Celebrate Easter at Solar Swim & Gym Saturday, April 1

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Publisher @ March 30, 2023

More Antioch Police officers placed on leave, under investigation for offensive texts

Posted in: News, Police & Crime | Comments (0)

Mayor Thorpe to hold news conference Thursday morning; two other council members unaware of matter

By Allen D. Payton

According to an East Bay Times report, eight more Antioch Police officers have been placed on leave and are under investigation for sending each other racist and homophobic texts in violation of department policies. Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe has called a press conference for Thursday morning at 11 a.m. to speak on the matter.

The officers on leave are in addition to eight other officers also on leave while under investigation by the FBI and Contra Costa DA’s office. (See related article)

Questions were emailed to Thorpe, Acting City Manager Forrest Ebbs, City Attorney Thomas L. Smith, Police Chief Steve Ford and the police department’s spokespeople, Lt. Michael Mellone and PIO Ashley Crandell asking to verify the information in the article and for the time and location of the press conference.

Ebbs responded, “The City of Antioch is investigating allegations revealed by information received against a number of Antioch Police Officers.  The City has placed the officers on administrative leave pending the investigation of allegations.  Given that this is a confidential personnel matter, no further information can be disclosed at this time.”

Thorpe confirmed the time of the press conference, said it will be held at City Hall and that the information reported in the article didn’t come from him.

Councilmembers Mike Barbanica and Lori Ogorchock said they weren’t aware of the matter before being informed by this reporter. “First I’ve heard or seen” of it, Ogorchock responded.

“I sure did not,” Barbanica responded when asked if he had heard about the matter. He then called Ebbs. Barbanica said Ebbs told him he had briefed Thorpe on the matter, just not the rest of the council.

“I told the acting city manager, we are a General Law City not a Charter City and if one council member was made aware, the entire council should have been made aware. For the mayor to be briefed and not the rest of the city council, this is unacceptable,” said Barbanica. “I asked him why I wasn’t made aware of this and why wasn’t the rest of the council made aware, and why did I have to learn of this from the media.”

The District 2 councilman said Ebbs told him Thursday morning, “in a very short period of time he was going to get communication out to the rest of the city council.” That was expected to be received by 10 a.m. prior to the press conference. “I’m waiting for the details to come out before making any additional comment,” Barbanica added. But he said he had an appointment in San Francisco at the time and couldn’t attend the press conference. “Had I been briefed about it, yesterday, I could have rearranged my schedule.”

See press conference video.

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Publisher @ March 30, 2023

Contra Costa, other councilmembers warn SB 423 is state’s “endgame” to eliminate local control over development

Posted in: Opinion, Growth & Development | Comments (0)

Our Neighborhood Voices, a growing statewide coalition of communities, claims the bill is a permanent extension of SB 35, gives developers unlimited ability to develop nearly anything, anywhere in California

California lawmakers recently introduced legislation that would permanently strip local communities of nearly all important land use decisions. While the legislation – SB 423 – is touted as a tool to solve our affordable housing crisis, local elected leaders say that the legislation undermines local democracy by removing the ability of communities to plan and prepare for what is built in their neighborhoods. It also can accelerate damaging ‘Builders Remedy’ projects across the state that see massive projects built in residential neighborhoods without adequate planning for water, schools, transit, safety fire danger and other priorities.

SB 423 also removes vital protections in our Coastal Zones – something no other housing bill has dared to do. Californians have consistently supported protecting our coasts – this bill removes many of those protections forever.

“I was hoping SB 423 might be a tool to help us solve our affordable housing crisis, but it is not,” said Susan Candell, Lafayette City Councilmember. “Instead, it is the state’s final end game to undermine local democracy in cities and counties, and unleash unlimited development, including the ‘Builders Remedy,’ even in our treasured coastal zones.”

SB 423 can potentially release the ‘Builders Remedy’ where developers can just about build anything, anywhere. SB 423 is a permanent extension of SB 35 – a 2018 law that forces local governments to approve certain developments under a streamlined process if they fail to build, not just approve, but build enough housing to meet their Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers. Complex interactions with many other bills lead cities again to be subject to the ‘Builders Remedy’ in 2025 for Southern California and 2027 in Northern California.

The RHNA numbers – which are set every eight years – “laid out impossible goals this cycle,” explains Jovita Mendoza, Brentwood City Councilmember. “Virtually no cities or counties will be able to meet their RHNA numbers. Cities and counties are now set up to fail, and as a result, local governments will lose their ability to have a say about what gets built in our communities. Instead, under SB 423, that approval process will be turned over to developers permanently.”

Coastal zones have been protected from profit-driven overdevelopment since the passage of the California Coastal Act of 1976. This new proposed legislation would virtually undo decades of work to protect California’s coastlines.

