Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category

It’s time Antioch started using correct, honest figures for Measure C police staffing and funding

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

The City of Antioch’s 2016-2017 Measure C Annual Status Report

By Allen Payton, Publisher

The City of Antioch’s 2016-2017 Measure C Annual Status Report was recently received in the mail and I took the time to read it. Unfortunately, what I discovered was it provides false information to the public. Now, I don’t blame city staff. They’re merely reporting and acting on the direction of the city council. But, it’s the direction of the past mayor and city council which chose to play games and manipulate the police staffing numbers and budget to make things look better than they really are. So, it’s time the new mayor, mayor pro tem and council gave new direction to the city staff to use the correct and honest figures for Measure C.

Mayor and Council Promised 22 More Sworn Officers

Here are the facts, again. In the ballot argument for Measure C, signed by then-Mayor Wade Harper and the rest of the city council at that time, which included current Council Members Monica Wilson and Tony Tiscareno, it 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.”

We Had 89 Sworn Officers

The ballot argument concluded with and was signed by the following:

“Antioch needs funds now to lower crime and to cleanup dilapidated properties. Your voting Yes on Measure C will give us the financial boost we need to turn Antioch around. Thank you.

Sergeant Tom Fuhrmann, President, Antioch Police Officers’ Association; Brittney Gougeon, Founder, Take Back Antioch; Joyann Motts, President, Antioch Unified School Board; Hans Ho, Past Chair, Antioch Crime Prevention Commission/ Neighborhood Watch Coordinator; Antioch City Council; Wade Harper, Mayor of Antioch/ Retired Police Lieutenant”

They Owed Us 111 Total Sworn Officers

My math tells me that would bring the total to 111 sworn officers (89 + 22). The ballot was written and submitted in either July or August 2013 in time for the sample ballots to be printed and mailed to the voters. So we had 89 sworn officers on the force being paid for out of the budget before the funds from Measure C began to be collected.

Please read the entire ballot statement and arguments, here – http://www.smartvoter.org/2013/11/05/ca/cc/meas/C/.

They Chose to Use 82 Sworn Officers as the Base, Instead

However, by the time Measure C passed in November, the Antioch Police Department had lost seven more officers reducing the force to just 82 sworn officers. So, that was the figure the mayor and council at that time voted and gave direction to city staff to use as the base figure. Adding 22 more officers only gives we the taxpaying and voting public a total of 104 sworn officers – which is the figure the council and staff have accounted for in next year’s budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

That was wrong and dishonest of them to do, because the budget already included enough for 89 sworn officers and Measure C is supposed to pay for 22 “new officers” according to the ballot argument.

Council Member Lori Ogorchock was elected in November 2014 and Mayor Sean Wright and Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe were elected last November long after Measure C passed. But they all inherited the commitments and promises of the past council to give us the 22 additional officers from Measure C, on top of the 89 we had at the time the ballot argument was written and signed, and “immediately.”

Past Police Chief Allan Cantando and current Chief Tammany Brooks have said they’ve been doing everything they can to continue to add officers to the force and have hired 49 sworn police officers since the passage of Measure C, according to Brooks’ portion of the report. However, due to past council actions including the very rich 3% at age 50 retirement benefit – which was fortunately changed in 2012 for new hires – and due to other attrition, the department has lost 35 sworn officers during that time. That brings the total number of sworn officers to just 96. That was news to me as I was under the impression we had reached and remained at the 100-officer level.

They Owe Use 15 More Sworn Police Officers

That’s just seven more officers than the city had in 2013 when Measure C was placed on the ballot. Here we are over four years later, certainly not the “immediately” as the then-mayor and council promised us. The current council owes us another 15 sworn officers paid for by Measure C funds based on simple math of 111 – 96 = 15.

Brook’s comment that “our net gain is currently 14,” is only correct when comparing it to what has happened “Since the passage of Measure C in 2013,” as the first sentence of his comments stated. It’s not correct when comparing that figure to how many officers we were actually promised if we passed Measure C.

Only seven of those 14 sworn officers are supposed to be paid for from Measure C funds and the fact is the city has only gained a net seven additional officers, not 14 from the revenue generated by the extra half-cent sales tax in Antioch.

It all goes back to the number of officers the budget was paying for at the time the ballot argument was written and signed, and the promise made which was 89.

The worst part is, even before they have given us the 22 additional officers, the previous mayor and council, of which Ogorchock was a part, voted unanimously to give pay raises to the police and the rest of the city staff totaling $9.2 million in contracts that run one year beyond the sunset of Measure C. (They did so on Election Night, by the way after it was too late for the voters to know what was in the pay and benefits packages before they voted). The additional half-cent sales tax only lasts until 2020. The contracts run through 2021. (See related articles, here and here)

Now They’re Asking for a One-Cent Sales Tax

Yet, now city staff is already asking for we the people to consider voting, not for a renewal of the half-cent sales tax, but an increase to a one-cent sales tax when Measure C expires. Among other questions about city services and issues facing our community, a recent phone survey, approved  by City Manager Ron Bernal and paid for out of his discretionary funds, asked residents if we would support that. The audacity to even us ask to consider supporting a renewal of the half-cent sales tax, much less doubling it, before fulfilling the promise and commitment made to we the people under Measure C and having spent $9.2 million on pay raises, seriously had me stunned.

They’ve Only Budgeted for 104 Sworn Officers

The last part of Chief Brooks final sentence in the report is correct: “As of June 30, 2017, $2,947,361 remains unspent pending allocation to enhancing Police and Code Enforcement services, as promised to voters.” At least he recognizes that a promise was made to the voters. But, I challenge the amount remaining unspent, since that figure should be much higher if the proper figure of 111 sworn officers was accounted for, not 103 currently and 104 in next year’s budget.

We just need the city council to remember what that promise actually was – 22 additional officers on top of the 89 sworn we already had – and ensure we are provided the 111 sworn officers Antioch needs to fight and bring down crime, which is supposed to be their highest priority. It’s time to put our money where their mouths are.

One Promise Broken, Another Can Still Be Kept

Obviously, they haven’t been able to keep the part of the promise of hiring the 22 additional officers “immediately”. But, the current city council can fulfill the promise of 111 total sworn officers as we are due, by giving new direction to staff to use the correct, honest figure of 89 sworn officers as the base not 82.

What’s that old saying – figures lie and liars figure? The figure of 82 sworn officers the city has been using since 2013 is just plain dishonest. I expect Mayor Wright, Mayor Pro Tem Thorpe and Council Member Ogorchock who were not part of the council that gave that misdirection to staff, to correct this and give new direction using 89 as the base figure. I would also hope that Council Members Wilson and Tiscareno would see the error of their ways and join them in correcting it.

We get enough of this statistical and fiscal game playing with our government and our money from Washington, DC and Sacramento, already. It should never be allowed at the local level. If the council and staff ever hope to see Measure C renewed, or much less doubled – which I seriously doubt will be supported (and we’ll see once the results of the recent survey are made public) – the council needs to correct this. Also, if Sgt. Tom Fuhrmann, Joy Motts and Hans Ho want to maintain their integrity, they will make sure the council does so, because they added their names and reputations to the ballot argument in which the promises were made to help ensure Measure C’s passage. So they all made that same promise.

Reopen Employee Contracts to Ensure Funding for 111 Officers

We the people need the council to not only start using the correct base of 89 sworn officer, we need one of the three current council members who voted for the pay raises last year to join Wright and Thorpe in reopening and renegotiating the city employee contracts. That is the only way to ensure there is enough money in the budget to pay for the 111 sworn officers we were promised.

Unfortunately, that still won’t get us to the 1.2 officers per 1,000 population level of 132 sworn police officers that we’ve been needing for the past 20 years. But, it will have to do, for now.

And the time to face the facts, take responsible action, be honest with we the people and address and fix these matters is now.

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Writer says Frazier again gets ‘F’ on taxes

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Editor:

You can thank Assemblyman Jim Frazier for that pain at the pump you’re feeling now that gas is an extra 12 cents per gallon.

Frazier and his fellow Democrats in Sacramento raised taxes $52 billion annually, including a 12 cents/gallon gas tax hike, 20 cents/gallon diesel gas tax hike and a $25-$175 vehicle fee increase. The average household will be paying an extra $600 a year.

Frazier not only voted for the tax-hike legislation, but sponsored his own version of the tax-hike bill, Assembly Bill 1. So it’s no surprise that Frazier once again received an “F” on his legislative report card from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. He voted in favor of taxpayer interests only 16 percent of the time on 22 tax bills in 2017.

