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East County Muscle offers novice body builders chance to shine, locally this Saturday

Posted in: Sports | Comments (0)

By Allen Payton

Local personal trainers, Dion Powell and Santi Lopez are giving East County residents the opportunity to compete in a local bodybuilding, physique, bikini and figure show, known as The Novice.

We’ve been wanting to offer the newby to the sport an opportunity to display the results of their hard work in shaping and sculpting their body in a low-pressure competitive environment – in East County,” Dion said.

The event, to be held this Saturday, April 19, 2014 will feature local competitors in the four categories.

East County has a lot of talent in the fitness community and have represented well at regional, state and national competitions,” he added. “There hasn’t been anything like this out, here – even with all the health clubs in the area. Those who want to haven’t a had a place to display their physiques outside of those clubs. Now they can.”

Plus, we’re hoping it will be another great event for people to look forward to, attend and enjoy, here in East County like the Seafood Festival and Corn Fest. You won’t want to miss it.”

Successful competitors in bodybuilding, themselves, both Dion and Santi train a variety of individuals at all levels of fitness, from the average person who wants to lose weight and tone up to the hardcore athlete who desires to take it to the next level in their chosen sport.

Spots are still available for competitors and sponsorships by local businesses, as well.

The event will be held at Brentwood Veterans Memorial Hall in two sessions, an afternoon pre-judge and an evening finals competition. For more information on or tickets call (925) 446-9632, visit www.facebook.com/EastCountyMuscleInc or email eastcocomuscle@gmail.com.

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Publisher @ April 17, 2014

Antioch teen shot and killed Wednesday night

Posted in: Police & Crime | Comments (1)

By Acting Lieutenant Morefield, Antioch Police Investigations Bureau

On Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at approximately 8:39 PM, Antioch Police Officers responded to a report of a shooting in the 4900 block of Country Hills Drive. The officers arrived to find a juvenile male incapacitated from multiple, apparent gunshot wounds. Life saving measures were taken by the arriving officers and medical personnel, but the victim was ultimately pronounced deceased at the scene.

This case is currently being investigated as a homicide by the Antioch Police Department Investigations Bureau. We are in the preliminary stages of this investigation, and no further information will be released at this time.

Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to call Detective Meads with the Antioch Police Department at (925)779-6884. You may also text a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using key word ANTIOCH.

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Publisher @ April 17, 2014

Antioch School Board votes to close RAAMP, Carmen Dragon teachers voice concerns

Posted in: Education | Comments (8)

By John Crowder

The Trustees of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) voted 4-1 at their April 9th meeting to close the RAAMP Charter Academy of Math and Science (RAAMP) at the end of this school year. According to RAAMP Board Chair Cheryl Cooper, there are no plans to appeal the decision.

The mood at the meeting was more somber than on previous occasions, where teaching staff, supporters, and parents of students at RAAMP had made impassioned pleas to keep the school open.

Karla Branch, one of the founders and the Executive Director of the school, spoke briefly prior to the vote being taken. Seemingly resigned to their fate, she nonetheless extolled the virtues of the program that she had worked to develop.

The disenfranchised student population needs something different,” she said. “That is what RAAMP has always been about. I am for disenfranchised students. I know what they need, and I know RAAMP gave it to them.”

Branch, expressed her appreciation for the AUSD Board, the administration and, in particular, Assistant Superintendent Stephanie Anello, for their support and the opportunity they had given her to begin the school five years ago.

I will walk away knowing RAAMP did amazing things…for a lot of people,” she concluded.

Following public comments, each member of the board spoke briefly about the decision they were about to make. While most expressed appreciation for the work Branch had done and for her passionate advocacy of the RAAMP program, nonetheless had determined that the data, specifically low academic performance scores, supported its closure. Trustee Gary Hack, who ended up casting the lone vote not to close the school, expressed how conflicted he was over the issue.

Dr. Don Gill, AUSD Superintendent, promised to work to assist those students displaced by the move, and emphasized the district’s African American Male Initiative as an avenue to help in the transition.

In another matter, teachers continued to voice their concerns with the level of violence in the Antioch schools. The situation at Dallas Ranch Middle School was brought up, as it has been for the past few months. Specific incidents were referenced, including a student having her hair caught on fire and a student being kicked in the face during another incident at the school.

Adding to the complaints regarding Antioch middle schools, for the first time in recent months, teachers from an elementary school, Carmen Dragon, came forward as a group to voice similar concerns regarding unruly students.

Patti Baggett, a fourth grade teacher at the school, read a statement outlining the problems while backed up by several teachers standing at the podium with her, and about a half-dozen more in the audience.

