Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Letters: Former Antioch Mayor and School Board Member Rocha wants reconsideration of approval for East Bay Tech charter academies

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

Dear Editor:

At the Antioch Unified School Board of Education meeting held on May 9th, against the advice of staff and legal counsel, AUSD Board Members Crystal Sawyer-White, Debra Vinson, and Walter Ruehlig voted to approve East Bay Tech High School Charter (EBTHS) and East Bay Tech Middle School Charter (EBTMS) with the following conditions: “Delegate the Superintendent to negotiate the MOU that addresses the Findings of Facts included in Resolution No. 2017-18-9, including the revised budget, SPED and operations, by June 18th”.  Despite legal counsel concerns and Board Member Gibson-Gray pointing out that there was nothing in the motion to deny the charter if they did not meet the conditions the approval still stands. The motion was passed 3-2, with Hack and Gibson-Gray voting against it.

The EBTHS and EBTMS Charters are based on the Clayton Valley Charter High School (CVCHS) which has recently made headlines, “Contra Costa County Office of Education To Conduct Forensic Financial Audit of Clayton Charter High School After Sudden Departure of Administrators” (Claycord May 17, 2018).

One of the lead petitioners, Meagan Moilanen, is currently on staff of CVCHS and during the May 9th meeting spoke glowingly about the successes at CVCHS and they would be bringing that success model to the Antioch Charters.  This is very concerning and until the investigation is completed, Antioch Unified School District needs to put a stop to both charters.

Unfortunately, only AUSD Board Members who voted to approve the charters may request that the item be brought back to the board for discussion or a revote. For the sake of our students and community, I feel that action needs to be taken quickly.

Please contact the AUSD Board Members below to encourage them to reconsider their vote while the Contra Costa County Office of Education conducts a Forensic Financial Audit of CVCHS and the actions of their Administrators and Board Members.

crystalsawyerwhite@antioch.k12.ca.us
debravinson@gmail.com
walter.ruehlig@gmail.com

Thank you.

Mary Helen Rocha

Past AUSD Trustee, Antioch Mayor and City Council Member

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Payton Perspective: No growth initiative backers being dishonest, for the sake of Antioch’s future please don’t sign

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Sand Creek Focus Area proposed approved and proposed developments

By Allen Payton

The leaders behind the initiative to stop the new home developments on the west side of Deer Valley Road in the Sand Creek Focus Area, and their supporters are not being honest with Antioch residents in their efforts to obtain signatures to get it on the ballot. They’re claiming the city wants to build 4,000-8,000 homes in the area and that they will be able to stop them with the initiative.

Post on the initiative’s Facebook page.

It’s Not 8,000 Homes

The fact is the City’s General Plan only allows a total of 4,000 homes in the Sand Creek area, and so far, 1,178 have already been approved and another 300 are planned on the east side of Deer Valley Road. The initiative only covers the west side of Deer Valley Road. So, the most they can do is to stop 2,522 homes, if it passes. Currently there are only about 1,700 homes planned by two of the land owners, both of whom are developers.

What the public may not be aware of is the area has been planned for new home subdivisions for over 20 years, as a result the land is privately owned by developers, and there have already been two votes by the public to allow for homes in that area. First, the public voted in 1990 for and passed Measure C, the countywide Urban Limit Line, which protects approximately 65% of the land in the county from subdivision development. Then in 2005, the people of Antioch voted to approve Measure K, creating our city’s own Urban Limit Line, moving the line back out to include the now defunct Roddy Ranch development and golf course. The land in the Sand Creek area is both inside the county’s and Antioch’s ULL’s inside the 35% of land allowed for subdivision development.

In fact, there were originally 8,950 homes planned for the Sand Creek area, plus the 640 for a total of 9,490 homes south of the current homes. So, the total number of new homes allowed in the area has already been reduced significantly.

Infrastructure Supports the Growth

Another claim is that the city’s infrastructure and Highway 4 won’t support the new homes. That’s just false. I pointed out in my previous article about the initiative from those who planned and approved the infrastructure and Highway 4 widening, that they included in their plans 12,000 homes in the Sand Creek area.

The fact is Dallas Ranch Road was built four lanes wide because of the plans to eventually connect to and become Sand Creek Road, which will cross Deer Valley Road giving another access from the homes in south Antioch to the Kaiser medical center. The road will also continue to connect to Highway 4 in Brentwood. The new homes in The Ranch project, which the initiative seeks to stop, will pay for the road up to Deer Valley Road. Actually, the developers will pay for the costs of construction of the road and get reimbursed from the sale of their new homes. Another fact, the Kaiser medical center was built out there with the expectation of the new growth, and only half of the ultimate size.

