Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Opinion: Tech workers brace for possible omnibus job-killer bill

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

The ‘EAGLE’ Act would revise portions of the Immigration Act of 1990 allowing more foreign workers to fill U.S. tech jobs

Co-sponsored by three Congressmen currently representing or will represent Contra Costa County – Thompson, Swalwell and Garamendi

By Joe Guzzardi, Progressives for Immigration Reform

Source: U.S. Techworkers

Like the proverbial bad penny that keeps reappearing, lousy immigration bills are hard to kill off. Consider the EAGLE Act of 2022, also known as Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment, or formally recognized as H.R. 3648. The newest proposed legislation is another iteration of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. Although it passed the House by a 365-65 vote, eventually it stalled in Congress.

Introduced by immigration lawyer, amnesty advocate, enforcement foe and expansionist champion Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the new and the old versions of her proposed legislation both share the same ruinous-to-U.S. tech workers’ feature: the legislation would rob thousands of U.S. tech workers of access to well-paid, white-collar, high-skilled jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, STEM jobs for which they are fully qualified.

Along with her like-minded congressional allies that include Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), who was just elected as House Majority Whip for the 118th Congress and thus became the third highest ranking Republican in the House, Lofgren has scheduled a vote on the EAGLE Act, which has bipartisan support, when Congress returns from its Thanksgiving recess.

Briefly explained, the EAGLE Act would dramatically revise portions of the Immigration Act of 1990. Almost any alien who has been on the visa waiting list for at least two years with an approved petition for an employment-based green card could apply for adjustment of his status which then wouldn’t count against existing numerical caps. Stated another way, employers can sponsor a temporary foreign-born worker for an H-1B nonimmigrant visa and convert that worker to permanent by merely sponsoring him for a green card. Aliens go from temporarily present to permanent residents. With the stroke of a pen, job searches become more challenging for U.S. tech workers – Congress’ twisted idea of sound legislation.

The bill also eliminates the per-country caps for employment-based visas, which means that within about a decade Indian and Chinese nationals will receive virtually all such visas, especially the H-1B; other countries’ nationals would have an uphill climb to obtain a visa. Under current law, no countries’ nationals can comprise more than 7 percent of any visa category. This provision ensures that skilled workers from around the globe have an opportunity to come to America. The EAGLE Act, however, seeks to entirely remove all caps from employment-based visas and more than double the existing family-preference visa from 7 percent to 15 percent, a hike that would, because of family reunification, ensure significant population surges. The proposed visa cap elimination is ironic because Lofgren and the EAGLE Act’s cosponsors claim to embrace diversity, but the bill heavily favors Chinese and Indian citizens to the exclusion of most others.

Moreover, dependent children of the aliens granted the new status would be allowed to retain their legal standing, a form of amnesty, as dependents of their parents for the duration of the green card application process; they would be protected from aging out while their parents move up in the backlog. An estimated 190,000 minors would be protected.

Time was when Democrats purported to care about America’s minority workers. But their empathy toward U.S. workers is long gone, and is now redirected to foreign nationals, particularly Chinese and Indians. Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities aspire to IT jobs, too. But they’ve had little luck in obtaining those coveted STEM jobs. Pew Research found that Black workers make up 9 percent of the STEM workforce, while Hispanics also comprise about 9 percent. The low STEM representation among Blacks and Hispanics is largely unchanged from 2016.

For rational thinkers, few and far between in Congress, a push for liberalized immigration laws and amnesty in light of the border surge and its 2 million-plus encounters in 2022 is beyond the pale. But those sound-of-mind types don’t understand the congressional mindset; nothing stops its amnesty drive. And if the EAGLE Act doesn’t get Senate approval, Lofgren always has the option to attach it to a must-pass Omnibus bill. With the 118th House about to transfer into GOP hands, EAGLE Act supporters view December as their last chance to subvert U.S. tech workers.

Joe Guzzardi is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who writes about immigration and related social issues. Joe joined Progressives for Immigration Reform in 2018 as an analyst after a ten-year career directing media relations for Californians for Population Stabilization, where he also was a Senior Writing Fellow. A native Californian, Joe now lives in Pennsylvania. Contact him at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org.

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To increase safety, end cronyism and corruption in city hall, attract businesses Antioch voters must reject the council incumbents

Saturday, November 5th, 2022

End anti-police attitudes, policies, statements; stop the embarrassment; keep out-of-town special interests from influencing city policy and buying two council seats

By Allen D. Payton

After enduring two years of bad decisions, cronyism, corruption, unnecessary and unwanted police reform policies, bad attitudes toward police – both resulting in a serious decrease in sworn police officer staffing – wasteful spending, racially charged comments and being repeatedly embarrassed by one of the councilwomen, Antioch voters must reject both incumbents Monica Wilson and Tamisha Torres-Walker and choose new representatives for our city council. I liken it to renewing someone’s contract in business. Have they done the job we wanted them to do? I say a flat “no” and should therefore not have their contracts renewed.

I tried to warn voters two years ago when I wrote about Torres-Walker’s radical agenda that fits better in Berkeley, than in Antioch. But with a split vote she was able to get elected in District 1 with just a little over 36% of ballots cast. Yet, she governed and acted as if she had a mandate. Needless to say, it’s doubtful if the first term (and hopefully only term) councilwoman expanded her base.

