Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Payton Perspective: A net two additional sworn police officers under Measure C is unacceptable

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Antioch Council owes us either 104, 111 or 124 sworn officers, Cost Allocation Plan causes confusion, frustration over use of funds, City staff say 100% is going to what it’s meant for, citizens disagree

Payton Perspective logo 2015By Allen Payton

Since the effort began to pass a half-cent sales tax measure in 2013, Antioch has collected over $11 million of Measure C funds and has a net two additional sworn police officers, to show for it. Sure, we also have some additional Community Service Officers (CSO’s) and a few more Code Enforcement Officers, but the main focus of the measure was to fund additional police.

Chief Allan Cantando reported, at the Council meeting on May 10th, that staffing was back down to 91 sworn officers, after having reached a pinnacle of 94 just a few weeks prior.

At that council meeting and in a subsequent email discussion I’ve had with City Manager Steve Duran and City Finance Director Dawn Merchant, they argue that 100% of Measure C funds are being spent on police and code enforcement.

However, under the city’s Cost Allocation Plan, adopted in 2005, a portion of each department’s budget is transferred out to other departments, such as administration to cover the costs associated with serving that department. The police department is treated the same. So, as the amount of money being received by the PD increases, so does the amount transferred out.

City staff argues that the half-cent sales tax is a general tax and the money goes into the city’s General Fund and can be used for any purpose. They’re correct.

Yet, my argument is that the official ballot language and the ballot arguments in favor of Measure C are what voters read and are upon what they based their decision to support it.

Following is the official ballot statement for Measure C:

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, shall the City of Antioch adopt a one-half cent transactions and use (sales) tax, expiring in seven years, with mandatory annual audits and independent citizens’ oversight and for local Antioch use only?

So, while the money from Measure C goes into the City’s General Fund and can be spent on whatever the council decides, it needs to be spent on that which is in the ballot language of the measure.

Furthermore, in the ballot “Arguments For Measure C,” signed by Mayor Wade Harper, the entire Antioch City Council at that time, and three others, they stated:

A Yes on Measure C will allow us to immediately hire 22 new police officers, decreasing the time it takes to respond to 911 calls. It will also provide funds to reduce the number of gang-related homicides, assaults and robberies.

Our police force has dwindled from 126 officers four years ago to only 89 today. 911 response times have increased and violent crime is up 30%. We feel unsafe in our homes and are in constant fear of becoming victims of crime.

The budget crisis has forced the near-closing of Antioch’s Code Enforcement Department. We need to resume inspections on foreclosed and abandoned properties to force absent property owners to clean up blight and evict tenants dealing drugs.

A Yes on Measure C will give us immediate funds to begin cleaning up Antioch’s blighted properties.

(For the complete arguments for and against, and the City Attorney’s impartial analysis, see http://www.smartvoter.org/2013/11/05/ca/cc/meas/C/).

But, that was written and signed in either July or August, 2013 before filing closed. By the time the measure passed in November the number of sworn officers had decreased to just 82. That is the base figure the council conveniently agreed to use instead of 89. So, instead of 111 sworn officers based on the funds from the measure, they only have to get us 104 to fulfill their commitment. They’re still currently 13 shy of the lower figure.

Police staffing and Measure C funds use

In an email exchange, last week, Duran provided me with the following statements regarding the amount of money collected and spent from Measure C and its uses:

“We had 82 officers on October 1, 2013. I wasn’t here for the Measure C election process; but 100% of the money is 100% of the money and 100% of the money has gone and continues to go to the Police Department and Code Enforcement.  Nobody can do better than that.”

“The City has collected $11,146,933 since the inception of the Measure.  These funds have allowed the Police Department to fund 20 additional sworn officers since November 2013, boost Community Service Officer positions by 4, hire a Police Communications Supervisor and an Administrative Analyst.  I guess they could have funded just 22 more sworn instead, but the Council allowed the Chief to determine that the APD would be more effective with the additional CSOs, the Communication Supervisor and the Analyst – lower cost employees freeing sworn officers for field work.

