Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category

Antioch Council united in placing revised sales tax measure on November ballot with 20-year sunset, oversight included

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Council warned by taxpayers association that the funds will be used to pay pension liability

By Allen Payton

During a fourth special meeting of the Antioch City Council to place a sales tax increase measure on the November ballot, on Thursday, August 9, 2018, the two members who voted against the proposal during Tuesday’s meeting, reversed course and joined the other three for a unanimous vote.  (See related article). The issue was the addition of a 20-year termination, or sunset clause, for the tax and inclusion of continuing the citizens oversight of the use of the funds from the measure. Both Mayor Pro Tem Thorpe and Council Member Monica Wilson who developed the tax measure in their ad hoc committee, had opposed the inclusion of those two items. But, since state law requires a two-thirds vote of the council to place a sales tax measure on the ballot at least one of them had to switch their vote to get the necessary four votes.

The measure, if passed by the voters, will double the half-cent sales tax from Measure C passed by the voters in 2013, to a full one cent on each dollar of taxable sales in Antioch. It will increase the revenue from approximately $7 million to about $14 million per year from the additional tax.. (See related article).

Following Interim City Attorney Derek Cole’s explanation for the need of a fourth meeting and apologizing for the oversight during Tuesday’s meeting, he said, “as long as you have four votes, it can be placed on the ballot.”

Thorpe then made a motion to reconsider the council’s action from Tuesday night, and it was seconded by Wilson.

That had to pass, first or the ballot measure could not be placed on the ballot and according to Cole, “It has to come from the prevailing side, which in this case was those who voted ‘no’.”

The motion passed unanimously. Then, the council heard comments from the public

Mayor Sean Wright read a comment by Jeffrey Klingler emailed earlier in the day.

“I’m very disappointed that this resolution is again before the city council because of a technical oversight,” he wrote. “Moreover, I am particularly frustrated at how we got to this point. Because this resolution and ballot language was presented to the city council at the last minute there was limited time for open discussion and consideration of public comment (for which the structured environment of polling is not a substitute). Nonetheless, the numerous special council meetings have allowed for the necessary discussions to take place and the meeting of August 7th should have brought this issue to closure.”

“The ad hoc committee has been working for many months on the quality of life initiative and it is bewildering this issue could not have been considered much earlier,” Klinger continued. “As such, I believe the obligation for passage lies with the members of the ad hoc committee to strike the appropriate compromise. I am confident that will be the outcome.”

“I look forward to a ballot measure that will help our city move forward with the critical funding necessary for its success,” he concluded.

Resident Fred Hoskins spoke next.

“I’m going to say, unfortunately for you I only have three minutes, because I could express a lot of ideas,” he said. “I am extremely disappointed in every one of you. I can’t believe it has been initiated in the first place. I was never surveyed for anything.”

“How can we jam down the throats of the citizens of Antioch another half-cent sales tax? That’s what this is about,” Hoskins stated.

He said that he campaigned against Measure C

“I said this is not going away. I was right,” he continued. “I have never seen an objective process or projects for the advancement of this city…the land use of downtown has been put on the shelf because they’re too political. No improvements have been made to the waterfront. We have Humphrey’s that’s going to be Smith’s Landing. Great. I hope they’re successful.”

“You offer no solutions, so you as a council look for ways to tax us,” Hoskins said. “You’re sure kicking the can down the road and 20 years is a joke. It ought to be six months and you figure out how to find the revenue.”

Hal Bray, representing Contra Costa Taxpayers Association spoke next.

“We believe that you’re not being completely honest with the people of Antioch about the uses of the revenue from this sales tax,” he stated. “Your pension costs…will double in the next five years. We believe you’re already using tax revenue meant for other services, for pension costs.  We believe you need to put in place a plan to deal with these rising costs. Other cities have put in place plans, such as a 115 Trust and contracting out services.”

