Archive for the ‘Supervisors’ Category

Supervisors hear protests over proposed $2.8 million Sheriff’s Office increase, layoff librarians, reduce library hours

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

OK spending $10,000 on sales tax poll

By Daniel Borsuk

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors got an earful of complaints on Tuesday from citizens upset over a proposal to award Sheriff David O. Livingston’s department a $2.8 million pay raise up and a department request to buy a $275,000 LDV Custom Specialty Vehicle at a time library hours are being slashed and librarians are getting pink slips.

At the last minute, a proposal to layoff up 16 Department of Child Support Services workers was scuttled from the agenda when county officials learned that the Governor’s Office has proposed state funding that could keep the child support services positions on the payroll. County officials were unaware of the new state funding source before Tuesday’s meeting and details were not provided at Tuesday’s meeting.

In the Black Lives Matter era, supervisors listened via teleconference how speakers objected to the county’s proposal to give Sheriff Livingston, who has been the target of numerous complaints from citizens about how his deputies abuse the rights of male and female prisoners of color, should not receive a $2.8 million increase for fiscal year 2020/2021 when many other county services like libraries are taking funding cuts.

County Administrator David Twa said because of the uncertainty of the state’s fiscal situation due to COVID-19, the supervisors will not get around to passing a 2020-2021 budget until August, not June.

Speakers also opposed Sheriff Livingston’s request to use a $275,000 2017-2018 State Homeland Security Grant Program to buy a 2019 or 2020 Ford F550 Logistics Support Vehicle.

“Now is not the time to increase the Sheriff’s budget,” protested Harry Baker of Pleasant Hill, who had demonstrated a day earlier in front of Sheriff Livingston’s Danville home. Speaking to supervisors’ telephone, Baker said. “Keep the libraries open. Police brutality is on the rise. Don’t increase the sheriff’s budget.”

“You should not increase the sheriff’s budget when you’re making cuts in the library and child support services,” complained Francisco Torrez of Pittsburg. “Libraries are part of our democratic process. Hospitals are needed in West county   Talk about militarization. We don’t have any faith in our Sheriff.”

“I oppose increasing the Sheriff’s budget,” protested Rachel Cohen of Danville. “He has proven to be a racist. Juvenile Hall should be closed. Fund social programs, public housing, libraries. Look at Minneapolis, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, at what police should look like.”

Several speakers like Raymond Hutchins called on supervisors Diane Burgis of Brentwood, Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill and Federal Glover of Pittsburg for accepting collectively $22,500 in campaign funds from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Association.

None of the three supervisors addressed the charge about accepting sheriff’s association campaign funds, especially Glover who faces a runoff election this November against county assessor Gus Kramer.

Neither the sheriff nor a spokesman was available to comment about the protestor’s statements at Tuesday’s meeting.

Concerning the sheriff’s request for a $275,000 LDV Custom Specialty Vehicle, speakers questioned why the Sheriff’s Office needs an armored vehicle for search and rescue purposes and other speakers thought the vehicle will be improperly used by deputies to patrol peaceful BLM demonstrations.

“This truck will used to respond to wildfires,” said Supervisor Mitchoff. “This is an armored vehicle. Its main use is for support.”

Supervisors unanimously approved the state grant for the sheriff to buy the CSV.

Libraries Reduce Hours, Cut Staff

County librarian Melinda Cervantes relayed the bad news to supervisors that because of the dwindling revenues, several cities have to cutback operating hours to the county’s mandatory 35 hours per week schedule. As a result of the reduced operating hours, the library is laying off 32 librarians, mostly library assistant -journey level employees.

The Brentwood library will cut hours per week from 56 to 35, Clayton from 56 to 35 hours, Concord from 52 to 48 hours, Danville from 60 to 56 hours, El Cerrito from 50 to 46 hours, Hercules from 43 to 39 hours, Lafayette from 58 to 54 hours, Moraga from 39 hours to 35 hours, Orinda from 60 per week to 56, San Pablo will reduce hours from 47 to 35, and San Ramon from 58 hours to 54 hours.

County Administrator Twa said the librarians will be offered positions elsewhere in the county, most likely clerical positions.

Supervisors voted 5-0 in approving the reduction in library operations and staffing.

Agree to Spend $10,000 on Sales Tax Poll

In the county’s quest to draw additional funds to support public services, the supervisors agreed on a 4-1 vote to spend $10,000 for a polling firm to test prospective voters whether a tax increase could muster voter approval this November.

Board chair Candace Andersen of Danville cast the lone dissenting vote on the proposal suggested by District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond. Some $21,000 has already been raised to conduct a poll from labor unions and other organizations.

Certain features of the 75-word poll would test the public’s opinion about the pandemic, willingness to pay more in taxes in the areas of hospitals, sheriff services, abuse, senior services, mental health, youth services, and criticism in the community.

Hair Salons, Barber Shops Allowed to Open

Supervisors were informed from Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Warren that the county is taking another step toward alignment with the state’s guidance on opening businesses and activities, while recommending that residents stay home as much as possible and take steps to protect themselves and each other when leaving the house.

Dr. Warren told supervisors the county’s health order now allows hair salons and barber shops to reopen for business beginning Wednesday morning. They must follow state health guidance to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The new order also increases the number of swimmers who may share a pool to 1 person per 75 square feet, as allowed by the state. The social distancing order also allows as many as 100 persons to attend a funeral or other religious service at an indoor place of worship, in line with the state health guidance.

Planning Review to Begin on Walnut Creek Area Senior Development

The Contra Costa County Conservation & Development Department got the green light to begin general plan amendment study of Spieker Senior Development Partner’s congregate care/senior housing development (CCSHD) in unincorporated Walnut Creek, at the end of Seven Hills Ranch Road.

The project is regulated by the State of California Department of Social Services to provide lifetime occupancy and support services, instead of ownership interests.

The development consists of two independent living units providing about 351 total units and a health care center with 100 total units – 50 units for skilled nursing, 20 units for memory care and 30 units for assisted living.

The proposed development would provide a clubhouse, recreation building, parking, and maintenance buildings.

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

Civil rights group sends formal legal letter to Contra Costa supervisors to ensure county stops violating churches’ constitutional rights

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

Claims “Restricting Religious Gatherings to 12 Participants Unconstitutionally Violates Right to Equal Protection”

“…the County’s Order violates federal and state law while unashamedly discriminating against houses of worship.”

On Wednesday, June 10, 2020 a formal legal letter was by attorney Harmeet Dhillon, founder of the Center for American Liberty, to members of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, to ensure county health services staff follows through with their commitment to change the requirement to a recommendation that places of worship gather names and contact information of those who attend services and provide it to the county upon request. (See related articles, here, here and here). In addition, the letter points out that the county’s health order limiting indoor services to 12 people also violates the Constitution. 2020.06.10_HDhillon CAL Letter to Contra Costa County

June 10, 2020

Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors

651 Pine Street

Martinez, CA 94553

Re: Unconstitutional Contra Costa Health Services Order No. HO-COVID19-17, Specifically Regarding “Additional Businesses” (section 3 of Appendix C-1, Updated June 5, 2020)

Dear Board of Supervisors:

We write today, on behalf of clients in Contra Costa County, to demand the immediate rescission of Contra Costa Health Services Order NO. HO-COVID19-17 (the “Order”). The Order is concerning for two reasons: (1) Its requirement that houses of worship—and only houses of worship—keep and upon request disclose “a record of attendance” to Contra Costa Health Services violates both state and federally protected rights of associational privacy; (2) Restricting religious gatherings to no more than 12 participants violates First and Fourteenth Amendment protection. And while we appreciate the County’s recent announcement that it plans to revise its requirement that houses of worship keep and disclose attendance lists, until such plans manifest, we reiterate our objection over its current text.

