Archive for the ‘Contra Costa County’ Category

Rx Drop Boxes let residents safely dispose of unwanted medicine at CVS Pharmacy locations

Thursday, January 10th, 2019

Contra Costa residents with unwanted prescription medicines can safely dispose of them at 27 CVS Pharmacy locations in the county thanks to new, secure drop boxes added through the county’s Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance.

The ordinance, passed in 2016, requires pharmaceutical drug manufacturers to provide collection services for unused drugs, to protect the environment and prevent accidental poisonings or intentional misuse of drugs such as prescription opioids.

“Safe storage and disposal of medications is one of the easiest and most important ways that each of us can help turn our county’s opioid abuse epidemic around,” said April Rovero, founder of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse and Chair of the Contra Costa County MEDS Coalition.

The drop-box service is free, secure and confidential. The medications can be disposed of at the sites even if they weren’t purchased at CVS. Most medications are accepted in their original containers or in sealed bags. Drugs and packaging placed in drop boxes will be safely destroyed. In addition to CVS Pharmacy locations, 10 Kaiser facilities in Contra Costa also have the drop boxes.

“This new medication disposal program will help save both lives and our environment by making appropriate disposal as easy as stopping by a nearby CVS Pharmacy or Kaiser Permanente,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Diane Burgis.

“We are pleased to work with the County to help provide access to safe medication disposal sites in Contra Costa County as part of our company’s commitment to helping prevent and address prescription opioid abuse and misuse,” said Tom Davis, R.Ph., Vice President, Professional Services, CVS Pharmacy.

Visit cchealth.org/safe-drug-disposal for more information about the ordinance and a link to a searchable database of Contra Costa locations with drop boxes.

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Contra Costa County launches Human Trafficking Task Force with $1.2 million federal grant

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Office of the District Attorney, Contra Costa County

Contra Costa County recently received $1.2 million under the Federal Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to establish a new Human Trafficking Task Force. Under the three-year grant from OVC, $500,000 is going to the Employment and Human Services Department (EHSD) for victim services and $700,000 goes to the District Attorney’s Office. This federal grant will assist both departments in developing this multidisciplinary task force that will implement victim-centered and coordinated approaches to identify victims of sex and labor trafficking through services and investigating and prosecuting these trafficking cases.

The Task Force will be an enhancement of the Contra Costa County Rescue and Restore Coalition (commonly referred to as the Human Trafficking Coalition) that was jointly formed with the Office of the District Attorney, EHSD and other partners in 2009 to address human trafficking in our county and the greater Bay Area. The Task Force’s “core team” will be co-chaired by Assistant District Attorney Venus D. Johnson and the Director of the Alliance to End Abuse Devorah Levine to ensure effective and efficient collaboration between investigation and prosecution and victim support and services.

To further combat trafficking in the county, District Attorney Diana Becton recently created a Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit within the District Attorney’s Office, which will be staffed by a dedicated sex trafficking prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Dana Filkowski.

“Our law enforcement partners will be able to focus on the growing problems associated with human trafficking in our community with this task force,” Becton stated. “We know that sharing confidential information and conducting complex investigations is challenging and resource intensive. However, with this new framework, we can prosecute those perpetrators who often times go unnoticed and provide comprehensive services to victims of trafficking. We have to keep raising awareness with the public and our law enforcement partners about the real threats that human trafficking poses to Contra Costa County.”

The Human Trafficking Task Force of Contra Costa County will be a collaboration of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies working together with victim service organizations to; 1) better identify all types of human trafficking victims; 2) enhance investigation and prosecution of all types of human trafficking; 3) address the individualized needs of all identified human trafficking victims by linking them to comprehensive services; 4) enhance awareness of human trafficking among law enforcement and service providers, as well as within the broader Contra Costa community; and 5) improve trauma-informed practices for human trafficking victims within law enforcement and victim service providers.

Task Force partners on the law enforcement side, headed by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office, will include agencies such as the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the F.B.I. and local law enforcement agencies. Task Force partners on the victim service side, headed by Contra Costa County’s Alliance to End Abuse, include Calli House Youth Shelter (Contra Costa Behavioral Health Services), Community Violence Solutions, Bay Area Legal Aid, International Rescue Committee, and STAND! For Families Free of Violence.

Contra Costa County is a natural corridor for human trafficking activities with its linkage to major metropolitan areas like Oakland and San Francisco via public transportation (BART) and its accessibility to Los Angeles and Sacramento via major highways such as 680, 80 and 5 (via Hwy 4). Though human trafficking is illegal, victims often do not know where to turn for help and community members may not know where to report suspicious situations.

