Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Analysis – County Office of Education addressed Assadoorian recusal question

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

By John Crowder

A review of emails obtained through a California Public Records Act request reveals that the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) considered the issue of a possible conflict of interest for board member Richard Asadoorian in the Dozier-Libbey Medical High School (DLMHS) conversion charter school petition appeal. Asadoorian is married to Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board Member Barbara Cowan, who voted against the DLMHS conversion petition. There had been some discussion that he should recuse himself from the appeal process.

Emails reveal that county staff were considering how to advise Asadoorian on this matter by mid-April. In an April 11 email from CCCOE Controller Jane Shamieh to Associate Superintendent Bill Clark, she relates a discussion she had with attorney Adam Ferber, from whom she had been seeking advice on the charter question. She says, “He (Ferber) asked if the board member (Asadoorian) with the conflict is going to recuse himself.” She continues, “When I told him I wasn’t sure he said that he absolutely should.” She goes on to say that this opinion is based on community property law, and that his wife has a financial interest because she is paid by Antioch.”

According to Asadoorian, he was approached by county staff with a recommendation that he recuse himself. “Staff presented cases based on common law. My own attorney looked at it, and (rejected their analysis). My own legal counsel saw no case study substantiating the idea that I should recuse myself, and I know other spouses have been in similar situations.”

Indeed, conflicts of interest are extremely common, in government and otherwise. The existence of a conflict of interest is not, in and of itself, an indication of unethical behavior or wrongdoing. Conflicts can exist whenever a situation occurs in which a person has more than one interest at stake in a decision. Concern arises when the possibility exists that a secondary interest might overshadow a primary interest. In this case, the questions raised were twofold. One was whether or not Asadoorian would be able to vote differently than his wife simply because of their relationship. The second, and the one being addressed by the CCCOE, was whether the stipend she received as an AUSD board member might influence his vote.

With respect to laws concerning conflict of interest, the husband/wife relationship is not even a consideration. Examples abound of relatives holding government offices (even the same offices held by Asadoorian and Cowan, as Walter and Cynthia Ruehlig were similarly situated in the not-so-distant past) and, while there exists the possibility of someone wanting to do a favor for a relative, conflict of interest laws do not generally focus on this relationship because it is so difficult to quantify the effect. Therefore, such laws focus on financial interest, because they are easier to quantify and are more objective.

In this case, Cowan is not employed by AUSD, but she does receive a stipend of $400 per month for her service on the board, along with another, smaller payment she receives in lieu of insurance offered to board members. It was argued that Asadoorian has a financial interest because of community property laws.

Public officials are expected to put their duty to the public (their primary duty) ahead of any secondary interest (such as an interest Asadoorian might have in the stipend received by Cowan). Conflict of interest laws are supposed to prevent decisions that could reasonably be perceived as being unduly influenced. Ultimately, it was up to Asadoorian to make the decision as to whether or not he might be influenced by the stipend his wife receives. It is hard to imagine that this small stipend could exert that level of influence. This is especially true when you consider that some, if not all of it, must be expended by her in the performance of her duties, i.e., local travel and other necessary expenses associated with serving on the board, for which she is not reimbursed.

Asadoorian ultimately determined, after consultation with county staff, and with his own attorney, that it was not appropriate to recuse himself. After a thoughtful consideration of the matter, it is hard to understand how he could reasonably have been expected to do otherwise.

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Letter writer remembers Gary Agopian

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I could have been a stranger to Gary Agopian and yet known his sterling character by witnessing his three children, Heather, Corey and Jason deport themselves through the Celebration of Life held August 9th at Golden Hills Community Church. They projected the graceful affirmation their dad so emphatically embraced, “Let Thy Will Be Done.”

No way such a threesome developed by happenstance. This was nurturing at its best as Gary’s investment in faith and family reaped a stunning harvest.

Having worked beside Gary for four years on the Antioch School Board I offer a few reflections from the community lens. We might ask, what made Gary such a leader?

ACCESSIBLE.: Gary never dismissed a call or e-mail. It must have been his close to three decades in retail management and real estate sales. As the customer was king, the constituent was the Master and he the public servant.