Regarding employee pension contributions Bray said, “We believe the cost should be shared 50-50” with employees paying half the cost of their pensions and the city paying the other half. “You could have $4.5 million more for services if you split the costs with your employees.”

“The average Social Security pension is $16,000. The average CalPers pension of a full-time worker is $70,000 and for public safety officer it is $104,000,” he shared. “We believe it’s unfair for the residents of Antioch, so the people can be paid five to six times what the average retiree gets paid. We are ready to meet when you are.”

Antioch Economic Development Commissioner Tim McCall offered the final public comments in favor of the measure.

“First, to Ms. Wilson and Mr. Thorpe, to all the staff who worked on this…I know you all worked very hard. I appreciate your hard work,” he said. “Mrs. Ogorchock, thank you for your conviction and sticking by it. Mayor Wright, thank for being willing to compromise. Mr. Tiscareno, thank you for standing strong on the 20-year sunset.”

“This will not unite Antioch. It is dividing Antioch. We need to pass this,” McCall stated. “Mr. Thorpe, I do agree with you that the original wording would be a feel good. But, the leaders have spoken and said they want a sunset clause. We’re just going to have to campaign harder. I will help you campaign.

“This city needs to be united. The council needs to be united tonight,” he continued. “Let’s not revisit this in nine years. There will be lots of discussion about how to spend this money. It would be a benefit to start that united.”

The council then took up the issue with Thorpe saying, “Thank you Mr. City Attorney for taking responsibility for this small mishap. I believe Councilwoman Wilson and I believe our votes, last time were symbolic…recognizing that we did work hard…and that we were standing by our work. Although we voted no, the next day we were right back at it, working hard to figure out how to pass it.”

He then made a motion to include the 20-year sunset and citizens oversight in the measure. It was seconded by Wilson and the council voted unanimously to place it on the November ballot.

The final ballot language is as follows:

Antioch’s Quality of Life Measure. To maintain Antioch’s fiscal stability, police patrols, 911 emergency response, youth violence prevention programs; ensuring water quality/safety; repairing streets; cleaning up parks/illegal dumping; restoring youth afterschool/summer programs; other essential services; shall the measure be adopted approving an ordinance to renew the sales tax at the one-cent rate, raising approximately $14,000,000 annually,  expiring in twenty years, with mandatory annual independent financial audits, and independent citizens oversight?

The election will be held on Tuesday, November 6 and the measure requires a simple majority of votes to pass.

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On 3-2 vote Antioch Council adds 20-year sunset clause, public oversight to sales tax measure; will hold fourth special meeting on Thursday

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

Measure requires votes of four council members to place on ballot.

By Allen Payton

During a third special meeting to deal with the one-cent sales tax measure for the November ballot, the Antioch City Council, on Tuesday voted 3-2 to add a 20-year termination, known as a sunset, and the continuation of the citizens’ oversight committee to the language. Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and Councilwoman Monica Wilson were the dissenting votes.  The measure will double the current half-cent sales tax of Measure C to a full one-cent tax on every dollar spent on items to which the state sales tax is applied. (See related article)

But, in a perfect example of haste makes waste, even after all their discussions and actions during the three special meetings, in a last-minute effort to place the measure on the November ballot before the August 10th deadline, the council still didn’t get it done correctly and will have to return for a fourth special meeting on Thursday. That’s because it takes a two-thirds vote of the council to place a sales tax measure on the ballot, which means the votes of at least four of the five council members, not just a majority of three. (See Council Meeting Agenda, here: ACC080918)

Interim City Attorney Derek Cole took responsibility for the mistake.

“There is a provision in the state Revenue and Tax Code that requires a two-thirds vote of the council to place a transaction and use tax measure on the ballot,” he explained. “In the heat of the moment I did not properly advise the council. It was entirely an error on my part. If they don’t have a super majority they are not allowed to put the measure before the voters.”

“It still requires only a majority of voters to pass it in November,” Cole added.

