Archive for the ‘Contra Costa County’ Category

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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Dollar Day at the 2018 Contra Costa County Fair on Opening Day Thurs., May 17

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

ANTIOCH – Open Day May 17th, Is Dollar Day at the 2018 Contra Costa County Fair. Gates Open at 12 noon, and everyone can enjoy the Fair for just $1 until 5PM. Also you can enjoy $1 Carnival Rides until 5PM. The Contra Costa County Fair has partnered with the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano to bring $1 Day to the Fair. Pay $1 to get into the Fair, and donate $1 to the Food Bank, $1 can provide 2 Health Meals to a needy family in Contra Costa or Solano County.

We look forward to seeing you at the 2018 Contra Costa County Fair. For the complete program presented by the Antioch Herald, click here: 

For additional information about the 2018 Contra Costa County Fair visit our website at www.contracostafair.com, or like us on Facebook. The fairgrounds are located at 1201 West 10th Street in Antioch.

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Contra Costa Supervisors examine $3.5 billion 2018-19 budget

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

In era of federal funding uncertainty

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County Supervisors are poised to approve on May 8 a $3.5 billion 2018-19 budget realizing that during the upcoming budget year there is the likelihood significant funding cuts out of Washington might especially hit human services programs.

“The current administration in Washington is likely to reduce funding to states and counties,” county administrator David Twa warned supervisors at Tuesday’s board budget hearing.

Even with that caution, supervisors did not blink an eye and proceeded to listen to six budget presentations from department chiefs about what is in store for the upcoming 2018-2019 fiscal year.  Supervisors did not comment about the prospects of federal or state cuts next fiscal year at the hearing, but neither did any of the meager number of persons who showed up to speak about the proposed 2018-19 spending plan.

The Employment & Human Services Department is subject to perhaps the most significant funding cuts from Washington, EHSD Director Kathy Gallagher told supervisors.  Since 2017, funding for the department’s CalFresh and CalWorks programs that deliver food and job training for 65,000 residents has had federal funding trimmed from $101.5 million in 2016 to $90.4 million to 2018.  More cuts are expected for the two programs in the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year, she said.

Gallagher painted a bleak federal funding fiscal picture showing a watch list of human service programs that could potentially be hit with steep federal funding cuts.  Some of those programs include Medicaid, Community Service Block Grants, Child Welfare Services, and the Older American Act, which includes Meals on Wheels.

Federal funding uncertainty also hovers over County Health Services, but not as severely as what EHSD faces, Contra Costa County Health Director Anna M. Roth told supervisors, in presenting her department’s proposed $1.8 billion budget for 2018-19.  Next year’s budget includes $100 million in general funds.

Roth noted that expansion of the Contra Costa Health Plan with more than 200,000 members provides the county financial support, especially when there is financial uncertainty coming out of Washington.

Addressing only the $241,271,160 in general funds proposed for 2018-19, Contra Costa Undersheriff Michael Casten, who filled in for Sheriff David O. Livingston who was out of town, said a $5.6 million vacancy factor makes it “a very difficult for the Office of the Sheriff-Coroner to operate”.

Casten said the funding deficit means for 2018019 the Sheriff-Coroner will not fill 10 deputy sheriff slots worth $2.6 million, three mental health evaluation team deputies openings worth a combined $781,000, 7 patrol deputies worth $1.82 million and six sergeants worth $1.77 million.  The Sheriff-Coroner’s request for 15 recruit positions valued at $1.21 million was approved for the upcoming fiscal year.

For Diana Becton, the Interim Contra Costa County District Attorney appointed by the board of supervisors last year who is up for election June 5, budget priorities for 2018-19 include enforcement of Proposition 64 (2016 voter approval for the legalization of the sale of marijuana in California), hiring of additional clerical staff, the implementation of a case management system and pay parity.

For 2018-19, Becton wants to add 14 full-time staff worth $1 million.  Those positions include five mainline prosecution assistant district attorneys, five mainline prosecution clerks, two senior inspectors and one forensic accountant.

District attorney Becton wants to also distribute resources for bail reform, the East County Anti-Violence Coalition, the West County Anti-Violence Coalition, the Safe Streets Task Force and anti-truancy initiatives.

Public Defender Robin Lipetzky plans to hire 8 staff members to her department next fiscal year.  She plans to hire two attorneys, one investigator, pretrial attorneys, and clerical staff.  A new juvenile office in Walnut Creek will open in the next month, she informed supervisors.  Last year the public defender handled 501 juvenile cases.  Her department last year also handled 3,545 felony cases.

