Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Watchdog responds to Jordan’s call for Charter City in Antioch

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Watchdog Logo 300x95 Watchdog responds to Jordans call for Charter City in AntiochBy Barbara Zivica

Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true.” – Sir Francis Bacon

I have been criticized by Realtor Mark Jordan for my article entitled General Law Cities vs. Charter Cities, which I wrote after he asked the city where they would find money to deal with under funded retirement accounts. He suggested the solution was to convert the city into a charter city and significantly increase the transfer fees on real property, which seemed to draw a favorable response from Mayor Harper and Council Member Tiscareno.

Let me respond by explaining a few things:

A transfer tax is a tax on the passing of title to property from one person (or entity) to another, typically imposed when there is a legal requirement for registration of the transfer of real estate, shares or bond. In the U.S. the term transfer tax also refers to estate tax and gift tax. In California only charter cities may impose a real property transfer tax, in addition to the current one, although both general law and charter cities have the power to tax. Currently the property transfer tax is limited to $1.10 per $1,000 with it split 50/50 between the county and city. If Antioch were to become a charter city and increase its property transfer tax the county would get the full $1.10 per $1,000 and the city would keep the amount it sets above $1.10. The amount of revenue received, of course, depends on how many existing and new homes are sold and resold.

I think it’s a bad idea for many reasons. For starters, California residents are overtaxed and over regulated and Antioch residents are feeling the burden from two tax measures: Measure C, the half-cent sales tax increase which was touted by the Mayor to add 22 more police officers to the force and passed by 68.09% of the 11,175 voters who turned out (net zero additional cops, due to attrition) and Measure O, the business license tax which passed with 51.62% of the vote, with 16,926 of the city’s approximately 45,000 registered voters turning out.

On top of that, we’re paying for two new school bond measures., all of this happening during an economic downturn which I attribute again to crushing taxes, over regulation and incompetent legislators. It was the state that was responsible for the under funding of employee retirements accounts, the cities just followed their example. NOTE: Governor Brown recently released a 12-point pension reform plan which will eliminate the opportunity to purchase additional retirement service credits, prohibit pension holidays, prohibit employers from making employee pension contributions, prohibit retroactive pension increases, prohibit pension spiking, impose pension benefit cap, improve retirement board governance, and limit post retirement public employment.

Other reasons I dislike the charter city idea:

Charter cities aren’t bound by the election code and can set their own criteria for city officers, term limits and council members’ salaries, can permit the financing of election campaigns, aren’t required to have competitive bidding for public works contracts over $5,000, aren’t required to pay prevailing wages under state law for local public works funded by local funds, and charter city zoning orders are not required to be consistent with the general plan unless the city adopts a consistence requirement by charter or ordinance.

Last, but not least, is the fact that general law cities are governed by a city council of five members but charter cities can provide for any form of government including the “strong mayor” and city manager forms. This could be disastrous. We’re having trouble enough reining in Mayor Wade Harper.

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Writer responds to Antioch School Board Trustee’s comment on Friday night incident at Safeway

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Dear Editor:

A message to bleeding hearts justifying acts of vandalism or violence in Antioch.

Lack of planning plus lack of imagination equals boredom. Own up. Pick up a book or pick up a ball. Libraries and parks are free. The world is not responsible for your action or your entertainment.

Cynthia Ruehlig, Antioch

NOTE: This was written and submitted in response to a comment about the incident posted on Facebook by Antioch School Board Trustee Debra Vinson, who wrote “Terrible! Boredom is always bad!”

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Watchdog: Concern over more race-based programs in Antioch school district

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Watchdog Logo Watchdog: Concern over more race based programs in Antioch school districtBy Barbara Zivica

My recent column regarding an African-American graduation ceremony in Antioch provoked a lot of response and prompted a reader to inform me about the African American Male High School Preparatory Academy (summer school). Wondering what was going on in the district, I checked their website and found out something that may have been the cause behind district decisions, which I consider to be discriminatory.

It seems that on March 26, 2015, the district issued a press release in response to a complaint brought by Willie Mims, Education Chair of the East County Branch of the NAACP, charging the district with disproportionately suspending African American students and students with disabilities.

