Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Antioch community leaders speak in favor of city manager’s dismissal

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

About 50 Antioch community leaders and other residents attended the public comments period prior to the closed session of the Antioch City Council, Tuesday afternoon, March 14, 2017.

By Allen Payton

In a show of solidarity, and a rarely seen large attendance during the public comments period prior to a closed-door session of the Antioch City Council, about 50 community leaders joined together and called for the firing of City Manager Steve Duran.

Upset with the way Duran has either treated them individually, their organizations and efforts since he was hired three years ago, or his comments about Mayor Sean Wright, made in a recent East Bay Times article, each speaker offered their reasons for why they wanted Duran to go and asked the council to fire him during their closed session, immediately following.

Speakers included long-time residents, business owners, former council and school board members and leaders of community organizations.

Duran sat there listening for over an hour to the negative comments directed at him, mainly looking down, until Antioch-based new home developer and long-time Rotarian Gordon Gravelle spoke. Then, Duran looked up and listened to what Gravelle had to say.

“You know when I read this article I was disgusted,” he said. “Disgusted because it put Antioch in a bad light, again.”

“Why would this happen like this?” Gravelle asked. “That this type of dirty laundry would have to be exposed to the public. It doesn’t.”

“I just want to give the council not a warning it might be a tip or a hint. I’ve been involved in litigation way too many times in my life,” he shared. “Always keep in mind that when you go in your attorneys will tell you it’s a slam dunk case. Then you get in $50,000 and it’s a 50/50 chance. “I don’t want this city, this learned council to get into this,” Gravelle continued. “Step back and take a look at all the facts.”

“The city is doing nothing right now and needs to move forward,” he concluded.

Richard Pagano, the new CEO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce spoke on behalf of the city’s business organization in favor of the termination of Duran’s contract.

More than two months have now passed in 2017 and the direction of the city of Antioch must begin to quickly clarify. It is time for the City Council to take the reins of policy and lead the City of Antioch rapidly to a new and more successful place. The people who live and work in Antioch are your constituents, and all of your decisions should put the interests of these citizens, businesses, visitors, employees, etc. in the top priority. Policies and actions that focus on this simple priority would be most welcome and expected by the 2016 voters.

The City Manager has already stated publicly that he will leave during this year. However, the City of Antioch cannot remain stuck in an old operational mode for most of 2017. As a result, we urge the City Council to rapidly remove the current City Manager. It is time to get on with making steady progress in the City of Antioch under a policy direction which is set, monitored, and corrected as needed from the City Council. It’s not that the current City Manager is not good at his job. It’s that he’s not a good fit for our city. The downtown plan has continued to stall, and the Somersville area is littered with garbage, homeless, and vacant shopping centers. To put it another way, economic development in our community is nonexistent and action on chronic problems is far too slow.

In recent days, several articles have emerged in local newspapers. These articles suggest a very dysfunctional relationship at City Hall. The City Manager suggests that the new Mayor is somehow “meddling” and yet he is in fact, the new mayor according to citizen voting. The Mayor and the City Council should be directing City policy and yet the City Manager seems to resist this as he tries to control everything at City Hall.

Maybe this explains why it takes so long for things to happen at City Hall without openness, engagement, delegation, and enablement styles of leadership? In the article, the City Manager now appears to threaten the Mayor with a lawsuit? Really? The last thing that the City of Antioch needs is another wasted year. Let’s cut our losses and move on.

The Antioch Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of its membership, respectfully requests that the City Council discuss and act on the termination of the city manager and establish temporary leadership. The City of Antioch deserves a City Manager who can lead city hall – under a policy direction as set by the City Council – toward a path of economic vitality. As business owners with employees, we recognize there are times when it makes good business-sense to let an employee go. Even if their termination comes at a potential financial loss. This is one of those situations. The Antioch Chamber believes even with this loss we will be avoiding situations and contracts that can cost the city far more expense than this small loss will amount to in the overall budget.

Nancy Fernandez, who with her husband regularly attends council meetings, was first to speak. She asked the council to “Pull items 1, 2, 3 and 7,” wanting item “2 postponed” due to a “conflict of interest by the negotiator, Duran.”

