Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Letter writer agrees with commentary against Delta Tunnels, wants more good news

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

Editor:

I appreciate the posting of this commentary by the Antioch Herald and look forward to much more factual news and commentaries regarding the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary in future publications. What happens with the water that passes through the river by Antioch is of utmost importance to every Antioch citizen.

Like the consistent reportings of killings, robberies, etc. in Antioch from the Herald, I encourage civic articles related to civic government and leaders, our environmental resources to water, clean air and utilities, healthcare issues in Antioch, issues that are addressing the homeless, highlighting leadership that is actually changing the way the Council operates to enhance business growth, stop spending dollars on the same-ole (the raise to city workers-excuse me, they, too should pull in their belts-and do the work that they are hired to do).

Antioch at this point is now as a high-crime area, government that is running as they did in the good ole days. This city is large in population, most of its residents are in cars for hours getting to and from work. How could they engage in this community? They are exhausted.

Yet the beat goes on for the 12 years I have been a resident. Many have moved and will move including me. I am not a killer, robber, pay good taxes, have pride in my home and neighborhood though many living right by me don’t. Please help change the “culture and thus image” of Antioch, CA.

Linda Soliven

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Guest Commentary: Single tunnel option not a quick fix for the Delta

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

By Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore The Delta

These are not good times for Governor Brown’s Delta Tunnels (WaterFix) proposal.

The twin 40-foot-diameter, 30-mile-long tunnels would harvest Sacramento River water before it flows through the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. A vast majority of this water would be sent to Big Ag operations like The Wonderful Company in the Southern San Joaquin Valley. It will destroy the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.

But as the San Francisco Chronicle recently editorialized, “The tunnel project, now marketed to Californians as WaterFix, lacks community trust and political will and is saddled with a $16 billion (and growing) price tag that appears much larger than water agencies are willing to pay.

“Water districts, rural users, and entire cities like San Diego and Santa Monica are starting to question the wisdom or affordability of such a big project that does not deliver one new drop of new water.
“This November, a coalition of conservation and public interest organizations sent a letter to the Obama administration asking them to terminate the proposal so his legacy isn’t dragged down by a financial and environmental nightmare. The groups explain how the next administration will blame the boondoggle on Obama. They will say:
“We inherited the WaterFix from the previous administration and presumed that they knew what they were doing and had fully evaluated the project in good faith when they determined it should go forward.”
As environmental and financial obstacles continue to mount for the proposal, California water policy wonks are now scrambling for a viable Plan B.

The influential Public Policy Institute of California recently took a step back from support for the Twin Tunnels and offered a scaled back, Plan B. In an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee they offer, A Grand Compromise for the Delta.
PPIC now proposes a smaller plan they believe can settle the water wars over the Bay-Delta. Their proposal includes one-tunnel, managing water flows for entire ecosystems not just specific species, strengthening Delta levees, and letting communities tap into tunnel water supplies where local water is salty.

Restore the Delta is certainly encouraged the Public Policy Institute of California has backed down from support for the highly destructive Twin Delta Tunnels proposal. But the scaled-back project the PPIC now proposes is a completely different and new project. Before it can be analyzed, we still need to figure out how much water the Delta needs to maintain ecological health for the communities who live there and the species who depend on a healthy estuary.

The State Water Board’s flow hearings for the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers must be completed before any project can be analyzed.

Independent fishery experts now say that the San Joaquin River needs at least 50 percent unimpaired flows to stop extinction and achieve legally required doubling goals for salmon.

Any new tunnel proposal would, we hope, include a more comprehensive public scoping process so as to include Delta environmental justice communities, made up of hundreds of thousands of residents. We would also hope for a more transparent environmental and economic review process with better science and better public debate than what was put forth for the current Delta Tunnels proposal. CA WaterFix touts hundreds of meetings over the last ten years, but most were never properly noticed to Delta communities for meaningful participation.

If, indeed, support for the Big Twin Tunnels project is fading, let’s kill that proposal once and for all. Californians who voted in 1982 against the Peripheral Canal assumed we had made that decision long ago.
In an era of climate change and shrinking snowpack in the Sierra, less snowmelt means that by the time the expensive Twin Tunnels project would be finished, it may sit empty most of the time. The same may be true for one tunnel.  We don’t know yet.

Instead, we should invest in California’s water future. Southern California already taking the lead on the cutting edge of a water technology. Stormwater harvesting, conservation, water recycling, and groundwater recharging are reducing the need for imported water to the Southland. Many of these ideas can be found in a report titled A Sustainable Water Plan for California by the Environmental Water Caucus.

