Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Watchdog: Crime in Antioch is down because Prop. 47 changed some felonies to misdemeanors

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

Watchdog-LogoBy Barbara Zivica

According to the Chief of Police’s recent report to the City Council, the most recent Part 1 violent crime numbers have dropped 11.5% and Part 1 property crime have dropped 12.4%. Combined, total Part 1 crime dropped 12.3% while total arrests are up 19.9%.

Before patting ourselves on the back, let’s look at one of the main reasons for the change in current stats compared to stats from last year. That reason is the passage of Proposition 47 which converts many nonviolent offenses, such as drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. The measure included exceptions for offenses involving more than $950 and criminals with records involving violence or sex offenses, and allowed for people currently incarcerated for crimes covered by the measure to petition for re-sentencing.

Among the most prominent arguments against the law was that possession of the date-rape drug would be punished as a misdemeanor rather than a felony and the $950 cap would downgrade the theft of most guns to a misdemeanor.

It was estimated that the measure would affect about 40,000 felony convictions per year, which would be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, representing about one-fifth of annual convictions in California.

Opponents said that if Prop. 47, drafted as a way to help resolve Gov. Jerry Brown’s over crowded jails problem, passed it “would officially end California’s tough on crime era. Between the drug deals I see occurring around town when I go to the store and the shop lifting I see occurring in the stores, employees being unable to interfere if the loss is under $950, it’s obvious that any statistics claiming a drop in property crime statistics is due to Prop. 47, not better policing.

Incidentally, October is Crime Prevention Month.

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Payton Perspective: Antioch Planning Commission should say no to housing that’s more of the same, support staff recommendations

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Payton Perspective logo 2015By Allen Payton, Publisher

This Wednesday evening, October 7, the Antioch Planning Commission will provide a preliminary review of a 1,667 home development, proposed for the property across Deer Valley Road from the Kaiser hospital.

While homes have long been proposed for the area, this development would allow more of the same size lots and homes as we currently have in the southeast part of our city.

When I was on the City Council, the plan was as the city developed further south, we would approve larger homes on larger lots until we got to Roddy Ranch, where there would have been $1- to $2 million homes on half-acre lots.

But, the Ranch Project, as proposed by Richland Communities, would allow “lot sizes under 5,000 square feet, between 5,000 and 7,000 square feet, and 7,000 to 10,200 square feet,” according to the staff report for the item on the Commission’s agenda. The report also states “The majority of the proposed project is developed at a residential density of 7-8.0 units/acre” which would result in lot sizes of between 5,500 and 6,300 square feet.

We already have more than enough of that type of housing in Antioch. While the 5,000 square foot designation was intended for lots adjacent to the golf course, it is no longer included in the plan.

If the 5,000 to 7,000 square foot lots were included as part of a senior community, that would be one thing. But, the senior community, also in the original plan, is not in the Ranch Project plan, either.

Fortunately, city staff recommends a minimum lot size of 7,000 square feet, and hillside estate lots of 20,000 square feet minimum, be included in the plan.

They also recommend an alternative open space program in place of the previously planned golf course.

New Housing Types Needed

At this point in our city’s history, we need to add two different types of housing to our housing mix, specifically senior housing communities, as well as gated communities with upscale housing, like those in Brentwood, and what staff is recommending.

Residents of senior housing communities don’t impact schools or commute traffic, in general, and spend their money at restaurants and businesses, in town, during the day, helping grow our local economy.

Gated communities, with upscale housing, will attract executives, professionals and business owners who will bring their companies to our city and employ our people.

Antioch doesn’t need more of the same type of housing that we already have. The Planning Commissioners should heed the staff recommendations, send that message to the project proponents and ask them to try again.

The Commission meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be held in the City Council Chambers, located between West Second and Third Streets in downtown Antioch.

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Antioch School Trustee writes of vacancy on Board, qualities he’s looking for in applicants

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

Dear Editor:

The Antioch School Board will soon announce its application procedure for appointment to the Trusteeship position generated by Barbara Cowan’s move to Oregon. The Board, as a whole, will decide on the tactical selection process particulars. Speaking, then, only for myself, kindly allow for some ruminations on a Trustee’s ideal constitution.

I’ve been asked how much an educational background benefits a Board Trustee. Truth be, it sometimes helps, often hurts. One can know too much, which can lead to micro-managing. By contrast, an enlightened trustee hires the best Superintendent possible, sets a clear vision with accountable benchmarks, and then gets out of the way.

The best Trustees simply have strong communication and bridge-building skills, and a seasoned touch. They can seamlessly switch from publicly praising to, when needed, privately and diplomatically prodding. Being transparent, accountable, fiscally sober and hard-working can not be overstated, as well.