The Contra Costa Human Trafficking Task Force, in partnership with the Contra Costa Human Trafficking Coalition will be working with local agencies to raise awareness about human trafficking in Contra Costa County throughout the month of January. The FBI has identified California as one of the nation’s top destination states for trafficked persons.

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Following voter approval of tax supervisors move forward on marijuana business zoning regulations

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Lower bond, seek legislation to draw trash haulers to anti-litter program

By Daniel Borsuk

Now that Contra Costa County voters have passed Measure R, the commercial cannabis taxation measure by a 72 percent approval rate in the Nov. 6 election, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors requested the county’s Conservation and Development Department (CDD) to present at the Board’s Dec. 4 meeting a refined process to select applicants for types of commercial cannabis businesses.

While supervisors heard favorable comments from speakers about CDD proposed regulations, there are concerns, particularly among cultivators, that the permit review process could take up to two years before a cultivator could even plant a crop.

In developing County Cannabis Zoning Regulations, county planners have reviewed cannabis zoning regulations that are implemented in Alameda County and in the cities of Alameda, Benecia, Emeryville and Hayward.

Anti-Litter Program Changes

Since launching in March, a program aimed at legalizing non-commercial trash haulers via a program where private haulers would become licensed, performance bonded operators through the Contra Costa County Health Department, the county agency entrusted to oversee the program has not received one applicant, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors revealed Tuesday.

Going on a recommendation from the supervisors’ Internal Operations Committee, supervisors learned from Dr. Marilyn Underwood, the county Environmental Health Director, about the status of the Solid Waste Collection & Transportation Ordinance.

“While extensive outreach has been conducted, no permit applications have been received. More than 40 phone inquiries were received, but mostly to confirm exemption from the permit program,” Underwood reported to supervisors.

Dr. Underwood reasoned that the current administrative penalties may not provide enough inducement for compliance, noting that the cost for a $50,000 performance bond of approximately $500 far exceeds the penalty for the first and second violation of the ordinance and is equivalent to the penalty for a third violation in a year.  As a result, the Internal Operations Committee recommended that the performance bond be lowered from $50,000 to $20,000 to see if haulers will apply for performance bonds and qualify for permits.

Even with the Internal Operations Committee recommendation from supervisors Candance Andersen of Danville and Diane Burgis of Brentwood, not all the supervisors were onboard.  Board Chair Karen Mitchoff resisted lowering the bond stating, “We need to put teeth into this ordinance.  The bond should still be at least $50,000.”

District 1 John Gioia of Richmond voted to maintain the performance bond at $50,000 instead of lowering it to $20,000.

Supervisors also voted to seek a state anti-litter bill that would enact statewide penalties on anyone illegally dumping litter in California.

“We want to get the state involved in this problem,” Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg said. “If Sacramento does not want to establish anti-litter penalties on a statewide basis, then perhaps it can be addressed on a Contra Costa County basis,” he said.

Keller Canyon EIR Contract Extended

Supervisors voted 5-0 to extend a Keller Canyon Land Fill contract with Environmental Science Associates Inc. from Dec. 31, 2018, to Dec. 31. 2020 at no additional change in contract cost of $402,588.

The landfill operator, Republic Services, plans to increase daily maximum tonnage at the landfill located on the southwest side of Pittsburg, off Baily Road, from 3,500 tons per day to 4,900 tons per day.  An environmental impact report will be required for that daily tonnage increase.

However, those plans have been temporarily shelved because of an investigation into allegations that shipments of radioactive material from the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco may have been deposited at the landfill.

In the meantime, Supervisor Glover told the Contra Costa Herald the Contra Costa Health Department will soon name an environmental consultant that will conduct an independent study of the landfill. The soils investigations will be paid through the Keller Canyon mitigation fund, a fund that annually distributes funds to Bay Point and Pittsburg non-profit organizations.

Veteran Affairs Administrator Jill Martinez Recognized for 39 Years of Service

After 39 years of service in Contra Costa County Veterans Affairs Office as an office administrator, Jill Martinez was recognized for her years of service to thousands of veterans during Veterans Day ceremonies Tuesday.

Well-respected among veterans because of her caring manner, Martinez told supervisors, veterans and the public attending the ceremony in the Board of Supervisors chambers in Martinez “I was fortunate that I had found my passion. We get calls from all over the county. The veteran community has grown so much that I’d work most weekends to keep up with the demands of the job.”

Martinez has no immediate plans of quitting.