The Delta Tunnels, even a scaled back version, may not be the best use of limited funds. Let’s kill off the big Delta Tunnels plan once and for all. Then we can redirect those funds to create local jobs that build water sustainability by adding new water into the system. That is the path to provide real security for California’s future.

Originally published by KCET, December 19, 2016. Republished with permission. Commentaries are the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KCETLink.

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Op/Ed: School Board’s Rocketship vote was “watershed event” for Antioch

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

By Dr. Lamont A. Francies

Last Wednesday, in what was truly a watershed event for the city of Antioch, the Antioch Unified School District Board of Education voted 3-2 to approve the application by Rocketship Education to open a public, elementary, charter school in our town.  A multicultural coalition of community members turned out in large number to support a better future for our children. The community rejected the soft bigotry of low expectations often placed on students of color, and instead advocated for educational opportunity for all, not just those with the economic means to obtain a better option for their children.

The night was not about reproving teachers, but improving students. The decision gave parents options when facing educational obstacles. We can no longer afford to be more interested in saving schools than saving the children that actually occupy them. For people of color, education has long been a ticket to freedom, a ladder out of the pit of poverty, thus making it the civil rights issue of our time. African-Americans seeking a better life have been proponents of school choice since the days of slavery.  They created Freedom Schools, now the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which rebelled against Jim Crow and economic exploitation.

In the end, though, enough Board members recognized that the conversation had to change.  This wasn’t about good versus bad teachers, but a lack of viable options, a lack of real choices, a lack of competition that has resulted in a system that, for too long, has simply become, “a pipeline to prison” for many young people in our community.

Too many of our schools have become failure factories more interested in filling seats than filling minds.  Wednesday night was about breaking up the bureaucracy and giving parents today the choice for a better tomorrow. In 2016, failure is no longer an option, good intent must be replaced by better outcomes. The arrival of high performing schools is good for all mediums of education in Antioch because at the end of the day: rising tides lift all boats.

Francies is a former counselor in the Antioch school district and pastor of Delta Bay Church of Christ in Antioch.

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Payton Perspective: Competition breeds excellence including in education and Antioch needs it now, more than ever

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Payton Perspective logo 2015By Allen Payton

There’s an old saying that competition breeds excellence. Why? Because when you compete to win, you’re forced to become better and hopefully, better than your competition, whether it’s in sports, business, politics or, yes, even in education.

Yet, the education establishment and lobby, made up mostly of teachers, administrators and those on the left of the political spectrum in America, California and in Antioch, who have had a hold on education policy for far too long (and how’s that been working for our children?) in general, oppose competition in education. They prefer that all students are educated in government-run schools, where they can be indoctrinated and taught what to learn, not necessarily how to learn. They also want to ensure the money will continue to flow based on how many behinds are in the seats, regardless of whether or not the student gets advanced on to the next grade without mastering what was taught in their current grade level, and then graduating and being sent out into the world, sometimes without even being able to read or write properly.

And they really hate being proven inferior in what and how they teach our children, and just can’t admit it when something or someone else does it better.

They clearly oppose vouchers in K-12 education, giving parents the choice of where best to spend their own tax dollars and send their children to whichever school they want. Yet, that’s exactly what happens with the federal Pell Grant at the college level. If it’s good enough and has been working fine for years at that level, why isn’t it good enough at the K-12 level of education? That makes no sense to me.

The education establishment has learned to live with public charter schools started by a school district. But, they and others on the left, with their nanny-state mentality think they can run our lives better than we can and spend our money better than we can. They also think they can educate our children better than the parents can or private schools, including those run by religious institutions. They complain that it’s not fair that the better and more well-off students get to escape the failing, public institutions and leave the rest of the lower performing students behind.

But, now they’re even opposed to the private, non-profit organizations that run public charter schools, which receive and use public tax dollars. That’s in spite of the fact those schools, like Rocketship’s are taking some of the lowest-performing students and helping them advance at a much faster rate, to where they out perform their former classmates.

Those schools are one of the ways  the leaders on the left in our state government have been willing to compromise on the issue, to allow for competition and choice in education to ensure  a better one for our students. But, the education establishment and lobby still opposes them and will say and do whatever is necessary to keep them from being approved. Since they can’t win their argument on the merits, they have to come up with other reasons to oppose the more successful programs and schools, like Rocketship’s, such as their charter petition isn’t acceptable or that they can’t achieve what they claim.

