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Should Hercules Censure Council Member Myrna de Vera?

The Hercules City Council is scheduled to discuss a possible censure of Council Member Myrna de Vera.

A Hercules City Council member will again be in the hot seat this week, with the rest of the council discussing her possible censure.

Council Member Myrna de Vera is facing a censure for allegedly contacting the Pinole-based employer of a contracter who posted a critical blog post on this site last summer. 

The council is scheduled to discuss the item at its meeting Tuesday, set for 7 p.m. at 111 Civic Drive.

The Hercules City Council initially discussed the possible censure in November, but found it did not have the authority to remove her as vice mayor or fine her $1,000 as was initially sought, according to the Contra Costa Times.

In a September email to Patch, de Vera denied the council's charges. She said she did not ask the contractor's employer to silence him, but said the incident showed poor judgment and "caused the perception of a concerted effort to stifle a citizen’s free speech rights."

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What do you think the city council should do? Who is in the wrong here? Tell us in the comments section below.

Giorgio C. January 09, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Regarding the LED sign, we need revenue for 10 years. I love the Hercules skyline, too. Will that money help buy a police officer? We just had an armed robbery. Maybe next we will have prostitution. Crime will hurt our city more than the proposed sign. And bad schools. And bad schools with crime are the worst. We might have to suck it up for 10 years. What else can we do for some revenue? Boxing matches? Legal brothels along the waterfront? A yearly Shakespear festival? These are tough times. Some sacrifices will have to be made.
Selina Williams January 09, 2013 at 09:44 PM
For more revenue we can pursue legitimate businesses as Richmond and other cities have done. There is a bio-tech boom going on and many tech companies are building outside of Silicone Valley. The LED sign is not the answer. It will not bring jobs to Hercules, another thing that is sorely needed for a growing population.
Richard L. January 09, 2013 at 09:58 PM
Pretty standard to set limits or dual signature requirements over a certain threshold.
Toni Leance January 09, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Giorgio the LED sign is prostitution. It is the city prostituting itself dressed in a bright gaudy sign and selling itself to the highest bidder. Is this what we are reduced to? Do we really want to be know as that city with the big sign? Can't we want and don't we deserve more? How low and degrading have we become. This LED sign needs to die right now. We don't want it we don't need it. It is visual pollution
Tim Craig January 09, 2013 at 10:45 PM
Actually, Ani, I think it was the motion for extending the Victoria Crescent deadline from January to March.
Selina Williams January 09, 2013 at 10:46 PM
Giorgio, Bayside already had a brothel, on front street. That was while we had a full police force. People will do business where ever they find customers, its part of the free market no? Have you been to Ashland Oregon? The Shakespear festival does wonders for their tourist industry and the Dickens fair at Cow palace is a fantastic holiday event in S San Francisco.
Phil Simmons January 10, 2013 at 12:09 AM
The sign in Berkeley advertises for the Tattoo Expo and the Erotic Ball at Cow Palace. The first digital sign I recall ever seeing was the one in Blade Runner in 1982. There was the girl popping some sort of pill. I think the idea was that everyone in the future will pop pills to cope with their reality. It seemed not to work for the occasional replicant and for Decker, the Blade Runner that had to "retire" them. If only everyone would have paid attention to the advertisement on the signs and just popped their pills. Life would have been calm and pleasant. But nooooo, the replicants had to go and figure out that there was more to life than working on some wasteland planet mining for energy and dying without ever seeing the rolling hills of Hercules, or something like that. Then off course there were those original signs that played "Let's all go to the lobby" to sell popcorn at the local drive-in, just before Moses parted the waters in the 10 Commandments. Of course those signs did not run 24/7 and they usually were placed in areas that did not obstruct beautiful panoramic views. And then of course there was this: http://youtu.be/qLm3HMG8IhM
Susan D.Keeffe January 10, 2013 at 12:28 AM
That LED sign "discussion" was interesting. The Agenda had it listed as a presentation, but when DeVera questioned how it appeared on the Agenda and who placed it Duran responded it was placed there by "staff" for "discussion". During that "discussion" it was revealed the LED company has already done some preliminary work in readiness for the sign, as if they are already approved, and this was merely a formality, a step one. The sales pitch and response to how it came to be on the agenda felt contrived to me. What other companies were contacted as per Hercules' policy? If it truly is just a "discussion", then the agenda should reflect that and the community input solicited. That "discussion" should reveal what purpose the money from the sign would be used for and a discussion of its violation to current Hercules' existing sign requirements should be reviewed. That "discussion" should take place with no sign makers present. There was no response to the question of.what would be displayed on the sign? Who would control that? This almost felt like a set-up to me, but that could just be my own individual response to what I saw and heard. I have found this whole idea tacky and tasteless from the beginning and I heard nothing to change that impression. I found DeVera's questions very revealing and thank her for following up.
Joseph Catindig January 10, 2013 at 12:31 AM
Yes, Romero is seeing light... is this the reason why he's pushing for his LED sign?
Toni Leance January 10, 2013 at 04:37 AM
