Plus a few observations
By Allen Payton, Publisher
Some candidates for Antioch city council and school board have formed alliances during this election. In addition, there have been some interesting claims made by various candidates running to represent Antioch in different levels of government.
Alliances and Endorsements
First you have Councilwoman Mary Rocha, who is running for reelection, endorsing fellow candidate, and newcomer Monica Wilson. But nowhere does it say Wilson is endorsing Rocha.
Then there’s Wilson and Antioch School Board candidate Synitha Walker running joint automated phone calls (robo-calls) to voters asking them to vote for both of them. They have endorsed each other, as well. Plus Walker has been endorsed by Antioch Mayor Pro Tem and Mayoral candidate Wade Harper.
Wilson and Rocha have been endorsed by Public Employees Union Local One, which makes me wonder to whom they’ll be beholden when the time comes for contract negotiations. Not usually a good thing for taxpayers.
The Antioch Police Officers Association (the cops’ union, not the Antioch Police Department) has endorsed Don Freitas for Mayor. But that’s not surprising since he gave them the very generous and expensive 3% at 50 retirement benefit, as well as the expensive, six-year contract in 2007, which the current council had to buy their way out of – and which has prevented the city from affording all the police we need. Instead we’re down a net 30 sworn police officers, right now. The APOA has also endorsed current Mayor Jim Davis, who voted for the same things Freitas gave them. The difference is, Davis learned the error of his ways and supported the new contract, this year, which reduces city costs for police pensions and pay.
Partisan politics in Antioch, race-based endorsements by the Dems?
The county Democrat Party has endorsed both Rocha and Wilson for Antioch City Council and Synitha Walker and Deborah Vinson for School Board – all of them minority women, as well as Wade Harper for Mayor – instead of any white Dem man or woman for Mayor, Council or School Board, to the consternation of some of their white, Democrat opponents.
Plus the Dems endorsed the 21-year-old, African-American, recent college graduate, De’shawn Woolridge, for College Board, over the more experienced (and white) Dems Daniel Borsuk and Greg Enholm.
A further complaint is that on the Democratic county Central Committee’s October 18 meeting agenda (Updated 11/3/12) all but one were minority candidates under item #8,:“Other campaign help needed Monica, De’Shawn, Deborah, Argentina, Sarah, Jael, Maria, Cecilia and other endorsed candidates.”
(Updated 11/3/12) That information is being emailed around as well as that by a statistician who claims if the endorsements were a random decision it would happen only once in every 120 elections.
(Updated 11/3/12) Read the response to this issue by the CCDCC’s Endorsement Chair, by clicking here.
Regardless of the racial aspect, my question is why is the Democratic Party injecting itself into local, what are supposed to be, non-partisan races? Then again, the Republicans are, too for the first time in this writer’s memory. They have a door hanger that volunteers are distributing to homes of Republican voters with a list of all their candidates for local, state and federal office.
Also on the Republican side, the county Central Committee voted to oppose Measure B in Antioch and included it on the door hanger. But after local Republican leaders in Antioch said they were supporting it, the party said go ahead and change the flyers.
There have been relatively few attacks in any of the local elections, this year. But, in the Mayor’s race, during the Contra Costa Times/League of Women Voters candidate forum, which can be seen on the Times website, Harper attacked Freitas for the growth that happened during his two terms as Mayor. One problem, almost all the new growth that has happened in Antioch was approved in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s, long before Freitas was elected to the City Council in 1998.
Update 10/31/12: I was reminded by a reader, yesterday, that Freitas did in fact approve growth, when he voted to extend the expiring development agreements during his terms on the council. The proof is the implementation of the Residential Development Allocation (RDA) program fee on those new homes, which generated funds that the council spent on various things, such as the six, bluish grey “City of Antioch” signs around town.
Then in the Antioch Chamber of Commerce debate, Freitas attacked Gary Agopian and took a swipe at the entire current City Council for voting to hire additional police officers using a federal grant for three years, claiming it was playing politics. Doesn’t Don realize that if he’s elected, he’ll be working with at least two and as many as four of the current council members? Not a good way to offer leadership.
