Archive for the ‘Politics & Elections’ Category

Monday is deadline to register to vote in June Primary Election

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

The Contra Costa Elections Division reminds all residents that the deadline to register or re-register to vote in the June 5th Statewide Direct Primary Election is this Monday, May 21st.

To be eligible to register, a person must be a United States citizen, be at least 18 years old by Election Day, and not be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

You must re-register if you have moved or changed your name (married, divorced, etc.).

To register, go online to http://registertovote.ca.gov, or pick up a paper card at any City Hall, post office, library or the Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder-Elections Office located at 555 Escobar Street in Martinez.

You can check your voter registration status online at www.cocovote.us by clicking on the “My Voting Information” button.

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Divided Antioch Council votes 3-2 for map using Highway 4 to divide city into four election districts

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Working Draft 1 council district elections map with new district numbers adopted at the Antioch Council meeting on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

Tiscareno votes with “mi gente”, chooses the “diamond encrusted” choice

By Allen Payton

In a surprise move, Antioch Council Member Tony Tiscareno changed his expected direction from supporting the Quadrats C map for dividing the City into district elections and went with the Working Draft 1 map, pleasing what he referred to as “mi gente” meaning, my people. He was joined on the split vote by Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and Council Member Monica Wilson in approving the map. Mayor Sean Wright and Council Member Lori Ogorchock wanting the other map, voted no.

The council then voted 4-1 with Ogorchock voting no, to finalize their previous approval of changing to district elections, on the second reading.

Most people who spoke on the matter were in favor of the Working Draft 1 map, again and most were also Hispanic, one speaking in Spanish and using an interpreter. They argued for having one representative for the north side of the freeway who lived there. They stated there hasn’t been an elected council member from their area since the 1980’s.

The attorney who started it all by threatening the City with a lawsuit said, “This isn’t about racism. It is about race. There is a significantly different group of people north of the Four. There are blacks and Latinos in other parts of the city. But, this is about under representation of minorities.”

Orgorchock asked for a stay until 2022, saying “The Census is going to be held in 2021. So, we’re going to have to redistrict at that time. Some of these maps won’t mean anything at that time.”

But, Tiscareno responded with “I’m not going to support a stay at this particular point, because we have to move on with the process. I’m not happy with the way this process came about. Whatever map we choose…it doesn’t represent the 2018 (population) numbers.”

Interim City Attorney Derek Cole told the council “Districts 1 and 4 have two-year terms, initially and 2 and 3 have four-year terms.”

Thorpe spoke next, saying “Alright, let’s convince Councilman Tiscareno…Working Draft,” to applause from the audience.  “The fact of the matter is, this is where we’re at, so we just got to finish the job.” He then asked Cole his views on the public sentiment on the maps.

Cole spoke of Working Draft 1. “The testimony the Council has received is overwhelming that that is a community of interest. I think both maps are Constitutionally valid and meet all legal requirements. If you had the diamond encrusted version…legally speaking that’s Working Draft 1. There has been testimony supporting Quadrants C. Legally speaking we’re only dealing with ensuring there is no racially polarized voting. We’re not obligated to geographic regions that might be underrepresented. Do you want a road dividing a community? A side of the tracks? Both maps meet legal standards. But, if there is a Lexus or Porsche version…that’s Working Draft 1.”

Thorpe then asked City Manager Ron Bernal about results of a recent City survey.

Bernal responded, saying “the survey results were broken up between north Antioch, southeast Antioch, and…west Antioch. Their viewpoints are distinctly different…whether they feel they are being represented well by the council.”

Thorpe then said, “so, the people north of the freeway feel they’re being represented differently than people on the south side.

Bernal – working Draft 1 is set up to more closely represent those views.

Thorpe – Whether there was a freeway or not that wouldn’t affect those opinions. The Quadrants are the ones that drive the division through these communities. When you dig down…through the Census Tracts you see that. Working Draft 1 has a representative for each of the regions of the City. If we do go with Quadrants, I will continue to do my darned good job to represent the people of north Antioch.

No one has been up here trying to figure out where someone lives. We have worked to keep that out of the process. We’ll let the voters decide what happens with two of us.”

Wilson spoke next, saying, “I keep coming back to…two speakers said it, today. If you go with Quadrants C…there will be a great possibility that your representative won’t live north of the freeway. I think it’s very important we look at the representatives within those quadrants. I just want to make sure we have equitable representation. Yes, we’re working of 2010 statistics, and we’ll have to go through this again in 2021. No lines are etched in stone. We can always move those. I’m still very much in favor of Working Draft 1.

Thorpe – So, the 2010 Census is…just over 100,000. Will we see drastic changes in where the lines will be, he asked the consultant?

Consultant Karin MacDonald of Q2 that drew the maps for the council, responded by saying, “I think that depends on what you wanted to do. There is no law…that says you must start with the districts drawn in the last process.”

Thorpe then stated, “So, we can start with a completely new…or go with what we have and try to adjust the lines accordingly.

Ogorchock – From what I’ve heard there is equal views on both sides. I can’t accept the freeway to divide the city, again. It’s been there. But it’s very divisive. As for representation, I always feel two heads are better than one. It will be better to have two represent downtown Antioch. I am in support of Quadrants C. The…council needs to go with their heart and what’s best for the City.

