Archive for the ‘News’ Category

House passes Congressman McNerney’s amendment to help veterans and military personnel get college credit

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Washington, D.C. –  On July 23, 2014 the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment written by Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-09) that would ensure that colleges take into account the unique skills and needs of veterans and military personnel when they’re earning  credits towards a degree or certificate.

Rep. McNerney proposed his amendment to HR 3136, which creates up to 20 competency-based education projects managed by the Department of Education. These projects would allow institutions of higher education (IHE) to come up with creative alternatives to the traditional “credit hour” in order to meet changing learning environments.

Rep. McNerney’s amendment would require schools that are part of the demonstration program to provide information on the number of veteran and military students who attend the school and how it will incorporate those particular student needs into its demonstration project.  

Service members and veterans often need flexibility to pursue their education goals,” said Rep. McNerney.  “We owe it to these men and women to help them pursue higher education as seamlessly as possible.  My amendment will help keep track of the progress that the veteran and military student populations are making in any new competency-based program and to hold these programs accountable for the progress of veterans.”

H.R. 3136 incorporates new, innovative practices in higher education by allowing students to advance academically by demonstrating competence in a subject, rather than by spending a set amount of time in the classroom.

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Antioch City Council candidate filing period ends this Friday

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

The Antioch City Council candidate filing period is open until 5:00 pm on Friday, August 8th. The law provides that the filing period be extended by five (5) calendar days if an incumbent does not file.

With the passing of Council Member Agopian and in consultation with the County Elections Office, City Clerk Arne Simonsen has declared that Council Member Agopian’s seat is now vacant. There is no longer an incumbent of that Council seat to file for reelection.

The candidate filing period will only be extended five (5) days in the event that the remaining incumbent does not file by 5 p.m. on August 8th.

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Antioch author publishes sixth book, third of second WWII trilogy

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014
Sarah Sundin Antioch author publishes sixth book, third of second WWII trilogy

Sarah Sundin

By Allen Payton

Antioch author Sarah Sundin was inspired to write due to a dream she had in 2000. Although educated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and doctorate in Pharmacy, and has worked as a pharmacist – and still does, one day a week – like her husband David, she went ahead and pursued the dream.

It was weird. I started scribbling on a piece of paper,” Sarah said. “It took me about a week to build up the nerve to tell him.”

However, hat book was never published.

Nor should it be” she stated. “But, it motivated me to attend conferences.”

One of those, for Christian writers like Sarah, is held at Mt. Hermon Conference Center, near Santa Cruz. That’s where she got to know editors and literary agents, one-on-one. She also participated in writers groups. Sarah now has about seven authors who run things by each other.

I didn’t think I needed editing. I got A’s in English,” Sarah laughed.

Then she wrote a second novel. But, that wasn’t published, either.

She shared that the average author writes three novels before being published.

Sarah started submitting her novels to publishers in 2003 and after five years of rejection letters, she received her first contract in 2008 from Revell, a Christian book publisher.

Her first two books, part of a trilogy known as the Wings of Glory series, were published in 2010. The third book followed a year later.

That trilogy follows three brothers from Antioch, who were all B-17 bomber pilots during World War II, which is the setting of all of her published books, so far. On the cover of the third book, entitled “Blue Skies Tomorrow” is a drawing of the El Campanil Theatre. On the theater’s marquee is the movie Cover Girl, for which Antioch native Carmen Dragon wrote the musical score and won an Oscar. The book also covers the Port Chicago explosion of 1944.Sundin In Perfect Time 662x1024 Antioch author publishes sixth book, third of second WWII trilogy

Sundin’s books are filled with romance, action and faith, with the focus on both the men and women in the plot lines, and based on serious research and historical information.

Her second series, known as the Wings of the Nightingale series, follows three flight nurses. The third book in that series, “In Perfect Time” was just released, this month.

Sarah’s next series, Waves of Freedom, follows the lives of three American Naval officers based in Boston, who fought in the Atlantic theater. She just returned from a trip to Boston with one of her sons, where she was doing research for that series, including doing things like taking photos of a five-inch gun mount on the U.S.S. Massachusetts.

I actually hated history in school,” Sarah said. “I thought it was boring. But, with age comes appreciation. Now I watch a lot of history on television and think how fascinating it is.”

In fact, her first series was inspired by watching a documentary on The History Channel, and after remembering her Uncle Rod who flew a B-17 bomber with the 8th Air Force.

The first book of her third series is scheduled to be in bookstores, and of course, Amazon.com, next summer. It takes about a year from contract to when the final copy, following three rounds of edits, is due, then another full year from final copy to when a book hits bookstore shelves.

