Analysis: Antioch voters reject Council’s direction on ballot measures

By Allen Payton, Publisher

Last week, the people of Antioch voted the complete opposite of the intent and desire of the Antioch City Council by overwhelmingly passing one measure and rejecting the other, that the council placed on the June ballot. Measure E passed and Measure G failed, both by about two-to-one margins.

Measure E passes

First, Measure E, which made changes to the city ordinance on card rooms, and now requires an election for a second one, passed by 67.04% to 32.96%, according to the latest figures. Of course it helped that the owner of the California Grand Casino in Pacheco spent over $310,000 (almost all of it out of town) to eliminate additional competition for himself in Antioch.

Yet, only three of the council members actually put some of their money where their mouths were by helping pay for a newspaper ad and a few campaign signs. Councilwoman Monica Wilson abstained on the vote to place the measure on the ballot, after having signed the petition to force the council to either adopt the language or send it to the ballot. So, I didn’t expect her to do anything to help defeat it. But, after talking tough, saying “we will not be bullied” Mayor Wade Harper didn’t do a thing to help defeat it. That reminds me of his tough, but hollow campaign slogan in 2012 of “Zero Tolerance for Crime.” While three of the council members spent a total of $415 of their own money, that was it. Neither they nor the mayor raised money from any of their supporters, or even wrote a letter to the editor to try to help defeat it.

I urged the mayor and council members to step up and lead the charge. But, they left it up to the family members who own Kelly’s – which was the target of the measure – to form the committee and financially back the No on E campaign. The family spent about $9,000 of their own money (most of it in Antioch) to try to defeat the measure, in spite of the fact they’ve pretty much been out of business for years.

Even the local front person for the Yes on E campaign, Lamar Thorpe, didn’t contribute even $100 or raise any money to help pass his pet measure, based on the campaign finance reports. So, he didn’t put his money where his mouth was, either. Now, I guarantee you he will try to use the issue to help him run for City Council, this fall saying how he helped protect the people of Antioch. All he did was let that Pacheco casino use him to advance their cause of eliminating more competition. Antioch won’t be any safer as a result of the passing of Measure E. We were lied to. Plus, what a hypocritical message for him and his campaign to say “stop the expansion of gambling” by using money from a casino.

Measure G fails, again

The other item on the ballot was Measure G, another attempt by the City Council on a 5-0 vote, to turn the elected position of City Treasurer into an appointed one. Once, again the voters said “no” loud and clear by defeating it, according to the latest figures, by 63.17% to 36.83%. We sent them the same message just four years ago in June, 2012 when we voted to oppose changing both the City Treasurer and City Clerk to appointed positions by 70.85% to 29.15%.

Here, again, the council members did nothing to help pass the measure. They didn’t form a campaign committee, raise any money, pay for any signs, advertising or mailers, or even send one letter to the editor in support of the measure. Two of them were too busy running for higher office and raising money for that, to bother putting any effort into fulfilling their current positions – serving the people of Antioch.

It’s time that the current city council members and treasurer, Donna Conley, as well as all future council candidates and city treasurers got the message that we the people want a separate, independent set of eyes on the city’s books. That’s needed now, more than ever with the way Measures C and O monies are being collected and spent.

It’s also time the City Council gave back the necessary responsibilities and authority to the treasurer’s position to be the check and balance we want and need, and will hold the city staff and council accountable.

In fact, one thing the council should and can do immediately is create a seat on the Measure C Citizens Oversight Committee for the city treasurer, to help be a watchdog over the city’s finances.

But, even if the council doesn’t return any power to our elected city treasurer, the person who holds that position can still use it as a bully pulpit to keep us informed with clear explanations of how our money is being spent and/or wasted.

According to County Registrar of Voters, Joe Canciamilla, his department “provided the City of Antioch with a cost estimate range for these two measures of between $2.00 – 2.50 per registered voter in the City of Antioch.  We won’t have final billing information to them with the exact amount until August.  With some 48,677 registered voters as of the 15 day close of registration this would put the cost at between $97,374 and $121,692.”

So, basically, the results of the June election are as follows: First, the voters will now get to vote on approving a second card room in Antioch; second, the city treasurer will continue to be an elected position; and third, they sent a message to the mayor and council, clearly repudiating their lack of action which wasted as much as $120,000 of taxpayer money by placing both measures on the ballot, then doing little to nothing to pass or defeat them. If they weren’t going to make a serious effort to defeat Measure E, they could have just adopted the ordinance, instead. While it only cost a bit more to have Measure G on the ballot, it’s still our money that was wasted, since no campaign effort was mounted to pass it.

Note to current and future council members: if you’re going to spend taxpayer dollars to place a measure on the ballot, you need to be willing to mount a serious campaign to pass or defeat it. It’s one thing to talk tough. It’s another to actually take action.