Thorpe – when I asked for the feedback we’ve gotten…

Cole – What I recall was that a large amount, the majority of the comments we received online was what was then Working Draft 1. Quadrants C emerged. There was a Change.org petition. I think there was support for Quadrants C. The majority of comments online and here have been in favor of Working Draft 1.

Wright spoke next, stating “When it comes to representation…in a city of 114,000 you have less than 200 people who have weighed in, and less than that. I could be wrong, there’s more than 100. It’s hard to base a decision on 114,000 people. That being said, I want this done, tonight. I want to get our staff back focused on benefiting our community. Whatever is decided, I’d like to see it chosen tonight and moved forward.”

“I’m not for districting. I don’t think it’s a good thing,” he reiterated. “What people are saying is we want someone who will fight for us. We’ve spent more money on north of Antioch than anywhere else. We are focusing our attention on the parks north of Antioch. We’ve spent more money on the roads in downtown Antioch. So, the concept that there’s underrepresentation… I know that we don’t necessary live there. When I’m deciding who to vote for, I don’t look up their address. Someone who is elected from Lake Alhambra won’t know what it’s like to live in Sycamore. They’re just not.”

“So, how do we create districts that create less division in our community,” Wright continued. Referring to the Quadrants C map he said, “there are solid lines You have A Street and Lone Tree and Putnam that are solid lines that put people in different areas. There are pockets of poverty north of the freeway and south, as well. Moving toward districts we are accomplishing much of what is asked for.”

“Quadrants give southeast two representatives, north two representatives,” he concluded.

Tiscareno, who asked to speak last, said “I have to do this for the betterment of what Antioch looks like at this particular point. First, it was about race. Now it’s about numbers and how we can represent the entire city equally. Neither map does that as far as I’m concerned. It’s going to be a boondoggle out there. After…the 2020 Census you’re going to have to change the maps. We’re doing new developments in southeast Antioch, so the 2020 maps will have to look like what Quadrants C looks like anyway. The majority of the folks in favor of Working Draft 1, they’re “mi gente” they’re my people. I feel like I’m doing contrary when I’m talking about the other map. But, that’s not what I’m doing. First, we are Latinos, but we are Antioch citizens.”

“I’m going to make a conscious decision,” he said. “This will be a temporary map. Any map we go with we’re going to have to have a couple council members run against each other. I respect the other council members up here. But, when it comes to elections we’re opponents. It doesn’t matter who’s sitting next to me during election time. They’re my opponent.”

Another thing that frustrates me, we have a community of 114,000 people here, but nobody comes to the council,” Tiscareno continued. “But, you guys are speaking out and I respect you for that…people fighting for their cause. It’s something I used to do.”

He then made a motion, “I’m not doing it to please anybody. This is going to change in 2020. I probably won’t be part of that process, but that’s OK.”

“I move that we approve Working Draft 1,” Tiscareno said, to cheers from the audience. Thorpe offered the second and it passed on a 3-2 vote.

“Si se puede,” was the chant from some of those in the audience.

Numbering the Districts, Chooses Which Will Run for Two-Year Terms in 2020

The council then had to assign numbers to the districts to determine which ones were up for election in 2020 for two-year terms, initially and which would be for four-year terms. Then, in 2022 the two with two-year terms in 2020 will then be up for election again, for four-year terms.

Ogorchock suggested having one in the north and one in the south for two-year terms. She made that motion which was followed by Thorpe’s second.

The map has letters delineating the districts. The council’s decision made the district north of the freeway, labeled B as District 1; district C is now District 2, district D is now District 3 and district A is now District 4. So, the districts that will be up for election for two-year terms in 2020 will be the very north and very south districts, numbers 1 and 4.

Tiscareno lives in District 2, Wilson in District 4 and both Thorpe and Ogorchock live in District 3. No current council member lives in District 1 and the Mayor will continue to run and be elected citywide.

There was no discussion by the council on the matter and the motion passed unanimously.

 

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Neighboring Zeka Ranch owner responds to developer, environmental group-backed Sand Creek initiatives in Antioch

Friday, May 4th, 2018

Land Use Plan for the proposed Zeka Ranch new home project on the west end of the Sand Creek Focus Area. Courtesy of The Zeka Group.

Calls it an abuse of the process; their plan protects environment, saves trees and open space

This past Friday, April 27, Richland Communities submitted an initiative to compete with one currently being circulated for signatures by the environmental community, both of which seek to stop the Zeka Ranch project from being developed on the western end of the Sand Creek area. Richland is the developer of “The Ranch” project with the planned 1,307 homes on 500 acres and is now proposing to reduce that by 130 homes. It will require the neighboring Zeka Ranch to become permanent open space. (See related article, here).

The Zeka Group, owners of the 640-acre Zeka Ranch property on which they plan to build a 400-upscale home community, responded to the latest attack against their property, their plans and their rights with the following statement:

The Zeka Group has been part of the ongoing growth and development plans for the City of Antioch since 1992.  The Zeka Group participated in the development and implementation of the 2003 General Plan and has been an integral participant and contributor to the development of Future Urban Area (FUA) #1 and the subsequent Sand Creek Specific Plan Study area, now known as the Sand Creek Focus Area, as well.

