Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

OP/ED: PG&E blackout is blackmail

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

By Greg Palast

OCTOBER 11, 2019

The PG&E Blackout Con is all about threatening the judge in the PG&E bankruptcy case. The victims have joined with the bondholders to eliminate the equity of the stockholders who deserve nothing. So in desperation, the power company pigs are turning off your lights. Hopefully, the judge will not be intimidated.

Leaving hospitals, schools and 1 million homes without power — and that means without water — in California is the endgame of deregulation mania.

Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton and other deregulation snake-oil salesmen, and the PG&E greedster bosses, should be imprisoned for the people already burned to death.

Where is the California utility commission?

I’ve written a book published by the United Nations called, Democracy and Regulation, about how to avoid such piggery. When I wrote the book, it was meant only for Third World nations — apparently, Northern California is the third world of electricity.

Public utilities must be publicly owned. Decades back, I investigated power company racketeering for the Justice Department.

As an expert, I can tell you, PG&E is a criminal enterprise parading as a power company. Shut them down — not us.

Palast, a Puffin Foundation fellow in investigative reporting, is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, now a feature documentary. www.GregPalast.com

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Payton Perspective: I love Antioch! Here’s why

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Yes, our city has areas that need improvement, but it’s not a “miserable” place to live

In light of Wednesday’s negative news that Antioch ranks as the most miserable city in the Bay Area, and second most in northern California, I’m not buying it and I think someone needs to point out the positives, in spite of the various challenges we face as a once, again growing community.

First, a bit about the study based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau using six different statistical categories. Antioch was ranked number 213 of all 1,000 U.S. cities on the list. The greatest weight, at 40%, was given to population growth from 2010-18. Antioch’s was only 8.6% but that was greater than average. Another 15% was given to average commute time to work, pegged at 45.4 minutes. Another 15% for people without health insurance, at 9.2%. Another 10% was used for those in the civilian labor force at 63.4%, 10% more for median household income at $69,950,  and the final category weighted at 10% was for those in poverty which the study shows is 14.6%.

So, over half of the study was based on something that’s not that big of a deal, the population growth in Antioch, and something people knew about when they moved, here, the commute. The study is clearly biased as it punishes cities with land available for new home development and rewards those that are already built out. Ridiculous. It doesn’t mention the affordability of housing, which is why many residents moved here, and actually plays in Antioch’s favor. The study should have used the term “challenged” instead of “miserable”. That would be more accurate.

Yes, we still have a crime problem and need more police. But Chief Brooks just pointed out, this week that we currently have 106 sworn officers on the force. That’s up 17 from 2013 when Measure C, the first half-cent sales tax, was placed on the Antioch ballot. While it’s not as many as we need, violent, Part I crime continues to decrease and the department is headed in the right direction toward the 126 sworn officers we need, in order to get to the 1.1 officers per 1,000 population. (1.2 is preferable).

Yes, we have a challenge with homelessness in our city. But the council is working on pro-active solutions, and we can expect a large amount of the $2.9 million from the state committed to East County, that will be administered by the county, to be spent in Antioch to help solve that problem.

One idea is to convert the former Big Kmart building into transitional housing for the homeless. Plus, there’s a huge parking lot where their RV’s could park at night. For now, it’s just an idea that might need to be considered. There are other, private sector, church and non-profit related solutions in the works, as well.

Yes, we have retail and other businesses that have been closing. But, that’s a nation-wide trend, mainly due to online shopping. If you’re doing that, giving money to businesses outside of our city through Amazon and other websites, then you’re contributing to that. I don’t. I shop local and spend my money in Antioch, or East County, and if I can’t find something here, then I shop elsewhere in our county. Then, again, this trend is just a reality of today’s marketplace and I’m not going to fault progress and innovation. We just need a solution to what is going to happen with the empty buildings.

Yes, we have a challenge with the commute for many of our residents, but that too has improved with the widening of Highway 4 and the extension of BART to Antioch. Yes, I know it’s not “real” BART, but it connects us to the system and soon, in the next few years, it will connect us to the east and south. Plus, with more local employment on the horizon, with the advent of more upscale homes attracting business owners who will locate their businesses in Antioch, fewer and fewer of our residents will have to leave town to go to work.