For 2018-19, Contra Costa Public Works will be busy filling 15 positions, Brian Balbas, Public Works Director said.  The department will need the additional staff as Balbas needs more staff to oversee a big increase in capital improvement projects, including the construction of a new $110 million county administration building and emergency communication center.

New West County Health Center Expansion Project Approved

On a consent item, supervisors awarded a $12.45 million design-build contract to C. Overaa & Co. for the design and construction of the West County Health Center Expansion Project at 13585 San Pablo Ave., in San Pablo.

When the project is completed, the new two-story, 20,000 square foot building will house the Behavioral Health Department, which will be relocated from a leased building.  The new building will qualify for a LEED Silver rating from the Green Building Council.

Other construction firms competing for the design-build contract were Vila Construction and Boldt Co.

College District – Sheriff-Coroner Contract OK’d

Supervisors also approved the $497,250 contract between the Sheriff-Coroner and Contra Costa Community College District to provide educational course construction at the Law Enforcement Training Center at Los Medanos College for the period July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.

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Supervisors approve major Buchanan Airport mixed-use project, more airport projects planned

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Sheriff-Coroner awarded $400,000 in grants

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa Supervisors flashed the green light on Tuesday for county airport officials to ink a long-term lease with a Southern California developer to build a 52,000 square foot, single story mixed-use building at 550 Sally Ride Drive near Buchanan Field Airport in Concord.

The supervisors’ 4-0 action serves as a signal that more commercial and aviation related developments are in the pipeline on county owned property adjacent to the county’s two airports – Buchanan Field Airport and Byron Airport.

District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis was not in attendance because she was at a business meeting representing the supervisors.

The supervisors’ action on the consent agenda item means that Airports Director Keith Freitas can proceed to execute a long-term lease with Montecito Commercial Group, LLC for the lease of about 3.21 acres of unimproved county-owned property at the south end of Sally Ride Drive.

As part of the supervisors’ action, the developer will receive a mitigated negative declaration attached to the project’s environmental impact report.  During the EIR procedure, the Contra Costa Water District submitted a letter about the developer’s water usage and an easement issue.  Both issues were resolved according to the CCWD.

The county can expect to cash in on the proposed single-story office-warehouse-distribution building.  During the two-year construction period, the county will be paid $1,000 per month, but once construction is completed monthly rent will increase to $4,247 and will be adjusted every year on April 1 based on the Consumer Price Index.

The Montecito lease calls the one-year period beginning April 1, 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026 any adjustment will not be greater than 75 percent of the CPI factor.  For the one period beginning on April 1, 2028, throughout the lease term, any adjustment to ground rent based on CPI may not be more than 4 percent of ground rent then in effect.

The Montecito development serves as an indication more projects near the county’s two airports are on their way for future supervisors’ review and action, Assistant Airports Director Beth Lee said.  Supervisors are expected to soon consider two large developments proposed for the Byron Airport.  One is a proposed building for aviation use and the other building is for non-aviation use, Lee said.

Lee noted the developer has yet to complete design and other procedural work before the Montecito project can get underway.

Before the Montecito -Buchanan Field development, the last development constructed on county airport property occurred in 2012 at the Byron Airport when the Patriot Jet Team building was constructed, said Lee.

When asked if real estate developers are finally recognizing how county airport projects can generate ideal real estate deals, Lee responded: “We sure hope so. This could mean a major new source of revenue for the county.”

Two State Grants Approved for Sheriff-Coroner

Supervisors approved two major state grants for the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office.

A $300,000 grant from the California Division of Boating and Waterways was awarded to the Sheriff-Coroner for the removal of abandoned vessels and the vessel turn-in program on county waterways.  The grant goes into effect beginning Oct. 1, 2018 and remains in effect when grant funding runs out.  Ninety percent of the funding comes from the state and 10 percent is an in-kind match.

Supervisors also approved a $97,100 grant for the Sheriff-Coroner from the Office of the Attorney General, California Department of Justice, Division of Law Enforcement Tobacco Law Enforcement Grant Program.  The grant will be used from June 1, 2018 through June 30, 2020 to decrease juvenile access and use of tobacco products.

Both grants were approved as consent items.

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Supervisors snub public outcry for Sheriff Livingston investigation, resignation

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Approve $95M for new county administration building

By Daniel Borsuk

Community activists wanting Contra Costa County Supervisors to launch a probe into the way Sheriff-Coroner David O. Livingston operates the Martinez jail and the West County Detention Facility, the site of numerous allegations of inmate abuse, hit a brick wall on Tuesday as supervisors refused to conduct their own investigation into how the jails are operated by the sheriff.

Sheriff David O. Livingston. From CCCSheriff website.

