Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Antioch Mayor Thorpe introduces acting city manager, assures residents council’s priorities will continue, takes racially charged swipe at residents, swipes at APD

Friday, March 17th, 2023

Mayor Lamar Thorpe was joined by City department heads and Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock at a press conference announcing Forrest Ebbs (rear, right of Thorpe) as interim city manager following the council vote to place City Manager Con Johnson on administrative leave Friday morning, March 17, 2023. Video screenshot.

APOA responds in support of Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs’ appintment

“…this city has one mayor and one council that determines where we go as a city.”

“I want to assure Antioch residents, our city employees and partners that the City’s leadership remains focused and united on our top priority of increasing our overall quality of life and ensuring public safety.”

“…the status quo in this city is so entrenched in the idea that Antioch is a place for a few and not a place for everyone to enjoy.”

“Police reform shall continue to be our top priority…I inherited a (police) department that operated under the idea that they reported to no one.” – Mayor Thorpe

Antioch Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs is the new interim city manager. Source: LinkedIn

By Allen D. Payton

Following the special Antioch City Council closed session meeting, Friday morning, March 17 2023, in which they unanimously voted to place City Manager Con Johnson on administrative leave, Mayor Lamar Thorpe held a press conference to introduce Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs as the acting city manager. The mayor wanted to also assure the public that the City would continue to work on the council’s priorities and was joined by all the City’s department heads and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, whom he thanked. He also took swipes at members of the public and the Antioch Police Department.

Thorpe livestreamed the press conference on his official Facebook page and provided the Herald with a copy of his following prepared remarks:

“The City Council has appointed Forrest Ebbs as the city’s acting city manager until further notice.

I want to personally thank Forrest Ebbs for stepping up to hold the ship steady as we navigate our way through some unexpected changes. I also want to thank our city department heads for remaining steadfast in our resolve to continue moving this city forward regardless of the situation.”

Thorpe the mentioned Ebbs’ education and professional background. (See Ebbs’ LinkedIn profile for details)

The mayor continued with his statement saying, “On Wednesday, I met with all of our department heads minus one to look them in the eye and remind them that they are all valuable members of our administration and that they have my full support and the support of this council.

I want to assure Antioch residents, our city employees and partners that the City’s leadership remains focused and united on our top priority of increasing our overall quality of life and ensuring public safety.

Antioch’s government continues to be open for business and working for the people.

Yes, it’s normal to have policy disagreements, yes, it’s normal to have ideological differences and yes, it’s normal to be on opposite ends of political disagreements.

These items, however, do not change that this city has one mayor and one council that determines where we go as a city. We’ve set priorities and we’ve determined our goals and we’re committed to them until the voters decide it’s time to change course.

I recognize that we can’t realize our vision without a united team of administrators, which is why I’m proud to be standing here with our department heads. They have my back and I have their back.

Every day, I’m bombarded with some of the vilest and most disgusting racially motivated attacks. All you have to do is head back to Tuesday’s council meeting to see it. (Thorpe was referring to comments by former Antioch Councilman Ralph Hernandez about equity and the racial makeup of the city council)

Why? Because the status quo in this city is so entrenched in the idea that Antioch is a place for a few and not a place for everyone to enjoy.

This is why it’s so important to find like-minded partners as part of our administration. We do not have to always agree, but we absolutely have to be on the same page on the idea that Antioch’s government will work to represent every single resident.

Gone are the days when the few spoke for the all.

The department heads have assured me that they are committed to this mission and that they will continue moving forward with clarity, and a focus on delivering key services.

This month is a particularly heavy month as we prepare for the budget process under the leadership of Finance Director Dawn Merchant. I anticipate this process will be short and smooth and that it will be a reaffirmation of the long-term goals and priorities we set two years ago.

Within that budget process, we will be able to share with you that, while other cities are worried about their budgets, Antioch continues to be healthy, strong, and balanced.

Later this month, under the leadership of Director Tasha Johnson, we’ll launch the city’s first 24/7 crisis response team, the first city to do so in Contra Costa County and take control of Executive Inn so that we can launch the City’s first transitional housing program for our unhoused brothers and sisters.

