The Blue Line Needs to Help Antioch With the Bottom Line
The Antioch police cost too much. There, I said it. (Actually I wrote it). But, someone needed to and for a long time. We must face facts.
The reality is, after the hiring of five officers through additional revenue in the city’s budget and another five officers with the $1.5 million federal grant for three years, and the loss of one more police officer, according to Chief Allan Cantando, Antioch will still be down 25 officers.
The largest budget item in the city’s General Fund is police.
While I advocated for placing a police tax on the November ballot – a 4 to 6 year parcel tax of no more than $100 per year, dedicated to only paying to hire more police – and complaining that the council blew their opportunity to make that happen, but let pettiness and politics get in the way – I’m not so sure one would have passed anyway.
At least not after I learned that the new police contract included 13% in pay raises over the next three years. Yes, the police agreed to pay 9% of the 39% toward their retirement which I applaud. But 6% of that was back-filled immediately with a pay raise, this year.
That may have been the best this current council could have achieved, in order to buy out the cops’ previous six-year, overly generous contract approved by a previous city council – led by a Mayor who lost in 2008 and is running and wants to be Mayor of our city, again (go figure), and which included two of the current council members, one of whom isn’t running again.
Because had the council not bought out that previous contract, the city would have been faced with two, multimillion dollar balloon payments at the end of this year, due to the two pay raises in the previous contract that the police agreed to postpone.
One problem with that is the cops called that postponement a “sacrifice.”
Since before the 1/2 cent sales tax measure was on the ballot in 2010, I’ve been telling my friends on the police force that they have to join with the rest of us – who have lost jobs, lost our homes, etc. – and make a sacrifice, first.
Do they deserve to be paid well? Yes. Do they earn it? No doubt. Can we afford it? No way. Not when we have 25 fewer officers than we need.
So rather than just complain, I offer a three-part solution:
1. The Antioch police must give up the pay raises in their new contract and make a real financial sacrifice.
2. The Council must find a revenue stream to pay for the 25 needed police officers, the additional Community Service Officers and more Code Enforcement Officers – whether it be a dedicated, temporary parcel tax or another approach – and if it requires a vote of the people, we pass it.
3. Once our city is safer, we must grow our local economy by attracting business – retail and employers – which will create more revenue for the city to pay for more cops without the tax.
We’re all in this together. Our Antioch police offiers need those additional 25 officers, as do we. But we need their help to pay for them and now.