Archive for the ‘City Council’ Category

One organizer of failed Thorpe recall answers questions about, identifies Michigan man accused of stealing funds, signatures

Tuesday, June 7th, 2022

Other organizers respond to additional questions, but not committee treasurer or assistant treasurer

“Tom (Hartrick) told me that the police advised him it’s a civil matter, not criminal. I was told that a police report was not filed.” – Kathy Cabrera, recall organizer

By Allen D. Payton

Since it was announced on May 11 that the recall of Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe failed, leaders of the official campaign committee and effort have refused to answer questions, until now. But some have still gone unanswered. Recall organizer claims it failed due to the theft of the committee’s funds and the estimated 11,000 signatures gathered, more than enough to force him to the ballot. (See related article)

According to one of the organizers, Kathy Cabrera, who served Thorpe with his recall petition on Sept. 24, 2021, the contractor who the committee hired and is accused of stealing $23,000 they paid him, plus signatures for both Thorpe’s and City Clerk Ellie Householder’s recalls is Bryan Schafer of Saginaw, Michigan and his company Blitz Canvassing. He and his associate, Kim Ridley of Flint, Michigan led the paid portion of the signature gathering effort. (See related articles here and here.)

An online search for Blitz Canvassing resulted in a website for a company by that name, which claims “to working major signature collection programs in Indiana, Arkansas, Nevada, Michigan and Maine.” But neither Schafer’s nor Ridley’s photos or names appear on it.

While the committee issued a statement on May 11, the deadline for submitting the signatures, it left many questions unanswered. According to the Form 410 filed by the Committee to Recall Mayor Lamar Thorpe on March 24, 2022, the principal officer was Clarke Wilson, one of the 20 proponents who signed the recall notice, who served as the titular head of the committee and is the husband of another recall proponent and outspoken critic of Thorpe, Velma Wilson. In addition, the report shows James Pringle served as the treasurer and Tom Hartrick as the assistant treasurer.  Committee to Recall Thorpe 410

Questions for Organizers

They, and other recall organizers, including Cabrera, Lindsey Amezcua and Arne Simsonsen, were sent the following questions on May 12 and again on May 20:

“What was the name of the company you paid? What is the man’s name who is the head of the company, please? Tom told me he left the state and went back to, I believe he said Michigan. Is that true? If so, how do you know that, who told you?

I’ve also been told that man was renting a home in Pittsburg and left his girlfriend behind, as well. Is that true?

Where or how did you find the company that you hired? Who recommended them to you?

What kind of track record do they have? Do you know if they lean left or right politically?

Can you please provide a copy of the contract?

Who has access to the committee’s bank account? Would that be Treasurer James Pringle, Assistant Treasurer Tom Hartrick and Principal Officer Clarke Wilson? Anyone else?

Did the signature gathering company also take the signature petitions for Householder’s recall? Or is that effort continuing?

Is there some legal remedy or recourse you can take since Ellie has a clear conflict of interest in denying the extension? Can it be appealed to a judge, the county clerk or Secretary of State?

What actions are being taken other than filing a police report? Do you have a copy of it that you can provide?

Will you start over trying to recall Thorpe in six months?”

The group was also asked who was included in the meeting when the recall signature gathering company was hired.

Today, they were also asked about the discrepancy between the company name Schafer gave and the one with the same name with the website mentioned above on which neither he nor his associate appear.

Simonsen Responds

Simonsen responded on May 12 with, “I can only answer one of your questions: Can it be appealed to a judge, the county clerk or Secretary of State? Once the filing date has passed, there is no recourse to a Judge. The County Clerk and the Secretary of State have no role in a municipal recall, initiative or ballot measure. The City Clerk is the final authority as the Elections Official unless you take the City Clerk to Court (and that would have to be prior to the filing date with a Writ of Mandamus).”

Simonsen was also asked on May 28, if the recall can restart sooner than six months since the signatures were not turned in to the city clerk. He responded that day, “I will double check, but I am sure that once the petitions are approved for circulation that the six months kick in.”

Amezcua Responds

Amezcua responded via text on May 12 writing, “At the moment, I have no desire to start over.  I do not know if there is a waiting period. I am not on the bank account. I was not at the interview when the company was hired. I did not write the press release. I’m sure you know me well enough by now to know I have no desire to be a spokesperson.”

“I was not involved in Tuesday’s conversation, so I cannot speak on what was/was not requested,” she continued.

“I personally am feeling an immensely heavy feeling of letting down everyone that was counting on us and have largely ignored my phone and social media,” Amezcua added.

