Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Editorial: Congress must stop international takeover of the internet

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

“if you cherish free expression, and free speech rights generally, you should be worried”

By Allen Payton, Publisher & Editor

I rarely write about national issues on the Herald website or newspaper, but this one is too important not to, as what could happen in the next few days could affect not only my business, but any and all internet-related media and any business and individual who uses the internet.

The Obama Administration supports allowing the international takeover of the internet, which was developed here in America, first by our military, and is currently controlled by American interests.

If that happens, some non-elected body made up mostly of representatives of foreign governments, which in general oppose and work against American interests and the freedoms we enjoy in our country, will be in control of the most powerful information and commerce tool ever created.

The UN could ultimately take control and it is not favorable to America and hasn’t been for years. Back in 1985 while working as an intern for then-U.S. Senator Pete Wilson in Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to travel to New York over Thanksgiving weekend to visit a college buddy. He had to work the day after the holiday, so I spent it being a tourist in Manhattan.

One of my last stops was the United Nations building. While in the gift shop I met and struck up a conversation with a delegate from the U.S. State Department and asked him what his thoughts were on the institution. His response was rather eye-opening.

“This place is a joke,” he said. “It’s the U.S. and Israel against the world and once in awhile our old friend Great Britain will abstain.”

Well, things haven’t changed much in the 31 years since then, and actually they’ve become worse. While I believe it’s always better to talk things out than to fight them out, as the delegates to the UN spend much of their time doing in that deliberative body, the decisions they can make once they have control of the Internet could prove disastrous.

Let’s remember who some of the nation states that are members and their policies toward the Internet in their own countries. China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, just to name a few. Do we want their views, which are anathema to our God-given, constitutionally-protected freedoms of religion, speech, and the press be the ones governing or influencing how the Internet operates in our country? What about even England, Scotland or France, where certain comments that we consider disagreements and debate, can get you arrested for “hate speech”?

In a television interview on Wednesday, Ajit Pai, a senior member of the Federal Communications Commission, said “This proposal is to essentially give up the US oversight role that it’s had for the last 20 years, basically for the entire commercial lifespan of the Internet to a company called ICANN, which is an international organization, which includes a number of foreign countries.”

Pai further stated, “[I]f you cherish free expression, and free speech rights generally, you should be worried, I think, when there’s — this oversight role’s going to be ceded to potentially, foreign governments who might not share our values.”

This needs to be stopped and now.

Congress is debating the issue today and the change will occur on Saturday. Our representatives need to hear from us, now. Please join me in contacting them and urging them to vote to stop the Obama administration from transferring oversight of the internet to an international body.

Rep. Jerry McNerney

Washington, D.C. Office (202) 225-1947

Antioch Office (925) 754-0716

Stockton Office (209) 476-8552

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier

Washington, D.C. Office (202) 225-2095

Walnut Creek Office (925) 933-2660

Richmond Office (510) 620-1000

Senator Diane Feinstein

Washington, D.C. Office (202) 224-3841

San Francisco Office (415) 393-0707

Senator Barbara Boxer

Washington, D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Oakland Office (510) 286-8537

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Letter writer says Harper, Wilson have failed on police, crime

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Editor:

Antioch is in trouble. Mayor Wade Harper and Councilwoman Monica Wilson are self-promoting failures.  They failed in their recent County Supervisor bids and are now running back to Antioch to keep their current elected positions.  They wanted out of Antioch, so let them stay out. Don’t vote for them.

Their impacts haven’t been positive in many ways.  Antioch is no safer since their elections. Their vision and actions for Antioch have turned it into a crime-plagued and increasingly crowded, unsafe community.

Some of Harper’s primary election campaign platforms were to improve Antioch’s public safety. He boasted “The City of Antioch will be a safer city on my watch” and “Stopping crime now starts with …. Wade Harper.”  He hasn’t kept you any safer.

Harper also promised “more police” and “less crime” in his support for more taxes.  What a farce that he has turned out to be. He was a main proponent for passage of the tax.  Same police, similar crime results since. Monica Wilson just went along and has had no solutions either.  Antioch’s police manpower has really not been increased, even with them at the helm, with almost the same number of sworn officers as before.  But, they did give big salary and benefit increases to certain employee groups, instead of using that money to hire more Officers (which they should’ve done), and they continually voted for more crime-contributing, uncontrolled growth.  That hasn’t kept you any safer.

