Editorial: Antioch Residents Should Support Measure W, Focus on Council Candidates

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This fall, Antioch residents are tasked with the question of whether or not they want to support a measure that would increase revenue to the City of Antioch by an estimated $14 million.

Measure W, or what I’ve labeled as “Measure Wallet”, replaces the ½ cent sales tax of Measure C with a full percentage sales tax of Measure W–thus increasing funding to the city from the current $7 million to $14 million. Measure W would expire in 20-years.

Truth be told, on the surface, Measure W appears easy to reject for a variety of reasons including the fumbling out of the gate by both the council and city staff as they need multiple meetings to even get it approved for the ballot. Through the discussions, the council lets it slip that some of the money is aimed at preventing the 2025 bankruptcy and loss of services due to retirement and pension costs.

The major flaw with Measure W is that the council can spend the money however they wish—its not all going to police and code enforcement, but rather into the General Fund. For that reason, electing council members who will decide Measure W spending becomes vital.

The public can argue over the percentages of how the $14 million will be spent, but what they should be doing is focusing on how city council candidates would spend the money. Do you value public safety? Are youth programs a priority? Infrastructure? Fiscal responsibility?

For example, if Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and Councilwoman Monica Wilson are so sure that youth programs are a major need to the city, why not simply propose its own parcel tax of $25 to $35 to fund youth programs? I believe they know Antioch residents would not support it and thus need to leverage the need for police to get the funding.

The reality is Measure W is only as good as the city council residents elect. One that will begin to use $14 million to tackle real issues—such as crime and blight.

I get it, Measure W is not a sexy tax, but it is a needed tax. Where the council fumbled was assuming off a poll data the community would get behind it while failing to communicate or identify specific projects or programs of where the money would go. Instead, it was a fist to the table and rammed down the resident’s throats without much discussion. Even worse, it was done quickly while Measure C still has several years left.

Ultimately, the council foolishly over-complicated Measure W out of the gate with percentages and potential pet projects when the City should be focusing its time on basic services—one can argue the city fails to handle “basic” correctly.

Furthermore, for the past month all I’ve heard was “no” on Measure W because it doesn’t go to police. Many people say if it went to police, they would vote “yes” but cannot support this proposal. It doesn’t help matters when Thorpe acted arrogant and unwilling to negotiate with his council during the process and straight out objected to an oversight committee and sunset clause with Wilson backing him up which actually killed the tax going to the ballot until they brought it back on a technicality oversight by staff.

Thankfully, it was brought back, and a citizen’s oversight committee and sunset were included.

But voting against Measure W simply because the council fumbled its message, its purpose and Thorpe acting pompous are not reasons enough to vote against it in hopes of a “better” plan in 2020—the plan could actually be worse because the city may require more out of its residents and businesses.

The truth is given the outlook of Antioch’s finances, for the city to succeed in the short-term, it will need a tax of some sort. For the City to build up revenue from business/industry, its going to be at least a decade or longer to bring in $14 million or more in new revenue with a serious push in economic development, property taxes or business tax. That is a big if and a lot of things will have to go right.

If cuts begin to occur in the next year or two, economic development efforts will stall, crime will increase and blight is further out of control that it already is. One can argue at that point, Antioch is a lost cause. With that comes a reduction in home prices and the city then brings in less money than it already does.

With a potential layoffs for cops should Measure C expire before Measure W (or a similar measure) is in place, Antioch will never recover and will take East Contra Costa down with it. Too many issues will carry over to neighboring cities like in 2012. Plus, you are now dealing with AB-109, Prop 47, a weak on crime District Attorney, and state legislators who are making it tougher on law enforcement to do their jobs each day.

If people recall, in 2012, Antioch was the wild west of Contra Costa with a major crime issue and just 78-cops and its reputation has never recovered to this day. In fact, most people fail to realize the City is still operating with bare essentials and reduced services unlike other cities.

Antioch, who is the second largest city in Contra Costa, is operating with a $56.7 million budget of which 69% is going towards police ($39 million).

Compare that with other cities:

Both Richmond and Concord spend more on police than Antioch has in its entire budget. Brentwood, who is half the size of Antioch, has a larger budget.

Antioch does not have a spending problem, they are operating on a shoestring budget and have an obvious revenue problem.  Furthermore, many of the complaints people have are quality of life issues. With Measure W, if the council spends the money correctly, those quality of life issues begin to fade away over time.