Velma Wilson Responds for Her Husband

Velma Wilson said her husband Clarke just agreed to add his name as chairman of the recall, but the others didn’t include him in the decision making. “So, he doesn’t know” she said about the answers to the questions he was also asked.

Cabrera Provides More Details

Cabrera, who was also part of the discussion about the press release that was issued on May 11, responded to the questions she said she could answer on Tuesday, June 7.

Asked if any background check was done on Schafer, his company, and his associate Kim, Cabrera said, “yes and nothing came up. No criminal records. He had one trespassing complaint against him in Contra Costa County but that’s to be expected in his line of work.”

Asked about filing a police report she responded, “Tom (Hartrick) told me that the police advised him it’s a civil matter, not criminal. I was told that a police report was not filed. Why? I don’t know. That’s just what I was told. I was further advised that the process would require the hiring of a PI and Attorney and there are no more funds to do that.”

Asked who hired the contractor, Cabrera replied, “As far as I know it was a group effort. We had interviewed several different companies. This one was referred to us. Bryan was with the company that did the Newsom recall. I don’t know what was discussed as far as terms and conditions. It was just decided.”

“I gathered the information,” she continued. “I was calling around asking what services they provide, and what was the cost. I brought it back to the group and they made a decision.”

Asked if it was a group vote, Cabrera said, “yes. I personally wanted to go with another company. But the other companies said they didn’t have the time to take it on. This company did.”

As for which organizer handled what responsibility she said, “Lindsey handled the petitions and Tom was in charge of issuing the funds. I wasn’t on any bank accounts. I was a worker bee.”

Cabrera shared more about the paid contractors saying, “Kim had mentioned that she was working with West Coast Petitions out of Walnut Creek. But Bryan pulled her into the effort on the Thorpe recall.”

Asked if they were in a relationship and living in Pittsburg, and if Schafer took off and left Ridley behind as had been shared with the Herald by an Antioch resident, Cabrera responded, “No. She’s not his girlfriend. Kim’s married. They travel to where the work is, which is not unusual. It’s my understanding most of those being paid to gather signatures came from other areas, too. He rented a house in Pittsburg where the pro-signers were staying. It was an Air BnB. Supposedly, the landlord knew him, and they rented it month-to-month.”

Asked if Kim is still around and if, Cabrera said, “no. Bryan did take off to Michigan and left Kim behind she told Lindsey. But it’s my understanding she went to Monterey to work on the next job. That’s the last I heard.”

“Lindsey was trying to contact Bryan and Kim, the week the signatures were due. But they weren’t responding, from what I was told,” Cabrera continued. “We had someone go by the house in Pittsburg looking for them. A clean-up crew was there and said they all had left.”

“This is not what any of us wanted especially the estimated six people who busted their ass for months trying to get the signatures to get the recall on the ballot,” Cabrera added. “The solid six not only gave their money, but gave all of their time collecting signatures, attending council meetings, making the public aware, and anything and everything possible to make the recall happen.”

“There’s no plan to restart the recall at this time,” she stated. “I am just waiting to see what happens in November with the Districts 1 and 4 council elections.”

Attempts to reach Schafer for this article, using the 510-area phone number for him that is still active, were unsuccessful.

Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer Refuse to Respond

Neither Pringle nor Hartrick responded as of publication time.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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Antioch approved for $1.8 million California Violence Intervention and Prevention grant

Wednesday, June 1st, 2022

Supporters of the CALVIP funding join Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker at Antioch City Hall (undated photo). Source: Torres-Walker’s official Facebook page.

After six years, Councilwoman Torres-Walker’s efforts pay off

By Allen D. Payton

Today, Wednesday, June 1, Antioch District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker announced the city has been approved for a state Violence Intervention and Prevention grant of almost $1.8 million. The councilwoman has been working on the effort since before she was elected in 2020.

According to the Grant Program website, “CalVIP grants must be used to support, expand, and replicate evidence-based violence reduction initiatives that seek to interrupt cycles of violence.  Strategies eligible for funding could include but are not limited to: hospital-based violence intervention programs, evidence-based street outreach programs, and focused deterrence strategies.”

The grant will be issued by the California Board of State and Community Corrections. According to their website, the board’s responsibilities include, “the administration of a wide range of public safety, re-entry, violence reduction, and rehabilitative grants to state and local governments and community-based organizations.”