This makes the fifth year in a row that Frazier, whose campaign slogan is “People before politics,” has received an “F” from HJTA for putting politics before people when it comes to their taxes.

Unfortunately, Frazier is not alone – a record 79 legislators flunked the tax scorecard. “By approving major new burdens on middle class taxpayers, the current crop of Sacramento lawmakers is exhibiting an outright hostility to the taxpayers who pay the state’s bills,” said HJTA President Jon Coupal.

How bad is the hostility? State lawmakers this year proposed $373.4 billion in higher annual taxes and fees, according to the California Tax Foundation. That’s nearly $200 billion more than the total taxes and fees annually collected by state government.

When will it end? Only when taxpayers decide they’ve had enough and stop sending taxaholics like Frazier to represent them in Sacramento.

Dave Roberts

Oakley

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Gov. gives Bay Area voters chance to increase bridge tolls by $3 to fund transportation on next year’s ballot

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

The setting sun reflects off of the Carquinez Bridge’s towers. This bridge project was funded through Regional Measure 1. Photo courtesy of MTC.

Some of the $4.5 billion in projects would benefit Antioch, East County

By Metropolitan Transportation Commission

Governor Brown’s action today to sign into law Senate Bill 595 clears the way for Bay Area voters to decide – potentially as early as next June – on Regional Measure 3 (RM 3), which would raise tolls by up to $3 on the region’s seven state-owned toll bridges to finance the sweeping $4.5 billion package of congestion relief and mobility improvement projects identified in the bill. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), in its role as the Bay Area Toll Authority, is expected to decide by early 2018 when the RM 3 question will appear on ballots in the nine Bay Area counties. The Commission also will decide the amount of the proposed toll increase and whether the proposed increase would be instituted all at once or phased in over several years.

The RM 3 expenditure plan provides mobility improvements in each of the region’s seven state- owned bridge corridors, helping to speed up commutes and provide better travel options, particularly for those traveling to major job hubs, such as San Francisco and Silicon Valley. The plan includes numerous congestion relief projects in the bridge corridors, including new express lanes, a direct freeway connector from northbound U.S. 101 to eastbound Interstate 580 in Marin County to improve access to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge as well as improvements to the westbound approach in Contra Costa County; constructing a direct connector between Interstates 680 and 880 in Fremont and improvements to the I-680/State Route 84 interchange in Alameda County serving the Dumbarton Bridge; upgrading the I-680/State Route 4 interchange in Contra Costa County serving the Benicia Bridge corridor and the U.S. 101/State Route 92 interchange in San Mateo serving the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge; various improvements to relieve congestion in the Dumbarton Bridge corridor and improve State Route 37 in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties; completing the widening of U.S. 101 to three lanes in each direction through the Marin-Sonoma Narrows. Major public transit improvements that would be funded by the measure include 306 new BART cars that will expand the fleet to accommodate record ridership; new ferries and expanded service and terminals across San Francisco Bay; further extension of BART’s Silicon Valley service to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara; extending Caltrain to downtown San Francisco; expanding transbay bus service and AC Transit’s bus rapid transit lines serving the transbay corridor; extending the new SMART rail system to Windsor; and expanding San Francisco’s fleet of Muni Metro rail cars to improve transit access not just to San Francisco, but within it as well. RM 3 also would fund a $150 million grant program to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to regional transit hubs and to close gaps in the San Francisco Bay Trail.

Proposed projects that would benefit Contra Costa County, Antioch and East County.

“Nobody likes higher tolls,” commented MTC Chair and Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie. “But nobody likes traffic jams or crush-loaded train cars either. The Bay Area has been blessed by seven straight years of strong economic growth. But the price we’ve paid is the growing congestion on our freeways, railways and ferries. If our region is going to maintain its economic leadership, we have to invest in projects that will keep businesses and their workers moving. Gov. Brown and the state Legislature deserve a lot of credit for shaping RM 3 into a comprehensive and integrated strategy that will modernize both our highways and our transit networks.”

For details on the complete range of investments that would be funded if a majority of voters in the nine Bay Area counties approve RM 3, go to the MTC website or see the complete list, here.

