Archive for the ‘Politics & Elections’ Category

Vinson, Ruehlig to take on Belle for County School Board, three run for their seats on Antioch School Board

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

Antioch School Board Trustees Debra Vinson and Walter Ruehlig will challenge incumbent Jeff Belle for County School Board. Photos from AUSD and CCCBOE.

By Allen Payton

Long-serving Antioch School Board Trustee Walter Ruehlig let it be known on Saturday, July 14 that he will not run for reelection and instead join fellow Trustee Debra Vinson and take on County School Board Vice President Jeff Belle in November’s election.

While Vinson, finishing her first and rather contentious term on the Antioch School Board, didn’t officially announce her campaign, she did ride in a car in the Antioch July 4th Parade with a sign indicating her decision to run for the county board. In 2017 Vinson was censured by her fellow board members for her interactions with district employees. (See related article). She was also passed over for the board presidency, following her year as Vice President. (See related article).

In an effort to achieve greater transparency for the public, earlier this year and after years of the Herald pushing the issue, Vinson was instrumental in getting the school board meetings televised live for the first time in the district’s history, via their YouTube channel.

On one issue, all three will most likely agree, which is approving charter schools. Both Vinson and Ruehlig were two of the three board members who, earlier this year, voted in favor of the East Bay Tech Academy middle and high charter school petitions, and Ruehlig was one of the three who voted for the Rocketship elementary charter school petition in 2016. Belle has voted against one and approved five other charter schools while on the county board.

“I have decided definitely to run for Area 5 County Board of Education,” Ruehlig stated, following rumors of the possibility.

In his official announcement, he wrote:

I will be submitting my candidacy papers on Monday, July 16th to run for Area 5 of the County Board of Education, which covers Antioch, Bay Point, Bethel Island, Brentwood, Byron, Clyde, Knightsen, Oakley, and Pittsburg.
In June of 1968, I dedicated myself to public service and youth education when I taught English for the Peace Corps in Sultandag, a rural village in Turkey that had no electricity.  Fifty years later, the idealism continues.

I believe that that my twelve-year service, with three years as President, on the Antioch School Board, and my experience with the Pittsburg Unified School District as a California Department of Rehabilitation Workability Program Director for adults with disabilities and as a career counselor, have given me useful insight into County Trustee duties.  I am excited by the challenge of overseeing career training programs, special education, community day schools, and facilities for incarcerated juveniles.

I was a late-bloomer myself but, fortunately, had teachers who didn’t give up on me. I eventually caught fire and worked my way through college.  My passion for sharing opportunity and persisting with high-risk, disadvantaged or under motivated students is my way of returning thanks.

Aside from counseling, teaching and administrative background, I feel I have the proven temperament and intangible skill sets requisite for good governance.

I enjoy communication and transparency. I am open, creative and innovative but believe in sober budgeting, no-nonsense classroom behavior standards and back to the basics core curriculum.  I am pragmatic and put my ego at the door to focus on getting the task at hand done one building block at a time.  In this age of divisiveness, I am proud to say that I can get along without always going along. I am a consensus-builder but no pushover. I cannot be bullied or bought.

I look forward to meeting the voters of Area 5, hearing their concerns, and presenting my vision. I welcome their scrutiny and would be honored by their support. I pledge not to let them, or their kids, down.

Walter Ruehlig

Candidate, Area 5

Contra Costa County Board of Education

Incumbent Jeff Belle

Elected in 2014, Belle has faced a variety of controversies before and during his term on the County School Board. In January 2016, Belle admitted to claiming he was a respiratory care practitioner even though he didn’t have a license and was fined $8,200 by the state. (See related article).

He and his wife had to move from their home in Antioch in spring of 2015 for failure to pay rent, due to a loss of his wife’s job and Belle not earning enough through his consulting business. They separated and Mrs. Belle moved to the Sacramento area. As a result, questions have arisen about Belle’s residency. He rented rooms in other people’s homes in the district. The two have since reconciled and Belle now splits his time between his wife’s place in the Sacramento area and a home in the district.

In December 2016, facing prosecution by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office for lying on his ballot statement, Belle admitted in court that he didn’t have a college degree which he claimed. He agreed to community service to avoid a trial and possible fine of up to $1,000. (See related article)

In 2017 Belle suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. Recently, he posted a fundraising effort on his Facebook page to help him pay off $8,000 in medical bills. The total raised was $50 from former County School Board Trustee and Clayton Valley Charter High School Trustee Richard Asadoorian.