In a post on her official Facebook page, Torres-Walker wrote, “Leadership focused on the people and the solutions, not just the fight. I am pleased to announce that I received news from the City Manager’s office that the BSCC (Board of State and Community Corrections) has recently approved the City of Antioch CALVIP application for $1.794 million. On June 9, 2022, at 10:00 am, the BSCC Board of Directors is scheduled to vote and award the CALVIP funds to the City of Antioch.

This is so exciting as a local leader and resident who has been trying to bring California Violence Intervention and Prevention funds to Antioch since 2016.

Calvip grants must be used to support, expand, and replicate evidence-based violence reduction initiatives that seek to interrupt cycles of violence. Strategies eligible for funding could include but are not limited to hospital-based violence intervention programs, evidence-based street outreach programs, and focused deterrence strategies.

https://www.grants.ca.gov/…/california-violence…/

I would like to take this moment to appreciate all the individuals that work(ed) closely with me to make this possible.

Statement from Michelle Sinnott:

‘A piece of good news in the fight against gun violence: This morning I learned that the City of Antioch was awarded CalVIP funding for the first time. For those that do not know, I worked on behalf of Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety Washington Dc in partnership with these outstanding individuals to make this happen- Tamisha Torres-Walker, Keiland-Maurice Henderson and Tasha Johnson. With this funding, the City of Antioch will work in partnership with Advance Peace and Bonafide Sisterhood Inc and establish a Gun Violence Intervention program to combat the rise in gun violence we are seeing in Antioch. We are on our way to saving lives. Thank you @BSCC.CA.GOV for awarding the City of Antioch this grant.’

Statement from Tonyia Carter:

‘BONAFIDE SISTERHOOD INC. is grateful & honored to be awarded CalVIP Grant funds for our Neighborhood Hero Project. Working closely with the City of Antioch’s new department of Public Safety and Community Resources, Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker, and the following partners: Moms Demand Action, Keiland-Maurice Henderson (NICJR), Tasha Johnson (Youth network manager). This effort to heal and save our community has been a great experience so far. Thanks to all who helped make this happen. Looking forward to the change to come.’ #Wedidit

To find out how to be more involved in these efforts contact me directly at twalker@antiochca.gov.”

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Antioch Council forms Police Oversight Commission on split votes

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022

Commissioners can have criminal record, but no former Antioch cops or family members allowed

By Allen D. Payton

During their meeting on Tuesday, May 24, the Antioch City Council voted 3-1 to form a seven-member Police Oversight Commission with District 3 Councilwoman voting no and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica absent. The item was the second reading for the commission’s creation which passed on a 3-1 vote during the last meeting when Ogorchock was absent and Barbanica voted no.  Resolution forming Antioch Police Oversight Commission ACC052422

According to the staff report, “Civilian oversight of police departments is an evolving governmental function designed to provide the community with a means to influence police department policies and to help ensure that policing is conducted in a manner that is constitutional, effective, and responsive to the standards, values, and expectations of those served by the police department.

The City Council directed City staff to research and make recommendations to the City Council Police Oversight Standing Committee on the potential formation of an Antioch Police Oversight Commission (‘Police Commission’). City staff researched (1) police oversight commissions and boards in general law and charter cities; (2) the differences between police oversight commissions in general law cities and charter cities; and (3) solutions that can be achieved under each type of government within state and local laws and policies.

City staff has prepared an ordinance forming the Antioch Police Oversight Commission with the aim of strengthening trust, transparency, accountability, and police-community relations in the City of Antioch by ensuring that the Antioch Police Department’s policies, practices, and customs meet or exceed national standards of constitutional policing.

The purpose of the Antioch Police Oversight Commission is to strengthen trust, transparency, accountability, and police-community relations in the City of Antioch by ensuring that the Antioch Police Department’s policies, practices, and customs meet or exceed national standards of constitutional policing.

The Police Commission shall advise the City Council, City Manager, and Chief of Police on the administration of the Antioch Police Department and on policy matters concerning public safety within the City of Antioch. The Police Commission shall facilitate community participation and oversight by reviewing and recommending policies, procedures, practices, and programs designed to result in community policing that is effective, responsive, and sensitive to the diverse needs of the residents of the City.

The Police Commission shall promote and encourage open communication and cooperation between the Antioch Police Department and residents of the City, recognizing that policing the City of Antioch is a shared responsibility.

The Police Commission shall develop, review, and make policy recommendations aimed at informing the community of its rights and responsibilities when interacting with police officers.”

