Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Measure X Sales Tax – meeting the needs of our community?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

Zoom webinar Feb. 17 at 4:00 p.m. to learn about first year allocations

By Gail Murray

Measure X, a new county-wide sales tax to support health and human services for our local neighbors and families, was passed by voters in November 2020. The tax money is being collected and decisions are being made on how to allocate the money in support of the values we hold as residents of Contra Costa.

The Measure X Advisory Committee was established by the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors to help prioritize spending of Measure X dollars to support health and human services in our county. The Committee has met over many weeks, days and hours, and has produced its report. The people of Contra Costa County have unmet human service needs, and they are growing fast, as documented by the Measure X Advisory Committee. The Board has weighed these growing needs with the limited dollars available to allocate this first year.

Join us Thursday, February 17 at 4:00 p.m. for a Zoom webinar to hear about the first year of allocations. What was recommended by the Advisory Committee, what was funded, and what are the gaps still remaining? Do these allocations support our values? What can we learn from this first year of sales tax allocations?  What does this mean for the future?

This expert panel will be moderated by Shanelle Scales-Preston, Vice Mayor and Pittsburg City Council member. Panelists are Mariana Moore, Chair of the Measure X Citizens Advisory Board; Dan Geiger from Budget Justice Coalition; and Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, Chair of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, representing District 4. 

Questions from the public will be taken in advance at Program@LWVDV.org. During the webinar, questions may be submitted thru Zoom Q&A function. 

Click here to register for the webinar. Information on how to access the Zoom webinar will be sent to your email address 24 hours before the program.

The program is a partnership among the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley and of West Contra Costa County, along with the Contra Costa County Library. The Library will provide closed captioning for this event. 

The program will be recorded and posted on the following sites after the meeting:

LWVDV YouTube channel

Contra Costa County Library YouTube channel

 

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Grieving Burgis hands over Contra Costa Board of Supervisors’ gavel to Mitchoff

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

Supervisors approve Grand Jury report on animal shelter consolidation with Antioch, countywide sidewalk obstruction ordinance, two years’ worth of ammunition for Sheriff’s Office

Contra Costa County District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis

By Daniel Borsuk

A grieving, yet stoic Contra Costa County District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis conducted on Tuesday her final meeting as Board Chair a month to the day that her husband, Richard Clayton, took his own life. Showing remarkable resilience, Burgis thanked her family, fellow board members, her staff, county employees and constituents for their support.

“We accomplished so much in 2021,” said Burgis, who wore a black dress.  “The annexation of the Contra Costa County Fire District with the East Contra Costa County Fire District will make Contra Costa County so much safer.”

Burgis, whose served on the Board’s Airports’ Committee, praised how the County has developed both the Byron and Buchanan airports, especially Byron with the startup of innovative aeronautical enterprises near the airport.

“I am so proud of our health workers,” Burgis said. “The county public health services have become a model of the state.”

Contra Costa County District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff. Official photo.

For her work, fellow board members presented Burgis with a picture of Marsh Creek, one of Burgis’ favorite environmental cleanup sites.

“That was really hard for you to do,” District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond said of Burgis after handing over the gavel to newly sworn in Chair Karen Mitchoff of Ditrict 4 in Pleasant Hill. “We’re all behind you.”

Mitchoff, who will not seek re-election to the supervisorial post that she has held since January 2011, said, “In my final year as an elected official for Contra Costa County, I am excited about what lies ahead and ready to work together to keep improving the quality of life in our county.”

An avid reader, Mitchoff noted that last year she read 60 books, mostly audiobooks.  As a gift for her fellow board members, Mitchoff gave each supervisor a copy of the historical book, “The 1619 Project,” written by Nikole Hannah-Jones.

District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover, who has served on the Board since 2000, will serve as Board Vice Chair.  Glover, who was in line to become chair this year passed on accepting the post to allow Mitchoff to take on the leadership duties in recognition of her more than 40 years of public service.

Third Grand Jury Report on Consolidating County, Antioch Animal Shelters Approved

Without hearing any public comment, Supervisors approved a third Grand Jury report, this one recommending that the County hire a consultant to study the potential consolidation of the County run animal facility in Martinez and the City of Antioch animal shelter run by the Antioch Police Department.

“Public and private animal shelters are experiencing pressure from the explosive growth in the homeless animal and abandoned pet populations,” the new Grand Jury Report states. “Community outreach and education are high priorities for both Contra Costa and Antioch Animal Services, the two public animal shelters within the county.”

The grand jury report went on to state, “The Grand Jury recommends that Contra Costa Animal Services (CCAS) engage a consulting firm for guidance on the possible redistribution of animal services that could be achieved by a gradual process of cost-sharing and shelter coordination. A comparable consolidation currently underway between Monterey County and the City of Salinas Animal Shelters provides a possible model for the integration of Contra Costa and Antioch Animal Shelter services.”

The grand jury also recommends that the two public animal shelters improve their emphasis on community outreach to comfort homeless animal overpopulation.

In addition, the report calls on both the County and City of Antioch to resolve the ongoing problem of abandoned animals left at the Antioch shelter by residents outside the City of Antioch. “Although there is an informal working relationship between CCAS and AAS personnel on this issue, a more formal agreement between AAS and CCAS would facilitate abandoned pet retrieval at both shelters.”

