Antioch Mayor-elect Thorpe introduces his transition advisory team of councilmembers, commissioners, staff, residents

Antioch Mayor-elect Lamar Thorpe (at podium) is joined by some of his Transition Team members, including Councilwoman Monica Wilson, Parks & Recreation Commission Chair Marie Arce, Con Johnson, Antioch School Board Trustee-elect Antonio Hernandez, Nichole Gardner, Harry Thurston and Antioch School Board Trustee Ellie Householder at the start of the press conference on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

“The Antioch of yesteryear is over” – Lamar Thorpe

Tells police officers their union leader and political consultant “gotta go”

Offers additional comments not included during press conference

Questions to City Attorney on possible open meeting law violations and conflict of interest for him

By Allen Payton

In a unique move, Antioch Mayor-elect Lamar Thorpe was joined by several members of what he’s labeling his transition team, during a press conference held Friday afternoon, Nov. 20, and announced how each of them and others will help advise him in eight priority areas. The presentation was streamed via Facebook Live on a special page Thorpe set up for the event.

Re-elected Councilwoman Monica Wilson started things off by saying, “thank you for those who are out here watching us…and those watching via live social media.  I’m excited to continue representing our community and thankful for the overwhelming support of the vote of confidence shown for my work. It is critical that we come together and understand what the future holds for us.”

“I’m delighted to introduce Mayor-elect Thorpe,” she concluded.

Thorpe said the team members are “representing the grand diversity of our community.”

“Some have asked why a transition team, because we haven’t done that in our city, ever. Because anything less would fall short of the significance of our city and the symbolism of November 3rd, when our City’s residents spoke loudly and clearly, the Antioch of yester-year is over,” he explained.

“Antioch is Contra Costa County’s second largest city and growing. 115,000 plus people call it home,” Thorpe stated. “It is on track to be home to the third largest indoor cannabis cultivation firm in our country.  Out of the 482 cities, Antioch sits atop 50th of the largest cities of California.”

“Antioch is a serious city filled with serious opportunities to raise our profile to match that of our residents,” he said. “Right here alone, in South East Antioch, over 50% of the adult population have earned bachelor’s degree or above. 30% have earned an advanced degree. And the medium household income soars above $100,000 plus a year.

In prepared remarks which he didn’t share live, Thorpe wrote, “Traditionally, a transition in Antioch looks like this, the city manager calls you into a conference room in City Hall to tell you about the budget. He or she then goes on to learn about your priorities and how those priorities may or may not fit into the legislative process. While some elected officials have appreciated this tradition, I do not, and reject it 100%. Today, is about our collective agenda that will be developed through a community led transition team.”

“Some have argued the city was divided. It was not,” he continued in his public comments. “In fact, it was maturing because people have different points of views. That creates conflict. But at the end of the day they come to resolution. They cared about our city, those with different perspectives, so much so that they worked quietly to shape and develop the direction of our city. We cannot deny that some were made to feel their point of view did not matter.”

“Today, I am joined by different cross sections of our community that will work collaboratively to develop and shape an agenda for our city’s future regardless of social, economic background, race, gender, so on. They will all make all of us feel valued in our community,” Thorpe shared. “And so today belongs to all of us. The doors of City Hall are open and the journey toward our collective vision has begun.”

The 8 Priorities and Team Members to Work on Them

“The purpose of this transition advisory team is simple: explore and debate ideas that will serve as the foundation of our legislative priorities for the next four years, as we work to maintain a balanced budget, increase community safety, promote economic growth, protect our natural environment and build a sustainable city with a high quality of life,” Thorpe announced.

“I have asked a few of our fellow citizens to help me in that process,” he said. “The transition advisory team will focus on the eight following areas:

Neighborhood Safety and Blight

“I have asked longtime resident Harry Thurston to lead the development of these ideas,” Thorpe stated. “Harry has served on the Antioch Crime Prevention Commission, the Contra Costa County Advisory Board on Public Safety Realignment, and the Contra Costa County Sustainability Commission. He will be joined by District 2, Councilmember-Elect Mike Barbanica. Mike is currently a local business owner and a retired police lieutenant. I know Mike will become an invaluable colleague on the Antioch City Council. Beyond this transition work, Mike and I will be working together on issues of blight, police reform and city beautification. In my short time knowing Mike, I can already see we are going to have a productive and meaningful working relationship.”

