Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Supervisors hire from within, choose Deborah Cooper as County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Voters

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Soon to be appointed Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Voters Deborah Cooper at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Photo by Daniel Borsuk.

Long-time Clerk/Recorder Administrator gets nod for $350,000 a year post; Mitchoff withdrew application

By Daniel Borsuk

By leveraging 24 years of experience in the Contra Costa County Clerk/Recorder-Registrar of Voters Office, Deborah Cooper unanimously earned the nod of approval from the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to become the next Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters.

But it wasn’t a smooth ride to convince the five supervisors in selecting the longtime Clerk/Recorder Administrator to the top Clerk/Recorder-Registrar of Voters’ position.

Supervisors instructed County Administrator David Twa to have criminal and personal background checks conducted on the career Clerk/Recorder Office Administrator so that supervisors can put their final stamp of approval on their selection at a meeting on February 4.

Cooper, a Danville resident, outlasted four other candidates for the elected post that became vacant October 30 when former office holder Joseph Canciamilla of Pittsburg, resigned when a California Fair Practices Commission audit uncovered that the former state assemblymember had illegally spent $130,529 in campaign funds for personal expenses. Canciamilla has paid a $150,000 CFPC fine, but still faces potential criminal charges and forfeiture of his state pension.

Bisa French, the interim Richmond Police Chief delivered a speech at the 42nd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors chambers in Martinez on Tuesday. Photo by Daniel Borsuk.

Cooper said she is willing to run for the elected office in three years, unless the supervisors change the office from an elected to an appointed post during the interim. The longtime department administrator remarked that expanding voter outreach and relying on current department IT personnel to ensure election security and safety will be among her priorities if she is permanent Clerk/Recorder and Registrar of Voters.

“You currently have someone who has held an important position in the office for 24 years and knows how to maintain control,” said former County Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of voters Steve Weir, who endorsed Cooper for the full-time top post.

Competition for the $350,000 a year post was intense, especially from former California Assemblymember Catharine Baker of Dublin, who, even though she resides in Alameda County, said she “held the keys” to a residence in Contra Costa County that would help her meet the residency requirement by the February 4th date when Supervisors are expected to officially approve the finalist.

“I’d bring a sense of transparency to the office,” said Baker, who ran into a rough patch of questions from District 1 Supervisor John Gioia concerning her interpretation of the State Voter Identification Law. “I support the policy that requires voter ID,” Baker said. But Gioia responded “There is nothing in the voter ID law that discourages people from voting.”

Also in the competition for the top post were former El Cerrito Mayor Mark Friedman, who pledged to use his philanthropic fundraising skills to bolster the Clerk/Recorder Office’s functions; Deputy Registrar of Voters Scott Kopanaseke, who leveraged his extensive elections IT and cybersecurity expertise; and Lafayette resident Kristin Connelly, President and CEO of the East Bay Leadership Council, who said she has the leadership skills to bring changes to the department where voting at polls is on the decline while voting by mail is on the rise.

On the initial vote, District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, herself a candidate for the position until she withdrew her application on January 16, citing “personal reasons” for pulling out, sided with District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover to appoint Cooper to the post for the next three years. Both Glover and Mitchoff liked Cooper’s experience and knowledge of the department and what needs to be done immediately.

Supervisors Gioia and District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis initially voted for Friedman and Board Chair Candace Andersen called former assemblymember Baker “my first choice,” and described Koponaseke for “doing amazing things,” wound up voting for Cooper’s appointment as did Gioia and Burgis on a second vote.