Really? Have they not seen the statistics of students in the Rocketship schools? Are they choosing to ignore the facts?

What makes me scratch my head is that those same individuals on the left usually support choice when it comes to killing children before they’re born through abortion on demand and now, even government funding of abortion, but not when it comes to educating them? That makes no sense to me, either.

First of all, they’re our children and grandchildren, not the government’s, the teachers, the faculty’s or the staff’s. Second, the primary educators in children’s lives are their parents or whoever is raising them, be it a guardian or grandparent, not the government, nor the teachers, faculty or staff of any school. They are merely agents of the parents, etc.  who are contracted to educate the children during the time they have them each school day. I recognize that not all parents do a good job and just want and expect the public schools to educate their children for them. On the other hand, many parents want a better education for their children, but don’t have the time or ability to home-school them or the means to send them to a private, parochial school and need an option like Rocketship.

Even Antioch’s own Tom Torlakson, a former Antioch Unified teacher and now the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, recognizes that fact and was instrumental in approving Rocketship’s newest charter school in Concord in the Mt. Diablo School District, earlier this year. Interestingly enough, he was backed for office by the California Education Association, the state teachers’ union. It’s time for Tom’s friends and supporters to join him in recognizing what’s best for Antioch’s and California’s public school students.

With the abysmal performance of the students in Antioch elementary schools, we need Rocketship, now more than ever and many parents want the choice of their better performing schools.  Hopefully, our school district can learn a thing or two from Rocketship and apply their better practices, for the benefit of all Antioch students, not just those fortunate enough to win the lottery that will be held for students to be included in their new school.

Frankly, while I don’t expect it, seeing who was backed by the local teachers and staff in the most recent election, the bottom line is if the five current Antioch School Board Trustees really care about the education of the students in the district – as they each claim, – they will ignore the district staff’s opposition, and all vote “yes” on Rocketship’s petition, Wednesday night. Anything else is just pandering to a special interest group and not voting in the best interest of the students, their parents or the public.

While my only child, who is a product of a mix of both private and public schools in Antioch, is an adult, now – and he hasn’t yet married and given me any grandchildren, who attend Antioch public schools (but that’s OK, because I’m far too young to be a grandfather), from a self-interest standpoint, I and others without children or grandchildren in district schools will benefit by an improved education for the students. Because, where there are better schools, property values increase, which results in greater property taxes being paid to our city, which results in more and hopefully, better city services, including more police and Code Enforcement, without tax increases, which will reduce crime and blight in Antioch. That will in turn attract executives and business owners to our city to buy the new homes that have recently been approved, and who will bring their businesses and create local jobs in town, so fewer of our residents will have to commute to work. Those folks, in turn will be home earlier each work night, and available to their children and able to be more involved in the community.

So, we all have a stake in improving the education of students in Antioch schools and it can and needs to be an upward spiral, instead of the downward one we’ve been experiencing for the past 10 years.

In Proverbs 27:17 in the Bible it is written “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” So, even working with someone can make you better and it doesn’t always require competition. That’s what needs to happen in the case of Rocketship’s charter school petition. Right now, with Antioch’s proficiency levels in math and English among elementary students being so low, in fact the lowest in school districts in East County, anything that’s proven successful, that can and will improve the education of the students in our district, must be done.

So, instead of working against Rocketship with their proven success rate, the Antioch Unified School District should be working with them. Sure they’re imperfect and can most likely improve on what and how they do things, and can even perhaps learn from things that Antioch schools do different and better. But, Rocketship schools are doing much better than the schools in Antioch and I’d say there’s more for Antioch to learn and benefit from if the relationship is consummated, Wednesday night.

One thing must be said about the recent election and Rocketship’s involvement in it. I don’t appreciate the fact that at least one Rocketship Board member chose to make a contribution to each of Fernando Navarro’s and Alonzo Terry’s campaigns, giving an appearance of an attempt to influence the vote, fodder for their opponents to use it as a sign of some kind of lack of integrity on both the candidates part and Rocketship’s part, and serving to publicly embarrass the candidates. I would advise Rocketship’s CEO and Founder to ensure that doesn’t happen again. How foolish can he and his board members be? What were they thinking would happen?

But, on the other hand, they were small contributions of $125 each and Terry chose to return the contribution to his campaign, and there was nothing illegal about it. At the same time, anyone who opposed those two candidates or uses that as a basis to oppose Rocketship’s charter petition, or expect Navarro – who didn’t return the contribution to his campaign – to recuse himself from the vote, better be consistent and have the same opinion of the candidates backed financially by the Antioch teachers and staff, from whom they received much more money, when it comes time for a vote on their next contracts.

