Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Push for election poll workers continues in Contra Costa County

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

The election is just a month away, but there is still time for those interested in serving their community and making $125 in the process to sign up to work at a local voter precinct on Election Day, Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

Contra Costa County is in need of civic-minded men and women ages 16 and older to be poll workers in all areas of the county. Poll workers are urgently needed in San Ramon and Danville. Elections officials also say that bilingual poll workers (English/Spanish, English/Japanese, English/Korean, English/Tagalog, English/Chinese, English/Vietnamese and English/Hindi) are especially needed.

There is no better way to serve your community, nor a more important part you can play on Election Day than being a poll worker,” said Joe Canciamilla, Contra Costa Registrar of Voters. “It is our poll workers who serve to keep our voting process open, accessible and fair.”

No prior experience is necessary and training is provided. Poll workers receive a stipend for their service, which includes attending a two-hour required training and working 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Election Day. They will receive a special pin denoting their service. Serving as a poll worker does not have any bearing on Social Security or unemployment status, according to State law.

Poll workers don’t have to be politically active or belong to a political party, Contra Costa County Election officials said. Poll workers are required to remain neutral while working on Election Day.

County and State employees are encouraged to apply.

High School students who are at least 16 and have a grade point average of 2.5 or above may serve as poll workers. Student poll workers will receive a stipend and may fulfill community service requirements.

Those interested in being a poll worker must be registered to vote in California, or a permanent resident in the United States, according to state election law.

For more information, visit To apply, email or call the Elections Division at (925) 335-7873.

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County Elections Office to provide drop-off boxes to enable easier voting, this year

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

Contra Costa residents will find it a little easier to vote this upcoming election, as the County Elections Office is teaming up with City Clerks to provide several convenient “CoCo Vote-N-Go” drop off locations prior to and on Election Day.

Brentwood, Antioch, Pittsburg, San Ramon, Orinda, Concord, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Richmond, San Pablo, Hercules, and Pinole are among the cities who are participating in this effort. The secure, steel drop-off boxes will be in place at those city halls starting the week of Oct. 13 – one week after permanent vote-by-mail and absentee voters receive ballots. Days and hours of availability will vary by city.

We are excited to join with our City partners in offering this option for our fast growing number of vote by mail voters,” said County Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla in announcing the new service. “In the future, voters should expect to have an even wider range of drop locations in their local communities.”

The distinguishable red boxes will be available during normal city business hours. City staff members will also have the popular “I Voted” stickers upon request for those who drop off their ballots.

County elections officials will regularly pick up collected ballots.

Ballots may also be dropped off 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the County Elections Office in Martinez, located at 555 Escobar St., or at any polling place on Election Day.

For more information about voting by mail, call 925-335-7800 or visit the County Elections Website at

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Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi winery hosts 12th annual California State Championship Chili Cookoff benefit

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Mondavi chili Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi winery hosts 12th annual California State Championship Chili Cookoff benefitWHO: Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Winery hosts the 12th Annual Chili Cookoff, the official Chili

WHAT: Appreciation Society International (CASI) California State Championship, where approximately 35 teams from around the country will compete for a top prize. Proceeds will benefit the local California-based Lodi Public Library Foundation.

The Chili Cookoff is open to the public and admission is free, inviting families of all ages to attend. Tasting kits are available for purchase, priced at $3.00 for five tastes. Guests are invited to try the various chili recipes and vote for their favorite to win the People’s Choice Chili award.

While the centerpiece of the contest is a traditional bowl of red chili, the cookoff will feature competition in five categories (listed below). This event will be sanctioned by CASI, with the winning CASI-Sanctioned Chili cook, in addition to the top three California-resident cooks, automatically qualifying to compete in the prestigious Terlingua International Chili Championship (TICC) in Terlingua, Texas in November 2015.

2014 California State Chili Cookoff Categories:

1.      CASI-Sanctioned Chili

2.      People’s Choice Chili

3.      CASI Showmanship

4.      Salsa

5.      Guacamole

To enter the Chili Cookoff and/or receive a complete list of rules and requirements, call (209) 365-8081. Entry deadline is October 13th, 2014.

Guests attending the Chili Cookoff will also have the opportunity to enjoy a unique car show featuring classic cars from Ford, Chevy and Mopar. To participate, car show entry is $20 per car.

