Watchdog: City Manager has wrong priorities

Watchdog Logo 300x95 Watchdog: City Manager has wrong priorities

Does the City of Antioch have its priorities backwards? In the City Manager’s June 26, 2012 report to Council, where he laments the loss in property tax revenues which affected the city’s ability to maintain the level of services provided to the public, he lists 21 future challenges that will enrich the city and make Antioch “an even more enjoyable place to live, work and play“. First on his list is “continue to develop Executive Management Team.” Re-establish code enforcement function at some level is number 11 and last on his list is “support community efforts to pursue enhanced funding for law enforcement” which is the only reference to the police department on his list.

We’d all like to see the Police Department at optimum staffing (more police, less crime) but he better be thinking of neighborhood watch – not another sales tax measure or parcel tax increase which the Mayor and council seem to be lobbying the public for.

If so, I have news for them. We’re broke. We’ve been hit with higher sewer, water, power, food prices, new special assessments, e.g., two Antioch Unified School District bond measures and we live in a state that has the highest sales tax, personal income tax and the second highest gas tax in the nation. Seems to me, that lately government at all levels (federal, state and local) is becoming accustomed to asking voters to pay more whenever their funds run short as a result of fiscal mismanagement.

Folks, it wasn’t just declining property tax revenues which got us in this mess. It was a serious of egregious decisions on the part of the City Manager and City Councils.

The first bad decision to lay off 20 non-sworn Community Service Officers who performed a variety of duties which allowed sworn police officers more time on the street.

The second was to let the number of sworn police officers fall to a new low, resulting through the end of 2012 with violent crime up 30.6% from 2011, total crime up 24%, burglaries and aggravated assaults up and arrests down 13.6%.

The final straw occurred in December, after the swearing in of Mayor Harper and the new city council members. That’s when, upon the urging of Police Chief Allan Cantando and City Manager Jim Jakel, council amended Article IX – of the former agreement with Antioch Police Officers Association (APOA) which was to terminate on August 31, 2016. That agreement, which required they pay a gradual increased portion of their retirement benefits, gave officers a 6% salary increase effective the first pay period after March 1, 2012, a 3% increase in March 2013 , a 4% hike in September 2013, two additional days off a year and modified the 3% at age 50 to 3% at 55 (3-year average) for new hires.

Why then, knowing the city had $59 million of debt for under funded retirement benefits, did they restore the more lucrative 3% at 50 pension formula for veteran police officer hires. They had to know that it was not necessary to do so in order to compete for lateral recruits because the following cities had adopted a 3% at 55 retirement formula: Tracy (Wade Harper’s former employer), Benicia, Brentwood, Concord, Fairfield, Hercules, Martinez, Pittsburg, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek.

The good news is that property tax values are on the rise and, as of March 11, 2013, the police department is projected to be at 90 filled positions, with 12 vacancies, two CSO’s have been hired and another is starting in March, four trainee candidates are starting at the CCCSO academy on April lst and there are numerous trainee, lateral and academy graduate candidates in various stages of the hiring process.

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4 Comments to “Watchdog: City Manager has wrong priorities”

  1. karl says:

    heck barbara,
    while this is a great article, a main part is missing.
    the council/ city manager changed their only 4 month old decision (“to save the city millions”) going from 3/50 to 3/55..back to 3/50. cost to the citizens of antioch ? $3 million why? because, 21 none safety city employees were included. that does not even count in benefits. somebody called it a “Christmas gift” i like that, so i call it also a Christmas gift to the 21 city employees.
    we could have used the $3 million to hire 50 cso’s and/ or code enforcement, $60,000 a pop.
    let’s see what the council/ city does with the income $1.6 million we get back from the state.

  2. Bill Cook says:

    When you use the term “Watchdog” the average reader would expect that you would get the story right! I am certain my yellow lab does more research before seeking out and investigating than you have done with this story, yet I would hardly call him a watchdog.

    Unfortunately for your readers Ms. Zivica, I see that you have the belief to “never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.
    It is unfortunate that my comments are going to be almost as long as your misleading story, but thank god you are not a paid city employee making these mistakes on the taxpayer dollar.

    The City laid off Community Service Officers (CSO’s) because of a declining general fund. CSO’s cannot respond to the most critical calls for service that require a police officers that are so crucial to the City of Antioch. This is why people much more familiar with government operations than you made these difficult cuts to staff. These cuts were made due to less money from the federal government and less money from the State of California to our city. At least you got the lower property values right which also results in less money for parcel tax from the county.

    With that said, where did you get the information that the city was receiving $1,589,550 from the State of California? Had you checked with city staff, you would have learned the City of Antioch was in no fiscal position to pay those funds at the time the State of California was taking our money. The city had a third party (California Cities) pay that amount the State of California was taking from us. When we get the refund, that amount will be sent to repay the money lent to us. It is so unfortunate that you wrote about this and at no time verified what you were writing about. Hopefully your readers will read this post and understand there is no $1,589,550 coming back to our city. I hope as a journalist (and I use the term loosely) you will correct this misinformation to your readers.

    Again…not letting the facts get in the way of your article, the City of Antioch did not negate the agreement made to the APOA, but rather modified only one part of the agreement that made the City of Antioch competitive in hiring much needed Police Officers. I find it so obvious in your attempt to discredit city staff about the cities that have a 3@55 retirement system in place for lateral employees, but you failed to note in your article that there are 4 other cities in the county that have 3@50 for lateral police officers coming for employment. Two of those cities are Concord and Richmond, which Antioch does compete for qualified officers in such a large city such as ours.

    You also insinuate in your article that Chief Cantando and the City Council modified the new pension reform. To educate the reader of your poorly written piece, new hires to the Public Employee Retirement System as of 1/1/13 can only receive 2.7 at 57 formula. I find it odd how you could not have found that relevant to your story as you continue to criticize the City of Antioch’s effort to hire Police Officers.

    Ms. Zivica, in the future please do a better job to gather all facts before writing an article. I’m sure your readers would appreciate getting accurate facts rather than your opinion.

  3. Christopher Grisham says:

    Great article Barbara,

    I, too, have been wondering why Antioch is so broke and in dire need of money to fund services that should not have been cut. I understand that Antioch was in “survival” mode, but I’m sure the decisions of our local government had something to do with the tremendous depletion of funds. Simply, they can’t just point the finger and reduced propety tax. Now the citizens are suffering and actually living in survival mode because of all the crime in this city.

    Everyone wants a hand out these days, from the section 8 freeloaders to our local government. We need more productive citizens and officials in this town.

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