Archive for the ‘Politics & Elections’ Category

Graves to hold campaign kick-off for Contra Costa DA in Pleasant Hill Friday

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves. photo courtesy of Paul Graves for DA

The campaign for Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves, running for Contra Costa District Attorney in next June’s election, announced they will hold a Kickoff Celebration this Friday, September 22. The event will be held at the Pleasant Hill Senior Center, 223 Gregory Lane from 5:30 – 7:30 PM.

Join Paul Graves and his supporters for drinks and tacos to celebrate. All are welcome. RSVP through their Eventbrite page.

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Contra Costa teens targeted in large-scale voter registration effort

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

25 high schools to hold registration drives

The Contra Costa County Elections Division is coordinating a large-scale registration campaign with 25 Contra Costa County high schools as part of National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, September 26th.

The Elections Division is providing ready-made registration kits to facilitate on-campus events, which contain everything needed to conduct a registration drive.

In addition to registering 18-year-old students, those who are 16 and 17 years old can also “pre-register” to vote.

“We’re happy to partner with schools across Contra Costa County and help register eligible voters and pre-register soon-to-be-voters,” said Joe Canciamilla, Contra Costa Clerk-Recorder and Registrar of Voters. “As someone who first ran for office at age 17, I can personally attest to the value of registering and becoming involved in the electoral process as soon as one becomes eligible.”

National Voter Registration Day is an annual event to create awareness of voter registration opportunities and to reach those who may not otherwise register.

The Elections Division joins 2,500 organizations across the country in promoting voter registration and celebrating democracy on National Voter Registration Day.

This is the third year Contra Costa Elections has organized National Voter Registration Day efforts with county high schools, and over 1,000 students have registered or pre-registered to vote as a result.

Concord High School civics teacher Andrew Shetterly expressed his excitement, noting that very few of his students are currently registered to vote. “I think it will be powerful to have them all register together. The kits help turn the act of registering into a life event that students can share and it feels official,” Shetterly said.

The Elections Division urges all eligible voters to register or update their registration, which can be done online at www.registertovote.ca.gov.

Interested groups are encouraged to hold their own voter registration events on September 26th. Contact our office at 925-335-7805 for information or visit www.NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org for ideas and details.

National Voter Registration Day is celebrated annually on the 4th Tuesday in September and has been endorsed by the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors.

Each kit contains:

  • Voter registration cards
  • A voter registration card stand
  • Instructions on completing a registration form
  • National Voter Registration Day posters
  • “I registered to vote” Stickers
  • A table cover
  • Photo props
  • Table decorations
  • Pens
  • Sticky hands
  • A return envelope for completed registrations
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Frazier’s “Jeff Belle” bill to increase penalties for ballot statement lies advances to Gov’s desk

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Jeff Belle, source Contra Costa County Board of Education

SACRAMENTO – The full Legislature has approved a bill by Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay) which would assess a financial penalty on candidates who lie on ballot statements when seeking political office. AB 894 now goes to the governor for his signature.

AB 894 would impose a fine of up to $5,000 if a candidate includes knowingly false information on statements they submit for inclusion on election ballots. The fine can be multiplied if an offender is convicted on associated criminal charges.

“Candidates who shamelessly lie to voters are committing fraud and they should pay the penalty,” Frazier said. “For many voters, the only information they may have about a candidate is what the candidate submits for a ballot statement. This is especially true in down-ballot races, such as the Board of Education, which usually don’t get a lot of media coverage.”

Frazier authored AB 894 after a Jeff Belle, a candidate elected to represent East County on the Contra Costa County Board of Education in 2014, was found to have blatantly lied about his qualifications, background and criminal record in the candidate statement he submitted for inclusion on the ballot. Instead of a punishment, the candidate received just an entry into a diversion program for offenders. The current fine for intentionally misleading voters on ballot statements is $1,000.

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Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves shares why he wants to be Contra Costa’s next DA

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Paul Graves speaks to the Friday Morning Breakfast Club in Antioch on Friday, August 4, 2017.

Speaks to Antioch’s Friday Morning Breakfast Club

By Allen Payton

Speaking before the Friday Morning Breakfast Club (FBMC) in Antioch on August 4, Paul Graves, the Senior Deputy District Attorney for Contra Costa County, answered questions and explained why he wants to be the county’s next DA. He is one of five finalists to be the Interim DA in the Board of Supervisors’ appointment process, having made the first round cut from a list of 12 applicants.

The FBMC is led by former Antioch Mayor Don Freitas and made up of current and former locally elected officials, community leaders and other concerned residents. They meet once a month for breakfast and invite a speaker as their guest.

