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Antioch Council reverses direction, moves forward with development of downtown lot, dashing hopes for park and event center, proponent vows referendum

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

By Allen Payton

The opportunity for a park and event center on a downtown lot is dead, for now. Just two months after Antioch residents pushing for the project thought they had a victory with a council vote and comments giving them the opportunity to pursue it, their hopes were dashed at Tuesday night’s (Aug. 25) council meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, Interim City Attorney Derek Cole reported the council had voted during closed session, earlier in the evening, to give direction to City Manager Steve Duran to negotiate with one developer for the purchase of that parcel and eight others, instead.

The agenda item, entitled “Conference with Real Property Negotiatiors.”included a list of parcels and the City Manager Steve Duran as the City and Agency Negotiator. Also listed under the agenda item was “Other Parties Negotiators: Seeno Homes, Inc., Albert Seeno Jr.; Lewis Operating Corporation, Doug Mull; City Ventures, Phil Kerr; Celebrate Antioch Foundation, Wayne Harrison. Under negotiation: price and terms of payment.”

The city attorney stated that the council had voted to give City Ventures the exclusive opportunity to negotiate the purchase of all the parcels listed under the agenda item, including the old Antioch Lumber Company lot, that’s been the site of the proposed park and event center.

A variety of citizens spoke in favor of the downtown park and event center and with disappointment in the vote, with Connie Komar pointing out that some council members had lived here all their lives, and named Council Members Mary Rocha, Tony Tiscareno and Mayor Pro Tem Lori Orgochock. Celebrate Antioch Foundation Treasurer Joy Motts, who has been a leading proponent of the park and event center, expressed her disappointment during public comments, as well, ending with the promise of a referendum on the council’s vote.

However, it wasn’t until the end of the meeting that the city attorney shared how the council members voted.

On the closed session item, it was a 4-1 vote,” he said, with Ogorchock dissenting.

Harper reverses position

Following the meeting, Mayor Wade Harper gave his reasons for his vote, which differed from what was stated at the June workshop on the Downtown Specific Plan update and the impression left with the park proponents at the June 23rd city council meeting. (See article)

I can say certain things about what we desire,” he stated. “But, we had to go along with what the council majority wanted.”

We voted for mixed use,” he added.

However, at the June 23rd council meeting, Harper thanked the community for all of their input, but said, with reference to designating Site 5 a park, “I would want to know how you’re going to pay for it.” Even so, he said, “I’m going to choose 1B, and I would like to give the community the opportunity to find out how we’re going to pay for it.”

Celebrate Antioch Foundation submitted a proposal that included a financial plan, but it was never discussed that they would have to buy the land in order to build the park and event center, according to Motts.

She explained that over the past several weeks members of CAF have said they’ve been meeting with potential funding sources, including a private foundation. But, according to Motts, they needed a commitment from the council in order to secure the funding.

Rocha had offered group hope, twice.

In response, both Rocha and Ogorchock at the August 11th meeting asked to have the matter on the August 25th meeting agenda. Duran responded that it was a matter for closed session. In spite of that, Ogorchock still pushed to have it on the agenda giving a specific list of items she wanted discussed as part of the matter, including giving CAF a date certain to return to the council with preliminary plans, the first right of refusal to pursue the park and event center, without competing with other development interests, and waiving the requirement for them to go through the Request for Qualifications/Request for Proposal process that the council had adopted, last year, for developers.

But, the item, which is set by both the mayor and city manager, was only agendized for the closed session and not the public meeting.

During the June 23rd meeting, in which the council voted to change the zoning of the empty lot to mixed use, allowing for opportunity of a park and event center, there, Rocha said that there should be a set amount of time in which to develop a park, because other opportunities exist right now.

The timing is important,” she said, but also said she supported the Mixed-Use designation, but with the understanding that, at least initially, a park would be on the site.

Rocha explains her reversal

However, after Tuesday’s council meeting Rocha said “If they [CAF] had a plan to pay for it,” then maybe she would have considered their proposal.

She then responded to questions about her vote in favor of the development.

When asked if the council members had seen the information package that CAF had submitted to Duran, Rocha responded “They didn’t bring in anything.”

When asked if the council members were shown packages from any of the groups, she stated, “We didn’t see any package from anyone.”

She then explained her vote.

You remember the last time that property was for sale,” Rocha stated. “The CRAWDADS [citizens group] opposed it. I couldn’t take that chance anymore.”

This is my last round,” she added.

Motts shared her thoughts

Also, following the meeting, Motts offered additional thoughts on the council’s vote, via text and was under the impression Rocha had voted with them until she learned of the city attorney’s statement at the end of the meeting.

Right before the meeting, Mary Rocha came up to us and told Wayne Harrison, CAF President they voted against us.”

The city attorney reported out of closed session that City Ventures was given the DA, development agreement, for all the parcels listed…Thereby completely dismissing CAF without ever a discussion or a meeting and completely reversing on their statements of June 23rd.”

Ogorchock says council got package

Following the meeting, Ogorchock stated, “I voted against it, that’s all I can tell you” since it was a closed session.

When asked if she ever saw the package that CAF had submitted to Duran, she replied, “I don’t know if what she gave the city manager is the same that Joy handed out at a council meeting.”

Council and staff were given CAF’s proposal CAF Event Center BDC DRAFT 0.2 – Proposal for City

Motts commented on the package they submitted to Duran in July.

We submitted a detailed, specific proposal that was an excellent business plan, that detailed our fund raising and marketing plan…coming from a local non-profit, and obviously a grass roots effort,” she stated via text. “We are not an anomaly, many community efforts have gone forward in other cities, just recently in Martinez.”

She had also previously mentioned the privately funded improvements to the playground at City Park located at the corner of West 10th and A Streets.

CAF’s concept was the same, to privately fund a public park and event center.

There’s also another precedent in Antioch, the city-owned Lone Tree Golf & Event Center which is operated by a private, non-profit organization.

We wanted to try and work together on this vision,” Motts stated. “Based on the comments made at the June 23rd meeting where the mayor apologized for not listening to us, and how they would give us an opportunity, we worked with a local attorney in developing an initial proposal. Wayne [Harrison] submitted that proposal during public comments at the council’s return from vacation at the July 8th council meeting.”