I am speaking on behalf of my colleagues at Carmen Dragon Elementary and throughout the entire district,” she stated. “We have become increasingly fearful for our students’ safety and our own ability to successfully provide for a positive learning environment…We are extremely concerned for our own personal safety…”

She went on to characterize a “lack of clearly defined district policies” as a major factor that “has led to many students becoming empowered with a rebellious attitude which endangers everyone in our district community.”

Baggett then referred to a specific incident in which she claimed that a student had “pushed a well-respected, experienced substitute teacher, then went straight to the office and reported that she had pushed him.”

These bullies, whose actions remain unchecked by your ineffective behavior policy, are stealing the rights of the majority of our Antioch youth to learn and be safe in our classrooms,” she added.

In other education news, teachers and supporters of the Dozier-Libbey Medical High School independent charter petition attended the Contra Costa County Board of Education meeting where several spoke in support of the teachers’ petition. That board is expected to take up the matter in early May.

Future meetings of the AUSD Board are scheduled for May 14th and May 28th and are held at the AUSD office at 510 G Street.

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Publisher @ April 15, 2014

Golden Hills hosts Good Friday Service and nine Easter Services this Sunday

Posted in: Faith | Comments (0)

Easter Services Golden Hills Golden Hills hosts Good Friday Service and nine Easter Services this Sunday

Golden Hills Community Church will host a Good Friday Service, this Friday night, April 18 at 7:00 p.m. at their Brentwood campus, which is located at 2401 Shady Willow Lane just off Lone Tree Way. Then on Sunday, they will host six services at their Brentwood campus and three at their Antioch campus, which is located at 1800 Woodland Drive at the corner of East 18th Street.  For more information call (925) 516-0653 or visit www.goldenhills.org.

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Publisher @ April 15, 2014

Letter writer offers thoughts on Dozier-Libbey charter debate

Posted in: Opinion, Letters to the Editor, Opinion | Comments (17)

Dear Editor,

I have been following the Dozier-Libbey story in the Antioch Herald and have read every article and all of the comments that have populated under each one. I have noticed that about 99% of the comments strongly support the teachers and their Independent Charter Petition.

FACT: 1. The Independent Charter Petition came first.

FACT: 2. The Independent Charter Petition was developed by teachers, not administrators and is almost twice as long as the district counter-proposal. The Independent Charter Petition provides many more details and aligns with the existing programs since it was created by the people who made Dozier-Libbey what it is today.

FACT: 3. None of the people who signed the Independent Charter Petition were coerced into signing.

FACT: 4. The Deer Valley signers of the Dependent Charter Petition from the district, who signed that they were meaningfully interested in teaching at DLMHS were promised they would NOT have to go there to teach if they signed the document. (This was related to me by a teacher who was at that meeting).

FACT:5. The Dozier-Libbey teachers have the full support of the California Charter Schools Association and their Independent Charter Petition aligns with the California Charter Schools Act.

FACT:6. Principal Nancie Castro was the top candidate, selected by a committee for her Science background, two years before the school was even built. She designed the model from the ground up and built her team. Each person was chosen from a pool of candidates because they were a good fit for the school.

FACT:7. Principal Scott Bergerhouse, the newly selected Principal for the district dependent charter, according to his bio was an English teacher and was appointed “in house” by the Superintendent and the Board, without any input from parents or community groups.

FACT:8. The whole “sports” issue has been fabricated by the AUSD since they could choose to let the Dozier-Libbey Independent Charter students continue to play sports under CIF regulations at DVHS and AHS as they do now, simply by creating a MOU (memo of understanding) between schools. By choosing not to create an MOU, they have artificially created a situation that could easily be fixed should they choose to fix it.

FACT:9. The AUSD has already given Principal Scott Bergerhouse an office at Dozier-Libbey and he was introduced to the students as their “new Principal” on a room by room tour last week, in front of the current Principal, Nancie Castro. They also posted a banner on the front of the school stating his new role.

FACT:10. The DLMHS students staged a thirty-minute walkout last week in response to the disrespect shown to Mrs. Castro by the AUSD and teachers wore black as a way of “silent protest” since they cannot talk about the charter situation with students.

FACT:11. The teachers have established a Facebook page where they welcome all comments, pro and con. As of today, most of the comments have been supportive of the teachers. The district has also created a Facebook page where several parents and students posted critical comments yet all of the comments were removed and a disclaimer now sits in their place. That is their version of transparency.

FACT:12. DLMHS Parents had established a table outside the school with a sign about signing up for the Independent Charter for next year. They were giving out forms for parents to fill out and return. They were told to remove their tables and had to go stand outside of school property on the roadside to give out their forms. Almost immediately the AUSD administration set up their own table with an expensive banner and began giving out their own forms in the location vacated by the parents. Parents were led to believe that if they did not respond by 4/7, their students would lose their spot and it would be filled by someone else on the waiting list. Due to the next hearing in superior court, that date was extended to 4/28.

