Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Watchdog: On the Antioch citizens initiative for downtown park and event center

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

Watchdog-LogoIn June, the Antioch City Council unanimously approved a plan for downtown that envisions a balance of housing (2,173 homes) and commercial construction (575,000 sq. ft. of new retail and office space).

Council however had butted heads with some residents who disagreed with the three options Council considered for the vacant lot, formerly known as the Beede Lumber yard, across from the old Antioch Lumber Company building, which now belongs to a realtor.  The city’s proposed options were:   1) housing - 18 units per acre instead of the 37 unit limit originally planned;  2) a combination of residential or commercial and/or a park;  3) turn the area into a park with space for an event center.

Option 3 runs counter to staff’s recommendation to convert Waldie Plaza into a venue for concerts, festivals and other gatherings.  Note: The city’s general plan designation for the “Yard” is “Rivertown/Urban Waterfront”, which encourages the maintenance of sufficient waterfront amenities in the original downtown (aka “Rivertown”) to attract visitor trade.

Council may already be aware, or shortly will learn about an initiative ordinance to turn the Beede Lumber Yard into a town square. (The parcel is located between E Street, West 2nd Street and West 3rd Street)

The  ORDINANCE OF THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY OF ANTIOCH DESIGNATING THE OLD BEEDE LUMBERYARD SITE AS A TOWN SQUARE was submitted to the City Clerk on January 26th, the intent being that it go to the public for a vote at the next regularly scheduled election, once the necessary signatures are gathered, which would be this November.

As a former member of the Antioch Waterfront Commission, I know there were big plans for that area and I don’t mean high density housing.  Condos were voted down before.

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Watchdog: The good news and bad news for Antioch

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Watchdog-LogoBy Barbara Zivica

It’s the beginning of a new year.  The President has given his State of the Union speech.  Since all I can foresee in the future is a rush of tax and fee ballot measures, I decided to look back at what’s happened so far in Antioch, both the good and the bad news.

Police Department

Good News: Lt. Diane Aguinaga promoted to Captain.

Bad News:  Department still understaffed, has put out some dubious stats and encrypted dispatch so residents can’t find out what’s happening and avoid stumbling into the middle of a bad situation.

Budget Issues

Good News:   Although prior to 2015, the city experienced multiple years of declines in property tax revenue, a significant increase in property tax revenue, well above 2015 projections, is helping stabilize the city finance.

Bad News:  City continues to face significantly reduced revenues in line with General Fund Budget expenditures in order to address budgetary difficulties brought on by the struggling economy and despite passage of Measure C  (a half cent tax increase) and Measure O (a business license tax measure which applied to all rental units).  Neither tax measure resulted in adequate police staffing or positive general fund reserves.

Economy

Good News: Gas is cheaper, housing construction is accelerating, as is industrial real estate activity.

Bad News: Food and health care costs are up.  Significant vacancies exist in some of the neighborhood shopping centers and the City’s downtown business core.

Education

Good News:  Fernando Navarro seated on the AUSD Board after Barbara Cowan resigned.

Bad News:  School Supr. Don Gill, whose contract ran through until June 30, 2017, announced he wanted to leave June 30th, 2016.  The Board agreed, voting 4-0 to put him on paid leave until then so he could spend more time with his family in San Diego.

Jeff Belle was elected to the CCC Board of Education in 2014. His term expires November 29, 2018. Voters later learned he made several misrepresentations on his ballot statement regarding his qualifications.  In 2015 the Respiratory Care Board of California issued a Citation order stating Belle is not now, nor had ever been licensed by the Respiratory Care Board of California. He received a civil penalty in the amount of $8,200. Belle, however, still remains on the CCC Board of Education.

Candidates

Good News: Several candidates will be vying for County Supervisor Mary Piepho’s seat. Those include Oakley Councilman Doug Hardcastle and East Bay Regional Parks District Director Diane Burgis.

Bad News: Antioch Mayor Wade Harper, who survived a recall effort, now wants to run for Piepho’s seat, too.

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Commentary: Assembly candidate questions Frazier’s appreciation for police officers

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Editor:

This month brought us Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. On the calendar it’s only one day, the 9th of January. But in the eyes of the families and friends of police officers, it is every day, because they, like nurses, have earned it.

I honor, not only my family members and friends, but all who suit up in blue every day, not knowing, in these trying times, if they will come home to their families that night.

My opponent has previously garnered the endorsement from local Police organizations in both Solano and Contra Costa County. However, In this last legislative session, Assemblyman Frazier and his Democrat allies in the state legislature, passed SB-227, a bill which in essence denies due process to police officers.