  1. Restricting Religious Gatherings to 12 Participants Unconstitutionally Violates First Amendment Rights

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government actors from enforcing any “law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” U. S. Const. amend. I; see also Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 303 (1940) (applying the First Amendment to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment). Under strict scrutiny, the government cannot burden religious activity unless it first establishes (1) a compelling interest for imposing such burdens, and (2) that the burdens are the “least restrictive means” necessary to further that compelling interest. Federal courts routinely enjoin the enforcement of laws and policies under this standard. See e.g., Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah 508 U.S. 520, 524 (1993).

The County’s Order severely burdens religious expression. The Order’s restriction on indoor religious services—limiting the number of participants to 12 persons or 25% of the building’s capacity, whichever is less—does not survive exacting scrutiny in that it is not the least restrictive means to accomplish the County’s interest in public health. Simply put, there are better ways for the County to accomplish its interest in public health that do not burden religious expression as much. For example, restricting participation on a percentage basis only—with respect to facility seating capacity—is a better solution. Twelve people in a sanctuary that holds one thousand looks very different from twelve people in a sanctuary that holds one hundred people.

In other words, percentage-based restrictions accommodate larger houses of worship while satisfying the County’s interest in public health and social distancing.

  1. Restricting Religious Gatherings to 12 Participants Unconstitutionally Violates Right to Equal Protection

The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution provides that “[n]o State shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1.

Equal protection requires the state to govern impartially—not draw arbitrary distinctions between

individuals based solely on differences that are irrelevant to a legitimate governmental objection. City of Cleburne, Tex. v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432, 446 (1985).

Here, the County’s 12-person limit on religious gatherings is nothing if not arbitrary. This is more restrictive than statewide health guidelines, according to the California Department of Health for places of worship, which currently limits attendance to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is less; it is unclear where Contra Costa County’s “12 person” idea originates.

Additionally, no other establishment in Contra Costa County is subject to these more restrictive and draconian requirements. Costco, laundromats, marijuana dispensaries, and countless other purely secular entities are not burdened by this arbitrary, 12-person limitation.

On April 14, 2020, the United States Attorney General, William Barr, issued a statement addressing the disparate treatment being afforded to houses of worship.

As we explain in the Statement of Interest, where a state has not acted evenhandedly, it must have a compelling reason to impose restrictions on places of worship and must ensure that those restrictions are narrowly tailored to advance its compelling interest. While we believe that during this period there is a sufficient basis for the social distancing rules that have been put in place, the scope and justification of restrictions beyond that will have to be assessed based on the circumstances as they evolve.

Religion and religious worship continue to be central to the lives of millions of Americans. This is true more so than ever during this difficult time. The pandemic has changed the ways Americans live their lives. Religious communities have rallied to the critical need to protect the community from the spread of this disease by making services available online and in ways that otherwise comply with social distancing guidelines.

The County may not treat houses of worship as second class entities; at a minimum, it must treat them equitably with respect to secular counterpart. Contra Costa Health Services Order NO. HO-COVID19-17 does the opposite—it targets houses of worship with more burdensome restrictions.

III. The Order Infringes Upon Constitutionally Protected Right to Privacy Under State Law

The right to privacy is an inalienable right under California law.3 This privacy interest irrefutably extends to participation in religious gatherings.

In Church of Hakeem, Inc. v. Superior Court, Alameda County, 110 Cal. App. 3d 384 (Ct. App. 1980), the court expressly declined to mandate disclosure of member names and addresses, even after allegations of criminal activity or wrongdoing by the church. In City of Carmel-by-the-Sea v. Young, 2 Cal. 3d 259 (Ct. App. 1970), the court affirmed a list of freedoms afforded constitutional protections, such as the freedom of association and privacy in one’s associations, encompassing privacy of the membership lists of a constitutionally valid organization. In Pacific Union Club v. Superior Court, 232 Cal. App 3d 60 (Ct. App. 1991), the court provided a robust analysis of associational rights and ultimately upheld a private club’s right not to disclose member lists.

Applied here, Contra Costa County’s Order requiring houses of worship to create and preserve the names and contact information of those in attendance at a worship service or ceremony, and then disclose such information “immediately upon request” unconstitutionally violates privacy rights while chilling religious expression. Whether gathering for political, social, or religious reasons, the right of association is sacrosanct. Unfortunately, the County’s Order deprives Californians their right to pray, worship, repent, and seek spiritual guidance privately. Rather, the Order subjects their most intimate religious activities to potential publication.

3 “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.” Cal. Const. Art. 1 § 1
  1. The Order Violates Right to Privacy Protected by Federal Law

The “Court has recognized the vital relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in one’s associations.” Nat’l Ass’n for Advancement of Colored People v. State of Ala. Ex rel. Patterson, 357 U.S. 449, 462 (1958). Citing American Communications Ass’n, C.I.O., v Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 402 (1950), the Court explained,

‘A requirement that adherents of particular religious faiths or political parties wear identifying arm-bands, for example, is obviously of this nature.’ Compelled disclosure of membership in an organization engaged in advocacy of particular beliefs is of the same order. Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particular where a group espouses dissident beliefs.

Here, Contra Costa County’s Order tramples Californians’ right to privacy and in doing so, violates the Due Process Clause. Similar to the state of Alabama in NAACP v. Alabama, Contra County is requiring houses of worship to disclose the identities of congregants gathering to worship. And similar to the state of Alabama, this mandatory disclosure of religious expression “curtails the freedom to associate,” “denying “the ‘liberty’ assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” and is “subject to the closest scrutiny.” Id. at 460-61.

  1. Attendance Recordation Requirement Violates Equal Protection Protected by Federal Law.

By the Order’s express terms, the Order discriminates against places of worship by requiring places of worship to create and maintain attendee lists, yet the Order places no other such burdens on any other non-religious establishment whatsoever. As the United States Supreme Court has noted, “a law burdening religious practice that is not neutral or not of general application must undergo the most rigorous of scrutiny.” Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 546 (1993). Further, “A law is not generally applicable if its prohibitions substantially under include non-religiously motivated conduct that might endanger the same governmental interest that the law is designed to protect.” Stormans, Inc. v. Wiesman, 794 F.3d 1064, 1079 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing Lukumi, 508 U.S. at 542–46). So, “In other words, if a law pursues the government’s interest ‘only against conduct motivated by religious belief,’ but fails to include in its prohibitions substantial, comparable secular conduct that would similarly threaten the government’s interest, then the law is not generally applicable.” Id.

The County fails this standard. Houses of worship are uniquely burdened by this public disclosure requirement. And again, no other entity appears to be subjected to this standard.

In conclusion, we believe the County’s Order violates federal and state law while unashamedly discriminating against houses of worship. For these reasons, the Center for American Liberty respectfully requests that Contra Costa Health Services Order NO. HO-COVID19-17, requiring houses of worship to record and disclosure attendance at religious services, be either rescinded or amended to cure its constitutional defects. We look forward to hearing your response.

Regards,

Harmeet K. Dhillon

cc: John Gioia, Candace Anderson, Diane Burgis, Karen Mitchoff, Federal D. Glover

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

New Contra Costa health order requires churches gather names and contact info of all worship service attendees and give it to county upon demand

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

By Allen Payton

In his Friday, June 5, 2020 order, Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano now allows religious services to hold outdoor worship services of up to 100 people and indoor worship services of up to 12 people. (See related article)

However, buried deep within the order, in Section 3, Subsection B3 of “Appendix C1 – Additional Businesses” the order requires “A record of attendance, including the names and contact information for each attendee at a service or ceremony, must be created and preserved by the Place of Worship for a minimum of 14 days, and provided to Contra Costa Health Services immediately upon request in the event that a COVID-19 case is linked to the event.”