It does not seem fair that parents have to stand outside school and give out their forms on the roadside when AUSD officials can do it right next to the school building. What are they afraid of? It does not seem fair that the teachers cannot talk about the charter with students provided they present both sides of the issue. Again, what are they afraid of? What happened to freedom of speech?

Andre’ Epstein

Mr. Epstein is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley, a 36-year veteran teacher (23 years with AUSD) and was the AUSD Teacher of the Year 2003-2004. He most recently taught Spanish at DLMHS until retirement.

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Publisher @ April 15, 2014

Antioch Council grapples with budget, how to spend Measure C funds

Posted in: News | Comments (3)

Public not happy with number of total police officers

By John Crowder

The Antioch City Council conducted a study session at their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 8th, regarding the city budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year and beyond. The tone of the meeting was set early on by City Manager Steve Duran.

The thing we want to focus on tonight…is…making hard decisions about the structural deficit that we’re running,” he said.

He also stated that the city was going to run out of money in just a few years if steps weren’t taken to both increase revenues and decrease the rate of spending.

Before Measure C we were going about 100 mph toward a wall that said economic destruction, and Measure C slowed us down to about 80 [mph],” Duran added.

Following Duran’s comments, Finance Director Dawn Merchant, gave a budget presentation. In the staff report which she provided to the Council, it states that reserves will be, “fully depleted in 2019-20.” She went on to answer questions the Council had asked at their previous session. She informed them that not continuing to fund library maintenance would, according to library personnel, possibly result in a reduction in hours from the current 35 per week at the downtown library.

Merchant said that police sworn staffing stood at 82 thirty days prior to the November election. In response to a question regarding how many officers might be hired with Measure C funds, she responded that it depended on several factors, including whether or not the officer was new or experienced, but that the number of new officers could range from 19 to 21. She gave a caveat, however, that bringing on this level of officers could require additional senior sworn staff, vehicles, equipment, support staff, and other items which were not accounted for in these estimates. City staff is estimating $4.3 million in revenue from Measure C in fiscal year 2014-2015.

Merchant provided the Council with several graphs detailing budgetary information, projecting revenues and expenses into future years. Police and animal support, she noted, currently takes up 74% of General Fund expenditures (73% to police and 1% to animal services). The budget allotment proposed for police services for fiscal year 2014-2015 is $32.8 million, including Measure C revenue, noted above.

The general fund also subsidizes certain operations, Ms. Merchant noted. These include $111,000 for golf course water, $165,000 for golf course debt service, $577,000 for recreation services, and $253,000 to Prewett Water Park.

Merchant asked the council for direction regarding continued funding of library maintenance for $112,000 and whether or not to reinstate earthquake insurance for $150,000.

Following the finance director’s presentation, Harper opened the floor for public comments. First to speak was Hans Ho, a former Antioch Police Crime Prevention Commissioner and the city’s Neighborhood Watch Coordinator. He said that the budget for fiscal year 2013-2014 had provision for 101.9 sworn officers. Ho wondered where the money went that reduced funding to allow for only 82 sworn officers. He wondered if their was a sleight of hand with the budget. He also objected to money being allocated for watering the golf course and recreation when there was not adequate money to protect the safety of citizens.

Antioch Real Estate Broker Mark Jordan was the next to speak. He was also unhappy with the proposed budget, and the number of police officers projected.

We have an income problem,” Jordan stated. “Building all the houses has created a situation in which the city is looking at bankruptcy down the road. It’s not about houses, it’s about jobs. It’s about producing income for the city. You can’t budget your way out of this problem…The truth is, we’re all standing on a railroad track. And the train is coming. And we’re not doing the right things to get out of the way. I don’t agree with the budget.”

Terry Ramus, a leader in the Antioch Chamber of Commerce, spoke next, asking for honesty with the numbers regarding Measure C. He said that, with Measure C, money allocated to the police department would be 32% more than peak-recession levels, yet he’s now hearing there will be less than 100 officers rather than 125.

Marty Fernandez said he thought the budget was “all a hoax” and that nobody was talking about the $80 million unfunded medical liability.

Following the public comments, Mayor Wade Harper asked Merchant for clarification of the difference between officers that are authorized and officers that are funded. She responded “Although in the budget there [were] 102 positions in the last several years…there has not been 102 fully funded for an entire year…it’s roughly 85 positions that are actually paid for in the general fund. There was 102 allocated positions, but they were not all cash funded with dollars.”

Duran then provided further clarification.

In 2008 the typical cost of a police officer, salary and benefits, was $140,495 and [in the fiscal year ending in 2015] that number is $192,445,” he said. “That’s about a 37% increase per officer…that is the bulk of the cost.”

Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha addresses the budget issues saying that while she hated the word outsourcing, maybe that was something that needed to be considered with respect to the golf course.

Duran then interjected that other things to think about along those lines were the water park, the senior center, other recreational programs and arts and cultural programs. He also noted, in response to the public comments, that residential development would bring more property tax, and would encourage retail to follow, generating additional sales tax.

Even so, it’s three years before we see some of the positive economic impacts of most of that,” he said.

Merchant then also responded to some of the public comments regarding police officer funding.

We have 97 sworn in next year’s budget…if we were to add another 20 officers to that, that would be $4.3 million on top of what we’re projecting for the expenses here, so that’s another $4.3 million in fund balance reduction if we were to add another 20 officers beyond that,” she said. “The cost per officer has gone up astronomically since 2008 due to various benefit increases as well as pre-negotiated salary increases in their memorandum of understanding.”

You know, this is real money and real jobs,” Councilman Gary Agopian said. “This is not made up. We’re making important decisions, we can’t push it off. The gap is not going to get better unless we take in more money, or reduce expenses. There’s only so much money. All the money in Measure C is going to police. I’m not in favor of increasing our non-public safety budget. I will not agree to spend any additional money…We need to continue to hire, but we need to hire in a measured way for public safety. As we get the money, then we can hire.”

We need to look at a balanced recreation budget. We’re going to have to shut things down, and that’s what Mrs. Rocha is trying to call out,” he added. “I don’t think we can get enough savings just by shutting everything down and running a police department in Antioch…We’re going to have to increase property taxes.” He also mentioned the citizen-led idea to start taxing landlords.

Then Harper also responded to the public comments.

I went back and reviewed every document that went out…and nothing said, 102 plus 22 [police officers],” he said. “I believe that spending all the Measure C funds on police and Code Enforcement, and getting us as close as we can to the 20 plus officers, using all the Measure C funds, is the promise kept. I don’t believe there’s any broken promises, any sleight of hand.”

The Council then gave direction by consensus on the several items brought forward. They decided no on earthquake insurance, and no on funding for maintenance at the library on East 18th Street.

. The structure of staff positions suggested by Duran was approved, but raises for people whose positions were changed were denied.

Duran suggested that, over the next several months, the City should look into and consider the privatization or sale of the golf course.

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Publisher @ April 14, 2014

Antioch police bust marijuana cultivation early Friday morning

Posted in: Police & Crime | Comments (0)

Marijuana cultivation 1 Antioch police bust marijuana cultivation early Friday morning

By Sergeant Morefield, Antioch Police Investigations Bureau

On Friday, April 11, 2014 at approximately 12:21 AM, Antioch Police Department Patrol Officers responded to a residence on Hawthorn Court on a report of an audible alarm. They arrived at the home to find the alarm sounding along with an unsecured front door. During a security sweep of the residence, evidence of a large scale marijuana cultivation operation was discovered. Investigators were called in and ultimately seized approximately 500 marijuana plants from the home along with marijuana cultivation equipment. The case is still being investigated by the Antioch Police Department’s Special Operations Unit.

Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to call Detective Koch with the Antioch Police Department at (925) 779-6895. You may also text a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using key word ANTIOCH.

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Publisher @ April 12, 2014

One thief dead, one customer shot in armed robbery of Antioch jewelry store, Friday

Posted in: Police & Crime | Comments (2)

Hardy Nix Jewelry robbery 1024x768 One thief dead, one customer shot in armed robbery of Antioch jewelry store, Friday

Police cordoned off the area around the Hardy Nix Jewelers store in Antioch after a robbery on Friday. One thief was shot and died in front of the store. By Allen Payton

By Acting Captain Robin Kelley, Antioch Police Investigations Bureau

On Friday, April 11, 2014 at 4:27 PM, the Antioch Police Department responded to a report of an armed robbery with shots fired at the Hardy Nix Jewelers store, at 3600 Delta Fair Blvd. As officers were arriving they learned a customer inside the jewelry store had been shot and one of the responsibles in the robbery had been shot by the owner and was down on the ground suffering from a gunshot wound. This subject was later pronounced dead at the scene.

It was also learned a second responsible in the robbery fled on foot east bound towards Kaiser. An extensive search was conducted for this subject with negative results. The victim inside the business was transported to an area hospital with what is believed to be a non-life threatening wound. This information is preliminary as the investigation is ongoing.

According to witnesses, the store owner is who shot the robber and was later taken away by police for questioning.

Antioch Police Investigators are currently following up on leads. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Eric McManus @ (925) 779-6940. You may also text a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using key word ANTIOCH.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Publisher @ April 12, 2014