HANDS-ON: Again, invariably his store background which led Gary to roll up his sleeves and get down from the podium. He was not a drive-by photo-op kid of guy. Whether it was the Graffiti Task Force, where he got out the paint can, or the Youth Intervention Network, where he mentored a family, Gary got in the trenches.

PREPARED: Gary lived the Boy Scout motto, ‘be prepared’. He kept you on your A-Game because in his world there was no slouching. He religiously studied his Board and Council packet and knew the issues. In fact, there seemed no issue, local or national, where Gary was at a loss for a studied observation.

CURIOUS: This was a man with an insatiable appetite to learn and to test his limits. He was the consummate risk taker comfortable pushing his comfort zone. If the mountain was out there Gary was game to climb it; be it the likes of running for Mayor or County Supervisor.

COMMUNICATOR: Gary was gregarious. He loved socializing and was an avid enthusiast of discourse. He thrived in the public square where ideas were vigorously debated.

CIVIL: I never knew Gary to demonize an opponent He could respectfully disagree.

INTEGRITY: Honor meant all to him.

INCLUSIVE: Gary always wanted to study the various ideas of an issue. He leaned on the conservative side but could surprise you as he was no ideologue. In this feverishly partisan society of overheated rhetoric, Gary was a refreshing breeze, outspoken but pragmatic. He sought solutions and balance.

Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Ford and of General Motors, wrote a book, ‘Where Have All the Leaders Gone?’ No doubt, there has been a recent paucity of them as any politician with spine seems a virtually extinct species. Nobody seems willing to tell us the truth or make the hard choices. Where are the Harry Trumans, ‘where the buck stops here?’

Agree or disagree with all his votes, Gary was a leader. He will be sorely missed.

My prayer is that his legacy be in setting the bar higher for us all.

Walter Ruehlig, Antioch

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Watchdog: Lone Tree Golf & Event Center not paying its bills, adds to city’s deficit

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Watchdog Logo Watchdog: Lone Tree Golf & Event Center not paying its bills, adds to citys deficitBy Barbara Zivica

Practical politics consists in ignoring facts.” – Historian Henry Brooks Adams

That’s exactly what the City of Antioch, which is projecting the potential of outpacing revenues in fiscal year 2015-16 and a significant increase in deficit by fiscal year 2016-17, is doing in regard to continuing to allow the Antioch Golf Corporation’s non profit board of directors to again maintain prioritization of payment of an ABAG loan until payments are current and defer payment of two construction loan payments made by the City until there are sufficient revenues to pay both.

FACT: The Lone Tree Golf & Event Center isn’t currently generating sufficient revenue to cover the ABAG bonds. The city bills the golf course after payment of the principal and interest is made by the city. The average annual principal and interest payment is $415,000. The golf course has only been paying $250,000 annually toward the ABAG debt and currently owes the city reimbursement of $830,026 for debt service for invoices dating back to November, 2011. If the bonds default, the city is responsible.

The two outstanding construction loan payments, on which the city has continued to allow the golf course to defer payment, are the parking lot improvement loan (original amount $296,220, outstanding amount $222,165 at zero percent interest) and the club house construction loan (original amount $900,000, outstanding amount $900,000 and $29,520 interest to date)

In addition, the City Council has agreed not to charge the golf course for irrigation water to order to make the ABAG bond payments first priority. (The 2002 extension of the operating agreement required the golf course pay $100,000 of the annual irrigation costs, subject to a maximum 4% annual increase and re-evaluation in 2010.) Last year the city’s General Fund paid $90,140 to Delta Diablo for reclaimed water for the golf course. The city doesn’t bill the golf course for any irrigation usage that occurs from the city’s water system ($69,905 in fiscal year 2013.) The city also has responsibility for road maintenance for the road from Golf Course Road to the golf course parking lot.

FACT: The county is replete with competing golf courses and the Lone Tree golf course isn’t the only one that can’t meet its debt payments. It’s a problem sweeping the nation as fewer people play due to the recession and changing priorities. Unfortunately for Antioch which has its own financial challenges, it’s the City itself that’s liable for the golf course’s escalating debt. Perhaps the city should seek bids for a sufficiently capitalized firm to take over management and operation of the Lone Tree Golf & Event Center, as it has decided to do with Humphrey’s Restaurant.

