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UPDATE ON SIGNGATE: Pro Wedel/Lawson Signs at the Library Back Up

The purpose of police posting these Wedel/Lawson signs at the library is obvious.

UPDATE EARLY THURSDAY: The pro-Wedel/Lawson campaign signs are back up in view of the new library's parking lot, hours after the Walnut Creek Police Association agreed to remove them from the fence that they were hanging from.

These photos show that two signs were affixed to posts that raise them above the fence. The posts appear to be standing on the property, adjacent to the library, belonging to Julia Maxwell and her daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth Maxwell had given the Walnut Creek Police Association permission to hang a total of three signs on the fence that serves as a barrier between their property and the library property and Civic Park. 

On Wednesday, the Walnut Creek Police Association agreed to remove two of the signs from the fence. The signs promote the candidacies of Justin Wedel and Kristina Lawson. The signs were paid for by the Walnut Creek Police Officers Association, which opposes the candidacy of incumbent Cindy Silva. 

City Attorney Paul Valle-Riestra said that the city's municipal code prohibits any temporary signs, including campaign signs, to hang from a fence or structure within the "public right of way" or on any property owned or maintained by the city.

As the signs were hanging from a fence, there was  a dispute over who owned the fence, but the city maintains it. 

Police Association spokesman Randy Dickey said an agreement was reached Wednesday, whereby the association would remove two signs hanging from the fence that face the library. But the city and the association agreed that the sign posted in view of the Senior Center, on the rear fence of the Maxwell home, would remain in place because all parties agreed it was legally placed. 

"In regards to the two signs facing the library, the WCPA still believes the placement of Lawson and Wedel campaign signs on the Maxwell's fence are in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations," Dickey said. "However, the WCPA has chosen to work in partnership with the City Attorney, due in no small part to his high level of professionalism and his collaborative nature, to come to a compromise that benefits everyone involved."

 If you stopped by the new Walnut Creek library over the past few days, the signs would have been hard to miss. They were black, blue and white and several feet in length and height, and advocated the candidacies of Wedel and Lawson over incumbent Silva in the Walnut Creek City Council race. 

The Walnut Creek Police Association's officer and management members have signed onto an effort to remove Mayor Pro Tem Silva from the council.

Although I never received  confirmation from a WCPA representative, I did not doubt that officers wanted to hang the signs at the library to gain maximum attention and to make a bold statement about what officers view as Silva's misguided and longtime support of the new library. They also have raised other issues about Silva's leadership, including her views on public safety in Walnut Creek and push on pension reform.

These WCPA Wedel/Lawson signs have been cropping up all over town. They hang in plain view of the library parking lot and are larger than most of the other Wedel/Lawson signs I've seen around Walnut Creek. 

If you'll remember, the Maxwells had their own battle with the city over its attempt to take over their older Spanish-style home that sits along the creek  amid towering oaks. The city wanted to use their land as space for the library. 

Elizabeth Maxwell said that a Walnut Creek police officer approached her about hanging the signs from the fence outside her home. "Ultimately, it is my mother's property, but I was approached by an officer," she said. "It seemed to be a reasonable request as a way to support city officers."

Someone from Silva's campaign, however, contacted the city, concerned that hanging the signs from that fence might violate city ordinances about campaign signs.  

These legal issues were discussed at several meetings Monday and Tuesday between Valle-Riestra and an attorney representing the Walnut Creek Police Officers Association, a group that represents rank-and-file officers and managers, including sergeants, lieutenants and captains. 

As part of a settlement agreement between the city and the Maxwells (attached as a PDF), the city agreed to construct a stylish fence along the entire boundary between the Maxwells' property and the city's.  

The ongoing cost and maintenance of the fence was to be the city's responsibility. Valle-Riestra said the question is who has control over the "underlying property" of the fence.  He said he not yet found case law that says that people cannot hang signs from a fence that runs between two properties. 

 

