Archive for the ‘Supervisors’ Category

Supervisors cut hangar, tie-down rates at Buchanan, Byron Airports to compete

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Photos courtesy of Contra Costa County.

Approve spending $41,000 for sideshow deterrence project

By Daniel Borsuk

Airplane tenants at the county’s two airports – Buchanan Field Airport and Byron Airport – will see hangar and tie-down rental rates decline as a result of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors concurring with an airports staff analysis that the rates charged at the two airports are non-competitive. The lower rates go into effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Supervisors voted 5-0 in approving the rate reductions at a meeting on Tuesday in Martinez.

Overall, the lower rates will mean the county will receive $65,514 less annual revenue for the Airport Enterprise Fund, the fund that financially operates the two airports.  Unlike other county departments or operations, the two airports are run as financially self-sustaining public use facilities in accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration.

A market survey County Director of Airports Keith Freitas and his staff conducted on the county airports’ regional competitors including Livermore, Hayward, Napa, Sonoma, Stockton, and Nut Tree showed that rates at the two Contra Costa County airports were “on the high end of the rate range.”

“To best position Buchanan Field and Byron Airports to be regionally competitive, the new hangar and tie-down rates have been lowered and they will adjust every three years instead of annually,” Freitas wrote in his report to the supervisors.  This will permit the Airports Division to “react and behave more like a business in order to successfully compete for marketplace in the region.”

There is currently a six-month wait for a hangar at the two airports, the airports director said and he would like to see that wait period decline even more over time.

The county’s tie-down rates are less than 40 percent occupied, the airports director’s report stated.

Pleasant Hill resident Tom Weber, who is not a pilot, supported the lower airport rates because “We need to be competitive. Our rates have been too high.”

Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood, who serves on the Airports Commission, foresees how the lower hangar and tie-down rates at the airports could potentially spark “so many opportunities” in the county.  She cited how the airports could be catalysts for “really good jobs for the Northern Waterfront,” an area currently undergoing an extensive county planning study for future development.

$41,000 Sideshow Deterrence Project OK’d

Without out any comment, supervisors approved a $41,000 anti-sideshow project at the intersection of Alhambra Valley Road and Bear Creek Road.  The supervisors approved the item on their consent agenda.

At the request of District 1 Supervisor John Gioia, who has received complaints from citizens about illegal sideshow activities (spinning circles and other illegal vehicular stunts) at the intersection, the county Public Works Department plans to take preventive action.

“The project consists of installing a series of 6-inch and/or 8-inch raised ceramic domes at the four approaches to the intersection,” Brian M. Balbas, Public Work Director/Chief Engineer wrote in this report to the board.

“The ceramic domes will be strategically placed along the centerline striping and in the shoulder areas.  The intent of the raised features is to provide a visual, auditory, and sensory deterrence, while minimizing the impact to most road users who follow the vehicle code.  The project will test if raised ceramic domes have intended deterrent effect on sideshow activities.”

But when the Contra Costa Herald contacted Balbas, the county public works chief wasn’t too optimistic that the ceramic domes will spoil the enthusiasm of the sideshow participants.  “They’ll find a way to either scrape them off or demolish the ceramic domes in order continue their sideshows,” he said.

Supervisors also heard Arthur Road resident Jonathan Katayanagi describe how sideshows and speeding cars have made his neighborhood dangerous for children and anyone living in the area.  Recently there was an auto accident on Arthur Road, sparking increased concerns about sideshows and dangerous auto stunts.  Katayanagi told the Herald perhaps his neighborhood should also get the ceramic dome street treatment like what Public Works will soon install at Alhambra Valley Road and Bear Creek Road.

Proclaim October Diaper Need Awareness Month

Supervisors unanimously proclaimed October as Diaper Need Awareness Month in Contra Costa County as part of a countywide effort to raise public awareness and action to donate diapers to diaper banks, diaper drives, and organizations that distribute diapers to families in need.