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Guest Column: Dozier-Libbey Medical Teachers Appeal Charter Conversion Petition to State Board

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

By Jeff Weber

Yesterday, [Wednesday, July 30, 2014] teachers from Antioch’s Dozier-Libbey Medical High School (DLMHS) filed an appeal to the California State Board of Education following the denial of their petition to convert their school to an independent public charter school last May by the Contra Costa County Board of Education.  The 351-page appeal rebuts each point made in the county board’s report for denial, and highlights significant improvements that will be made possible for Dozier-Libbey students when the school is under independent community governance.

Although Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Superintendent Donald Gill publicly stated his desire to find “common ground” with the Dozier-Libbey community following the county decision, teachers involved in the discussions with AUSD leadership in June found his intentions to be insincere.  Teachers cited several factors that doomed any meaningful agreement with AUSD that would benefit Dozier-Libbey students:

-Parents, community members, and many DLMHS faculty and staff were not invited to the negotiations;

-AUSD removed faculty and parents from the planning process for the 2014-15 school year, in violation of normal Ed Code practice;

-AUSD replaced the principal of DLMHS without justifiable cause or input from the school community;

-AUSD leadership stated their refusal to begin planning for the 2014-15 Dozier-Libbey school year until teachers signed an agreement to abandon their charter appeal (the teachers refused);

-AUSD consistently used existing successful student programs as bargaining chips to try to force teachers to abandon their charter appeal;

-Strong recommendations were provided by legal counsel to reject AUSD’s final “take-it-or-leave-it” offer.

In general, an overwhelming number of Dozier-Libbey teachers and parents expressed a lack of confidence in AUSD leadership, and fundamental disagreement with AUSD priorities.

The removal of Nancie Castro as an AUSD administrator provided the clearest indication of the district’s insincerity in promoting improved academic success in its schools.  Ms. Castro has served as the principal of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School since its inception, and has earned the school numerous honors and national recognition.  She has been arguably Antioch’s most successful administrator by any measure.  Yet the AUSD school board opted to not only remove Ms. Castro from her Dozier-Libbey position, but bar her from holding any administrative position in the district.

Ms. Castro was also instructed by district leadership not to engage in any course planning for the 2014-15 year, with those responsibilities ostensibly relegated to newly assigned principal Scott Bergerhouse.  However, many teachers are only now learning of their teaching assignments that will begin in less than two weeks.  Certain critical courses such as the scaffolded “Medical Math” have been eliminated due to planning failures, leaving concerns that next year’s students will suffer from a loss of targeted interventions, particularly in math skills. 

Many observers suspect that the Contra Costa County Board of Education was swayed by AUSD threats of litigation rather than any meaningful evidence that the charter would fail to provide a sound educational program for its students.  The State Board of Education is expected to review the petition in line with California law, and therefore approve the charter based on its merits and proven potential for providing a successful alternative public educational program for Antioch students.

Public consideration of Dozier-Libbey’s future governance began last February when the vast majority of the school’s faculty signed a petition filed with AUSD, in accordance with the charter schools section of the California Education Code, to convert their school to a public charter.  According to the petition, the school would be managed by its own governing board made up of parents and community members, independent of AUSD’s board of trustees.  The teachers’ 121-page petition presented a strong case for significantly improving academic programs and fiscal management at this respected pathway school, however AUSD subsequently denied the petition and pressured the county board of education through threat of litigation to likewise deny the first appeal.  AUSD leadership attempted to thwart the teachers’ petition early on by filing its own petition to convert DLMHS to a “dependent” charter school, however this effort has been twice blocked by the California Superior Court.  Teachers are now exercising their right to appeal their own charter conversion to the state board.  The appeal is expected to be reviewed in the late fall.

Updates regarding the Dozier-Libbey Medical High School independent charter process are available at and

Weber is a teacher at Dozier-Libbey Medical High School.

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Watchdog: Antioch looking for new operator for Humphrey’s on the Delta restaurant

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Watchdog Logo 300x95 Watchdog: Antioch looking for new operator for Humphreys on the Delta restaurantBy Barbara Zivica

The City of Antioch is currently seeking bids for lease of a city owned restaurant space at One Marina Plaza, formerly home of Humphrey’s on the Delta restaurant. Bids from experienced and well financed restaurateurs, sufficiently capitalized to fund a complete makeover of the premises, are due by August 19th.

