Archive for the ‘City Council’ Category

Councilmembers propose leasing Antioch motel for homeless, possible FEMA trailer site

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

The Executive Inn on E. 18th Street. Photos by Allen Payton

Up to $1 million annual price tag

By Allen Payton

An idea first proposed seven years ago, by a then-homeless Antioch man, Rafael Scott and the late Mike Pollard, of the Golden Hills Community Church’s Community Outreach Center (COC) to use the unrented motel rooms at the Executive Inn, located next door at 515 E. 18th Street, received a breath of new life, Tuesday. Antioch Councilman Lamar Thorpe and Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts, joined by advocates and representatives of ministries and other non-profit organizations serving the homeless in Antioch, announced on Tuesday a proposal to have the city lease the entire 32-room motel to serve as transitional housing.

Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts speaks during the press conference.

Thorpe said he was making the proposal “as a member of the transitional housing task force (the new name for the Antioch City Council’s Homeless Encampment Task Force), with Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts” and “working with our business community.”

“It was her vision, her idea,” he said. “So, she’s the reason we are here, today.”

“We started this journey almost two years ago. We really didn’t have any idea what we were getting into,” Motts said. “Homelessness is a very complex issues affecting many, many people. We did much, much research.”

“We were spending millions and millions of dollars moving people from one place to the next,” Motts stated. “It’s affecting our commercial businesses and our quality of life. We received trailers from the state we’re still trying to find a location for. I’m so thankful to the owners of the Executive Inn…to provide transitional housing…to get people off the streets. 97% who get into housing stay there.”

We are very fortunate to have a local hotel willing to work with the city to house people on a transitional basis,” Thorpe said.

Owner Summer Desai interviewed by a KPFA radio reporter in one of the rooms with a single king-size bed.

Summer and Jyoti Desai have owned the motel since 2004.

“The county voucher program lasts 16 days at a discounted rate year-round,” Summer shared. “The voucher is good for 16 days once a year. It’s mainly for jobless and homeless. It’s only temporary.”

They Desais work with the county’s action team for mental health services, with Red Cross and the Contra Costa Crisis Center, for people in crisis due to a fire or flooding of their home. They also work with Shelter, Inc.

“A lot of churches place their people, here,” he said. They work with the Golden Hills’ COC, next door to temporarily place people in the motel rooms, and allow them use the lot for parking.

A few years ago, Golden Hills Community Church expressed an interest in buying the motel, but the asking price of $3 million was too much. When asked if he knew about the councilmembers’ proposal, Scott said, “No. I just wish Mike were here to know about it.” Pollard passed away on Monday, July 6th. But, his and Scott’s idea may just soon be more than realized depending upon the vote of the city council. Their three-page plan proposed using the unrented rooms, which at that time were running about 40% of the motel’s occupancy, at a discounted rate for homeless individuals, as long as they were in a program at the COC to help them with such things as substance abuse problems.

The plan now is for the city to rent all the rooms at a discount, and connect those staying there with programs and services to help get them into permanent housing and mainstreamed back into society. Those staying at the motel could be there for as long as six months, Thorpe stated.

“I don’t have any problem people, here,” Summer shared. They pay a daily rate. We provide them service every day cleaning the rooms and beds. We are the only hotel that is pet friendly.”

Thorpe introduced others in attendance at the press conference. Including “our friends from Shelter, Inc. We have Love Never Fails. We have Michael Gabriel representing the downtown businesses that have been affected; Nichole Gardner, a leading advocate for homelessness in Antioch, Extended Hands Ministry, Patrice Guillory from Health Right 360 for people who have been previously incarcerated.

“This is a call to action to all East County cities. We can’t rely on the county to do all of this work,” Thorpe stated.

Nichole Gardner of Facing Homelessness in Antioch said, “I’m excited to see the city trying to do something for our homeless out on the streets. We need to get people off the streets and be productive members of society. She thanked the council members and motel owners. Mariah Williams was also in attendance representing Facing Homelessness in Antioch.

Vanessa Russell, the founder and executive director of Love Never Fails which focuses on human trafficking in Northern California, spoke next.

“Human trafficking is coming to Antioch,” she stated. “To get people housing is the right thing. Many men and women are sold online. We came into contact with two people who were being sold right here, in this area out of their hotel room.”

Russell spoke of the effort, “to come to these specific areas where people are being exploited…to provide them food, stabilization, counseling, services. IT training to give them sustainable jobs. Not giving them fish but teaching them to fish on a daily basis.”

“She has made a commitment that she will provide some sort of wrap around services,” Thorpe shared.

Patrice Guillory of Health Right 360 which focuses on health, housing and services for homeless and those who are formerly incarcerated, spoke next, saying “Our mission is to give hope and change lives.”

They’ve helped 120 people this year struggling with homelessness and other challenges.

One of the rooms with two queen size beds.

“There’s no greater time than now to tackle the problem of homelessness in Antioch,” she said. “Individuals with a history of incarceration are 10 times more likely to be homeless. Our over reliance on law enforcement is not only ineffective but wholly inefficient.”

Long time resident of Antioch and downtown business owner, Michael Gabrielson said, “We’ve been there for almost five years…we’ve seen the despair of homelessness in Antioch. This will be an improvement not only in their lives but in the community’s lives.”

“This type of transitional housing will give them support, reestablish themselves and get into permanent housing,” he continued. “If each city would take an initiative like this it would have a huge impact on our community.”

“We’re taking this to the city council, to give direction to our city manager for the potential long term lease of the entire building, all 32 rooms, plus the suites…so the homeless providers can work,” Thorpe explained. “Summer is also offering to allow the five FEMA trailers to be located on the property.”

“The initial costs are a little north of $1 million,” he shared. “But that is nothing compared to what we spend chasing people from corner to corner. It’s not working. So, we’re proposing this.”

Asked about the 16-day limit for vouchers from the county Thorpe responded, “Our goal, in generalities and principles…everyone is on a different path. Some people may be here for only a week before they find housing with relatives. What we don’t want to do is have a set policy of 16 days and tell them to get their life together overnight.”

Asked how many homeless we have in Antioch Motts said, “the last count we had 300 but with all the students and families we probably have 600.”

The Golden Hills COC, located next door, has been working with homeless and those in need in Antioch for the past 30 years. Asked why no one from the COC was included in the press conference, Motts said, “We’re going to be working with them, the pastor here already serves meals in the community for the unhoused. We’re also speaking with Loaves and Fishes. Sutter Delta is fully committed to helping.”

“This is like the governor’s turnkey program,” she explained. “We’re hoping the state will support it.”

Asked about a budget that could be approved on July 28 so the program can immediately move forward, Thorpe responded, “we can set a cap of how much.”

The next council meeting will be held online on Tuesday, July 28 beginning at 7:00 p.m. Watch it via livestream on the city’s website or on Comcast cable Channel 24 or AT&T U-verse channel 99.

If you wish to make a public comment, you may do so any of the following ways: (1) by filling out an online speaker card, located at https://www.antiochca.gov/speaker_card, (2) by emailing the City Clerk prior to or during the meeting at cityclerk@ci.antioch.ca.us, or (3) by dialing (925) 776-3057 during the meeting.

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You can fight city hall: Antioch real estate broker sues city over rent and eviction moratorium, challenges city and county over curfews

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

City hires outside attorneys, sends case to federal court; 90-day repayment period per month of late rent still in place

“Freedom isn’t free. Sometimes you have to stand up,” – Mark Jordan

By Allen Payton

In efforts to fight for his rights, and those of other Antioch and Contra Costa County residents and property owners, local real estate broker, Mark Jordan has been suing the City of Antioch over its rent and eviction moratorium. Specifically, Jordan is fighting the “City Urgency Ordinance and the rental repayment infringement,” and challenging both the city and county over the curfews, in June.

Temporary Evictions, Rent Moratorium Lawsuit Served

In April, Jordan sent a “Cease and Desist Demand” to the members of the Antioch City Council on Friday, April 3 in response to their vote on March 31 to place a moratorium on evictions for both residential and commercial properties. The council’s actions give renters up to 90 days to repay for each month of rent they are unable to pay during the coronavirus pandemic. (See related article) ACC2020.03.31 – URGENCY ORDINANCE – Moratorium on Evictions       Temp Evictions Complaint.Jordan.v.COA

No action was taken by the city council in response to Jordan’s demand, so on June 2, he served the City of Antioch with a lawsuit challenging the council’s decision.

“I gave the City every opportunity to back up on this issue,” Jordan wrote. “They did not.”

On June 18 Jordan wrote the Herald regarding an agenda item on the June 23 City Council meeting agenda, that the “City is looking to walk back the Ordinance, but is not addressing the core issue of the suit which is the illegal 90-day per month grace period for missed rent.”

Semi-Victory as Council Expires Moratorium

For the Antioch Council meeting on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 Jordan submitted the following comments for the agenda item dealing with the expiration of the city’s moratorium on rent increases and evictions. However, they were not read into the record.

