Learn more about U.C. Berkeley Law Professor Yoo, here.
Today, Friday, January 12, 2018, Patrick Vanier, Supervising Prosecutor in Santa Clara County, and a candidate for Contra Costa County District Attorney issued the following statement:
“When I announced my candidacy for District Attorney last spring, I made it clear that my candidacy was not about me, but about bringing real reform to the office of District Attorney and instituting best practices to bring Contra Costa County’s criminal justice system into the 21st Century. I was the first to declare my candidacy to challenge former DA Mark Peterson and I am proud to have started the dialogue for change.
A little more than a month later, Mark Peterson resigned from office. Upon his resignation, the County initiated an appointment process to fill the vacancy. I was honored to be selected by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors as a finalist in that process.
During the appointment process in the summer and fall, I again made it clear that if a person was appointed who can bring progressive leadership to the office of District Attorney and will modernize and standardize how cases are prosecuted, I may not seek election.
Ultimately, the Board of Supervisors voted to appoint retired Judge Diana Becton to be District Attorney. (See related article) Although I was disappointed in not receiving the appointment, I respected the Supervisors’ decision as they recognized the importance of selecting a candidate from outside the dysfunction of the current office. While I was in this race to win, as I felt that I possess the skills this County needs, I also realize the importance of ensuring that change does indeed occur.
Over the past several months I have been following the developments within the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office under District Attorney Diana Becton. I believe she has undertaken a course of action to run the department in an honest and ethical manner and will utilize the latest technologies, data analytics, and community prosecution models to prevent crime and prosecute cases. I want this County to be focused on ensuring that change continues.
For these reasons, I have decided to withdraw from the race for Contra Costa County District Attorney and fully support and endorse Diana Becton.
I want to thank my supporters for their unflagging support and encouragement and I will be urging them to support Diana Becton.”
On his campaign website, Vanier said he offered “progressive leadership” to the people of Contra Costa County. With him out of the race the remaining candidates, currently are the appointed incumbent, Interim Contra Costa DA Becton and Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves, who entered the race last spring to take on Peterson, prior to his resignation and has the support of most law enforcement organizations in the county. If no other candidates enter the race the winner of the Primary Election in June will be elected. According to the County Elections Office website, the filing period for the election begins February 12 and ends March 9.
Allen Payton contributed to this report.
Today, Wednesday, December 6, 2017, District Attorney Diana Becton issued the following statement:
“It’s official: today, I filed my papers to run for District Attorney of Contra Costa County.
“I was selected as District Attorney by the Board of Supervisors to restore faith and trust in the District Attorney’s Office in the wake of scandal. I have rolled up my sleeves and I am hard at work. I am committing to restoring integrity to the office. I am confident that I will succeed. I am a collaborative leader who knows how to get things done.
“We cannot continue to look at the criminal justice system in a vacuum. We need a broad, universal approach to how we prevent crime, make our communities safe, and treat everyone fairly.
“As a longtime judge of the Superior Court in Contra Costa County, I am proud of my reputation for hard work, fairness, and integrity. I will bring these qualities to the campaign trail – and to the job.”
In September, Becton was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to fill the position made vacant by the resignation of Mark Peterson. She joins Contra Costa County Senior Assistant District Attorney Paul Graves and Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vanier who announced their campaigns and entered the race prior to Peterson’s resignation. The Primary Election will be held June 4, 2018. If no candidate receives a majority of vote, the top two candidates will face off in the General Election in November.
Allen Payton contributed to this report.
Attention to those Contra Costa residents looking to run for office: The date to start collecting signatures to run for office has been moved up two weeks and will begin on December 14th.
Candidates seeking to run for state, federal and county offices in 2018 have the ability to start the process early and gather signatures of registered voters to reduce the filing fee. Each qualifying signature brings down the final cost for filing.
A bill recently signed into law changed the state’s Election Code and moved the timeframe for candidates to collect these signatures in lieu of the filing fee.
