Archive for May, 2012

Columnist Opposes Antioch’s Measure J

Friday, May 25th, 2012

I won’t be supporting Measure J, the Antioch Unified School District’s $59,500,00 bond measure on the June 5th ballot.

Why? Several reasons. For starters, I’ve been told that the district only used approximately $40 million of the $61,600,000 former bond measure which was structured to affect the older NON Mello Roos districts as will the new bond. (Two school board members, Walter Ruehlig and Diane Gibson Gray are Mello Roos taxpayers.) Incidentally, the new bond measure will not include a senior citizen exemption nor did the former bond measure which was one of five at the time. The other four school districts bonds did contain senior citizen exemptions..

Additionally, according to County Counsel’s impartial analysis,, the school district assumes it will receive matching state funds to construct the improvements specified in the bond Measure (NO guarantee) and the District estimates that the highest tax rate required to fund the bonds is $52 per $100,000 of assessed valuation in fiscal year 2012-2013. (If your accessed property value goes up each year you’ll be paying more annually for the life of the bond.)

Secondly, the school district has a huge portfolio of surplus properties which could be used for “one time” costs e.g. renovation of Antioch High School.

I’m disappointed but not surprised that the Antioch City Council just endorsed Measure J but it isn’t surprising since Gary Agopian, Wade Harper and Councilwoman Mary Rocha were former AUSD board members. ( Mary Rocha’s son is the principal of Antioch High) It’s also no surprise that Antioch resident Greg Feere, Contra Costa Building and Trades Council chief, publicly announced his support of Measure J to the press while not revealing his union affiliation.

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Antioch Council Votes Unanimously Against Renaming L Street to Marina Parkway

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Holds Budget Study Session, Hears of $52.5 Million Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan

By James T. Ott

Potential new names proposed included “Marina Plaza Parkway” and “Marina Parkway” but in the end city council voted 4 to 0 – Mayor Pro-Tem Wade Harper was absent – in favor of keeping L Street’s current name, for now.

Members of the public spoke for and against the issue. Proponents said that renaming L Street something like “Marina Way” or “Marina Parkway” would help promote Antioch’s historic downtown and waterfront. Former Councilman Allen Payton (and publisher of the Herald) spoke in favor of the change and presented petitions signed by about 50 patrons of Humphrey’s, mostly from Antioch, supporting the renaming.

Opponents disliked the idea, saying that it flew in the face of downtown Antioch’s traditional alphabetical and numerical street names and that the estimated $40,000 needed to change freeway and road signs were sorely needed by the struggling city in other areas.

The idea of renaming L Street to Marina Way or Blvd., and A Street to Rivertown Drive, was first proposed in 1996 as part of the city’s adopted Economic Development Plan because it would help promote Antioch’s historic downtown and waterfront.

Harper requested the issue be brought before council after the Planning Commission reviewed it and unanimously recommended the renaming to Marina Parkway at their May 16 meeting.

Staff said that if the name-change was going to be made, that now might be the most opportune time due to the Highway 4 widening project under way because CalTrans will be replacing freeway signs anyway.

Staff also said that 107 properties and businesses, including the Antioch Police Department would be affected and that they had notified them all.

The police as well as the fire district must approve the name change. At the meeting staff said that the police department had approved the name change and that they expected a reply from the fire department “within another week or so.”

According to staff, the fire district has a policy against similar street names when they are nearby one-another as it could confuse police and fire crews and reduce response time in an emergency.

So because Pittsburg already has a Marina Boulevard and because businesses near the new Marina such as Humphrey’s use “Marina Plaza” in their addresses, staff suggested “Marina Plaza Parkway” as a good compromise.

The estimated $40,000 project cost – which staff admitted might be a little high – would go toward paying for one new freeway sign plus changing signs all along L Street as well as paying for the police department to change stationary to the new address.

City Manager Jim Jakel said that if they waited to make the change later that those costs could potentially go up to $100,000 or $150,000. In the past, the city spent $90,000 to change the freeway signs when it changed the name of the north side of Somersville Road to Auto Center Drive.

Council Member Brian Kalinowski was the first member of council to express his disapproval of changing the name of L Street. He scoffed at the idea and said he did not want to change the name when so much needed to be done along the street to clean it up first, especially along the notoriously crime riddled “Sycamore” section of the street near the freeway.

I don’t want to just slap a new name on it,” said Kalinowski. “First we need to ask what conceptually we need to [change about L Street] to improve access to downtown and the riverfront.”

Kalinowski went on to call Sycamore a “shooting gallery” and joked that “we can change Sycamore to Elm Street.”

He also suggested renaming L Street instead of A Street to Rivertown Drive, as it will be more of a main entrance to downtown, but quickly dropped the idea.