An email was sent to all five members of the County Board of Supervisors and county health services communications staff, in an attempt to reach Dr. Farnitano, Saturday evening with the following questions.

  • Are you also requiring protest organizers to provide a list of those who attend them?
  • Or restaurants to provide you a list of diners who enjoy outdoor dining at their locations?
  • How would anyone know a COVID-19 case was linked to an outdoor worship service of up to 100 people or an indoor one of up to 12 people?
  • Don’t you think you’ve infringed on the First Amendment rights of people of faith in our county enough already?
  • Don’t you think this goes way too far?
  • Was the county counsel consulted before this was included in the order?

Four of the members of the board were also sent text messages asking them to check their emails for the message.

Supervisor John Gioia, who was an attorney before being elected to the board in 1998, responded first via text message with, “Yes. It’s to keep track of people who are in contact with someone who tests positive. For contact tracing. And have them isolate for 14 days if they test positive.”

When asked again if protesters are required to give their names and information and what about restaurants that serve outdoor diners, he simply responded, “It’s a fine balance. I understand the arguments on both sides.”

Board Chair Candace Andersen responded by email with, “Karen (Mitchoff) and I chair at COVID Ad Hoc Committee each Thursday at 1:30 pm (available to all via Zoom). This week we had Dr. Farnitano explain this provision at our meeting. It’s simply there so that if there is a COVID outbreak, a church could make the names of attendees available so that they could be traced/tracked and notified that they may have been exposed. The only time these names would be requested is if there was, in fact, someone who came down with COVID in the congregation.”

“In a workplace or at a school the Health Department would also request the names of everyone who was present and exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID. In those settings the names would already be available because of the nature of the business,” she continued. “I will ask our Health Team to put an FAQ up so that its purpose can be clarified.”

In response, another email was sent to Andersen, Mitchoff, and the county health services communications staff, asking for answers to the questions from the first email that were not answered by Andersen.

The requirement from the June 5th order was shared on social media and almost all the comments about it were negative such as, “Do businesses with thousands of people going in and out need to record all of this? I go to many businesses and my name is never recorded, unless it is a dentist or something,” and “That is so crazy…are we still in the USA? Or is this a bad dream?”

Another commenter asked, “How about the names of the thousands of…protestors before they go out and the looters too?” Another comment reads, “I’ve wondered how they are tracking all the people at Walmart, Target and Home Depot. They don’t take attendance there.”

“Ridiculous! Control! Why not other businesses? Only churches?” asked another commenter. “I won’t attend until that changes. My name isn’t going on any list,” wrote another.

One pastor wrote, “That’s too far” and another wrote, “I’m not doing that. They don’t do that with Walmart, Home Depot, etc.”

The Bill of Rights are limitations on the power of government. It can be argued that the requirement in the county’s health order violates both the First and Fourth Amendment rights religion, peaceful assembly and privacy, of both the worship service attendees and those of the places of worship.

The First Amendment mentions religion first in the list of rights, because that is the first reason our nation was founded, going back to the Pilgrims in 1620. It reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” That applies to any state law, county or city ordinance, regulation or order, as well.

The Fourth Amendment refers to what is described as the right to privacy. It reads, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” So, a church or other place of worship could require the county to provide a warrant to obtain the information the order requires.

6/7/20 UPDATE: Chair Andersen Responds

In an email received by the Herald on Sunday afternoon, June 7, Board of Supervisors Chair Candace Andersen offered the following responses to some of the questions posed to her and the rest of the board members and Dr. Farnitano:

“How would anyone know a COVID-19 case was linked to an outdoor worship service of up to 100 people or an indoor one of up to 12 people? That’s why we have contract tracing in place. We would track/trace people at both venues to make sure others who were exposed are tested, thus preventing a serious outbreak.

Don’t you think you’ve infringed on the First Amendment rights of people of faith in our county enough already? In a worldwide pandemic of this scope we are continually balancing the health of the community versus any limitations we need to impose upon the public. I really miss going to church. For my entire life I have gone every single Sunday unless I was home sick. However, I can see how it is for the greater good to NOT have live church services where we could potentially be exposing each other to a horrible virus. And, I continue to worship at home with my family, with fellow church members via Zoom and YouTube, through reading scriptures, listening to uplifting music, and finding new ways to connect spiritually. Yes, it’s different than it was, but I also know it is only temporary. More importantly, “the State” is not telling me how or who I should be worshipping, only that it is unsafe to gather as a congregation right now. As you know, the State Supreme Court has agreed that in this emergency we’re in, this is an acceptable limitation.

Don’t you think this goes way too far? Was the county counsel consulted before this was included in the order? All Health Orders have County Counsel’s review before they are implemented. I would be concerned if churches were mandated to report attendance each week, but they’re not. No one is reviewing the attendance or calling out who is or is not there. Churches are just being asked to be in a position to identify who was present at a service so that if there is an outbreak, the affected people can be notified and tested.”

However, the recent ruling in the case before the Supreme Court had nothing to do with government requiring places of worship to collect the names and contact information of those who attend worship services and provide it upon request.

A more complete question was sent to her and Dr. Farnitano asking, “how would anyone know a COVID-19 case was linked to an outdoor worship service of up to 100 people or an indoor one of up to 12 people if that same attendee participated in a number of other activities, both indoor and outdoor, during the week?

Possible legal action can be expected against the county in the very near future.

Please check back later for any updates 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

County Supervisors pass local emergency proclamation and countywide curfew order beginning tonight at 8 p.m. due to civil unrest

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

Applies to everyone; but cities can have more stringent terms and stricter time limits – Antioch’s curfew begins at 6:00 p.m.

By Susan Shiu, Director, Office of Communications and Media, Contra Costa County

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a proclamation of local emergency, Tuesday morning, June 2, 2020, in response to civil disturbances after peaceful protests in the county following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. The Board also adopted an order imposing a curfew in Contra Costa County due to civil unrest to begin Tuesday, June 2, 2020 at 8:00 pm. The curfew requires people in the county to stay indoors from 8:00 pm until 5:00 am the following day, until further notice.

“These are challenging times. The sorrow and pain that have filled our hearts here in our Bay Area home cannot be denied. The need and right to protest and be heard are ones that we all support,” said Supervisor Candace Andersen, chair of the county Board of Supervisors. “Today’s emergency proclamation and curfew order will help the county respond to looting, vandalism and any violence that should not be part of peaceful protests. That we do not support, as they only hurt our communities. We want peaceful protests, and we want all members of the public to be safe.”

The proclamation states that “Conditions of disaster or extreme peril to the safety of persons and property, including to public facilities, have arisen within the County, caused by civil unrest, commencing in the County on or about May 31, 2020. Civil unrest in the form of riots and looting have arisen from protests in response to the tragic death of an unarmed man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while being detained by a police officer. The majority of protestors have acted peacefully and lawfully. But some protests throughout the nation, including in cities such as Walnut Creek, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, have given rise to injuries, looting, and property destruction.”

“Mr. Floyd tragically died just over a week ago. We recognize the importance of peaceful protests,” said County Administrator David J. Twa, who serves as the Administrator of Emergency Services. “We also want to emphasize the need for residents to stay home in the evenings and at night to stay safe. Our job is to protect lives, all lives. We want all people to stay safe during these difficult times.”

In response to a question about the jurisdiction of the order and whether it only applies to unincorporated areas in the county outside city limits, Shiu responded, “The Order provides that, ‘In the event that the terms of the County’s curfew order are more stringent (e.g. that the start time is earlier or the end time is later) than any city’s curfew order within the County, the County’s curfew order will apply within that city and supersede the city’s order to that extent.’ And if a city’s order on time is stricter, the city’s stricter curfew time will be in place.”

See Emergency Order of Curfew.

