Archive for the ‘Politics & Elections’ Category

Antioch School Board candidate Burkholder takes Trustee Navarro to task at board meeting, for negative comments about the district

Friday, September 16th, 2016

By Nick Goodrich

During the regular meeting of the Antioch School Board on Wednesday, September 14th, Mike Burkholder, the publisher of and a candidate for school board in the November election, had some particularly harsh words for appointed Board Trustee Fernando Navarro.

Toward the end of the public comments section of the meeting, Burkholder entered the room and stated his desire to make a comment. Board Vice President Walter Ruehlig, who was running the meeting in President Diane Gibson-Gray’s absence, allowed it.

Burkholder then proceeded to take issue with a statement that he said Navarro made at a debate last week for the school board candidates, hosted by the Friday Morning Breakfast Club.

According to Burkholder, Navarro said that the AUSD provides “services equivalent to the DMV.” Burkholder also said that he had been told by a local elected official who had met privately with Navarro to discuss the state of the schools, that Navarro had said, “If the District were to be graded, it would receive an F minus minus.”

Burkholder went on to say that, as a member of the School Board, Navarro should be “promoting the District and building it up, rather than shedding a negative light on it.”

“It’s simply bad rhetoric,” Burkholder said of Navarro’s comments.

With Antioch Unified already facing problems such as a high transfer-out rate, he said that one of the Board’s primary concerns should be to always promote the District in a way that attracts new students and those that are already here.

Burkholder called for Navarro to issue a formal apology to the District and the Board Members, while citing Antioch’s recent college fair – in which dozens of scholarships were issued and students accepted to schools – as a sign that the District is seeing some notable successes.

“When a member of the School Board is that negative,” he said, “It makes the District look bad and makes these problems worse.”

9/19/16 UPDATE: Burkholder did not participate in the candidates’ forum on Thursday, September 8. But, he did provide an audio of Navarro’s comments during the forum, which was surreptitiously obtained. The forum moderator, Ann Flynn of the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley specifically stated that no unauthorized recording of the forum would be allowed. On Monday, September 19, Don Freitas, the leader of the Friday Morning Breakfast Club which sponsored the forum stated, “I didn’t authorized an audio recording. If there is one, it was done without the FMBC’s permission.”

Burkholder was asked how he obtained the audio, but didn’t respond.

Following is Navarro’s complete statement at the forum, which can be heard, here:

“Well I’d like to start with what I’m not. So, I’m not a politician. I’m not a polished orator. But, what I am, as I’ve stated before, I’m a parent with two children in the district, which gives me skin in the game. I’m a business owner, like I said for 20 years. I know customer service and I know quality control. Demographically, we’re losing 900-plus students between last year and the end of this year, projected. We’re dropping the ball on quality service to our customers, which are the kids and their parents. We’ve lost 25% of our student population in the last dozen years. If we were a for profit business, we’d be shuttered and closed down, by now. But because we are subsidized by the taxpayers we’re becoming a little tone deaf and we’re becoming equivalent in customer service with the DMV. For God’s sakes, let us not become the DMV.”

When asked for comments following the school board meeting, Navarro said that, although his comments were taken out of context, he stands by his assessment of the District’s condition. Noting that over 900 students have left the District in the last two years, and the exceedingly low state test scores by Antioch students in math and English, Navarro said the AUSD was failing the majority of its students.

“My point as a business owner was to underscore the dangers of not respecting where the incoming funds originate. We talk about the funds coming from the feds, or from the state. Ultimately, though, all funds come from the taxpayers,” he said. “Whenever a government body loses that perspective, becomes tone deaf, and suffers no consequences, we become just like the DMV. My actual statement during the debate was, ‘Folks, let’s not become like the DMV.’”

Navarro also said that he was surprised that the private conversation he’d had with Antioch Mayor Wade Harper had been passed on to the public, but that the statistics on student outcomes supported that statement, as well.

“When over 80% of our students are not proficient in math, and 70% are not proficient in English,” he said, “That certainly seems like a failure to me.”

Despite the backlash to his comments, Navarro was also appreciative. “I am open to any criticism, comments, and suggestions that can help improve the District,” he said. “This isn’t fun and games. We must be serious about it for the sake of the kids and the District…If we’re simply going to conceal our issues, we’re never going to solve them.”

When reached for comment to explain if and why he shared what Navarro had told him with Burkholder, Harper said he had “no comment.”

Allen Payton contributed to this story, specifically providing the 9/19/16 update, including Navarro’s complete comment at the forum.

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Rumble in Rivertown, Round 3: Five of seven Antioch School Board candidates square off at forum

Friday, September 16th, 2016
Five of the seven candidates for Antioch School Board participated in the Friday Morning Breakfast Club's forum on Thursday, September 8, 2016.

Five of the seven candidates for Antioch School Board participated in the Friday Morning Breakfast Club’s forum on Thursday, September 8, 2016.

By Allen Payton

At a forum for Antioch School Board candidates in the November election, hosted by the Friday Morning Breakfast Club on Thursday, September 8, 2016, five of the seven squared off, debating and discussing the issues facing the Antioch Unified School District.

Two candidates, incumbent Diane Gibson-Gray and news site publisher Mike Burkholder said they couldn’t attend due to a scheduling conflict with back-to-school night, at the same time as the forum. However, both appointed incumbents Fernando Navarro and Alonzo Terry attended the forum. Navarro said he visited one school and with his children’s teachers prior to the forum, and Terry arrived late to the forum in order to fulfill his commitment to visit three schools.

In addition, former school board trustees, Gary Hack and Joy Motts, along with substitute teacher and tutoring business owner Crystal Sawyer-White participated in the forum.

Don Freitas, the leader of the Friday Morning Breakfast Club, an invitation-only group of about 22 residents who meet on Fridays to discuss local issues, hosted the event in the Antioch City Council Chambers and Ann Flynn of the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley served as moderator and asked the questions. She also stated that no unauthorized recording of the forum would be allowed, as was the same for the mayor and council forums hosted by the FMBC, last week.

Opening Statements

Seated, speaking and answering questions in random order, the candidates gave their opening statements with Hack speaking, first.

“I want to be on the board, yet again to help educate kids and make them a better person,” he said.

Sawyer-White said “I’m excited to be running for the Antioch School Board. As a parent in the 21st Century, I believe that every parent should have access to the best education possible.”

She then listed her experience and service on various committees, as well as being the owner of a tutoring business.

Motts spoke about being a “lifelong resident of Antioch and a product of Antioch schools.”

“We need school board members who have a detailed knowledge that is focused on our children,” Motts added.

Navarro spoke of his upbringing, as well.

“I’m a first-generation American of Mexican descent,” he said. “I know the problems of inner city youth. I’m fully bilingual and bicultural.”

“I’m a defender of the taxpayer and the bottom line,” Navarro continued.

“My frustration was the experience in the ELL (English Language Learners) program,” he said as one of the reasons that motivated him to apply for the appointment to the board vacancy, last year. He also said he wanted to “see how the sausage is made, if you will. To look under the hood.”

“The opportunity to rectify the school district is closing,” Navarro added.

Candidate’s Experience

Motts shared about her experience on the school board.

“It was a very difficult time,” she said. “We worked very strategically to get through the crisis.”

She spoke of “many reformations,” the “Antioch High restoration, Linked Learning and restorative justice, “despite the deep cuts.”

Hack said he’d “been a small business owner for more than 25 years” and “on the board for four years.”

“When I was on the board, it was the time of the recession,” he stated and spoke of “prudent husbandry of the budget we had.”