Claire Smith, AUSD Board of Trustees President at the time said “I am so pleased to share that the Board of Education gave direction in closed session to accept a plan of action that will fortify our work in areas of student equity and access and provisionally resolve the issued raised by the advocacy organizations.”

The District’s web site now includes a non-discrimination statement. Perhaps this is the reason the district scheduled African American Male Achievement Initiative Committee Meeting dates during 2014-15 to which the public was apparently welcome, although it’s the first I’ve heard about them. The African American Male Achievement Initiative goal is to increase graduation rates for AA males, increase the number of students who graduate, decrease the number of AA male students referred to special education, and decrease the number of AA male students suspended from school.

The district’s former RAAMP program – Raising Academic Achievement Multicultural Program Charter Academy was deemed a failure by the California Charter Schools Association, and called for its closure due to low standardized test scores.

Check the district’s website in regard to information for the following programs: Credit recovery summer school, African-American Male Initiative – Bridge Program, Alternative Education, and Independent Study summer school, all held at Deer Valley High School. (June 15 through July 21, Monday through Thursday). Incidentally, these summer programs offer free breakfast and lunch as do elementary schools in the district (K-8) during June and July.

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Writer explains need for Charter City as solution to Antioch’s financial challenges, unfunded liabilities

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Editor’s Note: The following was received via email on May 5 but not published, until now. I apologize for the oversight and delay. Allen Payton, Publisher & Editor

Dear Editor:

It is the process in today’s internet driven world that everyone should and seems to express their opinion. Criticism, finger pointing and blame are the actions of the day. Solutions seem few and far between. This is the case with the article written by Ms. Barbara Zivica aka Watchdog.

Alarmed? You should be alarmed Barbara. The City of Antioch is moving quickly to massively reduced services and possible bankruptcy in about five years. The necessary reductions in service and staff at the City will make the Great Recession look like a walk in the park. Why? Because this Council and recent previous Councils simply want to keep kicking the financial responsibility can down the road.

I know of no business including my own that runs in such a manner. At least not for very long.

What is your solution, Barbara?

This problem cannot be budgeted away with savings. Go back and look at the Finance Director’s General Fund projections for 2017 to 2023. Don’t look at the power point presentation for 2015-2016 which is on line. That is just fluff for today. The projected negative numbers are massive; and rises quickly to a negative $28,000,000.00 for a budget projected at $65,000,000.00 in 2020.

CalPERS [the California Public Employee Retirement System] calls the retirement program a “Golden Handshake”. Sounds similar to “Golden Parachute” doesn’t it? Just who’s gold are we dealing with here anyway and can we just walk away from the commitments we have made to past and current employees? Well; legally no we cannot; and morally it would be fundamentally wrong.

What we can do is close our participation in the current CalPers system, grandfather existing employees, and move all future employees to a City “Defined Retirement Contribution” system. Or, close all participation and move all current and future employees to a new system, vesting current employees to the date of termination of CalPers participation in the old system and paying our unfunded obligation.

And, the City must take a position that the full retirement contribution henceforth must be paid in the year it is earned in any new retirement system. This is called fiscal responsibility.

What I proposed as a possible solution is an income generation from transfer fees applied to real property transfers with the entire amount collected on an annual basis going to pay the unfunded retirement obligation the City is facing as noted in the Annual Valuation Report from CalPers. Nothing else to be funded by this income stream until the CalPers unfunded obligation is paid in full. No option by this or future Councils or staff for any other use of these funds.

Coming to a real number owed to CalPers is not easy to calculate. It appears to be somewhere between $35,000,000.00 and $133,000,000.00 for safety employees and for all other employees it is between $43,000,000.00 and $123,000,000.00.

A solid unfunded number to work from would be an average of the best and worst numbers stated by CalPers. Meaning the most likely liability by the City of Antioch for all employees would be approximately; $164,000,000.00.

Why is the range so large? Because based on the numbers provided by CalPers the only way one can truly come to some understanding of what is being processed is to look at the projected number if you continue in the plan infinite or if you terminate participation. There is no projection if you grandfather current employees and move future employees to a new system.

