Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Antioch Board of Administrative Appeals seeks Alternate Member for two-year seat

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

The Board of Administrative Appeals consists of five members and one alternate to be appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by a majority of the Council. The alternate member shall serve a term of two years.

The Board hears appeals regarding administrative decisions by any official of the city and approves liens on properties.

The Board meets on the first Thursday of the month at 3:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers; or on other dates as needed. Members of the Board of Administrative Appeals are required to file an annual FPPC Form 700 “Statement of Economic Interest” and complete an AB1234 Ethics Training every two years.

To be considered for this volunteer position, a completed application must be received in the office of the City Clerk no later than 4:30 p.m., Friday, June 30, 2017. An application is available here, at www.ci.antioch.ca.us and at the City Clerk’s Counter.

Board of Administrative Appeals Alternate Application

 

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Payton Perspective: Facing does not mean filing for or in bankruptcy, but Antioch Council needs to take action to avoid it

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Chart from city staff report presented to the Antioch City Council on Tuesday, April 11, 2017.

I was informed this week that there is some confusion in the community about the City of Antioch’s finances due to the headline for an article published on the Antioch Herald website, last week.

The headline read “City Council learns Antioch again facing bankruptcy” which is accurate, based on the staff report at the Council meeting on Tuesday, April 11,2017. The chart included with the article shows that in the 2021-22 fiscal year, without the city’s half-cent sales tax Measure C being re-approved by the voters, the city’s General Fund balance will cross the line from zero dollars. Even if Measure C is renewed that financial event occurs two years later.

I have since updated the headline to reflect that bankruptcy will occur “within five years.” But, the original headline was accurate and we stand by it. Folks, let me be frank. First, you need to understand the meaning of words and their use in a sentence. Second, you have to read the article to understand what’s going on, not just the headline.

When a government agency or a business is facing bankruptcy, it doesn’t mean it has filed for or is in bankruptcy. It means it has to make some changes to avoid it.

That’s exactly what needs to be done at City Hall and they have five years to do it.

Two things have caused this. As the article states, “Antioch’s $52.7 million General Fund budget is projected to begin deficit spending by $2.6 million in July of next year due largely to increased police staffing, pay and benefit hikes for all city employees and increased payments to the California Public Employees Retirement System.” (PERS)

The recent approvals, by the previous council and the current council majority, of the city employ contracts with increases to pay and benefits will cost the city over $9 million over the next five years. Those contracts extend one year beyond the sunset of Measure C in 2021. That council majority does not include current Mayor Sean Wright and Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe who both opposed the new contracts, but couldn’t do anything to stop them once they were on the council.

PERS is now requiring cities to pay more towards the unfunded liabilities of the pensions of past employees. That’s because for years, PERS has been projecting an overly aggressive and unrealistic return on their investments, and now reality has hit them in the face. The result is each city and government agency in California has to contribute more money to PERS to make up for the difference in what they projected and what is needed to pay for the pensions of current and future retirees.

At the end of Tuesday night’s meeting on April 25, Mayor Sean Wright said “Antioch is in fine financial shape. For those who ask if we are filing for bankruptcy the answer is no.  We have $25 million in reserves with no debt.”

His second sentence is correct, as I’ve pointed out, above. Wright’s first sentence is also correct – today. But, he’s aware and we all are, now with the staff report, that just because the city has $25 million in reserves, today doesn’t mean it will be in fine financial shape, just a few years from now. Wright is also aware that action must be taken to keep the city in “fine financial shape.”

As the city staff report on April 11, and above and below charts show, that even if we vote to renew Measure C, the city’s half-cent sales tax passed by voters in 2013, the city’s General Fund balance will be zero dollars in less than seven years.

City of Antioch General Fund Projection Chart from city staff report to council on 4/11/17.

If the Council doesn’t do three things over the next few years, Antioch will run out of those reserves and be upside down financially, which means bankruptcy.

First, the council needs to reopen and renegotiate the employee contracts. The City of Richmond just approved new contracts for their police and firefighters without a pay raise. (That city is facing the same financial challenges as Antioch, also because of PERS and even with a new tax increase. See related article, here.) Antioch should have done the same, at least until they had hired the 22 additional officers we were promised “immediately” in 2013 if we passed Measure C. Plus, all the other city employees enjoyed 13% in pay raises just a few years ago when the council ended Furlough Fridays. The council majority must have forgotten about that.

Message to the council majority: we didn’t give you two tax increases, including Measure O, to give pay raises to city staff. That was nowhere in the ballot language of either measure.

Second, the city needs to fulfill its promise and hire the 11 additional sworn police officers. So far, they’ve given us a net 11 additional officers out of the 22. They need to start budgeting for 111, not 102 like they’ve been doing. There were 89 sworn officers on the force when that promise was made.

