Archive for the ‘Jobs’ Category

Antioch mayor wants to spend $600-$625K to hire 20 apprentices in Public Works Dep’t for 10-month pilot program

Monday, March 21st, 2022

Council to consider it during Tuesday meeting; third-party provider would be hired to run program

“Hire more police officers, now. Public safety before apprenticeship programs” – Mayor Pro Tem Barbanica

By Allen D. Payton

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe is proposing a Mayor’s Apprenticeship Program to benefit 20 participants as part of the city’s Youth Services Network (YSN). The city council will receive a presentation on the program during their meeting Tuesday night and are being asked to provide direction to staff about it.  MAP ACC032222

According to the staff report by Tasha Johnson, YSN Manager, the program will be “a paid workforce development opportunity in the City of Antioch proposed for young adults ages 18-26. The pilot program will employ 20 participants who are underemployed, underserved and underestimated. The young adults selected may possess multiple barriers they are facing and may be justice involved, unhoused, former foster youth and more.”

“The fiscal impact is estimated to range from $600,000-$625,000 per year for a cohort of 20 participants,” the staff report reads.

Johnson’s staff report shares more about the program and its goals.

“Economically vulnerable populations are struggling to meet the basic needs of housing, food security and access to healthcare; consequently, there is an impact of violence affecting these communities. The City’s leadership is intent on offering strategies for addressing healthier outcomes for individuals, neighborhoods and the city. The youth and young adults in the City of Antioch, specifically in the Sycamore area, are being adversely affected by lack of skills and employment opportunity. They face numerous challenges and barriers that must be addressed as the City of Antioch strives to truly realize that opportunity lives here for all youth and young adults. Making available a comprehensive workforce development program not only addresses the needs and helps to prepare a local future workforce, but also builds economic stability for a better quality of life.”

MAP GOALS

Further according to the staff report, the goals of the program are to:

  • Develop a learning culture that encourages and supports training, continuing education, and professional development
  • Strengthen the orientation of young adults to career pathways
  • Generate marketable skills for the workforce
  • Provide an opportunity to be an active member of the community and become economically self-sufficient

The program elements consist of the following:

  • Workforce development training (traditional workshops and experiential learning)
  • Job placement in divisions throughout Public Works
  • Ongoing support services to address barriers

A third-party provider will be secured to deliver training, coaching support and programmatic evaluation.

In addition to secured part-time employment, the MAP will link needs and resources by:

1) identifying and providing referrals to local community-based organizations 2) connecting participants to higher education opportunities and career pathways 3) developing positive self-identity. Success of the MAP supports the City of Antioch’s talent pipeline.”

The tentative start date for the program is July 6, 2022 and is projected to end April 22, 2023.

Questions for Thorpe, Council, Youth Services Network Manager, Public Works Director

The following questions were emailed to Thorpe, the other four council members, Ms. Johnson and Public Works Director John Samuelson Monday afternoon:

Why do you need to hire a third-party provider instead of having the Youth Services Network Manager, who is already being paid by the city for youth services, fulfill the role?

How much of the $600-$625,000 budget will be paid to the third-party provider?  How much will remain to pay each of the apprentices, each month?

Since they will be assigned to the city’s Public Works Department, what work will the 20 participants be doing to earn their monthly compensation?

Will they be performing physical labor? If so, what kind and on what kind of projects? Will they be cleaning up graffiti and litter?

Have you thought of instead, providing $30,000 grants to 20 local businesses to each hire one apprentice, to give them private sector experience which will also help grow our local economy, and allow Ms. Johnson to provide the other program elements?”

No responses were received as of Monday, March 21, 2022 at 5:00 PM.

UPDATE: Barbanica Says “Public Safety Before Apprenticeship Programs”, Reveals Low APD Staffing Levels, Interim City Manager Wants to Wait for New, Interim Police Chief to Evaluate Need for More Officers

However, in a video posted on YouTube and his official Facebook page, Monday night, Barbanica wrote and said, “Hire more police officers, now. Public safety before apprenticeship programs.” He also revealed the low staffing levels in the police department and that the Interim City Manager Con Johnson wants to wait until the new, interim police chief is on board and has evaluated the need to determine how many more officers the city needs.

“I don’t know much about the program… But here is what did strike me. I have, personally, requested on the agenda, the hiring of more police officers and it’s yet to have made the agenda. I know other council members are interested in that, as well. Nothing,” the mayor pro tem said. “But we have this on the agenda and I’m not saying if it’s good or bad. But the safety of our community and the safety of our men and women who are out there every day patrolling our streets, that should be our number one, in all of our day-to-day. I get this. There are people who want an apprenticeship program. Fine. But let’s don’t put the men and women that are out there, every day doing this job, in jeopardy by not having enough staffing.”