Where was Wade?
Harper missed both the Chamber debate and the Take Back Antioch candidates forum. Harper works swing shift in Tracy as a police Lieutenant, and has to take vacation time to attend City Council meetings. The Chamber debate was on a Thursday evening when he was working. But, why did he miss Take Back’s Saturday morning forum? Earlier this year he said he couldn’t attend a special meeting to discuss placing a police tax on the ballot, if it were held. If he doesn’t have the time to attend council meetings and candidate forums, how does he think he’ll have enough time to be Mayor, which takes much more time? Perhaps he should just wait until after he retires in two years.
Word on the street is $150,000 will be spent to help elect Harper as Mayor and that he’s backed by the Seenos, Garaventas and the unions. I’m only aware of one mailer that has been sent out supporting Harper. So unless all that money is going to be spent this week – which I seriously doubt – that probably just isn’t true.
Honesty is such a lonely word
The most interesting thing stated in this campaign was by Woolridge who is using the word “Experience” on his campaign signs, which is a bit humorous, if not just plain dishonest. What experience? He just graduated from college in May and is 21 years old. The ones with experience in the race are Borsuk with eight years as an elected member of the County Board of Education and Enholm with eight years as an appointed member of the County Library Board.
Woolridge told me he currently works three jobs. How will he find the time to serve in an elected position?
Woolridge also states on his campaign website “Native of the District” but he was born in Oakland, according to the Success Story about him on the Los Medanos College website before it was removed in October. He was raised in Pittsburg, but that doesn’t make him a native. (Perhaps we need to see his long form birth certificate. LOL)
Plus, Woolridge has gone a bit over the top by posting a graphic on his Facebook page which includes a photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. with the words “I have a dream,” a photo of President Obama with the words “I’m living that dream,” then a photo of himself with the words “I want to keep the dream alive.” Clever. But, perhaps he should think about King’s other statement about “the content of their character.” Honesty is the most important character trait we need in our elected officials.
The most interesting endorsement
Then there’s the most interesting endorsement of any candidate in Antioch. That’s the one by Willie Brown, the controversial former Speaker of the California State Assembly and Mayor of San Francisco for Noel Pinto, who has it on his website. Huh? Why would anyone in Antioch want the influence of Willie Brown in our city? The only local endorsement Pinto claims is former Councilman and current candidate for City Clerk, Arne Simonsen.
As for Simonsen he also endorsed Don Freitas for Mayor, with whom he formed a coalition immediately following the 2008 election, which they both lost, called the Friday Morning Breakfast Club. Interestingly, Simsonsen states “I do not accept endorsements from elected officials or political parties” and “The city clerk must be nonpartisan in all aspects.” Then why is he endorsing other candidates whose elections he’ll be overseeing, if he’s elected City Clerk?
The other candidate in the Clerk’s race, Argentina Davila-Luevano lists her occupation as “Social Worker” but she isn’t. She used to be and has a degree in it. But, in her ballot statement she says “I am president and CEO of California LULAC Institute a nonprofit organization designed to provide services and programs in Education, Health, Housing Social Cultural and Economic Development throughout California.” LULAC stands for League of United Latin American Citizens. She told me she does social work when helping people through that organization, but that doesn’t make her one, currently.
Stuff that makes you go hmmmm
Davila-Luevano’s “Top Priorities if Elected” are Women in Positions – Fifty/Fifty by 2020, Ending Violence Against Women – Globally, and Equal Pay for Equal Work. What does any of that have to do with being City Clerk? Nada. (Nothing). Perhaps she’s viewing City Clerk as a stepping stone to higher office where she can pursue those priorities.