Motts vows referendum

We are all absolutely furious,” Motts stated. “I am meeting with City Clerk Simonsen tomorrow [Wednesday] about 12:30, city hall to gather the information to start a referendum or initiative to stop the development.”

We believe when the citizens of all of Antioch are presented with a choice of 18 town homes or a community event center, it will be overwhelming support for the latter, just as we have shown them through petition, forums, emails and public comments,” she shared.

This is going to be a battle and we need to pull out all stops to stop them,” Motts added.

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Antioch Council scraps community courts idea, wants to hear from public on renaming streets to downtown

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

By Allen Payton

At Tuesday night’s Antioch City Council meeting the council members opposed the idea of community courts on a 4-1 vote and unanimously agreed to seek input from the public on renaming A, L and West Second Streets which lead to and run through downtown.

Community Courts

Chief Allan Cantando and Captain Tamany Brooks presented the idea of having community courts in Antioch, in response to an effort by Mayor Pro Tem Ogorchock and a letter from the County Grand Jury asking for input from the cities in the county.

The courts have already been implemented and in use in Pittsburg, Concord, Walnut Creek and San Ramon.

They operate locally and allow people charged with misdemeanors to avoid having their case sent to the District Attorney. The individual meets with and pays for a mediator, to have their case heard. Then if found guilty they pay a fine, which is collected by the city, and do some type of community service. The intent is to reduce repeat offenders.

But, Cantando gave his reasons why the courts shouldn’t be implemented in Antioch.
“There are issues we have to address,” he said. “Staffing is obviously an issue. It would be cost prohibitive from doing.”
He also mentioned a problem with the perception of the public.

Translation is an issue,” Cantando continued. “There is no recording mechanism. The police departments are actually picking which cases go before an arbitrator. There’s concern over liability on the city for not turning over the case to the DA.”

Councilwoman Mary Rocha was the first council member to respond.

I was going back and forth on this,” she said. “My concern is the one-time offender. I’m in that in-between stage.”

Councilwoman Wilson asked Cantando, “You don’t agree with the Grand Jury report? What changes would you want to see?”

I would want some kind of recording mechanism,” he replied. “A court certified interpreter. A lieutenant or captain would have to go through the misdemeanor cases, redact [sensitive information], oversee the handling of the cases and make sure the fees are paid.”

A court stenographer costs $35 per hour with a two-hour minimum and an interpreter costs $160 per hour with a two-hour minimum, Cantando shared.

It’s a moneymaker,” he stated. “But we’re spending money out the back end.”

The cases are the weaker cases the DA wouldn’t file on, anyway,” Cantando added.

Then he provided statistics about the cases his department sent to the District Attorney and what happened with them.

In 2014 Antioch sent 2,895 cases to the DA. Of those 1,234 no complaints were filed. They filed on 13.5% of our felonies. There’s a one in five chance they’re going to file,” he explained.

Brooks offered his input, after having sat in on some community court cases in other cities.

Was there evidence to support an arrest beyond a reasonable doubt?” he asked. “Many of the cases were like that.”

Then he spoke about the language problems he encountered.

The secretary there was having difficulty coming up with the terms being used,” Brooks said.

Ogorchock was the only council member who spoke in favor of having community courts.

I found it intriguing and I spoke to other cities that have them,” she said. “They combine punishment and have offenders pay back to the community.”

However, Mayor Wade Harper gave his reasons for opposing the courts.

I don’t support this at this time,” he stated. “It puts an extra burden on police. Right now, I want more traffic officers, more resource officers in the schools.”

It’s not just for first-time offenders. It’s for misdemeanants,” he added. “We are transferring the burden to local agencies and local police departments.”

I don’t think the benefits monetarily outweigh the costs,” said Councilman Tony Tiscareno. “If it works in other cities, fine. But, I don’t think it will work for our city at this time.”

In the only public comment, which was submitted in writing by Iris Archuletta, read by Harper, she stated “There are issues with due process.”

Cantando mentioned a current diversion program for youth, in Antioch.

We work with REACH for diversion with youth,” he shared. “We’re trying to keep the juveniles out of the system.”
Then explaining another problem with the community courts, Cantando said “The arrest stays on their record. But, if they pay this fine, that does not.”

The council then voted 4-1 with Ogorchock opposed, to approve the recommendation of Chief Cantando and to have the mayor sign the letter letting the Grand Jury know Antioch would not be participating in the community courts program.

Renaming streets

As part of the city’s Downtown Specific Plan update, earlier this year, they approved renaming of streets leading to downtown. Now, the council is seeking the public’s input on what the names should be for A, West Second and L Streets. The City of Antioch 1996 Economic Development Plan included plans to rename A Street to Rivertown Drive and L Street to Marina Way. Since then, A Street was connected to West Second Street.

Downtown business owners, including this writer, took an informal vote at a meeting, earlier this year to support the renaming of the streets, which included changing both A and West Second Streets to Rivertown Drive and L Street to either Marina Blvd. or Way.

Two members of the public spoke.

First, Lori Cook, who hosts the Facebook page “Cleaning Up Antioch, One Home At a Time” said “Personally, I do not have an opinion either way. We, the city need to clean up these streets before anything else.”

If we had more Code Enforcement Officers “it could change this city overnight,” she added.

This writer then spoke in favor of the idea, for “permanent marketing for downtown” letting people know on the freeway that “there’s a river down there, a marina down there.” At the request of Duran, this writer also suggested the council rename A Street to Rivertown Drive and West Second Street to West Rivertown Drive, as there are potentially conflicting addresses between 6th Street and the Hobin & Hobin Law Office on A Street, which is located between 10th and 11th Streets.

The street name could change to West, as the road crosses 6th Street.

I really would like the city to reach out to the businesses,” Wilson stated. “I need more information.”

I think it’s time to change the name and give the residents enough time,” said Tiscareno.

Ogorchock said “I think we need to reach out to the people on A Street. But, I agree with Lori Cook.”

This will be a great push for our marina and the ferry,” Rocha said. “Let’s bring it back in October.

Harper ended the council comments by stating, “We need to clean the area up, not just change the name.”

The council then voted unanimously to take 60 days to hear from the public, and specifically the businesses on A Street, about which names they would prefer and then bring it back for a vote.