Both of her sons read and like her books. But, her 18-year old daughter thinks it’s kind of weird her mom’s writing romantic stories.

It’s really hard to stop in the middle of writing to make dinner,” Sarah said. “But they’re troopers and have been amazing putting up with this.”

Although the characters in her book aren’t based any of her family members, or anyone else she knows, the hero in “On Distant Shores,” is a pharmacist.

My spiritual gift is teaching,” Sarah said. “So, when I write, 11 of my 12 heroes and heroines were Christians, who needed to grow in their spiritual walk. They’re usually lessons I’ve learned in life.”

The Lord has used the writing process to teach her, and has had an impact on her readers, as well.

She receives emails and letters from readers.

One widow who lost her husband in Iraq wrote Sarah and said that “Blue Skies Tomorrow” helped her deal with her grief.

I’m humbled to see that God will take [something she wrote] and use it in someone else’s life,” she stated. “I’m thrilled and blessed and humbled.”

Her books are available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com. Learn more about Sarah and her books at www.sarahsundin.com and follow her on Facebook at SarahSundinAuthor and on Twitter at sarahsundin.

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Tri Delta Transit Named Best Transit System in North America

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

The Eastern Contra Costa Transit Authority, better known as Tri Delta Transit, has been named the best transit system of its size in North America by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for efforts to enhance service, efficiencies and overall effectiveness.

“This is the highest honor in our industry,” said Jeanne Krieg, Tri Delta Transit’s CEO. “This award is a tribute to our progressive and supportive Board of Directors as well as to the hard work and commitment of each Tri Delta Transit employee. The dedication, enthusiasm, and innovative spirit our employees show every day make me proud to lead our award-winning organization. We are very excited – and honored — to receive this award.”

Tri Delta Transit was ranked #1 in the four million and under passenger category.

APTA gives out the Outstanding Transportation System Achievement Award annually to honor transit systems demonstrating exceptional efficiency and effectiveness. Transit systems are judged on services and programs, safety, operations, customer service, financial management, attendance and employee costs, advancement of minorities and women, marketing, policy and administration, and community relations.
In achieving this award, Tri Delta Transit has demonstrated itself as a leader locally and across the nation with its environmental initiatives, innovative ideas and partnerships, and its responsive service.
Dedication and innovation are nothing new to Tri Delta Transit. In 2006, they were the first transit agency to create a dedicated stroller area on their buses to better serve their customers traveling with children. This progressive idea generated worldwide interest among transit operators and has since been adopted by other transit agencies. More recently, they were among only ten transit operators to be selected to participate in the Federal Transit Administration’s Environmental and Sustainability Management Institute. The result of this effort will be the implementation of a formalized management process that will analyze, control, and reduce the environmental impact of Tri Delta Transit.
Tri Delta Transit is a vital part of Eastern Contra Costa County and this award is a great honor for the entire community.

“We share this honor with all of our customers and the citizens in our service area,” said Krieg.
Tri Delta Transit’s efforts are also being recognized by their customers, who continue to use the system in increasing numbers. Fixed route ridership increased 3.4% between 2011 and 2012. It increased 12.7% between 2012 and 2013.

The award will be presented to Tri Delta Transit at the APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Houston, Texas on October 14, 2014. This conference brings together more than 10,000 transit industry professionals from across the world.

Tri Delta Transit provides nearly 3,000,000 trips each year to a population of 290,000 residents in the 225 square miles of Eastern Contra Costa County including parts of Martinez and Concord. Tri Delta Transit operates 13 local bus routes Monday – Friday, four local bus routes on weekends, express commuter service to BART, and door-to-door bus service for senior citizens and people with disabilities.

For additional information about Tri Delta Transit, please visit www.trideltatransit.com.

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Antioch Police Give Report to the City Council on Recent Crime

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

By John Crowder

The recent spate of shootings that have occurred in Antioch, along with media reports deriding the city as one of the most “stressed out” in California, took center stage at the July 22 meeting of the Antioch City Council.

The timing of the shooting incidents happened to coincide with the quarterly address on crime statistics usually given by Chief Cantando to the council. At Tuesday’s meeting the presentation was instead given by Captain Leonard Orman, filling in for Cantando who was recovering from surgery.

Orman began his presentation by relaying a message from the chief recognizing the “unwavering support” given to the police department by the council. He then moved to directly address recent media reports that have been highly critical of the crime situation in Antioch. He said the chief was, “Very concerned about the unfortunate perception we’ve had recently in the media, social media, and on the Internet, that we’ve suffered this upsurge in shootings in our community.”