Until recently, Belle served as a producer for a TV show entitled Modern Ageless Beauty for women over 40.

Three Candidates, Two Open Seats on Antioch School Board

Ellie Householder and Shagoofa Khan in a photo from Facebook on July 6, 2018.

Mary Rocha from her Facebook page.

As a result of Vinson’s and Ruehlig’s decisions there will be no incumbents running in the November elections. Three candidates have announced, so far, including former Antioch School Board Trustee and Mayor of Antioch Mary Rocha, Shagoofa Khan, a 2018 Antioch Youth of the Year award winner, 2018 graduate of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School in Antioch, and currently a School Site Council Member for the district, and Elizabeth “Ellie” Householder, who was a Research Analyst working as a vendor on the LCAP for the district for two years, and is beginning a Master’s Degree program in Public Policy, this fall. She has also served as a member and Vice Chair of Antioch’s Measure C Sales Tax Citizens’ Oversight Committee.

The two are backed by Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and have been campaigning together, including during the Antioch July 4th parade and on Facebook. In a post on July 5, Householder wrote, “Filing out our campaign finance forms. I couldn’t of [sic] asked for a more passionate and dedicated running mate.” Then in a post on July 6 she wrote, “Officially mailed in our finance papers to the Secretary of State! August 4th is our official campaign kickoff. Fundraising season starts soon – stay tuned for more details! #EllieandShagoofaforAUSD

Filing opens on July 16th and closes August 10th if the incumbent seeks reelection. If not, the filing period will be extended to August 15th. The election will be held on Tuesday, November 6th.

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Antioch City Clerk announces council elections schedule

Friday, July 13th, 2018

By Arne Simonsen, Antioch City Clerk

Notice is hereby that a General Municipal Election will be held in the City of Antioch on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, for the following officers:

Two (2) Councilmembers – Term of two (2) years for each office (Ordinance 2141-C-S).

A nominee must be a registered voter residing within the City. Nomination petitions may be obtained from the City Clerk, located at 200 H Street, Antioch, CA, commencing on July 16, 2018, the 113th day before the election and shall be filed with the City Clerk in person no later than 5:00 P.M., August 10, 2018, the 88th day before the election.

Candidates may submit a candidate statement 250 words in length. Statements must be submitted in block form; standard upper and lower-case words.

Candidates are encouraged to call the City Clerk (779-7008) to make an appointment as the process to take out nomination papers takes about 30 minutes.

So far, the only announced candidate is former Antioch School Board Trustee Joy Motts. (See related article). Neither incumbent up for election, Council Members Tony Tiscareno nor Lori Ogorchock have announced they are running for reelection, although both participated in the July 4th parade.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Secretary of State Candidate from Clayton, Mark Meuser to Kick-Off statewide #ElectionsMatter Bicycle Tour in Martinez Monday

Friday, July 6th, 2018

Mark Meuser riding up Mt. Diablo as he prepares for his campaign’s statewide bicycle tour.

Mark Meuser, candidate for California Secretary of State, will be launching a statewide #ElectionsMatter Bicycle Tour, covering 5,000 miles and 100 rallies in all 58 counties, starting in Martinez, Calif., the county seat of his home county of Contra Costa on Monday, July 9.

The kick-off will begin with a rally at Ferry Point near the Martinez marina at noon. Meuser, an avid cyclist, will head to the northern part of the state such as Eureka and Redding, eventually concluding the bicycle tour in Huntington Beach on Thursday, August 23.

“We must take action to eliminate the potential for fraud in our elections in California,” Meuser said. “Right now, we have 11 counties that have more people registered to vote than are eligible. For example, in L.A. County they have 144% voter registration and in San Diego County they have 138% voter registration.”

“Because elections matter, we need someone who will actually follow the law. We need a new Secretary of State and that’s why I’m running,” he added.

The #ElectionsMatter Express will serve as the chase vehicle for the tour.

Meuser, is a Constitutional and election law attorney running to restore integrity and honesty to the election process in California. He has pledged to clean up the bloated voter rolls by removing those who have died, moved, are registered more than once, or are ineligible to register and vote.

Look for the #ElectionsMatter Express and Mark riding his bicycle, as they roll through the state.

Meuser is available for further interview on this topic at each rally. Please contact Matt Shupe, Meuser’s communications director to book an interview at (415) 735-8491 or For more information about Mark Meuser’s #ElectionsMatter Bike Tour, please visit

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Antioch residents launch referendum to repeal marijuana business district

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Currently any type of commercial marijuana business could be located in Antioch’s Cannabis Business Overlay District including retail dispensaries.