“We do not negotiate in secret,” she stated. Then gave her reasons for pulling agenda item “3,  Humphrey’s needs to be torn down.” Instead, Fernandez suggested it become “Humphrey’s Park.”

Agenda item “7 must be carried out for the saving of our city,” she said referring to the Public Employee Dismissal.

“Measure O needs to be implemented completely,” Fernandez continued, complaining that the business license fee imposed on residential rental units was not being collected.

Antioch Planning Commissioner and form Councilman Jim Conley was next to speak.

“Mr. Duran has left you in an untenable situation,” he said. “They should give a specific date,” referring to Duran’s tentative retirement date. “Their attitude changes. They can stay on for months.”

“You’re not going to be able to hire a qualified replacement,” Conley continued. “There’s no start date. He (Duran) could change his mind…and stay until January.

He called it a “very precarious problem. There are remedies. You can pay him until January. You can fire him for cause. Even (for) as much as putting something on the agenda. You can negotiate or you can keep him here and take away his authority.”

“You need to protect the city,” Conley stated. “That’s something that Duran didn’t do when he spoke with” the newspaper reporter.

“He should have said it’s a personnel issue and I won’t comment. He made a page full of comments and threatened legal action.”

Next to speak was a man who wouldn’t provide his name but referred to himself as “Mr. Resident. He was the only one who spoke in Duran’s defense.

“I have been a resident of Antioch for 37 years. I rarely come to the council but I rise today to speak on items 5, 6 & 7,” he said. “I’m also an attorney. I’m grey haired, retired. “

Ordinance 210 is a non-interference by the board,” the man shared. “It’s a separation of powers and to avoid corruption. They work through the city manager.”

There is “no authority by the board to interfere in conducting business by the city manager,” he continued. The city manager is “to see that all laws are executed in the city.”

“A member of the council was admonished by the city manager for conduct that could interfere with the city manager,” he continued. “The mayor should recuse himself of consideration of those three agenda items.”

There “might be a referral to a civil grand jury,” the man concluded.

He was followed by Joe Lamont who said, “City Manager Duran…is not of, by and for the people.”

Susan Welch was next to speak, saying “he does not care how the people want their city to be.
He is rude.”

Joanne Boyd said, “he said you won’t get what you want but you’ll get what you need. Mr. Duran isn’t invested in Antioch.”

He’s “not all good or all bad,” she continued. “He was hired by the previous city council. We have little confidence in the previous council and even less in the city manager.
We worked hard in the last election to have a change in vision.”

“I wish Mr. Duran well in his retirement years,” Boyd concluded.

Former Antioch Councilman Ralph Hernandez spoke next, saying, “The firing of the city manager, I think it’s appropriate for cause for various reasons. Of course he’s entitled to due process and you give him due process.”

“When he was hired we had a financial problem and a public safety problem,” he continued. “He hasn’t accomplished anything. We are still below 1 officer per 1,000 residents. Our budget…we have over $150 million in unfunded liabilities.”

“His position is an at will position,” Hernandez explained. “He’s spoken to the press, criticized the mayor…(that) is intolerable. I would also ask for his dismissal. He gives direction to the mayor and the council. If he has…he has failed. Replace him with someone who will properly serve you and the residents.”

Susan Martinez said she has “lived in Antioch for over 25 years. I’m here to express my frustration with…city operations.”

“You’re not able to do your jobs as city leaders when you’re told to ‘stay in your lane,’” quoting a comment by Duran in the Times article. “It’s frustrating to me to see your hands are tied when told to ‘stay in your lane.’”

You have my full support today to make the changes today,” Martinez concluded. “Thank you for all you do for this wonderful city.”

Pagano spoke next followed by Terry Ramus, a former member of the Mello-Roos Board and Chairman of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee.

“There are many good people who serve every day for the city of Antioch,” he said. “Unfortunately the recent newspaper article…our worst fears have come true. You can’t be effective if someone is resisting and saying to stay in your lane.”

“You should terminate the city manager tonight then bring the rest of the city along who doesn’t sees the citizens as obstacles as Mr. Duran often does,” Ramus continued. “Mr. Duran sees customers…as an obstacle to his own self-observed genius. The system doesn’t work like that.”