Water Park open Fri & Sat nights

In other business at the meeting, during the community presentations and public comments, it was announced that the Antioch Water Park is open Friday and Saturday nights through the end of the season on September 7th.

Special thanks

Councilwoman Mary Rocha gave a special “Thank you to Betty Smith for her leadership at Delta 2000.”

Fire Department report

Also, ConFire Battalion Chief Bob Atlas gave what he said will become a regular report on fire department activities in Antioch.

They handled a total of 795 calls for service in the past month, a total of which were 692 Code 3 calls. They included 32 calls for outside aid, nine structure fires with one significant fire, which was on Sycamore, last week; 21 vegetation fires, 136 mistaken fire alarms.

This placed Antioch “number one in all cities the fire district is responsible for and number one in terms of fire loss,” Atlas stated.

The fire in the Sycamore area on August 5th “displaced 30 residents,” he said. He praised the American Red Cross for their help in dealing with them.

Committee & Commission Vacancies

City Clerk Arne Simonsen announced there was a resignation on the Measure C Oversight Committee. Applications would be online and at the City Clerk’s office, starting Wednesday, August 11. (Click here)

Proposed City Transportation Fee

A proposed transportation impact fee was discussed. The council heard a presentation on a draft study on imposing a one-time fee on both new residential and commercial development.

The presentation by the representative of Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., projected a total of 10,700 new homes and 17,500 more jobs in Antioch by 2040.

The funds generated from the fee would pay for capital facilities, such as road improvements and any other transportation projects directly impacted by the new residents or businesses, in Antioch. The fee would be in addition to the regional fee for transportation already imposed on new development in East County. The cost for that in Antioch is $15,000 per new home.

Oakley, Pittsburg, Brentwood and Concord already have their own local transportation fees ranging from $7,124 to $14,015 per single family home, $2,624 to $8,550 per multi-family unit and $1.38 to $8.81 per square foot for commercial development.

Councilwoman Mary Rocha asked if the funds could be used to pay for the ferry system. A station is planned for downtown Antioch.

The consultant responded “you could include certain capital items,” as long as they were for “new riders associated with new development.”

It can’t be used for operations and maintenance.

She asked if the funds could be used for Tri Delta Transit, which runs the bus system in East County, or A Street and L Street.

Antioch Public Works Director Ron Bernal responded to that.

It would probably be a very small cost,” he said. “We could look at bus turn-outs. But, not for funding operations.”

The fee, if adopted by the council, would be kept in place over 25 years.

Street repairs

The council also unanimously approved an additional $210,000 from Gas Tax funding for pavement plugs and base repairs for streets throughout the city, bringing the total project cost to $2,220,757.11.

Great job,” Rocha said to city staff. “The streets look beautiful. The people are happy.”

I’m getting a lot of comments from people,” Harper said. “They are very appreciative of it. So, good work.”

Possible desalination plant

The council also unanimously approved a consulting contract for the Phase 1 Initial Planning for a possible desalination plant to treat brackish water from the river.

This is an exciting opportunity,” said Lou Carella of Carollo Engineers. “Water is the new oil, these days. To take advantage of your pre-1914 water rights on the river is paramount.”

It could be a very expensive project,” he added.

Bernal added his thoughts.
“It wouldn’t be able to supply all of our water needs,” he said. “But, it would decrease our reliance on CCWD.”

This year, the city is buying 95% of its raw water from the Contra Costa Water District, which costs the city money, instead of being able to draw water from its pumps in the river, due to the high salt content as a result of the drought.

The consultants will pursue low-interest state loans and Proposition 1 funds, in competition with other cities and agencies.

Councilman Tony Tiscareno mentioned possible “future manufacturers that can use this water and generate revenues” then asked about future expansion.

We’re just looking at current capacity,” Bernal replied. “We have to use our water rights within our city limits.”

Babe Ruth loan forgiveness

The council voted unanimously to forgive a loan to Antioch Babe Ruth baseball in the amount of $792 which benefits their ball fields on Auto Center Drive.

Transportation priorities

The council also discussed the city’s priorities for transportation funding from regional sources, such as a proposed extension of Measure J, the county’s half-cent sales tax for transportation.

Staff’s recommendations include the L Street corridor project; the ferry system with a terminal in Antioch’s downtown; the TriLink project which is a four lane freeway and transit line between East County and Tracy, connecting the end of what was known as the Highway 4 Bypass and Interstates 205 and 5; the I-680 and Highway 24 interchange in Walnut Creek, and improvements to the interchange of Highways 4 and 242 in Concord.

The ferry is already included in the East County Plan,” said Duran.

But the council wanted to place it at the top of the city’s list of priorities.

I would like to put a major emphasis on the ferry,” Tiscareno said. “I believe it will be a one-time shot. The ferry system is an important part of our vitality.”

On a motion by Rocha to make the ferry the city’s number one transportation priority for regional funding, and include the rest of the projects on the list, the council voted 5-0 to approve.

Council committees and appointments

In response to Ogorchock’s request to review the various committees to which council members are appointed, and which ones still need to exist, the council had a lengthy discussion about the matter.

If they don’t met why have them?” she asked.

Rocha shared her concerns about the Committee on Aging.

Is it East County or the seniors at Nick Rodriguez [Center], which is a non-profit?” Rocha asked. “I’ve gone to both but I don’t know where I fit.”

Wilson asked about the City/School Relations Committee.

It’s met twice, then abruptly stopped meeting,” she stated.

Duran explained his understanding of the reason why.
“A standing committee required Brown Act [state open meeting law] compliance,” he said. “The school side wasn’t agreeing with the way our attorney was saying the meeting should be run. So they stopped meeting.”

I heard that second hand,” Duran added.

Harper told the council members “you can meet as much as you want on your committees.”

At least have a meeting before deciding not to have a committee,” he directed them.

Rocha also asked about the Historic Preservation Committee.

That’s something the Planning Commission can handle, Duran explained.

Wilson warned, “We have to be careful of not duplicating efforts.”

Regarding one of his committee appointments, the Graffiti Committee, started by the late Councilman Gary Agopian, Tiscareno said “I’m suggesting we put more teeth into it.”

The council then unanimously approved a motion to eliminate the following committees and appointments: International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, Historic Preservation Committee, Quality of Life Forum Committee and the Committee on Aging.