Animal Services Home to Home Contract Approved

In a related animal shelter issue, Supervisors passed a Home-to-Home contract that will not cost the County any funds.  Maddie’s Fund will pick up the tab to re-home pets.  The Home-to-Home Network will lessen boarding of homeless dogs and cats in County Shelter.  Home-To-Home adoptions are free.

Sidewalk Obstruction Ordinance Revised

Without hearing any public comment, Supervisors amended the County Sidewalk ordinance.  The revision permits the County Director of Public Works to “abate any sidewalk obstruction.”

“An adjacent owner shall keep the sidewalk abutting the adjacent owner’s property free and clear of all weeds, rubbish, dirt, rocks, debris, or any other obstruction that interferes with the free passage of pedestrians,” the new ordinance states

Approve Two-Year Ammo Contract for Sheriff’s Office

Supervisors approved a $450,000 contract with Dooley Enterprises, Inc. to deliver Winchester ammunition for the Sheriff-Coroner from Jan. 1, 2022 to Dec. 31 2023. The Sheriff-Coroner’s Office has used Winchester ammunitions for training and duty ammunition purposes for more than 20 years.

 

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Antioch gets “Con”ned: mishandling process, city staff tells council interim city manager candidate successfully passes background check

Monday, January 10th, 2022

Started Monday Dec. 13 mayor says; council members informed by email same day, not told what criteria was used nor provided with details to make the decision themselves about Cornelius “Con” Johnson

“It should not be up to the staff to make a determination of whether someone passed or failed…All of this should be…shared with the city council…then be up to the city council to determine whether the results meet their standards for selecting a city manager.” – Martha Perego, Director of Member Services and Ethics, International City/County Management Association

Cornelious “Con” Johnson. Source: Mayor Lamar Thorpe’s Facebook page.

By Allen Payton

In a breach of protocol and mishandling of proper procedure, City of Antioch staff, including at least Administrative Services Director Nickie Mastay, unilaterally determined new Interim City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson successfully passed the background check she conducted. In her position, which is essentially in charge of human resources, Mastay is one of the department heads who answers directly to the city manager. Johnson has been granted full authority as city manager to hire and fire any and all department heads, which includes Mastay, the chief of police, and others. (See related article)

According to Martha Perego, Director of Member Services and Ethics for the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), it’s the city council’s responsibility to determine if a candidate for city manager passed or failed the background check, not city staff.

Without fanfare or major public announcement, Johnson started in his position as interim city manager on Monday, Dec. 13. The public was not made aware of that fact until the end of the council meeting on Tuesday night, Dec. 14, when Mayor Lamar Thorpe made a rather casual but surprising comment welcoming Johnson, who the mayor said had started in his new position the day before. That answered the question for some members of the public in attendance for the council meeting why Johnson was included in the photos for outgoing City Manager Ron Bernal.

Mayor, Two Council Members, Staff Refuse to Answer Questions

On Wednesday, Dec. 15, questions were sent to Mastay, City Attorney Thomas L. Smith, and all five council members asking about Johnson starting that Monday. They were asked, “how is that possible if the background check being conducted by Nickie Mastay isn’t yet completed? If it is, when was it completed? If Con passed it, who determined that? Did the council members receive a copy of a report on his background check?”

The staff and council members were also asked, “isn’t it the council’s responsibility to review the findings from the background check and then make the determination if he successfully passed it and vote on it during closed session which would then be reported out to the public how each council member voted? If it was Nickie who determined that, how could she? Who gave or what gives her the authority to do so?  Doesn’t she have a clear conflict of interest since Con will be her new boss and can fire and replace her with his full authority as city manager granted to him by the city council? Wouldn’t she pass him knowing there are three votes on the council to hire him? Or was it Thomas who determined Con successfully passed the background check? If so, how can an equal colleague, both of whom are hired by the council, be the one to make such a subjective determination?

Since neither Thomas nor Mastay responded to previous questions to them of what would cause someone to fail a background check, additional questions were posed to them and the council members. They were asked, “what are the determining factors that were considered, specifically for an interim city manager candidate? Is lying on his resume and inflating credentials grounds for failing the background check? Shouldn’t that be the criteria, when conducting background checks of anyone who wants to work for the City of Antioch?

Is financial experience a determining factor? While I didn’t write about it (previously), based on the information I’ve received from an Antioch resident who conducted his own background check on Con, it shows he has two bankruptcies and three real estate foreclosures in his past. Were you aware of that? If so, were those facts considered for someone being hired for the top position of running an operation with a $259 million annual budget?

Ogorchock, Barbanica Respond But Can’t Answer Most Questions

According to District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, council members received an email on Monday morning, Dec. 8 informing them that Johnson had passed the background check.

“I received an email on Monday morning stating that he had passed his background and they would be doing his on-boarding,” she said.” That’s all I got. That was it.”

Asked if she had asked city staff about the process and why the council members weren’t the ones to determine if Johnson had passed, Ogorchock said, “I called Nickie (Mastay) and I’m waiting for a response back. I didn’t get a response, yesterday, the day before or today.”

“I’m trying to get answers to questions people are asking me,” she continued. “I also don’t know why there hasn’t been a press release on it, either.”

District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica reiterated what his colleague said. In response to the Herald’s questions, he wrote, “We received an email Monday morning 8:29 AM (the entire council) stating that he had passed his background and was onboarding.  I did not see any documents of the background.”

