By Bryan Scott
People are dying in East County, homes are burning down, and residents are paying dramatically escalating insurance premiums, often increasing by over 200%.
The fire district serving the needs of over 110,000 people in two cities, half a dozen unincorporated communities, and spread over 249-square miles of Contra Costa County is critically underfunded.
The state of California set-up the funding for these services in the 1980’s, when all that was needed were several groups of volunteer firefighters to serve 8,000 people in a couple of East Contra Costa County farming communities. The need for fire and emergency medical services in East County has changed dramatically in the last 40 years, and the population has grown to over 110,000 residents.
All fire districts in California are funded with property tax revenues. A permanent solution to this funding problem requires reallocating some of these property tax funds from the current recipients to the fire district.
Contra Costa County Fire Protection District receives ~14% of the property tax revenue. The fire district covering the San Ramon Valley gets ~15%, and the fire district serving the Moraga-Orinda area is funded at~ 21%.
The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) gets less than 8%.
A survey conducted last Fall found that on a per-person basis ECCFPD gets about $106 each year, compared to $349 per-person for San Ramon Valley and $366 for Moraga-Orinda fire districts. This unequal funding is to provide essentially the same services to county residents who pay the same property tax rate.
Gus Vina is the City Manager of Brentwood, and Bryan Montgomery is the City Manager of Oakley. Combined, these two these public administrators are responsible for managing the safety of 100,000 residents. They have a moral, if not legal, duty to ensure the safety of their employers, the taxpaying residents of their respective cities.
Both City Managers should be applauded for their efforts in dealing with this crisis.
In 2015 a government-employee task force was formed, under the leadership of Vina, and temporary funding was obtained from the two cities and the County. This funding kept a fourth fire station open for 18 months.
In 2016 both City Managers helped get a Utility User Tax (UUT) on the ballot in their respective cities, even though public opinion polling said the measures would gather only 40% support, at best, with the voters. While a general tax measure of this type requires only a simple majority to pass, Brentwood’s vote came in at 39% in favor. Support for the UUT in Oakley was less.
Both Brentwood and Oakley are now talking about another temporary funding contribution, along with the County.
These temporary band-aide funding measures, do not address the fundamental problem, the structural property tax funding deficiency.
It is too bad neither one of these municipal managers has gotten behind the permanent solution to the funding crisis, reallocating property tax funds. But perhaps it is understandable.
The challenge here is that the money for a permanent fix comes from the current recipients of property tax funding. These recipients include the cities both Vina and Montgomery are paid to run, Brentwood and Oakley.
And while they have endorsed short-term financial contributions, they have not worked towards the obvious and final fix to the funding crisis, the reallocation of property tax funds.
So, East County residents will continue to die, homes will continue to burn down, and insurance premiums will continue to go up.
Scott is a Brentwood resident and Co-Chair of East County Voters for Equal Protection, a non-partisan citizens action committee whose aim is to improve funding for the ECCFPD. He can be reached at email@example.com, or 925-418-4428. The group’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters/.
By John Crowder
Monday, May 8, marked the beginning of National Etiquette Week. More than just a list of manners, proper etiquette allows people to know how to handle themselves in life’s important interactions. How should you conduct yourself at a job interview? How about at a formal dinner? Do you know how to make a good first impression? Are you able to make a public presentation?
These are just a few of the questions that are answered in classes taught by Mrs. Tina Hayes, author of Getting Ahead with Etiquette and the owner and founder of the School of Etiquette and Decorum.
For the last few weeks, Hayes has been teaching a class on ‘Etiquette for Success’ to the students of Freedom High School in Oakley. Once a week, Freedom students meet after school and are taught the soft skills that are so valuable to success in school and in work, but that many no longer learn while growing up. As Hayes explains, “There was a time when these skills were taught in the home, when families still came together regularly for the evening meal. These days, that’s often not the case. Yet, we all know how valuable these skills are for students who want to successfully navigate their high school and college years, and especially when they enter the world of work.”
Hayes has been offering etiquette classes throughout the Bay Area and beyond over the last decade. Over the years, her classes have helped hundreds of people, both young and old, learn to be more confident and courteous, and to exhibit social graces. The training sessions conducted by Hayes and her staff cover more than 80 topics, and can be presented as workshops, seminars, or even in personal coaching sessions.