He referred to city hall as a “vampire bureaucracy” that “when someone shines light on it the fangs come out.”

Former Councilwoman Norma Hernandez spoke next, stating, “We’re expecting change. Trump is having the same problem. People don’t vote for change to have the same leadership.”

“He may be the one who will select your chief,” she warned. “So we need all new leadership.
He has no business doing that because he works directly for you folks. You can’t trust anyone who hands you any documents, it may be false.

“You guys are handling our money,” Hernandez said. “If you make a mistake the homeowners can go down the tubes. We’re supposed to have a reserve fund and not give raises and retirement we can’t afford.”

“Get rid of him and get a new city manager to hire a new chief,” she concluded.

Dr. Jeffrey Klinger said “his comments were, well in poor taste.” They “demonstrate the siege mentality” that “he citizens are part of the problem.”

He called for “new leadership that puts transparency, where the citizens oversight is seen as something positive.”

“Before something new there needs to be someone new,” Klinger continued. “There is no time to waste. Respect the citizens’ desire for change and get us new leadership as soon as possible.”

Antioch Realtor Mark Jordan began his comments with “the old saying, actions speak louder than words.”

“Are you going to fire him or whether we’re going to continue down the same path?” he asked. “I’ve sat across the table from Mr. Duran and negotiated. What I’ve learned is that Mr. Duran can be pretty stubborn.”

We need to change their (city staff’s) mindset. I don’t believe Mr Duran is that kind of person,” Jordan continued. “He’s functionally good at what he does. But…people want change. If you keep Mr. Duran there will be more of the same.”

“Two of you voted for Mr. Duran. It’s not Ok to not correct a mistake,” he stated. “So let your actions speak louder than your words. So, let’s be done here and move Antioch in a different direction.”
Lee Ballesteros was next to share her concerns and took more of a legal approach.

“Mr. Duran unlawfully brought City Ventures in for exclusive negotiations.” She claimed he “Violated the Brown Act” and “that’s cause for Mr. Duran for being dismissed for cause.”

She stated that “discussion on real estate negotiations” were to occur in open session and that the “Appellate Court rejected” it occurring in closed session.”

“The exclusive right to negotiate (that Duran was given by the Council with City Ventures for the lumber company lot and other city-owned parcels) are grounds for his dismissal.”

John Ballesteros, who said he is a “50-year resident and downtown business owner for over a quarter century,” spoke next about the possible tearing down of the Nick Rodriguez Center and theater. He said that he “tried to negotiate with Mr. Duran,” to hold plays in the theater, but that Duran responded “Why not seek another town.”

Ballesteros referred to Duran as “the lapdog of the developers.”

A man named Rick spoke next saying he has “lived in Antioch for 27 years.

“I’m most disappointed in the performance of Mr. Duran,” he stated. He “chose an adversarial approach” and spoke about the proposed event center also known as the Town Square on the old lumber company lot. “We were told we would get what we need not what we want.”

“Mr. Duran’s plan was to have the theater and center torn down to build more homes and raise the tax base,” he stated. “Steve is unwilling to work as a team.’

Duran “campaigned against us by spending $50,000 to make slick videos and even a survey,” Rick continued. “Whenever we succeeded to get on the agenda it would be last.

“Antioch needs progress and results. Steve Duran has failed…it’s time to terminate Antioch’s relationship with Steve Duran,” he concluded.

Recently honored as the Antioch 2016 Citizen of the Year for Most Impact, Sal Sbranti offered his own “performance evaluation of Mr. Steve Duran. I’ve had many meetings with Mr. Duran in the past,” who told him “my people are too busy to meet with you.”

“I did get a meeting with Duran and (city Finance Director) Dawn Merchant,” he continued. “The first thing” Sbranti asked about Duran told him “was ‘out of your purview’.”

Then he said Duran told him “I’ve heard all about you. I asked what he’d heard and he didn’t say,” Sbranti shared.

Next, he spoke about the Measure C Oversight Committee of which Sbranti had been a member. “Our report given to you was that we had concerns, yet what went to Antioch was this,” showing a copy of the newsletter city staff mailed out to the residents with a different message.