Police reform shall continue to be our top priority especially given the unfortunate circumstance of ten percent of our police force being under FBI investigation.” (Actually, only 7 current officers out of the 99 sworn on the force are under investigation)

“United we have worked terribly hard to curb violent crime and we refuse to turn back the clock. In my first two years as mayor and with a progressive majority on the council, overall violent crime was lower than at any time between 2013 and 2020. In my second year as mayor, in 2022, the murder rate went down by 25% from the previous year.

If you recall, when I became mayor, I inherited a department that operated under the idea that they reported to no one.

A big reason why there have been so many changes within our city, including today’s change, is that every single city department, including the police, must report to the city manager under the umbrella of one city.

We are not the wild west, and we will ensure that every single department is accountable to the residents of our city. As you can see, the very nature of our work makes it so that disagreements are very public. That’s a democracy, and I embrace it.

However, the public nature of those disagreements does not, in any way, change our course. The work continues. The services will be delivered. The streets will be cleaned. And our streets will be safe. That is our continued commitment to you, the residents of the city of Antioch.

Thank you.”

Thorpe then repeated his statement in Spanish.

He then took questions, the first being “why did you vote to remove Mr. Johnson?”

Thorpe responded, “As you know…I’m not going to comment on personnel matters.”

He was then asked, “Are you going to support a national search for a replacement?”

“We are going to go through this process. If and when we get to a process like that, of course, I would,” the mayor responded. “It’s too early to speculate as we get through this process, first.”

Questions for Thorpe Go Unanswered

Since the Herald was not informed of the press conference beforehand, questions were emailed to the mayor after, asking since he had prepared his remarks before today’s closed session meeting, if he already have his mind made up how he was going to vote on the matter of placing Johnson on paid leave. Thorpe was also asked for clarification that Johnson is on paid administrative leave since the announcement didn’t include the word paid. Finally, he was pressed further asking what are the next steps in the process, if the council has to wait until any possible lawsuit or investigation of Johnson is completed before terminating him and then beginning the hiring process for a new city manager.

Thorpe did not respond before publication time. Please check back later for any responses from him or any other updates to this report.

3:17 pm UPDATE: The Antioch Police Officers Association issued a statement Friday afternoon in support of Ebbs’ appointment as acting city manager. On their Facebook page they wrote, “The APOA has learned of the appointment of Forrest Ebbs as acting City Manager. We look forward to having a good working relationship with him moving forward as we all seek to work together towards a safer community. We hope that together we can support the vision and mission that Chief Ford is continuing to implement at APD.”





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No luck of the Irish for city manager as Antioch Council unanimously places him on administrative leave in St. Patrick’s Day vote

Friday, March 17th, 2023

Antioch City Manager Con Johnson was in attendance for the announcement by City Attorney Smith that by a unanimous council vote he had been placed on administrative leave during a special city council closed session Friday morning, March 17, 2023. Video screenshot.

Appoints Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs as acting CM

Con Johnson attends meeting; Thorpe holds press conference to issue statement, doesn’t invite local media, again

By Allen D. Payton

Antioch City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson was placed on administrative leave on a 5-0 council vote Friday, March 17, 2023.

The Antioch City Council held a special closed session meeting Friday morning to discuss City Manager Con Johnson’s fate. There were no public comments prior to them adjourning from open session. But before leaving the Council Chambers, Mayor Lamar Thorpe asked the department heads to be on stand-by on the 3rd Floor to be available should they be called into the meeting in the Manager’s Conference Room.

The council discussed two items on the agenda including a public employee performance evaluation of the city manager and possible action. The second item was discussion and possible vote to appoint an acting city manager. The meeting was held to correct the council’s action on Tuesday night, March 14, when they placed Johnson on administrative leave, immediately, because the matter was not agendized properly. The item for that closed session meeting only mentioned potential litigation.