WHEN: Saturday, October 18, 2014, 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. PT

WHERE: Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Winery, 5950 E. Woodbridge Road, Acampo, CA 95220

SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook: Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi; Twitter: @Woodbridge_Wine; Pinterest: Woodbridge Wines

About Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Winery

Robert Mondavi founded Woodbridge Winery near his boyhood home in Lodi, California to encourage a growing wine culture in the U.S. by making quality wines that could be enjoyed by Americans as part of daily life. Combining traditional winemaking with state-of-the-art innovation, Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi raised the standard for everyday wines in America, and has become one of America’s most loved wines. For more about Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, including food and wine pairings and recipes ideas, please visit

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Antioch citizens confront Mayor Harper on crime, threaten recall

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Council considers budget adjustments

By John Crowder

At the September 23 meeting of the Antioch City Council, two residents spoke out against Mayor Wade Harper for what they considered his inability to address spiraling crime in the city.

Rich Buongiorno, who earlier this month posted an open letter on Facebook to the mayor on the same issue, spoke first.

Mr. mayor, I’m not happy,” he said. “When it comes to the bad stuff, you’re not there.” Calling the mayor, “MIA,” Buongiorno added, “Crime and violence is getting worse… now it’s a constant. It’s a daily occurrence.” He concluded by saying that he and others, “intend to seek your recall and removal from the office of Mayor in Antioch, California.” His presentation was twice interrupted by applause.

A little later during comments, another resident, Ken Turnage II, also spoke out, specifically referencing the crimes being committed at Deer Valley Plaza by Deer Valley High School students every day after school.

Violence has become a constant, and businesses are closing their doors because they cannot be protected,” he said. Turnage asked for the mayor’s resignation.

Harper interrupted Turnage when asked to resign, saying, “That won’t happen.”

Everyone’s entitled to their comments, and their opinion, and we respect other opinions,” Harper stated, after Turnage concluded his remarks.

When it was time for the Mayor’s Comments on the agenda, Harper again addressed the negative feedback he had received. He laborating on some of the things he did as mayor, which he said were largely unseen in the press.

As long as the community wants me to serve, I will serve, and put my heart into it,” he said.

Regarding the problems at Deer Valley Plaza, he said that he had been meeting with the police chief and the superintendent of schools about the matter.

Public Hearings

A public hearing was held regarding the Planning Commission’s decision to approve a use permit for Mission-Hope Day Program, which provides services for developmentally disabled adults. Residents of the Lake Alhambra Homeowners Association were appealing the decision because of concerns with “traffic, parking, and the intensity of the use.” The program is to be located at 10 South Lake Drive.

Former State Assemblyman Guy Houston spoke to the council on behalf of the program. Following his presentation, Antioch resident Martha Parsons spoke in opposition. After a lengthy discussion, including rebuttals and an intermission in order to allow time for new condition language to be drafted, the council voted 4-0 to approve the use permit. Three conditions were made a part of the approval, including the installation of “no parking” signs restricting parking in front of the building during operational hours, the securing of an off-site parking location for employees, and limits on the size of vans.

In other matters, public hearings were held on two housing development plans.

Oakley Knolls is a project proposed by Discovery Builders to put 31 single family homes on approximately five-and-a-half acres on the north side of Oakley Road.

Quail Cove, proposed by West Coast Home Builders, would also result in 31 single-family homes on the west side of Heidorn Ranch Road at the eastern terminus of Prewett Ranch Drive. Property owner Richard Johnson expressed concern with the project infringing on five acres he owns adjacent to the proposed development.

Both the Oakley Knolls and Quail Cove projects are preliminary. They were placed on the agenda in order for the city council to provide feedback with respect to city requirements prior to final proposals being submitted. On both sites, the city council, on 4-0 votes, provided feedback to the applicants and city staff, asking them to look at certain design aspects in order to ensure sufficient parking, good traffic flow, and recommendations submitted by the Contra Costa Fire Protection District. They suggested that the developers of Quail Cove meet with property owner Richard Johnson in order to mitigate his concerns.

Another suggestion by the council addressed concerns with the rising cost of police services. Mayor Harper said that he would, “like to see a facilities district for police.” Harper also expressed a desire to require the builders to use project labor agreements in construction of the homes.

At the conclusion of the public hearings, a presentation was made, and the council approved, on a 4-0 vote, a proposal to approve a study and adopt a plan to implement a project for steps to be taken to prevent the flooding that repeatedly occurs in the vicinity of West Antioch Creek. Concern was expressed by council members about the proposed closing of West 10th Street between L Street and Auto Center Drive during construction.

Toward the end of, what turned out to be a very long meeting, City Manager Steve Duran addressed the council concerning potential mid-year budget priorities. His comments centered around recommendations he had for spending the additional money that would be coming to the city should Measure O pass. If the measure does pass, the city is estimating additional annual revenue of approximately $2.7 million.