“Our recent staffing levels…we are allotted 115 officers…and we can go over, hire over by six. That’s not funded, but we can go over by six. Right now, we’re running about 102. That is less than one officer for every thousand people in this community,” he continued. “I am also told, and I have been told this for months and months, that people are leaving the Antioch Police Department. We stand to lose another four to six more officers in the next four to six months.”

“And get this, right now, we’re having people, and we have been for awhile pull out of the hiring process,” Barbanica exclaimed. “Why? When do you ever see that occur? In my years of law enforcement, we didn’t see it that often. People were standing in line to do the job and to get hired. Now, we’re seeing people pull out and go other places. Why is that happening? We need to be supporting the Antioch Police Department and the staffing levels. We need this on the agenda.”

“This is fine,” he added while holding up a copy of the agenda item on the apprenticeship program. “If the mayor wants this to be on the agenda, fine. But put staffing levels also on the agenda. We need to get up from that 102 to that 115, and beyond. This is huge. This is the safety of our community. I have asked for that to be on the agenda and it hasn’t.”

“The funny thing was, a couple weeks ago I got a call from the interim city manager, and I was talking to him about staffing levels, and he told me he was interested in talking to me about that,” Barbanica stated. “But what he did tell me, was that he was going to wait until the new interim police chief comes in, and that interim police chief can evaluate if we need more personnel.”

“We’re less than one officer per every thousand,” the mayor pro tem reiterated. “We need more police officers. There’s no doubt. Funny thing is we pay a lot of money, here and people are going elsewhere. Why?”

“And why are we waiting for an interim police chief who has never worked in this community, may be a very qualified individual. I don’t know. I’ve yet to meet the man because when he was brought on, I wasn’t told anything about him coming on,” Barbanica continued. “However, we have an interim police chief, now that has more than 20 years’ experience in this community. That chief is able to make a decision and tell our city manager and our city council what we need.”

“Let’s stop playing politics with this. This is the safety of our community and the safety of the men and women that are out there every day protecting this community and all of us need to be backing them,” he concluded.

Viewing and Public Comments

City Council meetings are televised live on Comcast channel 24, AT&T U-verse channel 99, or live stream at City Council Meeting LIVE – City of Antioch, California (antiochca.gov).

The public has the opportunity to address the City Council on each agenda item. No one may speak more than once on an agenda item or during “Public Comments”.

Members of the public wishing to provide public comments, may do so in one of the following ways (#2 pertains to the Zoom Webinar Platform):

  1. IN PERSON Fill out a Speaker Request Form, available near the entrance doors, and place in the Speaker Card Tray near the City Clerk before the City Council Meeting begins.
  2. VIRTUAL To provide oral public comments during the meeting, please click the following link to register in advance to access the meeting via Zoom Webinar: https://www.antiochca.gov/speakers

You will be asked to enter an email address and a name. Your email address will not be disclosed to the public. After registering, you will receive an email with instructions on how to connect to the meeting.

When the Mayor announces public comments, click the “raise hand” feature in Zoom. For instructions on using the “raise hand” feature in Zoom, visit: https://www.antiochca.gov/raise_hand. When calling into the meeting using the Zoom Webinar telephone number, press *9 on your telephone keypad to raise

your hand. Please ensure your Zoom client is updated so staff can enable your microphone when it is your turn to speak.

Speakers will be notified shortly before they are called to speak. When you are called to speak, please limit your comments to the time allotted (350 words, up to 3 minutes, at the discretion of the Mayor).

The City cannot guarantee that its network and/or the site will be uninterrupted.

  1. WRITTEN PUBLIC COMMENT If you wish to provide a written public comment, you may do so in one of the following ways by 3:00 p.m. the day of the City Council Meeting:

(1) Fill out an online speaker card, located at https://www.antiochca.gov/speaker_card,

Or (2) Email the City Clerk’s Department at cityclerk@ci.antioch.ca.us.

Please note: Written public comments received by 3:00 p.m. the day of the City Council Meeting will be shared with the City Council before the meeting, entered into the public record, retained on file by the City Clerk s Office, and available to the public upon request. Written public comments will not be read during the City Council Meeting.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

 

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East Bay Park District lifeguards wanted for 2022 swim season

Wednesday, March 9th, 2022

Photo: EBRPD

By Jen Vanya, Public Information Specialist, Public Affairs, East Bay Regional Park District

Monday, March 7, 2022 (Oakland, CA) – The East Bay Regional Park District is actively seeking 50 new lifeguards for the 2022 swim season at its 10 East Bay swim facilities, which include lakes, lagoons, and pools. All new lifeguard positions are seasonal, full-time positions from May through September. Anyone 16 and over before April 23, 2022, are encouraged to apply. Starting pay is $20.17 per hour.