City Clerk Arne Simonsen said Jordan’s comments were sent to his personal email account. But Jordan said he emailed his comments to Simonsen and all five city council members.

“Mayor and Council,

For the citizens of the City of Antioch, let me bring you up to speed.

I am a Plaintiff in a lawsuit against the City of Antioch concerning the Urgency Ordinance passed on March 31, 2020 No: 2182-C-S. The case number of my suit at the Superior Court of California, County of Contra Costa is MSC20-00976.

Why am I suing the City of Antioch? Because when they passed the Ordinance they violated the

Constitution of the United States and also the Constitution of the State of California. They violated your rights.

I noticed them that in passing the Ordinance they were making a mistake but they pressed forward. I demanded they rescind the Ordinance. They did nothing. The Courts opened and I filed.

Just so you know when an elected official violates the Constitution they are violating their oath of office and are therefore in a position where they may be held criminally liable and where qualified immunity may not protect them. Not a good place to be Mr. Mayor, Council Members.

It is not that tenants did not need protection initially because of the pandemic. They did, but when the City created a 90 day repayment period for each month a tenant was not paying rent, that was too far.

Miss a year’s rent, get 1080 days to catch up. That is almost three years. Nonsense.

This is governmental interference in private contracts and there is case law all the way back to the beginning of the Republic. You do not pass the general legal three point test to validate your action.

So, why did the City Council do this? Because; the City Attorney, Mr. Smith is providing very poor council (sic). And, although Mr. Smith has an excellent legal education he has little time in the practice of law.

Advice to Counsel Smith, wisdom comes with age. You are over your head.

The City now is attempting to sunset the Ordinance stating tenants have other protectors. True, but the real reason is that the City Attorney is trying to create a situation in which he can file a response and claim the matter is moot (over). It is not. Constitutional violations remain past a sunset. And, I will press the matter.

Antioch, also know this. I called the City Attorney last Friday after reviewing Agenda item 9. There has been NO return call. I talked with Mayor Wright yesterday stating I had reviewed the information and was prepared to sit and work out a settlement and informed him that there has been no response from Mr. Smith.

Since that discussion there has been NO response to my offer from the City of Antioch, Mayor, Manager or Counsel Smith. When any citizen cannot get a return phone call, government is failing. You are failing City Council.

Therefore; Antioch be informed that your City government, our City government, my City government is prepared to spend our money on a matter they will not win and should be anxious to conclude.

Did Mr. Smith miss the class at Harvard on settlement? What exactly are you trying to achieve City Council?

This is not my first run in with the City of Antioch. The first was about Religious Freedom and I had to bring in legal counsel to explain the U.S. Constitution. I prevailed. A church was able to obtain their sanctuary.

The second was a suit in which the City violated the California Constitution, Prop 218 over a number of years and agreed to return nearly a million dollars to Antioch Enterprise Funds. Police don’t patrol or protect sewer lines.

City Council, you really want to go to court? Really?

If you do, know I’m all in. I will press my rights and the rights of every other property owner in Antioch.

Not to the detriment of tenants but to the equality of the law, due process and our, everyone’s Constitutional rights.

My phone works just fine. You have to dial the seven digits. It’s a local call.”

During their meeting, the Antioch City Council approved an urgency ordinance expiring the city’s rent increase and eviction moratorium, giving Jordan a partial victory. However, that action was only taken because the county’s moratorium, approved by the Board of Supervisors and runs through July 15, applies to cities as well as unincorporated areas of the county. According to the ordinance the City Council finds that “residences and businesses… will continue to have protections from eviction and adequate ‘grace periods’ to repay unpaid rent…from the Governor’s Executive Orders, Judicial Council Emergency Rule, and the County’s Urgency Ordinance.” Urgency Ordinance expiring Eviction & Rent Increase Moratorium ACC062320

Another Lawsuit by Others Against State

In addition to Jordan’s lawsuit, another lawsuit was filed against the state on June 15 by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) on behalf of two rental property owners challenging California courts’ refusal to hear eviction proceedings. (Christiansen & Martin vs. California Judicial Council).

In that case, PLF argues “the California Judicial Council decided to take matters into its own hands and effectively banned all evictions by forbidding courts from issuing summons or entering default judgments.

Their measure, Emergency Rule 1, means that landlords like Peggy Christensen, a retiree who depends on her rental income, cannot take legal action against tenants who damage the property, harass other tenants, or refuse to pay rent. It also means that landlords like Peggy are forced to turn away considerate renters in need of housing. In making this rule, the Judicial Council has seized policymaking power from the legislature and governor to block landlords’ access to the courts. Peggy and Peter Martin, another landlord, are fighting back with a state lawsuit to rein in the Judicial Council’s illegal overreach, restore the rule of law, and protect the entire state’s critical rental housing industry.”

According to PLF the “government cannot deprive landlords of their right to evict tenants who are able to pay rent yet refuse to do so, crippling their businesses and handicapping their ability to help tenants who face financial hardship.” Furthermore, the PLF claims “the California Constitution’s separation of powers prevents government agencies like the California Judicial Council from overriding the legislature and governor to take the law into its own hands and make social policy.”

Jordan’s Not Backing Down on 90-Day Repayment Period

In spite of the Antioch Council’s action on Tuesday night, June 23, Jordan refuses to back down.

“The fact that they’ve sunseted the ordinance doesn’t mean their violation of constitutional rights goes away,” Jordan said. “There are still remedies. So, this is not over.”

“Smith just wants to file a motion to dismiss because the whole matter is moot, since they sunseted the original ordinance,” Jordan stated. “I told the mayor I was more than willing to sit down and have a conversation with the city attorney. But there have been no phone calls.”

City Settles Previous Lawsuit by Jordan Over Misuse of Tax Dollars

“When I sued the city over their misuse of enterprise funds for police, theirs and my attorneys sat down and met with me, and we worked out a settlement agreement,” he explained. “Then it was taken to the council for approval. Since I have no attorney representing me, it’s incumbent upon Smith to meet with me and to try and settle the matter and take that to the council.”

“I’m actually saving the city money. The last time I sued them they had to pay my attorney $75,000,” Jordan added. (See related article)

City Settles Previous Lawsuit by Jordan Over Misuse of Tax Dollars

The legal counsel for the California Association of Realtors has been given a copy of Jordan’s lawsuit.

“They are actively watching all of these suits,” he said.

“We have a court date for a temporary injunction. That would enjoin the city from implementing the entire ordinance. If in fact they have sunseted the ordinance, that hearing would probably be unnecessary and all that remains are the constitutional violations. I’m not looking for any money, personally, Jordan shared. When you settle a lawsuit, people don’t normally admit any culpability. What they’re prepared to offer to settle the suit I don’t know because I can’t get a returned phone call.”

“I told the mayor if you think you’re going to just file an order to dismiss when you’ve violated my and others’ constitutional rights, that won’t settle the matter.

The court date was set for the August 24th.

He pointed out that the urgency ordinance adopted by the city council on June 23 had the incorrect number for the original urgency ordinance on the rent and evictions moratorium. The number used nine times in the document was 2181 instead of the correct Urgency Ordinance 2182-C-S.

“It is the wrong ordinance that they sunseted, as it has the wrong number on it. I know I’m being picky and technical about it, but that’s the law,” Jordan stated. “So, if they didn’t change the number, they didn’t sunset it.”

City’s Contract Attorney Responds

As of Friday, June 26 City Attorney Smith had yet to respond to Jordan’s lawsuit. Instead, that night at about 6:00 p.m., according to Jordan, attorney David Mehretu of Meyers Nave in Oakland, who was hired by the City to represent them, contacted Jordan about his case.

City’s 90-Day Per Month Repayment Period Still In Place

In addition, the City asked Mehretu to answer the questions the Herald sent to City Attorney Smith about the incorrect ordinance number in the new urgency ordinance and the impacts of the council’s sunsetting of the urgency ordinance.

Mehretu explained that the incorrect number in the new urgency ordinance which sunseted the original urgency ordinance was merely a clerical error and could be corrected by city staff. The intent of the city council is clear and the language in the new ordinance clearly refers to the original urgency ordinance. So, no additional vote of the council is necessary.

Regarding the 90-day repayment period for each month a renter is unable to pay, Mehretu said, “the sunset or termination of the urgency ordinance did not eliminate the 90-day per month in arrears protection for renters in Antioch.”

The months covered are “from the date of the original ordinance” which was adopted by the city council during a special meeting held on March 31, 2020. So, the city’s ordinance covers rent for the months of April, May and June and gives renters in Antioch nine months from the end of the shelter-in-place, which is currently scheduled to expire on July 15, to repay their back rent.

Rent for July is covered under the county’s ordinance which gives renters 120 days to repay all back rent. Assuming the current shelter-in-place order is lifted on July 15, renters anywhere in the county who have been unable to pay their rent would have until November 15 to repay rent for July.

That’s what Jordan is fighting, claims is unfair and violates his constitutional rights.

Settlement Effort Breaks Down, New Meeting Set

Jordan attempted unsuccessfully to settle the case with the city out of court.