In simple terms CalPers projects for 2015 a return of 18%. Unrealistic nonsense. Also, what is very clear is that CalPers uses funds deposited this year and every year by participant Cities to pay retired employees if the return on investment does not meet the projection. We all call that in the real world a Ponzi scheme.

But wait there is more. Because it is a Defined Benefit Program, when it really gets economically bad, CalPers can just send the City a subsequent bill for the additional funds that are needed to pay the Benefits. Or the City’s unfunded liability goes up. There is no limit, ever.

So, let me ask you one more time, Barbara. What is your solution?

Mark Jordan, Antioch

Jordan is a Real Estate Broker in and resident of Antioch.

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Payton Perspective: Antioch City Council misusing sewer, water funds while raising rates

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Payton Perspective logo 2015 Payton Perspective: Antioch City Council misusing sewer, water funds while raising ratesBy Allen Payton, Publisher

There’s good news in the City of Antioch’s fiscal year 2015-16 budget, due to some unexpected one-time sales tax funds from the state and an extension of a grant for police, creating a $448,000 surplus. However, there is something that has me concerned when reviewing it.

The city budget includes line items labeled “transfers out” in pretty much all departments. In each of the sewer and water funds, over $600,000 per year is transferred out.

When staff was asked by Ogorchock, at the May 12 council meeting, where those funds were going, part of the answer from City Finance Director Dawn Merchant was that a couple hundred thousand was being spent on police. Turns out, the actual figure is $319,000 from each of the two funds is being spent on police.

How does city staff and city council justify spending water and sewer funds on police? Are they guarding the pipelines, now?

Not exactly. But that’s close to what Merchant said was the reason.

They’re protecting the water and sewer plants and pump stations,” she shared in a recent phone interview. “It’s a small percentage of the police department’s budget.”

That’s equivalent to the cost of four police officers per year, which the city needs. But, police should be paid for out of the General Fund and the additional police from Measures C and O funds. Plus, those amounts are in addition to other charged to both of the two departments’ funds.

Even more is charged to the two funds

The amount “transferred out” of the water fund, is a third of the $1,026,051 charged separately for “internal services,” such as administrative oversight. For the sewer fund, there’s an additional $221,159 charged separately, also for internal services.

Merchant argued that those amounts are based on a “cost allocation plan for every department,” based on a study done by an independent consultant.

The transfers out for police has been approved by the city council for at least four years, Merchant stated.

It’s been happening for years

Shortly after being forced out as City Finance Director, John Tasker shared with me, in 2008, that the city had been transferring out too much money from the sewer and water funds, for administrative costs. At that time the figure was about $500,000 per year and he said that no more than $300,000 was justified.

Now it’s worse.

Maybe it’s only been going on this long, because no council member questioned staff about it, before now.

It’s a serious stretch to justify the equivalent of paying for four police officers to guard the water and sewer plants and pump stations. The city council doesn’t have to approve those transfers out for police, and frankly shouldn’t.

Taking money away from its intended purposes

The impact of the transfers out, is that money won’t be there when the city needs it to expand, repair or upgrade the sewer or water systems in Antioch. So, in order to ensure there is enough money, the staff recommended and the city council raised our rates, again. According to Public Works Director Ron Bernal, one of the reasons for those increases is for – you guessed it – additional capacity purposes.

I believe this is just another example of the old legal money-laundering game governments can play. They spend the money intended for one budget item – which is a need and basic priority and responsibility of local government, such as police, roads, sewer or water – and then come back to us taxpayers and say they don’t have enough money for these vital items, and ask us for another tax increase. Don’t you find it interesting they never ask us for a special tax for non-essential items?

Council increases water and sewer rates, again

That’s exactly what our city council just did. On top of the two general tax increases we voters approved in the past few years – Measures C and O – the council just voted to raise our sewer and water rates, again.

Plus, they passed by 4-1, with Ogorchock voting against, tiered water rates, so the more you use the more you’ll pay per gallon. Is one gallon of water more expensive than another? I don’t think so.

When is enough, enough with these council members? We need them to ask the tough questions of staff and understand there’s a limit to how much we taxpayers/ratepayers can afford to keep paying.

