Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Writer happy with Council’s choice of Bernal for Antioch City Manager

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Dear Editor:

I am extremely pleased that Mr. Bernal is now in the position of City Manager. I believe he will bridge the gap between citizens and city. I also support his plans to streamline reporting and drive to represent the best our city has to offer.

I spoke with Ron, last night and he demonstrated confidence and clarity on his direction for our City. I think the changes we made in November with our leadership and the changes yet to come under Bernal will bring this City back from the edge.

Thank you, Antioch City Council for the best decision yet this year.

Fred Rouse

Antioch

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Writer says sanctuary states, counties, cities and facilities are illegal, should be prosecuted

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Editor:

I believe that publicly financed “Sanctuary” States, Counties, Cities, and facilities for illegal immigrants are illegal, and they all should be prosecuted. In law one cannot harbor, assist, aid and abet, etc., anyone who has committed any criminal act – including of illegal immigrants. Those doing so are criminal “principals” under law, according to both state and federal laws.

The whole nonsense of allowing them to do so, under the guise of humanitarian and social necessity, are but criminally disguised acts that need to be brought to justice asap! We can no longer allow or justify the ‘bleeding hearts’ and illegal immigrants everywhere to dictate to us what is or is not legally right. They have to entirely be cut off from any related public funding, and now. And, any public cfficial criminally involved should immediately forfeit their position, and forever be barred from ever holding public office again.

Sure, give them their claimed “rights” to a prosecution and court system that America still has in place. Then they each should pay the ‘price’ for their violating our laws, to include incarceration, fines, and dispatching the illegals out of the USA. We must insist on upholding the laws against those who commit the crimes.

Ralph A. Hernandez

Antioch

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Payton Perspective: Officials must listen to the people and stop the Delta Tunnels

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

After watching and listening to the variety of East County and Bay Area residents speak out against the Delta Tunnels at the meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council in Brentwood on Thursday, March 23, 2017, one thing is clear, we don’t want them. All they will do is damage the Delta and the region in which we live. So how is that good stewardship of the Delta?

The proposed tunnels are referred to as conveyances. Well we already have two water conveyances, they’re called the San Joaquin River which flows north into and through the Delta and the Sacramento River which flows south. The two natural, God created conveyances we call rivers, meet at Antioch whose current slogan is the “Gateway to the Delta.”

Plus, there’s another man-made conveyance, known as the California Aqueduct that’s been sending water from Northern California and the Central Valley to Southern California for decades.  We don’t need another two, huge water conveyances to move the water from, around or under the Delta to Southern California.

Speaker after speaker who stood in line in the standing room only meeting – from residents, to activists, to Realtors, to those who fish and others who earn a living off the Delta – opposed the tunnels as the solution to water supply in the state. Instead they suggested more storage, such as maximizing the use of existing reservoirs and building more, and desalination.

One speaker, who said he is a native Californian with three daughters, offered the definition of stewardship which includes “the responsible overseeing of something worth preserving.” Two more speakers challenged the council members on the meaning of stewardship, as well.

“Tell the governor the people in this room know the difference between fresh water and salt water,” said another speaker. “For every gallon of fresh water we divert south, a gallon of salt water comes up the Delta.”

Salt water has encroached all the way to and past Antioch, which has the lowest intakes on the Delta and last year had to purchase 95% of its raw water from the Contra Costa Water District. The city has pre-1914 rights to the river allowing it to pump pretty much whatever amount of water needed for use by residents and businesses in the city. But, during the drought, and it’s believed that if the tunnels are built, those rights no longer mean anything, as there was and will no longer be enough or any fresh water to pump. So, if the salt water has already reached Antioch before the tunnels have been built, it can easily reach other parts of the Delta, if they are.

Assemblyman Jim Frazier had a representative read a letter from him at the meeting, in opposition to the conveyance system, or tunnels.

His letter mentioned the 2009 Delta Reform Act which established co-equal goals of “providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem” and that the proposed conveyance system barely touches on protection of the Delta.

A former Orange County, CA resident said “do the right thing. We want to preserve the Delta for our children.”

One speaker at the meeting got a bit animated. Screenshot from Cal-Span.org website

The final speaker asked “does anyone in this room want the tunnels?”

“No” was the loud reply.

The Council hasn’t yet made their final recommendation on whether the twin tunnels will be the solution to the conveyance of our water. So, there’s still time for the public to give input.

You can provide your comments using the online form at http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/contact-us. All written submissions will be posted on the website at www.deltacouncil.ca.gov. If you were unable to watch or attend the Thursday meeting in Brentwood, the webcast will be available on the website, as well.