Antioch’s crime rate hasn’t really been reduced. It’s been a misleading dog and pony show when publicly discussed by them and others.  As an example, where are the 20-plus “more” officers that were promised?  And where is the “less crime” they promised?  Nowhere is where.  Antioch’s documented high crime rate is much higher than the documented California and National average crime rates.

Let’s face it, Antioch’s Wade Harper and Monica Wilson are proven failures, and should not be voted for, again. We can do better without them.

Ralph A. Hernandez, Chair

Citizens For Democracy

Antioch

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Guest Commentary: Supervisor Glover offers memories of September 11

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

By Supervisor Federal Glover

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, the United States suffered the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. 9/11 has become a date that will live in infamy. It is our generation’s equivalent to December 7, 1941. Who can ever forget the jetliners crashing into the New York skyscrapers, bursting into flames, people jumping from the upper stories, the last calls of those trapped inside.

Who can forget the office workers fleeing the burning floors above them and the firemen  dragging their hoses with them, going up the stairs towards the flames.

Who can forget the towers toppling down on workers and the heroic first responders? The mayhem, the dust-covered office workers?

Who can forget other firefighters, policemen and other rescue workers going through the debris to find survivors?

Who can forget the people from all across the nation, including some from Contra Costa County, who dropped what they were doing and rushed to New York to help in the rescue efforts?

Who can forget Flight 93’s heroic passengers, including residents of the Bay Area, who fought the terrorists to prevent the jetliner crashing into the White House or Congress even though it meant their certain death?

The deaths of those 3000 people on 9/11 are seared into our collective memories. We will always remember what we were doing and where we were on that fateful morning.

But there is another memory I’ll always keep with me. I’ll remember the American people rallying around the towers, around New York, around the Pentagon and Flight 93 – that was perhaps among the finest hours of America. We didn’t think about the race of the victims or their rescuers. We didn’t ask if they were Democrat, Republican, liberal or conservative, rich or poor. For those few hours, those few weeks, after the horrible acts of terror; we were united as a country, we were all Americans.

That is what I’ll remember.

Glover represents District 5 on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

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Antioch School Board candidate offers ways district can improve public outreach

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Editor:

As someone who has built a business around communication and relationship building, if elected to serve on the Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees, I plan to take those skills and find ways to create more opportunities for the school district to reach the public.

Often times, as publisher of eastcountytoday.net, I am asked why I did not cover this school event or that student’s achievement or share how a teacher was recognized. Sadly, it typically comes down to no one from the District providing the information.

While I admit new Superintendent Stephanie Anello has done an outstanding job with media relations when compared to the outreach done by her predecessor—which I might add was like pulling teeth—she cannot go at it alone simply performing social media duties. She needs a team around her and needs additional tools.

If elected, I will make it a priority to improve communication to students, parents and the community. After all, the City of Antioch has an “image problem” and what better way to improve the overall image of the city than highlighting the many wonderful things occurring within the school district.

For example, over the summer, several Antioch students worked on a project which was so brilliant, it’s now being used by NASA after the Antioch Rotary Club helped fund the effort. This is a perfect example of the community working with students to create success–unfortunately it never hit the newspapers because no one knew about it.  This is just one example of many that could begin to change the way at how the public perceives the school district.

Through improved communication, it improves the relationship between students, parents and teachers—it creates buy-in because goals can be achieved together. Thus, it brings back to the joy of teachers teaching and students learning because all parties can be on the same page.

My communication plan for the District includes the following:

Public Information Specialist

There are teachers and staff doing great things. Both parents and the community should know about it. I would like to see the District hire a public information specialist to assist the Superintendent in gathering information from all schools and showcase to the community what great schools and staff we have.

This position can also respond to issues as they come up and help improve transparency in a timely manner.  There are a lot of things occurring in a school district that both parents and taxpayers may not even be aware of that can be an opportunity to shine a positive light. With this position, the District can now tell its story with better uses of press releases, photographs, social media, newsletters, announcements and other tools.

