Category: Richmond

Richmond Seeks Support for “Cybertran” Ultralight Rail Transit System

Cybertran rendering

Cybertran rendering

By Post Staff

The Richmond City Council has agreed to continue searching for federal and state dollars to fund an innovative transit system that could bring a high-tech passenger rail transit system to the city along with thousands of manufacturing jobs and billions in economic revitalization.

The council unanimously agreed to pursue the funding following a presentation from CyberTran International on March 24. The city hopes to be the first city in the world to implement the transit program.

Dexter Vizinau

Dexter Vizinau

“We’re excited about this project,” said Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, a strong advocate for the project. “This is important on so many different levels. It’s going to bring much-needed jobs to Richmond and renown to the city, too. We would be the first in the country to launch a program like this – it’s pretty amazing.”

When the project begins it could bring thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs, approximately 50 transit operator positions, about 100 new vehicle construction technicians and an estimated $13.5 billion in economic activity with increased property values and new businesses.

The CyberTran project could solve a lot of Richmond’s transportation goals and priorities including a long-standing desire to connect the city’s Hilltop area with areas like downtown, Parchester Village and the Marina that have not happened because it’s been cost-prohibitive, Beckles said.

“This could connect the city in ways not possible with AC Transit nor BART,” she said.

Dexter Vizinau, president of CyberTran said he specifically chose Richmond as the site of CyberTran because it will help the city.

“I could have moved the company to Silicon Valley and we would be a lot further along than we are,” he said. “But I moved to the City of Richmond because I wanted to move where the jobs are needed most and the city that needs it most is Richmond.”

CyberTran is developing a network of computer-automated, solar-powered trains that actually are more like large passenger cars, which can transport up to 20 passengers at a time.

Each vehicle will move non-stop, direct to destination.

Because of the smaller size of the vehicles, they are easier to build and implement and much cheaper than traditional rail systems. The computer-operated railcars, which are smaller than Disney Monorail cars, could be summoned and arrive to various locations on demand.

President Barack Obama is a proponent for reducing greenhouse emissions and has promoted the idea of environmentally-friendly, sustainable cars and transit projects. He approved a federal funding bill in December 2014 that could provide funding for projects like CyberTran in Richmond, according to Vizinau.

The Richmond City Council voted unanimously in September to enter a public-private partnership with CyberTran.

On Feb. 14, another agency, i-Gate, also signed an agreement with the company. The state-sponsored business incubator i-GATE has asked CyberTran to participate in a network of green transportation and clean-energy technologies, where the company can access advanced industry and technology development opportunities.

There are a total of five US cities and one in China that are working to deploy the transit technology, he said.

Vizinau and company representatives have also visited Richmond’s sister city Zhoushan, China four times in the past year and is also working to implement CyberTran there in hopes of making that city the first international site with the technology.

“It’s going to be phenomenal to be getting people out of their cars and good for the climate and good for mobility of Richmond residents,” Beckles said.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, April 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Unless Last-ditch Efforts Succeed, Doctors Hospital to Begin Closing in April

 

Doctors Medical Center

By Post Staff

Despite pleas from the public and staff at Doctor’s Medical Center in San Pablo, the doors to the hospital that houses West Contra Costa County’s only emergency room are scheduled to begin closing on April 21.

The West Contra Costa Healthcare District board voted March 26 to shutter the hospital but will wait until April 21 to give those interested in saving the hospital time to review a last-ditch proposal by a group that specializes in saving hospitals.

Residents and interested others packed the boardroom and expressed frustration and outrage that the board would close the hospital.

“It’s a shame,” said a man who didn’t want to be identified. “This hospital is very important to this community.”

The hospital averages 100 to 115 people in the emergency room a day. It stopped taking ambulance traffic in September 2014, and emergency room traffic dropped to about 50 a day – but those numbers have increased and people began coming back, according to records.

Doctor’s Medical Center has the region´s only cardiac unit, cancer center, diabetes-wound care, and sleep lab program. With the hospital closure those departments will be gone.