While I’m not happy with the Council’s approval of the four marijuana businesses, this year and believe they actually work against the City’s effort to rebrand and improve Antioch’s reputation, there are other business interests doing what they can to improve Antioch.

Take Sean McCauley and his Brentwood company, for example. So far, he’s invested millions of dollars and purchased seven buildings in historic, downtown Rivertown, has fixed up two of them, and has brought two restaurants to Antioch. First, was Smith’s Landing Seafood Grill in the former Humphrey’s location. Second was Guadalajara Taqueria on West Second Street across from El Campanil Theatre. Plus, he’s working on other business ventures to improve Antioch.

New homes are being built by four different homebuilders in Antioch, right now, creating well-paying jobs, selling in the $500,000 to $700,000+ range, and increasing existing home values. The new homeowners will also be paying new fees, including the annual police fee, plus a fee on some of the homes, to extend Slatten Ranch Road from the J.C. Penney store and the Hillcrest BART Station to connect at Laurel Road, near the Highway 4 interchange. That will open up the 200-acre area the Council set aside in 1998 for commercial development and employment.

There are also other, outside business interests looking to invest in Antioch and develop commercial property, as well as plans for the types of development our city has never had before. In addition, there are local business owners planning on more improvements to Rivertown, including a big boat berth marina and a Pier 39-type attraction along the waterfront. They also have plans for other parts of the city, including a vehicle manufacturing plant off either Wilbur Avenue or East 18th Street. Another plan includes a hotel and convention center with a rotating restaurant on top for a one-hour dining experience in which people can view the river for a half hour and Mt. Diablo and the hills for the second half hour. A world-class architectural firm has already been consulted about that proposed project.

We have many positive things about Antioch: we have the river and Delta for recreation, the East Bay Regional Parks District land, some of it in Antioch and much of it adjacent for hiking, picnics, swimming at Contra Loma Reservoir, and exploring, like the sand mines in the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve at the end of Somersville Road.

Yes, we have challenges in the schools, specifically with K-8th grades. But we have some good high school academies, with the Dozier-Libbey Medical High School at the top of that list. Plus, we have some great charter and private schools serving students and families who prefer those alternatives.

We have many, many churches and other religious institutions in Antioch, serving the most important aspect of our lives, the eternal, which ties back to our city’s roots and it’s founders, the Smith brothers, who were Christian ministers, and the surviving twin, William who with the townspeople of 1850

Antioch has youth and adult sports programs like crazy, with football, softball, soccer and baseball leagues playing at the more than 30 public parks and private sports fields and facilities in our city. We also have the Contra Costa Event Park (formerly the fairgrounds) with the annual County Fair and other events throughout the year, including the Saturday night car races at the Antioch Speedway.

We have more great history, here as the oldest city in the county, which can be learned about at the Antioch Historical Society Museum and Sports Legends wing on 4th Street. We also have many wonderful people who care about our city and serve the community through their churches and various volunteer groups, such as the Rotary, Kiwanis, Woman’s, and Soroptimist Clubs. Plus, those groups that provide various activities for our residents, such as the Fun After 50, Model Railroad, the Lapidary Clubs, to name a few.

The bottom line is Antioch is better than what the reports of the “misery index” have to say. Stay positive, folks. Remember, those articles and reports were all done by people who don’t live here. So, they don’t know what we know. Don’t let one statistical analysis get you down. But, let it be a wake-up call for our elected representatives to do more and sooner to solve the problems they can, through government. As President Lincoln said, and I paraphrase, government should do that which we can’t do ourselves, or as well, ourselves. While we can’t expect them to solve all of our problems, we do need our elected representatives to not work against us and work to solve the problems that they can.

Don’t let outsiders determine Antioch’s future. I believe it’s brighter than it has been in over a decade, and will continue to be if we keep a positive attitude and hold our officials accountable to do the job we elected them to do.

I love Antioch. That’s why I’ve continued to live here for the past 28+ years and keep my businesses in town. Do you love Antioch, too? If so, let others know why.