According to Hayes, “Our training gives individuals that ‘edge’ that will help them succeed throughout life and make for a better, and brighter, future.”
Her students, and their parents, agree. My son, Eddy Crowder, an 8th grader at Paideia Academy, has attended four etiquette classes during his Junior High years.
“These classes have really helped me be more confident at formal dinners, and when I speak with adults,” he said. “Mrs. Hayes is a great teacher.”
Wanda Ransom, the mother of a college-bound son who participated in the College Preparedness Training Workshop said, “Thank you so much for polishing his skills.”
This summer, from June 26 through 30, the School of Etiquette and Decorum will be offering a Summer Etiquette Day Camp from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Lone Tree Golf and Event Center. Two sessions will run concurrently, one for children (ages 6 – 12) and the other for teens (ages 13 – 17). To learn more about these classes, or other offerings, contact Mrs. Tina Hayes at 925-519-0354 or visit the website at etiquetteschool.us.
Sacramento, CA – On Thursday, Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D – Discovery Bay) presented ACR 49 on the Assembly Floor that designates an eastern Contra Costa County portion of State Route 4 in memorial to Sgt. Scott Lunger for his service to public safety and personal contributions to his community.
“Sgt. Lunger’s sacrifice, made in the line of duty, deserves every bit of respect and recognition that can be give,” said Frazier. “Not only a dedicated officer of the law, Scott was also an active member of the East County community as a beloved volunteer coach for the Freedom High School girls’ softball team. We will miss Scott greatly and owe a debt of gratitude to him and his loved ones for their sacrifices.”
Lunger, 48, was a sergeant in the Hayward Police Department for 15 years, serving as a member of various specialty units, including the Special Duty Unit, Gang Task Force, and Special Weapons and Tactics team. As an avid sports fan, he loved the Oakland A’s, was a lifelong football fan and served as assistant coach for a high school softball program. Prior to his career in law enforcement, Lunger followed his father’s footsteps becoming a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 595, working up to the position of general foreman. On July 22, 2015, Lunger was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop.
According to SFGate.com, Lunger, 48, was “a Brentwood resident and father of two grown daughters, was fatally shot after pulling over the erratic driver of a white pickup truck on a quiet street corner southwest of downtown Hayward. Lunger loved pitching a tent in the Sierra with his family. He loved riding horses, and he enjoyed sports. In his spare time, he was an assistant softball coach at Freedom High in Oakley, and he played on the Tri-Valley A’s baseball team in an over-45 league.”
East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Interim Fire Chief Brian Helmick sent the following message about the closure:
At the May 1, 2017, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District’s Board of Directors Meeting (ECCFPD), the ECCFPD Board reaffirmed the closure of Station 94 in Knightsen on June 30, 2017. Since May of 2015, the Knightsen station has been operating on a temporary basis with joint funding provided through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Fire District, the County, and the cities of Brentwood and Oakley.
The current MOU provided temporary funding from May 1, 2015 through June 30, 2017. Both the cities of Brentwood and Oakley attempted to obtain permanent funding for additional fire stations through tax measures on the Novembers 2016 ballot. These measures failed.
A recent effort by the City of Brentwood, in conjunction with the County, the City of Oakley and the Fire District was unsuccessful in obtaining sufficient additional funding to retain staff and continue operation of the District’s 4th station. The Fire District sincerely extends its thanks on behalf of itself and the public to the agencies and their representatives who participated in this effort.
The closure of the station is driven primarily by the loss of staff in anticipation of the end of temporary funding. Currently the District has available only 32 of the 36 fire suppression personnel required to operate four stations. The available staff is expected to drop to 29 or 30 over the next few months. By June 30, 2017, the required staffing for four stations will be unsustainable and unsafe for firefighter personnel and ultimately the public.
The District looks forward to working with all stakeholders once the District has transitioned to a three-station operation and has reassessed its current situation. Over the next 3-4 months District staff and the Board of Directors will begin an assessment of the District’s current funding and service levels with a focus on the District’s critical retention challenges.