In words similar to what Moses said to Pharoah, when demanding the release of the Israelites from their captivity and enslavement, I say to the school board – “let our students go.” So, my encouragement to the Trustees is to vote for choice in education, vote for competition, vote for excellence, and vote yes on the Rocketship petition.

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Op/Ed: Why I support Rocketship – students’ and civil rights

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

By Argentina Dávila-Luévano

Earlier this month, I attended a hearing on the petition by Rocketship Education to open a public, elementary, charter school in Antioch. The meeting was attended by about one hundred supporters, mostly families, and mostly African-Americans and Hispanics. It was also attended by about fifty teachers and school district staff who opposed the petition, primarily members of the Antioch Education Association (AEA) and other union members.

I have a long history of supporting organized labor. I believe it is a fundamental right of workers to be able to band together for the purpose of collective bargaining. Because of my history as an advocate of workers’ rights, and my continuing efforts on behalf of workers, I’m sure many were surprised to see me supporting a petition that the local teachers’ union so strongly opposes.

So, why do I support Rocketship? First, I don’t see this as an issue of workers’ rights. I see it as an issue of children’s rights, and, more than that, as an issue of civil rights. The fact is, our public schools are failing our students, especially students of color and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The ability to obtain a high-quality education is one of the most important, if not the most important, factors that contributes to children achieving their potential. But for years, the great majority of students in the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) have not been able to achieve even basic proficiency in core subjects.

Without changes to curriculum and other elements of pedagogy, instead of student success, we’ll continue to have the same results.

Families who are better off have other choices. They send their kids to private schools. They get  them into charter schools, even if they must make long commutes to do so. Indeed, some of the  opponents of Rocketship talked about having their children in charter schools. Many families, though, don’t have another option. Their children are stuck in the local public  school, even though it might spend years on the state’s list as low-performing.

All families should have a chance at their children receiving a first-rate education, not just those  who can afford it. Rocketship helps make that happen, as they’ve proven repeatedly by opening  schools in some of the worst-performing areas in the country, and finally providing children with  the chance that only their well-to-do peers previously had. They’re getting results, as has been repeatedly verified.

We can’t afford to leave vast segments of our community without better educational options. Let’s give our parents a choice for something better. Let’s give our students a real chance at success. I urge the AUSD school board to put our children first…and to vote yes on Rocketship.

Dávila-Luévano has a bachelor’s degree in Social Work – Child Welfare and is President of the California Leadership Institute.

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Editorial: Antioch residents just got a big lump of coal in our stocking, thanks to the Grinches on the City Council

Monday, December 5th, 2016

By Allen Payton, Publisher & Editor

Just as we entered the holiday season, and Antioch residents were preparing for Thanksgiving, they got an early Christmas present from the city council, in the form of a big lump of coal in our stocking, when they unanimously voted for the new contracts for all city employees – tentatively.

Repeating Past Mistakes

What the mayor, council members and city manager have demonstrated is their failure to learn from the mistakes of the past. Here’s a little reminder of recent city history, if you’re not familiar. First, in the early 2000’s the city council approved the 3% at age 50 retirement benefit for police, which is explained below. Then, in 2007, the city council approved a rich and unusually long, six-year contract for the police. That was followed by the economic downturn in 2008, which created the situation we’re currently in and the hole in police staffing the city has been digging out of, ever since.

But, it was the rest of the city staff who took the hit, with a 10% pay cut, with an equal 10% reduction in work time, while, by the way, cutting out 20% of city time available to the public with the Furlough Fridays.

Two Tax Increases

So, we the people gave them two tax increases in the forms of Measure C’s half-cent sales tax and Measure O’s rental property business license fee, to use to get out of the hole.

Yet, even after the current council staff was put back to work full time, ending the 10% cut in pay and work, at the beginning of last year, they also got an additional 3% pay raise at that time. Still, the council voted to give them all another 4.5% pay raise plus increases to their benefits packages, in the new contracts.

Unfulfilled Promise to the People

Now, while the council members may be acting like Santa Claus to the city employees, they’re acting like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas to the taxpaying residents of Antioch because we’re the ones paying the bill. We’re the ones who don’t have the 22 more police officers we were promised “immediately” by soon to be former Mayor Wade Harper and all council members, including Mary Rocha, Monica Wilson and Tony Tiscareno, (except for current Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock who wasn’t on the council at the time) in the ballot argument they all signed in the summer of 2013, in favor of Measure C, if we passed it – which we did.

