Archive for the ‘Letters to the Editor’ Category

Writer addresses letter to Mayor and Council Members about crime in Antioch

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Posted on Facebook – Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Your Honorable Mayor and City Council members:

I write to you to implore you to make take immediate action regarding the violence in the City of Antioch. No doubt you are aware of the problems being dealt with by the Antioch Police Department on a daily basis. I also realize that they have enlisted the assistance of various law enforcement agencies in carrying out an aggressive effort to rid our city of criminals. In part, this has been successful and the numbers associated with these efforts has been significant. However, common logic dictates that the “tiny percentage” that you point out Mr. Mayor has either grossly underestimated or we happen to have acquired the worst-shooting, yet smartest criminals in the world since they have continuously been capable of holding this community hostage, burglarized all hours of the day/night, stopped traffic and brought business down to their knees at Deer Valley Plaza and changed the shopping habits of consumers at the same time.

Today again, another afternoon of insanity at Deer Valley Plaza. Yesterday was even worse, the crowd number around 100. Today it was smaller groups and Taco Bell and McDonald’s have shut their dining room for 1.5 to 2 hours after school let’s out. There was a significant police presence at DVHS and the area surrounding it. Of course there were fights at Deer Valley High School (tennis courts and parking lot), Deer Valley Plaza (Baskin-Robbins, etc.), across Lone Tree from the Chevron station, Burger King, as well as Country Hills & Hillcrest.

These types of incidents have a detrimental, far-reaching effect on the businesses, customers, traffic, reputation of the City, etc. If the businesses feel compelled for the safety of their personnel and premises, which Taco Bell and McDonald’s have both done, that is a loss of revenue to the business, that equates to the loss of revenue to the City of Antioch. The bad reputation has a direct effect on the housing prices and an unwillingness to move to a city that is the 4th worst city in the San Francisco Bay Area to live in. At this rate, more businesses will limit availability and even more businesses will end up closing. More revenues will be lost.

Almost daily we are allocating much-needed resources to an activity that should have been handled by parents a very long time ago. There is a complete lack of respect for the business owners and consumers, there is no respect for the people driving in the area. There is no respect even for the people themselves, the ones who who are creating the problems.

This problem extends far beyond Deer Valley Plaza. Daily you have the Antioch Police Department responding to 459 residential burglaries by juveniles, stolen vehicles by juveniles, armed robberies by juveniles. This list goes on and on. The same types of incidents include the young adult age group as well as adults. The calls for service is increasing on a weekly basis. We are now unaffectionate known as Grand Theft Antioch! Not too mention other no so flattering names.

Mr. Mayor, you reminded me that when you took on the position it wasn’t a full time job. That is quite apparent. However, part-time means less than full-time but it also entails having to get a job done at all costs. If not – GET OUT! You ran on a platform of, “zero tolerance”. You have been MIA when it came to addressing the violence and crime in the City until the people started yelling loud enough for you to realize something must be done. You did the Victory Outreach walk and then there was United Antioch on August 16th. Hello, is that it? Do you really believe you have supported and continue to support the Antioch Police Department? If you can honestly say yes then you have a transparency issue because nobody else is seeing it. If not – GET OUT!

Your leadership has a direct effect on the City Council. You action or inaction has a direct effect on the City Council. If you are hell bent about some feral cats and don’t appear to give a damn about the crime and violence in the city, well that is wrong – very wrong. I have pity for the feral cats but I have a tendency of cherishing human life more. Since you took office, again on the “zero tolerance” platform, how many people have died and how many shootings has there been? But feral cats were so important. Prove me wrong or GET OUT!

You and your hand picked City Manager tried to ramrod the Downtown East Transit Oriented Residential Development project through when you had gained even more control over the City Council and fortunately Mary Rocha delayed that, however, who could foresee the date changed to the end of October, just in time to have the new City Council vote on it. She did try, but it was evident you wanted to wait even longer. Transparency is one thing, but when your hand picked City Manager can’t even give one example of the three other city owned properties to potentially be used for the new Senior Center – AFTER BEING ASKED THREE TIMES, then that was truly transparent – we saw right through that sham. Actually, we didn’t we never got the answer on whether it would be Senior Center AND Community Center.

Let’s not be distracted by the City-Owned Restaurant Space. That too is another revenue producer that won’t do much good if people won’t put a foot inside the Antioch city limits. The priorities are all screwed up. Not that we should not be mindful of the ETORD Project or the CORS Project – we should. But is was obvious feral cats were more important than crime and violence. Now it’s two projects that are more important than crime and violence. When will THE important issue be addressed in a timely manner, that would be crime and violence? Address it, or GET OUT.

