Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Final reminder of the Herald’s endorsements and recommendations in Antioch races

Monday, November 2nd, 2020

ENDORSEMENTS in 2020 Antioch Elections

Recommends:

Read the endorsement editorial for Antioch Mayor and Council, here.

Read the endorsement editorial for Antioch City Clerk and Treasurer, here.

Read the endorsement editorial for Antioch School Board candidates, here.

See the editorial encouraging a No vote on Measure T, here.

For more information see the No on Measure T page, here.

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Opponent says Wilson offers more talk no action on Antioch’s downtown Rivertown and homeless problem

Saturday, October 31st, 2020

Dear Editor:

Over five years ago, in 2015 the Antioch City Council approved the Downtown Specific Plan Update and finalized it in 2018. Yet nothing has happened to implement those plans since then. During Tuesday night’s Antioch City Council meeting incumbent Councilwoman Monica Wilson offered no action items for the rest of the council to vote on to help improve Antioch’s historic downtown Rivertown. It was just more talk from the council’s Waterfront subcommittee that she serves on.

Worse, the committee did not include all the business owners that have been trying to improve the downtown Rivertown or would like to upgrade their buildings. They have not publicized their meetings so that other Rivertown business and building owners can attend and give their input and ideas.

Monica has done more harm than good for our city’s downtown. Earlier this year she marched with protesters all the way down the middle of W. 2nd Street to the police station, blocking the road to traffic in front of businesses that were struggling even before the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some of those businesses boarded up out of fear of looting and damage to their store windows. But Wilson did not care about the Rivertown businesses and the impacts of the protests. She was trying to score points with the protesters for another future run for higher office, which is what she really wants. Wilson wanted to be mayor, this year, and was unsuccessfully when she ran for Supervisor in 2016.

What has Wilson accomplished in her eight years on the council? For Rivertown, only one thing, when she voted in August to spend $15,000 on barriers for the restaurants to have outdoor dining where the parking stalls are located in front of their businesses. They have barely been used so that was a big waste of money. But that is it. Plus, the portable toilets for the homeless who stay in Waldie Plaza and along the railroad tracks.

That’s another thing she has done nothing about, other than vote to apply for five FEMA trailers from the state which arrived in March but are still sitting in the city’s maintenance yard, and to spend our tax dollars on consultants and a new city staff member. Monica voted last December to allocate over $500,000 to do something about the homeless problem in our city but then voted to spend $73,000 of it to hire a consultant on homelessness to help develop a plan to hire an Unhoused Resident Coordinator at a cost of $100,000 per year. Then, before anything was done with the rest of the money, Wilson voted to spend as much as $1 million to create a homeless hotel on E. 18th Street.

We need people on the city council who are going to take action and quit talking about improving Antioch’s historic downtown Rivertown and actually do something about the homeless issue in our city. Plus, not promise us 22 police immediately then take six years to deliver on that commitment.

That is why I am running. If you want action and results and not just more talk and delays and kicking the can down the road, eventually getting around to it, I ask for your vote for Antioch City Council in District 4.

Thank you,

Sandra White

Antioch

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Writers says Fernando Sandoval running for college board is an inspiring candidate and breath of fresh air

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Dear Editor:

Daniel Borenstein, in his editorial, endorsed candidate Fernando Sandoval for Contra Costa Community College Board of Trustees Ward 5. But he has left out very important assets and characteristics of Mr. Sandoval that I would like to mention for those who would like to hear of his good character and important background that he would bring to the college board which I have found to be very inspiring.

As a person of color, I’m excited to know that we have a chance to elect Mr. Sandoval who will bring equity, diversity and inclusion to everyone entering their first year of upper education in addition to faculty and staff. Mr. Sandoval’s priority will be to keep first year students engaged and motivated to move on to either universities or well-paying skilled jobs. I have worked on community education projects with Mr. Sandoval where he has displayed his motivation, passion, sensitivity, and creativity to work with youth or those wanting to go back to school to improve their jobs and careers.