The New Homes Won’t Kill People

But, the initiative advocates use of doubling the amount of homes that are allowed isn’t the only dishonest argument being made to support the initiative, yet. Now, one of their signature gatherers is actually saying that the new homes will kill people. That’s what he told me directly. His argument is because people will have to drive farther from the Sand Creek area to their jobs and other places. He only wants infill and high-density development of new homes. So, he is still for more homes in Antioch which will still allow people to drive to their out-of-town jobs and will still blow smoke out of their tailpipes. But, their commute will be a few miles shorter, which I guess won’t kill people. Hmmm.

One older gentlemen, who was signing the petition the other day, said the new homes should be built in Stockton. Really? So, let the people move further out and drive farther to their jobs, blowing more smoke out of their tailpipes, longer? How is that protecting the environment and keeping the new homes from killing people? As if they did. That just doesn’t make any sense. I wonder if he would have said the same thing when the home he’s living in was being built.

All Part of a Master Plan

It’s all been part of the master plan for Antioch. There’s been a method to what the out of town environmental groups and no-growthers in Antioch see as madness.

Growth in Antioch is Planned, Balanced & Limited

Growth must be planned, balanced, and limited and Antioch has all of that with the General Plan, the Urban Limit Line and a 200-acre employment area set aside 20 years ago. Plus, it will take as much as 20 years for all the homes in the Sand Creek area to be built. Some of the homes approved in Antioch before 1989 are just now about to be built, today. It takes that long for the infrastructure to be built and paid for. Plus, the housing market goes in cycles. So, just because the homes may get approved now, doesn’t mean they’re all going to be built right away.

Most of the property owners/developers in the Sand Creek area have been waiting for the past 20 years for Highway 4 to be widened and BART to be extended to Antioch, before moving forward with their plans. Some have owned their property for almost 30 years, waiting for the right time.

Local Job Creation

What the one young man who said the new homes will kill people doesn’t accept is the argument that those homes will attract business owners and executives who will bring their businesses to Antioch and Brentwood. They can locate them in the long-planned 200-acre employment area, formerly known as Future Urban Area 2 (FUA-2) along Highway 4, north of Slatten Ranch Road, as well as in Brentwood between Lone Tree Way and Sand Creek Road. That area in Brentwood is just now getting the zoning finalized and it will be mostly for commercial, which includes retail and employment. The young man’s views are in spite of the fact history has shown it to occur, over and over. For example, the upscale homes in Blackhawk and the San Ramon Valley attracted business owners and executives to locate their companies in Bishop Ranch in San Ramon. The same thing happened in the Tri Valley area, with the new homes in Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin attracting employers to the Hacienda Business Park in Pleasanton. The same happened in Walnut Creek and Concord and it can and will happen, here, especially now that the BART station will soon open in Antioch. But, only if we allow it. Signing the initiative and passing it will prevent our chances of becoming a complete, self-supportive city and kill the efforts to bring jobs closer to where our people live.

Lot Sizes As Large As 2 Acres

I also heard another argument from a friend who opposes The Ranch project, because she expected the lots to be half-acre in size, not the sizes proposed of 5,000-9,000 square feet on average. Yet, the homes in Blackhawk aren’t all on half-acre lots. Many are on 5,000 square foot lots. I frankly was surprised to learn that, recently myself. Plus, the Zeka Ranch project, on the old Higgins Ranch property, on the west side of The Ranch project, includes home lots from 8,000 square feet up to 2 acres in size. So, there will be that option for those who want and can afford that size of lot.

Parks & Police Fees

Two more positives from the development are the park fee all the new homes will pay, which will help to complete the 115-acre Prewett Park, finishing the unimproved area between Deer Valley Road and the parking lot. The homes will also be assessed an annual police fee – the first one in the city’s history – to help provide additional police services.

It Is To Stop The New Homes

Some initiative supporters say it’s not no-growth or to stop the homes from being built, but that it’s just allowing the people to have a vote. But, they know the reality is, the voters will oppose any new subdivision brought up for a vote. Besides, why do we elect city council members who are empowered to represent us and make those decisions on our behalf if we’re just going to put each individual development project on the ballot?

