Archive for March, 2014

Teen found shot on Sycamore Drive, Saturday night

Monday, March 31st, 2014

By Sergeant D. Bittner #3252, Antioch Police Field Services Bureau

On Saturday, March 29th, 2014 at approximately 11:40 P.M., the Antioch Police Department responded to the report of a shooting occurring at 2301 Sycamore Drive. Upon arrival, officers located the victim, a 15-year-old male, in the parking lot. The victim was suffering from a gunshot wound to his abdomen and a gunshot wound to his upper arm. The victim was transported to a local hospital via helicopter and is currently in stable condition.

If anyone has any information related to this incident, they are encouraged to call the Antioch Police Department non-emergency line at (925) 778-2441. They may also text an anonymous tip to 274637(CRIMES) using key word ANTIOCH in the body of the text.

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Antioch teachers express disappointment with bargaining process

Monday, March 31st, 2014

RAAMP vote postponed

By John Crowder

About a half-dozen Antioch teachers expressed their displeasure with the bargaining process during the comments portion of he March 26th meeting of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board.

Comments made by Lenore Navarro, a second  grade teacher at Kimball Elementary School, and a member of the teacher’s bargaining team, were typical.

On Thursday, March 5, I sat at the negotiating table with your bargaining team for more than four hours, and was dishonored, disappointed, and disrespected because you came to the table with no offer of a salary increase,” she said. Since June 12, 2013, teachers have witnessed you, the AUSD Board of Education spend enormous amounts of money on employees furthest away from the classroom, those who have minimal contact, if any, with students.”

She then went on to list several positions as examples, including “Directors of Program Improvement, Director of Certificated Human Resources,…Lead Reform Facilitator Coach, a pool of Elementary Vice-Principals,” and others.

Ken Kent, a fifth grade teacher, also at Kimball Elementary, expanded on the comments made by Ms. Navarro. “Our community struggles on many levels, not the least of which is educating its children,” he said. Kent then enumerated specific ways he felt the children of Antioch were being let down. These included increased class sizes, the loss of access to school libraries, combining two grades levels in one room, overlooking unacceptable behaviors, and the hoarding of funds. With respect to the latter issue, he noted that the school district “still has reserve funds of $24 million.”

The next bargaining session between AUSD and the Antioch Education Association, the professional organization and bargaining unit for all the teachers in AUSD, is scheduled for Thursday, April 10th.

On another matter, the vote on whether or not to extend the charter for the RAAMP Charter Academy of Math and Science (RAAMP) for five more years was deferred until April 9th following the emotional testimony of RAAMP parents, supporters, and RAAMP founder Karla Branch.

Critics of RAAMP, most notably the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), have contended that RAAMP should be closed because of low California Academic Performance Index (API) test scores. Scott Holbrook, legal counsel to AUSD, stated that, “[academic achievement]…is the most important factor in determining whether to grant charter renewal.” Supporters of the school, however, contend that the data being reviewed do not give a fair picture of the RAAMP program. According to Branch, “API based on less than 99 test scores is extremely suspect.” She went on to request that the board, “…look at the data in its entirety.”

Parents speaking on behalf of RAAMP were, as on previous occasions addressing the board, very emotional in their appeals.

Every kid that came to RAAMP has been broken by your school system,” said Sabina Araya. “RAAMP has taken it upon themselves to [help them].”

My son arrived there very discouraged and when he left, he got his confidence back,” parent Angela Lacy-Roberson told the Board. “He’s in high school now, and he’s doing very well. I owe all of that to RAAMP.”

RAAMP saved my son,” she exclaimed.

Some of the speakers complained of a lack of support from the district, stating, “You don’t come visit us,” and “You don’t know what we do.” These statements, however, were refuted by Board Member Claire Smith. “We don’t have oversight of you,” she stated. “I don’t recall receiving a single phone call inviting me to anything.”

Gary Hack, Board Vice President, addressed the difficulty of the decision before the Board.

“RAAMP doesn’t have great academic success,” he said, but continued, “Kids who are at RAAMP are there by choice. There are a lot of parents who have kept their kids there because it works for them.”

Smith also noted the conflicting ideas the board was being asked to address.

“I fundamentally believe in a parent’s right to choose,” she said. “What do I weigh more strongly, our parents right to choose, or our oversight responsibility?”

Board Member Diane Gibson-Gray expressed some concern with the data, as presented. Because of this concern, she suggested that the decision on RAAMP be postponed until April 9th, in order to have time to review the data provided at a deeper level. Following a short recess, during which Branch agreed with the postponement with Holbrook, the Board voted unanimously to postpone the decision until the April 9th Board meeting.