He has also recently written a book that inspires those to move on and improve their lives. He has spoken on identity, motivation and achievement to young students using his book as his historical journey. He also provides this book as a gift to others. I am a retired person now and I was even inspired by his book.

In addition to his passion for education, Mr. Sandoval also has a 25-year career in information technology and finance consulting with worldwide banking institutions and research corporations providing management strategies and budgeting models for economic recovery.

With this background, Mr. Sandoval will increase fiscal accountability and transparency to manage District funding that will support our taxpayers’ investment in our community colleges.

With Mr. Sandoval’s background, he has inspired many of us to support him including Faculty and Classified Professionals including over 40 Community Educators and Leaders and many elected officials. These important individuals are gravely disappointed in the incumbent and are looking to replace him with all that Mr. Sandoval offers; finding a breath of fresh air, commitment and inspiration with Mr. Fernando Sandoval.

Linda Olvera

Martinez

 

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Yes on Measure T campaign takes ugly, xenophobic turn

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

Supporter also uses communist thinking and class warfare to gather support

By Allen Payton, Publisher & Editor

The evil of xenophobia raised its ugly head in Antioch, this week, as a supporter of Measure T, the Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative, which is the effort by out of town environmentalists and their supporters in our city, to downzone private property for the purpose of making it permanent open space that the parks district can buy on the cheap, claims she’s of the understanding that the family that owns the Zeka Ranch “are not U.S. citizens”.

In addition, clear communist thinking straight from the first of the 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto is being used as the reason to pass the initiative.

Screenshot of email from Antioch resident Lucy Meinhardt regarding Measure T on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

In an email to the editor originally asking about advertising for the Yes on T campaign from Antioch resident Lucy Meinhardt, Tuesday night, she wrote, “I support Measure T because I believe the good of the community outweighs the property owner’s preferences in this case. I have enjoyed for many years the views when hiking the trails south of Contra Loma to the views of the former Higgins Ranch. To see houses there would hurt me to the core.”

The first plank of the Communist Manifesto written by Karl Marx reads, “Abolition of private property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose.” That’s exactly what she and the supporters of Measure T are attempting to do to the Zeka Ranch and three nearby properties, for a total of 877 homes, which is all that could have been affected by the initiative.

Worse, Meinhardt wrote, “Though the owner owns a house in Antioch, I understand they are not U.S. citizens.”

Louisa Zee Kao, the head of the Zeka Group, Inc. and Zeka Ranch, LLC, who has been fighting for her rights to do with the land as the voters said three times she could, has been a U.S. citizen for over 40 years having emigrated with her late husband and her two children from Hong Kong in the 1970’s. Her grandchildren, for whom she’s working to leave a legacy, were all born in the U.S., as well.

Plus, even foreign residents have rights, and it doesn’t matter who owns the property, because those rights are tied to the property.

Meinhardt went on to write, “I cherish this land for all of us, not a wealthy few who would help the owners reap huge profits. I hope the land will eventually be annexed to the East Bay Regional Parks that surround it.”

So, she admits she wants the privately owned land, purchased by the Zeka Group in 2000, with the first payment made in 1989, downzoned and devalued by over 97% so it can be annexed to and become part of the publicly owned park district land.

Meinhardt uses class warfare which is based in jealousy and envy to keep an immigrant family from increasing their wealth and leaving a legacy for future generations, while providing housing that Antioch doesn’t currently have, even though we the people voted  three times to allow for the new homes to be built in the Sand Creek area.

Screenshot of second email from Lucy Meinhardt on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020.

In a further email sent today, after being called out for her xenophobia, Meinhardt attempted to apologize.

“Apologies. I had heard this rumor. I usually fact check. Do any Kao’s live in Antioch? The Zeka company is based in Burlingame. I am not xenophobic. Both Zeka and Richfield are out of town firms and are investment real estate firms. The rumor took them a bit further out of town. We will never agree on land use with respect to this land. I am sure there will be lawsuits over the initiative when it passes.”

However, Meinhardt was being xenophobic, by definition, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary: “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.”