Rendering of proposed homes at the Zeka Ranch project in the Sand Creek area.

As a responsible developer and contributor to the Antioch Community the Zeka Ranch project was the first and only development which developed a footprint that was 1) sensitive to the preservation of trees, 2) maintained habitat zones for the Alameda Whip Snake, migration corridors and setbacks to Sand Creek and 3) focused on the preservation of predominate ridgeline elements.

The Zeka Group accomplished this desired planning technique by engaging H.T. Harvey and Associates Ecological Consultants, a well-known and respected firm, specializing in biological resource assessment and determination. H.T. Harvey prepared a full biological assessment (BA) for the entire Zeka Ranch project. The assessment was utilized as a planning tool to judiciously place the final development footprint to minimize and avoid biological assets identified within the final BA. The BA was generated at great cost to the Zeka Group, but their management team spearheaded by Louisa Kao felt that the unique setting and geography of the site warranted such consideration.

In addition, plans for the Zeka Ranch were created by the same architect and land planner that laid out the map for Blackhawk, Doug Dahlin of the Dahlin Group. The Zeka Group hired his firm to ensure the highest quality of new home development in Antioch, and which will contribute to the long-term success of the city. The plans have been reduced from 1,100 homes on the 640 acres.

“We are committed to Antioch’s success and environmental protection and have been since we first purchased the property from the Higgins family,” said Louisa Zee Kao, President of The Zeka Group. But, this must be a win-win situation. Instead, Richland wants a win-lose situation, where they win, and we lose.”

Rendering of a proposed floor and lot plan at Zeka Ranch.

The Zeka Group has invested over $20 million into Antioch by purchasing the property, paying property taxes, developing plans, and paying city fees, all while following the guidelines as set down by the voters of the county, the voters of Antioch, city staff, the East Bay Regional Parks District, planning commissioners and city council members.

“This initiative by Richland is unfair, self-serving, mainly benefiting only one land owner, and at our expense,” Kao continued. “This is an abuse of the initiative process, and will result in the devaluation of our property, and all the surrounding properties, eliminating their voter-approved right to build the kind of homes Antioch needs for its future success and prosperity.”

Regarding the other initiative backed by the environmental groups, entitled “Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative,” it is mislabeled. (See related article, here). The voters of the county and of Antioch have already decided, twice and both times their vote has allowed for new home building in the Sand Creek area. Furthermore, Sand Creek will not be saved if the homes aren’t built, because it will remain on private property, inaccessible to the public. With the development plans, the City of Antioch is requiring setbacks to the creek, and an adjacent trail system that will connect to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve to the west of the Sand Creek Focus Area. The plans will allow public access to the Sand Creek watershed.

“Most importantly, these initiatives will not help fulfill the long-term economic plans the City of Antioch has had for over 20 years. The public should not be misled by either of them,” Kao concluded.

The Zeka Group looks forward to continuing its responsible development in the Antioch community as it continues to grow and flourish, with the development of Zeka Ranch.

 

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Sand Creek initiative backers respond to developer’s competing initiative in Antioch

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Aerial photo of the area west of Deer Valley Road in the Sand Creek Focus Area of Antioch planned for new home subdivisions. From Antioch Community to Save Sand Creek Facebook page.

On Wednesday, May 3, organizers for the Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative issued the following statement in response to the new, competing initiative backed by Richland Communities, the developer of the project known as The Ranch project in the Sand Creek Focus Area on the south side of Antioch: (See related article, here.)

As you know we’re collecting signatures for our “Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative,” to give Antioch residents a voice in what takes place on the southern edge of the city between Kaiser and Black Diamond Mines.  We hope to complete our signature gathering in the next 3-4 weeks but will continue collecting until we’re sure we have enough signatures. (See related article, here.)

Yesterday, Southern California developer Richland Communities, “The Ranch” project developers, announced that they’ve submitted a “West Sand Creek” Initiative to the City of Antioch for title and summary.  Their efforts do not change our coalition’s efforts to gather signatures and qualify our “Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative.”

  • Richland’s initiative is a complicated measure which will take some time to review. We’ll tell you more about it before long.
  • Typically competing initiatives are meant to confuse voters.
  • It changes and scales back Richland’s 1300-house project somewhat but, if approved, would also approve their project with a development agreement and before environmental review is completed.
  • It would invalidate our “Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative” which is more protective.

Media reports suggest that Richland expects to begin signature gathering immediately. In fact, it may be several weeks before they can begin.  The initiative was stamped “received” by the City Clerk April 27, 2018, three days ago.  The City Attorney has 15 days to provide title and summary which the City Clerk conveys to the proponent. For our initiative, they took the full 15 days. Then a legal notice must be printed in a newspaper of record, and initiative petitions printed.

It’s now even more important that we continue and speed up our efforts to gather signatures for our “Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative.” Signature gathering will get more complicated when the Richland initiative is on the street.

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Developer of “The Ranch” new home project launches alternative to Save Sand Creek initiative

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Map of area covered by the Richland Communities’ alternative initiative.

