Antioch citizens confront Mayor Harper on crime, threaten recall

Council considers budget adjustments

By John Crowder

At the September 23 meeting of the Antioch City Council, two residents spoke out against Mayor Wade Harper for what they considered his inability to address spiraling crime in the city.

Rich Buongiorno, who earlier this month posted an open letter on Facebook to the mayor on the same issue, spoke first.

Mr. mayor, I’m not happy,” he said. “When it comes to the bad stuff, you’re not there.” Calling the mayor, “MIA,” Buongiorno added, “Crime and violence is getting worse… now it’s a constant. It’s a daily occurrence.” He concluded by saying that he and others, “intend to seek your recall and removal from the office of Mayor in Antioch, California.” His presentation was twice interrupted by applause.

A little later during comments, another resident, Ken Turnage II, also spoke out, specifically referencing the crimes being committed at Deer Valley Plaza by Deer Valley High School students every day after school.

Violence has become a constant, and businesses are closing their doors because they cannot be protected,” he said. Turnage asked for the mayor’s resignation.

Harper interrupted Turnage when asked to resign, saying, “That won’t happen.”

Everyone’s entitled to their comments, and their opinion, and we respect other opinions,” Harper stated, after Turnage concluded his remarks.

When it was time for the Mayor’s Comments on the agenda, Harper again addressed the negative feedback he had received. He laborating on some of the things he did as mayor, which he said were largely unseen in the press.

As long as the community wants me to serve, I will serve, and put my heart into it,” he said.

Regarding the problems at Deer Valley Plaza, he said that he had been meeting with the police chief and the superintendent of schools about the matter.

Public Hearings

A public hearing was held regarding the Planning Commission’s decision to approve a use permit for Mission-Hope Day Program, which provides services for developmentally disabled adults. Residents of the Lake Alhambra Homeowners Association were appealing the decision because of concerns with “traffic, parking, and the intensity of the use.” The program is to be located at 10 South Lake Drive.

Former State Assemblyman Guy Houston spoke to the council on behalf of the program. Following his presentation, Antioch resident Martha Parsons spoke in opposition. After a lengthy discussion, including rebuttals and an intermission in order to allow time for new condition language to be drafted, the council voted 4-0 to approve the use permit. Three conditions were made a part of the approval, including the installation of “no parking” signs restricting parking in front of the building during operational hours, the securing of an off-site parking location for employees, and limits on the size of vans.

In other matters, public hearings were held on two housing development plans.

Oakley Knolls is a project proposed by Discovery Builders to put 31 single family homes on approximately five-and-a-half acres on the north side of Oakley Road.

Quail Cove, proposed by West Coast Home Builders, would also result in 31 single-family homes on the west side of Heidorn Ranch Road at the eastern terminus of Prewett Ranch Drive. Property owner Richard Johnson expressed concern with the project infringing on five acres he owns adjacent to the proposed development.

Both the Oakley Knolls and Quail Cove projects are preliminary. They were placed on the agenda in order for the city council to provide feedback with respect to city requirements prior to final proposals being submitted. On both sites, the city council, on 4-0 votes, provided feedback to the applicants and city staff, asking them to look at certain design aspects in order to ensure sufficient parking, good traffic flow, and recommendations submitted by the Contra Costa Fire Protection District. They suggested that the developers of Quail Cove meet with property owner Richard Johnson in order to mitigate his concerns.

Another suggestion by the council addressed concerns with the rising cost of police services. Mayor Harper said that he would, “like to see a facilities district for police.” Harper also expressed a desire to require the builders to use project labor agreements in construction of the homes.

At the conclusion of the public hearings, a presentation was made, and the council approved, on a 4-0 vote, a proposal to approve a study and adopt a plan to implement a project for steps to be taken to prevent the flooding that repeatedly occurs in the vicinity of West Antioch Creek. Concern was expressed by council members about the proposed closing of West 10th Street between L Street and Auto Center Drive during construction.

Toward the end of, what turned out to be a very long meeting, City Manager Steve Duran addressed the council concerning potential mid-year budget priorities. His comments centered around recommendations he had for spending the additional money that would be coming to the city should Measure O pass. If the measure does pass, the city is estimating additional annual revenue of approximately $2.7 million.

The first priority brought forward by Duran was to spend approximately $1.3 million in order for the Antioch Police Department to buy in to the East Bay Regional Communication System (EBRCS). He said that Antioch was the only city in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties not participating in the system, which is designed to allow for effective communications between law enforcement and first responder agencies within the two counties.

Other proposals were for the elimination of furlough Fridays, at a cost of $800,000, body cameras for police officers, at an undetermined cost, and start-up costs related to new enforcement activities for the Business License staff at a cost of $100,000 per year.

Mayor Harper spoke in favor of EBRCS, police body cameras, and the end of furlough Fridays. The rest of the council echoed their concurrence, and a motion to approve the report was passed on a 4-0 vote.

Finally, in closing comments, both Mayor Harper and Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha addressed the violent behavior of Deer Valley High School students in Deer Valley Plaza. Among other things, including notification of parents by the school district when a child is found to be involved, both talked about the responsibility of the owner of the Plaza. “If we need to pass an ordinance requiring a certain amount of security for such a location, maybe we need to do that,” Harper said.

Maybe we need to have an ordinance on the books that triggers some effort on the owner of that plaza,”stated Rocha.