Elizabeth Maxwell October 07, 2010 at 09:44 PM
I also want to add that while police officers and others in public service do not have the same "retirement plan", generally speaking, as the private sector, they also have a disproportionately more dangerous job than most other private sector jobs. I am aware of retirement benefits being an enormous problem for government of every level, but it is a complicated problem with no easy answers. When Social Security was established with a collection age of 65 the average life expectancy was 60. It was only ever meant to provide assistance to those who could no longer provide it for themselves, ie too old to work and with no family to look out for them. And of course it has been altered and plundered and used in ways it's creators never envisioned. With the corruption going on in so many levels of government, globalization of corporations with no national loyalties, the financial abuses of Wall Street, etc. how can the free market and 401 K's and IRA's be any better than traditional pensions? And are not the men and women like police, firefighters, CHP and other first responders, some of whom pay the ultimate price for their service, entitled to just compensation? We are such a wealthy nation, but that wealth is increasingly disproportionately distributed. There really is more than enough money for all the things needing to be done, but it is a question of what kind of society we really want.
John Beccerra October 07, 2010 at 09:53 PM
Elizabeth, Thank you for your very calm and articulate posts regarding the signs on your property. I hope that you have opened the eyes of many people as to the bully tactics that the council and city staff use to get what they want. Your mother should be very proud that she has raised a daughter with the same intelligent and gracious qualities that make her such a remarkable woman. I do hope that the current sign placement blocks some of the intrusive light coming from the library that showers your home unnecessarily on a nightly basis!
QT October 07, 2010 at 10:56 PM
Mark, it seems to me that all you've done is read the talking points of the Silva campaign and the one-sided editorials in the Contra Costa Times. It doesn't even appear that you've taken the time to read the articles here, let alone the commentary. I read that the Police Department took an $850K+ cut in funding. I also read about police staffing being below 1991 levels. I also read that all candidates, even those endorsed by the WCPA recognize that something will need to be done about pensions. I also read that WCPD officers don't get Social Security or Medicare. I read that city staff at high levels got involved in a debate over a campaign sign on a property it once tried to purchase using eminent domain laws. I read that the City had a $20 million deficit last year and laid off 30 employees and froze unfilled positions. Finally, I read that the voter-declined CreekWalk is moving forward along with s $21 million pool maveover, following on the heels of a $36 million library that was declined twice by voters. I guess I read more than you do.
Elizabeth Maxwell October 08, 2010 at 02:44 AM
John, thank you for your very kind words. My mother is quite a character, very smart, very good hearted and I honestly do not know what I would do without her, but then she says the same thing about me. I do hope that some good comes from all of this furor. The best outcome would be people really thinking and discussing what our community needs. I don't care how people vote, I just want them to vote and participate and get involved. I also wish that even if we disagree that we can at least have a civil dialogue. As far as the lights go, I would like to see the City turn them off at night to save the cost of the electricity! The trees help to shield us somewhat, but I am optimistic that a sensible lighting schedule will get worked out. We are also continuing to have problems with the gates. I have a feeling we are not at the top of the "to-do" list... ;-)
SR October 08, 2010 at 02:56 AM
Nice try Mark. The Police took the largest cut of any other department in the 2010-2012 budget including arts and rec. -$847K. They've also cut 5 cops from already low staffing levels. Read the budget and educate yourself before posting please.
Jim October 08, 2010 at 03:02 AM
Mark, sounds like you are referring to the claim by Gary Skrel's girlfrieend that uniformed officers demanded a store owner put up police association signs. This was looked into after Silva demanded an investigation and found to be completely without merit. Yet more mudslinging by the Silva-Skrel crew. Skrel is mad his connections to 1515 owners (Dudums) were publicly exposed and now is trying to lay the groundwork for a defense when people discover his girlfriend was given free parking at all city parking meters by the City Manager.
Gianni Toyman October 08, 2010 at 03:22 AM
Hey SkyRider, You own a truck? If so, I saw your tailgate today. It was awesome. My daughter and I both loved it!
Gianni Toyman October 08, 2010 at 03:33 AM
Mark, I am a police officer and I do have an agenda: public safety. Compensation, pensions, that is all noise created by the Silva camp. My pension is safe. It has not been altered. I expect it will be in the future regardless of the City Council member elected. Justin Wedel is in favor of fair pension reform. Don't buy into the lies by the Silva Camp. It was the Silva Camp that infringed on the Maxwell's First Amendement rights; it was not the Police. This is another example of government trying to force feed the public their agenda because "big brother knows best".
Martha Ross October 08, 2010 at 04:15 AM
Everyone, I realize this is an emotionally charged issue, and probably people have been keeping quiet for a long time about things that have frustrated them. I ask that if you're going to name names and talk about specific events--especially those accusing anyone of any kind of abuse of power or conflict of interest--that you only do so if you know it for a fact and know it can be proven. Opinion--that's what this board is here for. If there are other things going on, you're free to contact me.
