Archive for October, 2011

Section 8 Plaintiffs Drop Bias Suit Against Antioch PD

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Community support was key to withstanding false accusations; settlement terms validate city’s position, commitment to neighborhoods

Plaintiffs who accused Antioch’s residents and police department of engaging in a broad conspiracy of discrimination have agreed to dismiss their lawsuit in exchange for a settlement that is a fraction of what they originally sought.

This concession comes after more than three years of legal proceedings in which the City of Antioch consistently demonstrated the allegations to be false.

“This lawsuit was an attempt to take community policing — neighbors and police working together to build safer neighborhoods — and portray it as an elaborate and sinister conspiracy,” said City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland. “Eventually, the lawyers suing the city came to realize what Antioch residents have known all along – our city’s community policing programs have always been fair, unbiased and focused on addressing criminal, drug and nuisance activities in our neighborhoods.”

The settlement validates the city’s commitment to community policing and clears the way for future partnerships between neighborhood residents and police.

“Throughout the long process of litigation, city residents of every race and background consistently voiced their support for community policing and the Antioch Police Department,” said City Manager Jim Jakel. “Policing experts and academics examined our programs and deemed them examples of how to do things the right way. If anything, this process has deepened our commitment to working in partnership with the community to build stronger, safer neighborhoods.”

The city’s agreement to settle this case represents an economic decision. When faced with an offer from plaintiffs’ lawyers that was actually lower than the cost of proceeding to trial, Antioch’s joint risk insurance pool suggested that the city agree to the settlement. The Antioch City Council voted late Tuesday to approve the settlement agreement once the joint risk insurance pool has officially acted.

Under the agreement, the five named plaintiffs in the case will drop their lawsuit and abandon all claims against the city for a shared payment of $180,000. The plaintiffs’ lawyers negotiated the same amount for themselves, making the total payout $360,000.

“The plaintiffs’ lawyers will do their best to declare victory, but that will be hard work for them,” said James Fitzgerald, the lead attorney representing Antioch on the case. “This case was a reminder of the fact that while you can make headlines with ugly accusations, you need actual evidence to win a case. If plaintiffs’ lawyers believed there was one shred of evidence to support their clients’ claims, they wouldn’t have even looked at a settlement of this nature.”

The settlement also includes non-monetary agreements. In essence, the city agreed to follow the law, as it always has. Agreements include assurances the city will not retaliate against the plaintiffs or use Section 8 housing status as a basis for policing actions.

The city also agreed to provide the plaintiffs’ lawyers with copies of letters to the Contra Costa Housing Authority that they already were receiving under the litigation process.

The agreement specifically does not include court oversight or federal supervision. Both parties agreed to take any future disputes back to the same court – a provision that will protect the city from additional false accusations.

For Antioch, the settlement brings an opportunity to refocus valuable resources and attention on community issues and solutions.

“We could not have arrived at this beneficial settlement had it not been for the staunch support we received from city residents throughout these three years,” said Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando. “We are grateful to our community partners for standing alongside us as we stood up to these false allegations, and we are ready to move forward with them to make Antioch a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

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Miller, School Officials Attend Plant Opening

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Pictured at the September 21st grand opening and ribbon cutting for the new manufacturing plant and outdoor mural of Ramar International Foods on Railroad and Central Avenues in Pittsburg is from left, Antioch School Board Trustee Walter Ruehlig, County Board of Education Trustee Cynthia Ruehlig, muralist Victor Sanchez, Congressman George Miller and Ramar International Marketing Director P.J. Quesada.
(Photo courtesy of Shanelle Scales)

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McNerney Takes Heat at Town Hall Meeting

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Congressman Jerry McNerney speaks to East County residents at his town hall meeting in August.

By Allen Payton, Publisher

NOTE: This article appeared in the print edition of the Antioch Herald in September but was not posted to our website, until now. We apologize for the oversight.

East County residents let their concerns be known to Congressman Jerry McNerney (D – Livermore) at a little publicized town hall meeting in Brentwood, recently.

McNerney, who will soon be moving into and running to represent the new 9th congressional district, in which most of Antioch is now located, was grilled by those in attendance on issues including taxes, the national budget deficit, the Debt Ceiling and No Child Left Behind education policy.

He held his “Congress on Your Corner” in the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce board room which can only accommodate about 20 people at a time, so he had to have two sessions, to include those waiting in the reception area during the first session.

“Radical elements of the Republican Party have taken over the House,” McNerney said. Then stated “I’m not trying to be overly partisan.”

He advocated for another stimulus as a way to create more jobs.

“I think a stimulus would be a good idea, but it’s not going to happen in this Congress,” he stated. “Wall Street is important, but it’s more important to see jobs in Brentwood.”

When challenged by a resident, who identified himself as a Democrat, about his vote against the Debt Ceiling increase, McNerney responded “Making those cuts are going to throw a lot of people out on the street.” He then stated “It needs to include revenue and cuts.”

The resident shot back, speaking of President Obama’s first two years in office, “The House and Senate and Obama were all controlled by the Democrats and you didn’t raise taxes on the rich, then.”