The oldest candidate photos
Two winners in this category. Freitas used a photo that’s at least 10 to 15 years old in his campaign materials. It shows him with all brown hair, but he’s got a little touch of grey, now. One of his friends and supporters told me he jokingly told him, “Don, it’s nice to see your senior picture from high school.” Then there’s Ruehlig who used one that’s got to be at least 5 to 10 years old in some of his materials and on his website. No hat on, though.
Both Woolridge and Harper are graduates of LMC and there was a success story on each of them on the LMC website, until this writer discovered the one for Woolridge and questioned the college’s new president and College District’s leadership about it. I wasn’t aware of the one about Harper. But both were removed two days later and will be down until after the election. (see article by clicking here)
Then there’s the article with photos of Ruehlig, entitled “That Guy Beneath the Hat,” in the new magazine, Delta Living, being published by Deer Valley High journalism teacher, Charleen Earley. The article was written by one of her ROP Journalism students, Latori Shepherd, for the DVHS student newspaper. So Earley used it in her magazine, just in time for the election. (to read the article, click here)
Statements by candidates
Pinto has made some statements during the campaign of things he will do to meet with businesses to attract them to town and about other things he wants to do if elected. But, how will he have the time when he works in Berkeley in charge of that city’s parking enforcement? (He recently switched jobs from the City of Oakland). Will he be able to take time off work to be in Antioch during the day or meet for breakfast before going in late for work? It’s possible, since he’s in a management position.
Then there are the statements by Wilson on economic development, which sound good. But that’s it, since she hasn’t accomplished or proposed anything as a member of the city’s Economic Development Commission, according to fellow commissioners. She may have degrees in merchandising and marketing, but she works as an Executive Assistant for one of the deans at Mills College in Oakland. How will she have the time to be in Antioch during the day to meet with business owners and representatives we want to attract to town? Plus, she says her greatest accomplishment is helping with city clean ups. That’s nice and her words are great. But, as my mom always says, “actions speak louder than words.”
Davis also works out of town, in Walnut Creek, but he’s in a management position at a bank and has demonstrated the ability to be in town during the day for city-related matters and make up work during the evening and on Saturdays, when necessary.
Wilson stated during a candidates’ forum, that she “hopes to create a strategic economic plan that would cultivate existing business and bring in new business.” That plan has already been done for Antioch and most of it has yet to be implemented. All she has to do is go get a copy of it from City Hall. It’s the 1996 Antioch Economic Development Plan. I would assume every Economic Development Commissioner would have a copy of it.
Then she said “Once people have jobs, you’ll see crime go down.” She has that backwards. Wilson should know that the businesses with their jobs won’t come to Antioch until after the crime is down.
The most over-the-top, partisan campaign mailer
Wilson put out the most partisan mailer for local office in Antioch that this writer has ever seen. On one side it shows a photo of President Obama and states “Fired Up for Obama – Biden” and “Don’t Stop There” at the top, then “Move Antioch forward by electing Monica Wilson to the Antioch City Council” at the bottom. Then on the other side it states “Add to your Democratic Team” and “Monica Wilson for Antioch City Council – #1 on ballot” at the top of the other side. It provides a list of endorsements of Democrat politicians and organizations. Then it lists her experience of being on the Contra Costa Democratic Central Committee and Policy Issues Chair for the Women’s Caucus of the California Democratic Party, at the bottom, in addition to Economic Development Commissioner. However, Wilson only lists one accomplishment – again, helping with city clean ups, yet says nothing of what she will do if elected. Also at the bottom it states “Ready to Make A Difference.” Then why hasn’t she done so in the position she already holds on the commission? It makes you wonder why she’s really running for the City Council instead of some partisan office. Oh, that’s right, all the partisan seats are held by Democrats and she wouldn’t run against one of them – they’re all backing her. She needs to understand local office is non-partisan and you need to accomplish something before seeking one of the highest offices in our city.
