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.