There are six different testing dates scheduled on Saturdays and Sundays during the last three weekends in March. Participants will be asked to swim 550 yards in under 10 minutes, carry a rescue board 50 feet, retrieve three dive rings under 4-7 feet of water, tread water for two minutes using only their legs, and retrieve a 10-pound brick from under water. There will also be a short informal interview after successful completion of the swim test on the same day.

Participants who pass the tests will be invited to the Park District’s Lifeguard Academy beginning Saturday April 23rd, 2022, where they will receive paid training and certification in open water lifeguarding. The Lifeguard Academy takes place over five consecutive weekends in April and May, with the swim season beginning in late May for most facilities.

“Promoting water safety and educating park visitors on how to safely recreate in, on, and around the water is paramount in what a lifeguard does,” said East Bay Regional Parks District Aquatics Manager Pete DeQuincy. “Working as a lifeguard is one of the few ways a young adult can give back to their community and learn about public service.”

Lifeguards can work at any of the Park District’s swim facilities throughout cities in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, such as Antioch, Concord, Livermore, Hayward, Castro Valley, Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley.

Testing Schedule

  • Saturday March 12th, Buchanan Pool, Pittsburg
  • Sunday March 13th, Buchanan Pool, Pittsburg
  • Saturday March 19th, Mills College, Oakland
  • Sunday March 20th, Mills College, Oakland
  • Saturday March 26th, Granada High School, Livermore
  • Sunday March 27th, Granada High School, Livermore

More Information and How to Apply: bit.ly/2022EBRPDLifeguard

The East Bay Regional Park District is the largest regional park system in the nation, comprising 73 parks, 55 miles of shoreline, and over 1,300 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and environmental education. The Park District receives more than 25 million visits annually throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Biden-Harris Administration, House Democrats working to attract more foreign students, workers for American technology jobs

Thursday, January 27th, 2022

American tech workers not happy, say policy change “destroys the career prospects of young American graduates”

By Allen D. Payton

President Biden and Vice President Harris issued a statement on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, announcing actions and policy changes their administration is taking to make it easier to attract foreign scholars, students, researchers, and experts to ultimately fill American technology jobs. In addition, on Tuesday, Biden issued a statement announcing his support for the America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 3593).

In addition, according to an announcement issued today by the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor, tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 28, the Biden administration will make 20,000 additional temporary nonfarm, H2-B work visas available for hiring through March, delivering on a demand from business groups.

“The supplemental H-2B visa allocation consists of 13,500 visas available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa, or were otherwise granted H-2B status, during one of the last three fiscal years. The remaining 6,500 visas, which are exempt from the returning worker requirement, are reserved for nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras,” the joint statement reads. “The H-2B program permits employers to temporarily hire noncitizens to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States.”

Also, according to a Bloomberg Law article, published yesterday, Democrats have included a new entrepreneur visa in a House bill.

“Nonimmigrant visas for owners and key employees of start-ups as well as their family members and other STEM-boosting measures are part of legislation introduced by Democratic House leaders this week. The Senate last year passed its own version of the legislation, which President Joe Biden’s administration has identified as a key priority,” the article reads. “The bill, which also exempts immigrants with doctorates in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields from annual green card caps, is part of a broader legislative package released Tuesday that seeks to strengthen U.S. competitiveness with China in research and development.”

American Tech Workers Not Happy

But an organization of American technology workers, U.S. Tech Workers, which describes itself as a “nonprofit representing the voices of American workers harmed by the H-1B visa program and pushing Congress for reforms to protect workers”, are not happy with the Administration’s policies nor the Democrats’ legislation.

In a post on the group’s Twitter feed on Monday, Jan. 24, they wrote, “employers lobbied the US government for the ability to hire foreign workers via guest worker visa programs so they could rig the free-market in their favor.”

The group is also opposed to the changes in the H-2B visa and OPT programs. They said the changes will encourage companies to discriminate against American job applicants.

“This is exactly the kind of policy that destroys the career prospects of young American graduates,” the group posted on their Twitter feed. “USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) is incentivizing employers to discriminate against US grads because the OPT program provides employers who hire foreign students: – FICA tax exemptions – No wage standards.”

An article on the group’s website written by Joe Guzzardi, a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who writes about immigration issues, and joined Progressives for Immigration Reform in 2018, reads, “STEM OPT’s expansion…is significant since the thousands of new foreign-born workers entering the labor pool will adversely affect employed U.S. tech workers or recent U.S. STEM graduates whose prospective careers could be jeopardized.”

In addition, the U.S. Tech Workers tweeted, “Exempting a certain category of foreign workers counting towards numerical Green Card caps is a deceptive & crafty tactic of INCREASING overall immigration numbers. It basically means there’s an unlimited supply of GCs for PhDs & their family (spouse/kids).”