Proposed ballot measure scales back “The Ranch” project by 10%, bans hillside and ridgeline development, permanently protects additional open space areas on adjacent and surrounding properties, and offers funds for high-school athletic and performing arts facilities

A proposed initiative that would protect two-thirds of Antioch’s Sand Creek Focus Area west of Deer Valley Road from future new home development has been submitted to the City by three Antioch residents, as the first step in its qualification for the November 2018 ballot. It was proposed and is backed by Richland Communities, the developer of the project known as The RanchNotice of Intent to Circulate Petition rcvd 4-27-18

The measure would preserve approximately 1,244 acres of hillsides and natural open space and approve a 10% smaller master-planned project known as The Ranch compared to what has been under consideration by the City of Antioch. Instead of 1,307 homes, the project would include 1,177 homes instead. (Read the entire 143-page document, here:  Initiative Text Part 1 of 4  Initiative Text part 2 of 4  Initiative Text Part 3 of 4 Initiative Text Part 4 of 4 )

“We are listening to the citizens of Antioch and substantially revising our project so that it includes fewer homes and protects the hills, ridgelines, and valuable open space and environmentally sensitive areas around Sand Creek,” said Matt Bray, CEO of Richland Communities, the company that is proposing The Ranch project. “We see ourselves as a community partner and want to do the right thing.”

The local proponents of the initiative are Antioch residents Terry L. Ramus, a former Mello-Roos Board Member and Antioch Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee Chairman, former Antioch Mayor Pro Tem and Councilman Manny Soliz, Jr. and Matthew Malyemezian. They were each approached by Richland’s consultant, former Antioch Mayor Don Freitas and political campaign consultant, Mary Jo Rossi, to sign on to the effort.

The initiative will affect the adjacent property owners, including the land formerly known as the Higgins Ranch, owned by the long-time Antioch family that founded Higgins Funeral Home on A Street. Now known as Zeka Ranch, that project is also a planned, upscale and executive home community, scaled back from 1,100 homes in the 1990’s to about 400, on 200 of the 640 acres of land west of Empire Mine Road. It was purchased from the Higgins family by The Zeka Group in the 1990’s following the county-wide vote which adopted the original Urban Limit Line, which allows for new home development in the entire Sand Creek area. It also affects the land owned by three other property owners south of The Ranch property, as well as all the single-family home owners along Deer Valley Road. The initiative will only allow The Ranch project and the flat land on the properties south of Richland’s property to be developed.

With the scaled-down project now proposed in the initiative, voters will have the opportunity to support:

  • Protection of approximately 1,244 acres at the western and southern boundaries of the Sand Creek Focus Area west of Deer Valley Road on adjacent property owners land, from future home development by designating the land for open space, agriculture and rural uses.
  • Protection of approximately 250 acres within The Ranch from future development, including a development ban on hills.
  • Investment of at least $1 million in high school sports and performing arts facilities from an additional $1,000 contribution from each new home in The Ranch, including a proposed initial project at Deer Valley High School to fund installation of a synthetic turf field in the football stadium.
  • Establishment of an open space corridor for Sand Creek averaging 430 feet in width instead of the 300 feet, currently in the plan before the City.
  • Preservation of at least 98 percent of trees in The Ranch, including oaks and eucalyptuses.
  • Establishment of a 300-foot open-space buffer within The Ranch along its western boundary at Empire Mine Road.
  • Restriction of development to only flatter terrain within Antioch’s voter-approved Urban Limit Line in the Sand Creek Focus Area west of Deer Valley Road and east of Empire Mine Road.
  • Voter control of any amendments to the Urban Limit Line.
  • Developer funding of additional public safety services, as was required on the two previously approved projects in the Sand Creek Focus Area.
  • Developer construction of Sand Creek Road from Dallas Ranch Road to Deer Valley Road.
  • In addition to reducing The Ranch’s development footprint, the initiative would remove about 130 previously proposed homes from the project.

“This is a total win for Antioch,” said Ramus. “With the scaled-back version of The Ranch project, we get more hillside and open space protections, and the initiative substantially limits future development around Sand Creek.  The funding of at least $1 million for long-needed capital improvements at Deer Valley High School is an additional bonus.”

The Ranch is a proposed master planned residential community that is proposed to include a mix of housing types – including Antioch’s first large-scale age-restricted community for residents 55 years of age or older – along with new commercial and retail services, a trailhead and staging area for East Bay Regional Parks District, a fire-station site, six miles of new public trails and 22 acres of park facilities.

The initiative needs 5,104 valid signatures to qualify for the November 2018 ballot, and signature gathering on the measure is expected to begin immediately.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Council votes to approve district elections, postpones implementing until 2020

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

But two seats up in 2018 will only be for two-year terms; citizens commission proposed

By Allen Payton

After multiple meetings on changing to district elections for the four council members, hearing hours of comments from the public, and spending more hours discussing it among themselves during the past two months, the Antioch City Council at their April 10th meeting effectively kicked the can down the road. They voted unanimously to approve by-district elections, but instead of implementing it for this November’s elections, chose to postpone it until 2020. However, they also voted to change to two-year terms those seats which are up for election this year, and are currently held by Council Members Tony Tiscareno and Lori Ogorchock. That means winner in November’s council race will have to run again in 2020.

