The Antioch Herald put out a piece recently by self-proclaimed “Watchdog” Barbara Zivica who was apparently more interested in manipulating the argument against Measure C than providing real facts to readers to engage in an honest debate.
We will save our opinion for another day, but we wanted to provide some fact checking on such a manipulative piece under the deception of being provided by a so-called watchdog.
While we do support the measure, our goal here is not to change one’s opinion, simply provide information for our readers to make an honest and educated choice on whether to vote yes or no on the measure. After all, if the anti-tax folks at the Contra Costa Times endorses Measure C, it can’t be that bad of a measure.
Ms. Zivica text is in bold with facts immediately following:
Last year the Antioch City Council decided against placing a parcel tax for additional Police Dept. funding on the November ballot. One wonders if the council would have made the same decision if there weren’t three open seats up for election, including the mayor’s seat. This year it’s a different story. The City (council) is spending more than $200,000 to get voters to approve the deceptive sales tax increase ballot Measure C.
The Antioch City Council is not spending $200,000 to get voters to approve Measure C, they are spending $200,000 to give Antioch residents a choice of how many police officers they would like to fund. The $200,000 Ms. Zivica is referring to is the cost of putting it on the ballot.
In fact, the Antioch City Council is spending a whopping $0 to get voters to say “yes”. From what we understand, the campaign of folks who call themselves Citizens for a Safe Antioch in Support of Measure C are the ones spending money and running a campaign—not the City of Antioch or the City Council.
Although it’s being heavily promoted by the council and the police chief as the solution to an understaffed police department, scrutiny of the measure reveals that any funds received from increasing the tax on all our purchases for the next 7 years, will go into the city’s General Fund and can be used for any legal governmental purpose. The measure was purposely written in this manner to enable an easier passage, requiring only 50% plus one yes votes to be approved. A specific tax measure requiring all additional sales tax revenues be directed to police services and public safety would require 2/3 voter approval which apparently the council doesn’t think would pass.
While there is nothing wrong with this paragraph in terms of facts, we ask you to consider that if you are trying to pass a tax to hire more police to solve a crime problem, would you rather try and pass a tax that requires 50% + 1 or would you go after a tax that requires a threshold of 66.6%? The answer is pretty easy.
Measure C is similar to Measure P, Antioch’s 2010 sales tax measure which, council should note, failed. Failure was attributed to opponents being worried about the impact on local businesses and wary of the fact that the money was not guaranteed to go to the police department:
The difference in Measure C to Measure P is that this time around, the Antioch Chamber of Commerce is supporting the tax which means they believe the tax will not hurt local business. The Chamber of Commerce has gone on record that to state that to help business in Antioch, the crime problem needs to be solved. More importantly, the Antioch Chamber participated in the discussion about Measure C to ensure business in Antioch would not be hurt by the tax and negotiated their own terms into the measure which the Council agreed to.
A few facts for you to consider before you vote:
Prop 30 (Governor Jerry Brown) passed in November, 2012, raising the sales tax from 7.25% to 7.5% and increasing upper income brackets, increases which applied retroactively to all income earned or received since the first of January, 2012. Another voter approved state law which also passed amended specific pension formulas for public employees (2.7% at age 55 for police officers and 2% at age 62 for other employee categories, effective January 1, 2013.
On December 27, 2012, in order to avoid the new law which would freeze the benefit level for lateral (experienced) officers, the newly sworn in Mayor and council members, urged on by the Police Chief, adopted an “urgency ordinance” amending recent negotiations which extended the existing contract with police until 2016 and specified that police hired after September 1 would have to wait until age 55 to collect the 3% retirement benefit, saving the city up to $2.5 million.
Antioch PD has hired numerous people based off this ordinance passing. This was done in order to become competitive as a city which is something Concord and Richmond have recently done to attract officers. For the record, Brentwood is contemplating doing the same thing when it begins hiring 12-additional officers. In fact, Brentwood may be offering up to $30,000 signing bonus.
The Antioch Police Department is in no position to begin hiring 20+ rookies which would add cost to the Department through training, probation, and other costs that the City does not have. It’s better to build a strong team of veterans before bringing in rookies to lean from expert officers.
The council ignored a recent comparison showing that Antioch pension benefit levels matched or exceeded 10 of 15 nearby cities and restored the 3% retirement benefit at age 50 for newly hired lateral officers, stating the move was necessary to attract more experienced officers.
This policy applies to legacy [email protected] employees. New hires fall under the reform created by the Governor. Again, this is about being competitive with other local departments who are also having hiring issues as well.
Being that the police department continues to be understaffed, it’s clear to me that, in order to assure the public’s safety, we need to adopt more proactive policing policies like those under Chief James Hyde, rather than continue the reactive policing policies practiced now, practices similar to former Chief Dave Lewis.
This is misleading as when James Hyde was Chief, staffing levels were much higher and economic times were good. It should be noted, even with reduced staff, Antioch PD is doing everything Chief Hyde did for the City. In fact, the police department is actually now doing more with less as additional programs that benefit the community have been created and maintained. For example, here are three programs:
- Neighborhood Watch Programs have expanded into many new neighborhoods
- Decoy Police Car Programs
- Looking Out For You which is the training of mailman and garbage workers
Ultimately, programs are a nice thing to have but it’s a moot point as no program can replaces boots on the ground.
NOTE: Property tax values are moving upward again. In July, County Assessor Gus Kramer told the Board of Supervisors “The increase to the local tax base for 2013-14 is over $4.87 billion. This represents a 3.45% increase in assessed value and brings the total local assessment roll to over $146 billion, just 6.92% away from the county’s record assessed value, which was set in 2008. Cities with the largest increases in assessed value are: Antioch, (7.38%), Brentwood, Clayton, Oakley and Walnut Creek.
Ms. Zivica is looking at a short-term window of time when Antioch as well as East Contra Costa County is typically the last ones to rebound—so of course this year we saw the increase whereas last year it was West County who had the growth.
For example, in 2012-2013, Antioch assessed value came in at -1.01%. Over a two year period, that number suddenly shrinks to 2.68% growth. Going back to 2011-2012, Antioch had a -7.14% change. So what does this mean? Over a 3-year period, you are still in the red which doesn’t exactly mean Antioch is out of the woods in terms of the assessment rolls as she would like you to believe. It just means she cherry picked a number to make her argument look strong than what reality states.
Ultimately, this is a slippery slope argument that can get into the weeds pretty quickly as one can make the assumption she is stating as home values go up, crime will go down.
While we assume at some point, revenue will go up which will be able to fully fund the police department, that timeline is undefined and we doubt under current staffing, Antioch PD will ever catch up to reduce crime without immediate new revenue. The question then becomes how do you fix crime in the meantime while you wait for the economy to recover?
The revenue from Measure C is one solution and its only temporary which is why the Council and Chamber of Commerce inserted a 7-year sunset clause to ensure taxpayers are not forever on the hook. Measure C simply solves the problem in the short-term as the economy recovers.
While we can appreciate Ms. Zivica apparent “review” of Measure C, she should consider ensuring the debate remains honest instead of misleading and manipulating facts by inserting her own political beliefs.
As for the Antioch Herald, some fact checking is recommended to ensure readers can make an educated opinion of the Measure that best fits what they believe is the best choice for the city.
By Michael Burkholder