Asked about the background check, he said, “we were told human resources was doing it. I spoke to Ron about it after the council meeting in which the council voted 3-2 to hire Johnson, and he said the background check would be conducted and reviewed by human resources.”

Asked, again who determined Johnson had passed the background check, Barbanica said, “I don’t know if the mayor reviewed it. I didn’t review it.”

On Monday, Jan. 10, asked if she had heard back from Mastay, Ogorchock said, “She said she was going to reach out to you. I believe she hired an outside firm to do the background check. I don’t know.”

Questions on Process for Hiring Interim or Permanent City Manager to Johnson, Assistant City Manager Go Unanswered

Unless the council hires Johnson, Assistant City Manager Rosanna Bayon-Moore, or someone else on city staff, to be the permanent city manager, they will have to go through the same process, again later this year. In an attempt to determine what process was followed, this time and what is the proper process for dealing with the background check of a city manager candidate, the following, additional questions were sent to the same individuals, as well as Johnson and Bayon-Moore early Thursday afternoon, Dec. 16: “Was the council provided with a copy of Mr. Johnson’s complete background check? When and how were they informed that he had successfully passed it? Who determined that he passed it? If it wasn’t the council members, why wasn’t it? What were the criteria upon which that determination was made for the hiring of Mr. Johnson and/or for any city manager or city attorney candidate?”

Another attempt to reach Mastay by phone made on Monday morning, Jan. 10 was unsuccessful.

Questions for International City/County Management Association

An effort to reach someone at ICMA to answer questions regarding the proper procedure for hiring and conducting the background check of an interim or permanent city manager candidate, was unsuccessful between Dec. 15 and 31.

Those questions were sent via email on Friday, Jan. 7 to Ethics Director Perego. She was also asked who should determine if the candidate has successfully passed the background check and if it is a conflict of interest for a department head who answers directly to the city manager to make that determination. Perego was also asked shouldn’t it be the city council’s decision to make that determination based on the background information gathered by a city’s human resources department and provided to the council members. Finally, she was asked what is the criteria that a city council should use on which to base the determination if the candidate for city manager has passed or failed the background check.

Council, City Staff Mishandle Hiring Process, Background Check

In response, Perego of the ICMA, responded Monday morning, Jan. 10 with the following:

“One of the benefits of using an outside firm to assist in the recruitment of a city manager is that they handle vetting of the candidates. You avoid the potentially awkward situation where a staff member who ultimately will report to the city manager may have weighed in on the candidates, even if it is just providing basic information.  Or learns something in the course of the process that is potentially embarrassing or questionable about their future boss. Hopefully, they would be professional about the matter. But that is why independence and objectivity that an outside firm brings, even from the appearance perspective, can be very beneficial.

Where the city relies on the HR team to manage the recruitment, they will be involved in the background check. They should be clear with the city council in advance about what data points they are checking and then report the factual results of that review to the city council. It should not be up to the staff to make a determination of whether someone passed or failed.  There should be an initial background check of applications who have been determined to meet the qualifications to determine who will move on to the next round, i.e. confirm educational credentials, residency, online reputation, related issues, etc. That should be followed up with a more in-depth background check that includes criminal records, lawsuits, bankruptcy, etc.  When the outside firms are involved, they typically will ask early on whether there is anything in the candidate’s background that the potential employer should know about. They use that info when conducting the background check to confirm whether the candidate was forthcoming and truthful.

All of this should be done confidentially and shared with the city council in a confidential manner (as long as that is permitted by law). It should then be up to the city council to determine whether the results meet their standards for selecting a city manager. They may also want to talk with the candidate about the results to acquire some context. For example, perhaps the candidate defaulted on a home mortgage a decade ago. Depending on the circumstances, that in and of itself may not be a disqualifying event.  But a recent DUI or arrest for assault, especially if it was not disclosed upfront during the initial discussions, is different and may be an automatic disqualifier.”

Perego’s Response and Questions Again Sent to Council, Staff

Perego’s response and questions about the process were again sent to Mastay, Attorney Smith, Johnson, the mayor and council members, Monday morning at 10:02 AM. They were asked: “Who conducted Mr. Johnson’s background check? Was it Nickie Mastay or did she hire an outside firm? If so, what is the name of the firm who conducted it? How much did the City pay them? Did the council provide the data points to staff of what they wanted in the background check? What were the determining factors upon which Mr. Johnson could pass or fail? Were the results of the background check presented to any or all council members? Who made the determination that Mr. Johnson passed his background check and upon what basis? Was it the mayor, council, Nickie Mastay or someone else on city staff?

In addition, Smith was specifically asked “Is that permitted by law for the council to do in California?” regarding the section in which Perego wrote, “All of this should be done confidentially and shared with the city council in a confidential manner (as long as that is permitted by law).”

They were each given until 12:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 10 to respond.

No responses had been received from any staff member, the mayor or other council members, as of publication time at 1:00 p.m.

