Payton Perspective – Kudos to the Antioch Council, plus thoughts on new City Manager and economic developmentSaturday, November 16th, 2013
First, I want to congratulate the council on their vote to move forward on approving Kelly’s new owner, last Tuesday night. While I don’t like gambling of any kind, the fact that the city allows for six, six-table card rooms in town, and there was already one at that location, I didn’t have a real problem with the approval of Kelly’s to reopen as a restaurant, bar and card room.
If it had been a large card room, like the 100-table Kenny Rogers Card Room, that Kelly’s previous owner Al Cianfichi (pronounced shawnfeeky) proposed when I was on the City Council, or the Indian casino proposed for the Hillcrest and freeway area, where the eBART station and development are currently under construction, I would have fought it, like I fought those, too.
But, the main thing the Council’s vote did was send a strong message to both the business community, that they’re willing to work with those trying to improve business in town, like Kelly’s new owner Tony Keslinke (pronounced kesleenky) has done with both the ABC Building on A Street and the Friendship Manor on Cavallo Road, and to staff, that the Council’s in charge in Antioch and that they give direction to staff and staff is to merely give their input and advice to the Council.
I especially want to applaud both Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha for her aggressive move and Mayor Wade Harper for his strong, supportive comments, to get to a vote on the matter, that night, instead of delaying it as it appeared city staff preferred to do, and return at a future council meeting for a vote, or worse, delay the reopening of Kelly’s for as much as three more years, until after the state granted Keslinke the needed license, which would have in effect killed his plans. I also applaud Councilman Gary Agopian’s very clear thinking that ensured the council didn’t act rashly on the motion to approve, without including any additional conditions.
We need more aggressive, common-sense actions by this Council like that, specifically in the area of economic development, if we’re ever going to grow our local economy, attract businesses to Antioch which will hire our residents, and put more money in the City’s coffers without having to raise taxes, to pay for needed services and turn things around in town. First, Antioch must reduce crime, second it needs to be business-friendly. With the passage of Measure C, the former can start to be accomplished, and the Council demonstrated the latter, last Tuesday night.
New City Manager Hiring & Process
Second, and on a related matter, as the Council decides on the hiring of a new city manager, I believe they need to hire someone from outside City Hall, with an entrepreneurial, pro-business mindset, who is a possibility thinker, who will change the attitude toward business, especially on the Second Floor in Planning and Community Development, that has persisted for far too long of “no, you can’t do that in Antioch” to “yes, you can do that and we’ll figure out a way to help you do it.” That attitude needs to permeate throughout the city with a message that Antioch is “open for business.”
One of the first things the new city manager needs to do is put all the employees back to work five days a week and make sure City Hall and other facilities are open on Friday. Even though the staff (except the police) took a 10% pay cut, and were then given 10% less time to work, by eliminating Fridays and adding one more hour to each of the other four work days, it effectively reduced the public’s and businesses’ access to our city by 20%. That needs to be corrected, immediately.
It would be great if the Council would allow some of the community leaders the opportunity to meet the finalist(s) for the job of City Manager, before they vote to hire. It is my understanding that the Council’s final vote to hire must be done at a public Council meeting. It would be good for the public to have the finalist’s resume available on the City’s website so the public can provided informed input before the vote.
That’s how we did it in 1998 when the Council I was part of hired Mike Ramsey as City Manager. The final questions to him from the Council were out in the open, not behind closed doors and members of the public had the opportunity to give their input to the Council before we voted. However, in that case, Ramsey had been the Assistant City Manager/Economic Development Director for the two years prior, so people in town already had a good opportunity to get to know him. So, allowing the public some time to find out about the finalist for the job would be a positive thing for the Council to do before they vote, for them, the public and the applicant.
More on Economic Development
A simple, low-cost thing the city could do is provide printed business cards for each of the members of the Planning and Economic Development Commissions. That way when they’re out in our community, and whatever other meetings in the Bay Area, California or elsewhere they might attend, they can help promote our city and make connections benefiting our city. In fact, every member of every commission should have business cards they can use with both the city’s phone number and their own phone numbers, as well as their city email address on them, so We The People can contact our elected and appointed officials, as well.
One last thing, for now. The Mayor needs to bring back the issue he championed, last year, when he was Mayor Pro Tem, and have the city spend a little money, one time, for permanent marketing of downtown and change the names of L Street to Marina Way, plus A and 2nd Streets to Rivertown Drive, before all the new freeway signs are made and it will cost much more to do later. That way, when people drive through Antioch on Highway 4 in either direction, they will see signs that say “Rivertown Drive” and “Marina Way” and know there’s a river, a waterfront, a marina and another part of town, down there, that they should check out. Unfortunately, the last time the council voted on this, Harper was not in attendance at the meeting (yet, they voted, anyway), and three of those who voted were up for election, later that year and they were afraid to spend the one-time money on that instead of police, and it devolved into a debate over the condition of L Street and the adjacent neighborhood, instead of about what the new name will do to promote the downtown. I believe it will be a positive catalyst for improving the areas north of the freeway. It’s an idea from the 1996 Economic Development Plan that’s long past time to be implemented. Let’s get ‘er done.