Antioch residents must consider and weight the negative impacts a “no” vote will have on the city regardless of how they feel about this council, city staff, or the city in its current state. Measure W is not perfect, but it is a start towards focusing on the basics by fighting crime and booting out blight.  Until you tackle those two items, it will be difficult to bring in new “opportunity” to the city that will help raise tax revenue.

At the end of the day, Measure W is only going to be as strong as the leadership the citizens elect to the City Council to spend the money. Supporting candidates who will spend it on police and code enforcement should be the focus of every voter in the next several elections.

Measure W should give residents pause because it’s a leap of faith, but the alternative of doing nothing is a losing proposition. If residents vote in strong city council members, voters in Antioch should support Measure W.

Mike Burkholder
Publisher of ECT
[email protected]


19 COMMENTS

  1. I get what you are saying and agree with everything except I cannot vote yes on this measure. I do not trust Lamar Thorpe or Monica Wilson to do the right thing with these funds. It will be even worse with Joy Motts, who Thorpe and Wilson are supporting, for the third vote and then its all social programs, pay raises for staff and money funneled away from police. Lets try a tax measure again by doing it the right way in 2020 by just extending Measure C.

  2. pay raises for staff?!?! If by staff you mean PD staff, then you’re correct. police take nearly 80% of the GF already, with most of that for their pay and benefits. Nothing gets funneled away from police in this town. they are the black hole.

    • The return on Polices services can not be measured in dollars and cents. This not some fortune 500 company.

  3. If you are voting against Measure W you are cheering for failure. What does a no vote earn you? Crappier service and less cops. Become part of the solution.

  4. Measure C continues through 2021. The Council wants two tries on this. I say force the Council to bring back a better proposal in 2020 and while the residents are at it, throw Lamar Thorpe and Monica Wilson out of office for their incompetence in Measure W.

    • They are also looking at landscaping and lighting city wide tax for 2020 and a parcel tax in excess of 450 per year per lot for 10 years to pay off the unfunded liabilities in 2020 or 2022. So they will not stop at measure C or W.

  5. Face it, the section of Antioch society that needs youth programs and other City assistance programs are the least likely to contribute and will continue to be the source of problems that require more police intervention, Antioch clearly needs more police officers, as it stands right now the police can’t possibly keep up with all the problems that come out of certain communities. If Antioch was safer it would attract more citizens who don’t need so much policing and who would be more willing to contribute to other programs that benefit the city as a whole. I say spend the money on the police and get rid of the trash.

  6. “With a potential layoffs for cops should Measure C expire before Measure W (or a similar measure) is in place, Antioch will never recover and will take East Contra Costa down with it.“

    Fear monger much?

    • Fear monger? No. Measure C allowed Antioch to hire more cops. Without even Measure C funding… let alone a replacement tax, its not really a secret nor is it difficult math Antioch PD cannot afford to keep those 22 cops they hired). They will have to lay them off. Not fear mongering, simple logic and reality of finances.

      • “Antioch will never recover and will take East Contra Costa down with it.”

        Yes. Fear mongering.

          • History also shows that Antioch has never laid off any cops. They lay off all other positions, including those that are not even funded by the GF!! That’s the hypocrisy in all this. People think the money won’t get to the cops but it all of it does one way or another.

  7. Everyone is ignoring why we need to double the police force. Until we tackle the truth of why, we will head in the direction of Richmond needing 200 million to keep your neighbor from feeling like today is a good day to enter your house when you are at work.

  8. The reality is East County has never been a nice county, and it never will be. There are few nice towns. Discovery Bay is nice. Oakley and Brentwood not bad – but getting worse. Pittsburg and Antioch have always been dirt water towns – and getting a lot worse. Nice things aren’t cheap and cheap things aren’t nice. You get cheaper housing in East County, and along with cheaper housing you get what you pay for. Poor preforming schools, high crime, terrible neighbors, etc. The truth hurts.

    If you can’t handle the reality of where you’re living, maybe it’s time to move. People live where they want to live and where they can afford to live.

  9. The city council ” Measure W appears easy to reject for a variety of reasons including the fumbling out of the gate by both the council and city staff “.

    If you can’t explain to me with out fumbling. You can’t be trusted with Tax revenue from the citizens. City Council needs a re-set on this measure and get it right. I voted for measure C for a reason, because I am not apposed to a tax, which Makes Antioch Better, but City Government has a poor Track Record. Measure W will not get my vote; until this City Council shows me exactly where the citizens tax money is going; and how much of the citizens tax money is going to be spent on each project.

    So at this point it’s a BIG NO for me.

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