Back in the mid-1980s the city obtained $6.3M in loans from the state’s Dept. of Boating and Waterways to develop and construct a 285 berth marina. The marina, with an accompanying privately owned restaurant and public fishing pier (half of which was paid for by a state grant of $54,000) and four commercial lease spaces was expected to reach a break even cash flow within five years. Didn’t happen.

What did occur, however, was that past city councils made a number of unwise decisions e.g. deferral of state loan payments for the marina both during construction and during the first few years of operation. When the city finally decided to start repaying the state loans around 1990 it was discovered that payment was $234,000 more annually than had been budgeted and capitalized interest brought the loan to approximately $7.3M. The City has been playing catch up every since.

The City sunk more than $1 million in parking, decking and piling along the waterfront to support Humphrey’s, whose original owner signed a 35-year lease requiring he pay the city $2,500 a month or 2% of gross, whichever was greater, and receive a rent increase every five years, based on the rate of inflation in the preceeding four years.

Humphrey’s was purchased in 1995 by Eva and Gilbert Romero who sold it in 2009, taking it back in 2012 when the purchaser defaulted. Subsequently the Romeros, too defaulted on their loan for Humphreys and filed bankruptcy in 2012. The restaurant remained vacant pending a decision by Wells Fargo, holder of Romero’s loan, as to taking ownership of the property or turning it over to the city. The bank note was purchased by Antioch resident John Majidi, in 2013. But, he has yet to do anything with the restaurant.

Apparently the City of Antioch is, once again in charge. Good luck this time around.

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Columnist: Illegal Youth Spread Rapidly Across US

Monday, July 7th, 2014

The Way I See It Lou logo Columnist: Illegal Youth Spread Rapidly Across USBy Lou Davis

As President Obama and the US Congress continue wasting time, NOT running the country, thousands of young children from Central American countries, including Guatamala, Honduras, and El Salvador. They are coming into this country, through Mexico, and are spreading across the United States like wildfire. Most of these kids have no parents.

Chicago-style politics didn’t work too well in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Egypt over the past five years, so while the president is trying to straighten out that mess, he’s paying little attention to America’s borders. Or, was it all planned like that, as an Obama-orchestrated Immigration by Amnesty program?

Since October, 2013, nearly 50,000 young Central Americans came to this country, illegally, Not only does this condition add to the continually swelling rolls of unemployment, but now there are more unaccounted for criminals on our streets, and children of all ages, in varying stages of health, will overcrowd our hospitals and medical facilities.

Democrats and Republicans have one thing in common; they cannot make a decision on an immigration policy that is best for the whole country. Republicans are working on a plan that is more in line with conservative and Constitutional principles. Democrats however, have all-inclusive ideals which enables new immigrant to enter the country with less stringent requirements. They also feel it will help build up voting blocs that keep them in power.

During a Democratic Party Senatorial fund-raising speech at Worcester, Tech., President Obama said “Our future rests on the success of DREAM kids.” In other words, he was saying the illegal children are our future.

For some ten years now, this children-smuggling through America’s southern borders has been going on. But, over the past five years, the numbers have increased from hundreds annually, to tens of thousands.

Smugglers have been kept informed about America’s ever-increasing acceptance of illegals by ultra-liberal media outlets in this country. They’re telling smugglers thar once children enter this country, they cannot be sent back to their original homes. The more they hear about increasingly laxed policies on our borders, the more illegal people they will send to America, their promised dream country.

Resources, used to house and feed these illegal immigrants, include old military buildings and schools, which would otherwise be used as storm shelters for legal residents, during tornadoes and other hazardous weather conditions.

While younger children are being cared for, with shelter, food and medical needs, older illegals are joining gangs in many of our cities, and being taken advantage of; increasing the numbers of prostitutes, drug dealers and other gangster types.

For the bottom line, listen closely to our president, and politicians like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and even Attorney General Eric Holder.

They talk about voting rights, civil rights, and even used words like humanitarianism. What they’re really doing is walking in lock step with President Obama, and changing the Constitution as they go. They’re filling in another piece of the American transformation puzzle, which the president has promised to put together since his first day in office.

