Agopian’s Meeting Request Undermined Councilmembers

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This whole idea of a parcel tax to fund police is good in theory, but undermining one’s fellow councilmembers and residents of Antioch in the process is never a good idea. As the council rejected Councilmember Gary Agopian’s plea, there was an obvious agenda at play for his mayoral run.

To make a long story short, a week after he brings this parcel tax idea up during council, he pulls papers to run for mayor. He now can claim he brought this up to the council and was rejected. He can now run as the “candidate who will bring more police officers to Antioch”.

The truth is, this was a “secret committee” which left the rest of the council in the dark of what was transpiring and what the agenda would be.  No one representing any city by going rogue and leaving others in the dark of such a huge item that would affect every single parcel owner in Antioch—especially when it raises taxes.

I was ready to let this issue go, but when I started hearing rumblings based off the Brentwood Press article yesterday that Antioch isn’t interested in solving its crime problem or adding more officers, some clearly do not understand the process of what adding officers via new revenue stream consist of nor what actually transpired leading up to the Council meeting.

If you recall, I wrote on July 9 that a survey was making rounds in Antioch about a proposed parcel tax to fund officers which was a day before the council meeting.  This poll was somewhat flying under the radar and it was clear it would be a very fast process if it was to make it onto the November ballot.

Based off watching the council meeting, clearly other councilmembers were blindsided by Agopians plea.  Typically, parcel tax take months if not a year to plan with much transparency involved at each step. This proposal would have occurred in less than 30-days, held special meetings, and after reading the survey, it lacked in professionalism and likely show an accurate opinion.

 

The whole thing did not pass the smell test because this was a political ploy at best.

If Agopian truly wants to run for Mayor, he would have known about the timing issue and deadlines needed. He would have given the item much public attention, and been honest with the council he serves with.

Instead, July 10 turns into a “what just happened moment” by the rest of the council as Mr. Agopian held all the information about this proposed parcel tax while his fellow councilmembers were in the dark. You don’t do that.

A councilmember especially lets the mayor know what you are working on if it involves a special group of concerned citizens wanting to bring a parcel tax to the ballot. This was simply a blindside move for political gain and it stinks!

You put the other councilmembers in a terrible position because they are forced to vote no due to lack of information, lack of clarity, and the group had not technically been identified. For all they knew it could have been a few Antioch citizens with outside help from another community.

While it pains me to say the proposal was rejected, the council did make the right decision by rejecting a special meeting—they had to!

Based off his comments during the meeting, he proved it when he stated, “loop that back to the committee who may still want to do the poll with the understanding this information may be used for future efforts.”

The call for a special meeting and rejection by the council was first reported by Paul Burgarino of the Contra Costa Times on July 10 in real-time via his Twitter account–end of story right?

Not a chance because today we now get a story from the Brentwood Press nearly 9-days later which didn’t tell the entire story.

While the story focused on Agopian bringing up the item and this new group called “Citizens for a Safe Antioch”. It ignored the political ploy to gain mayoral votes based off of how the vote looked in the eyes of the public.

The truth is, had Mr. Agopian worked with his council and kept them in the loop like he did his “private committee”, I have no doubt more positive would have come out of Agopians proposal and the council would be willing to work towards a June initiative in 2013. This could have gotten the ball rolling towards finding a solution to bring on more police officers.

Instead, Agopian decided to cut his fellow councilmembers necks politically.

While details of who was involved in the polling on my July 9 piece was unknown along with the city council and Contra Costa Times, the Brentwood Press is reporting this community group is called “Citizens for Safe Antioch” which planned to have the results by July 17—still; it’s still unclear who is a part of this group or if Agopian is tied in or simply pushing their agenda onto the council via request.

Names mentioned in the Brentwood Press include Crime Prevention Commissioner Bill Cook, Antioch Crime Prevention Commission Coordinator Hans Ho, retired Antioch Police Lt. Rick Marchoke and resident Terry Ramus.

The work of this group should been applauded, but the secrecy should be chastised starting with Agopian because he should know better.  It was a selfish move to put his personal interest above others and could be argued his actions killed this parcel attempt for good under this council.

This botched attempt should serve as a lesson that one man acting alone cannot get anything done. Going rogue is never a good idea when you need multiple votes!

Since Mr. Agopian is running for Mayor, hopefully he learned the lesson you don’t get anywhere when you try and make others look bad.

