Antioch voters will have a few interesting decisions to make in the June primary election.
The city of Antioch has put forward two ballot measures: One would change the city clerk and city treasurer from elected to appointed positions; the other would change the mayor from being directly elected to a rotating position among council members.
I agree with the measure to change the city clerk and city treasurer to appointed positions. Currently, their pay and benefits are the same as those on the City Council.
Most cities appoint their finance director as the city treasurer; and most cities appoint their city clerk.
The question will be whether the City Council will appoint a professional city clerk, which will cost significantly more that an elected city clerk who only needs to be a resident and over the age of 18.
I have dealt with a number of professional city clerks and have always been impressed with their knowledge of local, county and state laws, as well as their professional relations with residents who seek information.
Sadly, the ballot measure does not indicate what the City Council will do, and it will be the City Council that makes those appointments.
The second Antioch ballot measure asks voters to change back to a rotating mayor.
Having represented Antioch during my eight years on the City Council at the county, regional and state level, I have seen the difference it makes when a city has a directly elected mayor.
State Assembly members serve two-year terms, while state senators serve four-year terms. Legislative aides of standing committees are permanent fixtures. Heads of state departments are political appointees and typically are there for at least four years.
As such, when it comes to dealing with legislative issues which impact Antioch and East County, it is important to have a directly elected mayor who can build the relationships necessary to influence legislation.
It is true that a majority of the cities in Contra Costa use the rotating mayor system, but there have been abuses. If you are "out of favor" with other members of your City Council, it is very possible that you will be "passed over" when your turn would come. We saw that happen in a neighboring city.
The ballot measure does not state how the rotating mayor system would work, which means that the current City Council (and not the voters) will establish it.
One thing I found out is that if you hold the position of "mayor," whether directly elected or appointed in a rotating system, for the rest of your life you will be referred to as "mayor." That doesn't happen if you are elected as a City Council member. So it would appear to be more of an ego trip for those who do not want to go through the effort to be elected mayor.
In a General Law city, the mayor has only three "powers": presiding over meetings, signing documents with the approval of the council and, the only real power, the power to make nominations to boards and commissions.
Antioch voters should read the ballot arguments and then vote to have the power to directly elect their mayor by rejecting this measure.
Meanwhile, the Antioch Unified School District is coming back once again seeking a $59.5 million parcel tax on non-Mello-Roos taxpayers.
Keep in mind that voters barely approved a similar parcel tax just four years ago, and the district still has $20 million from that parcel tax, which it has not bonded.
Sadly, the school district is making no promise that it will not bond that additional $20 million in exchange for this new parcel tax. Nor is there any exemption for seniors.
In fact, the proposed parcel tax will consume more than the Social Security COLA seniors finally received after going three years without a COLA -- yet their Medicare Part B premiums have increased every year.
The timing for this is wrong. We have families struggling to make their mortgage or rent payments and put food on the table. The number of foreclosures and threats of foreclosure in Antioch are obscene. Perhaps the school district should seek other sources of funds (like selling surplus property).
Lastly, hold on to your wallets as there is a small group of Antioch residents working on a ballot measure for November, which will either involve a sales tax increase or parcel tax for police services.
Arne Simonsen served on the Antioch City Council 2000-2008. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.