Downtown park and event center discussed

Joy Motts, of the Celebrate Antioch Foundation, made an emotional appeal to the council to have specifics about the downtown park and event center her group has proposed for the old lumber company lot, on the agenda for the August 25th meeting.

In response, during council communications, Rocha asked for the matter to be on the next agenda. However, Duran said it would be a closed session item as part of a real estate negotiation.

Ogorchock then offered a list of items regarding the project that needed to be clarified.

There was not a clear, concise message sent to the Celebrate Antioch Foundation,” she stated. “I feel we need an MOU [memorandum of understanding] agendized.”

Then she read a list of items she wanted included.

At one point Harper cut in and asked “You want this on the agenda?”

Yes,” she replied. “I’m sharing everything I want in it.”

Following is the list from notes Ogorchock provided following the meeting.

1. We need implementation language to be clear and concise direction to staff and the Celebrate Antioch Foundation of what is allowed and required to fulfill their goal.

2. The RFQ/RFP process is not a requirement for this type development as they are not a developer. But, they do have to go thru the same steps as a developer. They are required to work w/staff for normal project approval, paying normal staff fees, etc..

3. We need to give them a date certain, for them to bring back to the council a preliminary plan with engineering and architectural renderings.

4. They need to show the financials of how is the event center being financed and how do they plan to maintain the event center. Is this a privately operated public asset?

5. We need to give them first right of refusal during the preliminary plan process, which can be extended upon direction from council.

6. Finally, they need to understand this is not a commitment to build an event center but the opportunity to pursue one.

During his comments Harper mentioned the Super Bowl 50 being held at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara and how it will be labeled the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl and how Antioch can participate in the promotion and celebration of it.

Then a request to have the homeless issue agendized for discussion was mentioned.

Rocha asked Cantando how many officers we currently have.

89” was his response.

The next Antioch City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 25 at 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at West Second and H Streets in downtown. It can be viewed on Comcast Channel 24 or via live stream on the city’s website at

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Republican Dave Miller to challenge Jim Frazier for State Assembly

Saturday, August 8th, 2015
Dave Miller Republican Dave Miller to challenge Jim Frazier for State Assembly

Dave Miller

Fairfield, CA – Former Solano County Republican 2nd Vice Chairman Dave Miller, announced, Friday, that he will be running for the position of State Assemblyman to represent the 11th District to replace incumbent Jim Frazier (D – Oakley). Miller has a good knowledge of the district, having lived in Discovery Bay as well as Fairfield for the last five years. His wife, Amy is Director of Advanced Practice Services at NorthBay Hospital in Fairfield.

Miller retired from a 28-year career in social services finance and fraud investigation. In addition to working in New York political circles, Dave was active on the campaigns of former Governor and 2016 presidential candidate George Pataki, for the 12 years he was Governor of New York State.

Since moving to California in 2011, he has started, with the help of his associates, a nationwide premier political consulting and strategy firm, with clients in California, Wisconsin, Tennessee, New York and Nevada. He also served as California Field Coordinator to Governor Jon Huntsman’s 2012 presidential campaign and Chief of Staff to USAF Col. Rick Tubbs’ congressional campaign in Contra Costa and Solano Counties.

We are 465 days out, and 465 days from releasing ourselves from the tax and spend policies of Jim Frazier and his associates in Sacramento,” Miller said. “The policies Jim Frazier believes in, like introducing a constitutional amendment to raise property taxes on both homeowners and businesses, overriding Proposition 13, a ballot initiative overwhelmingly passed by California voters, signifies that the time for super majorities in Sacramento must end, and it’s time to return a more compassionate and conservative form of government to the people.”

Speaking of ballot initiatives, in less than three years in office, Jim Frazier has voted to increase the fees to file such ballot initiatives from a simple $200 and to a staggering $8,000,” he added. “That’s a 3,900% increase, and a sure fire way to limit, if not freeze altogether, public debate and comment on issues pertinent to all Californians.”

It recently learned that the I-10 bridge on the California/Arizona border had collapsed,” Miller stated. “You’re probably wondering: how does a bridge collapse hundreds of miles away have anything to do with the 11th Assembly District? Because Jim Frazier is Chairman of the Assembly Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. It’s his job to provide legislative oversight of Cal Trans. Last year, Cal Trans inspected the same bridge mentioned earlier, and according to the report, they gave it a 95% safety score.”

Looking deeper, in the 800+ page report, I discovered there are nearly 400 bridges and overpasses in the 11th Assembly District alone, that had worse safety scores than the I-10 bridge which collapsed,” Miller continued. “Mr. Frazier cited ‘deferred maintenance’ as the cause for the bridge collapse, but if it scored 95% on its last safety inspection, one year ago, and Cal Trans stated in its report, it required no maintenance at all, how could you now claim it required ‘deferred maintenance’?”

Just knowing that Assemblyman Frazier seems to have forgotten how important bridges and overpasses are key to our very way of life here in the Bay Area, (and all across California) is of great concern to me, not only as a Candidate, but as a Taxpayer as well,” he added. “It’s just proof that he and his Democratic associates in Sacramento are completely happy with the status quo.”

Miller offered his campaign platform

If elected I will push for big bold reforms in Sacramento that effect you every day. I will:

Cut my own personal salary and give that back money to hard working high school graduates in our district who excel in Math and Science. My only caveat: that they seek work upon graduation in the State of California I want to help your kids be successful – in California, and keep them here for generations to come. I will dole it out in the form of a scholarship program, to help offset college costs.

I will propose the first Electronic Legislature in the nation. Should drastically help California see relief in legislature costs, such as per diems, staff payroll, and greatly cripple the influence of special interests prior to a crucial vote.

Propose the California Sacred Trust Act. This amendment would greatly restore public confidence in how government operates in the future. Let’s remember we are one of the largest states in the “United States of America,” not the “Divided States of America” let’s set the standard.

Propose sweeping massive regulatory reform, including tangible prison reforms.

Get serious about our Water Crisis, but not with the current proposals being thrown around today, but with Desalination Plants up and down the coast, with the water storage to protect it.