Supervisors recognized the 400 county eligibility workers on Tuesday by designating January as Eligibility Workers Month in Contra Costa County. Eligibility workers assist receipients and prospective recipients eligible for a myriad of public assistance programs. Those programs include Medi-Cal, Welfare-to-Work, CalWorks, FosterCare, KinGap, and CalFresh. Photo by Daniel Borsuk.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Bisa French, the interim Richmond Police Chief delivered a speech at the 42nd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors chambers in Martinez on Tuesday.  French, a Richmond native, spoke about her experiences growing up in Richmond, her ordeal while undergoing police cadet training, and how she rose through the ranks to where she is today.  Also honored at the ceremony were Tamisha Walker, who is co-founder and executive director of the Safe Return Project, a Richmond organization invested in securing the freedom of formerly incarcerated individuals. Concord High School student Christina Mazzi, a 17-year-old Ugandan-American, founded ProjectWOC, an Instagram based community organization working to inspire the younger generation of girls of color. Christina has a 4.1 grade point average at Concord High School.

Make It Easier to Build Granny Units

In other business, supervisors adopted an overhauled ordinance to create regulations permitting procedures for accessory dwelling units and junior accessory dwelling units. The new ordinance puts the county ordinance in compliance with the state ordinance, Stanley Muraoka of the Contra Costa County Department of Conservation and Development said. The updated ADU ordinance aims to encourage residential property owners in unincorporated Contra Costa County to build ADU’s as the state undergoes an affordable housing crisis.

Among some of the changes are the elimination of requirements setting minimum lot size and maximum lot coverage. For the first time, junior ADU’s are permitted of up to 500 feet within an existing single-family dwelling and can be combined with or in addition to a regular detached ADU on the same lot.

Accept Grant for Sheriff-Coroner Forensic Unit

Supervisors also approved a Sheriff-Coroner Office’s consent item to accept a grant of $408,854 for the Sheriff’s Forensic Services Unit to buy a Liquid-Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry Instrument starting October 1. The LC-MS/MS will allow the Sheriff’s Office crime laboratory to provide more information on driving under the influence of drugs and drug facilitated sexual assault cases without the need of outside testing.

The Sheriff’s Office has seen an increase in the number of newer or “emerging drugs” inclusive of fentanyl analogs, designer benzodiazepines, synthetic cannabinoids and “bath salts.” A LC-MS/MS would aid the crime lab to increase the variety of drugs that can be tested and eventually provided the law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution purposes.

Allocate $1.2 Million for Walnut Creek Area Park Landscaping

Supervisors also approved allocations of $1.2 million in total Park Dedication Funds for landscaping projects at two public parks in the Walnut Creek area. The Public Works Department plans to spend $800,000 to install and maintain landscaping at Walden Green along a half-mile stretch of the Iron Horse Trail Corridor. The Public Works Department plans to spend $400,000 at Fox Creek Park, 118 Anthony Way, in Walnut Creek to upgrade the park by replacing some of the landscaping with more sustainable landscaping and increasing American with Disability Act accessibility.

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Antioch School Board approves sale of $10.75 million in bonds to improve district’s older schools

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Approves Human Trafficking Awareness Month resolution for January, and other recognition days, weeks and months including LGBTQ PRide Month for June

By Allen Payton

At their meeting on Wednesday night, the Antioch School Board trustees unanimously approved the sale of $10,750,000 in bonds for improvements to schools most of which are located in the older parts of town. The funds are remaining from a total of $61.6 million in bonds included in the district’s Measure C vote approved by Antioch voters in June 2008. The vote also formed School Facilities Improvement District No. 1. (See details, here: Resolution 2019-20-31 SFID No. 1 General Obligation Bonds)

According to the district’s website, the schools included in SFID-1 and the year they were built are as follows:

Elementary Schools – Belshaw, 1954; Fremont, 1953; Kimball, 1950; Marsh, 1947; Mission, 1973; Muir, 1990; Sutter, 1964; and Tuner, 1968.

Middle Schools – Antioch, 1964 and Park Middle School, 1959.

High Schools – Antioch High School, 1954; Bidwell Continuation, 1958; Live Oak, 1978; and Prospects, 1992.