Then, that year, all four council seats and the mayor will be up for election, and two of the council seats will also be for two-year terms with the other two for four-year terms. But those who are elected to the two-year terms may not be able to run again in 2022, because a new map will have to be drawn and adopted for the 2022 elections, following the 2020 Census and redistricting in 2021. The only thing that won’t change is the four-year term for mayor.

What the council members still have yet to decide is which of the two final maps to choose, which thy must at their meeting on May 8. At a workshop earlier in the evening, prior to the regular council meeting, the council members made some alterations to one of the two final maps and produced what is now known as Quadrants C map. No changes were made to the map labeled Working Draft 1.

The Quadrants C map, which is one of two district elections maps the council will consider at their May 8 meeting.

Interim City Attorney Derek Cole Explained the Process

“What you have before you now, is the legal mechanism…that will create the districting system,” he said. “Ordinances must be read twice. You can waive the reading. We don’t have to read the ordinance line by line. You have to consider the ordinance twice and the council, in effect has to take two votes on the ordinance. We have scheduled May 8th for the final discussion. This is the eighth or ninth time we have called this particular item of districting.

It does require a majority vote of the council. If the council introduces this ordinance, it will codify…and say we will be become a district election city. There are two options. Option 1 would be to try and introduce the district elections this year. The two council members who were elected at large in 2016 must be allowed to continue their terms through 2020. We can run two districts, if you create the four districts with this ordinance, you can choose to run those two, this year and run the other two in 2020. That will create the stagger. The mayor will also be up for election in 2020.

The other option which I believe creates a more orderly transition is start the districts in 2020. That will allow an interface with the county elections office…so that there won’t be extra work. I shared with the council a letter from the County Clerk about the challenges with the cities converting to district elections in 2018. It would give us time for clean up elections.

Our vice mayor is elected on an at large system. If we’re going to districting elections that will have to be cleaned up.

We would have to select two seats that would be up for election in 2020 for two-year terms who would then be up for election in 2022.

If you implement it this year you will have to select which districts are up for election, this year.”

Public Comments

“We have 25 speakers and we have to allow for five minutes for each speaker,” said Mayor Sean Wright. “If you all move your five minutes, we will not be able to get to the entire agenda.”

Most speakers supported the Working Draft 1 map, which creates a single district north of Highway 4. Some were high school students, many who chose not to speak, and Wright read their comments. Several in favor of Working Draft 1 were repeats from previous council meetings on the matter, and most were members of the East County Regional Group.

Scott Rafferty, the attorney who threatened the lawsuit against the city, sparking the entire process, spoke during public comments.

“I am the out of town lawyer,” he said. “I’m here to listen. I think the process is very compressed. I have given two extensions to the city. I’m not going to apologize for the California Voting Rights Act. For a city this size I think it’s a very good idea. I think the polarization is actually stronger here. When you get into southeast Antioch…you have extraordinary council members who are minority members and live in racially integrated communities. That doesn’t mean that north of the 4 there’s an underrepresented population. The city will be stronger…when those people have someone who is closer to them and more representative of their views on the council. The most remarkable thing is the trust that the five of you command from the people back here. It makes me want to ask the three of you that have some reservations about this to consider that you have been elected and you think of the whole city. But, that’s because the voters of Antioch…that is a very important value. I don’t think that’s going to change. I really don’t. Another really neat thing about this process, I’m going to have to say some really nice things about your council. I was concerned about getting this done, now. Having all of this happen in 2020 and I think this is a great idea. It’s a structural change. It’s not about getting rid of incumbents. It allows the whole community to get used to this all at once. I was hoping the school district would do this, too. I would ask you not use a random process. If you can get them synced into the presidential process, that will be helpful.”

Former Councilman Ralph Hernandez pointed out that “You already have division that has begun. It’s already starting. It’s not going to get any better with district elections if you change to that.”

The other district elections map labeled Working Draft 1.

Council Discussion

The Council then took up the matter for discussion, first deciding to convert to district elections and when to implement them.

Mayor Wright said the council was deciding whether or not to move forward with districting and

“Seeing that no one wants to go first, I will go first,” he said. “I hope you understand how hard this is, there is not a soul up here…that is not thinking of Antioch, first. There may be disagreements on what is best for Antioch. But it’s not a lack of care for you, for your area. I hope as we go forward you understand that.”

“I have looked, since we started, for reasons and ways we could fight this, because I don’t think it’s best for Antioch,” Wright continued. “But if we fight it we will lose and that’s not best for Antioch. The way the law is written, you don’t have to prove harm. You have to prove racial polarization…it’s real easy to prove. None of that in this law matters. Then we’re confused, once you accept that you’re racially polarized, as you divide the lines you’re not allowed to look at diversity. It defies all logic. We have legislators in California that made stupid law. In adopting this ordinance I am going to support it because I don’t want the city to get sued. I support implementing this in 2020.”

