On Thursday, the Antioch City Council voted unanimously to place a 1% sales tax measure on the November ballot.
The tax is aimed to replace Measure C and raise an estimated $14 million per year into the general fund while continuing to fund police and code enforcement services, along with maintaining other city functions.
The 5-0 vote came after Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and Councilwoman Monica Wilson flipped their Tuesday votes of “no” to “yes”. By voting “no” on Tuesday in a symbolic gesture, it caused the council not to have the 2/3 support to place the measure on the ballot. Thus causing Thursday’s special meeting.
Thorpe said Thursday that their no votes were symbolic in nature, but were ready to work to help pass the ballot measure after four special meetings were required to get the council to unite on the terms of the ballot language. By changing their vote, Thorpe and Wilson also agreed to a citizens oversight committee and a 20-year sunset.
The error was not caught by the City Attorney which caused the council to come back Thursday in what was now their fourth special council meeting on the issue.
Antioch City Attorney Derek Cole took full responsibility for the oversight and apologized.
“I’ll analogize what it’s like to be the city attorney and I think the best analogy is being a city attorney is like being a long snapper. If you do your job properly, you don’t get noticed,” said Cole. “When you fail to do your job properly. Then the things happen. And in this case, the analogy is that I sent the ball sailing over the shoulders. I failed at your last meeting to advise you that a two thirds vote was required to pass the resolution and tax measure, that is a requirement specifically of the revenue and taxation code.”
Cole further highlighted the staff and consultants worked hard on the matter and apologized to the council.
“I want to apologize to the council and to them for not properly advising you of the implications of your vote. It’s something I should have disclosed to you at the beginning of the matter, and then especially when it appeared, some of you may not be supporting the motion at that at the very least, I should have made clear so that you could take the super majority requirement into consideration,” explained Cole.
During public comments, Jeffrey Klingler asked Mayor Sean Wright to read his comment into the record where he advised the ad-hoc committee to “strike a compromise” and that he looked forward to the ballot measure that will help the city.
Fred Hoskins stated he was disappointed in the entire council and they were back yet again for another special meeting while explaining how he campaigned against Measure C because he said it would never go away once it was started and this new proposal was just an extension.
“I have never seen an objective, process or any new progress or proposals for the advanced center of this city for new revenues from this council. Not a single thing,” said Hoskins. “The proposals for the land use in downtown had been put on the shelf because they are just too political. No improvements to waterfront have done taking place. No initiated, within the city, homeless solutions have been come up with. Hey, we have Humphreys, its going to be called Smith’s Landing, hey, great. It was sold. I hope it’s successful, but what in the heck had been presented by any council member but a project to enhance the income to the city. So what happens is as a town, you look at ways to tax, tax, tax. This is absolutely ridiculous.”
Hal Bray, of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, spoke about how they believed the council was not being honest with the residents of Antioch.
“Your pension costs have gone up 40 percent in the last five years and will double in the next five years from $9 million to $18 million,” explained Bray. “We believe you’re already spending cash revenue intended for services for the pension costs. We believe you need to put in place a plan to meet these rising the cause.”
Bray suggested that employees should be paying half the cost of pensions and the city paying the other half and that if they moved in that direction the city would save $4.5 million.
“The average social security pension in country is $15,800. The average CALPERS pension for a full time employee that retires it here is $70,000. The average public safety pension for a full time employee who retires this year is $104,000. We believe it is unfair to have the residents of Antioch pay extra taxes so that your employees can retire with five-to-six times the amount of pension that they will retire with,” said Bray.
Tim McCall spoke providing compliments to reach councilmember for their part in the discussion but urged them to become unified and support the tax and work to pass it.
“This does not unite Antioch. This is dividing the Antioch,” said McCall. “What we need to do is we need to get this passed and we need to unite Antioch. Once completed, we can move to do that, not prepared to fight the battle over again.”
McCall asked the council to unite and vote unanimously on this measure as written and not revisit it in 9-years.
After closing public comments, Thorpe thanked the city attorney for taking responsibility on the mishap and then called his Tuesday vote symbolic in nature.
“I think councilwoman Wilson and I both agree that our votes last time were symbolic in that we were very animated about protecting the ballot language and making sure that we had a strong possibility of a passing this ballot measure,” said Thorpe. “Our votes were of course a symbolic in recognizing that we did work… and we were standing by our work.”
Thorpe continued saying he was prepared to move forward with the direction the council had asked and will be supportive in making sure this was passed tonight.
Thorpe then made the motion to move the ballot language forward with a citizens oversight committee and a 20-year sunset. Wilson then seconded the motion followed by unanimous vote of the city council.
The final ballot language:
Antioch’s Quality of Life Measure.
To maintain Antioch’s fiscal stability, police patrols, 911 emergency response, youth violence prevention programs; ensuring water quality/safety; repairing streets; cleaning up parks/illegal dumping; restoring youth afterschool/summer programs;
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, expiring in twenty years, with mandatory annual independent financial audits, and independent citizens oversight?