Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Letter writer doesn’t like religious newspaper insert inside the Herald

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Editor:

I was disappointed to see a religious publication as part of the Antioch Herald. Is this group paying for the space in the paper, which makes it an advertisement? Or is this content – an editorial decision reflecting the beliefs of the publisher? I don’t mind a column written by a member of the clergy, from any denomination or religion, but ceding so much space to one group clearly sends the message that Antioch is not a diverse community.

Sandra Follansbee

Antioch

 

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Payton Perspective: Looking back, looking forward with hopes for the new year

Monday, January 1st, 2018

During 2017 some really good things happened in Antioch. First, the Council hired a new city manager. Then the Planning Commission and Council approved plans for the new $14 million, privately owned, Rocketship public charter school in a challenged part of town. Plus, it will give at least 600 Antioch students the opportunity for a better education.

The Council approved the sale of the old Humphrey’s restaurant building and land at the marina to an investor who has plans for a seafood and nautical-themed, new restaurant.

They also approved the re-creation of the position of Economic Development Director as the city used to have, who will work attract businesses and their much-needed, well-paying jobs to our city.

And our police solved the 37-year-old cold case of Suzanne Bombardier’s kidnap, rape and murder.

Looking forward, we will see the opening of the eBART system and Hillcrest Station, which will both help commuters and the city’s economic efforts.

My hope is for the Council to rework the budget and hire the rest of the 22 additional officers promised under Measure C to get us to the 111 officers. But, at least use the honest base figure of 89 officers. That will help bring our crime under control – which is my biggest wish for the new year.

I also hope to see the Downtown Specific Plan Update finalized, the city-owned properties sold to the developer to bring new upscale housing and mixed-use projects to Antioch’s historic Rivertown, and the removal of that floating eye-sore of a house. That will help continue the revitalization of downtown. Plus, the renaming of L Street to Marina Way or Blvd. in time for the opening of the new restaurant at the old Humphrey’s location, which has been in the city’s plans since 1996, as well as renaming A and West Second Streets to Rivertown and West Rivertown Drive to provide permanent promotion of Antioch’s heart, where our city got its start.

Finally, my hope for the new year is that the city and county government, and the faith community will work to better solve the challenge of the homeless folks who live in town. There must be a way to shelter them, especially during the cold, wet winter months and the hot summer months. But, preferably year-round with programs to help them transition to a life of independence. Please at least for now the City must provide public restrooms that can be used 24-hours a day to provide our homeless neighbors with both dignity and keep them from doing their business in public. Perhaps like the kind on Market Street in San Francisco that have a time limit for their use. Something needs to be done about that immediately.

God bless you and may God continue to bless Antioch – Contra Costa County’s oldest city.

Happy New Year!

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Antioch School Board Trustee Ruehlig compliments school concerts, music programs

Friday, December 15th, 2017

Deer Valley High School recently held its Jazz Ensemble during which members of their instrumental music groups performed. Photo by AUSD – See more photos of the various school concerts on the district’s Facebook page.

Dear Editor:

This holiday season brings the usual cheer, but adds a personal festive exclamation point with the local bounty of school concerts.  I was personally privileged to attend the Black Diamond Middle, Antioch and Deer Valley High Schools and Dozier Libbey Medical School combined concert and the Park Middle Schools performance. We had heard about the overflowing 1,300 students at elementary schools taking band but now we tasted the fruit of that pipeline.

We’re in our third year with music alive and well in the AUSD and are reaping benefits in more ways than one.  As might be expected, motivation took a hit when the heart and sound that can soften the daily grind was taken from the schools to save dollars and allow doubling down on core subjects. Granted, reading and math remain fundamental, but face it, for many kids, music or sports are the sole connection and engagement keeping them from truancy.

Aside, though, from increased attendance and GPA, we’ve noticed that, in and of itself, music is aiding academics as a sort of super brain food, bringing a plethora of values.  No surprise to us music lovers as poll any group of physicians or engineers and you will find that an amazing number of these hi-achievers had studied music in their formative years.

