Archive for the ‘Letters to the Editor’ Category

Writer concerned with side deals on nuclear arms agreement with Iranian

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Dear Editor:

Earlier this week it was revealed to the public that one of the side deals made in the Iranian nuclear agreement included Iran being in charge of inspecting itself at one of its largest and most infamous nuclear development sites. The absurdity of that thankfully seems to resonate with more and more congressmen and senators and the revelation seems to be slowly tipping Democrats who had tenuously said they were going to support the agreement.

Thanks to legal roundabouts and parliamentary magic, the administration was only required to get one-third of one house to vote for it. The most efficient of routes, it would seem, would be to get thirty-four senators to vote for it, but that is proving to be harder than expected.

Last week, the soon-to-be Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a long-time supporter of the Israeli cause and major benefactor from Israeli-American political action committees, came out publicly against the deal, along with New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez. No doubt that these defections have boosted Republican hopes, especially for recruiting the entire Democratic Jewish Caucus, a whopping 7 senators including Schumer. The bar is set so low, however that there is a good chance that even this would prove not enough unless more Democrats defect from the Administration’s party line.

It’s important to know how the vote will go down, considering that the stakes are so high, if not for us, then for the allies that will suck us into a conflict if the Iranian hardliners are able to create even one warhead. The larger issue has been developing for decades, and the failed foreign policy of the last 6 years has directly led to the desperation for a deal that the administration now feels.

You may recall back in 2009, during the Arab Spring, that there were major demonstrations in the streets of Tehran. These weren’t TEA Parties with a couple hundred people, but actual streets filled with Iranians, both young and old, ready for modernization and liberalization.

The demonstrations occurred when Mahmoud Achmedinejad fraudulently stole the “election” by stuffing the ballot boxes so much that many NGO observers pointed out that there were more ballots cast than there were legal voters. This was because Achmedinejad was of course the choice psycho-in-arms of the Supreme Ayatollah Khomeini. The (believed to be) legitimate winner was Mir Hossein Mousavi, a reformer who decried the corruption and extremism of the Supreme Ayatollah and his lackey President Achmedinejad.

Rather than back the so-called Green Revolution and its de facto leader Mousavi using our extensive network of operatives, the administration decided that it would be better for the U.S. to not get involved instead of taking advantage of the best opportunity for a regime change in 30 years.

Despite the administration’s claim at the time to not want to get too involved in Middle Eastern affairs, we have dropped bombs on five different Middle Eastern countries during this administration, compared to the previous administration’s two. Not to mention that we’ve waded into the politics of everyone from Egypt to South Sudan in less than seven years’ worth of leadership.

Iran, as happens with any dictatorship, will eventually have a revolution that will replace the current system with a democratic one, but we cannot have any more unforced errors like we had in 2009, and like what the Senate is currently considering.

Foreign policy is not a game to be played lightly, it is after all the real-world game of thrones. The idea of a deal is good, but it must have an ironclad inspection clause with inspections only to be carried out by either the U.S. or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). We have been at a stalemate with Iran since the ’80s and we cannot simply walk away at this point, as much as I believe we should never have been involved with that tract of sand. A non-interventionist foreign policy requires a clean slate (cleaner than a server can ever be), something we will never get so long as the current system of governance in Iran exists. For now, this is the consequence of our insufferable meddling.

We need a deal, yes, but one that does not jeopardize our allies and our men and women in uniform. We can only hope that when that regime change comes, and we’ve had ours, we are prepared to not make the same mistake. That mistake of course, being our involvement at all.

Devon Minnema

The author is a 20-year-old Woodland College student, Syndicated columnist based out of Dixon CA. Columns “Real Men Read The News” and “One in a Millenial,” and fourth generation Solano County farmer.


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Frazier writes against Governor Brown’s “flawed, fiscally irresponsible” state water plan,

Saturday, August 8th, 2015

Dear Editor:

Since April, when I first spoke out against Governor Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), the Administration has continued to push forward this flawed, fiscally irresponsible proposal, now rebranded as California WaterFix and California EcoRestore. Under any name, this plan further threatens the Delta’s fragile ecosystem and does not deliver one ounce of new water.