The two areas in Antioch’s Cannabis Business Overlay District in green.

By Allen Payton

According to City Clerk Arne Simonsen, three Antioch residents launched a referendum, on Wednesday, to repeal the Cannabis Business Overlay District approved by the city council on a 3-2 vote at their last two meetings. (See related here and here). “The proponents are Rodney McClelland, Manny Soliz, Jr. and Diana Patton,” Simonsen stated. Petition Section with ordinance

“They have 30 days to collect signatures from when the Mayor signed, and I attested to the ordinance, which was Monday, July 2nd,” he explained. “They do need 10%” of the registered voters in the city.

The council passed the ordinance with Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and Council Members Monica Wilson and Tony Tiscareno voting in favor, and Mayor Sean Wright and Council Member Lori Ogorchock voting against.

In a post on his Facebook page on Tuesday, Soliz, a former Antioch Councilman, wrote, “Frustration at a very short sighted decision by our elected officials. Antioch already has a severe public image problem. Now combine that with an approval to allow cannabis businesses, with no restrictions, at an area already plagued with crime, and an area in close proximity to some of the City’s largest tax revenue contributors. Even the Chief of Police recommended against approval, warning of the potential violent crime these businesses can attract. Who exactly does this Council represent?”

A call to McClelland was unsuccessful.

Please check back later for updates to this article, including the official comment from the proponents.

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Both initiatives on Sand Creek development in Antioch have enough signatures to qualify for ballot

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

Map of the area included in the environmental groups’ initiative showing projects already approved and The Ranch and Zeka Ranch projects they’re working to stop.

By Arne Simonsen, Antioch City Clerk

The County Elections Office has completed the signature verification on both of the initiatives that were submitted to my office.

“Initiative To Restrict Development in Portions of the Sand Creek Area, Approve a Development Agreement for “The Ranch” Project in That Area, and Allow Amendment of the Urban Limit Line by the Voter Approval Only”

Number of valid signatures of registered voters required: 5,111

Number of valid signatures verified by the County Elections Office: 5,156

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

“Initiative To Change General Plan Designation Within The Sand Creek Focus Area and Permanently Require Voter Approval of Amendments to Urban Limit Line”

Number of valid signatures of registered voters required: 5,094

Number of valid signatures verified by the County Elections Office: 5,682

In coordination with the City Attorney, I will prepare a staff report for the July 24th City Council meeting to certify the petitions.

The City Attorney will give the Council three choices on each initiative per Elections Code 9215:

1) Adopt the ordinance, without alteration, at the regular meeting at which the certification of the petition presented, or within 10 days after it is presented.

2) Submit the ordinance, without alteration, to the voters pursuant to Section 1405 of the Elections Code.

3) Order a report pursuant to Section 9212 at the regular meeting at which certification of the petitions is presented. When the report is presented to the legislative body, the legislative body shall adopt the ordinance within 10 days or order an election pursuant to subdivision (b).

See related articles here, here, here, here, here and here.

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Environmental groups, local supporters announce Sand Creek initiative signatures submitted

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Sand Creek initiative supporters, including Michael Amorosa holding petitions and Don Greibling in sunglasses, present signatures to the Antioch City Clerk’s office on Monday, June 11, 2018.

Richland Communities submitted their initiative signatures a week earlier

On Monday, June 11, fifteen excited volunteers for the “Antioch Community to Save Sand Creek” coalition submitted 5,969 signatures to the Antioch City Clerk’s office to qualify their “Let Antioch Voters Decide” initiative 10 weeks earlier than the August 22 deadline. The group needs 5,092 good signatures and turned in 5,969, or 117%.

However, they were submitted three weeks later than the suggested deadline of May 18 provided to them by City Clerk Arne Simonsen, and a week after the “West Sand Creek” initiative by developer Richland Communities submitted their signature petitions on Monday, June 4. Simonsen said the prima facie count by his office shows Richland has submitted about 7,900 signatures, with about 50 or 60 that were invalidated.

“We’ve reached new heights in preserving the Sand Creek Initiative Area and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Turning in these signatures is further proof that our initiative is what the people of Antioch want,” said Tina Gutilla, one of the Antioch residents who submitted the petition to the city and a member of the Coalition Steering Committee, “Huge congratulations and gratitude to every volunteer who has played a monumental role in making this achievement possible.”

