Measure O advocates dominate opponents in forum

By John Crowder

On Tuesday night, September 16, 2014, proponents of Measure O, a proposal to place a tax on residential landlords in the city of Antioch, clearly dominated their opponents in an election forum cosponsored by the Antioch Chamber of Commerce and the Antioch Herald.

Speaking in favor of the measure were former Antioch mayor Don Freitas, chairman of Antioch Residents for Fairness-Yes on Measure O, and local Realtor Mark Jordan. Representing the opposition were Alex Aliferis, Executive Director, Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, and Wayne Cook, a longtime Antioch resident and senior citizen.

During opening statements, each side framed their case. Freitas explained that the idea for the tax originated with a citizen’s group, the Friday Morning Breakfast Club (FMBC), and that its purpose was to provide a stable source of revenue for the city. Speaking for the opposition, Cook characterized it as an unfair assessment that would place fixed-income seniors in jeopardy.

The format for the debate had two panelists, Dr. Sean Wright, CEO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce and Allen Payton, Publisher of the Antioch Herald, asking questions of the two sides. Questions taken from the audience and submitted on cards were also worked into the debate by the panelists. Paul Burgarino of the County Elections Department was the Moderator.

The questions began with Wright asking the proponents how the fee structure was determined, and how much money the tax was expected to generate for the city. Jordan responded that the fees were compromise numbers, worked out between FMBC and city staff. Aliferis said the city council “claims” it will raise $2.1 million.

Participants were questioned by Payton as to how the money would be spent. Aliferis stated that the money would go to the general fund, and there was no guarantee of additional police officers. He said that, even with Measure C, the city had not gained any additional police presence. Freitas said that, while 20 additional officers had been hired, because of retirements and attrition, the number of new officers was low. Even so, he pointed out that the city council was keeping their commitment to spend 100% of Measure C money on police and code enforcement. He agreed that the money would go to the general fund, but emphasized that the general fund includes money for police officer salaries.

Referencing their campaign literature, Payton asked the opponents of Measure O to name businesses who were on the record in opposition to the landlord tax. Unable to name any, Aliferis instead said that it would hurt seniors. This tactic did not work in his favor, however, as the audience (comprised mostly of seniors) expressed their displeasure with his response. It also opened the door for Freitas to produce statistics showing that most seniors in Antioch, about 75%, would feel no effect from the tax increase. Jordan was later able to build on this theme when he emphasized that rents are based on what the market will bear, and that landlords simply do not itemize expenses in establishing rental fees. The debate regarding the effect of the measure on seniors culminated with Freitas asking seniors in the audience who had been involved with writing the measure to stand, further emphasizing his point that seniors stood to benefit from the tax initiative because they would be getting a safer city.

Another question Payton raised was whether or not the city council had gone back on their word by putting the rental tax on the ballot after enlisting the support of apartment owners for the passage of Measure C last year. Freitas responded that if both measures had been on the ballot last year, they would have failed. He said that the understanding was always that the rental tax would be revisited. He went on to say that the FMBC had made many overtures to the apartment owners to reach a compromise, but they were unwilling to make any concessions regarding a tax.

Throughout the debate, it was apparent that Freitas and Jordan had prepared for the event; their talking points were well-rehearsed, and they had statistics to back up their positions. On the other hand, the opponents were frequently silent for long periods, and sometimes had little or no response to a question. When Freitas asked his opponents when they “would stop lying” in their campaign tactics, it appeared to take Cook off guard. Cook said that he would find out if someone on his side was lying, and, if so, put a stop to it.

The full debate will be shown on Comcast Local Cable Channel 24 and on the Antioch Chamber of Commerce website at The schedule will be published on the Antioch Herald website,

4 Comments to “Measure O advocates dominate opponents in forum”

  1. Marty Fernandez says:

    Nice job John! I wish Wayne Cook the best, he was totally humiliated by CoCoTax.

    SENIORS wrote the Measure and SENIORS are voting YES!

  2. Reginald Jamal Brown says:

    Woohoo!! Way to go FMBC and the good citizens of Antioch who suport this measure!
    It’s time these investor/ landlord start contributing to our city instead of ruining it!

    ———–YES ON MEASURE O——————

  3. Ken Turnage II says:

    That may have been one of the single most lopsided debates I have ever seen in my life. The opposition to measure O was woefully unprepared and did not make a single valid point. It was the debate equivalent of Michael Spinks fighting Mike Tyson!

  4. Larry L. Harrison says:

    John Crowder did a very nice summary of the debate, much better than the CC Time’s story which seemed bent on the false theme that Measure O would establish taxes aimed at seniors. I was not there, but it is apparent Don Freitas and Mark Jordan did a great job presenting the case for the measure. I too feel sympathy for Wayne Cook who was apparenty “hoodwinked” by the CAA into trying to make a case where there is none.

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