Measure C has also enabled the City to reinstate an active Code Enforcement division. Funds have been used to hire one additional Code Enforcement Officer, a blight abatement crew consisting of two laborers, a Development Services/Engineering Technician and to fund a full time Code Enforcement Manager.

Regarding the City of Antioch Cost Allocation Plan, which was implemented in 2005.  The APD would be getting the same cost allocation whether or not Measure C ever happened.  You can’t run the APD without these internal services unless APD hired these services separately, which would cost APD much more.

Funding 102 sworn officers and getting to that number are totally separate issues.  Measure C funded the additional sworn officers, CSOs and other APD staff.

All we can do is continue to put 100% of the Measure C money into APD and Code Enforcement, and recruit and hire officers.  We have hired 36 since Measure C passed.  We cannot keep people from retiring or leaving for other reasons.

The figure is since we started receiving Measure C funds, which I believe was April 2014.”

I’m glad we have the additional CSO’s and two other police staff members. But, the city only has a net nine additional sworn officers, using the 82 for the city’s officer baseline figure, not 20 as Duran stated. Plus, it’s the 22 sworn police officers who can be out on the street that we were promised and Antioch needs.

So where did the money go for the 11 phantom police officers?

Cost Allocation Plan questions and confusion

The use of money being transferred out of the PD is not clear. In the email exchange, I asked both Duran and Merchant, other than the additional $60,000 recently approved by the council for the part-time Assistant City Manager position, what was the money spent on that was transferred out of the PD and into the Administration budget.

In response Merchant wrote, “‘City Wide Admin’ in PD is $2,785,630 for FY16.  FY14 Actual ‘City Wide Admin’ in PD was $1,811,674.”

That’s an increase of $974,000 per year transferring out of the police department budget to other ‘City Wide Admin’ through other departments.

She also wrote “As we have stated at the Council meeting, because the Measure C is budgeted to kick in for expenditures over the base $28.4M, one cannot definitively say a specific item/purchase/etc is solely a Measure C expenditure – meaning this pen was purchased with Measure C but this other pen was not.  There is not a separate Measure C fund that expenditures are allocated to for PD.  Measure C revenue is deposited into the PD General Fund revenue budget and is used to fund/offset a portion of ALL police department expenditures.  That is why in my staff report to Council we said that one could also assume that the $2.4M in reported FY 15 Measure C PD expenditures (because this was the amount of FY15 PD expenditures that exceed the base) could be all salary since the salary costs are so high.”

But, my question to them and the City Council is, just because the Cost Allocation Plan allows for a certain percentage from the PD to go to Administration, are they required to redistribute that amount? The answer is clearly “no.” The CAP is an ordinance that with three votes of council members, they can approve exceptions.

Just because there is a Cost Allocation Plan in place based on percentages, that doesn’t mean those percentages can’t change or the portion from Measure C can be kept separate. The council can vote to not allocate any of the Measure C funds to anything but what was listed in the ballot language.

Besides, how much more money does Third Floor in City Hall need when there has been no additional staff hired to oversee the additional police and code enforcement staff, other than the part-time Assistant City Manager position.

What’s even more confusing is that Duran stated at the last council meeting – and the council has been approving it – the city has been budgeting for 102 sworn officers in each of the year’s budgets, going back to 2013. But, we haven’t had that many sworn officers in years.

So, really, if the baseline budget included that many officers and Measure C is supposed to fund the hiring of 22 additional, then the Council owes us 124 sworn officers from the proceeds of the tax measure.

Sure, a large amount of the Measure C funds has not been spent and is being rolled over into the next fiscal year. But, that’s not why we voted to tax ourselves more. We want more police and improved public safety, now not in future years.

Net Funds Versus Gross

The main disagreement is rooted in the fact that the public is looking at the net amount being spent on police, while city staff is looking at the gross amount, before funds are transferred out of the PD budget to other departments.

Merchant stated clearly during the May 10th council meeting that the percentages have been increasing over the past several years.