“The budget problems won’t disappear,” Hack added.

Navarro responded with “I’m not a politician. I’m not a polished orator.”

He shared that he has been “business owner for 20 years” and learning about “quality service and quality control.”

He mentioned the on-going drop in enrollment and that students were leaving the district.

“Because we are subsidized by the taxpayers, we’ve become a little tone deaf,” Navarro continued. “For God’s sake, let’s not become the DMV.”

Sawyer-White said she was “deeply concerned” about “crime” and “I feel unsafe in some situations.

“I feel I can make a difference,” she said and then mentioned “summer jobs” for students.

“Children have been diagnosed with” learning disabilities, Sawyer-White continued. “They’re not able to meet the Common Core standards.”

Motts used her first rebuttal in response to Navarro.

“The drop in enrollment is anticipated,” she stated. “Those children are now aging out. It appears there’s more of a problem than it is.”

“The good news is there’s new development coming into Antioch,” Motts added.

Handling Disciplinary Problems

Hack said he wants to “enhance the education experience” and about the “dichotomy of those who behave and those who don’t behave.”

“I met with the principal at Dallas Ranch” about “restorative justice that deals with kids who have been suspended and deal with them when they return to campus.”

Navarro said “I think we should have zero tolerance for interruptions in the classroom.”

He wants to “reinstill a respect for fellow classmates and teachers” and spoke about “better class management.”

“Students work more individually than in group seating,” Navarro added.

Sawyer-White mentioned “PBIS,” referring to positive behavior implementation strategies, then spoke of her experience at a school where she taught.

“We had a tracking device instead of sending the student home, but out of the classroom.”

She spoke of having the students “meet with the school psychologist, parents, teachers.”

“If you build rapport with students…they can excel academically,” Sawyer-White added.

Motts said “many students come into the classroom in crisis” due to being “hungry or challenges at home.”

She also mentioned PBIS and said “we reach out to every child to get the services and counseling they need.”


The next question was how the candidates could turn around the chronic truancy in the district, which is as high as 40% at Antioch High School.

Sawyer-White responded with her knowledge of what is done in other school districts, how the “classroom is rewarded for high attendance and no tardies” and “if late a number of times it can add up to an absence.”

“There needs to be more of a text message tracking system,” she continued and wanted to “get the parents involved.”

Navarro took a different tack, saying “stop blaming parents and students” and “start accepting blame as a district.”

He cited “boredom and not feeling safe” and when the schools “promote students prematurely.”

Navarro suggested an “all hands on deck” approach and working “with the city council and police department.”

Motts said “I have to agree with Fernando on one point. Our children need to be engaged.” She then mentioned linked learning at the secondary schools.

“Truancy is the responsibility of parents and students,” she continued. “It affects our bottom line. Our ADA” referring to average daily attendance which determines the amount of per pupil funding the district receives from the state.

“The district can’t tolerate it,” Motts added.

Hack said “there are positive programs” and that “what happens in the class needs to be relevant to students.”

“Truancy won’t go away,” he continued, then spoke of “communication with parents, family and the kid taking responsibility” as his solution.

Alonzo Terry, arrived in time to answer the question.

“Mr. Hack is correct,” he stated. “Truancy can come in so many ways. Some time circumstances cause people to be late or not even show up.”

“Together, it’s about communication and tell them how important it (school) is,” Terry added.

Programs for Academic Achievement

When asked which programs are translating into academic achievement, Navarro said “I would pick the Math Intensive. It shows data driven results.”

“The class structure,” he continued. “It goes back to old school mentality.”

“The business of schools is education,” Navarro stated. “I am a believer in all the different career paths.”

Terry said “it’s not one fit for all. I went to visit several math programs.”

He then stated there are “three different ways people learn in English and math. We need to put them all together.”

Hack said “options are good. One system doesn’t work for everyone.”

“Give kids different approaches to be successful,” he continued. “It’s very different than when we were in school. It’s better. Kids are learning stuff and we don’t have to rely on test scores.”

Sawyer-White said “I don’t think one size fits all. A career path is a good beginning for the Antioch school district.”

She then mentioned “robotics, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs in Pittsburg, computer technology and engineering.”

Motts said “with the LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) you get to go back each year and review. It’s really about equity. Our children have different needs.”

“We need to make sure the children remain in school, are engaged and perform,” she added.

Biggest Issue

When asked what the biggest issue facing Antioch schools, Terry replied “that question is really hard. What is 9-11 to one person is 4-11 to others. It’s like asking someone would you rather have a bullet or a knife.”

“I don’t know how to answer that question, because they’re all important,” he continued. “They all need to be addressed with the same amount of energy.”

Sawyer-White spoke of “graduation rates at 77%. We can improve that.”

“After graduation the job opportunity is bleak,” she stated, then suggested Antioch schools be “linked with community college for classes.”

Motts said “providing a quality education is job one. It encompasses a whole bunch of things.”

Hack didn’t like the question, then rephrased it.

“It’s a negative connotation,” he said.

“What is the biggest priority?” Hack asked. “It’s personnel. Everything flows from that.”

He then mentioned the “new members on the board” and the district having “a rookie superintendent.”

“We lost over 100 teachers, this year,” Hack continued, then spoke of “paying regular wages.”

He said it’s about “dealing with the best humans we can put in place.”

Navarro said it’s “the demographics” and that “77% of our students are not proficient in English.”

He then mentioned the “truancy issue at our high schools” and that “33% are barely making it.”

“We’re graduating kids but they’re undercooked,” Navarro continued. “The colleges have to pick up the slack.”

“We need to rethink our fad tactics,” he added.

Common Core

When asked about Common Core, Navarro read a statement from legal counsel that it was a state requirement and the policy of the district, then crumbled up the page the statement was on and tossed it to his side.

“Top down ties hands. The hands of our district and parents,” he stated. “It cattle prods our students.”

“We can do better,” Navarro continued. “We can go beyond the mandate.”

Sawyer-White first said “I feel it is a challenge” but then said “I think it prepares the student in the proper way in math and English.”

“If parents were more involved at home, working with their student, with the teacher, they can succeed,” she stated. “It prepares us better for college prep.”

Terry said “Common Core is good for some people, not for everyone” but, if it’s “not working you have to find another avenue.”

Motts said “the data is still out a bit on it.”

“But teaching to the test was failing our students,” she added. “It’s raising the bar which will lead to higher achievement for our students. I fully support it.”

Hack said “things need to change to the modern world.”

“I also think it’s a dynamic and different approach,” he stated. “It’s in its infancy. It’s a living and ongoing process.”

“Education is always changing,” Hack continued. “I’m in favor of it, now.”

Navarro used one of his rebuttals to respond, saying he wanted to “point out over time, truth comes out” and that Common Core is a “bill of goods that was sold to us.”

“They pulled it out of a hat,” he continued. “We’re seeing a gap between high schools and colleges which I think was intentional.”

Hack used one of his rebuttals, as well and said there are “three parts of any program, staff and teachers, the board trains and supplies, monitors and adjusts it,” and that “students and parents need to do their part.”

“Being stagnant in education does not solve the issue,” he added.

Budget Deficit

When asked about the $2 million deficit spending in the current budget, Motts responded “that’s inaccurate. Adjustments have been made.

“I’ve been through deficit situations,” she continued. “It’s about efficiency. Retiring teachers can cut costs.”

“We’re 47th in the nation in per pupil spending,” Motts added, referring to state spending.