 

Below is the dialogue that occurred at the Antioch City Council Meeting under Council Communications:

Gary Agopian: asking forthe councils indulgence for a special meeting next week and the reason is that their has been efforts on the part of local citizens that were interested in putting forward the concept of a parcel tax for enhancing police service and that committee worked diligently to find funding for the poll. They found the funding and the poll is going to be done and should be done in time for a special meeting next week for a presentation to the council if the council so desires. If not, we will miss the opportunity to consider it and to take action because we would have to do it by our regular meeting on the 24th. I think we should at least discuss it because we have a fairly substantial issue we have to deal with in Antioch. Just the timing is such that in order to consider it appropriately we need two meetings. And the pollster has assured me that they would have it in time for a Tuesday meeting which we would have to issue by Thursday. If it can’t happen then it won’t, then it can I wanted to find out the flexibility on part of the council to receive input.

It was told by legal that any final vote on this matter would have to occur on a regular scheduled meeting which

Gary Agopian: then stated based off that information, the timing doesn’t work and that he would “loop that back to the committee who may still want to do the poll with the understanding this information may be used for future efforts.”

Wade Harper: What committee is this?

Gary Agopian:  It’s just a local committee. Residents were formed that had been pushing forward trying to see this happen.

Wade Harper: Does this committee have a name? No?

Gary Agopian: I don’t have it on the tip of my tongue.

Brian Kalinowski: I have a comment, take a deep breath, so we as councilmembers should be very careful about the transparency of the business we conduct being part of groups doing polling because although I support the revenue stream for the police. But if something is occurring and members of a subcommittee I am not aware of are participating I am a little concerned that its occurring without some briefing or knowledge or subcommittee report of why we have it on the agenda and like items. We went down this road in a very transparent way of doing the last poll although people felt they needed to see the polling in advance who were against the tax to work against the tax but nevertheless this council engaged in that business and was criticized. And so I don’t see this process being any cleaner at a minimum of the previous process so if there is a subcommittee that is working I would hope they have a spokesperson if its Take Back Antioch, UCBN or Friday Morning Breakfast Club… then let’s hear from that community group and their concerns and what they want to do so there is transparency.  Cause I feel caught a little off guard, its election season, and I am a little caught off guard about special meetings and things that are quite frankly near and dear to my hard. And I don’t like the feeling of not having the knowledge of those types of issues.

City Council Meeting Video
http://www.ci.antioch.ca.us/CityGov/CouncilMeetings/071012/

1 COMMENT

  1. What Mr. Agopian should have done was provide information on who this group was (roster list). Provide details of how long they have been working on this proposal. Provide information on the survey such as providing a print out of it. Provide numbers on how many people have submitted on the survey as of the night of the council meeting and how long the survey will be available for. He still could have led, but set up the discussion for success, not for failure..

  2. After reading the Brentwood Press, I can see they took a different perspective than you. They reported what happened, while you went a step further and provided us with the big picture. I didn’t even think about this as him using this for his mayor seat. What a joker this guy is. I appreciate sharing this because I didn’t put two and two together. I have to admit that I was ticked off the council rejected this proposal, but now I can see why and can respect it. He lost my vote with his actions.

  3. Agopian’s actions on this issue look pretty bad in light of things. Glad someone is doing their homework!

  4. Thanks for covering the issue. I have to confess there has been some legitimate push back. I accept responsibility for how this played poorly with some of my council mates and with some of the commenters here. Let me clearly state that the Committee Mike mentions is real and duly formed as a viable election committee as “Citizens for a Safe Antioch” (FPPC# 1347594). The members mentioned in the Press article have been a part of forming the committee and the poll was ready to be done that week and the results would have been ready for a special meeting (the committee had not done any polling up to that point, other folks were doing informal polling). I was asked to bring it forward because it was tight timewise to make the ballot. There were some mistakes. One, the agenda request should have come forward a month earlier with a report from the committee. Two, the committee should have made the request, not a council member (though a council member can request agenda items). Trying to squeeze 40 lbs into a 10 lb sack at the last minute with no preview wasn’t the best way to handle it. I accept that critique. My heart was in the right place to try and fast track this for a Nov. ballot because I think the crime wave in Antioch is at a clip to be dangerous and this needs to be discussed. Yes, I am running for mayor. Crime IS an issue in Antioch and police staffing is a serious problem. So, I will take the hit for the how and when it was brought up, but not that it was brought up.

    • Mr. Agopian,

      As an Antioch resident, I appreciate the honesty in you admitting you made a mistake int he approach. I think we can all agree crime is a problem but those on this current council and previous have refused to truly address this issue and we have what we currently have which is an unacceptable police level in Antioch given the problem.