“We were close, but settlement failed,” he shared on Tuesday, June 30. “The City will respond to the lawsuit and we will move on.”

However, Jordan added, “We have a tentative agreement to have a discussion on settlement, next week.”

City’s Contract Attorneys Submit “Answer to Complaint”

The contract attorneys for the City, which now includes Deborah Fox, also of Meyers Nave, sent Jordan a response to his lawsuit, yesterday, Thursday, July 2nd. Jordan-Antioch-Answer

In their “Answer to Complaint” they offer eight Affirmative Defenses claiming Jordan’s lawsuit “fails to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action,” that he “lacks standing because Plaintiff (Jordan) has not suffered an injury in fact,” and “as a private party, Plaintiff lacks standing to enforce criminal laws.”

In addition, the City’s attorneys argue Jordan should have first filed a claim against the City, “pursuant to Government Code section 911.2 et seq.” The attorney’s Fifth Affirmative Defense is that the City “is not liable to Plaintiff because the acts complained of in the Complaint constituted one or more discretionary acts.”

The city’s attorneys are, of course, asking that the court dismiss the case and for Jordan to pay the City for costs and attorneys’ fees.

Case Moved to Federal Court – No Date Set, Yet

On Friday, July 3, Jordan shared, “City moves case from California Court to Federal court because there are US Constitutional claims of violation by the City.” Jordan-Antioch-STATE   ECF 1 Jordan-Antioch

In the filing, the first attorney listed for the city is Thomas Smith. So, both he and the attorney they hired are representing the city.

The case will no longer be heard on August 24th and there is no hearing date for a temporary injunction.

“I would have to write a new motion for federal court requesting a temporary injunction,” Jordan said. “The entire jurisdiction moves to federal court and whether they will set a new date we don’t know, yet.”

He reached out to the Pacific Legal Foundation, following advice of the California Association of Realtors, for possible pro bono representation.

Antioch Curfew Challenge

On Monday, June 1, 2020, the City of Antioch ordered a curfew for that night and later extended it through the following night. The Antioch Police Department stated in a Facebook post, that day that the “decision was made after we were made aware of credible threats of subjects coming into our community for the purpose of causing damage and committing criminal acts.” (See related article)

On June 2, Jordan wrote Mayor Sean Wright and councilmembers challenging both the curfew and the way it was announced: “I have read…that the City Manager has enacted a curfew. Is this correct? 1.  No posting exists on the City web site and therefore Notice does not exist for the public.  Or, where did you post such a notice and when for the public? 2.  By what right does the Manager have the right to enact a curfew?  Did you relegate your responsibility?  Why did the council not act? 3.  What emergency was declared?  Please see Emergency Services Act for approved list of emergencies. 4.  Where did you post the notice of emergency? 5.  What section of the Penal Code of the State of California are you using? Please answer the above questions or have the City Attorney respond to the questions.  Please provide a copy of the Notice if it exists.”

Jordan later wrote the Herald, “News is not a posting by the City. And, you must have an emergency declared.  Based on my reading. New report states Manager declared. Government does not have the right to take away civil rights based on a whim.”

Jordan received a copy of the Curfew Order from the city on the afternoon of June 2.

In response, Jordan emailed City Manager Ron Bernal writing, “Mr. Bernal, Please define exactly what events occurred in Antioch that you reference and which would constitute an emergency under the Emergency Services Act.  See Curfew Order, City of Antioch, 4th bullet point, dated June 1, 2020. You cannot act upon a belief or thought that an emergency may require this action.  There MUST be an actual emergency. This order without reference may constitute an attempt to silence free speech, the right of assembly and the right to present grievance against the government.  Please refer to the US Constitution and the State of California Constitution. Please define what, when and where caused this order within and for the City of Antioch.”

Having received no response, Jordan sent another email message to Bernal the next day, June 3: “Mr. Bernal, This is my 2nd request for exactly what events occurred within the City of Antioch that require this City curfew.  I will deal with the County separately. As with other matters I wish to give you and the City of Antioch every opportunity to comply with the requirements of the Emergency Services Act and to properly Notice the community as to what events occurred. A belief that an event might occur is insufficient to meet the requirements of the Act.  It is clear to the public now you know how to amend your Orders.

If you fail to respond, and fail to state to the public of Antioch exactly what events you reference and publish that clarification, well, then it is likely I will move to reverse you attempt to create a police state within the City.  Fair warning, don’t press me.  I take my civil rights, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights seriously.  And, I’m willing to fight to guard them.
I suggest you obtain legal advice outside of the City Attorney; perhaps someone well versed in the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.  I would direct your attention to Article 1. Your response and information is anticipated by the entire public of the City.”

Having still received no response from the City, Jordan wrote the Herald, “These documents and the Order of Curfew do not meet the requirement of the Act.  There is NO response from the City.”

Then on June 4, Jordan wrote the Herald, “no one from the City ever responded to my request for information. I posted the emails for the Mayor’s community forum 6/3/2020 but have no response from the Mayor. There was never a statement of what event(s) occurred which would justify such an order.  And, to be clear, ‘credible evidence’ that something might happen, is not sufficient to implement a curfew based on the Act. I’m not sure anyone at the City understands Constitutional Rights.”

County Curfew Challenge

That same day, June 4, Jordan emailed members of the County Board of Supervisors about his concern over the county’s curfew.

“Board of Supervisors, It is my belief that you do not have the right or authority based on the Emergency Services Act to issue an unlimited curfew. Your order appears in violation of both the United States Constitution, Article 1 and the State of California Constitution.

Understood that there exists activity that most likely violates the California Penal Code. And, that any alleged criminal behavior should be addressed and directed to the District of Attorney. That said this order is a massive overreach bordering on the creation of a police state affecting all of the citizens of the County who have nothing to do with or who are effected by any of the minor civil unrest.

Therefore, I demand that you amend the order immediately to include a date certain termination or rescind the order in total. Should you do either by June 9, 2020 I will consider this matter closed. Your correction and attention to this matter is appreciated. If your counsel wishes to speak to me have him call.”

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff’s Chief of Staff, Anne O. responded to Jordan via email later that day writing, “The County Administrator has rescinded the curfew, effective 1pm today.”

He also received a copy of the county’s curfew termination order, which ended that issue.

“Freedom isn’t free. Sometimes you have to stand up,” Jordan added.

 

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Antioch Council holds first community forum on police reform, will hire facilitator for future forums

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

By Allen Payton

During their first community forum on police reform, entitled Bridging the Gap, Tuesday night, June 30, 2020, the Antioch City Council heard more comments from members of the public on both sides of the issue. Then the council decided what topics to include in future forums and agreed to hire a facilitator to moderate them.

To open the meeting, Mayor Sean Wright said, “Thank you for coming, tonight for those who are joining us. This is an opportunity for us…at the end of the last meeting we had five or ten minutes to decide where to go with this. Tonight, is an opportunity to get input from all council members and the public…to decide where we want this to go…to drive this conversation forward in a positive way for our community.”

Councilwoman Monica Wilson then said, “I am looking forward to what the community says. To make sure this is not just a one and done and that we continue the conversation.”

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts read some prepared comments saying, “I’m happy to have lived in Antioch my entire life. I’ve watched my family grow up, here. Let’s be clear in saying I always do what is best for our community.”

She spoke of wanting an “all hands on deck meeting.”

“I am seeking to find opportunities where we can improve as a city,” Motts added.

There were video and audio challenges that caused the meeting to not be visible for most of the first half hour, so not all the opening comments from the council members could be heard.

A variety of people submitted comments or spoke through the Zoom meeting connection, mostly reiterating the over 850 comments made during the two special council meetings on whether to form a council ad hoc committee on police reform two weeks ago, that led to Tuesday night’s forum.

Council Members Respond to Public Comments

Mayor Wright was the first to respond to the public comments.

“I’ll be honest, after the last meeting…I was pushing in discussions with our city manager, having an hour with our chief of police come forward give us a report on the reforms within the department, then an hour to hear from members of the African American community,” he said.

“People have already spoken. We’ve heard. We had a lot of comments at the other meetings. I appreciate the city manager saying…let’s not jump into a discussion of what you think we’ve heard…so we can have a discussion among council members of where we want to go.”

He then provided a list of the things he heard from the public comments.

“I thought you summarized it fairly well,” said Councilman Lamar Thorpe. “I don’t think you mentioned mental health. I have a concern of stretching our police force. I don’t think they should deal with that.”

“The five areas I outlined…are overarching. We can populate with the things you talked about.”

The five reforms Thorpe is seeking, which he mentioned in his press release, earlier this month are 1. Demilitarize our local police, 2. Increase police accountability, 3. Improve police hiring practices, 4. Excessive use of force and 5. Budget appropriations.

“If we’re going to talk about body worn cameras, about mental health, we have to talk about the budget.”

“Community programs is a huge one,” Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock also mentioned. “What does systemic racism look like in Antioch. The Police Crime Commission going into their districts finding out that information. Work together…we all need to work together. This is a priority for this council. We’re here tonight trying to work on these issues.”

