I am opposed to Measure C, a single item on the Nov. 5 ballot, which, unfortunately, will not fully represent citizen opinion on this major issue.
I make this plea: Please, please vote. We need a high count. That is very important. It sends a message to our politicians to consider before they attempt to raise more taxes in Antioch. The mayor has told me that he believes a large majority of Antioch support Measure "C." If the count is something like 2,000 "Yes," and 1,985 "No," is that a real majority?
I have been sitting on street corners with a sign asking for "No on "C." I am amazed how many people have been asking "what this is about?"
Let's look back at original items that were on agendas concerning additional money to hire more police officers. My reason is also to shed light on how our city manages business. I have attended every Antioch City Council meeting that had the sales tax issue on the agenda. In the beginning two measures were proposed. The one not on the ballot was designed to collect additional money from business license fees on rental properties.
But how did Measure C get on a ballot in the first place?
The City Council declared a fiscal emergency using an increase in crime to authorize Measure "C." A consolidated statement to be used on the ballot was sent to the CCC Elections Department. The CCCED required the city to agree to pay ballot costs. The Council complied immediately, approving the cost of over $22,000, a cost charged even if the measure fails.
First, there was an agenda item that proposed increasing income from business rental fees. Currently apartment and multiple dwellings are charged rental fees; single rented residences are not.
The idea was to charge a $20 monthly license fee on single rented properties. The money would be used for additional officers.
A number of homes have been bought in bulk, are owned by investors for the sole purpose of making money, a return on investment. ROI from dwellings is certainly a business and has made a large impact citywide.
Adding single or multiply owned individual property to require payment of rental license fees would equalize treatment to all parties in the rental business.
A second agenda item (it became Measure "C") was also proposed.
An increase in sales tax by one-half percent for 10 years was introduced. The money was also to go to the Police Department. It was amended to make it more "digestible" from 10 to "only" seven years. This was done to obtain the city Chamber of Commerce's support, it was the chamber's idea. Council member Gary Agopain and Mayor Wade Harper made many statements telling us that we need more officers to "prevent" and "reduce" crime.
Police statistics were used to support their claims. The need for more safety was stressed.
Both the mayor and council members said that they were not going to "let criminals take over our city." The solution is more police, meaning more "boots on the streets." They insinuated that criminals would not want to come into Antioch because added police would deter them.
There were never explanations as to how the additional officers could prevent or reduce crime. Unfortunately, a set of new crime statistics had not reached their desks that might have enlightened them. Those statistics showed lower percentages of crime (excluding murder from 3 to 5; I ask you, how can police prevent murder?).
I made citizen comments at every meeting suggesting alternatives. I talked of more focus on developing cohesive neighborhoods instead of more police. I gave our Council documents about the city of Richmond's applied efforts to reduce crime, which was independent of police methods -- something that Antioch might apply.
I stated that more officers would not "prevent or reduce crime." It might reduce "response time," but police intervention is after the crime has been committed.
There'll always be criminals; they know consequences if caught in the act but have no fear of police. Suggesting that they will avoid Antioch because of additional officers is a farce.
The City Council was not sure how voters would react if both of the agenda items were placed on the ballot.
They feared defeat similar to Measure "P" three years ago. (Note: That measure required a two-thirds' voter approval and failed.) The Council placed an order for an independent survey of constituents to help them determine what to do. The cost of the survey was $18,000. Only 400 citizens were surveyed. The forecast resulted in an "estimate" that if both measures were on a ballot, one would fail.
A well-known group up of citizens "The Breakfast Club"(which consists of former council members, an ex-mayor and other businessmen) appeared before council members and advised them that they supported the rental fees but were against any sales tax increase. I had also pleaded (twice) saying that the fee option was best because it was fairness in business, would provide a stable yearly amount of money, and it wouldn't be limited to 10 years.
After the survey results were interpreted, which indicated that if both items were placed on the ballot "one would fail" (and advice that a two-thirds' majority vote would also be very risky), our City Council deleted the rental fee idea and chose to go ahead with only the increased sales tax measure.
They modified the earlier decision, changing direction to send the money into the General Fund. Measure "C" reasons changed! Can we still claim the "emergency" Read the ballot: The reason for the tax has been changed! The tax is no longer going to the Police Department alone; it will (supposedly) be divided into a fair distribution for all city service improvements.
The Council has promised to set up (yet another) commission as oversight of tax expenditures. The group of seven will report once a year, will be appointed by the mayor, and will have no power.
If you read the "Yes on "C" signs, and receive a big post card and stickers on your newspaper, you should take the time to find out where all of the money to pay for this massive advertising is coming from. Data is available at the City Clerk's office. My investigation indicates that people owning multiple single-unit rental properties have contributed over $30,000. Their ads are propaganda. All placards tell you the money is for more police! This deception is supported by the mayor and Council members. I have reported $150 contribution for "NO NEW TAXES" signs without deception.
In closing I offer this for your consideration: The addition of police officers to "prevent crime" is pure speculation. The change directing income into the General Fund is a manipulation.
If Measure "C" passes, the City Council will likely continue "deficit spending," as it has in the past and there is no reason to believe this will change. It is likely that more police hiring will start before money for tax has been collected and placed into the General Fund. The old "buy now, pay later" repeatedly used by our "leaders" is one of the reasons that our city is near bankruptcy today.
Considering money contributed to influence the "win" compared with the amount spent supporting defeat makes me feel like it is a David vs. Goliath battle.
I assure you that I am not against any improvement of our Police Department. I supported the rental business fee; I own and rent one property and had no problem with that proposal.
There is more to consider. Just months ago the Police Department benefits were increased. Retirement benefit cost went up (another "spend forward action"). The Police chief pleaded for the extra money to lure (some costly) "experienced" officers. Some he had interviewed wanted more than our city was currently offering.
The Council moved without hesitation and approved that request and we will pay for it year after year. It is deficit spending! (Note: The Police Association can demand more when labor negotiations reopen and no ballot measure is required for increased city spending.) Placing "C" on the Ballot because we need more income to eliminate an "emergency" is wool over the County Elections Department's eyes. We have been in an "emergency" state for the last 5 (or more) years! Why the "emergency" now? Why wasn't it declared before the huge reductions of all city services? That is a mystery to me.
I think our citizens should have been asked to send written ideas on possible solutions to reduce debt and these should have been used to develop and implement a strategy to solve our problems. That, however, would require more than a three-minute input at meetings and it might be considered as interference.
I will appreciate your gift at the ballot box when you vote "No" on "C."
Fred Hoskins is an Antioch resident.