Jennifer Hughes said she wanted a city manager who is “vested in the whole of Antioch not just building more houses.”

Speaking of the recent news articles, she said, “the mayor showed class in not responding.”
Gravelle spoke next, followed by Antioch Realtor and Rivertown Preservation Society member Katy Cook.

“I don’t feel Mr. Duran is an asset to our city,” she said. “He does not work for us the people.”

A little girl named Chloe walked up to the podium with a man who read from a note she had written.

“We want a park. We don’t want it in Waldie Plaza. We want it at the Beede Lumber Yard,” he said reading from Chloe’s notes.

Joy Motts, a former Antioch School Board Trustee and a leader in the effort to build a park and event center on the lumber company lot, spoke next.

“If you want to improve our city you have to participate. Many of the people in this room…they too are passionate and participate,” she stated. “They’ve been ignored and disrespected since Mr. Duran was hired.”

She spoke about two groups, the Antioch Rivertown Preservation Society and the Save The Yard group, that “have been intentionally disenfranchised by Mr. Duran. It is time for an inclusive collaborative vision for Antioch. It is time now for a new city manager.”

Former business owner and docent at the Antioch Historical Society Museum’s Sports Legends wing, Tom Lamothe spoke next.

He said he’s been a “resident of more than 50 years and a business owner for 30 years. I’m here to support the council in whatever decision you make.”

“Some want to remove the city manager at all cost,” Lamothe stated. “But I’m a little more cautious.”

Brentwood resident Holly Cuciz, who  has been involved with the Antioch Animal Shelter, wsa one of the few to say something positive about Duran.

“I’m not here to bash Steve Duran. I found in some circumstances he was very responsive,” she said. “But I trust the council. I’m more concerned about the long term, who will be taking his place…an entrenched employee or someone from outside.”

“There’s problems like with the police…Because we have such high crime in Antioch,” Cuciz continued. “I’m thrilled by the new leadership. I was disturbed to see that article in the newspaper. That should not have happened.”

Antioch business owner Brian Bellante was last to speak and straight forward said, “I was born and raised in Antioch. I love Antioch. I have a business in Antioch. I’ve hired and fired. The city manager works for you guys. If he’s not doing what you guys want done, then you need to fire him.”

One indication that Duran may have already agreed to go quietly, was given following the public comments, when City Attorney Michael Vigilia asked the council to include Assistant City Manager Ron Bernal in the closed session agenda item 8, which was listed as “Conference with Labor Negotiators.” Agenda item 7 was listed as “Public Employee Dismissal.”

The regular council meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Antioch City Council Chambers at City Hall, at 200 H Street in downtown. It can also be viewed on Comcast Local Cable Access Channel 24 or on the city’s website, via live stream video, here.

See the complete agenda and packet, here.

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Op-Ed: Antioch residents invited to speak up about development at two community forums

Monday, March 6th, 2017

The Moderate Growth proposed land use map for the Sand Creek Focus Area.

Information to clear up confusion on details of Sand Creek Focus Area Specific Plan Update

By Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe

I understand that as a city government, we have horrible track record of not meaningfully engaging residents in determining our future. This has fueled a lot of uncertainty and misunderstanding in recent weeks about potential housing developments, particularly in the area south of Lone Tree Drive. Many residents have asked me, “Why is the Antioch City Council approving a 4,000 unit housing development within the Sand Creek area?!” The short answer—we’re not. However, a proper answer requires more explanation.

First, I want to reiterate what I said during my campaign. I’m still a huge proponent of fair and equitable smart-growth policies, preserving open-space and land-locking Antioch to place pressure on developers to reinvest in the city’s older communities. We’re already seeing this happen. Right now, the city is reviewing two mixed-use development projects near BART, Highway 4 and Delta Fair Blvd – an area that desperately needs reinvestment.

That being said, the last major portion of developable land in Antioch is what we in City Hall call the Sand Creek Focus Area (SCFA). According to our general plan (the city’s blueprint for development, mandated by state law), the SCFA is a large-scale planned community that balances housing and employment opportunities. Below is an image of the SCFA, which extends from the Brentwood border to East Bay Regional Parks. This is about the distance between Lowe’s and the Contra Loma Regional Park entrance.