Supervisors acknowledged the works of Sweet Beginnings Family Resource Center for its work to be recognized as the 20th Diaper Bank in California and the work of SupplyBank.Org’s Diaper Kit Assistance that distributes 18,000 TalkReadSign branded diapers and 36,000 baby wipes per month through the Concord Women and Children (WIC) Program.

Citing how the high cost of diapers imposes a financial strain, especially on low income families, can account for 14 percent of a monthly budget.  Diapers can be purchased with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, but only 27 percent of families with children in poverty receive TANF benefits.

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 quietly oppose Prop. 6, but publicly approve report in opposition to the measure on November ballot

Friday, September 28th, 2018

Would repeal gas tax increase

By Daniel Borsuk

Listed as a consent item, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted without comment an agenda item aimed to oppose Proposition 6, the Nov. 6 state ballot initiative to repeal Senate Bill 1, otherwise known as the Road Repair and Accountability Act or gas tax, but in public session supervisors voted 3-0 to accept a Public Works Department report describing how passage of Prop. 6 will negatively hit county road projects.

During the meeting on Tuesday, Supervisors had approved their “oppose” position on Proposition 6 without any comment from either the public or the three supervisors in attendance – board chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill, supervisor Candace Andersen of San Ramon, and supervisor John Gioia of Richmond – because it was posted as a consent agenda item, C-17.

County Public Works Department Chief Deputy Director Stephen Kowalewski told supervisors that, should Proposition 6 win at the polls, unincorporated Contra Costa County could lose, over the next nine years, $239.9 million or an average of $26.7 million per year.

During that nine-year period Contra Costa County could lose each fiscal year, provided Proposition 6 wins at the polls, $15.5 million in 2018/2019. $21.8 million in 2019/2020, $24.9 million in 2020/2021, $26.4 million in 2021/2022, $27.6 million in 2022/2023, $28.9 million in 2023/2024, $30,3 million 2024/2025, $31.6 million in 2025/2026 and $33.8 million in 2026/2027.

When the State Legislature enacted SB 1 in 2016, the measure raised gas taxes and Department of Motor Vehicle fees to drum up funds for the freeways and roads that were in a rapid state of deterioration.  One of the key features of SB 1 is an index tax provision that permits gas tax revenue to keep pace with inflation.

Kowalewski listed a number of county road projects that could be in jeopardy should Prop. 6 wins in November. Some of those projects include the Kirker Pass Road truck climbing lane, Vasco Road improvements, Byron Road improvements, Baily Road/State Route 4 interchange improvements, Bel Air Trail crossing safety improvements, Blackhawk Road green paint bike lanes, resurfacing of 43 miles of roadway, and the Orwood Road culvert repair that is already in progress.

Supervisors Award $1.5 million Pathologists’ Contract

Supervisors unanimously approved Sheriff-Coroner David O. Livingston’s request to award three two-year contracts totaling $1.5 million to pathologists to perform autopsy services through Sept. 20., 2020.

As a consent item, supervisors approved the sheriff’s bid to award $500,000 contracts each to Dr. Mark A. Super, Dr. Arnold R. Josselson, and to Dr. Ikechi Ogan.  Their contracts will be in effect from Oct. 1, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2020.  Dr. Ogan will serve as coroner.

The three pathologists had provided pathology services to the county sheriff under the entity of Forensic Medical Group, but as of Oct. 1 FMG will no longer provide the county pathologist services because the doctors have decided to dissolve the company.  The three doctors that made up Forensic Medical Group are able to provide services to the county under individual contracts.

There was no comment from either the public or three supervisors in attendance.