Saying that he would be presenting facts that he claimed would, “hopefully aid the community’s perception of our true crime picture,” he noted that shooting incidents in Antioch stood at 50 for the year as of close of business the day before, as compared to 44 for the city of Richmond, to which Antioch has been compared in the media recently with regard to crime. He went on to say that, at the same time last year, there were 51 such incidents in Antioch, and that there were 57 at the same time in 2012. “So you can see, we haven’t had quite the surge in violence that is being perceived,” he stated.

Orman spoke to a slide presentation, showing statistics indicating that violent crime was down 15.7%, property crime was up 2.9%, and total crime down just under 1%.

Orman also addressed police staffing in his presentation. He said that Antioch was suffering from, “depleting police resources due to the recession,” and “unprecedented retirements and other separations from our police department,” while also indicating that the department was in the process of rebuilding and adding staff. According to the chart he presented, Antioch had 88 full-time positions filled, but of these, 3 were in field training, 14 were unavailable for full duty due to injury or medical condition, and two were on extended leave, allowing only 69 full duty sworn positions. Orman stated, however, that since the chart he was showing had been produced a week ago, there were now an additional 5 officers back on full duty.

Also addressed during the presentation was the slow rate at which new officers were being added to the Antioch police force. From January to June of this year, the Antioch Police Department (APD) has had 1557 applicants for police officers. Of these, 60 made it to the eligibility list, and 8 were hired, a rate that works out to just over ½% of applicants being hired. Orman said that since January 1st 2013 the APD had hired 26 officers, but that this has only resulted in a net gain of 4 officers to date.

Following the crime statistic presentation, Mayor Wade Harper asked about the underlying reasons for the shootings, with Orman confirming that it was related to gang and drug activity, as stated in the presentation. Harper also noted that the city manager, Steve Duran, had authorized the APD to use whatever money is needed on overtime to “make up the gap until we can get more officers.”

Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha suggested working with the school district to put together a grant to get some recreation around the Sycamore area. “I think what we need to do also, at the same time we’re trying to suppress, is try to do prevention, in trying to bring something down at Sycamore where we could have a recreational, something that changes the mind of kids and I think I’ll appeal to the school district again, that we get together and put a grant together, I’m sure that there’s availability, that’s number one.” She also requested that community members take down the license numbers of cars they don’t recognize in their neighborhoods.

Council Member Tony Tiscareno expressed concern that community members are not coming forward to report criminal activity. He blamed potential retaliation as a roadblock. Orman noted, in response, that Antioch has an anonymous tip line people can use to report crime, and that, when used, it had been very effective.

During public comments on the issue, several residents spoke out. Roberta Haynes said that the violent crime problem was not just restricted to Sycamore, but that the parking lots at both Raley’s and Walmart are unsafe. “There isn’t enough (police officers) to cover this area,” she said.

Will LeRoy expressed concern for what he said was, “Just a total disrespect for law in this town.” Attributing the crime problem to low-income housing, he asked the council to not, “build more of those types of communities,” which require a greater need for police services. He also stated that he understood Antioch had police pensions owing of between $50 million to $80 million, and that, “the public has a right to know if the city is going bankrupt paying these pensions, and how far these pensions are reaching into funds that we could use in other areas.”

Antioch businessman Ken Turnage pulled out bullets he said had been pried from stucco where shootings had occurred which the police never responded to. He went on to complain of prostitutes on 18th Street at all times of the day, and said he witnessed an incident of a lady being accosted on the same street and a police officer driving by, witnessing the event, but not stopping to intervene.

William Dee, President of the Antioch Police Officer Association, addressed the issue of police staffing. He said Antioch is, “the fourth most dangerous city in California.” He went on to call for more police offices, noting that Richmond, a city with an almost identical population size to Antioch, has staffing levels of over 190 officers. “Authorized positions and actual boots on the ground is far different,” he stated, “Investigation and administrative staffing accounts for 29 of those 88 positions.” Dee pointed out that with six shifts, “Each shift has approximately seven officers to respond to calls for service.”

The next meeting of the Antioch City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, August 7th, at 7:00 pm. Meetings are held at City Hall.

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Following Battle With Brain Cancer, Antioch Councilman Gary Agopian Passes, Monday Morning

Monday, July 28th, 2014
Gary Agopian coat no tie 300x226 Following Battle With Brain Cancer, Antioch Councilman Gary Agopian Passes, Monday Morning

Gary Agopian

By Allen Payton

According to a post on Facebook by his wife Robin, Antioch Councilman Gary Agopian passed away, at 1:00 a.m. Monday morning, July 28, 2014, following a 10-month battle with brain cancer. He was 57.