“I too thought the meeting was a little vague coming into it,” Wilson. “We really owe it to the community to really have an outcome…that we really are listening. We’re all not going to agree. None of us are here to attack.”

“We’ve all said one time, or another Chief Brooks is doing a wonderful job. But we can always do better,” she continued. “We must constantly be looking at how we can improve ourselves.”

“Accountability, de-militarization, hiring practices, police oversight, body cameras…how we’re going to maintain all of that, the use of force,” Wilson continued. “We have to come to the reality that not all of us are going to agree. Like most families…we have to respect our differences. I’m hoping we’ll be able to start attacking some of these and have some good outcomes and start making our community better and let everyone in our community know they’re being heard…and they’re not being left out.”

Motts then shared her thoughts stating, “I had doubts without having the chief speak to some of the comments we’ve heard over the past few weeks. But, after hearing from the community, tonight I’m glad we went this way.”

“I heard ‘do no harm’, she continued. “I do think the APD is really getting out there…and trying to work with the community. The mental health issue…this is something that’s been going on for decades, now. East County, we do not have a (homeless) shelter. We do not have homeless services. It is incumbent upon us to do something about them.”

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock spoke about “What we should do with Measure W money.They want to spend some on police services, but also on youth services. I’m looking forward to these conversations. I would like to have the chief come back and speak on some of the investigations going on. I want to see us all work together. We love this community…we want our community to feel embraced and feel safe. So, I’m looking forward to the conversation.”

Discuss Future Agenda Items, Agree to Hire Outside Facilitator

“This can’t be done in a meeting,” Wright explained. “I need to look at how this fits in. I’m OK looking at the five headings Councilmember Thorpe put in. There might be six or seven other headings.”

“I think we all want to hear from the chief,” Thorpe stated. “The actually leading of this conversation shouldn’t be led by the chief. The chief is a participant in all of this. I think for many people I think there’s a curiosity of policing in American and the relationship with African Americans and why policing even started in this country. They can’t pinpoint why in this country that things blow up following interactions between police and African Americans.”

“I was going to suggest we hire an outside facilitator…helping us through the process,” Wright added.

Ogorchock added, “I think it’s great we have an outside moderator. Where in the budget would that come from?”

“We would have to approve the expenditure,” Wright said.

“It would come out of the General Fund,” said City Manager Ron Bernal.

“I agree someone from outside…to help moderate this conversation,” said Motts.

“I would like to hear from the council…some of the things you’re wanting this person do in the processs,” Wright said.

“Someone with a background in social justice, race relations with police,” Wilson said.

“I would say someone with experience with police reform and that may not be someone with a social justice background,” Thorpe said.

“It has to be a well-rounded person,” Ogorchock said. “We need to have someone coming in who is neutral, who is going to ask the right directions and get us in the direction this council wants to go. What is the cost of this person? I would ask the City Attorney is this part of the agenda, tonight? A moderator?”

“What you’re talking about is future agendas, so yes, your discussing a future agenda item,” City Attorney Thomas Smith responded.

Wright then said he wanted, “someone who is respected on both sides, the police department and someone trying to create police reform.”

“We’re not looking for specifics in what they think on police reform…but understanding the lay of the land when cities decide to do police reform,” Thorpe said. “I’m not pretending we’re not discussing police reform. That’s what the point of having the ad hoc is.”

“This is a bigger conversation that we will all participate in,” Wright said. “I think the next steps…is to find that person and have that person to work together with a few members of council and the chief, to categorize and move forward.”

“I would be happy to participate in that,” Thorpe said.

“So, would I,” Wright responded.

“I would, too so here we go,” said Ogorchock. Regarding the hiring of a moderator she added, “Make sure they understand Antioch. We’re a diverse city.”

“Yes, we are a majority people of color community,” Thorpe said. “You’re absolutely right.”

“That’s not what I said. I said we’re a diverse community,” Ogorchock responded.

“We are doing some things well…and I want the chief to report on that,” Wright said. “As I’ve gone out the past few weeks and talked to different people there are people in the black community who aren’t aware that there is a citizens police academy and a youth police academy. So, there’s more outreach that needs to be done.”

“I’ve been doing some research…and people of color are being killed at a higher percentage, at a higher rate,” Wright stated. “I would like to see elicit bias training for our police and the council. To be able to put ourselves in the shoes of other people. I would hope as a community…that we better understand one another…as we go through this.”

“If there are regular mental health checkups to deal with law enforcement stresses,” said Motts. “I would like to see that as part of the discussion, here.”

“I will work with you and Councilmember Thorpe in hiring someone to facilitate…someone familiar with police reform, and other areas, and familiar with police departments,” Bernal said in response to Mayor Wright.

The council then adjourned the meeting.

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Antioch Council votes down ad hoc committee on police reform, will hold study sessions with all five members and Police Crime Prevention Commission

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Antioch Council Members, City Attorney Thomas Smith and City Manager Ron Bernal listened as city staff members read the final 200 public comments during the continuation of Tuesday night’s special meeting on Thursday, June 18, 2020. Screenshot from City website.

“this is too big, too important for our community (to settle for a two-member ad hoc committee). What I see is a series of forums…but it would be inclusive of everyone on the council.” – Mayor Sean Wright

By Allen Payton

During the second of two special meetings this week and after listing to seven hours of public comments from over 700 people, the Antioch City Council voted on a split vote Thursday night to oppose the formation of a two-person ad hoc committee on police reform as Councilman Lamar Thorpe had called for. He and Councilwoman Monica Wilson voted for it while the other three members voted against. Instead the council agreed to have Mayor Sean Wright call the first, of what is expected to be a series of public study sessions to discuss the matter as a whole, that will include the Police Crime Prevention Commission, and set it for Tuesday night, June 30.

At the first session, Antioch Police Chief T Brooks is expected to speak first, followed by those who have had issues with the police department, as Wright put it.

The meeting ran much smoother than Tuesday’s, as the various form letters submitted by several people on both sides of the issue were read once by city staff members, while just reading the names of all those who submitted the same letters. Wright opened the meeting saying there were about 200 public comments left to read.

Dan Stills was the first of only two members of the public available on Zoom to speak. He said, “now that we get staff, along comes the notion of…defunding police and the ad hoc committee. I am one of the silent majority, opposed to the ad hoc committee. We will be voting in November. I implore all of you to work with the police chief to make any necessary changes. We don’t need to dismantle…now is not the time to tear it down and rebuild it.”

City Finance Director Dawn Merchant then read some of the form letters and mentioned the names of all those who had submitted them.

One comment quoted the city’s Vision Statement and wrote in favor of forming the ad hoc committee.

“Chief Brooks has explained that the department has already implemented six of the eight reforms” read one letter opposing the ad hoc committee.

“Why do we need another politician run committee? We’re tired of your committees and lack of action,” wrote retired Antioch Sergeant Larry Hopwood and five others.

Another letter asked for a community forum led by Chief Brooks and submitted by several people.

“Racism is something that needs to be discussed by the entire community,” wrote one letter submitted by several members of the public

“I’ve been in Antioch since 1965…this is just a kneejerk reaction to what’s going on,” read a letter by one resident.

Carol Allen wrote, “We need our police not a committee of grandstanding politicians.”

Matt Vargas wrote, “Have you ever been burglarized, assaulted? I have. You defund our police and it takes longer to respond. We’re already understaffed.”

“I’ve seen no improvement in my neighborhood and it’s only gotten worse,” read another letter.

“Now is not the time to cut funding. Measure C is scheduled to sunset in 2021,” read another. That last part is not correct. Measure C’s half-cent sales tax was replaced by a full cent sales tax with the passage of Measure W.

“Please do not follow the cities of Oakland and San Francisco that have citizen boards run the police department,” read another letter by a Mr. Crum.

Michael Gobel wrote opposing the ad hoc committee, “We need to support these men and women who lay their lives on the line for us.”

Gary Shu opposed the ad hoc committee writing, “Do not defund our police. If we do our peaceful world as we know it will end. What about the school kids with no protection?”

“If you defund the police in Antioch, I want every dollar back I paid in taxes,” read another letter from a member of the public.

Wayne Butler wrote, “Leave the police alone. We still don’t have enough cops in this crime-ridden city. 97.3% of cops don’t even fire their gun in their entire 30-year career.”

“I would like to defund the police, they are fat and only go after women and minorities,” read another letter in support of the ad hoc committee.

“Antioch police activity must remain at the current level,” wrote another member of the public.

Nancy Green wrote, “I think APD is doing a good job.”