This effort does not in any way “fix” the water concerns of the farmers, families and small-business owners in the Delta region. In fact, it threatens to harm their ways of life while undermining efforts to restore the sustainability of the Delta itself. I call on the Governor to stop trying to push the same old plan he proposed more than three decades ago − which voters rejected − and instead focus on California’s more urgent need to improve, modernize and stabilize our State’s water supply.

Two weeks ago, the Department of Water Resources unveiled the “Water Fix” plans’ environmental documents, attempting to fast-track it with a meager 45-day comment period, an insufficient time to examine a plan that aims to alter the Delta forever.

Rest assured, my letter calling for a 180-day comment period hit the Governor’s desk soon after. Through our efforts, I am pleased to announce that the comment period has been extended to October 30, 2015. The public will have time to properly review and voice their concerns about this revamped version of BDCP, which now has been thoroughly gutted of habitat restoration components.

I’ve made it clear to Governor Brown that I stand with the people of the Delta and will not waiver in my opposition to any effort focused on building the twin tunnels and threatening to harm the health of the Delta. When he’s ready to start the real work of using 21st century solutions to manage California’s water system, to produce and conserve more water and to create comprehensive drought and flood-prevention solutions, I am eager to help.

Please join me and voice your opinion about the BDCP/ California Water Fix proposal. Comments must be received electronically at or mailed and postmarked by October 30 to BDCP/WaterFix Comments, P.O. Box 1919, Sacramento, CA 95812.

Assemblymember Jim Frazier


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Letter writer wants overhaul of Antioch Code Enforcement program

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Dear Editor:

The City of Antioch needs to face some of our key problem areas and failures head on or continue its downward spiral as the kids now call Antioch the “New East Richmond.”

The Code Enforcement program has continued to be a major dismal failure. Even though they have the ability to fine absentee slumlords $1,000 per day penalties, in addition to contracting the clean up which could then be placed on their annual tax bill for payment.

No more excuses. This program needs a major overhaul. Section 8 over all is a good program, helping those that need a little extra support, but there are three- to four percent of the approximately 2,000 Section 8 homes that are creating all the major problems and multiple police calls. These same out of town slumlords need to be held accountable similar to the Section 8 program in Pittsburg, where you get two strikes and you’re out. No more rent money for these slumlords. It’s not that complicated.

Antioch has also now become the dumping ground for panhandlers. They are everywhere. Safeway, Wells Fargo and just about every freeway off ramp. Why? Because Pittsburg, Oakley and Brentwood have all cracked down on this problem 100% and Antioch has sat by and done nothing.

If our Antioch officials will just take the lead and follow other successful programs that are already in place in other surrounding communities, I think there is still hope for a major turnaround for Antioch.

If not we will be the New East Richmond or maybe even worse.

Greg Feere


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Letter writer says transfers from Antioch city water and sewer funds for police, tiered billing illegal

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Dear Editor:

Following is a letter I sent to Antioch Mayor Harper and Council Members, City Manager Steve Duran and City Clerk Arne Simonsen, in response to a column in the Antioch Herald.

Dear Mayor Harper and Council Members,

It has now been more than three weeks since the June 23rd Council Meeting and more than two weeks since I sent to you all the Appellate Court Cases Mayor Harper requested at that meeting (copies attached, below). As of this date I have received no correspondence from the City, the Council, any Council Member, the City Manager or the City Clerk concerning the illegal activities of the City of Antioch involving the Sewer and Water Funds transfers and tiered billing.

Let me begin by saying that conservation, drought or no drought, is a good idea and the recycling and the maximum use of natural resources is worthwhile.

Not just for human beings but for all the creature of the Earth.

However noble an idea or desire may be including water conservation it does not rise to the circumvention or shredding of the California State Constitution. Irrespective of Governor Brown’s belief that he can persuade or browbeat the elected officials at the County or Municipal level he does not have the executive authority or right to sidestep the California State Constitution. Neither do you.

More than two hundred years ago we abandoned an authoritarian form of government and while democracy is often imperfect in many ways it represents the will of the citizen’s desires best.

