Archive for the ‘Supervisors’ Category

Interim Contra Costa DA forum draws questions on wide range of issues

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

The five semi-finalists for the interim Contra Costa County District Attorney appointment participated in a three-hour public forum at Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors hearing chambers Tuesday. Participating in the forum conducted by the League of Women Voters of Contra Costa County were from left Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Diana Becton, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Danielle Douglas, Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vanier, Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney Tom Kensok and Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves. Supervisors plan to announce their choice by either their September 12 or September 19 meeting.

Lasts for three hours

By Daniel Borsuk

In the packed Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors hearing chambers, supervisors and citizens learned a great deal about five candidates in the running for the interim District Attorney post, vacant since the mid-June resignation of Mark Peterson on charges of lying about illegally spending $66,000 from his election campaign fund for personal use.

Before responding to questions pooled from the League of Women Voters of Contra Costa County and emceed by former Contra Costa County Clerk and Register of Voters Steven Weir, supervisors conducted a one hour hearing to allow the public to vent thoughts about the supervisors selection process of the five choices:  Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Diana Becton, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Danielle Douglas, Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves, longtime Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney Tom Kensok, and Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vanier, a Contra Costa County resident.

Graves and Vanier have already announced they are running for election in 2018.

During the public hearing, Graves received oral endorsements from eight speakers.  One supporter, Laura Dean Swanson described Graves as “Competent and widely respected by people for working for victims’ rights.”

But Richmond City Councilman Melvin Willis cautioned supervisors saying, “We need a district attorney who will look at alternatives other than incarceration.  We need new leadership promoting racial justice.”

Nancy Kelly, a retired public defender, urged the supervisors to select an interim DA who would eliminate the bail system, which is racially and financially biased against minorities.  Kelly also said the county’s interim DA should be one who picks “juries that reflect the community and not that reflects the upper class or white people.”

During the forum, the five semi-finalists answered a wide variety of questions to shed light regarding their opinions about “restorative justice,” a concept that all the candidates supported.

On the question about the death penalty, the responses varied.

Judge Douglas said she would seek the death penalty for cases meriting it and “would set up a death penalty review panel.”  She noted that the cost and racial disparity associated with the death penalty has shown that it has been “abused in this country.”

Vanier said he would use the death penalty for cases that genuinely merit them like the “Ted Bundy” murder case.

Kensok said he, like most Contra Costa voters, voted to abolish the death penalty.  “It’s not a deterrent, but I will never say never.”  He said there might be murder cases meriting the death penalty.

“The death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime,” said Judge Beckton.

On prosecuting environmental pollution crimes, candidates’ responses varied, but Kensok seemed to have the best response to that question.  “We have an environmental prosecutor,” said Kensok. “We have gone after Chevron.  But as DA my priority will be to use our resources to prosecute cases involving violence.”

When asked what his thoughts were about the DA office’s track record on victims’ rights, candidate Vanier said, “Less than one half of the crimes are prosecuted.  We need to do a better job of prosecuting crimes that occur in this county.”

On the topic of how to work with at-risk youth, Judge Becton said she would implement a successful program she developed in Richmond, “The Color of Justice.”  It teaches school children that African Americans do succeed academically and become lawyers and judges.

As a mother of three daughters, Judge Douglas said she would promote anti-gang awareness programs beginning in the elementary and middle schools.  “We need to publicize about the dangers of the Internet and how gangs are able to lure youth at very young age.”

All five candidates said they would not cooperate with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Supervisors plan to interview finalists for the interim post on September 12; they could announce a selection then or reveal their choice at their September 19 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

Supervisors back state funding of Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Los Vaqueros Reservoir. Photo by Aerial Photographer Dick Jones. Courtesy of CCWater.com

By Daniel Borsuk

The first shovel may not plunge into the ground for the expansion of the Los Vaqueros Reservoir until 2022, but the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors have signed on to back state financing of the Contra Costa Water District’s reservoir project.

With District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen and District 1 Supervisor John Gioia absent Tuesday, supervisors voted 3-0 as a consent item to send a letter of support for the reservoir to the California Water Commission to tap into 2014 voter approved $2.7 billion of state Proposition 1 funds so that the Contra Costa Water District can enlarge the reservoir’s capacity from 160,000-acre feet to 270,000-acre feet.

The Proposition 1 funding would pay 50 percent, or about $450 million of the estimated $900 million price tag with the CCWD and other participating water agencies and their customers picking up the construction price tag.

Although supervisors did not hear either opposition or support concerning their letter, the supervisors’ letter did acknowledge the reservoir project could present an environmental problem unless the CCWD takes action to address it.

Supervisors expect the CCWD to resolve an issue about a proposed alignment of the Transfer-Bethany Pipeline that could upset the environment to a portion of 13,000 acres to the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan, a state funded part of the Natural Community Conservation Plan.  Contra Costa County and the cities of Brentwood, Clayton, Oakley and Pittsburg adopted the ECCC habitat conservation plan in 2007.

“Nothing has been decided on the pipeline’s alignment, “said CCWD Public Affairs Director Jennifer Allen. “We still have a lot of steps to go through including the pipeline alignment.”

“With this being a big rain year, I think this is a great thing to move forward on,” said Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood, whose District 3 encompasses much of Los Vaqueros Reservoir.  “If we’re going to spend this kind of money, it’s better to build something that stores water during the rainy years.”

“This is an opportunity to invest against future droughts by adding to our water storage,” said board chair Federal Glover.

Supervisors Adopt New Cardroom License Ordinance

Supervisors also approved a cardroom ordinance that lays out a procedure to ensure that business operations are not interrupted following “an unforeseen event” including the death of the current licensee.