The Contra Costa Elections Division is offering appointments to interested candidates on weekdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Documents for those with appointments will be prepared ahead of their appointment time.
The process should take no more than 20 minutes. Walk-ins are always welcome. To schedule an appointment please request a date and time at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 925-335-7800.
The filing fees vary by office. Information about the filing cost for specific offices is available on the Contra Costa Elections Division website at www.contracostacore.us.
Signatures collected in lieu of fees count toward any signature requirement for that office.
More information about the filing process is also available online at www.contracostacore.us.
WALNUT CREEK, CA – On Thursday, Oct. 19 just prior to last weekend’s state Republican Party Convention, small business legal advocate, entrepreneur, and small business owner Mark Meuser announced his candidacy for California Secretary of State. The office, currently held by Alex Padilla, boasts a dismal national ranking of 43rd in voter turnout and is ranked almost dead last by The Pew Charitable Trust’s Election Performance Index. Padilla was elected in 2014 and can only run and serve for a second four-year term.
When asked why he was running for Secretary of State, Meuser replied, “A few months ago, I heard a news story that there are currently 11 counties in the state that have over 100% voter registration. I learned that it is the Secretary of State’s job to enforce all election laws in this state. As I studied the issue, I realized that the current Secretary of State has failed to enforce the basic election law requiring the removal from the voter rolls those who have died and moved.”
“If the Secretary of State has failed to enforce such a simple election law, what other election laws has he not enforced? Just how secure is our vote here in California?” Meuser asked.
“Participation in California elections remains criminally stagnant, relying on the appeal of current candidates or issues to buoy voter turnout instead of an innovative Secretary of State who uses every tool to enhance not only registration, but civic engagement,” he added.
Polling shows that 30% of Californians who aren’t registered to vote don’t bother, due to lack of confidence in elections and politics, while 36% of those actually registered cite lack of interest in politics, elections, or candidates for inconsistent voting.
“Californians continue to communicate clearly with their elected representatives and yet, nothing changes. My unique background and training have taught me to listen to people, craft simple solutions to the complex issues they’re facing, and work tirelessly to help them overcome those challenges,” said Meuser.
“Our Secretary of State needs to be someone who is looking out for all Californians by enhancing civic engagement in every community while increasing transparency. That’s why as Secretary of State, I will improve voters’ confidence in our elections, modernize the registration process for businesses, and enhance the People’s ability to use their initiative process.”
“The current Secretary of State’s office is antiquated and clearly still stuck in the Stone Age,” said Meuser’s spokesperson Derek Garner.
Mark Meuser is a small business legal advocate, native Californian, and a small business owner, committed to fighting for honest and fair elections.
From a young age, Meuser was an entrepreneur. At age 12, he would pick cherries in the morning and operate a street-side stand during the afternoon. He was also hard at work taking care of orphaned animals, bottle-feeding sheep, pigs, and cows. Meuser believes that these years of developing character through hard work were important, formative years in his life. By age 15, he was in a management position at a local restaurant and by age 21, he purchased his own pizza restaurant. While his restaurant business was thriving, Meuser began studying law. He graduated with honors from the Oak Brook College of Law.
To better help small business owners handle California’s complex regulatory environment, he opened The Meuser Law Group where he operated a diverse civil litigation team that represented both individuals and small businesses. The 43-year-old is now with the Dhillon Law Group in San Francisco.
According to Ballotpedia, Meuser ran unsuccessfully in 2014 against then-incumbent Mark DeSaulnier for the State Senate in the 7th District, which covers most of Contra Costa County. Then in 2014 he formed the Bay Area Republican Political Action Committee and funded it with $10,500 of his own money running ads in the Antioch Herald and TV ad production. It is no longer active.
For more information on Mueser’s campaign visit www.markmeuser.com. The election for Secretary of State will be held during the Primary, next June. Then the top two candidates regardless of party will face off in the November election.