Friday’s meeting began at 10:00 a.m. and the council members returned to public session at 11:00 a.m. with Johnson in attendance. City Attorney Thomas L. Smith reported out that the city council on motion by Councilmember Barbanica and seconded by Councilmember Ogorchock the council voted to place the city manager on administrative leave. It passed 5-0.

The council action follows two recent actions by Johnson in which he fired former City Engineer and Public Works Director John Samuelson in December, which is believed to have been a wrongful termination in violation of the City’s MOU with management staff, and what might have caused the City to face “anticipated litigation, significant exposure to litigation”, as described for Tuesday’s closed session agenda item. Johnson also fired the City’s former public information officer, Rolando Bonilla, following a firestorm with Police Chief Steve Ford and the Antioch Police Officers Association, over a press release including comments about his officers that Ford said he never made. Yet, Bonilla claims Johnson authorized that press release.

During his report out of the Friday closed session, Smith then said, “on the second item on motion by Barbanica and seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Torres-Walker the motion was to appoint Forrest Ebbs acting city manager.” It passed on a 5-0 vote.

Ebbs is currently the director of the City’s Community Development Department.

Following roll call and a vote to adjourn, Thorpe ended the meeting at 11:03 a.m.

The mayor then spoke to the media during a press conference following the meeting to issue a statement in front of a podium that was already set up in the foyer between the council chambers and city hall prior to the closed session. Unfortunately, the Herald was not informed ahead of time that was going to occur and was not in attendance.

Barbanica said he was also not aware of the planned press conference being held after the closed session meeting until he saw the podium when he arrived for the meeting and asked city staff about it. The District 2 Councilman said they told him it was for after the meeting. Barbanica did not stay for the press conference and could not provide details of what Thorpe shared.

Asked if Johnson attended the closed session, after consulting with the city attorney, Barbanica responded, “as with most city council closed sessions the city manager and city attorney would be present. Also, it would not be uncommon for an employee being evaluated by the council to be present during the evaluation. However, if the council was considering any personnel action the employee would not be present for that deliberation or vote.”

Thorpe livestreamed the press conference on his official Facebook page and introduced Ebbs and his background. The mayor, joined by all the City’s department heads and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, who was the only other council member in attendance. Please see the follow up article for details on the press conference.

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Antioch Council approves $326K for outside law firms, personnel investigation since Dec. 1

Thursday, March 16th, 2023

Largest amount spent to defend city against lawsuit by natural gas pipeline companies

By Allen D. Payton

In an attempt to determine the reason the Antioch City Council voted to place City Manager Con Johnson on paid administrative leave during their meeting Tuesday night, March 14, 2023, a review of the past three months of Council Warrants, which are the City’s expenses per department the council votes on was conducted. Between Dec. 1, 2022 and March 2, 2023, almost $321,000 was spent on outside legal counsel and over $5,000 on a personnel investigation. Antioch City Attorney Warrants 12-01 thru 12-29-22     Antioch City Attorney Warrants 12-30 thru 01-12-23    Antioch City Attorney Warrants 1-13 thru 2-2-23    Antioch City Attorney & Human Resources Warrants 2-2 thru 3-2-23

Antioch City Attorney & Human Resources Warrants 02-02 thru 03-02-23. Source: City of Antioch

On Tuesday’s meeting agenda it shows in the Council Warrants report Feb. 2-March 2, 2023 under the City Attorney category, $96,252.37 was paid for Legal Services Rendered to 11 law firms, and under the Human Resources category $5,166.25 for Investigative Fees paid to Barry Aninag Investigations. Mr. Aninag’s LinkedIn profile shows his company “offers independent, impartial, and thorough investigations into allegations of employee misconduct, harassment, and hostile work environments.”

Antioch City Attorney Warrants 01-13 thru 02-02-23

The Council Warrants on the Feb. 14, 2023 agenda for Jan. 13-Feb. 2, 2023 show $41,118.43 for legal services; the Jan. 24th council meeting agenda shows $41,930.76 in legal services for Dec. 30, 2022-Jan. 12, 2023 and the Jan. 10th council meeting agenda shows $141,472.97 paid for legal services incurred Dec. 1-29, 2022.