Right now, there’s a lot of talk about what will happen in the SCFA, but the area itself has been a focus of the city for decades. In 2003, the city council then determined that up to 4,000 housing units would be allowed within the SCFA. They also determined that 280 acres of the SCFA would be dedicated for job generating uses, such as business parks, mixed-use medical facilities, and commercial space. The construction of Kaiser Hospital and Dozier Libbey Medical High fulfilled a portion of this goal. For those of us concerned with over-development, the 4,000 number was actually an improvement. Before 2003, the city envisioned 8,000 new housing units for the area.

Of those 4,000 new housing units, the previous city council, (under former mayor Wade Harper), already approved about 1,200 units for two developments east (going towards Brentwood) of Deer Valley Road: Vineyards at Sand Creek, is a 641-unit, upscale, gated community that will be serviced by Brentwood Union School District; and Aviano Farms, a single-family market rate community of 533 residential units to be served by Antioch Unified School District. Aviano Farms was initially approved in 2005 (yes, 12 years ago) as an adult community, but the previous city council re-designated the project. For the record, I didn’t like this change. We need senior housing in Antioch to balance our youth population—plus senior housing has less impact on traffic, schools and police services.

Together, these projects constitute 1,174 new residential housing units, or roughly 30 percent of the 4,000 allowable housing units in the SCFA. Keep in mind, both these communities will be either adjacent or very close to the Brentwood border. It is estimated that 75 percent of sales taxes paid by future Vineyards residents will go to the City of Brentwood because of its proximity to Sand Creek Road, which includes popular attractions like the Streets of Brentwood.

That means there’s only about 2,800 allowable units left in the SCFA, not 4,000. Which brings me to present day and what the Antioch City Council is considering.

The council is not being asked to approve a project. On February 14, we only reviewed recommendations by city staff to update the general plan, so we could specifically deal with the remaining 2,800 housing units. This update also includes the percentage of open space, preservation of hillsides and hilltops, and how to fairly distribute the remaining housing units. Please understand, updating a city’s general plan happens every five years or so. Antioch’s general plan has not seen any major changes since 2003.

At the Feb. 14 meeting, the council directed staff to bring back this matter at a later date so that we could have time to hear from the community.

Following the meeting, Save Mt. Diablo and other environmental groups held a February 23 event at Prewett Community Park to address projects that have been proposed but have not yet been approved for the SCFA. I attended this event and listened to the concerns of residents. I was impressed with how many turned out to this event.

However, there seems to be some confusion, which is why I wrote this article and invite you to attend my listening forums so that I can get feedback from you about the proposed Sand Creek Focus Area updates. In addition, I’ll be posting the presentation by our Community Development Director, Forrest Ebbs, on my Facebook page so that you can see his presentation and offer me feedback using social media starting on March 16th.

Thursday, March 16th, 7-8:30pm

Saturday, March 18th at 10-11:30am

Lone Tree Elementary School, 1931 Mokelumne Drive, Antioch

I look forward to hearing from you.

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California Superior Court judges send letter to Gov. Brown asking for more money

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

By Allen Payton

In a strongly worded letter, judges from 49 of the 58 superior courts in California, including Contra Costa County, informed Governor Jerry Brown last week, of their displeasure with the amount of funding for the state’s judicial branch in his proposed budget. They believe the lack of an increase in their budget will have an impact on the communities they serve and are asking for an increase of $158.5 million to the $3.6 billion Brown has proposed in his budget. Courts Letter to Gov Brown 02-16-17

Each of the 58 counties in the state have a trial court, known as a superior court. The judges added their efforts to those by California “Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and the Judicial Council of California…and support their efforts to seek additional funding for the judicial branch.”

Brown’s proposed budget projects a $1.6 billion deficit. According to an L.A. Times article, Brown told reporters at the state Capitol…as he unveiled the state’s budget, that “The trajectory of revenue growth is declining.” As a result his “$179.5-billion plan seeks to resolve the budget shortfall by slower-than-expected growth in public school funding and through rolling back a series of one-time expenses discussed during last year’s budget negotiations.”