Purpose of Commission

Also, according to the resolution adopted by the council, “The purpose of the Police Commission is to advise the City Council, City Manager, and Chief of Police on the administration of the Antioch Police Department and on matters of public safety within the City of Antioch to ensure that the Antioch Police Department’s policies, practices, and customs conform to national standards of constitutional policing.

The Police Commission shall facilitate community participation and oversight by reviewing and recommending policies, procedures, practices, and programs designed to result in community policing that is effective, responsive, and sensitive to the diverse needs of the residents of the City.

The Police Commission shall promote and encourage open communication and cooperation between the Antioch Police Department and residents of the City, recognizing that policing the City of Antioch is a shared responsibility.

The Police Commission shall develop, review, and make policy recommendations aimed at informing the community of its rights and responsibilities when interacting with police officers.”

Commissioners Can Have Criminal Record

The adopted resolution also includes details on membership of the commission.

“The Mayor and the City Council shall strive to appoint and confirm at least:

(a) one (1) representative from each of the four (4) councilmember voting districts of the City;

(b) one (1) representative of the Antioch faith-based community;

(c) one (1) representative of the Antioch business community; and

(d) one (1) employee or student of the Antioch Unified School District.

(D) No one shall be excluded from the Police Commission because he or she has a criminal record.

(E) The following shall not be eligible to serve as a Police Commissioner:

(a) current sworn police officer or his/her spouse;

(b) current City employee or his/her spouse;

(c) former Department sworn employee or his/her spouse; or

(d) current or former employee, official, or representative of an employee association representing sworn police officers or his/her spouse.”

Commissioners Training

The resolution also includes training for the commissioners.

“The City shall provide appropriate funding for introductory training of new Police Commission members as well as continuing education for all members. Training shall cover all of the following, but not be limited to:

(A) The ordinance establishing the Police Commission;

(B) National standards of constitutional policing;

(C) Department operations, policies, procedures, practices, and programs;

(D) Laws governing local public records and public meetings, confidentiality, police officer rights, arrestee rights, and excessive force; and

(E) Police policies, practices, and procedures around stops, arrests, use of force, detention, large-scale protests, and marginalized communities.”

 

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Thorpe recall fails due to theft of funds, signatures not provided by contracted company

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

Over $23,000 paid to company, $15,000 contribution from former Assemblyman Jim Frazier

More than enough signatures gathered but not received by committee; policreport to bfiled

City Clerk Householder denies request for extension

Organizers question if Thorpe paid company to not turn over signatures

By Allen D. Payton

Leaders of the effort to recall Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe announced Wednesday that they had failed due to theft of funds by the professional company hired to gather signatures of registered voters which didn’t turn over signatures to the recall committee. Plus, over 1,500 signatures gathered by volunteers submitted to the committee for verification were not returned. Over $23,000 was paid to the company. A total of $45,000 was raised for the effort including $15,000 contributed by former Assemblyman Jim Frazier’s campaign committee in late April.

The following statement was issued:

“The Committee to Recall Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe was unable to submit the required 9,511 signatures needed to put the initiative on the November ballot

Due to various reasons, including Covid and a paid signature company that failed to turn over signed petitions after receiving payment, the recall will not be on the November ballot. Signing efforts during this recall period showcased that close to 11,000 Antioch residents signed the petitions believing that Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe is not providing good leadership for the City of Antioch and we thank them for stepping forward.

To be transparent with the community, due to what we believe is criminal activity and fraud by a professional signing company hired to assist us in signature gathering, paid signatures were not turned over or collected after paying over $23,000. In addition, over 1,500 signatures, gathered by volunteers, were delivered to the signature company, paid to validate as registered voters, were not returned.

All funds used for paying for signatures were contributed by residents, businesses and others who support the recall. The signing firm has not been responsive, has skipped town and is believed to be in another state.

Due to the Covid State of Emergency during this recall process, a request was made today to Antioch City Clerk Ellie Householder and Antioch City Attorney Smith to approve an extension, allowing additional days to continue collecting signatures. There is precedence for approving a Covid extension, as seen with the approved extensions to the governor’s recall attempt and other local jurisdictions throughout the state.  Unfortunately, Antioch City Clerk Ellie Householder quickly denied the extension request.

We would like to thank all of the volunteers, contributors and supporters who have participated and encouraged the Recall Antioch Mayor Thorpe effort.

We are now pursuing recourse against the signature gathering company and individuals responsible for what we believe is defrauding members of our community.

As we continue to investigate what transpired, we will be filing a police report with the Antioch Police Department. With this now being on-going investigation, no further public statements will be made as to not interfere with the investigation process.