Concerned October 08, 2010 at 03:32 PM
QT, WCPD officers do not pay into Social Security, but most of them do get medicare. We pay 1.45% into Medicare. I believe the City of WC must contribute a matching amount. This applies to officers, and other employees I believe, hired after 1986. We still have a handful of employees hired before then, who many years ago wanted to be added to the Medicare list, but the City refused them several times. Just wanted to clear that fact up a little. All the other information in your post above is accurate. The WCPA simply disagrees with Silva's agenda. It is nothing personal. However when she sees one of us in uniform in public, she refuses to acknowledge us at all. She drove right by me the other day less than 10 feet away. She was very obvious trying not to make eye contact with me or my co-worker, like she was hoping we wouldn't notice her. I was going to wave or acknowledge her in some way, only to be polite because that's the right thing to do. We simply disagree but that doesn't mean I think she's a bad person or anything like that. I will acknowledge her in the appropriate manner because she is a city leader and should be acknowledged as such, but she clearly didn't want to be seen. I find such behavior odd, and another reason I'm not that impressed with her leadership. It's not like she didn't notice two black and white police cars exiting the very driveway she was entering. I'm proud that the WCPA has been stating facts, not name calling in this.
Mark October 08, 2010 at 05:42 PM
Obviously this comment board is merely a forum for a group of unhappy contrarians who prefer to slander people anonymously. I voiced my views that I think things are pretty good in Walnut Creek. I feel safe, and while I wouldn't frequent bars downtown after midnight, I rarely hear of any noteworthy crimes (other than rowdiness and fighting on weekend nights at bars). And in return, I get uncalled for vitriol against myself, Cindy Silva, and even Gary Skrel (and his girlfriend, whoever that is). We all live in this city (presumably), and will continue to do so after the election. But I did some research, and here is what I have read from reports not linked to either camp: 1) WC spends more on a per capita basis for police than similar cities in the region. 2) The Police Chief of WC says that the city is properly staffed. He believes we have the supplies (radios, cars, weapons) adequate for our needs. 3) Cities across the state are asking police to now help fund a % of their pensions, and PACs have been formed to fight this (just today the offhand comment by Jerry Brown's staff referred to the problem with protecting the fully state-funded pensions). 4) 2 days after WC and the police signed off on the new contract, the PAC was formed. The primary difference between this contract and the last was that the police have to partially fund their pensions moving forward. Just like every other city employee, and every person I know.
Mark October 08, 2010 at 05:47 PM
So I'm left with deciding between a City Council that is trying to be fiscally responsible in a new economic landscape, vs an unhappy police association that wants things to be the way they've always been for their retirement. The US economy has changed. We all have to pay the price now. So you can attack me if you want, but I'm just stating what I see to be the case as an unbiased observer. It's been my experience that the more people throw vindictive statements around, the more they really don't have a leg to stand on. I appreciate the comments by "Concerned" above. They are well thought out, and not egregious. Just an observation. That's fine. If that is in fact a policeman, I'm glad he's on the force. But to many of the above writers, your words are plainly uncalled for.
Elizabeth Maxwell October 08, 2010 at 06:31 PM
Mark, some of the "noteworthy crimes" I have noticed in the news are the rapes that have been happening in Walnut Creek. http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_16248254?nclick_check=1 http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_15797133 http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_16254323 I just cut&pasted, so I don't know if you can click on to them, but even though these crimes occurred in the unincorporated part of Walnut Creek I don't think everyone, especially women, feel as safe as you do.
Elizabeth Maxwell October 08, 2010 at 06:44 PM
Mark, civility needs to go both ways. You are not left with "vs an unhappy police association that wants things to be the way they've always been for their retirement.", since the WCPD nor the WCPA is not running for City Council. At most there will be two new Council members, most likely just one new Council member, but a simple majority is all that is needed to alter the make-up of the current City Council. The current direction and make-up of the City Council is not going to change anytime soon with the three existing Council members remaining. Change will not be happening with this election whether Cindy Silva is re-elected or not. Yes, the economy has changed, but it did not change overnight and the solutions are not going to be easy or quick. Some things do stay the same regardless of changes in the economy. Officers, who are policemen and policewomen, still face a much more dangerous line of work than most. Certainly more than I do, and I suspect more than you do too. I don't know about you, but I don't want that line of work for myself. I think that those who "serve and protect" are entitled to reasonable compensation.
Beverly H. October 08, 2010 at 09:48 PM