“I’m delighted to know Mike and work together with him,” Thorpe added.

Homelessness

“You can’t have a conversation about homelessness in Antioch without the name of Nichole Gardner. In just a few short years Nichole has taken city hall by storm which is not always a pleasant experience. She will be joined by Councilwoman-elect Monica Wilson and Monica will bring her expertise in human trafficking and mental health. I am delighted to announce she will be leading that transition work. She will be joined by Councilwoman-re-elect Monica Wilson. And Monica will bring her expertise in human trafficking and mental health; and Antioch resident Ricka Davis-Sheard of Health Right 360’s Reentry Network and Co-Founder of SHARE COMMUNITY. They will also be joined by Nattie Flores…a community member who has had personal experience with homelessness.”

Gardner then spoke reading from prepared remarks thanking Thorpe and sharing about a man and daughter who she had worked with in the past to help homeless in our community, who informed her that morning that they had become homeless.

She spoke about “residents and business owners who are affected by the homeless issue. Now, we all know that homelessness is a complicated issue. But we also know that simply depending on the county as we have in the past over the years has gotten us nowhere. I believe county has let Antioch homeless people down. Although we need to work with the county, it’s time for Antioch people to do something different to help all residents affected by homelessness and that is exactly what I have faith that our new mayor and council will do. I look forward to the opportunity and I’m so excited about the future of Antioch.”

Police Reform

“The next issue is police reform which has been a hot topic issue in Antioch before the campaign and during the campaign,” Thorpe stated.

He introduced “Co-chair Con Johnson a retired San Francisco Police Department Captain and our current City Attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith to work on this important endeavor.”

Johnson quoted Robert Pill who was the father of modern policing from England who said, “’The police is the community, and the community is the police.’ That rings true today. We have to work together in order to create a community that is safe. I am honored…to be part of this team, here. I look forward to the future in sharing my expertise, knowledge and skills.”

Climate Change, Environmental and Smart Growth

Liz Kain will lead this effort, Thorp shared. “She’s no stranger to the city council. She was an instrumental activist in the Let Antioch Voters Decide initiative. She will be joined, of course, by another Antioch resident and Antioch city employee, Environmental Coordinator Julie Haas and environmental activist, and I will go out on a limb, here and say City Clerk-Elect Ellie Householder. She is ahead by 34 votes and we’re excited.”

“I’ve asked City Clerk-elect Householder to sit on that because I know the environment is something she’s passionate about,” he added.

Householder then offered her remarks saying, “to me climate change, climate action and climate justice is the number one issue facing our society and world today. I don’t have a science background but what I do have is a policy background. Tides are rising including along the San Joaquin Delta in our downtown.

The next generation of leaders. They’re the ones who are going to have to pay for the mistakes that we’re doing right now.”

“Those are the top priorities we are going to start moving on, today,” Thorpe stated.

Recreational and Youth, Programming Services

Thorpe said the area will be “led by our Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Marie Arce” who will be “joined by the city’s Tasha Johnson. I’ve had other parents reach out to me about this particular area and share their ideas.

Arce said, “I’m really excited to be here and be part this wonderful team…to do a better job for the youth in our community. I look forward to working with Mayor Elect Thorpe.”

Economic Growth and Downtown Revitalization

“I’ve asked outgoing Councilmember Joy Motts to help me on that effort,” Thorpe shared. “She was not able to join us, here, today.”