The other present council members agreed with most of what Kalinowski said and voted down the name change.

Council Member Gary Agopian suggested the parkway concept be pursued as part of the city’s Capital Improvement Budget in 2017 or 2018 and that they city wait to change the street name as part of a future vision.

Mayor Jim Davis weighed in, after suggesting the council postpone the matter until they heard back from the fire department. But, then decided to vote against the idea.

We can have the best businesses in town but what good is it if no-one is safe to use them,” said Mayor Jim Davis. “Besides, this money, although not much, could go a little way toward helping improve public safety.”

Also at the meeting:

During a study session on the budget prior to the meeting, the Council was presented with the Five-Year Capital Improvement budget and plan, with a total of $52.5 million for community facilities, road improvements, traffic signals, wastewater and storm drain systems and water systems.

The community facilities include the Marina Boat Launch Ramp restroom and third boarding float, as well as the turf fields at Antioch Community Park.

Keep Antioch Beautiful celebrated the success of their cleanup efforts at the city council meeting Tuesday. Antioch Unified School District Board Vice President Joy Motts said that more than 200 volunteers showed up on the April 21 cleanup day and together picked up 4.88 tons of trash.

She also announced the individual school winners based on which student body picked up the most trash:

High School Winners

First Place – $500 reward: Antioch High

Second Place – $300 prize: Deer Valley

Third Place – $200 prize: Dozier Libbey

Middle School Winners

First Place – $500 reward: Park Middle

Second Place – $300 prize: Dallas Ranch Middle

Third Place – $200 prize: Antioch Middle

Elementary School Winners

First Place – $500 reward: Antioch Charter Academy

Second Place – $300 prize: Holy Rosary

Third Place – $200 prize: Belshaw

The council received an update on what Code Enforcement is doing to prevent and remove squatters from occupying vacant homes.

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Antioch Auto Center Owner, Tom Nokes, Donates $100,000 to City for Police

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Antioch Auto Center Tom Nokes presents a check for $100,000 to Mayor Jim Davis and Councilmembers

By James T. Ott

Tom Nokes, owner of the Antioch Auto Center presented the City Council with a $100,000 check at the Tuesday, May 22, 2012 council meeting as part of a promise to match the city’s fundraising efforts.

Although the city did not raise quite the $100,000 that Nokes and his son Brian Nokes pledged to match – Tom said they would support the city any way they could and presented the full $100,000 anyway.

City Council Members were heavy in praise for all that Nokes and the Auto Center had done for the city.

Kalinowski said he thought the Auto Center single handedly kept Antioch out of bankruptcy during the last few troubled years and said that the best way for residences to support the city was to shop at the Auto Center.

Mayor Davis said “we appreciate everything you do,” and Council Member Mary Rocha said Nokes “represents the spirit of Antioch.”

 

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Council Distributes Federal Funds to City Programs and Non-Profit Groups

Friday, May 25th, 2012

By James T. Ott

When it came time to approve the spending of Community Development Block Grants, (CDBG), at Tuesday’s City Council Meeting, council members found themselves having to do more with less.

Despite over $2 million in applications from non-profits and programs, in the end the council only had about $763,000 to work with and in the end approved $531,897 in block grants to go toward city code enforcement, housing rehabilitation, downtown curb cuts, job placement and training and small business training.

The council faced losses that could have been utilized for these programs, such as $143,000 in funding the city lost this year when the state eliminated redevelopment agencies. In fact, according to a staff report, the city lost 11 similar grants when the Antioch Development Agency was cut by the state.

CDBG consultant Teri House said that the loss of such redevelopment funds created a “huge impact on [city] programs.”

As a result of decreases in funding and increases in applications, the city said it had a, “very painful decision-making process,” and had to deny many programs this year that it has supported for years such as the Child Abuse Prevention Council, the Contra Costa Food Bank, and the Community Housing Development Corporation.

CDBG consultant Teri House said that the loss of such redevelopment funds created a “huge impact on [city] programs.”

The city allocated $131,897 toward code enforcement to hire its first code enforcement officer since 2009 when budget cuts eliminated the position. The main focus of the officer will be the abandoned/foreclosed homes in Antioch. The city has had an epidemic of squatters of late stemming from the housing crash. This Code Enforcement Officer will help Deputy Director of Community Development Ryan Graham who currently only has the ability to help with the very worst cases in Antioch.

$200,000 will go toward single and multi-family rehabilitation services such as loans to assist in fixing dilapidated buildings, tenant-landlord counseling and infrastructure improvements all in an effort to clean up lower-income areas of Antioch.

$135,000 was set aside for curb cuts to provide easier access for the handicapped.