You see, in one sense music is pure math. Understanding beat, rhythm and scales helps children learn how to divide, create fractions and recognize patterns.  It sharpens special, temporal skills associated with math comprehension.   Essentially, then, music is a sort of hard wiring for all kinds of basic and advanced math.

Studying music also instills short and long-term memory aides by using mnemonic devices.  It also physically develops the left side of the brain, the part involved in language acquisition.

Music employs multiple skill sets, exercising eyes and ears and both larger and smaller muscle sets. Certain instruments, like percussion, develop timing, coordination, motor skills and ambidexterity. Call it sports in a chair.

Good news moms and dad; a 2007 study by Christopher Johnson at the University of Texas showed students in elementary schools having superior musical programs scored 22% higher on standardized English tests.

So-called soft skills, cited by employers as invaluable workplace skills, also mature. Musical student attendance is cumulatively higher and discipline rates less. Poise under pressure and accepting and giving constructive criticism also benefit. The habits of discipline, perseverance and the ability to demonstrate deferred gratification also develop.

Musical students learn teamwork and collaboration in group performance, and how to patiently wait their turn and respectfully listen to others.  They also broaden horizons as they are introduced to various genres, styles and cultures.

We might ask, how, then, does our child pick a chosen instrument?  Treat it like a petting zoo and let your child explore for the right sound, feel and temperamental fit. Make sure the challenge is appropriate, the price affordable, and that you, the parent, can live for endless hours without going crazy over home practice of that instrument. Drums, after all, may not fit us all.

Thankfully, with School Board support, and LCAP funding, we have welcomed back the spiritual soundtrack of our lives.  The enrichment surely can’t hurt our kids and our collective humanity. It’s an opportunity to celebrate as we affirm Frederick Nietzsche’s charge that “without music, life would be a mistake.”

Walter Ruehlig, Trustee, Antioch School Board

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Celebrate Antioch Foundation announces winners of Lighted Holiday Parade and offers thanks.

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

The dancers from Melody’s Dance Studio were the Overall Winners of the 2017 Antioch Lighted Holiday Parade. Herald file photo

Celebrate Antioch would like to say “Thank you” to the community and the City! We had a wonderful turnout for the Lighted Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting ceremony. You could feel the holiday cheer and the excitement of the children as they visited with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

The parade was well attended by our residents both with entries and people watching the performers. Seeing the community gather in such a positive manner is what makes the planning of the Holiday Parade and 4th of July festivities seem like play instead of work.

A special thank you to the City, they did a wonderful job of decorating the tree and setting up for the tree lighting. Having the Music Masters singing Christmas carols before the lighting was a nice addition, this year.

Following is our list of winners for the parade in the various categories, as well as our overall winner.

OVERALL WINNER: Melody’s Dance Studio

Scouts: Delta Gateway Girl Scouts of America

Civic Community Service Clubs: Antioch Rotary Club, YWCA of Contra Costa

Commercial for Profit:  Antioch Delta Skimmers

Entertainment Performance: Golden State Soul Line Dancers, El Pinto Ranch

Cultural Costumed: Rancho Los Centenarios

Musical Instrumental: Antioch High School Marching Band and Deer Valley Marching Band

Clubs: Antioch Lapidary Club

Youth Children non-scouts: El Campanil Children’s Theater

Dance/Gymnastics: Elite Dance/Special Haven

Public Officials: Mayor Sean Wright making three laps

The Celebrate Antioch Foundation is looking forward to another year of bringing celebration to our City with the 4th of July Parade, fireworks all the festivities down out the Fairgrounds on the 4th of July and of course the Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting.

To everyone once again, Thank You!!!! We wish you Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas!!!!!!!

Celebrate Antioch Foundation

See photos of the parade on the Herald website by clicking, here.