That’s a total of $320,774.53 in legal services plus the cost of the personnel investigation in the past three months for a grand total of $325,940.78.

Antioch City Attorney Warrants 12-30 thru 01-12-23

Questions for City Attorney, Acting City Manager

That information and questions were sent Wednesday to City Attorney Smith and Acting City Manager Cortez, and copied to the council members, City Finance Director Dawn Merchant and City Treasurer Lauren Posada asking for what cases are the expenses and if any of them or the investigation is related to Johnson. Smith and Cortez were also asked if it is normal for the City to spend over $100,000 per month on average for outside legal counsel.

Councilman Barbanica, who said he spoke with City Attorney Smith who said, “the bulk of this ($108,248.82) is to Meyers Nave to defend the City against the litigation on the CRC natural gas pipeline from the 3-2 council vote to deny the renewal of the franchise agreement.”

“Which I voted against, by the way,” the councilman added.

Antioch City Attorney Warrants 12-01 thru 12-29-22

“The payments to Hanson Bridgett are for ongoing labor and employment investigations and the Telecom Law Firm is for dealing with leases related to cell towers and other telecommunications in the city,” Barbanica continued.

The total over the past three months paid to Hanson Bridgett LLP was $74,132.59 and $9,101.50 to Telecom Law Firm PC. In addition, $64,362.70 was paid to Liebert Cassidy Whitmore. According to their website the firm “provides unparalleled education, training, litigation and advisory services to California’s public agencies, educational institutions and nonprofits.”

Smith was asked which of those services they are providing to the City of Antioch.

“A city our size has an understaffed attorney’s office with two attorneys and one assistant. So, a lot of this has to be farmed out because of that. If you look at Vallejo and Richmond, they have more than double the number of attorneys and assistants than we do,” he added. “It’s a lot of money.”

Smith did not respond by publication time. Please check back for any updates to this report.



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Antioch Council to meet about city manager in special closed session Friday morning

Thursday, March 16th, 2023

With correct description for agenda item

By Allen D. Payton

As previously reported, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe has called a special closed session council meeting for tomorrow, Friday morning, March 17, 2023 to discuss and possibly vote on two items regarding embattled City Manager Con Johnson who was placed on administrative leave Tuesday night.

The council, with Thorpe and Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker absent during Tuesday’s closed session, on a 3-0 vote placed Johnson on administrative leave, immediately. But the notice for that meeting only described it as “CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL – ANTICIPATED LITIGATION – Significant exposure to litigation pursuant to California Government Code section 54956.9(b): One case” not mentioning anything about a public employee or the city manager, specifically.

Although the mayor sets the agenda for each meeting, Thorpe posted on his official Facebook page on Wednesday about the council action, “legally they were procedurally wrong”.

The agenda for Friday’s meeting, posted today, Thursday, March 16 on the City Clerk’s webpage shows, first the council will discuss PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE EVALUATION AND POSSIBLE ACTION – This closed session is authorized pursuant to Government Code section 54957(b). Title: City Manager.  ACC agenda 031723

Second, the council will discuss a PUBLIC EMPLOYEE APPOINTMENT – This closed session is authorized pursuant to Government Code section 54957(b). Title: Acting City Manager.

The meeting will first begin inside the Council Chambers at 200 H Street, and although it’s a special meeting, Public Comments on the two items will be allowed before the council adjourns into closed session. Following that, the city attorney will report out any action the council has taken.

The open session portion of the meeting can be viewed livestream on the City’s website.

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Antioch Council places city manager on administrative leave, mayor calls special Friday meeting to “correct this action”

Wednesday, March 15th, 2023

Councilmembers Barbanica, Wilson and Ogorchock made the decision during closesd session Tuesday night, March 14, 2023. Video screenshot

Thorpe claims council members were “procedurally wrong”

Torres-Walker says council needs to have nationwide search for new city manager, assistant city manager ; APOA President issues statement in support of police chief

By Allen D. Payton

Cornelius “Con” Johnson.