$50,000 will go toward job training at and placement for struggling residents via Opportunity Junction who are having trouble finding work and $15,000 will be allocated to the Antioch Chamber to fund small business training for Antioch residents who own, or are looking to own a business.

Also at the meeting:

The city council decided Tuesday to table the decision on proposed changes to components of it’s Master Fee Schedule until next city council meeting due to council indecision as to whether or not the changes were currently necessary.

Most of the proposed changes in the schedule were to fees associated with the Police Department and Animal Services, Community Development and Public Works, and a majority of them were slight increases.

The changes are to go mainly toward capital improvement projects and also for a repair and replacement fund for the city’s water and sewer districts, said Antioch Finance Director Dawn Merchant.

The proposed adjustments were made according to a 2010 report by consultants Black and Veatch – a report that Merchant said city staff still felt was valid.

According to a city staff report, Police fees in general are set to go up about 5 percent and city water and sewer rates will increase 8 percent and 4 percent, respectively – changes that were already approved in resolutions back in 2010.

Merchant said that the proposed increases were in accordance with the standard increases according to the Consumer Price Index, which is where the main sticking point for the council seemed to come from.

Councilmember Agopian protested raising fees just because the Consumer Price Index said it could or should be done. Agopian said that it makes it more expensive to live and do business in Antioch and so he is apposed to raising such fees seemingly arbitrarily.

City Manager Jim Jakel said that most of the increases are negligible and most amount to $2 to $6 increases. Jakel and Merchant both said that the fees were made to recoup increased city costs due to things such as rate increases, and may indeed be necessary.

Council Member Brian Kalinowski pointed out that some fees in the proposal don’t increase at all, such as some animal fees that used to require a ten day minimum and now can be paid day by day, potentially saving Antioch residents hundreds.

In the end Kalinowski and the other council members agreed that they would postpone the decision until they could hear more from residents and get more details from staff on the changes.

If the changes are approved they are currently set to go into effect July 1, 2012.

Any changes to the master fee schedule are also set to be brought before city council for review in two years.

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Community Raising Funds for New Police Dog

Friday, May 25th, 2012

An effort by the Antioch Police Department and interested citizens has raised $9,000 toward their goal of $10,000 to pay for a new police dog.

Please make checks out to: The Kiwanis Club of Antioch Foundation-K9, Tax ID# 16-1693220 and send to: The Kiwanis Club of Antioch Foundation-K9, 3377 Deer Valley Road, Suite 239, Antioch, CA 94531

For more information call Lt. John Vanderklugt at 779-6973.

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Entertainment Abounds at this Year’s County Fair in Antioch

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Thrilling Arena Events, a Free Concert Series, and Sea Lion Splash

Entertainment abounds at this year’s Contra Costa County Fair, May 31 – June 3 at the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds in Antioch. This year’s Fair features ongoing daily shows, stock car racing, a free concert series, daily strolling shows, and boat trailer races.

The 2012 concert series features the Spazmatics on Thursday night at 6 and 8 pm and Nathan Owen Motown After Dark on Friday evening at 6 and 8 pm. On Saturday evening – it’s a night of Rock and Roll with Rockin’ Down the Highway (a tribute to the Doobie Brothers) at 5:30 pm; Cream of Clapton (a tribute to Eric Clapton) at 7:30 pm; and Blaze of Glory (a tribute to Bon Jovi) at 9:30 pm. On Sunday afternoon, find musical entertainment at the Main Stage with FRESH, and on the Fiesta Stage, enjoy a Hispanic Musical Celebration. All concerts are free with admission to the Fair.

For thrilling arena action, the Antioch Speedway will host two action-packed events! On Saturday, watch Stock Car Racing at the Speedway. Gates open at 5 pm, and racing begins at 6:30 pm. On Sunday, don’t miss the crashing and demolition at the Boat Trailer Races and the Roll Over Competition. Gates open at 5 pm, and destruction begins at 6 pm. Tickets are $6 per night, and tickets will be sold at the gate,. Price does not include admission to the Fair.

With four days of fun planned for Fair-goers of all ages, the Contra Costa County Fair is the perfect place to enjoy live entertainment, delicious food, carnival rides, animals, and hundreds of exhibits.

Gates open at noon on Thursday and Friday, and at 11 am on Saturday and Sunday. Gates close each day at 11 pm. Advanced sale tickets are on sale now! Take advantage of early discounts and save money! .Advanced ticket sales are taking place now through May 30, and can be purchased at the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds in Antioch, on-line at www.ContraCostaFair.com, or at your nearby Walgreens.

The Contra Costa County Fairgrounds is located at 1201 West 10th Street, Antioch, CA 94509. For directions, event details or general information, visit www.ContraCostaFair.com or call the Fair Office at (925) 757-4400.