In her post, Robin said “Good Morning ~ Everyday the Lord provides us with the grace that we need. Today He will provide us with extra special grace because at 1:00 am the morning, Gary ~ my husband, best friend, and father to Heather, Corey, and Jason took his last breath. We have been blessed to have each and everyone of you share in this 10 month journey…you’ve shared your love through meals, gift cards, cards, phone calls, visits, housecleaning, prayers and so much more. We know that Gary is absent from the body but present with the Lord. We are so thankful for the love of Jesus!!!”

Agopian grew up in Covina, California and was a 1980 graduate of Azusa Pacific University with a degree in Business Administration.

He worked for Sears for 24 years. He and his family relocated from Prescott, Arizona to Antioch in 1995, when Gary was promoted from store manager to Human Resources Director for Northern California. He then changed careers and became a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Coon & McCreary Realtors, which later became Prudential California Realty.

He served on the Antioch Economic Development Commission from 2003 to 2006. Then, in 2006 he ran for and was elected to the Antioch School Board. The formation of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School is one of Agopian’s major accomplishments as a Trustee.

In 2008, he ran for County Supervisor to replace Federal Glover and came in third in the Primary election. Following the death of fellow candidate Erik Nunn, who had come in second in the Primary, Agopian became Glover’s challenger in the General election, that fall. He was unable to beat Glover in that race.

Then, in 2010, instead of running for reelection to the school board, Agopian ran for the Antioch City Council and was elected.

In 2011, he toyed with the idea of running for Congress, but later decided against it.

As councilman, Agopian helped lead efforts to clean up graffiti in Antioch and led the effort to renegotiate the city’s police contract, in 2012, that changed the retirement plan for new hires, saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars over time.

Later that year he decided to run for Mayor of Antioch, but came in second, behind Wade Harper.

Agopian was an active member of Golden Hills Community Church, where he served as a greeter on Sunday mornings. He had also been involved in the Youth Intervention Network as a family counselor.

Agopian leaves behind Robin, his daughter Heather, son-in-law Ryan Renard and their baby, and sons Corey and Jason, and Gary’s mother Nancy.

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, August 9 at 2:00 p.m., at Golden Hills Community Church, 2401 Shady Willow Lane off Lone Tree Way, in Brentwood.

 

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Meet Congressman McNerney in Antioch Monday

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Congressman Jerry McNerney will host an open house on Monday, July 21 from 4 to 5:30 pm at his Antioch District Office, located at 4703 Lone Tree Way, inside the Antioch Community Center.

The congressman and members of his staff will be on hand to provide information to residents of the Antioch area about the services and assistance his office can provide.

WHERE: Antioch Community Center, 4703 Lone Tree Way, Antioch, 94531

WHEN: Mon., Jul. 21, 2014, 4-5:30 pm

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City Proposes New Antioch Downtown Development

Monday, July 7th, 2014

By John Crowder

At their June 24 meeting the Antioch City Council heard a presentation, and numerous citizen objections, on a proposed transit oriented residential development project for downtown Antioch.

City Manager Steve Duran provided the council with information supporting the authorization he was seeking to send out a “Request for Qualifications and Proposals to initiate the solicitation process for a development team to develop a residential transit oriented/infill project on sites owned by the City of Antioch.”

The sites are located on the east end of Antioch’s historic downtown and the development proposal is to include the construction of a new 10,000 square foot Senior Center on a city owned site to be determined,” Duran stated

The proposal calls for the solicitation of a “highly qualified development team” to essentially construct townhouses or similar “medium-density residential” properties on the east end of downtown, immediately adjacent to the Rivertown Business District.

According to Duran, this is an “opportune time to move forward aggressively with what will be a catalyst project for downtown revitalization” because the city controls the sites in question and there is currently an upturn in the housing market.

Duran indicated that the Planning Commission considered rezoning the area to higher density at 20 units per acre, but wanted to see a development proposal prior to making such a recommendation.

Duran called the area in question, “the one opportunity for a catalyst project that can move forward quickly.” He cited, as support for this contention, the location of the area, adjacent to the Rivertown Business District and with great river views, the fact that the city owned the sites and could move the project forward without assembling parcels, and the currently favorable economy.

If we want to get going on downtown revitalization, now is the time,” Duran added.

Members of the public speaking before the council on the matter, however, expressed opposition to the proposal. Fred Hoskins objected to the plan to tear down the current senior center in order to obtain more land for the project and to construct a new center elsewhere.

I don’t find our senior center inadequate,” he said. “The only thing that I find at the senior center that needs improvement is the kitchen.”