When the final budget is adopted for the new fiscal year, later this month, I would hope the city council ends this financially irresponsible shell game and use the money in the sewer and water funds for their intended purposes. They need to pay for those fourr police officers out of Measure C and O funds, as we the people who passed them expected, and with the projected budget surplus. Leave the sewer and water funds where they belong.

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Writer asks Is anyone paying attention?

Saturday, June 6th, 2015

Dear Editor:

Have you noticed anything lately?

“Believe we’re gliding down the highway

When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away

Slip slidin’ away

Slip slidin’ away

You know the nearer your destination

The more you’re slip slidin’ away…”

Paul Simon, Slip Slidin’ Away lyrics

economic collapse WND Writer asks Is anyone paying attention?

courtesy of

It has been the progressive spirit of the age wearing down the true masculine and feminine roles in family and society. But no one seems to care. We’re all just “slip slidin’ away.”

Today, decades of progressivism has paved the way for breakneck speeds down the slippery slopes of immorality and relativism (relativism: the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute). Politics are so filled with lies and compromise that true Statesmen, whether black, white or Hispanic are assassinated by innuendos and miss-characterizations and boldface lies.

The foundation of civilization, which is the family unit, has been dismantled, reinvented and co-opted (co-opt: to divert to or use in a role different from the usual or original one) that marriage to anything or anyone will constitute a legitimate family. The word love has lost its meaning and significance, and Christianity is just as guilty with the abuse of the word “love” and its true and authentic meaning.

God has been relegated (relegated: consign or dismiss to an inferior rank or position), to the single attribute of love. God, has been singularly redefined or overly stated as “love,” which diminishes his Holiness, his Justice, his Righteousness and Wrath.

If God is singularly loving, then there is no need for a Savior and there is no difference between sin and holiness. For why would you need to be saved from a loving God? Christ became our substitute sacrifice, thus taking upon himself all of God’s wrath. Therefore, without belief and obedience in Christ, people remain under the wrath of God. True compassion is to warn people about God’s wrath and not to cheapen God’s holiness, and justice by offering God’s love apart from Christ’s sacrifice!

Mainstream Christianity has been infiltrated with the progressive spirit of the age. We have forgotten Jesus’ warning about the leaven of the Pharisee and especially the leaven of Herod. Both the religious and political spirits of our time has seized control and influence of many pulpits, church boards and Christian colleges.

Our families, marriages, children, police forces, law and order; our educational systems, transportation, freedom of speech and the right to self-protection are under tremendous stress and attack. Even the bees are under attack!

The CDC and the world’s scientists have a name for what’s been happening to the global bee population, it’s called “CCD,” or “Colony Collapse Disorder.” Wow, how ironic! Even more so is the cause for the colony collapse. 1. The lack of adult bees in the hive, which protects the hive from invaders. 2. The nonexistence of the Queen bee. 3. Insufficient workforce to maintain the brood that is present. 4. The workforce is made up of too many young adult bees. 5. The colony members are reluctant to consume feed, such as sugar syrup and protein supplements.

bee Wikipedia Writer asks Is anyone paying attention?

courtesy of Wikipedia

This is no joke folks. This bee phenomena is much like our own cities, communities and neighborhoods and very similar to the breakup and breakdown of many families. Think about it! Check out the link to the Wikipedia article about Colony Collapse Disorder and read for yourselves:

Even nature is trying to warn us that our human colony may also soon collapse!  Did you know that without the bee crops, plants and trees will suffer? Bees are a $200 billion dollar per year global business! Did you know that beekeepers rent out their bees to farmers and nurseries?

It has recently been reported that a deadly avian flu virus has infected more than 33 million turkeys, chickens and ducks in more than a dozen states since December of 2014. And this epidemic is still spreading from state to state. Price of eggs? How about the price of chicken and turkeys?

Drought 300x180 Writer asks Is anyone paying attention?

courtesy of

Oh, and how about the apocalyptic drought in the Western United States? It is reported that some neighbors are actually stealing water from one another! Worried about your lawn? How about agriculture and the price of groceries? Maybe the up and coming summer blockbuster Mad Max Fury Road is more prophetic than action-packed entertainment.