The first priority brought forward by Duran was to spend approximately $1.3 million in order for the Antioch Police Department to buy in to the East Bay Regional Communication System (EBRCS). He said that Antioch was the only city in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties not participating in the system, which is designed to allow for effective communications between law enforcement and first responder agencies within the two counties.

Other proposals were for the elimination of furlough Fridays, at a cost of $800,000, body cameras for police officers, at an undetermined cost, and start-up costs related to new enforcement activities for the Business License staff at a cost of $100,000 per year.

Mayor Harper spoke in favor of EBRCS, police body cameras, and the end of furlough Fridays. The rest of the council echoed their concurrence, and a motion to approve the report was passed on a 4-0 vote.

Finally, in closing comments, both Mayor Harper and Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha addressed the violent behavior of Deer Valley High School students in Deer Valley Plaza. Among other things, including notification of parents by the school district when a child is found to be involved, both talked about the responsibility of the owner of the Plaza. “If we need to pass an ordinance requiring a certain amount of security for such a location, maybe we need to do that,” Harper said.

Maybe we need to have an ordinance on the books that triggers some effort on the owner of that plaza,”stated Rocha.

Council Member Tony Tiscareno concurred with their sentiments, and spoke further about the responsibility of the school district.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 14. Meetings are held in the Antioch City Council chambers, 200 H Street, and begin at 7:00 pm. They can also be viewed live on the city’s website at

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Citizen groups, Antioch school district, reach understanding on accountability plan

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

By John Crowder

At the September 24 meeting of the Antioch School Board, the trustees and the public heard a report on changes made to the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) before voting, 5-0, to approve the revised LCAP budget.

Michael Ricketts, Associate Vice President of School Services of California, Inc., a private company providing, among other things, consulting and legislative advocacy services to California school agencies, presented the LCAP report to the board.

Ricketts began his presentation by emphasizing the changes that the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) had made with respect to the spending distribution of Supplemental Funds, funds provided by the state to local school districts that are designated for providing help to high needs students, such as English Language Learners, low-income students, and foster children.

Three changes to the LCAP were noted. First, the raise that AUSD employees received for the current fiscal year was shifted to Base Funds (funds provided to local school districts for all students). As Ricketts explained, the money for raises had been moved because, including it in Supplemental Funds had become a divisive issue with community groups.

The second change noted was the addition of “more than $1 million,” described as “new money,” realized when AUSD recently completed their analysis of actual revenues and expenditures, and found that income was greater than anticipated, and expenses were less. Ricketts said that this money would all be “earmarked for services directed toward the goals of students with the greatest need for support.”

The third change was the identification of actions being taken by AUSD, “supporting goals for English learners, students eligible for the meals program, and foster youth.”

With these changes, Ricketts’ presentation showed, the $9 million AUSD expects to receive in Supplemental and Concentration Grants for the 2014-2015 school year will be designated for: Economic Impact Aid ($2.3 million), technology upgrades ($1.4 million), counseling services ($1.3 million), special education ($1.1 million), vice principals ($751,000), and new services ($1.67 million). About $581,000 is set aside for security services, summer schools and programs, and an English/Spanish translator position.

Following the presentation by Ricketts, two speakers who had been involved with community groups advocating for changes to the LCAP, addressed the board.

Yuritzy Gomez, Community Organizer with the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO) said she was, “very excited” about the changes. She said that she was thankful that AUSD had been open to collaborating with her group, and that she was looking forward to continuing her work with AUSD in the future.

Angelica Jongco, Senior Staff Attorney with Public Advocates, Inc., a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that, in part, seeks to “strengthen community voices in public policy” and achieve “tangible legal victories advancing education,” also spoke. In her statement, she recognized the progress that had been made.

In a statement released by Jongco, she commented further on the talks between AUSD and the community organizations, such as CCISCO.

Persistence paid off,” she said. “Because community members stood up on this issue, Antioch Unified has a much improved local spending plan.”

The district is no longer seeking to fund last year’s across-the-board salary increase with money that is supposed to serve high-need students,” Jongco continued. “This really shows the power of community collaboration. Together we were able to win significant changes in the LCAP. We commend the district for having the flexibility to listen to community concerns and generate a better LCAP as a result.”

We expect the district to follow through on its commitment to work closely with parents and students in planning for the future years. A hallmark of the Local Control Funding Formula is increased transparency around spending and programs. The district must do a better job going forward of making sure that community members can understand and meaningfully participate in discussions around how future money should be spent to best serve the kids.”