The “Antioch Community to Save Sand Creek” coalition drafted the initiative starting last August. It was submitted to the city for Title and Summary on February 8. The city provided Title and Summary on Feb. 23. Notice was published in the newspaper and signature gathering began March 3. Initiative signature-gathering drives are allowed 180 days, which meant a deadline of August 22. Instead, the coalition submitted its signatures ten weeks early, on Monday, June 11th.

If passed, the initiative would:

  • Limit the extent and amount of development in a 3 square mile (1,850-acre) area between Kaiser/Deer Valley Road and Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve;
  • Require a vote to allow any major development in the initiative area;
  • Protect the existing Urban Limit Line;
  • Decrease impacts on city services including police, crime, fire, water, and schools;
  • Dramatically decrease projected traffic increases;
  • Preserve nature, open spaces, and historic qualities;
  • Maintain agriculture;
  • Protect the Sand Creek stream corridor;
  • Help focus city investments, revitalization and economic development on existing neighborhoods, downtown and along the waterfront.

Sand Creek initiative supporters bring their boxes of signed petitions to the Antioch City Clerk’s office.

The coalition had great success gathering signatures. It held more than two dozen events, hikes, forums and other activities, and attended another dozen community events. It organized signature collecting shifts every weekend day and then on weekday ones as well. More than 150 volunteers signed up for two-to-four-hour shifts, some of them every single week. The Steering Committee held weekly meetings in person, and weekly debrief phone calls after each weekend’s efforts.

Tina Gutilla, one of our angels, managed all of the materials, keeping track of every single petition. Juan Pablo Galvan and Margaret Kruse scheduled volunteer shifts. Thousands of Fact Sheets were distributed. Social media increased dramatically.

Dick Schneider, Margaret Kruse, and Lesley Hunt are the real unsung heroes; they evaluated almost 9,000 signatures in order to remove non-Antioch residents, bad signatures, and duplicates.

Then “The Ranch” project developer Richland Communities created a second competing initiative, the “West Sand Creek” initiative, using paid signature gatherers, and which includes a development agreement approving Richland’s 1,100-unit “The Ranch” project.

The more aggressive paid signature gatherers competed for locations, upset store managers, and made things more confusing for the public.  But they also used the same message of “limit development, save our hills, reduce traffic” as the coalition, reinforcing our public education effort. The developers turned in their competing measure last week.  We turned ours in this week, ten weeks earlier than the August deadline.

In total, more than 150 volunteers collected almost 9,000 signatures (173%) to reach the goal of 5,092 valid registered voters.

Next Steps

Now that the signatures have been submitted, the Antioch City Clerk’s office transfers the petitions to the County Elections Department for verification. If the initiative qualifies with enough signatures, the Antioch City Council has the option of adopting the measure into law or placing it on the ballot.

“We’ve been out there, signature collecting since the beginning of March, and all that very hard work is now paying off. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has walked their neighborhoods, stood in front of stores, reviewed name lists, spread the word and donated their time and energy in all sorts of different ways. This was truly a ton of work. We’re definitely planning a big thank you party to celebrate,” said Juan Pablo Galvan, Save Mount Diablo Land Use Manager, who helped organize the campaign.

“While this grueling phase of the Antioch campaign is over,” said Galvan, “there’s still work ahead. We need to make sure the Initiative is adopted or makes it on the ballot, fend off any potential frivolous legal challenges, and so on. But make no mistake, this is a huge win and cause for great celebration.”

Lesley Hunt of the California Native Plant Society expressed the hope that “the citizens of Antioch will use the opportunity this initiative represents to take control of development in the West Sand Creek area. They can vote for more houses, or they can vote to keep the land the way it is.”

“This has been a challenging, but incredible worth-while journey this spring, gathering signatures and meeting hundreds of people who are in great favor of saving one of the last unspoiled open-spaces in Antioch,” said Michael Amorosa, a Coalition Steering Committee member and one of the three required Antioch residents who were signatories for the effort. “I had the pleasure and privilege of working with some dynamite volunteers to hopefully put another feather in our cap for our town’s quality of life as we are one step closer in saving the prettiest three miles in Antioch. I am very proud to be part of this initiative process.”

“On behalf of Save Mount Diablo, I want to thank all the wonderful Antioch residents, incredible volunteers, staff, and coalition partners for stepping up to help collect enough signatures for an Initiative to give Antioch residents the ability to better protect one of its two most significant natural features, the Sand Creek Focus Area,” said Ted Clement, Save Mount Diablo Executive Director, “It helps distinguish Antioch as a desirable place to live, work and visit, which will be critical for Antioch’s economic well-being long-term. Antioch is blessed with the beautiful Delta area to the north and the Sand Creek Focus Area to the south. These distinguishing natural features should not be taken for granted.”

