Watchdog – More on Antioch’s Measure C and City finances
A newspaper arrived at my home this week with a Yes on Measure C sticker on the front page as did two mailers urging me to vote Yes on the half cent sales tax increase on the November 5th ballot. One mailer was sent by the Antioch Police Officers Association (APOA) and one by Citizens for a Safe Antioch who also paid for the newspaper sticker.
The mailer sent by APOA states that passage of Measure C will result in the hiring of 22 additional police officer positions in Antioch and double code enforcement efforts to inspect and clean up 1,000 blighted properties in Antioch neighborhoods. What audacity! Read Measure C carefully. The City Attorney’s impartial analysis states “The revenue would be deposited into the city’s general fund. It could be used for any legal municipal purpose including: police and emergency response; code enforcement; local economic development and job creation; street repair; and any other city program and service.”
The ambiguity of how the revenues will be spent should prompt you to vote NO on Measure C. The reason the city didn’t put a dedicated police tax measure on the ballot is because it would require 2/3 voter approval to pass rather than a 50% approval plus one vote needed to pass Measure C, a general tax measure, similar one of which was shot down by voters in 2010.
What are the facts? Is Antioch a little short of revenue at the current time? Is the city predicting a problem in the future? Is so, what measures can the city take rather than continually asking voters to absorb another tax increase. Here’s updated city budget facts and some ways in which Council can increase revenues:
In a September 17, 2013 report to the City Manager and Council, City Finance Director Dawn Merchant recommended approval of amendments to the 2014 fiscal year budget, stating that “Fiscal Year 2013 is actually closing with approximately $1.1M higher fund balance than projected, representing approximately $550,000 more in revenues and $556,000 less in expenditures than anticipated.”
She goes on to state that “earlier projections for fiscal 2015 indicated a projected ending fund balance of $511,184 and current projections now are at $2,021,005. While this is just over $1.5M more, this ending fund balance is still alarmingly low and deficit spending is projected to increase to $4.78M.”
Let’s look at some ways the city can maximize existing powers and recover costs to fight crime:
Drug Activity: The CA Drug Abatement Act allows cities, through their city attorney to remove occupants from any building or place where illegal drug activity takes place. Violations are punishable by fines up to $10,00 and 6 months in jail. Additionally, a fine up to $25,000 may be imposed against each defendant, half of which is payable to the prosecuting city., which is also entitled to recover all its attorneys’ fees and investigation costs, including from the property itself with a lien.
Prostitution and Sexual Crimes: The Red Light Abatement Act allows any city, though its city attorney to vacate and board up for one year any building or place used for these crimes. The same penalties and cost recovery rules apply as with the Drug Abatement Act. Cities may use either act without passing an ordinance.
Gang Activity: The city can file a lawsuit against gang members though its city attorney under the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. Every building or place in which gang members commit certain offenses e.g. robbery, murder, unlawful drug sales, rep, intimidation, theft or burglary, any offense involving dangerous or deadly weapons can be declared a public nuisance. A fine may be imposed against individual gang members and the property owner. Attorney fees are recoverable if the city has a properly worded ordinance. Gang injunction programs developed in cooperation with the local district attorney can be a very effective tool in combating gang crime.
Numerous other ordinances allowing the city to impose administrative fines for various violations of the municipal code can be enacted. If the aforementioned violations and other municipal code violations were vigorously enforced and the applicable fines and cost recovery rules followed, the city would be a safer place to live and its coffers benefit from an increase in revenue.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Opinions expressed by columnists and/or letter writers do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Antioch Herald, it’s owner, editorial staff or management.