School board President Joy Motts responded to comments at the board meeting, thanking the community groups for collaborating with AUSD on improving the LCAP.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for October 8. Meetings are held at the AUSD School Services Building, located at 510 G Street. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Cavallo undercrossing of Highway 4 closed through Monday night for demolition work

Sunday, September 28th, 2014
Cavallo Road undercrossing 1024x768 Cavallo undercrossing of Highway 4 closed through Monday night for demolition work

Demolition crews tear down the old Highway 4 overpass above Cavallo Road, and clean up the debris on Saturday, September 27, 2014. photo by Allen Payton

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Antioch man shot Thursday night, police investigating

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

By Acting Sergeant Wisecarver, Antioch Police Field Services Bureau

On Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 11:06 p.m., Antioch Police Dispatch received a report of people fighting in the street, in the 2800 block of Mariposa Court, with shots fired. The caller advised that one subject had been shot and that all involved parties were leaving the area.

A few minutes later, Dispatch received a report of a major collision in the 600 block of Putnam Street. Upon arrival, the officers learned that a 38-year-old male was suffering from a single gunshot wound and crashed his vehicle as he attempted to drive himself to the hospital. The parked vehicles were unoccupied at the time.

The victim was transported to an area hospital by ambulance. He was treated for his injuries, which were determined to be non-life threatening.

This incident is still under investigation. Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to contact the Antioch Police Dept. at (925)778-2441. You may also text a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using key word ANTIOCH.

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County School Board candidates forum gets heated

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

By John Crowder

On Thursday night, September 18, 2014, candidates running for two seats on the Contra Costa County Board of Education (CCCBE) participated in a question and answer forum held at the Antioch City Council chambers. Present were all four candidates. Incumbent and retired school administrator Richard Asadoorian is facing challenger Mike Maxwell, a former teacher and local businessman, in the race for Area 4. Incumbent Cynthia Ruehlig, a non-profit administrator, is being challenged by educator Jeff Belle in the race for Area 5. Maxwell is a resident of Danville, while the rest of the candidates are from Antioch.

Paul Burgarino, formerly of the East County Times, and now serving as a Voter Education and Engagement Specialist with the Contra Costa County Election Division, served as moderator for the event. The two panelists asking questions were Allen Payton, publisher of the Antioch Herald, and Dr. Sean Wright, CEO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce.

Of the four debates held in Antioch last week, this one produced the most contentious moments, as Belle and Ruehlig challenged each other throughout the night.

Following opening statements and then in answer to the first question, posed by Wright, Asadoorian, Belle, and Ruehlig emphasized their public service credentials, and Maxwell his teaching experience and desire to help kids.

The second question of the night, posed by Payton, asked for the candidate’s views on charter schools in general, and the contentious Dozier-Libbey charter school petition in particular. The answers set the stage for the battle that would continue throughout the rest of the evening between Belle and Ruehlig.

All four candidates expressed at least some support for charter schools.

Maxwell said they were important, and a good asset to the community, but decided to forbear on the Dozier-Libbey question.

Asadoorian, while stating his support for Clayton Valley Charter School, said that he opposed the Dozier-Libbey petition because the school was, “not failing.” He characterized the teacher’s independent charter petition as an attempt to “kidnap” the school for a small number of teachers who were upset.

Ruehlig pointedly disagreed with Asadoorian, taking the position that the Charter School Act of 1992, the applicable state law relating to the formation of charter schools, required the approval of the petition since, “ it met all of the legal requirements.”

Belle stated that he opposed the Dozier-Libbey petition, while at the same time expressing support for the idea of charter schools. “But,” he said, “you can’t do this in the middle of the night. That’s a form of tyranny. We cannot abandon public schools, especially for private schools. They’re public schools, but charters are a lot different.”

Following Belle’s statements, Ruehlig immediately exercised her prerogative for a rebuttal. She referred again to the Charter School Act, emphasizing it was the duty of the board to follow the law when confronted with such issues.

Belle then made his own passionate response to Ruehlig, saying, “Although the law may say something is right [doesn’t make it right].” He went on to say, “Before 1964, the law said hanging was right.”

Ruehlig, though, was not ready to back down, and told Belle, “If you don’t like the law, you can change it.” Bringing up a theme she would return to throughout the evening, that she believed Belle was unfamiliar with the role of the county education board, she said, “If you want to change the law, run for legislator.”