At a time the state and Bay Area are facing a housing shortage, efforts to stop long-planned homes in voter approved areas for new home subdivisions is irresponsible, contributing to the high-cost of housing, as well as homelessness.

There’s a saying that the new home for the pinks and reds, the socialists and communists, is the greens. It’s acceptable to be an environmentalist, but not a communist. Although, these days, without truly understanding the implications of the philosophy, many think it’s acceptable to be a socialist.

The environmental leaders behind the initiative and some of their supporters are basically wanting us to be like a communist country with all future generations living in high-density apartment and condominium complexes. What’s the difference between their thinking and that of the central planning of the soviets and the results they, North Korea and Cuba have produced for their people?

Not everyone wants to live in that type of housing.

The initiative supporters’ map of the projects already approved, proposed on the east side of Deer Valley Road, and The Ranch and Zeka Ranch projects they’re working to stop. This map doesn’t show the Sand Creek Road crossing the area and connecting to the end of Dallas Ranch Road, and future extensions of Hillcrest Avenue and Heidorn Ranch Road.

Why Do I Care So Much?

People wonder why I care about approving the new growth area so much. It’s for two reasons, the first one is for the benefit of Antioch and the second one is a bit self-serving.

First, I want to see Antioch succeed as a city with the needed, local, well-paying jobs, city services and a safe community.

I grew up part of my life and graduated from high school in Walnut Creek. I’ve seen the positive side of the upscale housing and local job centers that came to both Walnut Creek and Concord, as well as the San Ramon Valley, as a result. In fact, I worked for a small developer that built the first $300,000 home subdivision in Concord. Antioch needs to have what those and other cities, like our neighbor Brentwood, as well as those in the San Ramon Valley have – namely upscale homes, and in gated and senior communities, on larger lots and view lots, which will attract jobs and money to our city. No, the jobs haven’t yet come to Brentwood. But, they will with the extension of BART to Antioch, and the zoning of the land along Highway 4.

Business owners and executives want to live close to their businesses, in nice, larger homes and usually on larger lots. The long-planned Sand Creek area accommodates those desires, especially the proposed homes west of Deer Valley Road.

Plus, seniors don’t impact commute or school traffic, and they stay in town during the day, shopping at our stores and eating at our restaurants, helping them be successful, and generating more sales tax revenue, which pays for more city services, with police being number one for our public safety.

Second – and this is the self-serving reason –  I and others I’ve spoken with, would like to continue to live in Antioch as we get older, and preferably in a nice, senior community, and not have to move to Brentwood, Rio Vista or elsewhere to accomplish that. The Ranch project includes an “active adult” community in their plans and will help provide that type of housing for our own, aging population, and maybe even me, by the time it’s built.

Let’s Have All Types of Housing

I do support other types of housing, including Transit Oriented Development (TOD) which makes sense and is one of the businesses I’m in. But, again we as Americans want choices and options, and that goes for housing, as well. Many of us also want space between ourselves and the next resident if we can afford it. So, let’s approve all types of housing. The council just approved the first TOD project, near the Antioch BART Station which is great. But, what we don’t have in our housing mix right now is the upscale, gated and senior housing. That’s what the Sand Creek area provides.

Honesty and Information

Here’s the bottom line. If the people want to put an initiative on the ballot to vote to stop more homes from being built, that’s their right. But, the leaders and supporters need to be honest in what they’re telling people to get them to sign their petitions. Plus, the voters of Antioch need to be fully informed before merely signing or worse, voting for, something that sounds alarming, but in fact really isn’t. My encouragement is that you don’t sign the petition, recognize that now is the time to move forward with these long-held plans, and support the efforts to help Antioch become the complete, successful city it can be.

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Letter writer thanks the Herald for local reporting, publishing letters and commentaries

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Editor:

I have recently canceled my decades-long active newspaper subscription with the East County Times/Contra Costa Times/Bay Area News Group. Their recent 40% plus increase in the yearly subscription price finally caused me to do so, with other reasons involved also. That was on top of the previous year’s big increase of over 10%.

I started out over 50 years ago as an East County newspaper subscriber and had continued my subscription(s) throughout the years. I enjoyed holding the paper and reading the printed newspaper’s contents while relaxing, eating breakfast, etc. I also enjoyed being able to submit Letters To The Editor and Guest Commentaries, which in many years past occasions were published. The BANG/CC Times newspapers within the recent years has not even published my submitted Guest Commentaries in relation to local important area matters, even when I personally followed that up with their personnel. I even revised and/or expanded my submissions as they had requested in order to meet their guidelines (to no avail).