But Wilson is just as radical, voting for almost all of the same policies and they’re both backed by the Bernie Sanders’ democratic socialist organization, Our Revolution East Bay, other out-of-town, left-wing liberals and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Everywhere their candidates are elected, and policies are implemented, things get worse, as they have in Antioch. They’re also both backed by Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe which says a lot. He needs them both to get re-elected because Thorpe knows with a new council majority he and his agenda will be marginalized and he’ll be a lame duck mayor for the remainder of his term – however long that lasts.

Torres-Wilson has been able to drum up support from her network of outside, left-wing special interests who have shown up or called in to speak during council meetings and to get Wilson and Thorpe to go along and implement policies pleasing them, but not the majority of Antioch residents. Now those radical, left-wing interests and big money donors are trying to buy her and Wilson’s seats with over $44,000 of an independent expenditure campaign and thousands more dollars in direct contributions to their two re-election campaign committees. That’s because neither of them can get support from within Antioch – with Wilson only raising $2,050 in contributions over $100 and Torres-Walker raising $350 in contributions of that amount, and less than $1,000 at the most from Antioch residents. That should be an indicator of how popular they and their policies are. (See related articles here, here and here)

Torres-Walker Dangerous Policies

While in the past two years Torres-Walker has been more successful in getting her agenda implemented than Wilson has in the 10 years she’s been on the council, her policies and proposals, supported by both Wilson and Thorpe, have led the city in the wrong, dangerous direction and toward self-destruction. Thanks to those three, the Antioch Police Department based on the latest report is down 31 sworn police officers, to 84 of the 115 budgeted. No, that doesn’t include the eight officers who are under investigation to the delight of Torres-Walker, Wilson and Thorpe – as if their reforms had anything to do with it. They didn’t.

Plus, the three didn’t have public support for any of the so-called reform policies except for body and dash cameras – that no one opposed – which they learned from their own Bridging the Gap forums. But they ignored that input, implemented their “reforms” anyway and without offering any data to prove that they were necessary, mainly to please the out-of-town interests. During the council meeting on Feb. 26, 2021, Torres-Walker literally said, “I would not support putting any youth in the room with a department that is currently in reform” and “We should not be at war with our community. We don’t want to see storm troopers on the streets of our communities.”

It took months before Torres-Walker, Wilson and Thorpe before voted in favor of police body and dash cams. Then even longer before they approved the body and dash cam policies. The ladies went along with his delays waiting for March 2021 to have the vote during his “Police Reform Month”. Torres-Walker voted against funding the software for the new system needed to operate the cameras and store the videos because it was from the city’s General Fund and she didn’t want to give the police department any additional money. Yet now the two incumbents tout their vote for the police cameras on their campaign websites.

All three of them voted against providing the police department with new, high-tech tasers that were part of the package deal with the body and dash cams, that when deployed immediately turn on the officer’s body camera. The result will be when the new tasers are eventually purchased it will cost the city more money.

Wilson’s Few Accomplishments in 10 Years

In 10 years, Wilson has only been able to get three of her proposals approved, two of which are laudable but none of them have had much or any impact. One was to ban hourly rates at local motels to reduce prostitution and the other was to implement a mental health crisis response team to assist police on 5150 calls. But that hasn’t even been implemented, yet.

Plus, she’s been siding with the Quinto family who has been falsely accusing the police of “killing Angelo”, even after the officers were completely cleared by both the Antioch Police Department and the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office (surprisingly enough). That’s even though the officers rescued the family members from him attacking them, and he died in the hospital three days later while not in police custody due to the drugs that were in his system.

To make things worse, Wilson along with Thorpe wore “Justice for Angelo Quinto” T-shirts to the Oct. 25th council meeting when she pushed for and was able to get council approval to name the response team after him, further sending a negative message to our police force. That’s why cops don’t want to work, here, so many have left and during their exit interviews have cited the council majority as the reason, and the department can’t recruit officers fast enough to fill the vacancies – no matter how big of a signing bonus they offer. Wilson’s third accomplishment is mentioned, below about the ban on oil and gas drilling.

Torres-Walker Apologized for Wanting Four More Cops in Her District

Torres-Walker had one good proposal in the last two years, and that was to call for hiring four more police officers for the Sycamore neighborhood, still the city’s highest crime area. But she then posted another one of her videos and apologized to her supporters for advocating for more police – heaven forbid – to help make part of her district safer. After Thorpe opposed it and refused to place the hiring of more police on a council meeting agenda, and only offered to support more overtime for officers to work in that area of the city, Torres-Walker quickly backed off her idea and we never heard about it, again. So, she wasn’t that serious about it. Because when she is serious about an issue, Torres-Walker has proven to be relentless.

Ironically, her first major vote, along with Wilson and Thorpe, was to reject the $750,000 federal grant for six School Resource Officers placing police on four middle and two high school campuses in Antioch. Then, she later complained about police interaction with students causing problems on campus and even posted a video of one incident on her official Facebook page.