That means either or both Thorpe and Wilson will have to vote in favor of placing the measure on the ballot. Thorpe was asked about that fact.

“That could potentially be an outcome and it may have been a different vote, last night had they explained that,” he responded. “Maybe we would have come up with a different resolution.”

The Thursday, Aug. 9th meeting will be held at 5:15 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall located at 200 H Street.

Council Adds Sunset Clause, Oversight to Ballot Measure Language

“The 20-year sunset was not included in the survey,” City Manager Ron Bernal stated in his opening remarks. “Therefore, we do not know how the voters will respond.”

In discussing adding the sunset clause, Mayor Sean Wright offered a nine-year termination instead of the 20-year approved by the council at last Friday’s special meeting. That was in response to Bernal stating that if the council included the sunset that the city’s consultant suggested a single digit, nine-year term.

Only one member of the public spoke on the item, Antioch resident and regular council meeting attendee, Marty Fernandez referring to the part of the ballot measure language about ensuring water quality.

“Isn’t that why our water bills went up last month?” he asked. “You need to face reality. You haven’t once mentioned unfunded liabilities and pensions. (City Finance Director) Dawn Merchant has been telling you for five years you’re going to run out of money. What’s the plan? What happens if this measure doesn’t pass?

Thorpe and Wilson served on the council appointed ad hoc committee which conducted two polls, surveying likely Antioch voters over the past year-and-a-half. They were not happy with including a sunset clause.

When asked who developed the survey questions, Wilson responded “RM3”, the consulting firm hired to perform the survey. Asked if the subcommittee members and city staff provided any input, she responded, “They took our opinion, but mainly RM3” developed the questions.

When asked why a question about a sunset clause wasn’t included Bernal responded, “the survey included normal questions. The goal was a quality of life survey and how things are going.”

“We did two surveys,” Thorpe explained. “The first one included a tax measure without a sunset. It was supported overwhelmingly. So, there was no need to refine it for the second survey.”

Before the vote on the motion by Council Members Lori Ogorchock and Tony Tiscareno, Wilson said “I believe this measure needs to go on the ballot. But, I’m opposed to this 20-year time frame.”

Thorpe went further, blasting the three council members who supported adding the sunset.

“It’s disappointing after a year-and-a-half of work, not just us, but department heads…ensured it had guard rails in it, that after all that work, it gets thrown out the window,” he stated. “This was one of Ron’s (Bernal’s) outcomes. He brought in the best and brightest in California. The Chief (of Police Tammany Brooks) was one of the main people out there asking for the public’s input.”

“I am beyond disbelief and disgust,” Thorpe continued. “I can only shake my head at the level of foolishness to endanger our ballot measure. Other than trying to people please, when the people we’re trying to please are the ones who were surveyed.”

Then he took a swipe at City Clerk Arne Simonsen who has been critic of the sales tax on social media.

“I’m also disappointed you, City Clerk have participated in some of the undermining,” Thorpe added.

Tiscareno responded, saying “I think we can get this thing passed as it is. This is an extension to Measure C. If this measure fails because of a sunset, then I’ve failed our police department.”

“I feel as confident as I did when we looked at Measure C. I truly believe we’re going to do well. All we need is 50 percent plus one,” he added. “I respect the work that you did. I just want to make sure we do what’s in the best interest of the city.”

Mayor Sean Wright also responded to Thorpe, taking him to task.

“I think it’s unfair to reprimand the council for not listening to the ad hoc committee,” he said. “The ad hoc committee is asked to do work and come back and for the council to think and deliberate on that and not to blindly follow. You may disagree with that. But, to have something put in front of me and given three days to think about and discuss what’s been worked on for the last nine months is I think a little unfair to council, to then say blindly do this and trust us because we’ve done the work without us being able to have that same amount of time. I think the past two weeks has given us an opportunity to be able to look and discuss and I think council has come to the realization and understanding what some of our constituents have asked for. They have asked for oversight…they have asked for a sunset. The truth is if we can get more and more people on board, there is not one person in the community is going to come yell at me for adding a sunset. No one is going to yell at me for putting oversight on this. So, just because it wasn’t polled…that might have been nice to have been polled and have those numbers.”

Ogorchock had earlier and at previous meetings shared the same concern of a short time period being given to the rest of the council to discuss and decide on the ballot measure and the language it should contain.

The final ballot language adopted for the measure is as follows:

Antioch’s Quality of Life Measure. To maintain Antioch’s fiscal stability, police patrols, 911 emergency response, youth violence prevention programs; ensuring water quality/safety; repairing streets; cleaning up parks/illegal dumping; restoring youth afterschool/summer programs; other essential services; shall the measure be adopted approving an ordinance to renew the sales tax at the one-cent rate, raising approximately $14,000,000 annually,  expiring in twenty years, with mandatory annual independent financial audits, and independent citizens oversight?

To watch Tuesday’s council meeting via streaming on the city’s website, click here.

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Antioch Council to hold third special meeting on Tuesday to make changes to sales tax increase ballot measure

Monday, August 6th, 2018

By Allen Payton

After holding two special meetings last Tuesday and Friday to make needed changes to the ballot language for the one-cent sales tax measure for the November election, the Antioch City Council will be holding a third special meeting Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. to discuss adding language to include a 20-year expiration date to the tax and independent citizens’ oversight. ACC080718

The tax would double the current half-cent sales tax in the city, approved with the passage of Measure C in 2013, which sunsets in April 2021 and includes the Citizens Oversight Committee. However, the current committee has basically served as a rubber stamp to reports by city staff and hasn’t challenged the council’s use of the incorrect figure of 82 sworn officers as the base, instead of the 89 that were in the city’s budget at the time Measure C was placed on the ballot. The difference means 111 sworn officers from the half-cent sales tax rather than just 104. The committee also hasn’t challenged the base figure of $25 million in the budget since 2013 for those 89 officers, which hasn’t changed each year despite those and all officers being given pay raises unanimously by the then-council on Election Night in November 2016.

To date, the City has added a net six sworn police officers from Measure C funds, as of last week (see related article), out of the 22 that the then-mayor and council members promised in their ballot argument in favor of the measure, if the voters approved the half-cent sales tax.

According to the staff report for the item on Tuesday’s council meeting agenda:

“On July 24, 2018, the City Council adopted a resolution and ordinance calling an election in November to extend the City’s transaction and use tax (Measure C) and to increase that tax from one-half cent to one cent beginning April 1, 2019.  The City Council then held two meetings regarding the extension of this tax.  At the Special Meeting held on July 31, 2018, City Council amended the resolution to call for new ballot language (specifically, to bring the number of words in that language below the maximum of 75 words).  At the Special Meeting held on August 3, 2018, City Council convened to consider an amendment to the ordinance to correct a drafting error (specifically, the omission of language increasing the transactions tax to a rate of one cent).

At the Special Meeting held on August 3, 2018, the City Council did not adopt the proposed ordinance revision but instead directed the City Attorney to bring back a revised resolution and ordinance that does the following:

Continues the codification of the Sales Tax Citizens Oversight Committee in the Antioch Municipal Code (the prior version of the ordinance deleted the code section creating this committee); and

Provide for a ‘sunset’ of the ordinance in twenty years (the prior version deleted the code section of the Antioch Municipal Code creating an expiration date for the ordinance); and

Amends the ballot language to be submitted to the voters to reflect the new sunset date and reference the independent citizen oversight committee (the prior version stated that repeal would only occur by act of the voters and did not mention the existence of the committee).”

The proposed language for the ballot measure reads as follows:

“Antioch’s Quality of Life Measure. To maintain Antioch’s fiscal stability, police patrols, 911 emergency response, youth violence prevention programs; ensuring water quality/safety; repairing streets; cleaning up parks/illegal dumping; restoring youth afterschool/summer programs; other essential services; shall the measure be adopted approving an ordinance to renew the sales tax at the one-cent rate, raising approximately $14,000,000 annually,  expiring in twenty years, with mandatory annual independent financial audits, and independent citizens oversight?”

The meeting will be held at 4:00 p.m. in the Antioch City Council Chambers at City Hall located at 200 G Street in historic, downtown Rivertown.

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Antioch Council places sales tax increase on November ballot, would permanently double to one cent

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Council wants to split revenue with 80% going for police services

By Alexandra Riva

At their meeting Tuesday, July 24, the Antioch City Council voted to place a ballot measure that would extend and double the transaction and use tax, or sales tax permanently from a half-cent to one cent. With the five affirmative votes, residents will now have the opportunity to vote on the measure as it will appear on their ballots in November. 1 Cent Sales Tax Ballot Measure Staff Report

As it stands, the fiscal impact of Measure C’s one-half cent sales tax measure, which generates $6.7 million in revenue. Most of this revenue is currently being spent on the Antioch Police Department. Through the extension and increase, the measure could have the potential to generate $14 million in revenue for the City’s General Fund, each year. 1 Cent Sales Tax Draft Spending Priorities

Unlike Measure C, with its seven-year sunset clause, resulting in the sales tax expiring in April 2020, the one-cent sales tax measure if passed, would be permanent. It could only be removed by another vote of the people.

The drafted version of the measure allocates 60% of revenue for the maintenance of public safety, 20% for youth services, and the remaining 20% for supporting quality of life and fiscal stability and accountability.

During the meeting the council discussed changing these amounts from percentages of 60-20-20 to an 80-10-10 allocation. This 80-10-10 split was advocated for by both Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, who included it in her motion, and Mayor Sean Wright during his comments. However, it is not part of the actual ballot language and future councils will not be bound by those amounts and can spend the funds in any way they deem necessary.

Ogorchock wasn’t happy that it was the first time she and the rest of the council had a chance to consider the ballot measure.

The proposal was the result of an ad hoc committee consisting of Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and Councilwoman Monica Wilson, and input from the public, including phone and online surveys, and the city’s “Join the Conversation campaign” on the city’s website and Facebook page.

“I want to thank my colleagues for going on this adventure, which we’ve been on for almost a year-and-a-half… in gathering data,” Thorpe said. Over 2,000 individual residents gave input on their priorities during the effort, he mentioned.

He responded to Ogorchock’s concern by saying “we did get an update from our pollster, back in January… we conducted this poll recently and it was concluded a couple weeks ago. So, it wasn’t that we were trying to hide anything.”

“It is a recommendation based on the data we collected,” Thorpe added.

Councilman Tony Tiscareno said he supported the measure because he wanted to hire more police officers, “which we can’t do with Measure C.”

Wright argued for the increase, comparing Antioch to Brentwood, responding to concerns of why the neighboring city doesn’t do like they do in Brentwood. “The people of Brentwood have taxed themselves” an extra $3,000 per year per home to pay for city services, he said.

“We have an opportunity, tonight to tax ourselves… to drive Antioch to be the city we want it to be,” Wright added.

The council’s unanimous vote only places the measure on the November ballot for the voters to decide, and nothing more.

Of those who offered public comment on the issue, most seemed to support the implementation of an increased tax rate for an extended period of time and urged the council to place the measure on the ballot.

Calls were made for the potential funds generated from the measure to be allocated to the police department and public safety. Additionally, funding from this measure, intended to improve the quality of life of residents, particularly Antioch youth, was another concern among the members of the public, who spoke

Samson Knight, an Antioch resident, expressed his support for the measure with particular interest in funding for quality of life services.