I have, on no less than 5 occasions demanded action in the form of emergency ordinances, declaring a state of emergency, get the reserves in here if necessary. It appears you will not take any action and we deserve better. We deserve to be heard. We deserve to know what actions you are planning to do. If we end up having to file bankruptcy due to your incompetence and inaction, trust me there will be repercussions.
A recall election is a long drawn out process. However, if that’s what it take, so be it.

Respectfully submitted,

Rich Buongiorno

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Letter writer wants Antioch Council to revitalize downtown

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Dear Editor:

The City of Antioch lacks a thriving economic community. New local businesses are needed in order to attract and satisfy both prospective and existing residents. Considering that our downtown is close to becoming a ghost town, I am particularly passionate about reviving this area.

In August 2006, according to the document entitled “Antioch Rivertown Waterfront Development,” found on the city’s website, our government also shared this same passion: “In order to revitalize downtown, a bold vision must be married with a developmental strategy. We envision the Downtown Village as the heart of town, a vibrant riverfront place to live and shop. Retail tenants, shops, cafes and restaurants will contribute to the goal of making downtown a highly attractive, vibrant destination.”

How exactly is it that this detailed vision for our city from 2006 is so far off from the current reality of our very un-lively downtown in 2014?

As a resident of Antioch and as an avid believer in our city’s potential, I urge our government officials to once again become passionate about restoring and revitalizing our downtown. Determination is needed in order for this vision to be fulfilled.

Taylor Pagan – 19 years old, Diablo Valley College student

Antioch

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Writer says the gloves are coming off in Antioch’s Measure O fight

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Measure O, placed on the November ballot by an unanimous vote of the Antioch City Council, will levy annual business license fees on residential rental units of $250 for houses and $150 for apartments. The measure also will increase the minimum annual license fee for other businesses to $100 except for home-based small businesses, which will remain at $25. It is estimated the measure will increase Antioch revenues by $2.4 millon annually for restoration of City services.

The Friday Morning Breakfast Club citizens group has established a campaign committee, Residents for Fairness – Yes Measure O, to alert residents of the need and benefits of Measure O. The committee members have written a number of informational letters to local newspapers and will be posting signs about town and distributing brochures and mailers.

Opponents of Measure O have chosen to wage a campaign of misinformation to confuse voters and convince them to vote against the measure. They are well funded with indications they plan to spend between $50,000 and $100,000 to defeat the measure. The opponents are primarily residential landlords, many of which are large businesses located outside of Antioch, represented by the “California Apartment Association – Contra Costa Division” (CAA). They failed to reach agreement on the provisions of Measure O in a number of joint meetings with the City Staff, the Friday Morning Breakfast Club (FMBC), and other groups in 2013 and 2014. They are now attacking the ballot measure in an all-out effort to defeat it at the polls, claiming to be allied with seniors, homeowners and business owners. They falsely assert these groups will be substantially harmed if the measure passes.

The facts are that homeowners, including seniors and business owners not in the residential rental business would not be affected in any way if Measure O passes. Also, senior group housing and care facilities would be exempted from any fees under Measure O. Seniors living in rental housing that is not exempt could experience a minor increase in rent if Measure O fees are passed through by their landlords. However, most seniors own their homes rather than rent. Many others live with family members or in exempt senior housing, nursing homes, and other exempt care facilities. Therefore, the number of seniors affected at all by Measure O is believed to be only a very small fraction of all seniors.

The CAA and their allies have hired Media Associates, a high profile political campaign consultant from Sacramento to lead their campaign against Measure O. They have a reputation for winning at all costs – the truth be darned. Already the consultant has conducted a telephone survey of Antioch residents asking a series of questions designed to subtly convince people to vote no on O. Their callers do not identify who they represent and promptly hang-up when confronted by a knowledgeable resident in favor of Measure O. Media Associates’ President, Kevin Reikes, is scheduled as Guest Speaker to address Measure O at the September 26, 2014, Board Meeting of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association in Concord. Members of the Yes Measure O committee plan to be there to refute any misstatement of the facts.

It is obvious why the CAA opposes Measure O; they don’t want to pay the new fees out of their profits or, in the alternative, to pass through the additional expenses to their tenants. However, it is observed that even if 100 percent of the fees are passed on, the impact on rents will be small, only $12.50 per month for apartments, and $20.83 monthly for single family houses. This would be only about a one percent increase of average rental rates. The fees will be a minor increase in business expenses that are tax deductible for the landlords, thereby reducing the impact on their profits.