Some at the board meeting voiced frustration, saying that if the hospital could remain open until January, it might be saved by an influx of cash from Chevron’s Richmond refinery. T

The refinery has pledged about $15 million to the hospital – about $5 million for three years – as it revamps the refinery, but payments the payments do not begin until the work begins in January.

And, it is likely that when the hospital goes, the doctors’ offices that surround the hospital will go, too. And with the closure, about 700 employees, some of the highest paid jobs in area, will lose their jobs.

The hospital’s financial problems, which officials blame mostly on low reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal and Medicare patients, began in the 1990s. Those patients account for about 80 percent of the hospital’s total patients.

Another 20 percent are uninsured and commercial patients.

Doctor’s originally opened as Brookside Hospital in 1954.

When the hospital contracted with Tenet Health Systems in 1997, the agreement lasted just seven years before Tenet pulled out in 2004. Voters approved a $52-a-year parcel tax in 2004 and raised $5.6 million a year, but it wasn’t enough to stop the operating losses.

Then in 2006, the district filed for bankruptcy protection. When the hospital emerged from bankruptcy, its managers tried other ways to save the hospital to no avail.

The state and even other health care companies provided cash and received funds from the advance payments of the parcel tax. Even a second parcel tax in 2011, which raised about $5.1 million a year, didn’t help.

The hospital still fell into an $18 million a year deficit.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, April 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

De Anza High Students Protest Dismissal of Popular Teacher

High school students and parents held a demonstration at De Anza High School Monday, March 9 demanding that the West Contra Costa School District reverse a decision to fire the director of the school's law academy, Tahitia Dean. Photo by Jonothan Dumas.

High school students and parents held a demonstration at De Anza High School Monday, March 9 demanding that the West Contra Costa School District reverse a decision to fire the director of the school’s law academy, Tahitia Dean. Photo by Jonothan Dumas.

By Post staff

About 100 De Anza High School students held a day-long protest, peacefully demonstrating in front of the high school on Monday this week. The students were part of the high school’s Law Academy program, and they were demanding the West Contra Costa School District reverse a decision to fire their teacher.

De Anza’s principal and the West Contra Costa Unified school board decided not to renew the contract of probationary teacher Tahitia Dean, who was the director of the Law Academy.

Under state law, school distrdicts can fire or layoff teachers during their first two years without giving any reason.

Students say they went to the school board, wrote letters to the principal and school board, but no one listened to their complaints – then officials decided against renewing the Dean’s contract, concerned parents said.

According to students, the announcement that the teacher was not going to be rehired may be tied to an incident that occurred when De Anza students attended a mock trial event in Martinez in February.

The De Anza law academy students’ bus broke down, and when a replacement bus arrived, it smelled strongly of marijuana.

The students felt disrespected. They were upset that that the company would provide them with a bus that was not clean. As might be expected of students who were learning to understand law and their rights, they expressed their concerns in letters to the bus company, the principal and administration.

The announcement of Dean’s termination immediately followed. Dean could not be reached for comment.

Some students and parents think Dean’s lost her job because she encouraged students to speak up for themselves. The students believe that if they had not said anything, their instructor would still have a contract, said De Anza parent Jonothan Dumas.

“That was the kids actually wanting to do what they were learning to do in the law academy; which is if you see something that you believe to be wrong that you do something about it, that you put it in writing to the authorities.”

“They did it without prompting,” he said. “They were voicing their frustration over the situation, and this happens.”

A spokesman for the West Contra Costa School District told newsr reproters, “While we value and respect the opinions of our students and parents, the ultimate responsibility for evaluating teachers lies with the principal and the district.”

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier happened to be visiting the school on Monday during the protests and stopped to talk with the students. DeSaulnier could not be reached for comment.

Dumas, whose daughter attends the law academy, said parents are confused because the popular teacher was scheduled to participate in a teaching summer fellowship.

One of the requirements for the fellowship was that Dean needed acknowledgement from school management that her teaching contract was in place and would continue the next year, according to Dumas.

Dean did get that acknowledgement – so the refusal to renew her contract was a surprise, he said.

Education professor Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein said that the decision to terminate the teacher seemed to contradict the school district’s commitment to excellent teaching.

