Antioch Council discusses tax measure to fund more police
By James Ott
With Antioch’s crime rates out of control, city leaders are focused on creating a ballot measure to raise money for more Antioch police officers, however they still face several key issues at this stage in the process.
At the Tuesday, March 12 council meeting it was obvious from discussion by city council members, city staff and the public that there is still much to work to do before any ballot measure can be put up for vote including: what type of tax the measure will enact to raise the money, what kind of prohibitions will be placed on how it’s spent and when the tax money will stop being collected.
On top of this and other issues the council has to also deal with the fact that they can not legally advertise or support the tax measure to the public.
City Manager Jim Jakel likened putting forth the tax measure to a two lap marathon. The first lap involves the city in which they use public polls to determine what type of measure voters are likely to pass and then craft the measure and put it to a future vote.
The second lap is purely up to the voters said Jakel and the city must be hands off.
“The ‘second lap’… is a campaign that’s out in the community with the revenue measure that will pass or not based on the will of the people,” said Jakel. “And that’s something that’s a political campaign that the city cannot be a part of.”
For now, though the city is trying to zero in on what they can control.
They have in particular looked at three possible taxes for the measure: a sales tax – possibly similar to the half-cent sales tax measures recently passed by Concord and Pittsburg, a property tax on Antioch residents and a business tax that would tax landlords in Antioch for their rental properties.
The business tax on rentals seemed to be especially popular with the public at the city council’s recent crime prevention community forum, but council has said they want more info on the sales tax measure that was recently passed by Concord and Pittsburg to see if it would be valid for Antioch as well.
City council is being cautious this time around as they previously tried to pass their own half-cent sales tax, Measure P and voters shot it down with a 52 percent vote against it.
Because of Measure P there has been some argument over whether a new measure should earmark the money just for police and code enforcement or if it should be aloud to be used on other things such as bringing other Antioch employee’s back to a full 40-hour work week.
Some residents like Hanz Ho said that he and his wife agree that Measure P failed because it was unclear what the money could or would be used for and so if it is to pass it should only be for police uses.
“Measure P failed because there was no guarantee, no safeguard on how that money was to be spent,” said Ho.
Others like Matt Mason a representative for Employee’s Union Local One disagree and have argued that Antioch has many issues and that any money raised should be spent to restore the services of all types of public employee’s, not just police.
“It’s extremely important that whatever tax measure is put forth it be for general use and not just for certain sections of services,” said Mason. “So that all services can be restored because all community services are necessary and important.”
Council Member Gary Agopian said that the ballot measure will have to be simple and clear and should only focus on hiring police and code enforcement.
“There’s something to keep in mind if we’re thinking about additions,” said Agopian. “The priority for us clearly has to be … to secure the city to create a safe city for everyone. If we get sidetracked by anything else we run the risk of causing opposition and losing focus.”
Agopian and other city council members say they are committed to increasing Antioch’s Police force but critically they need the public’s support and tax revenue to do so.
Time will tell if they gain the public’s support for a tax measure. For now the council and city staff continue to research the matter and say they are committed to creating a citizen’s oversight committee to oversee the process and help insure it’s success.