Antioch Council hires new City Attorney, opposes new state homelessness bill

By Nick Goodrich

At their regular meeting, on Tuesday, March 8th, the Antioch City Council approved the hiring of a new City Attorney, and extended road closures, and voted to oppose Senate Bill 876, which relates to homelessness in California.

The Council began with the hiring of the new City Attorney, Michael Vigilia, who has served as the City of Hayward as Assistant City Attorney since 2011. He was eager to begin serving the City of Antioch.

“I feel like I made the right decision in coming to Antioch,” Vigilia said.

He has over 12 years of experience practicing law in California, and was approved in a unanimous 5-0 vote by the Council.

City Council also held two public hearings during the meeting, to consider extending the closures of two roads in Antioch that have presented crime issues in the past: a section of Empire Mine Road, and a section of McElheny Road between East 6th Street and Fulton Shipyard Road.

The section of Empire Mine Road in question was originally closed in 2005, when Antioch resident Jack Roddy – whose property borders the road – came to the city to complain about ongoing crime, vandalism, and the illegal dumping of trash and other debris. The crime had become so bad at that point that in some instances, he reported people shooting at his cattle that grazed alongside the road. Since that time, that segment of Empire Mine has undergone five more extensions of the closure.

City staff recommended, in light of the fact that the crime issues have not yet been fully resolved, that the Council extend the closure of the road for the seventh time. They did so in a 5-0 vote, with the understanding that only 1 more temporary closure can be voted for before they must decide on whether or not to close the section permanently.

McElheny Road has had similar problems. The City Council voted to extend the closure of that section of road as well, which represents the second such closure since crime became an issue there in 2011.

The Council ended the meeting with discussion of State Senate Bill 876. The legislation was sponsored by State Senator Carol Liu in an effort to address the issue of homelessness in California. In effect, the new bill would provide state guidelines – a “one size fits all” approach for cities to deal with homelessness, among other things.

The Council was critical of the bill, with council members expressing their desire to remain in control of solving issues like homelessness in Antioch. The overwhelming sentiment from the Council was that local approaches and solutions to problems like homelessness prove more effective, with local representatives benefitting from an inside look at issues that they work to solve.

The League of California Cities, usually an avid supporter of local governments, brought the bill to the Council’s attention, and recommended that Mayor Wade Harper sign a letter opposing it.

“I understand what the state’s trying to do, to be an aid, but I think it hurts some of the city governments that are trying to do positive things to clean their cities,” Council Member Tony Tiscareno said.

The result of the City Council’s discussion was a unanimous, 5-0 vote authorizing Harper to sign the letter, in an effort to prevent the state from preempting Antioch and other cities like it, in their efforts to address issues like blight and homelessness.

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