EMERGENCY ORDER IMPOSING A CURFEW WITHIN THE COUNTY OF CONTRA COSTA DUE TO CIVIL UNREST

WHEREAS, on June 2, 2020, the Board of Supervisors of the County of Contra Costa proclaimed, pursuant to Government Code section 8630 and Contra Costa County Ordinance Code Chapter 42-2, the existence of a local emergency because the County of Contra Costa (“County”) is affected or likely to be affected by a public calamity due to conditions of disaster or of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property arising as a result of civil unrest in the County.

WHEREAS, Government Code Section 8634 authorizes the Board of Supervisors to promulgate orders and regulations necessary to provide for the protection of life or property during a local emergency, including imposing a curfew where necessary to preserve the public order and safety.

WHEREAS, there exists imminent danger to life and property during the hours of darkness, and it is especially difficult to preserve public safety during these hours.

WHEREAS, a curfew is necessary to preserve the public order and safety in the County.

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

  1. A curfew is imposed Countywide, within the unincorporated and incorporated areas of the County.
  2. The hours of curfew are between 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. of the following day.
  3. No person, except as set forth in Section 4, below, shall be upon a public street, avenue, boulevard, place, walkway, alley, park or any public area or unimproved private property within the boundaries of the County between 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. of the following day.
  4. This Order shall not apply to peace officers, firefighters, and National Guard deployed to the area, individuals traveling to and from work, people experiencing homelessness and without access to a viable shelter, and individuals seeking medical treatment.
  5. This Order shall be effective immediately as of June 2, 2020, commencing at 8:00 p.m. and extending until the termination of this Order. The County Administrator is authorized to amend and terminate this Order in accordance with Government Code Section 8634.

Any violation of this Order is a misdemeanor as provided by Government Code section 8665 and any applicable state or local law, and violators may be subject to immediate arrest.     In the event that the terms of the County’s curfew order are more stringent (e.g., that the start time is earlier or the end time is later) than any city’s curfew order within the County, the County’s curfew order will apply within that city and supersede the city’s order to that extent.

Dated: June 2, 2020

See Proclamation of Local Emergency (Resolution No. 2020/155).

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS RESOLUTION PROCLAIMING EXISTENCE OF A LOCAL EMERGENCY Resolution No. 2020/155

IN THE MATTER OF Proclaiming the Existence of a Local Emergency (Gov. Code, § 8630)

The Board of Supervisors of Contra Costa County RESOLVES as follows:

Contra Costa County Ordinance Code Chapter 42-2 empowers the Board of Supervisors to proclaim the existence or threatened existence of a local emergency when the County is affected or likely to be affected by a public calamity.

The Board of Supervisors has been requested by the Director of Emergency Services of the County to proclaim the existence of a local emergency therein.

The Board of Supervisors finds as follows:

  1. Conditions of disaster or extreme peril to the safety of persons and property, including to public facilities, have arisen within the County, caused by civil unrest, commencing in the County on or about May 31, 2020. Civil unrest in the form of riots and looting have arisen from protests in response to the tragic death of an unarmed man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while being detained by a police officer. The majority of protestors have acted peacefully and lawfully. But some protests throughout the nation, including in cities such as Walnut Creek, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, have given rise to injuries, looting, and property destruction.
  2. These conditions, by reason of their magnitude, are or are likely to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of this County, and will require the combined forces of other political subdivisions to combat.
  3. These conditions fit the circumstances described in Government Code section 8558.

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY PROCLAIMED that a local emergency now exists throughout the County; and

IT IS FURTHER PROCLAIMED AND ORDERED that, during the existence of the local emergency, the powers, functions, and duties of the emergency organization of this County shall be those prescribed by state law, and by ordinances and resolutions of this County, and by the County of Contra Costa Emergency Operations Plan, as approved by the Board of Supervisors on June 16, 2015.

PASSED on June 2, 2020, on a unanimous 5-0 vote.

ATTEST: David J. Twa, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors and County Administrator

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

County’s Sustainability Committee considers declaring climate emergency in Contra Costa

Friday, May 29th, 2020

“that threatens the long-term economic and social well-being, health, safety, and security of the County” – proposed language from resolution.

Commission asked for input before making recommendation to full Board of Supervisors later this year.

By Allen Payton

During their meeting on Friday morning, May 29, 2020, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors’ Sustainability Committee, heard public input on the proposed Climate Emergency Resolution. Supervisor Federal Glover serves as committee Chair and Supervisor John Gioia, serves as Vice Chair.

“The committee didn’t actually vote on it,” said Jody London, Sustainability Coordinator for the county. “We received a lot of public comment on it. They wanted some modifications. There was argument that it wasn’t strong enough in some areas. The committee wasn’t in agreement with all the ideas but, we’re going to go back and work with the Sustainability Commission.”

“It’s a standing committee of the board that meets every other month,” she explained. “The commission, made up of members of the public appointed by the board, meets during the months in between. They usually happen at 5:00 p.m. on the fourth Monday of the month. It will be held online.”

The next meeting of the commission will be on June 23rd.

A revised resolution that includes input from the commission will return to the committee on July 27th, for final vote of recommendation to the full board, which can happen sometime in August or September depending on vacation schedules, London said.

According to the staff report, “On November 19, 2019, the Board of Supervisors (Board) received a proposal from the Contra Costa County Sustainability Commission that the Board adopt a Climate Emergency Resolution. The Board referred this item to the Sustainability Committee.
On December 9, 2019, the Sustainability Committee discussed options for structuring a climate emergency resolution. Supervisors expressed their opinion that resolutions have greater value when they identify tangible actions we can take. They cited to the recent State Executive Order N-19-19 on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating impacts of climate change in State government as an example. The Committee expressed interest in seeing the County take action on those issues where it can have the greatest impact. The Committee recognized that the County must balance priorities, it cannot invest in everything people might want at this time.

Community members offered many ideas for a climate emergency resolution. They stressed that this is an emergency and the County should provide bold leadership and action. Community members urged the Board include in any resolution deadlines or dates by which action can be expected. Community members expressed interest in the Board taxing the refineries located in Contra Costa County and determining how the County should plan for a situation where the refineries and other fossil-fuel based industries are not viable.

The Committee directed the Sustainability Coordinator to develop a draft climate emergency resolution in consultation with the Sustainability Commission and come back to the Committee.

The attached draft Climate Emergency Resolution was developed by staff, in consultation with the Sustainability Commission, which has discussed this at several meetings, most recently its February 24, 2020 meeting. The draft Resolution reflects the new realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. It recommends three actions:

  1. The County Department of Conservation and Development is directed to work with the County Administrator and other departments to establish an interdepartmental task force of Department heads, or their immediate deputies, that will focus on implementing the County’s Climate Action Plan and identifying additional actions, policies, and programs the County can undertake to reduce and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.
  2. The County Sustainability Commission is directed to seek input from the community to help the County anticipate and plan for an economy that is less dependent on fossil fuel extraction and processing, helps plan for a transition from a fossil-fuel dependent economy, and considers how the County’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic can incorporate the County’s climate goals. As the State of California adopts policies and goals for reducing pollution and addressing climate change, the County will consider with the assistance of the Sustainabilty Commission what this will mean for County revenues, jobs, health, and infrastructure, including new opportunities and how frontline communities will realize economic and other benefits. The Commission will include this topic in its ongoing advice to the Board of Supervisors.
  3. Health, socio-economic, and racial equity considerations should be included in policymaking and climate solutions at all levels and across all sectors as the consequences of climate change have significant impacts on all County residents, but especially the young, the elderly, low-income or communities of color, and other vulnerable populations.”