All the members of the State Senate and Assembly were copied on the letter from the judges, which states: “We, the undersigned courts, have had the opportunity to review your proposed budget for the judicial branch for Fiscal Year 2017-18. We are seriously concerned with the lack of additional funding proposed for trial court operations and our ability to provide adequate access to justice for those in need of California’s court system,” and “…we wish to inform you and the Legislature about the impact this proposed budget will have not only on the many trial courts throughout the state but, more importantly, on the communities that we serve.”

According to Brown’s budget summary, “the Budget includes total funding of $3.6 billion ($1.7 billion General Fund and $1.9 billion other funds) for the Judicial Branch, of which $2.8 billion is provided to support trial court operations.” That is $200 million less than the $3.8 billion Brown proposed in his budget and $100 million less than was approved for the current fiscal year, which was an increase of $300 million over the previous fiscal year.

The letter cites increases in costs and changes in laws will mean Brown’s budget will have the effect of a “net decrease” to the budget for the superior courts.

“This is due to, among other things, the rising cost of doing business in California (e.g., utility costs, rents, vendor expenses, employee salaries). It also results from governmental actions such as elimination of Proposition 47 funding, additional workload from voter-approved initiatives such as Propositions 57 and 64, legislative changes such as AB 2839 that considerably increase workload without accompanying offsetting funding,” the letter stated.

“The proposed elimination of a court’s ability to place a hold on a traffic defendant’s driver’s license for failure to pay or appear, the latter of which appears to have the unintended consequence of reducing revenues to the trial courts, counties and the state. In Solano and Contra Costa, two courts that have imposed a moratorium on driver’s license holds, both courts have seen an approximate 25% reduction in collections.”

The letter concludes with the requested increase in the proposed state budget for the superior courts.

“We respectfully request that the trial courts be treated in an equitable fashion with the Executive Branch and that the trial courts be funded with a modest annual increase.  An increase of $158.5 million—which is the amount requested by the Judicial Council to address baseline cost increases, but which was not included in the Governor’s Budget for next fiscal year—would allow us to keep pace with rising costs of doing business in California and, more importantly, allow courts to preserve the public’s access to justice.”

The budget is expected to be approved by the state legislature and sent to Brown for his signature by the end of June.

To see Gov. Brown’s proposed budget summary for the judicial branch, click here.  To learn more about California’s superior courts, click here.

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Three Congressmen to host joint town hall meeting in Martinez, Saturday

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Congressmen Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Mike Thompson (CA-5) and Jerry McNerney (CA-9) who each represent portions of Contra Costa County in the U.S. House of Representatives, will host a joint town hall meeting in Martinez, this Saturday, February 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Both DeSaulnier and McNerney represent portions of Antioch. The special topic will be Protecting the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Medicare and Medicaid.

Those who attend will hear a presentation and legislative update. Constituents will also have an opportunity to ask questions and share thoughts on key policy issues and actions taken by the new Administration.

Joint Town Hall with Representatives DeSaulnier (CA-11), Thompson (CA-5) and McNerney (CA-9)

Special Topic: Protecting the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid
Saturday, February 18, 2017

10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

County Board of Supervisors Chambers, Room 107

651 Pine Street

Martinez, CA 94553

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Rep. DeSaulnier to host town hall meeting in Pleasant Hill, Feb. 23

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D, CA-11), who represents portions of Antioch, will host a general town hall meeting on Thursday, February 23rd at 6:30 p.m. in Pleasant Hill. Since his election to Congress, Mark has hosted 33 town hall meetings and mobile district office hours throughout California’s 11th Congressional District.

Representative DeSaulnier invites residents of Contra Costa County to join him for a town hall meeting to listen to a presentation and legislative update. During the town hall constituents will have an opportunity to ask questions and share thoughts on key policy issues and actions taken under the new Administration.

Pleasant Hill Town Hall

Thursday, February 23, 2017
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Diablo Valley College Cafeteria

321 Golf Club Rd, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

Details: Parking Available in Lot 8

For more information or to request ADA accommodations, please email CA11.RSVP@mail.house.gov or call (925) 933-2660.