Motts is correct. The figure in the question is incorrect. The 2016-17 budget approved by the district in June includes deficit spending of $1.2 million. But, it projects a deficit of $2.1 million next year and $2.4 million in Fiscal Year 2018-19.

Terry said “we have to cut from the top and work our way down, because I think we’re top heavy.”

“Right now, we are in a hole and it’s not going to be easy and some people are going to be hurt,” he added, then referred to the decline in enrollment. “We’re losing numbers.”

Navarro said “we need to start with a ‘come to Jesus’ moment.”

“The funds come from the taxpayers,” he stated and proposed a budget “review, line item by item.”

“I’d like to see a larger vendor pool,” Navarro continued. “We’re paying through the nose top dollar.”

“We’re getting about a quarter of a million dollars and we still have teachers paying for pencils and tissues?” he asked.

Hack said “every year, in June, we have those discussions.”

“You may not be rich, but you’re solvent,” he stated. “Maybe not with a capital ‘S’.”

He then spoke of the “dichotomy of how much do we keep in reserves. I think it’s very viable.”

Sawyer-White said “Again, I’m new to this,” then suggested “maybe have a long-term forecast” and what was done to save money at the school where her son attends.

“We decided not to get a $25,000 electronic sign,” she said.

“Maybe we don’t need so many consultants,” Sawyer-White stated, regarding the AUSD. “And vendors, I agree with Mr. Fernando.”

Trade & Technology Education

Terry was first to answer, stating “we need to bring back all the trades that we can do with our hands.”

Motts said “not every child is on a pathway to go to college.”

“The good news is they are starting to work with the trades and trying to integrate those into the schools,” she stated. “I would definitely support that.”

Sawyer-White said “I am very supportive of vocational training.”

She then suggested adding “coding classes” and that they “prepare you for developing websites,” and then also proposed “entrepreneurship classes…mechanics, maybe dental training.”

Navarro said “I believe in vocational education” and suggested “aviation engineering” and also mentioned coding.

However, he said “if we don’t get back to basics, it’s all a moot point.”

Hack said “one fallacy in education is that everyone’s going to college. Not true.”

He proposed “coming up with new classes that we don’t have in the district, already.”

Teacher Complaints

When asked what board members should do if teachers complain that they’re not being listened to by administration, Sawyer-White responded “In Sweden, the principal has to teach a class, once a year.”

“They’re not aware of what’s happening in the classroom because they haven’t taught,” she said.

She then suggested “multi-disciplinary teams to meet more often.”

Terry said “I don’t think anyone should be denied form going to whomever, whenever they want.”

“That should be changed,” he continued. “Teachers need to know they will be heard.”

Hack said “as a board member, you have to be open to communication. But we have to work through the proper channels.”

“There’s a danger there for board members to try to deal with individual problems,” he added.

Navarro said “the role of the board” is to “represent voters, taxpayers and the district teachers.”

“But you only have one vote,” he stated. “The role of the board members is to be a conduit. Because the board only has one employee, the superintendent.”

“Feel free to call me or text me,” Navarro continued. “I’m an open book.”

Motts said “teachers are on the front line. I think it’s imperative the board members are out in the schools.”

“Healthy organizations have open communication,” she added.

Parent Involvement

On this subject, Motts spoke about her experience in the PTSA (parent, teacher, student association).

“The good thing about LCAP is it requires parental communication and involvement,” she said. “Teachers need to reach out to parents.”

Hack said “I like to talk to teachers. You find out what’s going on with parents.”

He suggested “going to PTA meetings.”

Sawyer-White said “parental involvement is a challenge. I think the first day of school should be an orientation, so you don’t have an open house a week later.”

“There’s no excuse not to communicate with parents,” she added.

Terry said “I’m the wrong person to ask that question. You can’t make nobody do anything.”

“We all do what we can to get them involved,” he continued. “Especially the parent. Because every parent is not a parent.”

“I have 380 kids I work on a regular basis,” Terry shared. “It’s hard to get parents involved.”

Navarro said “I echo some of what Alonzo said. It’s plant that seed with parents.”

“They are the single most important first responders. We’re just surrogates,” he stated. “I do a lot of outreach to the Hispanic community.”

Corporal Punishment

Responding to a “lightning round question” of should the district “bring back corporal punishment,” they all said “no” with Navarro responding with a joke, “introducing the old board of education? No.”

Closing Statements

Navarro went first with his closing statement saying “Antioch is a crossroads of many dynamics. We have demographics of a small town” and “a new dynamic of an urban center with its challenges.”

“I humbly ask for you vote,” he concluded.

Motts said “the school board is one of the toughest jobs there is” and spoke of “educational excellence.”

“I have that knowledge,” she stated. “Now, more than ever, we need experience and knowledge on the board.”

Sawyer-White said “I am the candidate who will fight on behalf of our children” and that she’s “committed to continue improvements in the classroom.”

Hack said “the educational landscape in Antioch has changed. That’s not a negative statement, nor is it a positive one. It’s simply a fact.”

“The school board of which I was a member for four years” did “far more than any other previous board had done,” he continued. “Great responsibility, awesome opportunity.”

“Two years later much still needs to be done,” Hack stated.  Then, sounding a bit like Donald Trump, he concluded “We can make this good district great, yet again.”

Terry used his closing remarks to explain his tardiness to the forum

“I was committed to going to three schools for back-to-school night,” he shared. “I apologize for being late, but not for putting students first.”

The next forum of the candidates for school board will be hosted by the Antioch Herald and held Monday, September 19 at 7:00 p.m., also in the Antioch City Council Chambers at City Hall.

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Antioch Herald to host forums for mayor, council candidates, Tuesday, Sept. 20

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

The candidates for Antioch Mayor and City Council will square off on Tuesday night, September 20th and answer questions from the panelist, audience and each other during two forums, hosted by the Antioch Herald.

The forum for city council candidates will begin at 6:30 p.m. and last until 8:00 p.m. The forum for candidates for mayor will begin at 8:15 p.m. and last one hour.

Each candidate will have the opportunity to ask two questions of fellow candidates and offer two rebuttals. The audience will have the opportunity to ask questions of the candidates, as well.

Paul Burgarino, the Voter Education & Engagement Specialist with the Contra Costa County Clerk/Recorder-Registrar – Election Division will be the panelist asking the questions of the candidates, Antioch City Clerk Arne Simonsen will serve as time keeper and Herald Publisher Allen Payton will moderate the forums.

The forums will be held in the Antioch City Council Chambers at City Hall, located at 200 H Street, between West 2nd and West 3rd Streets in downtown and will be recorded for later viewing on local cable access TV channels.

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Antioch Herald forum for school board candidates rescheduled to Monday, Sept. 19

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

The forum for the seven candidates running for the Antioch School Board in the November election, hosted by the Antioch Herald, has been rescheduled to Monday night, September 19 at 7:00 p.m. so as not to conflict with the dinner to honor teacher Maria McClain being held, on Thursday, September 22.

Each candidate will have the opportunity to ask two questions of fellow candidates and offer two rebuttals. The audience will have the opportunity to ask questions of the candidates, as well.

Paul Burgarino, the Voter Education & Engagement Specialist with the Contra Costa County Clerk/Recorder-Registrar – Election Division will be the panelist asking the questions of the candidates, Antioch City Clerk Arne Simonsen will serve as time keeper and Herald Publisher Allen Payton will moderate the forum.

The forum will be held in the Antioch City Council Chambers at City Hall, located at 200 H Street, between West 2nd and West 3rd Streets in downtown and will be recorded for later viewing on local cable access TV channels.

