There is a season meant for talk and a season meant for action. Antioch has had its day lamenting runaway crime. Hand-wringing over back-to-back yearly bad news grabs needed attention, but is ultimately just a temporary psychic release. It's time now for townspeople to take the bull by the horns.
The Friday Breakfast Club, a group of concerned citizens, has been working with an attorney on a ballot measure proposing a business tax levied on owners renting property in Antioch. The fees would be designated specifically for augmenting police services. Specific policy details, such as whether the first parcel is waived and/or what the precise fees should be, can be worked out by city council and staff. There is a growing general consensus, though, that renting property should be treated as a business and that any money collected from licenses/fees should be police manpower targeted, with citizen oversight.
Let's face a not so pretty picture. Since plummeting from 126 sworn officers to 89, with yearly attendant crime spikes of 30 percent, Antioch's living a hellish page from the Wild West. Like others, I hold my breath coming home from a day trip or a vacation hoping my house has not been broken into.
This proposal generates tangible hope and seems the most pragmatic and least painful way of raising needed resources. Consider Antioch's numbers: Some 11,000 rental units, including 1,971 Section 8 homes and some out of town investment consortiums controlling literally scores of properties.
Other towns, like Daly City, Oakland, Pinole and Rancho Cordova have a property business fee.
Shouldn't we likewise charge for the right of putting an investment shingle up in our town and using our public services? At, say $20 a month, we could potentially raise two to three million dollars annually for more sworn officers and/or in hiring for support less costly community service officers.
Yes, I despise taxes, fees and excessive government. I despise lawlessness even more, though. If government is not meant to insure law and order, then what is it there for?
Truth is, we are silently paying by not collectively acting. Paying through the nose, actually.
We are being robbed of peace of mind, of real property loss, of lost insurance deductibles, of lowered property values, and of the price of personal prevention initiatives. The ornamental gate I installed on my home's RV side cost me a cool $1,345. How about dog food for my trusty canine sentinel, alarm installation and fees, outside cameras and motion sensor costs? Yet with now 10 successful and/or thwarted break-ins in a three-block area of my home over the past 15 months, I still justifiably worry without a moat around my castle.
I applaud the Friday Breakfast Club for going beyond complaining. Implore the Antioch City Council to put a rental business fee unto an upcoming ballot, and urge citizens to carefully consider the alternative to inaction. As the ad goes, pay me now or pay me later. Passivity, as we've seen, comes with a price tag.
Walter Ruehlig is a resident of Antioch