Allen Payton contributed to this report.
Nicknamed for county school board member; Brown “not convinced it’s a widespread problem…”
By Allen Payton
A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Jim Frazier to increase penalties on candidates who lie on their ballot statements was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown on Sunday, Oct. 15. The bill, AB 894 was introduced in response to the ballot statement by Contra Costa County Board of Education Trustee Jeff Belle during his 2014 campaign, in which he wrote that he had earned a degree in political science, when he had not been awarded one by his alma mater.
The county District Attorney’s office prosecuted Belle who could have been fined a maximum of $1,000 for the violation. However, both sides agreed to a diversion program of community service, instead. (See related article).
Belle, through his attorneys, argued that he had done all the course work to earn the degree and even walked during graduation ceremonies, but that due to not paying some fees it was never conferred on him.
Frazier, who represents portions of Eastern Contra Costa County where Belle resides, was elected and also represents portions, wanted to increase the maximum penalty to $5,000. The legislation passed easily through both the Assembly and the Senate.
But, the governor didn’t believe it was necessary, stating in his veto message for the bill, that he was “not convinced that this is a widespread problem in California elections or that this bill would be much of a deterrent.”
That leaves in place the current maximum fine for lying on a ballot statement that is sent to all voters in a district. It also means that there is a greater, maximum fine of $1,000 and penalty of up to three years in prison for lying on a candidate’s nomination papers which remain with the elections official and is not made available to the public. Frazier considered that backwards.
An attempt to reach the Assemblyman for comment for this report was unsuccessful.
Belle’s term in office ends in 2018 and the election will be held next November.
By John Crowder
John Cox is a Republican candidate for Governor of California. On Wednesday, October 18, Herald staff was invited to meet and interview him while he spent some time campaigning in Contra Costa County. Following are the results of that interview.
Herald: Why are you running for governor?
Cox: Our state has become unaffordable for many people. The business climate is bad. We’re chasing businesses out of the state, rather than attracting new business. Less businesses means less competition, and this is part of what drives higher prices.
Growth is essential for our state, and you can’t have growth unless you have affordability.
Taxes are excessive, and the money that we are giving to our government is not being used efficiently. We need to repeal the regressive, gasoline tax hike.
Yes, we need to have better infrastructure, but we can do that with existing funds. We just need to use them efficiently. That won’t happen until I’m governor. Right now, there is no interest in seeing government entities such as Caltrans run efficiently, and that’s working against the California taxpayer.
On top of this we have a homeless problem, a lot of which is related to mental health, but also an affordable housing shortage. These costs add up, housing, food, gasoline, taxes, making it harder for families to thrive.
Herald: Tell me a little about your background. You haven’t always lived in California?
Cox: That’s true. I’ve lived here for the last ten years, in the San Diego area. But, I’ve had family in California for the last 50 years.
I grew up in Chicago. My mother was a Chicago public school teacher who moved to Fresno after she retired. I came to California mainly for family, but also for the weather.
I’m trained as both a Certified Public Accountant and as an attorney. My business is real estate.
Herald: It’s expensive to run a state-wide campaign. Have you invested your own money in your campaign, and how much do you expect to have to raise?
Cox: I’ve invested $3 million of my own money in my campaign, and I think that demonstrates my level of commitment. So far, we’ve raised $350,000 on top of that, all from individual donors. We’ve just announced the members of my finance committee, about 50 people.
For the primary, we have a budget of between $8-$10 million. We’ll have to raise another $20-$25 million for the general election.
One thing I’d like to emphasize, though, is that money, as important as it is, is not the final determinant. It’s ideas. My ideas will resonate with the average Californian. We currently have over 100,000 followers on Facebook.
Herald: What is your experience? Have you ever held elective office?