Their newspapers’ local area coverage also leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of, obviously, giving our communities’ submissions to them they instead very regularly give priority to already news broadcasts’ ongoing publishings from the very same outside commentators. We out in East County seem to be ignored and we just get fed the same ole, same ole, from their preferred outside submitters – who do not even comment on our areas’ events, opinions, or areas of concern. We may just as well just watch the television news broadcasts.

The Antioch Herald newspaper has been the exception. It has reported on, published, and covered our County and East County area news, events, opinions, etc., very well. The AH, as I perceive it, has not taken sides nor deprived our communities access to it and its availability of publishing submissions by its residents. It is to be commended for its journalism and fairness. We out here in East County should note that the AH has been a great source of news, even with its published advertisements no less. Thanks to you Mr. Payton and to your staff.

Ralph A. Hernandez

Antioch

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Op-Ed: Mayor Pro Tem Thorpe wants a single district north of Highway 4

Monday, April 9th, 2018

By Lamar Thorpe, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Antioch

In 2016, I ran for Antioch City Council to build a more accountable, innovative and transparent city government. For me, moving to single-member districts, campaign finance reform, and term limits are all critical components of building government accountability. Why? Because it’s very hard to get elected to city council  – and it’s getting harder every year.

First, the power of incumbency on city councils is very strong, with a 90% re-election rate nationwide. Secondly, elections are very expensive, even at the local level. In Antioch, it costs anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 to mount a successful bid for city council. And unlike surrounding cities, Antioch has no campaign contribution limits.

I’m proud that Mayor Sean Wright and I are rare breeds for having prevailed against incumbents in 2016. Since then, I’ve worked hard to represent you in city hall and I’m going to continue to work hard to dismantle the status quo.

You may or may not have heard that Antioch is in the middle of moving from electing city council members from an at-large to a single member district system. I am disappointed that this process comes to Antioch under the threat of litigation. (No city in California that has fought single-member districts has prevailed in court. Those that have tried and lost have had their district maps drawn for them and paid hefty legal fees.) Nevertheless, it will be a dramatic change for our city.

Some people like it, some don’t, and others are indifferent. But most folks don’t know what’s going on. They put their trust in us and pray that we get it right.

After working on several local elections, I’ve learned that city council elections are decided by voters in South and Southeast Antioch. As a matter of fact, Southeast Antioch is home to what pollsters and political operatives call the “swing vote”.

As these areas of the city have grown in population and political influence, the voting power of residents in older areas of the city, North and Southwest Antioch, has been diluted. In fact, every city council member including myself lives south of Hwy 4 and four of us live in Southeast Antioch. The last time anyone from North Antioch or North of Hwy 4 was elected to the Antioch City Council was in the 1980s.

This doesn’t mean voters look up a candidate’s address before they go vote. They don’t. However, like sports players, candidates have a “home field/court advantage” in their surrounding communities without even knowing it. So, it stands to reason that if you live in Southeast Antioch, you have a higher probability, though not a guarantee, of getting elected.

To me, it’s fundamentally unfair that communities north of Highway 4 have no representation on the city council. Antioch is one community, no doubt about it. But there are regional and socio-economic differences between Antioch neighborhoods that cannot be ignored.

We all look at the world through our own lens. Take Vegas for example. On one end of the Bellagio Hotel, guests can have breathtaking views the Hotel’s famous and stunning water fountains. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Hotel, guests can be treated to a special view of the parking lot and the occasional special performance by two drunk guys arguing about nothing. One hotel, two different experiences.

In the same vein, all of our experiences in Antioch are a little different and shaped in large part by where one resides. In a recent poll conducted by the City, we found that North Antioch residents were the least content with their city government and our overall direction. As an example, while more than two-thirds of South and SE Antioch residents are not only content with city services believing they get their fair share, nearly half of North Antioch residents believe they don’t get their fair share of city services.

And, as many North Antioch residents have pointed out there are other differences, too. Crime is heavily concentrated in and around 18th and Cavallo, 10th Street, and the Sycamore/Delta Fair area because of population and housing density. Visually, when you drive into North Antioch, you can see that the challenges and opportunities require more than just band-aid solutions offered by SE Antioch politicians. Today, the annual median household income in North Antioch is between $42,000 to $45,000, compared to $100,000 plus for most living in Southeast Antioch. The physical infrastructure of the two elementary schools in North Antioch is outdated compared to the newer schools in Southeast Antioch.