The declaration portion of the draft resolution in its current form reads as follows:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Supervisors of the County of Contra Costa declares a climate emergency that threatens the long-term economic and social well-being, health, safety, and security of the County.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the County Department of Conservation and Development work with the County Administrator and other departments to establish an interdepartmental task force of Department heads, or their immediate deputies, that will focus on implementing the County’s Climate Action Plan and identifying additional actions, policies, and programs the County can undertake to reduce and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the County Sustainability Commission seek input from the community to help the County anticipate and plan for an economy that is less dependent on fossil fuels, helps plan for a transition from a fossil-fuel dependent economy, and considers how the County’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic can incorporate the County’s climate goals. As the State of California adopts policies and goals for reducing pollution and addressing climate change, the County will consider with the assistance of the Sustainability Commission what this will mean for County revenues, jobs, health, and infrastructure including new opportunities and how frontline communities will realize economic and other benefits. The Commission will include this topic in its ongoing advice to the Board of Supervisors.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that health, socio-economic, and racial equity considerations should be included in policymaking and climate solutions at all levels and across all sectors as the consequences of climate change have significant impacts on all County residents, especially the young, the elderly, low-income or communities of color, and other vulnerable populations.

Read the entire draft resolution, here – 41815_DRAFT Climate Emergency Resolution

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 Health Officer will consider following state guidelines for churches, Supervisors don’t have authority to overrule him

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

Screenshot of Board of Supervisors’ May 28, 2020 COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee meeting using Zoom. Brentwood Vice Mayor Joel Bryant (upper right) speaks as Supervisor Karen Mitchoff (bottom left) and Michelle and Ric Campos listen.

Spiritual counseling is allowed in county, church services still aren’t; waiting for update next Tuesday to determine new orders

By Allen Payton

During the meeting of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors’ Ad Hoc Committee on COVID-19 Economic Impact and Recovery on Thursday, May 28, 2020, Board Chair Candace Andersen, Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, and County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano heard from frustrated county residents on reopening the county. According to the agenda, the meeting was to “Consider the impacts of COVID-19 on religious gatherings and discuss pathways that may allow them to resume, if possible, within the limitations established by” Farnitano.

General Public Comments

A variety of residents spoke during public comments on issues not on the agenda

“Take back control from the Contra Costa County health officer and move on to Phase 3,” said Gertrud Jeffries.

Brentwood Vice Mayor Joel Bryant said he was, “asking our Supervisors of the Board to tell the county health officer to follow the governor in the guidelines.”

A woman who identified herself as “They Call Me Non-Esssential” spoke about the information provided by a doctor at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek about more suicides than COVID-19 deaths in the county. “Dr. Farnitano said he hadn’t seen that data,” she said.

Robert Jackson, owner and CEO of Proforma Health Club in Walnut Creek, asked for guidance for health clubs that have a large outdoor area, and “more clarity on timeliness for reopening…after the expiration.”

Ric Campos of Campos Family Vineyards in Byron said, “We’re very involved in our community…hosting fundraising events and we have a tasting room. We can meet all the protocols. We submitted them to the supervisors. We also have a church that meets here, on Sundays. These numbers just don’t add up.”

“I understand Dr. Farnitano has a job to do. But he’s focusing on the medical. I’m asking our supervisors to look at the big picture, because this virus is hurting our businesses,” Campos continued. “Only 37 have died, which is horrible. But most of them are over 80 and 90 years old and others are over 70 years old. I’m asking our supervisors to step up. You have the authority to override the doctor. Something has to be done. It’s getting bad. So, please…”

“help this community we’ve elected you to oversee,” said Michelle Campos, concluding her husband’s remarks.

Patricia McBroom spoke of “a community pool we can accommodate small groups. I would like the county to follow the CDC guidelines on small housing…for them to schedule their own uses. It doesn’t make sense to have one category.”

Tricia Wilkalis said, “I want to talk about these small businesses, I’d rather shop at them than the large retailers. I think they’re more safe.” She then spoke of mental health and a young man who attempted suicide. “I want you to reevaluate this lockdown and what it’s doing to our citizens.”

“There are exceptions to wearing masks,” said Supervisor Candace Andersen.

Dr. Farnitano, “About wearing masks, this is about changing science and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. Most transmissions are from people without symptoms. Universal face coverings have a big effect on limiting the spread. People with medical conditions where wearing masks restrict their breathing, we need to let business owners know not to interfere with them not wearing masks.”

A question about dance, gymnastics and camps was asked.

“Where do you see dance classes coming in from the state order?” asked Andersen.

“The state has not provided guidance on that, yet. Our current order allows outdoor activities that allow for six feet apart, like Tai Chi classes,” Dr. Farnitano said. “I haven’t seen any differentiation, yet.”

He was then asked by Andersen about suicides, and that “the shelter in place does cause a huge emotional strain.”

“When we see recessions in general, that causes physical stress that leads to mental stress,” Dr. Farnitano said. “The shelter-in-place is causing a tremendous amount of stress. Looking across the county we’re not seeing a change in suicides. We’re reaching out to the hospitals to gather the data. It is a concern.”

Andersen encouraged people to dial 2-11 for crisis intervention or health services, for counseling and for help.

“This issue has been dominant in our calls between supervisors and health staff,” said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff. “Our sheriff will be gathering 24 months of data. There have been additional numbers of suicide in the count. But he’s not seeing a trend there. We don’t have that data, today.”

Andersen asked about outdoor dining, tasting rooms. When do you anticipate…where do you see that falling in, Chris?”

“Seated dining as opposed to take-out is in the state’s Phase 3. The state’s order doesn’t allow that anywhere in the state, yet,” Dr. Farnitano said. “A lot of health officers are talking about outdoor dining, first, because of the air flows and the spacing. It’s probably coming and the state’s going to be coming up with guidance on that.”

“We’re almost at two weeks next Tuesday since the last loosening of restrictions. What will the new order include…so businesses can prepare,” Andersen.

“We are working with the Bay Area. We are one human ecosystem…because a lot of people shop and work among the counties,” Dr. Farnitano explained. He then spoke of “expanding childcare to all folks not just those who are working, but people who are seeking childcare. We are looking at some services that don’t require close customer contact, like house cleaning, car washes, outdoor museums. But the higher risk, like the indoor retail…when to address the religious gatherings, which we know are high risk…there’s a large desire for that. The state just came out with guidance on those in the last few days.”

“We can’t make decisions without data and we need at least two weeks of data to see where the trends are heading,” he continued. “We are looking at next Tuesday, and if the data shows we aren’t looking at a new surge, then we will consider more opening.”

“Will we know before Tuesday so businesses can prepare?” Andersen asked.

Shelter-In-Place Order Doesn’t Expire on May 31st

“The current order expires May 31st” said Mitchoff.

“No, the current order doesn’t expire. It was extended indefinitely,” Dr. Farnitano responded. “Until we get two weeks of data which is Tuesday. We could put out something on Monday that this may be coming. When you put out an order, there is some lag time for it going into effect.”

Asked about a community pool with a small number of houses using the pool, maybe people can sign up with this household using the pool from 9:00 to 9:30 a.m., etc.?” Andersen.

“The state order does not allow for them. The local order cannot be more loose than the state. But I can look into guidance from the state,” Dr. Farnitano replied.

Asked about opening up playgrounds, he replied, “The two concerns about playgrounds are transmission from surfaces, which are difficult to be wiped down between uses and the closeness of those who gather. These prohibitions may be looked at in the future.”

Supervisors Can’t Authority to Override Health Officer

“We were asked about the authority to override the county health officer,” Mitchoff stated. “We do not have the authority to override a health officer according to state law. We have repeatedly check with legal authorities. You can imagine that when there is a public health issue you don’t want politicians interfering with that.”

Asked about housecleaners returning to work in Contra Costa County

“That is something we do have consensus on…and those services that don’t have close contact between the customer and the service provider. “Piano tuners would fall in with that, as well,” Dr. Farnitano replied.

