HNTB employees, Ms. Gee received five contributions. Four of the five contributions came from HNTB employees who live outside of Orinda. Here are the names, locations, and dollar amounts donated by these five employees: Anthony Lee (Cranford, NJ, $99); Dina Potter (Piedmont, CA, $500); Joshua Englander (Sherman Oaks, CA $100); Shannon Gaffney (Moraga, CA, $100); and Darrell Vice (Orinda, CA, $250).
According to California Form 497 (dated Sept. 21,) HNTB donated $20,000 to support Measure X, which, if enacted by Contra Costa County’s voters in November, will increase the county sales tax by one-half percentage point. This means that the sales tax in Orinda will go from 9.0 percent to 9.5 percent. Some Measure X money will go to BART. Ms. Gee supports Measure X.
If Orinda’s voters elect Ms. Gee, they will have to decide if Ms. Gee will be representing Orinda’s residents or the interests of the HNTB Corporation.
Richard S. Colman

Two Clear Candidates for Orinda Council

Dear Editor,
Owen Murphy (LW, 10/4, Letters) is right. There is indeed a clear choice in the city council election. This election finally gives Orinda voters the opportunity to send a clear mandate to the next city council to move forward with a community discussion on revitalizing our downtown. Do we stick with the status quo, which means ineffective policies that have let our downtown fall into disrepair and disuse, while letting other communities leapfrog us? Or do we launch an important discussion on what it will take to restore downtown to a place of vibrancy, economic activity and pride?
Unfortunately, Mr. Murphy wrongly frames the important choice ahead of us with questions designed to frighten more than enlighten.
He asks which candidates would take a flexible approach to height limits and density in crafting an economically viable downtown plan based on community input. Certainly not Bruce London or Linda Delehunt, his preferred candidates, who seem inflexible on current land use restrictions governing our downtown. Yet these government restrictions have led to crumbling buildings and vacant lots downtown. It’s past time for the community to revisit the rules.
He asks, “Who would allow new downtown development to provide fewer on-site parking spaces?” The answer: no one. His support for Bruce London and Linda Delehunt implies that Darlene Gee and Inga Miller would. Wrong.
He asks which candidates “seem oblivious to the potential impact of downtown residential development on school class size, increased traffic, public safety, and an exacerbated downtown parking squeeze?” Again, no one. It is impossible to ignore such impacts in any meaningful dialogue about downtown development. Why does he assume they would? No facts, just fears.
Finally, he states that there are only two candidates “without conflict-of-interest ties to the real estate and development special interests.” This baseless smear implies that Gee and Miller have such ties. Wrong.
Mr. Murphy is correct. There is indeed a clear choice in this election. The status quo on downtown isn’t working. Make the choice that will improve our quality of life and our property values. Vote for Darlene Gee and Inga Miller.
Andy and Carole Amstutz
Rudy and Laurie Reich
Bob Burt Mike and Ginny Ross
Ethan Elkind Bill Waterman

Orinda Needs Community Service, Not Lip Service

Dear Editor,
As I look at the track records of the four candidates vying for the two seats to be filled on the Orinda City Council on Nov. 8, I notice a startling difference in the records of actual community service among the candidates.
Dr. Bruce London touts his regular attendance at Orinda City Council, Planning Commission, Citizens Infrastructure Oversight Commission and Finance Advisory Committee meetings. That’s commendable in itself, but has he ever applied to be appointed to actually serve on any of those bodies? There’s a huge difference between going to meetings and expressing one’s opinion and actually being a member who has to prepare for those meetings, do his or her “homework,” actively participate in all meetings, express opinions that may not be popular among dissenting groups, and actually make decisions that affect our community.
Linda Delehunt is a fellow member of a Rotary Club which reflects her desire to serve her community. But aside from her previous unsuccessful campaigns for various elected offices, I am unaware of her involvement on any local commission, committee or board that works to enhance the quality of life in our community.
On the other hand, Inga Miller served as a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and is a member of the board of Las Trampas, Inc., a local non-profit organization that has served adults with developmental disabilities for nearly 60 years.
Darlene Gee served as a member and chair of Orinda’s Citizens Infrastructure Oversight Commission before she was appointed to the city council last year to complete the term of now-State Senator Steve Glazer.
Orinda needs and deserves city council members who have served their community with their good deeds and hard work, not just their words. Please join me in supporting the two candidates who offer their records of community service, not lip service. On Nov. 8, vote for Darlene Gee and Inga Miller.
Mark Roberts

Gee and Miller for Council

Dear Editor,
This fall, Orinda can go forward or we can go back. We can choose to improve our amenities, restore our crumbling roads and build a more vibrant community for our kids and families - or we can go back. We can continue the same directionless course that has given us vacant lots, declining property values and unsafe roads. The choice is clear, the candidates’ positions are clear, and that’s why I’m supporting Inga Miller and Darlene Gee for city council.
For decades, Orindans have been disappointed as our elected leaders wrung their hands over the basics of governing. Everything from routine maintenance of our city’s infrastructure to simple economic development policy was neglected. I’ve heard it argued that preserving Orinda’s charm was something that had to be worked at. But sustained blight is not a strategy. Doing nothing is not leadership. And now we’re left with more maintenance than we afford, a commercial core that hasn’t been updated in decades, and the accompanying drag on our economy and property values.
I appreciate that every candidate says they want to improve downtown, but two of those candidates opposed beginning a serious conversation on the subject at the city council. For me, that disqualifies them on this issue. That says they’re not serious about progress - they’re committed to the status quo.
Vote for Gee and Miller for city council.
Bergen Kenny

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