Archive for the ‘Contra Costa County’ Category

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.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

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.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

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.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

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.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

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.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

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.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Supervisors censure County Assessor Gus Kramer for sexual misconduct; he might sue

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Kramer, Board Chair Gioia unable to attend meeting

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer was censured on sexual misconduct charges by the County Board of Supervisors on a 4-0 vote Tuesday, paving the way for a potential lawsuit by the longtime elected official. Board Vice Chair John Gioia was absent at the meeting because he was touring the tar sands of British Columbia as part of a joint tour for serving as a Board Director on both the California Air Resources Board and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Elected to the county assessor post since 1994, Kramer was represented by his attorney Bruce Zelis of Walnut Creek. He warned supervisors before taking action that the assessor had sought a continuance on the board censure item because of Kramer’s inability to attend the meeting and because of questions that arose about whether the supervisors had violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state public meeting law.

Kramer’s attorney also questioned whether the board can discipline an elected official for actions he allegedly committed three years ago and there have been no similar charges leveled against him since then.

Zelis also questioned whether the board can discipline a countywide elected official, which conflicts with the board’s resolution recommendation that states:

“There are six county departments that are managed by elected department heads: the Assessor, Auditor, Clerk-Recorder, District Attorney, Sheriff, and Treasurer-Tax Collector. These elected officials are responsible for managing the county employees who work in their departments. The Board of Supervisors does not have the power to discipline elected officials when their conduct fails to meet the standards of behavior expected of all other county department heads.”

Obviously, supervisors went against the resolution recommendation and moved to censure the county assessor, who last year earned $221,946.80 before benefits.

Zelis refused to comment further with the Contra Costa Herald about the Brown Act violation allegations or other issues about Kramer’s case, but Board Chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill said there were no Brown Act violations when she and vice chair Gioia consulted over the proposed Kramer censure resolution prior to the meeting.

“We did not confer with our colleagues,” Mitchoff said.

This may not be the end of line for County Assessor Kramer case. The Contra Costa County Civil Grand Jury will now be handed the case to determine if the allegations involving the assessor and two female employees merit additional investigation.

Supervisors acted on a 2018 outside independent attorney investigation on two charges of sexual harassment dating back to 2015 by two initially unidentified Assessor Department female employees, one of whom has since been identified as associate assessor Margaret Eychner, a resident of Walnut Creek.

“The investigator found that, prior to mid-2015 it is more likely than not that Mr. Kramer made certain comments and engaged in conduct that two individuals who worked in his department considered to be offensive and inappropriate in the workplace.” a board report stated.

In the board’s resolution, the supervisors found “there was sufficient evidence to prove Assessor Kramer had engaged in the following conduct in 2014 and 2015:

  • Kramer frequently visited the complainant’s cubicle on the first floor and the complainant frequently visited Mr. Kramer’s office during 2014 and up to March 2015.  During these visits they discussed work related and nonwork-related matters.
  • On one occasion Mr. Kramer told her that he had given a vibrator to a woman (not a county employee) as a gift. She thought that this was inappropriate and offensive.
  • Mr. Kramer sent her two text messages in 2014 that she believed suggested a romantic/sexual interest in her. She considered the texts to be inappropriate an unwelcome.
  • In May 2014, he offered her a rose, which she interpreted to be a romantic gesture.
  • As to the second employee/witness, there was sufficient evidence to indicate that Mr. Kramer made a comment in her presence in 2008 and told a story in her presence in 2013 concerning his social interactions with women that she thought were inappropriate and offensive; and that on one occasion in 2015 he made a comment to her that she believed was intended to be sexually suggestive and considered inappropriate, offensive and unwelcome.”

The independent attorney investigator found that evidence did not show Assessor Kramer, who earned $221,946.80 in salary only in 2017, had retaliated against the two employees or had acted to “negatively impact their careers.”  In addition, the investigator’s evidence did show the assessor stopped making inappropriate and offense comments of a sexual nature to both employees after he learned of their complaints in 2015.  No further harassment complaints from the two employees or other employees have been lodged against the Assessor Kramer since June 2015.

“This is not a witch hunt and perhaps there wasn’t any retaliation,” said Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville, “but you have to remember the county had to pay $1 million in a sexual related case involving the assessor in 2009.”  Andersen was referring to a $1 million settlement paid to Assessor department employee Bernice Peoples in 2009 that Kramer had sexually retaliated against her.