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Please tell CCTA: East County needs freeway from Brentwood to Tracy for long term economic growth

Monday, August 5th, 2019

The Contra Costa Transportation Authority is holding Telephone Town Hall Meetings to inform the public of the Initial Draft 2020 Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP) and get their input before finalizing the plan and placing another tax measure on the March 2020 ballot to fund it. The meeting for East County will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 8 (see previous post on this website, below)

The plan (www.ccta.net/theplan) currently has a total price tag of $3.061 billion and the tax is in addition to the county’s current half-cent sales tax for transportation from Measure J, which voters approved in 2004 and expires in 2034. The new tax would last until 2050. The CCTA attempted to pass a similar additional half-cent sales tax in 2016, known as Measure X, but it failed. The only new section of roadway in the entire county in that plan was the $117 million “limited access” connector between Vasco Road and the Byron Highway, next to the Byron Airport. Voters overwhelmingly voted against the measure and it failed.

Fortunately, that project was included in the Regional Measure 3 expenditure plan which did pass. But, RM3 didn’t include the long-planned Route 239, the proposed four-lane freeway between Brentwood and Tracy, which will connect East County to Interstate 5, the economic lifeblood artery of the state.

That road has been on the books for over 60 years. But, planning for it only began in 2013 as part of what was known as the TriLink Project, as it crossed the three counties of Contra Costa, San Joaquin and a sliver of Alameda, and was to also include two lines of transit down the middle, connecting the end of the BART line in East County to Tracy.

However, the TriLink Project website is no longer active and neither the four-lane freeway nor the transit lines are included in Contra Costa County’s plans for the next 30 years.

Yet, it’s Route 239 that will ensure East County’s long-term economic viability, allowing current businesses, including agriculture, to get their products to market quicker. Plus, it will open up our area for greater local job creation, and complete what I refer to as the beltway around Mt. Diablo, eliminating the cul-de-sac effect with the three two-lane roads connecting us to the east and south.

Antioch and East County have the freight rail connecting us to the east and west, plus the river connecting us to the world, to move goods. But we only have Highway 4 and BART connecting us to the west for moving people and goods.

Central County folks oppose Route 239 saying it will “induce growth in East County.” But they’ve been saying that for almost 50 years about every new road improvement, including the Hwy 4 Bypass/extension, which we had to fight for over four years from 1994-98 to just get approvals, not any money. In fact, it was that same mindset that prevented Hwy 24 from being extended to East County back in the 1970’s and the result is a surface road with the three names of Ygnacio Valley Road, Kirker Pass and Railroad Avenue, today.

I grew up in Walnut Creek and moved to Antioch because it was more affordable. In fact out of all us who attended the 35th reunion of the Northgate High School Class of ’81 in 2016, only four classmates still lived in Walnut Creek. Where did many move to? East County. So, as I said to my fellow elected officials when I was on a panel during a transportation conference back in the late 1990’s when I was serving on the Antioch City Council and Contra Costa Transportation Authority, don’t blame us for the growth. They had kids and we needed somewhere to live that we could afford. That was East County we were pushing for funding and approvals for Highway 4 widening and the Highway 4 bypass/extension. We received it and those projects are now completed.

It’s time we completed the transportation infrastructure in East County and Route 239 is a key part of it.

Besides, that road won’t induce residential growth. We have the Urban Limit Line to control that. But it will induce economic growth with more local jobs, which is what East County needs.

We need both Route 239 and the transit link between Antioch and Tracy. But, for now, let’s push for funds for the freeway to be included in the county’s new plan. Estimates are it will cost an additional $1 billion. I say add it to the total and let the voters decide.

We need bold leadership from our local elected officials and the voice of “we the people” to make it happen.

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Writer responds to Payton Perspective: Exercising our right to religious freedom in the public square

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

Dear Publisher:

Hypocrisy is not limited to those who are agnostic or atheist. Many people of faith can be just as hypocritical whether they be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or of any other faith.

Look at those of faith who say it is okay to pull families apart and put children in cages at our border. Is that really a statement of faith?

Does that really apply the golden rule or is that hypocrisy?