Councilman Tony Tiscareno spoke next saying, “I’m not totally opposed to districting. I’m angry about the way it came about. We’re basing our information, data on 2010 Census. It kind of skews the numbers on the map. It doesn’t give a true representation of what Antioch is. I wouldn’t even have a problem with waiting for 2020 Census numbers. It’s very frustrating that we’re being rushed into something…we’re not prepared for this. At this particular point I just don’t see it. As an at large council I do believe we represent the city entirely. As far as the Rivertown, downtown we have been focusing a lot of attention and dollars. Doing a district that might change somewhat. I wouldn’t have a problem fighting this. I’m not afraid of a lawsuit. But, it could cost us a lot of money and I don’t want to take that risk. I want to take some time. I was one who proposed getting it done, now. But that was just out of frustration. I think we should study this a little bit longer. If we’re going to be forced…I truly thing we could prevail if we had to go through this. I’m not sure the rest of the council would want to take a chance. So, I want to wait until 2020.”

Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe then said, “I’m for whatever option…2018 staggered or 2020. Whatever’s the pleasure of us, here. I’m open and amenable. I don’t have a particular preference.

Councilwoman Monica Wilson – I feel like the rest of the council members that I don’t like being rushed. What section goes in what order I can’t make a decision about that now. Whether we go with 2018 or 2020. I want to do this right. I was hoping to hear more from the public on that. This is tough. This is tough for us. This is a hard one. We want to make sure we get this right. We all are trying to be thoughtful.”

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock whose seat is up for election in November said, “The attorney Rafferty said it himself how the council is working together. This is unbelievably rushed. I want to do it in 2020. But, to move it off to 2022 when we have our true numbers. The maps are the maps and we’ll decide those on May 8th. But, I’m probably going to vote against this. I agree we do. But it’s really hard when you don’t have true numbers to do this. I’m sorry. I understand about the lawsuit. This is starting to push my buttons tonight. It’s already dividing our city. It’s not healthy.

Wright – In closing, I honestly did not know where Mayor Harper lived. Where Mayor James Davis lived. Where Mayor Don Freitas lived. Until I ran for council I did not know where these council members lived. Where you live in elections I didn’t know it mattered. I thought we were voting for great leaders. It’s interesting to me that we’re focusing on where everybody lives.”

Thorpe – No one looks at where people live. But, it’s something to be said that the most people you interact with in your daily life…there’s something to be said about where you live. You’re most likely to run into folks where you live.”

Thorpe asked the other council members if they were for 2020.

Tiscareno said, “I like what Councilwoman Ogorchock said” regarding waiting until 2022.

Thorpe then added to the discussion saying, “I had reached out to the city attorney about moving this forward. I do agree that there should be an independent commission looking at this and working with the consultants. We can adopt an ordinance. But, then we can put these two maps on the November ballot and that can then be ratified at the end of the day.

Cole responded saying, “I would modify that. The council would have to approve a map. They can then give to the public the selected map, and then offer an alternative map. I would ask that you would complete this process, first. Then you can call an election.”

City Clerk Arne Simonsen agreed saying, “The map does have to be adopted at the same time as the ordinance. It can be part of the ordinance.”

Wright, struggling with what to say, stated, “I could go 2020, but I could also go 2022. If we’re going through all that effort into a map that’s only going to be good for one year…I could be talked into going for 2022.”

Cole then warned, “I don’t think we would be exempt from someone seeking relief for the 2020 election. If you want to kick this to 2022…after 2020 you will have a census, and that map would never be used in an election. You’re creating a remedy, but you’re forestalling that remedy and you’re not avoiding a lawsuit.”

Thorpe said, “I’m not open to the 2022 election. It’s silly to adopt a map and then hold off. I’m perfectly fine if we went with 2018. If you push it back to 2020, what’s the point?”

Cole interjected, “If you wait until the 2020 election you could go to a citizen commission. You would have an election in 2020 under the map that you adopt on the 8th. My goal is to complete the process now, so you no longer have the CVRA (California Voting Rights Act) liability.”

Tiscareno then said, “I’m adamantly opposed to even doing this. But, I don’t want to be involved in a costly litigation. I’ll go ahead and support option two with the 2020 and if it’s a possibility of putting this before a commission and the voters.”

Thorpe responded, “When I was saying 2018 I was referring to sending the two maps to the voters.” He then asked, “Do we have to adopt a map? Can we do the example of a sliced bread map so that voters have a choice between two maps that are not biased by us?”

Cole responded, “Typically you have to do a yes, no on an initiative. The council would adopt a map. My request is we do introduce the ordinance and we do adopt a map.”

Thorpe then said, “I’m not an elections expert. Personally, I’m fine with sending it to the voters.

Wright then asked, “How much money are we talking about for asking the voters?”

Simonsen responded, “Adding a ballot measure…the cost you’re probably adding another 10 to 25%. The base for the election is $155,000 on the low side, right now.”

Wright then stated, “To me we’re talking about a lot of cost. If we were talking about ten years, that would be one thing.”

Simonsen offered to “come back at the 24th meeting with more information. But, as the city attorney said you will have to adopt a map. It doesn’t preclude you from going to the voters.”

Wright then said, “What we need to decide tonight is if we go forward with a map and what year.”

Thorpe stated, “We’re just throwing out ideas. Does it cost money? Absolutely. That’s the price of the democratic process. It costs money. If there were another initiative the council were going to put on the ballot…would it increase the cost?”