Asked about football teams practicing and preparing for the fall season he said, “There is a lot of outdoor…conditioning that doesn’t require a lot of contact. Throwing back and forth of a football between two people, like throwing a baseball or playing tennis…those are the kinds of things you can stay far apart. Those are the kinds of things that are allowed. There are a lot of…conditioning things you can do.

Religious Gatherings

Andersen then steered the meeting toward the main topic of focus, religious gatherings.

“If we can’t go to the full 100 like the governor’s order…there may be some ways we can allow people to meet in person for worship services,” said Andersen.

Shawna Garvin spoke first during public comments on the item, said she attends “Golden Hills Community Church, a large church, 100 people, I don’t know how we would make that work. But I do know one way we could make it work, small groups. A consistent group of people, four to six people, ours is 14 to 16 people in our group. We are not supposed to be apart and separated in our faith.”

“Hebrews 10:24 and 25 reads ‘we should not make it a habit not to meet together’. This is a command,” she continued. “How can we meet in small groups? Sitting six to 10 feet apart. I’m not going to have my freedoms totally stretched.”

Wendi a member of Community Presbyterian Church in Danville said, “I’m totally in line with not opening churches. But I’m totally in line with what Shawna said about small groups.”

“Personally, I’m dying inside, not just spiritually,” she continued. “This goes for me as a Christian, but this goes way beyond this…about community…waiting for county orders to allow small groups. As if the county health officer can’t decide. He’s the one who decides. We’re stricter than the state.”

Chuck said, “our church has a capacity of 1,200. Why would we have to have seat coverings when restaurants don’t? The 100-person limit, frankly is arbitrary. What I’ve seen is people are starting to disregard rules, period. When you don’t have rules that make sense…that’s more dangerous. You need to relax the rules, now.”

A Mr. Cottle said, “Last Sunday I was in Sacramento and ate inside a BJ’s. It was nice. In addition to being a scientist that deals with infectious disease in healthcare…54% of churches have less than 100 people who attend on a Sunday. I’m privileged to pastor a small church…we seat 177. We could seat 35 people easy with social distance.”

“Back on the 11th you opened up a small group gathering for a graduation event,” he continued. “Allowing one and not allowing the other is a constitutional violation.” Cottle then called for “opening up churches along the state guidelines immediately.”

A member of St. Agnews Church in Concord said they have about 125 who attend their services. “When we put a 100-person limit would we have a problem if those extra 25 people sit outside and listen to the service, while social distancing? I challenge you to show data where people sitting six-feet apart outdoors is a problem from a healthcare perspective.”

“I’m really urging our supervisors to encourage, as well as Dr. Farnitano to really look at this, again,” said Joel Bryant. “As an elected official I feel personally responsible for everyone in my community.”

He then spoke of the need for counseling for those in need. “I encourage opening up and at least match the state…to eliminate some of these tragedies that are being brought on because of the COVID-19 situation.”

Jared Thompson, pastor of a Christian church in Walnut Creek said he was, “Asking what is permitted for me as a pastor. I have people suffering from depression in my congregation. I was told to try to deal with it virtually. We’re a church without a permanent facility. We rent Valle Verde Elementary. As soon as all this went down our services were cancelled.”

He referred to “outdoor fitness where people are six feet apart, I’ve even heard that singing is a deterrent. If a community group can be six feet apart, why can’t a small church meet outdoors? I wish there were more clarity. There are other churches that meet at schools and none of us know what we can do. And the disparity. We’ve been praying for you all as you make these decisions.”

A woman named Barbara said, “I’m from North Creek Church, but I’m not representing them. I’m a counselor there. We have 50 counselors. We’ve seen an increase in counselees…that have a lot of issues that are going on. I’ve been Zooming for 10 weeks, now, two-and-a-half to three hours. Zooming is not enough. You can’t read body language. When you have 0.11% of Contra Costa County that has been affected by COVID this really doesn’t make sense. Mental health is a big thing we deal with…we’re just ignoring that aspect. Also, let our pastors shepherd their flock and let them be responsible.”

Michelle Campos then said, “Doctor, I would like to challenge you. Suicides, violence, child molestation, these are things happening in Contra Costa County because you are keeping us locked down and that goes against how our Father has designed us. I’m not understanding why liquor stores, smoke shops, abortion clinics are deemed essential, but our churches…are not essential.”

“We’ve done our part Zooming for 10-12 weeks,” she continued. “We were not designed to live on science and data. I implore our supervisors to do something.”

“37 deaths, come one,” said her husband Ric Campos. “Doctor, please look at the big picture, not just the science and data. This is killing our society. I’m seeing him (Farnitano) do videos and 99% of the people are asking you to reopen and you just ignore us.”

Michael Weisman spoke of suicides in Contra Costa County and referred to a Bay Area TV news report in which the John Muir doctors presented the information. “Why would two doctors…lie?” he asked.

Weisman then spoke of the statistics from a couple months ago that showed, “3.4% of those who have died. The latest CDC statistics show 10% of that. I believe it is now time for the health official to reconsider his position. The supervisors should make a change in that position. The health officer doesn’t seem to care about our faith.”

Kent Dresdow, Senior Pastor at North Creek Church asked about their 1,200-person sanctuary. “To have a 100-person limit is pretty restrictive for us,” he said. “We want to follow our authorities. We are people waiting on both sides. We can meet with 25% capacity. Not the 100-person or less.”

“Would it allow for us to meet 100 people at different spaces on campus at the same time?” Dresdow asked. “My main concern is to be in compliance and super safe. Other churches…will have the same questions. Larger churches will.”

Igor Skaredoff said, “One of the reasons we have such low numbers of deaths…is because we have been practicing good social distances. But, listening to all these comments…I really commend your guidelines in a step by step fashion. The coronavirus takes two weeks to show up. If you continue to operate the same way…we can get there without losing too many people.”

A man named Stan said, “I hear a complete lack of flexibility in enforcing the rules. I don’t know if Dr. Farnitano can be more strict, or more relaxed. Do you have discretion? Whose interests do you have in mind? What I’m hearing ii your complete lack of flexibility…it’s big brother in Sacramento. To the pastor who wants to have an outdoor service, tell them you’re going to have an outdoor workout.”

Robert said “A lot of what you’re hearing is fairness. Fairness is really, really difficult to see in this. If we’re going to open up churches to 100 people, why are we all suffering so much and ruining our businesses? It’s like why can’t I go exercise at my health club but I can go to McDonald’s. It doesn’t make sense.”

Denise Porchia from Clayton said, “Karen you are my servant, government supervisor.”

“Uh, huh,” responded Mitchoff.

“We the people believe that God is the Creator of as us acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence” which she then read. “Let’s not forget we the people are creators of government…we demand our servant government…of the jealously guarding of our unalienable rights.”

A woman named Karen then said, “We remind you of the oath that you have…sworn when you became our public servants,” and then read the oath of office all elected officials take in California. The Constitution of the U.S. is the supreme law of the land…for every level of government.” She then quoted Alexander Hamilton from Federalist 78.

Paul Taylor then said, “The Supreme Court of the United States…that no law is contrary to the Constitution is valid. Our state is ruling outside of its control. Government is servant to the people not the master. Servant is not authorized to force the people to wear masks…to stay at home…to close their businesses. It does not matter if the servant believes such mandates will keep the people safe or that most people want it. Let us never forget that the Constitution guarantees to each state a Republican form of government where the rights are supreme.”

Michelle O’Connor asked, “Do you know if the de facto orders upon the people are legal? Or do you rely on the advice of the people. If you don’t know the supreme law how do you know if you’re violating them? Do you know what the penalty is for violating them? There is not immunity for acting against the contract. You will be held accountable.”