“the bill would prohibit a grand jury from inquiring into an offense or misconduct that involves a shooting or use of excessive force by a peace officer, as specified, that led to the death of a person being detained or arrested by the peace officer, unless the offense was declared to the grand jury by one of its members, as described above” TEXT of SB 227

What has happened in this bill is nothing more than “a knee jerk, not in my back yard” reaction to the incident that took place in Ferguson, Missouri. Police officers should be afforded the same due process as the criminals that they protect us against. But, this new law that Frazier voted for has destroyed that.

That bill, SB-227, that Mr. Frazier voted for, is not only a massive slap in the face to police officers everywhere, but wholly unconstitutional as well.

The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger;…”

Only after a Grand Jury has reviewed evidence of wrongdoing, should an indictment be handed down to the criminal court. This is our process. This is a check against prosecutorial misconduct at the behest of political expediency. The Grand Jury is impaneled to stay malicious prosecution, to ensure that a prosecutor can actually make a case for indictment. Without it, a politically driven prosecutor could indict for anything with no facts to back up their claim simply in the hopes of garnering public support and or notoriety. That’s because indictments are generally front page news, while acquittals get shuffled to the middle.

I would think we should all remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately Mr. Frazier, and other Democrats in Sacramento, seem to have discarded this tenet which is not only black letter constitutional law, but also sets us apart from many other nations in the world. And they have discarded it at the expense of our Police Officers.

In short, police officers place their lives on the line every day to both protect and serve the populations they work for. Criminals make the choice to do the nefarious criminal acts they do, that endanger both police officers and themselves. When a police officer is confronted with a criminal who attempts to harm the officer, I will back the police officer 100% of the time. For it is the job of the police to apprehend that alleged criminal, but also to get home to their families every night. And we should not treat our police officers worse under the law than we treat those whom they protect us from.

The symbol of our judicial system is a woman, named Justice. She holds in her hand a balanced scale and she is blindfolded. The blindfold represents objectivity, in that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of money, wealth, power, identity, race, creed, color or employment. But now if you look at her scale, Mr. Frazier and others in his caucus have added their thumbs to tip the scales out of balance.

Mr. Frazier’s words tend to make it seem like he fully supports our police officers. Unfortunately he has been found lacking, for his deeds do not match his words. His deeds tell a different story entirely.

Unfortunately for all of us this is an old story, a story of a politician that says one thing and does another.

For example, Mr. Frazier has long touted his love for veterans, and has made many speeches to that effect. However, this past November, he announced his Veterans DMV Tax on Veterans Day – causing a hidden tax on any veterans that wish to be identified as such on their state issued Identification Cards. With Law Enforcement Appreciation Day being celebrated this month, I felt a need to highlight, to local law enforcement, what he has done for you while collecting your endorsement at the same time.

I would certainly like to be writing about my own positive change platform, instead of going after Mr. Frazier’s voting record from the last Session of the State Legislature. Highlighting the differences between Jim and myself, the voters of AD-11 need to be made aware of just how disingenuous their legislator is to the betterment of our community.

My goal is to change all that in November.

Dave Miller, Republican candidate for California State Assembly, 11th District

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Payton Perspective: Antioch Planning Commission should approve Blackhawk-Nunn’s gated community

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Payton Perspective logo 2015By Allen Payton

Finally. Antioch has a gated housing community being proposed for development. This is not just any gated community, but one by Blackhawk in partnership with the Nunns of Brentwood who built Apple Hill Estates and other projects in the city to our east.

While it’s not the same as Apple Hill or Blackhawk in the San Ramon Valley, at least it’s a gated community with some nice amenities and homes that are projected to sell in the $500,000 to $600,000 range, which will help improve home values throughout Antioch.

The project, known as the Vineyards at Sand Creek, two years in the planning process, comes before the Antioch Planning Commission, tonight, Wednesday, January 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, for review and possible approval. It is proposed for land that is currently planned as a business park on the most southeastern edge of the city that borders Brentwood, along what will be the extension of Heidorn Ranch Road, and Sand Creek Road on the south side, and the planned extension of Hillcrest Avenue on the west side.

It includes 641 homes on 4,200 to 5,160 square foot lots, which doesn’t fit within my previous stated desire for larger homes on larger lots in the  Sand Creek Focus Area of the City’s General Plan, formerly known as Future Urban Area 1 or FUA-1. However, it makes sense, as that area is adjacent to what is proposed to be mixed use development, including high-density housing on the Brentwood side, next to a future BART station and commercial development along Highway 4, next to the Sand Creek Road interchange. Plus, again, the homes will be in a gated community, which does fit within my previously stated desires for the area, along with upscale homes and senior communities.

