Torres-Walker flip flops shows mayor some love as Antioch Council approves 5 part-time secretaries on split vote


Council approves another marijuana distribution business, amends billboard regs, wants more information on increasing street sweeping services

Torres-Walker also wants council to discuss reparations for African- and Asian-American residents

By Allen D. Payton

Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker flip flopped Tuesday night and ended up showing Mayor Lamar Thorpe some love giving him his own secretary, and all the other council members who want one, as well.  During their meeting on Valentines’ Day night Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023 the Antioch City Council approved the hiring of up to five part-time secretaries for those council members who want them, on a 3-2 vote. District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock voted against it.

The increase to five council assistants by Torres-Walker from the original one, then three and the vote to approve them occurred in spite of her stating at the special meeting on Friday, Jan. 13, 2022 that she wouldn’t.

“After having several hours conversations with community members…we came to the conclusion, this probably isn’t the right direction to go in,” she said that afternoon. “The right direction would be internships. I’m not prepared to support this tonight or in the future. But I would support a public policy internship program.”

Approve Another Cannabis Business

In other council action, they also approved the use permit for another cannabis distribution business, this one at 2101 W. 10th Street known as Delta Distribution also on a split vote. On a motion by District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson and seconded by Torres-Walker, followed by a 4-1 vote with only Barbanica voting against. The business is located in the same building as Delta Dispensary which is owned by the same family.

The council also voted unanimously to amend the City’s billboard regulations focusing them in the future within 500 feet of Highways 4 and 160. There are currently five and two proposed within the city limits. The new ones are proposed by Delta Bowl near Hwy 4 and Somersville Road and the other by Mesa Outdoor near the Antioch BART Station.

Increasing Street Sweeping Services Postponed

But the council postponed voting to increase street sweeping services, wanting more information and costs for adding litter pickup, signage and enforcement for residents to move their cars on the day their street is sweeped.

The council was informed that Delta Diablo sanitation district provides the service at a cost of about $371,500 per year.

“I know I raised this…because I was concerned about the number of times the streets are cleaned, also enforcement,” Torres-Walker stated. “Without signage you can’t enforce. My concern is we increase street sweeping services in neighborhoods that desperately need it. But without enforcement…I’m just concerned…”

“There was an idea we do it ourselves,” she added.

“We did the analysis. It’s quite expensive for us to do it in house,” said Interim Public Works Director Scott Buenting. “There’s three options that are here. If council wants something more, we can go and bring back cost estimates.”

“The signage we would have to do,” Thorpe stated.

“There would be a cost associated with that,” Buenting added.

“I do have a fourth option,” Ogorchock said. “That would be hiring a couple more laborers to tackle this issue. It’s more prevention from keeping things going into storm drains. It’s not Delta Diablo’s job to pick up trash…like pizza boxes.”

She then asked about Prop. 218, a property tax assessment to cover additional costs.

“Prop. 218 is if we didn’t fund it,” Thorpe responded.

“Prop. 218 would come from Delta Diablo,” Wilson added.

“Do they have the option for…litter pick up?” Torres-Walker asked.

It’s just street sweeping, Buenting responded.

“Does the cost estimate include additional services or not?” Torres-Walker asked.

Thorpe clarified that the council is looking for additional services, not just an increase in frequency.

“Sounds fine. I can work with the city manager,” Buenting said.

“If there’s a pizza box, we don’t want them to go around the pizza box,” Thorpe added.

Ogorchock pushed for the two additional laborers.

Barbanica said, “My preference is to price it both ways, if we do it or they do it” referring to litter pickup.

“Street sweeping intervals we’re OK with how they’re set?” Buenting asked.

“No,” Thorpe responded.

“I’m not for increased (services). But I am for litter pickup,” Barbanica said.

“I’m on the same page,” Ogorchock said.

“I’m not sure about the frequency until we get more information,” Wilson said.

“So, that’s a ‘no’,” Thorpe responded.