Scott Bennett a former U.S. Army Officer said he was notifying the supervisors of violating the rights of the people.

“They shall be fined…and imprisoned no more than 10 years” he stated. “I hereby give legal notice…if an rights or any citizens of the United States of wearing a mask, or taking a vaccine…you will be criminally prosecuted and civilly prosecuted. You have been notified.”

Supervisors Respond, Mitchoff Defends Herself

The two supervisors then took up the matter.

Mitchoff spoke first saying, “Candace as a matter of protocol, we have another Zoom meeting at 3:00 p.m. We have to leave ample time for remarks…” from her, Andersen and Dr. Farnitano.

“Some of the questions put to Chris are directed at us,” said Mitchoff. “I found some of the comments to be personal attacks on Dr. Farnitano, which I find to be inappropriate. He has no personal stake in this order. He is using his best medical and scientific background in coordination with other Bay Area health officers. Personal attacks are inappropriate.”

“People who are either for or against an issue appear to be in the majority because they’re engaged, when people speak to it, it appears more or for or against it,” she continued. “We are a representative government, not servant government. We can’t just listen to the loudest voices in the room. Someone said…he was ignoring their pleas. That’s not true.”

“What we have told Dr. Farnitano is to be more consistent with the state,” Mitchoff said. “I’m a faith-oriented person. I know Candace is and the rest of our board is. We are sharing the same concerns you are. So, we understand the issue. I’d love for any of you to take my place and to have any other issue. I’m very aware of what the Constitution says, and I’d be more than happy to be put under scrutiny that I’ve followed the laws of the state of California.”

“There are five indicators issued by the state of California. We don’t even meet three of them,” she said. “Relative to church services…I know it’s hard. My church probably holds 400 people. The smaller number would be the 25% of square footage. We can talk to our health officer about different types of church services. I’m looking at a variety of churches that have a number of different buildings. Church services can be staggered. I feel I must do what is best for everyone in this county.”

“We can have our faith-based communities come together sooner rather than later,” said Supervisor Andersen.

Dr. Farnitano Responds

“I want to thank everyone who has offered me their prayers,” said Dr. Farnitano. “We have passed two key milestones in the last day or so. There have been over 100,000 deaths in the U.S. We have only had 37 deaths in our county…that is because our community has followed the guidelines. If we had the same statistics as the country, we would have had over 300 deaths. We know that Contra Costa County is older than the U.S. and we know that age is a factor in the mortality rate. The other milestone is 100,000 cases in California. The Bay Area put the shelter-in-place order sooner. It has opened up step by step but slower than the state. If we had the same rate of cases as the State of California, we would have had double the cases.”

“Contra Costa County is a more dense county than a lot of the state,” he continued. “We have to look at the deaths that have occurred but also those we have prevented.”

“Worship is really important to me, too,” Dr. Farnitano said. “My church has been doing Zoom services for several weeks, now and I understand it’s not the same. One issue is around spiritual counseling…it’s part of mental health. Spiritual counseling is allowed. I want to make sure our FAQ’s are clear and include that.”

As for churches holding services, again he said, “There’s a lot of science that outdoor meetings are less of a risk. Indoor meetings are more of a risk. There was an outbreak in Mendocino County because of a church service. We can look at following the state guidelines in allowing church services.”

“We have a data team looking at data state by state, what’s leading one state without a surge, are they opening up completely or in stages, has there not been enough time, or testing,” Dr. Farnitano explained. “We’re trying to learn from that. We tried to learn from China’s and Asia’s experience, Europe’s experience, and now the other states’ experiences.”

“Each area is unique. Contra Costa County has unique industries…density,” he stated. “We are also looking across the Bay Area at some surges. In Alameda County we are starting to see a surge in hospitals to the levels in March.”

Dr. Farnitano mentioned patients being transferred from a hospital in Richmond to one in Alameda County. “Some of those hospital numbers in Alameda County are residents of Contra Costa County,” he added.

“These decisions are mine…but I’m not looking at them in a vacuum,” Dr. Farnitano stated. “I’m taking input from meetings such as this. I have several deputy health officers. I take input from the Board of Supervisors…also hearing from businesses. Also talking with other health officers across the Bay Area and at the state.”

“We want to open safely and not have another surge,” he said.

“We want to open as soon as we can,” Andersen said. “We won’t get back to normal. We are hearing from several of you about opening up. We are close to families getting back together.”

“We really are looking at with the state these expanded bubbles…small support groups in the church, having a more expanded group, your extended family, your small groups. We are looking at ways to have that happening,” Dr. Farnitano concluded.

“I do believe we will have more information from the state on their order. Maybe half of the agenda (for next week’s Ad Hoc Committee meeting) can be devoted to the new order that will be coming out,” said Mitchoff. “I do want to address dance and other recreation. I’d like to talk about restaurants. But I don’t think we’re there. I’d like to start with businesses with the least amount of impact.”

With that, Supervisor Andersen concluded the meeting.

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 supervisors agree to hire pollster for possible half cent sales tax measure, extend ban on evictions to November

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

Screenshot of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors’ online meeting on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.

County Health Services using Remdesivir for COVID-19 patients; get glimpse of COVID-19 era libraries

By Daniel Borsuk

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors discussed possibly placing a half-cent sales tax measure to fund health and social services on the November ballot and approved hiring a pollster on a split vote. The tax measure would be in addition to a proposed Bay Area-wide half-cent sales tax measure for transportation expected to be on the November ballot, as well.

Approve Hiring Pollster for Half Cent Sales Tax Study

In response to the Contra Costa Needs Assessment from the county’s Sales Tax Working Group a countywide half-cent sales tax is being proposed “to shore up access to medical and behavioral health services, and bolster county safety-net programs.” BOS 052620 Contra Costa Needs Assessment

At least for now, it is uncertain if the board will move forward with a sales tax increase measure for the November ballot. Supervisors voted 4-1, with Board Chair Candace Andersen casting the lone, dissenting vote, to spend as much as $60,000 to hire a pollster to test whether voters would support one. But since the outbreak of COVID-19, public support for such a tax measure might have waned.

“We need further direction and getting results from a poll will help,” said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff. “Before COVID, support for a tax increase was optimistic, but with COVID it might be different.”

District 1 Supervisor John Gioia, a big booster of a sales tax increase, said it would cost $30,000 to $40,000 to poll 600,000 to 800,000 prospective voters. Mitchoff said a more realistic cost is $60,000.

Both Gioia and Mitchoff serve on the Potential Sales Tax Measure Ad Hoc Committee.

“Right now, is not the time to spend county funds for a poll,” said chair Andersen of Danville.

Extend Temporary Ban on Evictions and Residential Rent Increase Moratorium

With the supervisors’ month-old ordinance that imposed a temporary ban on evictions and a residential rent increase moratorium at the end of May, supervisors acted to extend the ordinance through July 15. Supervisors also imposed a one-year grace period and defined a commercial real property eligible for the ordinance “…as an independently owned and operated business that is not dominate in its field of operation, has its principal office in California, has 100 or fewer employees, and has average annual gross receipts of $15 million or less over the previous three years.”

Figuring the economy will not recover quickly to restore jobs, some speakers asked supervisors to extend the rent increase moratorium one year.

“Keep pace with Alameda County,” said Dick Offerman of Pleasant Hill. “See that no one is evicted in our county. Extend the moratorium one year.”

Mitchoff took time to warn landlords who are violating the county ordinance. “Landlords know about this ordinance. There are some bad actors who take advantage of people who speak English as a second language, this must stop,” she said.

County Health Uses Remdesivir for COVID-19 Patients

Contra Costa County Public Health Officer Dr. Christopher Farnitano informed supervisors that Contra Costa County Public Health has begun administering the anti-viral drug Remdesivir to COVID-19 patients. A total of 105 dosages were given last week, Dr. Farnitano said.