For my two cents, Trustees also need good-old fashioned common sense, with an appreciation of tough love. Yes, we need adopt creative, positive behavioral interventions but we can’t abandon fair but strict, no-nonsense, behavioral standards if our schools and society are not going to go to hell in a hand basket. If we don’t curb systemic behavioral outbursts, and all the attendant distraction, we will continually spin our wheel on attaining academic improvement.

School Board is the retail world of politics and governance; it’s up close and personal. As such, it’s not for the thin-skinned or faint of heart. It calls for unending give and take with the sometimes clashing interests of students, parents, teachers, Superintendent, administrators, community leaders and colleagues.

As you can guess, though nobody has to go along, in this hurly-burly arena it helps to get along. Pure ideology simply counts for naught if nothing tangible gets done in the crucible of compromise and pursuit of the Golden Mean.

Superintendents, administrators, union leaders and fellow trustees come and go with elections, retirements and moves. By freely adapting to each new configuration you can maximize complimentary strengths and leverage mutual goals. We quickly learn that there are no permanent alliances, just permanent interests. It’s inevitable that we fall to the short end of some 3-2 or 4-1 votes, but we endure. Cycles come and go and even a dissenting voice has some resounding long-term value.

Fact is, not everyone will be on our preferred dance card, philosophically or temperamentally. We must, though, tango with the partners we have.

I, for one, wish we could harken back to a more civil political climate typified by Democrat Majority Whip Hubert Humphrey and Republican Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen retiring from a day’s vigorous debates to congenially tipping a few cold beers together.

Contrast this to the bitter enmity and hardened partisan divisiveness choking the corridors of power today.

Of late, the word loyalty surfaced. I welcome the discussion because loyalty is one of the enduring themes of man’s perennial philosophy. Nevertheless, I caution against blind loyalty at the expense of overarching principle or managing the collective good.

The three dicta of wise governance remain; balance, balance, balance. School Board cries for the amicable, not angry; the consensus builder, not partisan; the results-driven principled, not ideologue.

Granted, a tall order, but it can’t hurt to hope we get King Solomon, or an aspiring Solomon, to, pray tell, apply for the appointment.

Walter Ruehlig

Trustee, Antioch Unified School District

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Watchdog: Math program shouldn’t be necessary for Antioch schools, opposes AUSD hiring consultants

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

Watchdog-LogoBy Barbara Zivica

No matter how successful the new Math Intensive program, developed by John Crowder, teacher, tutor and private school administrator and partnered by Angel Luevano, as a taxpayer I resent AUSD continually hiring and paying for outside “consultants”.

A little background: Angel Luevano has served as a substitute teacher in the AUSD district, worked for 25 years for the Department of Labor, was a Vice President for the Far West League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) where he no longer plays an active role, a plaintiff in a case that resulted in the elimination of the Professional and Administrative Career Exam for 118 federal job classifications and is married to Argentina Davila-Luevano, who ran unsuccessfully for the Antioch City Council in 2002 and Antioch City Clerk in 2006.

Additionally, Iris Archuleta, former Chief Information Officer for the school district, subsequently established a contractual relationship with the district. Her business, Emerald Consulting was reportedly paid approximately $50,000 for a few months’ work. Other consultants have been hired by the district, as well.

Why aren’t the administrators downtown, themselves properly overseeing each school, making changes in personnel when scores are dropping or when misbehavior is occurring on school grounds rather than hiring specialists? Administrators also need to listen to parents who complain about a specific teacher or are having a problem, because some principals, e.g. reportedly, Deer Valley’s Kenneth Gardner, who just don’t want to listen to parents’ concerns.

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Letter writer says Iran Nuclear Deal is deadly

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Dear Editor:

Polish a poison apple and it looks nice and shiny. However, bite into it and it can still kill.

The Iran Nuclear Deal is absurd. Since when did the United States of America negotiate with terrorists?

It violates the number one premise of negotiation; that everybody invited to the table share the same vision – peace in the Middle East.

Never, ever did Iran waiver from its belief that the “United States is Satan”; nor deny its ultimate goal to annihilate Israel.

Surveying a friend’s opinion regarding the issue, she said “two words that should never go together; Iran and nuclear”.

Political PR efforts marked by a thousand plus word stretch to explain the inexplicable failed to make me a bobblehead.

In a dozen words I can counter why the Iran Nuclear Deal is deadly. What part of Iran’s supreme leader’s chant “death to America” is unclear?