A 22-year veteran of the Contra Costa DA’s office, Graves was the first candidate to enter the race for District Attorney in the June, 2018 election, before former DA Mark Peterson resigned. He was willing to take on his boss in response to the scandal over Peterson making false statements on his campaign finance statements about personal use of campaign funds.

“There was a cloud over the office,” Graves stated. “In the press, there was an impression something was wrong with the office. The people in that office are dedicated to the county. While that cloud was over the office, the people asked me to step up and run against the incumbent. But, I’m not going to disparage my former boss.”

“I’m not a politician,” Graves added

He announced his campaign in May following a vote of no-confidence by the Deputy District Attorneys Association and the Civil Grand Jury’s call for the removal of Peterson.

“It wouldn’t have been as big a deal if Mr. Peterson had not decided to run again,” Graves stated during the FMBC meeting. “I did not support Mr. Peterson in 2010. I was one of those who was punished. But even Mark recognized I’m a leader in this office. I was actually the solution to the problem.”

“I chose to stay when others left, because I’m committed to the county,” he shared. “We called it the ‘French Resistance’ back in 2010. We had two choices: quite or stay here and fight. I’m a fighter. So, I chose to stay and fight.”

In his brief announcement he said, “after careful consideration and consultation with my colleagues in the District Attorney’s Office and with others in law enforcement, I have decided to run for Contra Costa District Attorney in 2018. As a 22-year veteran of this office, I have a deep understanding of this community and the talented dedicated prosecutors that already serve the public. Simply put, I know I can make a difference.”

Graves expected to be demoted, again for running against his boss and planned on providing a more complete, public announcement later. But then Peterson resigned and the Supervisors decided to appoint an interim DA.

“Only two of us were candidates before the appointment process,” he said. The other one is Santa Clara County Deputy DA Patrick Vanier, who announced his campaign about a week later in May, also before Peterson resigned in June.

Graves explained to the FBMC members his plans if elected.

“I believe in a victim-centered approach,” he said. “It’s our obligation to give the best service to the victims in our office. It hasn’t changed for the past 22 years. It’s a crime-based structure. We need to look at restructuring the office.”

“People are people. Victims, witnesses and defendants,” Graves continued. He then said his overall goal is to “save lives and drive down crime in Contra Costa County.”

He spoke of the crime occurring in Antioch, East County and other parts of the county.

“Human trafficking is something we’re not doing enough of,” Graves stated. “Prostitutes on the street corners. I like to call them exploited women. There are exploiters, pimps.”

“I’ve been working with non-profits…to work on these problems.”

Regarding it occurring in massage parlors, Graves said, “Antioch Police are very involved in this. Concord Police are involved in this, treating the prostitutes as victims. Out here in East County there’s a network of massage parlors. They’re all connected.”

He then spoke of one way the DA’s office is fighting crime.

“We have a wiretap room,” Graves shared. “We want to wiretap these networks and to take them down. That is my goal.”

There’s a “huge street-level human trafficking operation in Danville” in a “nice house,” he said.

“They prey on youth, those coming out of group homes, foster care. It turns into eating, rape, and fear,” Graves continued. “The exploited women have a mental break and they become very protective of their abusers.”

“We need transition housing, out here,” he added.

“The punishment for johns are deminimis. It’s a misdemeanor,” Graves explained. “My preference is that they go through a human trafficking course and see what the women go through.”

Asked about sanctuary city policies, he responded, “as a DA, I follow the law. But the misconception about the DA’s office involvement in deportations is wrong. ICE does get notified. It happens when they’re arrested.”

“The law has changed. We have to consider their status in terms of the punishment,” Graves said. “Defense attorneys try to get us to change the charges so it’s not deportable. Sex crimes are.”

“We are a sanctuary city, not for defendants but victims,” he added.

Asked about the Deputy DA for Antioch, Graves explained, “You do (have one). But it’s not sufficient. You need a dedicated DA.”

“We have a Deputy DA in the Pittsburg Police Department. Antioch goes to Pittsburg to file cases without having to drive to Martinez,” he shared. “You do not have a community prosecutor. We have one in Richmond who can do targeted cases. Richmond PD pays part of that salary.” “We’re understaffed. We’ve always been understaffed,” Graves stated about his department. “We have the same number of Deputy DA’s as we did 22 years ago.”

But, he also said he’s very available to Antioch Police.

“Your detectives can call me 24-7 on a case and they know it,” he said. “I’ve been at Disneyland and I took a call. I would work with your Chief (of Police) to get you a DA. It would be Antioch’s community prosecutor. We need community DA’s to work on crime strategy. You need a partner out there.”

“The Antioch Police Detectives are very good,” Graves shared. “You have great police out there. You’re seriously understaffed.”

He spoke of targeted enforcement in which a repeat offender has multiple complaints filed against him, which increases the charges and advocated for pro-active, community-based prosecution.