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Rumble in Rivertown, Round 2: Candidates for Mayor of Antioch square off at Tuesday night’s forum

Friday, September 9th, 2016
The candidates for Mayor of Antioch debated and discussed the issues in the City Council Chambers, during the forum sponsored by the Friday Morning Breakfast Club, Tuesday night, September 6, 2016.

The candidates for Mayor of Antioch debated and discussed the issues in the City Council Chambers, during the forum sponsored by the Friday Morning Breakfast Club, Tuesday night, September 6, 2016.

By Allen Payton

The rumble in Rivertown continued with round two, following the council candidates’ forum, Tuesday night, with the four candidates for mayor squaring off before an audience of about 100 residents. Like the earlier forum that night, it was also sponsored by the Friday Morning Breakfast Club, chaired by former Antioch Mayor Don Freitas and moderated by Ann Flynn of the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley.

Opening Statements – The Battle Begins

Each candidate was given 90 seconds for an opening statement, and chosen to speak in random order. Businessman Gil Murillo went first, wasting no time in taking on his rivals.

“My opponents have been in positions of authority in our city for the last four years,” he said. “I’ve lived here for eight years.”

“Stop being the arm chair quarterback and step up,” Murillo stated.

He then spoke of how he’s “the only candidate here who commutes an hour and a half to work.”

Antioch Chamber CEO and local chiropractor Dr. Sean Wright was next, sharing his experience in leading the business organization.

“When I got involved with the Chamber we were one week away from bankruptcy,” he stated. “I said ‘we’re going to turn this around.’”

One year later the chamber was solvent, Wright explained.

He then shared why he’s running and what he believes Antioch needs.

“Leadership, jobs, crime to be solved,” he said. “If you’re happy with the status quo, then vote for one of my opponents.”

Incumbent Mayor Wade Harper spoke next, getting a bit philosophical.

“The road to success is not always a straight road,” he said.

Then Harper spoke of the need of more police officers, and how he’d asked the public to vote for Measure C, to help pay for them.

“We have a net gain of 12,” he stated. “Under my leadership we are a full service city.”

“We now have a Downtown Specific Plan,” Harper added.

However, the net gain figure is incorrect. The Antioch Police Department currently has 93 sworn officers, according to Chief Allan Cantando. Using the figure of 89 sworn officers at the time Harper and the rest of the city council signed the ballot argument in favor of Measure C, and promised an additional 22 officers, the net gain has been four officers. Harper is trying to use the figure the city council chose to adopt, of 82 sworn officers, which is how many there were in October, 2013 at the end of the Measure C campaign, just prior to its passing.

Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock offered her opening statement, last.

“In my heart of hearts I believe I am the catalyst that can move the city forward,” she said. “I have the will, desire and tenacity to work with our sister cities. I don’t give up.”

“My work schedule as a Realtor allows me the flexibility,” Ogorchock added.

Vision for the Future

In sharing his vision for Antioch’s future, Harper spoke of his time as a police lieutenant with the City of Tracy, which he referred to as “the second safest city in Northern California.”

“We developed a Strategic Plan which is guiding our city,” he said about Antioch.

“We need to be a city friendly to jobs,” Harper continued. “We just sold the Four Points property on Wilbur. We just formed ACT, the Antioch Council of Teens. We’re looking at a ferry terminal in downtown.”

Later he clarified after the forum that “the 108 acre property was sold. The City did not own it.”

Murillo pointed out some of the challenges Antioch is facing and spoke about education.

“Do you see blight?” he asked. Referring to the City’s Strategic Plan, he said. “Community plan. I don’t remember seeing a copy of it.”

“We have a disparity of incomes,” Murillo continued. “We have one of the lowest school rankings. We need to establish a good education program. We won’t be able to establish a good economy without good schools and with crime.”

Ogorchock said “I look forward to the good jobs,” then had a Rick Perry moment.

“I’m sorry. My mind just went blank,” she said. “I apologize.”

“We have to develop the homes by Kaiser,” Ogorchock stated, after she resumed her comments.

Wright said “students aren’t proud to call themselves from Antioch” and that when they compete at events in other cities they say they’re from other cities, such as Richmond.

He said he wants “Twenty-first century jobs. Light manufacturing jobs. So they can be home in nine minutes and coach their children’s Little League team, like I was able to do.”

“I’m tired of people saying ‘can’t we have a downtown like Pittsburg?’” Wright complained.

“Antioch can be a place we’re proud of,” he concluded. “That’s the vision I see.”

Harper used one of his rebuttals to respond to Murillo’s and Wright’s comments.

“I would expect people running for council to read a copy of the Strategic Plan,” he said. “People are proud to be in Antioch. We need to be cheerleaders.”

Murillo used his first rebuttal to respond to the Mayor’s rebuttal and Ogorchock’s comments.

“To clarify, you said the entire city gave you input,” on the Strategic Plan.

“I am proud of our city,” he continued. “FUA-1 [Sand Creek area, approved and planned for new housing] is very close to me. I’m going against that development. We don’t have the services.”

Back-Up Plan for Measure C Police Funding

Murillo said we need to “build a crime reduction plan. The county is receiving money not the city.”

He then spoke about education, again.

“By improving our schools we increase tax revenue from our property values going up” Murillo stated. “They can go up $100,000 in four years.”

Then he went down a different tangent, mentioning police officers can “work overtime at the malls.”

Ogorchock proposed high-rise development, as the solution for more city revenue.

“Over off Buchanan we can go up to six stories,” she said. “We can get the property tax revenue there.”

“We can ask the people to extend Measure C,” Ogorchock added.

Wright questioned the city’s handling of Measure C funds.

“The fear was that Measure C shell games would be played,” he said. “After the first year, $2.5 million was spent and we got five officers for it.”

Then Wright mentioned “the citywide administration fund” receiving “$200,000 in year one” from the police budget, and “$700,000 is geared in year two.”

Harper responded to Wright’s comments.

“The police department can’t have their own Human Resources,” he said. “We are hiring police officers.”

“Measure C has to work,” Harper continued. “We put our careers on it.”

Wright used his first rebuttal to respond.

He once again mentioned the $200,000 in citywide administration funds “to oversee five cops” and that there’s “too much citywide administration to fund 12 cops,” using Harper’s figure from his earlier comment.

Then he spoke of how the city reduced the base budget for the police department by $1 million before applying the funds from Measure C, saying if that happened, then “that $1 million means the first funds from Measure C gets you back to that $29.5 million.”

Top Priorities

Next the candidates were asked to list in priority order the following four issues: hiring police and code enforcement officers, economic development, better communication and start the search for a new city manager. That last part of the question elicited a strong, supportive response from the audience. But, Harper didn’t appreciate it.

“I thought we weren’t going to berate anybody,” he said, referring to the ground rules laid out at the beginning of the forum by Flynn, of no personal attacks between the candidates.

Wright spoke of his efforts in the area of economic development.

“We started the EC Squared to promote economic development in East County,” he shared. “Now we are seeing the sale of property on Wilbur due to the marketing.”

However, Wright stated, “hiring police is number one.”

Then he spoke about communication and that residents “come and they speak and they’re unheard.”

Ogorchock said “hiring police officers, code enforcement and CSO’s (Community Service Officers)” was her top priority.

“We are at hiring of 41 officers. Not 10. But 41,” she stated, referring to the total number of new sworn officers the city has hired since the passage of Measure C. However, during that same time, the city has lost 37 sworn officers to retirement, some who quit and some who were terminated.

Harper shared his displeasure of the fourth item on the list, saying “I take issue at the hiring of the city manager.”

“First of all, communication,” Harper said. “That’s why we put together the Strategic Plan. We listened to the community. Communication is always number one.”

“Hiring police officers should be ongoing,” he continued. “Second is economic development.”

“I’m surprised EC Squared is taking credit for the sale of these properties,” Harper stated.

When asked about that after the forum, Wright said he and the Chamber had been working on “marketing the area through the Waterfront Initiative, even before EC Squared was formed.” He was referring to the county’s Northern Waterfront Economic Development Initiative which stretches from Hercules to Oakley, which has the goal of attracting and creating 18,000 jobs to the area in the advanced transportation fuels, bio-tech/bio-medical, diverse manufacturing, food processing, and clean tech industries by 2035.

Murillo spoke about “coms,” a term he uses at his job.

“Communication,” he said. “We have no one here on this council taking accountability.”

Then he made the first promise of the campaign of any of the candidates.

“In my first six months, I will bring in 100 IT (information technology) jobs,” Murillo claimed and that it was his “goal over four years to bring in 2,000 jobs” to Antioch.

“We’re not here about HR (human resources) but about Mayor,” he added, referring to an earlier comment by Harper.

Hosting Community Forums

Asked if they were open to hosting community forums, as was done by previous councils, when Freitas and Jim Davis served as Mayor, three of the candidates said they were.

“Yes,” Wright responded, then took another jab at the incumbents. “We have a staff and council that is unable to hear and unable to react.”

“We have parking issues downtown and we have a city that is completely ignoring them,” he continued. “We need to be proactive.”

Harper said “Community forums are great. But we use modern technology.”

Then he mentioned email and voicemail.

“We can forward them. When I’m up at 2:00 in the morning I may return an email,” Harper stated.

“I’ve held community forums,” he said.

“Just give us a phone call, an email. Even you, Mr. Wright,” Harper said with a smile, turning to his challenger who was sitting next to him.

Murillo answered with another shot at Harper, saying “One thing that does not happen is the transparency.”

“Is your issue being resolved?” he asked. “Things go into a vacuum. Why does it go through constant cycles to get things done?”

Ogorchock was supportive, saying “I like the idea of community forums.”

“I asked Don Freitas to moderate them,” she continued. “Everybody should be heard.”

She said there needs to be an “open line of communication.”

“They don’t just want to come up and not know they’re not being heard,” Ogorchock added.

City’s Role in Ending Poverty

When asked what the city’s role should be in ending poverty, the candidates softened their tone. Ogorchock responded, “I don’t know that can happen.”

“We have a huge amount of homeless in Antioch,” she continued, then suggested “working with the faith-based community.”

“I don’t know how we can ever end anything,” Ogorchock stated and spoke of “working with the county” and “CDBG (community development block grants).”

“There was nobody here to share how to spend those grant dollars,” she complained, referring to the council meeting when the distribution of CDBG funds was decided.

Murillo said “That’s a $10,000 question, right there.”

“It has to be a community issue, not just a council issue” he stated. “There are 200 homeless kids in Antioch schools.”

“Mayor Harper, through your church, I know you do a lot and through Holy Rosary,” Murillo added.

Wright said “there’s no simple solution.”

“In the book Ending Suburban Poverty, Antioch is chapter one, page one,” he stated. “The Chamber started a program called the Suburban Poverty [Task Force].”

He then complained about the lack of resources for the homeless in Antioch.

“We don’t have the infrastructure to support them,” Wright added.

Harper was complementary of Wright.

“Dr. Wright definitely worked with the Suburban Poverty Task Force,” he said. “I read a book, too,” and then he quoted a Bible verse about helping those in need.

“I don’t think a veteran should ever be homeless,” Harper continued. “There are benefits for veterans.”

“This is not a political issue. It’s a human rights issue,” he added. “I’ve had to take in people who are homeless. We must help the vulnerable in our society.”

Keeping the Next Generation in Town

On the topic of what can the city do to give a reason for our children to stay or come back after college, Ogorchock said “They do come back.”

“Look at Anthony Ferrante doing a movie, Aaron Miles, baseball players, football players,” she continued. “Share your passion. Kids always want to come back home.”

Wright thanked the “Antioch Historical Society Museum and Sports Legends that highlight” the positive things about Antioch’s history.

“People want to leave Antioch,” he complained, then spoke about one of his reasons for running.

“This is about my five kids,” Wright shared, getting a bit choked up. “I want them to come back here. We need jobs for them to come back here. We have to create the environment for them to be here.”

Harper spoke of the newest generation in his family, and becoming a first-time grandfather, recently.
“I was sitting in Kaiser hospital and I accepted a new position of grandpa,” he stated.

Then Harper spoke about Dozier-Libbey Medical High School.

“We’re creating pathways for our students to create jobs,” he continued.

Then, he again mentioned “the sale of property on Wilbur.”

Murillo referred to Harper becoming a grandfather, saying “I hope it’s another 10 to 15 years before that happens to me,” to laughter from the audience.

“I don’t want to see one of my sons saying ‘I’m moving to Dallas because there’s jobs there. I’m tired of taking BART every day,’” he shared.

“I’m just a guy, here trying to make a difference,” Murillo added.

The Yard – Downtown Event Center

When asked about the downtown event center proposed for the former Antioch Lumber Company yard, now referred to as “The Yard,” Harper said it had been a “big topic of discussion.”

“We’ve had several community meetings, joint council-commission meetings,” he explained.

Then he slipped and appeared to give a promotion to one of his challengers, but no one seemed to catch it.

“I supported Mayor Ogorchock’s motion to make that space mixed use,” Harper said.

“I asked for a plan to pay for it,” he stated. “I brought that up but it was rejected.”

Ogorchock commented while ignoring the possible prediction of a promotion, but disagreed with Harper.

“I love the concept of The Yard,” she stated. “I think they have a right to share their concept. I don’t feel that they had that opportunity.”

“I’ve asked for it to be on the agenda,” Ogorchock continued. “Hopefully it won’t be another six months.”

One challenge she faces is that the council by a 4-1 vote, with Ogorchock opposed, gave City Manager Steve Duran the exclusive right to negotiate the sale of The Yard, which is owned by the city, as well as eight other city-owned parcels. So, until those negotiations are complete, it’s doubtful the council can discuss it, publicly.

Murillo was also supportive of the citizen group’s effort.

“I am for The Yard,” he stated. “If you ask 20 of my neighbors, maybe two of them go downtown.”

“The tax revenue from the mixed use will not be as much as a center,” Murillo said. “This has been going on for years. Let it go to a vote.”

Wright said that “never have all the parties been brought together.”

“I will listen and negotiate in good faith and with an open mind, with respect,” he stated. “This council and staff has never negotiated in good faith.”

Harper used one of his rebuttals to correct his earlier statement and respond to Wright’s comments.

“When I say I brought the matter up, it was a conversation not in the form of a motion,” he said. “I disagree with Mr. Wright. We do negotiate in good faith.”

Closing Statements

Ogorchock reiterated her campaign theme, saying “Antioch is my home, my community.”

Harper said “I want to be the next mayor. I believe this is a sacred office.”

“We are doing more with less,” he continued. “Antioch is a good place to live, work, play and worship.”

Wright hit hard in his final comments.

“The reasons we are discussing these issues is because we have a council and mayor who have failed,” he exclaimed. “Failed to act and failed to lead.”

“If you’re happy with the status quo, then vote for more of the same,” Wright added. “It’s not about looking backward but looking forward.”