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Group of state legislators from Delta Caucus release statement on alarming Oroville Dam situation

Monday, February 13th, 2017

(SACRAMENTO) – On Monday, February 13, 2017, members of the Delta Caucus of the California state legislature, including three representing Contra Costa County, released the following statement regarding the hazardous situation at Oroville Dam after news reports that previous concerns about the safety of the dam’s current infrastructure were ignored:

“We are concerned that a clear alarm raised 12 years ago about the state of the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway was discounted. There has been more than enough time since then for upgrades and maintenance to the structure. Instead, nearly 185,000 people have been displaced, and there are still people in harm’s way. A catastrophic failure at Oroville would result in uncontrolled releases that do considerably more harm to the surrounding communities, and threaten those further downstream, including levee-protected communities in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. For now, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that people are safe and that necessary steps are taken to prevent further compromise of the entire Oroville facility.  When the immediate threats have subsided, we need to clearly assess this disaster and its causes.  We have a duty to ensure California’s existing infrastructure is maintained and upgraded, and not sacrificed in favor of conveyance projects.”

Caucus Co-Chair Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) and Assemblymembers Tim Grayson (D-Concord) and Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon) are members of the Delta Caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators whose districts include portions of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. The caucus works to keep their colleagues updated on the latest scientific data, economic developments, and actions taken by the state agencies responsible for the Delta, including the State Water Resources Control Board, the Department of Water Resources, and the Delta Stewardship Council.

They and the following legislators wished to be part of this statement: Co-Chair Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Assemblymenbers  Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) and Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove).

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Delta Diablo wins Governor’s Award for Sustainability Leadership

Friday, January 27th, 2017
From Left to Right: Mike Bakaldin, Interim General Manager, Phil Govea, Engineering Services Director, Joaquin Gonzalez, Operations Manager holding the plaque, Amanda Roa, Environmental Programs Manager, and Robert Brothers, Environmental Compliance Specialist II.

From Left to Right: Mike Bakaldin, Interim General Manager; Phil Govea, Engineering Services Director; Joaquin Gonzalez, Operations Manager holding the plaque; Amanda Roa, Environmental Programs Manager; and Robert Brothers, Environmental Compliance Specialist II.

Delta Diablo was honored in Sacramento on Thursday evening, January 19th with a prestigious 2016 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA). GEELA is California’s highest environmental honor, administered by the California Environmental Protection Agency.

The program recognizes individuals, organizations, and businesses who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made notable, voluntary contributions in conserving California’s precious resources, protecting and enhancing our environment, building public-private partnerships and strengthening the state’s economy.

This award recognizes Delta Diablo for its commitment and achievements in sustainability. At Delta Diablo, sustainability is not just one project or program, but rather a mindset that is holistically expressed throughout the entire organization. This can be observed through the recycled water and renewable energy projects that we implement, the innovative technologies we pilot, and the regional coalitions we lead.

These projects and programs reflect how Delta Diablo embodies sustainability and excellence throughout the organization, achieving 12 consecutive years of 100% permit compliance, and awards at every level in the organization for public education, safety, financial reporting, human resources, labor relations, procurement, engineering, leadership and innovation. Delta Diablo is proud to help maintain sustainable facilities, practices, and communities, and desires to be a Utility of the Future to advance the state of the industry for water resource recovery, helping to create a sustainable California.

Delta Diablo’s Board of Directors’ Chair Pete Longmire confirms: “This award recognizes every aspect of Delta Diablo’s services and the efforts of all our dedicated employees across every department. It is a recognition of the daily work they do providing critical public health and resource recovery services to 200,000 people in Antioch, Bay Point and Pittsburg, as well as their leadership with several regional industry coalitions.”

Each year GEELA recipients are chosen from five categories and Delta Diablo was recognized under the “Sustainable Practices, Communities or Facilities” category.

Delta Diablo (District) provides water resource recovery services for the City of Antioch, the City of Pittsburg, and the unincorporated community of Bay Point, serving a population of nearly 200,000. The water resource recovery services consist of conventional treatment of wastewater, recycled water production and distribution, pollution prevention, energy recovery, beneficial reuse of biosolids, street sweeping, and household hazardous waste collection. For more information visit www.deltadiablo.org.

