Watchdog: As the new year approaches, it’s time to review decisions made by our City Council members since 2012
MARCH 2012: Council approved a Letter of Understanding with the Antioch Police Officers Association in which APOA agreed to contribute more to their PERS retirement in return for a 6% pay increase on the first pay period after March 1, 2012, a 3% raise after March 1, 2013, another 4% increase after September 1, 2013, a raise after September 2014 of between a minimum of 2% and maximum of 4.25% and a raise on September 1, 2015 between a minimum of 2% and a maximum of 5%. The deal also included acceptance of a two tiered system in which new hires could retire at age 55 with 3% of the average of their top 3 years of annual pay multiplied by years of service vs. the current 3% of their highest pay at age 50 multiplied by years of service. Council also granted them 2 extra days vacation.
NOVEMBER 2012: Voters elect Mayor Wade Harper, Council member Monica Wilson and re-elect Mary Rocha. Council then votes 3-1 (Agopian dissenting) to use an application process to select someone to fill Harper’s vacant council seat, ignoring a precedent to appoint the person who received the third highest vote (Jim Davis). Council selects Tony Tiscareno.
DECEMBER 2012: An accelerated swearing in ceremony is held in order to allow the Mayor and newly seated council members to amend the previously signed contract with APOA which changed the 3% at 50 pension calculation to a 3% at 55 formula. The so-called Urgency Ordinance of Public Peace, Health or Safety is quickly passed and adopted in order to avoid adhering to a new voter approved law which would take effect January 1, 2013 reducing the pension formula for new police hires from 2% at 50 to 2.7% at age 55 and freezing benefit formulas for lateral hires.
(All these actions took place during a time in which the City Manager was deploring the decline in property tax values and the city had millions of debt for under funded retirement benefits which continues to increase as more employees retire.)
JANUARY 2013: Council asks staff to explore ways to increase revenues via a sales tax, a parcel tax or business license tax. Because dedicated ballot measures require 2/3 voter approval to pass, council decides to go with a non specific sales tax measure which would need only 50% approval plus 1 vote to pass.
Council goes on an aggressive campaign to promote the ballot measure, Mayor Wade Harper acting as the principal officer of Citizens for a Safe Antioch. Numerous flyers are sent to voters stating that passage of Measure C, a temporary emergency ½ cent sales tax on non food items, would raise $5 million to hire 22 new police officers to decrease Antioch‘s homicide and home burglary rates, proactively deal with gangs and drug dealers and to address speeding and noise issues in our neighborhoods.
NOTE: The ACTUAL ballot measure states that the revenue would be deposited in the City‘s general fund. It could be used “to fund all essential city services including increased police staffing to reduce crime and gang activities and improve 911 emergency response time; restored code enforcement to clean up blighted properties; and local economic development and job creation.”
(Measure C passed with 68.09% approval. However, only 11,175 of Antioch’s 43,792 registered voters cast a vote.)
DECEMBER 2013: After several closed meetings and no input from the Economic Development Committee as done in the past, Council hires Steve Duran, the current City Manger in Hercules to replace retiring City Manager Jim Jakel. Fortunately, Duran has an impressive resume which includes time in the private sector in real estate and business management so this is one council decision I approve.)
DECEMBER 10th: Council passes a resolution establishing procedures for the sales tax citizens’ oversight committee: Committee to be composed of 7 residents serving staggered terms, one of which shall have a financial, accounting or auditing background. ( The part of the resolution I object to is that members of the committee are not prohibited from serving on other City Boards, Commissions or Committees.) Mayor Harper wanted to appoint all the committee members himself but fortunately, Councilman Agopian was able to persuade him to include a councilperson in the interview process.
Wonder what’s next. Will City Government still be closed on Fridays and the Animal Shelter remain a part time operation?