I will not stand by and watch the Antioch City Council violate recent California Case Law, the California State Constitution and your Oaths of Office. This is unacceptable and you need to move not later than your next Council Meeting, July 28th, to correct the City’s position concerning transfers from the Water and

Sewer Funds and the tiered water rates placed in effect only to promote conservation. You will need to agenda these items for the Meeting, July 28th and correct your and previous Councils errors. As part of that correction the General Fund must be immediately required to repay and restore the illegal transfers from the Water and Sewer Funds and diverted to the Police Department during the past several years.


From information provided by the Finance Director, Dawn Merchant an initial transfer from the Water Fund began in 2010 with no transfer from the Sewer Fund. In 2011 both Funds were affected by transfers, with the Water Fund amount being transferred reduced from $265,000 to $240,000. When I asked Ms. Merchant for the Nexus Calculation Formula applied to the Water and Sewer Funds I was informed it is a percentage of the Police Budget (see attached email and accounting of transfers). There is no Legal Nexus or Formula according to your Finance Director.

Under Proposition 26 Cities are limited when transferring utility receipts into the General Fund. There must be a Nexus. In Citizens for Fair REU v. City of Redding, a State Court of Appeal held this year that the transfer of funds from the utility was a tax not approved by the voters as required by Proposition 26. Proposition 26 is an Amendment to the California State Constitution. Part of the reasoning by the Court was that the City of Redding was simply billing the utility a percentage and there was no connection to the cost of the service.

This case in facts and evidence closely parallels what is being done by the City of Antioch. Let me be clear. Billing the Sewer and Water Funds a percentage of the Police Budget is illegal, violates case law, violates the State Constitution and in voting to continue this illegal process of taxing the voters without a voter approval you are all and each individually violating your Oath of Office.

Tiered Water Rates:

Proposition 218, another amendment to the California Constitution in 1996, requires that government agencies charge only the cost of providing the service. Arbitrary tiered rates that do not correspond to the actual cost of providing the service are illegal. Not even in times of drought can you do this type of predetermined tiered billing. Not even at the browbeating of the current Governor of the State of California. Not at all.

In the case of Capistrano Tax Payers Association v. City of San Juan Capistrano a California appeals court ruled this year that tiered water rates must be based on cost. They cannot be based on predetermined usage.

The City of Antioch has adopted such a predetermined tiered usage plan in violation of California Case Law, in violation of Proposition 218 and in violation of the California State Constitution. In voting to approve and implement such a tiered billing process you all and each individually are violating your Oath of Office.

Oath of Office:

At the time each of you took office for the City of Antioch you swore or affirmed in part or whole the following:



I, ______, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

And I do further swear (or affirm) that I do not advocate, nor am I a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that now advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means; that within the five years immediately preceding the taking of this oath (or affirmation) I have not been a member of any party or organization, political or other wise, that advocated the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means except as follows: __________________________________________________ (If no affiliations, write in the words “No Exceptions”) and that during such time as I hold the office of ______________________________________________ (name of office) I will not advocate nor become a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means.”

Therefore; be advised that on June 23rd, 2015 you were placed on notice prior to your vote that approval of the Budget, Item 7 of the Agenda without lining out the Water Fund and Sewer Fund transfers was illegal.

Know now that this action and each and every individual vote was a violation of your Oath of Office. A probable criminal offense against the voters and citizens of Antioch. Know also that your adoption by vote previously of the tiered water rates based on a predetermined usage was illegal. Also, a probable criminal offense against the voters and citizens of Antioch. Ignorance is not a defense and neither is pressure from the Governor of the State of California.


Bad advice and counsel comes in many forms and from many persons. Good intentions are sometimes corrupted. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And, executives sometimes come to believe they are omnipotent. These all become challenges for democracy, the law and the citizens.

You are all being called to correct errors made by this Council and previous Councils. This is your opportunity to do what is right and just and to live up to your Oaths of Office and the California State Constitution. The citizens of Antioch expect nothing less from you.