The Antioch City Council placed City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson on administrative leave, immediately it was reported by City Attorney Thomas L. Smith following the closed session meeting, Tuesday night. He said the council met to discuss one case of “anticipated litigation, significant exposure to litigation”. The vote was 3-0 on a motion by District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica, seconded by District 3 Councilman Lori Ogorchock and passed with the vote of District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson. (See beginning of council meeting video)

Johnson was absent from the meeting because he was ill according to Barbanica, who also left shortly after the beginning of the regular meeting due to having a medical procedure earlier in the day.

Both Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker and Mayor Lamar Thorpe were absent from the closed session. Without explanation for her absence, she later apologized for being late, having arrived just as the regular meeting was beginning. Thorpe, who was traveling back from a transportation conference in Washington, D.C. and his flight was delayed, also apologized for his tardiness. At the end of the meeting he said, “I ran out of the plane” with a laugh. He arrived about 7:55 p.m. wearing a hoody.

Wilson, the council’s longest serving member, led the meeting until Thorpe arrived, because Torres-Walker, whose responsibility it was, said she hadn’t been feeling well. Wilson pointed out the fact that it was an all-woman council during Women’s History Month

Regarding Johnson being placed on paid leave Thorpe said, “I know that some changes occurred, today at closed session. I do trust my colleagues in whatever action that they took, and I’ll try to support as best as possible, and I’ll get caught up on what’s going on. Change happens. You have to embrace it and massage it and try to get the best possible outcome.”

The City’s Human Resources Director Ana Cortez will serve as the acting city manager in Johnson’s absence until the council can appoint an interim city manager. She fulfilled that role last week when Johnson appointed her to it while he was out on bereavement leave.

Because it is a personnel matter neither the council members nor city staff can provide any details. However, and although Johnson is still in his position, during Tuesday’s meeting Torres-Walker twice called for a nationwide search for a new city manager as well as a new assistant city manager.

Speculation by Antioch residents in comments on social media were that the council’s action was related to the recent firestorm between Police Chief Steve Ford, the City’s former PIO, Rolando Bonilla and his issuing a press release with comments by the chief taking a swipe at his own officers which he never made. As previously reported Bonilla claims Johnson authorized the press release. The PIO’s contract was later terminated by Johnson. (See related articles here and here)

APOA President Issues Statement

Antioch Police Officers Association President Rick Hoffman issued the following statement about the matter Tuesday night out of concern that Ford may be the city council’s next target for termination: “While the dismissal of the CM (city manager) comes as a surprise to us, our main concern is whether council has any intention of replacing Chief Ford. We want the council to know that we fully support Chief Ford and his vision for the department.”

Thorpe Says Council Action “Procedurally Wrong”, Calls Special Meeting Friday to Correct It, Possibly Hire Interim City Manager

In a post on his official Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon, Thorpe issued the following statement about the matter: “At the Tuesday, March 15, 2023, City Council Meeting, the City Manager was placed on paid administrative leave. Vice Mayor (Mayor Pro Tem) Tamisha Torres-Walker and I were not present for the vote as my flight from Washington, DC was delayed for several hours.

I know my colleagues intended to proceed in the best interest of the City of Antioch and within their authority. However, while they may have believed their actions were correct, legally they were procedurally wrong.

In an effort to allow the Council to express its will, I’ll be calling a special meeting for Friday, March 17, 2023, at 10:00 am to correct this action and, if needed, potentially appoint an Acting City Manager.

To that end, I want to assure Antioch residents, city employees, and partners that the City remains focused on our top priority of increasing our overall quality of life and ensuring public safety.”

Barbanica responded to Thorpe’s claims saying, “We had the city attorney in the room, who attends all meetings, and he made the announcement at the end. It’s unfortunate the mayor wasn’t at the meeting. If there was anything procedurally incorrect that needs clarifying, I’m willing to consider it. But I think all of us on council need to focus on during the right thing for the city.”