Regards,Committee to Recall Mayor Lamar Thorpe”

————-

Recall Leaders Share More Details, Question if Thorpe Paid Company Not to Turn Over Signatures

A variety of questions were asked of several recall leaders.

Asked if some of the people hired to gather signatures went unpaid, Kathy Cabrera responded, “Yes, many of the pro signers got stiffed.”

Asked if Householder gave a reason for the denial, committee treasurer Tom Hartrick simply responded, “No.”

When asked if they can appeal Householder’s decision to a judge, Cabrera said, “an attorney we spoke with said that’s not an option.”

Asked why they didn’t pay the signature gathering company as they submitted the signatures to the committee instead of a lump sum, Hartrick replied, “pro signers do draw payments up front.”

Asked if anyone contacted Jim Frazier since most of that $23K came from him?” Hartrick responded, “have not contacted Frazier.”

When asked if the committee is still responsible for paying the signature gatherers for the signatures that they had gathered but weren’t paid for, Lindsey Amezcua responded, “No. The company was responsible for paying the gatherers. They are subcontractors under the company.”

Asked how much was raised and spent by the committee, “Right near $45K” she shared.

Asked if they thought Thorpe had paid the company to not turn over the signatures, Amezcua responded, “yes, I’ve heard from a few people involved that they wouldn’t be surprised if he was involved.” In addition, Cabrera replied, “Oh, yeah, that’s exactly what we thought. Even one of the pro signers thought so, also.”

Questions for Thorpe

The recall committee’s statement and following questions were sent via email to Thorpe Wednesday evening.

“Do you have any comment in response to the failure of the recall against you?

Did your Stop the #KAREN Recall for Mayor Lamar Thorpe 2022 committee pay the signature gathering company more money than what the recall committee was paying them to not turn over the signatures, as some paid signature gatherers have told recall organizers?

Questions for Householder

The following questions were sent to Householder Wednesday night: Recognizing the difficult situation the Thorpe recall leaders are facing why did you deny their request for an extension?

Since you have a clear conflict of interest as the mayor’s self-admitted “best friend” and that you “have each other’s back”, shouldn’t you have recused yourself from the entire process and either allow Deputy City Clerk Christina Garcia to make the decision, the county clerk or the Primo Master Municipal Clerk Stephanie Smith who was going to be brought in for the prima facia signature count, today to handle the extension request?

Questions for Frazier

Attempts to reach Frazier were unsuccessful prior to publication time, asking for any comment about the matter and if he would support an investigation into whether Thorpe paid the company to not turn over the signatures.

As previously reported, to date, Thorpe has only filed an initial Form 410 for his beat the recall committee on Dec. 9, 2021, prior to it being qualified. But he later boasted on his official Facebook page in mid-January that he had raised over $84,000. An Amended Form 410 was due within 10 days after his committee was qualified, which The only confirmation of any funds being contributed to his campaign

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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$12.3 million homeless motel program approved on 3-1-1 vote by Antioch City Council

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

The Executive Inn on E. 18th Street will be used for a transitional housing program for the city’s homeless residents. Herald file photo.

Will also look at other city- and privately-owned properties as part of Request for Proposal; forms Human Rights and Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee; agrees to form new city department

By Allen D. Payton

Following another round of public input and council discussion, during their meeting on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, the Antioch City Council, on a 3-1-1 vote approved spending $12.3 million to lease the Executive Inn on E. 18th Street for transitional housing for homeless residents. with Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica voted no and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, who had been opposed to the project at that location, was absent. The program is projected to cost $12.3 million over five years for the 30-room motel with a portion of funding will hopefully come from the state’s HomeKey program.

After postponing the decision for more information from city staff, District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker gave her support to the project. (See related article)

“I have been clear, very transparent around this project,” she said. “Just when it costs taxpayers money. It costs us less to do preventative care. It costs us more to put people in jails and prisons than to give people opportunity with resources. We’re irresponsible with taxpayers’ dollars when we don’t get unhoused folks off the street…with no resources.”

“I want to see other opportunities, as well,” Torres-Walker continued. “I don’t think anybody’s stalling. I think there were other questions that needed to be answered and we got those answers.  Look at the cost of not doing anything. I hope we can do both, today. Move forward with this and look at other options.”

“It’s absolutely ridiculous…to make an issue of making an investment of $12 million over five years to house people, to move people through those rooms to permanent housing,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe said. “We’ve housed people at the executive Inn then transferred them to the Delta Landing in Pittsburg.”

