Antioch leaders showcase the positives, challenges during annual State of the City presentation

Mayor Sean Wright offers his first State of the City presentation on May 26, 2017. photo by Argentina Davila-Luevano

Free, second presentation Wednesday night, June 14

By John Crowder

On Friday, May 26, three new leaders in the city of Antioch, Police Chief Tammany Brooks, City Manager Ron Bernal, and Mayor Sean Wright, each spoke at the annual State of the City event hosted by the Antioch Chamber of Commerce.  The well-attended event was held at the Antioch Community Center at Prewett Park.

Antioch Chamber CEO Richard Pagano, after welcoming the crowd, introduced Chief Brooks.  Also known as ‘T,’ Brooks focused his talk on three words beginning with T, Technology, Training, and Teamwork.

Brooks began by saying that he knew it was important to reduce the perception of crime, along with actual crime.  “If you don’t feel safe, it doesn’t matter how much we show an actual reduction in crime,” he said.  “Quality of life means that you feel safe as you go about your day-to-day activities.”

With respect to technology, Brooks said that his department would be spending more time analyzing statistics and using the information gleaned to work smarter and more efficiently to reduce crime.  The Department Crime Analyst will be spending more time developing crime intelligence, he explained.  Brooks noted that surveillance cameras were already in use in the city, and that more were on the way.

Training, according to Brooks, is vital to the success of his department.  He said, though, that the type of training required now was different than that emphasized in the past.  “There were 87,000 contacts last year between citizens and the APD,” he said.  “Of these, less than 2% required the use of force.”  While teaching officers how to react in situations requiring the use of force would always be important, more training will be done in the future around community engagement, according to Brooks.

“Part of our training must include cultural diversity, implicit bias, and crisis management,” he said.

Brooks emphasized teamwork both within the department, and in the greater community.  He said that the APD had the lowest per capita staff of a major city in Contra Costa County.  Even so, “I’m not going to cry about that and tell you what we can’t do,” he said, “I’m going to tell you what we can do.”

Brooks said that educating the public on steps they can take to avoid being victims of crime, and ensuring that his officers are engaged, on a more personal level, with members of the community would both pay significant dividends in reducing crime.  Brooks concluded his remarks by saying, “The men and women of the Antioch Police Department truly care about this community, and over the next few years, you’re going to see that.”

City Manager Ron Bernal began his remarks by saying, “In my opinion, our job is to serve the people of Antioch, and not the other way around.”  He went on to say, “There is an expectation for communication and cooperation.  People don’t care what you say until they know that you care.”

Bernal then listed eight priorities that the City Council had established.  These included, crime reduction, code enforcement, economic development, financial stability, infrastructure, communication, partnerships & collaboration, and quality of life.

Before addressing each of the priorities in turn, Bernal noted that Antioch is the second largest city in Contra Costa County.  He then talked about some positive aspects of the city, including the $1 billion spent on Highway 4 and BART improvements, and pre-1914 water rights.

Bernal stated that the APD currently has a budget for 102 sworn officers and 7 Community Service Officers (CSO’s), up from 82 sworn officers when Measure C was passed.  He expected the number of sworn positions to rise to 103 in 2018, and to 104 in 2019, with CSO’s rising to eight in 2018.

Addressing homelessness is vital to the city, Bernal said.  To that end, the APD developed a Community Engagement Team in January.  In addition, he said that the city had established a two-person abatement team to deal with blight, and that a County CARE center was coming to Antioch later this year.  “We’re doing a lot of things to try and tackle the issue of homelessness in a compassionate way,” he said.

Several other initiatives were mentioned in Bernal’s talk, including the See Click Fix app, more involvement with social media, the consideration of a public relations firm to promote the positive things happening in Antioch, the San Joaquin Joint Powers Project, Business partnerships, and the improvements being made to Waldie Plaza.

Bernal concluded his remarks by saying, “The City is here to cooperate with businesses.  It’s a new day.  We are the government, and we are here to help you.”

Mayor Sean Wright began his remarks by saying, “I’m excited.  The team we have in place now is awesome.”  Referring to City Manager Bernal, Wright said, “Ron really cares and wants to do what is best for our community.”

Wright then immediately moved to address what he called, “the elephant in the room.”  “The question is, are we filing bankruptcy?” he asked.  “We have very little debt, and reserves of $25 million.  You don’t file bankruptcy under those circumstances.”

“There is an impending problem, though,” he continued.  “That is PERS (California’s Public Employees’ Retirement System).  What is PERS?  An oncoming avalanche of impending debt.”

Wright then explained that, for years, PERS had overestimated the amount of income the system would receive on its investments.  Because of this, government agencies around the state who are part of the system, are now being informed that their contributions over the years have been insufficient to fund future retiree benefits that have been promised.

“Is Antioch in trouble when it comes to PERS?  Yes, but we’re not the only city [in trouble.]  In six to seven years, we are in a bad place.  Cities are suing, and we’re watching the progress of these lawsuits.  People are worried, and they’re right to be worried.  But, a lot can happen in six years.”

Wright next explained how he liked to look at Antioch as ‘four corners.’  These are Downtown, BART-Hillcrest, Somersville, and Sand Creek.  “If we can get investment going in these four areas, we can get a driving change start to happen,” he said.