In another tweet about Biden’s statement on the America COMPETES ACT of 2022, the U.S. Tech Workers wrote, “House version of America COMPETES Act of 2022 sneakingly adds immigration provisions: – Exempts PhD foreign students & their family from counting towards Green Card cap – Creates new visas for entrepreneurs.”

According to a 2021 Bloomberg article, “Businesses that hire foreign students are exempt from paying Medicare and Social Security taxes, amounting to a discount of 7.65%.”

Biden-Harris Foreign STEM Talent Statement

The statement from the White House reads as follows:

FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Actions to Attract STEM Talent and Strengthen our Economy and Competitiveness

JANUARY 21, 2022

“The Biden-Harris Administration believes that one of America’s greatest strengths is our ability to attract global talent to strengthen our economy and technological competitiveness, and benefit working people and communities all across the country.

In the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – fields that are critical to the prosperity, security, and health of our Nation – our history is filled with examples of how America’s ability to attract global talent has spurred path-breaking innovation. This innovation has led to the creation of new jobs, new industries, and new opportunities for Americans across the United States. Our commitment as a nation to welcoming new talent has long provided America with a global competitive advantage, and we must continue to lead in this effort.

Today, the Departments of State and Homeland Security are announcing new actions to advance predictability and clarity for pathways for international STEM scholars, students, researchers, and experts to contribute to innovation and job creation efforts across America. These actions will allow international STEM talent to continue to make meaningful contributions to America’s scholarly, research and development, and innovation communities.

These announcements build on the Biden Administration’s efforts to remove barriers to legal immigration, such as under Executive Order 14012, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, and to promote educational exchange, such as under the recent Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education issued by Secretaries Blinken and Cardona.

Today’s agency announcements include:

  • The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is announcing an “Early Career STEM Research Initiative,” to facilitate non-immigrant BridgeUSA exchange visitors coming to the United States to engage in STEM research through research, training or educational exchange visitor programs with host organizations, including businesses. ECA is also announcing new guidance that will facilitate additional academic training for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields on the J-1 visa for periods of up to 36 months.
  • Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas is announcing that 22 new fields of study are now included in the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The program permits F-1 students earning Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorates in certain STEM fields to remain in the United States for up to 36 months to complete Optional Practical Training after earning their degrees. Information on the new fields of study will be communicated to schools and students in a forthcoming Federal Register notice. The added fields of study are primarily new multidisciplinary or emerging fields, and are critical in attracting talent to support U.S. economic growth and technological competitiveness.
  • DHS is issuing an update to its policy manual related to “extraordinary ability” (O-1A) nonimmigrant status regarding what evidence may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria.
  • O-1A nonimmigrant status is available to persons of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, business, education, or athletics. In this update, DHS is clarifying how it determines eligibility for immigrants of extraordinary abilities, such as PHD holders, in the science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields.
  • The new update provides examples of evidence that may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria and discusses considerations that are relevant to evaluating such evidence, with a focus on the highly technical nature of STEM fields and the complexity of the evidence often submitted.
  • The update also emphasizes that, if a petitioner demonstrates that a particular criterion does not readily apply to their occupation, they may submit evidence that is of comparable significance to that criterion to establish sustained acclaim and recognition. Additionally, it provides examples of possible comparable evidence that may be submitted in support of petitions for beneficiaries working in STEM fields.
  • With respect to immigration, DHS is issuing an update to its policy manual on how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a DHS component, adjudicates national interest waivers for certain immigrants with exceptional abilities in their field of work.
    • The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that an employer can file an immigrant petition for a person of exceptional ability or a member of the professions with an advanced degree. The INA provides that USCIS may waive a job offer requirement, allowing immigrants whose work is in the national interest to petition for themselves, without an employer.
    • The USCIS policy update clarifies how the national interest waiver can be used for persons with advanced degrees in STEM fields and entrepreneurs, as well as the significance of letters from governmental and quasi-governmental entities. This update will promote efficient and effective benefit processing as USCIS reviews requests for national interest waivers. This effort is consistent with the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities to restore faith in the legal immigration system.

Biden Statement on America COMPETES Act of 2022

Following is the statement by the President Biden on the America COMPETES ACT of 2022 issued on Tuesday:

Statement by President Biden on the America COMPETES Act of 2022

JANUARY 25, 2022

The House took an important step forward today in advancing legislation that will make our supply chains stronger and reinvigorate the innovation engine of our economy to outcompete China and the rest of the world for decades to come.

The proposals laid out by the House and Senate represent the sort of transformational investments in our industrial base and research and development that helped power the United States to lead the global economy in the 20th century and expand opportunity for middle class families. They’ll help bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, and they’re squarely focused on easing the sort of supply chain bottlenecks like semiconductors that have led to higher prices for the middle class. Building on the historic investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that I signed last year – and on signs of progress like last week’s Intel announcement and today’s GM announcement – comprehensive competitiveness legislation will power our economy to create good-paying jobs for all Americans, no matter where you live or whether you have a college degree, and will help tackle the climate crisis.