Kensington Hills Elementary School School Zone Speed Lowered

Supervisors reduced the school zone speed for three roads approaching Kensington Hilltop Elementary School from 25 miles per hour to 20 MPH over the safety concerns that there are few sidewalks in the area and the roads are narrow.   An engineering and traffic survey were conducted and found that the request by an unnamed applicant complied with Assembly Bill 321 that was passed in 2008.  AB 321 permits local jurisdictions to extend the 25 MPH speed limit in school zones or to lower the speed limit to 15 to 20 MPH up to 500 feet from school grounds under certain circumstances.

The school speed zones will be lowered on approaches 500 feet to Kensington Hilltop Elementary School.  These roads are Highland Boulevard, Arlmont Drive, and Kenyon Avenue.

Cannabis Ordinance Amended

Without any public comment, supervisors amended the county commercial cannabis ordinance on a 3-0 vote.  Supervisors added Knightsen to the list of unincorporated areas where the ordinance will not be enforced.  Along with Knightsen, Bethel Island, Alamo, Acalanes Ridge, Contra Costa Centre, Saranap and Sandamond Slough will also prohibit enforcement of the commercial cannabis ordinance.

Supervisors also amended the ordinance by adding vertically-integrated businesses that include both storefront retail and commercial cultivation.  Vertically-integrated businesses will not count toward the 10-permit limit for commercial cultivation.

The ordinance was also amended to require cannabis delivery businesses located outside of unincorporated Contra Costa County to possess a current County Health Permit.

The ordinance will become effective provided voters pass a tax ordinance measure on the ballot of the Nov. 6 general election.

September 30 Designated Gold Star Mothers’ Day

In recognition of the sacrifice and history of Gold Star Mothers in Contra Costa County and throughout the nation, supervisors approved a resolution designating Sunday, Sept. 30 as Gold Star Mother’s Day, founded during World War I.

Upon thanking the board for the resolution, Gold Star Mother Yolanda Bacon said, “We ask you don’t say ‘You’re sorry for your loss.’  Say instead “Thank you for your son’s or daughter’s service.”

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 support one, split to stay neutral on another housing measure on Nov. ballot

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors took a “support” position on Proposition 2, a state bond ballot measure to build housing for homeless individuals with mental illness but, took a “no position” on Proposition 10, another state ballot measure that would expand residential property rent control at Tuesday’s meeting.

Supervisors voted 4-0 in favor of Proposition 2, but voted 3-1 to a remain neutral, with Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond in dissent, on the rent control measure – Proposition 10.  Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg was absent.

Both Proposition 2 and Proposition 10 will appear on the November 6, 2018 general election ballot.

Before the meeting, supervisors were initially prepared to brand an “oppose” position on Proposition 2 that “Authorizes Bonds to Fund Existing Housing Programs for Individuals with Mental Illness Legislative Statute.” But supervisors reversed that recommendation from the board’s Legislation Committee from August 13 to recommend an “oppose” vote on Prop. 2 over concerns the county could lose about $2.8 million in state funds for mental health services.

For a while, Board Chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill was concerned passage of Proposition 2 might jeopardize funding for another mental health and housing program for the homeless, the No Place Like Home Program, because a state Legislative Analyst Office report states passage of Proposition 2 would mean money would be borrowed from the 2016 enacted homeless housing program.

During the meeting, Dr. Matthew White, head of the Contra Costa County Behavioral Health Services, said the threat to the state funds, in the event Proposition 2 passes at the polls, will probably have little impact on county mental health services.  He said there is a major need for adequate housing for the homeless needing mental health services that will be integrated into new housing projects.

But some speakers were unconvinced Proposition 2 will not deteriorate county mental health services.

Retired physician Dr. Mark Cohen, who has an adult child with mental illness, urged supervisors to oppose Proposition 2 on grounds that the ballot measure’s passage would divert money away from the psychiatric care services for the severely mentally ill not housed in Proposition 2 funding developments.

County mental health commissioner Douglas Dunn opposes the measure because the county is bound to lose upfront money aimed for mental health services that would be diverted to construct housing for the homeless with mental and substance abuse issues.