Demand is made that you agenda not later than July 28, 2015, Transfers concerning the Sewer and Water Funds and Tiered Water Rates. Demand is made that you line out the transfers in the current Budget and terminate all transfers that have no basis in a Legal Nexus. Demand is made that the General Fund immediately repay all funds illegally transferred from the Water and Sewer Funds for all years including but not limited to 2010 through 2015. Demand is made that you revoke the predetermined Tiered Water Rates based on conservation and not on the cost of service and that amended water rates be immediately calculated for billing in August.

Should you fail to agenda the items noted above and should you fail to make the corrections outlined I would be significantly disappointed. The citizens of Antioch will be significantly disappointed. The challenge to our City would continue forward seeking a just solution.

This is not my first tussle with the City of Antioch concerning Constitutional rights. The result of that previous tussle did not go well for the City. Constitutional matters as in these issues tend not to be blurred on misunderstood and once adjudicated, as in Redding and San Juan Capistrano, become crystal clear to all. Is our City at that point of clarity yet?

I look forward to the City Council Meeting July 28th.


Mark Jordan


Citizens v City of Redding

Merchant & Jordan communication

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Writer shares concerns about Antioch water reduction goals, rates

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

Dear Editor:

Below is an open letter I sent to the Antioch City Water Finance Department and all the city council members.

To Antioch City officials,

I received a letter dated June 5, 2015 with my last water bill. The letter provided a personalized water conservation goal table showing, by billing period, the actual usage from 2013 and the water reduction goal for this year, a 28% reduction. Apparently, a letter was sent out several months ago, that I missed, which asked for input from the public prior to the water restrictions being set. Please forgive my tardiness, but here is my input, now.

I have two issues with the water usage plan, neither of which are mentioned in the letter. First, the way the water usage is calculated is flawed. The usages are by billing period. This can be a very inaccurate way to compare actual water consumption because the number of days in a billing period in any year, but specifically 2013 and 2015, can be quite different. For example, looking at my water bills for the past two years there is a range of 23 to 36 days in a billing cycle. It would be nearly impossible to reduce the water usage by 28% if the number of days in 2015 is 36 days and in 2013 it was 23 days. Since the billing statements already include the gallons/day consumption, why not use this figure for the reduction goal? Also, the number of people in a household may also be greatly different from what it was in 2013. How can a comparison be valid without this factor?

The other issue I have, also was not mentioned in the letter. After multiple phone calls I learned that the charge per unit in my zone is increasing from $2.64 to $2.69 for the first 13 units. I have no problem with this. But, for usage in a monthly billing cycle that exceeds 13 units, the charge will be $4.35. As stated above, the number of days in a billing cycle might up to 13 days longer, which could be up to a 56% increase in the number of days in a billing cycle. The higher charge is a nearly 65% increase in the cost of water. It is possible citizens of Antioch could be charged 65% more for water usage in a billing cycle that was 56% longer than it was in 2013. Citizens could be charged a much higher rate for water even though their usage per day may have been less than the goal. A much fairer way to impose water restriction would be to base the tiers on gallons/day. If 13 units of water is consumed in a standard 30 day billing cycle the target would be 324 gallons per day (13 units x 748 gallons per unit / 30 days). The billing amount for consumption exceeding 13 units in a 30 day period would be $0.0058 per gallon ($4.35 / 748 gallons per unit). This does not address the household size problem but it does fairly address the problem of varying lengths of billing periods.

If no change is made in how the over 13 unit per billing period rate is administered, I request all my summer month billing periods be 23 days and all my winter billing periods be 36 days. I know this is an “unusual” request but, when compared to the current billing practice employed by the City of Antioch Water Department, it is quite reasonable. Also, if the usage in a billing period is less than 13 units, will this be credited against a later billing period where the usage is more than 13? If not, why? Isn’t the goal to save water? Why would it matter in which billing period the saving occurred? After all, your calculation method treats all billing periods as the same.

