Posted under That's Life Columns
It’s been another fun week in Dixon, full of pleasant surprises and progress on the city political and business scene. We had Grillin’ and Chillin’ on Saturday where a great many people participated from our community as well as those welcomed from as far away as Colusa and Salinas. Announced earlier in the week on Thursday was the resignation and departure of Roger Halberg, our school district superintendent. Tuesday, the council addressed some significant issues with the promise of more to come.
The big rib and chili cookoff event was a huge success, largely because of the “A-Team” composed of Tom Carrier, Mike Hamilton and Hamilton’s family members. This was not a Downtown Dixon Business Association event as stated elsewhere. The A-team put up while the B-Team was present … sometimes. I would hope that those involved learned a lesson.
If you want a job done right, you do it yourself. I should also compliment Rich Barrengo, a neighbor of mine, on the vastly expanded car show which featured 160 or so vintage, classic, and hot rod cars. All in all, this was an extremely enjoyable event with plenty of food, drink, activities for kids and their families, and music during the day. Now I just have to get Hamilton to go for two days…
* * * * *
At the school board meeting a week ago, there were three items on the closed session agenda all related to Roger Halberg. Evidently the magnifying glass’ focus on Halberg got to be too much and rather than getting burned up, Roger decided to get out. I read all of the kudos written about Halberg, his accomplishments, and that he is taking a job down south to “be closer to his family.” Once again, do you really believe all you read from biased and journalistically challenged, “investigative sparse” newspapers?
Given that there was no mention anywhere of the contentious atmosphere that is today’s school district, the fact that only the high school isn’t in “program improvement”, the fact that programs and staff have been cut to create a large surplus at a very real cost to your children’s educational opportunities, it appears that only a lie has been told.
Rather than concentrate on pointing out Mr. Halberg’s flaws or shortcomings or applauding him for successfully addressing the mess left by Roberto Salinas, who should have been sued for his mismanagement of the district, it would be much better to concentrate on the opportunity that now looms before us.
The first thing that must be done is to address the issue of why, after four years, our elementary schools are still in program improvement given all of the wonderful programs and educational stimuli the State provides to help us. Is it the gentleman in charge who is at fault? Would that have been Halberg, where the buck finally stops, or his underling Jesus Contreras? This is an absolute premiere point which must be examined.
The second thing, which is probably more important overall but can wait during an interim’s tenure, is for the board to form a consensus on where they want to go at this point. It seems blatantly obvious to me that there are two factions on this board, the status quo and the reformers. The problem as I see it comes down to John Gabby.
The status quo of Herb Cross and Jim Ernst is about to lose one of its members as Ernst has stated he will not run for re-election. Considering his ongoing behavioral faux pas during meetings usually ending in his disappearance before the evening’s finale, we can only wish him well as he sails into the sunset. It is imperative that one more solid reformer be elected in Ernst’s place to join the team of Okhremtchouk and Piñon as Gabby can not be trusted to step up and make the tough decisions regularly and consistently.
The reason I say this is from personal observation of the meetings and the present outcome which was only a matter of time. Rather than forcing the issue, Gabby waited to let the pimple exude and expel itself. The cost has been to the students. This is not to say that John never makes a definitive decision or takes an important stance. It is just that they come too infrequently. As he is up for re-election and is running, you will have to ask yourself whether he or another candidate is the better choice.
I don’t know if there is enough time between now and the election for Gabby’s redemption. The consensus I mentioned needs to be on a number of points. Not only will this consensus view be important for the board, it must be accepted by the new superintendent. The points include respect and a sense of equality in dealing with members of the teachers’ union, a determination to examine curriculum as a method of exiting underperforming status, a focus on programs necessary for enhancing students’ experience beyond the basics while considering district finances, and coming to a basic understanding and commitment to why they are all here, which is to use the trite phrase “for the kids”.
The hiring of a new superintendent must be for greater reasons than just being inured in the system. The term “problem solver” is not enough. I don’t want a “people pleaser” either. This person must be someone who can work with people and has the interest of our children at heart.
One final comment: a large salary cut needs to be instituted to get the unions to join in giving concessions to eliminate the district’s deficit. This district can be easily made solvent. Oh wait. I suggested all of this three years ago. Never mind ….
* * * * *
All you get this week on the council meeting is a teaser. In a prior column I accused councilmen Dane Besneatte and Thom Bogue of being “brain dead” during the discussion of the landscape and lighting district assessments. After receiving an email from Dane accepting partial responsibility and explaining what actually occurred, I went online to review that segment of the meeting. What I found was the video confirmed that exactly what Besneatte and Bogue claimed in their statements of protest to my criticism was true.
Both Dane and Thom had wanted to discuss the bigger issue of how we could alter or modify the districts. One plan was to have them all eliminated and the city take on the cost. Another was to make it city wide, which would take a Proposition 218 vote. They both asked to have the mayor and I return for the discussion as we only had to recuse ourselves on items specific to the zone we lived in. Steve Muzio, city attorney Michael Dean’s alternate, told them incorrectly that we “might influence their vote on our zone”. Steve just missed this one.
During the Tuesday meeting this reached a head as I refused to recuse myself until we discussed the larger item. Mr. Dean was helpful in seeing the larger picture and explaining the appropriate FPPC exclusionary clause. The problem still remains that we keep kicking this can down the road. Well, that can is being recycled or trashed as I don’t intend to let this go on any longer.
While we approved the assessments, I voted no because I couldn’t support the engineer’s report on cost allocations, this item will be coming back for discussion by November which is not soon enough for me. What happened to the workshop on the Sunshine Ordinance? I asked for the contract with Recology to be brought back for discussion before it comes up for renewal. Everything seems to be pushed off rather than being addressed.
Leading into next week’s Musings, just exactly what is the Besneatte-Batchelor boondoggle? As I love alliteration, I had kind of wished that Bogue would have been part of it or that Rick Fuller who was part of it had a “B” in his name. Guess I will have to stick with two out of three at this point…
* * * * *
Instead of sending emails to Mike Reagan, our soon to be deserting us supervisor, and Daryl Halls, the Solano Transportation Authority manager, I happened to run into both during the week and asked about the Interstate 80 re-paving fiasco. Reagan blamed the failure to finish the project this year on State Controller John Chiang, who Reagan states didn’t sell the bonds to get the funding. Halls told me that the project is being put off a year and will be completed next year. Whatever.
What still amazes me is that no matter what the source of funds, savings from the other re-paving project in Solano County on I-80 or bond money, the clowns from Cal-Trans in charge of this project could have done work last year on the neglected roadway between North First Street and Leisure Town Road in Vacaville but chose instead to lay another layer of asphalt on the highway which was in good shape from the Solano County line into Dixon. Is someone trying to send us a message in Dixon or to all of Solano County? Is this payback for not passing Measure H which would have raised our sales tax and has now been shown to be wholly unneeded?
Maybe it just shows the inefficiencies, poor planning, and ineptitude of those in charge rather than being part of some larger conspiracy. And you, The People, just keep sitting there putting up with it. Is it time to raise your voices yet?