Also, this project will provide the extension to the needed infrastructure to the entire focus area, specifically the sewer line and a section of Sand Creek Road. It is located across the street, of the planned extension of Hillcrest Avenue, from the previously approved Aviano Farms.

A little background for those concerned about all the new houses. When I was on the City Council from 1994-98 a total of 8,900 homes were planned for the area. Today that number is down to about 4,000 and possibly fewer, after learning in a recent discussion with representatives of Richland, which owns the land known as The Ranch, across Deer Valley Road from the Kaiser Medical Center, and was slated for 1,667 homes. They told me that number will be closer to 1,100 homes, instead. So, the total number of homes for the 2,700 acrea Sand Creek Focus Area, inside the city limits and inside the Urban Limit Line, which cuts off 65% of land in the county from subdivision development (no more than one home per five acres), definitely fits within reason and the long-term plans for Antioch and East County.

Since the land – approved by voters – for the Roddy Ranch housing project has been sold to the East Bay Regional Park District, there won’t be a gated community of 640 half-acre, upscale homes around a PGA golf course, to help pay for the needed infrastructure of roads, water and sewer line extensions for the area, nor $1 million for Antioch schools or $1 million for the Highway 4 bypass/extension. It was not “just another subdivision” as Mayor Wade Harper said, when he argued it was better to just have “open space to serve the people of Northern California” when he and the council let it go a few years back. So, the infrastructure costs need to be borne by the other developments in the Sand Creek focus area. (Frankly, I hope and believe the Roddy Ranch project – which was going to be the Blackhawk of Antioch – can and should still be built, some day, as it will make sense, once the infrastructure is extended closer to the project area. But, that’s another subject for another column another day).

The Vineyards project replaces those 640 units lost when the Roddy Ranch project went away, to help pay for the needed infrastructure for the area. The extension of Sand Creek Road, which will eventually connect to the current end of Dallas Ranch Road, will provide another major access to both Kaiser Medical Center and Highway 4 in Brentwood, reducing traffic impacts on Lone Tree Way.

Plus, an economic study has shown there is more than enough land in Antioch for commercial development and employment. Specifically, the proposed Resolution in the City Staff report states “in May 2015, the City hired EPS to prepare the ‘Implications for Economic Development of the Proposed General Plan Amendment for the Promenade/Vineyards at Sand Creek Project’ (the ‘Economic Study’). The Economic Study concluded that: (1) The City currently has workspace development capacity of approximately 23.3 million square feet; (2) On an aggregate basis, the City has substantial development capacity for job growth requiring office/commercial and business park/industrial space; (3) Comparison of available City employment areas indicates that there are areas that are better and will be more competitive in attracting economic development than the Sand Creek Focus Area; and (4) Overall, the proposed change in General Plan designation (from Business Park to Residential) will not negatively affect the City’s ability to attract new economic development.

The project will also be required to create an assessment district to pay for police, with each home paying an annual fee, as the Aviano Farms project was required to do.

Finally, the fact that Blackhawk wants to build in Antioch says a lot and sends a message to the greater Bay Area that our city is coming back and on the road to economic recovery and hopefully, a safer one, as well. While we still have a long way to go, and the homes, if approved won’t be under construction for another few years, by then things can and should not only be better for the new home buyers, but for those of us who live here, now.

Also, hopefully, the project will attract business owners with their businesses to Antioch, to create jobs and employ our people who currently commute out of town each work day.

However, this should be the last project proposed for the Sand Creek Focus Area, approved by the Planning Commission and City Council, until a final plan for the area is put in place, which isn’t expected to be completed until later this year.

A public, joint workshop on the area, with both the Council and Commission, is planned for January 20th at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers.

To view the agenda for tonight’s Planning Commission meeting, click here. The Vineyards project and complete staff report is listed under item #3.

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Congressional challenger questions Rep. McNerney’s stand on issues of terrorism

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

GUEST COMMENTARY

Police officer and congressional candidate Kathryn Nance called out Congressman Jerry McNerney after his call for America to “promote peace and understanding” in the Middle East after the brazen Paris terror attacks, in November, by asking him to commit publicly on issues to promote understanding of his views on radical Islamic terrorism.

Police officer and 9th District Congressional candidate Kathryn Nance today called on Congressman Jerry McNerney to state with specificity his positions on issues of terrorism after his response to the Paris terror attacks was to “promote peace and understanding”. McNerney has avoided making public statements on his issue positions while continuing to vote in lock step with a dangerous Obama foreign policy agenda.