Finally, problems with student violence at Dallas Ranch Middle School were once again addressed by Taylor Donaldson, a student at the school. Speaking to the Board, she said that her school was now, “missing three P.E. teachers,” and “I’m afraid our school is turning into a disaster.”

Following her comments, she presented the board with a petition asking them to address the situation at her school.  Donaldson proved her tenacity in addressing this issue, as she had spoken about it both at the previous Board meeting, and on Tuesday had addressed similar comments to the Antioch City Council.

Future meetings of the AUSD Board are scheduled for April 9, May 14 and 28 at the AUSD office at 510 G Street.

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Antioch City Council welcomes Auto Zone’s third location

Monday, March 31st, 2014

By John Crowder

Economic development, and especially the reputation of the City of Antioch as it seeks to bring in new business, was the dominant topic at the council meeting on Tuesday, March 25. Following a lengthy discussion and a public hearing, the Council approved, on a 5-0 vote, making the changes necessary to the general and specific plan that would allow Auto Zone to bring an additional store to Antioch.

Auto Zone, a leading automotive parts distributor, with over 5,000 locations in the United States and Mexico, made a proposal over a year ago to develop the vacant lot on the northeast corner of Lone Tree Way and Fairside Way in the city. However, their efforts to do so had been slowed as the company sought to meet various requests put forward by city staff with respect to the development of the property, and then the Planning Commission voted 4-1 to deny their application.

During the Council meeting, staff laid out their objections to allowing Auto Zone to develop the subject property. These concerns included a perceived incompatibility with the surrounding residential neighborhood, safety concerns with respect to traffic, and potential noise issues.

Following the staff report, Jeff Halbert, representing Auto Zone, addressed, point by point, each of the concerns that had been brought up by staff. He expressed some frustration in dealing with city staff over the time in which they had been having discussions regarding the project, stating that he “felt that he should be treated fairly, and given a fair hearing, and that hasn’t happened.”

He noted that Auto Zone had paid for a number of studies, all of which had concluded that Auto Zone would not have a significant negative impact. He stated that vehicle traffic estimates for the store were quite low during peak hours, and that Auto Zone would agree to changes that would alleviate any traffic concerns connected with the movement of automobiles on Lone Tree Way. With respect to noise abatement, he pointed to staff’s own comments, noting, “To say that there are noise issues is erroneous. Staff has pointed this out in response to comments.” He continued, pointing out steps that Auto Zone would take to mitigate any noise concerns.

Following Halbert’s comments, several local luminaries spoke in favor of Auto Zone bringing a store to the Lone Tree Way site.

Regular council attendee, Fred Hoskins was the first to speak.

I took the time to read the entire staff report, and the things that were discussed behind the scenes,” he said. “I think that our city planning commission, is basically anti-business. Maybe we ought to change our attitudes, the planning commission, and say, ‘maybe we need to change our attitudes here.’”

Don Freitas, a former Antioch mayor, also spoke in favor of the project.

We’re talking a lot about economic development…from my perspective economic development means [bringing businesses to our community.] The question before you, are we going to continue keeping [the lot] vacant, or bring in Auto Zone?” he asked. “We need to change our reputation with regard to being business friendly, or business unfriendly.”

Long-time resident and local Realtor, Ralph Garrow also spoke in favor of the project.

I think you need to look at the big picture on this. Antioch has a reputation in the commercial real estate business as being anti-business,” he shared emphatically. “We need to find a way to make this work, not just have staff go through their rule book and say, ‘no,no,no,no,no.’”

Dr. Sean Wright, CEO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce, also addressed the council, stating, “I’m here on behalf of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce in support of Auto Zone, today.”

Another former mayor, Joel Keller, who was a consultant on the project, also weighed in, saying, “I would urge you to support this proposal…If you approve this, people will know that the door is open for business in Antioch.”

Following the public comments, Council members discussed the matter. They questioned the Auto Zone representative, primarily with respect to what type of jobs the store would bring to the community. Mayor Harper directed some remarks toward city staff about being more welcoming to business, after asking them some pointed questions during their presentation.

Once the council members’ questions were answered, Mayor Pro Tem Rocha made a motion with several parts, in support of allowing the Auto Zone project to go forward. But even before the 5-0 vote, approving the project, Mayor Harper officially welcomed them to Antioch.