Yet, as long as we have our goodies and gadgets, we will sell our liberty and freedoms for comfort and convenience. The world and nature is going to hell in a hand basket and we’re more concerned whether to buy an Apple or Samsung smart phone. God help us!

“For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:3 (NKJV)

It’s not the fault of unbelievers, nor the fault of secularist for the condition of our Nation, but the fault of every believer who has sold their birthright as a Light Bearer and Salt Preserver for the warm stew of carnality.

Nothing short of the Church repenting and turning back to God and away from worldliness will this Nation’s disaster be averted. God has removed his blessing of this Great Nation because His people have removed God and His whole counsel from their homes, churches and businesses.

It is not because the unrighteous practice unrighteousness, but because the righteous practice sin that God’s judgment is upon us!

Inasmuch as the “race card” is ruining race relations, so also is the “love card,” ruining the image of the One True and Living God and the impact of His eternal Truth and Salvation. The “love card” depicts a benevolent god that requires no urgency to obey and no consequence for sin. This trend is synonymous with the Nicolaitans of the early Church.

The Nicolaitans were one of the heretical sects that plagued the churches at Ephesus and at Pergamum, according to Revelation 2:6, 15. The Nicolaitans taught that God is permissive, merciful, or tolerant of sin. As people subscribed to their teaching, they became subdued and conquered by this double standard lifestyle.

The first part of the name “Nicos” in Greek, means to conquer or to subdue, and the second part of this name “laitans” in Greek, means laos, or people. This heretical group’s teachings were conquering and subduing God’s people away from His Truth and making a mockery of His Grace. The love card has created a similar environment as the teachings of the Nicolaitans, and so many people have been duped into living double lives of sin for grace, and then falling into the loving arms of a “love god.” Is God love? Absolutely! But God’s love does not trump or nullify his other attributes, and this is where a great deal of Christianity has fallen into error.

The influence of Christianity has not been stolen, but given away. Its message has been diluted and cultural influence weakened. We have exchanged our place of an expanding Kingdom with the Gospel Mandate for a 501-(3) (C) status, and so the Church has become an apologist for Statism and has abrogated its moral authority to bureaucrats! (Statism: the belief in the primacy of the State over the rights of the individual).

Pay attention and check your oil, as the days are growing darker, and if you have no oil in your lamps, its total darkness forever!

Read Matthew 25: 1-13 for more important details.

Thomas Koester

Copperopolis, CA

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Diversity vs. Equality – letter writer questions 8th grade African-American promotion ceremony in Antioch

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Dear Editor:

Pastor/minister Dr. Lamont A. Francies, also Counselor for Antioch Unified School District currently at Black Diamond Middle School campus, is the subject of community outcry this week as word of his “Antioch Unified School District 8th Grade African American Promotion Ceremony” began to spread on blogs and social media.

Starting with a column by Barbara Zivica in the online version of the Antioch Herald, entitled “Watchdog – Black only graduation ceremony in Antioch violates Supreme Court decision” published Sunday, May 31st, 2015 at 12:43 a.m.Barbara Zivica provides as support for her piece a photo image of a flier for the event and of an wmail containing it. The email was from an ASUD email address and addressed to other ASUD email addresses and included the text of the flyer as well as contact Information for Dr. Francies at his AUSD email and phone number. The flyer, clearly stating that it was an “Antioch Unified School District 8th Grade African-American Promotion Ceremony” also, like the email, includes Dr. Francies as the contact at his AUSD Email and Phone Number.

A subsequent article in the Antioch Herald by John Crowder entitled “African-American 8th grade promotion ceremony in Antioch raises concerns, organizer explains” on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 at 5:33 p.m., related information from interviews and comments from various ASUD officials and Dr. Francies, indicating that the event was not intentionally sanctioned as an official ASUD sponsored event. Some even defending the event as appropriate, but not as an AUSD sponsored event. It was also noted that similar promotion celebration events have been held at Holy Rosary church.