“The Congressman must spell out his beliefs and stop hiding them from the voters,” said Nance. “We deserve answers and if he does not have the courage to stand behind his beliefs then he does not have the courage to confront ISIS and Islamic terrorists as a Congressman.”

Sanctuary Cities: Nance believes that “sanctuary cities” are the modern equivalent of secession, refusing to obey the laws of the United States of America on national security matters of immigration and terrorism. She believes in full elimination of federal funding to all cities engaged in this unlawful and rebellious behavior. Jerry McNerney must state his position and what the rationale is behind it. The people of the 9th district deserve an answer.

Closing Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility: Nance states she supports keeping Guantanamo Bay open to keep terrorists out of American jails, which could radicalize our prisons and increase recruitment by ISIS and Al Qaeda in our own country. Nance believes terrorists need to be kept off of American soil and away from the already dangerous drug cartels and gangs. Congressman McNerney needs to state his position and whether he would stop President Obama if he closes the facility and continues to free known terrorists, including the 5 released from Guantanamo Bay, just days after the Paris terror attacks.

Place a Moratorium on Immigration from Middle Eastern Nations: With our broken immigration system and the Obama Administration’s war on law enforcement, Kathryn Nance joins the Governors of 27 States in fully supporting a moratorium on immigration from the Middle East to reduce possible terror infiltration and reduce pressure on our current security structure. Congressman McNerney needs to state his position clearly, and if he believes we should continue to bring hundreds of thousands of new refugees from the Middle East, why it would be safe and benefit American citizens.

Immediate Deportation of Overstayed Visas: Nance believes that those who have overstayed their visas and are in the country illegally should be deported immediately to reduce terror risk and to lessen the long term burden on law enforcement. Congressman McNerney should let us know his position on this issue.

Iran Nuclear Deal: McNerney not only voted to support giving the largest state-sponsor of terrorism billions of dollars and nuclear weapons, but was a co-signer on a letter to President Obama urging acceptance of the Iran Nuclear Deal at any cost. Kathryn Nance continues to oppose this potential disaster.

Editor’s Note: McNerney’s office was contacted for comment on this news release from the Nance campaign, but chose not to respond.

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Antioch School Board VP Ruehlig offers reflections on 2015

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Editor:

As time marches inexorably forward and we approach the New Year, I find it a good time to pause and reflect on where we’ve been, and where we’re headed, at the Antioch Unified School District.

As 2015 came to an end, we saw change come in double step, with the retirement of our Superintendent and the resignation of a School Board Trustee.  Yet changes are nothing to moan over.  Change should be welcomed.

As the voters so decisively indicated in the last election, a course correction was desperately needed.  But, just as large ships at sea don’t turn easily, so it is with large bureaucracies; status quo driven inertia keeps them moving in old lanes, even when a change in direction is clearly called for.

Eventually, however, a ship will turn, and so it is with AUSD.  With the addition of new Trustee Fernando Navarro to our board, we are seeing less divisiveness and a renewed sense of purpose. The absence of friction allows us to address long-standing problems within the District.

Granted, positive behavior interventions, advanced placement class participation, overall high school graduation rates and career themed academy expansion are among the areas of district improvement. The fact is, though, that with all the initiatives that have been implemented over the last several years, we’ve seen little progress with our lowest performing students.

Our current Board does not find the achievement gap of English language learners, children of color, or low economic status acceptable; nor is it tolerable that 81% of our students fail to show proficiency in math.  We can’t have two tiers, haves and have-nots. We must do better by all the 18,500 students in AUSD. All, after all, means all.

We have now begun the search for a new Superintendent; a critical step, since the person selected will most likely be at the helm of AUSD for the next several years.  Bold leadership is clearly needed.  As a Board, we’re committed to a selection methodology that ensures the local community has input in the process, and that the individual we choose to lead our district has the courage to take the necessary steps to effect the changes needed.

I grew up in Great Neck, Long Island, New York.  As a child, I can remember people leaving notes by our front door encouraging us to call them if we ever decided to move.  Why did they do this?  Simple answer; because they wanted to buy into the area due to the quality of our school district.  The quality of the education available made living in our community that desirable.  That is my dream for Antioch…that it would become a city that people clamor to move to, because of the education their children can achieve.  Quality of schools is pivotal in civic promotion, so having kids or not, we all want a great school system.

The first necessary step in effecting change is to recognize that you have a problem.  As a board, we’ve done that and we are taking the steps needed to fix it. Our students, their parents, and our community deserve no less.

