Archive for the ‘Politics & Elections’ Category

Santa Clara County Deputy DA to challenge embattled Peterson for Contra Costa District Attorney

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Patrick Vanier

By Allen Payton

On Thursday, May 4th, Patrick Vanier, Supervising Deputy District Attorney for the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office Narcotics Prosecution Team, announced his campaign for Contra Costa County District Attorney. He was was joined by supporters at the Amador Rancho Community Center in San Ramon and will take on embattled incumbent D.A. Mark Peterson.

Vanier has been a prosecutor for almost 20 years and has prosecuted hundreds of criminals; both in the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office and now in the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.

“Today, prosecutors are not just trial attorneys,” said Vanier.  “They are investigators, problem solvers, innovators, and community partners in combating crime.  I have proven to be a prosecutor with fresh ideas and a willingness to institute best practices to bring the criminal justice system into the 21st Century.” 

Earlier this year, Vanier was awarded the 2017 San Jose Police Department’s Excellence in Prosecution Award and in 2015 he was named California Narcotics Officers’ Association State Prosecutor of the Year.  Vanier is an experienced prosecutor whose area of expertise is wiretap investigations, especially in major narcotic and gang crime investigations. 

Peterson has been under fire, including pressure to resign from both Contra Costa Deputy District Attorneys and more recently the Contra Costa Grand Jury, following his $45,000 fine, last year for the illegal, personal use of campaign funds totaling over $66,000 between 2011 and 2015.

“I am running for District Attorney because I believe we should expect more and deserve better from our elected District Attorney,” said Vanier.  “My priorities are to enforce and prosecute laws fairly to ensure offenders who threaten public safety are locked up, utilize the latest technologies, data analytics, and community prosecution models to address rising crime rates through crime prevention and enforcement, and hold myself and the attorney’s in the office to the highest ethical standards.”

According to Vanier’s bio on his campaign website at, “Patrick has spent more than half of his career working with law enforcement agencies investigating and prosecuting major narcotics cases with a particular emphasis on Mexican National drug cartels operating within California.  Patrick’s area of expertise is in the area of wiretap investigations.  He has utilized his expertise by collaborating with federal, state and local law enforcement on more than 100 wiretap applications targeting major drug traffickers, street gangs and murders.

Patrick has trained law enforcement and attorneys for the California District Attorneys’ Association, California Narcotics Officers’ Association, Northern California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and various law enforcement agencies within Santa Clara County. Patrick has taught on the subjects of wiretap investigations, legal updates in search and seizure law, California Electronic Communications Privacy Act and most recently Proposition 64 (Adult Use of Marijuana Act).

Working a variety of jobs during the day, Patrick completed law school at night and was awarded his Juris Doctorate in 1998 by John F. Kennedy University School of Law.  He received a B.S. in Business and Accounting from San Francisco State University in 1995 and a B.A. in Political Science from University of California, Irvine in 1991.

Patrick and his wife, Anaite, live in San Ramon with their three daughters where he has coached soccer for more than a decade.”

The election is in June, 2018.

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Frazier’s “Jeff Belle bill” on candidate accountability passes Assembly committee

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Jeff Belle, source Contra Costa County Board of Education

Increases maximum fine from $1,000 to $10,000

Sacramento, CA – On Wednesday, May 10th, legislation by Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D – Discovery Bay) that will raise penalties for candidates for office who make willful misrepresentations on their candidate statements passed the Assembly Elections committee on an unanimous 7-to-0 vote.

“We can’t allow candidates to dupe the voters…to lie their way into office when tax dollars or the education of our children are at stake,” Frazier stated. “When the public’s trust is in question, the public deserves to know the truth when reading an official candidate statement. This bill holds candidates accountable by increasing the fine for any willful misrepresentation.”

AB 894 would increase the current fine for a willful misrepresentation in a candidate statement to $10,000. The current fine is set at a maximum of $1,000, which has not been an effective deterrent and has not kept up with inflation.

In August 2015, the Contra Costa District Attorney filed a suit in court, The People of the State of California vs. Jeffrey Belle, against a candidate for the Contra Costa Board of Education for knowingly making a false statement of fact in a candidate statement with the intent to mislead voters. In this particular case the candidate falsified his education credentials, his residence, and his criminal record. Instead of a punishment including a fine, he received only entry into a diversion program for offenders, despite the injustice perpetrated upon the voters. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this remains a problem in other jurisdictions.

AB 894 now heads to the Assembly Floor.

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In spite of warning from Superintendent, principal, Park Middle School students prepared for teachers’ union May 1st Day of Action

Monday, May 1st, 2017

One of the teachers’ union posters for the May 1st Day of Action. Source:

Principal labels as “cowardly act” whistleblower informing news media of teachers’ efforts; accused of encouraging students to wear red on Monday to show their support; Antioch High hosting activities, as well

By Allen Payton

In response to an April 21st article by this reporter on this website, about plans by one or more teachers at Park Middle School to recruit students to participate in the promotion of the California teachers union May 1st Day of Action, Principal John Jimno sent out a memo to teachers warning them not to do so. In that memo, he also labeled the action of the whistleblower who informed the Herald “a cowardly act.”

In spite of the warning from Jimno and District Superintendent Stephanie Anello that teachers were not to recruit students or use class time, according to another anonymous staff member at Park, students in the school’s Leadership class were making red paper chains and recruiting other students to support the teachers’ efforts, in preparation for Monday’s activities. The California Teachers Association’s website states “Wear Red for Ed” and that the effort is to “Support All Students.” Yet, the teachers and possibly also the principal are encouraging students to wear red to support the teachers.

An email received on Thursday, April 27th (but unfortunately not viewed until Sunday night) from someone self-identifying as “Conscientious Employee” included Jimno’s email message sent to his school’s staff on Monday, April 24th:

FW: When planning for next week….

John Jimno

Sent: Monday, April 24, 2017 8:42AM

To: PMS Distribution List

Please do not promote this with any students or use class time to work on flyers. I am in talks with the District Office and The Teachers Union. You all have the right to promote this but we cannot use class time or encourage students to promote this. If you would like to discuss further please call me instead of replying to this email.

On another note, it saddens me that someone on our staff would take this inter school memo and send it to a reporter and cause such negativity for our school. For the past 5 years I have worked extremely hard to always have my door open if someone wanted to express a difference of opinion. On many occasions I have shifted or changed a decision or event based on how people were feeling about it. I would hope that if the person that sent this email would either come see me now so we can talk or the next time they feel something is not right they come speak with me prior to sending such a message to the media and causing such an attack on our school. In my opinion it is a cowardly act.

If you are confused about what I am talking about you can read the article on the Antioch Herald that was posted on Saturday.

Sincerely, John

In the email to the Herald the anonymous “Conscientious Employee” also wrote:

“I find it highly unprofessional and insulting that Principal Jimno would call whomever made the public aware of this violation a coward and to be so outraged that information, that the public has a right to know about, making Park look negative rather than being upset about the outrageous fact that a political agenda is being pushed on the student body of his school.

It was my understanding that any potential student involvement with this May 1st “Day of Action,” like wearing red, and activities like the red chain, etc. were to be ceased and the students were not to be encouraged or involved as pawns in this blatant use of the Union’s political agenda push. Not just at Park but also at other school sites throughout the district.

Today, Thursday, April 27th, I was told by other staff at Park that Principal Jimno put over the announcements this morning that the students don’t have to, but that they can wear red on the first of May to show support for their teachers.

Also today during lunches the Leadership students were assigned to run the lunch activity of making the red chain mentioned in the first e-mail sent to the Antioch Herald. Students who participated said that they were told by the Leadership students that the chain was, ‘or the May 1st thing. On May 1st everyone is supposed to wear red and it’s pledging your support.’

Pledging support for what? They were told, ‘That education should be free.’ This was all done during the Leadership students’ class time; they were not accompanied by a teacher and obviously had been instructed on what to say to their fellow students and to promote this agenda.

I dearly hope that this, as Walter Ruehlig so well put it in the comment section of your article, ‘black, white and unarguable violation of prohibition of political activity within the schools’ and unlawful ‘use of District technology, facilities and paid time to lobby’ is ended swiftly. I thank you for your action in keeping the impressionable young minds of Antioch’s youth protected from being used as political pawns.