Under the new ordinance, the Sheriff’s Office is designated as the department responsible for licensing gambling establishments locally, is to be notified of the event within 10 days of the event occurrence and identify the appropriate party that should obtain a license. The successor party is required to obtain a license within 30 days of the event.

In Contra Costa County, the California Grand Casino at 5988 Pacheco Blvd. in Pacheco and the 19th Hole Casino and Lounge at 2746 W. Tregallas Road in Antioch are the only licensed cardrooms, according to the State Attorney General’s Office.

Automated License Plate Readers

In other business, supervisors gave the green light for the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff to 21 Lehr Automated License Plate Readers for $225,000 for use in unincorporated Alamo to help curb property crimes.

Installation of the Lehr ALPRs will begin at the end of August and should be completed in September, said Sheriff Lt. Jason Haynes of the Alamo Sheriff Office.  The ALPRs will be installed at seven intersections.

Sheriff David Livingston said while a review of crime statistics in the Alamo area does not show a significant increase in reported crime over the last several years, “there was an increase in property crime and residential burglaries specifically in the Contra Costa central 680 corridor.”

The county will not pick a dime on the acquisition of the ALRs because the funds are donated through three private sources.  One unnamed contributor donated $95,000.  Members of the Alamo Police Services Advisory Committee are providing $50,000 and P-6 Alamo-Las Trampas has contributed $80,500.

Alamo will join Danville, Orinda, Lafayette, Clayton and Pittsburg that have Lehr ALPRs installed on city street intersections, Lt. Haynes said.

Lt. Haynes said the license plate readers have proven to work effectively in solving especially property crimes.  He said the Sheriff’s Department has made 25 arrests in connection with Danville stolen vehicle heists over a 12-month period.

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

Unhappy with Supervisors’ appointment process, coalition sends Interim DA applicants questionnaire; will hold forum Aug. 12

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Demand transparent, qualifications-based process to avoid conflicts of interest, secret deals

A press release issued on Friday, states “a community coalition of organizations and individual voters from Contra Costa County called on all candidates for the interim District Attorney position to complete a public questionnaire about where they stand on a variety of issues that matter to the organizations, ranging from bail practices and criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, worker and consumer protection to police accountability and the environment. The coalition issued the questionnaire after the Board of Supervisors failed to adopt a fully transparent and community-first process at their August 1 meeting. This coalition is also working with local organizations and volunteers to host a candidate forum on Saturday, August 12, in Concord.”

Of the twelve applicants, the Supervisors narrowed the field to five. (See related article, here).

The responses to the questionnaire will be made public before the forum.

View the questionnaire, here: CoCo Interim DA Community Questionnaire_FINAL

WHAT: Contra Costa Interim District Attorney Candidate Forum

WHEN: Saturday, August 12, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

WHERE: Church of the Nazarene at 1650 Ashbury Dr., Concord, CA

WHO: The forum is co-hosted by the ACLU of Northern California; Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE); Contra Costa AFL-CIO Central Labor Council; Contra Costa County Racial Justice Coalition (CCCRJC); Courage Campaign; #cut50; Democratic Party of Contra Costa County; East County NAACP; Safe Return Project; and Smart Justice California

According to their website, the ACCE “is a grassroots, member-led, statewide community organization working with more than 10,000 members across California…dedicated to raising the voices of everyday Californians, neighborhood by neighborhood, to fight for the policies and programs we need to improve our communities and create a brighter future” such as raising taxes on businesses and individuals to increase funding for education, working to preserve and expand affordable housing, and “raise the floor on wages and benefits.”

On the CCCRJC website it states that the organization is opposed to the expansion of the West County Detention Center.

The Courage Campaign states on their website that it “fights for a more progressive California and country” by focusing on three priorities of economic justice, human rights, and corporate and political accountability.

The mission of #cut50 is to “making communities safer while reducing the number of people in our prisons and jails.”

The press release also states that, “at a public hearing on August 1, the coalition pleaded with the County Board of Supervisors to adopt an open and transparent selection process for choosing the interim District Attorney that includes a community selection committee. The coalition urged the Board to avoid conflicts of interest by revealing whether they have ever received an endorsement or monetary support from any of the candidates, and pressed the supervisors to develop a system for ranking the candidates based on their qualifications and alignment with local values, over a consensus-based decision-making model that could be swayed by backroom deals. The coalition had previously sent a letter requesting similar action to the Board on July 6th, which was never acknowledged.”

A spokesperson for the coalition, Director of Contra Costa County Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) David Sharples, said, “We want a district attorney who reflects the values of Contra Costa voters. The selection process should focus on whether each candidate is qualified for the job, aligns with local values, has the highest level of ethical standards, and is ready to take on the challenges faced by our community, not the candidate who is the most well-connected. If the board won’t be transparent about this process, then we will go straight to the candidates so they have every opportunity to explain where they stand on the issues and why they are the best candidate.”

The coalition’s press release concluded with the following: “Contra Costa voters have bucked the position of their District Attorney and repeatedly voted for meaningful criminal justice reform over the last several elections. In 2012, 72 percent of county residents voted in favor of Proposition 36, which reformed California’s Three Strikes Law; in 2014, 66 percent of voters supported Proposition 47, which substantially reduced the penalties for several crimes; in 2016, 69 percent voted in favor of Proposition 57, which significantly expanded early parole opportunities for people serving time in California prisons; and 61 percent voted in favor of Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana and retroactively invalidated several types of prior marijuana-related criminal convictions.”

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