“I think that these quality of life services, especially youth programs, would be a great boon to our city. I think the proportional gain of resources for these programs would be much greater than an equivalent amount given to such a large financial entity such as APD,” said Knight.

Funding for the Antioch police department, as a result of this measure in its current state, was around $7 million, which has allowed the city to hire a net seven additional officers, and did tremendous good for the city, according to some speakers. One such community member was Steve Aiello, president of the Antioch Police Officers’ Association, who spoke in support of the measure.

“As you can see, the issue of public safety is directly related to the quality of life…It is important to note that even though we have made great strides in hiring officers, we still need more,” said Aiello.

However, other speakers were not happy with the proposed tax increase.

“I don’t even really understand this,” said Beverly Knight, Samson’s mother. “I know that the residents of Antioch don’t have a problem with continuing with Measure C. They want a fully staffed police department. We need people to feel safe to come out of their homes…when using the parks. We want a fully funded police department before we mess with Measure C. That’s what people voted for.”

To date, the city has added a net seven police officers out of the 22 promised by the then-mayor and council in 2013, if Measure C passed.

Although it’s a tax increase the council gave it the title of “City of Antioch Quality of Life Measure.”

The ballot language adopted will read, “To maintain Antioch’s fiscal stability and police patrols, 911 emergency response, youth violence prevention programs; ensuring water quality and safety; repairing streets; cleaning up parks/illegal dumping; restoring youth after-school/summer programs; and other essential services; shall the measure be adopted approving an ordinance to renew the sales tax at the one-cent rate, raising approximately $14,000,000 annually until ended by voters, requiring independent annual financial audits and all expenditures available for public review?”

The election will be held on Tuesday, November 6.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Antioch Council to consider placing another sales tax increase on November ballot, doubling Measure C’s tax

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Total would be one cent instead of the current half-cent sales tax

By Allen Payton

Before the city has fulfilled its 2013 commitment from Measure C’s half-cent sales tax to “immediately” hire 22 additional police officers, the Antioch Council will consider a staff recommendation place another sales tax measure on the November ballot to increase it to a full cent at their meeting on Tuesday night, July 24th. The increase if passed would begin two years before Measure C expires in April 2021. If the measure fails the city will have nnother chance to place it on the ballot, again in November 2020. 1 Cent Sales Tax Ballot Measure Staff Report

When the promise was made in the summer of 2013, by then-Mayor Wade Harper and the four members of the council, which included both current Council Members Monica Wilson and Tony Tiscareno, there were 89 sworn officers on the force and being paid for out of the city’s General Fund budget. To date Antioch has added a net eight sworn police officers to the force for a total of 97 sworn officers, from the Measure C revenue. However, city staff, at the direction of the council, and even the Citizens’ Sales Tax Oversight Committee, continue to use the base figure of 82 sworn officers, which is the total that were on the force at the time the measure passed in November 2013. The department staffing was reduced by seven officers in those several months due to retirement and other reasons.

So, while the council owes the taxpayers and residents of Antioch a total of 111 sworn officers from Measure C funds, their claim is that they only owe 104 officers.

According to the staff report for Tuesday night’s meeting agenda, Measure C currently generates $7.2 million per year for the city’s General Fund. Revenue from the proposed sales tax increase proposed would generate approximately double that amount and would be spent on a variety of items in the budget.

The draft proposed spending priorities include 60% to support public safety, including maintaining and restoring neighborhood police patrols, 20% to support youth services and 20% to support quality of life, fiscal stability and accountability. That means paying off the city’s pension debt. What the staff report doesn’t include is any commitment to the number of additional sworn police officers the tax increase will pay for.  1 Cent Sales Tax Draft Spending Priorities

The proposed ballot measure would have the following title:

To maintain Antioch’s fiscal stability and police patrols, 911 emergency response, youth violence prevention programs; ensuring water quality and safety; repairing streets; cleaning up parks/illegal dumping; restoring youth after-school/summer programs; and other essential services; shall the measure be adopted approving an ordinance to renew the sales tax at the one-cent rate, raising approximately $14,000,000 annually until ended by voters, requiring independent annual financial audits and all expenditures available for public review?