Murillo ended the evening with a bit of humor, while taking some parting shots.

“Next time I’m going to wear boots,” he said. “I hear about commitment to work. But someone has run for another office” referring to Harper who ran for County Supervisor in the June primary.

“You can’t just talk,” Murillo added. “I don’t talk the B.S. I bring it across.”

The next forum for the candidates for Mayor of Antioch will be hosted by the Antioch Herald and also be held in the City Council Chambers on Tuesday, September 20th at 8:15 p.m. The candidates will have opportunities to not only offer rebuttals to the statements of their opponents, but ask each other questions, as well.

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Rumble in Rivertown, Round 1: Council candidates debate, discuss issues at well-attended forum

Thursday, September 8th, 2016
Antioch City Council candidates give their opening statements at the forum hosted by the Friday Morning Breakfast Club in the Council Chambers, Tuesday night, September 6, 2016.

Antioch City Council candidates give their opening statements at the forum hosted by the Friday Morning Breakfast Club in the Council Chambers, Tuesday night, September 6, 2016.

By Allen Payton

Before an audience of almost 100 residents, the largest to attend candidate forums that former Antioch Mayor and event organizer Don Freitas could remember, six candidates for the Antioch City Council and four for Mayor debated and discussed the issues facing our community, Tuesday night, August 6th. Sponsored by the Friday Morning Breakfast Club – a by invitation-only group of about 22 local residents who meet and talk about local issues on Friday mornings, of which Freitas is the leader – two forums were held in the Council Chambers inside City Hall in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown. With the opportunity of rebuttals by the candidates, they proved to be rather lively.

First, it was the council candidates’ turn to present their case and mix it up a bit, with some making members of the audience laugh, and at other times groan in disagreement. Ann Flynn of the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley, who served as moderator, had to remind the periodically, unruly mob (OK. That’s an exaggeration for dramatic effect) that no applause was allowed. Freitas also had to ask some of those making cat calls – directed mainly at the incumbents – to be more respectful of the candidates.

Opening Statements – Battle Lines Are Drawn

During their opening statements, the candidates, chosen in random order, offered information about themselves, why they’re running, complained about the problems in the city and one incumbent got a little defensive.

Retired businessman Fred Rouse was first, speaking of bringing his business experience to the position of council member.

“The streets, right now need work,” he stated. “The community needs work.”

Retired, first-generation German-American immigrant and second-time council candidate Karl Dietzel said he wanted to “take back Antioch” and supported “putting all pipe dreams on the back burner.”

Antioch general contractor, Rotarian and 2015 Citizen of the Year for Most Impact, Kenny Turnage said he was for “cleaning up blight” and “fiscal responsibility.”

“I will fight for the City of Antioch,” he added.

Next, was university administrator, former Economic Development Commissioner, and another second-time council candidate, Lamar Thorpe.

“I’m a proud resident of Antioch, an eight-year Navy veteran and recipient of the Global War on Terror Expedition medal,” he exclaimed.

Thorpe then proposed “moving away from citywide elections” and “going to single district” elections.

Council Member Mary Rocha was next, and shared her dismay of what she had already been hearing from the other candidates.

“I’m a little angry about people saying I’m not committed,” she stated. “I’ve lived in this community for 40 years and have served for 30 of them.”

Then she listed the various organizations, and her namesake child care center on Cavallo Road, and that she was named Woman of the Year by the county Women’s Commission.

“I’m a little concerned,” she added.

The other incumbent being challenged by the four men, Council Member Wilson spoke of “balanced budgets” and how the council “bought back our reserves” and are “paying down th unfunded liabilities” She also said “We’re making progress with public safety.”

Downtown Park and Event Center Question Presents Surprises

The surprise of the night was when both Rocha and Wilson said they now supported sending the decision, about the proposed downtown park and event center on the parcel where the old Antioch Lumber Company had its lumber yard – now simply referred to as The Yard – to a vote of the people. Answering questions about the issue from both Flynn and the audience, Wilson stated “I’m for that going to a vote and letting the people vote on it.” She also said she had “tried to advocate…to discuss before the council in public” and “I have no problem with that going to a vote of the people.”

Rocha said “I asked them…how they’re going to pay for it” and offered the alternative location.

“Waldie Plaza is in a good place right now to fill the need,” she continued. “It’s an open issue, yet. But, we need to have a way to pay for it.”

Later she said, “I was hoping you would get the signatures so we could go to a vote of the people.”

“For on-going, it takes away from the budget,” Rocha added.

However, Dietzel and Thorpe, a former Wilson Stand-By Council Member, weren’t buying it. When it was his turn to answer the audience’s question about The Yard, Dietzel said “It’s very interesting to hear that from you two. Where do I go with my grandkids for a concert? I’m for a vote. It’s our property.”

In answering the panelist’s earlier question about how to fill the need for a downtown event center, Dietzel responded, “That’s an easy one. I’m supporting The Yard.”

“Two years ago I asked the city manager to put the issue on the ballot,” he continued. “We need to open up the waterfront for all of us. We need events for younger people. Where do we bring a rock band for 5,000?”

“The city manager needs to listen to us,” Dietzel added.

Thorpe also challenged Rocha and his former mentor, Wilson, for whom getting her elected he claimed in his 2014 council race, was his greatest accomplishment in Antioch, at that time.

“I think the historic value is priceless,” he said about The Yard. “I’m actually shocked by what I’m hearing up here. All they have to do is put it on the agenda and vote to put it on the ballot.”

Turnage also supported sending the decision about a downtown park and event center to a vote of the people, but has a different location in mind. He supports it near the Antioch Marina, where restrooms are already located and parking is ample, explaining his idea using his knowledge of construction.

“I agree 100% it should be on a ballot,” Turnage said. “I don’t agree The Yard is the right spot. I think the better place is down by the marina. You already have parking. You’d be supporting the restaurants. It costs $500,000 to put in a restroom, once you tap into the sewer line.”

“It is almost the same exact view [as from The Yard],” he argued. “It would be a minimal increase to the city.”

But, Turnage also stated, “There’s no way 31 condos should go on that piece of land.”

While he also supported sending it to a public vote, “if it’s on the ballot,” only Rouse was opposed to the event center proposal.

“I’m the osd man out,” he said. “Until we can afford to pay for more police, clean streets, we can’t afford a performance venue.”

Rouse also offered another location.

“The library on Lone Tree,” he said, referring to the Antioch Community Center at Prewett Park. “There’s a place for a concert.”

Then Rouse shared another concern with The Yard proposal.

“Whoever hangs out there, today will be there, tomorrow,” he added.

“It’s got to pay for itself,” Rouse said later, to the question from the audience. “We can’t rob Peter to pay Paul. We have more important issues. Are you going to have a ticket booth? I don’t think so.”

Dietzel used one of his rebuttals to comment on the Waldie Plaza location.

“The city manager said we don’t have any money to build Waldie Plaza,” he stated. He then mentioned the Pokemon Go game as something that has and can attract people to downtown.

After the forum Wilson confirmed that at the end of the August 9th council meeting she had asked for the event center proposal to be placed on a future council agenda for discussion. However, her foxhole conversion comes more than a year late, as she was one of the four council members, including Rocha, who voted in closed session on August 25, 2015 to give the city manager the exclusive right to negotiate with developer, City Ventures on The Yard parcel, and eight other city-owned parcels in town. So, until those negotiations have concluded, the Council can’t discuss the event center proposal with the proponents and public, nor can they send it to a vote of the people.