The Yes on Measure O committee has minimal funds coming, so far from out-of pocket contributions by the committee members who want to do what is in the best interest of saving our community from crime, blight and bankruptcy. Your contributions are needed to help pay for large 4’ x 8’ signs, yard signs, brochures, mailers, and postage. This is truly a grass-roots effort by citizens, and no contribution is too small. Just $10 will buy five additional yard signs, but please give more if you can. Checks should be made out to “Residents for Fairness – Yes Measure O,” and mailed to 3036 South Apple Court, Antioch, CA, 94509. A website will soon be available to also make contributions online.
I urge all Antioch citizens to register and vote yes for Measure O.

Larry L. Harrison

Member, Residents for Fairness, Yes Measure O campaign committee

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Letter: Measure O closes loophole in Antioch’s business license tax ordinance

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Dear Editor:

Measure O is an ordinance that will update the City of Antioch’s existing Business License Tax Ordinance. It will close the loophole that inadvertently allowed residential rental property landlords to not pay licensing fees.

I am a homeowner and a senior citizen and I’m writing to address the California Apartment Association’s (CAA) stated opposition to Measure O.  The CAA says; “Many senior citizens will ultimately be paying for the Measure O tax.”

That statement is untrue.  Many senior citizens will not be affected by this fee.  Most senior citizens are homeowners.  Sure, the fee will affect those seniors who are residential rental property landlords and some seniors who are renters of apartments or homes.  Their rent will be increased if the landlord adds the fee onto the rental rate.  The fee for landlords will be $20.83 per month for single family rental homes, or $12.83 per month, per unit in multi-family rental units.

Renters, homeowners, and businesses alike want increased police services and robust code enforcement.  This ordinance is an equitable solution, closing the loophole, and will require residential rental landlords be included in the business licensing structure.    

Voters: please support the Residential Rental Property Landlord Fee and vote YES on Measure O this November 2014.

Marie Livingston

Antioch

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Antioch Residents for Fairness recommend a yes vote on Measure O

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Antioch’s Measure O will levy annual business license fees on residential rental units of $250 for single detached houses and $150 for apartments. It was unanimously approved and placed on the ballot for November’s election by the Antioch City Council. In addition, Measure O will raise the minimum license fee for all other businesses to $100 annually with the exception of some home-based small businesses, which will remain at $25. It is anticipated Measure O will generate additional revenue of approximately $2.4 million annually, helping to close a structural gap in the City’s budget in 2015 and beyond. Revenue collected under Measure O will go to the Antioch “General Fund” to support police, code enforcement and other City services.

Comparing Antioch’s revenue to revenue of nearby cities illustrates that Antioch suffers from a severe revenue shortfall and not from overspending. Antioch’s total projected revenues for the 2014-2015 budget are only $404.36 per resident compared to $555.84 for Pittsburg, $681.68 for Concord, $817.35 for Brentwood, and $1255.75 for Richmond. Brentwood’s per capita revenues are double and Richmond’s are triple those of Antioch! Even Pittsburg has a 37 percent advantage over Antioch and Concord a 69 percent advantage.

Business license fees on rentals are not “new” taxes as claimed by Measure O opponents. The measure will amend the City’s existing ordinance established in the 1960’s, which requires landlords pay business license fees based on a percentage of gross receipts. However, the existing ordinance was not diligently enforced over the years and many residential landlords did not pay any licenses fees as required. Many current owners and property managers are not aware of the existing law. The amendment will simplify the computation and collection of the fees to be similar to methods used by a number of other cities in California.

Measure O evolved from a proposal in 2013 by the Friday Morning Breakfast Club (FMBC) in response to the Council’s request for ideas to resolve the City’s revenue shortfall. To be fairer to owners of large apartment complexes, the Council modified the FMBC’s initial proposal of $240 fees for houses and apartments alike. The FMBC agrees with the City’s modifications and has formed the committee “Antioch Residents for Fairness – Yes Measure O” to campaign for passage of the measure.
Approval of Measure ‘O’ will:

1. Benefit renters, homeowners, and businesses (including residential landlords) alike with reduced crime and blight and improved City services.

2. Restore “fairness” to business license fees by ensuring that residential landlords pay reasonable license fees as do all other for profit businesses operating in Antioch

3. Provide funds to help defray the higher cost of policing and other city services associated with rentals compared to owner occupied residences.