Since 2012, the District has lost 31 firefighters and only 5 have been from retirement. The primary loss of firefighters is due to: the lack of secured long term funding; the lack of job security for firefighters, and District pay and benefits substantially lower than other Fire Departments throughout the Area.
On July 1, 2017, the District will transition to operating with 3 stations and will assign all remaining additional firefighters, as available, to the 3 remaining District stations located in Brentwood, Oakley and Discovery Bay. The District plans to retain the CALFIRE Amador contract to Staff the Sunshine Station outside of fire season. There are no layoffs planned and the District hopes to retain all remaining staff on a permanent basis.
Following the Board’s approval of the Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget in September, the District plans to lead a new collaborative effort with the community, the County, the Cities of Brentwood and Oakley, and Local 1230. The goal will be to fully explain the District’s situation and to receive input on the development of a District strategic plan to achieve the level of service and funding identified in the June 2016 CityGate “Deployment Performance and Headquarters Staffing Adequacy Study”.
On behalf of the ECCFPD, we thank the community, the cities of Brentwood and Oakley, and County officials for continuing to support the Fire District and its Members as we transition through these challenging times.
See video footage of the fire station from KRON4 News, here.
Dating back to 1968 Agreement, due to rerouting of water to the State Water Project
By Allen Payton
On Friday, the City of Antioch announced it has filed a claim with the State of California seeking relief for the Department of Water Resources’ (“DWR”) failure to perform specific key terms of an agreement between the State and Antioch dating from 1968 commonly referred to as the “1968 Agreement”. The purpose of the 1968 Agreement is to mitigate the impacts of the State Water Project (“SWP”) on the City’s water supply. The 1968 Agreement requires the DWR to reimburse the City a portion of Antioch’s cost to purchase substitute water when high salinity resulting from the SWP adversely impacts the City’s own water rights.
The key term of the 1968 Agreement at issue in the City’s claim is a clause that requires the DWR to grant Antioch substantially the same terms granted by the DWR to any other entity in the Delta. This clause is commonly referred to as the “me-too” clause.
In March of 2016, the DWR entered into an Agreement with Contra Costa Water District (“CCWD”) to replace an existing 1967 agreement between the parties similar to the City’s 1968 Agreement. Antioch contends that this new 2016 agreement grants CCWD substantially more favorable terms than those granted by DWR to Antioch under its present 1968 Agreement triggering the application of the me-too clause. To date, the DWR has refused to perform the me-too clause granting Antioch terms substantially similar to those it granted to CCWD in 2016.
Additionally, analysis performed both by Antioch and the DWR indicates that the operation of the 2016 Agreement between CCWD and the DWR could potentially result in worsening water quality at Antioch. These new potential impacts on the City’s water supply are not mitigated by the City’s 1968 Agreement. The DWR has so far refused to negotiate new terms to protect the City from these additional impacts resulting from the new CCWD agreement. The City’s claim against the DWR includes a demand to mitigate or eliminate any such new adverse impacts to the City’s water supply.
Before city staff treats the water that it sends to customers, it usually pumps the raw water directly from the river. However, in 2015 and 2016 the city was forced to purchase 95% of its raw water from CCWD, because the salt water from the bay had intruded passed the Antioch’s intake water pumps along the river, off of Fulton Shipyard Road, next to the old boat launch. Antioch pays nothing for the water it pumps from the river, according to its pre-1914 riparian rights.
By Daniel Borsuk
Two years in the works, a 193-unit apartment development planned near the intersection of Willow Pass Road and Port Chicago Highway in Bay Point should finally break ground next spring, now that the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the $60 million project on Tuesday.
Supervisors listened to Bay Point resident CeCe Valenzuela and several other residents attempt to block the residential development by appealing a County Planning Commission decision granting permission for Meta Corp. to construct the apartment development consisting of eight three-story buildings.
Valenzuela charged the development planned by Meta Corp. will worsen traffic, local schools, air quality, and disrupt tenancy levels.
Valenzuela also criticized the development’s landscape and recreational plans as being inadequate for a development that could accommodate as many at 500 tenants. The project will have a 25,180-square foot outdoor swimming pool and recreation area.
