By Bryan Scott
Here’s something that should scare East County government agency managers: Losing 9.2% of their property tax funding.
That is one of many potential outcomes possible if a rational outsider, an uninvolved third party, were asked to adjust the East County property tax funding levels to meet the needs of the current community.
The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) provides fire and emergency medical services to 110,000 residents of 250 square miles of eastern Contra Costa County. Fire districts throughout California are primarily funded by property taxes, disbursed according to an allocation rate set 35 years, ago.
When the allocation rate was set, there were maybe 8,000 people living in eastern Contra Costa County, and the area was served by four volunteer fire departments. Back then only about 7.5% of the property tax money collected was spent on fire services.
Today the cities of Brentwood and Oakley alone have about 100,000 residents, with more arriving every month. The total number of residents within the ECCFPD jurisdiction has been estimated at between 110,000 and 120,000.
And the fire district is losing ground. As more people move into the area and the cost of providing services increases, the district is able to provide less and less of its essential services. Area friends and neighbors are dying, and houses are burning down. A multi-fatality incident is just around the corner as the fire district lacks the resources to respond to calls for help.
Last Summer ECCFPD hired Citygate Associates, a well-credentialed industry consulting firm, to determine how many fire stations the area would ultimately need. The answer was nine fire stations. There are now three permanent fire stations. Only nine firefighters are on duty at any point in time, and 15 are required to fight a structure fire.
The nine-station model is a rational definition of the community’s needs, arrived at after in-depth analysis of travel times, population locations and growth trends, and firefighting resource requirements. It is also future-oriented, taking into account the urban and rural development planning now occurring at the two cities and the county.
To pay for adequate fire services using property taxes would require shifting 9.2% of today’s property tax money, collected within its jurisdiction, to the fire district. This is what’s necessary to correct the structural funding deficiency that has been getting worse for the last 15 years.
A group of concerned citizens has put forth a proposal to gradually shift 5.2% of the area’s future property tax money to the fire district, over a period of four years so that no current funding is affected. Government agency managers have opposed this program, denying any willingness to voluntarily participate in solving this community problem.
This grass roots proposal would bring the ECCFPD funding rate up to about the average of fire district funding rates in Contra Costa County. It could provide for potentially six fire stations.
Refusing to participate in solving this community problem is dangerous for local government entities. There is no guarantee that an outside decision maker, perhaps in Sacramento, would make the same decision that locals would make.
By not participating in solving the fire district’s funding problem local government entities run the risk that a solution imposed from afar would cost them much more of their future funding.
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 925-418-4428. or email@example.com. The group’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters/.Read More
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved a proclamation on Tuesday to observe Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Month, part of a statewide effort to draw attention to an epidemic that causes thousands of deaths nationwide every year.
Also Tuesday, Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) issued a health advisory regarding prescription opioid misuse. CCHS works closely with local medical providers and community partners to combat the prevalence and misuse of opioid painkillers such as hydrocodone (Norco), oxycodone (OxyContin), morphine and fentanyl.
The advisory urges all local medical providers to follow the prescribing guidelines developed by the Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association and already in use at all county hospitals and urgent care clinics.
Contra Costa is also working to expand the availability of substance use disorder treatment programs and medication-assisted treatment to combat opioid addiction, and working with community partners to offer training and access to Naloxone, a drug that can reverse life-threatening opioid overdoses.
The most recent data from the California Department of Public Health show that annual incidence of accidental drug overdose deaths has surged in Contra Costa County, from 53 in 2003 to 111 in 2014. Prescription drugs were involved in the majority of those cases in 2014.