“Citywide costs to the police department decreased 8%, then 13%” she stated referring to years prior to the passage of Measure C. “Fiscal Year ‘13 it went up 7%. Fiscal Year ’14 it went up 11%. Fiscal Year ’15 it went up 15%. Fiscal Year ’16 it did increase 24%. But that’s for a full year of furloughs,” referring to the elimination of the 10% pay cut for the city’s non-police staff.

That’s what has former Measure C Citizens’ Oversight Committee member Sal Sbranti and other residents upset and frustrated, including me.

When we were told we would get 22 police officers, plus Code Enforcement, economic development, etc, we didn’t expect the money to go to Administration or anything else.

What’s this about the furloughs? The money from Measure C was not intended to back-fill the 10% pay cut the rest of city staff were forced to take, which resulted in City Hall being closed on Fridays, thus the name Furlough Fridays. That was supposed to come out of Measure O funds, the city business license tax on residential rental properties.

The bottom line is Mayor Harper and the Antioch City Council Members who signed the arguments in favor of the ballot measure in 2013, which include current members Mary Rocha and Monica Wilson, owe us 22 more officers, not two and not nine. Until they get to at least 104 sworn officers – and frankly I believe it should be 111 since that’s based on the figure of 89  officers they gave us – they aren’t doing what they promised we, the people who passed Measure C and are helping pay for it through the increased half-cent sales tax in Antioch.

Until they accomplish that, the city council and staff can expect more complaints and frustration from Antioch residents.

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Former Ironhouse Sanitary District General Manager endorses Hardcastle for Supervisor

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Editor:

I also publicly endorse Mr. Doug Harcastle for District III Contra Costa County Supervisor.

I would like to echo the comments of Dr. Michael Painter regarding Mr. Hardcastle. As the former General Manager of the Ironhouse Sanitary District (ISD), I had the opportunity to work directly with Doug for 12 years, and came to know and understand him well.

Doug was certainly instrumental (in conjunction with his fellow Directors) in helping reshape ISD from an outdated rural operation, into a modern, suburban oriented collection, treatment and water reuse operation that protects our environment and our sensitive Western Delta water quality.

In late 2012, when Doug decided to step down from ISD and run for City office, I knew ISD was losing an excellent public servant. While I did not want to see him go, I believed he had accomplished what he initially set out to do. Doug helped improve ISD over the twelve years he served and was leaving ISD in much better shape than when he found it.

While Doug was only one of five Directors on the ISD Board, he was critical in helping reset the Board’s vision for the future, and setting a high standard for staff that drove us to excellence. Doug understands the importance of working with others and did a great job of building consensus on the ISD Board.

Doug also understands the importance of establishing good public policies, hiring competent staff, providing staff the tools and resources necessary to do their jobs, and letting staff do their work. From a General Manager’s perspective, this policy-based mindset from elected officials is critical to well functioning public entities. I believe this skill will be especially important (and useful) when functioning at the County Supervisor level.

Of course, with staff empowerment comes staff accountability, and Doug also understands this concept. While Doug is no tyrant, he is demanding and he expects results from staff; and holds his agency people accountable for the tasks they are given.

With the addition of four years experience on the Oakley City Council, Doug has gained additional insight into a more complex city government. I believe this experience, combined with his 12 years at ISD, has helped him gain the knowledge necessary to function and succeed at the county level.

So, based on my 16 years of knowing Mr. Hardcastle, (five as a District Engineer, seven as a General Manager, and four as an observer and friend), I strongly endorse Doug as a candidate for the position of Contra Costa County Supervisor, District III.

Sincerely,

Tom Williams

Civil Engineer and Retired General Manager

25 year Antioch resident

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Ironhouse Sanitary District Board Member Painter publicly endorses Hardcastle for Supervisor

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Dear Editor:

I would like to publicly endorse Doug Hardcastle for the office of District III Contra Costa County Supervisor. After serving for 12 years with him on the Ironhouse Sanitary District (ISD) Board, I have a unique and qualified insight into the man, his character, his dedication and work ethic.

Working together throughout our time on the board, we helped ISD transform from an outdated and inadequate sewer plant into a state-of-the-art Water Recycling Facility and saved our ratepayers $20 million in cost, in the process.