Opposition to High Speed Rail. I’ve seen firsthand, grandiose, wide-eyed, government-funded transportation projects that looked great on paper, but crash and burn inside two years’ time. See Rochester Business and search “Flawed Business Plan sank Fast Ferry.”

Improving the Business Climate in California. We were once the world’s 5th largest economy, we’ve dropped to 12th. It all goes back to the Regulations this Government feels the need to lump on your everyday life. The good news is: “we can’t get any worse!” We are 50th in the Nation in Economic Growth, and states to succeed in business.

Propose a Guest Worker ID program. If it can be done in Kuwait, a country of 8 million people, which has 20 million Saudis working in their nation’s oil fields, it can be done here in California. Use an E-Verify system to sort out the law-abiding illegal immigrants from the ones who feel the need to survive by committing violent crimes, who harm or kill American citizens. Give these law abiding illegals the opportunity for citizenship.

Phased in Voter ID Program. Program phased in over four-year period. As a social service provider, I’ve seen what not having a photo ID can do for a person, it can keep them from doing simple things we take for granted like cashing a check or getting documents notarized. If, after four years, you haven’t applied, you must get a DMV license to conduct business.

Study the possibility of a Trimester School System, and its effects on hard working families.

Implement a two year vehicle registration cycle on all vehicles registered at DMV. Study the effects of how that impacts the work flow at the agency.”

With the advent of an electronic legislature on the horizon, I, along with all my colleagues, can be in their Assembly and Senate District offices and more responsive to the needs of its citizens more,” Miller said. “As a former social services provider, who used to see as many as 200 clients a day, that is what I look most forward too – working with my constituency, as should every elected official.”

These are just some of the sweeping changes I plan to make when elected to become your next Assemblyman. I know I can do a better job, because I have nearly 28 years of government service backing me up. I look forward to meeting as many folks as I can in the months ahead, as well as re-engaging with some old friends from East Bay,” he added. “And folks…..that’s how I roll.”

The 11th Assembly District includes Antioch. Frazier was first elected to the position in 2012.

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District Attorney files misdemeanor charge against county school board trustee Jeff Belle for lying on ballot statement

Thursday, August 6th, 2015
Jeff Belle 300x291 District Attorney files misdemeanor charge against county school board trustee Jeff Belle for lying on ballot statement

Jeff Belle

By Allen Payton

Following an investigation, Contra Costa District Attorney Mark A. Peterson announced today, Wednesday, August 5, 2015 the filing of a single misdemeanor charge alleging a violation of section 18351 of the California Elections Code against Jeffery J. Belle, Area 5 Trustee for the Contra Costa County Board of Education. Belle DA Complaint 08-05-15

According to a press release from Peterson, “It is alleged that Jeffrey [sic] Belle, a candidate in an election, knowingly made a false statement of a material fact in a candidate’s statement with the intent to mislead the voters in connection with his campaign for election to a nonpartisan office.”

Belle was elected last November, defeating incumbent County School Board Trustee Cynthia Ruehlig.

Voters are entitled to know the truth about their candidates when they are voting.” Peterson said, “The democratic process is fundamental to our system of government. The integrity of our elections is fundamental to that process and must be protected.”

Section 18351 of the Elections Code reads “Any candidate in an election or incumbent in a recall election who knowingly makes a false statement of a material fact in a candidate’s statement, prepared pursuant to Section 11327 or 13307, with the intent to mislead the voters in connection with his or her campaign for nomination or election to a nonpartisan office is punishable by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000).”

On his ballot statement Belle stated he had a “Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.” Ruehlig & Belle candidate statements

However, in an October article by Herald staff, “according to The Office of the Registrar at Oklahoma City University, although Belle did attend the school, and did study political science, he did not receive a degree from them.”

In an interview with this writer, on October 27, 2014 Belle admitted that he did not have a degree because he still had to pay some fees to the school. He explained that Oklahoma City University works with American University in a program called the Washington Semester, the hours from which applied to his degree.

I still owe American University for room and board for that semester of almost $3,000,” Belle claimed. “However, in 1989 I walked in the graduation, and they acknowledge it, but they won’t confer the degree, until then.”

I don’t have to take any more courses,” he added. “That’s why I’m able to take the Master’s degree program in Public Administration, with an emphasis in Health Policy and Public Policy, from the American Public University System.”

However, his explanation about the fees has proven to be false, as well. Earlier this year, his now-estranged wife, Carmen stated the fees had been withheld from her tax return, yet Jeff still didn’t have his degree. He was working toward a Master’s degree, last year, but Belle had to discontinue that since he did not yet have his Bachelor’s degree, which is required in order to obtain a Master’s degree.

Belle’s false claim of a college degree on his candidate’s statement and false explanation appear to be part of a pattern.

The October Herald article further stated:

“Belle has also come under fire for making false claims regarding his education. For example, at one time he claimed to have obtained a Ph.D. from Harrington University, in London. The ‘school’ is well-documented as a diploma mill, where, according to some reports, degrees could be obtained for as little as $1400, and have even been handed out to pet dogs and cats. During his October 22 [2014] press conference, however, Belle admitted he did not have a Ph.D.

Belle has repeatedly given conflicting statements regarding his education. On his application to serve as Antioch’s representative to the Contra Costa Transportation Authority – Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CCTA-CAC), received by the Antioch City Clerk’s office on July 30, 2013, Belle states that he is scheduled to complete a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) in 2014 from Grand Canyon University. On his Linked-in profile, though, he states that he received his MPA from American Public University System in 2014. At the media event he held on October 22, Belle admitted he has no Master’s Degree.

Also on the CCTA-CAC application, Belle states that he has a BS in Political Science from Oklahoma City University / American Public University.

A different statement appears on his linked-in profile, where he says that he obtained that degree from Oklahoma City University in 1988. At the media event he held on October 22, Belle was repeatedly asked by CBS Channel 5 television reporter Da Lin whether or not he had a Bachelor’s degree at all. Belle, at one point, mentioned having obtained a Bachelor’s degree from ‘Biosystems Institute,’ but then quickly backpedaled, and refused to address the question further.”

His LinkedIn profile now states next to Education, “American Public University System.”

More recently, Belle continued his pattern of making false statements with regards to his residency.