Walter Ruehlig

Vice President, Board of Trustees, Antioch Unified School District

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Challenger questions Frazier’s veterans driver’s license bill, due to fee charged

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Dear Editor:

Assemblyman Frazier’s AB-935…a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

In April, 2013, Assemblyman Jim Frazier (of Oakley) introduced AB-935, a bill which, among other things, allowed veterans to have a veteran designation on their drivers’ licenses.  After its passage in the August 2014 session, he held a press conference in every town in AD-11, touting how hard it was to pass this legislation, as well as talk about the speed bumps along the way in its passage.

I would agree with him that the veteran’s designation is a useful designation, to all California veterans, the affluent as well as the homeless, and something that has been a long time in the making, to help veterans attain the services they have earned by serving this great nation.

After a careful legislative analysis, the designation was deemed “non-mandatory” in its current state, but what Assemblyman Frazier failed to mention in his press conference is the $5.00 fee to receive the designation, with the agency (CA DMV) reserving the right to raise that fee to a figure as high as $15.00.  Meaning, if you want the designation, which you deserve, you’ll need to pay for it.

In my estimation, the introductory program amounts to a promo code time period in which the DMV will assess the success of the program. At that point, if successful, they will unleash Section 14901.1 of the Vehicle and Traffic Code to raise the veterans’ designation fee, to the fee they wanted to charge all along, which is $15.00 per veteran.

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 1,851,470 living veterans, from all branches of our nation’s service, residing in the State of California.  What Mr. Frazier is seeking, is that $15.00 “cover charge” from each California veteran, which translates into over $27 million over five years’ time, into most likely transportation/infrastructure  earmarks.

If I were to speak to every veteran from around this state, I would tell them to not get too excited about this very long, overdue veterans designation on their driver’s license.   I would tell them to wait until your current DMV License expires in a few years before committing to a new one, or wait until Republicans in the Legislature, can offer this at a price it deserves to be offered at, which is free of charge.

If Democrats are going to insist on charging for this, they should put it where it will do the most good, that being county veterans service agencies.   We’ve already seen the federal government whitewash how they handle things at the Veterans Administration, and the state is no better.   Now, when they finally come up with a great idea, to help veterans earn the benefits they deserve, they find ways of making money off your service to our nation.  I won’t even bore you with the statistics that Assembly Appropriations came up with when they drafted this bill, suffice it to say, that was their first and only consideration.

If elected to replace Mr. Frazier, in California’s vast 11th Assembly District, I will introduce new legislation to amend this otherwise well-meaning law, striking the fees to veterans from it.  I agree with Mr. Frazier that we should always honor our veterans; what I vehemently do not agree on is imposing a tariff to receive the veteran designation. What I see is nothing more than a revenue generating bill, that Mr. Frazier and his colleagues are secretly imposing on our veterans…and it is utterly despicable.

Dave Miller, Conservative Republican Candidate for California State Assembly 11th District

California’s 11th Assembly District includes Antioch, Brentwood, Knightsen, Bethel Island, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Vacaville, Fairfield, Suisun City, Rio Vista and a portion of Pittsburg.

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Watchdog: Concerns about Antioch School Board and Dr. Gill

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Watchdog-LogoBy Barbara Zivica

You’ve probably been hearing about the Antioch School Districts search for  a new school superintendent. Dr. Donald Gill, whose contract ran through June 30, 2017, announced in September that he would be leaving at the end of June 2016.  Don’t know the details of  his contract with the district but the board voted 4-0 to put him on paid leave until the end of June. So, now he can spend more time with his family in San Diego.  How generous.

What I didn’t know and perhaps you didn’t either is that his family lives in San Diego and he has been commuting there every weekend the whole seven years the district employed him. Unbelievable.  What was the board thinking?  Couldn’t they hire someone from this county or at least a nearby one like Alameda?  The fact that he didn’t relocate here shows that his heart was elsewhere.

The school board also, now minus Barbara Cowan who also resigned in September, appointed Associate Superintendent for Educational Services Stephanie Anello as interim Superintendent during their search for a new superintendent.

The board did, however, decide to appoint Fernando Navarro, one of eleven candidates,  to the school board  as of December 9th .   He will serve the rest of Barbara Cowan’s term which ends December 2016.

I like Mr. Navarro’s  statement in regard to wanting the district to get back to basics, with additional emphasis on science and history and stop using students as “social engineering guinea pigs”.

Well said Mr. Navarro.  I’ll be keeping my eye on you.  Perhaps you can also influence the school board when it comes to selecting a new superintendent.  They’ve made a number of mistakes to date to the detriment of student scores.

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