Duran and Romero cooked up this LED sign deal a long time go and have been eyeing it as a revenue stream for some time. They got some blow back early on and put on the back burner but now are trying to jam it down Herculeans throat as an alternative to more taxes. Sort of a pick your poison. if Hercules wants to be known for a big tacky sign then go for it Hercules. This isn't the vision I bought into but it seems city hall "staff" aka Duran has a very low vision for Hercules future. It is LED billboards, apartments, strip centers and surburban sprawl. Good luck with that. Last might it looked like the council grew a set so maybe there is a glimmer of hope to stop the madness that has been going on at city hall. I hope so.
Susan D.Keeffe January 10, 2013 at 07:25 AM
How about putting the LED sign at City Hall and using the proceeds to pay for the HMU? The sign could post community messages and a running debt total for the City. Those 800 residences in the HMU are being held personally accountable for the bond debt attached to the HMU. Since the City which represents everyone, made the decision on forming the HMU and the entire City voted on it, , how about sharing the bond debt with all residents - not just those stuck with the HMU through no choice of their own?
Toni Leance January 10, 2013 at 07:41 AM
The whole HMU infrastructure is a mess. PGE has been all over the waterfront looking at the system. I asked the crew that came through baywood and they said it was a mess all the vaults have water in them and will need major work to correct. I thnk the city may have a real problem unloading it to anyone. We may be stuck with these outrageous bills for a long time
Susan D.Keeffe January 10, 2013 at 08:02 AM
Toni, That sounds like a major black--out waiting to happen! The bidding happened today. Let's hope for good results!
Giorgio C. January 10, 2013 at 02:47 PM
Yes, the LED sign is prostitution. But so are all of those tacky ugly signs along Sycamore and San Pablo. Just like Phil's BladeRunner reference (Director's cut, of course), we see big faces plastered on signs, all for revenue stream. We are having to make compromises for the greater good of Hercules. We need to turn a few tricks for some coin. We can't afford police, so let's adopt the "Tricks for cops" program. "We sooo honnny....Hercules love you for long time, especially very big LED sign."
Phil Simmons January 10, 2013 at 04:43 PM
Giorgio, I believe this is what I'm hearing. "Don't you love your (city)? Then how about getting with the program? Why don't you jump on the team and come in for the big win?" http://www.youtube.com/movie?v=t-_qLQa4Piw&feature=mv_sr
Selina Williams January 10, 2013 at 07:31 PM
Susan, I like your assessment. It is not fair to burden a small set of residents with something the entire town made possible. Including Sycamore North and HMU. Bad decisions made by Hercules, paid for by Bayside and Promenade home owners in high rates, lost home values. Lets spread the pain. The LED should go up in the hills, say, next to Dan Romero's house.
Susan D.Keeffe January 10, 2013 at 07:43 PM
The more I think about what we learned at the Council meeting, the more I question not only the fairness , but the legality, of billing a small subset of the City for bonds the City chose to fund a Municipal project designed to benefit the entire city!
Selina Williams January 10, 2013 at 07:46 PM
As a home owner that does not have any school aged children, I invested in a community that was built with aesthetics that I enjoy. I bought in to form based codes with high architectural values. I am willing to pay taxes to support good schools and police. How much is the night sky worth to you? Hercules will not attract good investors with ticky tacky LED signs, strip malls and cheap apartments. Our home values will continue to decline as there is nothing "special" about any of that. We have plenty of ticky tacky already. Lets not make more.
Selina Williams January 10, 2013 at 07:50 PM
I think you are on to something. Some one who is retired should take this issue up.
Carol January 11, 2013 at 05:13 AM
Wow - here we go again - more complaining and kvetching....yes censure her and move on for goodness sake. I wonder how much longer until bankruptsy - Good bye Hercules, as people have no idea what will come if that happens and it wont be pretty - Bankruptsy for a city is way different than for an individual. Vallejo could afford it - we cant. But be careful what you wish for....
Phil Simmons January 11, 2013 at 05:23 AM
Carol, Welcome back. I don't understand the concept. How does someone or something afford bankruptcy when others can't afford it. That is a bit of an oxymoron don't you think. Besides, Hercules is not going bankrupt. At least not because of any of its current problems. Say hi to ... whoever
Carol January 11, 2013 at 05:46 AM
Phil - your condescending attitude is well noted. I have not been gone, just not responding because I find a lot of this nonsence on the patch not worth the effort. However, I do believe that we will not be able to stay solvent, without the sale of theproiperties, and it will force us into bankruptsy. There is no oxymoron here - bankruptsy is not free - to anyone! And to a city - the cost is enourmous...look it up - do the research......do not assume...Hercules must make good on the Ambac deal - or they will get sued, and since there is no money - it will force the city into bankruptsy. You wanna close off your mind - feel free to do so, but the situation is dire. While we all want more retail and such - it is not going to happen. Also - talk to some local real estate agents and ask how many properties are available in West Contra Costa, not just Hercules - I think you would be surprised. The inventory is scarce - any realtors out there that would like to chime in to this blog and confirm my suspicion or deny it? I know for a fact because my mother just passed, and I am lookign for income property - guess what - I cannot even find it close to me!
Carol January 11, 2013 at 05:49 AM
sorry for the typos - im pooped and done with this..
Giorgio C. January 11, 2013 at 03:49 PM