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Senator DeSaulnier to Address Residents of The Commons at Dallas Ranch at Candlelight Dinner Friday

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Residents, Staff excited about Senator’s visit to their community.

Senator Mark DeSaulnier will address residents of The Commons at Dallas Ranch at their Candlelight Dinner on May 25, 2012.

The Commons at Dallas Ranch, the premier Independent, Assisted, and Memory Care Community in Antioch will welcome Senator Mark DeSaulnier as they celebrate their Candlelight Dinner.

The Candlelight Dinner is a chance to show the Resident’s that they are loved and appreciated by having a special dinner and recognizing birthday’s for the month. The dinner will be extra special this month because of the Senator’s visit”, says Dina Osakue, Community Relations Director. “We are all excited and thankful that the Senator will take time out of his busy schedule to join us.”

 

The Commons at Dallas Ranch Assisted Living Community is a community established by Premeira Care, an Oakdale, CA-based company. Dallas Ranch opened in Antioch in 2006, and continues to provide affordable luxury living and care for the senior community. For more information visit www.commonsatdallasranch.com.



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Cyclists Race Through East County in Amgen Tour of California

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Amgen Bike race competitors head east down Marsh Creek Road. Photo by Brad Bennett

Over 100 cyclists raced through the roads of Contra Costa County, up Mt. Diablo and down Marsh Creek Road in East County on Tuesday, May 15, during Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California 2012 Bike Race.

The race lasted from May 13 to the 20th, with eight stages throughout the state.

According to the Amgen Tour of California website “Stage 3 of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California started in north San Jose…and made its way down to the city of Livermore. For the first time in the history of the race, the riders were challenged with a climb up Mt. Diablo, one of the most revered climbs in California. Peter Sagan (SVK) [Slovakia] of Liquigas-Cannondale crossed the finish line first taking his third stage win of the 2012 race and making Amgen Tour of California history by winning three consecutive stages.”

According to the Associated Press, “The seventh annual event began May 13 in Santa Rosa with a field of 128 representing 16 teams. The 735-mile race, which had 110 finishers, progressed to the Bay Area before taking a largely inland route to Southern California.”

After eight epic days of racing along some of California’s most iconic roadways, highways and coastlines, the 2012 Amgen Tour of California concluded at L.A. LIVE in downtown Los Angeles, with Rabobank’s Robert Gesink of the Netherlands winning the overall race.

For Gesink, the win marked a both a remarkable comeback and bittersweet win in remembrance of his father, who passed away after a cycling accident in October 2010.

“I dedicate this win for my father,” said Gesink, who said his father attended the 2009 Amgen Tour of California to see his son place 8th overall and win the race’s Best Young Rider jersey that year. “For me emotionally it is something really big to be back at this high level and to win a stage here, the toughest stage of all. It’s a good thing to be back in California and to be winning again.”

American teammates David Zabriskie and Tom Danielson of the Garmin-Barracuda team took second and third place overall. It was Zabriskie’s fourth second-place finish in America’s Greatest Race, having finished second in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012.

“Sure, I’d like to win, doesn’t anyone?,” said Zabriskie. “But it was a good tour for the Garmin-Barracuda team.”

About the Amgen Tour of California

The largest cycling event in America, the 2012 Amgen Tour of California is a Tour de France-style cycling road race, created and presented by AEG, that challenges the world’s top professional cycling teams to compete along a demanding course from May 13-20, 2012.

About Amgen

Amgen discovers, develops, manufactures, and delivers innovative human therapeutics. A biotechnology pioneer since 1980, Amgen was one of the first companies to realize the new science’s promise by bringing safe, effective medicines from lab to manufacturing plant to patient. Amgen therapeutics have changed the practice of medicine, helping millions of people around the world in the fight against cancer, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, bone disease and other serious illnesses. With a deep and broad pipeline of potential new medicines, Amgen remains committed to advancing science to dramatically improve people’s lives. To learn more about our pioneering science and vital medicines, visit http://www.amgen.com. Follow us on www.twitter.com/amgen.

About AEG

AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. AEG, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Anschutz Company, owns or controls a collection of companies including facilities such as STAPLES Center, The Home Depot Center, Sprint Center, The O2, Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE and Best Buy Theater Times Square; sports franchises including the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), two Major League Soccer franchises, two hockey franchises operated in Europe, management of privately held shares of the Los Angeles Lakers, the ING Bay to Breakers foot race, and the Amgen Tour of California cycling road race; AEG Live, the organization’s live-entertainment division, is a collection of companies dedicated to all aspects of live contemporary music performance, touring, and a variety of programming and multi-media production. For more information, visit AEG today at www.aegworldwide.com.

 

 

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