Cynthia Ruehlig


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Writer believes new math program will help Antioch students

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Dear Editor:

The numbers cry failure. In 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 32% of American 8th graders scored proficient in math. This earned a 32nd ranking among 65 nations participating in PISA, the math test administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

By contrast, Shanghai boasted a 75% proficiency rating and Korea, Finland, Switzerland, Japan, Canada and the Netherlands all scored above 50%. Distressingly, California, the Golden State, scored 24% proficiency. Little wonder our colleges are scrambling for interventions as a paltry 44% of American high school graduates are ready for the math needed in higher education and, ultimately, in higher paying careers.

Algebra, after all, is the gateway to academic mastery. It is the #1 trigger of dropping out in high school, with 70% of students who don’t pass algebra by ninth grade dropping out.

Given the crisis my summer visit to a tutorial program at Antioch’s Deer Valley High especially intrigued me. Walking into the classroom I was immediately struck by the fact that you could hear a pin drop as 20 some-odd students worked independently on fundamentals.

The program, called Math Intensive, is designed to take students markedly deficient in basic skills to grade level proficiency. Developed by John Crowder, a tutor, teacher, and private school administrator the class, with 21 three-hour instructional days, was open to everyone but was taken mostly by African-American males.

Crowder recently partnered with Angel Luevano, a teacher and leader of Todo Unidos. They then teamed with the education group Parents Connected to pilot this program at Deer Valley.

Twenty-one key concepts necessary for success in a rigorous Algebra program were both pre and post tested. The results were very encouraging. The average student’s score rose on Algebra I readiness rose from 35.4% to 49.6%, an increase of 0.7 per cent per instructional day.

Most promising was the transition out of ‘basic concepts.’ Students went from 64.7% to 90.1% proficiency in topics that included multiplication, fractions, math terminology, exponents, radicals, proportions and solutions of equations. Essentially, that’s a remarkable jump from a D to an A- level.

Crowder himself admitted shock by the results of the short program. Beyond the startling statistics he said he was most amazed that “Students who had given up on math, if not on their school prospects, and possibly even on themselves, had such a quick turn-about that they could not only learn but learn well.”

Bridget Swan remarked of her son Jordan, a DVHS Junior; “He has never before been so engaged with math.”

Jordan acknowledged he was finally understanding what was before him.

What’s working?

#1. Buy-in: After an introductory presentation prospective students and parents interview and agree on expectations. Nobody is begged. #2. Zero tolerance: Cell phones, electronics, back talking, goofing off, tardiness and excessive absence are disallowed. #3. Assessment: Students take a 260 question placement pre-test, daily quizzes, and a post test. #4. High expectations: 80% correct qualifies for moving on. #5. Immediate feedback: Results and corrections come in minutes, not days or weeks. #6. Teacher- student ratio: A supportive 8 to 1. #7. Continuous review: Every test is cumulative.

With a class of 24, and given that a student moves thru the program into 80% plus proficiency and Algebra 1 entry in generally anywhere from four to twelve weeks, one open entry class could cycle some 95 students a year.

Regrettably, we spend so much of our time and energy with high-risk students on traditional punishments or alternative behavioral intervention programs. Much, though, of misbehavior is fueled from an inability to keep up with peers in reading and math and the endless loop of simmering frustration and inadequacy that failure develops.

Two things can’t occupy the same place at the same time. Position academic success into the equation for failing students and positivity can help replace rage and acting out.

Math Intensive is the type of systematic, rigorous, no-nonsense, personalized intervention we need adopted. The alternative is to embrace the definition of insanity by doing the same things we’ve done before and expecting different results.

Walter Ruehlig

A.U.S.D. Trustee

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Payton Perspective: Street renaming reveals frustration of Antioch residents, businesses support

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015
Old Antioch map

An old map of Antioch shows the original street names in downtown: There’s no name on the map for A Street, which is on the left, B St. was Hard (named for the city’s first mayor), C St. was Manhattan, D St. was Vanderwater, E St. was Emerson, F St. was Kimball, G St. was Boober, H St. was Galloway, I St. was Main, J St. was Parsons, K St. was Roberson, L St. was Darine, M St. was Mary and N St. was Jane. West First was Front, West Second was Wyatt, West Third was Brown, West Fourth was Marsh, West Fifth was Adams, West Sixth was Uetter (sp?), West 7th was Church, West 8th was Williams and West 9th was Knapp. Map provided courtesy of Oak View Memorial Park.

By Allen Payton, Publisher

In response to recent articles about the Antioch City Council’s decision to move forward with renaming streets that lead to and through Antioch’s historic downtown Rivertown, residents lit up social media with negative comments about the condition of the city.