In support of Proposition 2, Gloria Bruce, executive director of the East Bay Housing Coalition, said “Proposition 2 is the right way to go. Give high need people access to affordable housing.”

Danville resident Douglas Leach called for supervisors to support Proposition 2 because it would create safe housing for the homeless needing mental health and substance abuse assistance.

Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood said she would support Proposition 2 based on the fact it is “difficult to find housing for the mentally ill,”

“These dollars are needed,” supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville said.  “We won’t see a reduction in programs. It will give us an addition tool.”

On Proposition 10, the Affordable Housing Act, supervisors voted to take “no position” on a 3-1 vote.  Supervisors John Gioia of Richmond cast the dissenting vote.  He supported Proposition 10 mainly because it would eliminate the 1998-enacted Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act that permits landlords to raise rents of residential apartments and houses as much as they want constructed after 1995, but not before 1995.  Costa-Hawkins allows landlords to raise the rent in any building before 1995 to the market value when it becomes vacant.

In other business, supervisors officially adopted the $3.2 billion budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year without any public comments. The 2018-2019 budget is up from the $3 billion budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

In other action, Supervisors recognized September 16-22 as Falls Prevention Awareness Week at their meeting on Tuesday. At the presentation were Meals on Wheels Mt. Diablo Region Chief Executive Officer Elaine Clark and Communications Specialist Maricel Kinsella.

Meals on Wheels Mt. Diablo Region and the Contra Costa County Fall Prevention Coalition will hold presentations on how to prevent senior citizens from falling in their homes, a leading cause of death or injury to persons 65 years old or more.

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 to consider paying Public Defenders same as Deputy D.A.’s

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

Contra Costa County supervisors on Tuesday, Sept. 11 proclaimed September 2018 as National Recovery Month, the 11th consecutive year supervisors have recognized the accomplishments of federal, state, county and local nonprofit organizations like Support 4 Recovery for work in the prevention, treatment and recovery of mental and substance use disorders. During the presentation, Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg , left, presented the proclamation to Tom Aswad, president and co-founder of the non-profit organization Support 4 Recovery, along with other supervisors and S4R supporters. Supervisors also paid tribute to S4R backer Harold Eugene Parsley of Concord, who died last April. Photo by Daniel Borsuk.

County to take over West Contra Costa Healthcare District

By Daniel Borsuk

After listening to a large delegation of financially disgruntled but professionally principled Contra Costa Public Defenders describe the woefully inadequate health benefits and salary conditions they endure in comparison to what attorneys in the District Attorney’s Office earn, County Board Supervisors said on Tuesday they will discuss the compensation parity issue as a closed session item.

“We are going into closed session and we’re are going to discuss this issue with our negotiator,” Board Chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill announced in a board chamber with more than 50 public defenders in attendance, voicing protests on how entry level Public Defenders attorneys are underpaid 20 percent less than their district attorney counterparts.

“We know there is a disparity,” Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond acknowledged.  Gioia said talks will begin for a wage increase for the Public Defender’s Office where the current one-year wait on health coverage will be on the negotiation table.

While newly hired DA attorneys instantly receive health benefits, Public Defender attorney’s, who represent the indigent, the uneducated and clients who are mainly black or Hispanic, must wait one year and pay $7,632 in annual health insurance premiums.  A Public Defender’s starting salary of $71,100 is 20 percent less than that of a beginning District Attorney’s salary, $89,088.

“The issue is true equity,” Brandon Banks, President of the Public Defenders Association said. “There is need to end the one-year wait for health benefits.”

Because of the pay inequity, entry level Public Defender attorney Blanca Hernandez said supervisors are “devaluing people of color.”  Furthermore, Hernandez said, “With low pay, no health insurance, and untenable workloads you are hemorrhaging Public Defenders.  It’s really harmful for our clients.  The vast majority are Black or Latino, and many have been profiled, so providing a solid legal defense is a racial justice issue.”