“I live in a community where the streets need to be swept more than once a month,” Torres-Walker said.

“I’m pretty frustrated with the lack of enforcement and signage, getting people to move their cars,” Thorpe said agreeing with Torres-Walker. “Pittsburg has enhanced service. I think they have street sweeping twice a month, there. The business corridors get it once a week.”

“Pittsburg has it in-house,” Ogorchock shared.

“Some of us actually live in communities where we need increased street sweeping, litter pickup, enforcement so cars can be moved,” Torres-Walker said. “I’m just committed to cleaner streets. We’ve been at this up here for two years…with blighted cars and blighted streets.”

“If there are communities that need it more, then yes,” Wilson responded. “I’m not saying ‘no’. But I need to know more information on the cost of that” referring to litter pickup.

“It could be more cost effective to look at hiring two more laborers,” Ogorchock repeated.

“It could be a matter of coordinating with the street sweeper and our abatement teams,” Thorpe said.

While Barbanica did, Torres-Walker didn’t support Ogorchock’s proposal.

“We just hired one laborer for just downtown. You’re proposing hiring two laborers to work throughout the entire city?” she asked. “I’m not for that because I believe the demand would be for more than two bodies for an entire city.”

Staff will return at a future council meeting with options for a decision.

Torres-Walker Flip Flops, Proposes Five Part-Time Secretaries, Council Approves 3-2

After saying at the January 13th special council meeting that, “I’m not prepared to support this tonight or in the future. But I would support a public policy internship program,” Torres-Walker took a 180 and proposed hiring up to five part-time secretaries, one for each council member who wants one, and made the motion to approve. But she also wants a citywide internship program.

The City currently does not have an internship program, Human Resources Director Ana Cortez said. “We should not be treating our interns as employees.”

The City could run into some legal issues, and it could require an educational aspect in the program, she mentioned.

“The compensation would be in the form of stipends, not wages,” Cortez continued. “In hiring part-time secretaries…they would be limited to 1,000 hours per year…to avoid paying very expensive benefits costs. Part-time secretaries could be hired for a longer duration and require less supervision following training.”

The option is to create a citywide intern program, which is something Cortez has been proposing.

“We would be partnering either with a college or high schools and it would be a benefit to the city and to interns,” she added.

Two members of the public spoke in favor of an internship program.

During council discussion, Torres-Walker said, “I know I raised the issue of secretaries…to support those council members who aren’t retired and require support. Then I thought about an internship program. There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm around an internship program.”

“I’m actually in support of both options,” she continued. “Secretaries to support the council and creation of an internship program to support the curiosity of how cities are run.”

“I really want to support five part-time council positions to support the council members,” Torres-Walker added.

Wilson asked Cortez who the interns would answer to.

“Depending on the department that has the need, the director would make a request and the interns would be assigned to that department,” Cortez said. “It would be housed in Human Resources in our offices.”

“I’m all for interns. I hate that title secretaries. I do like the five secretaries. If somebody says, ‘I don’t need one, right now’ then that person wouldn’t be hired until their needed. We could postpone hiring secretaries for those who don’t need one, right now.”

“This all started with one for all of us, part-time,” Thorpe added. “I’m excited to hear about the five. I’m all for that.”

“To hire one part-time it would be $15,500,” Cortez shared.

“I think there is general support for the internship program. It will need to be built out and brought back,” Thorpe stated.

Torres-Walker then made the motion to hire up to five part-time secretaries to support the council members. Wilson seconded it and the motion passed on a 3-2 vote with Ogorchock and Barbanica voting against.

Torres-Walker Wants Council to Discuss Reparations for African-, Asian-American Residents

During council comments, at the request of one resident who broached the subject during public comments earlier in the meeting for both Africa-American and Asian residents, Torres-Walker asked the council to consider placing reparations on a future meeting agenda.

The council voted 5-0 to adjourn the meeting at 11:00 p.m.

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