Carol, I have a question for you and anyone else regarding the rise in property value. We recently had our home appraised for purpose of refinancing. We have done almost zero improvements. The appraised value is $60,000 more than the tax assessor's value. In fact, the appraised value is just $5000 less than what we paid for the house five years ago. If the home values in Hercules are now on the increase, shouldn't this help pull us out of the dire situation? Also, not that I am crazy about paying a larger property tax bill, but shouldn't county be assessing me on the higher value? Is there a serious lag between the county tax assessor's office and the current home values? This is money that could be pouring into both the county and the city, yes? Thanks for the clarification as I expose my ignorance here.
Carol January 11, 2013 at 05:27 PM
Giorgio I dont actually get it myself. The county is a governmental agency and therefore - lag time goes with the territory. When we will be re-adjusted by the county - in terms of our property tax bills rising again, and any of that money being helpful to the county - or Hercules, I do not know. Not even sur how the county will re-adjust that because I think its never happened - what I mean by that is to the extent that they have - I do not think has ever been done before, values usually go up, not down, so its a set of unusual circumstances.
Phil Simmons January 11, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Carol, Sorry you felt I was condescending. It certainly was not how I felt. I meant "welcome back". A good debate is always entertaining. But I do think that it is an oxymoron. Bankruptcy is not something you choose. It is something that chooses you. In the end it does not cost money to the person that goes through the bankruptcy. But It may cost a reputation. The cost is to the creditors. Sure the lawyers get a cut too. But the whole matter is one of "no other way out". I do not believe that Hercules is at that crossroads. We may end up there but it will not be because of AMBAC. You are correct, inventory is thin. I have been looking too and talking with realtors. It is scarce because foreclosures and short sells have been gobbled up, fast, by syndicates with money looking for rental properties. Also because the bottom hopefully has hit and everyone with some spare income is looking for a deal, all a natural part of coming out of a serious recession. Odd thing is, there have been lots of sales even though the inventory does not reflect it. The realtors are quite busy. But the sales do not last long and the prices are still cheap. You just have to be in the front of the line with cash in hand and a realtor in your pocket. There have been far more units on the market than the inventory reflects. The bad/good news is that this trend will bring property values up and taxes will go back up for those that did not sell. Sorry to hear about you mother.
Phil Simmons January 11, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Carol and Giorgio, Here is how it will work. If you have a home that you stayed in during the recession and your taxes went down along with your property value, then your taxes will go back up. As you assessment goes up so will the taxes. Prop 13 will not protect you until you end up back at the highest tax rate you hit back in 2007. One the other hand if your neighbor bought a house exactly like yours at the low (say 2011) and it is assessed at exactly the same value as yours, while your taxes rise back to your old high, but your neighbor will be protected by Prop 13 and his taxes will not rise (except for the limited Prop13 allowance). THe recession has turn the entire reason for Prop 13 upside down. Granny stayed put and her taxes are going to go through the roof and force her out of her home. So, yes, you can expect to start seeing your taxes go up. The assessment are yearly. The smart thing to have done would have been to sell your house at the low, buy the house that was for sell next door that was exactly like yours. You end up in the same value home, in the same neighborhood. But over the years your tax bill ends up far lower. Of course if you bought long before the rise in prices then your tax rise will end at some point previous to the values of the high in 2007 because your taxes never went there anyway. opps, I did not take advantage of this tax dodge either.
Susan D.Keeffe January 11, 2013 at 07:13 PM
Property's values are based on values in January. Everyone who purchased in the last 7 years in Contra Costa County has seen losses- depending on where you live.the County Assessor has been readjusting down automatically and those notices arrive in July, if you did not receive a notice you can call them and write them for an adjustment. Hercules has taken a hit of about 48% since 2007. Those who purchased at the peak have lost hundreds of thousands. That means those who purchased in the Waterfront communities have been hit hard. If they live in the HMU area they have also been charged for the Municipal Bond loss resulting in electric rates that are 30% higher. Some feel that charging a small segment of the population for City bonds supposed to benefit all is wrong. I think it is. I don't think most Herculean know and understand what has been happening to those communities. It's been devastating.
Selina Williams January 11, 2013 at 09:44 PM
The home values in Bayside have not rebounded and will not rebound for a very long time, if ever. The average value lost in Bayside for 330 house homes is $350K, for each and every one. No exceptions! The total lost tax roles is $115 million from just Bayside. With a basis ~2% of that is $2.3 million lost to the state, county and city every year. The cities share of that loss is ~$80K per year at 3.4%. However, this neighborhood was developed as part of the RDA so the tax increment lost is much higher, 20% or $462K per year. Conclusion? Focusing on projects that will help restore these home values should be primary for the long-term health of Hercules. Will LED signs and Cell towers improve home values? Will strip mall and Quiznos improve home value? Will Sycamore 140 tiny rental apartments and no parking improve home values? Will the people who live in them care about our home values? Will exorbitant utility costs due to HMU bonds being dumped on us improve home values?
Phil Simmons January 11, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Selina, The answer to your questions would be ....... NO.

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