Increases maximum fine from $1,000 to $10,000
Sacramento, CA – On Wednesday, May 10th, legislation by Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D – Discovery Bay) that will raise penalties for candidates for office who make willful misrepresentations on their candidate statements passed the Assembly Elections committee on an unanimous 7-to-0 vote.
“We can’t allow candidates to dupe the voters…to lie their way into office when tax dollars or the education of our children are at stake,” Frazier stated. “When the public’s trust is in question, the public deserves to know the truth when reading an official candidate statement. This bill holds candidates accountable by increasing the fine for any willful misrepresentation.”
AB 894 would increase the current fine for a willful misrepresentation in a candidate statement to $10,000. The current fine is set at a maximum of $1,000, which has not been an effective deterrent and has not kept up with inflation.
In August 2015, the Contra Costa District Attorney filed a suit in court, The People of the State of California vs. Jeffrey Belle, against a candidate for the Contra Costa Board of Education for knowingly making a false statement of fact in a candidate statement with the intent to mislead voters. In this particular case the candidate falsified his education credentials, his residence, and his criminal record. Instead of a punishment including a fine, he received only entry into a diversion program for offenders, despite the injustice perpetrated upon the voters. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this remains a problem in other jurisdictions.
AB 894 now heads to the Assembly Floor.Read More
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.”Read More
By Daniel Borsuk
Even with warning smoke signals rising over Washington and Sacramento that funding allotments might shrink, Contra Costa County Supervisors forged ahead and passed a $1.56 billion 2017-2018 budget loaded with spending priorities.
Except on two expense items, supervisors unanimously approved the new spending plan Tuesday, a 6.1% increase from the current fiscal year’s budget of $1.47 billion.
“We’ve been pretty conservative in developing this budget based on what’s been going on in Washington,” observed Supervisor Karen Andersen of Danville.
“We’re at a time of making tough budget decisions,” echoed board chair Federal Glover of Pittsburg, “We have to be careful. We don’t have the resources like we used to have.”
Even then supervisors forged ahead and approved a budget that will tap into rising revenues coming in from a robust local economy where the county unemployment rate is hovering around 4% and a strong real estate market has helped boost county assessed property value revenues swell 26.5% since 2012. The county assessor projects 2017-2018 fiscal year assessed value revenues will rise 5% to $201,288,700. That is an increase from $191,703,525 in 2016-2017.
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff voted against the board’s proposal to spend $250,000 for the Contra Costa Cares program. Other supervisors approved the allocation confident the nonprofit health organization will round up its matching $250,000 to provide medical services to undocumented immigrants especially in west Contra Costa.
Mitchoff did not think Contra Costa Cares will come through with its share of money. “It’s my concern the matching share will not materialize and for that reason I do not think the county should put its money into the Contra Costa Cares program,” Mitchoff told The Contra Costa Herald.
The Pleasant Hill supervisor also the voted against a proposal to spend $220,000 to help the financially struggling East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District reopen the shuttered Knightsen fire station with equal contributions from the first district and the cities of Brentwood and Oakley.
“I just don’t think it’s going to happen,” Mitchoff said about the Knightsen fire station debacle
On a 4 to 0 vote supervisors agreed to hire three deputy public defenders to help reduce the rising number of felony cases attorneys now handle. Currently each department felony public defender attorney handles 25 to 40 clients at a time.
Supervisor Anderson abstained from voting on the public defender item due to a potential conflict of interest with her husband’s work with the Bar Association.
Supervisors learned since April 18 two new capital cases were filed in the Public Defender’s Office that will increase work load.
Elsewhere, the new budget permits the Sherriff-Coroner Department to make 13 hires. The Public Works Department will hire 20 full-time workers.
The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District plans to hire a Departmental Community and Media Relations Coordinator, a storekeeper, three fire dispatchers, and one assistant fire chief.
Searching for More Rental Revenue
In other action, the board referred to the Finance Committee a request from Supervisor John Gioia of El Cerrito a proposal to generate increased revenue from the rental of hotels located unincorporated areas by advertising those rentals on electronic hosting platforms like Airbnb.
