Archive for the ‘Contra Costa County’ Category

Supervisors OK commercial cannabis ordinance, requires voters pass tax measure in November

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Mitchoff calls for calm over proposed Concord detention center

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County voters will get a crack at voting on a tax measure in November on how much the county should tax commercial cannabis enterprises, now that the board of supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance establishing zoning regulations for the cultivation, distribution and selling of recreational marijuana in most of unincorporated Contra Costa County.

Six areas where cannabis enterprises would be prohibited from setting up shop include Bethel Island, Sandamound Slough, Contra Costa Centre, Acalanes Ridge, Saranap and Alamo.  During the proposed ordinance’s public hearing process there was community protests especially from Alamo residents opposed to the establishment of commercial cannabis enterprises in their community mostly for public safety concerns.

Supervisors will consider proposed tax and health ordinances linked to the commercial cannabis ordinance at their July 10 meeting.

While the commercial cannabis ordinance charts regulations established in the Framework for Regulating Cannabis in the Unincorporated Area of Contra Costa County that supervisors approved in April, at Tuesday’s meeting supervisors were more focused on how the cannabis growers can conserve water, especially underground water, for a crop known to require high volumes of water to grow at a time California seems to permanently undergo drought conditions.

As a last-minute change, supervisors were handed an alternative water service plan provided by county planner Ruben Hernandez.  This water service alternative earned the stamp of approval from supervisors and establishes rules on how commercial cannabis cultivation operations can use groundwater but must comply with regulations aimed at conserving groundwater.  For instance, a commercial cultivation business could pump groundwater when “the retail water supplier does not provide retail water service at all times during the year.”

All five supervisors signed on and supported the water service alternative even though one prospective cannabis cultivator, Israel Martinez, a Brentwood farmer, said the county’s proposed groundwater revised rules are “too restrictive” and he said he supported the earlier Planning Commission’s groundwater rules because “cannabis uses a minor amount of water.”

“I don’t support any water alternative.” said East county rancher Eric Thomas.  “I’d like to see a cap on cannabis cultivation.  This does not use any water recapture.  Why not truck in water? You can recapture as much as 90 percent of the water used,” Thomas said.

All five supervisors approved the groundwater use alternative presented by the Department of Conservation and Development and therefore they unanimously approved the commercial cannabis ordinance.

“This is not the gold rush or green rush, but there is a significant investment that’s involved in establishing these types of businesses.” remarked Supervisor Diane Burgis whose rural oriented District 3 in East County, would be a big beneficiary of the potential new cannabis ordinance should it go into effect.

Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg, Supervisor Candance Andersen of Alamo, and Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond were willing to move forward on approving the commercial cannabis ordinance and accept the Department of Conservation and Development’s last-minute groundwater use proposal.

Board chair Karen Mitchoff also joined the other supervisors even though initially she preferred to wait and find out what state legislators were going to do about proposed legislation that would change the way county tax measures are passed either by a two-thirds vote or a majority vote.

Glover Unveils Keller Canyon Landfill Investigation Funding Source

Supervisor Glover announced that he has identified funds in the Keller Canyon Mitigation Fund, a fund used for an assortment of community activities in the Pittsburg and Bay Point area, to be spent for the county’s investigation into findings that there have been illegal deliveries and deposits of radioactive debris from the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.  A price tag has not yet been disclosed for the investigation.

The mitigation fund that landfill operator Republic Services finances will spend the money associated with covering costs of hiring a specialist to conduct an independent investigation into whether there were more than two documented cases where debris from the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard wound up at the landfill off of Baily Road.

Mitchoff Calls For Calm Over Concord Naval Weapons Station Use

Board Chair Mitchoff urged citizens to refrain from protesting at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, a site that the Trump Administration plans to house detained immigrants.  Should the President’s plans materialize at the closed weapons base, the government plans to spend as much as $233 million to construct housing for detained immigrants, U.S. Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) first disclosed the Administration’s plans last week.

The Navy has refused to disclose whether there are any plans to house as many as 47,000 detained immigrants at the closed military base.

“I specifically ask that no one march or protest,” Mitchoff said. “This may convey the wrong message to the Administration in Washington.”

Other than a protest planned in El Cerrito later this week, no protests have yet been planned at the shuttered weapons station.