“I believe that the council, when presented with certain information, has a duty to act,” he added. “If it’s a matter of the item not being agendized properly the mayor needs to remember he sets the agenda as he has reminded the public time and time again.”

City Attorney Smith and Thorpe were then sent via email the mayor’s announcement, copying the other council members and City Clerk Ellie Householder, asking them what the procedural error was and if it’s the fact the agenda item didn’t mention a possible discipline of a public employee. In addition, they were asked who decided on that terminology for the agenda item and who normally decides on the terminology used for closed session agenda items.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.


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Glazer, coalition oppose legal challenge to his bill limiting special interest contributions to local candidates

Tuesday, March 7th, 2023

State Senator Steve Glazer speaks on the legal challenge to SB1349 during a virtual media briefing on Monday, March 6, 2023. Video screenshot

Joined by Common Cause, Consumer Watchdog for media briefing on “what’s at stake if big money wins lawsuit to terminate anti-corruption law”

On Monday, March 6, 2023, a coalition of policy experts, including representatives from Common Cause and Consumer Watchdog, joined State Senator Steve Glazer (SD7, D-Contra Costa) held a briefing on the special interest lawsuit to terminate SB 1439, what they refer to as “a common sense anti-corruption law that would help end the cycle of scandals caused by special interests’ massive campaign contributions to the local officials they have business before.”

Authored by Contra Costa State Senator Steve Glazer and signed into last year, SB1439 prohibits a local elected official from voting on a matter if they have received a contribution from the party to the matter or their agent of more than $250 during the 12 months prior to the date a final decision is made on the matter. It also prohibits local officials from receiving a contribution of more than $250 in the 12 months after the proceeding from party to the matter or the party’s agent. But the bill also allows an official to return a contribution to avoid violating the new law and still vote on the matter.

According to Common Cause which proposed the bill, California law prohibited anyone seeking a contract, permit, or license from the government from making a campaign contribution of more than $250 to the officials responsible for decisions about that contract, permit, or license. The limitation applied while the contract, permit, or license was pending and for three months after. But local elected officials were exempted from the law. The bill extended the prohibitions from three to 12 months and included local elected officials.

The panel of policy and democracy experts warned the public of the high-stakes consequences of the special interest lawsuit, by eight trade associations and two Sacramento area local elected officials, to terminate SB 1439 at a virtual press conference. The legislation, signed into law last year, is a common-sense, anti-corruption law that would help end the cycle of scandals caused by special interests’ massive campaign contributions to local officials they have business before.

The panel discussed the urgent need to uphold the lawful, long-overdue legislation that holds local leaders accountable to the people they serve, not to special interests. Local stakeholders illustrated how special interests meddling in local politics hinders democracy and harms our communities.

“We have become numb to the legal corruption that has enveloped our democracy. Pay-to-play is antithetical to an honest and ethical government, and it should be rooted out and killed like a cancer that has affected the body politic,” said Glazer.

Regarding the importance of expanding our anti-corruption laws: 

“California’s local governments have been plagued by scandals in which special interest entities pump campaign cash to the local government officials who determine their fate on licenses, permits, and contracts. The examples are endless – SB 1439 is a common sense, narrowly tailored solution to an acute and documented problem to protect our communities,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, Executive Director of California Common Cause. “It has been tried in other states and in a long list of California cities, and it has never been knocked down because of legal challenges. We trust SB 1439 will succeed in the courts.” 

Regarding how SB 1439 expands the Political Reform Act: 

“SB 1439 is one of the most significant pieces of legislation in the last 10 years. It gets right to the heart of the corruption problem – people think that elected officials are acting in the best interest of their contributors, not in the public interest. This law expands the purposes of the Political Reform Act and is a major effort to correct this problem and public perception, thus the law should be upheld by the courts,” said Bob Stern, policy expert and principal co-author of the Political Reform Act of 1974.