Sometimes it feels and looks like North Antioch has been forgotten. But the new districts could bring the Council new perspectives to help fix this. As my friend Marty Fernandez once mentioned in support of Rocketship Charter School, residents in North Antioch deserve more than just a new Taco Bell. He’s right. In line with that, I say to my friend Marty, they deserve representation on the city council as well.

For a change of this magnitude to be meaningful, residents must be engaged. But the districting process is moving fast. We’re nearing public hearing number four and have two maps under consideration — Working Draft 1 and Quadrant Draft B, which are below.

According to our Interim City Attorney Derek Cole, public testimony has been overwhelmingly in favor of Working Draft 1, which assures that all regions in Antioch including North Antioch will be represented on the city council.

I invite you to please share your choice either in person or by emailing us at districtelections@ci.antioch.ca.us. Also, if you live in Southeast Antioch, there is a petition being circulated by Tina Price. That petition can be found here. Lastly, stay informed by liking my facebook page.

Note: An Op-Ed denotes something printed on the page opposite the editorial page in a newspaper, devoted to commentary, which expresses the opinions of a named author usually not affiliated with the publication’s editorial board.

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Letter writer shares positive experience at Antioch auto repair shop

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Dear Editor:

I would like to take this time to express my sincerest gratitude to an auto repair shop in our local Antioch area.  The following is my story.

I moved out to Antioch approximately 17 years ago and my auto mechanic was located in Richmond CA.  I decided to continue going to Richmond for my auto repair needs, as they were reasonably priced.  The local car dealer’s hourly rate of $180 was cost prohibited.  Although the auto repair shop was okay, my cars were never really fixed, but patched up.  My vehicles would work for a few months and then breakdown again.  I and my cars were in a revolving door with the repair shop…Ugh.

I finally decided to investigate where to take my vehicles, as the Richmond auto repair shop was merely taking money and not fixing the problem.  A reasonably priced mechanic is hard to find, but if one has to go back, again and again for the same problem, it is no longer reasonably priced.

I was talking to a friend about my experience with my previous mechanic and she mentioned a place where she takes her vehicles and stated the customer service was fabulous.  She stated, “Take your care to AutoTek in Antioch, you won’t go wrong.”  Well….a month later my car overheated…a problem that had gone on for over a year, which the Richmond mechanics couldn’t seem to fix even after replacing the radiator and water pump.

Well, while I was caught in this desperate situation of having a non-operational vehicle, I heeded my friend’s advice and took my vehicle to AutoTek located at 2201 A Street.  Wow….This is the only word I can use to describe my experience with AutoTek.

The Manager, Jay, and his entire staff are extremely customer centric and understand all about cars and how to diagnose, repair and/or correct the problem.

I explained my car problem and the fact that the problem had been going on for a year now.  The team at Auto Tek got on it and kept the car for two days.  They reviewed the radiator, belts, water pump and even checked the head-gasket to make sure that it was not blown.  Well, after a total review, they found that it was a simple water hose that was not clamped on correctly.   And to make the total experience even more of a confidence builder, in Auto-Tek, the charge was nothing!  Can you believe that?  I have never taken a car to an auto shop and come out with money in my pocket and a smile on face.

I have had other issues with my car, but AutoTek was there for me and the price was extremely reasonable and done correctly, and in the time promised.  AutoTek is a God send to me, as I’m busy, as we all are, but getting it done right the first time makes it down right enjoyable to take your car to this repair shop.

I cannot say enough about the wonder friendly and honest team of mechanics and staff at Auto-Tek.  I will merely state what was stated to me, “Take your car to AutoTek in Antioch, you won’t go wrong”

Regards,

Guadalupe Galvan

Associate Director

UCSF/MGBS

Antioch

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Payton Perspective: For Antioch’s new five-year Strategic Plan Council needs better, more definitive goals

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Plus, Measure C Sales Tax Citizens’ Oversight Committee needs to use honest, correct base police staffing figure of 89 sworn officers in their reports; Council does, too

By Allen Payton, Publisher

I haven’t offered my opinion publicly in a column, for awhile and I know I just wrote one, last Friday on the city’s consideration of a marijuana industry. But, there are some things that the council is considering and I believe the public needs to know about them, as well as my concerns, which I believe others will share.