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The Way I See It – Black leaders, Democrats wage political and class wars

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

The Way I See It Lou logo 300x144 The Way I See It   Black leaders, Democrats wage political and class warsBy Lou Davis

Yes, you read right. Now we’ve reached a new low in politics, and we the people are suffering the consequences. If former Democrat President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. could witness the undoing of their strides forward for black Americans they would be truly shocked.

That’s right, for the most part, these class and race wars are infecting both black and white politicians, mostly at the federal level. The resulting sad truth is that it’s crippling government and hurting its citizens.

People who have most to lose in this new kind of race and class separatism are black leaders and politicians, who are being castigated by members of their own race, simply because they belong to a different political party, and this is a new and unforgivable low. In the process, they are dragging ultra liberal white politicians along with them.

The way I see it, Democrats are mostly to blame; both black and white, and this is still another reason why all Americans are being unfairly victimized. Here is just one recent example:

During a recent statement by the official Democratic Congressional Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, he said South Carolina’s U.S. Senator Tim Scott, a Republican, does not “vote his color.” What’s that supposed to mean? Both men are black.

This is only one among many instances when black Democratic legislators have harshly criticized black legislators, who are members of the Republican party.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus do not welcome black legislators who are Republican. Big government (Democratic) advocates, such as Senate Leader Harry Reid, and Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi almost always cast their votes, in line with conditions approved by the Black Caucus.

With class wars such as these continuing, how can the average citizen expect to see laws passed that benefit all Americans, regardless of color.

Our history will show that it was President John F. Kennedy who did most of the work, putting the Civil Rights laws together, which were later signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. These laws, coupled with tireless fights, led by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., brought us to the point where we are today.

It is truly highly disrespectful of these great men, that today’s selfish lawmakers, joined by organizations like the modern day NAACP are taking so many steps to reverse positive advancements we’ve made in this country.

These class and race warfares are tearing down the American dream. It’s past time that our so-called “leaders” would recognize they’d be best off, by following those who want to reinstall the moral and productive activities which placed this country into First Place in the world.

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Antioch to celebrate July 4th at County Fairgrounds, this year

Thursday, June 5th, 2014


There’s mixed news on Antioch’s Fourth of July. The downsides, for many, are the changes. The Parade route has been altered from the traditional E Street kickoff to a now L Street start. The fireworks have been moved from the riverfront to the County Fairgrounds.

I count myself as one who will miss the ambiance of floats and marchers passing the historic Rivertown storefronts and water view. I, too, will miss the excitement of aerial displays over the San Joaquin. It was vintage small-town Americana at its’ best.

The twin culprits forcing the change are two in number; safety and costs.

Despite all the fencing in the world, the crowds simply get unto the railroad tracks. Added to our police manpower shortfalls that spells nightmare. Also, after a two year lapse with the City stopping funding of the event, the strain of raising $65,000, much of which goes for police overtime, just got to be too much.

Let’s dwell, though, on positives. There is plenty to rejoice.

The core of the event is still alive and well. Private security will now man the festivities, aided by some Sheriff Department presence. Security will be less problematic in the more controlled Fairgrounds at Tenth and L. Admission remains free and, much to our delight, parking is ample. Free street lots will be announced and the Fairground lot is available at $5 a car.

The Parade starts at 11 a.m. at 2nd and L and proceeds to the Fairgrounds. Fireworks begin at 9:15 p.m. This year the aerial show will actually be overhead , so it promises to be spectacular.

The Fairgrounds is a venue that affords great variety of activity. We will have substantial picnic grounds, a classic car show, more food booths than ever, beer booths run by community organizations, circus performers, face painting, pony and kids carnival rides, plus educational exhibits including a library area, fire truck, canine unit demonstration, remote controlled model airplanes and model railroad.

There will also be non-stop music in the band shell featuring such treats as Rick Stevens, the former lead singer of famed Power of Tower, and the acclaimed Vocal-ease group.

There’s definitely something for everyone in this family event.

If you wish to join the car show or to march in the Parade print out an application at or contact Betty Smith or me.

See you, family and friends on the Fourth.

Walter Ruehlig, Board Member

Celebrate Antioch Foundation

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