As for the lawsuits she mentions possibly happening, perhaps the supporters will sue the city and the landowners, but they won’t win because the property owners have rights. Plus, both Zeka – which is a family owned, boutique developer – and adjacent property owner Richfield/Oak Hill Park have already won the two major rulings in their lawsuits against both the city and environmentalists who are behind Measure T.

And again, it doesn’t matter where a property owner is from, where they live or if they’re U.S. citizens, or not. They and their property both have rights.

Devaluing property is in legal terms considered a taking.

How would Meinhardt and other Measure T supporters like it if that happened to something they owned and have it taken from them? Oh, we will just devalue it and then buy it at the lower price for the “good of the community”. I doubt they would appreciate that at all.

But at least she’s honest about what they’re attempting to do: downzoning and devaluing the privately owned Zeka Ranch and three other properties in the Sand Creek area, so the park district can buy it for pennies on the dollar, then annex into the public park land. That’s exactly what the environmentalists tried to get Louisa Kao to do three years ago, so that other developers could use her land as mitigation property for open space, for the to build their subdivisions. She declined the ridiculous offer.

Fortunately, the downzoning and devaluation can’t and won’t happen thanks to Gov. Newsom signing SB330 into law last year which bans cities from downzoning residential land by either council action or initiative.

That’s why Measure T is moot and will have no effect even if it does pass.

In fact, the homes will be approved and built. Because if the city council doesn’t approve the homes planned for the Zeka Ranch or any of the other properties currently zoned residential in Antioch within five hearings on each project, SB330 states the city will, at a minimum be fined $10,000 per housing unit, costing us taxpayers millions of dollars.

So, vote no on Measure T. Don’t take their land and save our tax dollars. It’s unfair and unAmerican.

For more details and to get the facts before you vote, visit antiochherald.com/no-on-measure-t.

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The Herald recommends: Simonsen for City Clerk, Davis for Treasurer

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

Antioch City Clerk Arne Simonsen and City Treasurer Jim Davis.

By Allen Payton, Editor & Publisher

Easy decisions in these races. City Clerk Arne Simonsen knows his job inside and out and has continued to learn and acquired a Master Municipal Clerk certificate to become better in his role. He is the go to guy for questions about pretty much anything to do with the city, city council and city hall. Simonsen should be re-elected

Dwayne Eubanks is a nice man and has served the community in various roles, but he wanted to run for council and his agenda is more aligned with that.  Ellie Householder is already on the school board for two more years. She shouldn’t be trying to hold two public offices.

Jim Davis is the clear choice for City Treasurer. Had Lauren Posada run for anything else, I’d have considered her. But she works for the city finance department, which may not pose a legal conflict of interest, it’s still an ethical one. Davis is trusted and has handled finances in both his job over the years and as mayor and councilman. He has earned confirmation of his appointment in 2018 for a full four-year term.

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Read the history of the Zeka Ranch project and why you should vote no on Measure T

Monday, October 26th, 2020

ZEKA RANCH PROJECT HISTORY – OVER 30 YEARS OF WORKING & WAITING

3 Votes by the People in 1990, 2005, & 2006 Establish Urban Limit Line, Allow Homes in the Sand Creek Area. This 4th Vote Attempts to Devalue the Land – Unfair & Illegal!