When asked where he now lives, in response to both a Facebook post by Carmen, that she and her daughter now live in Sacramento, after he and they were evicted from their rented Antioch home in April, as well as rumors Belle was no longer living in his district, he said he now lives in Brentwood. Carmen said Jeff had told her that he lives in Pittsburg. Yet, the information Belle provided to the County Office of Education was an address for a mailbox inside a mailing business in Antioch.

After emails and a phone call, last month, informing staff for the County Office of Education about the location of Belle’s address that they had on file, the following week, Katie Gaines, Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources provided a new address as reported to her by Belle. That address has been confirmed to be a residence in Antioch, within the district. But, it has not yet been confirmed if he actually lives there.

Belle represents parts of Antioch, Pittsburg, Bay Point and Brentwood, and all of Oakley, Bethel Island, Knightsen and Clyde on the board.

According to the District Attorney’s press release, the maximum penalty for a violation of California Elections Code section 18351 is $1,000.

Check back for more details as this story further unfolds.

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Antioch resident files complaint with DA over City’s use of water and sewer funds for police

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

By Allen Payton

Today, Tuesday, August 4, 2015, Antioch resident and real estate broker, Mark Jordan filed an official complaint with the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office against Antioch’s mayor and council members for their approval of the city’s use of water and sewer funds for police.

This is a continuation and escalation of his effort to end the practice, in response to a Antioch Herald column on the issue posted to the newspaper’s website in June, which can be viewed here.

After placing the council on notice and threatening to file a complaint with Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando at the most recent City Council meeting on July 28, 2015, Jordan attempted to do so. However, in an email exchange between the two, including Cantando asking Jordan to cite the the specific Penal Code that the Council was violating, the Chief wrote “We have been in discussion with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Government Corruption Unit regarding your complaint. They have advised that your best course of action would be to contact them directly via their ;Complaint Form’ available at the link below.”

Jordan has pursued that course of action.

His felony complaint, which can be viewed here, (Jordan Complaint.City of Antioch to DA), states “All Citizens of the City of Antioch” are victims, gives the type of violation as “Illegal transfer of public Funds, et all” [sic] and the nature of complaint as “Violation of Oath of Office, Violation of State of California Constitution,” specifically Propositions 13, 26 and 218. Jordan claims there is no connection between the collection of sewer and water funds paid for by Antioch ratepayers and spending them on police.

I claim that the illegal transfers from the Antioch Water and Sewer Funds are a taking from the public without basis in law, legal nexus or legal justification and that this taking of public funds is public malfeasance and grand theft pursuant to Penal Code 487, a felony,” the complaint states. “A legal nexus is required by law and none exists.”

Jordan further claims that the transfer from the sewer and water funds to the police department budget amounts to a tax without a vote of the people.

Also; that this transfer is a creation of windfall for the General Fund and is nothing short of a specific tax without voter approval as required by the State Constitution.”

He cites two lawsuits, one each against the City of San Juan Capistrano and the other against the City of Redding, California to support his argument.

The next step is for the District Attorney’s office to decide whether or not to deliver Jordan’s complaint to the county Grand Jury.

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Antioch Council gets earful from residents, city workers, votes to not spend $800,000 in State funds

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

By Alia Bickham

The room was buzzing with conversation prior to the call to order at the July 28th City Council meeting and the Council got an earful from residents and city workers. This certain meeting was dedicated to the late Council Member Gary Agopian, and his widow, Robin Agopian was appreciative of the full room as her husband was “passionate for negotiations” and always looking out for the needs of the people.

Mayor Wade Harper remembered Agopian saying he “…led by example.”

Council Member Mary Rocha stated, “he won’t be forgotten.”

Community event announcements included: Sizzling Summer Night Fundraiser at Antioch Senior Center August 14, the Clean Energy Meeting at the Nick Rodriguez Community Center on August 15, and the Second Annual Gary Agopian Boat Race October 17 and 18.

Public Comments get heated

During public comments, Antioch Realtor and resident Mark Jordan expressed concern with what he called the illegal actions of the Council regarding transfers from the water and sewer funds for police and tiered water rates. He asked the Council to take a hard look at restructuring the tiered system.

I will file a complaint with the Chief of Police,” for taxing citizens illegally for water, Jordan stated.

Similarly, Wayne Steffen expressed the way water usage is calculated is flawed.

It is impossible to reduce by 28%” he said. “If the billing periods are fluctuating the billing is based on number of units per billing periods and not gallons per day. Stephen suggested council uses gallons per day to calculate water usage and tiered rates.

City Workers Complain to Council

Antioch city workers who are members of Local One, spoke during public comments, as well. They were concerned about high health care service costs and the lack of recognition by the Council, and the lack of a contract.

Joe Carrera, a 25 year city employee wore his “Proud to be Local One” shirt, as did many others. He spoke of equality.

It makes no sense for the people who make the most money have the best health benefits,” he stated. “Those who are hard workers have to pay more for health benefits. We assist the city in times of need. We the employees endured the pay cut. Some cities gave the furlowed employees a thank you check. The city needs to realize the key to maintain a good work force….you need to retain the employees. This is the city’s chance to get it right and make it right for everyone….if the money is there I just want to know why.”

Wayne Burgess spoke about the parks, and said they’re a safe, inviting places for families.

I’m generally proud of my city,” he stated. Then he mentioned the tough circumstances in 2009 and cuts included seven full-time and two part-time workers.

Most of us remain content…knowing the economy will eventually turn around,” Burgess shared. “You voted in January to put us back to full time. Thank you.”

Then he mentioned cut backs and work increases.

Not only has the city’s bargaining team not come through, but it is not interested in COLA increases or medical benefits. No discussion,”he said, then added that there needs to be shared sacrifice.

Todd Northem, President of Local One spoke about his 15 years in street maintenance.

He spoke of potholes and signage.

We are there when the emergencies happen,” Northem shared. “Working in traffic is one of the most dangerous jobs. We have no labor contract. 2009 furlows we are all in it together at stake was our community “a bankrupt city means” everyone loses.

The workers of Antioch kept this city afloat,” he stated.

Manuel Hicks has been working for the city for over 21 years.

The standard of living should be the same for everyone,” he stated. “We sacrifice for the city. It’s a thankless job. Everybody should get medical the same.”

Johnathan Cordaway said “I was raised here…an Antioch High School grad. Times have been tough. Sacrifice is part of survival. We’re doing all we could to help this city survive.”