Bad Decisions, Wasteful Spending

Both of them voted for multiple cannabis businesses, further damaging our city’s reputation in the business community and ability to attract employers with well-paying jobs; both voted along with Thorpe to fly the intersex progress “pride” flag over city hall for eight months this year at the exclusion of flags by any other groups; following the lead of the Brentwood City Council, they voted to deny the renewal of the franchise agreement for the low-pressure, natural gas pipeline that goes through Antioch which did nothing but result in a loss of the annual fee from and a lawsuit by the pipeline owner – they were rewarded with campaign contributions from special interests; then they both voted to create an unnecessary, new city department which now handles five of seven areas that were already being handled by other city departments, and created a new department head position costing the city more money; that resulted in the eviction of 16 non-profit organizations that had to find new office space and only three of them have, so far; they also voted to form a committee of the whole council for police oversight which is just silly – and made Torres-Walker the chair, from which she was later forced to resign – and held meetings during late afternoons when most people weren’t home from work, yet and couldn’t give their input; even their biggest, latest claim to fame, the rent stabilization ordinance really will have little affect and impact very few residents and was done as an overreaction to claims of people being evicted or harassed during COVID, and done for show, because there are already state laws in place to protect most renters. Now, Wilson and Torres-Walker are being rewarded with $22,202 each spent on their campaigns by the very out-of-town organizations that advocated for the policy.

Wilson’s a Follower

Also, following the lead of her allies on the Brentwood City Council, Wilson pushed for an unnecessary moratorium on oil and gas drilling in Antioch, without ever once reaching out or having city staff contact the only person who owns permits and rights to drill, and still can – even after the ban. When you’re going to do something that affects someone’s property and or business, the least a council member and city staff should do is inform and give them an opportunity to speak on the matter before the city council. Besides he could have told them that he had no plans to exercise his rights, anyway because the last two attempts proved to be dry holes. Although it resulted in having no impact the effort gave Wilson an issue to use to run on for re-election.

Then, after agreeing to hold a special meeting to consider voting to censure Thorpe for his behavior toward the two former female employees who sued him for sexual harassment, Wilson wimped out and backed out, the next day. She was one of the three council members to agree to the special meeting which is what is required without the mayor’s consent.

Both Are Weak on Economic Development & Bad for Business

Both incumbents laughably tout their support for economic development because they voted to give out federal government COVID money to local businesses. Yet, that’s what it’s designed for, to help the businesses the government policies negatively impacted and were forced to close. Torres-Walker is rarely seen at the stores in the downtown Rivertown in her district and Wilson, who serves on the council’s Rivertown subcommittee hasn’t held a meeting for the past year. The only economic development they can point to is the previously mentioned approvals of all the cannabis businesses. Oh, and both of them voted in favor of having a huge, marijuana smoking event at the county fairgrounds! That’s their idea of economic development but it’s not the kind of event we need or want to attract people to our city.

Wilson was also one of the three council members who in 2020 foolishly voted against a commercial and multi-family housing project on Delta Fair Blvd. to help revitalize that area. So, the former Food Maxx store still sits empty, and the shopping center gathers litter and very few shoppers for the other businesses with the anchor tenant gone. But hey, she voted for another cannabis business nearby on Somersville Road.

I personally know of some potential, major business interests that would like to locate in Antioch but won’t if changes aren’t made on the council and with city staff.

Cronyism & Corruption in City Hall

They manipulated the redistricting process, this year, gerrymandering the council districts, by intentionally drawing the line around the neighborhood where District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock lives, moving her into District 4. And they did it live on camera during a televised council meeting. Then, Torres-Walker had the audacity to claim she didn’t know where Ogorchock lived. Yeah, right.

The worst decision they made was voting with Thorpe to hire their crony, Con Johnson as interim city manager, after he lied to their face on his resume. Then after multiple, major failures by him this past year, and with only two weeks left before the election jammed through hiring him as permanent city manager for two more years – without opening up the process for other applicants to apply so Antioch could find the best nor leaving it up to a possibly new council majority to decide. If there is one, I guarantee you Con will be the first city employee to get the axe which, if it’s done without cause, he’ll be paid a severance, wasting more of our tax dollars. But frankly, it will be worth it.

Then, Torres-Walker, Thorpe and Johnson played games with the annual Juneteenth Celebration, forced city staff to withdraw the permit from the African-American, young woman, Claryssa Wilson who led the committee of 11 other Africa-American Antioch residents that organized the event, because her parents were supporters of Thorpe’s recall. So, she and the Celebrate Antioch Foundation which served as the fiscal agent for the annual event, took it and held it in Brentwood, instead. Then, for some reason, an Oakland-based motorcycle club, led by an Antioch resident, was hired to put on the city’s event and relocated it from downtown, in Torres-Walker’s district, and held it at Williamson Ranch Park, in Wilson’s district, instead – where it cost the city between $30,000 and $50,000. The worst part was Wilson is a member of the foundation’s board of directors, remained silent and did nothing to intervene or stop the game playing.

Then, Torres-Walker got the interim police chief to spend $20,000 from his department’s budget for a community event she proposed in her district, during election season. A Concord-based company was paid to organize it and only had one Antioch organization included. Other local businesses and organizations weren’t invited and didn’t know about it. UPDATE: It’s since been learned that the interim chief was forced by Johnson to spend the funds from his department, and it wasn’t Ford’s choice.

Wilson’s Corrupt Conflict of Interest

Even worse, Wilson violated state conflict of interest laws by voting as a councilmember for the city to contract with the foundation and spend $145,000 of city money on this year’s Sesquicentennial events. According to Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Steve Bolen, who handles public corruption cases, shared California Government Code Sections 87100 and 1090 and said, “the FPPC is the agency that does those initial investigations.”

Section 87100 reads, “No public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making or in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest.”