  • INTRODUCTION: Zeka Ranch is a thoughtfully prepared, new home community, in the City of Antioch that fulfills the City’s vision for the Sand Creek Area on housing, nestled within the unique, existing natural features of the site. The mix of densities, housing types, their location within the master plan and interaction with the site’s natural topography makes Zeka Ranch an exceptional master planned community, which could be the preferred location of executive type housing that the City lacks and has continuously expressed interest in developing
  • PROPERTY HISTORY AND EXISTING CONDITIONS: The Zeka Ranch site, formerly known as the Higgins Ranch, comprises approximately six hundred thirty-nine plus (639+) acres situated in the westerly limits of the former Sand Creek Focus area. The site is bordered by the East Bay Regional Park District, Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve to the west, Roddy Ranch to the South, Empire Mine Road and Richland Communities proposed Ranch project to the east and public open space to the north. The 639+ acres are subdivided into five independent parcels held by five separate entities.
  • The proposed plan creates an opportunity to implement product diversification that caters to executives and other demography looking for higher end housing, in a setting that is distinct from anywhere else in Antioch. The community will be a synergy of planning, architecture, landscape and engineering. The use of narrower and slower streets, Low Impact Development (LID) Techniques, native and drought tolerant landscape elements, ability to integrate smart technologies and sustainable measures in the homes, integration of trails and open spaces with the surrounding regional open spaces would make this a destination for higher end housing that the City has coveted for so long
  • The proposed land uses of the Zeka Ranch project are in compliance with the existing City of Antioch General Plan. As envisioned in the General Plan, Zeka Ranch is a mix of two housing types – Hillside Estate Housing and Executive Housing.
  • HISTORY – 1980’s City of Antioch grants General Plan allocation of up to 2 homes per acre on 640 acres at Higgins Ranch.
  • 1989 City of Antioch began planning for homes in the Sand Creek area, which would be referred to as Future Urban Area 1 (FUA1). Zeka begins process of purchasing the Higgins property.
  • 1990 Contra Costa VOTERS APPROVE Urban Limit Line cutting off 65% of land in the county from subdivision development and allowing new homes to be built on 35% of the land. The Sand Creek area and Zeka Ranch are INSIDE County’s Urban Limit Line.
  • 1990 Zeka was approached by an adjacent property owner to participate in the City’s planning effort, for the area. Since then, Zeka paid 25% of the costs for the City studies and plans for the FUA1 area, even though later Zeka significantly reduced the number of units on their property. The City’s initial plans for FUA-1/Sand Creek area include over 8,900 homes, plus 700 homes at Roddy Ranch, for over 9,600 homes.
  • 2000 Zeka purchases land for a huge amount of money from Higgins family and begins process for approval of upscale, high-end home project. Initial plans included 1,100 homes, but in the interim, they reduced to 740 homes. The East Bay Regional Park District threatened to sue City of Antioch if they allow Zeka development on much of their acreage. Instead of fighting it, Zeka Group voluntarily reduces plans to 338 homes on 196 acres, leaving 440+ as future open spaces.
  • 2003 Antioch City Council approves General Plan, formally allocates 2 homes per acre on Zeka’s land, allowing only 4,000 homes total in Sand Creek Focus Area.
  • 2005 After County Supervisors moved in the Urban Limit Line to cut out the Roddy Ranch, the people of Antioch voted overwhelmingly to approve Measure K, move the line back out and establish Antioch’s own Urban Limit Line. Sand Creek area and Zeka Ranch are INSIDE City’s Urban Limit Line.
  • 2006 County voters, once again approve County’s Urban Limit Line. Sand Creek area and Zeka Ranch are inside the Urban Limit Line!
  • 2017 Save Mount Diablo representative suggests Zeka sell the Zeka Ranch property to other developer in Antioch for open space use, which would have drastically downgraded and devalued Zeka Ranch property, involuntarily.