“Now local oversight, those who are the stewards of the coastal zone, is removed. Instead, those decisions are handed over to developers and their allies in Sacramento. We all know we need affordable housing in every part of California, but this bill drastically reduces the required affordable units,” said Redondo Beach City Councilmember Nils Nehrenheim.

Our Neighborhood Voices is a non-partisan coalition of residents and elected officials from every corner of California who believe that land use decisions should be determined by local communities and their elected leaders – not one-size-fits-all laws from Sacramento and for-profit developers.

To get these important questions in front of voters, Our Neighborhood Voices is organizing to qualify a citizen-led ballot initiative that would protect the ability of local communities to adopt laws that shape local growth, preserve the character of neighborhoods, and require developers to produce more affordable housing and contribute to the costs associated with it.

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Publisher @ March 30, 2023

One of two homicide suspects in death of Pittsburg convenience store clerk arrested in Antioch

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Jessica Russo was arrested by Pittsburg Police in Antioch on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. Photos of scene by Allen D. Payton. Gregory Rossignon is still wanted for the March 22 murder.

Following hours-long stand-off outside home male suspect still wanted; his father says female suspect pregnant with male suspect’s child

By Allen D. Payton

Shortly after 2:00 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023, the Pittsburg Police Department’s Special Response Unit served a search warrant at a residence in the 2000 block of D Street in the city of Antioch for two suspects wanted for murder of a Pittsburg convenience store clerk on March 22. During the service of the warrant, Jessica Russo was located and arrested. She was booked and taken to the Martinez Detention Facility.

Pittsburg Police officers near the house on D and W. Madill Streets in Antioch. Members of the Pittsburg Special Response Unit with the department’s Bearcat armored vehicle.

After a methodical and exhaustive search of the residence was conducted, Gregory Rossignon remains outstanding and still wanted for murder. During the search officers approached the house and several times, broke windows, dropped a phone with a phone line into the house, called out on the loudspeaker for Rossignon to pick up the phone and dial a number to speak to police. The officers flew drones inside and outside and deployed four rounds of a chemical agent believed to be tear gas inside the home. After the second round of gas another woman emerged from the residence about 5:53 p.m. and was detained, placed in handcuffs and escorted from the scene.

Pittsburg officers at front door breaking out windows, tear gas smoke emerged from the house’s attic, and a second woman was detained.

About 7:35 p.m., Rossignon’s father, who identified himself as Gregory, Sr., arrived on the scene and asked to speak to his son “so everyone comes out of this alive”. He referred to Russo as his daughter. When shown a photo of Russo and asked if she was who he was referring to, Rossignon, Sr. said, “yes, I call her my daughter. She’s pregnant with my son’s child…my grandchild.” He told police, “I’ll strip down if you need me to and walk in there to talk to my son.” Later, ,a woman drove up to the scene and said she was the suspect’s mother. Officers took both parents to an area on Lawton Street where they waited but did not speak to their son.

A drone was sent into the house through windows police had broken out. Gregory Rossignon, Sr., the suspect’s father, arrived on the scene offering to speak to his son.

At about 9:15 p.m., an officer said he expected to wrap things up shortly, but that they had not had any contact with the suspect nor could confirm that anyone was still in the house.

The Pittsburg Police would like to thank the Antioch residents who live in this area for their patience during the service of the warrant. Several residents were escorted by police to their homes on D Street. But one mother and daughter who live next door to the house had to find somewhere else to stay for the night. Although offered to stay at a Pittsburg motel by one of the officers, they chose to stay with friends. The woman said she expected to return to her home Thursday morning.

The Pittsburg Police Department is asking anyone with information related to Gregory Rossingnon’s whereabouts to contact the local police. We are also asking anyone with information contact Detective Jonathan Elmore at 925-252-4875 or the Pittsburg Police Department Tip Line at 925-252-4040.

See more photos and video at facebook.com/antiochheraldca.

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Publisher @ March 30, 2023

Public’s help needed in legal action against Christopher George Miller

Posted in: News, Police & Crime, District Attorney, Education, Sheriff-Coroner, Youth | Comments (0)

Arrested for sex crimes against minors in Contra Costa, first at Deer valley High

By Ted Asregadoo, PIO, Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office

As the seven-count felony case against Christopher George Miller continues in Superior Court in Martinez, the investigative team who arrested him in a sting operation for arranging to engage in sex acts with a minor are asking the public for help.

The investigation into Miller started in 2022 when he was employed at Deer Valley High School in Antioch as a campus supervisor. A parent of a student reported to school officials that Miller was sending inappropriate texts to the student regarding marijuana use at the school, as well as sexually suggestive messages. (See related article)

The Contra Costa County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) adopted the case about three weeks ago to see if Miller (who was then a former employee at the high school) would sell marijuana and arrange to meet for sex. Posing as a 13-year-old girl on a chat app Miller used, a Detective with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office started communicating with him. At one point while exchanging texts, Miller offered to sell the fictitious teen marijuana — and later the chats became more sexual in nature.