Bernal Welcomes Johnson, Misrepresents Title, Position With SFPD

Other than the mayor’s brief announcement, the only other mention of Johnson becoming interim city manager was in retiring city manager Ron Bernal’s final Bi-Weekly Update issued on Dec. 28, in which he also misrepresented Johnson’s last title and position with the San Francisco Police Department. As has been previously reported, although Johnson served in his final two years as an acting captain and retired and his pension is being paid as a Lieutenant III, his resume only shows the title of captain, and has been introduced to the public as a retired captain since late 2020. Johnson still has not explained the discrepancy. (See related articles here and here)

Bernal wrote, “WELCOME CON! I am very pleased to introduce our new Interim City Manager, Cornelius Johnson. Mr. Johnson comes to us with 17 years of managerial experience with the City and County of San Francisco, most recently as a captain in the San Francisco Police Department’s Field Operations Bureau. Throughout his career, Con has devoted his career to establishing strong bonds between his agencies and the residents he has served. Please join me in welcoming Con to our Antioch family.”

As of Monday, Jan. 10 the Administration Department page on the City’s website still shows Bernal is city manager.

Johnson’s first council meeting as interim city manager is tomorrow night, Tuesday, Jan. 11.

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Bernal issues final farewell as Antioch City Manager

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

On Wednesday, Dec. 29, outgoing Antioch City Manager Ron Bernal issued the following farewell message:

Well, I knew this day was coming, just not so fast! Thinking about all of my experiences and encounters over the past 23 years, there’s one in particular that stands out. In 2017 former Chief Brooks invited twenty or so members of our community, the youngest being in their 70’s and the oldest pushing the century mark, to share what it was like to be born and raised in Antioch. These amazing men and women told some of the most humbling and inspiring stories about their parents and grandparents, many immigrants who had called Antioch home and times long gone but fresh in their hearts and minds. The thing that struck me the most is that despite all of the challenges and change each of them had experienced during their lifetimes, none of them had anything bad to say about Antioch or the city it had grown to become. In fact, all of them reminisced about how good Antioch was and is. About how their lives had been molded and impacted by the hardships and opportunities Antioch had to offer and how they were better people because of it.

There was a sparkle in their eyes as they remembered growing up in the town they still reside in and love. This special day has continued to remind me of the power of looking at what is good about Antioch, which is much. For me, Antioch has always been about the beauty I see everywhere I look, every street I drive, and every hill I run. It’s the neighborhoods, whether old or new and the people who live and work in them. It’s the industry and home-based businesses. It’s people building their dream homes and others living on the streets just trying to survive. The true beauty of Antioch is its people, every part of the world represented, struggling to live in harmony and acceptance of each other, trying to overcome hatred and division, searching for hope and purpose and love. Everyday people like you and me, just doing their best to raise families, make a living, give back and live a life of peace, meaning, and significance. Thank you for allowing me to accomplish all of those things and so much more. It’s been my privilege and honor to have played my small part in the Antioch story. May this place I’ve grown to love, continue to look up and fulfill its destiny to become a community where every resident can find their purpose and proudly call this home. May God’s will be done.

~Ron Bernal 

 

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Analysis: with redistricting Martinez has it best, Brentwood is a close second

Thursday, December 30th, 2021

Source: City of Martinez

Both offer a citizen-driven, transparent process; Martinez council has no say, Brentwood council will only make final choice; Antioch and Richmond get honorable mentions for offering online mapping tools

By Allen Payton

Comparing the redistricting process used by the county supervisors, cities, education boards and special districts in Contra Costa County whose members are elected by district, ward or area, it’s clear that just like the slogan they’ve been using for the past few years, it really is better in Brentwood – than most. But Martinez offers the best process in the county. Both have independent redistricting commissions and offer the same, easy-to-use online mapping tool for the public to draw and submit their own maps. While Brentwood’s process ends with the council only choosing from already completed maps, the Martinez council has no say and takes what their commission gives them.

At least Brentwood’s doing it right, this time. That’s because when the initial districts were drawn and approved in 2019 for the 2020 election and based on the 2010 Census, the Brentwood city council map for Districts 2 and 4 was obviously gerrymandered to benefit one if not more incumbents. Just look at the section of District 2 on the southwest side of the BNSF railroad tracks and you’ll see, that’s surrounded on three sides by District 4. But it really had no effect since those two seats aren’t up for election until next November.

Section of current Brentwood City Council Districts 2 and 4.

Besides Martinez and Brentwood, the following cities and school districts elect their members by district and are undergoing a redistricting process:

Antioch City CouncilDistrict Elections – City of Antioch, California (antiochca.gov)Antioch online mapping tool

Antioch School Board – Post Census Redistricting / 2020 Census Redistricting (antiochschools.net) – No online mapping tool.

Concord City CouncilRedistricting | Concord, CA (cityofconcord.org) – No online mapping tool, yet. Process started Nov. 2.

Richmond City CouncilRedistricting 2020 Census | Richmond, CA – Official Website – For online mapping tools click on “Draw Map”.

San Ramon City CouncilRedistricting 2022 – City of San Ramon (ca.gov)  – No online mapping tool.  The council will consider final redistricting maps on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Contra Costa Water District – No redistricting page nor online mapping tool. The board was given a redistricting presentation during their Oct. 15 meeting. The next meeting will be held on Jan. 5 with expected completion by March 16.

Contra Costa Community College District www.4cd.edu/gb/redistricting – No online mapping tool. See below for process information.

In 2010, both the college board and the Contra Costa County Board of Education adopted the same exact map. But their website doesn’t offer a very detailed map for the public to see in which district they live and which trustee is their representative.

