Supervisors OK contract with county’s longtime Washington lobbyist despite committee pick of Federal Advocates

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors presented resolutions at Tuesday’s meeting designating May 2019 as Older Americans Month and honors all of the individuals, organizations and agencies working to ensure that all older county residents are honored as essential and valuable members of our community. In Contra Costa County, the population of people more than 60 years old currently is 20.4 percent, and if following growth projections of California, will be at 25 percent in 2030. The resolution states “Contra Costa County can enhance the lives of older Americans in our community by promoting home-and community-based services that support independent living; involving older adults in community events and other activities; providing opportunities for older adults to work, volunteer; learn and lead; encouraging older adults to speak up for themselves and others; and providing opportunities for older adults to share their experiences.” Photo by Daniel Borusk

By Daniel Borsuk

Preferring to stick with its established Washington-based lobbyist that has represented Contra Costa County since 2001, Contra Costa County Supervisors on Tuesday voted 5-0 to extend a contract with Alcalde & Fay for one year, June 30, 2020.

The one-year contract will cost the county approximately $120,000.

The supervisors’ action did not go as smoothly as the vote might indicate because two supervisors, District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood, who served on the five-person County Selection Committee (CSC), and Board Vice Chair Candace Andersen of Danville thought Federal Advocates, a firm that was founded in 2006, should have been awarded the $360,000 contract for the period running from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022 because it narrowly won during the screening CSC process.

Supervisors also directed county officials to develop screening measurements for the upcoming lobby renewal contract vetting process that were not put into place during the contract renewal process that supervisors had just reviewed and acted on.

In addition to Supervisor Burgis, other CSC representatives were Chief Assistant County Administrator Timothy Ewell, Employment and Human Services Director Kathy Gallagher, Health Services Administrator Joshua Sullivan, and Water Agency Manager Ryan Hernandez. The CSC convened on May 1 and the three candidates were invited for interviews on May 6.   Interviews were conducted over Skype, but the lobby firm of Smith Dawson & Andrews selected the teleconference option.

During the CSC review, Federal Advocates compiled 16.5 points. Federal Advocates topped second place finisher Alcalde & Fay that finished with 16 points. Points were unavailable for Smith Dawson & Andrews.

“It’s very disturbing,” said Supervisor Andersen. “They (i.e. Alcalde & Fay) cannot handle our platform. That is a huge disadvantage. We have not been well represented in Washington.”

“I think you are being over dramatic” warned Board Chair John Gioia of Richmond. “Each of us has his or her own choice. “I believe Alcalde & Fay is effective.”

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill led the charge to retain Alcalde & Faye as the county’s Washington lobbyist. “There is only a one-half point difference between first place (Federal Advocates) and second place (Alcalde & Faye). During the recession Alcalde & Faye stuck with us and cut their fees.”

Appearing before the supervisors, Federal Advocates President Michael Esposito appealed to supervisors to award the three-year contract to his firm because of its qualifications and knowledge through its working relationships with cities of Pittsburg, Antioch, Concord and Richmond.

In its brochure presented to the CSC members, Alcalde & Fay executive Paul Schlesinger wrote: “over the years we have helped the county secure more than $133 million in funds from the Army Corps for dredging, channel deepening, flood control and other projects.”

“It’s a wash,” declared District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg, about the professionalism of both lobby firms – Alcalde & Fay and Federal Advocates. “I’ve worked with both firms and both are outstanding.”

Authorize Assessor Waiver Fees for MTC/ABAG Project

Supervisors unanimously authorized to have Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer, who is in the midst of a newly filed Grand Jury Accusation for “willful or corrupt” misconduct while serving as the county’s elected assessor, to acquire Secured Assessment Roll and Property Characteristics data for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission/Association of Bay Area Governments.

The recommendation would require a distribution of $19,700 from the County’s Contingency Reserve.

MTC/ABAG needs the one-time appropriation to complete a major data collection project with Plan Bay Area 2040 and other major planning projects. So far, fee waivers have been collected from Alameda County, $20,000; Santa Clara County, $49,700; and Solano County, $48,156. Napa and San Francisco counties are provided the data at no cost. Small fees have been paid by San Mateo County of $2,745, Sonoma County of $270, and Marin County of $80.

“We appreciate the hard work of Mr. Kramer and his staff,” said Supervisor Mitchoff moments before supervisors approved the fee waiver request.

Upon saying he will process the board of supervisors’ MTC/ABAG appropriation, County Assessor Kramer told the Contra Costa Herald, “The board of supervisors is a fickle bunch. They routinely ask me to raise the taxes of their enemies and lower the taxes of their friends. Nothing they say or they do so much as surprises me anymore.”

Increase County Street Lighting and County Landscaping District Fees

Owners of property in unincorporated Contra Costa County will see landscaping fees and street lighting fees rise.

Without hearing any public protests, supervisors increased 2019/2020 landscaping fees from a cumulative $1,440,004.23 in 2018/2019 to $1,526,180.02 in 2019/2020, an increase of $86,175.79 in 2019/2020. The 30 landscape zones consist of county-maintained irrigation, parks, recreation facilities, pedestrian bridges and landscape areas around the county.

Property assessments for county street lighting will also rise a cumulative $1,780,289.16 in 2019/2020, an increase from $1,730,356.97 in 2018/2019, an increase of $49,932.19.

On A Historical Note…

On a consent item, supervisors recognized and honored the sacrifice of the late Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriff William R. Johnson as a lawman almost 165 years after a he lost his life in the line of duty while serving a “writ of ejection” on July 31, 1852 at a house in Oakland unlawfully occupied by the suspect. Johnson was shot in the chest and he died at the scene.

Deputy Johnson, who was 34 and a husband and father of three children, was formally inducted into the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. on May 13, 2019 and has been accepted by the California Peace Officer’s Memorial in Sacramento and scheduled for formal induction in May of 2020.

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