Support School Measures A & B

By Mike Rusk | Comments Off

If you live in the Acalanes Union High School District or the Lafayette School District or both, you have received a ballot in the mail for Measures A and B.

Measure A sustains critical funding to maintain academic programs and support services in the Acalanes Union High School District schools by renewing and extending the parcel tax that is expiring, without raising tax rates. Measure A will continue to provide ongoing, local funding to preserve excellence in our schools.

Measure B will continue an expiring tax to pay for core academic programs including math, science and technology for schools in the Lafayette School District.

The LaMorinda Democratic Club has endorsed both measures and is urging you to vote yes on both Measure A and B.

As Democrats we must unite to pass these measures to maintain our excellent schools, so please mail in your yes vote immediately.

As a result of the recession, California state revenues declined by $15 billion from 2007 to 2008. While the state’s spending cuts in education made many headlines, you may be unaware of the massive budget cuts to the judicial system, much less the impact it has had on those without the resources to navigate our underfunded courts. At our March club meeting, Mark Simons, Justice, the State of California Court of Appeal and Barry Goode, Presiding Judge, Contra Costa County Superior Court, spoke about how budget cuts have led to justice denied.

 Justice Simons explained that the judicial system has seen better days. In 1998, the superior and municipal courts were placed under the supervision of the county superior court presiding judge. The resulting significant efficiencies and additional state funding enabled more judges to be deployed to handle family and juvenile courts in Pittsburg and Richmond. Our county went from one courthouse to approximately five facilities in just two years. However, from 2000 to 2008, things changed. As Justice Simons noted the “quality and availability of justice was declining at this point in time.” The recession was the final straw.

 Judge Goode pointed out the current, grim state of the California judicial system. Since 2006, the judicial branch’s portion of the state general fund expenditures dropped from 2%, typical across the country, to 1%. At the low point this was a $1.2 billion reduction before inflation. Judge Goode stated that the 2014-15 state budget proposed by Governor Brown provides a net increase of about $30 million. Unfortunately, the courts need hundreds of millions more.

 Judge Goode made a survey of presiding judges across the state and presented a summary. Since 2008, 61 courthouses and 205 courtrooms across the state have been closed. In Contra Costa County, court house staffing has been reduced by 30% and management by 40%. All of these spending cuts have generated delays, prompting hours and even days of waiting as citizens struggle to access court services. Furthermore, access to self-help services, restraining orders, and civil trials has been impacted, severely hampering the courts’ ability to deliver justice.

 One result has been the increased use of arbitration to avoid the court system. Employees and consumers may find arbitration is mandatory. If they can afford it, litigants who have civil issues to settle in court can utilize private judges, as allowed by state law. Decisions made by private judges are not necessarily made public.

 The California Courts are in danger, and the quality and availability of justice is declining. It is a time for action. The county bar association is providing volunteers to preside over small claims courts. Judges, wanting to remain non-political, are communicating the problem. We as California citizens need to make our concerns known to the legislature. By making this a more visible issue, we can eventually provide a more equitable court system to everyone, regardless of financial resources.

 This post was updated on April 9. Bryan Wang, a Miramonte High Junior, contributed.

At our March 13 club meeting, the membership voted to endorse the Acalanes Union High School District Measure A and Lafayette School District Measure B for the May 6 mail ballot election as well as Mark DeSaulnier as the Democratic candidate in the June 2 primary for Congressional District 11. Mark is running to replace George Miller who has announced his retirement.

During the week of April 4, voters in these districts will receive a mail-in ballot for Measures A and B. Measure A sustains critical funding to maintain academic programs and support services in the Acalanes Union High School District schools by renewing and extending the parcel tax that is expiring, without raising tax rates. Measure A will continue to provide ongoing, local funding to preserve excellence in our schools. Measure B will continue an expiring tax to pay for core academic programs including math, science and technology for schools in the Lafayette School District. As Democrats we must unite to pass these measures to maintain our excellent schools, so please mail in your yes vote immediately.

The club wishes to thank Rachel Zinn Superintendent, David Gerson Trustee, and Larry Zulch Committee Chair speaking on behalf of Lafayette School District as well as John Nickerson Superintendent and Kelly Mains Committee Chair speaking on behalf of Acalanes Union High School District.  Mark DeSaulnier also spoke to the club.

