By Allen Payton, Publisher
Last week, the people of Antioch voted the complete opposite of the intent and desire of the Antioch City Council by overwhelmingly passing one measure and rejecting the other, that the council placed on the June ballot. Measure E passed and Measure G failed, both by about two-to-one margins.
Measure E passes
First, Measure E, which made changes to the city ordinance on card rooms, and now requires an election for a second one, passed by 67.04% to 32.96%, according to the latest figures. Of course it helped that the owner of the California Grand Casino in Pacheco spent over $310,000 (almost all of it out of town) to eliminate additional competition for himself in Antioch.
Yet, only three of the council members actually put some of their money where their mouths were by helping pay for a newspaper ad and a few campaign signs. Councilwoman Monica Wilson abstained on the vote to place the measure on the ballot, after having signed the petition to force the council to either adopt the language or send it to the ballot. So, I didn’t expect her to do anything to help defeat it. But, after talking tough, saying “we will not be bullied” Mayor Wade Harper didn’t do a thing to help defeat it. That reminds me of his tough, but hollow campaign slogan in 2012 of “Zero Tolerance for Crime.” While three of the council members spent a total of $415 of their own money, that was it. Neither they nor the mayor raised money from any of their supporters, or even wrote a letter to the editor to try to help defeat it.
I urged the mayor and council members to step up and lead the charge. But, they left it up to the family members who own Kelly’s – which was the target of the measure – to form the committee and financially back the No on E campaign. The family spent about $9,000 of their own money (most of it in Antioch) to try to defeat the measure, in spite of the fact they’ve pretty much been out of business for years.
Even the local front person for the Yes on E campaign, Lamar Thorpe, didn’t contribute even $100 or raise any money to help pass his pet measure, based on the campaign finance reports. So, he didn’t put his money where his mouth was, either. Now, I guarantee you he will try to use the issue to help him run for City Council, this fall saying how he helped protect the people of Antioch. All he did was let that Pacheco casino use him to advance their cause of eliminating more competition. Antioch won’t be any safer as a result of the passing of Measure E. We were lied to. Plus, what a hypocritical message for him and his campaign to say “stop the expansion of gambling” by using money from a casino.
Measure G fails, again
The other item on the ballot was Measure G, another attempt by the City Council on a 5-0 vote, to turn the elected position of City Treasurer into an appointed one. Once, again the voters said “no” loud and clear by defeating it, according to the latest figures, by 63.17% to 36.83%. We sent them the same message just four years ago in June, 2012 when we voted to oppose changing both the City Treasurer and City Clerk to appointed positions by 70.85% to 29.15%.
Here, again, the council members did nothing to help pass the measure. They didn’t form a campaign committee, raise any money, pay for any signs, advertising or mailers, or even send one letter to the editor in support of the measure. Two of them were too busy running for higher office and raising money for that, to bother putting any effort into fulfilling their current positions – serving the people of Antioch.
It’s time that the current city council members and treasurer, Donna Conley, as well as all future council candidates and city treasurers got the message that we the people want a separate, independent set of eyes on the city’s books. That’s needed now, more than ever with the way Measures C and O monies are being collected and spent.
It’s also time the City Council gave back the necessary responsibilities and authority to the treasurer’s position to be the check and balance we want and need, and will hold the city staff and council accountable.
In fact, one thing the council should and can do immediately is create a seat on the Measure C Citizens Oversight Committee for the city treasurer, to help be a watchdog over the city’s finances.
But, even if the council doesn’t return any power to our elected city treasurer, the person who holds that position can still use it as a bully pulpit to keep us informed with clear explanations of how our money is being spent and/or wasted.
According to County Registrar of Voters, Joe Canciamilla, his department “provided the City of Antioch with a cost estimate range for these two measures of between $2.00 – 2.50 per registered voter in the City of Antioch. We won’t have final billing information to them with the exact amount until August. With some 48,677 registered voters as of the 15 day close of registration this would put the cost at between $97,374 and $121,692.”
So, basically, the results of the June election are as follows: First, the voters will now get to vote on approving a second card room in Antioch; second, the city treasurer will continue to be an elected position; and third, they sent a message to the mayor and council, clearly repudiating their lack of action which wasted as much as $120,000 of taxpayer money by placing both measures on the ballot, then doing little to nothing to pass or defeat them. If they weren’t going to make a serious effort to defeat Measure E, they could have just adopted the ordinance, instead. While it only cost a bit more to have Measure G on the ballot, it’s still our money that was wasted, since no campaign effort was mounted to pass it.
Note to current and future council members: if you’re going to spend taxpayer dollars to place a measure on the ballot, you need to be willing to mount a serious campaign to pass or defeat it. It’s one thing to talk tough. It’s another to actually take action.