I’m heartened by Congress’ bipartisan work so far, and its commitment to quick action to get this to my desk as soon as possible. Together, we have an opportunity to show China and the rest of the world that the 21st century will be the American century – forged by the ingenuity and hard work of our innovators, workers, and businesses.”

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St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa announces new cycle of paid job training starting Jan. 6

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

Mary Turner (left), a graduate of the WFD program at St. Vincent de Paul, hugs her mentor Gail F. (right) outside of her newly purchased home in Stockton, California. Photo: St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa

Participant re-enters workforce, becomes financially stable homeowner

The Workforce Development Program at St. Vincent de Paul is a paid job training program aimed at helping the unemployed re-enter the workforce and find stable employment. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen millions suddenly find themselves out of work. In these hard times, it is more important than ever that job applicants understand workplace expectations and have the soft skills to be a contributing employee. The 24-week program teaches participants skills and techniques to find a job and be successful in the workplace, offering training in resume development, interviewing, and organizational skills in a supportive & compassionate environment. Mandatory orientation sessions, applicants should choose either the Pleasant Hill, Brentwood, or the Pittsburg sessions.

The Pleasant Hill Sessions take place on Thursday, Jan. 6 and Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, from 10 AM – 1 PM at Christ The King Church at 199 Brandon Road. The Brentwood Sessions take place on Saturday, Jan. 8 and Friday, Jan. 14 from 10 AM – 1PM at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store at 8890 Brentwood Blvd. The Pittsburg Sessions will take place on Monday, Jan. 17 and Friday, Jan. 21 from 2 PM – 5 PM at the St. Vincent de Paul Family Resource Center at 2210 Gladstone Drive. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age.

The Workforce Development Program aims to help tear down the barriers that stand in the way of employment for individuals who have struggled to obtain and maintain employment. Participants work with mentors and take weekly classes to develop workplace skills. A new class of participants is selected every three months.

Participants gain paid, part-time, (22.5 hours per week), work experience in a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store or SVdP’s transportation department. Additional training in retail operations including cash register operations, inventory display and optimization, and warehouse operations is also provided.

Success for program participant is life-changing. Mary Turner, a graduate from SVdP’s Workforce Development Program, was living in her car when she began the program. A senior citizen, Mary found herself having to return to work when her rent increased beyond the means of her fixed income. After successfully graduating from the WFD program at St. Vincent de Paul, Mary found work as a medical support assistant. In October 2021, Mary purchased her first home in Stockton, California.

“It was hard, I was living on SSI and Disability, but my rent just kept increasing until I couldn’t afford it,” Mary said. “Now, I have a good job as an Advanced Medical Support Assistant (with the Veterans Administration), and I have my daughter and grand-babies stay in my home. If you want to be a home owner, it’s possible. It’s hard, it’s a struggle, but it’s worth it and it’s possible, and the people at St. Vincent de Paul showed me that.”

St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County has provided safety-net services in the county for over 57 years, serving 100,000 people annually and distributing over $1M of direct financial assistance and over $1.7M of in-kind aid. Over 750 SVdP volunteers and a small staff lead operations in Contra Costa including the SVdP Family Resource Center in Pittsburg, 28 branches, and 3 Thrift Stores. One of the largest charitable organizations in the world, St. Vincent de Paul is an international, nonprofit, Catholic lay organization of more than 800,000 men and women who voluntarily join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to the needy and suffering in 155 countries on five continents.

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Employment Resource, Health & Wellness Fair in Antioch Oct. 30

Monday, October 18th, 2021

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Application period for paid City of Antioch Summer Internships ends Friday, May 14

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

Publisher’s Note: Apologies for the late notice. But this program was just announced during the Antioch City Council meeting Tuesday night and the Herald just saw this posted on Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson’s Facebook page, today.

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Mayor, councilwoman, parks commission chair propose programs for Antioch youth, reducing gun violence, ammunition storage ordinance

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe speaks at a press conference about youth programs and violence prevention, in front of the Antioch Community Center at Prewett Family Park, on Thursday, May 6, 2021.

By Allen Payton

During a press conference Thursday morning, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, along with District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker and Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Marie Arce, introduced several proposals for youth programs, including summer and after school jobs and internships, as well as more school safety staff and an ordinance on keeping ammunition separate from guns in the home. (See complete video of press conference it begins at the 1:55 mark)

Thorpe first introduced the city’s new Parks and Recreation Department director, Brad Helfenberger.

“I worked for the City of Emeryville creating new programs for youth,” he said. “I look forward to working with the city council in investing in our youth.”