Read the health advisory at cchealth.org/providers/
Up-to-date information about California’s opioid epidemic, including county statistics for deaths, overdose-related visits to emergency departments, and per-capita prescriptions for opioid medications, is available through the California Department of Public Health’s new Opioid Overdose Surveillance Dashboard: pdop.shinyapps.io/ODdash_v1/
Contra Costa Public Health Director Dan Peddycord, Alcohol & Other Drugs Program Director Fatima Matal Sol and April Rovero, chair of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse are available today for interviews regarding the local impact of prescription opioid abuse.Read More
I believe that publicly financed “Sanctuary” States, Counties, Cities, and facilities for illegal immigrants are illegal, and they all should be prosecuted. In law one cannot harbor, assist, aid and abet, etc., anyone who has committed any criminal act – including of illegal immigrants. Those doing so are criminal “principals” under law, according to both state and federal laws.
The whole nonsense of allowing them to do so, under the guise of humanitarian and social necessity, are but criminally disguised acts that need to be brought to justice asap! We can no longer allow or justify the ‘bleeding hearts’ and illegal immigrants everywhere to dictate to us what is or is not legally right. They have to entirely be cut off from any related public funding, and now. And, any public cfficial criminally involved should immediately forfeit their position, and forever be barred from ever holding public office again.
Sure, give them their claimed “rights” to a prosecution and court system that America still has in place. Then they each should pay the ‘price’ for their violating our laws, to include incarceration, fines, and dispatching the illegals out of the USA. We must insist on upholding the laws against those who commit the crimes.
Ralph A. Hernandez
By Daniel Borsuk
Up to $45 million in tax-exempt California Municipal Finance Authority revenue bonds aimed at renovating three existing buildings and constructing five academic buildings for the nonprofit Making Waves Academy in Richmond sailed through the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
As a consent item, supervisors voted 3-0 to approve the issuance of non-public, tax-exempt bonds for the big charter school project.
Supervisors John Gioia of Richmond and Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill were absent.
The big charter school project will renovate and add up 204,500 square of space for the school that was founded in 1989 to enroll students in the West Contra Costa Unified School District into an accelerated academic program designed to boost students’ admission to four-year colleges.
“Ninety percent our graduates go onto college,” Making Waves Academy Chief Operating Officer Steven Roth told the Contra Costa Herald.
Some 400 Making Wave Academy graduates have gone on to college, he said. Graduates have gone on to the University of California, California State University, Stanford University, Ivy League schools and other prominent four-year institutions of higher education.
With 780 students now enrolled in grades eight through 12, Roth could not estimate how much enrollment will increase with the expanded campus.
Roth expects ground to be broken for the first phase of construction sometime next year. The project is planned to be completed by 2019 or 2020.
The Contra Costa County Office of Education that has served as the charter school authorizer since 2007 recently reauthorized the academy’s charter for an additional five years with the California Department of Education.
Before the charter school can proceed on the construction, the Contra Costa County Board of Education must also sign off on the project since the county office is the school’s charter school authorizer, said Terry Koehne, chief communications officer for the county office of education. The county board is expected to take up the Making Waves expansion in ensuing months.
“We issued a letter of support to the board of supervisors,” Koehne said. “Making Waves has met and exceeded its fiscal and academic requirements.”
“The board of supervisors’ action means that the county is off the hook,” said Anthony Stubbs, a CMFA advisor. Since the funds backing the bonds are from the private market, the supervisors’ action clarifies no public funds are at risk in connection with the Making Waves project.
“The county served as the official hearing body for the nonprofit school for its CMFA application,” said Kristen Lackey of the Contra Costa County Conservation and Development Department.
“Our function is pretty limited to holding public hearings on this project,” Lackey said. “No one showed up for the March 6 public hearing that we conducted.”
The charter school project involves the renovation of three existing school buildings at 4123 Lakeside Dr., the construction of a 47,000-square foot, two-story building, a 21,500-square foot one story gymnasium building and a new sports field adjacent to the Making Waves Academy at 4075 and 4123 Lakeside Dr.
The academy plans to erect two new two-story middle school buildings, one a 72,000 -square foot structure at 2925, 2930, and 2975 Technology Court and a 39,000-square foot building along with a one- story gymnasium building with 25,000 square feet at 4301 and 4175 to 4197 Lakeside Dr.