The club’s endorsement process began with the Candidates and Issues Endorsement Committee. The committee made recommendations to the Board of Directors. The Board then brought recommendations to a club meeting for a vote by the membership.  The endorsements required a 60% affirmative vote of the total votes cast.  The endorsements passed.

These achievements by our state Democratic officers and legislators were presented at the California Democrats State Convention the second week of March.

  • A balanced state budget with at reserve of $1.1 billion and an end to cuts to education funding
  • Raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, boosting earnings by $4,000 a year and giving over one million hardworking Californians a better life
  • The California Dream Act expanding opportunity of all students across California
  • The School Success and Opportunity Act ensuring transgender youth have the opportunity to fully participate and succeed in schools across the state
  • Lowering California’s unemployment rate and adding incentives for employers to hire veterans and those who have been jobless for over six months
  • Driver licenses for undocumented immigrants improving safety, living standards and California’s economy
  • The Climate Change Pact reducing greenhouse gases and promoting clean energy
  • The Homeowners Bill of Rights allowing more families to stay in their home by preventing foreclosing during loan modification
  • Gun control laws including banning lead hunting ammunition, curbs on high-capacity magazines, new limits on firearms storage, and keeping guns from the mentally ill
  • Expanding access to safe family planning options for women in underserved rural communities
  • Online voter registration making it easier for more Californians to have their voice heard by participating in the election process
  • School funding reform directing more resources to the neediest students and restoring local control over how money is spent
  • Middle Class Scholarship Program slashing student fees at UC and CSU up to 40% for families making under $100,000

The Lamorinda Democratic Club's next meeting on Thursday, March 13, will focus on "Justice Denied: How Much Can We Afford?" with a panel including Justice Mark Simons and Presiding Judge Barry Goode. 

The club's meeting will be held at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd, in Lafayette. The club's social hour will begin at 7:00 p.m., with a business meeting beginning at 7:30 p.m. There is a $5 charge at the door to help the club cover meeting expenses.

Like every other segment of state government, the California Court system has been significantly impacted by the economic crisis that began in 2008.  Directly, the court system has seen it’s funding substantially reduced, requiring the elimination of numerous staff positions and services offered to the public. Indirectly, the judicial system has been affected by the state’s need to dramatically reduce the state prison population and services to juvenile, probate and family courts.  

Justices Mark Simons and Barry Goode will discuss the implications of these topics. 

Justice Mark Simons serves on the California Court of Appeal 1st District. Since 1973 he served as a Deputy Public Defender in Contra Costa County until 1980, when he was appointed to the Mt. Diablo Municipal Court. He was elevated to the Contra Costa Superior Court in April 1995, where he served as Presiding Judge in 1999 and 2000. In January 2000, he was appointed to the California Court of Appeal. Justice Simons has devoted considerable time to teaching evidence to judges, lawyers and law students. He served as the Dean of the B.E.Witkin Judicial College in 1995 and 1996 and was an adjunct professor of law at Hastings College of the Law from 2002-2004. He was awarded the 2000 Bernard Jefferson Award for distinguished service in judicial education. 

Judge Barry Goode is the Presiding Judge of the Contra Costa County Superior Court. He has served as Special Assistant to Adlai E. Stevenson in the US Senate from 1972 to 1974. In 1974 practiced with a law firm in S.F. until 2001. In that year, Governor Gray Davis appointed him Secretary of Legal Affairs, a position he held from February 2001 to November 2003. Judge Goode was appointed to the Superior Court in Contra Costa County on November 2003.  He has had assignments in Criminal Law, Family Law, Civil Law, and Complex Litigation. He served as Supervising Judge of the Richmond branch, the Family Law Division and the Civil Division, and from 2011 through 2012 — as assistant Presiding Judge. 

Members of the Lamorinda Democratic Club will be walking in the annual Orinda Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4.

Assembly for the parade is at 9 a.m. at the Orinda BART parking lot on the east side of Camino Pablo. The parade starts at 10 a.m.

Each parade participant is asked to wear a Democratic T-shirt and bring a Democratic banner. 

Games, musical entertainment and booths displaying community information — including the Lamorinda Democratic Club — will be available in the Orinda Community Center Park following the parade.

To volunteer for the club's booth at the Orinda Community Center, please contact John Hall at or 925-323-2796. Click here to download an event flyer!