Regarding how big money in our local politics hurts our communities: 

“Supporting SB 1439 as a bill was an easy choice for us – we see and feel regularly the impact of corporate money in the Inland Empire. Increasingly, it’s felt that regardless of how loudly residents and voters push back against certain kinds of local projects, developer money will always drown out our voice,” said Sky Allen, Executive Director of Inland Empire United. “Over the past 20 years, the Inland Empire has become the largest logistics hub in the world – so instead of green space and local businesses, we’re surrounded by massive warehouses and, as a result, we breathe some of the worst air and are offered fewer quality jobs. Laws like AB 1439 give us hope that moving forward, the scales will be more balanced.” 

Regarding how big money in our local politics hurts consumers: 

“Local politicians have tremendous influence and direct impact on the policies that impact consumers the most, like zoning laws, environmental regulations, and business licensing. When corporations and wealthy individuals use their financial resources to influence local elections and create favor with local elected officials, they successfully steer public policy in ways that are sympathetic to their own interests at the expense of consumers as a whole,” said Ben Powell, Staff Attorney for Consumer Watchdog. “Laws like SB 1439 address this by ensuring that local politicians are working in favor of the public interest, not bids for re-election or trading favors with wealthy donors.”

“It’s imperative that we ensure local elections stay equitable for everyone. When big money comes into play, socioeconomic barriers are strengthened and the community is ultimately the one who loses,” said Emmanuel Estrada, Mayor of Baldwin Park. “In Baldwin Park, we enacted a local ordinance barring city contractors from directly donating to candidates and adding stricter contribution limits. When we sent it to the voters to reinforce the ordinance, over 80 percent were in favor, illustrating the massive desire to remove the influence of big money from our local politics.”

California Fair Political Practices Commission Chair, Richard C. Miadich, who was unable to attend the briefing said, “We’re disappointed to learn a lawsuit has been filed regarding SB 1439 after the Commission voted unanimously to support it and months after it unanimously passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor.”

“It also comes months after we’ve begun issuing guidance, gathering public input and crafting regulations to implement the law. We’ll continue doing just that and will continue to enforce the law unless and until a court ruling says otherwise,” he added.

To watch the full briefing, click here

Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.



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Amtrak riders in Antioch can comment on Draft San Joaquins Business Plan Update until March 15

Saturday, March 4th, 2023

The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (SJJPA) operates the Amtrak San Joaquins passenger rail line and through bus service which serves Antioch, Martinez and Richmond in Contra Costa County. Each year, SJJPA must develop and approve an updated Business Plan as required by SJJPA’s Interagency Transfer Agreement (ITA) with the State. The annual Business Plan is required to be submitted to the Secretary of CalSTA in draft form by April 1 of each year, and in final form by June 15 of each year to allow Amtrak time to finalize operating cost estimates.

As specified in AB 1779, the Business Plan shall include a report on the historical performance of the San Joaquins Service, an operating plan including proposed service enhancements to increase ridership, short-term and long-term capital improvement programs, funding requirements for the upcoming fiscal year, and an action plan with specific performance goals and objectives. The Business Plan shall document service improvements (rail and thruway/connecting bus) to provide the planned level of service, inclusion of operating plans to serve peak period work trips, and consideration of other service expansions and enhancements.

2023 SJJPA Business Plan

The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority has released its 2023 Draft SJJPA Business Plan Update. Public comments must be submitted to Dan Leavitt at no later than Wednesday, March 15, 2023. DRAFT-2023-SJJPA-Business-Plan-Update_Public-Review-Draft.pdf


Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.


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Antioch Police union “pleased” with firing of City’s PIO

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023

By Allen D. Payton

In response to the news that Antioch’s public information officer, Rolando Bonilla was fired, recently Antioch Police Officers Association President Rick Hoffman posted the following statement on the organization’s Facebook page Thursday evening:

“The APOA has learned that the contract for the City of Antioch PIO, Rolando Bonilla, was terminated sometime in the past week. The APOA is pleased to see that steps were taken to rectify the wrongs done by Mr. Bonilla to our department and we hope to foster a culture of transparency throughout the city’s departments.”

Rick Hoffman

APOA President


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