Meetings of the Delta Stewardship Council in Sacramento on April 27th and 28th will be the next opportunity to give live, in-person input to the Council and for them to review the progress on the process. It will be held at Park Tower Plaza, 980 Ninth Street, 2nd Floor Conference Center in Sacramento.

In addition, in the future, as was said by Council Member and Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson, the Council needs to hold their meetings for the public at night. They can also be held on a Saturday and in a larger venue, so more people can attend.

We must stand united and continue to fight the Delta Tunnels to keep them from being built and damaging the ecosystem of the Delta and the adjacent region where we call home. Hopefully those charged with the stewardship of the Delta will hear us and recommend against the tunnels.

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OP-ED: Antioch Mayor offers his comments on the dismissal of city manager

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

By Dr. Sean Wright, Mayor of Antioch

The statement below represents my thoughts as Antioch’s mayor, not the city council’s.

Elections bring about change that inspires new direction, fresh philosophies and reenergized hope. Here in Antioch, the recent city council election stirred a renewed sense of civic passion among a community that wants to see things improve.  Volunteers are stepping up in greater numbers to serve on city commissions. Through phone calls, emails and meetings, more and more citizens are voicing their desire to help.  Our city has a phenomenal window of opportunity to take advantage of a growing economy, the expansion of eBart, and the completion of Highway 4. With this groundswell of community support behind us, I have never been more excited about Antioch’s future.

However, change often causes tensions to arise. Our electorate voted for change, and newly elected leaders such as myself pushed for change.  Quite simply, I feel the city manager failed to support us in our efforts. In fact, he was recently quoted in a newspaper article as saying that “They need to stay in their lane,” “they” referring to members of the city council. Such a statement, I believe, reflects our former city manager’s belief that the city council needs to follow his lead, when in fact, the manager serves at the pleasure of the city council.

It is not the role of a city manager to control city council. That is not the way the system is supposed to work. Citizens elect councilmembers to represent their interests in city hall, and councilmembers set the policies for the city. As an unelected “at will” employee, the city manager’s only duty is to implement those policies. When the manager begins establishing his own policies, he is the one who has strayed from his “lane.”

The bottom line here is that the city council and our former manager disagreed with the role a city manager should play. Even if the manager had acted in good faith in doing what he felt was required of his position, the law allows the elected city council to dismiss their appointed city manager. That’s what it means to serve at the pleasure of the city council and to be an “at will” employee.

I wish Mr. Duran all the luck in the world, and harbor no ill feelings toward him at all.

While the city council’s decision moves the city forward in a positive direction, unfortunately, there will be a short-term cost. However, I firmly believe that the long-term gains are worth it. Our citizens did not vote for the status quo—they demanded change. Right now, we are creating a cohesive team capable of working together to take advantage of the amazing opportunities in front of us. As a council, it’s our duty to move forward quickly so that Antioch can finally begin achieving its potential.

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Op-Ed: Antioch residents invited to speak up about development at two community forums

Monday, March 6th, 2017

The Moderate Growth proposed land use map for the Sand Creek Focus Area.

Information to clear up confusion on details of Sand Creek Focus Area Specific Plan Update

By Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe

I understand that as a city government, we have horrible track record of not meaningfully engaging residents in determining our future. This has fueled a lot of uncertainty and misunderstanding in recent weeks about potential housing developments, particularly in the area south of Lone Tree Drive. Many residents have asked me, “Why is the Antioch City Council approving a 4,000 unit housing development within the Sand Creek area?!” The short answer—we’re not. However, a proper answer requires more explanation.

First, I want to reiterate what I said during my campaign. I’m still a huge proponent of fair and equitable smart-growth policies, preserving open-space and land-locking Antioch to place pressure on developers to reinvest in the city’s older communities. We’re already seeing this happen. Right now, the city is reviewing two mixed-use development projects near BART, Highway 4 and Delta Fair Blvd – an area that desperately needs reinvestment.

That being said, the last major portion of developable land in Antioch is what we in City Hall call the Sand Creek Focus Area (SCFA). According to our general plan (the city’s blueprint for development, mandated by state law), the SCFA is a large-scale planned community that balances housing and employment opportunities. Below is an image of the SCFA, which extends from the Brentwood border to East Bay Regional Parks. This is about the distance between Lowe’s and the Contra Loma Regional Park entrance.

Right now, there’s a lot of talk about what will happen in the SCFA, but the area itself has been a focus of the city for decades. In 2003, the city council then determined that up to 4,000 housing units would be allowed within the SCFA. They also determined that 280 acres of the SCFA would be dedicated for job generating uses, such as business parks, mixed-use medical facilities, and commercial space. The construction of Kaiser Hospital and Dozier Libbey Medical High fulfilled a portion of this goal. For those of us concerned with over-development, the 4,000 number was actually an improvement. Before 2003, the city envisioned 8,000 new housing units for the area.

