Archive for January, 2018

Supervisors brush off Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition for upcoming hearings

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Told they should focus on job training and housing in 2018 and beyond, during Tuesday retreat in Pleasant Hill

By Daniel Borsuk

The unveiling of a new citizens organization designed to inject more citizen involvement in the county’s budget development process was torpedoed by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Jan. 30.

During a board retreat at the Pleasant Hill Community Center, supervisors informed representatives of the two-month-old Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition that since 82 percent of next year’s proposed $3.4 billion 2018-2019 fiscal budget will come from federal and state funding sources, those funds are mandated for either health services at 55 percent and the sheriff-coroner at 27 percent and there is no room for discussion from the public.

The county’s current fiscal year budget is $3.1 billion.

Supervisors are scheduled to adopt the proposed budget on May 8.  They have scheduled a public hearing on the budget on April 17 with the possibility a second hearing on April 24 if one is needed.

Supervisors told coalition representatives that it would essentially be a waste of time to make a pitch about the budget either at the public hearing or by scheduling meetings with supervisors in their district offices.

“We have a lot of restrictions on our money,” said Board Chair and District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill.  “Go ahead with holding your community meetings about the county budget, but they will be limited.”

“We have very limited money,” District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover said.  “Our health and safety funds are mandated by the federal or state government agencies.”

“I am always open to have the public engaged in public policymaking, but we have to face the fact that our budget is mostly funded through mandated categorical sources, “said Supervisor John Gioia of District 1.

“We understand that the budget is already stacked up with required mandated funding, but there is still some flexibility in the process,” Dan Geiger of the Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition and director of Human Services Alliance of Contra Costa told the Contra Costa Herald.  “We are asking the board to give us some say.”

“We will likely do what we have initially planned to do and that includes meet individual supervisors in their district offices to discuss budget issues,” Geiger said.  “We will also attend the April 17 public hearing.”

Geiger said the objective of the organization, which began with nine non-profit organizations in December and is growing with the potential 48 new organizations, is to open up the county’s budget process.

The new coalition aims to practice its “values-based budgeting principles” that promote safety and affordable housing, stable employment with fair wages, sufficient healthy food, essential health care, access to critical social services, quality early care and education.

Geiger said formation of the Contra Costa Budget Justice coalition occurs at a time there is mounting uncertainty about the future of federal funding coming out of Washington for the upcoming 2018-2019 fiscal year and beyond.  Those budget priorities include housing, health care for low income residents, children and youth services, and mental-behavioral health.

Economic Outlook: Housing Shortage and Job Training

The economic focus in Contra Costa County in 2018 and beyond should be on job training and housing county supervisors were told by Christopher Thornberg, Director of the University of California at Riverside Center for Forecasting and Development.

The economist presented his yearly Economic Outlook Focus on the Contra Costa Economy during the board of supervisors’ retreat.

While the nation’s economy experienced “good growth in 2017” at 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter, Thornberg said California, and especially Contra Costa County is facing two economic problems, a shortage of trained workers even though since 2010 there has been a phenomenal number of job openings and a severe housing shortage.

“We are running out of trained workers,” he said.  This is due to an increasing number of trained workers retiring.  Thornberg suggested as a partial solution to the worsening employment crisis is raising the Social Security retirement age requirement age by two years from 70 to 72.

“In Contra Costa County you have the jobs.  There are a lot of job openings.  Job training and housing should be your focus,” he said.

Thornberg said it is up to the supervisors to find ways to address the housing crisis with rising housing prices.

“We’re seeing a tighter housing market in Contra Costa County with the median house price at $550,000, “he said.

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County’s Community Warning System functioned properly during Richmond fire Tuesday night

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

A fire burns at Sims Metal Management in Richmond, CA Tuesday night, Jan. 30, 2017. Screenshot of video by ABC7 News.

By Jimmy Lee, Director of Public Affairs, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff

The mission of the Community Warning System (CWS) is to ensure the public gets emergency alerts as quickly and completely as possible once we receive the proper information from the requesting agency. CWS is not an internal notification system for a city or affected jurisdictions.

In regards to yesterday’s fire at Sims Metal Management shop located at 604 S. 4th Street in Richmond, CWS received all of the necessary information from Richmond Fire for an alert at 5:55 PM. There was no request to activate the sirens. The first alert was sent at 6:08 PM through the Telephone Emergency Notification Sys-tem (TENS), which includes phone, text, and email alerts. It is also posted on social media and websites.