In addition, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) which enforces “Government Code Section 1090 prohibits an officer, employee, or agency from participating in making government contracts in which the official or employee within the agency has a financial interest. Section 1090 applies to virtually all state and local officers, employees, and multimember bodies, whether elected or appointed, at both the state and local level. ‘Making’ a contract includes final approval of the agreement, as well as involvement in preliminary discussion, planning, negation, and solicitation of bids.” Finally, according to the League of California Cities, “Section 1090 is a conflict of interest prohibition which has historically been subject to criminal penalties (if the violation is willful). As of January 1, 2014, Assembly Bill 1090 authorized the Fair Political Practices Commission (the “Commission”) to seek and impose Administrative and Civil penalties against a public official who violates this prohibition against being financially interested in a contract.”

The foundation also serves as the fiscal agent for Wilson’s organization, the East Contra Costa Women’s Leadership Initiative.

Wilson was warned to step down from the board or the city council but didn’t and she should be investigated by the FPPC and Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office.

Torres-Walker Worst Council Member in Recent Memory

Torres-Walker has simply been the worst city council member that I can remember since I first moved here in 1991. She’s been an embarrassment since her first month in office, defending the illegal actions of her two sons riding dirt bikes on city streets, and blasting the Antioch Police officers – who are now suing her – and the entire department with a nine-minute, profanity filled video rant. Torres-Walker never apologized to the police for her comments, but only posted another video, earlier this year apologizing to her supporters for saying she didn’t give a blankety blank blank about being a council member and literally shared a portion of the first video, repeating her vulgarities.

Torres-Walker has had 11 calls to the police who had to respond to her home for noise complaints, dirt bikes being ridden up and down the street, and last year’s incident at the beginning of October when police responded to gunshots in front of her home. Six bullet casings were found in the street, she reportedly was drunk, and ended up getting arrested for interfering with a police officer who was talking to another person at the scene. Taking a page from the playbook of her council ally, Thorpe, she literally tried to deny it occurred. Of course, our county’s woke, soft-on-crime D.A. Becton dropped the charges against Torres-Walker, as she did previously the charges against the councilwoman’s older son for fleeing from the police during the Dec. 2020 dirt bike incident.

Instead of taking responsibility for her and her sons’ actions, Torres-Walker blames the Antioch Police Department, claims they have targeted her and her family. But as the president of the Antioch Police Officers Association said, recently, they don’t have time to be going after her. Yet if they didn’t respond to the calls for service at her house, guess who would be the first person to complain and call them racist for not doing their job?

Then, get this, she foolishly attended, promoted and made excuses online for one of the dangerous sideshows where drivers spin donuts in their cars in the middle of intersections, undermining police efforts to stop them. Torres-Walker literally wrote on her official Facebook page, “I was simply saying it was this or the alternative which was more violence.”

Plus, several times, the councilwoman refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of council meetings and remained seated with her back to the flag.

Torres-Walker’s Transparency Hypocrisy on Police Body Cams

The worst part is Torres-Walker is a hypocrite. She calls for transparency by the police department and literally touts voting for police body cameras on her campaign website but won’t have the video footage from the incident at her own house released for the public to see. True leaders lead by example. The councilwoman needs to be transparent, herself and release the video.

Torres-Walker’s Criminal History

Let’s not forget, that in a 2021 San Francisco Chronicle article she admitted to being arrested 22 times as a youth. Then as an adult while on probation from a May 2008 drunken driving conviction and with a pending case in which she was charged with drunken driving and three counts of child endangerment in June 2009, Torres-Walker, was arrested, again for attempting to burn down the San Pablo apartment building from where she had been evicted the previous week. According to an East Bay Times article about the incident, she was charged “with burglary and arson of an inhabited dwelling…that displaced about 10 residents”. In addition, that report reads, “Police said Walker was spotted breaking a window and kicking down the front door of her former apartment at about 1 a.m. Sunday. She is accused of lighting two fires in the residence, one in the kitchen that was extinguished quickly and another in a bedroom mattress, a fire that spread”. Torres-Walker was convicted and spent a year in the West County jail, then entered a treatment program for alcoholism.

While I believe anyone can change, especially with the help of God, it would be one thing if she had truly turned her life around. But her continued bad behavior and defending that of her sons, and her negative attitude toward the police, shows Torres-Walker hasn’t really changed and isn’t fit for public office. She’s negatively affecting the safety of all Antioch residents and businesses as a result. Words matter. Words of people in positions of power and authority matter more because they can have a greater impact. Torres-Walker hasn’t seemed to learn that, yet.

Repeated Racially-Charged Comments

Then there’s all of her racially charged, vitriolic diatribes during council meetings. Like Thorpe, she likes throwing out that horrible accusation. Torres-Walker even literally, once told a council meeting audience that calling the council a circus was racist because the people saying it are referring to the Black council members as monkeys. That left those in attendance, including this writer, dumbfounded and laughing. Ridiculous. She’s always trying to find a way to be offended and baselessly lectures residents how racist she thinks they are – just like the mayor. Tamisha needs to get out of her little bubble and learn people don’t care about her skin color or ethnicity. They care about her bad policies, behavior and things you say.

Plus, she’s disrespectful and grown arrogant in office in such a very short time, not answering phone calls, texts and rarely responding to emails and questions challenging what she does, says and writes. She doesn’t like to be held accountable which is not a good character trait for an elected official.

And she can’t even properly oversee the reporting of just $25,000 in campaign funds she received. If Torres-Walker can’t handle that, how can she be trusted to help oversee millions of taxpayer dollars? (See related article)

Wilson Also Plays Race Card

First, Wilson falsely played the race card against former Planning Commission Chairman Kenny Turnage in 2020 who she expected to run against him, twisting his comments on Facebook about COVID and seniors – that had nothing to do with race, skin color or ethnicity. Then, just recently, she baselessly labeled as, “racially divisive grandstanding” the calls by Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica and one of her opponents, Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, for Thorpe to resign following his DUI arrest, earlier this year and then the $350,000 settlement in the sexual harassment lawsuit against him in September.

One More Rare Good Thing

To give credit where credit is due, one other rare, positive vote both incumbent councilwomen took was in favor of the new Rivertown sign over W. 2nd Street in Antioch’s historic downtown.

Time for Torres-Walker to Take a Walk

While I was hoping she would grow and develop into her new elected position, the fact is Torres-Walker hasn’t. She is divisive, her decisions have been detrimental to our city, and we can’t afford another four years of her on the council trying to lead us in the wrong direction.

Similar to what I wrote in 2020, I applaud Torres-Walker’s work as co-founder and now, former executive director of the Safe Return Project in Richmond, where she worked to help those returning from prison to get jobs, etc., and now, executive director of the Richmond-based Social Good Fund. She should remain focused on that, instead and leave the governing of Antioch to people with more common-sense views and values, who will improve our city’s public safety, and won’t be so divisive and embarrassing.

Perhaps, when she’s grown up and has learned how to behave, talk properly and treat people with respect, especially those she was elected to represent and serve – all of us in Antioch – then maybe she can run for and serve in office, again. But not now. Torres-Walker needs to take a walk and it’s up to the voters in District 1 to issue her walking papers.

We’ve Grown Weary of Wilson

As for Wilson, she like her colleagues, including Thorpe, has become arrogant in office, rarely if ever responds to phone calls, texts or emails, and refuses to answer questions unless in a press conference, which they shut down quickly to avoid having to answer any tough ones. Her 10 years on the council has been more than enough. If she hasn’t been able to accomplish what she set out to – which really has been to get elected to higher office – she’s not going to. What Wilson really has been for most of her time on the council is a reliable third or unnecessary fourth or fifth vote. As political commentator, George Will once wrote, there are two types of people who run for office. Those who want to do something and those who want to be something. Wilson falls into the latter category. It’s time she became someone somehow else. If you’re like me, you’ve grown weary of Monica Wilson and she needs to be replaced on the council.

For a Better City Vote for Better Candidates

All of the challengers in both races are far superior to the two incumbents.

In District 1, whichever candidate you vote for just, please make sure to choose one of the challengers, either Joy Motts or Diane Gibson-Gray. I haven’t always agreed with either of them, but they would clearly do a better job, make better decisions, and represent our community in a better, much more mature, responsible manner.

In District 4, if you want a better, current council member, vote for Lori Ogorchock. If you want a better woman to join her on the council and who won’t just go along with the “woke” agenda and poor leadership of Thorpe and Torres-Walker, vote for Sandra White. (By the way, she’s not the former Antioch School Board trustee. That’s Crystal Sawyer-White who lost her re-election bid in 2020 and no longer lives here). If you want another and better man than our mayor, like Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica, then vote for Shawn Pickett.

This city council election is the most important one I can think of in 26 years when the second worst council member in recent memory unfortunately, got elected. (There’s a prize for the person who guesses who I’m referring to). Seriously, for the sake of all of our safety, to end the cronyism and corruption at city hall, and if you want things to improve with our local economy and attract more businesses with well-paying jobs to town, please reject the two city council incumbents and vote for one of their challengers. Antioch’s future depends on it.

UPDATE REGARDING REDISTRICTING: To clear up any confusion surrounding the belief that a new council majority can redraw the district lines and move Ogorchock back into District 3, following is the information I’ve been able to obtain on the subject:

According to redistricting consultant Karin Mac Donald of Q2 Data and Research who is also the Director of California’s Statewide Database & Election Administration Research Center at U.C. Berkeley, and consultant for both the 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission and the City of Antioch’s redistricting process, California prohibits redrawing district lines mid-decade, with few exceptions. Those includes the city increasing in population by at least 25%.

According to a presentation by the Nielsen Merksamer law firm and National Demographics Corporation, as of 2021 mid-decade redistricting is never allowed, “unless in conjunction with judicial proceedings, or jurisdictional boundary changes, and then with qualifications.”

So, since the city’s population is not going to increase by 25% and unless someone sues the city over the gerrymandered redistricting maps created by the current council majority, and a judge rejects the current map and requires the council to redraw the district boundaries, a new council majority cannot redraw them before the next Census in 2030.

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Op-Ed: Help America’s universities keep transforming the world

Friday, October 7th, 2022

Bayh-Dole Act results. Source: Speedsprint.com

Bayh-Dole Act for intellectual property licensing designed to stimulate economic growth under attack

By Lita Nelsen

Lita Nelson. Source: LinkedIn

When I was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology decades ago, Cambridge’s Kendall Square was a grubby, run-down warehouse district. Today, it’s known as the most innovative square mile on the planet.