“You do have a gang problem out here,” Graves stated. “Our gang unit needs to expand. We need a human trafficking unit. Gangs are getting in it. It’s cheaper and easier than drugs.

As to his approach in leading the office, he said, “I like to get out into the community. I like talking to the people. The office of the DA is the office of the people.”

“I will spend my time talking to the troops in my office,” Graves added.

He encouraged those in attendance to “stay involved in this election. This is a very important election. It’s turning into a hot potato…a referendum on Contra Costa County. There’s a push to become like San Francisco…shortening sentences, not arresting people.”

“I’m running on my qualifications,” he continued. “No matter what happens (in the appointment process), I’m running. I do firmly believe I am the right person for the job.”

To learn more about Graves, visit his campaign website at www.paulgravesforda.com.

A public forum for the five finalists will be held tonight, Tuesday, August 15, at 6:00 p.m.   The meeting will be in the Board Chamber at 651 Pine Street in Martinez.  Beginning at 5:00 p.m., there will be an hour reserved for public comment. During that time, you can also submit written comments to be entered into the public record.  If you have a question you would like to suggest for the forum, you will have an opportunity between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to do so. Volunteers from the League of Women Voters will be on hand to assist in collecting the question cards.  During a break in the forum, the moderator will have the ability to chose audience-submitted questions to ask during the second half of the event.  

The forum will be televised live on CCTV, as well as streamed live on this website.  CCTV can be watched on Comcast Channel 27, Wave Channel 32, and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99.

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Colleague endorses Graves for Contra Costa DA

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Dear Editor:

Colleen Gleason, a close friend and colleague of mine has written a wonderful endorsement on Facebook. I met Colleen 15 years ago and am humbled by her words. Here are a few sentences from my colleague’s social media post that I would like to share with you:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/paulgravesforda2018/endorsements/

“I’m so excited and proud that my friend and mentor has decided to run for DA of our County. Paul was my homicide supervisor and currently runs the Sexual Assault/Family Violence unit. I also worked closely with him while he was the President of our Association – not only was he amazing at negotiating on behalf of our DAs, but he was instrumental in putting on a successful fundraiser for our local Rape Crisis/Children’s Interview Center every year.

Paul is the type of leader who inspires others; there is always a line of people seeking his solid advice born of experience and common sense. He is the type of leader that people want to follow; when he is heading a unit, other people want to work there…He has handled the pressures of our job in the public eye with grace and eloquence. But, more importantly to me, he is the type of person you can watch handling the little, every-day moments with kindness and integrity… the moments when the cameras aren’t on, when no one seems to be paying attention – the way he treats his staff, victim’s families, opposing counsel, his subordinates – those are the moments when he has impressed me the most.”

Paul Graves

Martinez

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Senate committee approves Frazier’s “Jeff Belle Bill” to increase penalties for ballot statement lies

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

Jeff Belle, source Contra Costa County Board of Education

Increases maximum fine from $1,000 to $20,500

SACRAMENTO – The Senate Public Safety Committee has unanimously approved a bill by Assemblymember Jim Frazier, D-Discovery Bay, which would impose stiff financial penalties on candidates who lie on ballot statements when seeking political office. AB 894 would impose a fine of up to $5,000 if a candidate includes knowingly false information on statements they submit for inclusion on election ballots. If an offender is convicted of associated criminal wrongdoing, a formula that multiplies the base fine could result in as much as $20,500 in total financial penalties for those who intentionally lie to voters.

“The penalty for shamelessly lying to voters should be very painful,” Frazier said. “And right now, it’s not painful enough. Often, the only information a voter may have about candidates is what is contained in ballot statements, especially in races for local offices that might not get a lot of press coverage. AB 894 creates a strong deterrent to dishonest candidates who falsify their qualifications in an attempt to mislead voters.”

Frazier authored AB 894 after Jeff Belle, a candidate in East County who was elected to the Contra Costa County Board of Education in 2014, was found to have blatantly lied about his qualifications, background and criminal record in the candidate statement he submitted for inclusion on the ballot. The current maximum fine for intentionally misleading voters on ballot statements is $1,000. However, instead of a punishment, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office allowed Belle to receive just an entry into a diversion program for offenders which required he admitted he didn’t have a degree and perform 20 hours of community service. (See related article).

AB 894 has received unanimous bipartisan support in every committee and floor vote. It has been approved by the Assembly Elections Committee, the full Assembly and the Senate Elections and Public Safety committees without a single “no” vote. The bill’s final vote will be on the Senate Floor after the Legislature returns from recess. If the full Senate approves AB 894, it will go to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

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Criminal defense attorneys support Graves for Contra Costa District Attorney

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

Dear Editor:

We are some of the criminal defense attorneys who practice in Contra Costa County.  We are the individuals who defend people accused of crimes.   We have worked with the District Attorney’s Office for decades, and are in a unique position to know what qualities are most important for the District Attorney to possess.