As the fire continued to burn and produce smoke, and due to a shift in winds, the shelter-in-place needed to be expanded. CWS worked to get updates to additional shelter-in-place areas as they were requested by Richmond Fire and Contra Costa Hazardous Materials Program.

The second alert went out at 6:44 PM, the third alert went out at 7:57 PM, and the last one went out at 8:50 PM. These alerts went to expanded areas at the request of Richmond Fire and the Contra Costa Hazardous Materials Program.

After the situation became somewhat stabilized and it was believed no additional shelter-in-place areas would be needed, a comprehensive map was created that included all affected are-as and was posted in on our website and Facebook page and sent directly to the media.

“In yesterday’s incident, the CWS worked as designed — alerts were sent once all the information was received from the requesting agency,” said Assistant Sheriff Mark Williams. “Mayor Butt’s statement that it took an hour to get out the first alert after receiving the necessary information from Richmond Fire is totally inaccurate, misleading, and presumptuous.”

CWS continually reviews it system and procedures in an effort to improve delivery of alerts. CWS encourages all county residents to receive alerts by registering at http://www.cococws.us and to follow CWS on Twitter and Facebook at CoCoCWS.

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Walgreens to pay $2.25 million in price scanner and expired products case in Contra Costa, other Bay Area counties

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

At the corner of happy, healthy and higher prices? Violations attributed to human error.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday that its Consumer Protection Unit joined with the District Attorneys of Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties in a civil law enforcement action against Walgreen Co., the operator of more than 600 Walgreens stores in California. Walgreens, a nationwide corporation, has its headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois.

The civil action was based in part upon scanner inspections conducted by local Weights and Measures offices, including the office of Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture Division of Weights & Measures, Humberto Izquierdo Director. The District Attorneys alleged that Walgreens violated state law by charging customers more than the lowest posted or advertised price for items.

The alleged violations also included Walgreens’ failure to comply with laws prohibiting selling or offering to sell infant formula or baby food after the “use by” date and over-the-counter drugs after the expiration date has passed. These violations were discovered as a result of inspections by the County Environmental Health Services Divisions and District Attorney Investigation Units. The Santa Clara County Superior Court approved the Modified Stipulated Judgment on January 29, 2018.

“It seems that Walgreen’s couldn’t get their act together here, more than other counties,” said Deputy District Attorney Gary E. Koeppel of the Consumer Protection Unit. He was the lead Deputy DA from Contra Costa County, prepared much of the documentation and was the main contact for negotiations with Walgreens’ law firm in San Francisco. “We were having probably a larger problem here in Contra Costa.”

Without admitting wrongdoing, Walgreens agreed to pay $2,250,000 in civil penalties and costs. The judgment also prohibits violating applicable laws and requires Walgreens to institute a compliance program. That program includes procedures to ensure the removal of infant formula, baby food and over-the counter drugs prior to the “use by” or “expiration” dates. The program also requires procedures to ensure that consumers are charged accurate prices, such as removal of shelf tags from store shelves prior to expiration and adjusting charges at point of sale to reflect the lowest advertised, posted or quoted price on the sales floor for in-store purchases.

The present Modified Stipulated Final Judgment “superseded” or replaced a 2013 pricing violations judgment against Walgreens, by adding new injunctive, compliance and civil penalty and costs provisions to address the new pricing and expired product violations. Walgreens cooperated with prosecutors during the investigation and the resolution of this case.

District Attorneys work with Departments of Weights & Measures to protect consumers from pricing errors and with Environmental Health Divisions to enforce laws prohibiting the sale of certain expired products. Consumers should always check receipts to verify that they are charged the correct price and make sure that the products they purchase are not beyond their expiration dates.

“If there’s a tag on the shelf that indicates a price and when scanned it indicates a higher price, it’s a violation,” Koeppel said. “The provisions in the state Business and Professions Code are clear. You have to sell it at the lowest, advertised price, even if it has expired. If it’s still on the shelf at the lower price with a tag in black and white, they have to sell at the expired price.”

“The County Agriculture Department’s County Weights and Measures are responsible for this, including gas stations,” he added.

“During the course of our negotiations over the scanner violations we did an undercover operation with our health departments throughout the state and we came up with about 33% of the stores that came back with over the counter pain medication and baby formula that had expired dates,” he stated.

Part of the injunction includes the requirement that at least 90 days before the expiration on pain medication and 30 days for baby formula Walgreens must remove those items from the shelves,” Koeppel explained, “Then other requirements such as posting of conspicuous signs.”