Sal Sbranti wrote, “I do not believe that the actions of the Antioch Police Department require us to support a witch hunt sponsored by Lamar Thorpe and Monica Wilson. Lamar’s comments and endorsement of “8 can’t wait” displays his bias and that alone should eliminate him from being a member of any ad hoc committee. The statements that Lamar has made, makes Antioch and our stellar police department look bad. Stellar?- violent crime down 15% from 2015 to 2019, citizens complaints down 40% from 2017 to 2019. Antioch Citizens passed “Measure C” in November of 2013 and “Measure W” in November of 2018, and it was April of this year when we finally met the goal number of Police that this City Council Authorized. If a committee is to be formed, it should not be called “Police Reform Committee” as again, that displays Lamar’s and the City Attorneys bias and the pre-judgement of this council.”

“I’ve personally heard stories of police brutality by people, here in Antioch. I expect the city council to put their full effort into this,” read another letter.

“I’ve seen the quality of life in Antioch deteriorate every year I’ve lived, here. Because the members of the committee will not be held accountable, I’m against it,” read another.

Megan wrote, “Countless lives have been taken. Antioch is not an exception. You must disarm and dismantle the police. We want a new community not cops.”

Steve Libator wrote against the ad hoc committee but in favor of a community forum, “You want to bring attention to yourself. Please stop.”

“Maybe you can teach officers how to love people who don’t look like them. While I do support the police, I was disappointed with the way the chief handled the COVID-19 situation and left us to fend for ourselves,” wrote another member of the public in favor of forming the ad hoc committee.

Sara Gubeer, a 2018 graduate of Dozier-Libbey wrote supporting the ad hoc committee about the deaths of people across the country. “The police don’t actually serve or protect anyone. First, we must start with our own community.”

Robert Pohl wrote against forming the ad hoc committee. “We voted twice to increase funding for police Now people want to defund it, which doesn’t make sense. Antioch has a diverse and progressive police department.”

Luis Crockett wrote “I don’t support our chief and police officers, they are racist and constantly profile black and brown members of our community. This has to stop now.”

Victor Wen, a DVHS alumni class of 2020 submitted the same form letter making accusations against the police department and called for it to be defunded and disarmed.

Beverly Knight who opposed the ad hoc committee wrote, “The police portrayed on the national news are not the Antioch Police Department. Chief Brooks works hard to make community policing an imperative. I will believe APD will embrace positive change. Don’t try to fix something that’s not broken.”

Sarah Laughlin, a 2015 DVHS graduate who is getting her law degree wrote, “I’ve seen this community’s ability to lift people up but also tear it down. I’ve seen how the local school system that targets black and brown students.”

Vanessa Helmann wrote, “I don’t believe a special committee will serve our community.”

John Fischer wrote, “This attempt…is a slap in the face of the police department. The letter sent out by Chief Brooks was well written. I don’t agree with all that he wrote.

“I do not agree with an ad hoc committee…there is a need to begin a comprehensive approach…to build trust between the police and the community,” wrote another member of the public, citing new legislation introduced in Congress.

Tina Gillette wrote, “I live in District 1…that is represented by Joy Motts. While most of us support the protesters” and called for community forum.

Lucy Meinhardt wrote, “Our entire country is in a state of upheaveal. Continiuing to improve our policing is what is needed. There’s no reason Antioch cannot be part of this national movement” and asked that representatives of color lead the effort.

“Antioch PD works with people of all races in the community. We all need to live together as one. Focus on our real problems,” wrote another.

Harry Raymond wrote, “The City of Antioch is blessed by a very well run police department. The citizens of Antioch…twice agreed to more taxes. APD finally reached the target minimum after a number of years.”

Ariana Edwards wrote, “This community needs care not cops. It’s time for reform” and supported the ad hoc committee.

“It’s time to defund the police…and invest in the community and schools, instead,” another letter read.

“The council can look past the current hysteria” wrote another person who called for a standing committee of three council members. But that would violate the state’s Brown Act open meeting law, which is why sub- and ad hoc committees

NAACP East County Branch submitted a comment calling for, “wholly and unequivocally a police oversight committee in the City of Antioch…that will mete out discipline.”

Mike Barbanica wrote, “What we don’t need is more political grandstanding by members of our city council. Vote no on the ad hoc and look at alternatives that will involve the entire community.”

Willie Mims, a Pittsburg resident and member of the NAACP East County Branch, wrote, “Since the murder of George Floyd, the whole country and the world are protesting police brutality, white racism and white supremacy.  You, who live in the City of Antioch, must not place your heads in the sand and put a mask over your eyes in order to cover up the fact that you have not experienced some of these same incidents here in your own town.  You had and still do have some officers operating under the Color of Law.

This city must not be afraid to welcome a thorough review and reevaluation of the police department’s excessive force policy, an examination of its accountability component, and its use and misuse of its canine unit when dealing with non-aggressive citizens.  Not only that, but there should be some serious ongoing training in racial profiling, racial bias and de-escalation techniques, especially when dealing with mental health issues, black people, and other peoples of color.

A civilian oversight commission would be best for the city of Antioch and should be put in place to address any complaints against the police department.

And lastly, I stand with the city council as they grapple with this American racial problem.  I take issue, however, with the police association and their attack upon certain council members.  Their resistance to either review or to even consider a citizen oversight committee is quite troubling.  Whatever the case, the issue of race is placed back on both Antioch’s and America’s table of destiny. I hope that the council will do what is right. Know this, that I stand with those people wanting change at this time in our history.”

Joel Firstenberger praised Chief Brooks and wrote, “I don’t support the political views of Black Lives Matter. I do not want the council to take on this agenda to please two board members.”

“Antioch can be a beacon of how to operate the police department. This isn’t political. It’s personal. I have black sons and want to know this town embraces their beautiful lives,” wrote one resident.

Another member of the public wrote about “an instigator and a follower…is this leadership we need…? Absolutely not.”

Gary Walker wrote, “My husband and I would like to support an ad hoc committee…to give voice to the people…and has a laser focus agenda. We only see positive change from this initiative.”

Zoe Jones wrote, asking for the council to defund the police and spending it on other things in the community.

Ruth Pastor wrote, “We don’t have enough police as it is, now.”

Sandy McGee wrote, “I think an ad hoc committee is a slap in the face” to the police department. Councilman Thorpe needs to pick something else to help your campaign.”

“I am a rare species of a Republican in this town, but I support the formation of an ad hoc committee…” wrote another member of the public.

Edward Piller wrote, “We must listen to our hearts and the youth. Please support the ad hoc committee.”

“Being a roofing contractor is four times more dangerous” than being a police officer, read another letter.

Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs continued to read the remainder of the emailed public comments.

One of the form letters, mainly submitted by recent, local high school graduates, called for the implementation of 8 to Abolition which claims the 8 Can’t Wait effort won’t work and instead, wants to simply abolish police departments and prisons.

According to their website, Campaign Zero released its 8 Can’t Wait campaign, offering a set of eight reforms they claim would reduce police killings by 72%. As police and prison abolitionists, we believe that this campaign is dangerous and irresponsible, offering a slate of reforms that have already been tried and failed, that mislead a public newly invigorated to the possibilities of police and prison abolition, and that do not reflect the needs of criminalized communities.”

“The end goal of these reforms is not to create better, friendlier, or more community-oriented police or prisons. Instead, we hope to build toward a society without police or prisons, where communities are equipped to provide for their safety and wellbeing.” The organization wants to Defund the Police and city officials to, “Reject any proposed expansion to police budgets. Demand the highest budget cuts per year, until they slash police budget to zero. Slash police salaries across the board until they are zeroed out.”

“Our police should be part of the solution,” read one letter. “Let’s create a community-based committee…not an ad hoc for a political agenda.”

“I support the ad hoc committee for police reform…if you believe the Antioch PD. The entire institution of police is based on racism. I can almost guarantee that the top level of police in Antioch have not taken a class on diversity,” read another letter.

Andrew Johnson wrote, “this is a political stunt. There are other issues the council should be focused on. More action and less political propaganda. It’s a dumpster fire of an idea.”

Jim Lanter wrote, “I believe Chief Brooks and the department would take a big step back if this committee was formed. Do we need conversation? Yes. Can it be done in another form? Yes…in a peaceful, open forum…”

“All cops are thugs…of a racist, capitalist system. Shame on all of you,” read another letter.

“Mr. Thorpe, a lot of the items you told us you would work on when you were elected haven’t gotten done,” read another letter.

Another member of the public wrote, “Thank you for supporting the police…in brutalizing the poor. All hail capitalism. All hail our ruling class.”

Theresa Householder wrote, “we need more police training…police reform. Period.”

Antioch School Board Member Ellie Householder wrote, “There’s no reason our community can’t have a conversation about police reform. I respect our police. It’s not a political action to call for police reform. Don’t listen to the voice of the minority.”

“Please for the safety of our residents, defund the APD,” read another letter.

Linda Reilly wrote, “You already moved funds from Measure W against the will of Antioch voters. Quit fighting the race war.” However, the funds from Measure W cannot all be spent on police, as that would violate the law, since it was passed as a general tax requiring only a majority vote to pass, and not a special tax, which would require a two-thirds vote to pass. So, some of the funds – as was written in the language of the measure – must be spent on other things in the city, such as youth programs.