After this lengthy exchange, Wright asked the next question, seeking to learn what each candidate believed the county could do to assist Antioch schools in quelling the violence that has been so prevalent in the news lately.

The incumbents, Asadoorian and Ruehlig, while acknowledging the concern, emphasized the limitations placed on the county board with respect to local matters. Asadoorian said, “Our power is limited…we can’t delve into local politics.” Ruehlig, explaining the role that the county board has, said, “School violence must be addressed at the local level. We have fiscal oversight.” She went on to say that it was important to keep their hands off with respect to specific cases, due to the appellate role the county board serves in the expulsion appeal process.

Maxwell, acknowledging the limited role of the county board previously emphasized by Asadoorian, said he though the county could facilitate issues if they were asked for help.

Belle, though, took a different approach. “It doesn’t take intellect to see something is wrong,” he said. “The board can direct the Superintendent to do a very full performance assessment.”

The next question, asked by Payton, followed up on the responses the candidates had given regarding the issue of violence, by asking each of the participants to explain what they saw as the role of the county superintendent.

Three of the candidates, Asadoorian, Maxwell, and Ruehlig, emphasized the fiscal and budget responsibility of the board, while Ruehlig also spoke about upholding the education code and adjudicating certain issues, such as expulsion and charter school appeals. Belle again took a different position, noting that the board was “elected by the people, first of all,” and, while acknowledging the role of state law, said they should also focus on federal law. “State law does not trump federal law any day,” he said. Belle also spoke again about directing the superintendent, setting up another confrontation with Ruehlig, who said, “The superintendent is a constitutional position. The board works with the superintendent, not one over the other.”

Another point of contention was raised in a discussion of Common Core. Maxwell favored Common Core, saying, “Everything is good in moderation.” Asadoorian thought the controversy surrounding Common Core was due to it being misunderstood. “It’s not a [federal] government takeover,” he said. He went on to say, “It aligns with the kinds of standards that colleges want.” Ruehlig said the Common Core was a set of standards that established what the students should learn, but said that the teachers still determine how to teach.

Belle, however, took one of his most passionate stands of the evening, calling Common Core a “re-indoctrination of children.” In a statement provided by Belle in an email elaborating on his position, he said, “The authors of Common Core are wrong as to what constitutes college readiness.” He went on to characterize the program as, “A

nationalization of public education in America – an indoctrination of mindless information.” He concluded, “I’m not a supporter of Common Core.”

Although the debate was drawing to a close at this point, Ruehlig and Belle weren’t done challenging one another yet. Each candidate was permitted to ask a question of their opponent, and Ruehlig, in an attempt to paint Belle as unfamiliar with the education code, took advantage of the opportunity to ask Belle how AB97 (Dealing with the requirement that county and local boards annually adopt a Local Control Accountability Plan) effects the county office of education, and how he would mitigate those effects. Belle responded that it was, “the right thing to do philosophically, but wrong in budget.”

Belle then asked Ruehlig whether or not she currently sat on the board of a charter school. When she responded in the affirmative, he said, “Why wasn’t this made transparent during the Dozier-Libbey [charter school appeal?]” He went on to say it was a, “conflict of interest.”

Ruehlig, however, seemed to be prepared for the question, responding that she had, “Just last month” become a member of the Synergy board. She emphasized that she was not a member of the board during the Dozier-Libbey appeal, said that Synergy was a state charter, which meant there was no chance of a conflict of interest, and concluded by telling Belle, “You are misinformed.”

In asking for closing comments, Burgarino alluded to the contentious exchanges between Ruehlig and Belle, by saying, “Let’s start with the quiet side of the room,” as he asked for statements by Asadoorian and Maxwell first. Now, Asadoorian was able to get in a dig at his opponent, while at the same time highlighting the difference in their experience, when he said, referring to Maxwell, “If he doesn’t win, I hope he’ll start coming to our meetings to find out what we’re all about.”

Maxwell laughed it off though, then concluded by saying that he was very concerned about our kids and their education, and that the board, “needed a new face.”

Belle focused on a theme from his campaign literature, saying that our schools were at a critical mass, and that lack of safety amounted to a public health issue. “We need clear policy direction,” he said.

Ruehlig emphasized her knowledge of the education code and the role of the county board, then once again challenged her opponent in this area, saying it was important to ask if a person is “ready to serve, or just giving empty promises.” Referring to Belle, she asked, “Are you ready to serve?”

The complete forum can be seen on the Antioch Chamber of Commerce website at and on Comcast Local Cable Channel 24 and at 10 p.m. on September 30 and October 2, 7, 9, 21 and 23.

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