“I want all our employees to feel safe and comfortable,” said Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood after voting in favor of the censure resolution.

Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg did not comment on this item.

Sandy Hook Promise Impresses Supervisors

A Contra Costa County Office of Education presentation on the nationally acclaimed Sandy Hood Promise, a non-profit organization designed to prevent gun violence on K-12 school campuses, won endorsements from all four supervisors in attendance.  Supervisors plan to place a resolution of endorsement on its next board meeting agenda slated for Sept. 11.

Sandy Hook Promise and the county office of education and eventually 18 public K12 school districts in the county are expected to work with the no-cost program that Sandy Hook Promise Vice President of Field Operations Paula Fynboh says is based on a heavy emphasis on student mental wellness.

“You brought us a great gift,” remarked Supervisor Burgis.  “You have my personal support.”

County Real Estate Fraud Unit Reviewed 71 Cases in 2017/2018

Supervisors also approved without comment the District Attorney Office’s annual real estate fraud report for the 2017/2018 fiscal year during which time the Real Estate Fraud Unit reviewed 71 real estate fraud cases, an increase from 64 cases that were reviewed during the 2016/2017 fiscal year.

“Within the last year, our office has secured felony convictions in 3 different cases and has conducted preliminary hearings against another 7 defendants in complex white-collar fraud cases, involving over 2 million dollars in stolen assets,” wrote Deputy District Attorney Adam Wilks, who leads the Special Operations-Real Estate Fraud.

Because real estate fraud is a sophisticated crime targeting especially senior citizens, Wilks wrote: “Within the last year, the Real Estate Fraud Unit restored title to the home of an elderly woman after the home was fraudulently slated for foreclosure auction.  This unit is currently working with federal prosecutors to help elderly victims of a foreclosure scam in operating around the Bay Area.”

Wilks reported that in the 2016/2017 fiscal year the Real Estate Fraud Unit tracked international cases as far away as Nigeria.  “These investigations involve rental fraud, forgery, embezzlement, foreclosure consultancy fraud, short sale fraud and elder abuse,” he reported.

Established in July 1996 by the board of supervisors, the DA’s Real Estate Fraud Prosecution unit is staffed with one deputy district attorney, one senior inspector and one legal assistant.  Last fiscal year, the unit spent $399,705 for salaries, benefits, travel and necessary services.

Resolution Boosts Two County Airports Economic Assets 

Supervisors unanimously gave the county’s two airports – Buchanan Field Airport in Concord and Byron Airport – an economic boost in the form of a resolution recognizing the contributions of the two airports to the aeronautical community and economic growth of the county.

The resolution materializes when the airports, especially Buchanan Field Airport, has drawn increased development interest.  The City of Concord has made overtures to annex the airfield, but Board Chair Mitchoff, whose District 4 covers the Concord air field, said, “There is no way, no how that the city of Concord will annex the air field. It is an economic asset for the county.” Both airports are self-sufficient and do not need to use county general fund money to cover expenses. Instead both airports are moneymakers contributing about $2.77 million to the county general fund, $1.2 million to local schools, and $273,216 to other public entities from associated possessory interest and sales tax.

The supervisors’ resolution boasts how the two airports provides a base of operation to over 600 aircraft, generated about $106 million in total direct and indirect annual economic output in 2016, which includes the creation of 828 jobs, $8 million in state and local revenue and $10.2 million in federal tax revenue.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

County airport committee seeks public input on possible viewing plaza at Byron Airport

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

A Public Viewing Plaza similar to this one at Buchanan Field in Concord is being proposed for the Byron Airport. Photo credit Nate G., posted Sept. 27, 2014.

Photo courtesy of Contra Costa County.

The Contra Costa County Aviation Advisory Committee is asking for the public’s assistance in answering a one question survey to gauge interest in and support for a “public viewing plaza” at the Byron Airport, similar to the one at Buchanan Field.

The commission will discuss the matter at their next meeting on Thursday, August 9, 2018, which will be held at 10:00 a.m., 550 Sally Ride Drive in Concord, and will be deciding if there is demand for the viewing plaza, the location for it at the Byron Airport and the cost.

Are you interested in and would you support a public viewing plaza at the Byron Airport?

Leave your response in the comments section, below or on the Herald Facebook page. Thank you for your participation.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter