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.