According to the staff report, “The District desires to initiate proceedings for the issuance of bonds with respect to its School Facilities Improvement District No. 01. A new bond series will be issued to finance additional voter-approved capital projects in the District pursuant to the authority of Measure C.

The resolution authorizes the bonds to be issued as traditional, tax-exempt general obligation bonds pursuant to provisions of State law. The bonds will be payable from the levy and collection of ad valorem property taxes on SFID No. 1 properties. The bonds are authorized to be issued as current interest bonds only. Capital appreciation bonds are not authorized.”

Dave Olson of Backstrom, McCarley, Berry & Company gave a presentation on the bond sale. AUSD 1.22.20 Sale of Series E Bonds Presentation

“There are two sides to a bond. There’s the proceeds and the repayment,” he said. “The revenue is going to come in over the first 8 to 10 years and then the payments will last 30 years.”

“The annual property tax will be $60 per $100,000 in value,” Olson stated “This is only going to be another $10 million which will help.” The funds are in addition to the $56.5 million in bonds from Measure B passed by voters in November 2012 for improvements to Antioch High School, and Measure T, the $105 million bond on this year’s March 3rd ballot. (See related article)

Recognition of Special Days, Weeks and Months

The board also approved a resolution recognizing January as Human Trafficking Awareness month, and a variety of recognition days, weeks and months, including African American History, National School Counseling Week, Music in Our Schools Month, National Women’s History Month, Read Across America Day, Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning, Autism Awareness Month, National Bilingual/Multilingual Learner Advocacy Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, LGBTQ Pride Month, and Fund Education Now Week. AUSD Resolution – Human Trafficking

Trustee Ellie Householder asked about the LGBTQ Month recognition.

“Why is this coming before us, now?” she asked. “Isn’t this for June?”

“The board wanted to bring this in a timely manner,” said Superintendent Stephanie Anello. “So, we’re bringing half of them, now and half of them later.”

All of the items passed on unanimous votes.

“I just want to let you all know we are all five going to sign proclamations,” Board President Diane Gibson-Gray stated.

Dallas Ranch Middle School Parent Liaison

In other matters, on a 4-1 split vote the board approved a contract between Dallas Ranch Middle School and parent Velma Wilson, who has been a volunteer in Antioch schools. She regularly attends board meetings and has been a vocal critic of both former Antioch School Board trustee Debra Vinson and current trustee Crystal Sawyer-White, who removed the agenda item from the consent calendar.

Wilson will act as a parent liaison to increase parental engagement at Dallas Ranch Middle School. She will work with site administration to foster greater parental involvement so staff can work collaboratively with parents and students to improve student achievement. The scope of work includes forming parent connections with the school, being present during school events and functions, supporting the school’s social media sites, organizing parent town hall meetings and providing information about school and district resources.

“I compared similar positions with other districts,” Sawyer-White said Will there be any kind of data report? It also says cohesiveness with teachers and families. I think that should be with the board.”

“Absolutely,” responded Bridget Spires, principal of Dallas Ranch Middle School. “Every family we work with, we are keeping a comprehensive view of each student. We’re also going to have her update our Facebook. When we have events at the school, she’s there taking photos. She’s documenting some things that are specific to our school.

The funds are being spent out of the school site’s LCAP funds, Anello explained.

“I’m almost embarrassed to say we were only able to offer her $4,000 for this particular role,” said Spires. “She’s been volunteering at our site for several years.”

“I don’t question what you’re doing, I’m really happy what you’re doing,” Trustee Mary Rocha said. “It doesn’t just happen if you open the door and say, ‘come in’. Not all schools can afford this. But this is a start.”

Velma Wilson then spoke on the matter, blasting Sawyer-White.

