I have been a citizen of Antioch for 67 years. At my age (77), I work on only one civic issue at a time. I investigate, explore and recommend resolutions that are doable. I try to be reasonable, and always stand ready to explain why and how they could be implemented. When appearing at City Council meetings, it is amazing to me that following presentations, comments are rare, and questions are never asked. Most requests are simply "side tracked" or ignored. When a decision is made, it is rare to hear the logic of how and why.
I have attended and addressed the Antioch City Council many times. My first issue was e-BART being shoved down our collective throats. BART promises ignored, after 48 plus year of taxes, and BART's previous mismanagement, short changing East Contra Costa County. We will now live with diesel trains. To my knowledge, not one of Antioch staff or council approached BART about the promise made and ignored.
My current work concerns preservation and restoring the Roswell Butler Hard House (RBHH) on First Street.
I am not on the board of The Friends of RBHH, but work to raise funds for that nonprofit group. I will also work on the house when asked, and as often as possible. My latest request, and the lack of action by the council, is the primary reason behind this commentary.
My perception of our council and staff is "who cares"! What I have encountered, as I try to work with Antioch city officials, is unbelievable!
If you agree with my opinion, pass this on to your friends, then appear at city meetings and express your concerns about their attitude. Express how Antioch is being run. Perhaps we can make a change -- numbers count -- individuals are brushed off.
It took 31/2 years for the Friends of RBHH to gain approval to transfer the home into their hands for restoration its original beauty. (3 ½ years and it's still ongoing!).
Two city council members were replaced during that time frame. Repeated meetings took place. When I addressed concern about delay after delay, one of the newly appointed members said "in government decisions take time, be patient." Wasn't over 3 ½ years beyond reasonable "patience?" After the city council and the redevelopment agency finally agreed to the transfer the process was placed in the hands of the Antioch City Attorney's office.
Over three months have passed since that turnover. A contract is now in process. The property will pass through escrow for recording, but no actual date has been determined. In that contract, Friends of RBHH are barred from access unless they obtain a million dollar insurance policy. The city attorney has not considered using a liability waiver for any injury that would allow preliminary work (alarm system installation, examination of damages for specific planning, and work on windows to protect from further encroachment by homeless and more damage). Waivers worded properly would protect the city from any liabilities. The Friends can wait! The city attorney cares less about protecting the house or allowing preliminary restoration efforts.
One of the first items on the Friends' list (following transfer) is to remove the oversized tree that is damaging the roof on the east side of the structure. The tree did not exist in the original landscape. The Friends want to restore the property to its 1869 beauty.
I went before the city council and presented a copy of a document sent to the city engineer. I asked for their help because city staff was applying the same old "runaround tactics" that caused the 3 ½ year Friends of the RBHH's fiasco. No questions, no comments, just blank stares.
I had raised the money to cover the cost for that tree removal by Davy Tree ($2,280) and sent a request to the Antioch city engineer. I was very specific, explaining the need. The city has removed other trees (10th & A streets) to improve that location. Those trees were not diseased; they were all as tall as the one at the Hard House. In my request, I clearly stated that this was being asked of his department before the transfer to the Friends. I knew that it is plausible, and would not cost Antioch anything. Immediate removal would indeed protect the house and would be appreciated by the new owners.
The city engineer did not understand my email and forwarded it to the city attorney for disposition and reply.
Then I received an email from the city attorney that was amazing! She had not read the details covered in my request to the engineering department. She called the Friends to ask if they were involved and was informed no, they were honoring the contract with the city. She was told that I was independent of them, but one of the first items on their agenda did indeed designate the tree as harmful, and that they wished to remove it as soon as possible.
Please note: City engineer "confused" went to city attorney "confused" went to Friends, who are now worried about reprisal or further delay.
The attorney emailed me with statements concerning breaking contract and informing me and outlining instructions about permits for tree removal, encroachment by a contractor, and told me that the city would not open and close a fence (for access) for Davy Tree. I replied to her the same day, informing her that my request did not break the contract or involve her department. What I was asking was within the jurisdiction of the city engineer. A copy of my reply was also sent to his office.
The same old "runaround tactic" reared its ugly head again! The engineer emailed me with instructions of the process of removing a "heritage tree." He said that I would have to get a permit, go through a 10-day waiting period, obtain an OK from the city tree commission, and obtain an encroachment permit for Davy Tree. I replied, stating that a tree on city property did not allow me to issue a permit! The tree belongs to the city! I also stated that this no different from city removal of trees at the Antioch City Park. No permits were required! My friends, this is not just about the Hard House. It is about what one can expect from our city government. I have observed repeated procrastination, unethical considerations, loss of opportunities and nonprogressive attitudes by our officials and their staff. The council allows the staff to run the city. All that they do is public relations.
I think that we should remove the incumbents, elect fresh people and replace the entire city staff. We have not been served -- we have been lead down the road to bankruptcy with no real resolutions to recover. Ask any candidate "what," "how," and "when," and I promise you that all you will hear is the same old rhetoric! I want to hear a goal, a new idea, a plan, and means to improve Antioch. That effort is lacking. The focus on law enforcement seems to overshadow any effort of community improvement. This is a sad situation. We need fresh ideas, not the same old lack of progress. The evident "running around in circles" must stop; it gets us nowhere.
Fred Hoskins is an Antioch resident.