City-School District Relations

The school district and the city have not had a great relationship for a long time,” Thorpe stated. “So, I see great promise with newly elected school board members, Dr. Clyde Lewis and Antonio Hernandez and have asked them both…to work with me…to continue to lead us in the right direction

Hernandez then shared his thoughts, saying, “I’m really excited about these partnerships that are forming. Because school and our youth they are the future of our city. With over 70% of our students in this district being on free and reduced lunch the school district alone will not be able to solve all the challenges that affect education. That’s why it’s important to have strong partnerships and great teams like the people you see behind me.”

He spoke of equity. We need to be talking about the way how we can bridge the gap in achievement for our Black, Latinx, homeless and foster youth students of our community. Again, I can’t say it enough that I’m very excited about the team I have behind me and it’s that factor that’s going to help our youth become the future leaders of our community.”

He then offered his message in Spanish.

“Muchas gracias,” Thorpe said to him.

“The last one is, and these are just the eight priorities for now and are certainly not the only priorities,” he stated, and the spoke of COVID-19 and the city’s response to i.

Government Efficiency & Streamlining

“I will be working on that with City Manager Ron Bernal, Ellie Householder and Assistant City Manager (Rosanna Bayon Moore),” Thorpe stated.

“These aren’t silos,” he continued. “There’s cross pollenization…in these working groups so we’re thinking about these issues. These are working groups and we want to make sure we are not just talking to ourselves. There’s a lot to do.”

“I will end this. There are more bridges that need to be built, and more residents to engage and relationships that need to be prepared after a grueling campaign season. I’m not naïve to that. I recognize that,” Thorpe stated. “But at the end of the day the people have spoken and they have spoken clearly. This has never been about me. It’s been about us. As your mayor I will work to ensure everyone feels equally connected to our city.”

“I will end with, I think all of us, I’m sure there is none of us here who doesn’t have great admiration for the men and women who put on uniforms to protect our community. So, I offer them a round of applause for the work you do, day in and day out.”

Thorpe Challenges Antioch Police Officers to Choose New Leaders

“But I want to speak at this time directly to the men and women of our police department. It is clear, you need to send a resounding message to your police union representatives,” Thorpe said. “That is, it is time for new leadership that is aligned with the values of the people of Antioch.”

“Thank you very much everyone for taking the time to visit with us, today to talk about this transition,” Thorpe concluded with his public remarks.

Asked if the working groups will be ad hoc committees, Thorp responded, “they’re advisory teams.”

Asked if they will be working in private or take public Thorpe responded, “If the work group wants to have their meeting on Facebook Live. They’re not committees. They’re not meant to be forever. They’re to gather expertise that we know exists here, in Antioch. We have talent right here in this city.”

Meetings Will Be Private, But Members Will Accept Public Input

Asked if there will be a list of transition team members with their contact information so residents can give their input, Thorpe responded that they will.

Asked about parks, specifically about the complete Prewett Park Plan from 1992, if there will be an effort to complete it, including the new library, and if they will work on finding a funding source, such as an assessment or fee on new homes, like all the existing homes paid Mello-Roos, Thorpe responded, “I don’t want to get into the details, I’m sure Marie will put that on her list.”

Thorpe Sends Additional Message to Antioch Police Officers and Leader, Says He and Their Political Consultant “Gotta Go”

In prepared remarks Thorpe didn’t offer during the press conference but shared later with the Herald, he wrote “We are going to do police reform with or without you. I still believe we can achieve this with our police union representatives at the table but not under the current circumstances. Our officers, like the people of Antioch, deserve an opportunity to be represented by new leadership and an opportunity to sever ties with Mary Jo Rossi the union’s political consultant who has only served to destroy relationships Antioch. She’s gotta go along with Corporal Steve Aiello so that we can begin working towards positive change.”

Questions to City Attorney on Possible Open Meeting Law Violations and His Potential Conflict of Interest

A phone call to City Attorney Smith, late afternoon Friday,  asking about any possible violations of the Brown Act, the California Open Meeting Law, with three council members serving on the committees that will have “cross pollenization” as Thorpe stated, and about Smith’s role with police reform and any potential conflict of interest, was  not responded to. Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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Thorpe Transition Team members 11-20-20


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