300 Gather to Build Opportunities for East County

Faith and community leaders from ten congregations present their vision and proposals on the issues of: foreclosure prevention, health care access, immigrant integration, quality education, and jobs; officials commit to working together to address these critical issues.

On Monday night 300 East County residents gathered at St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church (3351 Contra Loma Blvd., Antioch, CA 94531) to call on public and elected officials to stand with them and work together to address the pressing issues most affecting East County. Also in attendance were nearly two dozen public officials ranging from local school boards and city councils to Senator Mark DeSaulnier and the Office of Congressman John Garamendi.

The evening began with a roll call of over ten congregations that made up the diverse group there gathered. “Yes everyone in here is different, but that doesn’t matter because we have a common hope that we can establish a common good in our communities,” noted Rev. Fr. Jerry Brown, Pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Brentwood.

Clergy and community leaders presented their vision and agenda to bring equity and justice around a critical set of issues that impact the future of the region. CCISCO leaders shared their research and proposals around the following key issues:

Keeping families in their homes and holding banks accountable for blighted properties;
Expanding pathways to jobs for local residents and developing local hiring policies;
Strengthening linked learning pathways at public schools;
Trust, relationship, and cooperation building between recent immigrants & long term residents;
Expanding access to health care for all residents in the region.
“This is a large and ambitious agenda. These times call for moral audacity and courageous action. Our faith gives us profound hope in our ability to work together to create meaningful change and renew our democracy,” said Rev. Fr. Robert Rien, Pastor of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

Major victories were celebrated at the meeting, including the opening of a long-awaited clinc and the launch of an immigrant integration program in Oakley as well as a local hire policy for the eBART expansion project that will guarantee 25% of work hours and 50% of apprenticeship hours for local East County residents.

In addition, Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Superintendent Donald Gil and school board member Walter Ruehlig committed to working with CCISCO to identify and secure funding to enhance and implement student support services in its schools and authorize an independent analysis to better understand unequitable discipline trends in the district.

“Partnership is not only important, it is crucial. Education is something like a four-legged chair. We need the students, we need the teachers, we need the parents, and we need the community,” said Mr. Ruehlig.

Lastly, the group tackled the issue of foreclosures and bank accountability. “The city of Antioch could be collecting $1,000 a day on vacant bank owned blighted properties. Banks should also be responsible for maintaining property to the same standards as any other property owner,” said Domingo Delgadillo, CCISCO leader from Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church.

CCISCO asked Antioch council members Mary Rocha and Gary Agopian and Mayor Pro Tem Wade Harper to support replicating the SUN initiative that purchases foreclosed properties at current market values and resells them to the current occupants. The group also proposed building up the blight abatement and code enforcement efforts to ensure banks are being held accountable for their adverse effect on the community. Due to state regulations, the Council members and the Mayor Pro Tem were unable to answer the proposals, but they did say they supported the work of CCISCO and would work with the group to address these vital issues.

CCISCO will be setting up meetings with the officials to follow up on their commitments and together work to build opportunities for all East County residents.

In attendance: Office of Rep. John Garamendi; Senator Mark Desaulnier; Office of Assembly Woman Susan Bonilla; Office of Assembly Woman Joan Buchanan; AUSD Superintendent Donald Gill; AUSD Board Members Walter Ruehlig and Gary Hack; LUHSD Superintendent Eric Volta; LUHSD Board Members Ray Valverde and Holly Hartman; Oakley City Mayor Jim Frazier; La Clinica de La Raza Regional Director Viola Lujan; BART Board Director Joel Keller

Participating Institutions: St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, St. Anthony Catholic Church, Antioch Christian Center, Community Presbyterian Church, Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church, St. John Lutheran Church, Antioch Church Family, Islamic Center of the East Bay, and International Christian Ministry.

CCISCO, 202 G St., Suite 1 – Mailing: P. O. Box 883, Antioch, CA 94509, P: (925) 779-9302, F: (925) 779-9303, www.ccisco.org

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