Payton Perspective: For Antioch’s new five-year Strategic Plan Council needs better, more definitive goals

Plus, Measure C Sales Tax Citizens’ Oversight Committee needs to use honest, correct base police staffing figure of 89 sworn officers in their reports; Council does, too

By Allen Payton, Publisher

I haven’t offered my opinion publicly in a column, for awhile and I know I just wrote one, last Friday on the city’s consideration of a marijuana industry. But, there are some things that the council is considering and I believe the public needs to know about them, as well as my concerns, which I believe others will share.

During their Tuesday March 27th meeting, the Antioch City Council will consider adopting a new, five-year Strategic Plan for 2018-23. But, it’s obvious city staff wrote it, as it includes their priorities and goals, not the council’s and certainly not the public’s, with no real teeth in them. Proposed 2018-23 Antioch Strategic Plan

The first problem I have with the proposed Strategic Plan is that it has as its first goal, “Ensure the City’s Continued Financial Stability”. That shouldn’t be the City Council’s number one goal or top priority. Public safety should be. Plus, that statement isn’t even honest because the city isn’t financially stable. It’s running $2 million deficits each of this year and next, and is facing a $160 million unfunded pension liability, which according to staff will continue to grow even with payments from the city. Finally, without the renewal of Measure C when it ends in 2021, the city’s General Fund balance will hit zero less than two years later and even if it’s renewed it will hit zero four years later.

So, a better, more honest goal should read “Ensure the City’s Financial Stability” and it should be number two. Instead, city staff is proposing public safety be number two and merely “a top priority” not the top priority. As the draft reads:

2. Support Public Safety

Public Safety continues to be a top priority for the City Council. In this context, Public Safety includes law enforcement, and maintenance and improvement of infrastructure such as roadways and the water system. Strategies include:

Ensure adequate funding for appropriate levels of staffing for law enforcement personnel.”

Are they serious? What weak language. The purpose of government in America is to protect rights, yours from me and mine from you. At the local level that’s done with police, which is the first reason Antioch’s city government was formed in 1872. I have a copy of the city’s incorporation papers in my office to prove it.

That goal should instead read “1. Ensure Public Safety”, not just support it. We all support public safety. But the council’s job is to ensure it. Plus, that paragraph should also read “Public Safety is the top priority for the City Council.”

Finally, the first line beneath the paragraph should read “Fulfill the council’s promise of hiring 22 additional police from Measure C funds, using 89 sworn as the base, to get us to the 111 sworn officers as promised, toward the goal of 1.2 officers per 1,000 population.”

Now, that’s the kind of specific goal and direction, based in honesty and facts that the council needs to give city staff in the new five-year Strategic Plan. Not some nebulous target of “appropriate levels of staffing.” What’s appropriate is that the council does what we the people, the voters were promised they would do with our money.

The council needs to make sure public safety is the top priority and that they fulfill the promise of Measure C which is 111 sworn officers, not 104 and use 89 as the base figure which was in the budget before Measure C passed, not 82, which was how many were on staff after it passed.

Back to ensuring the city’s financial stability, the first thing they should list is “Generating sufficient revenue to eliminate the need for the Measure C half-cent sales tax.” It was only supposed to be temporary, for seven years. The city budget was not to become dependent on it. Yet, now the staff is considering doubling the amount from a half-cent sales tax to a one-cent sales tax for the replacement ballot measure.

Frankly, I think the council needs hold off adopting the new Strategic Plan for now, and do some serious reworking, with more public input and much more specific, definitive goals that they campaigned on, were elected to achieve and what we the people need for them to accomplish. It’s always easier to hit a target when it’s set pretty low. We need goals that make them stretch and work hard to achieve. Establishing them will help give better direction to the city staff unlike what is in the draft.

What do you think the City’s goals should be over the next five years? Let the council members know at their meeting Tuesday night.

Measure C Oversight Committee Report Dishonest

Even the Measure C Sales Tax Citizen’s Oversight Committee  has chosen to use the dishonest figure of 82 sworn officers as the base figure, instead of the 89 sworn that were in the city’s budget before we the people voted to increase the sales tax in Antioch by an extra half-cent.  During the council meeting on Tuesday night, March 27, the committee will give it’s report using that false figure. Measure C Oversight Committee Report 032718

Page from the Measure C Sales Tax Oversight Committee Report to the city council for the March 27th meeting.

Again, I will remind everyone of the promise made by the mayor and entire city council in 2013, which included current Council Members Monica Wilson and Tony Tiscareno. In the “Arguments For Measure C“, which they signed and you can read, here – – 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.

But, the police department had lost seven officers between summer of 2013 when the ballot argument was signed, printed and mailed to voters, and November, when Measure C passed. So, the council at that time conveniently chose to use the new, dishonest figure of 82 sworn officers as the base amount. Thus, they only had to get to 104 sworn officers to fulfill the promise. Baloney. Worse, each council and city manager since then have used that same figure and that’s why there are only 104 sworn officers in next year’s budget, beginning July 1st. Basic math tells us all that 22 plus 89 equals 111 not 104. The city council and staff owe us a total of 111 sworn officers from Measure C funds because there were already 89 sworn in the budget before we voted to pass it. Even then, our police force will have 15 fewer sworn officers than we had in 2009.

So, the Measure C Citizen’s Oversight Committee’s report which states Antioch has had a “Net gain of 14 sworn Police Officers” is false. With only 96 on the force, that’s just a net gain of seven officers.  They’re budgeting for 6.7% fewer officers than they owe us, which could make a significant impact on crime in Antioch. Don’t let them play with our tax dollars or our public safety.

The oversight committee, made up of citizens, not politicians, need to start using the correct, honest base figure of 89 sworn and direct the council and city staff to do the same. What’s the old saying, figures lie and liars figure? I expect more out of our elected officials, our fellow citizens appointed to an “oversight” committee to “oversee” the correct, honest staffing and dollar figures. City staff will do what they’re directed to do by the council, so I don’t blame them for using that false figure.

What will it take to get the council and now the oversight committee to stop playing accounting games with our money and more importantly our safety? Now is the time to start. The council needs to vote to direct staff to use 89 sworn officers as the base and the Measure C Oversight Committee needs to start using that correct figure, as well and not just go along to get along with staff or the council members. They need to remember their roles. The council may have appointed them, but the council members work for them and the rest of us residents of Antioch. The committee members and more specifically, Chair Susana Williams and Vice Chair Ellie Householder, need to send that message to the council and hopefully, our mayor and mayor pro tem – who I expect the most out of – as well as the rest of the council will start using the honest figure of 89 sworn as the base and commit to budgeting and getting us the 111 sworn officers we were promised from Measure C. They definitely need to do it before they come back and ask us to renew it or worse, increase it. If the leaders won’t lead, the people need to lead them.

the attachments to this post:

Proposed 2018-23 Antioch Strategic Plan
Proposed 2018-23 Antioch Strategic Plan

Measure C Oversight Committee Sworn Staffing

Measure C Oversight Committee Report 032718
Measure C Oversight Committee Report 032718

One Comment to “Payton Perspective: For Antioch’s new five-year Strategic Plan Council needs better, more definitive goals”

  1. Marty Fernandez says:

    Thank you Allen. Once again you are right. The opinions are of the staff. Most of whom don’t even live here. The council rarely questions anything the STAFF writes. They should question everything staff does. Publicly, not in private little side phone calls. You are right! From staff all the way down including Measure C. And they will be asking for more money in the next Measure C and I will actively campaign against it.

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