Striving to become the best version of myself,

Wayne Steffen

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School Board Trustee applauds restoring music programs

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Dear Editor:

We all know what road is said to be paved with good intentions. In the frenzied rush of squeezing the budget while doubling-down on core subjects, music and the arts got short shrift. What was lost in the deal of drill and kill on reading and math was the heart and soul that brings satisfaction to the daily grind, remember, many kids are disenfranchised and starving for even one passion, one single connection, one driving engagement to keep them from truancy.

It is not only about restoring motivation, though. Music can be academic brain food well as well. In teaching to the test and glorifying the fill-in-the-bubble multiple choice, we, inadvertently dumbed down. Coming full circle, we now see that learning music is not a frill luxury but, actually, a foundation in facilitating the learning of other subjects.

Poll any group of physicians and you will be amazed at how many took music.This should come as no surprise as music is really, in a sense, pure math. Research studies confirm that music students enjoy distinct advantages in spatial- temporal skills, associated with math comprehension.

Language development benefits, too. Musical training physically develops the left side of the brain, the part known to be involved in the learning of language. Vocabulary acquisition is enriched and cognitive thinking sharpened.

That’s not all. Music student attendance is cumulatively higher, grades better and discipline less. Music employs multiple skill sets, exercises eyes and ears and both larger and small muscles. In the process, students increase attention span and learn poise, teamwork and how to think on their feet.

Some research even indicates higher I.Q. of musical students. A 2007 study by Christopher Johnson of the University of Texas showed that students in elementarry schools having superior musical programs scored 22% higher on English and 20% higher on math standardized tests.

With this all in mind, good news for Antioch. As part of the holistic emphasis of the newly mandated Local Control Accountability Plan, (LCAP) the Antioch School Board just approved greatly expanded arts and music inititiatives. This includes bringing elementary band back and newly invigorated middle school programs. These are essential as the lower grades are, obviously, the high school feeders.

Kudos to the Board for a shared vision in adopting this measure and to those who did the tireless leg work to get this into the budget. Thanks go to Superintendent Dr. Donald Gill, LCAP Director Cheryl Domenichelli, and to Associate Superintendent Stephanie Anello for their enlightened perspective and for executing the logistics in pushing this forward.

Special gratitude goes to all the local long-term music educators, led by Sharon Vela, and the likes of Ken Bergmann, Romano Marchetti, Paul Rataczak, Damien Ting and Larry Widener, who carried the torch these lean years. They championed philosopher Frederick Nietzsche’s charge, that “without music life would be a mistake.”

Welcome back the spiritual soundtrack of our lives. Our kids, our hometown civic culture, and our collective humanity can celebrate.

It’s music to many of our ears.

Walter Ruehlig

A.U.S.D. School Board Trustee

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Realtors support expansion of housing opportunities in Antioch, East County

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

Hello. My name is James Britto.

I am a third generation Antiochan.

I am a homeowner, Mello Roos taxpayer, small business owner, and I am also President of the Delta Association of REALTORS® for 2015.

Antioch and the entire East Contra Costa region have experienced a great recovery of value in our properties. This has tremendously impacted many owners, positively. With a recovery of equity, they can refinance to improve their properties, put more money into our local economy, or sell their property. All of these create jobs and revenue and are good for our economy.

Inventory is still low in our area for the amount of demand there is for housing. This has contributed to the prices rising steadily, combined with a favorable mortgage market.

What we are coming to see more and more, are individuals and families coming from 30, 50, 70, 90 miles away or more to seek affordable housing here, yet their jobs are elsewhere, often Oakland, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Sacramento, Modesto… you name it, we have people who work there…. Spending two to three hours a day, often each way, to find what they need… good jobs and affordable housing.

The Delta Association of REALTORS® strongly supports the expansion of housing opportunities and programs that support average to median income earners being able to afford to buy and occupy homes and work where they live. It’s better for families, cities, the environment, and the economy. Commuters spend money elsewhere since they are not local a majority of their time.

We want to be a partner with the City of Antioch, as well as other local municipalities, to work together on options and opportunities to expand options for people with good jobs, good credit, and a desire to live in a home and work near home. The opportunities for Antioch and all of East County are improving, especially with the eventual arrival of eBART, but we have to expedite our work with attracting employers and job opportunities, now, not in 10 years, and finding ways to assist individuals who meet the criteria, to buy and occupy a home of their own in our terrific Delta region.