“This development is overwhelming and very massive” Valenzuela said. The 193 apartment units would one, two, three, or four bedroom units. Nineteen units would be set aside for low income tenants.
Development architect Ralph D. Strauss disagreed with Valenzuela saying “The number of people in the units will be professionally managed.”
“This apartment project is the last thing Bay Point needs,” said Bay Point resident Welbon I. Salaam. “This will impact our local school, worsen an area already with a high crime rate and slow down even more the police response time.”
Bay Point resident Douglas Parker opposed the apartment development based on the fact far more people will live in the apartment units than permitted. “To suggest that the new apartments will house 2.5 people per unit is a gross under estimate,” he said. “The reality is that these units will house multiple families and overtax any already congested neighborhood.”
“This apartment development will negatively impact three elementary schools and a middle school in the area,” said Bay Point resident Judy Dawson.
In the end, supervisors sided with the developer noting that the high demand for affordable housing in the Bay Area overshadows most other needs including stores, roads, schools and jobs.
During his 17 years on the board, Board Chairman Federal Glover said he has seen a number of potential commercial and residential projects for the Bay Point site come and go, but this apartment development is one he can live with. “I’m impressed with this development,” Glover said. Glover’s district represents Bay Point.
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill said she’d vote to deny the appeal and vote in favor of the project because the development will not severely impact traffic, there will not be a significant increase in student enrollment at nearby Mt. Diablo Unified School District schools, and most importantly there is a need for more affordable housing.
“We need to push for affordable housing,” she said. “Each community needs to take on its share of housing.”
Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond also called for more affordable housing.
“One of the top issues in the Bay Area is the need for more affordable housing,” he said. “This development will help contribute to the housing shortage.”
Meta Corp. Senior Vice Present Aaron Mandel said when construction gets underway, he expects the project to generate 500 construction jobs during the construction period.
See the complete agenda item on the project, here.
Sheriff Crime Reports Contract
In other Board action, by a unanimous vote, supervisors approved a two-year $386,173, contract with Admin, Inc. to provide administrative support services for the Sheriff-Coroner. The contract will allow the Sherriff-Coroner Office to relieve one sworn officer from non-administrative duties, getting crime reports requested by the general public. The contract will be effect from March 1, 2017 to Feb. 28, 2019.
Detectives from the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff Investigation Division have arrested 45-year-old Richard James Wasso of Bethel Island for attempted murder and numerous counts of child molestation.
This follows an investigation that started late last month after a report about alleged acts of molestation of a minor was made to the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office. Detectives confirmed the female victim’s allegations and also discovered that Wasso had tried to kill her.
Wasso was arrested yesterday without incident. Wasso is a registered sex offender listed on the California Megan’s Law Website. He was booked into the Martinez Detention Facility on an attempted murder charge and multiple counts of child molestation. He is currently being held in lieu of $7,440,000 bail.
Detectives believe there may be additional victims where Wasso previously lived or spent time in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Santa Clara Counties. The cities include Manteca, Stockton, Ceres, Modesto, Gilroy and Morgan Hill.
Anyone with any information about Wasso is asked to contact the Special Victims Unit of the Investigation Division at (925) 313-2625. For any tips, call 866-846-3592 to leave an anonymous voice message or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dave Roberts
The Antioch City Council on Tuesday joined the city councils in Oakley and Brentwood in endorsing an innovative rail transit system that could extend the East County eBART line through far East County at significantly less cost.
The ultra-light rail transit (ULRT) system by a private company, CyberTran International (whose investors include a company partially owned by Contra Costa Herald publisher Allen Payton), is seeking funding to demonstrate the viability of the system on a track in Richmond, and then to roll out the above ground line possibly in East County connecting the Hillcrest eBART Station to stations in Oakley, Brentwood, Discovery Bay and the Byron Airport.
The eBART line now under construction from the Bay Point BART Station with stations at Railroad Avenue in Pittsburg and Hillcrest in Antioch costs $56 million per mile, CyberTran President Dexter Vizinau told the council. His ULRT system would cost about $30 million per mile and have the advantages of providing more stations, perhaps at shopping centers, and provide cars that would go nonstop from any station along the line.