4. Help balance the City budget to save Antioch from bankruptcy.

5. Help provide the level of services citizens should expect from local government including more police and code enforcement officers that are currently underfunded and understaffed.

6. Help clean-up Antioch to attract additional businesses and development to the economic benefit of all.
As a member of the campaign committee and a 46 year resident of Antioch, I strongly urge all residents of Antioch to vote yes for Measure O. I will rebut the arguments of the opponents to Measure O in a future letter.

Larry L. Harrison, Antioch Residents for Fairness – Yes Measure O Committee

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Letter writer remembers Gary Agopian

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I could have been a stranger to Gary Agopian and yet known his sterling character by witnessing his three children, Heather, Corey and Jason deport themselves through the Celebration of Life held August 9th at Golden Hills Community Church. They projected the graceful affirmation their dad so emphatically embraced, “Let Thy Will Be Done.”

No way such a threesome developed by happenstance. This was nurturing at its best as Gary’s investment in faith and family reaped a stunning harvest.

Having worked beside Gary for four years on the Antioch School Board I offer a few reflections from the community lens. We might ask, what made Gary such a leader?

ACCESSIBLE.: Gary never dismissed a call or e-mail. It must have been his close to three decades in retail management and real estate sales. As the customer was king, the constituent was the Master and he the public servant.

HANDS-ON: Again, invariably his store background which led Gary to roll up his sleeves and get down from the podium. He was not a drive-by photo-op kid of guy. Whether it was the Graffiti Task Force, where he got out the paint can, or the Youth Intervention Network, where he mentored a family, Gary got in the trenches.

PREPARED: Gary lived the Boy Scout motto, ‘be prepared’. He kept you on your A-Game because in his world there was no slouching. He religiously studied his Board and Council packet and knew the issues. In fact, there seemed no issue, local or national, where Gary was at a loss for a studied observation.

CURIOUS: This was a man with an insatiable appetite to learn and to test his limits. He was the consummate risk taker comfortable pushing his comfort zone. If the mountain was out there Gary was game to climb it; be it the likes of running for Mayor or County Supervisor.

COMMUNICATOR: Gary was gregarious. He loved socializing and was an avid enthusiast of discourse. He thrived in the public square where ideas were vigorously debated.

CIVIL: I never knew Gary to demonize an opponent He could respectfully disagree.

INTEGRITY: Honor meant all to him.

INCLUSIVE: Gary always wanted to study the various ideas of an issue. He leaned on the conservative side but could surprise you as he was no ideologue. In this feverishly partisan society of overheated rhetoric, Gary was a refreshing breeze, outspoken but pragmatic. He sought solutions and balance.

Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Ford and of General Motors, wrote a book, ‘Where Have All the Leaders Gone?’ No doubt, there has been a recent paucity of them as any politician with spine seems a virtually extinct species. Nobody seems willing to tell us the truth or make the hard choices. Where are the Harry Trumans, ‘where the buck stops here?’

Agree or disagree with all his votes, Gary was a leader. He will be sorely missed.

My prayer is that his legacy be in setting the bar higher for us all.

Walter Ruehlig, Antioch

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Antioch to celebrate July 4th at County Fairgrounds, this year

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Editor:

There’s mixed news on Antioch’s Fourth of July. The downsides, for many, are the changes. The Parade route has been altered from the traditional E Street kickoff to a now L Street start. The fireworks have been moved from the riverfront to the County Fairgrounds.

I count myself as one who will miss the ambiance of floats and marchers passing the historic Rivertown storefronts and water view. I, too, will miss the excitement of aerial displays over the San Joaquin. It was vintage small-town Americana at its’ best.

The twin culprits forcing the change are two in number; safety and costs.

Despite all the fencing in the world, the crowds simply get unto the railroad tracks. Added to our police manpower shortfalls that spells nightmare. Also, after a two year lapse with the City stopping funding of the event, the strain of raising $65,000, much of which goes for police overtime, just got to be too much.

Let’s dwell, though, on positives. There is plenty to rejoice.

The core of the event is still alive and well. Private security will now man the festivities, aided by some Sheriff Department presence. Security will be less problematic in the more controlled Fairgrounds at Tenth and L. Admission remains free and, much to our delight, parking is ample. Free street lots will be announced and the Fairground lot is available at $5 a car.