Or, look at the man in the White House. A narcissistic serial liar; with five children from three baby mommas and innumerable mistresses on the side. A man who somehow holds solid support from the faith base of the South.

Those folks just look the other way. Does that really make one a person of applied faith or a hypocrite?

This is not a question of exercising faith. This is an issue of free speech. Free speech on both sides. So, on this point we can agree.

In our American we have free speech, but that right is not absolute. You cannot yell “fire” in a theater. At governmental meetings where the public can speak, everyone should have the right to make their statement within the bounds of acceptable decorum.

Does someone expressing their desire to have a flag flown have the right to silence others? No, is the simple answer.

Do those of faith have a right to express their view? Yes, is the simple answer.

The decisions of our representatives should be based on the law. What does the law state? How should it be applied? What are the rulings of courts that may apply? This is how decisions should be made by government, local, state or national.

Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are documents written by men. All religious testaments are words written by men. Whether they are inspired by a higher power; well that is a question.

Your statement made “that there is no separation of church and State in the Constitution” is incorrect.

The United States Constitution is a living document with Amendments. The first ten of these is called the Bill of Rights.

Amendment 1 states, and I’ll paraphrase, Congress shall not establish a State Religion. By Supreme Court confirmation this means that no religion has a preference over another and has no sway over the government of the United States. That; in and of itself is separation.

The Pledge of Allegiance you reference containing “Under God” was not originally written with those words. You misspeak here.

Written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy it originally read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Not until 1954 in response to Communist threats of the time were the words you reference added.

You speak of “Divine Providence” in your Perspective. Divine for whom? Slaves? Native Indians? Indentured Servants? Women? Truth be told this country was formed because of a tax revolt and a lack of representation in Parliament by white, land owning men.

If all men are equal, then why would a higher power shine greater on North American than on the British Isles? Why not shine equally on all? The world rotates so why not shine all over the world? We’re not blessed by Divine Providence we’re blessed by our law. For whom no one is above.

I don’t have the answer to many of the questions written here. I’m not that smart, gifted, or enlightened. Humility rather than hypocrisy should be the consideration whenever an elected representative needs to make a decision for all of us.

Thank you for expressing your thoughts and for publishing this response should you choose to do so.

Mark Jordan

Antioch

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Payton Perspective: Exercising our right to religious freedom in the public square

Saturday, July 6th, 2019

During the recent debate over flying the LGBTQ rainbow flag at Antioch City Hall, I was most taken aback by the comments by one supporter of the effort. The lady literally said to the council, while directing her comments to those of faith in the audience, some who spoke against flying the “pride” flag, “You get to have freedom of your religion in the privacy of your own buildings.”

It’s not the first time I’ve heard that argument in someone’s effort to support what they claim to be the “separation of church and state”.

It was her way, and that of others, to attempt to silence those, mainly self-identified as Christians, to prevent them from arguing their point that the flying of the rainbow flag is an offense against the Bible and the Christian faith.

Her argument is completely hypocritical. What she’s basically saying is, Americans of faith are free to exercise it, but not publicly, and not have it   impact how they will be governed, while she and people on her side of the issue get to not only express themselves publicly, but have their views impact how we will be governed, and implemented into government policy and even law.

It’s ironic that she and her side complain that those on the other side of the issue are intolerant. Yet, her statement clearly shows her lack of tolerance of those with a different point of view.

Her statement is also completely false. The inalienable, God-given, and constitutionally protected freedom of religion – the first freedom and right enumerated in the Bill of Rights, because that’s what our nation was founded upon, going back to the Pilgrims in 1620 – can be exercised anywhere people of faith want to. That includes in the public square, specifically in public debate, discussion and decisions affecting all of us.

You can’t help but have how you believe, your views, and your faith impact how you will live and how you want to be governed in a democratic republic, such as the United States.

In fact, in this country we get to have what we believe implemented into law. It’s been said that every piece of legislation is a piece of morality, determining right from wrong, or what’s better or best about an issue.

Finally, there is no separation of church and state in the Constitution. The Bill of Rights are limitations and restrictions on the power of government, not the other way around. It’s actually separation of state from church. While there is not to be a state-run church or religion, as there was and is in England, the Church, i.e. people of faith, can influence how we are to be governed.