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Supervisors plug $1.2 Million gap for storm water Regional Water Quality Board Permit

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

By Daniel Borsuk

To address rising costs of meeting strict environmental water quality regulations, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Election Day, Tuesday, unanimously approved a way to pay for a $5 million permit with the Regional Water Conservation District.

With scant discussion from supervisors and zero comments from the public, supervisors approved Contra Costa County Flood Control & Water Conservation District Division Manager Tim Jensen’s recommendation to pay for the five-year permit through service reductions.

Some jurisdictions, like San Diego and Santa Clara counties most notably have refused to pay rising storm water permit fees, Jensen said.

Jensen informed supervisors the county has about $3.2 million in funds set aside for the RWCD permit, but the there are no other funds available from the County’s General Fund to fill in a $1.2 million deficit for the certificate.

Jensen said his staff identified $510,000 of road funds and $75,000 of flood control funds that could be spent for program activities but, noted the road funds might be unavailable should state Proposition 6, the State Gas Tax measure wins in Tuesday’s election.  A Proposition 6 victory would deliver a financial blow to the county’s road fund. (NOTE: Prop. 6 failed)

The county flood control manager presented to supervisors a four-point service reduction plan that would help the county plug up the $1.2 million deficit to cover the RWCD permit.  The plan consists of:

  • Street Sweeping – Transfer street sweeping to the Road Fund even though this might not materialize if Proposition 6, the state gas tax measure, won at Tuesday’s election.
  • Inspections – Reduce inspections by 50 percent.
  • Outreach – Reduce the Public Information and Participation Program by 50 percent.
  • Calendar – Eliminate the annual calendar.

County Agricultural Crop Production Down 6 Percent

In other business, supervisors approved, on consent, the county’s 2017 Agricultural Crop Report that showed a 6% decline in gross value of agricultural crops.  During that year, agricultural crop gross value was $120,441,000, a decline of $7. 6 million from 2016, Humberto Izquierdo, Contra Costa County Agricultural Commissioner Sealer of Weights and Measures wrote in his report to the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

Izquierdo’s report cited how high labor costs and an overall shortage of farm workers have been key factors behind the longstanding decline in the county’s asparagus industry.  Today there is only one asparagus grower in the county who sells strictly at the Certified Farmers’ Markets.  The total acreage in asparagus production has decreased to less than 50 acres.  “The loss of (a 25% tariff) protection, combined with rising labor costs, have resulted in an increase in imported asparagus from 10.8 percent of U.S. consumption in 1980 to 91.2 percent in 2015,” he wrote.

The county crop report also showed that 2017 sweet corn harvested was down to 37,500 tons compared to 44,300 tons in 2016.  That corn harvest produced $18.9 million in total value in 2017 compared to $23.3 million in 2016.  Tomato harvest was up in 2017, at 209,300 tons valued at $23.4 million in comparison to 169,000 tons at a value of $19.9 million in 2016.

Shelter in Place Recognized

Contra Costa County Shelter in Place Week received official recognition from the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Supervisors passed a resolution recognizing the 17th anniversary of Shelter in Place Day that was held November 7 at Garin Elementary School in Brentwood with a drill. At the presentation Board Chair Karen Mitchoff presented the resolution to A. J. (Tony) Semenza, executive director of Community Awareness Emergency Response, and Michael Dossey, an accidental release prevention engineer with the Contra Costa Health Services Hazardous Materials Programs.

Adoption Awareness Month

Also, at the meeting, Supervisors recognized November as Adoption Awareness Month.  Board Chair Karen Mitchoff presented a resolution recognizing the good deeds of the county’s Children and Family Services to Sandra Wohala of Concord who recently adopted two girls.

In order to adopt the girls, Wohala said that she had to move out of her 550 square foot condominium and into a house with a backyard. This year Children and Family Services placed its first ever non-minor dependent adoption. Some 2,000 children in the county receive adoption assistance.

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Antioch man found guilty of animal cruelty for dog Attack on calves in Contra Loma Regional Park

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County Office of the District Attorney

On October 31, a Contra Costa County jury found defendant Vinicio Santos of Antioch guilty of three misdemeanors, including animal cruelty. On December 1, 2017, Santos’ dog attacked the three calves owned by grazer Paul Daysh. The brutal attack left the three calves permanently injured.

Santos now faces a sentence of up to three years in county jail. Sentencing for Santos will occur on November 30 by the Honorable Leonard Marquez in Department 34 at the Contra Costa County Superior Court in Pittsburg. Restitution for Daysh will also be decided on November 30. Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Whitnee Goins prosecuted the case on behalf of the People for this misdemeanor jury trial.