Of those 4,000 new housing units, the previous city council, (under former mayor Wade Harper), already approved about 1,200 units for two developments east (going towards Brentwood) of Deer Valley Road: Vineyards at Sand Creek, is a 641-unit, upscale, gated community that will be serviced by Brentwood Union School District; and Aviano Farms, a single-family market rate community of 533 residential units to be served by Antioch Unified School District. Aviano Farms was initially approved in 2005 (yes, 12 years ago) as an adult community, but the previous city council re-designated the project. For the record, I didn’t like this change. We need senior housing in Antioch to balance our youth population—plus senior housing has less impact on traffic, schools and police services.

Together, these projects constitute 1,174 new residential housing units, or roughly 30 percent of the 4,000 allowable housing units in the SCFA. Keep in mind, both these communities will be either adjacent or very close to the Brentwood border. It is estimated that 75 percent of sales taxes paid by future Vineyards residents will go to the City of Brentwood because of its proximity to Sand Creek Road, which includes popular attractions like the Streets of Brentwood.

That means there’s only about 2,800 allowable units left in the SCFA, not 4,000. Which brings me to present day and what the Antioch City Council is considering.

The council is not being asked to approve a project. On February 14, we only reviewed recommendations by city staff to update the general plan, so we could specifically deal with the remaining 2,800 housing units. This update also includes the percentage of open space, preservation of hillsides and hilltops, and how to fairly distribute the remaining housing units. Please understand, updating a city’s general plan happens every five years or so. Antioch’s general plan has not seen any major changes since 2003.

At the Feb. 14 meeting, the council directed staff to bring back this matter at a later date so that we could have time to hear from the community.

Following the meeting, Save Mt. Diablo and other environmental groups held a February 23 event at Prewett Community Park to address projects that have been proposed but have not yet been approved for the SCFA. I attended this event and listened to the concerns of residents. I was impressed with how many turned out to this event.

However, there seems to be some confusion, which is why I wrote this article and invite you to attend my listening forums so that I can get feedback from you about the proposed Sand Creek Focus Area updates. In addition, I’ll be posting the presentation by our Community Development Director, Forrest Ebbs, on my Facebook page so that you can see his presentation and offer me feedback using social media starting on March 16th.

Thursday, March 16th, 7-8:30pm

Saturday, March 18th at 10-11:30am

Lone Tree Elementary School, 1931 Mokelumne Drive, Antioch

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Writer says Community Choice Energy alternative will create jobs in the county

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Editor:

Contra Costa County will be in direct coalition to Community Choice Energy (CCE) a sustainable choice to cleaner energy usage. They are pleased to announce their plans to bring more unionized jobs that will benefit the CCCounty.

This local renewable build out scenario, would involve a significant number of mostly unionized and non-union hires.  Also, a potential for 40% of the local build out will be near the Northern Waterfront in Concord area. In return this will be a huge deal for those looking to get hired in today’s economy. As the plans are underway to figure out the details there will be more to come on this future project.

Keep posted for more information regarding the Community Choice Energy (CCE) unionized jobs for hire and their announcements.

Lynette Robinson

San Pablo

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Writer impressed with Antioch Council’s response to renewable energy presentation

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Dear Editor:

I was really impressed by the strong emphasis the Antioch City Council members put on job creation and local renewable energy production in the questions they asked after the presentation this week of Community Choice Energy programs. Antioch has it all: alert elected council members, residents who want clean jobs, acres of land that can be developed, and a huge electrical load (usage) as a bargaining chip.

Carol Weed

Walnut Creek

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Coalition upset County Supervisors eliminated Community Choice Energy option

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Following is the letter submitted by a coalition of supporters of the Community Choice Energy program:

The CCE Draft Technical Study and the Need for Fuller Consideration of All Studied Options

Dear Members of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors:

We, the undersigned, represent organizations that have been following the progress made by the cities and County of Contra Costa as they decide how to implement Community Choice Energy. We do not share a preference for any one of the three options outlined in the Draft Technical Study, but we do share the following concerns about the adequacy of that study and the public process that has unfolded in its aftermath.

1) We are highly critical of the current Draft Technical Study prepared by MRW, as well as the very cursory presentations made by the county and the consultants. Neither the study nor the presentations include enough necessary information or the specificity of detail required in order for the cities and the County to make fully informed decisions with lifelong consequences. To cite one such example, when addressing the very basic question of risks associated with the startup costs, the study actually neglects to mention that to date, all CCEs in California have paid back their loans in less than a year.