The county generates $2 million to $2.5 million a year from a 10 percent transient occupancy tax that is assessed at four hotels located in unincorporated areas.
Those four hotels are the Burlington Hotel in Port Costa, The Renaissance Club Sport Hotel in unincorporated Walnut Creek, the Crowne Plaza in unincorporated Concord, and the Embassy Suites in unincorporated Walnut Creek.
Supervisors also voted 5-0 to authorize the county Conservation and Development Department to sign a disposition and development agreement with the Community Housing Development Corporation of North Richmond for the sale of six parcels of property in North Richmond. The property is the planned site of a $26.4 million 42-unit low and moderate income housing project site. The development will include about 900 square feet of commercial/retail space.Read More
Detectives from the Special Victims Unit of the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff Investigation Division on Monday arrested 36-year-old Rajesh Kumar Singla of Milpitas for multiple counts of sexual assault charges.
Singla is a family medicine doctor, who is a member of the John Muir Health physician network. His office is located at 1450 Treat Boulevard in unincorporated Contra Costa County.
Complaints from a female patient against Singla were reported to the Office of the Sheriff earlier this month. Follow-ing an investigation, detectives arrested Singla without incident at his office after receiving an arrest warrant.
Singla was booked into the Martinez Detention Facility on two counts of sexual battery, two counts of indecent exposure, and one count of attempted oral copulation. He was being held in lieu of $130,000 bail. Singla bailed out early this morning.
Detectives believe there may be additional victims. Anyone with any information or who believes they are a victim is asked to call detectives at (925) 313-2621. For any tips, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866-846-3592 to leave an anonymous voice message.Read More
My name is JR Killigrew and I’m a community development manager at MCE, the CCE which the County, Danville and Oakley recently joined. I have worked with the City of Antioch on their climate action plan in my previous role. I did want to follow up and thank you for following the CCE movement in Contra Costa County. MCE is always happy to serve as a resource to media to help provide accurate information. We recently saw May 4th article about community choice and the County’s decision to join MCE. We wanted to clarify a few items in the article.
1) Feeling the heat from environmentalists, residents, and politicians, Contra Costa County supervisors took the big step Tuesday of picking a solar power plant developer that could potentially help consumers on average cut monthly bills up to 55 percent.
MCE strives to keep its rates competitive with PG&E and MCE has lowered its rates twice in the last 12 months. Since MCE launch, MCE has been less expensive 70% of the time compared to PG&E. MCE’s actual generation rate is much lower than PG&E’s but with additional CCE fees that are collected by PG&E, MCE normally is around the same cost as PG&E.
2) Other supervisors were more impressed with MCE’s seven-year track record, financial stability and $25 million in reserves and capability of generating good paying union jobs.
MCE has $50 million in reserves.
3) Some 285,000 residents residing in unincorporated Contra Costa County could see electricity rates decline in comparison to PG&E rates. For a large solar power project generating 5 megawatts per hour, the average monthly bills could potentially decline from $105 per Megawatt Hour (MWH) to $85 per MWH.
We believe the point that was trying to be addressed was the difference between PG&E’s Feed-In-Tariff rates and MCE Feed-in Tariff rates. MCE currently offers solar developers $115/MWh which we purchase the electricity from the developer. This program is an opportunity to catalyze the local solar market place to create local jobs and ensure energy resilience. There is no correlation with our Feed-In Tariff program and our customers’ rates.
I hope this is helpful and please let us know if you have any questions.
Community Development Manager, MCE
San RafaelRead More
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.Read More
‘Tipsy Tow’ Program Helps Keep Impaired Drivers Off The Road
Once, again AAA wants Cinco de Mayo fiesta-goers to celebrate and enjoy the day safely. To assist, AAA Northern California will offer its Tipsy Tow service free of charge to anybody who feels they’re too impaired to drive. You do not need to be a AAA Member to take advantage of this free service to the community.
“AAA wants everybody to have fun on Cinco de Mayo, but driving impaired is no fun for anyone. If you need a ride call AAA and we’ll make sure you get home safely,” said John Moreno, spokesperson for AAA Northern California. “AAA’s Tipsy Tow is free to anyone in need. You can’t beat the price.”