“The problem is that [traditional] transit is too costly to build, operate and maintain,” Vizinau said. “There is a $78 billion backlog in transit maintenance in the country. The only way to pay is to raise taxes. Something has to change and it has to be innovative. We believe we solve that problem.”
Vizinau cited the support of U.C. Berkeley, and the three national labs, in the development of the CyberTran system. He also held up a letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation stating the system was further along technologically than any other innovative transit system in the country.
Mayor Sean Wright noted that few Antioch residents are likely to use the system. “It doesn’t affect Antioch – we’re done and through,” he said. But it does have the potential of reducing traffic from far East County residents on Highway 4 through Antioch, which pleased Council Member Lori Ogorchock. “Anything to reduce traffic and congestion,” she said.
Vizinau said his company has been working on the project for 23 years and is ready to break ground. The main challenge is finding the funding. A 10-mile ULRT line from Hillcrest Station to Brentwood would cost about $300 million.
The company was set to receive $42.9 million from the county’s Measure X half-cent sales tax hike that fell three percentage points short of passing in November, he said. Another tax-hike attempt could be made in two years, he said.
The council unanimously voted to support the project and the company’s efforts to obtain funding, which was a bit of déjà vu as the Antioch Council passed a similar resolution of support seven years ago for the project. That effort was successful in obtaining $15 million in federal funds for innovative transit in the U.S. But, President Obama failed to release the funds before he left office in January, Vizinau said.
The Oakley City Council unanimously approved a similar resolution at their meeting on February 14, and the Brentwood Council did the same at their March 14th meeting. Previously, the Richmond and San Pablo City Councils approved similar resolutions for a CyberTran system in West County, as well.
Los Medanos College (LMC) will host the annual “Celebrating the Life of César Chávez” recognition program on Friday, April 14, at its Pittsburg Campus; the reception will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the College Complex Indoor Quad, followed by the award presentations at 7:00 p.m. in the Recital Hall. The campus is located at 2700 East Leland Road in Pittsburg. The celebration is free and the public is encouraged to attend. Complimentary, easy-access parking is available in Lot C for this event.
Los Medanos College hosts this event each year to honor the life of labor leader and human rights activist, César Chávez. The celebration also recognizes members of the East Contra Costa County community who embody his great tradition of voluntary service, civic activism, and non-violent social change.
The event includes the presentation of three recognition awards. The César Chávez Award for Exemplary Community Service, established in 1995, is presented to local citizens who represent the following core values modeled by César Chávez: Service to Others, Sacrifice, Help the Most Needy, Determination, Non-Violence, Acceptance of All People, Respect for Life and the Environment, Celebrating Community, Knowledge, and Innovation. The East County Educator Award recognizes members of the educational community who demonstrate a commitment to student success and equity, particularly for students of color and those from low-income families. The Chávez Spirit Award is given to emerging leaders who have made a significant impact on the local community in the areas of advocacy and social justice.
This year’s recipient of the César Chávez Award is Peter Garcia. A resident of Pittsburg with a long history of involvement in local service organizations, Mr. Garcia has a deep commitment to engaging and supporting his hometown community and East Contra Costa County. As a long-time educator – and president emeritus of both Los Medanos College and Diablo Valley College – he has demonstrated his dedication to providing access, opportunities, equitable outcomes, and success for all students. The East County Educator Award will be presented to two outstanding educators: Sara Madrigal, counselor at Byron Union School District; and Eugenia Rodriguez, who teaches World Languages at Pittsburg High School. The Spirit Award will recognize three up-and-coming community leaders and advocates: Israel Castro, a graduate of Pittsburg High School currently serving as President of the Los Medanos College Associated Students (LMCAS); Glenda Hernandez, an Independence High School (Brentwood) graduate attending Sacramento State University; and Simon Mendez, a student at Freedom High School (Oakley) and chair of the Oakley Youth Advisory Council.
Please join us to celebrate the spirit of service and activism in our community.
For more information, visit www.losmedanos.edu/chavez/events. Questions? Contact Jennifer Adams email@example.com (925) 473-7302.