Wright then emphasized the positive attributes of the city.  “We have a phenomenal downtown, it is gorgeous,” he said.  Noting that Internet connectivity was an issue downtown, he said the city was exploring options to create Wi-Fi Hotspots.  “We’re working with City Ventures to develop properties with views of the river for more people.”  “We want a thriving downtown,” he continued.  “Our greatest resource downtown is our river, and it is underutilized,” he said.  Wright also addressed the potential of Humphries restaurant, the work that had already begun on improving Waldie Plaza, and improvements coming to the AMTRAK station.  “We have an opportunity to create a multi-modal transportation hub,” he said.

Wright continued to address each of the other ‘corners.’  He discussed the Business Watch initiative, talked about the substantial investment being considered for the Somersville area, emphasized the need for “balanced development” in the Sand Creek area, and discussed the potential for development around the new BART station at Hillcrest Avenue.

A second State of the City event is scheduled for Wednesday, June 14, at 7:00 pm at the Antioch Community Center.  All are invited to this free event.

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6 Comments to “Antioch leaders showcase the positives, challenges during annual State of the City presentation”

  1. Steven Payne says:

    Obviously these idiots do not live next a section 8 piece of property,and they will be sued in a class action suite, but that is another story. The police or code enforcement never bother to show up no matter how many complaints are filed. Only direct confrontation on my part got rid of four stolen vehicles from a neighboring property. I was threatened by these thugs but would not back down because they didn’t care for my taking pictures, I happened to mention police, stolen vehicles and probation or parole violation that everything shut down and all but one suspect vehicle remains. Brand new volkswagon suv type, white in color with hayward mitsubishi paper plates. Yet no one claims it, no one drives it and no law enforcement agency is interested in it.So if you want to buy a brand new suv with low miles, go to 1709 bermuda way in antioch and ask whoever is there at the time, it always is changing. Don’t bring cash as you may not be heard from again. But it is new.

  2. Steven Payne says:

    p.s. please come by as all the neighbors need some practice as well. You all come out now, especially those looking for a steal. see ya soon.
    p.p.s. we are running out of parking spaces, please help, they are cheap if you go by the nigauto index. don’t ask me, I just write the ads.

  3. datadriven says:

    i’m discouraged by the focus on downtown. that is a ground zero-hole and crime overall needs to go down in a major way before development of any significance happens there. a million cities have fell trap to the “revitalize downtown” garbage.

    The answer that APD needs is body-cams not diversity training. Additionally, I guess all that crime is just perception.

    Wow. I’m disgusted.

    • Publisher says:

      Thank you for reading the Herald and for your comment.

      However, I must challenge you. What do you consider “downtown”?

      As a business owner in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown who is there all the time and all hours of the day and night, I can tell you there’s not a significant crime problem in downtown any more than the rest of our city. The downtown I’m referring to is mainly 4th Street north to the river and from A Street to L Street, although the Rivertown area is technically larger than that.

      The City doesn’t have any money to spend in downtown or anywhere else. All they can do is approve things that can be done by the private sector, such as new mixed use development, with retail on the first floor and either apartments or condos above, and a new lease for the former Humphrey’s restaurant location. Antioch’s waterfront is a rich part of the community and is what some people refer to as downtown’s “anchor tenant.” It’s a unique feature our city offers and needs to be taken advantage of to help attract both businesses and shoppers to our city. That’s what the finalization of the Downtown Specific Plan is about. Any revitalization will be done by the private sector without the use of taxpayer funds.

      What else they can and should do is what is needed throughout the community and that’s to hire more police officers to reduce crime and, as you’ve stated that will help.

      When was the last time you were downtown? I encourage you to stop by there today and see it’s no “ground zero hole.” You will see a variety of shops that have opened over the past few years, including two new ones in the past few months. Yes, there are some empty storefronts. But, they’re filling up over time.

      Be sure to also come down on July 4th for the annual Independence Day Parade on West 2nd Street and enjoy the nostalgia and hometown feel of Antioch’s, historic downtown, where this oldest city in the county got its start and in spite of now being the second largest city in the county.

      Allen Payton, Publisher

      • datadriven says:


        Thanks for the reply, using your definition of downtown, would encourage you to take a look at the Trulia crime heatmap for the bay area and then specifically for downtown Antioch (between A and L and from 4th to river). If Chief is really concerned about perception, most people don’t feel safe in SE Antioch (Deer Valley Plaza, Gas City), during the day, much less night, much less any older part of the city.

        SE is certainly safer and in a better position to accept the kinds of commercial businesses that drive employee headcount that are needed. My primary gripe with city leadership is that they seem to not be committed to really addressing crime and enforcing codes/law and are more concerned with feel good stories and perception. The Chief’s statements say this nearly verbatim, no? He seems more concerned about perception of violent interactions between citizenry and police and making officers seem friendly which is misguided at best. I can guarantee you that this will not be well-received by the community at-large. They want results, no kidding; not we “tried our best.”

        Wrt residential development, a moratorium on residential development should be placed up and until Antioch can handle it’s crime problem. Business is zero until then.

        Re: downtown, the view that we can artificially create a booming downtown and that will attract serious business is backward. The crime / blight need to be controlled so that investors can see Antioch as a viable option for low cost per sqft ventures. Downtown and it’s “beauty” have nothing to do with that. Ask yourself this question, as a professional making upwards of 125K a year, would I be comfortable commuting to Antioch for the next 10-20 years. As a business owner can entertain same hypothetical question. At this moment, those thoughts are laughable at best. No one wants to touch Antioch, it’s toxic. So stop residential development and get a handle on crime, it’s embarrassingly simple.

  4. Rjb says:

    Well said Mr. Payne. Antioch is section 8 city. Ruled by thugs and the ghetto.

    What’s right is wrong. What’s wrong is right in this city.

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