Source: City of Oakley

Oakley Council Converts to District Elections

The Oakley City Council just completed the process of converting to district elections and adopted a five-member map during their meeting on Nov. 9.

Most Gerrymandered Current District Map

So far, the current map in the county with the worst, gerrymandered districts I’ve seen is for the Contra Costa Community College District, and as a result of the above, the county Board of Education, too. It combines Lamorinda with Hercules, Rodeo and Crockett in one ward and all of the San Ramon Valley, sans Alamo, in the same ward as Byron and Discovery Bay. Plus, it splits six cities, as well.  Those trustee ward lines were clearly drawn in 2011 to protect the incumbents, at that time.

This year, the college district staff tried to present their board with only one map to consider – drawn by staff and an attorney, with minor changes to the current map, continuing to protect incumbents. Where the current council or board members live is not a required consideration for redistricting. However, it’s understandable why that it would happen since staff members have a conflict of interest and inherent bias in wanting to please their bosses, instead of drawing maps to serve we the people.  (See related article)

Fortunately, the college board wisely directed staff to open up the process for more public input and offer two more proposed maps and an online survey about those choices, although they aren’t offering an online mapping tool.

Current Contra Costa Community College District ward boundaries map approved in 2011. Source: 4CD

Different Deadlines

While school boards have a deadline of March 1, 2022, to complete the process and submit an approved map, city councils have until April 17. The supervisors had to complete their process sooner, because filing for the June Primary election for Districts 1 and 4 opens mid-February and closes mid-March.

While some cities, like Antioch were trying to complete their process by the end of January – which the council just extended by a month – Brentwood’s process, which began Oct. 14 won’t be completed until March 3 and possibly not until March 10.

While congressional redistricting is the most difficult because it requires no more than a one person difference between districts, all other districts can have a maximum of a five percent population deviation from average, referred to as ideal, to be legally acceptable.

Process in Martinez Started First, Includes Independent Commission

Martinez, which began their redistricting process way back in January, has a seven-member independent redistricting commission, not chosen by the council. In August four commissioners were randomly drawn by the Deputy City Clerk from different quadrants in the city. Then those commissioners selected three additional commissioners from a designated pool of applicants. Finally, another random draw was undertaken to determine the two alternates from the remaining pool of qualified applicants.

The commissioners are responsible for drawing council districts in Martinez and held their first meeting on Sept. 22. So, the council has no say. They get what the people give them.

Martinez offers residents an online mapping tool to draw and submit alternative maps, just like the county supervisors’ did, and Brentwood and Antioch offer. While the supervisors’ online tool was easy to use, the tool offered by Martinez and Brentwood is easier. Each of the proposed maps and even the draft maps drawn by members of the public are on the site and can be viewed by anyone.

City of Brentwood 2021-22 redistricting schedule.

Redistricting in Brentwood Better Than Most

Brentwood’s redistricting process also offers residents an online mapping tool. Like Martinez, each of the proposed maps and even the draft maps drawn by members of the public are included on the City’s redistricting website for all to see and review to maximize public input.

The Brentwood city council established an independent, citizens redistricting commission, whose five members and four alternates volunteered and were selected by retired Judge Thelton Henderson – not the mayor and council members – following an application process. All but the last step of the redistricting process was transferred to them. The commission is leading the redistricting process by holding public hearings, reviewing all maps submitted by the public and gathering “community input to ensure everyone’s voice is heard”.

When the commission’s part of the process is complete, it will submit two or more potential boundary maps to the City Council and – here’s the best part – the Council must then select one of the submitted maps – wait for it – without modifying!

Interestingly enough, many of the publicly submitted maps in Brentwood look similar in how best to create new, common-sense districts – drawn based on the principals of compactness, Communities of Interest, using natural and man-made barriers for boundary lines and one-person-one-vote, with the smallest population percentage deviation from average as possible. Unfortunately, some of the maps submitted for the Brentwood City Council process don’t follow the aforementioned principles and can’t be considered because they don’t comply with the maximum population deviation percent requirement.

Honorable Mentions

Both Antioch and Richmond also offer online mapping tools and while Antioch’s has had glitches, it appears those have been worked out. Richmond was using the same tool as Martinez and Brentwood, known as DistrictR. But it has been replaced with Dave’s Redistricting App (DRA) because DistrictR uses population estimates while Dave’s Redistricting App uses the official population. Dave’s is difficult to use.

Richmond also offers Maptitude, which is the same software app used by the consultant to the state Citizens Redistricting Commission. But both require someone to sign up in order to use them. People can use Antioch’s online mapping tool as a guest, which requires the map be drawn all in one setting because it can’t be saved without signing up and logging in.

Other Councils and Boards Should Follow Example of Martinez and Brentwood

I can often be pretty tough on candidates and elected officials in my media role and responsibility of holding them accountable. But I also believe it’s good to praise those who are doing it right.

Neither the council members in Martinez nor Brentwood can make any changes to the final maps, thus, they won’t have any ability to gerrymander their districts to benefit themselves. They’ve empowered the people to have control over choosing who they will have represent them instead of the other way around. Representative government in our republic. Hey, what a concept!

Why don’t all the other boards of government agencies in our county do the same? Martinez and Brentwood are the example for the Board of Supervisors, other city councils, school and college boards to follow for the best way to handle the redistricting process.

