Fail to sway Supervisors
By Daniel Borsuk
One-by-one, 64 speakers paraded up to the podium’s microphone, during the board meeting on Tuesday, June 6th, calling on the Contra Costa County Supervisors to overturn their February decision to build the controversial $95 million expansion to the West County Detention Facility in Richmond.
Did the speakers, mostly voicing the need to spend public funds on mental health services outside of jail facilities, convince supervisors to reconsider their action of four months ago?
The answer is most likely not, even though District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of El Cerrito, who was absent at Tuesday’s meeting, had cast the one negative vote in February. At that time, supervisors had voted 4-1, with Gioia in dissent, to spend $25 million in county funds for the application for the state prison grant.
Supervisors have yet to approve the $70 million grant from the Board of State and Community Corrections. They could accept the state grant at their meeting later this month, provided the state funding is approved by then.
“Yes, you’ve made up your mind a long time ago,” said Judy Weatherly, a Courageous Resistance of Richmond organization leader. “I am committed to speak out against you for the rest of my life. You haven’t seen anything yet.”
“A jail is not an appropriate place for providing mental health services,” protested Gordy McCoy of RUBICON of Contra Costa County. He said mental health services need to be provided outside a jail environment where 90 percent of a jail’s population is of color.
A number of other speakers said the county would be better off spending public funds on desperately needed mental health services in the community instead of in a jail facility.
Board Chair Federal Glover of Pittsburg was the only supervisor to speak at the end of the two-hour public comment session. “The Sheriff is an independently elected office. We only have control over the budget,” he briefly said.
District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville did release to the Contra Costa Herald a copy of an email she has sent to critics about why she supports the jail expansion.
“The unfortunate truth is that when individuals commit crimes they sometimes need to be incarcerated for either their protection or society’s,” she wrote, “and we do not currently have the facilities to treat them and provide the services needed to help them get well and successfully reenter society. It is impossible to provide these same services in our current jail facilities.”
Supervisor Andersen also cited how the new West County re-entry treatment facility will improve mental health services for inmates by providing comprehensive mental health services to inmates, including for serious offenders requires a higher security setting.
The supervisor also stated the new facility will have a dedicated visitation center separate from the rest of the West County facility and that no “new beds” or new jails are being created. She wrote 416 beds for West County are replacing 420 beds in the Martinez Detention Center that are being eliminated because of overcrowding.
“Absolutely NO beds are being added for ICE holds,” she wrote
Noisy Animal Ordinance Passes
Supervisors demonstrated they are searching for new streams of revenue in unusual ways by passing a Noise Animal Ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting. The ordinance was adopted as a consent item.
It’s estimated the new ordinance will draw less than $100,000 in revenue during its initial year of enforcement.
The new ordinance, that goes into effect July 6, means the Contra Costa County Animal Services can cite the owner of a dog in unincorporated Contra Costa County that incessantly barks for more than 30 minutes or intermittently more than 60 minutes day or night.
The fine will be $100 for the first violation, $250 for the second violation, $500 for each violation of the same ordinance within one year.
The ordinance will also apply to owners of roosters and “other noisy animals.”
The ordinance calls for the development of an appeal process.