“We’re literally wasting taxpayer money, right now moving people from corner to corner cleaning up encampments,” he continued. “Literally, the Abatement Team, today was formed to clean up encampments.”

“The $12 million is if we pay for this, ourselves and don’t pursue HomeKey,” Thorpe stated. “I’m tired of people trying to hold up…the executive Inn. We need to get this done, today.”

District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson moved approval that the City of Antioch authorizes, 1. Pursuit of State of California’s HomeKey Program Funding; 2. City commitment of an initial five-year pledge of local resources that amount to a subsidy of $12.3M dollars in local funds; and 3. Staff initiation of a formal solicitation of a developer partner for the subject property located at 515 East 18th Street. Torres-Walker seconded the motion. It passed on a 3-1-1 vote.

During the following agenda ll four council members present were in support of pursuing other opportunities and properties for transitional housing for the city’s homeless residents

“I think we need to be very specific,” Thorpe said. “I would encourage council to be very specific about what properties council is talking about.”

“The Delta Fair site,” Torres-Walker said. “I don’t know of other sites. That is as specific as I can get.”

“I just didn’t want to give vague instructions to staff because we own a lot of property,” Thorpe stated.

Assistant City Manager Rosann Bayon Moore suggested including privately owned parcels…“with the intent of maximizing the quality and intent of the partner we bring to the city.”

“I’m open to looking at other options and talking with the Delta Veterans Group about helping veterans,” Barbanica said.

Wilson was also in support of pursuing other properties in general.

“General it is,” Thorpe stated.

Forms Human Rights and Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee 

On a 4-0-1 vote with Ogorchock absent, the council approved the formation of an Human Rights and Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee for six months and appoint Thorpe and Torres-Walker as the members.

Agrees to Form New City Department

On a 3-1-1 vote, with Barbanica voting no and Ogorchock, absent the council gave direction to City Attorney Thomas L. Smith to return with an ordinance forming a new Public Safety and Community Resources Department, as previously discussed. (See related articles here and here)

 

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Register for Antioch Mayor Thorpe’s annual State of the City address Wednesday morning

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

Register here: 2022 State of the City Address Tickets, Wed, May 11, 2022 at 11:00 AM | Eventbrite

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Antioch City Treasurer takes council to task on spending including $12.3 million on homeless motel program

Sunday, May 8th, 2022

Antioch City Treasurer Lauren Posada speaks to the city council during public comments at the end of their meeting on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. Video screenshot.

“the City cannot continue to support each department to meet the demands while continuing to add expenses that depletes revenues” – Lauren Posada

By Allen D. Payton

During public comments at the end of the Antioch City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 26, City Treasurer Lauren Posada spoke out against the council’s spending.

Earlier in the meeting the council discussed spending $12.3 million over five years for the motel on East 18th Street to serve as transitional housing for the homeless, and the associated “wrap-around” support services.

During council discussion on the item District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock said, “I heard from Focus Strategies $12.3 million is conservative. When you look at the budget and transferring in from the state budget stabilization, 2025-26 there is no more money in the budget stabilization fund. So, our reserves will be depleted.”

Mayor Lamar Thorpe responded, “every budget assumption we get puts us in the red. We’ve been going bankrupt since the day we got here and 10 years later, we’re not bankrupt. Because these numbers don’t make all the assumptions that, as an example, generally our sales tax does better than we anticipate, so we get more money.”

“We don’t always factor in cannabis because we’re constantly getting new applications and we’re approving them, so that doesn’t take certain things into account,” he continued. “So, to look at this number as a fixed number is inaccurate. Because we never look at numbers like that because they’re assumptions, they’re not reality. They’re just assumptions so that we can plan for the future.”

A majority of council members supported the project, including Thorpe, and Councilwomen Tamisha Torres-Walker (District 1) and Monica Wilson (District 4). But Torres-Walker was not ready to move forward that night as she wanted additional information from staff and to consider other, additional locations in the city. So, combined with the opposition from Ogorchock and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica, a decision on spending $12.3 million on the motel program was postponed. (See related article) (The item is on the agenda for the council’s next meeting on Tuesday, May 10.)

Posada’s Comments (See video at 4:09:51 mark)

Asked if she had planned to share her thoughts before Thorpe made his comments that evening Posada said, “I did have a draft ready. But as the meeting went on, I did edit it. I was listening and I’m glad I waited.”