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Letter writer claims there’s deceit in the Republican tax plan

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Dear Editor:

You know what the shame is with the Republican tax bill besides raising taxes on the middle class and giving billions of dollars to the upper 10%, it is when the $1.5 trillion budget deficit is not paid for by the supposed growth of the economy, they will not raise taxes to make up the difference, they will cut spending for the ACA, Medicare and Social Security. This is their strategy to do away with these middle-class benefits.

They, the Republicans, are not only despicable but criminally negligent in their responsibility as members of the US Congress. So be it, it is up to the rest of us to throw these carpetbaggers out of office in 2018.

Harry Thurston

Antioch

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It’s time Antioch started using correct, honest figures for Measure C police staffing and funding

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

The City of Antioch’s 2016-2017 Measure C Annual Status Report

By Allen Payton, Publisher

The City of Antioch’s 2016-2017 Measure C Annual Status Report was recently received in the mail and I took the time to read it. Unfortunately, what I discovered was it provides false information to the public. Now, I don’t blame city staff. They’re merely reporting and acting on the direction of the city council. But, it’s the direction of the past mayor and city council which chose to play games and manipulate the police staffing numbers and budget to make things look better than they really are. So, it’s time the new mayor, mayor pro tem and council gave new direction to the city staff to use the correct and honest figures for Measure C.

Mayor and Council Promised 22 More Sworn Officers

Here are the facts, again. In the ballot argument for Measure C, signed by then-Mayor Wade Harper and the rest of the city council at that time, which included current Council Members Monica Wilson and Tony Tiscareno, it stated:

“A Yes on Measure C will allow us to immediately hire 22 new police officers, decreasing the time it takes to respond to 911 calls. It will also provide funds to reduce the number of gang-related homicides, assaults and robberies.

Our police force has dwindled from 126 officers four years ago to only 89 today. 911 response times have increased and violent crime is up 30%. We feel unsafe in our homes and are in constant fear of becoming victims of crime.”

We Had 89 Sworn Officers

The ballot argument concluded with and was signed by the following:

“Antioch needs funds now to lower crime and to cleanup dilapidated properties. Your voting Yes on Measure C will give us the financial boost we need to turn Antioch around. Thank you.

Sergeant Tom Fuhrmann, President, Antioch Police Officers’ Association; Brittney Gougeon, Founder, Take Back Antioch; Joyann Motts, President, Antioch Unified School Board; Hans Ho, Past Chair, Antioch Crime Prevention Commission/ Neighborhood Watch Coordinator; Antioch City Council; Wade Harper, Mayor of Antioch/ Retired Police Lieutenant”

They Owed Us 111 Total Sworn Officers

My math tells me that would bring the total to 111 sworn officers (89 + 22). The ballot was written and submitted in either July or August 2013 in time for the sample ballots to be printed and mailed to the voters. So we had 89 sworn officers on the force being paid for out of the budget before the funds from Measure C began to be collected.

Please read the entire ballot statement and arguments, here – http://www.smartvoter.org/2013/11/05/ca/cc/meas/C/.

They Chose to Use 82 Sworn Officers as the Base, Instead

However, by the time Measure C passed in November, the Antioch Police Department had lost seven more officers reducing the force to just 82 sworn officers. So, that was the figure the mayor and council at that time voted and gave direction to city staff to use as the base figure. Adding 22 more officers only gives we the taxpaying and voting public a total of 104 sworn officers – which is the figure the council and staff have accounted for in next year’s budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

That was wrong and dishonest of them to do, because the budget already included enough for 89 sworn officers and Measure C is supposed to pay for 22 “new officers” according to the ballot argument.

Council Member Lori Ogorchock was elected in November 2014 and Mayor Sean Wright and Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe were elected last November long after Measure C passed. But they all inherited the commitments and promises of the past council to give us the 22 additional officers from Measure C, on top of the 89 we had at the time the ballot argument was written and signed, and “immediately.”