2) We are, moreover, extremely troubled by the premature decision of the Board of Supervisors on January 17, 2017, to eliminate the stand-alone Community Choice Energy option, which the draft study identified (in Table ES-5) as offering the “greatest” amount of local governance and local economic benefit. The decision to exclude the in-county (stand-alone) option unnecessarily limits the choices offered to residents and businesses in unincorporated areas of the County, and preempts input from leaders, residents, and businesses in the incorporated cities before they have had the opportunity to question and comment on the study. Seven cities contributed to the study’s cost and are entitled to one that fully addresses the impacts to their respective cities—e.g., what amount of buildout is reasonably possible in the Concord Naval Weapons Depot over a ten-year period, and what its economic impact would be. We therefore urge you to reconsider your decision to remove the in-county option from consideration.

3) We would like to know why neither the Contra Costa study nor the presentations have answered this fairly simple question: Why did the study for Alameda County done by the same MRW Consulting firm give a much more robust analysis of the economic benefits of local buildout?

4) We would also like to know why, if the technical studies of six other Bay Area counties (Sonoma, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Yolo) show the stand-alone option to be superior, this would not also be the case in Contra Costa.

5) Unfortunately, the Draft Feasibility Study does not enable the reader to determine which option, in the choice between MCE and EBCE, might result in the greater buildout and job development within Contra Costa. In fact, the study does not indicate that any such buildout or job development will occur by joining either MCE or EBCE. We strongly encourage the county to communicate with both MCE and EBCE about these issues.

Attached is a letter from Scott Rafferty addressing in much more detail some additional concerns about missing or misrepresented facts in the current Contra Costa Draft Technical Study, including the paucity of current information about MCE. This is not an attempt to indicate that MCE is a bad choice, but rather to point out that relevant information about MCE that is available to the public is not included in the draft study. We understand that information about both a stand-alone option and EBCE is necessarily limited because neither yet exists.

Here are some of the points that Scott Rafferty makes:

a) He agrees with MCE’s criticisms that the analyst provides “scant analysis of MCE’s operational program,” and “no analysis” of MCE’s local renewable program, customer-sited solar, job creation, and other benefits. But despite some impressive claims about past performance, MCE doesn’t really provide much insight into its forward-looking plan. He suggests that MCE may bring more legacy costs than synergies to our county.

b) MCE wants credit for $4.6m in subsidies from the CPUC for energy development (that have already been fully committed to programs in Richmond or outside CCC). An independent CC-CCE program would probably be better positioned to seek equivalent subsidies from CPUC than MCE would be in getting them increased proportionally, which MCE does not suggest is likely.

c) He argues that the Supervisors have relied too heavily on the consultant’s analysis of the more obvious “first order” effects of piggybacking on MCE—less “effort” and greater risk on “start-up costs,” which the consultant concedes are small. The risk to which the BOS is averse, therefore, might be political. If things go awry, they can share responsibility with the existing local bodies.

d) He also rejects MCE’s notion that El Cerrito and Richmond have an identity of interests with the rest of CCC or that there will be brand confusion. On the contrary, they share the climate and rate structure of Marin and Oakland, which is very different from the rest of Contra Costa County and Alameda east of the I-680.

e) Neither MCE nor, at this stage, our BOS has clear direction on how to weigh competing objectives—low electric rates, GHG mitigation, progressive rate design (including low-income and residential preferences), job creation and economic benefits, worker and public safety and service reliability. MCE is self-regulating and subject to very significant shifts in voting power.

f) The jury is still out on MCE’s effectiveness in dealing with regulators. It settled very quickly with PG&E in a pending rate case, with limited concessions for clean energy or consumer rate relief. At the state level, two voices will likely have more clout than one—a statement MCE itself has made.

g) As the Governor’s attempts at CAISO regionalization have made clear, larger geographic scale does not always increase the GHG benefits. Neither MCE nor the consultants have yet developed a measure of environmental benefit that accurately accommodates displacement to PG&E and other utilities.

For all the above reasons, we strongly urge the Board of Supervisors to reconsider what we believe was a premature narrowing of the choices. We request that more complete information be shared in future presentations, especially as regards the potential for local buildout and the economic benefits of each of the three proposed CCE choices, and that the final technical study include far more concrete information which the cities will need to make a truly informed choice.

Very sincerely yours,
Peter Ericson
Contra Costa Clean Energy Alliance
Lynda Deschambault
Generation Green / Contra Costa County Climate Leaders (4CL)
Peter Dragovich
Contra Costa Progressives
Bill Pinkham
350 Bay Area
Shoshana Wechsler
Sunflower Alliance
Péllo Walker
Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce Green Group
Carol Weed
Contra Costa Chapter Organizing for Action
Jan Warren
Interfaith Climate Action Network of Contra Costa County

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