The idea, which has been around since the City’s 1996 Economic Plan was developed and adopted, is now part of the updated Downtown Specific Plan, which the council is acting on.

L Street could become Marina Way, Blvd, or Parkway and A and West Second Streets could be Rivertown Drive and West Rivertown Drive, so when people drive Highway 4, they will see that there’s a river, marina, waterfront and Rivertown, there.

Downtown business owners support the idea as a way to help revitalize and attract more people to the area

Most comments were that the city needs to focus on cleaning up the streets and city, first. I heard them loud and clear. But, both can happen at the same time and the council voting for renaming the streets, won’t implement it, right away, giving businesses enough time to prepare and use up stationery. Plus, it wouldn’t be paid for with funds that pay for police or code enforcement.

People need to understand how city finances work. There are capital funds used for one-time expenses, such as road improvements and signage, as well as sewer or water line repairs and expansion. Then there’s the General Fund, which pays for on-going expenses, mainly for police, as well as Code Enforcement Officers and other city staff. Money that would be spent for new street signs cannot be spent on police or code enforcement. So, there would be no competition for the money used.

As the map shows, the curent street names aren’t the original ones, anyways. The streets in downtown from B to N and First to Ninth Streets had family and other names. When and why the city council changed them to letters and numbers, I haven’t yet been able to learn.

So, let’s change the names of the streets that lead to downtown to something better than numbers and letters, that will actually do something to help promote Antioch’s historic Rivertown, waterfront and marina.

At the same time, the city council and staff need to clean up our city as the citizens want, expect and shouldn’t have to ask to be done. They’ve all been back to work full time, with two raises, since January. It’s time to get it done.

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Watchdog – Of council elections, police staffing and downtown development

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Watchdog-LogoBy Barbara Zivica

Next year residents will have a chance to vote whether to retain Wade Harper as Mayor or select another candidate. One candidate, Gil Murillo, has already recently posted his desire for the mayor’s seat and stated how he stands on a number of issues (education, crime, employment, housing, blight and graffiti). There’s also word that Dr. Sean Wright, CEO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce, may also be interested in running. Two council seats will also be open, those currently held by Monica Wilson and Mary Rocha. Remember, Ms. Wilson chose Lamar Thorpe as one of her standby council members.

Folks, this will be a very important election as it’s clear many residents are fed up and want change, change that didn’t come despite voters having twice approved tax measures. Where did the money go?

According to the just issued 2015 City Report, City Manager Steve Duran states that Council allotted 100% of revenues from Measure C to the Police Dept. and Code Enforcement. Prior to Measure C, the number of sworn Police Officers was 82. He doesn’t mention that 102 positions were authorized at that time, merely stating “in the current two year budget, the Council has funded 102 sworn officers.”

Remember when Mayor Harper ran for office, clearly stating that if Measure C passed in 2013, the city would hire 22 more cops? With 102 positions already authorized and 22 more promised, the Police Dept would have a total of 124 sworn police officers. However, according to the City Manager’s new report “prior to Measure C, the number of sworn Police Officers was 82. We have been aggressively hiring Police Officers – 21 since Nov. 2013, with 5 more in the Academy – but we currently still sit at 86 sworn.” As for Measure O, which passed in 2014, City Manager Duran states those funds are going toward a structural budget deficit.

Due to an inadequately staffed Police Dept, crime is rampant and Antioch’s acquired a bad reputation. In the past few years many small businesses in Antioch have closed, shopping malls are experiencing many vacancies, and blight and graffiti have increased citywide.

It’s true, however, that a lot of housing developments, on hold during the recession, are coming to fruition. That’s good for the economy but Council needs to listen to what residents want and they’re turning a deaf ear. For example, Council, behind closed doors approved a deal with City Ventures, a San Francisco company, to buy and develop numerous downtown parcels including the old Antioch Lumber Company site owned by the City.

City Ventures touts themselves as “sustainable homebuilders” e.g. using rooftop solar. Interesting to note that on August 3rd, PG&E and the state’s other big utility company proposed changing the state’s financial incentives for rooftop solar panels. They proposed adding monthly charges that would apply to solar homeowners alone, saying that would ensure all customers pay to maintain the electric grid.

Admittedly the city hasn’t yet officially signed the agreement with City Ventures, having a few details to decide before Council announces what appears to be a done deal in public session. The vote on the back door deal was 4-1, with Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock being the lone hold out.

Regrettably, Council rejected a proposal from Celebrate Antioch Foundation to turn the Lumber Company site into a park and event center.

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