Miller arranged to meet the teen for sex at a park in Martinez on March 16th, 2023. Participating ICAC members from the Sheriff’s Office, Concord Police, Danville Police, Pittsburg Police, and the District Attorney’s Office met him at the park and arrested Miller on marijuana possession with the intent to sell to a minor and other charges related to contacting and arranging to engage in lewd and lascivious acts with a minor. He was booked into the Martinez Detention Facility and arraigned on a total of seven felony charges on March 21st. His preliminary hearing is set for April 3rd at 8:30 am in Department 25 in Martinez.

According to the charging document filed on March 20 by the CCDA’s Office, Miller was charged with seven felonies, including P0288.3(a), Contact with Minor for Sexual Offense on or about June 14, 2022; PC288.4(b), Meeting Minor for Lewd Purposes between March 10 and 16, 2023; PC288.3(a), Contact with Minor for Sexual Offense on or between March 10 and 16, 2023; PC288.2(a)(2), Distributing Or Showing Pornography To A Minor on or about March 14, 2023; PC288.2(a)(2), Distributing Or Showing Pornography To A Minor on or about March 15, 2023; PC 664/PC288(a), Attempted Lewd Act Upon A Child on or about March 16, 2023; PC 664/HS11360(a), Attempted Sale/Offer To Sell/Transportation Of Marijuana on or about March 16, 2023. 01-23-00820 – Charging Document Miller

ICAC Senior Inspector Darryl Holcombe notes that Miller may have been in contact with other victims. He’s asking the public to email him at the District Attorney’s Office if they have information related to Miller’s case. He can be reached at: DHolcombe@contracostada.org.

Case No. 01-23-00820 | The People of the State of California v. Miller, Christopher George

Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.

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Publisher @ March 30, 2023

Contra Costa County surveys community for Arts & Culture Strategic Plan

Posted in: Arts & Entertainment, Contra Costa County, Government | Comments (0)

El Condado de Contra Costa Examina a la Comunidad para Planificación de las Artes y la Cultura

By Kristi Jourdan, Office of Communications & Media

What is the future of Contra Costa County’s arts and cultural landscape? As part of the County’s efforts to develop an Arts & Culture Strategic Plan, a survey will be available to residents during the month of April to gather community feedback.

The County has contracted with Arts Orange County as Project Manager to lead the arts and culture planning process. The goal is to guide an arts and cultural planning effort through an inclusive community engagement process that recognizes and respects the geographic and demographic diversity of the County. The process also includes an inventory of the County’s arts and cultural assets, including organizations, venues, and public art.

The survey will be open until April 30, 2023. To participate, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/NSMSL2B

A Spanish language version of the survey is available at www.surveymonkey.com/r/YJHCQDH

¿Cuál es el futuro del panorama artístico y cultural del Condado de Contra Costa? Como parte de los esfuerzos del Condado para desarrollar un Plan Estratégico de Arte y Cultura, una encuesta estará disponible para los residentes durante el mes de Abril para recopilar comentarios de la comunidad.

El Condado ha contratado a Arts Orange County como Gerente de Proyecto para dirigir el proceso de planificación de las artes y la cultura. El objetivo es guiar un esfuerzo de planificación artística y cultural a través de un proceso inclusivo de participación comunitaria que reconozca y respete la diversidad geográfica y demográfica del Condado. El proceso también incluyeun inventario de los bienes artísticos y culturales del Condado, incluidas organizaciones, lugares y arte público.

La encuesta estará abierta hasta el 30 de Abril de 2023. Para participar, visite www.surveymonkey.com/r/NSMSL2B Una versión en Español de la encuesta está disponible en www.surveymonkey.com/r/YJHCQDH



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Publisher @ March 29, 2023

Photos with the Easter Bunny at Rivertown Treasure Chest Saturday, April 8

Posted in: Business, Community, Holiday, Rivertown | Comments (0)

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Publisher @ March 29, 2023

Antioch Council moves forward on new department building on 3-2 split support

Posted in: News, City Council, Government | Comments (0)

Site Plan for proposed new city department building. Source: City of Antioch

In spite of traffic concerns from neighbors

Barbanica, Ogorchock want to wait for funding source, first

“I also know I’ve been here long enough it’s not going to cost $12 million…” – Mayor Thorpe

By Allen D. Payton

Julianne Davis said she lives on W. 10th Street in the 200 block. My window looks right out on the site they’re talking about building on. She spoke about the traffic and parking issues on the street and “33 accidents right at that spot.” My big concern is parking, traffic, accidents.