‘a conscientious employee’

*This letter has also been sent to the following: Walter Ruehlig (School Board President) and Stephanie Anello (AUSD Superintendent)”

Questions were sent late Sunday night to Anello, Ruehlig and the rest of the board members, asking what actions would be taken against the teachers who ignored the directions by both Anello and Jimno.

In addition, they were asked if the May 1st activities by teachers were also occurring at others schools in the district, if they believe Jimno’s “cowardly act” comment was appropriate, and about a culture of fear in the district which some school staff members are afraid to speak out with views that differ from other teachers, the union or administration.

5/1/17 12:00 p.m. UPDATE: In an email, Monday morning, Anello responded with the following:

“I just spoke with Principal Jimno and there are no activities planned today. If students are participating, it is outside of class and voluntary. The announcement that Mr.  Jimno made about wearing red, etc. was to reiterate the contents of the follow-up email to staff wherein he told them no class time was to be used and no students should be told to wear red, etc. The activity that occurred at lunch time was student led and no teacher directed students to participate.”

However, a person who answered the phone at Park Middle School said Jimno was unavailable for comment as he is not at the school, today. An email was then sent to him asking him why and with other questions regarding the activities alleged by the anonymous Conscientious Employee.

In addition, a voicemail message was left with Vice Principal Peter Crutchfield asking if activities for the May 1st Day of Action were occurring on the campus.

Antioch High May 1st Activities

Promotion of May 1st event at Antioch High on Facebook.

An event listing posted on Facebook described an Immigration Awareness Assembly and Resource Fair at the school for Monday afternoon, from 12:15 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., with the description of “Know Your Rights” and the graphic of a black, raised fist.

The assembly, presented by the school’s Lead Academy, offered the subject matters of “Know your rights,” “Information for undocumented students and parents” and “How to protect yourself from ICE” listed in both English and Spanish.

The resource fair began at 11;30 a.m. and included the following description:

“Come join us on May Day for a day of action! You’re invited to Know Your Rights.

Resource fair opens at 11:30 am, program begins at 12:15 pm

Keynote speakers include: Juan Ortiz and Mary Rocha

Resource fair organizations include: First 5, International Institute of the Bay Area, One Day at a Time, Organizing for Action, Planned Parenthood, Together We Will, and United Latino Voices

Asked about the event occurring on another Antioch school campus, Anello said, “Today is a minimum day at Antioch High School and this event happening after school and was organized by students as part of their senior project.”

5/1/17 6:45 p.m. UPDATE

In an afternoon email, Anello responded further, stating “Mr. Jimno did not tell students to wear red. He stated that some staff may wear red as part of a national day of action day but that classroom time should not be used for activities supporting the day.

According to Mr. Jimno, students did not use Leadership class time for any activities related to the day of action.

You are welcome to reach out to Mr. Jimno about his email as he and I did not discuss it prior to or after he sent it out.”

In addition, Jimno also responded to questions emailed to him earlier in the day, including if it was appropriate to label what the anonymous teacher or staff member did to first inform the Herald, a “cowardly act” and if there was a culture of fear at the school that causes some teachers or staff to be afraid to speak up with views that are different from other teachers, the union or the administration.

“In response to the below email:

  • At no time did I make an announcement in attempt to solicit students to participate in what the teachers were planning.
  • The leadership students did not take part in a class time activity to work on this.  Any participation by students was through their request to do so and voluntarily.
  • I have worked extremely hard with the help of many dedicated staff members to create an organization where everyone’s voice is heard and valued.  As my email to the staff suggests, it saddens me that someone chose to go outside the school to express their concern prior to coming to speak with me first.  Before I am accused of having “a culture of fear” on my campus I would hope you would come interview the staff on their thoughts instead of making this judgment on an anonymous email.