6 Comments to “Analysis: Antioch voters reject Council’s direction on ballot measures”

  1. Nancy Fernandez says:

    Thank you Allen. It is time the city councils understand We the People think it is past time they listen to us. We have not had a council that listened since Mayor Freitas. If you went before Mayor Freitas you knew he listened. If you stand before Mr. Harper all he does is make snide comments on what you may have just said. He has done that for 4 years and there are many of us walking proof of that. I think it is important to know Mayor ProTem Orgorchalk did put her money up and brought the signs to us to put up for her. I would not have expected any other council member to do so. They did not fail me because I expected nothing from the 4 of them. They have done nothing for 4 years/ in 2 cases only 2 years but still nothing.

    We must stand up and NOT elect Rocha, Harper or Wilson in November. They have single-handedly and independently destroyed this city.

  2. Karl dietzel says:

    Measure e:

    My dear friend Lamar
    What a nonsense letter.
    The way you twist the issue in the name of democracy makes me puke.
    Measure e was NOT about safety, democracy, jobs, economic grow or anything else.
    I am also not surprised by any action/ inaction of our city council .

    Measure e was simply about one gambling entity controlling the other .
    Outside powers/ interest groups have thrown $ 300,000 plus
    , into their campaign
    And have “won”
    Thanks to you, helping, making it happens.

    Measure e shows a clear defeat of democracy , it simply shows that money , special interest , and manipulated voters ( you partnered up with them) voters who don’t read the ballot measures , don’t have the time etc .

    There is nothing to celebrate .

    It’s just another shameful event in antiochs history.

    Measure g

    Thank you antioch voters.
    We the people rejected, again , I may say, the take down of a elected position into a appointed one .
    Our demacrocy , and the desperate move from our city management to dismantle and to
    Eliminate elected positions is stunning.

    What is next ?
    No more elected positions at all?
    They just appoint their friends into office?

  3. Wade Harper says:

    Mr.Payton, The election is over. Let’s move on. The voters have spoken. I feel like you are attempting to use your online paper to retaliate against me for not purchasing an ad in your paper. This is the email that you sent to the entire city Council on April 14th. Wade, Lori, Mary, Monica & Tony, if you can get five people to contribute $100 each I’ll donate the balance for a 3/4 page ad in the May issue for No on E and on our website. It will be a total of $910. That way there’s no campaign committee needed. But gotta nail things down by next Monday. Please let me know if this is of interest to you and I’ll set aside the space in the paper. They just have to each cut a check to one of you or directly to the Herald. Allen

    I did not respond to your email as it is my practice to not discuss with more than one councilmember. I try to make sure that I never violate the Brown act. I try to make sure that I never violate the Brown act. I also try to make sure that I am respectful of all people, even news editors who serve as campaign consultants.

    • Publisher says:

      Mr. Mayor,

      This is not a personal issue, so please don’t make it one.

      I don’t care if any of the council members purchased an ad in my paper or not. I merely offered that option, at a discount with my participation to keep the cost as low as possible, as a way to get the message out to help defeat Measure E, which I supported you placing on the ballot and opposed, as well. (I could have sold that space to a local business for full price and benefited my business more.)

      You all could have purchased an ad in the Antioch News, online with the East Bay Times, on or helped raise money to pay for a mailer and/or signs, or even written a letter to the editor about why the voters should have opposed it to any of the East County news sources. Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock did the most by paying for three 4×8 signs.

      As for responding to my group email, that was sent to your personal email account, not your city email account and you could have responded to me individually. Plus, there’s no potential Brown Act violation, since neither your actions nor those of the other council members in collectively contributing to the cost of an ad were done in an official capacity, but rather as individuals. In fact, none of the council members had to use their own money to help pay for the ad. They could have asked their supporters to do so.

      Please note that my criticism was leveled at all members of the council.

      Also, please rread the last paragraph of my column and accept responsibility for your lack of action and wasting the taxpayers money on both measures.

      Again, this is not a personal matter. It’s about your position and responsibilities in your capacity as the leader of our city and I believe you abdicated those responsibilities by doing nothing to defeat Measure E nor pass Measure G.

      Instead of explaining your lack of action on both measures, you chose instead to attempt to take a shot at me. So, please answer the question, why didn’t you do anything to help defeat Measure E and pass Measure G?

      Allen Payton, Publisher

  4. Nancy Fernandez says:

    The question is a fair one Allen but once again I don’t expect a response from an elected official that failed his or her city so miserably. Our three council members simply don’t get it. It is all about them and not our city.

  5. Reginald Jamal Brown says:

    Hey Wade,

    You know, I see a pattern with your narcissistic behavior. It seems that you only respond to your bosses (the Antioch citizens) when you get butt hurt over something. Lol.

    Glad you lost. And you lost big time!


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