The secret? The Bayh-Dole Act, or Trademark Law Amendments Act, a landmark piece of legislation passed in 1980 that allowed universities to keep the patents to any inventions they made. That meant that they could license these inventions to private companies, who would turn the new scientific knowledge into innovative products.

That one forward-looking law attracted hundreds of biotechnology companies to MIT’s backyard, helping to breathe new life into Kendall Square and revitalize Massachusetts’s economy. Cambridge, Mass., of course, wasn’t the only university community to thrive because of Bayh-Dole. Cities and towns surrounding hundreds of universities have prospered as a result.

Nevertheless, Bayh-Dole has recently come under attack by lawmakers who want to use the law as a mechanism to cut drug prices. Their goal of lowering drug prices for patients is admirable — but twisting the Bayh-Dole Act to use it as a price control tool would have disastrous consequences for America’s research universities, as well as U.S. consumers and patients, who will suffer as a result of any reduced investment in life sciences.

In a recent letter in support of this idea, lawmakers urged administrators at the Department of Health and Human Services to use Bayh-Dole to “march-in” and take away drug companies’ licenses to certain patents that stemmed from taxpayer-funded research. HHS could then relicense those drug patents to generic pharmaceutical companies that could create cheaper versions of the medicines.

That’s certain to make biotech investors and companies less willing to invest in university research. Why would any firm — small companies and startups especially — assume the risk of developing a new drug when the government could seize its patent rights if federal officials don’t like the price of the final product?

Lawmakers would do well to remember that Bayh-Dole fundamentally changed the research and development landscape in the United States for the better.

I should know. As the head of MIT’s Technology Licensing Office for almost three decades, I helped license thousands of technologies to the innovative companies that sprung up around campus.

Before Bayh-Dole, the government retained patent rights to any academic discoveries supported by public money and licensed just 5% of the nearly 30,000 patents it held. Consequently, while this pre-Bayh-Dole system worked to advance basic research, it failed to turn scientific advancement into usable, commercial products.

Bayh-Dole shifted that paradigm, providing a mechanism to translate academic research results into new technologies ranging from high-definition television and the page-rank algorithm that would become Google to FluMist® and CAR T-cell therapy. Companies exploiting Bayh-Dole inventions have contributed up to $1.9 trillion to the U.S. gross industrial output and up to $1 trillion to our GDP. They have supported nearly 6.5 million jobs and led to the creation of over 15,000 startups.

The bipartisan Bayh-Dole Act, as its authors clearly stated, was never meant to be a price-control mechanism. The law outlines four clearly defined instances where its march-in provisions can be exercised. Controlling prices is not one of them.

What today’s lawmakers don’t seem to grasp is that the unintended consequences of meddling with Bayh-Dole will outweigh any wished-for benefits.

Lita Nelsen retired from the Technology Licensing Office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after 30 years in the office. She was director of MIT TLO from 1992 to 2016. This op-ed originally ran in the Boston Herald.

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OPINION: Congressional Data Privacy Bill would unjustly enrich trial lawyers 

Tuesday, October 4th, 2022

By Timothy Lee

Several Members of Congress recently introduced legislation that aims to protect consumer data from misuse and abuse.

Unfortunately, the “American Data Privacy and Protection Act” (H.R.1852) contains significant defects unrelated to much-needed privacy protections for consumers or businesses.

Instead of simply safeguarding the personal information of ordinary Americans and simplifying legal obligations for companies, the bill would uncork a torrent of counterproductive lawsuits that would damage job creators and enrich trial lawyers.

There’s no question America needs a federal data privacy law. Due to the lack of a uniform federal standard, data privacy is governed by a patchwork of state laws and regulations. Consequently, American firms may needlessly spend up to $1 trillion over the next decade trying to navigate that legal maze and comply with the varying statutes — with $200 billion of that burden falling on small businesses.

A single, streamlined federal law would help reassure consumers that their data remains secure, regardless of where they live or where a company is located.

The legislation under consideration, however, contains two massive flaws that would unleash endless class-action litigation over minor or technical violations, allowing lawyers to reap millions while class members receive just a few dollars or, in many cases, nothing at all.

First, the proposed legislation includes a ban on class-action waivers in arbitration agreements, which could prohibit companies and consumers from having their disputes resolved on an individual basis. Arbitration offers a more efficient alternative to court litigation, relying on independent third parties to mediate conflicts. Essentially, the parties in dispute take their issues to a neutral party, present their respective arguments, and agree to abide by whatever the arbitrator decides.

Although trial lawyers are understandably loath to admit it, arbitration is generally better for consumers than traditional court litigation. It is typically cheaper, quicker, and less complicated than formal lawsuits. Consumers prevail 41% of the time in arbitration, versus 29% in court. Additionally, awards in cases decided by arbitration actually exceed courtroom awards — $80,000 versus $71,000, respectively. Arbitration cases are also resolved 27% more quickly on average, and there’s often no need to involve — and thus pay — a lawyer.

However, those benefits present big problems from trial lawyers’ perspective. They prefer huge, class-action lawsuits that, according to a 2015 study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, net consumers an average of $32 while lawyers earn close to $1 million.

The bill’s second massive flaw would create a “private right of action,” which allows individuals to sue to enforce the law no matter how trivial the violation. When numerous individuals can file the same complaint, plaintiffs’ lawyers try to lump them all together in one big lawsuit against a business — even if most of the people in the class are unaware they’re part of a lawsuit. It’s perfectly clear how that benefits lawyers. But it’s uncertain how it would advance consumer privacy and data protection.

Data security and privacy remain serious, complex issues, and Congress should absolutely pursue a uniform national policy. People who steal our data, and businesses that fail to adequately protect it, must be held accountable.

As currently drafted, however, the American Data Privacy and Protection Act contains unacceptable provisions that would enable rich trial lawyers to get even richer while delivering scant benefits to ordinary Americans whose interests they claim to represent.

Timothy H. Lee is senior vice president of legal and public affairs at the Center for Individual Freedom. This piece was originally published by Inside Sources.

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Former Antioch councilman labels Wilson, Torres-Walker “Thorpettes” endorses Rocha, Gibson-Gray, Ogorchock

Monday, October 3rd, 2022

Editor:

Please think about for whom you will vote in the upcoming local Antioch elections. Your votes should not just be to help place someone in elected public office. Those whom we choose should serve the public at large, honestly and with integrity. Your vote is precious and worth more than just a pat on the back, only to be forgotten and ignored thereafter.

I have been a resident here in East County for 70 years now, the past 47 plus years residing in Antioch. I have been involved in voting and its related political matters since I was 18 years old. I consider my participation in my community to be very important and with the hope that our elected leaders serve all the public equally and without favoring mostly the special interests over all of us.

I really care about what happens in our community and want our elected leaders to at least have half a brain and not be taken in by those who put aside the public for their own interests and gains. I want independent thinkers and doers elected, not some robots manipulated by evil doers.

In the governing of the City of Antioch, of late, we have been promised much by sweet-talking and smiling individuals who were elected to represent us. Some of their decision making has had some acceptable results, but there have been a number of their decisions that have placed our community into a downwards spiral with a number of consequences yet to be fully exacted upon us.

For well over ten years our public safety has been compromised to the extent that many in our city no longer are safe. Instead of spending our budget monies to at least continue and provide for the past, safer Antioch we have had our available public monies budgeted and spent on things that negatively impact our quality of life here. We are ignored when we demand more sworn police manpower and resources, which were promised but not even maintained. Instead, some of our elected officials seem to enjoy making our city less safe, take away from our business community with nonsense, and we are exposed repeatedly with irrational decision making by our city council majority.

When Lamar Thorpe initially ran for a city council seat myself and many others voted for him, giving him the opportunity to represent us as he had campaign-promised. Lo and behold he has gone on a downward spiral since then and even gotten worse once elected as the city’s mayor. Then it became clear that the elected Monica Wilson, too joined him in her votes many a time and has progressed to the point that what Lamar Thorpe wants and votes for she is there voting with him without question.

Then Tamisha Walker was shortly thereafter elected to the city council and she too seems to have similarly gone along with the other two in most of her positions and votes. The other two elected council members therefore have been relegated to fighting against the three’s lock-step voting patterns and for the most part rendered by the three others just figureheads.

The mayor, Lamar Thorpe, Monica Wilson and Tamisha Walker, it appears, have an undisclosed questionable agenda that may even be personal in nature. This lock-step alliance cannot continue. Antioch has been made the laughingstock and butt of many jokes by so many within and outside of Antioch. Lamar and his backup singers, the two ‘Thorpettes’ (Monica Wilson and Tamisha Walker) do not at times, in special interests matters especially, even abide by certain of the city’s long-established ordinances and meaningful ways, to the public’s detriment. This they have most recently again done, without explanation. It seems that whatever Thorpe sings his two ‘Thorpettes’ follow.

Friends and supporters, in this current election cycle, please vote for Mary Rocha for the Antioch School Board, Diane Gibson-Gray for Antioch City Council representing District #1, and Lori Ogorchock for Antioch City Council representing District #4. Sure, there are other candidates running but it is my opinion and recommendation to you as to whom to choose that would serve you better than the others.

Ralph A. Hernandez

Former Antioch City Council Member

Antioch

 

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Former Antioch resident and mayoral candidate offers council election observations

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

Editor:

There is a social media page called “You know you’re from Antioch” on Facebook….great postings that speak about the wonders of a small community that almost reads like a Norman Rockwell story.

I moved to Antioch in 2008 engulfing myself into the local activities to help my community to be better, safer and be the ideal city to raise a family. If it was voicing my thoughts at City Council, Police Commission or School Board meetings, I tried to bring me and my neighbors’ voices to the table. Always acknowledged by elected or appointed leadership, the actions that was to follow was from far too few. I was fortunate to live in a neighborhood where everyone knew each other, and we were more than neighbors; we were family.

Over the years, the political forum became clearer and the levels of back door dealings more transparent. Things moved and people stood silent as it appears this was the norm. As we entered into 2016, the silo’s that existed in silence in Antioch grew even larger and more visible. It was the change that many cities were facing, but never one would think it would be as large as it was in Antioch. The generation and culture change that occurred was beyond what the city could manage. The implementation of programs yielded minimum to no results. The actions of leaders were far from being implemented, vision was clouded, and words had no substance. This became more evident as we entered the COVID era and government had to continue, but it seemed that city leaders were more divided than ever. Past political actions came to the forefront and voters led the way on who they wanted to have govern them. It was a change that now created more separatism on many scales.