“I really do want to address…because Crystal brought up cohesiveness on our school sites,” she said. “How many parents are really coming to our school board meetings? None. This really isn’t about you. I have invited you on a variety of occasions. I’m at every last school site doing a lot of work. Mary Rocha has been a proud supporter. I’m bilingual. I make the effort…to address them the way they feel comfortable. This isn’t about cohesiveness with you. All the other school board trustees I have a good relationship with. One day you’ll get it. One day you’ll understand this is about the schools. It ain’t about the money, to me. It’s about the work and it’s about the lives of these students. I break my back to try to do what I can for these kids, and they don’t even belong to me. So, it ain’t about you Crystal. It’s about these kids.”

“I’m going based on comments from parents. It’s not about me,” Sawyer-White responded. “I do have a son in special education. Other parents are asking me, can we all just work together. Not attend board meetings where someone is coming at someone else negatively. I just had some questions about this position. But, if you’re going to be friendly with the parents, let’s all get along. It’s a new year. I just believe that we should all be able to get along as a whole.”

The board approved the item on a 4-1 vote, with Sawyer-White voting against.

Copies of this school board agenda and its attachments are located on the Internet at www.antiochschools.net. Click on http://www.boarddocs.com/ca/ausd/Board.nsf/Public. To watch the entire school board meeting visit their YouTube page.

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Antioch Council leases out Lynn House to reopen as art gallery and studio

Saturday, January 18th, 2020

People attend an event at the Lynn House on August 17, 2016. Photo by Arts & Cultural Foundation of Antioch.

By Allen Payton

At their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Antioch City Council approved a lease agreement with Jody Mattison, owner of Lafayette Studio in Walnut Creek, for use of the Lynn House, for an art gallery and studio. She will own and operate it as the Lynn House Gallery and Studio (LHGS).

Located at 809-815 W. First Street across from the Amtrak Station in downtown Rivertown, the two-story, 1,400 square foot building has been used by organizations and groups over the years. The most recent use was by the Arts & Cultural Foundation of Antioch, as an art gallery as recent as 2017.

It has been closed since Diane Gibson-Gray retired as executive director and curator of the Lynn House Gallery and Arts & Cultural Foundation in December 2018.

“Jody is extremely talented. I was very pleased when I heard she got it,” said Gibson-Gray. “Because Jody lives downtown and has shown at the gallery before, she is very aware of the property and neighborhood. I think she is going to do a fabulous job and the gallery will once again be a thriving attraction.”

“I will be very supportive of her endeavors,” Gibson-Gray added. “I’m looking forward to attending exhibits, once again.”

According to the city staff report, the lease will generate about $5,000 in rental income the first year and will offset the annual maintenance expenditures for the property. The rental price will then be adjusted annually by changes to the Consumer Price Index.

A Request for Proposals was issued in August 2019 for the utilization of the Lynn House. Responses to the RFP were due October 1, 2019, and Mattison’s was the only proposal submitted.

As part of the lease, she has agreed to the following:

Gallery

The Lynn House will host a rotation of regional and guest artists, highlighting the creativity and talent of East Bay and California residents. The rotating gallery will provide visibility for the instructors, inspiration for continuing and prospective students. Paired with an e-commerce channel, this gallery will serve as an income stream for the business.

Students and residents attend the Marsh Elementary School Art Exhibit at the Lynn House Gallery in March 2016. Herald file photo.

Studio Space

LHGS is offering open studio time for the personal use of artists.

Classroom

Both floors of the Lynn House will host fine art classes provided by talented, Bay Area instructors. Classes will bring students in locally, fostering community, and from around the Bay Area, drawing new visitors to the city.

Event Venue

The Lynn House will participate in Antioch Downtown events, providing a midpoint attraction between the main downtown area and the marina. Exhibits could be coordinated with events such as the wine walk, music festivals and car shows, along with art-specific functions such as a yearly plein-aire painting event.

The term of the lease is five years with an optional five-year extension.