“Sierra Club is happy to have helped collect enough signatures for the Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative to qualify for the ballot,” said Dick Schneider, a Sierra Club volunteer who helped draft the initiative, “We believe that given the choice, Antioch voters will protect their remaining open space and prevent the massive traffic congestion that sprawling development in the Sand Creek area would bring about. We look forward to helping pass this important legislation when it appears on the ballot.”

“Many Antioch residents love their city and they’ve found their voice in city government. We supported the formation of a powerful grassroots coalition, residents have plugged in. They’re committed to the public having a say in development and quality of life issues” said Meredith Hendricks, Save Mount Diablo Director of Land Programs.

She continued, “I also strongly feel that this land cannot be mitigated for with some other property – containing tons of rare wildlife & riparian centurion oaks, and with vast extensive views from all angles that the Lone Tree Valley & Sand Creek corridor only provides in this special corner of Antioch; It is unmatched anywhere in Antioch and the citizens of Antioch, and in all of East Co-Co-County, will be thankful if we preserve it.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Graves concedes to Becton in District Attorney race

Friday, June 15th, 2018

By Allen Payton

In the face of interim appointed District Attorney Diana Becton’s growing lead, her main opponent in the June election, on Thursday Supervising Assistant D.A. Paul Graves sent out a letter to his supporters conceding the race.

Becton now has 921 more votes than is needed to win, with 50.49% of the vote, up from 50.01% in the last update on June 8. The County Clerk’s office announced on Wednesday that they have approximately 10,000 ballots left to count and that some of those might be disqualified.

In addition to thanking his supporters, during a brief interview Friday morning, Graves also thanked those who voted for him.

A Heartfelt Thank You

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Nearly all the votes have been counted, and although it is very close, it is unlikely we will have a runoff in November. This afternoon, I called Diana Becton to congratulate her on her expected election as District Attorney.

I am grateful for the support of Contra Costa’s law enforcement community and firefighters, Marc Klaas, and the support and confidence of my fellow prosecutors.

I have been especially moved by the survivors who have reached out to reconnect, and in doing so reminded me why I am a prosecutor. Most of all, I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from friends and my family, most of whom already knew that I was probably a better prosecutor than a politician.

I want to say to all my supporters that your dedication to this campaign has been humbling and inspiring, and I complete this chapter knowing that I would do it all over again for the privilege of fighting the good fight alongside you all. We didn’t just fight for “change,” we fought for the right change, and I know that we will continue to fight for the safety of our communities and justice for crime victims.

Most of all, we can be proud of our effort and that we maintained our integrity throughout this election, including the appointment process. The District Attorney’s office is an office built on trust, and we met our obligation to the people of Contra Costa with the type of campaign we ran from start to finish – armed with real knowledge, focused on real issues, and fueled by real, local grassroots support.

Now we must come together and support our newly-elected District Attorney for the sake of Contra Costa residents who are counting on us to put politics aside for their benefit and safety. This campaign has ended, but our worthy cause continues in our courtrooms every day.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart,

Paul Graves

According to County Clerk-Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla, the final election results are expected to be announced next Friday, June 22 by 5:00 p.m. Please check back later for that final update.

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Becton expands lead, may have won Contra Costa District Attorney’s race, Graves not conceding

Friday, June 8th, 2018

Election results as of Friday, June 6, 2018. From

By Allen Payton

After counting about 20,000 of the remaining ballots from Tuesday night’s election in Contra Costa County, appointed Interim District Attorney Diana Becton has expanded her lead by another 1,000 votes to 50.01% over her main opponent, and Supervising Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves who now has 42.29%. She now leads him by 11,398 votes. To avoid a runoff in the November election, she only needs to win by 50% plus one vote.

However, Graves is not conceding, yet.

“There are still thousands of provisional votes to be counted,” said Katie DeFerraria, his campaign manager. “When the votes are all in there will be an opportunity for comment. Right now, Paul Graves will continue to focus on his responsibilities as a prosecutor for the people of Contra Costa.”

According to County Clerk-Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla, his office has counted “174,000 ballots so far, and we have 50,000 vote-by-mails to go and 10,000 provisionals. So, 60,000 total, roughly.”

Asked when the next update will be, her responded, “We’re going to hopefully have all of the vote-by-mail done and a semi-final by Wednesday. Then on June 22 we should have a full, final report with the provisionals included.”

For all of the latest election results in the county, click here.

Please check back Wednesday for the next update to the election results in Contra Costa County.

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