Ultimately, this position is a rather small investment cost wise for the amount of public trust that can be built if implemented correctly.

Put School Board Meetings Online

Currently, if you want to know what occurred at a school board meeting, you can view the agenda and minutes online. That is not good enough.

The District, at the very least, should place the audio from all school board meetings online—the cheapest option. I would go a step further and invest in web-only cameras to record all school board meetings and place the video online which most local governments already do.  This provides much needed transparency to those in the community who seek it.

While some may argue the District should invest in “live television” of a school board meeting, that is expensive and money can be better spent elsewhere on students—especially given how the District is in deficit spending mode.

Take Advantage of the Web

Today, anyone and everyone can take advantage of the internet. The school district is no different. The district should not be forced to rely on a newspaper to tell their story; instead they should simply tell it using their own website.

As publisher of eastcountytoday.net, I’ve built a business around telling stories and providing information. The AUSD can do it too with the creation of their own “news site” to produce information for students, parents, and the community—the newspapers can even pluck stories and photographs right off the website.

Thus, this is where my goal of a public information specialist comes in to help manage this undertaking–students could even become involved in the form of internships.  The goal of this effort would allow the District to stop relying on others (or social media for that matter) to distribute the Districts own information and instead take control of what goes out and how it goes out. I see this as a huge win for the entire community.

Empower Principals and Teachers

The school district has 18,000+ students; the daily face of the district is each site principal and the teachers. We must find ways to better allow them to shine whether it’s a morning breakfast with the parents on campus, hosting off-site coffee meetings, forums, etc. The goal, here is to provide staff with the ability to “do them” and interact with parents as best they know how under the Districts message.

Each school has a different culture that should be embraced, not try to force a one-culture fits all mentality.

Communication within the school district should be more than “feel good” actions; it should be real and sincere. By using a mixture of technology and empowering staff, the school district can improve its public perception. For Antioch, there can be no better way to improve its perception than showcasing its very own students and teachers.

Michael Burkholder

Burkholder is a candidate for the Antioch School Board in the November election. He has a child at both Orchard Park School and Carmen Dragon Elementary School. For more information about his campaign, visit www.mikeburkholder.com or visit him on Facebook.

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Letter writer supports Frazier transportation bill

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Editor:

Thank you to the Antioch Herald for its recent coverage of the Frazier-Beall transportation plan, a smart, sensible bill that addresses our state’s transportation issues and provides a fair approach to funding provisions that will fix our roads and strengthen California’s economy. It is inarguable that our transportation infrastructure is rapidly deteriorating under the pressure of population growth that puts more vehicles on the road than the system was designed to manage safely.

The transportation funding plan put forth by Assemblyman Jim Frazier and Sen. Jim Beall offers a practical solution. It calls for an equitable distribution of funding responsibility among multiple sources, including gas and diesel tax increases and an annual fee for zero-emission vehicles. The bill encourages the use of public transit and other transportation alternatives. Frazier and Beall exhibit a commendable vision by balancing modes, understanding their net positive impact on relieving congestion and carbon emissions while off setting their impact on a corresponding net loss of gas tax receipts under the current program.

California’s transportation network serves as the lifeline for our personal mobility as well as an economic engine that makes the state the preferred originating point to move goods throughout the U.S.  We must fund consistent, long-term maintenance and expansion now to keep our lifeline open and ensure a safe, reliable transportation system that we can count on.

Art Hadnett

President, West Division at HNTB Corporation

San Francisco

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Letter writer upset about proposed state gas tax increase

Friday, August 19th, 2016

Editor:

Assembly Member Jim Frazier wants to add a 17 cent per gallon tax on gas in addition to our already outrageous cost of living. He wants this tax increase to cover transportation costs. This tax would generate $7.4 billion.

Illegal aliens cost California taxpayers more than $25 billion per year. Here is a novel idea, stop supporting these illegals (in some cases they receive far more than U.S. citizens), and many problems would be solved at the same time, by the same action. Most illegals would return to their country of origin or go elsewhere. This would relieve the strain on the state budget, the strain on the water supply, the strain on the judicial system, education, jail systems to name a few.