Many look at the “Now” and do not realize that those elected must undo the actions of previous administrations. The discoveries or like they say, hidden skeletons, came forward and one needs to realize that they need to own or manage it if change cannot happen. Most importantly, have professional courtesy and acknowledge each other as tensions were high. It is fine to agree to disagree but do so with respect and consideration. But we are not seeing this as special interests and idealism have taken charge.

The voters of Antioch have the ability to bring a change this November. The Antioch of the old has perished and the new Antioch is having true growing pains. The key question is, who can bring your voice to the table and help Antioch to be the city of opportunity?

The community literally has the ability to vote out candidates who have been in office that really have not been able to reach across the aisle to bridge their differences. They allow and encourage the separatism of the community to exist. You need to ask those who have been in office – “What have you done to better Antioch?”

Those that are trying to be reelected will speak more about the division rather than responding to the question. If you look at existing candidates’ endeavors, you will find that many were not completed or never got off the ground. Basically, all talk and no action. And sadly, the backdoor deals continue to present themselves as one candidate posted signs that they had APOA support prior to the official APOA announcement or candidates you never see in your neighborhood, now appear and provide excuses on why they need your vote.

New candidates bring a fresh and eager way and maybe, just maybe, they can work with their peers in order to have the new Antioch be on the pathway of a community that you want to have. When looking at the candidates, I see very familiar faces as well as a new one. The realization is that many of these candidates all speak to the issues that concern many (e.g., crime, schools, safety and blight). But ask yourself, “Who has the experience – the hands-on experience?”

Review the candidates and don’t pick someone because they are your friend, or someone told you to. Examine who they are and if they have the experience necessary to really make a change.  Being on a committee or member of local community groups do not outweigh having hands-on experience. You wouldn’t take your car to be fixed by a person who sells homes or provides therapy, would you?

As a former resident of Antioch until a couple months ago, I cannot provide an opinion on who would best represent you. But I hope this read brings some thoughts into mind that your vote in this election will shift the momentum of the city and bring it forward; or take it backwards. Remember, think what is important for you and don’t allow special interests, family, friends or outside support groups decide for you. This is not about being a Democrat, Republican, liberal, Green, etc.… this is about aligning your vote to the candidate that best represents the values you have and what you want for your family or community. What is most important, is they have the experience necessary to make it so.

In heart,

Gil Murillo

Former Antioch resident of Council District 4 and 2016 candidate for mayor

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Writer asks why a council member can postpone a community forum with Antioch Police

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022

Dear Editor:

The community forum’s post says the purpose of the meeting is to have a conversation with the chief and officers in our department. Why is Torres-Walker able to postpone it? (See related article)

I want to talk to the chief not council members or anyone other than police. The council has their chance every council meeting or if members of the council would answer their emails other than Lori. I have never had an email returned and they have all been polite, with the exception of one email conversation with Lamar and he did not answer my question.

Thanks,Norm Machado

Antioch

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Letter: Antioch council candidate White says Thorpe should resign 

Sunday, September 18th, 2022

Antioch City Council District 4 candidate Sandra White, Mayor Lamar Thorpe and incumbent District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson.

Shocked” that incumbent Wilson calls effort a “witch hunt”

Dear Citizens of Antioch: 

It’s no secret that the political climate in Antioch has been a contentious battleground for the last several years. We’ve had a council that has had little collaboration on the most significant issues plaguing our city, which has experienced a sharp decline in the quality of life for our residents. When I pulled papers to run for the District 4 seat election in November, I intended to focus on my race and not allow outside distractions. The negativity that has surrounded our council, especially our mayor, is something I thought I could address once I am elected to serve. 

My plans sharply shifted on Friday. I participated in a roundtable discussion with my opponents also running for election in District 4, and we were all asked the same questions. The moderator asked each member on the panel if we thought the mayor should resign, considering the recent settlement involving the Los Medanos Community Healthcare District. Whereas two women accused Lamar Thorpe of sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances, creating a hostile work environment, and other unlawful actions, I approached this question from an HR perspective, as I handle similar cases almost daily in my career as Vice President of Human Resources and understand the analysis that takes place before it’s decided if a claim is settled or brought to trial. My response was a resounding yes. I firmly believe these women are telling the truth and that the county Board of Supervisors would not have settled if there had been no compelling evidence of Lamar Thorpe’s guilt. 

What shocked me during this discussion was my opponent’s response. When posed the same question, Councilwoman Monica Wilson stated the call for the mayor to resign is a witch-hunt, and the investigation is not completed. These types of accusations should not be made against the mayor. In an earlier statement submitted to the East Bay Times, Wilson accused fellow council members of being racist when they called for the mayor to resign. I found her responses to be alarming. Councilwoman Wilson has built both her political and personal careers on advocating for women that have been sexually exploited. How can she turn her back on these two women to try and save a political ally? How can she attempt to incite racism and further divide our city to protect Lamar Thorpe? Will she now accuse me, a fellow woman of color, of racism in calling for his resignation? 

The incident is not about race, personal allegiances or political parties. It’s about behavior and ethics. We cannot tolerate the conduct of our mayor, or his allies that continue to create division in our community. Mayor Thorpe needs to resign and allow our city to move forward and heal from the trauma he has inflicted.   

When District 4 residents vote in the November election, I hope they choose integrity over alliances and old loyalties and help bring The Change That We Need! 

Sandra White 

Candidate, Antioch City Council District 4 

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