“Regarding the scanner violations, we’ve had this term placed in other injunctions with other big box stores, requiring managers have to walk through the aisles once a week and pull expired tags,” he continued. “Plus, they’re required to keep records whenever customers complain any time prices are higher and enter that data into a system that keeps track of scanner price modifications, when the shelf price was lower than the scanned price.”

Asked if the stores are required to provide a period report, Koeppel replied, “No. But, Weights & Measures has the right to go in any time and request a copy of the report.”

He wanted to point out that “Walgreens has been very cooperative and primarily blame the violations on human error,” due to “the turnover in employees and difficulty training them. Nothing constitutes an intentional violation. For clarity, they’re not alone. I’m not going to name other stores. But, scanner violations are very common in big box situations. It’s been pretty rampant, over the years. Unintentionally, for the most part.”

Asked about the liability the stores face, Koeppel responded, “It’s a big, potential liability issue with the baby formula and pain medication if someone got sick. But, from our discussions with experts, the best would be weaker potency, not greater health risks.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Deer Valley High student advocates for organ and tissue donation, takes first prize in contest

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Erika Villanueva with her winning artwork.

Deer Valley High School senior, Erika Villanueva, won first place in the 2017 Holiday Card Art Contest. The art competition is organized by Donor Network West, the organ and tissue recovery organization for northern California and Nevada.

Villanueva’s artwork, which displays two hands holding a red heart with a golden tree within it, was inspired by the contest’s theme, Families make miracles happen: The Gift of organ and tissue donation.

“I used the tree and the flower of life which signify human continuity through the generations,” says Erika, whose design was selected from high school student entries in Donor Network West’s service area of 40 counties.

“Our annual high school art contest is a vehicle for bringing organ and tissue donation and transplantation learning modules into the classroom, with the added benefit of sparking student-led conversations about the importance of being registered donors,” says Ayanna Anderson, Senior Community Development Liaison of Donor Network West.  “We applaud students like Erika for their imaginative designs, and their passion for our mission of saving and healing lives.”

Anderson presented the prize at the school and met principal, Kenneth Gardner, and ceramics instructor, Wendy Marchetti. The latter served as mentor to the student and encouraged her participation in the contest.

The Art Contest winners were selected through several rounds of judging by Donor Network West staff and organizational leaders. Villanueva won a $500 gift card and her winning design was featured as Donor Network West’s holiday card.

Nearly 900 people are waiting for an organ transplant in Contra Costa County. One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people and a tissue donor can heal more than 75 others. Anyone can register as a donor at DonorNetworkWest.org or at the DMV. For more information on the Art Contest visit: Donornetworkwest.org/artcontest/

About Donor Network West

Donor Network West saves and heals lives by facilitating organ and tissue recovery for transplantation. The organization was established in 1987, and is an official Donate Life organization accredited by the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) and the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). Federally designated to serve 40 counties in northern California and Nevada, Donor Network West partners with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the state-authorized donor registries. For information, visit DonorNetworkWest.org and find us on social media: @mydnwest.

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Entries accepted for the 2018 County Elections Photo Contest through Feb. 28

Monday, January 29th, 2018

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Antioch Police seek suspect in Sunday night assault of Pittsburg man

Monday, January 29th, 2018

By Sergeant Matthew Harger #3305, Antioch Police Field Services Bureau

On Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018 at approximately 9:45 PM, Antioch Police officers were dispatched to the 3200 block of Terrace View Avenue where they located a 34-year-old male in the roadway. The victim was found unconscious and suffering from a significant injury. The victim was transported to a local hospital and is currently listed in serious but stable condition

There will be no further information released regarding this case at this time. Anyone who may have information regarding the incident is encouraged to contact the Antioch Police Department at 925-778-2441. You may also text a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using key word ANTIOCH.

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What to see in February at Antioch’s historic El Campanil Theatre

Monday, January 29th, 2018

RHINESTONE – A Salute to the Songs & Career of GLEN CAMPBELL

Performed by ANDREW KAHRS

Saturday February 3, 2018  8:00 pm

Andrew Kahrs

The distinctive voice of Rising Star ANDREW KAHRS is celebrating The Legacy of GLEN CAMPBELL in a Salute to the Songs of this contemporary Music Legend with Hits including Gentle On My Mind, Galveston, Wichita Lineman, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Rhinestone Cowboy … And many more favorite classics.

Contemporary Music Legend Glen Campbell tallied 21 Top 40 hits, 6 Top 20 albums, 27 Top 10 singles, 9 No. 1 Country albums, 5 Grammy Awards, 3 Grammy Hall of Fame honors, and 3 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards. He was a 15-time CMA Award nominee and 2-time winner. Campbell’s final album Adios was released June 2017.