$300,000 Contract Awarded from Animal Benefit Fund

On a 5-0 vote, supervisors approved a $300,000 contract to Unconditional Dog to provide animal enrichment services to dogs at the Pinole and Martinez animal shelters, but supervisors pulled the consent item for discussion because of concern over the Oakland-based company’s practices and whether County Animal Services will be accountable.

“I do support Ms. (Beth) Ward’s efforts, but the point is we need accountability,” said Dee Good.  “There should be some accountability.”

Another animal shelter observer, Carol Mason, also said the Unconditional Dog contract lacks accountability. “What kind of accountability is there at the shelters? Accountability is still important.”

Ward told supervisors her department awarded a three-month contract to Unconditional Dog in April to see if the company’s animal enrichment program does a better job in taming difficult dogs and thereby driving up the animal adoption rate at shelters.  Ward said the trial program showed some progress.

The Animal Benefit Fund will cover the contract costs.  No public funds are involved in the contract.

Supervisors asked that Ward give a report on the Unconditional Dog program in March 2019.

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Graves concedes to Becton in District Attorney race

Friday, June 15th, 2018

By Allen Payton

In the face of interim appointed District Attorney Diana Becton’s growing lead, her main opponent in the June election, on Thursday Supervising Assistant D.A. Paul Graves sent out a letter to his supporters conceding the race.

Becton now has 921 more votes than is needed to win, with 50.49% of the vote, up from 50.01% in the last update on June 8. The County Clerk’s office announced on Wednesday that they have approximately 10,000 ballots left to count and that some of those might be disqualified.

In addition to thanking his supporters, during a brief interview Friday morning, Graves also thanked those who voted for him.

A Heartfelt Thank You

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Nearly all the votes have been counted, and although it is very close, it is unlikely we will have a runoff in November. This afternoon, I called Diana Becton to congratulate her on her expected election as District Attorney.

I am grateful for the support of Contra Costa’s law enforcement community and firefighters, Marc Klaas, and the support and confidence of my fellow prosecutors.

I have been especially moved by the survivors who have reached out to reconnect, and in doing so reminded me why I am a prosecutor. Most of all, I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from friends and my family, most of whom already knew that I was probably a better prosecutor than a politician.

I want to say to all my supporters that your dedication to this campaign has been humbling and inspiring, and I complete this chapter knowing that I would do it all over again for the privilege of fighting the good fight alongside you all. We didn’t just fight for “change,” we fought for the right change, and I know that we will continue to fight for the safety of our communities and justice for crime victims.

Most of all, we can be proud of our effort and that we maintained our integrity throughout this election, including the appointment process. The District Attorney’s office is an office built on trust, and we met our obligation to the people of Contra Costa with the type of campaign we ran from start to finish – armed with real knowledge, focused on real issues, and fueled by real, local grassroots support.

Now we must come together and support our newly-elected District Attorney for the sake of Contra Costa residents who are counting on us to put politics aside for their benefit and safety. This campaign has ended, but our worthy cause continues in our courtrooms every day.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart,

Paul Graves

According to County Clerk-Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla, the final election results are expected to be announced next Friday, June 22 by 5:00 p.m. Please check back later for that final update.

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In Memoriam – former Antioch resident and Contra Costa Deputy Sheriff Don Bell passes at 71

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriff Don Bell, left. Photo provided by his family.

Don Stuart Bell, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a former Contra Costa County Sheriff Deputy, died unexpectedly on Saturday, June 2, 2018 at age 71.

He is survived by his wife, Sandy Harter-Bell; his children Don Scott Bell, Leanne Herrick, Debra Peeling, and Dawnyll Hooker; and his grandchildren, Garret, Elizabeth, Alex, Ashlyn, Michael Patrick and Elijah. He is also survived by his siblings; John Bell and Susan Hoff.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Thursday, June 28th at 2 pm at the Folsom Veterans Hall – 1300 Forrest Street, Folsom, CA 95630.

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Nationwide Operation Broken Heart results in online child exploitation arrests in county

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Investigators with the Contra Costa County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force recently participated in the nationwide Operation Broken Heart, a nationwide effort to investigate individuals exploiting children on the internet. Throughout March, April and May, the team conducted investigations of subjects who distributed child pornography over the internet and focused on individuals traveling to Contra Costa County to meet minors to engage in sexual activity.