Livingston, an elected countywide official, is up for re-election in June, but when the March 9 filing deadline rolled around no one had filed to oppose the sheriff in the upcoming June 5 primary election.

About 12 speakers asked supervisors to launch an investigation into Sheriff Livingston’s jail practices, even when two independent investigations, one that United States Senator Diane Feinstein has asked the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to undertake dating back to December and another that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is conducting, have yet to reveal their findings.

The Contra Costa Sheriff has come under fire from human rights organizations for the way he has treated male and female inmates at the North Richmond and Martinez jails.  At the West County facility female inmates under ICE custody have been allegedly mistreated whereby they cannot use restroom facilities forcing them to defecate in their clothes or in plastic bags.  The sheriff has also been criticized for having a contract with the U.S. Marshall’s Services and for vocally opposing interim District Attorney Diana Becton, the Board of Supervisors’ pick as DA.  Becton is up for election in the June primary election against senior district attorney Paul Graves, lawyer Lawrence Steven Strauss and Concord attorney Victor A. Segovia.

Even though the sheriff is an elected official, some speakers demanded Sheriff Livingston’s immediate resignation.

“Twenty-seven women have complained of being abused under his administration.  The sheriff should resign.  You should at least launch an investigation of the jail,” said Melvin Willis, a Richmond City Councilman and a representative of the Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment.

“It’s time for Sheriff Livingston to resign,” insisted Kathleen Everson of Walnut Creek.  She said supervisors should conduct an independent investigation into the sheriff’s office.  “It’s time to end the sheriff’s contract with ICE.”

“What’s up with you guys?” asked Linda Olivera of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement.  “You need to show the initiative.  This is your facility.  This is a horrible sheriff.”

“I don’t think you guys are going to do a damn thing,” said Mercy Garetz of Hercules.  “We’re going to where the money leads.”

“I’m waiting for the independent report from the state attorney general to come out either at the end of this month or next month before making any decisions,” said District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond.

Board chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill acknowledged that state attorney general Becerra is conducting his investigation into the West County jail, but she also disagreed with statements made by Concord clinical psychologist Harmesh Kumar, who said the Sheriff’s Office has slashed mental health services because of county funding cutbacks.  Mitchoff said the board will take up at its March 27 meeting a $3 million proposal to fund mental health services for the jails as a consent item.

Kumar is a candidate running for the District 4 seat that Mitchoff currently occupies.  Also running for the District 4 supervisorial seat is Justin Wedel, 39, of Walnut Creek.

New County Administration Building Approved 2018 0320CCC BOS New Admin Bldg

After decades of despair, supervisors flashed the green light for Hensel Phelps Construction Co. to begin construction immediately on the new state-of-the-art county administrative building, Emergency Operations Center and Public Safety Building in Martinez.

The county buildings will cost $95.8 million to construct and will replace an antiquated administration building that has been in use since 1960.

The new, three-story administration building is to be constructed on vacant Pine Street property near the existing administration building at 651 Pine St.  The new three-story, 72,000 square foot building will accommodate 150 county employees.  The Emergency Operations Center and Public Safety Building will accommodate about 50 employees, said Chief Assistant County Administrator Eric Angstadt.

Hensel Phelps Construction Co. beat Swinerton Builders in the design-build selection process that the county conducted.  Supervisors approved $110 million in construction bonds in May 23, 2017 to fund the construction of the project that is slated to be completed in April 2020.

When the new buildings are constructed, the 651 Pine St. building will be demolished and a parking garage is proposed for the site.

Supervisors Approve Funding For St. Paul’s Commons Development

A proposed 46-unit residential development, including a manager’s unit, designed for “extremely low, very low and low-income households with AIDs” got the green light for federal funding from the board of supervisors.  Supervisors unanimously approved the item as a consent item.

The St. Paul’s Commons Development will be constructed on church property at 1860 Trinity Ave. in Walnut Creek under a 77-year lease.

The developer wants to borrow via the county $2.6 million of HOME funds and $232,681 of Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  St. Paul’s is also receiving $5.6 million and $11.7 million in Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the City of Walnut Creek.

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Supervisors OK $6.75 million purchase of new county voting system

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Supervisors honor County Auditor-Controller Robert Campbell for his 30 years of service. Shown are from left: District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis, District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover, Chairperson and District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, Campbell, District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen and Vice Chairperson and District 1 Supervisor John Gioia. Photo by Daniel Borsuk

By Daniel Borsuk

With scant protest, Contra Costa County Supervisors unanimously approved Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla’s request Tuesday to replace the county’s aging ES&S voting system with a system made by Dominion Democracy Voting Systems, Inc.