Doug Hardcastle has always questioned the cost of services and compensation packages. He is very independent and refuses to be influenced in his thinking by special interests and the current vogue politics.

Although there are many qualified candidates in this race, I know Doug and I know he will always put the people he represents first, before his own political advancement or personal accolades.

I’m tired of politicians not listening to the people and I know this man has your best interest at heart. I want somebody who will fight to keep taxes in check, stick with the job until he gets it right and always put people before politics. That’s why I urge you to vote for Doug Hardcastle as your District III Contra Costa County Supervisor.

Sincerely,

Dr. Michael J. Painter, DC

Oakley resident and business owner

Member, Ironhouse Sanitary District Board of Directors

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Another Hardcastle supporter also writes letter questioning letter in support of Burgis

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Editor:

I think Susan Morgan, who didn’t bother to mention that she is the Vice President of the Iron House Sanitary District Board in her recent letter to the editor should probably work on her facts and simply communicate with her fellow board members regarding who they are supporting for County Supervisor. The majority of them have endorsed Doug Hardcastle for County Supervisor, they are Chris Lauritzen, Dr. Michael Painter, and Doug Scheer. Morgan is an attorney, and should do a better job of fact gathering prior to distributing her opinion.

Ms. Morgan doesn’t mention any accomplishments by Diane. Let me mention some of Doug Hardcastle’s , he served on the Iron House Board for 12 years, also as president of the board, Oakley City Council and Mayor for four years, and small business owner for 40+ years. Doug is the person most prepared to represent our district for Contra Costa County. I not only trust him with our County funds, I would trust him with my own checkbook. How many politicians can get that endorsement? Join me in voting for Doug Hardcastle for County Supervisor.

Sincerely,

Gary Arfsten

Oakley

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Hardcastle supporter rebuts letter in support of Burgis

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Editor:

It seems Susan Morgan (who failed to identify herself as Vice President of the Ironhouse Sanitary District Board) has made some factual errors in her letter supporting Diane Burgis.  Such errors could easily have been avoided by simply asking her fellow board members who they are supporting in the District 3 Supervisor race.  As shown on www.doughardcastle.com/endorsements, Doug is supported by many current and former public figures and local leaders, including three members of ISDB, namely Chris Lauritzen, Dr. Michael Painter and Board President Doug Scheer.

By failing to check her facts on such a simple matter as public endorsements, Susan Morgan has called into question her veracity and competence as a public servant, a spokeswoman for Ms. Burgis, and as a professional called to a high ethical standard.

In addition, while Morgan identifies the positions held by Ms. Burgis, as evidence of her experience and qualifications for the office of Supervisor, she fails to note Burgis’ length of service (less than four years), or any positive achievements of her chosen candidate.  By contrast, Doug Hardcastle has served Contra Costa County for over 15 years, while at the same time running a local business with his wife, Lyn.  During that time, he supported innovative solutions to reduce ratepayers’ costs, and, after his tenure as Mayor of Oakley, left the city with an improved public safety record and no debt to the State of California.

While I have not met Ms. Burgis personally, not being a member of the politically elite circles in which both she and Susan Morgan seem to move, I know from personal experience that everyone who meets Doug Hardcastle comes away with a positive impression of him, and all of his friends and colleagues can vouch for his honesty, his character, his dedication to public safety, and his record of accomplishment in fiscal management.  None of the other candidates have such a positive record of accomplishment, and none of the other candidates had the courage to challenge the current incumbent after she and her colleagues on the Board of Supervisors voted themselves a large pay raise instead of prioritizing public safety, like the underfunded fire protection service in East County.

In short, if you want a candidate with a record of improving public safety and using your tax dollars wisely, Doug Hardcastle is the only choice.

Sean Pearson

Brentwood

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Writer supports Measure E

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Dear Editor:

Over 9,000 citizens signed a petition for Measure E after the Council failed to adopt gambling reforms recommended by an Antioch citizens’ group.