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Travis Credit Union announces 2020 college scholarship program for graduating high school seniors

Saturday, January 18th, 2020

VACAVILLE, CA –  Travis Credit Union announced it will award twenty $2,000 scholarships to current high school seniors bound for college in the fall of 2020. This year marks the 17th year of the scholarship program by the Vacaville-based credit union. Since the scholarship was established in 2004, the credit union has awarded more than $397,000 in scholarships.

The credit union encourages all graduating seniors to apply. Each applicant must be a high school senior with a GPA of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale), bound for a two–or four–year college or university and a member of Travis Credit Union in good standing. Students who live in Travis Credit Union’s twelve-county service region and are not yet members may join the credit union and apply for a scholarship at the same time.

“Credit unions were founded on the philosophy of people helping people,” says Barry Nelson, Travis Credit Union’s president and CEO. “Offering scholarships to deserving high school seniors is just one way we assist our young members with the rising cost of high education, while reinforcing our commitment to the financial success of our country’s future leaders.”

The Travis Credit Union Board of Directors established the scholarship program in 2004. The program honors the late Mary Keith Duff, who passed away in 2004. Duff was the first woman to serve on the Travis Credit Union Board of Directors.

The 2020 scholarship application is now available online at traviscu.org/scholarship or at any Travis Credit Union branch location. Completed applications must be received at the credit union by the close of business of Monday, March 2, 2020. In addition to a completed application, applicants must submit a 250-word personal statement, a certified high school transcript and a letter of reference from a teacher. The scholarships will be awarded in mid-June by the credit union.
“In the last 17 years, we have received a tremendous response from young members who have exhibited a commitment to academic excellence and community service. We look forward to recognizing even more of our deserving young members this year,” adds Nelson.

Headquartered in Vacaville, California, Travis Credit Union is a not-for-profit cooperative financial institution serving those who live or work in Alameda, Colusa, Contra Costa, Merced Napa, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Yolo Counties. Currently, Travis Credit Union is the 13th largest credit union in California with more than 214,000 members and more than $3.2 billion in assets. As one of the leading financial institutions in Solano, Contra Costa, Napa, Yolo and Merced Counties, Travis Credit Union’s strength lies in its faithful commitment to its members and the community; its solid, secure history; and its long-standing track record of dedicated service.

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“Women Win the Vote” exhibit in Contra Costa celebrating 100th anniversary of 19th Amendment begins with reception Feb. 1

Saturday, January 18th, 2020

Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1915-1920 and founder of the League of Women Voters. Photo courtesy of LWV.

The public is invited to an opening reception on Saturday, February 1 to kick off the new exhibit “Women Win the Vote, in California, Contra Costa and the Nation” at the Contra Costa County History Center in Martinez.  “A Toast to the Indomitable Suffragists,” a program featuring feminist local historian Beverly Lane, will begin at 1 p.m.

The exhibit features the 72-year battle for American women’s right to vote, ending 100 years ago with passage of the 19th Amendment on Aug. 26, 1920.  It includes a display from the National Archives “Rightfully Hers,” suffrage banners, and a history of the movement. Stories of Contra Costa County woman leaders beginning in the 1920’s are also included.

The reception is sponsored by the Contra Costa County Historical Society and the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley. It runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the History Center, 724 Escobar in Martinez.  Street parking is available.

The Contra Costa History Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays each month.  Go to cocohistory.org for more information.

For more information on reception contact: lwvdv.org.

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Two thieves arrested for stealing 42 pairs of jeans from Antioch J.C. Penney store, Friday

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Photo by APD.

By Antioch Police Department

In response to recent thefts occurring at area J.C. Penney’s, our officers have upped their patrols of our Slatten Ranch store. Today, we arrested two subjects who came in the business and “forgot” to pay for 42 pairs of jeans valued at $70 each.

We appreciate the store’s cooperation as well as witnesses who call in information after the thefts.

Editor’s Note: A call has been made to the APD Media Line to obtain more details about this case. Please check back later for updates to this report.