The charter school also plans to construct and equip a new sports complex at 2600 Hilltop Dr. The complex will consist of 13 acres with a swimming pool, sports fields and baseball fields.
Adult Literacy Grant Approved
Also at the meeting, the Supervisors flashed the green light for Contra Costa County Librarian Melinda Cervantes to apply for a California State Library Grant of up to $80,000 to fund the library’s adult literacy program, Project Second Chance, from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. Since its launch in 1984, PSC has helped more than 5,600 county residents to learn to read.
Supervisors also approved a $73,173 contract with the city of Pleasant Hill for the county Health Services Department to provide homeless outreach services from March 1 2017 through June 30, 2018.Read More
After watching and listening to the variety of East County and Bay Area residents speak out against the Delta Tunnels at the meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council in Brentwood on Thursday, March 23, 2017, one thing is clear, we don’t want them. All they will do is damage the Delta and the region in which we live. So how is that good stewardship of the Delta?
The proposed tunnels are referred to as conveyances. Well we already have two water conveyances, they’re called the San Joaquin River which flows north into and through the Delta and the Sacramento River which flows south. The two natural, God created conveyances we call rivers, meet at Antioch whose current slogan is the “Gateway to the Delta.”
Plus, there’s another man-made conveyance, known as the California Aqueduct that’s been sending water from Northern California and the Central Valley to Southern California for decades. We don’t need another two, huge water conveyances to move the water from, around or under the Delta to Southern California.
Speaker after speaker who stood in line in the standing room only meeting – from residents, to activists, to Realtors, to those who fish and others who earn a living off the Delta – opposed the tunnels as the solution to water supply in the state. Instead they suggested more storage, such as maximizing the use of existing reservoirs and building more, and desalination.
One speaker, who said he is a native Californian with three daughters, offered the definition of stewardship which includes “the responsible overseeing of something worth preserving.” Two more speakers challenged the council members on the meaning of stewardship, as well.
“Tell the governor the people in this room know the difference between fresh water and salt water,” said another speaker. “For every gallon of fresh water we divert south, a gallon of salt water comes up the Delta.”
Salt water has encroached all the way to and past Antioch, which has the lowest intakes on the Delta and last year had to purchase 95% of its raw water from the Contra Costa Water District. The city has pre-1914 rights to the river allowing it to pump pretty much whatever amount of water needed for use by residents and businesses in the city. But, during the drought, and it’s believed if the tunnels are built, those rights no longer mean anything as there was, and will no longer be, enough or any fresh water to pump. So, if the salt water has already reached Antioch before the tunnels have been built, it can easily reach other parts of the Delta, if they are.
Assemblyman Jim Frazier had a representative read a letter from him at the meeting, in opposition to the conveyance system, or tunnels.
His letter mentioned the 2009 Delta Reform Act which established co-equal goals of “providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem” and that the proposed conveyance system barely touches on protection of the Delta.
A former Orange County, CA resident said “do the right thing. We want to preserve the Delta for our children.”
The final speaker asked “does anyone in this room want the tunnels?”
“No” was the loud reply.
The Council hasn’t yet made their final recommendation on whether the twin tunnels will be the solution to the conveyance of our water. So, there’s still time for the public to give input.
You can provide your comments using the online form at http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/contact-us. All written submissions will be posted on the website at www.deltacouncil.ca.gov. If you were unable to watch or attend the Thursday meeting in Brentwood, the webcast will be available on the website, as well.
Meetings of the Delta Stewardship Council in Sacramento on April 27 and 28th will be the next opportunity to give live, in-person input to the Council and for them to review the progress on the process. It will be held at Park Tower Plaza, 980 Ninth Street, 2nd Floor Conference Center, Sacramento, CA 95814
As was said by council member and Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson, the Council needs to hold their meetings for the public at night. They can also be held on a Saturday and in a larger venue, so more people can attend.