AAA’s Tipsy Tow service will start at 6 p.m. Friday, May 5, and will run through 6 a.m. Saturday, March 6. Drivers, passengers, party hosts, bartenders and/or restaurant managers should:
- Call 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357) between 6 p.m. May 5 and 6 a.m. May 6.
- State that they need a “Tipsy Tow.”
- Provide the driver’s name, home address, phone number and vehicle/driver location.
The service will provide a one-way ride for drivers and their vehicle to the driver’s home. If there are additional passengers who need a ride, they will be taken to the driver’s home as long as they can be transported safely in the tow truck. Tipsy Tow does not take reservations.
AAA estimates that a first-time misdemeanor DUI conviction in California can cost approximately $15,649 or more in fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and increased insurance costs. DUI-related costs have risen sharply in recent years largely due to steep increases in fines and insurance for DUI drivers. Of course there is no price tag on a crash that causes an injury or death.Read More
Feeling the heat from environmentalists, residents, and politicians, Contra Costa County supervisors took the big step Tuesday of picking a solar power plant developer that could potentially help consumers on average cut monthly bills up to 55 percent.
“Our customers pay less than PG&E for our supply, and our supply contains more renewable content,” said Dawn Weisz, chief executive officer of MCE Clean Energy.
On a 4-1 vote, with supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill casting the lone dissenting vote, Contra Costa supervisors selected San Rafael-based MCE Clean Energy to develop solar power plants preferably in the county’s sprawling northern waterfront area to lower PG&E electric rates for residential and commercial electricity customers.
Mitchoff favored a competing proposal submitted from a freshly minted company called EBCE that Alameda County officials have recently adopted as their solar power plant developer. “I think that the EBCE program is better for our long-term growth,” Mitchoff said.
Other supervisors were more impressed with MCE’s seven-year track record, financial stability and $25 million in reserves and capability of generating good paying union jobs.
Some 285,000 residents residing in unincorporated Contra Costa County could see electricity rates decline in comparison to PG&E rates. For a large solar power project generating 5 megawatts per hour, the average monthly bills could potentially decline from $105 per Megawatt Hour (MWH) to $85 per MWH
For Board Chair Federal Glover the selection of MCE Clean Energy could mean the potential development of solar power plants in the Northern Waterfront Area. He is overseeing a planning study of the 28,000-acre area stretching from Hercules to Oakley that can potentially generate 18,000 jobs in a variety of technical fields by the year 2035.
Glover said he already envisions the development of a battery storage and a call center in parts of the northern waterfront, especially Pittsburg.
“With MCE we will be able to lower rates for consumers and bring jobs and growth to the Northern waterfront area,” Glover said.
Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond said he felt comfortable with the MCE program because of its seven years of experience. “There is less risk with the MCE choice,” he said.
“This is an historic day,” said Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville. “MCE has the established credit rating and reserves.”
Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood favored the MCE proposal based on how it will create “long term jobs” for county residents. Fifty percent of the jobs created must go to county residents.
“I also hope in the next five to 10 years we’ll become self-sufficient,” Burgis added.
Supervisors listened to a majority of the more than 30 speakers urge them to approve the MCE Clean Energy program over the EBCE program.
Elected officials from Lafayette, Richmond, Walnut Creek, Orinda, San Pablo and Moraga encourage supervisors to approve the MCE program over the EBCE program. Those cities have already approved the MCE program over the EBCE program, with Moraga most recently inking a contract with the company.
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt encouraged supervisors to approve MCE as its solar power provider based on the city of Richmond’s experience with the company. “It’s been a very good move for Richmond. Our residents have been saving millions of dollars,” he said. MCE has developed two solar power projects worth more than $12 million for the residents of Richmond, he said.
“Join MCE,” urged Moraga City Councilman Dave Trotter. “It’s a better choice.”
Byron resident Steen Larson encouraged supervisors to approve MCE as the solar power contractor. “MCE is the best choice,” he said. “This company will fulfill the need for job training and providing the best paying jobs.”Read More
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.Read More
By John Crowder
At their board meeting held on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD, or District) Board approved a petition from Voices College-Bound Language Academies (Voices, Petitioners) to open a charter school in the District with a dual-immersion program on a 4-1 vote.