At Contra Costa Herald press time, supervisors were still in negotiations with the Public Defenders Association.

Hearing Set to Cut Airport Rental Fees

Supervisors set an October 16th hearing to adjust rental fees at the county’s two airports – Buchanan Field Airport and Byron Airport – to reduce rental costs for new and existing services in order to make the fees for county-managed hangars and tie-downs competitive with other airports in the region.  The rental fee reduction will result in a $65,514 a year decrease to the Airport Enterprise Fund.

The rates and charges for the county airports were last adopted on May 24, 1994, over 24 years ago.   At that time, the rates only applied to Buchanan Field Airport and included rental fees for tie-down locations plus itinerant landing fees for non-based aircraft and for two services that are no longer provided.

Burgis Requests Countywide Illegal Dumping Report

Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood has requested a report on what the county can do to turn around the illegal dumping problem in the county.  “The Illegal Dumping Forum we held in April made clear that this is a problem affecting county residents and multiple county departments.  I’ m pleased that our departments have come together to determine what they can do collectively to address the issue and I look forward to their report.”

Following the April forum, an Illegal Dumping “Think Tank,” consisting of county experts on the problem was formed to foster discussion about illegal dumping in far East County.  The five county departments represented on the Illegal Dumping “Think Tank” include the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Public Works, the Health Services Department’s Environmental Health Division and the Department of Conservation of Development.

Supervisors to Take Over West Contra Costa Healthcare District

Without public opposition or public support, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to take over the governance duties of the financially troubled West Contra Costa Healthcare District.  Commencing Jan. 1, 2019, the existing locally elected five-member Board of Directors of the WCCHD will dissolve and the Board of Supervisors will assume the duties of overseeing the governance duties of the financially troubled district.

Under Senate Bill 522, authored by State Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on August 18, Supervisors had the option to serve as Board of Directors of the WCCHD or to appoint a Board of Directors.  The Supervisors chose to take on the duties themselves.  The Health District had initially declared bankruptcy in 2006, but was never able to fully recover.  The District had to permanently close its doors and filed a second Chapter 9 bankruptcy petition in 2016.

By replacing the locally elected districted board with the Board of Supervisors, the goal is to reduce administrative costs, increase operational efficiencies, and maximize the use of health care funding though collaboration with the county, which is the only other public health agency provider in the district.

Supervisors Endorse Safe Schools for All Initiative

Supervisors unanimously endorsed and supported schools and the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s three-year partnership in Safe Schools for All initiative and active partnership with the Sandy Hook Promise.  SHP works on preventing gun violence before it occurs by educating and mobilizing youth and mental health and wellness programs that identify, intervene and help at-risk individuals

The supervisors will promote and support the success of the Sandy Hook Promise no-cost “Know the Signs” programs in high schools and middle schools throughout the county.

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

County Assessor Kramer responds to censure by Supervisors

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Gus Kramer from his website.

By Allen Payton

In a brief interview while he is out of town on vacation, Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer responded to the censure against him by the Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday, August 14 over sexual misconduct allegations. (See related article).

The conversations and text between assessor Kramer and complainants were mutual and consensual, he explained. “In fact, most were initiated and or sent by one of the complainants,” Kramer stated. “No inappropriate physical behavior was claimed at all. No touching or asking out on dates of any kind.”

It was only after the two women were not chosen in civil service competition for a supervising appraiser’s position in the Assessor’s Office in 2014, were the complaints made.

“Only then did the conversations become unwelcome,” he said.

Upon being advised of their complaint, Kramer said he stopped all communication with both of the complainants, and they were advised of all of their options.

“None were pursued,” he pointed out.

The independent investigator, hired by the county in 2018, who is a female attorney in Oakland, determined there was no sexual harassment on Kramer’s part. The investigation was not conducted until this year, over three years later, when he was facing re-election.