In addition to the proactive investigations the ICAC team participated in, a significant school outreach program was also undertaken to teach parents and students about the risks associated with smartphones and social media. During the three-month period, investigators and prosecutors delivered presentations at six schools, reaching 140 parents and over 300 students. During the 2017/2018 school year, the ICAC task force has delivered presentations to over 300 parents and over 2,800 students in Contra Costa County.

The three-month nation-wide operation by the ICAC Task Force Program resulted in the arrests of 2,300 suspected online child sex offenders.

“No child should ever have to endure sexual abuse,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “And yet, in recent years, certain forms of modern technology have facilitated the spread of child pornography and created greater incentives for its production. We at the Department of Justice are determined to strike back against these repugnant crimes. It is shocking and very sad that in this one operation, we have arrested more than 2,300 alleged child predators and investigated some 25,200 sexual abuse complaints. Any would-be criminal should be warned: this Department will remain relentless in hunting down those who victimize our children.”

Some notable arrests and investigations conducted during Operation Broken Heart include:

-On April 6, 2018, investigators arrested Russell Meirose of Milpitas, California. Meirose was arrested after chatting online with someone he believed to be a 13-year old girl and enticing her to meet for sex. Meirose was arrested at a hotel in Pleasanton after he rented a room for the girl and himself. The girl he was talking to was actually an undercover police officer. Meirose has been charged with multiple felonies including attempted lewd acts with a child and arranging to meet a minor for sex.

-On April 19, 2018, investigators arrested Andrew Lund, a fourth grade teacher and school supervisor at Glen Cove Elementary school in Vallejo. Lund was arrested after it was determined he was sending harmful material to a person he believed to be a minor and attempting to arrange a meeting with that 14-year-old girl for sex. In reality, Lund was chatting with an undercover police officer. When investigators searched his house in Vallejo, they located child pornography on Lund’s cell phone. Lund has been charged with possession of child pornography and sending harmful material to a minor, among other charges.

In conjunction with Operation Broken Heart, on May 25, 2018, which is nationally recognized as Missing Children’s Day, the ICAC task force executed three search warrants in Contra Costa County, targeting offenders distributing child pornography.

-Investigators with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Contra Costa FBI Safe Streets Task Force, San Ramon Police Department, United States Secret Service, San Jose Police Department, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and the Contra Costa County Probation Department served a search warrant in the 1200 block of Elmwood Drive in Walnut Creek. Investigators located a significant quantity of child pornography on computer devices inside of the home and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing the case for potential criminal charges.

-Investigators with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant in the 200 block of Hillside Ave in Antioch. Investigators located a significant quantity of child pornography on computer devices inside of the home and arrested Raymond Myers for possession of child pornography. The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing the case for potential criminal charges.

-Investigators with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations, Child Exploitation Unit, served a search warrant on Brush Creek Drive in Pittsburg. Investigators located a significant quantity of child pornography on computer devices inside of the home and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing the case for potential criminal charges.

The Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is managed by the San Jose Police Department. In Contra Costa County, detectives and investigators from the Walnut Creek, Martinez, San Ramon, Concord and Moraga Police Departments, the Sheriff’s Office, Contra Costa County Probation Department and Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office participate in the task force along with Special Agents from the United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Secret Service.

Parents are encouraged to discuss online safety with their children and can visit the website www.kidsmartz.org for further information. If you believe your school or community organization would benefit from a smartphone and social media awareness presentation, please contact Deputy District Attorney Lauren Whalen at lwhalen@contracostada.org or Senior Inspector Darryl Holcombe at dholcombe@contracostada.org.

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Becton expands lead, may have won Contra Costa District Attorney’s race, Graves not conceding

Friday, June 8th, 2018

Election results as of Friday, June 6, 2018. From cocovote.us.

By Allen Payton

After counting about 20,000 of the remaining ballots from Tuesday night’s election in Contra Costa County, appointed Interim District Attorney Diana Becton has expanded her lead by another 1,000 votes to 50.01% over her main opponent, and Supervising Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves who now has 42.29%. She now leads him by 11,398 votes. To avoid a runoff in the November election, she only needs to win by 50% plus one vote.

However, Graves is not conceding, yet.

“There are still thousands of provisional votes to be counted,” said Katie DeFerraria, his campaign manager. “When the votes are all in there will be an opportunity for comment. Right now, Paul Graves will continue to focus on his responsibilities as a prosecutor for the people of Contra Costa.”

According to County Clerk-Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla, his office has counted “174,000 ballots so far, and we have 50,000 vote-by-mails to go and 10,000 provisionals. So, 60,000 total, roughly.”

