Watchdog – Of council elections, police staffing and downtown development

Watchdog-LogoBy Barbara Zivica

Next year residents will have a chance to vote whether to retain Wade Harper as Mayor or select another candidate. One candidate, Gil Murillo, has already recently posted his desire for the mayor’s seat and stated how he stands on a number of issues (education, crime, employment, housing, blight and graffiti). There’s also word that Dr. Sean Wright, CEO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce, may also be interested in running. Two council seats will also be open, those currently held by Monica Wilson and Mary Rocha. Remember, Ms. Wilson chose Lamar Thorpe as one of her standby council members.

Folks, this will be a very important election as it’s clear many residents are fed up and want change, change that didn’t come despite voters having twice approved tax measures. Where did the money go?

According to the just issued 2015 City Report, City Manager Steve Duran states that Council allotted 100% of revenues from Measure C to the Police Dept. and Code Enforcement. Prior to Measure C, the number of sworn Police Officers was 82. He doesn’t mention that 102 positions were authorized at that time, merely stating “in the current two year budget, the Council has funded 102 sworn officers.”

Remember when Mayor Harper ran for office, clearly stating that if Measure C passed in 2013, the city would hire 22 more cops? With 102 positions already authorized and 22 more promised, the Police Dept would have a total of 124 sworn police officers. However, according to the City Manager’s new report “prior to Measure C, the number of sworn Police Officers was 82. We have been aggressively hiring Police Officers – 21 since Nov. 2013, with 5 more in the Academy – but we currently still sit at 86 sworn.” As for Measure O, which passed in 2014, City Manager Duran states those funds are going toward a structural budget deficit.

Due to an inadequately staffed Police Dept, crime is rampant and Antioch’s acquired a bad reputation. In the past few years many small businesses in Antioch have closed, shopping malls are experiencing many vacancies, and blight and graffiti have increased citywide.

It’s true, however, that a lot of housing developments, on hold during the recession, are coming to fruition. That’s good for the economy but Council needs to listen to what residents want and they’re turning a deaf ear. For example, Council, behind closed doors approved a deal with City Ventures, a San Francisco company, to buy and develop numerous downtown parcels including the old Antioch Lumber Company site owned by the City.

City Ventures touts themselves as “sustainable homebuilders” e.g. using rooftop solar. Interesting to note that on August 3rd, PG&E and the state’s other big utility company proposed changing the state’s financial incentives for rooftop solar panels. They proposed adding monthly charges that would apply to solar homeowners alone, saying that would ensure all customers pay to maintain the electric grid.

Admittedly the city hasn’t yet officially signed the agreement with City Ventures, having a few details to decide before Council announces what appears to be a done deal in public session. The vote on the back door deal was 4-1, with Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock being the lone hold out.

Regrettably, Council rejected a proposal from Celebrate Antioch Foundation to turn the Lumber Company site into a park and event center.

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3 Comments to “Watchdog – Of council elections, police staffing and downtown development”

  1. Rich says:

    Ms Zivica, in your comments you mention the Beede parcel; and “Council rejected a proposal from Celebrate Antioch Foundation to turn the Lumber Company site into a park and event center”. By any chance did you notice the APN’s associated with that closed session meeting? I thought there was only 9 parcels in that original RFP, am I incorrect? The Downtown Specific Plan even has the Ferry Terminal in the plans which appears to never come to fruition based on the Financial Feasibility of Contra Costa Ferry Service, 2015-2024
    ( http://www.ccta.net/_resources/detail/45/1 ) The closed session agenda information also listed 11 APN’s, one of which is not even the city’s. My guess is it’s a typo. What I did find interesting was that 7 or 8 of the 11 were listed as “parking lot”. The remainder “undeveloped”. This city is desperate for parking, especially with the building of residences on the Beede lot and Waldie Plaza being taken over for the events 🙁 I guess I have a few questions.

  2. Julio says:

    With retirements happing faster than hiring of officers we can’t possibly make any headway. More to come too. Chief Cantando has less than a year I think.

  3. Renee says:

    Ms. Zivica,
    Thank you, for your honest article. The City staffing of police officers for the last 3 years is horrific. I voted for measure C believing we would get officers on the streets. I actually found it funny when I read the city report. The city manager says that we have 86 sworn officers. I turned the page to the Police department section and it’s update on where Measure C’s money is going and it says that since 2013 we’ve hired 21 new officers and have 5 in the Academy. That sounds as if our police department is doing great! In fact the last 3 years I have been reading basically the same paragraph. It always gives the same count. What it should say is that we have 86 sworn officers and we need to fill 16 full time and should keep adding to the academy so that when officers leave the city will still be fully staffed.
    To compare the comeback of The City of Antioch to a Carlos Santana song is a mistake. The best way to grow The City of Antioch is to push hard and fully staff and keep the APD fully staffed at all times.
    People do not care about anything more than their families safety.
    If the Mayor, City Manager & Council really wanted Antioch to grow than making Antioch the Safest City would be the motto, not a Carlos Santana song!

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