During their Tuesday March 27th meeting, the Antioch City Council will consider adopting a new, five-year Strategic Plan for 2018-23. But, it’s obvious city staff wrote it, as it includes their priorities and goals, not the council’s and certainly not the public’s, with no real teeth in them. Proposed 2018-23 Antioch Strategic Plan

The first problem I have with the proposed Strategic Plan is that it has as its first goal, “Ensure the City’s Continued Financial Stability”. That shouldn’t be the City Council’s number one goal or top priority. Public safety should be. Plus, that statement isn’t even honest because the city isn’t financially stable. It’s running $2 million deficits each of this year and next, and is facing a $160 million unfunded pension liability, which according to staff will continue to grow even with payments from the city. Finally, without the renewal of Measure C when it ends in 2021, the city’s General Fund balance will hit zero less than two years later and even if it’s renewed it will hit zero four years later.

So, a better, more honest goal should read “Ensure the City’s Financial Stability” and it should be number two. Instead, city staff is proposing public safety be number two and merely “a top priority” not the top priority. As the draft reads:

2. Support Public Safety

Public Safety continues to be a top priority for the City Council. In this context, Public Safety includes law enforcement, and maintenance and improvement of infrastructure such as roadways and the water system. Strategies include:

Ensure adequate funding for appropriate levels of staffing for law enforcement personnel.”

Are they serious? What weak language. The purpose of government in America is to protect rights, yours from me and mine from you. At the local level that’s done with police, which is the first reason Antioch’s city government was formed in 1872. I have a copy of the city’s incorporation papers in my office to prove it.

That goal should instead read “1. Ensure Public Safety”, not just support it. We all support public safety. But the council’s job is to ensure it. Plus, that paragraph should also read “Public Safety is the top priority for the City Council.”

Finally, the first line beneath the paragraph should read “Fulfill the council’s promise of hiring 22 additional police from Measure C funds, using 89 sworn as the base, to get us to the 111 sworn officers as promised, toward the goal of 1.2 officers per 1,000 population.”

Now, that’s the kind of specific goal and direction, based in honesty and facts that the council needs to give city staff in the new five-year Strategic Plan. Not some nebulous target of “appropriate levels of staffing.” What’s appropriate is that the council does what we the people, the voters were promised they would do with our money.

The council needs to make sure public safety is the top priority and that they fulfill the promise of Measure C which is 111 sworn officers, not 104 and use 89 as the base figure which was in the budget before Measure C passed, not 82, which was how many were on staff after it passed.

Back to ensuring the city’s financial stability, the first thing they should list is “Generating sufficient revenue to eliminate the need for the Measure C half-cent sales tax.” It was only supposed to be temporary, for seven years. The city budget was not to become dependent on it. Yet, now the staff is considering doubling the amount from a half-cent sales tax to a one-cent sales tax for the replacement ballot measure.

Frankly, I think the council needs hold off adopting the new Strategic Plan for now, and do some serious reworking, with more public input and much more specific, definitive goals that they campaigned on, were elected to achieve and what we the people need for them to accomplish. It’s always easier to hit a target when it’s set pretty low. We need goals that make them stretch and work hard to achieve. Establishing them will help give better direction to the city staff unlike what is in the draft.

What do you think the City’s goals should be over the next five years? Let the council members know at their meeting Tuesday night.

Measure C Oversight Committee Report Dishonest

Even the Measure C Sales Tax Citizen’s Oversight Committee  has chosen to use the dishonest figure of 82 sworn officers as the base figure, instead of the 89 sworn that were in the city’s budget before we the people voted to increase the sales tax in Antioch by an extra half-cent.  During the council meeting on Tuesday night, March 27, the committee will give it’s report using that false figure. Measure C Oversight Committee Report 032718

Page from the Measure C Sales Tax Oversight Committee Report to the city council for the March 27th meeting.

Again, I will remind everyone of the promise made by the mayor and entire city council in 2013, which included current Council Members Monica Wilson and Tony Tiscareno. In the “Arguments For Measure C“, which they signed and you can read, here – http://www.smartvoter.org/2013/11/05/ca/cc/meas/C/ – it stated A Yes on Measure C will allow us to immediately hire 22 new police officers, decreasing the time it takes to respond to 911 calls. It will also provide funds to reduce the number of gang-related homicides, assaults and robberies. Our police force has dwindled from 126 officers four years ago to only 89 today. 911 response times have increased and violent crime is up 30%. We feel unsafe in our homes and are in constant fear of becoming victims of crime.