“Can we please deal with the traffic, parking and accidents before moving forward,” Davis stated. “The Portuguese hall has parties every week. If we want to have an event we don’t have parking.”

Resident Gary Wells spoke next saying, “Great concept. I give you guys your do for trying to do something at that spot. But $14 million it seems like it could be put somewhere else. Downtown. Rivertown needs something for our youth. We’re going to have to meet somewhere in the middle, there. It’s dangerous on that street. But to bring this at this corner, I stay right across the street from it. I’m going to be really, really irritated if we don’t do something about the traffic, first.

“We talk about revitalization. We took all of those non-profits out of that building. I’m sure we can take this $14 million and do something better. For safety reasons I say ‘no’. We have to involve safety and involve the community, there. Or I’m going to sell my house and move from Antioch. My neighbors, we’re tired and fed up. We don’t want this building built before something’s done with safety on that street. We have people breaking into cars.

Resident Leslie May said, “I still work for one of the non-profits that’s in that business. But I’m glad we’re out of that building. We had a rodent problem, breathing problems. I did say to the council, ‘you guys going to open this, here, you better do something about this traffic.’ I sit in the back of my yard and hear horrible crashes…every single week.”

You’re going to have to do something. Hopefully, we will get traffic calming devices. I’m sure something has to happen before that building is completed.”

Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker said, “I’m excited about this opportunity…it’s the type of capital improvement project we need for the community. Our intent is not to put a building into a spot that’s going to be dangerous for the community. In one of the slides, there’s a turning lane into the parking lot. I don’t know how long these problems have been happening, because I’ve only been here nine years. But I know they’ve got to improve before the opening. We have youth who live in District 1 who can’t always get over to southeast.”

District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson, who served on the council subcommittee dealing with the department and proposed building with Torres-Walker, said, “I’m really excited about this building. It’s not only for the youth it’s for all individuals who have issues…to share knowledge, be in community, break bread. Yes, we know there are the challenges around traffic we can work on. I just feel that the work we are doing…we’re not breaking ground tomorrow…it’s going to be a positive for the community, not just for District 1.”

“People have mentioned $14 million, wow, that’s a lot of money,” Torres-Walker said. “Is there active fundraising happening…to supplement the funding? she asked of Tasha Johnson.

“Yeah. That’s the hope. We wanted to get the conversations started on approval of the building,” Johnson responded who spoke of grant writing. “Hopefully, we can find a source or two.”

“My concern is, I think we need to look at the budget before we start making commitments for funding,” District 3 Councilman Mike Barbanica said.

“I love the design of the building and believe it can be a positive for the community,” said District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock. “We don’t have the funding for L Street. Until we have the funding and the budget’s clear and know where the funding is going to come from, I can’t go forward.”

“It’s a couple things,” said Acting Public Works Director Scott Bunting in response to a question by Torres-Walker. “Moving forward does need some kind of commitment. The construction doesn’t have a budget.”

He then spoke of the traffic calming devices and a possible grant to pay for them.

Forrest Ebbs, “The step that’s missing in the schedule is the funding. If you move forward with this you’re aiming very high. It’s clear this is not going to be a 100% General Fund project. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be funded. I would say the next step would be to explore funding options.”

“I don’t think it’s prepared for a commitment of total funds,” City Attorney Thomas Smith added.

“We did a survey, once, a few years ago. One of the things that polled very, very high was a municipal center…to centralize all these different services,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe stated. “In my head, there may still be opportunity to work with, like the county. Because they’ve been talking about a new library for a long time. I don’t know, it’s just an idea.”

“I was surprised by this. I thought we were going to stick to the confines of the existing building,” he continued. “I appreciate where we could go with this. But I also know I’ve been here long enough it’s not going to cost $12 million. We redid City Hall…and the price tag kept going up and going up. Effectively our hands were tied and we had to finish what we started. Those aren’t the final numbers, so, we have to budget accordingly.”

“So, there is no funding for this, already. We’re going to have to figure out the funding at a later time,” the mayor stated. “Figuring out the cost is going to be a hard thing to do. I can be for this.”

Barbanica said, “no, I would rather go the other route and find funding, first.”

Torres-Walker said, “yes.”

Ogorchock said, “funding, first.” She then suggested getting the County to sell the library on W. 18th Street to the City for $1.00 and add a second floor to that building.

“I’m confused by funding, first,” Thorpe said.

“This report is premature is what you’re saying,” Wilson said to City staff members.

“We cast a vision, first. We need to start targeting…if we pair the project with the funding,” Acting City Manager Forrest Ebbs said.

“I think we’re moving forward, so you’ve got direction,” Thorpe said. “Wow, this is a big deal. But not without making W. 10th Street safe.”

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Publisher @ March 28, 2023