Council bans feeding feral cats

In another issue, the Council voted 4-1, with only Council Member Tiscareno voting against, an ordinance recommended by staff to ban the feeding of feral cats on public property. At the same time, the Council directed staff to continue to try to work with those groups who were opposed to the ban to find other solutions to the feral cat problem that might be considered “more humane.”

The ordinance banning the feeding of feral cats on public property generated a considerable amount of public comment, both for and against. Those speaking out in support of the ordinance noted the health and quality of life concerns associated with a feral cat population in the city. Comments made by Nancy Fernandez were typical. “The city has become one big cat box,” she said.

On the other side, many self-professed animal rescue volunteers spoke against the ordinance. Their main issue was what they perceived as an inhumane reaction to the feral cat problem.

During the discussion of the issue by the Council, Councilman Gary Agopian twice addressed the audience, asking them to show him some respect, and to stop interrupting him during his comments. Following his second attempt to outline his thinking on the matter, he introduced the motion that the Council ultimately passed.

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Kiwanis Club’s annual tri-tip dinner fundraiser, Saturday night

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Kiwanis Club Tri Tip Dinner

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Antioch Council makes right decision, provides new, positive direction for business

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Payton Perspective logoBy Allen Payton, Publisher

After years of having the reputation of being unfriendly to business, it appears that Antioch, under the leadership of Mayor Harper and the rest of the Antioch City Council, as well as new City Manager Steve Duran, started in a new direction, this past Tuesday night, when they unanimously approved a third location for AutoZone, in town. And they did so in the face of a 4-1 vote by the Planning Commission and staff’s recommendation to deny approval.

The mayor was clear in giving his direction to city staff and the commission, that they need to work with businesses wanting to locate in Antioch.

AutoZone’s representatives pointed out that even after working with city staff for a year to address their concerns, including spending $70,000 on consultants and a traffic study, staff still recommended the Commission and Council deny their application.

Sure, it’s a unique piece of property, with limited space for both a building and parking. But staff had no alternative plans for what they wanted to see go there, and it’s been sitting vacant and fenced off, for years. Plus, the project was for a similar size store on a similar size lot that AutoZone was able to get approved in both San Jose and Concord, in the past few years. So, it shouldn’t have been a big deal to approve it in Antioch.

In America, there are laws and always exceptions to those laws. The same goes for city ordinances. That’s why the City’s General Plan, codes and ordinances allow for what are called variances, and such things as planned developments, and the Council to make changes to zoning on parcels of land. Some of those were required for this project.

Staff was doing their job to make sure the rules were followed, they just needed to be more flexible and positive. Once AutoZone had addressed all their concerns, staff should have recommended an approval, of course, with conditions. Fortunately, now they’ve been given direction to be more flexible in allowing for the exceptions to the city’s rules, when dealing with business.

As I wrote in my previous editorial on this issue (to read, click here), “It’s time our City Council and new City Manager sent a message to the staff on the second floor that it’s good to be flexible and to say ‘Yes’ to businesses that want to locate in Antioch, and to find ways to make things happen instead of finding reasons to oppose them.”

At a time Antioch needs more tax revenue, as well as local jobs, the city needs to do whatever it can to bring new businesses to or help an existing business expand in town.

That’s exactly what the Council did on Tuesday night and I applaud their action and the clear direction and message they gave.

The City could adopt the acronym BREAD, which I introduced back when I ran for and was elected to the council in 1994, to put bread on our tables, “bread” (using the 1970’s term for money) in our pockets and “bread” in our city’s coffers. It stands for Business Retention Expansion Attraction and Development, covering all aspects of economic development. It’s an upwards spiral if the city works to retain and help expand existing businesses, attract new ones to town and makes it easier for the development of other new businesses, by our own residents, through home-based businesses, etc.

One thing that needs to be included in the City’s efforts is marketing Antioch, including having at least one council member, the city manager and maybe a member of the Economic Development Commission attend the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual convention in Las Vegas, each year, if they’re not doing so, already. That’s where contacts are made and deals can be cut to bring retailers and others, to town. The next one is in May. (Here’s the link to their website – www.icsc.org)

So, kudos to Mayor Harper and the City Council for their vote and the clear direction to staff. Let’s hope this sets a new tone for those on the second floor at City Hall and is the beginning of a new, positive, business-friendly attitude that will send a message to the marketplace, that Antioch is open for business!