Council Member Tony Tiscareno concurred with their sentiments, and spoke further about the responsibility of the school district.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 14. Meetings are held in the Antioch City Council chambers, 200 H Street, and begin at 7:00 pm. They can also be viewed live on the city’s website at

8 Comments to “Antioch citizens confront Mayor Harper on crime, threaten recall”

  1. Cheri Webster says:

    Consequences now would be appropriate in several settings in an attempt to correct these students, and possible change their future decisions. 1. Cameras throughout shopping center, and businesses around a set mileage around school. 2. Inappropriate behavior with escalating consequences set by Antioch school board with no warnings. Three violations expulsion. 3. Parent fines for each violation set by city for child’s actions. Shopping center security guards with authority to detain unruly, loitering, stealing, and/ or restrict access without parent. No warnings… 4.detain them, and press charges for violence, with fines. Quick response by Antioch Police, and regular scheduled officers on site AND in area after school gets out. No reason to wait for months of meetings, writing plans, and waiting to give Antioch back to the community. Sad businesses had no recourse, but to shut their doors. Citizens of Antioch are afraid to live here, and are moving away. So disheartening to watch this city become the new Richmond, and Oakland. Even more sad to hear public officials call it that.

  2. Deena Cummings says:

    I’m having a hard time buying into the reasoning of the mayor and council that it is the responsibility of the owner of the shopping center to control these gangs of students. These students are leaving from school– the school district should be taking responsibility (contacting parents) as well as the city of Antioch (police enforcement for breaking the law). It’s another example of how the council does not support local business.

  3. Will says:

    The legacy continues.

    The city leadership is at best incompetent. Their problem solving process is a joke. Worse yet are the citizens that keep voting these people in office with little to no positive results.

    The Deer Valley Plaza situation is a clear warning sign for this community. There is an element that are a real problem and their parents do little to mitigate their behavior. They must be held accountable for their actions. If not, what do you think they will do at night and on weekends?

    The jay-walking that happens before, during and after school hours around Deer Valley and Lone Tree is out of control not to mention a danger to all.

    May as well blame store owners for acts of miscreant. How wrong of these Deer Valley business owners to think they could start a business, pay fees and TAXES, create some jobs and perhaps make some money in the effort.

    As stated above, many tax paying citizens are afraid to live here. Those that could move away have and there are many more of us waiting for the financial opportunity to leave.

    Ignoring the problems will not make them go away. Blaming businesses, the victims, will not solve this problem.

  4. Julio says:

    This isn’t new activity to that Plaza. It started many years ago. Anyone remember the “Gas City” fiasco? This is the responsibility of the school district. It was proven then and will be proven again. The guards in the plaza need guns and Tasers. I have not been in that shopping center since the Gas City situation. If I had that landlord, so irresponsible, I’d get the hell out.

  5. Ellen says:

    The city needs to get this under control and the principal Mr. Gardner needs to be at the Deer Valley Plaza to see the violence of his students. The police,mayor,principal and the Superintendent need to observe what is happening on a daily basis there and enforce the law as well as expulsion from the school if the student is involved in any violent activity. Write it into the by laws if you need to. Something needs to be done. BUT frankly,Principal Gardner cannot keep his own campus safe as there have been sexual assaults and attempted assault on campus that are hidden from the public and should NOT be! Other principals in the area,at the very least, need to be informed when a stranger comes on campus and tries to assault a young girl. Luckily,she was saved by a teacher opening a door and she was dropped to the floor(who knows what would have happened to her,if it was an attempted abduction possibly but he dropped her and ran off campus). No one has heard this story because the principal hides the facts from AUSD and the public and at the very least we wanted parents and principals of other schools notified-at the very least! BUT the word needs to get out there as we need someone to be able to take control of the situation.

    If I was principal I would be out there in the shopping area watching the kids and identifying them for the police. Maybe the kids would think twice before causing trouble then. And security was beaten for recording the violence at the plaza-and the police say they are outnumbered?! You are letting these punks think they can run the show. There is so much that the mall owners can do-yes install security cameras everywhere,but without enforcement from all areas(school and police) it will be of little use. Need to enforce discipline and punishment to be effective-they know the police and school won’t do anything and that is why they continue to cause problems and laugh about it because they are not scared.

    CHANGE their attitude by enforcing the law,getting other police depts.and sheriffs in the area to help out and get these guys. THEN punish them according to the law and juveniles get away with a lot and they are well aware of it(that is another topic in itself that the juvenile system need to be upgraded to an adult for of punishment and not rehabilitation,so they will think twice before committing a crime-unless it is murder,they barely get any jail time unfortunately-should prosecute as adults when violent crime is involved). We need to take a tough stance on crime and not allow it to happen and the people there to get away with it. BUT we have to work together and coordinate this better and stop the blame game-work it from every angle til they stop. The only way they are afraid is if a policeman shoots them (and they know that is not going to happen these days) BUT that is the best deterrent. In the meantime,continue arresting them at least making it a hassle to their parents and fining the parents who should ultimately be the one to blame after the criminal itself(don’t blame shop owners,etc-BLAME the criminal juvenile and his parents)! If the parents cannot control their own kid,how do they expect society to do so.

  6. Julio says:

    This same attitude of disrespect and hooliganism is rampant in most of our schools. It is time to bring back expulsion, fine or jail the parents. This school district has been in total disarray and denial since before the Gas City situation that cost the school district millions. Get rid of this superintendent and his Mr. Gardner who has done nothing. Mr. Gardner was suppose to bring a more military back ground that would solve all our problems. We need a school board with a back bone and I sure don’t see anyone in our future. We have no good candidates.

  7. Marty Fernandez says:

    The more I think about it the more I am positive Rich Buongiorno is a shill for the No on Measure O people. The terms he uses are exactly the same ones they used on their phone calls. They are running a very questionable campaign.

  8. James conner says:

    The real question here is what is the city going to do about the section 8 infestation we have in our city. When I moved ed here couple of years ago I never signed up to Live in Richmond we need to unite and kick section 8 out of antioch let them for once fend for themselves.

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