Following death threat, protests Supervisor Mitchoff drops COVID-19 business fines hike proposal

Reads unedited profanity laced email during Tuesday meeting

Unlikely radioactive material dumped at Keller Canyon Landfill in Pittsburg

Prioritize teachers for COVID-19 vaccine

By Daniel Borsuk

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, choking back tears after receiving an emailed death threat and listening to an avalanche of protests to her proposal to boost county public health fines on small businesses violating COVID-19 orders, requested the idea be dropped at Tuesday’s Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Supervisors earlier heard from a number of anonymous callers, presumably restaurant owners largely hit by county health inspections and penalty fines.  Most of the speakers protested that the current fines of $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for each additional violation within one year of the initial violation were too extreme.  If a violation continues for more than one day, each day is treated as a separate violation.

At the Board’s December 8 meeting, Mitchoff had proposed the county dramatically increase fines in order to send a message to businessowners thinking of violating county ordinances.  At that meeting the supervisor had said, “I would like to see, $10,000, $15,000, and $20,000 fines.  We have to do something different.  If they want to stay open and spread COVID they have to pay the price.”

Prior to receiving the threatening email or listening to anonymous businessowners torpedo her proposal Tuesday, Mitchoff said “If we do not do something, we’ll lose credibility.  I see many businesses in Concord and Pleasant Hill obey county orders and are closed, but restaurants in Danville are open.”

A group of Danville and San Ramon restaurant owners have stirred up most of the protests.

“We receive 13 complaints a day including customers not wearing masks or not social distancing,” Contra Costa County District Attorney Dianna Becton told the supervisors.  The DA has assigned two inspectors for health code violations.

“Small businesses are really suffering,” said Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood, who said one small busines owner pleaded with her for help because he had difficulty paying his property taxes.  “I am not going to support higher fines.  I am not in support of higher taxes. It won’t work.”

Later, Mitchoff caved into the public protests and especially upon receiving a sort of “interesting”, profanity-laced message during the meeting that she received from Ricky Gunz and read verbatimm:

“F— you Bi—. Sleep lightly. There are some bad people out there.  Karma is a motherf—r.  Keep trying to fine business and see what happens.”

“We hear the pain and the frustration,” said Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond. “It is all about saving lives and slowing the spread of COVID-19 to the 15 percent intensive care unit (ICU) capacity level.  We’re trying to save ICU capacity.”

Earlier supervisors learned from Contra Costa County Public Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano that Contra Costa had 181 COVID-19 patients in local hospitals, but more crucially, 133 patients were occupying ICU beds.  There are a total of 183 ICU beds in the county.

“That’s a significant increase,” said Farnitano. “Our case rate is 36 cases per day.  December will be our deadliest month.  Of 500 patients, five will die of COVID19,” he warned.

Keller Canyon Landfill Probe: “Unlikely that radiological materials were disposed of at Keller Canyon”

Supervisors also voted 5-0 to accept a two-page report on an investigation whether any radioactive materials from the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard were transported to the Keller Canyon Landfill in Pittsburg.  The report, prepared by TRC Solutions, Inc. was initiated after news reports initially published on April 21, 2018 in the San Francisco Chronicle and later picked up by other news outlets including the Contra Costa Herald about allegations of improper dumping of radioactive materials had occurred in the landfill.

“TRC’s forensic audit started in October 2018 and concluded in May 2019.  Documents reviewed by TRC included special waste authorizations, soil analytical data reports, Hunters Point work plans and reports, Standard Operating Procedures, portal monitor calibration records, and landfill data to ascertain if radiologically contaminated materials were received by KCL from Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.  In addition, site visits were performed at both KCL and HPNS in April 2019,” the report stated.

“Based on this review, of data, reports, logs, interviews, and site visits, it is concluded that it is very unlikely that radiological materials of concern (i.e., radionuclides specific to Hunters Point contaminations and in exceedance of background) were disposed of at Keller Canyon. To obtain certainty that no radiologically contaminated material from Hunters Point was received at Keller Canyon, limited environmental field sampling could be performed at Keller Canyon.”  Republic Services of Contra Costa operates the landfill.

Pittsburg City Manager Garret Evans said the city will continue to monitor the landfill based on the history of landfill’s previous issues about allegedly poor inaccurate data about air monitors and lead.

“Keller Canyon has been very cooperative.  This has been an important and thorough study that has gone through several community meetings, “said Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg, whose District 5 includes the landfill.

Resolution Prioritizes Private and Public Teacher Receive COVID-19 Vaccines

Supervisors passed a resolution urging Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California Department of Public Health and all other state health officials to ensure that all public, parochial and private classroom teachers and staff receive the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost in order to assist school officials to reopen schools when it becomes safe to do so.

Two Cannabis Community Benefit Agreements Approved

Supervisors approved the community benefit agreements with two cannabis retail outlets – The Artist Tree V storefront commercial cannabis dispensary in El Sobrante and the Authentic 925 in Pacheco.  The two items acted on consent items.

The actions mean applicants for the two businesses are nearing approval of use permits whereby the owners will be required to pay the county community benefit taxes based on prospective retail sales.  In the case of SGI Pacheco, doing business as Authentic 925, the county will receive on an annual basis, $150,000 or 1.5 percent of the business’s gross profits, whichever is greater.

In the case of The Artist Tree V, the community benefit is based on percentages of annual gross sales of 2 percent or 3 percent depending on whatever will be gross sales during the operating year.












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