All of these positives and more could be achieved by actually enforcing current, existing laws. By doing so, we would not need a 17 cent per gallon gas tax increase and would still have more than $17.6 billion left from the $25 billion that illegals cost California taxpayers annually.

In an honest system, we could even receive a tax cut, but I just do not see this happening. By myself, I have supported more families than I have actual family members. I, for one, am growing extremely weary of it.

We are no longer citizens or constituents, only taxpayers or dollar signs.

Steven Payne

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Antioch resident thanks postal worker who rescued her from rattlesnake in home

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016
Rattlesnake in letter writer's home.

Rattlesnake in letter writer’s home.

Dear Editor:

On July 29th, I came face to face with a four-foot-long rattlesnake. All my gratitude goes to my mailman, Patrick Dorn, who has been working for the U.S. Postal Service for thirty-three years. Pat, as I know him, has been safely removing snakes from homes all around the Mira Vista Hills where I live for years, always on his own time. In only the last five years, Pat has relocated at least seven snakes, protecting all the human (and reptile!) lives involved.

That warm July morning, I spent the early hours doing chores around my house. I stepped outside to water plants and feed the birds, and when I returned inside, I heard a strange noise I couldn’t place. It reminded me of a loud hiss, like air escaping a pipe, so I called my daughter to tell her about what I thought was a gas leak. Her husband suggested that perhaps a water pipe had burst under the house, a common issue in my area.

So I went about my usual business, tidying up my living room and cleaning my dining room table. For nearly two hours, the hissing continued, and I was completely puzzled, looking all around my house as I asked my daughter to come over and inspect it with me. When she arrived with a small search party, my tiny Japanese Chin was mysteriously quiet; usually, when I have visitors, my dog barks very loudly, but today she was whimpering. I never even considered why she was so silent.

Postal worker Patrick Dorn

Postal Carrier Patrick Dorn

Together with my daughter, her husband, and my son-in-law, we began to search for the source of the hissing. I was looking at the ceiling when suddenly, my daughter grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me backwards, her landing on top of me. We landed on a table, toppling it, sending remotes and snacks clattering to the floor. It happened so quickly I had no time to question her actions, no time to even feel pain, because from there on the floor, I could see the source of the bizarre noise.

There, under my dining room table — the very same table I had cleaned earlier that day! — was an enormous rattlesnake, curled up and shaking its tail. It was a huge, thick adult with at least eight rattles on its tail, and my heart jumped into my throat. My daughter helped me scramble to a safe distance, and all at once, my son-in-law and my daughter’s husband began to debate how to safely get rid of the snake. Animal Services was closed that day, and although we called the police, they never arrived. As the men in the room pondered the safest way to remove the reptile threat, I recalled my mailman Pat telling me to call him if I ever found a snake in my home. Fingers shaking, I quickly dialed his number.

Pat explained that he and his wife were “on vacation,” enjoying lunch at a Chinese restaurant and preparing to leave for Hawaii the next day. Nonetheless, not thirty minutes later, Pat arrived at my home with a borrowed snake stick. If the snake had come into my house just a day later, Pat would never have been able to come get him.

Exuding calm expertise, Pat set an empty trash bin beside my table and brandished the snake stick. Slowly, he pulled out one of the chairs, and the snake rattled again, the sound almost deafening in my echoing living room. With careful and practiced movements, Pat pinched the snake with the stick and lifted it, gently placing it at the bottom of the trash can before placing the top on. Now the snake could be relocated far away from my and other homes in the Mira Vista Hills.

I felt my body slump with relief, and all I could do was thank Pat over and over for coming to help me. No one should ever try what Pat does without the knowledge he has! He knows how to handle these snakes, how to read them and know if they are aggressive or lethargic. This is not a how-to guide for wrangling snakes. This is simply the story of how my kind and brave mailman saved me from a rattlesnake, and I am so happy that Patrick Dorn is my friend and now my savior.

The writer chose to remain anonymous.