John Jimno”

Another email was received from Conscientious Employee reporting what occurred at Park Middle School, today and last week by students in preparation for the May 1st Day of Action:

“I was told that this morning there were teachers in front of the school wearing red and holding signs and that some students picked up signs and participated as well.  I don’t have pictures of the students making the chain during lunches, they made it during lunches last week I think just so that if anyone questioned it they could say that it wasn’t done on May 1st.  I also find it a side-step trying to avoid the issue that they are saying that any activities were student led and no teachers were involved; yes, the leadership students were running the activity table without adults involved.

“However, they were doing so during lunches that did not correspond with their grade level which means that they were out of a scheduled class missing instructional time to run the red chain activity and they had to have been instructed in what activity to do and what it was about.  Students participating during their lunches may not have been directed to participate but obviously the leadership students had to have been directed by staff.”

Please see the photos, below of the rather muted Day of Action activities at Park Middle School provided anonymously to the Herald.


A hand-written sign on the side of a building at Park Middle School on May 1st.

A red paper chain on metal a barrier in front of Park Middle School was one of three seen on fences at the campus on Monday, May 1st.


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School Board votes to expand meditation teaching into more Antioch classrooms

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Photo from the Mindful Life Project website

Vinson served with recall  papers, Sawyer-White threatened with possible recall

By Nick Goodrich

On Wednesday night, the Antioch School Board voted 5-0 to approve funding for a meditation- and mindfulness-based program at Belshaw Elementary. In addition, Board Vice President Debra Vinson was served with recall papers for a second time and Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White was threatened with a possible recall.

The Mindful Life Project

The Mindful Life Project, based in Richmond, California, will receive $1,500 as part of a vendor agreement with the school district, that includes a two-hour training for educators that will allow them to implement the program in their classrooms.

According to district staff, the program “empowers students with mindfulness and other transformational skills that build self-awareness, development of natural conflict resolution skills, self-regulation, perseverance, resilience, and social-emotional intelligence”.

The School Board allayed fears on Wednesday about the Mindful Life Project representing an introduction of Eastern religious teachings into Antioch classrooms. The program’s only goal, according to board members and district staff, is to help implement behavioral changes in Antioch students.

Board President Walter Ruehlig, who was given the chance to participate in one of the program’s meditation exercises, noted that the exercise simply involved breathing and reflection techniques.

“I didn’t notice anything religious about it,” he said. The other board members agreed, seeing no indication that the program involved religious teachings.

Earlier in the meeting, Superintendent Stephanie Anello delivered a report on the progress of meeting certain goals she set for the AUSD last year. Part of the report included her increased emphasis on tiered behavioral and intervention support for schools, and she informed the Board of a District-wide 38% decrease in suspensions from 2010 to 2016.

The Mindful Life Project is a new addition to the District that Anello hopes will continue that trend into next year. It has drawn praise for its effect on some of Richmond’s students, but it remains to be seen how effective it will be in Antioch.

With some AUSD schools holding less-than-stellar reputations for the behavior of their students, the District will presumably continue to find funding for proven anger management and behavioral intervention programs alongside the new addition of the Mindful Life Project.

On the website for The Mindfulness Project at it shows photos of children in classrooms, with their eyes closed, sometimes with hands out stretched, in what appears to be states of meditation. (See related Herald article)

The term for mindfulness in A Glossary of Pali and Buddhism Terms is sati. It’s definition is “Mindfulness, self-collectedness, powers of reference and retention. In some contexts, the word sati when used alone covers alertness (sampajañña) as well.” According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Pali is the Buddhist canonical language.

Attempt to Televise Board Meetings

At their previous meeting, Vinson proposed the idea of holding board meetings in the Antioch City Council Chambers, which would allow them to be televised and hold a larger audience.

Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White raised the discussion again on Wednesday, and said it would further increase transparency between the District and the public.

However, the Board was not prepared to discuss it during their meeting on the 23rd, and so resolved once again to place the matter on a future meeting agenda.

For now the District makes available the audio of all Board Meetings on their website.

Vinson Served With Recall Papers, Again

Trustee Debra Vinson during her first Antioch School Board meeting, Dec. 10, 2014. Photo by Allen Payton

During public comments on Wednesday, AUSD employee Nicole Cedano appeared again before the Board to serve Trustee Debra Vinson with a second set of recall papers.