“The testimonials by parents about the passion for education this teacher has created in their children are inspirational,” said Kelly Epstein.  “She gives students new experiences, and she demands the best if them.”

“This is what we’re all looking for in a high school teacher,” she said.

Tony Thurmond Wins District 15th Assembly Race

Tony Thurmond and Kamala Harris

Tony Thurmond and Kamala Harris

By Nikolas Zelinski

In a race between two Democrats, Tony Thurmond beat Elizabeth Echols with 54 percent of the vote for the 15th District of the California Assembly.

District 15 includes 11 cities that are found between the southern edges of Oakland and the northern border of Hercules.

The victory is considered “upset” by some due to the political backing Echols received from Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, his wife, State Senator Loni Hancock and termed-out District 15 Assemblymember Nancy Skinner.

This is the first time in years that a candidate had won the seat without support from Bates.

Thurmond gives credit for his victory to the hard work of his supporters. .

“Our win is a testament to our volunteers who walked the precincts every single day and stayed focused,” Thurmond said. “I didn’t get the sense that being in the precincts every day was happening for the other campaign.”

Thurmond’s platform emphasized climate change issues, combatting violent crime, creating jobs, and fostering youth development. He has been outspoken and nurses’ picket lines backing efforts to save Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo.

His first plan of action in Sacramento is to push for youth recidivism and truancy reduction. Schools lose government funding when students are absent; less funding means less supplies and equipment.

Thurmond sees criminal justice reform and truancy reform as interrelated issues, “When young children miss school, their learning suffers, which puts them at risk of dropping out of school and ending up in the criminal justice system.”

Courtesy of the Post News Group, November 7, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Mayor-elect Tom Butt, Richmond Progressive Alliance Celebrate Victory

Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez

Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez

By Post Staff and press reports

Tom Butt was elected Richmond Mayor Tuesday despite a multimillion-dollar campaign by the Chevron Corporation that failed to defeat him or elect the candidates the oil company had supported.

Butt won with 51.43 percent of votes, beating Nat Bates – backed by Chevron – who received 35.46 percent of the votes and Uche Justin Uwahemu, who came in third with 12.73 percent.

“I’ve never had such a bunch of people who are dedicated and worked so hard. It’s far away above anything that I’ve ever experienced,” said Butt quoted in the SF Chronicle

Mayor-elect Tom Butt

Mayor-elect Tom Butt

Also winning three members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance who ran for City Council: Jovanka Beckles, Gayle McLaughlin and Eduardo Martinez.

By winning both the campaigns for mayor and city council, the progressives will probably be able to fill Butt’s vacated council seat.

A number of observers said that Chevron’s aggressive campaign turned off voters.

“The election was a referendum on Chevron, and the people obviously made it clear they did not appreciate the unnecessary spending by Chevron – so they took it out on the rest of the candidates,” said mayoral candidate Uwahemu.

Butt’s campaign spent about $58,00 while Chevron spending totaled over $3 million and attracted national attention to Richmond, a city of 107,000 people.

Speaking at his campaign headquarters, Bates told his supporters, “It looks like the campaign is over, and Butt is your new mayor. “Everyone that Chevron supported was unsuccessful.”

Quoted in the Richmond Confidential, Bates, “I’m still in love with this city. There was just too much mail, and people became resentful. They turned against Chevron.”

In the campaign for a short-term City Council member, Jael Myrick won with 50.96 percent of the vote, defeating Corky Booze, who received 32.30 percent.

In a press release, Richmond Progressive Alliance said the winning three council members have “pledged to stand strong for Richmond residents in the city’s dealings with the Chevron Corporation, demanding safety, transparency and accountability from the oil giant.”

According to the press release, “The newly-elected City Council will preside over the refinery’s massive retooling project, as well as oversee the City’s lawsuit against Chevron, a result of the horrific 2012 refinery fire that sent 15,000 residents to seek medical treatment and caused property values to plunge.”

In Congressional races, Mark DeSaulnier won with 66.17 percent of the vote, and Jerry McNerney won with 55.32 percent.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, November 7, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)