Cox: I’m not a professional politician, and so I haven’t held office in the past. I am a businessman, and I believe that it is the skills I developed in that arena that are sorely needed in the leader of our state government. Many people in our country feel the same way; 19 of our governors are business people.
I built businesses. Like other business leaders, I know how to manage people, how to set goals, and how to use resources efficiently. With 40 years of business experience, I’ve also learned how to separate pretenders from doers.
No one person can have the answer to everything. But business people know how to seek advice from those that know more about their special areas of expertise.
In our current climate, all too often, decisions taken by our government are influenced by cronyism. That’s one thing I can’t stand. My career has been based on having the best people, and using the resources that I have efficiently.
People want a governor who will take care of their money. I want our state to be sustainable, for the future of my 12-year-old daughter. So, I have a strong interest in seeing our state run well.
Herald: What issues, specific to Contra Costa County, are you concerned about?
Cox: For one thing, housing costs are outrageous. We need more affordable housing, smart housing. Part of this is driven by the CEQA process. It’s become a way to hold up developers.
A lot of regulations don’t make sense, and further drive up costs.
Many people here in the Bay Area commute. As I mentioned earlier, the gas tax hike will hit those who can least afford it, the hardest. That’s why I’m chairman of Give Voters a Chance, the gas tax repeal effort.
Herald: Are you familiar with the Delta Tunnels controversy?
Cox: Yes, I am. The tunnels project is an unnecessary, pork-based project. Instead of building tunnels, we should be building reservoirs.
Herald: What are your views on education?
Cox: Education is one of my biggest issues. I was the school board president of a parish school when I was 24. As I mentioned, my mother was a public-school teacher in Chicago. She saw, first-hand, the problems that develop when cronyism takes hold.
The education system we currently have is not run for the parents or the kids. It’s run for the union bosses. We need to lessen the power of the unions to continue to push for policies that work against our children.
We need to put the parents in charge. One of the ways we can do this is to have more competition. We need more options for parents, the ability to send their kids to charter schools, or private schools. The politicians already have this ability, yet they’d deny it to the poor kid whose parents can’t afford private school, and are stuck in a failing school simply because of where they live. This is political corruption at its worst.
I support the idea of vouchers, giving the decision on where funds go directly to the parents, and letting them make the choice that is best for their child.
On the same day as the interview, during a press conference in Sacramento with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Cox announced his support for a ballot initiative to repeal the recently approved state gas tax increase, according to a San Francisco Chronicle article.
“This election has become about the future of Contra Costa County” – Paul Graves
By Allen Payton
On Friday night, Sept. 22, about 100 people gathered in Pleasant Hill to help Contra Costa County’s Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves officially kick off his campaign for DA in next year’s election.
Surrounded by colleagues in the DA’s office, two former District Attorneys, police officers, deputy sheriffs and even criminal defense attorneys who represent the people he prosecutes, Graves was showered with accolades from leaders in county law enforcement.
Deputy District Attorney Colleen Gleason was first to share her thoughts about her colleague.
“Paul is a leader. He’s right there in the trenches with you,” she stated. “Nobody works harder on Paul’s team than Paul. That’s the kind of leader Paul is.”
“You knew he had your back,” Gleason shared of her experience working with Graves. “He had only one rule. You kept in contact with your victims’ families. This is a job of service. Paul leads by example and through service.”
“He is a natural born problem solver. Paul is known as being one of the best strategic thinkers in the legal community. There’s always a line out the door of his office,” she continued. “He’s fought at every level. He knows the terrain. He knows the community, what works and what still needs work.”
“He has a plan for attacking human trafficking in our streets. He has a plan for preventing crime. He also has the ability to sell these ideas. That’s because he’s won the respect with everyone he’s worked with,” Gleason said. “Over the past few months I’ve seen him win over people who didn’t want to like him. As he put it, he kept making friends. Paul is able to bring out the best in the people around him.”
Regarding the campaign, she said, “this is a fight he needs to win not just for him but for all the community. This time he needs us to have his back.”