Past Police Chief Allan Cantando and current Chief Tammany Brooks have said they’ve been doing everything they can to continue to add officers to the force and have hired 49 sworn police officers since the passage of Measure C, according to Brooks’ portion of the report. However, due to past council actions including the very rich 3% at age 50 retirement benefit – which was fortunately changed in 2012 for new hires – and due to other attrition, the department has lost 35 sworn officers during that time. That brings the total number of sworn officers to just 96. That was news to me as I was under the impression we had reached and remained at the 100-officer level.

They Owe Use 15 More Sworn Police Officers

That’s just seven more officers than the city had in 2013 when Measure C was placed on the ballot. Here we are over four years later, certainly not the “immediately” as the then-mayor and council promised us. The current council owes us another 15 sworn officers paid for by Measure C funds based on simple math of 111 – 96 = 15.

Brook’s comment that “our net gain is currently 14,” is only correct when comparing it to what has happened “Since the passage of Measure C in 2013,” as the first sentence of his comments stated. It’s not correct when comparing that figure to how many officers we were actually promised if we passed Measure C.

Only seven of those 14 sworn officers are supposed to be paid for from Measure C funds and the fact is the city has only gained a net seven additional officers, not 14 from the revenue generated by the extra half-cent sales tax in Antioch.

It all goes back to the number of officers the budget was paying for at the time the ballot argument was written and signed, and the promise made which was 89.

The worst part is, even before they have given us the 22 additional officers, the previous mayor and council, of which Ogorchock was a part, voted unanimously to give pay raises to the police and the rest of the city staff totaling $9.2 million in contracts that run one year beyond the sunset of Measure C. (They did so on Election Night, by the way after it was too late for the voters to know what was in the pay and benefits packages before they voted). The additional half-cent sales tax only lasts until 2020. The contracts run through 2021. (See related articles, here and here)

Now They’re Asking for a One-Cent Sales Tax

Yet, now city staff is already asking for we the people to consider voting, not for a renewal of the half-cent sales tax, but an increase to a one-cent sales tax when Measure C expires. Among other questions about city services and issues facing our community, a recent phone survey, approved  by City Manager Ron Bernal and paid for out of his discretionary funds, asked residents if we would support that. The audacity to even us ask to consider supporting a renewal of the half-cent sales tax, much less doubling it, before fulfilling the promise and commitment made to we the people under Measure C and having spent $9.2 million on pay raises, seriously had me stunned.

They’ve Only Budgeted for 104 Sworn Officers

The last part of Chief Brooks final sentence in the report is correct: “As of June 30, 2017, $2,947,361 remains unspent pending allocation to enhancing Police and Code Enforcement services, as promised to voters.” At least he recognizes that a promise was made to the voters. But, I challenge the amount remaining unspent, since that figure should be much higher if the proper figure of 111 sworn officers was accounted for, not 103 currently and 104 in next year’s budget.

We just need the city council to remember what that promise actually was – 22 additional officers on top of the 89 sworn we already had – and ensure we are provided the 111 sworn officers Antioch needs to fight and bring down crime, which is supposed to be their highest priority. It’s time to put our money where their mouths are.

One Promise Broken, Another Can Still Be Kept

Obviously, they haven’t been able to keep the part of the promise of hiring the 22 additional officers “immediately”. But, the current city council can fulfill the promise of 111 total sworn officers as we are due, by giving new direction to staff to use the correct, honest figure of 89 sworn officers as the base not 82.

What’s that old saying – figures lie and liars figure? The figure of 82 sworn officers the city has been using since 2013 is just plain dishonest. I expect Mayor Wright, Mayor Pro Tem Thorpe and Council Member Ogorchock who were not part of the council that gave that misdirection to staff, to correct this and give new direction using 89 as the base figure. I would also hope that Council Members Wilson and Tiscareno would see the error of their ways and join them in correcting it.