Courtesy of Dominion Democracy Voting Systems, Inc.

The new voting system, the Democracy Suite System made by Dominion will be delivered in time for the special March election for the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District and will be widely put into service for the June gubernatorial election, Canciamilla said.

The county has used the ES&S voting system since 2005.

Supervisors, particularly Chairperson Karen Mitchoff and District 4 Supervisor Candace Andersen, said they had received several emails from citizens questioning the fiscal validity of acquiring a new voting system in an era of election system security vulnerability.

Andersen wanted to know why the county did not put out a request for proposal (RFP), and Scott Konopasek, assistant county registrar, answered that the Secretary of State has to certify voting equipment suppliers.  There are few voting equipment suppliers that meet rigid state requirements.  It happens that both Dominion Democracy Voting Systems and ES&S are voting equipment suppliers the Secretary of State has certified and an RFP is unnecessary.

But in the county’s evaluation, Dominion Democracy took top honors, said Konopasek.

In evaluating the Dominion Democracy and ES&S systems, Dominion Democracy came out on top with a score of 39 points out of 60 possible points.  Dominion Democracy scored highest, especially in the areas of integrated software, ballot marking device, central count equipment and precinct count system.  ES&S did not prevail in any of the 11 evaluation categories.

Canciamilla told supervisors that the Office of the Clerk-Recorder has $4.7 million to pay Dominion Democracy Voting Systems.  Beginning in the second year of the contract, the office will pay $360,000 a year for six years to cover maintenance and licensing costs, Konopasek explained.

Canciamilla said the current ES&S system is rapidly deteriorating to the point that it needs to be replaced, especially now that elections will need to accommodate three languages: English, Spanish, and, starting this year, Chinese.  Furthermore, ballots are bulkier with more ballot measures.

In this era of national inquiry about Russian meddling in our elections, Konospasek said the Dominion Democracy Voting Systems passes the cyber security test.

Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood questioned the vulnerability of the Dominion Democracy Voting System to cyber security threats.

“We have always had great security” Canciamilla said.  “We have designated a person to manage our security.”

Voters will see no difference.  They will continue to receive and fill-in-the-bubble ballots that will be tabulated by digital imaging.  Poll workers will also see no difference with the new voting machines.

Before supervisors voted on the request to acquire the Dominion Democracy system, Canciamilla informed supervisors that he plans to eventually present a request to the board for the county to spend about $14 million to restore 3 million historic documents and 20 million maps that are now housed in inadequate storage.  Canciamilla did not state when he will present this request or how he plans to fund the request.

“We are excited to be bringing in this new equipment that will make our operation more cost effective and reliable and ensure a secure, accessible and transparent process,” said Canciamilla.

Supervisors Authorize Agricultural Planning Hearings

At the request of District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood, supervisors voted 5-0 to authorize the Conservation and Development Department to conduct meetings with farmers and residents with agricultural interests to assist the county in a policy review and the creation of new ideas to promote an “incentive” for agricultural sustainability and economic vitality in Contra Costa County.

The county has $150,000 to spend on agricultural planning, John Kopchick, chief of the Contra Costa County Department of Conservation and Development told supervisors.  He suggested that the department conduct a series of forums where 15 to 20 persons per forum can express ideas ranging from agricultural tourism to bed and breakfast establishments.

“How does cannabis get involved in this?” asked Board Chairperson Mitchoff.

“Cannabis is a background topic,” answered Kopchiick because the county does not yet have a marijuana ordinance on the books.

The department plans to conduct its first forum in April.

County Auditor-Controller Campbell Honored

The Supervisors also gave special recognition to the county’s elected Auditor-Controller Robert Campbell for his 30 years of service to the county on Tuesday.

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County Public Works to make public safety repairs on Marsh Creek Road Feb. 12 – Mar. 1

Monday, February 12th, 2018

The Contra Costa County Public Works Department will perform work on Marsh Creek Road from Camino Diablo to the Clayton City limits, from February 12 through March 1, 2018. The work will occur between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m to trim back trees and vegetation along the road edge and make spot shoulder repairs.

The purpose of this work is to increase driver visibility, awareness and public safety. The work may be rescheduled based on weather conditions. Electronic message boards will alert drivers of the scheduled work. There will be traffic control through the work area and motorists can expect delays.

About Contra Costa County Public Works Department:

Contra Costa County Public Works Department (CCCPWD) maintains over 660 miles of roads, 150 miles of streams, channels and other drainage and over 200 County buildings throughout Contra Costa County.   CCCPWD provides services such as Parks and Recreation, Sand Bag Distribution and Flood Control throughout unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County.  For more information about CCCPWD, please visit us here.

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