Reading from prepared remarks, Posada said, “Currently, at the City of Antioch we have under our umbrella – Administration offices, Animal Services, Community Development, Economic Development, Finance, Information Systems, Police, Public Works, and Recreation with various departments underneath. I would like to point out that Animal Services, Water Park, Youth Services, Unhoused Services and the Marina are unique entities to us as a city that we operate. All these departments require resources in order to operate effectively. We have one budget that is adopted bi-annually that we should utilize as a guideline to determine our scope or work.

I understand that year after year since 2012 has been an improvement coming off the previous housing crisis, but it would be a disservice if we continued to go off the notion that our revenues will always exceed our expenditures. There are many factors that are contributed to the budget and closing out each fiscal year – as examples we are taking into consideration the salary savings from our police department this year and the housing market continues to rise that will contribute to our projected revenues for this fiscal year. Each year is unique, but I am asking Council to be mindful of the times that we are in and listen to the warnings when they come.

Throughout this agenda packet there are comments made that I would like to bring up that concerned me regarding the fiscal impact with new budget expenditures:

‘…ongoing operations for the remainder of the regulatory period will need to be identified.’

‘This expenditure is currently unbudgeted and is proposed to be funded through the General Fund.’

‘…the need for a budget amendment would be evaluated in conjunction with the budget process and subject to City Council’s direction to staff.’

‘…budget for the Public Safety and Community Resources Department is not under consideration at this meeting. The City Council will have the opportunity to consider the budget for new positions, office space, supplies, and equipment in its upcoming consideration of the fiscal year budget.’

I am not taking the stance that I am for or against any item, but my ask is this: If we are going to pivot what we have underneath our umbrella as a City then I request that we are willing to have the difficult conversations that may come as a result of that pivot and determine funding sources upfront — the City cannot continue to support each department to meet the demands while continuing to add expenses that depletes revenues — I understand budget will be coming up midyear but it is so important to determine what is our priority and clearly outline that to our residents throughout upcoming agenda packets to alleviate frustration or misinformation if possible and most importantly for residents to be confident in decisions being made that will ultimately impact the future wellbeing of our City.

Thank you.”

————–

Asked later about her comments Posada said, “I was trying to bring understanding in a professional way. When you look at the agenda packets there should always be a clear funding source.”

“How can we have these conversations so that they can make an educated decision?” she asked. “How does this $12.3 million affect us over the years? But that’s just one decision. We have to look at the big picture.”

“I’m striving to keep fiscal responsibility at the forefront of Council – big decisions are being made that will impact our city,” Posada added.

Posada was elected city treasurer in 2020 for a four-year term. To see the City’s financial reports, visit www.antiochca.gov/administration-department/city-treasurer/ and to contact the city treasurer call (925) 779-7005 or email her at citytreasurer@antiochca.gov.

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Following outcry from retailers Antioch Council agrees to suspend certain tobacco sales ban until December 1

Monday, May 2nd, 2022

Examples of flavored tobacco. Source: YTAPP presentation

Will wait for November vote on referendum of statewide ban; approves six-year contract extension for city attorney on 5-0 vote

By Allen D. Payton

After much outcry from tobacco retailers in Antioch, the city council on Tuesday night April 26, 2022, agreed to suspend their previously approved ban on the sale of some tobacco and vaping products through December 1. No vote was taken, so the ban remains in place, but city staff was directed to suspend enforcement.

In addition, the council voted unanimously to approve an unusual six-year extension to the contract with Smith. Normal contracts with city attorneys and managers are three-to-five years in length. City Attorney contract extension ACC042622

Tobacco Retail Ban Grace Period

The ban was approved on a 3-2 vote on Feb. 22, with Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica and District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker opposing. Tobacco Retail Sales Ban ACC022222

It was in response to an effort by Antioch youth seeking to keep flavored tobacco products from being sold to and used by young people. The Council previously considered this topic at its May 25, 2021, meeting during a detailed presentation of a survey by the Youth Tobacco Advocacy Policy Project (YTAPP). The ban went into effect on April 7, this year. YTAPP Presentation ACC052521

According to the city staff report for the April 26 council meeting agenda item, “Since passing the ordinance, the City Council has heard public comment from tobacco retailers and businesses selling tobacco products expressing the desire for a grace period temporarily suspending the implementation of new restrictions on sales of tobacco or tobacco products with characterizing flavor, electronic cigarettes, cigars, and little cigars to enable businesses to sell their existing inventory and transition into compliance with the new ordinance.”

One of the complaints from the retailers was that the city ordinance didn’t create a level playing field with those in neighboring cities. The council was asked to wait until after a November vote on a referendum on the state law passed in 2020 banning flavored tobacco products. According to the L.A. Times the statewide ban was suspended in January 2021 after the referendum by the tobacco industry qualified for the ballot.