​Reserved Seating ~ All Ages

Tickets – Adults: $29   Seniors (62 and Over): $27   Youth (Under 18):  $12

Buy Online Now – No convenience fees – Save time later

Tickets: https://www.elcampaniltheatre.com/Rhinestone.html

This show is part of our 2018 Subscription Series.  Buy 4 Shows and Save 20%.  Series Info: https://www.elcampaniltheatre.com/subscriptions.html

This One’s For You – The Songs of Barry Manilow

A Cabaret Tribute to a Pop Legend

Saturday, February 10, 2018  2:00 pm

BARRY MANILOW wrote over 400 songs including This One’s For You; twelve #1’s and 47 Top 50 singles. His unparalleled career is made up of virtually every facet of music, including performing, composition, arranging and producing. He has triumphed in every medium of entertainment and has received Grammy, Emmy and Tony Awards, and an Academy Award nomination.

Reserved Seating ~ All Ages

Adults: $29   Seniors (62 and Over): $27   Youth (Under 18):  $12

Tickets:  https://www.elcampaniltheatre.com/this-ones-for-you.html

This show is part of our 2018 Subscription Series. Buy 4 Shows and Save 20%. https://www.elcampaniltheatre.com/subscriptions.html

The Vagabond Players present The Hallelujah Girls

Sunday, February 11, 2018  2:00 pm

The Hallelujah Girls by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope & Jamie Wooten

Hilarity abounds when the females of Eden Falls, Georgia, decide to shake up their lives. The action in this comedy takes place in SPA-DEE-DAH!, the abandoned church-turned-day-spa where this group of friends gathers every Friday afternoon. The women realize time is precious, and if they’re going to change their lives and achieve their dreams, they have to get on it now!

Sugar Lee, their high-spirited, determined leader, has her hands full keeping the women motivated. The comic tension mounts when an ex-boyfriend shows up unexpectedly, a marriage proposal comes from an unlikely suitor, and Sugar Lee’s archrival vows who willl stop at nothing to steal the spa away from her. By the time the women rally together to overcome these obstacles and launch their new, improved lives, you’ve got a side-splitting, joyful comedy that will make you laugh out loud and shout “Hallelujah!”

Adults: $20   Seniors: $18  Youth: $15  General Seating

The All Hands On Deck Show

Currently on Tour From Branson Missouri

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 2:00 PM

ALL SINGING! ALL DANCING! ALL BIG BAND!

The ALL HANDS ON DECK! Show brings you an authentic American roadshow and radio broadcast re-creation circa 1942 filled with heart-warming songs, tight harmonies, rousing on-air antics, classic commercials and a sing-a-long excitement, all accompanied by the warm sounds of the live nine-piece Hollywood Victory Caravan Orchestra!

Audiences of all ages grin from ear-to-ear with delight as we unite with this heart-warming, toe-tapping musical message for all Americans!  With 42 of the greatest American songs ever written and a message that inspires, it’s time for America’s most patriotic show.

Orchestra: $40  Loge: (1st Level Upstairs): $35  Opera: (2nd Level Upstairs): $30  Reserved Seating

Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra performs Ludwig and Leonard

Saturday, February 17, 2018  2:00 p.m.

Adults: $15    Seniors (62 & Over): $12     Students: $7   General Seating

Formed in the late 1970s, the Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra has established a presence throughout the county.  The orchestra is comprised of forty-five musicians ranging in age from 15 to 94 who are music teachers, accountants, students, electricians, mechanics, homemakers, lawyers, retirees, dentists, engineers and computer specialists. Primarily Contra Costa residents, their only remuneration is the stimulation and satisfaction of rehearsing and performing together.  In addition to the five-concert season at the Lesher Center, the orchestra also nurtures its dedication to the community by providing affordable performances to the residents of East Contra Costa County at El Campanil Theatre.

El Campanil Children’s Theatre Presents Mr. Toad’s Mad Adventures

Friday, February 23, 2018  7:30 pm   &   Sunday, February 25, 2018  2:00 pm

Adults: $13   Seniors(62 & Over): $11  Youth (Under 18):  $9    General Seating

Adapted By Vera Morris

Here is a delightful new version of Kenneth Grahame’s always popular The Wind in the Willows.  Toad of Toad Hall is an eccentric but likable chap given to ’crazes.’ His latest craze involves motorcars.  Unfortunately, he smashes them up as fast as he gets them.  He even steals one for a wild ride over the countryside.  Naturally, this gets him into a great deal of trouble.  His dear friends Badger, Rat, and Mole do their best to help, but their efforts aren’t enough, and Toad ends up in prison…  after an uproarious courtroom scene.  His imprisonment couldn’t please his enemies, the weasels, more.  They quickly take over Toad Hall and trash the place.  Meanwhile, the jailer’s daughter, Polly, thinks Toad is an exceptional fellow and helps him escape dressed as a washerwoman!