“The company that is making it (the drug) is giving this to the United States.” Dr. Farnitano said that the drug is “This drug is somewhat beneficial.”

Dr. Farnitano said there were as of Tuesday 13 COVID-19 patients in Contra Costa Medical Center, compared to 19 patients two weeks ago. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in March, 37 persons have died from COVID-19 in the county, four deaths occurred in the past week with one of the deaths in the person’s early 30’s, which is uncommon.

So far, the county is COVID-19 testing daily 95 people per 100,000 residents when the daily goal should be 200 people per 100,000 residents.

This drew Supervisor Mitchoff to question the testing.

“We’re about halfway there,” she said. “I did not want to test, but now I want to test in order to get our numbers up.”

Board Vice Chair Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood asked why the COVID-19 test takers at county sites have to wait for results as long as 10 days when persons at three state sites get results within five days.

Contra Costa County Health Department Director Anna Roth said the average turnaround for COVID-19 results is three to five days, but it could be up to 10 days.

Get Glimpse of COVID-19 Era Libraries

took a glimpse of what the COVID-19 era might look like on Tuesday visualizing the 26 public libraries could offer some type of front door service for patrons to pick up checked out books in bags and when libraries do open doors possibly on June 15 seating capacity will be reduced 20 percent at each location right when outdoor temperatures are peaking above 100 degrees and libraries often serve as cooling centers for the public.

Supervisors unanimously approved the Contra Costa County Library Pandemic Preparedness Plan presented by County Librarian Melinda Cervantes that promotes hygiene, social distancing, and reduced seating. BOS 052620 CCCL Pandemic Preparedness Plan Draft Final

“We plan to begin service as soon as possible,” Cervantes told supervisors during the teleconferenced board meeting.

During the presentation, supervisors learned 36 library accounting positions might be eliminated because of COVID-19 related revenue losses. The potential loss of the library jobs will undermine library book purchasing.

“We need to get through the state budget,” responded county administrator David Twa, who said the 36 library accounting jobs are “potential job layoffs” and are subject to the meet and confer process. The state budget will be unveiled in mid-June.

Approve Purchase of DA’s Office Mobile Forensic Vehicle

In other action, the supervisors approved the District Attorney’s Office request to execute an agreement with the City of San Jose for the expenditure of up to $200,000 to procure a mobile forensic vehicle for the Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The vehicle is expected to cost $48,285.

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 Supervisors split over easing Shelter-in-Place restrictions

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

By Daniel Borsuk

A tug-of-war is forming on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on how the county should proceed in lifting COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place orders.

The rift became apparent when District 1 Supervisor John Gioia cautioned other supervisors during the teleconferenced meeting “Our hospitalization rates are going down, but I worry about having people going back to work prematurely. I don’t want to lift restrictions prematurely.”

Moments earlier District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill said she has been receiving negative comments from constituents wanting the county to end the shelter-in-place order. “Fortunately, our death rate is low at 25,” Mitchoff said. “I’ve received a nasty email wanting the county to reopen businesses.”

“We are trying to ease up on the restrictions,” said Board Chair Candace Andersen of Danville, who also chairs the supervisors’ newly established ad hoc Public Health Committee that Mitchoff also serves on.

“We are not going to have a new surge of COVID-19 cases,” Andersen added.

Later this week county public health officers from the Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara as well as the City of Berkeley are expected to issue revised shelter-in-place orders that will basically keep current restrictions in place and extend them through May. The new order will include limited easing of specific restrictions for a small number of lower-risk activities.

The shelter-in-place orders in effect across the six counties and one city were set to expire on May 3rd but, were extended until May 31st as of Wednesday morning.

Roth reported to supervisors that since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March the county has conducted more than 11,500 tests.

“We have loosened up the testing standards for anyone who thinks they have the symptoms” she said.

The county operates test sites in San Pablo, Martinez, Concord, and Antioch, with plans for three more in the county to be run by the state department of health.

The health department director credited the work of employees and the Board of Supervisors for the health department’s accomplishments during the pandemic. “Over the past 45 days we were able to flatten the curve. We can be proud of what we have accomplished. We are saving lives without a vaccine. This virus does not stop at jurisdictional or political lines,” Roth said.

County Accepts No Cost Transfer of Aircraft to Office of Sheriff

On the consent agenda, Supervisors approved the Office of the Sheriff’s request to accept the transfer by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services of a 1978 Beechcraft King Air A200 fixed wing aircraft from the San Bernardino County Office of the Sheriff at no cost to the county. The estimated value of the aircraft is $700,000.

The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office has bought a new King Air aircraft and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has approved the transfer of this aircraft to the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff at no cost. San Bernardino County completed all required maintenance and service on the King Air A200 and it is fully certified.

“The Contra Costa Office of the Sheriff will use this aircraft for a variety of purposes including the deployment of search and rescue personnel, allow movement of detectives and other personnel to locations throughout the state for a variety of purposes including interviewing witnesses, victims and suspects, and allow for the transfer of emergency supplies where necessary,” Sheriff-Coroner David O. Livingston wrote in statement in support of the transfer.

16.5 Percent April Unemployment Rate Predicted

County Administrator David Twa informed supervisors that the statewide unemployment rate for April could be 16.5 percent, a rate like that of the Great Recession of 2007.

Twa also reported that a Meals for Seniors Program that is backed by FEMA will expire on May 10. “It is a little awkward if FEMA does not renew it after May 10,” Twa said.

The program will provide three meals a day from local restaurants to senior citizens meeting specified economic requirements.

Two Commercial Cultivation Cannabis Applicants Miss Land Use Permit Filing Deadline

Supervisors learned from Conservation & Development Department Director John Kopchik that of the 11 proposals granted permission to apply for limited commercial cannabis land use permits by the March 9 deadline, two commercial cultivation applicants – Element 7 (0 Chestnut, Brentwood) and Element 7 (3645 Willow Way, Byron) had missed the filing deadline.

The five commercial cultivation applicants submitting land use permits applications by the March 9 deadline were: Lifted Spirit Collective at 5930 Balfour Road, Brentwood; 703 Chesley, LLC, 0 Chesley Ave., Richmond; Casa Rasta Farms, 505 Brookside Dr., Richmond; Diablo Valley Farms, 10500 Brentwood Blvd., and Brentwood and Magic Flower Gardens, LLC, 801 Chesley Ave., Richmond.

Kopchik said four retail storefront cannabis applicants that had been invited to file for land use permits had filed land use permits by the March 9 deadline. Those applicants were Authentic 925, 5753 Pacheco Blvd., Pacheco; The Artist Tree, 4100 San Pablo Dam Road, El Sobrante; Embarc Contra Costa, 3505 Pacheco Blvd., Martinez; and Element 7-Bay Point, 3515 Willow Pass Road, Bay Point.

Kopchik said county planning officials will review and evaluate the nine applications received and perform the work necessary for the proposal to be individually considered at future public hearings.

Marsh Drive Bridge Replacement Project Approved

Supervisors needed to exercise their eminent domain powers to acquire 900 square feet of private property in order for the Public Works Department to move ahead on the demolition of the 80-year-old Marsh Drive Bridge over Walnut Creek Channel in Concord and the construction of a new span.

Supervisors unanimously approved the eminent domain request and Public Works Department’s request to apply for $20 million in federal funding for the Marsh Drive Bridge reconstruction project.

When completed in 2022, the new Marsh Drive Bridge will accommodate two lanes of vehicular traffic, with shoulders, sidewalk on the north side, and a separated 10-foot wide pedestrian and bike trail on the south side. The project will tie into the existing Iron Horse Trail on the southeast side of the bridge and extend the trail on the new bridge to the west, crossing over Walnut Creek.

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