Earlier, Thorpe said “I’m a big supporter of having a city center like Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. It’s not rocket science.”

He then said the city needs to “focus on smart growth”and mentioned rezoning the property next to the KFC on Hillcrest Avenue for mixed use development, for people to be able to walk to the new BART station.

“It’s not smart growth” he said, referring to the proposed housing development on The Yard parcel. “It’s 31 units. We don’t need them.”

Wilson responded to Thorpe in her comments.

“The Hillcrest area is being rezoned to be livable, walkable to the BART station,” she stated. “I have asked for that.”

Thorpe used one of his rebuttals to pat himself on the back about Wilson’s Hillcrest comment.

“That was my recommendation on the Strategic Plan,” he said.

He then took another swipe about The Yard.

“The city council promised them that they would have the opportunity to discuss it,” Thorpe stated. “It’s broken promise after broken promise.”

Rouse got the last word, with his opposition to the event center proposal.

“We cannot continue the cycle of spending money without revenue,” he stated. “It has to be smart, actionable, measured. We don’t have that in an event center. It should not go forward, right now.”

Measure C, Measure O, Police & Public Safety

Responding to the question of what is their back-up plan when the money from Measure C’s half-cent sales tax ends in four years, Thorpe responded, “that’s why I supported and voted for Measure O,” the city’s business license fee for residential rental property owners.

He also said the city “must look at long-term, systemic” funding for police.

Thorpe compared revenue between Livermore and Antioch.

“Livermore brings in $40 million in sales tax,” he said. “We bring in…$12 million in sales tax.”

He also proposed a real estate transfer tax, but later corrected himself that Antioch can’t have one, since it would require being a Charter City instead of a General Law City. Instead, Thorpe later  proposed documenting fees for real estate transactions, as a new revenue stream.

Regarding the voters extending Measure C when it expires, he said “I’m concerned with this council and the trust level.”

“Part of Measure C is to fund Code Enforcement Officers,” Thorpe said, later. “We have to ask the city council to ask the city manager what happened to the money.”

“I have to commend Lori Ogorchock who has been the only council member who” has pushed on the issue, he added.

Wilson admitted the council had made mistakes, stating “We started off on a bad foot with Measure O.”

“Obviously we need a more stringent process to collect Measure O,” she said, later. “But we’re back on track.”

Regarding Measure C, she spoke of “the way it’s being spun.”

“The council made a commitment to [spending] 100% on police and code enforcement,” Wilson continued. “We want to hire quality officers. Everybody is struggling with hiring officers. We’ve hired 41. We have a net of 12.”

But, then she went down a different tangent.

“What assets does the region have?” she asked. “We’re looking at the opening of SR [State Route] 239 which will open the back end. We’re primed to bring livable wage jobs.”

Wilson suggested a “regional approach to bring in revenue.”

There are two problems with her comments. First, the city has only a net four additional police officers, based on the 89 on the force at the time she and the rest of the city council added their names to the ballot argument in favor of Measure C. Second, State Route 239 is currently, only in the planning stages and there is no funding for the proposed four-lane freeway between Brentwood and Tracy in the new, half-cent sales tax measure on the November ballot. It is years away from being built.

Rocha mentioned the financial struggles the city has been facing, but that things are turning around.

“We’re barely building ourselves back up,” she stated. “Our economy is really coming on board.”

“We went from 400 to 200 employees,” Rocha shared, later. “We’re still struggling as a city. We are strictly, slowly coming up. We are still taking small steps to get back to where we are.”

Rouse suggested increasing the business license fee on residential rental properties.

“Measure O is way low for what we’re charging landlords,” he said. “It should be $1,000 per year.”

He then compared the per citizen revenue of Antioch and other cities, then stated, “Measure C…it shouldn’t go away. Let’s see specific results within a timeframe.”

Later Rouse said regarding collecting the Measure O funds, “We need a departmental group who knows. What we do is assign a lien. The absentee owners who are not paying it need to have a lien” on their properties.

Dietzel cut to the chase, saying “the question really is where is the Measure C money. Where is the Measure O money. We have to ask the city manager because he is in charge.”

“We’re going to have to ask for an extension,” Dietzel continued. “Put the city manager on notice that he has to do his job.”

Then he added, “No officers in the animal shelter,” referring to a recent development of having a sworn police officer inside the Antioch Animal Shelter.

“We have to collect Measure O money,” Dietzel stated, later. “We need a collections department.”

Turnage was critical with the lack of collections by the city.

“We need to collect the money that’s owed to the city,” he stated. “Stop outsourcing.”

“Measure O is not being collected,” Turnage said, later. “I came to the city with a plan. I could have had the job done in six months with two employees. Right now we’re spending $500,000 per year and it’s not getting done.”

“We need to increase our tax revenue per acre,” he offered as a solution to increasing revenue to the city. “Start building up on some of our older properties.”

But, Turnage disagreed with Rouse’s and Wilson’s comments, using one of his rebuttals.

“I don’t agree with putting liens on properties,” he said. “We aren’t collecting Measure O.”

“We are not back on track,” Turnage continued. “I’m easy to find and I haven’t received a Measure O bill. The company we’re using right now, they should be blatantly fired.”

Economic Development & Jobs

Rouse had the first opportunity to answer the question, what is your vision for economic development and jobs.

“We’re not healthy enough to bring employers to our city,” he said.

He mentioned four things needed for that to occur, a labor pool that’s trained, location, infrastructure and “yes, safety needs to be in place.”

Thorpe said “jobs are central” to his campaign and mentioned biotech, research and development, “not only for our city, but as a region.” He also proposed “tax incentives to complement…the governor’s tax incentives.”

“I’m tired of seeing the dollar stores, low-rate businesses, predatory businesses, especially the smoke shops,” he added.

Dietzel said “economic development goes hand in hand with crime and blight.”

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” he continued. “We must hire an economic development director who aggressively goes after businesses. We don’t need more tobacco shops, dollar shops. We need to survey businesses why they are leaving.”

Wilson said she had just researched recently and learned that there were 24,300 jobs in Antioch in 2012 and that there was an increase of “3,494 jobs over the last four years. That’s an 11% increase.”

She mentioned offering “incentives to these businesses to hire local” and possible new jobs from “manufacturing, light manufacturing, clean energy” in “the Wilbur corridor” as well as “a solar farm in that area.”

Wilson mentioned that she had “added a clause for high school and college students to job shadow” at the solar farm site of NRG, in the agreement that the council approved, earlier this year.

Turnage said “we need a business development person. Antioch has a bad reputation online. We need this person who is not in their office, but in the CEO’s offices and meeting them.”

In her comments, Rocha responded to that, saying “We do have a developer who will be at a conference” referring to Lizeht Zepeda, the City’s Economic Development Analyst. However, the city doesn’t have an Economic Development Director, as in the past.

Rocha has also said “It’s an exciting time” mentioning the “roads, rail and water” for transportation and job creation. However, her focus was different.

“Our little, small shops are what keep you alive,” she added.

Thorpe used one of his rebuttals to respond to Wilson’s and Rocha’s comments.

“I don’t want Antioch to have a service sector economy,” he said. “What they’re talking about, the 11% are service sector jobs. We have to think beyond that.”

Dietzel reiterated those comments.

“We don’t need more service jobs,” he stated. “We have over 14,000 rentals. The median income is $42,000 per year. For homeowners it is $81,000.”

Again he said Antioch needs to “put away pipe dreams, like the ferry and Wilbur corridor exploding.”