“Paul is not only the leader this county deserves but the problem solver it needs,” Gleason concluded.
Next to speak and share his perspective on Graves was Deputy Sheriff’s Association President Sean Welch.
The word got around and people were asking, “Did you hear Paul’s running? I knew it was all over for the others in the race,” he stated.
“We know him as a great leader for us. He’s the type of guy who takes the investigator’s hands and walks them through the process to make sure they’re convicted and go to prison,” Welch explained. “Tact, integrity, honest and truthful. Sound principles above all else. Confidence, knowledge, loyalty, endurance. These are all things I look for in a good leader and I believe that Paul represents all of them.”
“The DA has goals of keeping people safe,” he shared. “Paul respects victims of crime and their rights,” but he will “hold criminals accountable for their actions.”
“Diana Becton and another person on that list were caught plagiarizing. To think she actually got picked as the interim DA,” said Welch. “The worst thing you can do as a law enforcement officer is to lie especially on their forms. To me it is unforgivable. I would no longer have a job. For a simple copy and paste of a sentence, one sentence. It was disheartening that was looked over.”
He continued his criticism of Becton saying, “she’s never been a prosecutor. She’s never done it. The stories of people taking a nap during the day and people had to wait around. She has been a public defender. It’s kind of the opposite side.”
“One thing that was amazing to me being in law enforcement after the plagiarism, the local paper endorsed him (Graves). Even the paper’s behind him,” Welch added. “We take it very seriously when we get behind someone.”
“The majority of all law enforcement in the county are supporting Paul,” said Clayton Councilman Dave Shuey, the MC for the evening. “His amazing empathy. Even some defendants come back and tell him he did a good job. One particular defendant he put away who came back and thanked Paul for it.”
“I’ve been a defense attorney for 25-plus years,” he stated. “Paul has the unique ability to look at both sides. He never loses sight of the victims and he wants to do right by the families.”
Shuey then introduced Graves’ wife and children.
“He’s done 70 trials and had 20 convictions of people, in prison for life who are never coming out again,” he added as he introduced the candidate.
Then Graves spoke to his supporters in the room.
“I look around the room and I cannot be anything but fired up and excited about this campaign,” he exclaimed.
He introduced former District Attorney Gary Yancey, saying, “he taught me what I needed to know about being a prosecutor. It’s about appreciating people in the office. I’ve patterned my work as a prosecutor on Gary Yancey.”
“Then I got to work with Bob Kochly (who was also in attendance) who became my next DA. Honesty and integrity,” Graves stated. “It makes me feel like I’m standing in from of my dad and he’s saying ‘you done good and you got this.’”
“It’s about the people in the community,” he continued. “For years I coached a baseball team, the Bulldogs. Seeing them now as young men, I can’t tell you how much it means to have them here. These are the families a DA needs to remember, who want to be raised in a safe community.”
Then Graves spoke about his colleagues in local law enforcement.
“The vast majority of the people who are here are in law enforcement,” he stated. “They work long hours. They work late nights. To have their support is really humbling. They see me day to day.”
Graves thanked his wife and children.
“Nothing prepares you for a county wide campaign,” he explained. “I feel like a bad husband and father for it. But they want me to do what’s right.”
Speaking of his wife, Graves said, “she’s my moral compass and the greatest person I’ve ever met. I’m just trying to be half the person she is.”
He then shared how he made the decision to run, first against his then-boss, Mark Peterson.
“Back in May,” Graves started to explain then stopped. “It was actually something that started in our office last November. I had the people in our office who I respect ask me to step up and run. It was a difficult decision.”
“I talked to my wife and told her I was going to run against my boss and I will probably get demoted and if I lose my career,” he shared. “She said we’ve always tried to do the right thing. This is the right thing. So, let’s do it.”
Then Graves shared about the support from his colleagues.