Kerry Motts, President of the Rivertown Preservation Society also opposed the project.

[It's| time to consider the views and desires of the community,” he stated “That is the opposite of what has happened.”

He characterizing the parcel at the corner of 3rd and E street, known as the old Antioch lumber company property, as, “arguably the most valuable piece of property in the city of Antioch.”

It has a singularly unique view, and access to the river delta, as well as being within a block of Antioch’s founding site. It sits at the heart of every event that has ever occurred in Rivertown. This property deserves to be a shared property of all the citizens of Antioch, not just the lucky few who would be residents,” he added.

Instead of housing, Motts wanted to see a park built there.

Joette Bright, a member of the Arts and Cultural Foundation of Antioch, echoed Motts’ concerns and request for a park. She quoted extensively from sections of the General Plan regarding development of the downtown area.

Housing is not a legacy anyone will remember you for,” she implored. “Set aside this parcel for posterity,”

Antioch School Board President Joy Motts, a lifelong resident of Antioch and Rivertown added her thoughts.

I’m extremely concerned about the City of Antioch’s proposal for the development of both the senior center parcel and the adjacent vacant parcel located at 2nd and E Street for the plans for high density housing,” she said.

She added that the RPS group had reached out to the city to talk abut downtown plans, but they were rebuffed.

Not one person from the City of Antioch has reached out to the Rivertown community for any discussion about this development,” Motts stated.

With reference to the vacant lot at 2nd and E Street, she noted the great view from the property.

It is surrounded by homes that also have that wonderful view. Many of these homes that surround that parcel have been there for over 80 years. It is the wish of these homeowners and the Rivertown community that this view be protected, not only for ourselves, but for the citizens of Antioch,” Motts continued. “A park on this property could host community events.”

She name several such possibilities, from summer concerts to farmer’s markets. She stated that a park on the site would provide a reason for people to purchase homes in Rivertown.

Chris Valenta, with the best reference to classic European literature we’ve seen in a while, stated that developing the vacant lot east of E Street would be, “like selling your soul to the devil.” He called the parcel, “Antioch’s heritage,” and stated that it should be developed in a way that would, “be a tribute to our veterans.”

John Reynolds also objected to further housing development, commenting that there is “nothing to do” in the downtown area.

Following the community input, council members asked further questions of Duran. Mayor Wade Harper asked about meetings with the Rivertown group, Duran responded that he had met with them once.

We can do all the outreach in the world, it’s not going to get the downtown revitalized,” he added.

Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha was particularly concerned that the community have input into any proposed development. In response to questions raised by Rocha, Duran conceded that something the neighborhood could use might be included in the project, but remained adamant that the area being discussed was the wrong location for a park.

Council Member Monica Wilson asked if it was cost prohibitive to continue operating the senior center. Duran told her that, while it was expensive to operate, old, and could use some upgrades, he shared the real reason for including a new senior center.

If the residential development came right up against the commercial space downtown, it would have more of an impact on the downtown in terms of people using the services downtown,” he said.

Rocha asked if the developer of the site would knock down the old senior center and build a new one.

That is an unanswered question,” responded Duran, “If it’s not financially feasible, then no. We think it’s feasible, but we can’t know until we test the water.”

Council Member Tony Tiscareno added his views.

I want us to work with the community,” he said. “But my biggest fear is we’re going to meet, and…there’s going to be no compromise.”

Duran responded that the council should seek more input rather than having just one group voicing their opinion.

You should have a wide outreach to the entire community, because everybody in town is a stakeholder to the revitalization of this downtown,” he said.

We want to make sure that all parties, and I’m not talking about the Rivertown community as a whole, but the entire community, has some input in what they want to see in their downtown community,” Tiscareno replied.

Harper moved the matter to conclusion, offering his thoughts.

We’re got to do something about the downtown area,” he stated. “A lot of community members want to know what we’re going to do about the downtown area…I don’t want another plan to be put on the shelf that doesn’t get done. I think the community that’s here is not the entire community. We need to listen to the entire community, but we do need to maintain the character of this community. Does a park do it? Maybe, maybe not. We can definitely look into it. Nothing is set in stone today. But I think we should keep the dialogue open as we move forward. I want to be a doing council.”

I don’t think that there’s any rush, but we do have to get things done,” he concluded.

Wilson then made a motion to approve Duran’s proposal, and with Rocha and Tiscareno assured that there would be community input, the council voted 4-0 in favor of moving forward in initiating the solicitation process.

With the cancellation of the July 8 council meeting, the next meeting is scheduled for July 22 at 7:00 p.m.

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