“The economy was fragile so I didn’t think we should raise taxes,” McNerney responded, to which someone asked “and it’s not fragile, now?” He then said “They’ve slashed spending so people are out of work.”

The reality is the spending cuts approved in the recent Debt Ceiling agreement haven’t yet gone into effect and most of them won’t until 2017.

One resident made commented “Our infrastructure is falling apart. That’s one way to put people back to work, like the WPA (Works Progress Administration) of the 1930’s”

The Congressman responded “I supported the Stimulus. It put $200 billion into infrastructure. It also gave a $250 billion in tax refund – people didn’t notice it.”

“The House is proposing $200 billion for the next five years. That’s way underfunded,” he added. “I’m going to advocate for more.”

When asked about spending cuts he responded, “One of the waste in government is how campaigns are funded. That’s the first place we should start. It encourages members of Congress to spend money we don’t need.”

He was then asked about protecting MediCal by a resident who was identified as a John Muir Medical Center employee.

“MediCal isn’t being accepted by doctors. Will the federal government bridge the gap?”

McNerney responded “That’s a tough question. Medicare will be okay and we’ll be able to lower the cost. I really believe that.”

“I don’t have an easy answer,” he added.

When asked how he would cut $4 trillion from the budget as the ratings agencies are requiring, he offered incentives for small business, reducing inefficienes in healthcare and government, and said he voted for across the board cuts in the Departments of Health and Human Services and Transportation.

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Not the Right Time for Another School Bond

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

The phrase “Advice not sought is seldom heeded” came to mind when I read that, during the Antioch Unified School District board’s discussion as to whether or not to put a bond measure authorizing a property tax to modernize Antioch High School on next June’s ballot, board vice president Claire Smith stated, in regard to surveying residents prior to doing so, “I don’t know if a poll would be really relevant. The need at Antioch High is so great that we have to try it.“

Has the Board, which makes policy, approves district budgets and adopts curriculum, given up reading newspapers and watching TV. People are “occupying” Wall Street, and other streets around the country, including Lone Tree Way in front of Deer Valley High, protesting the lack of jobs (Contra Costa County’s unemployment remains over 10%), loss of homes through foreclosure and a stagnant economy which is negatively impacting most of the population. (The Public Policy Institute of CA conducted a poll last month and 67% of respondents stated that jobs and the economy are their prime concern.)

Now is definitely not the time for the school district to attempt to push a second bond measure costing residents in the city’s non Mello Roos Districts an annual parcel tax of between $50 and $55 per $100,000 of accessed property value which would increase each year for the life of the bond.

The very same residents are still impacted by the district’s 2008 $61,600.00 bond measure to fund improvements at older non Mello-Roos schools. That one was cleverly structured as a school facilities improvement district (SFID) which is similar to a Mello-Roos district, the only difference being that, although both Mello-Roos and SFID district property owners are assessed a parcel tax to pay off the bonds, it takes 2/3 vote to pass a Mello Roos tax but only 55% voter approval for a SFID district tax.

According to Board member Walter Ruehling, the parcel tax measure hasn’t been voted on – so far it’s merely a discussion but if it does go, it would again only need 55% voter approval to pass. He stated that he’ll bring up the subject of an exemption for senior citizens which was not done in the prior bond measure.

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Police Kill Fugitive

Monday, October 24th, 2011

On October 24 at 5:50 p.m. Antioch Officers responded to 2409 Lemontree Court upon the report of a fugitive, a 33-year-old Antioch man who was wanted on two arrest warrants. One warrant charged burglary and the second was for violation of probation on the charge of possession for sale of a controlled substance.

Officers confronted the fugitive in a carport and discovered he was armed with a handgun. During this interaction, multiple officers fired their weapons at the fugitive. The man was pronounced deceased at the scene. No officers were injured in the confrontation.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, the Contra Costa County Crime Lab and Antioch Police are investigating the circumstances of this shooting, which is the normal protocol in this county. Anyone with information regarding this incident should contact Det. Mellone at (925) 779-6930.

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Northern California Congress Reps Blast Delta Agreement

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Five Northern California Members of Congress are demanding answers on the current state of the Bay-Delta planning process and calling on the Interior Department today to rescind a “flawed” Memorandum of Agreement that was developed behind closed doors and that gives water export agencies south of the Delta and in Southern California unprecedented influence over an important public process concerning California’s precious fresh water supplies.

U.S. Reps. George Miller (CA-7), Mike Thompson (CA-1), Doris Matsui (CA-5), Jerry McNerney (CA-11) and John Garamendi (CA-10) wrote today to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking that the recent agreement between the Department and water agencies be rescinded and that the process be opened up to include other key stakeholders left out of the discussions, including Bay Area, Delta and coastal communities, farmers, businesses, and fishermen.

Excerpt: “Interior should immediately rescind this flawed MOA and work instead to establish a successful BDCP process that is transparent and based on parity, and that genuinely puts the restoration of the Bay-Delta and its fisheries, the needs of local communities, and the quality of local water resources on par with other water supply goals.”