But, the police department had lost seven officers between summer of 2013 when the ballot argument was signed, printed and mailed to voters, and November, when Measure C passed. So, the council at that time conveniently chose to use the new, dishonest figure of 82 sworn officers as the base amount. Thus, they only had to get to 104 sworn officers to fulfill the promise. Baloney. Worse, each council and city manager since then have used that same figure and that’s why there are only 104 sworn officers in next year’s budget, beginning July 1st. Basic math tells us all that 22 plus 89 equals 111 not 104. The city council and staff owe us a total of 111 sworn officers from Measure C funds because there were already 89 sworn in the budget before we voted to pass it. Even then, our police force will have 15 fewer sworn officers than we had in 2009.

So, the Measure C Citizen’s Oversight Committee’s report which states Antioch has had a “Net gain of 14 sworn Police Officers” is false. With only 96 on the force, that’s just a net gain of seven officers.  They’re budgeting for 6.7% fewer officers than they owe us, which could make a significant impact on crime in Antioch. Don’t let them play with our tax dollars or our public safety.

The oversight committee, made up of citizens, not politicians, need to start using the correct, honest base figure of 89 sworn and direct the council and city staff to do the same. What’s the old saying, figures lie and liars figure? I expect more out of our elected officials, our fellow citizens appointed to an “oversight” committee to “oversee” the correct, honest staffing and dollar figures. City staff will do what they’re directed to do by the council, so I don’t blame them for using that false figure.

What will it take to get the council and now the oversight committee to stop playing accounting games with our money and more importantly our safety? Now is the time to start. The council needs to vote to direct staff to use 89 sworn officers as the base and the Measure C Oversight Committee needs to start using that correct figure, as well and not just go along to get along with staff or the council members. They need to remember their roles. The council may have appointed them, but the council members work for them and the rest of us residents of Antioch. The committee members and more specifically, Chair Susana Williams and Vice Chair Ellie Householder, need to send that message to the council and hopefully, our mayor and mayor pro tem – who I expect the most out of – as well as the rest of the council will start using the honest figure of 89 sworn as the base and commit to budgeting and getting us the 111 sworn officers we were promised from Measure C. They definitely need to do it before they come back and ask us to renew it or worse, increase it. If the leaders won’t lead, the people need to lead them.

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The Payton Perspective: Antioch marijuana industry will hurt economic development, image efforts

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

By Allen Payton, Publisher

Tomorrow Saturday, March 24, the Antioch City Council will receive and consider a report about possible cannabis/marijuana businesses in town. No matter how much sales tax revenue it might create for our city, if they really want Antioch to improve the council needs to reject the idea.

First of all, with crime still being a problem for our community, the last thing Antioch needs is to add any kind of unnecessary burden to our understaffed police force. We’re down about 15 sworn officers from where we were promised we would be four years ago, at 111 under Measure C. Even with that many police, it will still leave us at less than one officer per 1,000 residents. Whether it’s legal or not, the criminal element surrounding the marijuana industry will still exist. We don’t want or need that in Antioch.

Also, while recreational and commercial marijuana uses are now legal in California as of Jan. 1st, as Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock has pointed out, they’re still illegal under federal law.

Second, the council has hired two different branding and marketing consultants to help make Antioch look better in the media, to help clean up the city’s public image. Approving any kind of marijuana businesses will work against that. Besides, it’s not the type of business we want to attract to our city and it could end up hurting our ability to attract better businesses and jobs. We don’t want or need Antioch to become known as the weed capital of the Delta or worse yet, the “Gourmet Ghetto of Cannabis Cuisine” as the city’s new branding consultant proposed as one of the five “Big Ideas” in their proposal.

Just as the Antioch BART Station is about to open, new upscale housing has and is being approved and can start being built on the south side of town, and the 200-acre commercial area between Slatten Ranch Shopping Center and the BART Station will soon open up with the extension of Slatten Ranch Road, Humphrey’s has a new owner and will open as a new restaurant with a new name, and downtown Rivertown is working to be revitalized, now is our time to seriously improve things in our city. But, marijuana businesses will undermine all those positive improvements.