We get enough of this statistical and fiscal game playing with our government and our money from Washington, DC and Sacramento, already. It should never be allowed at the local level. If the council and staff ever hope to see Measure C renewed, or much less doubled – which I seriously doubt will be supported (and we’ll see once the results of the recent survey are made public) – the council needs to correct this. Also, if Sgt. Tom Fuhrmann, Joy Motts and Hans Ho want to maintain their integrity, they will make sure the council does so, because they added their names and reputations to the ballot argument in which the promises were made to help ensure Measure C’s passage. So they all made that same promise.

Reopen Employee Contracts to Ensure Funding for 111 Officers

We the people need the council to not only start using the correct base of 89 sworn officer, we need one of the three current council members who voted for the pay raises last year to join Wright and Thorpe in reopening and renegotiating the city employee contracts. That is the only way to ensure there is enough money in the budget to pay for the 111 sworn officers we were promised.

Unfortunately, that still won’t get us to the 1.2 officers per 1,000 population level of 132 sworn police officers that we’ve been needing for the past 20 years. But, it will have to do, for now.

And the time to face the facts, take responsible action, be honest with we the people and address and fix these matters is now.

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Antioch School Board president responds to criticism of district schools

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

Dear Editor:

If Antioch had a dime for every time it has been bashed, our streets would be paved with gold. Inarguably, our schools take a disproportionate share of that thrashing.

I am the first to admit that Antioch schools have their set of pressing concerns, particularly on what I call the ‘Big Three’: parental engagement, student motivation and behavior, and state proficiency on test scores, especially math. Let’s review.

If you can’t get Mohammed to the mountain, you bring the mountain to Mohammed.  Without parental support education is an uphill climb so we need creatively expand even more our already concerted efforts to get mom and dad involved, be it thru home visits, Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) meetings, social media or parenting skill workshops.

As to behavior, after several years of dramatic decline, suspensions are, perplexingly, up 16% this school year. We are working double time to address this.

With math, that’s an area where we need a radical departure in approach. Our 20% proficiency rate is simply unacceptable.

It takes a new seed to develop a new crop. We need ever-bolder actions, aggressive interventions and individuated, pull-out instruction to overcome this perennial thorn on a core skill.

That said, on our weaknesses, we can’t completely ignore social context. Some sample facts: from 2000 to 2012 the city’s violent crime rate doubled; our number of English language learners tripled; the number of homeless, public school students increased from 382 in 2011 to 706 in 2014; the number of students residing in group homes rose 144% in the past six years; 40% of district students live in homes without secure parental employment; 1 out of 5 students had suicidal ideation; 1 in 5 students reported prescription drug usage.

Sadly, we haven’t even touched on the distressing subjects of broken homes, latch-key kids, parental abuse, transiency, the epidemic of attention deficit syndrome; societal permissiveness, the erosion of public civility; the seduction of electronic gadgetry, etc.

Amidst the societal chaos, though, our educators seek solutions, not excuses, and do their best, against great odds.  Day in and day out much good goes unheralded.

  • We can celebrate Antioch’s graduation rate soaring above state average.  Its’ 6.3% increase last year was one of the highest California increases in the State.
  • Dozier-Libbey Medical School has been honored as a California Distinguished School and Deer Valley High as an Honor Roll School.
  • The Antioch School Board, Chamber of Commerce, Planning Commission and City Council all approved Rocketship, a third Antioch public charter school. to be housed in a 14,5 million dollar state-of-the-art, zero net energy campus off 18th Street. The school underscores our openness and community richness in recognizing many unique seats at the table; traditional, private, alternate, charter and home study schools.
  • Unquestionably, Antioch is known as a trailblazer in linked learning with real-life career paths in law, the medical field, engineering, green energy, digital arts, business, research and the performing arts with GPA, attendance and graduation rates prosper.
  • Music is back, alive and well, with 1300+ students involved at the elementary level, allowing a pipeline tor the higher grades and a great outlet for creativity, self-esteem and brain development.
  • The number of students taking Advanced Placement exams has grown 71.6% over the past 5 years.
  • The number of U.C.-system qualified graduates rose 6.9% over the last 5 years and more of our high school students are now co-enrolling at community college, gaining credits and exposure.
  • Counselors, for the first time, are present in all of our schools, from elementary to high.  Not long ago we had no counselors. Now our ratio of counselors to students is one of the highest in the state and at 500 to one double the California average of 1,000 to 1.
  • In a recent LCAP funding evaluation the State determined that Antioch met or exceeded expectations in eight of nine categories. (To little surprise, we fell short on math in grades 3-8),