The council meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 200 H Street, between W. 2nd and 3rd Streets in downtown Antioch. It can be viewed live on local cable TV channels or via the city’s website.

To see the complete council meeting agenda, click here.

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Call for Applications: San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, Independent Citizens Oversight Committee

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Deadline Extended – Due April 18, 2018

Measure AA is expected to generate $25 million annually for San Francisco Bay restoration over the next 20 years. Funding from this voter-approved measure will allow for the restoration of thousands of acres of natural habitat for wildlife, support our local economy, improve access to public lands, address flooding issues, and create thousands of new jobs.

The San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority’s Governing Board seeks six individuals to serve on the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee. The Committee has three main roles:

  1. Annually review the Authority’s conformance with Measure AA.
  2. Review the Authority’s audits and expenditure and financial reports.
  3. Publish an annual report of its findings, which will be posted on the Authority’s website.

The Board seeks committee members from all four Bay Area regions (North Bay, East Bay, South Bay and West Bay) with special subject matter expertise. Each member of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee must possess expertise in one or more of the following:

  • Water quality
  • Pollution reduction
  • Habitat restoration
  • Flood protection
  • Improvement of public access to the San Francisco Bay
  • Financing of these objectives.

Ineligibility Factors for Membership

No person may serve on the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee who:

  • Is an elected official or government employee;
  • Has had or could have a financial interest in a decision of the Authority; or
  • Is affiliated with an organization associated with a member of the Governing Board.

Apply to serve on the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee by April 18, 2018.

Application Submittal, Materials, and Deadline

Send your application to karen.mcdowell@sfestuary.org by April 18, 2018. Electronic signatures and scanned signatures will be accepted.

For more information, visit the SF Bay Restoration Authority’s website or contact Karen McDowell, Project Manager, SF Bay Restoration Authority or 415-778-6685.

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Contra Costa Taxpayers Association East announces inaugural meeting March 28

Friday, March 9th, 2018

The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association (“CoCoTax”) is pleased to announce the formation of a new East Contra Costa chapter. To celebrate, CoCoTax East will hold its inaugural public meeting on Wednesday, March 28 with a luncheon meeting at Vic Stewart’s Restaurant at 2270 Balfour Road in Brentwood.

CoCoTax promotes “good government at affordable cost” and is well known as a “tax watchdog” organization. But, according to Jack Weir, CoCoTax President, “CoCoTax is much more than a tax watchdog. Good tax receipts flow from well designed, developed and managed cities and counties. As such, CoCoTax seeks to work with residents, businesses, and local government to grow the tax base and provide for a quality lifestyle for residents through economic development, prudent zoning, and other strategic planning tools.”

The first CoCoTax East meeting will focus on Economic Development in East County and will feature three East County speakers:

Ron Reagan, is owner and President of Reagan Management Services in Brentwood and a member of the Contra Costa Airport Commission; Ron will address the issue of economic growth at and around the Byron Airport.

Gus Vina, Brentwood City Manager will discuss the economic development element of the City’s Strategic Plan.

Kevin Romick, Oakley City Councilman and member of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority board of directors, will highlight Oakley’s development progress and discuss the present and future infrastructure needs and plans in East County.

The luncheon is open to CoCoTax members and the public. People wishing to attend can register online at www.cocotax.org/event-2851592 or by contacting Denise Sheehan at denise@cocotax.org.

The cost to attend is $35; alternately, attendees can attend the luncheon for free by becoming a CoCoTax member for $37.50, a 50% discount on their first year’s membership.

For more information about CoCoTax or the luncheon, please contact Hal Bray at hal.bray@pacbell.net or 925-286-4905.

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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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