I have worked in an office much of my life, so I can't personally say that I have a dangerous job. I make about $55,000 a year, along with paying $500 a month for health benefits, and allocating 15% to my 401k (about $8,000). My 401K is entirely self-funded. I would like to make more, but with pay freezes and layoffs, I'm glad to just have a job. I see that on Patch on Aug 18th, the following article was written: http://walnutcreek.patch.com/articles/city-police-union-reach-agreement The article states that the police agreed to the contract to help the city bridge the current deficit. It impacts only Police management (not officers). The police mgmt agreed to increase their employee contributions into the retirement pension from 0% to 7%. Meanwhile the police officer contract from 2007, increases the salaries 5% to a range of $70,637 to $85,821. And they are not required to contribute to their own pensions. Judging from this, I would answer back to Elizabeth that of course "those who 'serve and protect' are entitled to reasonable compensation." Do you not feel that $70K - $85K is reasonable considering they also don't have to pay for health benefits or their pensions? As one who lives on far less and contributes far more, I would have to say that it's very "reasonable".
SkyRider October 08, 2010 at 10:11 PM
Mark, Don't you understand that your initial post citing that a police officer essentially strong armed someone into placing a sign is exactly the same thing you are asking others not to do? You were slandering every police officer in the City of Walnut Creek whether you meant so or not. But that's how it came across. I commend you on trying to learn more about the issues by conducting research. Unfortunately, the research you obtain was biased, outdated, and simply wrong. The City of Walnut Creek issued a statement that per capita spending cannot be easily calculated and compared between cities. Different cities include different items in their calculations. It's not apples and apples. And even if you could come up with comparable numbers, you have to take into consideration the number of employees and patrons of Walnut Creek stores, restaurants, and bars. The effective population of Walnut Creek when taking those factors into consideration is much, much higher than just the residents. The Police Chief has not said the department is properly staff, nor that the department has "adequate supplies". The Chief was told by City Council to produce a budget that resulted in about $850,000 of cuts. So he did that. But that doesn't mean he believes that those cuts won't decrease the service provided or that staffing is sufficent. There are fewer officers working today than in the past with more crime and more complex crime. Common sense says that's a problem.
Elizabeth Maxwell October 08, 2010 at 10:27 PM
Beverly, I sympathize with wanting to make more but also being grateful for a job. I think many are in that same situation. But can you honestly say that your work is comparable to the work of a police officer? I don't know what you do working in an office, I know that much police work is also desk related, I am not saying that what you do is any less honorable or important or good for our society and our economy, but surely you are not saying that the kind of work you do is any kind of comparison with what a police officer does? Yes, I do think that people who perform more dangerous work to help maintain a civil society should be compensated more than less dangerous work. What that compensation looks like changes from community to community. You quote "Meanwhile the police officer contract from 2007, increases the salaries 5%" but make no mention of the 8% increase to the City Hall Administrators salaries. I for one am shocked to learn that our City Manager earns more than the President of the United States. We all have to tighten our belts and save money. In my opinion the City of Walnut Creek could have saved a great deal of money by not removing my mother's right to Freedom of Speech.
Beverly H. October 08, 2010 at 11:13 PM
Point of clarification: City Manager of WC salary is $237,000. http://www.scribd.com/doc/37445918/California-City-Manager-Compensation. President of USA salary is $400,000.
Elizabeth Maxwell October 08, 2010 at 11:24 PM
My bad. The City Manager's salary is more than the Vice President of the United States. I still find it appalling that an administrator for a municipality makes over half as much as the administrator of our nation.
Concerned October 09, 2010 at 12:19 AM
The WC Police Officers Assn. is in a contract with the City of WC until 8/12. In Jun 09, the POA VOLUNTARILY met with the City at the City's request due to the budget crisis. We agreed to take a wage freeze that year that the City was contractually obligated to give us. Earlier this year, the City again asked us to give them concessions. We AGAIN came to the table in good faith, VOLUNTARILY, even though we were under contract for 2 more years. We listened to their concerns and goals, and attempted good faith talks to see if we could help the city attain them. We OFFERES them pension co-pays, implementation of a reduced pension benefit for new hires, and salary freezes, in return for an extension on our contract terms and retention of other benefits. Every time we moved closer to the City's goals, they asked for more concessions. It became clear that while we were in good faith attempting to help out, City leaders were not interested in good faith talks and continuing 10 yrs of positive labor negotiations history but simply trying to extract as much money from us as possible. The meetings ceased with nothing being done. Pension reform may be inevitable. Most of us understand that. We have endorsed 2 candidates that support reform. The POA and the PMA simply want to get there in a manner that keeps us competitive in the marketplace with other cities, which is not unreasonable. We are hardly the greedy monsters the CC Times and Silva backers have painted us to be.
Concerned October 09, 2010 at 12:59 AM
