On Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council unanimously voted to support placing a 1% Sales Tax Increase on the November Ballot which is aimed at raising $14 million in revenue.
Under the ballot measure agreed to Tuesday, it would roll Measure C funding into a “new” tax for police and code enforcement and provide them with additional revenue, however, it would also work to fund youth services, parks and quality of life services.
The proposal presented to the council Tuesday stated that the Quality of Life Ad-Hoc Committee recommended of the new tax revenue that 60% go towards maintaining public safety, 20% to youth services, and 20% to quality of life, fiscal stability/accountability.
During public comments, Beverly Knight spoke out against the proposal because she says residents want a fully funded police department and said the city already had beautiful parks.
“I know that the residents in the Antioch want to continue Measure C and they want to fully fund our police department,” said Knight. “We have 30 beautiful parks. We need children and families to feel safe to come out of their houses and use those parks were maintaining… so we want a fully funded police department before we mess with this measure. Measure C, that’s what the people voted for and that’s what they want you to continue.”
Meanwhile, several speakers, including Ellie Householder, spoke in favor of the measure because it supported youth services while adds additional funding to the police department.
“I wholeheartedly believe that we need to continue funding the police department with the sales tax in order to continue hiring and expanding the police department. However, I think that we need to move beyond the basics, this new sales tax and the allotment for quality of life initiatives in your programming,” said Householder. “We’ll do just that and it’s what the city does currently means right now”
Steve Aiello, president of the Antioch Police Officers Association suggested different percentages than what was proposed by the Quality of Life Ad-hoc Committee. He highlighted how Measure C helped hire 54-police officers along with increased staffing of CSO’s, code enforcement and traffic while reducing overtime. They also added community engagement officers.
He highlighted the need for more officers, while highlighting the new marijuana dispensaries, new housing projects and comparing Antioch to the police staffing levels in other cities. while comparing
“The Antioch Police Officers would like to see an increased amount designated for the purpose of public safety, with the added revenue, we’d like to expand our traffic enforcement to reduce sideshows speeding, reckless driving, red light violations, and traffic related deaths. We’d also like to increase community service officers to deal with the front counter cold crime reports and a variety of other tasks which frees our officers to be proactive as opposed to being reactive. We’d also like to revitalize our community-based policing programs, which will allow a team of officers to do a targeted high crime areas. Work one on one with area businesses, assigned specific officers to communities to improve our communication with those communities,” explained Aiello. “The police department has a number of youth programs already in place. We have the police explorer program, we have the police, excellent athletically program, and also the Youth Academy, which is taking place this week at the police department. These programs have been created to bridge the gap between law enforcement and our youth community. Focusing on taking on teaching these kids life skills and also with a goal of reducing crime within the youth. The APOA would like to support this measure with the understanding that at least 80 percent of the funds are directed to support public safety and the assurance of an oversight committee to ensure the public trust.”
During council discussion Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock highlighted her major concern was that this was the first night they had heard about this.
“So tonight is like our deadline night,” said Ogorchock. “If we don’t approve this, it doesn’t go on the ballot. There’s this PowerPoint given to use tonight and I didn’t even see this before I sat down tonight. So I am disappointed that I didn’t have the updates of these numbers.”
She also stated it appeared by comments made tonight, the Antioch Police Officers Association was not included in the Ad-Hoc or had a voice in the recommendation.
Ogrorchock then began to make a motion before being cutoff midway through by Mayor Sean Wright who asked her to hold off to allow them to hear from the Ad-Hoc committee. Ogorchock declined and after some back and forth City Clerk Simonsen interjected with Roberts Rules of Order stating Ogorchock could make a motion at any time—it simply required a second.
Ogorchock them made a motion to adopt the Measure and place it on the November ballot which would impose a tax until repealed by the voters. In her motion, she also requested they maintain police services and they maintain a target of 80% of the tax be used for police services and youth services be funded at 10% and quality of live, fiscal stability and accountability be at 10%.
Councilman Tony Tiscareno seconded the motion citing he wanted to have discussion on her motion.
At that point, Derek Cole, City Attorney, explained that the only action taken tonight could be approval of placing the measure on the ballot, they could not determine how the money would be spent until the budget cycle.
“This is not a binding document and the tax can be spent for any lawful purpose at any time. So even if you were to follow this spending priority as its written now, it can be changed at anytime going forward,” said Cole.
Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe explained that the council was given an update on data from the pollster back in January and that the poll helped determine how the money would be spent. He also shared the poll was recently concluded a few weeks ago so the same report given to the ad-hoc committee two-weeks ago was the same one the council saw tonight.
“The recommendation based on the data that we’ve collected that we feel is appropriate for the community to move forward,” said Thorpe. “We are really just taking action on the ballot measure, not divvying up what goes where, in terms of the priorities. That’s not our task tonight.”