Thorpe then spoke about youth in the community.

“Antioch is the second largest city in our county and growing because of youth,” he said. “Kids under age 18 make up a third of Antioch’s population.”

He then introduced, “my new homegirls from (Diablo Valley) Mom’s Demand Action.” Seven members attended the press conference, including some from East County, but none of the 99 members they claim live in Antioch were in attendance.

Thorpe then shared some statistics saying, “Roughly 72% of Antioch’s students are on free and reduced lunch. 30% of them are English learners. Currently, only 49% of students are meeting the state reading standards and in mathematics 60% of our children don’t meet state standards. When our seniors graduate high school, only 23% of students are prepared to go to a four-year college or university.”

“Please don’t take this as an indictment on our school system,” he continued. “My hats off to our local teachers for the many instances of beating the odds by taking a kid living in absolute chaos and producing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first round NFL draft pick, Najee Harris; producing an undrafted free agent like Isaiah Dunn and taking him all the way to the New York JETS; taking a kid living on the streets of Antioch with his family, like Sage Bennett, providing him a little stability during the day and preparing him to become a full ride scholarship recipient at UC Berkeley.”

“Right now, at Antioch High School, there is a 16-year-old little girl, who immigrated here from Asia, who literally just learned English a few years ago, getting ready to graduate and enter a pre-dental program at the University of the Pacific,” Thorpe shared.

“By no means is this an indictment on our school system,” he reiterated. “However, it is an indictment on all of us and what our values reflect.”

“In Antioch, we’ve placed a high premium on criminalizing kids than we have on investing in their development,” Thorpe continued. “Don’t take my word for it, look at the city’s budget, its plain as day. And yet, we only seem to talk about our youth when something bad has happened, to point out what they’re not doing right and with absolute contempt.”

“That’s not right,” he stated. “But as mayor, I want our young people to know that I hear you. I hear you when it comes to after-school programs, summer job opportunities, a space for you to express yourselves, equity and safety in our community and much, much more.”

Six Summer Youth Programs

“This summer, we are going to be launching six youth-centererd, pilot programs from May to August, as a way to offer youth alternatives to the streets,” Thorpe stated. “One of these programs is called the Middle School Pop Up Park Program. This will be the city’s first program that specially targets middle school students as our summer recreational programs do not tailor to middle school aged students.”

“These pilot programs will help us gather data and determine scalability,” he continued. “In addition, I’ll be advancing four measures at the May 25th council meeting to aid in this effort.”

Those four proposals include the following:

  1. Develop Midnight Basketball initiative that targets middle and high school students:
  2. Acquire property for youth to legally and safely use off-road vehicles such as ATV’s, dirt bikes, etc.
  3. Continue the Summer Bus Pass initiative
  4. Develop a Parks and Recreation rate structure for AUSD students who qualify for the Free or Reduced Lunch Program to increase access to summer recreational programming

Thorpe also mentioned expanding the Council of Teens.

“We’ll be launching a COVID-19 workforce program…and build an Antioch internship program focusing on ages 18-24 or 15-24,” he shared.

Thorpe mentioned few more proposed initiatives, including a Youth Art Expression program.

Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Arce then spoke, saying that the Youth Services Advisory Committee gave input in the development of the programs. She focused on the issue of access and affordability.

“We created a mock enrollment to enroll two adults and two children” but “the enrollment fee would consume 42% of income” of those or those on the free school lunch program “and 30% of income” for those who qualify for the reduced lunch program.

The plan is to offer the programs for free to those who qualify.

Gun Violence Prevention

Thorpe then spoke about long-term strategies for community-led violence prevention and intervention strategies.

“Obviously, violence continues to be a challenge for many Bay Area cities including Antioch,” he stated. “We all know, gun violence is a national problem and Antioch is not immune from it. In some parts of Antioch gun violence is a normal occurrence.”

Thorpe spoke of the resolution that the city council recently approved in support of federal legislation on gun violence.

Torres-Walker then spoke on the issue saying, “I have lived in this community for six years. My first experience was gun violence. There were many efforts but nothing sustainable because the city lacked the will and the resources.”

“On March 29th I was informed by the police chief that the Antioch Police Department and Oakland Police Department were working together,” she shared. “The press release of April 15 was no surprise to me.”

“Now my son can walk to the store, safely,” Torres-Walker stated. “I informed the chief that we are not going to arrest our way out of this problem. The chief agreed. Those on the Gang Violence Task Force also agreed.”

“We need to curb gun violence in Antioch to make our city safe,” she continued. “But not just gun violence, all violence is up during the pandemic.”

She then spoke of “establishing a task force that will be led by the community and supported by experts…and our police department who show up after violence has occurred but not curb violence.”

Proposed Safe Ammunition Storage Ordinance

Thorpe then shared that he will “be advancing three items for the (May) 25th (council meeting)” including “a Community Led Violence Task Force and an ordinance for safe storage of ammunition.”

Michelle Sinnott, an Alamo resident and Co-Lead of Diablo Valley Moms Demand Action, spoke about gun ownership in America and the impact of gun violence against Black Americans.

“There are more than 393 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, or enough for every man, woman and child to own one and still have 67 million guns left over,” she stated. “From March through May 2020, an estimated 5.9 million guns were sold, an 80% increase over the same time period (the previous) year.”

“Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by gun violence,” Sinnott continued. “They experience nearly 10 times the gun homicides, 15 times the gun assaults and three times the fatal police shootings of white Americans.”

“Firearms are the leading cause of death for American children and teens,” she shared. “More than 1,800 children and teens die by gun homicide every year. For children under the age of 13, these gun homicides most frequently occur in the home and are often connected to domestic or family violence. Black children and teens are 14 times more likely than white children and teens of the same age to die by gun homicide. Black Americans are nearly two times as likely to die from COVID 19 as white Americans and four times as likely to die from gun suicide.”

“Street outreach programs like the ones being proposed by the mayor and Council Member Walker are associated with up to 37% reductions of gun injuries,” said Sinnott. “Violence intervention programs provide evidence and community informed comprehensive support to individuals who are at the greatest risk of gunshot victimization.”

She then spoke of safe storage of guns and ammunition saying, “secure storage prevents shootings by disrupting unauthorized access to firearms.  Make our homes and communities safer by storing guns securely.  Store them locked and unloaded, separate from ammunition.”

“That is what the ordinance would require,” Sinnott explained.

“An estimated 54% of gun owners do not lock their guns securely,” she continued. “Every year 350 children under the age of 18 unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else; 4.6 million children live in homes with at least one unsecured gun; and 80% of gunfire on school grounds occurred because shooters under the age of 18 got their gun from their home or a home of friends and relatives.”

“Suicide is impulsive, and with COVID and increasing isolation the number of suicides is growing,” Sinnott shared. “Assume children and teens can find guns and keep those weapons locked and unloaded to save lives. We saw a 30% increase in unintentional shooting deaths by children in March through May of 2020 versus March through May average over the past three years.”

“The idea that these devices defeat the purpose of owning a gun for self-defense is simply not true,” she stated. “There are many affordable options for firearms that provide owners with quick access to their guns.

“Moms Demand Action support these measures. Let’s make Antioch safer for everyone,” Sinnott concluded.

Long-Term Recreation Programming

“The last item is long term recreation programming,” Thorpe shared. “We’ve got to invest in our children.”

Arce spoke again saying, “we also reached out to community-based organizations. Our programs should be
equitable, sustainable programs for our youth. We have several great community organizations that want to partner with us.”

She then spoke of food access through farmers markets.

“Downtown residents lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” Arce said and proposed a youth-run farmers market to learn directly from farmers and learn sustainable farming. “It reduces carbon emissions and increases biodiversity.”

“We can add some after school and summer programs and possibly create Antioch’s own farm,” she continued. Arce spoke of the desire “to create an inclusive environment for youth with all abilities. There is a lack of space, accessibility and parental knowledge. Many spend their days in our parks because it’s free. But during winter months this is a health risk.”

“We are proposing our rec department offer access to programs, and include wrap-around services,” she added.

She then proposed “an All-Abilities Day at the Antioch Water Park” and “after school and summer programs.”

“The youth focus group does not represent all the youth of Antioch,” Arce pointed out.

She then mentioned a “music development program and workshop partnering with LMC and use of their recording studio.”

“We can also partner with CBO’s (community-based organizations)” Arce said, mentioning a basketball program and community garden. “A dedicated space for them to feel safe and welcome.”

She then spoke of “opportunities to connect with employers. Possibly a job fair.”

“The youth would like to see our trails and traffic safety improved so they can travel to school,” Arce continued. “We can create a safe and enjoyable space for our youth in Antioch.”

Thorpe then spoke of “five additional measures to proactively deal with traffic and school safety issues, including private schools” including possible traffic calming devices and a “bicycle garden that will provide hands-on bicycle, pedestrian, and driver safety education designed for both programmed and independent learning in a comfortable, fun, permanent, car-free facility.”

“One of the difficult things as an elected official is to hear the cries of a grieving mother no matter what the circumstances…as they express what they want changed,” he said, then spoke of the mother of Jonathan Parker, the Deer Valley High Student shot and killed following a basketball game, last year.

“Only one simple goal, that we prevent from happening to others what happened to her son,” Thorpe stated. “What she’s asked for is extra security at major AUSD events.”

He then spoke of authorizing police officer overtime for major after school events and suggested Neighborhood Watch members to volunteer at basketball and football games.