“I looked to the left and to the right and everyone stepped forward with me,” he stated. “This campaign has never been about me. It’s about us. I’m not running for me. We’re running for this position together.”
Graves then shared some of the reasons he wants to be Contra Costa’s next District Attorney.
“Honesty, integrity and ethics are the primary concerns of this office,” he stated. “Who will put public safety first? Who cares that we can drive on our freeways without getting shot at, about human trafficking? Who cares about victims of crime?”
“It’s not going to be easy. But when you’re doing it for the right reason, for the right cause nothing is lost,” Graves said, encouraging his supporters. “When we go forward we need to know what this campaign is about. This election has now become about the future of Contra Costa County. The battle lines have been drawn. I’m going to keep fighting for you.”
“We need to fight together for this. I will never quit. I will fight for this county until my dying breath. Where public safety is taken first where victims’ rights are the focus and an office that people say that’s where I want to work,” Graves concluded.
For more information about Graves’ campaign, visit, www.paulgravesforda.com. The election will be held in June 2018. If no candidates wins during the Primary, the top two vote-getters will face off in the General Election next November.
By Metropolitan Transportation Commission
Governor Brown’s action today to sign into law Senate Bill 595 clears the way for Bay Area voters to decide – potentially as early as next June – on Regional Measure 3 (RM 3), which would raise tolls by up to $3 on the region’s seven state-owned toll bridges to finance the sweeping $4.5 billion package of congestion relief and mobility improvement projects identified in the bill. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), in its role as the Bay Area Toll Authority, is expected to decide by early 2018 when the RM 3 question will appear on ballots in the nine Bay Area counties. The Commission also will decide the amount of the proposed toll increase and whether the proposed increase would be instituted all at once or phased in over several years.
The RM 3 expenditure plan provides mobility improvements in each of the region’s seven state- owned bridge corridors, helping to speed up commutes and provide better travel options, particularly for those traveling to major job hubs, such as San Francisco and Silicon Valley. The plan includes numerous congestion relief projects in the bridge corridors, including new express lanes, a direct freeway connector from northbound U.S. 101 to eastbound Interstate 580 in Marin County to improve access to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge as well as improvements to the westbound approach in Contra Costa County; constructing a direct connector between Interstates 680 and 880 in Fremont and improvements to the I-680/State Route 84 interchange in Alameda County serving the Dumbarton Bridge; upgrading the I-680/State Route 4 interchange in Contra Costa County serving the Benicia Bridge corridor and the U.S. 101/State Route 92 interchange in San Mateo serving the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge; various improvements to relieve congestion in the Dumbarton Bridge corridor and improve State Route 37 in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties; completing the widening of U.S. 101 to three lanes in each direction through the Marin-Sonoma Narrows. Major public transit improvements that would be funded by the measure include 306 new BART cars that will expand the fleet to accommodate record ridership; new ferries and expanded service and terminals across San Francisco Bay; further extension of BART’s Silicon Valley service to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara; extending Caltrain to downtown San Francisco; expanding transbay bus service and AC Transit’s bus rapid transit lines serving the transbay corridor; extending the new SMART rail system to Windsor; and expanding San Francisco’s fleet of Muni Metro rail cars to improve transit access not just to San Francisco, but within it as well. RM 3 also would fund a $150 million grant program to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to regional transit hubs and to close gaps in the San Francisco Bay Trail.
“Nobody likes higher tolls,” commented MTC Chair and Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie. “But nobody likes traffic jams or crush-loaded train cars either. The Bay Area has been blessed by seven straight years of strong economic growth. But the price we’ve paid is the growing congestion on our freeways, railways and ferries. If our region is going to maintain its economic leadership, we have to invest in projects that will keep businesses and their workers moving. Gov. Brown and the state Legislature deserve a lot of credit for shaping RM 3 into a comprehensive and integrated strategy that will modernize both our highways and our transit networks.”
MTC is the transportation planning, financing, and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.