Antioch Council Quashes Plan for Police Tax

By James Ott

What appeared to be a last-minute move to place a parcel tax on the November ballot in order to raise money for additional Antioch police was ultimately rejected at the City Council meeting on July 10, 2012, due to lack of time.

At the close of the meeting, Antioch City Council Member Gary Agopian asked fellow council members to vote for a special meeting on July 17 to hear the item because Antioch has a city ordinance that requires two public hearings of an item before it can be placed on a ballot. And because the county will run the elections, they require any item that will go on the ballot to be placed between July 23 and the Aug. 1 deadline.

There was only one more regularly scheduled council meeting before that ballot proposal deadline so Agopian and fellow supporters would have needed that special meeting on July 17 for the item to have a chance to make the November ballot. In addition, the ballot measure’s supporters needed to conduct a formal poll of Antioch citizens to gauge their potential support of the parcel tax which currently requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

The idea of a parcel tax to generate the revenue to hire more cops was originally proposed at the Jan. 24 city council meeting by Antioch Crime Prevention Commissioner Bill Cook. Cook and his fellow supporters, Citizens for a Safe Antioch, asked Agopian to help them convince fellow council members to fast-track the item to squeeze it in on the upcoming ballot.

Agopian appealed to fellow council members – minus Mayor James Davis, who was absent from the meeting – saying that the item was “a fairly substantial issue that needs to be dealt with.”

We’ve found the funding [for the required independent poll] and the poll’s going to be done and it should be done in time for a special meeting next week,” said Agopian.

Council members seemed to reject the special meeting – and thus prevented its inclusion on the ballot – after City Attorney Lynn Nerland specified the many requirements the last-minute item would need to make it onto the ballot.

The council would have to introduce an ordinance on July 17 to be adopted without change on July 24 along with a resolution to consolidate the election in November,” said City Attorney Lynn Nerland.

After Nerland’s comments, Council Member Mary Rocha concluded that there would not be enough time to meet those requirements because even if they had all the necessary information such as the public poll at the special meeting on July 17, they wouldn’t have the required ordinance ready – something they would need all that information before hand to draft.

Exactly,” responded Nerland. “I would have to be directed tonight to do that.”

To top it off, the final vote on the item would have to occur at a regularly scheduled meeting – the next being July 24.

Mayor Pro Tem Wade Harper said that he would not even have been able to attend the special meeting had they voted to do it anyway.

In the end even Agopian had to admit that it didn’t appear to be doable. “Well then it’s very apparent that the timing doesn’t work,” he said.

Agopian did appear to see a potential silver lining in the future for supporters of the parcel tax however. As mentioned earlier in the discussion by Council Member Brian Kalinowski and City Manager Jim Jakel – a state legislature bill is currently pending that would reduce the required majority vote to pass taxes used for public safety items – such as the proposed parcel tax to hire Antioch police officers – from a 66 percent, or two-thirds majority to only 55 percent.

Jakel seemed to think that, if passed, it could potentially be effective for next year’s ballot, possibly greatly increasing the odds that the parcel tax and related items could pass in public vote.

As a result, Agopian said that perhaps the Citizens for a Safe Antioch would continue with their polling in anticipation of the state bill’s passing, readying the information this time far ahead of its due date.

Also at the Meeting:

City Council decided to table the discussion that would potentially provide medical and retirement benefits for elected officials to the next meeting due to Mayor Jim Davis’ absence.

State law allows a general law city such as Antioch to provide salaries for its elected officials such as its city council members. And currently they $941.20 plus a car allowance of $350 a month and a communications allowance of $50 per month. The Mayor receives $450 for his car allowance and $100 for his communications allowance.

Although state law prohibits a council member’s salary from being reduced during their term, Antioch has passed resolutions since 2009 to encourage voluntary reductions in salary and car allowance due to the city’s years-long economic crisis.

The city council and City Manager Jim Jakel in the proposed resolution feel that because they are allowed benefits and were traditionally paid benefits before the economic problems and in light of “the sacrifices made by employees,” the council members deserve medical and retirement benefits.

3 Comments to “Antioch Council Quashes Plan for Police Tax”

  1. Skip says:

    Has tax and spend Gary ever voted against an initiative that takes money away from the citizens of Antioch? It’s very telling that he’s more excited about the lower threshold for raising taxes then trying to build a solidified mandate for the spending that he wants to fund? I know it probably looks good for his mayoral campaign to be pro-APD, but more taxes will only burden a population that is currently living in poverty. Instead of charging more to live here, why not get tough on the police unions and negotiate a better contract? Given the percentage of our budget that goes towards the police, it’s hard for me to accept the argument that giving them more money will actually improve public safety. I really hope that the citizens of Antioch can see through his charade because pushing another parcel tax is only going to hurt the city in the long run.

    • Publisher says:

      I’m sure Gary can defend himself, but just as an FYI, he opposed Antioch’s 1/2 cent sales tax in 2010.
      Allen Payton, Publisher

      • Gary Agopian says:

        @Skip. Thanks for commenting on the article. “Tax and Spend Gary” has opposed every local tax measure except for two….the local school bond Measure C in 2008 and the transportation re-authorization measure. Other than those two, I have said no to all others. I believe strongly in local control and very specific measures that have strong accountability. A SPECIFIC parcel tax to hire 30-50 officers (the ones we lost with the downturn) will only get us to where we were, not where we need to be, when we have exploding crime in Antioch. It is the single biggest issue I hear about and it is reducing home values and contributing to blight (by the way, a parcel tax gets the absent landlords to contribute).We have to turn it around quickly! We don’t have to time to fiddle while Rome burns. The police union did re-negotiate their contract and waived all their past deferred raises (several million dollars worth), changed their pension early retirement age from 3% at 50 to 3% at 55 for all new hires, will now use the last two years average to compute retirement pay and they pay their 9% where they previously paid nothing towards their pension. That is major reform… it is time for the citizens of Antioch to step up and support the financial resources to hire cops and stop crime in it’s tracks. Our property values have dropped over 60% and our tax bills have gone down. Re-investing a small portion of that savings for 5-7 years (the time needed for some type of housing recovery), will “kick start” crime reduction and result in a safer Antioch. You bet I support that!

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