Due to the number of parents with children in attendance at their meeting in support of the petition, discussion was moved to an earlier time on the agenda.
Dr. Linda Delgado, WCCUSD Charter Oversight, reported on staff’s review of the Voices petition based on a data review and staff rubric findings focused on six possible reasons for denial.
Delgado reported that petitioners offered an unsound educational program, that Petitioners were demonstrably unable to implement the program and that Petitioners did not provide a reasonably comprehensive description of all required elements. Specifically, she said staff believed the ratio of English only to Spanish only speakers was problematic, details about curriculum and teaching methods were inadequate, and that there was concern about whether Voices would draw Special Education resources away from the District. She also said that the proposal called for teachers and staff to be paid significantly less than WCCUSD personnel, and that the proposal failed to address standards for suspensions and expulsions.
Public comments followed Dr. Delgado’s presentation. About a dozen speakers, mostly Hispanic mothers, spoke in favor of the petition. Nobody spoke in opposition. One speaker said, “I am a mother who wants the best for my child,” then pleaded for approval to provide an opportunity for her child that she did not have.
WCCUSD board members asked questions and commented on the petition and the review process.
Board Member Tom Panas asked a series of questions involving staff concerns, remarking, “We respect our staff, at the same time, we want to make sure we’re all agreeing on the facts.” His questions revealed several discrepancies between the staff assessment and Voices explanations of their program, including a rebuttal to the staff report that Voices had submitted.
Responding to Panas’ questions, Voices spokesperson Frances Teso stated that the one year their other schools had had suspensions, the number suspended was less than 1%, and that expulsions were 0%. She also said that special education staff and providers would be based locally, and that special needs students were fully included in classrooms, while there was, “no reason to believe” that the proposed school would not participate in the same SELPA that other Voices schools participated in.
With respect to teacher pay, Teso said, “In any given step, we pay $2000 to $5000 more than the District pays the teachers here in West Contra Costa County.” She went on to describe the benefits package offered to teachers by Voices, along with bonuses, above salary, that their teachers were eligible for.
Board Member Mister Phillips expressed his inclination to support the petition because of the openness and honesty of supporters, the equity of having a Spanish-focused program when the District had recently approved a Mandarin program, and because of concerns over the vetting process used by District staff. “The process did not go the way that I personally think that it should have gone,” he said, “and there are issues around transparency in the process, there are issues around the board getting accurate information.” Phillips went on to say that he had asked District staff for a response to the Voices rebuttal, “And that response never came. I don’t know why it didn’t come, but it didn’t.” Phillips continued, “Then the last thing is, Voices does appear to get results.”
Board President Elizabeth Block weighed in on the staff report, as well. “I am very troubled by the number of inaccuracies in this report,” she said. “And I’m especially troubled, that a Superintendent, who I think is doing good things in our District, approved this report. I think your (staff’s) presentation raises the question of whether or not you could recognize a good school when you see them.”
Delgado responded by saying that staff was fair in their evaluation. Emphasizing that charter schools must meet high levels of accountability, she said, “The standards by which we are to judge charter schools are not commensurate with the standards with which we may judge our District schools. They’re different things. And good practice in charter school evaluation suggests we hold them to very high standards.”
Board Member Madeline Kronenberg also took issue with the staff report. “I’m not seeing rock-solid evidence in the staff report. I just have questions.” She continued, “Normally I would have great difficulty in going against a staff report. In this case, it’s not that hard.”
Board Clerk Valerie Cuevas expressed concern about the District meeting the needs of students. “When I hear parents come and speak, what I’m hearing at the heart of it is, ‘you’re not serving us, so I have to go find an alternative.” She went on to say that, “Our programs must be failing our students and our parents, because they’re seeking alternatives. The data’s clear that they’re [Voices] outperforming the District…]. She emphasized the need for the District to stop making excuses about why things couldn’t be done, and start working to improve student outcomes.
Following discussion, the board voted 4-1 to approve the Voices petition for a full five-year term. Board member Phillips, who had advocated for an approval time of three years, was the lone dissenting vote.Read More