Shagoofa Khan wrote, “People are finally realizing change needs to happen, now. This ad hoc committee is not an attack on the police department. All I want is to see Antioch to thrive and be the best it can be. It’s not just the police that can keep us safe, but all of us, together.”

Former Antioch Mayor Pro Tem and Planning Commissioner Manny Soliz, Jr. wrote, “I am categorically opposed to the creation of an ad hoc committee to review Police and Public Safety issues. In light of events at the state and federal level, this proposal is a politically motivated gimmick, a trick to portray certain city leaders as concerned about the public. They are motivated by the upcoming election in November, and nothing else. These committees have a long history of weakening public safety, creating an environment where criminal elements can thrive and endanger citizens, private property and precious business interests. We have a police Chief and department dedicated to protecting the city, and doing so in accordance with accepted ethical policing practices. Our police department is already adopting the measures outlined to avoid the recent events happening in other communities. So, I ask, what problem are we trying to solve?”

“Focus on the issues Antioch is facing: crime prevention, code enforcement, homelessness and economic development,” he continued. “Just a final thought, what do you think a manufactured problem says about our image? Weak leadership leads to a weak community. Abandon this ill-conceived, politically motivated committee. Let’s not create problems where they really don’t exist.”

Kerry Ingvardsen opposed the ad hoc committee writing, “We already have a Police Crime Prevention Commission.”

Former Police Crime Prevention Commissioner Harry Thurston wrote, “The Antioch Police Department, as with all city police departments, has been granted by the citizens of Antioch extensive rights, including the use of deadly force, to apprehend and detain citizens accused of violating federal, state, county and city laws, ordinances. It imperative, within a democracy, community oversite and control is fully implemented over any department that has been granted such rights.

Within the city of Antioch, a significant percentage of the City’s citizenry feel they have little to no oversight control on the development, implementation or changes to the Antioch Police Department policies and associated departmental funding. In addition, there is a feeling of a lack of accountability by the Antioch Police Department, including the administration of grievances pertaining to the excessive use of force, racial and/or ethnic profiling and police misconduct.

Whether or not these perceptions are correct, they are real within various communities of Antioch. Thus, with input from the community, these perceptions need to be examined and when found valid, addressed to the satisfaction of the Antioch citizenry.”

Nichole Gardener wrote about a cleanup of a homeless encampment. “I witnessed the city spending $50,000…defund the Antioch Police Department and start funding services for the homeless on our streets.”

“The police are a stain on our city. People feel unsafe by their presence. Antioch spends over 60% of the budget on police. (which is false) Redirecting at least 50% of the police budget to other programs would give our children a city we can be proud of,” read another letter.

Antioch School Board Trustee Mary Rocha wrote, “I do not support the ad hoc committee. It is a conflict of interest if council members sit if it the committee is established.”

Frank Sterling wrote of his own attack by APD in which he passed out. “When I awoke, I was kicked in the face. After two years I was cleared.”

Retired Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando wrote, “I have to question the motives of councilmember Thorpe in calling for an ad-hoc committee especially as it comes on the heels of Mr. Thorpe sending out a press release regarding APD practices that he knew contained incorrect information. What was your motive in misleading the citizens of Antioch then Mr. Thorpe, and what is it now? It appears that Mr. Thorpe is planting those proverbial weeds in his backyard, just so he can pull them and appear to be a hero.

This is the epitome of political grandstanding and a disservice to the community you are paid to serve. If the city council decides to move forward with this, it should not be an ad-hoc committee, but rather a conversation with our community. Complete a community survey with our residents and then have a community discussion with our residents about the things Antioch police are doing well as well as the things they can improve upon. Once again, Councilman Thorpe, you continue to show that you are nothing more than an opportunist intent on dividing the City of Antioch.”

Jim Becker supporting the formation of an ad hoc committee wrote, “I would support forming it with transparency.”

“Funding police will only increase crime,” another member of the public wrote.

“I do stand with the blue. Without them this city would be hell,” read another letter.

Velma Wilson wrote, “I’m against forming an ad hoc committee…it undermines the leadership of Chief Brooks. T is a black man who has black sons and deals with the same issues as the black community. Let’s not be divisive…that will lead to bitterness in our community. No to the ad hoc committee and yes to a community forum.”

“Every person of color is affected by this system. We need change in this city,” wrote another resident.

The final comment read was by someone named Amber who wrote, “The money taken from the APD budget can be used for more important funds.”

Bill Bunting was on the Zoom call and wanted to know what do police officers have to know to be hired.

However, City Attorney Thomas Smith explained to him, that “Public comment is the time for people to make comment not for Q and A.”

Council Discusses Matter Votes Down Ad Hoc Committee

The council then took up the matter.

“This is obviously a very important topic. I don’t believe we’ve ever had this many comments form the public on a topic,” said Mayor Wright. “I wish we could have allowed three minutes each but that would have taken three times long. There was a lot shared over the seven hours of listening. We heard from both sides. The common thread was that we want to have a discussion. It’s important we have a conversation. Tonight, we’re not talking about what reforms that need to take place. Just what

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts was called on, first and attempted to make a motion, but it was disallowed.

“If this is a conversation you want to hold, what is the vehicle you want to use?” Attorney Smith asked. “There is an option of a study session. The ad hoc is outside of the Brown Act, so, there isn’t a public notice required. If the council decides to use that” they would have to decide “who are the members, who would sit on it. It could go on as long as nine months, or even a year. The council would decide the scope of what to be discussed.”

“The study sessions would be the entire city council with reports from the ad hoc,” he explained. “You could have both. You could also add panelists. There would be checklists for the public to have input. This study session is an idea by Mayor Wright. You’d have the entire public involved in the dialogue. If you decide you don’t want to use the tools listed on the agenda, the mayor could call a special meeting to decide the tools you want to use.”

“I just wanted to thank the community for sharing their views,” Motts continued. “This is an important issue. I see Pittsburg already held a town hall in which the police department and the entire council participated. It’s too important of an issue to not include the entire council. I’d like to make a motion that we hold a town hall or community forum as soon as possible and bring the full council together, the police department and community, rather than doing an ad hoc at this time.”

“This is just a process point…the agenda doesn’t identify a town hall as an option,” Smith said. “What you’re calling for if it includes the council as a whole, you can decide tonight…it’s letting the mayor know, then the mayor can call that special meeting.”

“Are you saying that motion is invalid?” asked Wright.

“If it’s the will of the council, you can call a special meeting at any time, mayor, you have the authority to do that,” Smith stated.

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock said she seconded the motion and then said, “I’ll ask Joy that you include the Police Crime Prevention Commission handle that as a special study session.”

However, Smith reiterated that the motion was invalid because that option wasn’t on the council’s meeting agenda.

“It’s on here, formation of a police ad hoc committee. If she changes it to a study session with the police commission,” Ogorchock responded.

“I don’t think this is something that can be handled by the Police Crime Commission,” Motts said. “I think it’s something we all need to be involved with.”

Smith said the mayor can call a special meeting at any time without this motion.

“When we discussed the motion… it was some sort of ad hoc committee,” Wright said. “The first and the second is a motion they can’t make?”

“We know there are two members that want to have a meeting such as that, if there is a third, which could be you, you can go ahead and take that into consideration and call a special meeting,” Smith reiterated to the mayor.

Thorpe Reads Prepared Speech

“Normally when someone suggests an ad hoc, the person who suggested it gives their two cents,” Councilman Lamar Thorpe said. “I like what Mayor Tem Motts suggested. But not absent the ad hoc committee. All our meetings were public, but they were workshops.”

He then read a prepared statement.

“I’m somewhat blown away,” he said. “I do want to apologize to Councilwoman Wilson. I’m the one who suggested the ad hoc committee. You had nothing to do with that. So, I’m somewhat blown away by that.”

He then said, “I’m not a politician, I’m a father, a homeowner…”

“How long anyone has lived here does not give their voice any more power than anyone else,” Thorpe stated. “Because I love my city, I’m willing to have difficult conversations. I want to make a difference and serve all the people of Antioch. All the people of Antioch,” he repeated.

“I want to just have a conversation about reform. That doesn’t mean a negative,” he continued.

“I find it ironic that a small group of special interests are fighting to keep this from happening,” he said. “Isn’t that why people are protesting on the streets of our nation, today?”

“Let me be clear, I have not attacked the police department. Why is the police department so above us all we can’t ask questions in a public setting?” he asked.

Thorpe then called for the formation of the ad hoc committee.

Councilwoman Monica Wilson spoke next, saying, “All of us tried really hard to hear everyone. The world is changing and communities all over the world are having these discussions.”

“I’m also amazed at the resistance to have this conversation,” she continued. “I always wanted to begin a dialogue with our community. The desire to have an ad hoc committee is because our city can always do better.”

“For those in our community who feel everything is fine, I want them to recognize there are some in our community who don’t feel the same way,” Wilson said. “When we do have these town halls…show up and make your voices be heard.”