Simonsen said for the November election it will cost less. He estimated it will cost 20% more, giving an example of a previous election of “$4.00 per voter and we have 56,000 voters in Antioch.”

Wright said “it might be a reduced cost. This discussion is not agendized and it needs to be agendized. What we need done tonight is the adoption of an ordinance and the timeframe.”

Motion to Adopt Includes Two Year Terms for This Year’s Council Elections

With that Thorpe made a motion to adopt the ordinance changing to by-district elections and waiting until 2020 to implement it. But, he also chose Option 2 which requires that the two seats up for election in November, Tiscareno’s and Ogorchock’s seats, will be for only two-year terms

After a brief delay, Tiscareno seconded the motion.

Ogorchock then said, “In D on option two it talks about districts two and three. We must remove the district numbers. We don’t know what district it’s going to be.”

Cole responded, “the problem is we can’t amend this ordinance.”

Wright then explained “we can number the districts however we want. We haven’t numbered the districts, yet.”

Simonsen added, “that’s correct.”

Wright continued, “that can be decided when we accept the districts and number them, then.”

Tiscareno then said, “The way I’m reading it you’re giving a suggestion.”

Cole responded, “tonight you’re introducing the text that you’re codifying into law. And it has to have the same exact text that you’re going to introduce.”

Thorpe offered a further explanation to Ogorchock, saying, “We’re not married to the maps. We can decide which district will be associated with which number.”

Ogorchock then replied, “We’re going to number the maps the way we want to.”

Mayor Wright then called for the vote.

Four council members cast their votes. Someone said, “Lori, vote.”

“I’m thinking,” she replied to laughter from the audience, then went ahead and voted in favor.

The motion passed on a 5-0 vote.

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Antioch Council districting workshop results in changed Quadrants map, gets heated at the end

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

The revised quadrants map finalized at the council workshop on Tuesday, April 10, 2018.

By Allen Payton

During the special workshop of the Antioch City Council on the maps for the district elections on Tuesday evening, April 10, they made changes to the Quadrants B map. It also got a bit contentious among the council members at the end. Fewer than 25 members of the public were in attendance.

The council considered realigning the Quadrants B map along the current congressional district boundaries. Councilman Tony Tiscareno and Mayor Sean Wright offered the most proposals for moving the lines to that map.

There was a discussion about the population growth since the 2010 Census, which the council must use for the basis of dividing the city into districts. One argument was that the population grew more on the south side of Highway 4. However, Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe disagreed.

“We can’t assume all the growth went to south and southeast Antioch,” he said. “I don’t put a lot of stock in the difference between 102,000 and 114,000 population. Many of the homes were empty.”

Interim City Attorney Derek Cole said, “Quadrants A would address the issues of illegally diluted voting. It didn’t really respect communities of interest.”

Wright offered some changes to the quadrants map, which the consultants from Q2 made.

Councilwoman Monica Wilson said, “It seems to be the changes that were made…we’re splitting communities of interest.”

Tiscareno said “I’ve gotten many calls.” Thorpe said, “I’ve gotten many calls over on Hillcrest and Deer Valley. People looked at me like I was crazy when I proposed the quadrants.”

Cole then suggested the council rename the revised Quadrants B map to Quadrants C.

The revised map uses major thoroughfares on the south side of Highway 4 as the dividing lines, such as Putnam Drive, Lone Tree Way and Deer Valley Road, as well as the Delta DeAnza Trail on the west side of the city.

Public Comments

Marty Fernandez was the first member of the public to speak.

“I favor that C, now in the districting,” he said. “If one council member is good for downtown, two would be better, right, Lamar?” No one has mentioned how this would affect Viera Lane. How many people live out there? How much is this going to cost the city? Let’s have some transparency, here.”

Garry Holman introduced himself as “a former two-term member of the city’s Economic Development Commission.”

“The city government has promoted or professed to promote a common interest,” he said. “Avoid the creation of a wrong side and a right side of the tracks, namely Highway 4. I don’t think Antioch is big enough for district elections.”

Holman said it will create “clear balkanization.”

“I oppose Working Draft 1,” he stated. “Working Draft 1 will only codify the right side and wrong side of town.” He concluded his remarks saying he supported the quadrants map giving downtown two council members.

Former Councilman Ralph Hernandez said he opposes districting and submitted a letter about his views.
“This started out as a racial threat, based on the Latino vote of other cities,” he said. “It does not represent Antioch. I’m very angered that the Latino community is being used for a lawsuit against Antioch. “

Former Councilwoman Norma Hernandez spoke next, saying “Looking at the maps to me that’s gerrymandering. The city attorney can only advise you. The decision is your own and the consequence is your own.”

“This totally disenfranchises the voters of Antioch,” she added. “A house divided against itself, you know that can’t stand.”

Jeffrey Klinger was the last to speak saying, “I haven’t heard anything that’s changed my opinion of districting. It’s difficult to feel good about it as a citizen. But you had my sympathies.

My personal preference would be Quadrants C. I have a visceral reaction to using Highway 4 as the dividing line.”

Cole said the the council will bring back the final decision on May 8 and you would bring back two maps.

“What I need tonight is do you want one map or two maps? he asked. “We have to publish these maps in the paper. We’re kind of at a critical juncture, here.”

