Contra Costa Times: $7 million deficit should be a piece of cake for Richmond problem solvers

blogimage.jpgRe-posted from The Contra Costa Times: Tom Barnidge Column

Everything on today's menu is low-fat and high-fiber. Consume as much as you wish:

Richmond city leaders seemed dismayed last week when they paged through next year's budget and found a $7 million deficit awaiting them. What kind of attitude is that for council members who routinely find solutions for childhood obesity, underwater mortgages and impoverished minimum wage earners?

Here's what they should do: Have Mayor Gayle McLaughlin get one of her Wells Fargo buddies to float the city a loan, then seize that debt through eminent domain and repackage it at a discount. Whatever money's still owed can be paid off with a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages that voters are sure to approve.

If that doesn't work, there's always the fallback: It was Chevron's fault.

It seems like only yesterday that BART directors were lamenting the costly contract demands of union workers -- before they switched gears and gave them everything they wanted. So what's happened since?

Directors approved 3.7 percent raises for top management and authorized $225,000 for a Seattle consulting firm to determine what went wrong in labor talks. What went wrong then is the same thing that's gone wrong since: The board keeps dishing out money as if its resources are endless.

If you enjoy soap operas, it's not too late to catch up with Days of Our Dozier-Libbey Medical High School.

In late March, teachers' petition for conversion charter status was denied by the Antioch school board, which instead approved the school as a dependent charter subject to district oversight. On April 7, teachers filed a temporary restraining order in Contra Costa Superior Court to deny implementation of that vote. On April 11, the district appointed Scott Bergerhouse principal of the school, as if the restraining order didn't exist.

In the next installment, tentatively scheduled for May 7, the Contra Costa County Board of Education will hear heartfelt pleas from both sides. You won't want to miss it.

If you haven't visited the eastern wing of Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek lately, be forewarned: There is enough canvas-covered cyclone fencing lining the sidewalks to set up a prisoner-of-war camp.

Heavy machinery grinds behind the fence lines and plumes of dust periodically blow through the air as construction workers turn today's retail space into tomorrow's bigger, better version of the same thing. The $250 million construction project is expected to take two years.

Coincidentally, several hundred free parking spaces have disappeared, and street parking meter rates have doubled. As the Chamber of Commerce likes to say, welcome to Walnut Creek.

It's hard to know how to react to Antioch's new animal ordinance, which bans feeding feral cats in public places and requires residents to have a permit to keep more than five cats. Are cats really that big of a problem in Antioch?

Last time I checked, the city was desperately in need of more police, and that was before they became responsible for writing cat citations.

It was disappointing to read media reports about the cables and rods on the new Bay Bridge showing signs of rust. Just think how bad the problem would be if it ever rained around here. It's too early to rush to judgment, but the bridge's projected 150-year life span may be a little overly optimistic.

Contact Tom Barnidge at [email protected].

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