Cedano’s first effort, stemming from an incident last year in which Cedano alleged that Vinson became verbally abusive to a secretary at an Antioch school campus, failed after being denied by the County Elections Office due to “a word technicality,” she said.

“Your behavior continues to be a detriment to this District and create an unwelcoming atmosphere for staff, students, and the community,” Cedano told Vinson during her statement to the Board.

In addition to serving Vinson with recall papers, Cedano also warned Sawyer-White of a potential recall, after Sawyer-White made comments last month suggesting that the District hire only minority firms.

“The best firm should get the job regardless of sex or color,” Cedano told the Board. “You should want what is best for the District, not what is best for a certain demographic.”

An attempt to reach Vinson for comment was unsuccessful prior to press time.

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Frazier introduces “Jeff Belle” bill to increase penalties for ballot statement lies

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

In a move that would take a major step forward in addressing accountability for cases of election fraud perpetrated by candidates, Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D – Discovery Bay) announced on Thursday the introduction of AB 894, which will increase penalties in cases that determine a willful misrepresentation was made on a candidate statement.

“I introduced AB 894 in an effort to make sure voters are not deceived by candidates fabricating their accomplishments and misleading the public,” said Frazier. “We saw this occur in Contra Costa County. It is not fair and I will do everything in my power to make sure the residents I represent are protected from this injustice in the future.”

Frazier is referring to the case of Contra Costa County School Board Member Jeff Belle, who was prosecuted by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office for lying on his ballot statement during his 2014 campaign, about earning a college degree. The DA settled the case in December, with Belle agreeing to perform community service, in order to avoid facing trial and a maximum penalty of $1,000. (See related article, here).

Currently, the penalty for a candidate lying on his or her nomination papers, which are not public documents and remain within a county’s elections office, are much greater at a maximum of $1,000 and three years in prison. Frazier became aware of that fact last year, didn’t think it made sense and decided to do something about it.

AB 894 will strengthen penalties for candidates who misrepresent facts on a ballot statement, which is public and is sent out to all the voters in a district. Specifically, this bill raises penalties to include forfeiture of office and reimbursement of all costs for the election.

“Misleading the voters about a candidate’s background on ballot statements has been a problem in our county in recent years,” said Joe Canciamilla, Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar. “Assemblymember Frazier’s bill is a good start in helping to ensure transparency and accountability to the voters.”

This bill is currently awaiting assignment to policy committee in the California State Assembly.

Frazier represents the 11th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Antioch, Bethel Island, Brentwood, Byron, Discovery Bay, Knightsen,, Oakley and portions of Pittsburg in Contra Costa County, as well as Birds Landing, Collinsville, Fairfield, Isleton, Locke, Rio Vista, Suisun City, Travis AFB, Vacaville and Walnut Grove in Solano County.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Antioch School Board to offer proper recognition of new Trustee Sawyer-White, past members Navarro, Terry at meeting tonight

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

By Allen Payton

The Antioch School Board faced criticism over the way the oath of office ceremony for new Trustee, and top vote-getter in the November election, Crystal Sawyer-White was handled, as well as the recognition of outgoing Trustees Fernando Navarro and Alonzo Terry, in December. In response, new Board President Walter Ruehlig and Vice President Debora Vinson have set a redo for tonight’s meeting.

A re-enactment of Sawyer-White’s oath of office will begin at 6:15 p.m. followed by a time of special recognition of Navarro and Terry. Members of the public will be allowed to speak and offer their thoughts and thanks to all three. That will be followed by a reception.

According to a previous Herald article, Sawyer-White’s original ceremony was rescheduled for 6:00 p.m., an hour before it was listed on the agenda for the December 14th meeting, without announcing it publicly. So, very few people were in attendance.

An attempt by former Board President and re-elected Trustee Diane Gibson-Gray was made to replace Navarro and Terry with Sawyer-White and returning Trustee Gary Hack, before the Rocketship Charter School vote at the December 7th special board meeting. Navarro saw the removal of his and Terry’s photos from the wall inside the District offices and their presentation to the two outgoing board members at the meeting on November 16, as part of that effort. He refused to accept his photo that night and Gibson-Gray’s effort was later rebuffed by Ruehlig and Vinson.