The Brentwood City Council should be congratulated for doing it right and the best, when it comes to redistricting, this year.

Hopefully, all the other cities and districts, and the supervisors in Contra Costa will duplicate what Brentwood is doing, 10 years from now, the next time they will redistrict. Actually, they don’t have to wait. Once the current process is completed for the 2022 elections, the other councils and districts will have plenty of time for a redo by the 2024 elections.

Unless that happens, then remember, folks, the district lines approved this time will be in place for the next 10 years. So, while the redistricting process may be technical and dry, the decisions made now can and will affect who we have representing us during that time, and making decisions affecting our lives, homes, schools, businesses, and communities. So, stay informed, engaged and give your input on redistricting.

 

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Supervisors approve spending $75 million of Measure X funds for county medical center

Thursday, December 16th, 2021

Source: Contra Costa Health Services

Will provide garage, medical clinical office, and expanded radiology lab at Contra Costa Medical Center in Martinez; following crackdown, one restaurant still violating COVID-19 health orders as cases increase; appoint new Public Defender

“If you want to send me an email and still want to call me a ‘b***’ go ahead.” – Supervisor Karen Mitchoff in response to critics of her crusade to crack down on restaurants out of compliance with county health orders

By Daniel Borsuk

On a 4-0 vote, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors paved the way for officials of the over-used Contra Costa Regional Medical Center to spend $75 million of Measure X half-cent sales tax funds to construct a parking garage, a medical office complex and a state-of-the-art public health laboratory at Tuesday’s final board meeting of the year. (See CCRMC Proposed Master Plan)

With Board Chair Diane Burgis absent because of the death of her husband Richard Clayton for whom supervisors adjourned the meeting in honor of, supervisors narrowly met the super-majority requirement to tap into 2020 vote-approved sales tax measure revenues for the purpose of enhancing facilities at the over-used medical complex in Martinez.

Contra Costa Public Health Director Anna Roth pitched the three CCRMC capital improvement projects based on the fact the publicly funded medical center in the past year has treated 142,000 patients due to COVID-19, a 540 percent increase.  The center has saved the lives of about 26,000 county residents, 70 percent of whom are on Medi-Cal. Seventy percent of the CCRMC patients do not speak English, Roth noted.

She said the medical center has been crushed with a 540 percent increase in patients seeking medical care over the past 20 years while the physical components of the medical center have been unchanged. Roth also shared there has been at least one case where a pregnant woman had safely delivered her baby in the medical center parking lot because of the unavailability of parking. According to the presentation, three babies were born in the parking lot during the last year. The proposed 325-space parking structure along with valet parking would help alleviate the parking problem, she asserted.

Marianna Moore, chair of the board of supervisors’ appointed Measure X Advisory Committee, cast concern that the supervisors’ action on the medical center capital projects might be premature and negatively hit future Measure X funding of other public services.

“This is a one-time expenditure,” responded District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill. “There will be money for other projects. The longer we delay on capital improvement projects like these the more expensive it becomes.”

Upon acknowledging Measure X chairperson Moore’s comments, District 1 Supervisor John Gioia remarked “I hear the concerns of the Measure X panel for this board to be transparent and open.” Yet, he pointed out how three major local nonprofit health providers – Kaiser Permanente, John Muir and Sutter Medical – skirt regulations that county-operated medical institutions must obey.

“They get an equity worth $25 billion in tax breaks and don’t have to encounter public scrutiny that publicly operated health care operations like Contra Costa County’s have to abide by. I am proud of the public health successes in Contra Costa County, but we need help from the nonprofit health care organizations too.”

In addition to the proposed parking garage, the supervisors’ action paves the way for the medical center to have a $30 million 40,000 square foot medical-clinical office building constructed and a $5 million 5,000 square foot state-of-the-art intervention radiology suite built.

One Restaurant Remains Out of Compliance With COVID-19 Health Order, Mitchoff on the Defense

In a follow up to last week’s meeting where Supervisor Mitchoff questioned the Health Department’s code enforcement capabilities in shutting down 13 restaurants willfully out of health code compliance, Roth announced there is currently only one eatery that is still not following health code requirements.

She did not identify the business. “All but one of the establishments are now in compliance,” said Roth.

Roth said her department has added four code enforcement officers since last week when Mitchoff blew the lid off the health department’s health code performance.

“I appreciate the progress the health department has made,” said Mitchoff. “There is still one restaurant to follow up on. One restaurant will probably have to close.”

Mitchoff, who will serve as board chair next year instead of vice chair Federal Glover of Pittsburg in recognition of her public service as she has announced she won’t seek reelection in 2022, attacked her critics on her crusade to shut down out-of-compliance restaurants.

“There’s recently been vitriolic and unclear language and comments lodged at me,” said Mitchoff, whose been a frequent target of hate emails. “If you want to send me an email and still want to call me a ‘b***’ go ahead. It would be much better if those who dislike me to write letters and that everyone gets vaccinated and wears masks. I hope to start the new year with much more appreciated language.”

County COVID-19 Cases Increase

In the meantime, Roth said Contra Costa County’s vaccination rate of 76.8 percent remains above the national average of 69.9 percent.

The county’s active COVID-19 case load stands at 1,463, an increase of 18.9 percent over a two-week period. Forty-three patients were in hospitals in the county because of COVID-19.