“I am grateful the jury held the defendant accountable for his crimes. He ignored repeated orders from East Bay Regional Parks Rangers to control his dog. Consequently, these calves needlessly suffered serious injuries. We will continue to prosecute animal cruelty cases to ensure the public is protected and animals are cared for in a humane manner,” DDA Goins stated.

Santos and his dog were at the Contra Loma Regional Park in Antioch on December 1, 2017. Santos’ dog was not on leash when spotted by park rangers. After rangers saw Santos, they heard animals in distress. When the rangers connected again with Santos they saw the white Husky mix dog viciously attacking one calf, then moving to attack two more calves. Santos was told repeatedly to leash his dog and bring the dog under control. Santos ignored the rangers’ commands.

Santos was found guilty of the following misdemeanor offenses:

·         Animal Cruelty

·         Vandalism Over $400 Damage

·         Resist, Obstruct, Delay of Peace Officer

Case information: People v. Vinicio Arturo Santos, Docket Number 04-193968-5.

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County Coroner’s inquest finds Antioch man wanted for felony assault, homicide was shot, killed by Antioch Police

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Lloyd Joseph Harris Jr. Photo by Antioch Police

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

Sheriff-Coroner David O. Livingston announced this week that a Coroner’s Jury has reached a finding in the February 8, 2018 death of Lloyd Joseph Harris IV, when he was shot by Antioch Police. The finding of the jury is that the death was at the hands of another person, other than by accident. (See related articles, here and here.)

According to Antioch Police, Harris was a person of interest in a homicide case and also wanted for felony assault, and had a federal warrant for his arrest, at the time of the shooting.

The Coroner’s Jury reached a verdict after hearing the testimony of witnesses called by the hearing officer, Matthew Guichard.

A Coroner’s Inquest, which Sheriff-Coroner Livingston convenes in fatal incidents involving police officers, is a public hearing, during which a jury rules on the manner of a person’s death. Jury members can choose from the following four options when making their finding: Accident, Suicide, Natural Causes, At the hands of another person, other than by accident.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Contra Costa County workers demand improved health benefits

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

Contra Costa County workers mount protest at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Tues., Sept. 18, 2018. Photo by Daniel Borsuk.

By Daniel Borsuk

A number of Contra Costa County workers turned out at last week’s Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors meeting to demand that they instruct County Administrator David Twa to negotiate with nine labor unions representing county employees to produce more affordable healthcare coverage.

County workers said they pay more than any other public workers in the nine county Bay Area.  They pay more than double than their county counterparts in San Francisco and triple that of city workers in Oakland for family coverage.  Premium rates are set to rise as much as 14.74 percent in January 2019 unless the unions and county strike a better deal.

In acknowledging the county will begin negotiations with the unions starting Wednesday, Sept. 19, Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond said, “We know health care costs are high and this is why these upcoming negotiations with the nine unions will resolve this issue.”

One major reason why Contra Costa County workers pay some of the highest health care costs in the region is because the county offers more plans than other counties and cities.

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County Assessor Kramer responds to censure by Supervisors

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Gus Kramer from his website.

By Allen Payton

In a brief interview while he is out of town on vacation, Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer responded to the censure against him by the Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday, August 14 over sexual misconduct allegations. (See related article).

The conversations and text between assessor Kramer and complainants were mutual and consensual, he explained. “In fact, most were initiated and or sent by one of the complainants,” Kramer stated. “No inappropriate physical behavior was claimed at all. No touching or asking out on dates of any kind.”

It was only after the two women were not chosen in civil service competition for a supervising appraiser’s position in the Assessor’s Office in 2014, were the complaints made.

“Only then did the conversations become unwelcome,” he said.

Upon being advised of their complaint, Kramer said he stopped all communication with both of the complainants, and they were advised of all of their options.

“None were pursued,” he pointed out.

The independent investigator, hired by the county in 2018, who is a female attorney in Oakland, determined there was no sexual harassment on Kramer’s part. The investigation was not conducted until this year, over three years later, when he was facing re-election.

According to Kramer, during that same time, and at least five years prior, one of the complainants had been lobbying members of the Board of Supervisors to be appointed to the position of County Assessor, should he retire or leave office midterm.

“She didn’t want to stand for election because she did not want to spend the money on a public campaign,” Kramer stated.

He ran unopposed in the June primary and won re-election for another four years.

The Board’s action occurred when neither Board Chair John Gioia nor Kramer could attend the meeting and defend himself or offer his point of view before the vote. He is considering suing the county.

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