  • 2017 Zeka Group ready to submit plans. City staff says hold off. City wants to wait until neighboring developer’s The Ranch project is approved. The Ranch project finally approved on 5-0 vote of Antioch City Council on July 28, 2018. Yet the City Council rejected Zeka Ranch PDP Application submittal after its adoption of Let Antioch Voters Decide (LAVD) initiative a month later.
  • 2018 Out-of-town environmentalists launch initiative effort to downzone Zeka Ranch property to just 1 home per 80 acres to only 8 homes on 639+ acres! Antioch voters are misled by them saying they could stop 8,000 homes. That wasn’t true!
  • According to Save Mt. Diablo’s representative, their initiative ONLY AFFECTS LAND WEST OF DEER VALLEY ROAD. By then the City had already approved 1,200 homes at east of Deer Valley Road, 301 homes are planned in a gated, senior community south of Kaiser, and 121 homes are planned around Kaiser. Plus, 221 more homes are now being processed by the City. So, the most the initiative could stop is about 900 homes, not 8,000! The environmentalists KNEW IT.
  • A few years ago Save Mt. Diablo suggested Zeka Ranch sell their land to other developers for open space. Zeka respectfully declined the offer.
  • 2018, instead of letting the voters decide – like the title of the initiative – the environmentalists asked and got the five council members to decide and adopted the LAVD initiative and rejected Zeka Ranch project application! That forced the landowners to sue both the City and environmentalists in court – Zeka and Oak Hill Park Property won, not once, but twice!
  • 2019 Judge rules City Council has to place LAVD initiative on Nov. 2020 ballot.
  • 2019 October, in response to California’s housing crisis, Governor Newsom signs SB330 into law which says effective January 1, 2020 development applications for residential property cannot be downzoned either by city council action or by initiative. So, the Let Antioch Voters Decide initiative, if passed, should be of no effect for voters at the ballot under the SB330 law.
  • However, the environmentalists want to still win and have voters to pass Measure T. They hope it will force the future city councils to vote NO on the projects, only to forcing more lawsuits costing the City, taxpayers and landowners more money. Zeka wants respectfully to tell the out-of-town environmentalists and their local supporters: NO!
  • Today, after 30 years of waiting and planning, Highway 4 has been widened to Antioch, Highway 4 Bypass/extension built to Balfour Road in Brentwood, and the BART extension to Antioch is completed. (Major roads in Antioch, plus the Highway 4 widening and extension were designed for 12,000 homes in the Sand Creek area and Roddy Ranch)
  • Zeka Ranch has duly resubmitted PDP application to Antioch Planning Department for proposed development of 338 home lots under the Law of SB330 and the application plans currently being reviewed.
  • Zeka Ranch community project will be working in nature, for improvements and beautification of nature. It represents less than 8.5% of total 4,000 home allocations within Sand Creek Area and will provide about 70% of open space within its lands in proactive mitigation.
  • NOW is the time for the Voters of Antioch to VOTE NO on Measure T. We wish to work with the new City Council for approval of Zeka Ranch plans, so, NICE, UPSCALE HOMES, on VIEW LOTS, surround by hundreds of acres of OPEN SPACES can be built, like those in Blackhawk, the San Ramon Valley, Walnut Creek and Brentwood. They will attract executives and business owner investors to Antioch who will bring new companies to the area, creating the LOCAL, QUALITY JOBS for Antioch residents.
  • All the new homes will pay their own way, with more police and fire protection, and road impact fees to help complete Antioch’s long-planned roadways and the Highway bypass/extension widening to Marsh Creek Road and beyond.
  • CONCLUSION: Zeka Ranch will be a diverse, well designed, well amenitized and secure master planned community that will provide high-end housing within the City boundary and inside both the 3-times voter approved County and City Urban Limit Lines, which the City of Antioch envisions for this location. The Zeka Ranch team looks forward to working with City Staff, other agencies, the Planning Commission, City Council, residents, and many stakeholder groups as we create a legacy community within the City of Antioch.

