Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Op-Ed: Pittsburg Unified fails students over anti-Trump protest

Monday, November 28th, 2016

By Fernando Navarro

On Thursday, November 10, an incident took place in Pittsburg and Antioch which illustrated a major failing of our public education system.  Hundreds of Pittsburg High School students, apparently protesting the results of the presidential election, walked out of their classes, off campus, and made their way to Antioch. During their journey, some of them committed acts of violence which resulted in three arrests…and a strain on police resources for both cities, as 23 police officers (15 from Antioch and 8 from Pittsburg) had to be called out to deal with the situation.

Statements by some officers indicated that the PHS principal, Todd Whitmire, joined students in the protest.  This has been disputed by Whitmire and Pittsburg Unified School District (PUSD) Superintendent Janet Schulze, who claim Whitmire was with the protesters only to make sure they were safe.

Neither story speaks well of the PUSD leadership.  The first would indicate that PUSD administrators are actively working to incite students away from learning and discourse and toward yelling and violence.  The second would indicate that PUSD administrators have lost control of their school, and that student whims rule the day.

What we witnessed didn’t come out of nowhere, and didn’t come about because the, “election has been especially emotional,” as a statement by Schulze said.  This is the result of years of inept classroom management, which has led to a lack of respect for authority.  It comes about because, as with English and math, students don’t appear to be learning basic civics.

I recently lost my bid for election to the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Trustees.  That doesn’t mean I’ll be silent, though.  I’ll continue to advocate for the change that’s needed to turn our schools around and deliver better educational, and life-choice, outcomes for our students.  And I’ll be encouraging parents to educate themselves about school policies, and to make sure their voices are heard.  But I’ll be doing so by speaking and writing in the appropriate forums, not by disrupting traffic, disrupting classes, or by otherwise impinging on the rights of my fellow citizens.

Finally, I applaud Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando for speaking out about this incident at the PUSD School Board meeting.  I applaud AUSD Superintendent Stephanie Anello and Antioch High School Principal Louis Rocha for taking swift action to prevent similar disruptions in Antioch schools.

Now, let’s all come together to provide our students with the educations they deserve.

Navarro is a member of the Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees.

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Antioch man who successfully sued Antioch over illegal sewer, water fund transfers to police gives Council earful

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

Following is the speech given by Antioch real estate broker, Mark Jordan, to the Antioch City Council at last week’s meeting regarding the settlement he and the City reached, two weeks before. It was over a suit Jordan brought against the City for illegally transferring over $300,000 per year from each of the sewer and water funds to the police department. The practice has been going on for years. (See the previous Herald article with details about the settlement).

The item on the Council meeting agenda, was the last of 22 items.

Mark Jordan Settlement Speech to Antioch City Council

11/22/2016

My name is Mark Jordan and I’m a citizen of Antioch.

Well, if I was to speak to you all any later I guess it might be; tomorrow. But maybe you all were just saving the “best for last”.

“Call me crazy”, but I was beginning to think you didn’t want to hear what I had to say. Or, for that matter what any of the town’s folks had to say, who don’t agree with City Hall or management.

For too long government in general has been acting like an addict. With an unlimited stream of public money how could they not. Management developed a habit; and just wanted more and more.

But with the Great Recession the party came to an end. So; like all good addicts they went looking for “more” somewhere else.

In Antioch the addict found what they needed in the funds of water and sewer. They thought, “Hey, no one will miss a little, we’ll just cut a little bit.”

And, the wall of denial was standing tall, and management sold the idea to the City Council .

“After all a taste of it; won’t hurt you.” Let’s call it what it is; a “Gateway transfer of funds.”

The initial step is to admit you have a problem. So, I’m saying today is the day the City of Antioch begins changing its behavior.

First, I’d like to thank Eric Benink, my attorney for all his hard work, council and assistance in ac

hieving what we perceive to be an amicable settlement. Mr. Benink is a fine attorney who knows his business and who was a pleasure to work with.

Please don’t confuse settlement on our part with a “lack of will”, or agreement with a “lack of tenacity.” Both Mr. Benink and I have more than enough tenacious will.

Mr. Benink did an outstanding job and while I hope his service will not be needed in the future, I already have his commitment for representation in the future.

In a recent Times article, Mr. Cole, your council in this matter, states that the City intends to obtain a study to justify future transfers that I’ve worked to stop. What that article fails to mention is that the City already ordered and obtained a study. It just wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. The methodology was unfounded in fact or practice and in whole it was a waste of $25,000 City dollars.

Proposition 218, an amendment to the State Constitution, is very clear. What you all need to understand is that the sworn testimony of the Police Chief is, and remains that no special services are provided by police to water and sewer enterprises and as such no transfers from enterprise funds may occur.