      I don’t think anyone can question your heart on this issue and from reading this post I think Mike would agree your heart was in the right place, your actions were just shady. I think that was the point of the original post. Based off your comments and apology, sounds like Mike’s analysis was right which I am sure he didn’t want to be.

      • @Jim,

        I to appreciate Mr. Agopians comments and do believe his heart was in the right place, but ultimately the delivery came off worse than it was intended. In speaking with him on the 9th, there is no doubt he is trying to correct a major problem in Antioch, but ultimately this was just not the way to do it as more time is needed and the process needs to be vetted. Hopefully he can get some additional support going forward just like he is trying to do with the squatters which he is having a hard time getting support.

        Mr. Agopian did clarify that I did mix up the polls so I do apologize for that. The survey I mentioned above talking was not the same survey. That was an adhoc survey from some other residents trying to get a sense of what people thought.

  5. Mike, you did an excellent job in putting this sequence of events together. And what really made it outstanding was the verbatim transcript of the dialogue amongst the council member and the link so that readers here can look at it and judge for themselves.

    I’ve know Gary Agopian for a long time, but I am disappointed that the dates, which anyone can get from the County Clerk’s Office, we not adhered to in order to provide fully transparency of this small NGO committee dealings in the light of day at city council meetings.

    Any poll taken now will be meaningless six or 12 months from now.

    • Hi Arne, no more polls for this year. Time to re-focus on the problem, which is escalating crime (a report from the Chief this next Tuesday) and inadequate staffing. Polls just tell us what people think, it is up to us to make decisions. Let’s all agree to do that with real input and workable ideas. I promise ( risky words for an elected) to bring forward the issue in a way that includes the community and gives adequate time and reflection, but puts us in an action mode. We can’t wait another two years.

  6. Be sure you take into account the recent increase is DDSD rates on property tax bills, ConFire’s desire for a parcel tax, Governor Brown wanting to raise the sales tax & income tax on the wealthy, Molly Munger wanting to raise everyone’s income taxes, most people being upside down on their mortgages and the unemployment & underemployment rate of Antioch residents.

    Seniors on fixed incomes see their MediCare Part B premiums going up each year, which eats away any Social Security COLA (if they get one).

    And seniors vote!

  7. Arne, in my opinion, Antioch does not have a lot time to put more cops on the street. Most of the tax increases are for politicians lack of making the tough decesions. If a parcel tax is placed on the ballot in Antioch targeted for additional staffing for APD, code enforcement and DA I think it will pass and is needed, NOW.

  8. Aaron, actually it will be the voters who make the tough decisions. Unlike the federal government, people on fixed incomes can’t print money they don’t have.

    Crime exists no matter how many police officers we have. While we’d love the police to be proactive in preventing crime, the simple reality is that police are really reactive to crime, just as ambulances are reactive to medical emergencies and fire departments are reactive to fires.

  9. I just saw this blog about what occurred with the attempt at placing a police-funding parcel tax on the November ballot. All the council members knew since the failure of the half-cent sales tax, on Antioch’s November 2010 ballot, that some alternative funding source was needed for more police. A parcel tax was the one discussed since that time. But, NONE of the other council members did ANYTHING to make it happen. Gary Agopian was the ONLY one to step forward, take the lead and put together a coalition to help make it a reality. To think it would benefit him politically in the Mayor’s race is laughable. Being for increased taxes is not usually considered a positive thing among most voters. So I’d say Gary did this IN SPITE of the political impacts, not for them. Yes, the timing was unfortunate. But, let’s remember that at the June 26 meeting Councilman Brian Kalinowski asked for a parcel tax for police be agendized in July. Here’s the exact quote of the minutes of that meeting – “Councilmember Kalinowski agreed that one time funds should be used to rebuild reserve accounts. He requested a parcel/sales tax measure discussion be agendize in July. He stated he feels a revenue enhancement should be dedicated solely for new service enhancements, with monies spent based on input from a community oversight committee and the only veto power bring a 4/5 super majority vote of Council.” So for Brian to complain that he was blindsided by Gary’s efforts is disingenuous to say the least. As a sworn peace officer himself, he should have welcomed Gary’s efforts, as should have Wade Harper – a police lieutenant in Tracy – who said he wouldn’t be able to attend a special meeting. So, in the words of the late Paul Harvey, “now you know the rest of the story.”