Why doesn’t the City of Antioch not appreciate workers?” he asked.

Mike Davis, also a member of Local One, said “Tonight is about relationships. Local One has sacrificed for six years so that the city could keep its lights on. The city is back on it’s feet….but the employees are much worse off. You heard tonight from your residents, why are you treating us this way?”

He spoke of the city’s two budget reserves of 15% and 23%.

About four million dollars the city hoards,” Davis stated. “For this year $19 million for equal access to health care. Four to five percent of available funds is what we are asking for. We need your direct staff to show us you value the relationship between your citizens and employees.”

Willie Mims, representing the East County Branch of the NAACP, complained about pay and affordable living.

I came today to let you know I’m still around, I haven’t gone anywhere.”

He asked the council to introduce body cameras for the police, as it “serves two functions. It protects good police and [exposes] verify bad officers.”

eBART Update

BART Director Joel Keller walked the Council through the planned eBART project, to Antioch. The benefits BART brings to the community include the increase of home, renting values as well as the ever important decrease to commute time, Keller shared.

BART will be a great addition to the city,” he stated. “Better BART means a better Bay Area.”

The extension to Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch is projected to be completed by May, 2018.

The new pedestrian bridge is “a landmark saying BART is coming to Antioch,” Keller added.

Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock asked if BART would provide the police officers for the station.

Keller said BART will work with the Antioch Police Department to structure a response plan and an adequate security plan.

Highway 4 Update

Randy Iwasaki, Executive Director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) provided an update on State Route 4 widening projec. Highway 4 is two-thirds of the way done with the overall widening, he shared.

The CCTA is working with BART to get it into the Highway 4 median faster. Iwasaki also said improvements to the State Route 160/4 Connector Ramps are expected to be completed in early 2016.

Future planning will rely on 65% local dollars, 22% State and 13% in Federal funds.

A strong economy is the key to transportation funding,” he added.

General Plan Update

The Council then heard from consultant Dick Loweke on the General Plan for Land Use Element and Zoning Ordinance update- updating the Land Use Element and Zoning Ordinance and the 19 Focus Areas.

Harper asked about an employment area. “I like the sound of that,” he said. “What does that mean?”

Loweke responded, “Look at policies that will encourage that to happen so it’s efficiently set up to fit in the market place.

The Council then approved the authorization to execute contracts with three potential additional planning consultants, Dudek, Rincon, and M-Group each amounting less than $100,000 for a term of 3 years.

Pay as you go?” asked Ogorchock. “Yes,” was staff’s reply.

City Gets Unexpected State Funds

City staff asked the council to provide direction on the use of prior unfunded State mandates received by the city and adopt a resolution amending the fiscal 2014-2015 budget amount of $793,767 in “one time monies” from the state, as City Finance Director Dawn Merchant referred to the funds. She suggested possibilities for the funds, including applying some to the police supplementary retirement plan, a build up to the General Fund reserves or use some or all funds for a capital fund project.

Ogorchock wanted to pay down the city’s unfunded liability. Harper supported that but proposed using the funds about solar programs for energy savings.

If we could outfit community buildings with solar there would be an ongoing savings for the community,” he said.

Ogorchock made a motion to put the money in the General Fund and not spend it. Rocha seconded the motion and it passed, unanimously on a 4-0 vote, because Council Member Monica Wilson absent during the meeting.

New park playground equipment

The Council award a contract of $127,681 for playground equipment for Contra Loma Park. First 5 has been active in ranking our parks. This is the number one priority park by them. From last year, the funds are there. The installation will be completed in 16-20 weeks, but possibly even less in an 8-10 week timeframe. However, improvements such as cameras and lighting are not included in the contract.

We believe it’s time to take… our parks back,” said resident Debra Polk. “We need lighting, surveillance, and the basketball court to make a major change in the lives of families.”

It is on our radar,” Harper responded. “Thank you for being our partner on this. This is a good start.”

Road Improvements

The council voted to approve road improvements in downtown.

They amended the 2014-2015 Capital Improvement Budget to increase Gas Tax funding for the Downtown Roadway Pavement Rehabilitation project in the amount of $50,000 and increase the existing contract with MCK Services, Inc. for $73,389.50 totaling $684,514.50

The council also authorized the expenditure of a alittle more than $77,000 for the completion on additional road work.

They [residents] really appreciate all the work going on,” said Harper.

Rocha encouraged the continuation of beautifying the community.

Hopefully these streets will last us ten to twenty years,” said Public Works Director/City Engineer Ron Bernal.

The council also approved improvements to Ninth Street, increasing the existing contract with MCK Services, Inc. in the amount of $135,902.82 and also authorized a final payment of $98,236.24.

From A to H Street this completes that entire road way,” said Bernal. “This project had additional costs such as additional concrete and excavation, water main leakage repair which estimated an amount of $135,000.

The extra costs and investment are “part of a trust factor with the council,” he added.

The next meeting of the Antioch City Council will be on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers on Second Street in downtown. Meetings can also be viewed on Comcast TV Channel 24 or via livestream on the city’s website at

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Charter high school in Pittsburg, serving Antioch, county students adds arts education

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015
SEP photo 1024x611 Charter high school in Pittsburg, serving Antioch, county students adds arts education

Synergy Education Project (SEP) celebrated the July 9, 2015 decision of the California State Board of Education to unanimously approved two material revisions to the school’s charter petition; (1) add an arts education component to the curriculum and (2) use Encore Education Corporation to manage SEP’s specific mission to provide students with college readiness while exploring passion for the arts. The school was presented with Letters of Recognition. (L-R) Erica Rodriguez-Langley representing State Assemblyman Jim Frazier, Cynthia Ruehlig, President, SEP Board of Directors, Denise Griffin Encore/SEP Executive Director, and Maria Henderson, representing State Senator Steve Glazer.

By Cynthia Ruehlig

There is plenty to bark about at Synergy Education Project High School (SEP High School), a tuition-free public school serving grades 6-12 students from Pittsburg / Contra Costa County. On July 9, SEP was unanimously approved by the California State Board of Education to add an arts education component to its project-based learning approach; offering electives in dance, vocal music, theater and visual arts starting this fall.