Mark, I posted the above comment on the link to Wedel's opinion piece here on PATCH. Yes I am a WCPD officer. Have been for quite a while now. Oops please excuse the typo "offeres" above just noticed it, should be "offered". I thought this information was important because most of the public has no idea of any of this. The media, specifically the CC Times called us greedy, and I took offense to that. Are we, as an association, going to look out for our best interests? Of course we are. Is the City of WC going to look for ways to balance its budget and limit pay and benefits? Absolutely. That's why we have negotiations. In the talks of the last 10 yrs, I don't think the POA's demands were outrageous, abmormal or unreasonable. We are in a competitive marketplace. The fact is, WCPD has one of the most professional and well educated police agencies in the county. I'm proud to be a part of it, and I'm proud to serve under our new Chief, who has morale at an all time high, at least in my tenure here. I think generally speaking, the citizens of this city appreciate our professionalism and how we do business. Of course we will always have our detractors, and we accept that, but when they call for our help we will serve them with the same standards. Not just anyone can be a police officer. With so many candidates DQ'd for criminal records, drug usage, mental instability, irresponsibility with personal finances, or a host of other things, we have a very small (cont)
Concerned October 09, 2010 at 01:16 AM
...part of society that the City (and competing cities) can recruit from. Of those that qualify, a good portion fail the academy training and if they pass that they may not make it through field training and we have to start all over again. Dispatching is no different. It is a difficult job with a lot of stress, and most people simply aren't cut out for it or don't want to do it. These standards don't make us better people than those who choose different professions, just different is all. I would be a horrible carpenter. Carpenter X may make a poor police officer. Neither is better than the other, just different. We have raised issues in this election and opposed Silva because we are concerned about the direction and priorities of the City. Public safety in our view is almost an afterthought. Recent events have highlighted this. Services are being cut, not only police but other city services. This city spends an ENORMOUS amount of money on arts. Not saying arts are bad, just saying the spending is skewed incredibly heavy to them. Maybe that's what the people want. After all it's their choice. If they want more arts and rec and world class swimming pools and a less professional less educated, more prone to getting the city sued mistake prone police department at its expense, then well that's their right. We're just trying to put the information out there so an informed choice can be made. Respectfully submitted...
Beverly H. October 09, 2010 at 01:26 AM
Do you find it appalling that Wall St brokers make 10 times what the US President makes? Do you find it appalling that teachers make less than meter maids? Do you find it appalling that sports stars making 100X what teachers make? There are lots of salaries of careers that you can be appalled at. Fact is, we have one of the very best city managers, and that goes a long way. And he's not overpaid. In fact, that pay is very much in line with city managers in similar sized cities. And yes, that position now has to pay for health benefits and into their pension plan.
Elizabeth Maxwell October 09, 2010 at 01:39 AM
Beverly: Yes.
Sadie Berkhimer October 10, 2010 at 08:11 PM
Elizabeth - Just drove through the library parking lot and noticed that the big Wedel/Lawson signs in your yard are missing. It looks like the poles are still there. What is going on? Vandals, more pressure from the city or what?
Elizabeth Maxwell October 10, 2010 at 08:52 PM
The wind and lack of technical skill seems to the be the culprit. I think some of the officers are supposed to be able to come by today to see if they can get them back up and stable. the problem is the joint of the PVC pipe that they are using to support the signs is right at the bottom of the sign. It just doesn't have the tensile strength to resist the gusts. I think if they brace this joint with something like lathes taped at the weak spot it should hold up. No doubt the people who object to the signs are thinking that God is against the WCPA... ;-) Anyway, all of this could have been avoided, and much less visible, if they could have just stayed on the fence in the first place.
kb October 11, 2010 at 12:09 AM
All this talk about pay and pensions and benefits...The real issue is the continued direction of the council in spending money on their pet projects and not providing for proper staffing (both in the police department and the other departments, such as public services). The library is done; no taking it back. But...Why do we continue to be the only municipality in the nation that runs an art gallery at a loss of $350,000 per year? Why do we have the 2nd largest arts, rec & cultural services program behind only the city of L.A.? Why are we exploring building the regions largest swim complex that will operate at a deficit? The list goes on and on, and it is indicative of a council that is out of touch! New blood with new views are long overdue!!!
Sadie Berkhimer October 11, 2010 at 12:18 AM
Thanks for the explanation Elizabeth. You are very correct in saying that this could all have been avoided if the paranoids in the Silva campaign and city hall had not gotten involved!
Elizabeth Maxwell October 11, 2010 at 01:41 AM
The signs were repaired today and are much more secure, so I don't think they will blow down anymore or be vandalized. Anyone attempting to tamper with them would have to trespass to do so and I think now they are secured enough to survive all but hurricane force winds.
obiwan October 11, 2010 at 04:47 AM
kb - Although I am not unsympathetic to your point of view, I am curious about your sources. Where did you find the info behind your "only municipality in the nation" and your "behind only the city of LA" statements? I tried Googling for info on arts budgets and couldn't seem to come up with anything.

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