“We just need people…watching our children to ensure these events are more safe for our young people,” the mayor added.

Torres-Walker then spoke about “increased campus safety at our local schools.”

“For many years I’ve had the opportunity to work on school safety and environment as a parent and advocate,” she said.

“We operate in a deficit love for our young people,” Torres-Walker said, quoting a pastor.

She spoke of the student, last year who tried to become a student trustee on the Antioch School Board, but was not appointed. That was because the student hadn’t followed the required rules.

“Our school district is not the only perpetrator of this deficit love,” Torres-Walker said. “I’m sure our students feel this deficit love when they don’t feel safe going to and coming from school.”

She then spoke of “school climate and school site safety plans to hire school safety professionals to make our schools safe. We also need people prepared to address safety on our campuses.”

“I’m also recommending we review the REACH program,” Torres-Walker said. “I have heard this program has had much success, but I have not received reports.” She spoke of making changes “or get rid of it if it’s not working for our young folks.”

Thorpe then wrapped up the press conference with some concluding remarks.

“As we enter these summer months all I can say to our young people, plead with you, not to resort to guns,” he said. “Torres-Walker and I are the only council members with children in our schools. We will be criticized. But I don’t care.”

“Be safe this summer. To cease fire. We want to help. But we can’t do it with violence,” the mayor continued. “We want to meet you 99% of the way there but you need to meet us 1% of the way.”

“They’re not always listening in Washington, even though it’s common sense,” Thorpe then said, directing his comments to the Moms Demand Action members. “But dammit, we’re listening, here.”

“I call on family members…I beg you when you see a family member pick up a weapon, call the police…and keep our people alive,” he concluded.

Questions on School Safety Staff

When asked what does she mean by school campus safety professionals, Torres-Walker responded, “every school district has school safety folks…to decrease violence to counsel young folk. What we need to do is make sure they’re trained and equipped.”

She and Thorpe were asked about their votes to cancel the $750,000 federal grant for placing six police officers known as School Resource Officers or SRO’s, on Antioch middle and high school campuses.

“Yes, absolutely I voted against the federal grant just like when there was an opportunity to vote for Cal VIP funds to reduce gun violence in 2019 and the council and chief passed it up,” Torres-Walker responded.

Asked if the Cal VIP funds are still available, she said, “Cal VIP funds are always available for intervention and prevention of gun violence. Antioch has the opportunity to get this funding.”

“We are petitioning the governor right now to increase it to $114 million,” added Sitton.

 

 

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St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa announces Cycle 17 of paid jobs-training program

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

James Neitte, a graduate of the WFD program at St. Vincent de Paul, sits outside the job he has held since graduating. Photo: SVdP

Offers part-time employment

The Workforce Development Program at St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa is a paid job training program aimed at helping the unemployed re-enter the workforce and find stable employment. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen millions suddenly find themselves out of work. In these hard times, it is more important than ever that job applicants understand workplace expectations and have the soft skills to be a contributing employee. The 24-week program teaches participants the skills and techniques to find a job and be successful in the workplace, offering training in resume development, interviewing, and organizational skills in a supportive & compassionate environment.

Mandatory orientation sessions, applicants should choose either the Pittsburg or Brentwood sessions, will take place on Wednesday, 4/21/21 & Saturday, 4/24/21 from 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM at 2210 Gladstone Drive, Pittsburg, and on Wednesday 4/28/21 & Saturday 5/1/21 from 2- 5PM at 8890 Brentwood Blvd., Brentwood. To register call (925) 439-5060. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age.

The Workforce Development Program aims to help tear down the barriers that stand in the way of employment for individuals who have struggled to obtain and maintain employment. Participants work with mentors and take weekly classes to develop workplace skills. A new class of participants is selected every three months.

Participants gain paid, part-time, (22.5 hours per week), work experience in a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store or SVdP’s trucking and transportation department. Additional training in retail operations including cash register operations, inventory display and optimization, and warehouse operations is also provided.

James Neitte, a graduate from SVdP’s 2017 WFD cycle, said, “SVdP was kind of a last ditch effort for me. Going through that program really changed my life.” Convicted of multiple felonies in 2011, Neitte has maintained a steady job since his graduation.

St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County has provided safety-net services in the county for over 57 years, serving 100,000 people annually and distributing over $1M of direct financial assistance and over $1.5M of in-kind aid. Over 750 SVdP volunteers and a small staff lead operations in Contra Costa including the SVdP Family Resource Center in Pittsburg, 28 branches, and 3 Thrift Stores. One of the largest charitable organizations in the world, St. Vincent de Paul is an international, nonprofit, Catholic lay organization of more than 800,000 men and women who voluntarily join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to the needy and suffering in 155 countries on five continents.

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