Thorpe also addressed innuendoes and rumors out there as to why the proposal came out the way it did.
“I just want to make sure I respond in the interest of transparency to innuendos and rumors that are there are, there are absolutely inaccurate and so Beverly (Knight), I’m particularly talking to you and I respect what you do in our community and the work that you do. But, just so I’m perfectly clear to our residents and the people out there creating innuendos and blogs and anything like that, that First Five does not benefit from this tax measure,” stated Thorpe. “First Five is actually a grant making organization that gives out money. We don’t ask cities for money.”
“There wasn’t anything nefarious going on here,” said Thorpe. “You can’t believe everything you read in those blogs. I was wanting to point out that, the feedback that we took in was from residents of Antioch. Not people who live in Brentwood.”
Councilwoman Monica Wilson highlighted how more than 2,000 peoples voices were heard as they gathered data and a lot of items came up between police, code enforcement but also youth services.
“We’ve hired a gross of 54 officers, so I think we are making great strides. Do we need more? Yes, we do need more. But at the same time, we need to also pay attention to what the community, what other areas in the community that the community members have brought up,” said Wilson. “I’m very supportive of youth services, extremely supportive and proud of our police department.”
She called the proposal a recommendation and while police services were important, they also need to focus in areas where they can be preventative and believed the proposal did that.
Councilman Tony Tiscareno explained he seconded Ogorchocks motion because he wanted the dialogue. He said he did speak with he Antioch Police Officers Association and asked questions around the target of the proposal.
“I knew that this was a projected or targeted expenditure that wasn’t set in stone. That’s something that will be, or whosoever’s on the council, we’ll be discussing during the budget cycle and that’s how you move forward and set expenditures,” said Tiscareno. “ But the perception is that we are looking at extending Measure C.”
He explained that measures or initiatives pass or fail because of misconceptions and they have had two fail prior to Measure C. He also reminded his council they were criticized because those monies were going into the general fund, so they had to put “trust” in their with an oversight committee to hold the council accountable and had a sunset included.
“In my opinion, this is an extension of measure C and we have to act accordingly,” said Tiscareno. “I’ve been a proponent of youth and a senior programs and I plan to do so as well , there’s a plenty of money to potentially go around and when we decided to do that.”
He further explained that if this passes there will be a possibility of expanding programs but his first priority was to the police department and making sure they have assurances that the police department would sustain and grow.
“We need to do something to assure that we’re going to sustain a police department. And that’s why I support the language that as it stands and hopefully that once we get into discussions with with the budget that we make our and keep our promises and uphold what we promised with our police department. So that’s, that’s my plan,” said Tiscareno.
Mayor Sean Wright stated that they had the opportunity to “tax ourselves” and the public is going to have an opportunity to go to the ballot box and decide if they want to or not.
“I am to be honest, I’m tired of people saying, why don’t you do like this, like Brentwood, why don’t, why don’t you guys do this? Like Brentwood,” explained Wright. “I started talking to do a patient today who lives in Brentwood and when his property tax bill comes, he pays an extra $3,000 a year on his property tax that goes directly to the city of Brentwood that we don’t pay here in Antioch.”
Wright says the people have Brentwood tax themselves to have money for amenities and other things.
“We’re having an opportunity come November as Antioch citizens to say, do we want to do that to ourselves to give the city then the amount of resources that it needs to be able to be the city that we want it to be and that’ll be a decision that we send to the voters and the voters will have the opportunity to be able to decide,” said Wright. “My hope is that we can all come together and say, yes, we want the resources, we want the money to be able to drive our city to the future, to be the city that we all want it to be.”
Wright acknowledged that they were not talking abut the percentages but that he wanted to share his thoughts.
“If we’re going to spend and get another half cent and we do a 60%, 20%, 20% split, we’re taking 50% that they already get and splitting the other 50%, 10%, 20% 20%, and I don’t think that gets us to where we want as a police department,” explained Wright. “So if we do an 80%, 10%, 10%, it takes the other 50%. I put 60% of that into the police department and 20%, in the youth services and 20% of that extra half set inequality of life. And I think that’s more of where we want to go.”
Wright stated he hoped the community would agree with the council and “tax ourselves”.
The council then voted 5-0 to place the measure on the November 2018 ballot.
Ballot Measure question:
To maintain Antioch’s fiscal stability and police patrols, 911 emergency response, youth violence prevention programs; ensuring water quality and safety; repairing streets; cleaning up parks/illegal dumping; restoring youth after-school/summer programs; and other essential services; shall the measure be adopted approving an ordinance to renew the sales tax at the one-cent rate, raising approximately $14,000,000 annually until ended by voters, requiring independent annual financial audits and all expenditures available for public review?