The Tri-Valley Democratic Club will present California Alliance for Retired Americans Vice President Hene Kelly on Monday, June 17. Kelly will explain why we need to tell Congress to keep its hands off Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. You can visit for more details.

The Tri-Valley Democrats meet at the IBEW Hall, 6250 Village Parkway, in Dublin at 7 p.m. For more information, please visit the club's web site.

State Senator Mark DeSaulnier will hosts a Health Care Reform Town Hall on Thursday, June 20, from 7-9 p.m. at the Walnut Creek City Council chambers, 1666 N Main Street, Walnut Creek. 

This is an opportunity for you to learn more from representatives of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and Covered California. They will explain how the Affordable Care Act and the Covered California Health Benefits Exchange will provide expanded coverage and improve affordability and health outcomes for Californians. 

For more information, please call 925-942-6082. To RSVP, please visit this web site.

The San Ramon Valley Democratic Club's Thursday, June 27, meeting will feature a conversation about Covered California and how the Affordable Care Act will be implemented in California. The featured speaker is Kaiser Permanente Community and Government Relations Director Ron Wetter.

Wetter will discuss some of the key elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), with particular emphasis on Covered California and some of the changes that are occurring in the health care industry as a result of some basic economics and the ACA.

Ron is the Community & Government Relations Manager for Kaiser Permanente’s Diablo Area. He joined Kaiser in 2004. He oversees all community and government relations activities for Contra Costa County and the Tri-Valley Area, with an emphasis on health care policy and reform and economic and workforce development.

Ron is an adjunct member of California State University East Bay’s graduate program faculty, teaching courses in health care policy and U.S. health care systems in the university’s Masters in Health Administration program. Prior to joining Kaiser Permanente, Ron served as the Executive Director of the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County, a 37-member public board that develops and coordinates workforce and economic development activities on behalf of Contra Costa County. He also worked for PG&E for 21 years as a regulatory policy analyst. He is currently the Vice President of Communications for the Contra Costa Council. Ron earned a B.A. in Political Science from San Jose State University and a Masters in Public Administration from California State University, Hayward. He lives in Walnut Creek with his wife, Terri, and 20-year old son, Alex.

The club's second speaker will be Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich, who will be running for State Assembly District 16 when Joan Buchanan becomes termed out. Newell has served as Councilmember of the Town of Danville for the past 18 years, starting in 1995, with four terms as Mayor. He serves on Tri-Valley Transportation Commission, Tri-Valley Council, Contra Costa Transportation Agency, Discovery Counseling Board, and Leadership San Ramon Valley Board among others. Prior to being elected to the Council Newell served four years on the Planning Commission and five years on the Design Review Board, a reason the Downtown section looks so quaint and interesting. Newell is a long time business owner and serves as the President/CEO of an architectural-planning firm based in Oakland and Los Angeles that he co-founded in 1978. He is a passionate advocate for providing quality public education by having served on the School District Facilities Committee resulting in the successful passage of the first Measure D School Bond and served as the Co-Chair of the Valley-wide Committee on Youth Safety & Development.

The meeting will take place at the Crow Canyon Country Club, 711 Silver Lake Drive, in Danville. Social time at 6:15 p.m., dinner at 6:45 p.m., with the program at 7:15 p.m. Members and invited guests can enjoy the dinner and program for $25, non-members $30, presentation only is $5 (requested donation). Even if you opt to attend just the meeting, please join us at 6:15 pm to talk to socialize and have fun.

Please RSVP by Monday, May 20 to Jim Donnelly. Mail checks, made out to Jim Donnelly, to 373 Century Circle, Danville, CA 94526. For more information, visit the club's web site.

The Diablo Valley Democratic Club's Wednesday, May 30, meeting will feature a presentation about Gun Control Post-Sandy Hook with Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence Contra Costa Chapter President Sandra Ruliffson. 

Ruliffson will discuss local, state, and national efforts to reduce gun violence after the Sandy Hook tragedy. There are nearly 300 million guns in U.S. communities. The Brady Campaign initiates policies that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people and public health and safety programs to inspire safer attitudes and behaviors around guns.

The DVDC meets from 7-9 p.m. at the Ygnacio Valley Library, 2661 Oak Grove Road, Walnut Creek. Please park on Deerpark Drive, the first right after the library, unless you have difficulty walking. For more information, call 925-946-0469 or visit the club's web site.