The costs are too great, not just from a crime and financial standpoint, but they also include the negative impacts on users of marijuana and society in general. Medical marijuana is one thing. But, promoting it as a positive, commercial industry for our city is wrong and our mayor and council members need to reject it. What kind of message does it send to our young people and students? Not a good one. The other thing we don’t need is more dumbing down of our residents in light of the abysmal test scores of our public school children. Recent studies have shown the negative impacts on the brain of those who use marijuana. www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana

No matter how positive a light the report – produced by more consultants hired by the city (Cannabis Support Services) – tries to shed on a potential cannabis industry in Antioch, with photos of smiling sales people in a retail store, the negatives are clear. At least the report included some of those: “Future federal enforcement is unclear; Lobbying effort to eliminate all cannabis specific taxes (as with alcohol or tobacco); Traditional banking access still limited – asset seizure potential limits lending; Emerging cashless sales options are not fully tested; Continued impact of the black market; Economic stability of the commercial market; Public health and safety issues – DUI, CUD, development of adolescent brain; and Available internal and/or external resources.”

Plus, just because the majority of Antioch voters supported Prop. 64, which legalized both recreational and commercial marijuana uses, it doesn’t mean they wanted to allow those uses in our city. It’s like when the Indian casinos were approved by the voters. Most didn’t expect them to locate in town. But, rather somewhere “out there” on tribal land, where it wouldn’t directly and negatively affect us.

The council must reject this idea outright and stop wasting anymore of our tax dollars on pursuing it. They need to also tell the City’s new branding consultant, who also mentioned the cannabis industry in the principal’s presentation to the council, to scratch that idea off their list. They need to send a loud and clear message that Antioch is open for good businesses, only and not the marijuana industry.

Marijuana businesses are not what anyone had in mind in any of our city’s economic development plans, ever. The council and city staff need to look in a different, more responsible direction to help bring businesses and well-paying jobs to Antioch and increase the sales and property tax revenue that our city needs.

The council’s workshop will be held at the Antioch Community Center at Prewett Park beginning at 9:00 a.m.

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Antioch resident launches effort to raise funds to buy and train one police dog

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

As of 1:30 PM on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2017 eight people had contributed $2,295 to the effort begun on Monday.

Dear Editor:

I understand how busy you are and appreciate the time you take to read this note, people can truly make a difference when they want to!

I know most people would want to help someone if they could, it’s who we are. I am committed to helping and I want you to hear about what I’m doing. K9 Officers (dogs) are vitally important in today’s police work. Look at some of these facts:

  • K9 officers (dogs) have been used in law enforcement for centuries! They can perform a wide range of duties and services that even their human counterparts can’t accomplish.
  • A Police K9 office has an average career of 6 to 8 years.
  • A K9 can differentiate between identical twins.
  • A dog team can search an area 50 times faster than a human and can smell up to 500,000 times better with a much-enhanced degree of certainty. A dog could smell a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water.
  • A Police Dog Can Smell A Human Buried Up To 12 Feet Underground
  • K9 Officers Keep Billions of Dollars of Drugs Off Our Streets. On June 25, 2014, IOL News reported that one of the biggest drug busts of all time was performed by a K9 Unit.
  • K9 Dog Training Takes Approximately 10 Weeks
  • K9 Officers Perform Tracking, Narcotic Detection, Explosives Detection, Cadaver Detection, And Public Enforcement
  • Recently, K9s Have Been Trained to Sniff Out Electronics Like Hard Drives, Thumb Drives, And Other Pieces of Technology to Find Illegal Data
  • Each Police Dog Costs Approximately $20,000 to Obtain and Train. This does not include security vests. (Bullet proof vests). These can cost as much as $8,000. per K9 officer.
  • These dogs are a very valuable asset to any and all police departments. Some departments have a very robust program, and some are trying to get their program up and running.
  • Funding for police departments is not enough for all the needs and for what we, the public, ask police departments to do for us.

So, what does this have to do with you? Help with these dogs is needed.  Please read this article: https://www.mercurynews.com/2014/12/31/antioch-famed-police-k9-thor-passes-away/

During my training through a condensed police academy, I became aware of how much these K9 officers help a police department to protect and serve us, the public. Increasing the amount of working K9 officers WILL make a difference.

I have committed to purchase and train a new K9 and I’m asking you to join me in making this happen. Yes, donations are needed. Large or small, all will help. YOU can, save a life. YOU can find a missing child. YOU can, arrest a dangerous criminal.

You want to help? Great! By following this link https://www.gofundme.com/k9-purchase-antioch-police-dept by donating, you can make a difference! I appreciate all of you for being willing to partner with me in this very important fundraising need. My goal is to raise $28,000. and all money received from the GoFundMe Page will be donated. PLEASE DONATE.

Tim McCall

Antioch

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