Op-Ed: Mayor Pro Tem Thorpe wants a single district north of Highway 4

By Lamar Thorpe, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Antioch

In 2016, I ran for Antioch City Council to build a more accountable, innovative and transparent city government. For me, moving to single-member districts, campaign finance reform, and term limits are all critical components of building government accountability. Why? Because it’s very hard to get elected to city council  – and it’s getting harder every year.

First, the power of incumbency on city councils is very strong, with a 90% re-election rate nationwide. Secondly, elections are very expensive, even at the local level. In Antioch, it costs anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 to mount a successful bid for city council. And unlike surrounding cities, Antioch has no campaign contribution limits.

I’m proud that Mayor Sean Wright and I are rare breeds for having prevailed against incumbents in 2016. Since then, I’ve worked hard to represent you in city hall and I’m going to continue to work hard to dismantle the status quo.

You may or may not have heard that Antioch is in the middle of moving from electing city council members from an at-large to a single member district system. I am disappointed that this process comes to Antioch under the threat of litigation. (No city in California that has fought single-member districts has prevailed in court. Those that have tried and lost have had their district maps drawn for them and paid hefty legal fees.) Nevertheless, it will be a dramatic change for our city.

Some people like it, some don’t, and others are indifferent. But most folks don’t know what’s going on. They put their trust in us and pray that we get it right.

After working on several local elections, I’ve learned that city council elections are decided by voters in South and Southeast Antioch. As a matter of fact, Southeast Antioch is home to what pollsters and political operatives call the “swing vote”.

As these areas of the city have grown in population and political influence, the voting power of residents in older areas of the city, North and Southwest Antioch, has been diluted. In fact, every city council member including myself lives south of Hwy 4 and four of us live in Southeast Antioch. The last time anyone from North Antioch or North of Hwy 4 was elected to the Antioch City Council was in the 1980s.

This doesn’t mean voters look up a candidate’s address before they go vote. They don’t. However, like sports players, candidates have a “home field/court advantage” in their surrounding communities without even knowing it. So, it stands to reason that if you live in Southeast Antioch, you have a higher probability, though not a guarantee, of getting elected.

To me, it’s fundamentally unfair that communities north of Highway 4 have no representation on the city council. Antioch is one community, no doubt about it. But there are regional and socio-economic differences between Antioch neighborhoods that cannot be ignored.

We all look at the world through our own lens. Take Vegas for example. On one end of the Bellagio Hotel, guests can have breathtaking views the Hotel’s famous and stunning water fountains. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Hotel, guests can be treated to a special view of the parking lot and the occasional special performance by two drunk guys arguing about nothing. One hotel, two different experiences.

In the same vein, all of our experiences in Antioch are a little different and shaped in large part by where one resides. In a recent poll conducted by the City, we found that North Antioch residents were the least content with their city government and our overall direction. As an example, while more than two-thirds of South and SE Antioch residents are not only content with city services believing they get their fair share, nearly half of North Antioch residents believe they don’t get their fair share of city services.

And, as many North Antioch residents have pointed out there are other differences, too. Crime is heavily concentrated in and around 18th and Cavallo, 10th Street, and the Sycamore/Delta Fair area because of population and housing density. Visually, when you drive into North Antioch, you can see that the challenges and opportunities require more than just band-aid solutions offered by SE Antioch politicians. Today, the annual median household income in North Antioch is between $42,000 to $45,000, compared to $100,000 plus for most living in Southeast Antioch. The physical infrastructure of the two elementary schools in North Antioch is outdated compared to the newer schools in Southeast Antioch.

Sometimes it feels and looks like North Antioch has been forgotten. But the new districts could bring the Council new perspectives to help fix this. As my friend Marty Fernandez once mentioned in support of Rocketship Charter School, residents in North Antioch deserve more than just a new Taco Bell. He’s right. In line with that, I say to my friend Marty, they deserve representation on the city council as well.

For a change of this magnitude to be meaningful, residents must be engaged. But the districting process is moving fast. We’re nearing public hearing number four and have two maps under consideration — Working Draft 1 and Quadrant Draft B, which are below.

According to our Interim City Attorney Derek Cole, public testimony has been overwhelmingly in favor of Working Draft 1, which assures that all regions in Antioch including North Antioch will be represented on the city council.

I invite you to please share your choice either in person or by emailing us at districtelections@ci.antioch.ca.us. Also, if you live in Southeast Antioch, there is a petition being circulated by Tina Price. That petition can be found here. Lastly, stay informed by liking my facebook page.

Note: An Op-Ed denotes something printed on the page opposite the editorial page in a newspaper, devoted to commentary, which expresses the opinions of a named author usually not affiliated with the publication’s editorial board.

the attachments to this post:

Lamar Thorpe 2017

2 Comments to “Op-Ed: Mayor Pro Tem Thorpe wants a single district north of Highway 4”

  1. Marty Fernandez says:

    Cannot agree with Lamar on this one. It would be much wiser for the city to go with quadrant draft B. Much wiser for the people of North Antioch to see the wisdom of it also. Two representatives far out weighs one. Easier to get a 3 vote which will always be needed.

  2. Arne says:

    The folks in Almondridge have nothing in common with the Rivertown District. My oldest son lives out there and supports a quadrant map.

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