The Parade starts at 11 a.m. at 2nd and L and proceeds to the Fairgrounds. Fireworks begin at 9:15 p.m. This year the aerial show will actually be overhead , so it promises to be spectacular.

The Fairgrounds is a venue that affords great variety of activity. We will have substantial picnic grounds, a classic car show, more food booths than ever, beer booths run by community organizations, circus performers, face painting, pony and kids carnival rides, plus educational exhibits including a library area, fire truck, canine unit demonstration, remote controlled model airplanes and model railroad.

There will also be non-stop music in the band shell featuring such treats as Rick Stevens, the former lead singer of famed Power of Tower, and the acclaimed Vocal-ease group.

There’s definitely something for everyone in this family event.

If you wish to join the car show or to march in the Parade print out an application at www.celebrateantioch.org or contact Betty Smith or me.

See you, family and friends on the Fourth.

Walter Ruehlig, Board Member

Celebrate Antioch Foundation

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Dozier-Libbey parents write about concerns, support for independent charter conversion

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

This February 23, teachers (88% of the teaching staff) from Dozier-Libbey Medical High School submitted a petition to the Antioch Unified School District to convert that school from one under AUSD control to an independent charter school. Since that time, AUSD administrative personnel have been working to prevent this change. They have frequently employed misleading statements in order to bolster their position. They have recruited school district personnel to speak against the teachers, and for the alternative “dependent charter” they created in order to keep Dozier-Libbey under their control. We, the undersigned, all parents of current Dozier-Libbey students, are writing to express our support for the dedicated staff at Dozier-Libbey in their efforts to convert the school to an independent charter.

As parents, we are concerned with the quality of the education that our children receive. This is our sole concern, not the politics of the issue. We want our children to have a rigorous educational experience, one that will prepare them in such a way that they will have a wide range of options available to them upon graduation from high school.

Dozier-Libbey was created as a college preparatory school with a medical theme focus. Students apply to Dozier-Libbey because they have a desire to learn and want to succeed at a high level. They make the decision to tackle the rigorous and challenging curriculum that Dozier-Libbey provides. That curriculum was established by the teachers of Dozier-Libbey. Indeed, some of the courses were developed solely by the teaching staff. We support the independent charter because we want to see these innovative programs continue for the benefit of our students, and for those who, in the future, will follow them.

As parents, we are concerned that the school that our children attend has all of the resources needed in order for them to have the greatest possible chance of success. As Mr. Jeff Weber stated in a recent newspaper article, Dozier-Libbey has not been treated equitably with respect to the resources that have been provided to like-size schools within the AUSD system. Dozier-Libbey is the only high school in the AUSD system that must make do with a part-time librarian. Under the independent charter proposed by the teachers, they would be able to employ a full-time librarian. The school only has one person dedicated to school safety, and only one administrator assigned. When the administrator is called away to District business, which happens frequently, teachers must use time that should be devoted to teaching in order to cover her responsibilities. Dozier-Libbey also has the highest student-to-clerical ratio in the district and only a part-time employee handling the career center. It is, quite frankly, astonishing that the teachers at Dozier-Libbey have been able to accomplish all they have in spite of these, and other, inequities. We support the independent charter because it will allow for direct funding of the school that will provide needed resources for student success.

As parents, we want to be involved in the education of our children. Under the independent charter, Dozier-Libbey would be headed by a board of directors which will be made up of parents of Dozier-Libbey students as well as other community members who have experience in areas such as education, fund-raising or accounting. For parents to have a direct voice in the direction that the school will take is an exciting opportunity that many of us wish to take advantage of. In contrast, while the AUSD has stated that they are the ones who will listen to parental input they immediately discredited themselves by appointing a new principal for their dependent charter without a single community meeting. We support the independent charter because it will allow for meaningful parental involvement in the school, leaving the Dozier-Libbey teachers free to do what they do best – educating our students for college and careers by living the Dozier-Libbey vision: “Every student valued, every student challenged, every student prepared to succeed in a changing world”.

In summary, there are many parents who support the teachers converting Dozier-Libbey to an independent charter school because it will so clearly benefit the students. At the end of the day, that is what matters, not politics, but the quality of education that our children will be able to receive.

Lara Lindeman, Jeanne Stuart-Chilcote, Angela L. , Lisa Backlund, Julie C., Robin M., Michelle Adams, Silvia Huerta, Duane & April Padilla, Lori Bonwell , Carol Monaco, Anna Morris, Janet McDaid, Jean Ruelas, Christine Loomis, Arthur & Ifeoma Metu

 

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