According to Kramer, during that same time, and at least five years prior, one of the complainants had been lobbying members of the Board of Supervisors to be appointed to the position of County Assessor, should he retire or leave office midterm.

“She didn’t want to stand for election because she did not want to spend the money on a public campaign,” Kramer stated.

He ran unopposed in the June primary and won re-election for another four years.

The Board’s action occurred when neither Board Chair John Gioia nor Kramer could attend the meeting and defend himself or offer his point of view before the vote. He is considering suing the county.

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

County Supervisors honor 2018 Veterans Initiative in the Arts ABOUTFACE Program

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

 

“I had a complete meltdown with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). I thought I was losing my mind. I’d never been out of control before, and it was hard to admit I needed help, but I wanted my old self back. I’ve gotten that and more. I’m strong. I’m healthy. I have tools, I have knowledge, and I have strength and courage to deal with it. I’m doing just fine.” RON WHITCOMB SGT US ARMY 1968 – 1969 SQUAD LEADER, VIETNAM

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors recognized the 2018 Veterans Initiative in the Arts ABOUTFACE Program at their meeting on August 14th.  The ABOUTFACE: Self-Understanding through Self-Portraits Workshops (ABOUTFACE) offered visual arts activities that helped motivate veterans and their families to explore self-understanding, to think creatively, to be innovative and to improve their quality of life.

The teaching team of the recent ABOUTFACE, which consisted of:  Coordinator, Ryan Berg (U.S. Marine Corps Veteran); Facilitator, Felisa Gaffney, Ph.D., (U.S. Air Force – Retired); and Artist, Victoria Bianco, Ph.D., were honored by the board.

The 2018 ABOUTFACE participants in the six workshops were from across the County and represented a cross section of military service and age groups.  All of the participants said they would recommend ABOUTFACE to other veterans and over half said they are looking forward to exhibiting their self-portraits for the public to see and understand.

The Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County (AC5) worked with the County Veterans Service Department, the County Office of Communications & Media and the County Library to help select locations, distribute project information and to identify potential participants.  AC5 Commissioner Anderson was the Project Director, and the other AC5 Commissioners all contributed to the success of this outstanding program.  AC5 would like to thank the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and the California Arts Commission for the funding that made this program possible.

To learn more about this program or to interview the honorees making a difference for veterans, please contact Roger Renn, AC5 Executive Director, at (925) 646-2278.

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

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

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Kramer, Board Chair Gioia unable to attend meeting

By Daniel Borsuk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandy Hook Promise Impresses Supervisors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resolution Boosts Two County Airports Economic Assets 

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

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

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

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

Supervisors OK commercial cannabis ordinance, requires voters pass tax measure in November

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Mitchoff calls for calm over proposed Concord detention center

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County voters will get a crack at voting on a tax measure in November on how much the county should tax commercial cannabis enterprises, now that the board of supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance establishing zoning regulations for the cultivation, distribution and selling of recreational marijuana in most of unincorporated Contra Costa County.

Six areas where cannabis enterprises would be prohibited from setting up shop include Bethel Island, Sandamound Slough, Contra Costa Centre, Acalanes Ridge, Saranap and Alamo.  During the proposed ordinance’s public hearing process there was community protests especially from Alamo residents opposed to the establishment of commercial cannabis enterprises in their community mostly for public safety concerns.

Supervisors will consider proposed tax and health ordinances linked to the commercial cannabis ordinance at their July 10 meeting.

While the commercial cannabis ordinance charts regulations established in the Framework for Regulating Cannabis in the Unincorporated Area of Contra Costa County that supervisors approved in April, at Tuesday’s meeting supervisors were more focused on how the cannabis growers can conserve water, especially underground water, for a crop known to require high volumes of water to grow at a time California seems to permanently undergo drought conditions.