Asked when the next update will be, her responded, “We’re going to hopefully have all of the vote-by-mail done and a semi-final by Wednesday. Then on June 22 we should have a full, final report with the provisionals included.”

For all of the latest election results in the county, click here.

Please check back Wednesday for the next update to the election results in Contra Costa County.

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Overview of the Contra Costa County election results

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

All incumbents won or placed first, $3 bridge toll increase passing, battles continue in D.A.’s, Superintendent’s races

By Allen Payton

Following is a recap of the election results in Contra Costa County from Tuesday night which saw a dismal 20.74% voter turnout in the county and only 21.9% statewide*. The County Elections office has 30 days to certify the elections and while their website shows 100% of the precincts have been counted, they will continue to count mail-in ballots turned in at the polling places on Tuesday and provide updates each Friday until completed.

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: According to County Clerk-Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla, “The Contra Costa Elections Division estimates that based upon Vote-By-Mail ballot returns from our polling places on Election Day, drop-off locations and those that have been received in the mail as of Wednesday afternoon, there are about 70,000 Vote-By-Mail ballots left to be prepared and counted for the June 5th Primary Election. We also estimate that we received about 10,000 Provisional Ballots at our polling places that will be processed. We will be posting another results update on Friday afternoon.”

County Races

The highest profile race in the county was for District Attorney. The top two candidates, appointed interim D.A. Diana Becton and Supervising Assistant D.A. Paul Graves, will face a run-off in November. At the current count she’s less than 450 votes shy of winning outright. Attorney Lawrence Strauss who placed third was eliminated.

The other battle in the county was the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lynn Mackey placed first and will face second-place finisher Cheryl Hansen. Ron Leone was eliminated having placed third.

Auditor/Controller Bob Campbell was easily re-elected, besting his same opponent for a second time, Ayore Riaunda.

In the race for County Supervisor in District 1, John Gioia had no opponent and was reelected. In District 4 incumbent Karen Mitchoff easily beat her opponent, Harmesh Kumar by a three-to-one margin.

Sheriff David Livingston, County Clerk Joe Canciamilla, Treasurer/Tax Collector Russell Watts and Assessor Gus Kramer were all re-elected without opposition.

U.S. House of Representatives

In the Congressional races, in District 5 Democrat incumbent Mike Thompson will face in the November election independent Nils Palsson who edged out another independent, Anthony Mills by just 137 votes.

District 9 – Republican Marla Livengood who beat Mike Tsarnas, who dropped out of the race earlier, this year, for the right to race Democrat incumbent Jerry McNerney.

In District 11, Democrat incumbent Mark DeSaulnier will face Republican John Fitzgerald, who the state party denounced and from whom they withdrew their automatic endorsement, last week, for his anti-Semitic comments and views. They both handily beat Democrat Dennis Lytton and independent Chris Wood.

In District 15, Democrat incumbent Eric Swalwell will face Republican Rudy Peters, Jr. in the November election. Independent Brendan St. John placed a distant third in the primary.

State Assembly

In the Assembly races, District 11 Democrat incumbent Jim Frazier will face Republican Lisa Romero in November, after Democrat Diane Stewart placed a distant third.

In District 14 Democrat incumbent Tim Grayson will face fellow Democrat Aasim Yahya in November. But, Grayson easily bested his opponent with 83.02% of the vote to 15.72%.

In District 15, in a wide-open race incumbent Tony Thurmond opting to run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction instead of reelection, since Contra Costa’s own Tom Torlakson was termed out. Democrat Buffy Wicks beat out 10 fellow Democrats and one Republican for the top spot. She will face second-place finisher Democrat Jovanka Beckles in November.

In District 16, Republican incumbent Catharine Baker will again face her only opponent in the primary, Democrat Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, whom she beat 58.34% to 41.6%.

Bridge Toll Increase

Although a majority of Contra Costa voters opposed the $3 bridge toll increase Regional Measure 3, it appears to be passing with 54% of the vote. That’s because seven of the other eight Bay Area counties voted in favor of the measure which only required a majority vote to pass. According to a KTVU Channel 2 News report, Solano County was the only other county to vote against it, with only 30% voting yes. However, not all votes have been counted, yet. As of this morning only 30 to 50 percent of the ballots from precincts in San Francisco, Santa Clara and Solano counties had been counted.