If you go back and study it, you will learn that Thomas Jefferson’s argument in his letter to the Danbury Baptists wasn’t about which religion’s views would be dominant in our government, but about which Christian Protestant denomination would be the dominant one in our federal government. Nevertheless, we don’t have or want a government-run church.

While flying the rainbow flag was a policy issue for the council to decide, the argument that those of us who still believe we are “One Nation Under God”, as is written in our Pledge of Allegiance, and that our nation was formed “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” as our Founding Fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence, aren’t allowed to share our views and values based on our faith, and want and can have them implemented by the government, is simply wrong.

The battle over whose views and values will dominate public discourse and decisions will continue. But those of us who are people of faith will not be marginalized, silenced or forced into the privacy of our buildings in order to exercise our freedom of religion – as Christians, Muslims and others of faith are forced to do in Communist China.

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Letter writer unhappy city hired outside agency for rebranding instead of local talent

Saturday, June 1st, 2019

Editor:

Antioch is a city with well over 100,000 people, some of whom are advertising, marketing, and graphic design professionals.

Question: When faced with the prospect of rebranding Antioch’s image, why did city leaders choose an outside agency? Resident professionals would have had a more vested interest in promoting their hometown, and no doubt would have done the job for a fraction of “big city agency” prices.

This is a slap in the face to local talent and an example of why “opportunity” does not live here.

Opportunity leave here!

Anne Ray

Graphic Artist

Antioch

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OP-ED: Antioch School District won’t win back parent trust by avoiding hard truths

Monday, May 6th, 2019

by Sandra Torres

There has been a lot of talk about funding for education lately, and very little attention paid to student performance. I’m a parent. And I love the public school my daughter attends in Antioch. But our elected officials don’t seem to care that my second grader started this year reading at a Kindergarten level and is now reading like a third grader. They don’t seem remotely interested to learn about what our school is doing right. They just want to talk about money.

The Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) is facing a $4M budget deficit. At a recent board meeting, the AUSD leadership pinned the reason for its deficit on charter school enrollment. “It’s not scapegoating, it’s math — that’s how we get our revenues,” Superintendent Stephanie Anello stated.

Actually, if you do the math, it is scapegoating.

AUSD has been steadily losing students for years. Each student that chooses another educational option means that money goes with them. But Antioch students aren’t fleeing to charter schools.

Student enrollment in Antioch District schools is down by nearly 2,000 students since 2010 – from 19,081 to 17,232 students last school year. Over that same time, charter school enrollment in Antioch has consistently hovered between 400 – 500 students.

It’s no secret that Antioch families are transferring their kids to other school districts. In nearby Pittsburg Unified, student enrollment has increased by over 1,500 since 2010. Antioch families are also increasingly choosing private schools and electing to homeschool their children.

I am one of those parents who chose a different public school for my daughter. I chose Rocketship Delta Prep. And it was the best choice I have ever made.

I think it’s time for District leadership to take an honest look at why parents like me refuse to send their kids to AUSD schools.

Only about one in three AUSD students are meeting grade level standards in English, and less than one in five students are meeting math standards. Among low-income students, which accounts for 67% of AUSD enrollment, only one in four students are proficient in English and only one in seven are on track in math. Three AUSD elementary schools are listed among the worst 5% of all schools in the entire state.

Despite these glaring challenges, AUSD leadership is bizarrely wasting their time and taxpayer dollars on attorneys trying to invent a case to shut down my daughter’s school. Rocketship Delta Prep just opened this school year. We love our school.  If you came to one of three recent AUSD board meetings, you’d see over 300 Rocketship parents, including myself, asking AUSD leadership to show our kids, our school, and our community the respect we deserve.

When’s the last time you heard about hundreds of parents from an underserved community attend a school boarding meeting to demonstrate their love and support for their school? As AUSD board member Mary Rocha remarked during the April 10th school board meeting “I wish we had this parent support and spirit at our schools.”

If AUSD wants this kind of parent support, leadership needs to start confronting the real problems facing our students and our community. The AUSD board has held 16 public board meetings this school year and only one single agenda item has addressed the serious problems facing the District like poor academic performance, the racial achievement gap, chronic absenteeism, discriminatory discipline, or college and career readiness.