Instead, they’ve only given us a net seven more police officers and it took them three years to accomplish. At that rate, we won’t have the other 15 additional officers on the force for another six plus years, long after Measure C will have expired. Of course they’ll tell you they’ve given us an additional 14 officers, because they’ve chosen to conveniently use the figure of 82 sworn officers as the base figure, which the city had in November, 2013 at the end of the Measure C campaign, rather than the 89 Antioch had at the beginning, which is the figure Harper and the council members used in their ballot argument.

But, even using their manipulated base figure of 82, they still owe us another eight sworn officers, for a total of 104, which at the current pace, will take another three and a half years to achieve. That brings up the question, since they owe us 104, why have they only included 102 sworn officers in the annual budget? It’s just more game playing with Measure C money, the budget, our tax dollars and city staffing.

Yet, Ogorchock is aware of the promise for 22 additional police officers, and has the responsibility for helping the city achieve it for we the people – for whom they’re all supposed to be working. Plus, she voted along with the rest of them for these irresponsible contracts. So she needs to be held accountable on this, as well.

Furthermore, the fact that all the contracts extend beyond Measure C’s sunset, four years from now, is another aspect of what makes them wrong.

Politics Played on Contract Timing

What’s also wrong with the contracts is that they weren’t completed and approved in a timely manner. Instead of the council directing Duran to finalizing the negotiations and the council taking their vote before the contracts expired on August 31st and September 30th, when what is in the contracts could have been revealed to the public before the November 8th election, Duran and Harper – whom together set what is on each agenda – chose to wait until the next meeting on November 22nd to place them on the agenda. The fact that the contracts were voted on by a lame duck city council, during the week of a major holiday when most people are focused on getting ready for the holiday weekend or already gone on vacation having taken the entire week off, shows a serious lack of integrity and transparency.

Even if they didn’t intentionally delay finalizing the contracts and placing them on the agenda until after the election, which is clearly how it appears, then it’s just plain mismanagement of the process and a demonstration of incompetence. Either way it’s unacceptable. But, come on. They knew that if the voters were made aware of what is in the contracts before the election, none of the incumbents would have stood a chance of being re-elected or even close to it, as in the mayor’s race.

It’s Our Government & Money

What they all have failed to recognize is that it’s our government and our money they’re spending. The council members put the commitments they made to the various employee groups, including the one to the Antioch Police Officers Association – who, not surprisingly rewarded Harper, Rocha and Wilson by endorsing them for re-election in November – above their commitment to the people to give us the 22 more cops.

That commitment should have been fulfilled, first and still needs to be. They need to give Police Chief Allan Cantando whatever resources he needs to hire the rest of the 15 additional officers, now.

I’m sick and tired of politicians over-promising and under-delivering, especially when it comes to taxes. Here’s another bit of Antioch history, which this council is ignoring and could learn from – and it’s my own mistake as well as a success, during my time on the city council.

In 1994, during my first year in office, I along with three other council members, including Rocha, voted for a 1.9% utility tax to pay for 19 more police officers. Knowing it was going to pass without my vote, anyway, I tried to get the council to agree to look at the budget before it went into effect that July 1st and then have a vote by the people on it, that November. So with their agreements I voted for it. But, even after I presented a budget cut plan developed with the help of 45 Antioch residents, to eliminate the tax and still hire 14 more police, the other three council members rejected it. Plus they voted against funding a ballot measure in November for the public’s approval. Fortunately, the council unanimously approved my budget cut plan later that year, but the recall still went to the ballot. A majority of the voters recognized what I had done for them, that I had learned my lesson, so to speak and I was able to beat the recall. The other council member who voted for the tax increase and also faced recall, defended her vote and the tax, and she lost her recall election.

The city ended up hiring the 19 additional officers during my remaining three years on the council, and we did it without a tax increase, by reprioritizing city spending, trying to reach the goal of 1.2 officers per thousand. But, we never reached it, bringing us to 85 sworn officers on the force by the end of 1998, with about 85,000 residents, or one officer per thousand population.

The current situation is much worse. The city has grown by about 25,000 residents since then, yet we only currently have 96 sworn officers on the force, and with a very different population then we had, back in 1998. We’re now down to about 0.85 officers per 1,000 population.