The lawmakers recently held a series of meetings with Interior Department and California officials to express their concerns about the Memorandum of Agreement that the Department signed with water export agencies, an agreement that was developed and signed without input from Bay-Delta stakeholders. The Department had previously told the lawmakers to expect an answer to their inquiries early last week, but failed to meet that deadline. Today’s letter from the lawmakers requests a written response from Secretary Salazar by the beginning of next week.

Excerpt: “the BDCP planning process has failed to treat these affected groups in a fair and transparent manner, and we do not believe that the emerging plan is reflecting Bay-Delta constituencies’ concerns and interests.

The members wrote that the process as it currently stands has established an unrealistic timeline for the completion of the plan, and that it raises expectations of favorable outcomes for the water agencies that signed it. These concerns – along with others that the lawmakers raised in their meetings – share several traits:

Excerpt: “They have the potential to harm the Bay-Delta, fishing communities, local farmers, and our constituents more broadly. They compromise Interior’s ability to exercise its mandates to restore the Bay-Delta ecosystem and California’s fisheries, and to consider the interests of all stakeholder groups. And they were developed in closed-door negotiations with the water export contractors that excluded all other interests.”

The full letter is at http://georgemiller.house.gov/interior.pdf.

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County Employee Unions to Rally for More Taxpayer Money

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Five major employee unions representing thousands of Contra Costa County workers have announced a major rally Tuesday – they held 4 rallies on one day in early October – in their campaign to win a “fair contract” from Contra Costa County.

The rally will be TUESDAY (Oct. 25) 11:30 am. to 1 p.m. at the County Administration building, 651 Pine St., Martinez.

The five unions – bargaining together as the Contra Costa County Labor Coalition – represent the County’s lowest paid employees, including custodians, clerks, health care workers, eligibility workers, animal services employees, and child care workers.

Contra Costa County employees represented by Public Employees Union, Local One, AFSCME Locals 2700 and 512, SEIU Local 1021 and Western Council of Engineers, charge their workers are not getting fair shake.

The Unions’ contracts expired June 30, 2011, and there has been bargaining since late April. The County is seeking significant wage and benefit cuts, although recently expired union contracts gave the County labor savings including major changes in health care for both active and retired employees.

Despite those concessions, the County wants employees to pay all healthcare premium increases – which they have not obtained from all County employees. Management has proposed to freeze what it pays at the 2011 level. The Unions are proposing that management increase its contribution when health care rates go up.

“Our members do not want to be treated as second class citizens and want a fair contract. Since our last rallies, the County has not changed its position on health care. It still is proposing we pay 100 percent of the increases in monthly premiums. It hasn’t budged from this position even though it has either agreed with other unions to continue to pay most of next year’s increases or has made offers to other unions to pick up most of the increases,” said Felix Huerta, from AFSCME, the Coalition’s chair this year.

“We made sacrifices last contract and we’ve offered to make more for this contract. We have proposals on the table to cut our take-home pay and pay more for pensions. But we want to be treated fairly,” Huerta added,

“Many of our members are stretched to the brink,” said Huerta. “They haven’t had a pay raise since 2008, their take-home pay was cut the last two years because of furloughs and they have been paying a bigger share of health care each of the last two years. Asking us to cut our pay even more, pay more for pensions and, on top of that, pay all the increases for health care is not reasonable. That’s why we’re marching on Tuesday.”

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Top Officer at Peace In The Streets Forum

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Larry Wallace

Larry Wallace, one of California’s top law enforcement officials will be delivering the keynote speech at the Peace In The Streets Forum on Oct. 29 at Pittsburg High School.

Wallace, a resident of eastern Contra Costa County, was appointed in June by Attorney General Kamala Harris as the first African-American to be named director of the Division of Law Enforcement.

Wallace, a 25-year veteran of law enforcement, worked with Harris as the former San Francisco district attorney’s deputy chief of the bureau of investigations. He started his career with the Berkeley Police Department and spent a decade with the San Francisco Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.

Wallace, who grew up in Oakland, has day-to-day oversight of the department’s $238 million budget, 437 special agents, 281 criminalists, and 693 non-sworn personnel.

“We have to be creative and innovative and think outside of the box,” said Wallace, “it’s very important to collaborate with other entities to make sure that you’re getting the work done.”

Supervisor Federal Glover and the East County Gang Task Force sponsor the Peace In The Streets Forum. The goal of the forum is to make the community more aware of the resources and strategies available to counter the perception of rising violence and criminality in East County.

Police suspect gunmen were targeting a guest when they shot up a 3-year-old’s birthday party recently in Pittsburg wounding four victims.

“Shootings and stabbings are occurring much too often,” said Glover. “The situation has gotten out of hand. It is to the point where a 3-year-old child can’t have a birthday party in peace. It is time to act! It is time to be part of the solution. It is time we stop the violence.”

The Peace in the Streets Forum starts at 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Oct. 29 at Pittsburg High School. For more information, call 925-427-8138

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