Ogorchock, Wright, Motts Push for Study Sessions With All Council Members Present

Ogorchock then said, “I thank everyone for all their emails and phone calls. There is one common thread…everyone wants their voices heard. All council members want to be heard. An ad hoc committee would only allow two council members. We don’t want just one. We need quarterly meetings. I personally want to see us all sit together, so everybody’s voice gets to be heard.”

“To have 700 citizens share how much they care how important this is, and to have a community to want to be a part of it,” Wright said. “To be on an ad hoc committee is very powerful, to go out and do the research. When I wasn’t on an ad hoc committee I didn’t get all the information. Everybody in their own way, everyone of these five council members have let me know they want to be on this ad hoc committee.”

“To be honest, this is too big, too important for our community,” he continued. “What I see is a series of forums…but it would be inclusive of everyone on the council. That’s how big this moment is. Let’s do something that would include all of us to have this conversation. This is a bigger moment, not that ad hoc committees aren’t good and can do a lot of research.”

“We tried to do that before with the cannabis, but it didn’t work, no one showed up. It was too formal for people,” Thorpe said. “I think it limits folks’ participation.”

“When we tried cannabis, we tried to get people to make comments, no one did,” Wright said. “But we had 700 people participate. If we don’t get anyone to participate, we can then go to the ad hoc committee.”

Thorpe then made the motion to create the police reform ad hoc committee. Wilson seconded his motion.

“I just think it’s too big to have an ad hoc committee,” said Wright.

“I was encouraged what Pittsburg was able to pull off,” Motts said.

“What did they do?” asked Thorpe. “They had a meeting and looked at their budget. They didn’t make any change to their police. They didn’t do anything.”

“That’s what I read,” Motts said. “Nevertheless, I do have faith we as a council can handle it. The community has expressed themselves like never before. I can’t see moving forward without their participation and have everyone at the table. I’d really like to try this first and come together as a community.”

The motion failed on a vote with Ogorchock, Motts and Wright voting no.

“Now that we’re talking about an open forum, I really don’t want to wait on that,” Ogorchock said.

“If we look at the next Tuesday, as a fifth Tuesday, we could have our first session,” Wright said. “We really need to have a conversation…what our series of panelists we want to hear. Who should be there?”

“Faith leaders, NAACP,” suggested Ogorchock.

“Let’s make sure it’s a broad group of people,” Wilson stated.

“It’s a series,” Wright explained.

“I think police reform advocates, the 8 Can’t Wait, what are the changes they really want to see,” one of the council members said.

“Crime commissioners,” added Ogorchock.

“I think the Police Crime Prevention Commissioners should be added to it,” Wright agreed.

“We need to hear from the chief, what changes are already being made,” Wright said. “At some point we need to hear from the community, what are our blind spots.”

“I’d like to hear from members of our community who have had issues with the police,” he added. “Maybe an hour for the chief, first. Then members of the community.”

“The sooner, the better, we’re wanting to hear what everyone wants to say,” said Ogorchock.

“So, Thomas I’m going to look to you, if this is what the majority wants to do,” Wright then said wrapping up the discussion.

“Yes. I think you have substantial direction from the council for you to call a special meeting,” City Attorney Smith said. “At the end of that meeting you can have a time for council to discuss items moving forward.”

“I just want to thank everyone for their comments,” Ogorchock reiterated to conclude the meeting. “We want all those 700, there.”

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Antioch Council to hold special meeting Tuesday to discuss forming police reform ad hoc committee

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Police Crime Prevention Commission Chairman questions need, accuses Thorpe of playing politics

By Allen Payton

The Antioch City Council will hold a special meeting Tuesday night, June 16, 2020 to discuss and consider forming a Police Reform Ad Hoc Committee. It’s being done at the request of Councilman Lamar Thorpe who stated his desire to place the matter on a future council meeting agenda, at the end of this past Tuesday night’s regular council meeting. 

However, Police Crime Prevention Commission Chair Sandra White, in a comment on Thorpe’s personal Facebook page, questioned the need for it.

“Lamar as the Chairman of the Crime Commission in Antioch, why is Council interested in forming a new committee to discuss Police Reform?” she asked. “I was not aware our police department needed to be reformed? Or, is the council using the situation that happened to Mr. Floyd as a way to gain political support; as you all are trying to get re-elected?”

“Yes, I believe it is shameful to use a highly sensitive matter for political purposes,” White continued. “Please get off the wagon! Our police department has done an outstanding job over the years with limited resources. When you talk about police reform most people’s perceptions are police practices and/or policies are not working in the community. It will be a mistake to create that perception of the Antioch Police department.”

“Feel free to follow up with me directly to discuss further,” she concluded.

Antioch Police Crime Prevention Commission Chair Sandra White’s comment on Councilman Lamar Thorpe’s Facebook post on Wednesday, June 10, 2020.

However, her comment has been deleted. When reached for comment Thorpe wrote in a text about White and her comment, “She is not my friend on FB (Facebook). I delete all comments from people who are not my friends on FB. She’s more than welcome to comment on my public profile.”

Asked if his post was still on his personal page and why not use the Police Crime Prevention Commission instead of forming a council ad hoc committee, Thorpe did not respond.

Earlier this week, while speaking with the Herald about the eight reform recommendations he offered on Monday as part of the national 8 Can’t Wait campaign, and about what Antioch Police Chief T Brooks shared that the department was already implementing five of them and didn’t recommend implementing the other three, Thorpe said, “I want all eight.”

According to the staff report on the single item agenda, the council it is recommended they “Discuss and consider formation of a Police Reform Ad Hoc Committee including whether it shall review existing policies, rules, practices, customs, and general orders of the Antioch Police Department and make recommendations including but not limited to:

A. Prevention of excessive use of force by police officers against members of the public, including banning police from using carotid artery restraints and chokeholds;

B. Elimination of military equipment from the police department (“Demilitarization”);

C. Required use of conflict de-escalation approaches by all sworn officers when interacting with the public;

D. Increased police accountability, including the process for receipt and review of public complaints against the police for excessive use of force, racial and/or ethnic profiling, and other police misconduct;

E. Improvement of police officer candidate recruitment, screening, training and hiring practices including an analysis of policies concerning implicit bias, candidate diversity and candidate background checks; and

F. Police department budget appropriations.

2) Confirm the appointment of two (2) members for the Police Reform Ad Hoc Committee, if the ad hoc committee is desired;

3) Confirm the duration of the Police Reform Ad Hoc Committee, if the ad hoc committee is desired;

4) Adopt the resolution to form the Police Reform Ad Hoc Committee, if the ad hoc committee is desired; and

5) Determine whether to hold study sessions to discuss and consider the findings and recommendations of the Police Reform Ad Hoc Committee and, if so, when to schedule the study sessions.”

The council meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. and can be viewed on Comcast Cable Channel 24 or via livestream on the city’s website. Use the form on that same page to submit a comment either for general public comments on topics not on the agenda or on the one agenda item, to be read during the meeting. Comments are limited to 350 words.

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Council places “flawed” Sand Creek “Let Antioch Voters Decide” initiative on November ballot

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Will cost city $100,000; could face pre- and post-election legal challenges due to new legislation possibly making the initiative moot and costing city even more.

By Allen Payton

In response to the direction given by a judge in a court case over two initiatives affecting new home development in the Sand Creek Focus Area that the council adopted in 2018, the Antioch City Council voted 5-0 to place the one initiative sponsored by the environmental community on the November 2020 ballot.

That court case resulted in the judge tossing out the council’s adoption of the environmentalist-backed Let Antioch Voters Decide (LAVD) initiative. It also invalidated both the initiative sponsored by Richland Communities, the developer of the 1,100-home project known as The Ranch, as well as their development agreement. In his ruling, the judge also ordered the city council place the LAVD initiative on the ballot. However, the decisions in the lawsuits by adjacent property owners The Zeka Group owners of Zeka Ranch, and the Oak Hill Park Company are still being appealed by the backers of the LAVD initiative. (See related articles here, and here)

According to a previous Herald news report, following a 30-day study by city staff, their report found the initiative limited the total number of housing units to 2,100 in the entire Sand Creek Area. Since the past and current councils had already approved more than 2,300 homes, then no more homes could be built, including the proposed 301-unit, gated senior home community east of Deer Valley Road, known as The Olive Groves on the Albers Ranch property. However, both Seth Adams of Save Mount Diablo and the attorney for Richland said that the intent of each initiative was to only affect property on the west side of Deer Valley Road.

The LAVD initiative will directly impact the proposed Zeka Ranch project (see related article), west of The Ranch project, on the west side of Empire Mine Road, as well as three other properties directly south of Richland property, including Oak Hill’s. Zeka’s proposed number of homes would be reduced from 300 to 400, down to just one home per 80 acres, resulting in just a total of eight homes.

In addition, since the judge’s decisions, new legislation, SB330, was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Newsom, last year which prevents cities from downzoning land already zoned residential, either by council action or through the initiative process.