SEP, which accepts 70% socio-economic disadvantaged students, leads in overall performance for English Language Learners for middle schools within a 15 mile radius from its Pittsburg location. SEP has successfully responded to changing demographics and the challenge to overcome the achievement gap. SEP Board of Directors has chosen Encore Education Corporation to manage the school’s new direction.

Encore Executive Director Denise Griffin will apply the same strategy which earned Encore High School, Hesperia a place of distinction in “Top Schools in America” (US News and World Report); boasting the highest high school ranking by the California Department of Education in Hesperia with API of 793, 98% graduation, 100% passing in the 2013 CAHSEE and approximately two million dollars in college scholarships awarded to graduates.

SEPS High mascot logo 300x87 Charter high school in Pittsburg, serving Antioch, county students adds arts educationA new mascot (bulldog), school colors and newly refurbished facility mark the beginning of SEP’s transformation from a good to a great school.

School starts August 13 for all enrolled students grades 6 through 11. For more information call (925) 207-3626 or visit

Ruehlig is President of the Board of Directors for the Synergy Education Project.


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Pedestrian overcrossing installed for Antioch BART Station on Friday

Monday, July 13th, 2015
DSCF0324 1024x768 Pedestrian overcrossing installed for Antioch BART Station on Friday

A pedestrian overcrossing was installed at Antioch’s BART Station, across the future westbound lanes of Highway 4 on Friday, July 10, 2015.

Highway 4 expansion paves way for BART extension to Antioch and East County

By Allen Payton

Progress continues on the Antioch BART Station. On Friday, July 10, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) installed a pedestrian bridge over Highway 4 for the future Antioch BART station at Hillcrest Avenue, marking a major milestone in the journey to bring eBART service to eastern Contra Costa County. The 145-foot-long structure was hoisted into place over Highway 4 by a giant crane about 4pm.

Prior to the installation, a tour of the new BART Station was provided by BART and CCTA staff, and included Director Joel Keller, who represents Antioch on the BART Board, and Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock. The tour included a walk through the tunnel beneath the future west-bound lanes of Highway 4, which will run from the BART station to the maintenance facility.

The median is wide enough to allow for both the line to the maintenance facility and two lines of transit for a future extension to Oakley and Brentwood, according to Michael Chann of S&C Engineers, Inc., who are working on the project.

East County has been waiting a long time for better transit connections to other parts of the Bay Area,” Keller said. “After many, many years of planning and promises, we have started laying the track. The new Antioch Station will provide a high-quality transit connection for the people of East County in just a few years.”

DSCF0321 300x225 Pedestrian overcrossing installed for Antioch BART Station on Friday

The Highway 4 median includes room for the tunnel to the maintenance facility and two lines of transit for a future expansion further east.

The pedestrian overcrossing will carry BART passengers over the four lanes of westbound Highway 4 to the future Antioch eBART station in the highway median. This station will enable East County residents boarding at Hillcrest Avenue to arrive at the Pittsburg-Bay Point BART Station in 10 minutes. eBART trains will operate on the 20-hour BART schedule and meet BART trains at Pittsburg-Bay Point every 15 minutes. BART’s Pittsburg Center Station is also under construction at Railroad Avenue in Pittsburg.

A video of the bridge lift can be found here:

It’s exciting to see the progress being made at the BART Station at Hillcrest,” Ogorchock stated. “Antioch will finally be getting our long-awaited and promised BART extension. It will not only help our residents who commute out of the area to go to work, it will also open up the opportunity for commercial development and employment around the station.”

The eBART train cars, which are known as DMU’s (for deisel, multilple-unit) can hold up to 200 passengers, and as many as three vehicles can be linked together, allowing the system to move as many as 600 passengers every 15 minutes, for a total of 2,400 passengers per hour, per direction, according to Keller.

The Hillcrest BART extension is projected to be completed and the station open in May, 2018.

The BART overcrossing installation is a very visible element of progress in providing more mobility to the residents of East County. We are providing not only needed capacity on Highway 4, but expanded transit options, as well,” said Julie Pierce, Chair of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority Board. “That’s how we are working in partnership with other agencies and the community to build a smarter and more efficient transportation network in Contra Costa County.”

DSCF0323 300x225 Pedestrian overcrossing installed for Antioch BART Station on Friday

BART Director Joel Keller, left, discusses the new extension to Antioch with Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock and CCTA Construction Manager Ivan Ramirez.

The continued expansion of Highway 4 along the BART route has allowed BART to start laying track in the newly expanded medians. BART service is planned to start in 2018.

The Hillcrest Avenue segment of the Highway 4 Corridor projects is the fifth construction segment in the effort to modernize transportation options in eastern Contra Costa. The construction projects for this segment in Antioch will widen the highway from four to eight lanes, including three mixed flow lanes and one High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane, and provide a median wide enough for BART.

Renderings of the future BART station can be found here:

The Highway 4 projects include improvements that will help modernize eastern Contra Costa County. The projects expand Highway 4 from four to eight lanes between Loveridge Road in Pittsburg to just west of State Route 160 in Antioch, from two to four lanes from Lone Tree Way to Sand Creek Road in Brentwood, add missing connector ramps at the State Route 160/Highway 4 interchange, and add a BART extension from Pittsburg to Antioch. This will greatly improve transit accessibility for the region, help reduce traffic congestion, and enhance the quality of life for the more than 250,000 residents of eastern Contra Costa County. The projects have been carefully staged to keep 130,000 vehicles per day moving as major construction and demolition work continue. These projects, plus previously constructed projects in the region, bring the total investment in East County to $1.3 billion, including State, Federal, Contra Costa Transportation Authority Measures C and J, regional bridge tolls, and other funds.

For more information on the eBART Project, visit For more information on the Highway 4 expansion, visit

DSCF0316 1024x768 Pedestrian overcrossing installed for Antioch BART Station on Friday

Heading into the tunnel under Highway 4.

DSCF0318 1024x768 Pedestrian overcrossing installed for Antioch BART Station on Friday

BART Director Joel Keller and Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock in the BART tunnel under Highway 4.

DSCF0320 1024x768 Pedestrian overcrossing installed for Antioch BART Station on Friday

The median end of the BART tunnel beneath the future westbound lanes of Highway 4 east of Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch.

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