Another complaint was that the ordinance didn’t give the retailers time to sell the products they already had in stock. A third complaint was that the retailers weren’t notified by the City of the impending ban or suspension of enforcement prior to either council meeting.

According to a report by the FDA, “Flavors are added to tobacco products to improve flavor and taste by reducing the harshness, bitterness, and astringency. However, the use of flavors in tobacco products raises important public health questions. For example, FDA is aware of early reports that some flavors could help adult cigarette smokers switch to potentially less harmful tobacco products. On the flip side, research has shown that sweet-tasting flavors are particularly appealing to youth and young adults.

In 2020, non-Hispanic Black high school students reported past 30-day cigar smoking at levels twice as high as their White counterparts. Nearly 74% of youth aged 12-17 who use cigars say they smoke cigars because they come in flavors they enjoy. Among youth who have ever tried a cigar, 68% of cigarillo users and 56% of filtered cigar users report that their first cigar was a flavored product. Moreover, in 2020, more young people tried a cigar every day than tried a cigarette.”

During the April 26 meeting the council gave direction to City Attorney Thomas L. Smith to prepare an amendment to the tobacco ordinance implementing a grace period until December 1, to focus on community education and suspend enforcement until the passage of the amendment to the ordinance.

Council Comments

District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock spoke in favor of the grace period to applause from the audience saying, “I’m looking for the businesses to make a real, concerted effort to make sure none of these flavored, menthol cigarettes get into the hands of kids. I hope there’s something you can do education-wise.”

“I was not in for this from the start,” Barbanica stated. “I didn’t support it. I think it harms our local businesses. Please continue to police yourself. But I’m in support of staying this until at least Dec. 1st until we see what the state does. I think this was an overreach on our part and we need to be consistent with state law and not harm our local businesses.”

While Mayor Lamar Thorpe said he could support the grace period he also stated, “But I will not be changing my mind irrespective of what the voters of California do. I’m sticking to what I originally did.”

District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson said she could also support the grace period but wanted to focus on a community education component. “Not sure about Dec. 1, but I can support the grace period.”

“I heard people say, ‘Big Tobacco, Big Tobacco’,” Torres-Walker said, speaking in support of the grace period. “This is not Big Tobacco sitting out here. They’re family-owned businesses.”

Advisory Notice Sent April 25

The following notice was sent by the City to businesses via email on Monday, April 25 providing details on the ban:

“ADVISORY NOTICE:

FOR BUSINESSES ENGAGED IN RETAIL SALES OF TOBACCO AND
VAPING PRODUCTS FOR USE WITH TOBACCO

This notice is to inform local businesses of recent changes to City ordinances impacting retail sales within the City of Antioch. The intent of the referenced policies is to provide a healthy, safe environment for all City residents by reducing the adverse effects of cigarettes and related tobacco products, especially as it relates to youth.

As of April 7, 2022, the following changes to the City of Antioch Municipal Code will become effective:
1. The number of new tobacco retailers shall be restricted.

  1. Tobacco retailers are prohibited from selling or possessing tobacco products with the characteristic of being “flavored”, including but not limited to mint, menthol or chocolate.
  2. New businesses with tobacco sales and vaping products for use with tobacco shall maintain a minimum distance of at least 1,000 feet from schools and similar uses.
  3. Electronic smoking devices and e-cigarettes for sale for use with tobacco or tobacco sales are banned in all retail establishments.
  4. A minimum package size for little cigars (cigarillos) is restricted to twenty and cigars is restricted to six.
  5. A minimum price of $10 per package, including applicable fees and taxes, is set for tobacco products, including cigarettes, little cigars (cigarillos) or cigars.

The City respectfully requests your cooperation. On a going forward basis, City of Antioch’s Code Enforcement Division will address compliance matters.

For additional background information, see items F and G at https://www.antiochca.gov/fc/government/agendas/CityCouncil/2022/agendas/030822/030822.pdf
Should you have questions regarding retail sales of tobacco and vaping products for use with tobacco, please contact the City of Antioch Community Development Department, Code Enforcement Division at 925.779.7042.”

Retailers who sell the products complained about the impact on their businesses and asked the council to wait until the vote on a November ballot measure was decided, that would create a statewide ban. The retailers wanted a level playing field. The council members agreed.”

The enforcement of the ordinance is currently suspended. The council is expected to vote on the grace period during their next meeting on Tuesday, May 10.

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