Addressing Needs of the Homeless

Turnage was the first to respond to the question about how to address the needs of the homeless in Antioch.

“We have two sectors of homeless,” he stated. “Those who want and need help, give them a hand up, and those who want a hand out.”

“We need to take a tougher stance,” Turnage continued. “Hand them food and clothing that will sustain life, not cash that will sustain a habit.”

“Get them off our medians and streets,” he added.

Rocha said that “most of the money goes to Richmond. They get seven dollars for every one dollar” East County receives from the county. “We need to develop a plan,” she added.

Rouse offered a different approach to helping the homeless, including getting “them corralled so they’re all in one area for services to be provided to them.”

“A plan does need to be developed,” he said. “You’re going to have to change the medians.”

Rouse suggested placing fences in the street medians.

Thorpe offered a “two-pronged approach” including a “no-tent ordinance.”

“The county is ultimately responsible for providing services,” he stated.

Then Thorpe added, “I don’t want to just kick them out, but give them notice.”

Wilson said she wanted an “all hands on deck approach” and that she had “requested the Police Chief to assign officers to the homeless.”

Dietzel said “What makes America great is we help the ones who are fallen.”

“The City has over 650 parcels,” he said and suggested we “offer one parcel to a non-profit to offer services.”

But, then he offered the most unique solution.

“Offer one-way tickets to their home cities like San Francisco does,” Dietzel added.

Rouse used one of his rebuttals to respond to that idea.

“I don’t agree with handing them a one-way ticket,” he said and that he wanted to “coordinate all the services.”

Animal Services

On the issue of what to do with Antioch Animal Services and if it should be moved out from oversight by the police department, Turnage said he wanted to “take it from police services and turn it over to parks and recreation.”

He then suggested the city have an “exit strategy to turn it back over to the county.”

Rocha said “We need to go to the county and get our money back. We’re paying double.”

“We don’t have the staff,” she continued. “We’re talking a deficit. Running a deficit in recreation…and in animal control.”

Rocha then mentioned the effort to contract with ARF, which is Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation, for certain services.

Thorpe said it’s “more animal control than animal services” and that he’s “not sure which department to put it in.”

He then directed his comments at Rocha and Wilson.

“You’re the elected council members,” Thorpe stated. “You need to come up with the solution.”

Rouse agreed with moving Animal Services out of the police department.

But, he didn’t support turning it back over to the county.

“I do believe they’re doing the best job they can,” he shared. “I think it’s one of the things that’s cute about Antioch. The little things that make Antioch quaint.”

Wilson supports the status quo, saying “I prefer Animal Services to remain in the police department.”

“We agreed to hire three [additional staff]” she continued. “I know we need a vet tech. We’re trying to do the best we can.”

Dietzel joked about not wanting to deal with the issue.

“I try to stay away from animal people. They’re a tough crowd,” he said with a chuckle.

But, then he got serious and suggested “privatization of the Animal Services, water park, golf course and the marina.”

“Now we have a full-fledged [police] officer in the shelter,” Dietzel complained. “I want him on the street. I don’t want him taking care of dogs.”

Funding Library Services

On the issue of funding more hours for the library, Rouse suggested holding revenue-generating classes at the library, like those by Los Medanos College “out in Brentwood.”

Dietzel said the library is “the most important building in the city for our kids” giving them “access to computers and books.”

“Maybe they’re obsolete, soon,” he added. “Right now we need them.”

Turnage suggested an “idea outside the box” by offering “community service hours to students who work at the library.”

Wilson said she disagreed “with closing down one of the libraries. We need both of those libraries.”

“We’ve been banging on county supervisors’ doors, because it’s the county” that oversees libraries and funding, she added.

“It’s a safe haven for some kids,” Wilson continued. “Mr. Turnage, I have to applaud you. That’s a good idea of bringing the students in.”

Thorpe also mentioned the county.

“Libraries are run by the county,” he said. “So we need to work with our community partners” and “look at future planning.”

Rocha said we need to “look at those running for supervisor, now.”

“We were giving $100,000 [per year] to our libraries to keep them open until we couldn’t,” she stated. “The county has shorted us in the long run. Other cities have more hours.”

Closing Statements

Wilson was the first to offer her closing statement, saying “I just want to see Antioch grow strong. I’ve worked hard to listen to you.”

Rocha said “I’ve learned ideas that I’ve heard, tonight. Look at all of us and decide who is the best.”

She then said that “It’s not the money, that’s for sure” why she’s running, again, to laughter from the audience.

“I still have the strength and the energy to do it,” Rocha concluded.

Thorpe offered a patriotic theme to his closing statement.

“I love America,” he said. “I was willing to die for it.”

“You won’t see me every four years,” he continued. “I’ll always be available” then mentioned social media as how.

Turnage said “I will be somebody who speaks transparently and direct.”

Dietzel took one last swipe at Wilson, who ran for supervisor, in June.

“I’m not running to jump ship for a supervisor’s position,” he stated. “We can have three new people and maybe four to take back control” referring to how many new members of the council there are possible, following the election.

Rouse asked the Reaganesque question, “Are you better off now than you were when you first moved here, into Antioch, no matter when?”

He then mentioned the neighborhoods and “getting that send of community back.”

Rouse then thanked the Friday Morning Breakfast Club, with a little humor.

“It sounds like a high school musical,” he said.

“With me you’ll get a full-time council person,” Rouse added. “I’m 100% committed to the job and no other job.”

The next forum for council candidates, hosted by the Antioch Herald will be held on Tuesday, September 20, 2016 at 6:30 p.m., also in the Council Chambers at 200 H Street in downtown Antioch.

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Antioch Chamber of Commerce endorses their CEO, Sean Wright for Mayor

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016
Dr. Sean Wright

Dr. Sean Wright

By Allen Payton

The Antioch Chamber of Commerce announced on Wednesday, that by a vote of the Board of the Directors, it “formally endorses Dr. Sean Wright for Mayor of Antioch” and that “this is the first candidate the Chamber has endorsed in six years.”

“Dr. Sean Wright has been the CEO of the Antioch Chamber for the past six years.  He has been a champion for business, education, the City of Antioch and the East Contra Costa region,” said Chamber Board Chairman Richard Pagano. “Sean has utilized his skills, knowledge and work ethic to bring the Chamber back from financial distress and he is what the City of Antioch needs right now.  We know who he is, what he stands for, and share his vision for the future of Antioch.”

The announcement further stated “The Antioch Chamber of Commerce believes Sean Wright has proven his commitment to supporting and growing the Antioch business community in the past, and will continue this into the future as Mayor.  More than any other candidate, he has the capacity to lead the City of Antioch toward a greater level of success, and the Antioch Chamber of Commerce fully endorses Sean Wright for the office of Mayor of Antioch.”

Wright, who is also a chiropractor in Antioch, is not a member of the Board of Directors. Attempts to reach him for comment for this report were unsuccessful before publication time.

The Antioch Chamber of Commerce is made up of about 350 Antioch area member businesses and organizations and is the largest Chamber in East County. The Chamber is a 501c6 non-profit business league, and according to IRS rules, the organization can participate directly or indirectly, or intervene, in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office, so long as that is not its primary activity.

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Correction: Ad for school board candidate Navarro contained wrong phone number

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

By Allen Payton, Publisher

A mistake was made in the phone number for Appointed Antioch School Board Trustee Fernando Navarro in the September issue of the Antioch Herald, which arrived in mailboxes, this week. The correct phone number for his campaign is (925) 727-6357.

I apologize for not having the correct the number in his ad, which he provided us before we went to print.

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