Until tonight’s meeting there has been nothing on a school board agenda for an official farewell to the two former trustees, the way the Antioch City Council handled it during the transition of power, there.

The ceremony, recognition and reception will be followed by the regular school board meeting at 7:00 p.m. Both will occur in the Board Room at the District Administrative Offices at 510 G Street in downtown Antioch.

To view the entire meeting agenda, please click here.


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BART offers longer trains for inauguration-related events

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Trump_Inaugural_Logo.svgBART is taking steps to prepare for what are expected to be large crowds for Inauguration-related events in downtown Oakland and San Francisco. Longer trains will be available for riders all day Friday and Saturday.  BART also plans to have a few additional event trains on standby at key locations on Saturday ready to deploy if warranted by the size of the crowds.

Additional employees will be at the ready to assist BART riders during the next few days.  That includes more Station Agents at what are likely to be the busiest stations.  We will have extra technicians at the ready at those stations to make sure our ticket machines are working and to respond to any new elevator or escalator outages.  Also, additional officers and sergeants from the BART Police Department will be working through Saturday to help with crowd control.

Dozens of events are planned for the region starting Thursday night and continuing through Saturday.  We are expecting some our busiest stations to include 12th Street and Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland as well as Civic Center and Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Riders also play an important role in preparing for these busy travel days.  We strongly encourage everyone to either buy roundtrip tickets or use their Clipper cards.  Also, if you see something suspicious at a station, please tell BART police or a station agent.  If you see something say something.

The ceremonies for the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States will begin Friday morning at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time, 8:30 a.m. Paficic.


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Rep. DeSaulnier to boycott Trump’s Inauguration

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Mark_DeSaulnier.jpegWashington, DC – On Friday, January 13, 2017, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA11) announced that he will not attend the Inauguration of President-elect Donald J. Trump, one week from today.

“The peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next is a uniquely American tradition that defines our democracy. Inaugurations are a time for our Presidents to ignite hope, demonstrate humility, and espouse faithfulness to the principles enumerated in the Constitution. The President-elect has yet to demonstrate these traits, and it is with a heavy heart and deep personal conviction that I have decided not to attend the Inauguration on January 20, 2017,” said DeSaulnier.

“Having watched, listened, and waited during this transition period, I was hopeful the President-elect would turn away from the divisive and contentious behavior exhibited during the campaign and embrace a message to unify all Americans. Sadly, we have witnessed one polarizing action after another. Since being elected, he has demonstrated hostility toward our free and open press, committed to gutting health insurance for millions of hardworking families, and is filling his cabinet with nominees more closely aligned with Wall Street than Main Street.

“Earlier this week, the President-elect acknowledged, but took no meaningful steps to mitigate his many personal conflicts of interest. The plan he outlined is wholly inadequate and leaves the American public with more questions than answers. It is the duty of the President of the United States to meet the minimum legal and ethical standards outlined in the Constitution. This makes his refusal to follow the precedent set by the last four generations of presidents from both parties gravely concerning.

“As President, the nation will look to him for guidance in times of turmoil and times of plenty. In these moments, the country must have full confidence that his sole focus is on protecting America’s interest – not his own. I believe when he places his hand on the Bible and takes the sacred oath that Presidents Washington and Lincoln did before him, he will in that very moment, be in violation of that oath and the Constitution.

“As a student of American history, I cannot sit idly by and normalize a President who has displayed disregard for our past traditions and Constitution. In this critical period of transition, I am reminded of when Benjamin Franklin exited the Constitutional Convention at its completion and approached a group of citizens, one of whom asked ‘Mr. Franklin, what have you given us?’ to which he replied ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’ On Inauguration Day, I will not be in attendance, but instead preparing to do all I can to keep our republic.”

DeSaulnier represents most of Contra Costa County, including portions of Antioch, in the U.S. House of Representatives. To communicate with the Congressman, contact him through his website at, call his Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-2095 or District office in Richmond at (510) 620-1000 or his office in Walnut Creek at (925) 933-2660.

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