By Allen Payton
Antioch City Manager Steve Duran and Mayor Wade Harper shared some surprising news at the Antioch Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City luncheon, Friday, May 29, 2015.
The City has come into some unexpected money and will not be running a deficit, starting July 1st, this year, but a small surplus, instead. They also project a surplus for the 2016-17 fiscal year, as well.
That was just part of the positive message shared by them and Police Chief Allan Cantando, at the well-attended event, held at the Antioch Community Center at Prewett Park.
Duran was the first to address the audience.
“There are now, over 108,000 people in Antioch,” he stated. “We surpassed Richmond, last year, as the second largest city in the county.”
“We’re starting to get our sea legs, again. Things are getting better, but not great, yet,” Duran shared. “They [the city council] weathered the storm. We have a double-A rating by Standard & Poor’s.”
He then mentioned the budget surplus, then offered his vision for the city.
“We want to position Antioch as the family friendly, business friendly place,” he said. “Everything is coming our way. The business community needs to have their voice heard.”
He encouraged those in the audience to attend the Downtown Specific Plan Update meeting on June 2 and the General Plan Update meeting to be held on June 17.
Chamber CEO, Dr. Sean Wright, in introducing Cantando, shared a story of his daughter and he greeting some prospective home buyers, recently. He shared how that one type of action can make a difference in attracting people to Antioch and changing the perception people have about our city.
“It’s our job to not hide out in our homes and be scared,” he stated.
Cantando then took the podium and offered a slide show of crime statistics. He spoke of the hostage standoff with the carjacking suspect, just two days prior.
“The narrative should be the Antioch Police Department stepped up and took a scary situation and everyone came out safe,” he implored.
“This whole issue about perception of crime in Antioch, they’re not looking at the numbers,” Cantando stated. “People in this community are making a difference. That’s the perception I have.”
He then shared some of the statistics.
“In the first quarter of 2015, compared to 2014, there’s been over a 13% reduction in violent crime, a 6% reduction in property crimes and a 7.7% reduction in Part I crimes, overall,” he shared. “They call us Little Oakland, Little Richmond. The city to our west had nine homicided in one year. We’ve had one.”
“I didn’t create the stats,” Cantando said defending the numbers. “A crime analyst did.”
“Adult arrests are up 30%. How can that be if crime is down?” he asked. “We may arrest more than one person in a crime.”
He went to share about a “56.8% increase in officer-on-view…officers being pro-active” and “Priority 1 response time is dropping.”
Cantando then mentioned the EBRCS communication system the city recently purchased.
“We are the only city in the county who doesn’t have it,” he stated. “We’ll be online with that system by Thanksgiving.”
He then mentioned the addition of license plate readers in all police cars and body cameras.
“We’re going to be able to protect ourselves better in lawsuits,” said Cantando.
He mentioned all the things being done for youth through the Police Activities League, including “starting a Junior Giants program in partnership with Bank of America; free baseball for eight weeks for kids, in conjunction with the Leo Fontana Foundation; bowling, skating, an after school program, and etiquette classes.”
Cantando also spoke about the new Antioch Police Citizens Police Academy starting later this month.
“The reality is the staff cares,” he said. “We’re talking about how we can work smarter and get the job done. We have a wonderful community.”
“The city manager cares,” Cantando shared. “He understands economic development. Mr. Duran has us living within our budget, within our means.”
“The city council cares,” he stated. “They choose to let staff do their jobs. Each are involved in a different way,” which he delineated.
Then Harper spoke last, offering his words of what sounded like a reelection speech.
“I’m always excited aobut providing the State of the City address,” he said. “I always introduce Antioch as ‘the great city of Antioch.’”
He stated that he teaches two law enforcement classes in Antioch schools.
“We have already developed a vision,” he stated.
He spoke of having good communication with the citizens and the police department.
“Officer complaints are down. We authorized the aggressive hiring of police officers to get to 102 and three more CSO’s [Community Service Officers], thanks to the citizens who approved two tax increases,” Harper added.
He then touched on a list of other things the city is doing, including obtaining a grant for more police officers, “dispatch has been handling calls for service for both Antioch and Brentwood,” he said. “Kudos to Public Works for 726 days without an accident.”
“We want to improve our downtown area,” said Harper. “It won’t happen over night.”
“We will be launching something like a Youth Commission,” he shared. “We want to hear from our youth.”
He mentioned the new Antioch Community Foundation, and being able to make “grants for local programs that benefit our youth” through a partnership with NRG, the power company with a plant on Wilbur Avenue on Antioch’s northeast water front.
Harper also mentioned the water park, and that the “improvements begin, this year, with an all-abilities play area.”
He then spoke about business and economic development.
“Antioch, we are a frienly and welcoming city to business and developers,” Harper said. “We will have to remove the red tape and roll out the red carpet. We have to remain a business friendly and welcoming community.”
“We have a new Smart & Final and Hobby Lobby,” he shared. “Let’s figure out how to kee our Uno’s and Schooner’s…retaining our Lowe’s and auto dealerships.”
“We celebrate being Antiochians with our parades, events, celebrations and ceremonies,” Harper said in conclusion. “Lets’ make it the greatest place to live, work, play and worship. God bless the great city of Antioch.”
Wright concluded the event with a comment of his own about job creation.
“We have a half job for every household,” he shared. “That needs to change. Antioch truly can be the best place to live.”