Council considers budget adjustments
By John Crowder
At the September 23 meeting of the Antioch City Council, two residents spoke out against Mayor Wade Harper for what they considered his inability to address spiraling crime in the city.
Rich Buongiorno, who earlier this month posted an open letter on Facebook to the mayor on the same issue, spoke first.
“Mr. mayor, I’m not happy,” he said. “When it comes to the bad stuff, you’re not there.” Calling the mayor, “MIA,” Buongiorno added, “Crime and violence is getting worse… now it’s a constant. It’s a daily occurrence.” He concluded by saying that he and others, “intend to seek your recall and removal from the office of Mayor in Antioch, California.” His presentation was twice interrupted by applause.
A little later during comments, another resident, Ken Turnage II, also spoke out, specifically referencing the crimes being committed at Deer Valley Plaza by Deer Valley High School students every day after school.
“Violence has become a constant, and businesses are closing their doors because they cannot be protected,” he said. Turnage asked for the mayor’s resignation.
Harper interrupted Turnage when asked to resign, saying, “That won’t happen.”
“Everyone’s entitled to their comments, and their opinion, and we respect other opinions,” Harper stated, after Turnage concluded his remarks.
When it was time for the Mayor’s Comments on the agenda, Harper again addressed the negative feedback he had received. He laborating on some of the things he did as mayor, which he said were largely unseen in the press.
“As long as the community wants me to serve, I will serve, and put my heart into it,” he said.
Regarding the problems at Deer Valley Plaza, he said that he had been meeting with the police chief and the superintendent of schools about the matter.
A public hearing was held regarding the Planning Commission’s decision to approve a use permit for Mission-Hope Day Program, which provides services for developmentally disabled adults. Residents of the Lake Alhambra Homeowners Association were appealing the decision because of concerns with “traffic, parking, and the intensity of the use.” The program is to be located at 10 South Lake Drive.
Former State Assemblyman Guy Houston spoke to the council on behalf of the program. Following his presentation, Antioch resident Martha Parsons spoke in opposition. After a lengthy discussion, including rebuttals and an intermission in order to allow time for new condition language to be drafted, the council voted 4-0 to approve the use permit. Three conditions were made a part of the approval, including the installation of “no parking” signs restricting parking in front of the building during operational hours, the securing of an off-site parking location for employees, and limits on the size of vans.
In other matters, public hearings were held on two housing development plans.
Oakley Knolls is a project proposed by Discovery Builders to put 31 single family homes on approximately five-and-a-half acres on the north side of Oakley Road.
Quail Cove, proposed by West Coast Home Builders, would also result in 31 single-family homes on the west side of Heidorn Ranch Road at the eastern terminus of Prewett Ranch Drive. Property owner Richard Johnson expressed concern with the project infringing on five acres he owns adjacent to the proposed development.
Both the Oakley Knolls and Quail Cove projects are preliminary. They were placed on the agenda in order for the city council to provide feedback with respect to city requirements prior to final proposals being submitted. On both sites, the city council, on 4-0 votes, provided feedback to the applicants and city staff, asking them to look at certain design aspects in order to ensure sufficient parking, good traffic flow, and recommendations submitted by the Contra Costa Fire Protection District. They suggested that the developers of Quail Cove meet with property owner Richard Johnson in order to mitigate his concerns.
Another suggestion by the council addressed concerns with the rising cost of police services. Mayor Harper said that he would, “like to see a facilities district for police.” Harper also expressed a desire to require the builders to use project labor agreements in construction of the homes.
At the conclusion of the public hearings, a presentation was made, and the council approved, on a 4-0 vote, a proposal to approve a study and adopt a plan to implement a project for steps to be taken to prevent the flooding that repeatedly occurs in the vicinity of West Antioch Creek. Concern was expressed by council members about the proposed closing of West 10th Street between L Street and Auto Center Drive during construction.
Toward the end of, what turned out to be a very long meeting, City Manager Steve Duran addressed the council concerning potential mid-year budget priorities. His comments centered around recommendations he had for spending the additional money that would be coming to the city should Measure O pass. If the measure does pass, the city is estimating additional annual revenue of approximately $2.7 million.
The first priority brought forward by Duran was to spend approximately $1.3 million in order for the Antioch Police Department to buy in to the East Bay Regional Communication System (EBRCS). He said that Antioch was the only city in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties not participating in the system, which is designed to allow for effective communications between law enforcement and first responder agencies within the two counties.
Other proposals were for the elimination of furlough Fridays, at a cost of $800,000, body cameras for police officers, at an undetermined cost, and start-up costs related to new enforcement activities for the Business License staff at a cost of $100,000 per year.
Mayor Harper spoke in favor of EBRCS, police body cameras, and the end of furlough Fridays. The rest of the council echoed their concurrence, and a motion to approve the report was passed on a 4-0 vote.
Finally, in closing comments, both Mayor Harper and Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha addressed the violent behavior of Deer Valley High School students in Deer Valley Plaza. Among other things, including notification of parents by the school district when a child is found to be involved, both talked about the responsibility of the owner of the Plaza. “If we need to pass an ordinance requiring a certain amount of security for such a location, maybe we need to do that,” Harper said.
“Maybe we need to have an ordinance on the books that triggers some effort on the owner of that plaza,”stated Rocha.
Council Member Tony Tiscareno concurred with their sentiments, and spoke further about the responsibility of the school district.
The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 14. Meetings are held in the Antioch City Council chambers, 200 H Street, and begin at 7:00 pm. They can also be viewed live on the city’s website at www.ci.antioch.ca.us.