Take Back Antioch has posted a Q&A from overflow questions from their forum on their website. Due to time constraints, several questions from those in attendance were left unanswered. They sent the following 7 questions to ALL candidates running for City Council and Mayor of Antioch requesting their responses before November 1st at 6 PM. The following (5) Candidates replied with their responses; Gary Agopian, Don Freitas, Jim Davis, Walter Ruehlig, and Monica Wilson.
Here are the questions that were answered, I cherry picked the best answer for each in my personal opinion.
Looking back, what do you think caused our local economic problems? If elected, what are you prepared to do to make sure we plan for and invest in our future?
Jim Davis: “Antioch was not immune to the Wall Street collapse, the foreclosure issue caught Antioch as it did the entire nation, and it was caused by runaway lending to unqualified borrowers, who refinanced over and over due to inflated home prices and huge amounts of equity. Antioch was more susceptible due to the number of high quality, lower cost homes in the city and the disproportionate amount of section 8 homes. Our General Fund is connected to property values that plummeted in the recession. Antioch has never had the opportunity for major job centers due to the inadequacy of Highway 4. That will change now the Highway 4 with be widen by 2016.”
Walter Ruehlig: “We simply overbuilt, setting us up for traffic congestion, school overcrowding (for years), and a housing glut fueled by foreclosures and rental explosion. Nobody, apparently, had Murphy’s Law in mind. Our greatest leaders (Truman, Reagan come to mind) were not necessarily great academics but had raw common sense. We didn’t act prudently and are now a city shamed in many outside eyes. We also need toughness as in Truman’s “the buck stops here.” A City Counselor shouldn’t be bullied or bought. Study carefully where candidate election money comes from. We caved in to developers and to special interests and are still in the hole. We finally renegotiated the police contract but are still hurting from an anti-business attitude that drove Winco and others from doing business here.”
How do you feel about the idea that rental properties should be treated as businesses and would require a business license?
Don Freitas: “Rental properties is a business and should be treated as a company. Therefore, a business license should be required which would clearly mandate that all rental properties be properly maintained. One of the biggest sources of blight comes from rental properties owned by absentee landlords. Antioch needs to demand that blight be immediately and permanently removed from any residential site. And instead of a slap on the wrist, heavy fines need to be levied that would force the landlord into compliance. A neglected property in any neighborhood negatively impacts the value of the other homes. Antioch should not tolerate blight at all.”
How are you going to help improve the public perception of Antioch?
Walter Ruehlig: “Quality of life, not promotional gimmicks, will change the public image of Antioch. Good cities have low crime, economic vitality and good schools. We aren’t doing too bad on the schools (an increase in API score 7 of last 8 years and a sterling reputation as a haven for linked pathways career partnership academies) but need a real shot in the arm on the first two.”
People are willing to commute from Brentwood, Oakley and as far as Tracy to SF. How do you plan to attract new citizens to Antioch?
Walter Ruehlig: “Growing up in Great Neck, Long Island people would leave notes at our door asking us to call them if we ever decided to sell. The town had one of the top ten schools systems in the country and it was that desirable to be there. Keep improving schools, lower crime and blight and people will want to move in, not out of, Antioch. Of course, Highway 4 widening and e-bart will help. Lobbying relentlessly for a ferry will be helpful as well to revitalize downtown, which needs visitors and hi-end condos.”
Pittsburg has built new schools, invested in their downtown and new homes without cutting code enforcement. What did Pittsburg do that Antioch did not?
Gary Agopian: “Pittsburg passed two local citywide school bonds that refurbished old schools and built new ones. We have passed one (Measure C) and need to pass another (Measure B). Pittsburg also passed a sales tax measure that preserved existing city services like code enforcement. We need to do something similar in Antioch ( should be very focused on code enforcement and police). Last, their whole city was one massive redevelopment district and they spent millions of it. Antioch never had the same amount of money, but spent it on a new city hall, police building and the like years ago and never did a big downtown effort. Now, redevelopment funding has been ended by the Governor and the Legislature. So the only financing methods are a city wide bond, private financing and sales tax rebates. We should rezone the area to support mixed use, market rate condominiums and focus on waterfront development that is a good fit.”
What services can we provide for High school and elementary students to help curb youth violence?
Walter Ruehlig: “I would love to see citizens take on the project of privately (with grants) supporting a YMCA or Boys and Girls Club as they have in Pittsburg (I actually work in that building). High school a dicier proposition that could use the help of the faith-based community and more volunteers and activities at the Prewett Park Community Center.”
If elected, will you support installing a “Shot Spotter” system and how would you fund it? (Gunshot detection and location system).
Jim Davis: “I brought the “Shot Spotter” to this Cities attention originally back in 2006, and campaigned on it again in 2008. I am very familiar with the equipment and technology. Both the prior Police Chief and current Chief support the concept, but both stated they do not have personnel to effectively support the service. I have worked to located possible financing and granted to fund the purchase, but until APD is ready we cannot move forward. I believe in the technology and will work to implement.”
Here is a link to all the answers: http://takebackantioch.com/city-council-mayoral-qa-responses-from-candidates-forum