MTC is the transportation planning, financing, and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

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Frazier votes ‘no’ on proposed bridge toll hikes

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay) voted ‘no’ on SB 595, which would require the nine Bay Area counties to hold a special election, known as Regional Measure 3, to propose raising tolls on state-owned bridges in the Bay Area. After the vote, he issued the following statement:

“I recognize the need for funding transportation improvements, but after much thought, I believe adding another tax on commuters is not the answer. I ultimately voted NO on the bridge toll bill because $8 per crossing is just too much of a financial burden on drivers. If you commute from Solano County to San Francisco – entailing two bridge tolls that would potentially total $16 a day – that’s highway robbery.”

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Frazier touts hard work paying off as transportation bill, gas tax increase he co-authored, passes

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Sacramento, CA – Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D – Discovery Bay) led his colleagues today, Friday, April 7, 2017 in passing Senate Bill 1 and Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 with the required two-thirds vote in both the Assembly and Senate. SB 1 now heads to the Governor for his approval and ACA 5 will head to the voters for their approval.

“Our roads are terrible, costing each person at least $760 in repairs, and the state was really just putting a Band-aid on a broken bone,” he said. “After two years of discussions and negotiations, passing SB 1 today is a testament to efforts to build a remarkable and diverse coalition to improve our transportation system that truly benefits everyone.”

SB 1 will resolve the long-term shortfall in transportation funding by provide new funding to make necessary road safety improvements and repair local streets, freeways, bridges, and overpasses. New revenues will generate on average $5 billion per year to improve efficiencies and effectiveness of transportation maintenance throughout the state. Roughly $3 billion annually will be allocated to fix roads, half of which will be directly allocated for local needs. The remaining $2 billion is split among other transportation-related programs.

Revenue sources for SB 1 include a 12 cent per gallon gas excise tax, ending the annual Board of Equalization adjustment, a 20 cent diesel excise tax, a 4% diesel sales tax increase, a per vehicle transportation improvement fee of no more than $50 for 87% of vehicles, a $100 fee on zero emissions vehicles, and $100 million gained in Caltrans efficiencies.

To ensure that these new revenues are allocated as intended, Frazier authored Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5. ACA 5 locks up transportation-related revenues from vehicle fees for use only for transportation maintenance and improvements, and prohibits use toward paying principal and interest on state transportation general obligation bonds.

An after-hours question was sent to his staff asking if Frazier had first considered reprioritizing existing state spending before pursuing tax increases. Please check back later for his response.

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Sen. Glazer explains vote against transportation bill, gas tax hike

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Cites failure to ensure reliable transit & ineffective use of funds

Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) who represents Antioch and most of Contra Costa County in the California State Senate, issued the following statement today, regarding his vote against SB-1, the transportation funding bill which included a 12 cents per gallon gas tax increase, as well as increases to the Vehicle License Fee. He was the only Democrat in the Senate and only one of two in the entire legislature to vote no.

“I want to thank Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, Sen. Jim Beall and Gov. Jerry Brown for their hard work in addressing the problem of crumbling roads and aging transportation systems.

My constituents are particularly dependent on good roads and highways and reliable transit systems, so I agree we need additional transportation investments.

But this transportation package did not have the support of my district, for good reasons. Even after a multi-million dollar lobbying effort supporting the $52 billion bill, sentiment in my district ran two-to-one opposing these new gas taxes and car registration fees.

My constituents have told me loud and clear that they want any new taxes to be spent more wisely and effectively. For instance, it doesn’t make sense to spend billions of dollars on an unpopular High Speed Rail system that backers claim might be completed by 2029 when it could go for transportation improvements today.

Beyond the issues of setting better spending priorities and taxes, I also believed this bill could have been improved. We need to be more forward thinking, where we recognize the role technology can play in allowing us to use our roads and highways more efficiently.

And we need a plan that provides commuters with the confidence and assurance that reliable transit will be there for them every day of the year.

This bill also failed to ensure that any new transportation funding given to local transportation agencies be used only for the purposes intended and not diverted to other uses.

I was also concerned about last-minute amendments to this bill that the environmental community and air quality regulators say will unwisely limit our ability to control diesel pollution from trucks. These changes have never been fully vetted and deserve more scrutiny.

I look forward to continued discussions with the governor in which we take into account the need to modernize our approach to transportation in an efficient and reliable manner.”

The bill passed both the State Senate and Assembly and awaits the signature of Governor Brown. To learn more about the bill, click here.

 

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