Thank you.

James Britto, President, Delta Association of REALTORS®


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Jordan offers one more response to Watchdog over Charter City proposal

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Dear Editor,

Here is my response to Ms. Zivica’s column published on the Herald website, June 15, 2015.

Barbara, you begin by quoting Sir Francis Bacon. I’m not going to quote some obscure Sixteenth Century Philosopher. But I will quote the Eagles from 1974.

Just remember this, my girl, when you look up in the sky You can see the stars and still not see the light.”

So, let us begin. Again Ms. Zivica offers no solution or suggestions as to how we should all address the unfunded retirement liability for the City of Antioch. This should not be about pointing fingers, laying blame or frightening the citizens. We are where we are with this problem. Problems need solutions and Ms. Zivica offers none. But she is not alone. Neither does the City Manager or the current Council Members. Silence is not golden in finance.

Yes, Barbara, Charter Cities have a much greater degree of latitude in how they address issues or seat Council Members. That does not mean that an approved Charter has to largely move away from our current General Law governing outline. It simply can allow a funding mechanism for the approximate amount due of $150,000,000.00.

Barbara, where do you suggest we generate the necessary amount? If we don’t get very serious about this matter quickly, within five years it is possible that we will have funds for about fifty police officers and nothing else. No finance department, no building department, no code enforcement, no animal services, nothing. A major amount of funds will be mandated to pay for employees’ current and retired financial obligation.

I am not suggesting that the funds charged in transfer fees created by a Charter City be delivered to the General Fund. That would be a mistake because it would rely on the staff and Council to promise they would only use the money to pay off the debt. Obviously we have seen too many promises made and not kept in this town. Additionally, we could, as part of the Charter, sunset the transfer fee implemented upon the full payment of the unfunded CalPERS amount, if it was the will of the majority.

All said, the complete terms and conditions of the city Charter can be clearly stated and defined before the approval of the citizens. What is wrong in presenting the matter to the voters? Let democracy work.

Barbara, you mention that the citizens are over taxed and over burdened.

Measure C was sold to the citizens by the Mayor and Council to hire additional police officers. I believe the number was twenty two more. Effectively we have almost a zero net gain. Here you are correct. It was a General Fund measure and, well, the money isn’t really being used for what it was intended; additional police. Another broken promise by the Council and Administrative Staff. Most likely there will be no extension of this additional sales tax. I know I won’t vote for it again. Will you?

Measure O is different. Here you misstate the facts. Measure O is not a burden to most of the citizens of Antioch. And, of no burden to you since, you don’t own residential rental property. I supported and voted for the ballot measure and pay the fee, multiple times over. Not because I like taxes but because most of the rental property in Antioch is owned by non-resident landlords who don’t care about our city and who pay almost nothing to improve the quality of life here in town. They needed to begin paying their fair share. Period.

You also mention schools. School bonds are generally for students and schools. Should we stop educating our children? Should we let Antioch High fall in on the classrooms? Really? Are you really that short sighted? I attended Antioch public schools and graduated from Antioch High and UC Davis. Both of my daughters attended Antioch public schools and one graduated from Antioch High and the other from Deer Valley. One is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and the other is attending UC Davis in the fall. I can only say to the faculty and staff; job well done. Thank you.

You also state Barbara, that it is the State of California’s fault that the retirement accounts at CalPERS were underfunded. The City was just following the lead of the State. Really? So if the City Manager leads the City off a bridge and you follow then it is really his fault you are dead? You’re not smart enough to know falling off a bridge isn’t a very good idea?

Look, the CalPERS “pay as you go” plan was not and is not a good system and it has created a monster of a problem not just for Antioch but all cities who participated and made minimum payments. But, when your City Council tells you they have hired the best in staff; educated in government accounting and finance, and you get to a point of no return, then it is time to take responsibility for your mistakes, as a city. Blaming someone or something else, the State of California, is no solution.

And, so in conclusion let me end with effectively the same question. What is your solution Barbara?

Mark Jordan, Antioch

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