“Ninety-seven percent of the cases in Contra Costa County are of the Delta strain,” remarked Roth. She said there have been signs of the new Omicron variant appearing in wastewater in the county, but nowhere else.

Because of wintertime conditions forcing Californians to hunker down indoors, Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano informed supervisors the State was expected to announce a new indoor public face mask order. The order would be in place through Jan. 15, 2022.

In a related action, supervisors adopted an ordinance calling for the continuation of remotely conducted meetings into January 2022.  The ordinance also applies to commissions and advisory committees.

Ordinance Temporarily Halts North Richmond Fulfillment Center Openings  

In response to increasing vehicle emission air pollution and traffic-pedestrian safety concerns issues stemming from the buildup of fulfillment centers in the unincorporated North Richmond and Richmond areas, supervisors imposed a 45-day moratorium on the opening of new fulfillment centers.

“Richmond and North Richmond have become a major destination for fulfillment centers,” said Supervisor Gioia, whose District 1 cover those areas. “We don’t want North Richmond to become a wall-to-wall fulfillment center magnet.”

The purpose of the ordinance Gioia has introduced is to compel these enterprises to deliver their products with electric vehicles.   It aims to have 33 percent of a company’s fleet of vehicles electrified immediately and by 2027 100 percent of a business’s fleet of vehicles must be electrified.

At least five fulfillment centers are either under construction or planning phase, said John Kopchick, director of the Contra Costa County Conservation and Development Department.

No one from the fulfillment center sector spoke on the ordinance regulating the electrification of vehicle fleets, but Donald Gilmore of North Richmond Recreation said the ordinance does not go far enough.

“North Richmond is significantly impacted by these warehouses and the traffic coming from them. Pedestrian safety is a pressing problem. We need more time to figure out a plan,” said Gilmore.

Appoint New Public Defender

Ellen McDonnell. Source: CCPD

Supervisors promoted Deputy Public Defender Ellen McDonnell as Contra Costa Public Defender at an annual salary of $340,510 in addition to $93,131 in pension annual compensation.  She will officially take over the role of Public Defender from the retiring Robin Lipetzky effective Jan. 1, 2022.

She started with the department in 2001 and will oversee a $36 million budget and 145 employees.

McDonnell holds a Juris Doctors degree from California Hastings College of the Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree and double major in Spanish and Italian from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

She has been a member of the California State Bar since 2011. (Read more about McDonnell in a separate article.)

 

 

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Resume of interim Antioch city manager candidate released, refuses to explain discrepancy in titles

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

Excerpt from Cornelius Johnson’s Resume showing final position with the San Francisco Police Department of Night Supervising Captain. Source: City of Antioch

Con Johnson retired as a Lieutenant III but his resume shows last title of “Night Supervising Captain” without qualifying as an “acting” position; refuses to answer questions about it

Cornelious “Con” Johnson. Source: Mayor Lamar Thorpe’s Facebook page.

By Allen Payton

On Nov. 9, the Antioch City Council, on a 3-2 vote, approved the conditional hiring of Cornelius “Con” Johnson as the interim city manager, following City Manager Ron Bernal’s retirement at the end of December. The one condition is that Johnson successfully pass a background check. In response to a Public Records Act request by the Herald, Antioch City Attorney Thomas L. Smith released a copy of Johnson’s resume and cover letter to the city council. It shows Johnson lists his last position with the San Francisco Police Department as Night Supervising Captain from Feb. 2014 until the day he retired on July 1, 2016, without qualifying it as an “acting” position.

While he was paid a higher salary for that title, Johnson was never promoted to the position of captain and is being paid as a retired Lieutenant III according to David Ng, Senior Clerk of Personnel for the SFPD who said, “regarding Cornelius Johnson’s retirement, the highest ranking was lieutenant. The system shows lieutenant. The job code is Q62 which is lieutenant,” as previously reported. (See related articles here, here, here, and here)

Cornelius Johnson – Cover Letter Redacted       Cornelius Johnson – Resume Redacted

Leadership Experience

According to his resume, as Night Supervising Captain, Johnson wasresponsible for the managing and overseeing of the San Francisco Police Department resources, activities, operation between the hours of 1900 hrs to 0500 hrs. The Night captain is responsible for the planning, administering, directing, evaluating, and overseeing of activities of approximately 600 staff members (civilian personnel, patrol officers, sergeants and mid-level manager)”.

Prior to that, Johnson held leadership positions with the SFPD of Platoon Commander from Feb. 2010 to Feb. 2014; and Director of Community Policing from Jan. 2004 to F2010.

Not Hired as Bridging the Gap Forums Facilitator

Last year, Johnson applied to be the city council’s facilitator for the Bridging the Gap forums held late last year and early, this year. But the panel, which included Mayor Lamar Thorpe, City Manager Ron Bernal, Administrative Services Director Nickie Mastay and then-Chief Tammany Brooks, chose to hire a consulting firm, instead.

Johnson Refuses to Answer Questions

Previous efforts to reach Johnson were unsuccessful. In addition, he did not respond to a phone call or text to him on Tuesday, even though when this reporter who knows Johnson, saw and spoke with him recently, he agreed to respond.