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Traffic stop leads to arrest of suspect in 2019 Antioch shooting murder

Friday, January 17th, 2020

By Sergeant James Stenger #3604, Antioch Police Violent Crimes Unit (Investigations Bureau)

On January 12, 2019 at 1:52 PM, Antioch Police Department patrol officers were dispatched to the 2100 block of Peppertree Way for multiple shots fired and a man down. Officers arrived on scene and located 28-year-old Jacory Brown down in the street, suffering from several gunshot wounds to his upper body. Brown was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced deceased by hospital staff. (See related article).

It was determined through this investigation that Brown and 23-year-old Jordan Thompson were involved in a verbal/physical altercation and Thompson shot Brown several times during the altercation. Antioch Police Department investigators spent most of 2019 attempting to track-down Thompson, but he evaded capture. On January 17, 2020 at 9:01 AM, an Antioch Police Department patrol officer conducted a traffic enforcement stop on a vehicle on Contra Loma Boulevard near Longview Road. Jordan Thompson was contacted as the lone occupant/driver of the vehicle. Thompson was arrested on a probable cause warrant related to this murder and interviewed at the Antioch Police Department. Thompson was later booked into the County Jail in Martinez and is being held with No-Bail allowed. This case will be presented to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office early next week.

No further information will be released regarding this case at this time.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Bledsoe at (925) 779-6884, or the Antioch Police Department non-emergency line at (925) 778-2441. You may also text-a-tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using the key word ANTIOCH.

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Antioch Middle School principal Lopez-Wiseley named administrators association’s Principal of the Year

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Antioch Middle School principal Lindsay Lopez-Wisely (with lanyard) with some of her students. Photo by AUSD.

By Antioch Unified School District

Just as she’d spent years as an athlete keeping an eye on the ball, Lindsay Lopez-Wisely knew what she wanted to do right out of college. Four years ago, that sense of direction led her to Antioch Middle School, where she has won an award from the Association of California School Administrators for excelling among secondary principals.

A product of Antioch Unified, the Deer Valley High graduate competed in basketball, tennis and track — so well that newspaper clippings of her athletic prowess decorate her office walls.
Lopez-Wisely received a full-ride basketball scholarship to St. Mary’s College, earning a degree in physical education with an emphasis on teaching.

She landed her first job at DVHS in 2004, followed by a teaching stint and then a role as vice principal at Antioch High, where she also won accolades from the ACSA.

Additionally, she developed relationships with community leaders and groups, connections that proved useful when Lopez-Wisely assumed the helm at AMS, receiving generous donations and hosting fundraisers to help with extracurricular activities.

Right out of the gate, Lopez-Wisely instituted instrumental music and choir and helped fill the library with a bundle of new books. Since then, she’s also added on-going school dances and family events, a specialty dance class, a Manhood Development curriculum, and a wellness room to give struggling students a place to get re-centered.

One of her biggest goals was to revive middle school athletics – a full program for all AUSD middle schools, including AMS, Black Diamond, Dallas Ranch, Park and Orchard. The middle-schoolers get a chance to learn a variety of games – from football to basketball to soccer – and the benefits of being on a team and a team player.

Lopez-Wisely thinks one of the reasons she received the award was for her efforts to make AMS a “restorative campus,” a place where students and parents feel welcome and cultivating good relationships is a priority. Teachers are trained how to conduct classroom activities to help young people get to know each other better, which in turn makes them more willing to participate in class discussions and improves teamwork.

In addition, a full-time restorative teacher mediates conflicts between students and leads meetings with students, parents and teachers.

Lopez-Wisely has now moved on to the ACSA state award level, along with Superintendent Stephanie Anello.

Outside the job, Lopez-Wisely somehow finds the energy for 5:30 a.m. workouts with her husband several times a week. The couple also coach their 8- and 12-year-old children; she takes the lead in basketball and he mentors their son in softball and football. #WeAreAUSD

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