Yet, according to Derek Cole, the city’s contract attorney working on matters dealing with the Sand Creek initiative, “cities have mandatory duties whenever proposed ballot measures receive the signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot.  In this case, because the ‘9212’ report and approval of the initiative are no longer options, the City can only take action to call an election as to the initiative.  City staff is aware of the SB 330 legislation that took effect this year, but as the Staff Report explains, the City Council cannot assume the role of the courts in deciding any legal issues associated with the measure.  The State Supreme Court made very clear in a 2017 decision that the duty to call an election on an initiative is mandatory, even when an initiative’s legality is questioned.”

“The council could adopt an argument against the initiative,” added City Attorney Thomas Smith.

During public comments Joanna Garaventa, with the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, spoke in favor of the initiative. She submitted a letter to the council, but when speaking it was difficult to understand her for the purpose of adding her comments to this report.

Andrew Bassak, an attorney with Hanson Bridgett, representing The Zeka Group, opposed the placement of the initiative on the ballot as “it would negatively affect the development that’s been planned for the past 30 years.”

He referred to SB330, the new residential development law.

“The city lacks authority to place the initiative on the ballot…under the California Elections Code. That passed years ago,” Bassak explained. “There is no authority under the stayed Superior Court ruling. That judgement is currently subject to appeal, by one of the proponents of the initiative. Save Mt. Diablo wants to have its cake and eat it, too.”

“The cost of putting it on the ballot will be over $100,000,” he stated. “Placing it on the ballot will result in more litigation” both before…and after the November election. Those litigations could easily double the $100,000 amount. This is just squandering resources that could be spent elsewhere. The city should wait until the court of appeals decision is over.”

Bassak submitted a letter to the mayor and council before the meeting. In it he wrote, “the Initiative is fundamentally flawed and, if placed on the ballot, will be subject to avoidable costly pre-election litigation.” 06-09-20 Zeka Group Attorney Letter to Antioch re LAVD Initiative

Seth Adams, the Land Conservation Director for Save Mt. Diablo, which sponsored the LAVD initiative said, “Please move forward with placing our initiative on the ballot and please formally endorse the initiative.”

“Over 9,000 citizens signed the petition to place the initiative on the ballot,” he continued. “The courts said to place the initiative on the ballot. It did not invalidate the initiative.”

“Our attorneys have provided information to the city that explains why they can place the initiative on the ballot,” Adams added. Emails from Save Mt. Diablo’s attorney to City of Antioch re LAVD Initiative

All the other thirteen public comments were in favor of placing the initiative on the ballot.

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock then asked about how SB 330 affected the initiative.

“SB330 is legislation…that became effective in January of this year and is retroactive two years,” Smith said. “Under the new regulation any affected city is precluded from adopting policy…of lesser standard. It is preventing the downzoning of land, from residential to something that would not allow development.”

“It is one of the factors that would have to be taken into consideration if the initiative passed,” he continued. “However, at this time, the council can move forward in a ministerial.

“There may be a pre-election challenge or a post-election challenge,” Smith added. “SB330 could affect it in determining if the initiative is valid.”

“Not only did 9,000 of our citizens sign petitions to place this on the ballot, but the courts directed the council to place it on the ballot,” said Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts.

I believe it’s an environmentally sensitive, efficient development. So, I am in favor of moving the initiative forward and placing it on the November ballot.”

Ogorchock then moved to place the initiative on the ballot. Councilwoman Monica Wilson seconded the motion.

Smith then asked if the two actions could be separated, with the council deciding if they want to include a ballot argument against the measure.

Ogorchock then shortened her motion to not include a ballot argument.

Thorpe then asked staff to come back with something at a future council meeting, for council to decide whether or not to endorse or oppose the initiative.

However, the council can only submit an argument against the initiative, Smith explained.

Ogorchock and Wilson withdrew their motion and Ogorchock made a new motion and Thorpe seconded it.

“Do we want to make an argument against the initiative?” she asked. Wilson, Thorpe and Motts all said “no”.

“I just need you to make a motion that you do not want to make an argument against the initiative,” Smith explained.

Ogorchock then made a friendly amendment to her own motion that the council will not include an argument against the initiative. Thorpe accepted the amendment to the motion.

That motion passed on a 5-0 vote that the council will not include a ballot argument against the initiative.

Then Ogorchock returned to her original motion to place the initiative on the November ballot. It was seconded by Wilson and the motion also passed 5-0.

Efforts to reach Seth Adams and city staff to obtain a copy of the letter sent to the City from Save Mt. Diablo’s attorney before the meeting, were unsuccessful prior to publication time. Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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Antioch Councilman proposes police reforms, to call for ad hoc committee at Tuesday’s meeting

Monday, June 8th, 2020

Thorpe seeks six of eight immediate policy reforms, claims only two have already been implemented

Video screenshot of Antioch Councilman Lamar Thorpe during a protest in Antioch on Sunday, June 7, 2020. From his Facebook page.

By Allen Payton

In response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of four former Minneapolis Police Officers, and the ensuing protests in Antioch and throughout the country, Antioch Councilman Lamar Thorpe has jumped on the bandwagon of a nationwide effort led by the Obama Foundation, to limit police interactions with suspected criminals by proposing a list of reforms for the Antioch Police Department he wants the rest of the council to consider.

In a press release he issued on Monday, Thorpe said he “fully endorses the enactment of eight specific policy recommendations that are part of the national 8 Can’t Wait Campaign and claims two of eight recommendations are policy in Antioch.

Thorpe is calling on Antioch Chief of Police to enact the remaining six.

“Something is happening with the consciousness of America. People all over the country and here in Antioch are saying ‘enough is enough,’ and they expect change,” Thorpe said. “After 15 days of sustained protest, demonstrations and civil unrest, it’s time to take action, before one more senseless killing takes place. Let’s think globally and act locally.”

The most controversial of the remaining six recommendations is the banning of chokeholds and strangleholds, including a technique Antioch police use called the carotid restraint, which involves placing pressure on a person’s neck to restrict blood flow. In an independent autopsy, medical examiners determined that pressure placed on Floyd’s carotid artery impeded blood flow to his brain and contributed to his death.

More than a dozen California cities have banned carotid restraints following Floyd’s murder. Assembly Bill 1196, introduced last week by state Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, would make the carotid restraint illegal in California. Thorpe is calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign the bill.

Following are the eight policy recommendations:

  1. Ban police use of chokeholds and strangleholds, including the carotid restraint
  2. Require officers to de-escalate situations whenever possible
  3. Require officers to exhaust all options before shooting, including less lethal force
  4. Ban officers from shooting at moving vehicles
  5. Establish a use of force continuum that restricts using the most severe force to most extreme situations
  6. Require comprehensive reporting for each time an officer fires or points their weapon at someone
  7. Require verbal warnings before using deadly force (already an Antioch policy)
  8. Require officers to intervene to stop excessive force by other officers (already an Antioch policy)

According to the Obama.org website, “More than 1,000 people are killed by police every year in America, and Black people are three times more likely to be killed than White people.” That’s because, as a CNBC article on police violence in America reports, “according to Mapping Police Violence, one research group…Black people accounted for 24% of those killed, despite making up only about 13% of the population.” But the article also reports that, “no comprehensive official database exists for tracking police violence, though there have been efforts at the federal level to create one.”

That article further reports, “the data from Mapping Police Violence is sourced from three databases — killedbypolice.net, fatalencounters.org and the U.S. Police Shootings Database — as well as original research focused on social media, obituaries, criminal records databases, police reports and other sources, according to the group.”

At the Tuesday, June 9, 2020 Antioch Council meeting, Councilmember Thorpe will call for the formation of a City Council Ad-Hoc Committee on Police Reforms to be composed of council members, legal advisers, police leaders, police union representatives and community advocates. The role of the committee will be to examine potential long-term reforms in the following areas:

  1. Demilitarize our local police
  2. Increase police accountability
  3. Improve police hiring practices
  4. Excessive use of force
  5. Budget appropriations

“While it’s important for our city to take immediate preventative steps, such as banning use of carotid restraints, creating successful police reforms will require the involvement of the entire community,” Thorpe said. “The ad-hoc committee approach is one of the best tools we have as city councilmembers to create lasting policy change that works.”

Additionally, he has signed the Obama.org’s “My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Pledge”, to have Antioch become an MBK Community which asks local officials to:

  1. Review the police use of force policies in my community
  2. Engage my community by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in our review
  3. Report the findings of our review to my community and seek feedback within 90 days of signing this pledge
  4. Reform my community’s police use of force policies based on findings

When asked for his thoughts on Thorpe’s proposed reforms, Antioch Police Chief T Brooks responded, “I look forward to hearing the discussion between Councilman Thorpe and the rest of the city council on this proposal.  I am especially interested in what specific reforms they believe are necessary at the Antioch Police Department.”

A question to the chief asking if there any of the other six reforms on the proposed list have been implemented by the Antioch Police Department went unanswered prior to publication time.

The online Antioch City Council meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. and can be viewed on Comcast Local Cable Channel 24 or via livestream on the city’s website at www.antiochca.gov/government/city-council-meetings/live/.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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