For more information visit the No on Measure T page on this website at http://antiochherald.com/no-on-measure-t/.

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The Herald recommends: Young in Area 1, Lewis in Area 3 for Antioch School Board

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

George Young (left) and Dr. Clyde Lewis (right).

By Allen Payton, Editor & Publisher

Easy decisions in both races. The only candidates with the knowledge and experience to bring true reform to improve the education for Antioch students are George Young in Area 1 and Dr. Clyde Lewis in Area 3.

Area 1

While I applaud current Board President Diane Gibson-Gray’s leadership this year in handling the controversies, protests and dissent on the board, three things prevent me from supporting her. One is the lack of progress in test scores among Black and Hispanic students during her 12 years on the board; second was her bypassing three times of two African American, female board vice presidents for board president, one of whom because Gibson-Gray said she didn’t think was ready which was rather condescending; (See related articles here, here and here) and third, because Gibson-Gray opposed all three charter schools, including Rocketship which has proven to far outshine the other schools in the Antioch district.

The new board majority needs to consider what they’re doing at that school which is helping the students advance as many as four grade levels in just one year and adopt their practices in all AUSD schools.

Antonio Hernandez is nice, young man and offers a different perspective having graduated from Antioch’s Dozier-Libbey Medical High School. But this year he’s sided with the protesters and those opposing the long-desired and -awaited School Resource Officers for the six middle and high school campuses in the district. In an Op-Ed he wrote, “Cops are a band-aid solution to under-resourced schools, and a very poor one at that.” In addition, on Hernandez’s campaign website it reads “Children Need Counselors, Not Cops” even though the first plank of his platform reads “We deserve safe schools.” Actually, and unfortunately, these days both are needed on our local campuses and there are already 14 Mental Health Clinicians and 31 School Guidance Counselors employed in the district.

Plus, Hernandez is one of the “East Contra Costa Progressive Wave” and “Our Revolution Contra Costa” candidates which includes Lamar Thorpe who is running for mayor, council candidates Monica Wilson, Tamisha Walker and Nichole Gardner, and controversial Antioch School Board Trustee Ellie Householder who is running for city clerk. They are all wanting to turn our city and school district into something more like Berkeley. That type of thinking doesn’t fit our community.

Young will bring to the position his knowledge and experience from serving on the board of Rocketship Delta Prep. He’s committed to improving the education for the students and their safety on the campus. His military experience is an added bonus, providing the order and discipline a leader needs, and Young will be a good example for all students in the district.

Area 3

Crystal Sawyer-White spent way too much of her four years pursuing her own educational advancement as a board member than the students’. She’s a nice lady and voted right on charter schools, but one term is enough.

Kenny Turnage has served our community well for years and was honored for it as Antioch’s 2015 Citizen of the Year for Most Impact. But Lewis is better suited and prepared to serve on the school board representing Area 3.

Lewis is also the most educated candidate, not only in this election, but in any Antioch School Board election that I can remember. He not only has a master’s in Educational Administration and Supervision and a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Administration, Lewis has been an instructor and works as a consultant in education.

He’s also served the community both on the Antioch Police Crime Prevention Commission and most recently as President of the Kiwanis Club of the Delta-Antioch. Lewis is the right person for the job at the right time. I just wish he had won two years ago.

For real change and giving our children a better shot at an improved, quality education, please cast your vote for George Young in Area 1 and Dr. Clyde Lewis in Area 3 for the Antioch School Board.

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Opinion: The Muslim Holocaust of 2020, what will you do?

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

By Ala Rahman

What does 1940’s Germany have in common with 2020 China? A religious holocaust.

When learning about the reign of Adolf Hitler, many people are automatically outraged and question, “How could the word let this happen? Why didn’t anyone stop it?”.

There is a holocaust happening in China with Uyghur Muslims right now and there is practically no media coverage.

No one is talking about how Muslims are put into ethnic cleansing camps called “re-education camps” that are very similar to the concentration camps of the 1940s. They are forced to drink alcohol, eat pork, forced sterilization, electrocuted, women are being forced to marry non-Muslims, families are being split apart, they have to sing songs about the Communist party, children are being brainwashed, slave labor is happening. These people are being forced to denounce their religion, are being tortured to become atheists all because someone decided that people have to be punished for something they believe in. Why should anyone get to decide how someone else should live?

In fact, the world is so ignorant about what’s happening in China, the popular live action of the movie Mulan was filmed in Xinjiang where Uyghur Muslims are being held in the “re-education campus”. A movie for entertainment purposes was more important to the world than a humanitarian crisis. Many world-renowned companies such as Nike, Gap, Adidas, Calvin Klein, and an astonishing more have been encouraging this genocide through forced labor of the Uyghurs. It’s more important to the United States to get profit than to help people who are constantly being beaten for living their life as they please.

People were appalled that the German holocaust was happening without anyone noticing. Well, a genocide it’s happening again, right under our noses. What will you do about it?

Ala Rahman is a student at Los Medanos College.

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