Measure E supports the health and public safety of the Antioch community.  Measure E stops politicians from issuing gambling licenses to felons, keeps gambling away from our churches, schools, and stops card rooms from becoming mini-casinos.  Measure E also helps keep criminal activity that is directly connected to illegal gambling, drug and alcohol abuse and other violent crimes from infiltrating our community.  We need to fight back against dishonest gambling operators and fight the politicians who protect them.   That is why we need Measure E in Antioch.

I find Ms. King’s commentary full of passion and pride regarding her father’s service to our country.  I truly and respectfully appreciate her father’s service to our country as I also appreciate Mr. Wilkinson’s service in Vietnam and his father’s service as a Marine at Guadalcanal during WWII.  Measure E has nothing to do with the sale of Kelly’s Restaurant/Card Room, a business shut down years ago by the State.

I believe Measure E is necessary in order to protect our community, families and property values.  Money spent gambling does very little to boost the local economy.  In fact, gambling establishments can have a negative impact on our community, city government and can create additional strain on our police services.  I believe we do not need additional gambling establishments in Antioch.

You can learn more about Measure E at their website, www.stopantiochgamblingexpansion.com.

Jesse Zuniga

Antioch resident

Zuniga is one of five Antioch residents who signed the ballot argument in favor of Measure E.

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Writer supports Hardcastle for Supervisor

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Editor:

Doug Hardcastle is the only candidate in the race for County Supervisor who has served his country in the military, served in public office and owned a business in the county.

He has the best combination of experience, knowledge and commitment to serve the people of Contra Costa. Doug’s a proven leader and isn’t afraid to take on the tough issues.

He was the only candidate to jump in the race to take on the incumbent and speak out against the 33% pay raise she voted to give herself, as an example of wasteful spending by the county, before she backed out.

We need to elect him, this year, and provide new, strong, proven leadership on the Board of Supervisors. Please join me in voting for Doug Hardcastle on June 7th. To get involved in his campaign, please visit www.doughardcastle.com.

Sincerely,

Ron Yarolimek

Antioch

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Piepho writes in support of Burgis for Supervisor

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Editor,

As you may have heard, I have made a difficult choice not to run for re-election for the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors.  This choice was made easier because of one person, East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) Director Diane Burgis.

Diane is uniquely qualified to serve on the Board of Supervisors. She is a true leader and has all of the qualities I feel are the most important to serve the citizens of District III.  Diane is a fiscal conservative; supports police and firefighters that work hard to make our communities safe; supports investment into our transportation system; she is approachable and knowledgeable; advocates to protect our Bay/Delta and our environment; and most importantly, Diane cares about you.

Diane has the most regional experience of all the candidates.  As a Director of the East Bay Regional Park District, Diane works to serve the taxpayers of two counties, Alameda and Contra Costa.  Diane has learned how to responsibly manage an annual budget of over $200 million dollars and oversee a District police and fire department.

As a recent council member for the City of Oakley, Diane knows the challenges of local government and how to fight for the needs of taxpayers and invest in public safety as a top priority.

Diane is a Delta advocate, having served as a member of the Delta Protection Commission she has worked to advance the federal National Heritage Designation to preserve, protect and promote our vibrant Delta region and has fought Governor Brown’s Twin Tunnel project.

As ​Executive Director of Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed, Diane knows that salmon are a vital link not only to our Delta and our environment, but also our economy.  Diane has fought to protect salmon migratory routes and save this valuable fish.

Diane is fiscally conservative.  As a former small business owner, Diane knows what it takes to make a budget work and meet the bottom line.  Diane puts Public Safety first by supporting a well staffed police force and fire department in order to protect citizens, property and make communities safe. Living in far East County, Diane is acutely aware of and supports the need to fully fund transportation and Vasco Road safety projects that allow for shorter commute hours and more time with family.

Diane has my vote for Contra Costa County’s District III Supervisor because she is the right candidate.  I ask you to give her your vote too.  If you have any questions I can be reached at 925-516-2358.

It has been my honor and privilege to work for you for nearly 12 years on the Board of Supervisors.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

Mary Nejedly Piepho

District III, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors

 

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