This letter, then, hopefully. demonstrates that we have a mixed bag with ample good, bad and, yes, sometimes ugly; but while we squarely face our undeniable flaws we don’t have to dwell on challenges alone.   We can also acknowledge and build upon successes.

Each of us can do our bit by involved parenting, by having high expectations of our children and schools, perhaps by civic volunteering, joining PTA, or tutoring. Yes, there is considerable work to be done for Antioch to become the destination city many of us dream of it being. To that end, we must honestly self-reflect and then roll up our collective sleeves and become part of the solution and not the problem.

Walter Ruehlig

President, Antioch School Board

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Guest Commentary: Dawn of a new day for the Antioch animal shelter

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Editor:

Antioch animals deserved better and now we at Antioch Animals Deserve Better are delighted to say things really are getting better at Antioch Animal Services!  It is the product of determination, tough decisions, and a lot of hard work.  And while there is more to do, progress at the shelter is significant, real, and continues in the right direction!

We would like to extend our enormous appreciation to Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) for their expert guidance and willingness to step in to help Antioch, as well as coordinating with Maddie’s Fund for much needed funds to help the Shelter (thanks to you too, Maddie’s).

We would also like to express our gratitude to the Antioch City Council and the Mayor for their support of the Shelter and partnership with ARF.  And let us not forget the Shelter staff, volunteers, and rescue groups who stepped up to embrace change and are helping the animals through it all.

We want to especially thank and acknowledge Antioch’s new Police Chief Tammany Brooks for taking a real interest in the Shelter, educating himself about Animal Sheltering, and taking a no nonsense, open, and honest approach. The community sees your true leadership in many areas and it is making a difference.

And lastly, we want to thank all of you who supported the cause for the animals and positive change at the shelter.  Please see the recent GoFundMe update below from the incredible attorney whose generous pro bono work helped us. We have donated 100% of the funds to ARF towards their work at the Antioch Shelter.

Many positive changes are taking hold and good things are happening.

Kim Charef

Antioch

Antioch Animals Deserve Better

** GO FUND ME UPDATE **

Posted on Antioch Animals Deserve Better Facebook page 10-17-17 by Nancy Powell, Esq.

OVERALL SUCCESS – FUNDS TO ARF

ARF was brought in by the City of Antioch last fall and they have worked, guided and contributed mightily toward improving the Antioch Animal Shelter. It was through the pressure put on the Antioch City Council and the Council’s knowledge that folks like you demanded change that ARF got involved, so you can take credit with ARF for making things happen.

The Shelter is now working under different key individuals, is working to get a vet tech and a veterinarian to work there, has revised how often and when veterinary care is sought for the animals, has improved procedures and at the very basic level is a cleaner, nicer place to be stuck if you are an animal. ARF is continuing to work and guide the Shelter on issues that still need attention.

We demanded changes and the City got ARF involved. We were poised to go back into litigation mode if we did not see progress.

We believe that the funds that were donated to the GoFundMe campaign are no longer needed for litigation and should go to ARF to be used to further their great efforts in improving the Shelter. Therefore, the full amount collected in the GoFundMe campaign of $1,745 is being sent to ARF for this purpose. As long as the City continues to follow the guidance provided by ARF, things can only get better. If anything changes, we will update you.

Thank you for your support. It made a huge difference for the animals and the community.

Nancy V. Powell, Esq.

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