Supervisors question if it will help in high minority areas; form Measure X Sales Tax Advisory Committee; appoint new County Librarian
By Daniel Borsuk
An announcement that the Contra Costa Health Services will share a $40 million state grant with Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccinations, stirred Contra Costa Board of Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond to question whether the state aid will actually make a difference in leveling the inequity playing field where low vaccination rates under 6 percent persist in high minority parts of supervisorial District 1, District 3, and District 5 have not progressed while the vaccination rates in communities that have populations that are predominately white and wealthier are at nearly 20 percent vaccination rates.
“I acknowledge the good and hard work of the county, but we’re still not getting enough doses from the state,” said Supervisor Gioia at the supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday when Contra Costa Health Services Director Anna Roth introduced Gilbert Salinas as the county’s equity officer.
Salinas said he will coordinate the work of 24 adult ambassadors to reach out in areas with high minority and elderly residents, particularly in the three supervisorial districts where vaccination rates are now less than 10 percent – 5 percent in Bethel Island, 6 percent in Oakley, 5 percent in Bay Point – while in wealthier and more Caucasian areas the vaccination rates have been 19 percent in Walnut Creek, 15.3 percent in Orinda, and 18 percent in Danville.
District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville said while her colleague Gioia focuses on black and Latino residents in high minority communities of Richmond, El Cerrito, Bay Point, Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley and Bethel Island, she said, “We also need to focus on the most at risk, and that includes the seniors at Rossmoor.” Her comment did not draw much reaction from colleagues or the public.
“I appreciate you (i.e. Supervisor Gioia) for bringing up this inequity issue, but this is an issue in slow motion. We have the sites and the staff. We just don’t have the supplies,” said board chair Dianne Burgis of Brentwood.
“I want to see the gap closed,” said vice chair Federal Glover of Pittsburg. “It’s a question of how we close the gap. Let’s close the gap. There are major equity issues that we need to address including the high percentage of evictions in these areas.”
Contra Costa Health Services Director Roth said the county might be turning the corner in its fight against Covid-19 as countywide hospital intensive care unit occupancy is falling from a high of 296 patients to a current occupancy of 172 patients. She also said of one million doses given in California, 127,560 doses had been administered in Contra Costa County.
Form Measure X Sales Tax Advisory Committee
Supervisors voted 4-1 with District 3 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff casting the dissenting vote, to form a 17-member Measure X Advisory Committee to advise the board of supervisors on how to spend an estimated $50 million in annual tax revenues for a wide range of county services. County voters last November passed Measure X, a ballot measure authorizing a ½ cent sales tax be levied countywide, exempting food sales. Collection of the sales tax begins in April and will be available for distribution in the fiscal year 2021/2022.
For a while Supervisors Mitchoff and Gioia squared off arguing over the pros and cons of two different models whereby volunteers serving on the Measure X Advisory Committee would advise the board of supervisors on public services. Gioia supported a 95% option and 5% option while Mitchoff favored a 50% -45%-5% formula.
“I am trying to avoid conflicts,” said Mitchoff. “There needs to be more of a level playing field. Fifty million dollars is a lot of money. I want the advisory committee to do some work. We are creating another layer for county staff to work with.”
Gioia’s proposal attracted the support of supervisors Burgis, Glover and Andersen. Appointments to the committee will be announced at a future meeting.
Appoint McKee County Librarian
Deputy County Librarians Alison P. McKee was appointed on a 5-0 vote to fill the post of County Librarian that was vacated by the retirement of former County Librarian Melinda Cervantes last year. The county will pay McKee $281,442 in annual cost for the post of which $51,568 is pension cost.
McKee holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from San Jose State University and a Bachelor of Music Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Extend Eviction Protection and Rent Freeze
Supervisors passed Ordinance No. 2021-04 that extends a temporary eviction moratorium for certain residential and tenants and prohibits residential rents increases through June 30, 2021. The Urgency Ordinance also continues a temporary eviction moratorium on commercial tenants through March 31, 2021.
“Even as Covid-19 vaccines distribution gives us hope to ending the pandemic, we recognize the needs of Contra Costa residents and businesses,” said Board Chair Diane Burgis. “We encourage residents to stay vigilant and to seek resources. We will get through this together.”