Accusations of Self-Serving Gerrymandering by Councilmembers

The council members then discussed the matter and it got a bit heated.

Thorpe said “this is costing us something and the public should know how much. Marty, I would agree with you that North antioch deserves two council people. When you look at B section what you see there’s a lot of people who live in that area. If you’re an incumbent in that area you won’t be going anywhere for a very long time. The voting pattern…dilutes the voting power for north Antioch. What these maps don’t do, in any of these maps, it doesn’t create a Latino majority district. We won’t be creating a majority minority district. We’re a pretty integrated community. Your comments about downtown Antioch I couldn’t disagree more. I think it’s interesting how everyone uses Highway 4, uses this as a demarcation line. The survey we took the people north of the freeway are very unsatisfied with the city of Antioch. Two-thirds of the people in southeast Antioch were satisfied. People are not happy in north Antioch. Some of that has been caused by the continued expansion in south Antioch. We didn’t look at other cities, we looked at Antioch and that’s how we learned of the racially polarized voting.”

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock said, “I too went out and walked. I went to the C Street area…showing them the maps. Most of them didn’t know we were doing the districting. I left over there and went to Beede Park. The majority of them I got signatures wanted Quadrants B. Several of them from C Street wanted Quadrants B. We are listening to what everyone is saying. We got several emails that were boilerplate emails. They’re talking about the school districts. They’re going to have five districts. So, what the school district does has nothing to do with what the city does. I know it’s a hard thing. We talk about Rivertown. It’s not everything below Highway 4.”

Tiscareno then said, “This is a very difficult situation. I had the pleasure to meet with some of the constituents, especially those who support Working Draft 1 and heard their stories. A lot of people did get a hold of me in regards to the Quadrants map. There are three maps that we’re looking at. This was really rushed…put toward us in a manner we might be making rash decisions. I thought we were going to have an ordinance on this. Putting forth a map before we have an ordinance is an oxymoron to me. We’re back down to two. If that’s what we’re doing then I would love to hear from the public. The ones who are adamant…I heard you. But there’s 116,000 people in the community and I want to hear from others. Working Draft 1 and Quadrants C.”

Wilson then said, “I haven’t put out my preference. I haven’t touched any of the maps. I’m uncomfortable with C because I feel like a little gerrymandering was going on. I too have been out in the community. The majority is Working Draft 1. At the end of the day moving the line there’s a preference to you.”

Wright weighed in saying, “I’m still against this. But we’ve been told by our attorney that if we fought this we would probably lose. We have to be responsible with the fiscal. How do we keep Antioch the best that we can over the long run. I’m OK with Quadrants C.”

He then defended the changes he made to the quadrants map saying, “When you gerrymander you draw crazy lines to make sure you have the people in your district. When drawing the lines I went down the major thoroughfares. I didn’t look at which family is where. I’m in favor of Quadrants C going forward and Working Draft 1.”

Thorpe said, “she’s not referring to the changes that Mayor Wright was doing. She was referring to the area over here (pointing to the change in lines between Districts A and D of the Quadrants map). This is why I hate this process. It shouldn’t be in the hands of politicians. Don’t dismiss the people who are trying to participate in the process. Whether they are signing a petition or signing someone else’s letter. I find that particularly unfortunate.”

Tiscareno was not happy saying, “when pointing toward the Gentrytown are, when looking at Working Draft 1 or Quadrants B the Gentrytown area remains intact. Quadrants B or C go against me. Working Draft 1 actually benefits me. But I’m doing this for the benefit of the community. I do take some offense that (others were saying) gerrymandering is taking place.”

Cole then said, “either Working Draft 1 or Quadrants C, legally speaking either map would be sufficient if enacted…in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. I feel I have direction from council to move forward with Working Draft 1 and Quadrants C.”

The workshop adjourned and the council went into regular session.

The council meeting for deciding on which map the council will adopt was moved to May 8 from the special meeting that was previously scheduled for Monday, April 23. According to City Manager Ron Bernal the council can’t adopt an ordinance at a special council meeting and the City Attorney got permission from the other attorney threatening the lawsuit to extend the deadline to complete the process.

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Antioch Council to hold special workshop to finalize district elections map before regular meeting Tuesday

Monday, April 9th, 2018

By Allen Payton

On Tuesday night, April 10, 2018 the Antioch City Council will hold a special workshop at 5:30 p.m. prior to their regular meeting at 7:00 p.m. to consider finalizing the drawing of the map for district elections. The council is considering two maps, one which creates a district north of the freeway known as Working Draft 1 and a second, known as the Quadrants which splits the north side of the freeway into two different districts.  The council will make efforts to redraw the Quadrants map but decided at their last meeting to leave the Working Draft 1 map as it is. Please see related article, here.

During their regular meeting, the council will hold a public hearing on and vote whether or not to even move forward with district elections. See complete agenda by clicking, here.

If so, then at a special meeting on Monday, April 23 the council will vote on which map they will use and finally, whether to implement district elections in 2018 or 2020.

The meeting is held in the Council Chambers at 200 H Street in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown. It can be viewed on local TV channel or via livestream on the city’s website at http://www.ci.antioch.ca.us/CityGov/citycouncilmeetings.htm.

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