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Fact Check: Crime statistics, police staffing during Harper’s term as Mayor support, undermine his claims

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

By Allen Payton, Publisher & Editor

There’s an old saying that goes “figures don’t lie but liars do figure”. That can be said of some elected officials and candidates for public office. Unfortunately, Americans have come to expect our public officials to lie to us – and some do. More often is the case that candidates make exaggerations during their campaigns. It’s the media’s job to verify the truth and accuracy of their claims.

So, much like the major media does with the presidential candidates and their claims during speeches and press conferences (when they hold them), I thought I’d do a Fact Check of my own on the claims made by Antioch Mayor Wade Harper in his recent re-election campaign announcement. (Please read the article containing it, here).  In it, he stated “Under my leadership as mayor of the city of Antioch we have become a safer and more prosperous city.”

Following is a chart of annual Part I crime statistics in Antioch, as provided on the City’s website which generally supports that claim. Click here to view the details of each year’s crime statistics.

Antioch_Part_I_Crime_and_Arrest_Statistics_2012-JuMostly True

As you can see, between 2012, the year Harper was elected Mayor, and 2015, Part I crimes were down in six of the eight categories which are reported to the FBI. However, during the same time period theft increased 5.5%, rapes increased 82.8%, and Adult Arrests were up 35.5%, and 37.7% compared to 2013. Juvenile arrests, on the other hand decreased by 31.7% between 2012 and 2015. For the latest statistics, comparing crimes during the same time periods, murder, robbery and arson have all increased in 2016 over 2015.

While most of the serious crime categories have experienced decreases, total arrests have increased during the period, leading one to assume that overall crime has increased in Antioch. One argument for that has been because of the additional officers on the Antioch Police force who are available to make more arrests. However, the City had only a net two additional officers by June, 2016 with 91 sworn over August, 2013 when the City had 89.

Therefore, what Harper claimed in his re-election campaign announcement regarding the reduction in crime is mostly true. For Part I crimes through 2015, I give it at best, a rating of 75% true, since six of the eight categories saw a reduction. That’s a grade of C on any test in school, which is a passing grade. But, for 2016 over 2015, I have to give Harper’s claim a rating of 62.5%, which is equivalent of a D, because the decrease has occurred in only five of the eight categories. If you add the increase in adult and total arrests, those ratings have to be decreased, since other, non-Part I crimes must have increased.

Zero Tolerance for Crime?

Comparing the annual and total crime statistics during his term as Mayor to his 2012 campaign slogan “Zero Tolerance for Crime” – while a great goal, was surprising for any candidate to ever offer, since it requires a 100% reduction in crime – Harper’s claim is woefully lacking. The 35 murders, 155 rapes, 1,117 robberies,  1,653 aggravated assaults, 3,897 robberies, 6,631 cases of theft and 3,770 car thefts that have occurred in Antioch during his term as Mayor, clearly undermine his claim of a zero tolerance for crime. While we unfortunately expect candidates for public office to make exaggerations, this is a clear case of over-promising and under-delivering.

4 of 22 Promised Police Officers

More importantly, comparing what he promised in 2013, when he signed the ballot argument in favor of the half-cent sales tax initiative, known as Measure C (view it here), to what has actually occurred, Harper falls seriously short. He and the rest of the City Council, at that time, which included Mary Rocha and Monica Wilson, who are also up for re-election, this year, promised 22 more officers in addition to the 89 the City had at the time, if voters passed Measure C.

Here’s what the ballot argument 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.

To date, the City has 93 sworn police officers giving us just four of the 22 additional officers they promised. That means Harper, Rocha and Wilson, as well as Tiscareno (who isn’t up for re-election, this year) have fallen 81.8% short of fulfillment. It’s another clear case of over-promising and under-delivering.

In his campaign announcement, Harper also stated “We’ve had the most aggressive hiring practice, recruiting about 40 police officers since passage of Measure C.  That’s a promise kept. That’s effective leadership.” What he failed to mention is the fact that the City lost 36 officers during the same time period, due to retirement, and others who quit or were terminated, leaving a net four additional officers. Thus his claim of a “promise kept” is false and is actually a promise broken.

As for Harper’s claim of “effective leadership” that is a subjective statement which I’ll leave up to the voters to decide.

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