Plus, most of the current police officers still have a much richer retirement now, compared to back then. With the 3% at age 50 approved in the early 2000’s, they get to calculate that figure times the number of years they’ve been on the force, times the average of their last three years’ salary to determine their annual pension payments. So, if a cop has worked for the department for 25 years, at age 50 he or she will get 75% of the average of their last three year’s salary. Fortunately, that changed under the leadership of the late Gary Agopian when he was on the council and they renegotiated the benefit to 2.5% at age 55 for new hires. The current council later changed that for a few lateral hires from other departments, and gave them the 3% at 50.

Council, Manager at Fault

Let’s be clear. I don’t blame the city employees at all for trying to get everything they could in the new contracts. I believe in the old adage, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Plus, I believe in what is written in the Bible of “pay the worker his due.” But, it’s the city council members who determine what the amount of that due is for city employee.

So, I blame Duran who shepherded the contracts through the negotiation process, and ultimately the mayor and council members who demonstrated a serious lack of backbone. They caved in to the desires and requests of the city employees, and forgot about their first commitment to us, by giving us the 22 additional police officers, they promised, before offering a pay raise.

Some Antioch residents, including me, are wondering who was at the table negotiating on behalf of we the people, the taxpayers and our interests against the special interests of the employee groups? That’s what the mayor and council members were supposed to be doing. But, it surely wasn’t any of them, who instead all demonstrated a complete disregard for fiscal responsibility. They forgot who it is they’re supposed to please and who are their bosses – we the people.

Huge Salaries, Threat of Massive Layoffs

Now, Duran is telling us that if we don’t approve an extension to Measure C in 2020, there will be “massive layoffs in police and Code Enforcement.”

This coming from a city manager who earns over $300,000 per year in pay and benefits – including over $8,000 per month in benefits alone. Sorry, but Mr. Duran has a conflict of interest making any arguments in favor of the contracts that personally benefit him, and will increase his pension, as he prepares to retire next year.

He and the council members know we will be left with the bill after he’s long gone and some, if not all of the current council members will be, too, yet they still voted for them.

At the same time many of our top city staff and police officers earn well over $200,000 a year in pay and benefits, with Cantando being the top income earner of all city employees during 2015, at $338,000 in pay and benefits, earning even more than the city manager.

Perhaps the rest of the city workers needed a pay raise, but did the police officers, police management and city management staff really need a 4.5% pay increase on top of what they’re already earning, or any pay raise, at all? I’d say no, not until we got the 22 more police we were promised.

For a real eye opener, click here to see what each Antioch city employee earned last year, according to public records. While the average is about $58,000 per year, there are many city employees earning over $100,000 and many over $200,000 in pay and benefits.

Using Basic Services to Pass Tax Increases

Why is it, that the first employees that will be laid off are police, when that’s a basic reason for local government and why, going back to 1872 when Antioch was incorporated, our city was formed – “for police and other matters?” Why must our government officials always go after and threaten the basics of government in order to scare us into voting and paying for another tax increase?

How about, instead pay cuts for those earning exorbitant salaries already and implementing a no overtime policy? How about selling Humphrey’s instead of the city trying to be in the landlord and restaurant business? How about closing or contracting out the Antioch Water Park which costs the city’s General Fund (which pays for police) $200,000 to $300,000 per year?

The fact is, the extra half-cent sales tax was only to be temporary, and the city was supposed to increase revenue from basic sales and property taxes over the seven years of the lifespan of Measure C to replace the $7 million per year it currently generates. But that’s not going to happen if the city spends an extra $1.7 million per year on increases in pay and benefits which are included in the new contracts.

But, There’s Hope

Using a compound metaphor, there is a silver lining to this picture, not just lumps of coal. First, the contracts are tentative and won’t be finalized until the city council votes to approve the Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s) in either January or February.

Second, with the election of Dr. Sean Wright as our new mayor and Lamar Thorpe to the City Council, who will also be our new Mayor Pro Tem, hopefully they can get at least one of the remaining council members – Tiscareno or Ogorchock, who aren’t up for election until 2018, or Wilson, who was just re-elected – to join them in getting the city employees to work with them and renegotiate at least the length of the contracts. Frankly, all the council members should rethink their vote and join the two newest council members who will be the new leaders of the council in asking for a renegotiation.

The contracts should be shortened to no more than four years, when the city’s extra half-cent sales tax from Measure C will end, and preferably three years, so the contracts don’t end during another election year. Never again should we have contracts end during an election year nor voted on by a lame duck Council.

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

Monday, November 28th, 2016

By Fernando Navarro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

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

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

Mark Jordan Settlement Speech to Antioch City Council

11/22/2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays to you all.

Thank you, and good evening.

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