In another Article on East County Today entitled “AUSD Explains ‘African American Promotion Ceremony’ flier” on June 6th, more comments as well as questions and answers from various AUSD officials were presented. The article includes an Editorial comment which expresses the opinion that the event was not endorsed or sponsored by AUSD and the district does not want to take any responsibility for it.

In further research I found an Article in the Contra Costa Times archive from 2/4/2014 by Trine Gallegos entitled “Antioch Middle School honors MLK and its top students, too,” in which were excerpts of an interview with Dr. Francies about an Antioch Middle School event honoring MLK combined with an “African-American Honor Roll Banquet”. Quoted in the article, Dr. Francies, repeated several times, the benefits to the community. He is sometimes referring to it as community and occasionally as African-American community as if they are synonymous.

It is my opinion that pastor/minister, Dr. Lamont A. Francies, who is also a counselor at Black Diamond Middle school, and as such a part of the school administrative staff for the school district, is the root of the controversy. I believe that this man is violating the trust of the community, by promoting his social and religious beliefs on the students under his and others responsibility. I believe that in his capacity as an educator, he is there to serve all students by furthering their education and achievements, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs. I fear that the school district has been hijacked for one individual’s personal social and religious agendas.

The AUSD needs to take responsibility for the actions of its staff and deal with the problem by not only clarifying policy but acting on breaches of policy with expedience and authority. Dr. Francies should be fired from his position in order to bring the trust lost from all of the community back into the equation.

Lately, we hear the phrase “celebrate diversity” quite often, and I support the idea that we should celebrate the differences in us that makes us individuals. It is a very important cultural and heritage based concept. But we as a community are trying to make the celebration of diversity the evidence of equality. Diversity and equality by their standard definition are complete opposite concepts.

Dr. King was a very inspirational speaker and very significant catalyst to the creation of Civil Rights Act. His one speech, that I think is most often quoted is the “I Have a Dream” speech. In that speech he lays out what is his definition of equality. It was not treated “different.” It was not treated “better.” It was not “reparation.” It was “equality.” Equal treatment for all. I truly believe he is looking down on us now and shaking his head at what we as a community have done with his dream.

We are failing our community, children and future generations, by claiming diversity defines and demonstrates equality instead of doing the right thing inclusively by them. Civil Rights are about all of the things that we share equally and not about trying to compensate for current or historical inequities. Neither is it about celebrating diversity and emphasizing the individual or the group. It is about sharing and celebrating in equality, all of things that we have or should have in common. One nation created equal.

Doug Knowles, Antioch

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Letter writer asks Antioch residents for help on a “real” community watch program

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Dear Editor:

Hi, everyone I wanted to reach out and ask y’all what you think about an idea I have. I went by the Hudsons yesterday and had a moment to chat with a young lady that was collecting signatures for the recall and speed bumps. We chatted about how there is a group on the 11th block that looks out for the neighborhood and I expressed that I also was part of a smaller group on the 13th block. This made me wonder how I can make my city better. If I may digress slightly and briefly.

I’m an engineer, Eagle Scout and former Marine. The information that is being gathered is a huge asset to our cause of making our city a safe and desirable place to live. So, when I was over seas I was involved in some of the nastiest urban combat that our forces have ever seen but we made head way and took the cities back for the people to live safely and not in fear.

We would do things like walk and talks to get to know the people and show that we were approachable. We also frequently went to gathering places of the population, such as mosque, souks and bazarres to make contact with the population and the heads of households.

So, how can this help Antioch? Well, what I want to propose is if there aren’t any objections and that it’s all legal, why can’t we use the info gathered to start a real community watch program? This is an opportunity where we can have neighborhoods, all over the city, talking to one another and could work with our community policing officer with the APD to empower the people to take back our city.

I know from experience that if you empower the people and can get them all (the good guys) communicating you will have faster and lasting results that will make their communities safer and will give the enforcement agency, in this case APD, a better means in targeting problems and problem locations. This will empower us and create better community relationships with our police department and will make our city safe.

I would want to use this info to build on what formal neighborhood watch programs we have currently and do real meetings and classes once a month with APD and different parts of town to get the intel we can gather, to the people who can do something about it. So, if this sounds enticing let me know. Thanks for your time.

Patrick Wright


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