Performed by the children of El Campanil Children’s Theatre.

El Campanil Theatre is located at 602 W. 2nd Street in Antioch. For more information call 925-757-9500 or visit www.elcampaniltheatre.com.

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Supervisors increase fees by 150% for non-franchised solid waste haulers

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Approve purchase of five new fire trucks for Con-Fire

By Daniel Borsuk

Without a whimper of a protest from a non-franchised solid waste hauler, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to make it costly to operate a business in the county.

At the request of District 1 Supervisor John Gioia, supervisors agreed to raise the performance bond to $50,000 from $20,000 even though at one point the supervisor from Richmond attempted to press on the need to lift up the performance bond as much as $100,000.

In addition to paying for the annual performance bond, anyone conducting business as a non-franchise waste hauler in the county would have to pay $229 for an annual permit per vehicle and meet other rules the Contra Costa County Health Services Department has developed.

Independent trash hauling operators would also be subject to annual inspections and would have to adhere to other rules county supervisors established in an ordinance passed last November.

The non-franchised waste haulers ordinance is set to go be enforced in March.  County officials are uncertain how many non-franchise trash haulers there are in the county because they work undercover in warehouses and illegally dump loads usually under the cloak of darkness and in out-of-the-way unincorporated parts of the county.

“I’ve been working on this issue in North Richmond for 20 years, and if they (i.e. homeowners) can hire someone to haul their trash for $20 versus $70 they’ll do it for $20,” said Gioia.  “The question is whether we are setting the bar too low.”

The supervisor contends his District 1 in West county and District 5 in East County represented by supervisor Federal Glover tend to be hit the hardest by non-franchised solid waste haulers who illegally dump trash in unincorporated areas thereby forcing the county to spend thousands of dollars to clean up sites.

“If you make it too expensive, “warned Supervisor Candace Andersen, whose District 2 gets perhaps the least amount of trash illegally dumped by non-franchised haulers, “there will be more of a need for haulers to resort to the black market.”

District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis, who has observed hundreds of paint cans litter Marsh Creek Road, commented, “These people can do a lot of damage with one load.  Twenty thousand dollars for a performance bond is nothing.  I’d like to set it higher. “

At the suggestion of Board Chair and District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, Gioia and other supervisors agreed the $50,000 performance bond would be a good start to assess independent trash haulers not affiliated with either of the two major trash haulers, Republic Services and Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery.  Both companies played key roles in compelling the supervisors to approve the ordinance last year.

District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg said the problem of trash dumped by non-franchised haulers on vacant lots is a countywide problem, not mainly an East and West county issue.  While he supports raising the performance bond to $50,000, he said the board of supervisors needs to be proactive and needs to monitor how the non-franchised trash haulers respond to the new ordinance.

Board chairperson Mitchoff requested that Marilyn Underwood of the Contra Costa Health Services Department, the department enforcing the ordinance, to give the board a progress report in March once the ordinance becomes enforced.

Fire District to Acquire 5 New Trucks

The Contra Costa Fire Protection District will add sorely needed new fire equipment with the supervisors 5-0 consent action approval to buy five new fire engines from Golden State Fire Apparatus Inc. at a price tag not to exceed $4.6 million.  The new vehicles will be delivered to the CCFPD in January 2019.

Supervisors voted to acquire four Type I fire engines and one 100-foot aerial ladder truck from Golden State Fire Apparatus to help alleviate an aging fleet of 35 Type I engines with an average age of 9.3 years per vehicle.  All engines that are more than 10 years old, Fire Chief Jeff Carman reported, have more than 100,000 miles.  Four Type I engines targeted for replacement each have more than 125,000 miles.  One engine sustained a catastrophic motor failure while responding to a state mutual aid response in Southern California this fall.

The new aerial apparatus truck will be the fire district’s 10th ladder truck.

The county has arranged a 10-year lease agreement through PNC Equipment Financial LLC worth an amount not to exceed $4.6 million with annual payments of $460,000 at an annual interest rate of 3.5 percent.

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