That will result in crime being reduced which will help Antioch be able to attract business, as well as an increase in property values, which gives the city more tax revenue, without raising taxes.

Third, the city needs to more aggressively pursue new businesses to locate in Antioch. Now that the eBART extension and Hillcrest station will be opening next year, that area should be prime for attracting new businesses.

That will result in more sales and property tax revenue to the city, and possibly without having to either renew Measure C or increase other taxes – and to be frugal and responsible, the council needs to plan for and base their budgets on the expectation that it won’t be renewed.

The time to develop a plan to implement these three actions is now. I trust and hope that with the new leadership on the council and inside City Hall with a new city manager, it can and will be done.

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County Supervisors eye $3 billion budget

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Uncertainty, as it relies on 48% of funds from federal government

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County supervisors took a peek at a proposed $3 billion budget on Tuesday that includes $250,000 to expand a popular health care program for low income citizens, $220,000 to reopen the shuttered Knightsen fire station in the East Contra Costa Fire District, and spend $500,000 for the Northern Waterfront Study Intiative.

Supervisors are scheduled to adopt the new spending plan at its May 9 meeting to replace the current $2.6 billion budget.

During the seven-hour hearing, some supervisors seemed to play the conservative card due to fiscal events that have developed in Washington, D.C. and how federal cuts in health care, education and housing might have a ripple effect at the state and county level.

County Administrator David Twa said the county receives 48 percent of its funds from the federal government so there is concern that funding cuts from Washington will impact county operations if not in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, it could occur in the 2018-2019 fiscal year when the county needs to renegotiate labor contracts with doctors, nurses. and fire fighters.

“This is one of the most difficult budgets to assemble,” Twa told supervisors, “because there is so much uncertainty at the state and federal levels.”

The fiscal uncertainty also affected the supervisors.

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill said she would not approve the proposal for an additional $250,000 to expand the Contra Costa Cares health care program for low income residents.  The county allotment would be matched by the nonprofit organization to help access the health care program to 1,000 residents.   This current fiscal year the county spent $1 million and has proposed $1.25 million for the upcoming 2017-2018 fiscal year.

“There’s a large part of the community that doesn’t understand why we see a part of the undocumented community the way we do, but in this case, I cannot support spending an extra $250,000 for the Contra Costa Cares program,” Mitchoff said.

Mitchoff also raised doubts that Contra Costa Cares has the fundraising capabilities to collect $250,000 to expand the program.  “The hospital is not committed to contributing the $250,000,” she said.

“We’re seeing the rise of people awareness to their right to health care,” said Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood.  She favors the extra funding for the health care program that drew about eight speakers in support of the health care program.  “I’m in support of expanding it,” she said.

Initially supervisors were reluctant in setting aside $220,000 to reopen the Knightsen fire station for fiscal years 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, but eventually caved in to reality that the station needed to opened.  Supervisors are frustrated over the way the ECCFD has managed its financial and business affairs.  The fire district had shuttered the fire station in order to open a new station in Brentwood..

Supervisors also voted 4-0, with Supervisor Candace Andersen absent, to designate $500,000 for the Northern Water Front Study Initiative, a project of Board Chair Federal Glover.  The funding would be spent on data development, parcel identification, engineering, and public outreach.

New Airport Safety Classifications Approved

Supervisors also approved the creation for four Airport Safety Office Classifications at the Byron Airport and Buchanan Field to replace three outdated classifications that should help the county improve the retention rate among safety personnel.  The county has a 60 percent retention rate among 17 personnel assigned to aircraft rescue and firefighting duties.

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Congressmen DeSaulnier, McNerney to hold joint Town Hall meeting in Antioch, Saturday, April 8

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) will host town hall meetings in Antioch, Richmond, and Lafayette during the month of April. Residents are invited to attend and listen to a Congressional update, ask questions, and share their thoughts on issues of importance. DeSaulnier will also discuss the broad range of constituent services his office can provide.

Joint Antioch Town Hall with Rep’s DeSaulnier (CA-11) and McNerney (CA-09)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

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

Nick Rodriguez Community Center

213 F Street

Antioch, CA 94509

Details: Please RSVP to CA.11RSVP@mail.house.gov or call 925-933-2660

Richmond Town Hall

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Lovonya Dejean Middle School, Multipurpose Room

3400 Macdonald Ave

Richmond, CA 94805

Lafayette Town Hall

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Stanley Middle School, Multipurpose Room

3455 School Street

Lafayette, CA 94549

Please RSVP to CA.11RSVP@mail.house.gov or call (925) 933-2660. For more information or to request ADA accommodations contact Congressman DeSaulnier’s office in either Walnut Creek or Richmond. 

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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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