“Last year, I characterized Antioch as being in guarded condition,” Davis said. “Today, I say this city is in stable condition, and on track for a full recovery.”
In his third State of the City speech, Davis said the city has survived many cuts brought on by the poor economy, but stands to prosper in years ahead. Key transportation projects will drive Antioch’s economy over the next several years, but city government is operating with 244 employees – 157 less than allocated. Employees haven’t received a cost-of-living increase since 2008.
“We know we can do more, and we will, but they’re doing a great job,” Davis said of city employees.
Little by little, the number of city employees has increased in recent months. Davis said Antioch recently hired a badly needed code enforcement officer, and Police Chief Allan Cantando said three new police officers would soon be added to the force.
Between now and 2015, half a billion dollars will be spent on Highway 4 and eBART, which will ferry money into the city, said City Manager Jim Jakel, who also spoke at the event. eBART will allow East County residents to board a train at Hillcrest Avenue and arrive at the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART station in 10 minutes.
In addition, the city recently opened a new boat ramp, and a future ferry service operating out of downtown stands to alleviate congestion on Highway 4.
Davis spotlighted economic factors that appear to be working in Antioch’s favor: the city’s budget has been in the black for the past two years, the unemployment rate has dropped – from 12.7 to 10.3 – and tax revenue is expected to jump 4 percent.
“It’s important to have real hope,” City Councilman Gary Agopian said. “We have been in the black the last few years, and have managed to survive. We must now start thinking about what we as a city can be once we turn the corner.”
Crime continues to plague Antioch. According to the city’s latest crime statistics (through the month of April), rape, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, theft and vehicle theft are all on the rise compared to the same time last year. The number of homicides remained at two. Adult and juvenile arrests are down.
But Cantando identified a series of crime-fighting techniques he believes will help, especially in conjunction with community involvement. The plan includes changing the schedule of patrol units, forming special enforcement and burglary-suppression teams, adding new officers and increasing neighborhood watch programs.
In order for the crime-reduction plan to work, said Cantando, he’ll need the community to help report crimes. “In reality, that’s the best way we’re going to suppress crime – as opposed to our officers haphazardly coming across it.”
According to Cantando, the community has already answered the call. He recounted a recent incident in which an ambitious neighborhood watch captain trailed a robbery suspect until officers arrived to make the arrest.
The community has helped in other ways. Cantando pointed to the $1,000 raised to subsidize the installation of cameras around key parts of the city; the $10,000 raised for the department’s K-9 program; and funds raised for the animal shelter.
Chamber of Commerce Chairman Sean Wright said he’s excited about the future of the city: “I’m extremely optimistic where we’re going in the next 10 years. I have a family, and I have chosen to raise my kids in Antioch.”
City Councilmember Mary Rocha believes the next step in revitalizing the city is getting the word out that things are starting to get better. “We know things are improving,” she said. “Now we just need to help our citizens understand it.”