Reversing a decision made two weeks earlier, the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to not recommend any sites in the county to the state for a re-entry facility for prisoners.
Antioch government and Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) officials were happy with the supervisors' about-face on the issue. But they were still miffed that county officials - particularly East County Supervisor Federal Glover - would have even considered placing a 500-bed prison on Deer Valley Road next to a high school, Kaiser Hospital and an area planned for upscale housing.
"Federal Glover should have had a copy of Antioch's General Plan, what we had been planning since 1988," said Antioch Councilman Arne Simonsen. "He clearly failed to represent Antioch's interest. Nor did he give us any heads-up about this issue. I am very disappointed. He should have told us in advance when he got his packet and said, 'There's something on the agenda here; what do you think?' That never happened."
AUSD Board President Walter Ruehlig, referring to Tuesday's supervisors' meeting, said, "It was great theater, to say the least. It reminds me of 'I voted for the war so I could vote against the war - I voted for the prison so I could vote against it.' It was amazing. One person said to me, quite accurately, 'That has to be one of the great flip-flops I've ever seen.'
"Just a hair-brained proposal how it ever got this far. Who was doing their homework? One of the criteria was: the site had to be remote. How can (it) be remote next to a hospital, magnet high school, less than a mile away from a shopping center, in the heart of what's going to be future senior housing and upscale residences? Just insane."
Glover, who is up for re-election in June, has taken a lot of heat for not opposing the Antioch site when it was first discussed and voted on at the Feb. 12 supervisors' meeting. In a press conference before Tuesday's vote, Glover admitted that he made a mistake by not publicly voicing his opposition to the Antioch site.
"I want to be clear that I object to any placement of a prison in the city of Antioch," he said. "In addition, given the number of unanswered questions about such a facility, I object to the placement of one anywhere in our county.
"It could very well place child molesters in these facilities, which in Antioch's case would be a complete violation of Jessica's Law, which forbids molesters from living close to schools and parks."
Simonsen said he had heard from a lot of residents opposed to the prison being in Antioch. "It was a very big reaction," he said. "I asked everyone who sent me an e-mail … 'Here's the e-mail addresses for the Board of Supervisors. They need to hear from you.' Our people did it. It was excellent. That has more impact than five guys on the council.
"Since Federal's up for re-election, I am sure he's regretted his action. It was the most illogical location they could have come up with."
While he was glad to see Antioch removed from the list of possible sites for a transitional prison to help convicts nearing the end of their sentences re-enter society, Simonsen criticized the supervisors for squelching the idea altogether.
"I think they over-reacted in not having this thing anywhere in Contra Costa County," he said. "Because clearly the county needs more jail space, number one. The state was going to pay 75 percent of the cost of building this facility. So what's the sheriff going to do - release more people?"
The supervisors' action did not rule out future consideration for a re-entry facility for state inmates, according to Glover, adding that the present proposal prompted too many unanswered questions, such as funding and the size of the facility.