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:
- $160.3 million – City of Richmond ($59% towards public safety / $95.3 million)
- $97.4 million — City of Concord (59% going towards police ($60.2 million)
- $90.9 million — City of Walnut Creek (30% / $26 million towards police)
- $59.3 million – City of Brentwood (43% go towards police)
- $56.7 million – City of Antioch
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.
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