The most interesting campaign ads
Walter Ruehlig wins that award with two ads in the Herald, both dominated by photos of him and some supporters. The first one got him in a little trouble with the priest at his church, St. Ignatius Catholic church, who claimed (unfairly) that it appeared Ruehlig was implying an endorsement by the church and the Fil-Am Society, based there. All the photo showed was Walter and two Filipino-American supporters standing in front of a grotto with a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It didn’t say where it was located, just that the grotto was donated by the Fil-Am Society. The priest sent a scathing letter to this newspaper, which was posted on our website. But, things have been smoothed over and the priest apologized for his over-the-top letter.
Rocha’s ads stating “Bring Back Cooperation, Compassion, Commitment” are interesting. I didn’t know they’d gone away. The commitment part I can understand which differentiates her from a couple of the other candidates who haven’t done much of anything for Antioch, before deciding to run for council. Especially since this is Mary’s 28th year in public office in Antioch. She’s said this will be her final campaign, win or lose.
A little humor
If you’re running to improve education, you should probably make sure you spell things correctly. On Synitha Walker’s website it says “Upcomimg Events.” As for one of her events, I have a complaint. She held her campaign kick-off outside of the district at the Straw Hat Pizza in Brentwood. Come on, Synitha, shop Antioch!
I like acronyms. I once promoted H.O.P.E. in one of my campaigns, for Homes, Opportunity, Protection and Education. Walker wins the prize this year with her “Vote S.M.A.R.T.” which stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, Timely.” I assume she’s referring to educational goals and programs.
On Wilson’s materials and website she uses a bridge as her logo. With her lack of experience and accomplishments in Antioch, I’m afraid that might be a “bridge to nowhere.”
Foxes watching the hen house?
Walker is endorsed by the California Schools Employees Association. The Antioch teachers union is backing three other candidates for School Board, (all white women): incumbent Diane Gibson Gray, newcomer and former principal Barbara Cowan, and former district nurse and teacher’s union rep Linda Anderson (her endorsement is no surprise).
The union mailed a flyer to 10,000 Antioch homes and Cowan and Anderson have been passing out more of them in front of Antioch schools. The flyer also states endorsements against Prop. 32 (paycheck protection for union members), and in favor of both Prop 30 (tax the rich) and Measure B (Antioch High improvements). There’s already one former teachers union rep on the school board in Gary Hack. Does Antioch need another one? If Anderson wins, the teachers will have control of 40% of the board.
There are currently no racial minority members on the Antioch School Board, even though blacks make up over 17% and Hispanics almost 32% of Antioch’s population. That will change if either Walker or Vinson are elected.
Best candidate name
Also running for the school board is John F. “Jack” Yeager, Jr. Now that sounds like a good mixture of names – a President, John F. “Jack” Kennedy, and a famous jet test pilot, Chuck Yeager who was the first to break the sound barrier. And yes, Chuck and Jack Yeager are related. They’re cousins. So, I guess that means Jack has “the right stuff.”
Campaigning on school property?
I’ve seen two signs about Measure B on school property. One is a Vote Yes on B sign on the fence at Prospects High on 2nd Street, which is inappropriate. The other one is a diagram of the improvements to the Antioch High sports fields if Measure B passes, on the school’s fence at the corner of 18th and L Streets. That one’s probably fine, since it’s just information and doesn’t take a position on the Measure. But the other one needs to come down.
Disregard for private property rights?
Any candidate who places a sign on private property without permission is trespassing. Would they want someone putting anything on their property without their permission? Of course not. Come on, candidates. Show some respect and don’t be so desperate to win and PLEASE be responsible and take them down within 10 days after the election. After that they’re just visual pollution and frankly, littering.
It will be interesting to see what happens next Tuesday at all levels of government. Remember to vote and vote smart. In fact that’s a good place to go to get more information about the candidates. Click on http://www.smartvoter.org/2012/11/06/ca/cc/ Then choose either city or school for local races. It’s the League of Women Voters’ election website, in which candidates post their own information. Some of the candidates have done so and have shared links to their websites there, as well.
Good luck to all the candidates and if you lose, don’t just disappear like so many others have done in the past. Get and stay involved. You don’t have to hold elected office to make a difference in our city or schools.