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Antioch Council begins search for new city manager, appoints Turnage to Planning Commission

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Chief Cantando: Crime continues to decrease

By Nick Goodrich

During their second meeting of the new year on Tuesday, Jan. 24, the Antioch City Council heard some good news from Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando, approved the creation of a police tax on a new residential development, appointed Kenny Turnage to the Planning Commission and formed committee to select a search firm for a new city manager.

Police Statistics for 2016

After hearing a presentation on the state of its investment portfolio, the Antioch City Council then heard from Cantando as he gave the Antioch Police Department’s year-end review of crime for the year 2016.

“I have some very good news to report,” he told those in attendance, citing decreases in violent crime (-1.4%), property crime (-5.7%), and arrests (-2.7%) from 2015-2016.

Cantando brought attention to a “continued decrease in crime over the past three years”, as a result of the city’s renewed focus on crime and blight reduction and the hiring of additional police officers. The APD’s robust volunteer program, which contributed over 10,000 hours of work in 2016 alone, and the new “Decoy Patrol Car” program have played roles in the lower crime numbers, and aim to continue their success into the new year.

Drug seizures were once again Antioch’s biggest problem, as the APD seized over 13,000 grams of marijuana, 890 grams of meth, and smaller amounts of cocaine and heroin last year.

Since 2013, the APD has hired 46 new police officers, but undergone 30 separations—including retirements, resignations, and terminations—to bring the net increase in Antioch’s police officers to 16. The APD’s current staffing numbers sit at 97 sworn officers, with one additional recruit set to graduate and join the force in March.

That’s based on the figure of 82 sworn officers the city had on the police force in November, 2013 at the end of the Measure C campaign. However, there were 89 sworn officers in the APD at the time the ballot measure campaign bega,n and the voters were promised by then-Mayor Harper and the city council, the immediate hiring of 22 more police. Using that as a base figure the city has added a net eight officers.

“According to other police chiefs I’ve talked to, nobody’s hiring faster than we are,” Cantando told the Council. “Our numbers are really good.”

New Development Police Tax

Later in the meeting, the Council held a public hearing to formalize a new Community Facilities District (CFD) to assess a tax on new residential developments, in the amount of $445 per home per year, for more police.

New residential development in Antioch is expected to produce more calls for service for the APD due to the increase in population, and the city’s General Plan calls for new growth to cover the increased cost to the city’s police services.

This particular CFD was initiated by developer Davidon Homes for their Park Ridge subdivision, a 525-unit development located west of State Route 4 and south of Laurel Road, as part of its Development Agreement with the city. It requires Davidon do its part to cover the increased costs of police services provided by the city.

In a 5-0 vote, the Council approved the formation of the new CFD and the levying of the new development taxes. With the approval of the CFD, Davidon can now begin the process of obtaining building permits, and move forward with their subdivision.

Planning Commission Appointment

The council also appointed Antioch resident Ken Turnage to the Antioch Planning Commission, in Mayor Sean Wright’s first commission appointment. The mayor has the power to nominate people for appointments. But it requires a majority vote by the council to approve.

“This was my first opportunity to point someone in the right direction,” said Wright. “I was excited to see we had seven applicants, and so many people interested in the well-being of the city.”

Turnage, the owner of K2GC, Inc., a general contractor in Antioch, ran for city council and came in fourth in the November election. He has served on the city’s Economic Development Commission.

New City Manager Search

Wright also formally initiated the process of searching for a new city manager in the wake of former Antioch City Manager Steve Duran’s retirement.

Duran, who turns 62 next month and wants to spend more time with his family, informed Council of his intent to retire on Election Night, November 8, offering to help in the selection process as the council saw fit.

Mayor Wright called for volunteers from among the council members to form an ad-hoc recruitment committee, whose purpose will be to select the headhunting firm that will search for Antioch’s new City Manager. Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock and Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe both volunteered and will sit on the committee.

When the committee has selected a suitable firm, the firm’s contract will be brought before Council for approval. From start to finish, including the time it will take the committee to select a firm, the selection process will take about six months, at which point the city’s new City Manager will begin his or her work with Antioch.

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