Statewide Races

Clayton resident Mark Meuser, a Constitution and election law attorney, placed second in the California Secretary of State’s race, and will face the incumbent Alex Padilla in the November election. (NOTE: This writer serves as his campaign manager).

* The statewide voter turnout figure is skewed since 11 counties, including Los Angeles and San Diego counties, have over 100% voter registration due to people on the rolls who shouldn’t be, such as those who have died, moved out of state, are registered more than once or are foreign residents.

For more details on the election results in Contra Costa County click here.

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Editorial: Graves is the clear choice for Contra Costa District Attorney

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

Paul Graves

By Allen Payton, Publisher & Editor

In the race for District Attorney there is one candidate who has the experience to be the top prosecutor we need in Contra Costa County. That’s Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves.

Unlike his current boss, Interim D.A. Diana Becton, who was appointed on a 3-2 vote of the Board of Supervisors, last year, Graves has 22 years of experience prosecuting crime in our county. She has never prosecuted a single case. Yes, Becton served for 30 years as a judge, but that’s not the same thing.

Also, Graves was the first candidate to declare and was willing to run against his former boss, Mark Peterson, who had not yet resigned following a controversy regarding lack of disclosure of loans to himself from his campaign funds.

Becton only entered the appointment process after Peterson’s resignation, which doesn’t show me a serious interest or commitment to the position.

Although accused of being part of the problem, Graves was not part of Peterson’s inner circle. He’s running to restore integrity to the office. Becton on the other hand, admitted to plagiarizing large portions of her application for the position. Yet, three supervisors still voted to appoint her.

The third candidate in the race, businessman and attorney Lawrence Strauss, is opposed to the death penalty – even for cop killers. That to me is an immediate disqualification. If you’re going to be the top prosecutor in the county, you need to be willing to follow and enforce all laws in our state, whether you agree with them or not.

Another thing to look at is who is backing the candidates. Graves has the support of all the Deputy District Attorneys, as well as all of the police officer associations, in the county. Those who enforce the law know Graves is the one candidate who will do the same.

Becton’s backers include the ultraliberal, former San Francisco D.A. and now U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and worse, the soft-on-crime billionaire George Soros. Why are they interfering in our county’s law enforcement? Do we really want to model our D.A.’s office after San Francisco’s? Of course not.

Worst of all, Becton is missing too many days from the office for a job that pays her more than $250,000 per year.

We need a prosecutor who will restore leadership and integrity to the Contra Costa D.A.’s office. Voting for Paul Graves will accomplish that.

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Contra Costa County Clean Slate Day set for May 19 in Antioch

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

This Saturday is Clean Slate Day in Antioch that allows individuals to apply for and receive a reduction or dismissal of a prior conviction. The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office and Antioch Police Department are co-hosting Saturday’s event.

The event is open to the public. Residents can register for Saturday through Code for America at www.clearmyrecord.org

“Clean Slate Day will help remove barriers for members of our community trying to get a fresh start. With this partnership, we are able to assist hundreds seeking legal assistance,” stated Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton. “Prior convictions can leave a lasting mark on an individual’s record and life. We must continue to seek opportunities to bring law enforcement and the legal community together with the community to ease tensions and clear old convictions.” Becton initially organized a Clean Slate Day in Richmond, California when she served as a Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge in 2016.

The Clean Slate Program operates throughout the entire year and is managed by the Public Defender’s Office. Individuals can contact the program at 925-335-8150 for questions about seeking Proposition 47 relief, record sealing, legal advice and dismissals of convictions.  Residents can also register on an ongoing basis for the Clean Slate Program through Code for America at www.clearmyrecord.org

“Far too many people face barriers in accessing employment, housing, and education because of a prior criminal record.  Having one’s record expunged can have a transformative effect by making it easier for individuals to reintegrate back into their communities,” said Robin Lipetzky, Chief Public Defender. “Our Clean Slate team specializes in assisting people with clearing their records and giving them a second chance at life.”

This is the first event co-hosted with a law enforcement agency. Clean Slate Day starts at 10:00 a.m. and ends at 2:00 p.m. at Antioch Middle School.

“This event helps our community heal and thrive,” conveyed Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks. “We must work to reduce recidivism and assist individuals in navigating the criminal justice system.”

Other community partners offering services on Saturday will include the following organizations: Bay Area Legal Aid, Rubicon Programs, Contra Costa Reentry Network, and the Safe Return Project.

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