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Watchdog: Dozier-Libbey charter battle

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Watchdog-LogoBy Barbara Zivica

I have a bone to pick with Antioch Unified School District Board Members (Joy Motts, Board President who recently put discussion of approving an anti-Prop. 13 Resolution before the Board, Gary Hack, Barbara Cowan, Diane Gibson-Gray and Claire Smith), as well as Mayor Wade Harper who audaciously stated at the March 19th School Board meeting that he represents ALL the citizens of citizens of Antioch and can’t support the Dozier-Libbey Medical High School independent conversion charter petition because he feels it’s divisive. How dare he make a statement like that. He doesn’t represent me and I’ve been a taxpaying resident since 1986.

I admit, however, that the issue is divisive because as soon as the teachers of Dozier-Libbey Medical High, frustrated by diverging philosophies between the AUSD board and site staff, filed a petition to convert to an independent charter school like Clayton Valley AUSD filed a counter petition to make Dozier-Libbey a dependent charter governed by the school district and has now posted information in regard to both charter petitions on it’s web site. At least one of the statements is incorrect e.g. it was not a small group of staff at DLMHS who submitted the petition, it was 23 of the schools 26 teachers.

According to California’s Charter Schools ACT, enacted in 1992 and amended in 1996, charter schools provide opportunities for teachers, parents, pupils and community members to establish schools that operate independently from the existing school district structure, as a method of accomplishing the following: Improved pupil learning (AUSD not only failed to meet the state API score of 800 in 2013, it dropped 6 points), increased learning opportunities for all pupils with special emphasis on expanding learning for academically low achieving pupils, encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods, create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the school site, provide parents and pupils with expanded choices in types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system, hold charter schools responsible for meeting measurable pupil outcomes, and provide schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems.

In addition to misinformation, the school district is also trying hard to scare parents by stating that, if the independent charter petition is approved, students would not be eligible to participate in the District’s athletic teams or other extracurricular activities. Why? Even as an independent charter Dozier-Libbey will remain an Antioch public school, just under a different operating board. It’s true that AUSD would retain control of all its athletic facilities outside the Dozier-Libbey campus and will be able to decide whether to continue the existing multi-school agreement with DLMHS. However, DLMHS has already offered to pick up its share of the costs of athletic programs its students participate in, as well as continue to handle liability and transcript issues. (DLMHS has researched CIF and NCS regulations and there’s no good reason to exclude their students from AUSD sports programs they currently participate in). Why penalize students whose parents, like I, who never had a child in an Antioch school, are paying AUSD property taxes and assessments. Could the answer be spite?

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Antioch teen shot in crossfire on Monday, expected to recover

Monday, March 24th, 2014

By Sergeant Santiago Castillo, Antioch Police Field Services Bureau

At approximately 3:12 PM on Monday, March 24, 2014, Antioch Police were called to the 1400 block of Sycamore Drive for a report of a shooting. Upon arrival, officers found a 14-year-old juvenile suffering from a non-life threatening gunshot wound. The juvenile was not involved in any type of dispute and appears to have been caught in the crossfire. He was taken to a local hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

Several vehicles in the area were also struck by stray bullets. No other gunshot victims have come forward. The motive for this shooting is unknown and officers are following up on potential leads.

No further information is being released due to the on-going investigation.

If anyone has any information related to this incident, they are encouraged to call the Antioch Police Department non-emergency line at (925) 778-2441. They may also text an anonymous tip to 274637(CRIMES) using key word ANTIOCH in the body of the text.

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Police arrest three Antioch men for probation violations

Monday, March 24th, 2014

By Sergeant Morefield, Antioch Police Investigations Bureau

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, Detectives of the Antioch Police Department, in partnership with members of the Richmond, Concord and Pittsburg Police Departments, California Department of Corrections, California Department of Justice, as well as members of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department, Probation Department and District Attorney’s Office conducted a series of probation searches of residences in the City of Antioch. This operation was targeted at AB-109 probationers living in the city.

The operation lasted the better part of the day as seven searches were conducted throughout the City of Antioch. A total of three suspects were arrested during this operation, including a 22-year-old, male, Antioch resident for Felon in Possession of Ammo, a 23-year-old, male, Antioch resident for a Parolee at Large Warrant and a 46-year-old, male, Antioch resident for Possession of Narcotics for Sale, and Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Ammo. Over an ounce of suspected narcotics were seized along with two loaded firearms and additional ammo during this operation. This operation was conducted to monitor and maintain the compliance of AB-109 probationers living in the City of Antioch.

No additional information concerning this operation will be released at this time.

You may text a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using key word ANTIOCH.

NOTE: AB-109 was the Assembly Bill that was signed into law signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011 to reduce prison overcrowding and designed to reduce recidivism (repeat offenders) in California.

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