As a last-minute change, supervisors were handed an alternative water service plan provided by county planner Ruben Hernandez.  This water service alternative earned the stamp of approval from supervisors and establishes rules on how commercial cannabis cultivation operations can use groundwater but must comply with regulations aimed at conserving groundwater.  For instance, a commercial cultivation business could pump groundwater when “the retail water supplier does not provide retail water service at all times during the year.”

All five supervisors signed on and supported the water service alternative even though one prospective cannabis cultivator, Israel Martinez, a Brentwood farmer, said the county’s proposed groundwater revised rules are “too restrictive” and he said he supported the earlier Planning Commission’s groundwater rules because “cannabis uses a minor amount of water.”

“I don’t support any water alternative.” said East county rancher Eric Thomas.  “I’d like to see a cap on cannabis cultivation.  This does not use any water recapture.  Why not truck in water? You can recapture as much as 90 percent of the water used,” Thomas said.

All five supervisors approved the groundwater use alternative presented by the Department of Conservation and Development and therefore they unanimously approved the commercial cannabis ordinance.

“This is not the gold rush or green rush, but there is a significant investment that’s involved in establishing these types of businesses.” remarked Supervisor Diane Burgis whose rural oriented District 3 in East County, would be a big beneficiary of the potential new cannabis ordinance should it go into effect.

Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg, Supervisor Candance Andersen of Alamo, and Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond were willing to move forward on approving the commercial cannabis ordinance and accept the Department of Conservation and Development’s last-minute groundwater use proposal.

Board chair Karen Mitchoff also joined the other supervisors even though initially she preferred to wait and find out what state legislators were going to do about proposed legislation that would change the way county tax measures are passed either by a two-thirds vote or a majority vote.

Glover Unveils Keller Canyon Landfill Investigation Funding Source

Supervisor Glover announced that he has identified funds in the Keller Canyon Mitigation Fund, a fund used for an assortment of community activities in the Pittsburg and Bay Point area, to be spent for the county’s investigation into findings that there have been illegal deliveries and deposits of radioactive debris from the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.  A price tag has not yet been disclosed for the investigation.

The mitigation fund that landfill operator Republic Services finances will spend the money associated with covering costs of hiring a specialist to conduct an independent investigation into whether there were more than two documented cases where debris from the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard wound up at the landfill off of Baily Road.

Mitchoff Calls For Calm Over Concord Naval Weapons Station Use

Board Chair Mitchoff urged citizens to refrain from protesting at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, a site that the Trump Administration plans to house detained immigrants.  Should the President’s plans materialize at the closed weapons base, the government plans to spend as much as $233 million to construct housing for detained immigrants, U.S. Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) first disclosed the Administration’s plans last week.

The Navy has refused to disclose whether there are any plans to house as many as 47,000 detained immigrants at the closed military base.

“I specifically ask that no one march or protest,” Mitchoff said. “This may convey the wrong message to the Administration in Washington.”

Other than a protest planned in El Cerrito later this week, no protests have yet been planned at the shuttered weapons station.

$300,000 Contract Awarded from Animal Benefit Fund

On a 5-0 vote, supervisors approved a $300,000 contract to Unconditional Dog to provide animal enrichment services to dogs at the Pinole and Martinez animal shelters, but supervisors pulled the consent item for discussion because of concern over the Oakland-based company’s practices and whether County Animal Services will be accountable.

“I do support Ms. (Beth) Ward’s efforts, but the point is we need accountability,” said Dee Good.  “There should be some accountability.”

Another animal shelter observer, Carol Mason, also said the Unconditional Dog contract lacks accountability. “What kind of accountability is there at the shelters? Accountability is still important.”

Ward told supervisors her department awarded a three-month contract to Unconditional Dog in April to see if the company’s animal enrichment program does a better job in taming difficult dogs and thereby driving up the animal adoption rate at shelters.  Ward said the trial program showed some progress.

The Animal Benefit Fund will cover the contract costs.  No public funds are involved in the contract.

Supervisors asked that Ward give a report on the Unconditional Dog program in March 2019.

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