We believe in the Constitution, in fairness and colorblind justice, and that every person accused of a crime deserves competent and zealous representation so that the police, the prosecution, and the system are held to the highest standard.

As the top law enforcement official in the County, we believe our next District Attorney should share these values. They should keep our community safe, but also do the right thing even when it’s not popular.

We need someone honest, trustworthy, fair, ethical, diligent, and compassionate.

We need Paul Graves.

Paul Graves’ energy, ideas and fresh approach to the office as outlined in his public application to the Board of Supervisors reveals the dedicated and honorable public servant that we already know him to be.

What really sets Paul Graves apart is that he has dedicated his professional life as a prosecutor to Contra Costa County, and that he has earned the respect of all partners in the criminal justice system, because he treats every defendant as an individual and is fundamentally fair.

Paul Graves’ judgment has always made him stand out as a fair and ethical prosecutor we can trust.  Even though we represent opposing sides in the courtroom, we know Paul Graves is everyone’s partner in fair and equal justice.

Paul Graves provides the character, experience, and integrity our community needs to move forward.  We want the Board of Supervisors to know that as defense attorneys dedicated to the Constitution, fairness and colorblind justice, Paul Graves has our highest recommendation.

Blackie Burak

Derek Ewin

Dan Horowitz

David Larkin

Thomas McKenna

Tom O’Connor

Dan O’Malley

Chris Varnell

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Ron Leone, former Deer Valley Vice Principal, announces run for County Schools Superintendent

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Concord Councilman Ron Leone. Photo from his council campaign website RonaldLeone.net

Concord Councilman, former teacher and A.U.S.D. Director of Student Services

By John Crowder

Concord City Councilman and one-time mayor Ron Leone, a former vice principal at Antioch’s Deer Valley High School, confirmed today that he is running for the position of Contra Costa County School Superintendent in the June 2018 election. Incumbent Karen Sakata, serving in her first term, has not yet indicated if she will seek re-election.

Leone, who is also a former Teacher of the Year and was the Director of Student Services for the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD), has been involved in education for over forty years.  In an interview with this reporter, Leone said he is running because, “education is my passion.  Everything I’ve done over my career has led me to this point, and I want to use my experience to ensure our students achieve academic success.”

According to his bio on the City of Concord’s website, “Ron Leone, a resident of Concord since 1978, was elected to the City Council in 2010, re-elected in 2014. He served as Mayor in 2012 and Vice Mayor in 2014 and 2016. Leone served 35 years in education as a high school teacher and principal. He was the teacher of the year in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and teachers’ association president. He coached high school baseball, and several championship mock trial and constitutional academic teams.”

“I believe that I have the vision our schools need now,” he continued.  “In many ways, our schools throughout the county need help.  For example, last year the Grand Jury delivered a report on truancy that was very troubling.  Our county is one of the worst in the state for truancy, but I know first-hand that we can turn this around.  I served as the Director of Child Welfare and Attendance in Antioch some years ago, and was the first to conduct truancy sweeps, coordinating with local law enforcement.  Students who were truant were given Saturday school, and phone calls went home to parents.  In subsequent sweeps, we found that, by having real consequences for the students who skipped school, we dramatically reduced the number of repeat offenders.”

Leone also mentioned the financial challenges he plans to address.

“Another potentially serious problem is the County Office of Education’s unfunded liabilities,” he stated. “They continue to grow, and this will undoubtedly impact our ability to keep dollars in the classroom, if it continues.  We faced the same issue in Concord, but by exercising the leadership needed to tackle the matter, we were able to pay down the debt and create a $30 million reserve.”

Vocational training is strongly advocated by Leone. He described a Regional Occupation Program (ROP) his students used during his tenure in Fremont.

“The Mission Valley ROP Center that was developed was part of a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) with three school districts,” he said.  “I believe this approach would work for our County, as well.  I’m proposing a vocational training center in Central Contra Costa County.  Students from several school districts would be able to attend after school hours.”

Leone wants to work closely with the local school districts in the County. As of today, he’s already met with twelve of the County’s local school district superintendents.

“One of the things that I’m seeing is that the County Office of Education can help our local districts through expanded support of teacher training,” he said. “In addition, we want to encourage school districts to implement programs that advance academic achievement, and to help engage parents in their students’ success.”

Prior to being elected to the Concord City Council, Leone served for 16 years as an elected member of the Mt. Diablo Hospital District Board, as well as Chairman of the Board of the John Muir Hospitals, and the City’s Planning Commission.

Leone invites anyone interested in learning more to contact him at RonaldLeone@comcast.net.

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