You cannot hide the facts. They do tend to be stubborn.

Other bogus transfers need to stop as well. Measure C money is being spent for things it was not intended or represented to fund. After all, it was to be for new officers and not per-existing officers or per-existing unfunded retirements or; deceptive administrative City fees.

If this and future councils don’t make corrections concerning Measure C implementation it will sunset and have no chance of renewal.

Tiered water rates and the failure to collect Measure O funds are also issues that need immediate attention and corrections by the next council. So, I guess, we will have something to discuss next year.

I would like to let everyone in town know there is a website available called www.prop218andthecityofantioch.com which holds all of the documents, interrogatories and depositions along with a copy of the settlement agreement. It was created to provide transparency to Antioch, it’s citizens and the State of California.

Ms. Rocha and Mr. Harper. I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your service to the City. While I have not often agreed with your decisions, statements or actions; I recognize how much it takes to hold a leadership position. Thank you for your service.

To Ms. Wilson; congratulations and we’ll see you next year.

To Mr. Thorpe and Mr. Wright; congratulations, study hard and pay attention to the details. They matter. Let’s work to make Antioch all it can be.

Mr. Duran, I read you gave your tentative notice to; get ready to get going, to maybe, possibly be retiring in August. That you desire to spend more time with your family. And, that is a worthwhile personal goal.

To the New Mayor and Council members I say, please help Mr. Duran achieve his “life plan” sooner than August. Let us all wish him well together.

To every citizen of Antioch I say; your voice can be heard. I’ve had many phone calls of support and many face to face personal encouragements to press forward with this action. Not once did I hear, “don’t do this”.

So now, twice I’ve stepped up in an effort to help and guide the City of Antioch. Once in support of Religious Freedom and this second time concerning proper budgeting.

I’ve only asked that the City comply with federal law and the California State Constitution. And, after all these are not unreasonable requirements.

Citizenship doesn’t suggest an individual step forward, it’s really a requirement to maintain our republic and way of life.

Aaron Sorkin once wrote a little screenplay called “The American President”. They made it into a movie. And while I’m certain he didn’t envision our current circumstances nationally at the time he penned it, I’m going to quote part of his work because it is good; and I respect the content, and the man.

“America isn’t easy. Americas is advance citizenship. You’ve gatta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight.”

And, Mr. Sorkin is correct, sometimes a fight is required.

It’s just that to stand up; you have to reach down deep inside yourself to find the conviction and character; we all have. That everyone has.

You have to be bold, and brash and some might say “crazy”. But; you can fight City Hall; and you can prevail. Light can prevail over shadows and darkness.

To every resident in Antioch I say, we can make this a better community. Don’t give up. A better City can happen when you join together.

Well, so here we are in settlement. This action is resolved. Almost a million dollars returned. And the attorneys paid.

But, to be crystal clear “my 15 minutes” are not up. I’m still prepared for the fight. And, I’m still here.

In closing, I leave you with this thought from Rob Siltanen. If you don’t know who he is; well, he worked for Steve Jobs on the Apple “Think Different” program; And he wrote the following.  Let me paraphrase:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

This small part of the world, our City of Antioch has been changed.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays to you all.

Thank you, and good evening.

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Writer shares his statement of concerns about City’s employee contract votes, Tuesday night

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Dear Editor:

Following is the statement I gave to the Antioch City Council, tonight.

I question if you really care about this city over your personal, political wants. By paying labor agreements that lack actual funding, is a knife in the back of Antioch before you are out the door. I hope the labor unions that you have talked to fully understand how bankruptcy of a city can impact personal incomes. Tonight, you’re putting Antioch in a position of almost certain bankruptcy.

We already carry major unfunded debt on our books and now you add an additional burden for your successors to deal with. And that can only be seen as a political move.

I figure if you lay this groundwork tonight and hurt this city, as I know you will, you then as the knights in shining armor, can ride back in during the next elections and pretend to save the day.

Tonight you plan on taking advantage of a city that is already bruised, battered, underfunded and unsafe, for what purpose? For the betterment of our city? Or for the appeasement of your political base and to grease the skids for your future election.

Hold off any vote and let the new council decide what is best in managing the budget as they will hold the responsibility and accountability to our city and its future.

Fred Rouse

Antioch

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Antioch council candidate who lost offers his parting comments, thanks

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Dear Editor:

I take pride in knowing that our Democracy has once again allowed the people to exercise their right to vote. I also take pride in the fact that so many people voted for me in this election. Concession statements are hard, but are needed.

I wish congratulations to all the winners of the City of Antioch election. I know the final votes are not in, or certified, but I also know that with such a margin, this time, I will not accomplish the goal of obtaining a seat at the table. It was a well-fought campaign. And I am very proud that we stayed above the fray and respectfully debated and let the people decide the outcome.

I thank the more than 1,700 residents and community members that cast their vote for me in this election. I assure you that I will continue to fight for our needs as a City and as neighbors. I truly appreciate your support.

I thank my family for the support and kind words during the last 18 months of this effort. I love you, and let me assure you that I have used this effort to better myself, and to remember who I am.

Although I am disappointed by the outcome, I am not giving up in my growth and I will continue to be an active citizen in the process of repairing the City that I live in. I sincerely hope you will take similar actions in your Cities so that all communities will tackle today’s challenges.

I am very lucky for the great love and support of my wife Tina Chavez-Rouse. Her never-ending confidence in me, not only in my entire life (we met in High School), but her focused support of me during the last 18 months, has been a gift from God. She spoke up for me, collected signatures, helped me place signs, let us spend our family money, and helped me sculpt my statements.

Finally, to the people who did not vote for me. We have yet to meet. You have yet to hear my words, and get to know me. I think if I work hard, you will know me. And possibly then, we will, together, really take on the challenge of change. Remember, even at our City level, a small local race can change your life. Thank you.

Frederick Rouse

Antioch

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Candidate for Supervisor writes to say thank you, asks for support one last time

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Dear Editor:

With Election Day almost here, I’d like to take a moment to say thank you. This campaign has reaffirmed for me how proud I am to live in this community, and it’s the people that make our community so great.

I am very proud of the campaign we ran. My campaign stayed positive throughout the campaign, even when I was being attacked and my record was being distorted. This was a commitment I made to the community when I started the campaign, and I’m proud to have seen it through.

Over the last few months, as well as last spring during the primary election, I have walked door to door across most of the district. I walked so much I actually wore through two pairs of shoes. And by knocking on so many doors and meeting so many in the community I hope you saw firsthand the energy I bring to the job and how involved I would be in the actual community.

It was a pleasure meeting and talking with so many of you, and I learned a lot about the different communities within our community, as well as the daily struggles, the frustrations with policy, and the desire for actual change. Most of all I saw that the learning process is never over, and that there is always a need to be out in the community working directly with the people we serve. This job can’t be done, stuck behind a desk.

And now that the campaign is coming to a close, I’d like to make one last ask for your vote. Representing you at the County would be a privilege, and a partnership that can get results for our community. Thank you.

Steve Barr, Candidate for County Supervisor

Brentwood

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The Herald repeats recommendations: Wright for Antioch Mayor; Turnage, Thorpe for Council; Navarro, Terry, Sawyer-White for School Board

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

ah-election-recommendations

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The Herald Recommends: Glover for one more term on the Board of Supervisors

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

By Allen Payton, Publisher & Editor

Although the last time I supported Federal Glover for Supervisor was when he first ran and was elected in 2000, this year, I’m supporting him, again. In 2004, I helped run the late Eric Nunn’s campaign against Glover and in 2008, I supported him in the Primary. Then following Nunn’s tragic death that year, I supported the late Antioch Councilman Gary Agopian against Glover in the General Election. Each time, was because I believed his opponents were more fiscally responsible.

Federal and I worked together well on East County transportation issues, going back 18 to 22 years ago, when he was on the Pittsburg City Council and I was on the Antioch City Council. He has continued to work to bring transportation solutions to Antioch and East County, and on so many other issues, as well.

I wasn’t happy with his vote for the 33% pay raise in 2014, which I’ve written about and told him, as it was a demonstration of fiscal irresponsibility, and slap in the face to both county workers and the taxpayers. But, unlike two of his colleagues on the Board, once the referendum had garnered enough signatures to be placed on the ballot, Glover listened to the people, voted to rescind the pay raise and didn’t continue to argue in favor of it, nor whine that he deserved but didn’t receive it. That’s what we want in an elected official – responsiveness to the people they represent.

While I’ve enjoyed getting a chance to speak with his challenger, Martinez Councilwoman AnaMarie Avila Farias, during the campaign and believe she’s well intentioned, from what I’ve learned she has a big government mindset. That’s not surprising since she works for the County Housing Authority. I don’t believe it’s wise to put government employees in charge of the governments for which they worked.

Plus, I believe she would be more fiscally irresponsible than Glover was with his pay raise vote. Following are the reasons for my viewpoint.

First, is the matter of what appears to be an effort by two county employee groups, the firefighters and Deputy Sheriffs, to help buy Avila Farias a seat on the Board. The Deputy Sheriffs contributed $99,000 and the firefighters contributed $50,000 to an independent expenditure committee to pay for mailers and research to help Avila Farias win.  They also each contributed $10,000 directly to her campaign. Plus, another $2,000 was contributed by the International Association of Firefighters PAC.

In addition, she received another $6,000 from other county government employee groups, bringing the total support for Avila Farias by county workers to $167,000 for the campaign.

I don’t think it’s wise for candidates or elected officials to be beholden to government employee groups, because it will be their interests, not those of the taxpayers, when it comes time for contract negotiations and votes. We’ve had too much of that in the past, and the County is still digging out of the hole of unfunded liabilities due to overly generous employee contracts, especially with public safety personnel, in the past.

Second, in a forum during the Primary, which combined candidates for Supervisor in both Districts 3 and 5, she was in support of every proposed government social program discussed that night. Glover wasn’t in attendance, so it took Brentwood Councilman Steve Barr, who is running for Supervisor in District 3 to ask, “all of these programs sound great, but how are you going to pay for them?”

Finally, also dealing with her campaign finances, as of Thursday, November 3rd, Avila Farias shows her campaign has received a total of $85,707.50, yet has spent $114,924.12 with $32,313.83 in accrued expenses, in other words unpaid bills. While she shows $3,097.21 in the bank, that still leaves here $29,216.62 in debt. If she doesn’t win, it will be difficult to raise the money to pay that off. If that’s how she handles the small amount of funds in a campaign, what can we expect of Avila Farias when she’s making decisions about $1 billion in taxpayer funds?

Plus, most of the money her campaign has spent has been outside of the county, which doesn’t show a commitment to local businesses and job creation.

Glover, on the other hand, hasn’t spent more than his campaign has received in contributions, has no accrued expenses and ends the campaign with $8,571.06 cash on hand, as of November 3rd. Plus, almost all of his campaign expenditures have been inside the county, showing a commitment to local businesses and jobs.

Like many others, I didn’t think Glover would have the strength to run for a fifth term on the Board, following his heart and kidney transplant surgery, last year. But the Supervisor has proved to be quite resilient and he’s made an amazing recovery, thank the Lord.

Also, while I don’t usually support a candidate serving more than three, four-year terms in any one office, as I believe people can tend to get arrogant, out of touch and complacent, Glover has proven he can continue to work hard and is committed to representing his constituents.

Furthermore, unlike Avila Farias who has serious challenges working with at least two of her colleagues on the Martinez City Council, and does not have their support in this election, Glover does work well with the rest of the members of the Board of Supervisors. Those two council members are supporting him, instead.

Finally, while we have and will probably continue to have our disagreements on issues, from time to time, and I believe this should be his last campaign for the position, in general I believe he is the better candidate in the election for County Supervisor in District 5. Please vote for Federal Gover on Tuesday, November 8th and keep him on the Board representing the portion of Antioch north of Highway 4.

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Subject of letter opposing Rocketship writes in response, claims it’s a defamatory smear

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

Dear Editor:

In an election year that has been notable more for wild hyperbole than substantive discussion, even our local races have not been immune from the kind of irresponsible and baseless rhetoric that has plagued those on the national stage.

One case in point. Last week an opinion article written under the byline Selina Button was posted by Mike Burkholder on his East County Today blog, and posted as a letter to the editor on the Antioch Herald news website. The article included false, defamatory, and possibly libelous statements about me, my wife, Argentina Davila-Luevano, and my friend, John Crowder.

The reason for her unwarranted attack? We were quoted in a press release by Rocketship Education as being in favor of their building a brand new, high-performing, elementary school in Antioch. Ms. Button characterized our positive comments as, “an effort to support their own personal financial gain.” She went on to ask, “Were they possibly promised a job by Rocketship?”

For the record, we have absolutely no gain, financial or otherwise, coming our way from Rocketship. Neither have we been offered jobs or anything else. In fact, the only thing we were promised was that people who want to maintain the failed status quo would likely try to smear anyone supporting their efforts…something I didn’t want to believe at the time.

Regardless, we stand by our support of Rocketship. As those who know us are aware, Argentina and I are long-time advocates for children, and particularly for children of color and/or those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. We see the addition of a Rocketship school as an important step in solving the problem of the horrifically underperforming schools in our city.

Unfortunately, It is clear that those who stand in the way of much-needed education reform in Antioch are willing to make false statements, to bully, and to try to mislead the public about a good organization, Rocketship, that truly has the best interests of our children at heart. They have shown that they are willing to use such unseemly tactics against Rocketship’s supporters, as well.

We’re not going to back down, though. We’ve fought for years for the rights of children. The right to a good education for all is too important for us to cave in. We urge everyone who realizes we need change to get the facts about Rocketship. Their model is working for students around the country. Let’s make sure they have the chance to bring this same success to Antioch’s students, as well.

Angel G. Luevano

Antioch

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