Johnson was asked why his resume shows a title of captain, which is different than the title he retired at of Lieutenant III. Johnson was also asked if he was ever promoted to the position of captain or just acting captain for his final three years on the force. He was also asked if it is normal practice to use a title if the retiree was only serving in an acting role. Finally, Johnson was asked “why inflate your credentials when you don’t need to for the position of interim city manager when you have all the experience with the SFPD and your master’s in public administration?”

Johnson still had not responded prior to publication time at 6:40 p.m.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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Antioch Council agrees to conditionally hire interim city manager on split vote if he passes background check

Thursday, December 9th, 2021

Would have full authority of permanent city manager to hire and fire department heads including policchief; City staff won’t say what would cause him to fail background check

Cornelious “Con” Johnson. Source: Mayor Lamar Thorpe’s Facebook page.

By Allen Payton

Publisher’s Note: Apologies for the late publishing of this article until now. I thought it already has been.

During their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, the Antioch City Council voted to conditionally hire Cornelius “Con” Johnson as interim city manager. (See related articles here and here)

“This is a conditional appointment based on a successful background check,” said Administrative Services Director Nickie Mastay. “Upon hiring of the interim city manager, the council will begin the process for recruiting a city manager.”

Three members of the public opposed the hiring of Johnson including Sal Sbranti and one other advocating for the hiring of Assistant City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore, instead. Two were in support of hiring Johnson.

“I truly believe Cornelius Johnson will serve the City of Antioch very well,” said Deborah Hicks. “He has very good leadership skills. He has very high standards. I am fortunate enough to sit around him and his company and others at Starbucks…and he’s a very knowledgeable man. I think I speak on behalf of quite a few of them. He is one of Antioch’s finest.”

“I also support him as the interim city manager,” said Leslie May. “I did review his credentials. Hopefully, he will be appointed as the permanent city manager. It’s the same kind of comment. People don’t want change. It can’t be business as usual in Antioch. We just can’t allow the public and use their biases to tell us who to select and who not to select. I feel good about supporting this young man.”

Barbanica, Ogorchock Want to Wait

“If we move forward, we are supposed to come up with a salary…oh and a start date,” said Mayor Lamar Thorpe.

“What I am going to say is he is someone I consider a friend. I do believe he wants better for this community,” said District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica. “But my concern with this is, number one we have an assistant city manager…It is my opinion she should have been brought up into the position of interim city manager. I do believe this is premature. I’m not saying that when this is done, Mr. Johnson won’t be the choice.”

“Yes, there have been some questions…some serious questions and I don’t think it’s fair to the candidate or to the City,” Barbanica continued. “We need to take a step back from this and consider other candidates. We rushed into this. This is not the way this is supposed to go.”

“I too want to share my appreciation for Mr. Johnson,” said District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock. “I don’t feel like his qualifications align with the city manager, at this time. I agree 110% with Councilman Barbanica and we should put this on hold, at this time.”

District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker spoke next saying, “So, I don’t live in a bubble. I get all the commentary and comments, as well. I hear that, like, I hear from people that he will do a really good job. And it’s an interim city manager to get him over the top. Is this the limited background in law enforcement. I think we can all have concerns about close relationship with people, with campaign donations. But if we look around this city people have hired their brother or sister. If Mr. Johnson can move us forward…

“I don’t know if we attack the qualifications of people if they’re not people of color,” she added.

“I hear everyone out there. How wonderful it is to have a community member step up…and get us through this transition period,” said Mayor Pro Tem and District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson. “I’ve been impressed with his background. I definitely believe that Mr. Johnson would do a really good job.”

“I think we’re supposed to determine three things, now. What term of contract. I think we discussed one year. I think we’re starting at Step 1,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe said.

“That would be 10% above the assistant city manager, $20,137,” Mastay said. “We will do the background check and get started as soon as possible.”

Council Debates Authority of Interim City Manager

Ogorchock pointd out that the council had discussed limiting the authority of the interim city manager.

“I no longer agree to those terms,” Thorpe responded. “Whether interim city manager or city manager they should retain the full power.”

Ogorchock then said, “You brought something up that was discussed in closed session. I thought that would be after

“It’s contingent on those things,” Thorpe said.

“That’s not the motion,” Ogorchock responded. “It was also discussed limiting the hiring of department heads.”

“I am not supporting that, and I said that, here in hearing your comments and some of Councilman Barbanica’s comments, tonight,” Thorpe responded.

All this will be contingent on a background

“I don’t like the inference that there’s something else, here,” Barbanica said. “I’m concerned about my district and this city.”

“Attorney Smith, can I talk about closed session?” he then asked. “In the contract is it in here about hiring the next police chief?”

“That’s not part of the motion,” Smith said.

“So, that means he could,” Ogorchock stated.

“I know I brought up concerns about an interim hiring a police chief,” Torres-Walker said. “I want it to be a more public process….and I did raise concerns around that. And about hiring department heads. After further reflecting there haven’t been limitations in the past. If he can wield his authority appropriately then we should give Mr. Johnson the opportunity.”

The motion to appoint Cornelius Johnson with a proposed start date, following a successful background check passed on a 3-2 motion with Barbanica and Ogorchock voting no.

Questions for City Staff Go Unanswered

Mastay and City Attorney Smith were asked who would be handling the background check and what would cause a candidate to not pass one. They were asked if lying on a resume is grounds for failing. Neither responded. However, according to council members, Mastay is conducting Johnson’s background check. No answer, yet on the other questions.

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