I hope to see the board start addressing these real issues at their next meeting. Honest discussion and progress on any one of these issues might help AUSD start winning back the trust of Antioch families.

Torres is a parent of a student attending Rocketship Delta Prep charter school in Antioch.

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Writer: Antioch is failing its young people, but we can stop it

Friday, April 5th, 2019

Dear Editor:

My friends thought I was crazy to move my wife and five children to Antioch three years ago. I can’t blame them. I read the headlines, and I know what people think of our city. But I also know that everything is not as it seems.

Our move to Antioch worked out great. We live in a large, beautiful home on a quiet street. Our neighborhood, like our city, is extremely diverse, and I’m grateful that my kids aren’t growing up among clones of themselves. We know our neighbors and they’re wonderful. Our two youngest boys attend Carmen Dragon Elementary School and love it.

However, I realize my experience is not like everyone else’s. As a vice president of a public relations and marketing firm, I’m fortunate to work from home, so I’m around my kids constantly. Many Antioch parents do not have this opportunity, which means their kids often come home to empty houses—or they find somewhere else to go or something else to do.

As a member of Carmen Dragon’s school site council, I learned Carmen Dragon is a low performing school with a chronic student absentee problem and a host of other challenges. Nearly three-quarter of my sons’ classmates come from socio-economically disadvantaged households. Yet there is no afterschool program at Carmen Dragon or at many other schools in the district.

I’ve also learned many kids in Antioch want to play sports, but their parents cannot afford to take time off work to take them to practices or games, let alone volunteer or coach.

When we signed our boys up for CYO basketball, they weren’t going to play unless I volunteered to coach both of their teams. When I did, I discovered nearby parishes have multiple teams at each grade level. But at our parish, some grades didn’t even have a team. In fact, there is only one girls’ team for the entire parish.

This is a huge difference from Concord, where we used to live. Every school our children attended had afterschool programs. Concord also has the Community Youth Center, an enormous facility that offers all types of programs, including wrestling, cheerleading, gymnastics, tutoring for grade schools and high schools, and more. It’s super cheap and open every day until 9pm. Our three older kids, who attended school in Martinez and Pleasant Hill, had access to a Boys and Girls Club and a YMCA, which were always full of kids and activities.

Antioch has nothing like these facilities. What we do have is a large community center on Lone Tree, across the street from Dear Valley High School. It has a gym, a full-service kitchen, a ballroom and an amphitheater. It should be filled with kids every day. Yet it is often empty after 5:00 p.m., when many parents are getting off work and just beginning their long commute home.

After three years here, it’s become evident that Antioch is failing its youth. Is it really any wonder why we have higher crime rates than other cities? We can hire police officers until we’re blue in the face—no pun intended—but this won’t prevent our young people from behaviors and influences that lead to trouble.

So, what does help? Study after study has proven the availability of structured, daily afterschool programs, Boys and Girls Clubs and community-based organizations targeting at-risk youth are effective at reducing crime. District attorneys, police chiefs and sheriffs across our nation support these programs because they actually improve public safety.

According to a massive, nationwide study by the Council for a Strong America, a bipartisan nonprofit comprised of law enforcement officials, military and business leaders, pastors, coaches and athletes, afterschool programs save communities at least $3 for every $1 invested by increasing a child’s future earning potential, improving their performance at school and reducing crime and welfare costs.

Recently, I sat in on a Antioch Youth Services Task Force meeting and listened to young people say they don’t feel safe at school or in the community. They want more things to do, but our city just doesn’t offer them.

I’ve also sat in on city council meetings and listened to how people thought we should spend Measure W funds. Some folks want all of the money to go toward adding more police. But until we invest in our youth, we will only be able to react to crime, not prevent the causes of it.

At the April 9th Antioch City Council meeting, citizens have a chance to tell city leaders how to allocate $14 million in Measure W money. Please show up and ask them to invest in afterschool programs, a Boys and Girls Club and juvenile crime diversion programs. Our kids’ lives depend on it.

Warren Lutz

Antioch

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