We must stand united and continue to fight the Delta Tunnels to keep them from being built and damaging the ecosystem of the Delta and the adjacent region where we call home. Hopefully those charged with the stewardship of the Delta will hear us and recommend against the tunnels.Read More
Nominated by Assemblyman Jim Frazier, Foundation Gala raises funds for student scholarships
SACRAMENTO – In a friendly and entertaining wine competition featuring 30 red and white wines from 23 California wineries, legislators and elected officials awarded gold medals to seven wines. The competition was held during the annual California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) Foundation Gala, which raises funds for scholarships to children of California winegrape grower workers.
2015 Viognier, Bloomfield Vineyards, Contra Costa (wine nominated by Assemblyman Jim Frazier)
2015 Chardonnay, Rusack Vineyards, Santa Catalina Island (wine nominated by Sen. Ben Allen)
Other White Wines
2015 Vermentino, Ponte Winery, Temecula (wine nominated by Sen. Jeff Stone)
2014 Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Paso Robles (wine nominated by Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham)
2012 Seven Twenty Eight Pinot Noir, Fiddlehead Cellars, Lompoc (wine nominated by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson)
2014 Mountain Zinfandel, Opolo Vineyards, Paso Robles (wine nominated by Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin)
“I’m not surprised at all,” said Assemblymember Jim Frazier. “The Bloomfield family has long farmed our region with great results. I nominated Bloomfield Vineyards for this competition because I knew its wine would more than hold its own against wineries across our Golden State. After all, east Contra Costa County is an up-and-coming wine producing area, as more residents and visitors are discovering every day. We not only have wonderful cherries, asparagus, stone fruits and Brentwood sweetcorn, but also award -winning wine and wineries. I’m just glad that other legislators are finally learning what I’ve known all along.”
It’s another prestigious win for Bloomfield’s 2015 Viognier, which earned a double gold at last summer’s California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition and was deemed the Best of the Greater Bay White wines.
“We appreciated being nominated by the Assemblymember,” said Becky Bloomfield. “The viognier has always been my signature wine, and I’ve been making them for 14 years. I’m super excited that it won!”
The boutique winery, based in Brentwood, produces only about 200 cases of viognier a year, among a total of 500 to 700 cases of wine. Most of the grapes the fourth-generation farming family grows on its 200 acres of vineyards are sold to other wineries.
About the CAWG Foundation: The foundation is a nonprofit public benefit corporation that awards scholarships to high school seniors whose parent or legal guardian is employed by a California winegrape grower. The foundation awards at least seven scholarships each year and has awarded $373,000 since its inception in 1998. For more information, visit www.cawgfoundation.org.
About CAWG: CAWG provides industry leadership to advocate for public policies, research and education programs, and sustainable farming practices to enhance the business of growing California winegrapes. The organization represents the growers of more than 50 percent of the gross grape tonnage crushed for wine and concentrate in California. For more information, visit www.cawg.org.Read More
In January, a note was posted on the Richmond Main Post Office window announcing the building would be sold and the post office closed, according to an article by the Richmond Standard. Augustine Ruiz, a USPS spokesperson, confirmed the planned closure. The post office is located at 1025 Nevin Avenue.
In response, a measure authored by Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) was unanimously adopted by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee as a part of the bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act (H.R. 756), which has been years in the making. Congressman DeSaulnier’s amendment would require the United States Postal Service (USPS) to provide Congressional offices with at least 10-days of advance notice regarding any closure, sale, movement, or reduction of operations of a post office in their district. H.R. 756 is expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives in the near future. This amendment, which was praised by both Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) along with other Republican and Democratic members of the committee, was the only modification included to this landmark piece of legislation in the markup.
“Currently there is no requirement for USPS to notify Members of Congress when changes to a postal facility are made in their district. I discovered this missing link in January when residents from Richmond saw a notice posted on the door of the Nevin Avenue Post Office, but USPS had not advised my office of the pending sale,” said DeSaulnier.
“USPS has an obligation to keep Congress updated on any plan to sell, close, or alter facilities and operations so Congressional representatives can share this information with their constituents. Proper and expedient notification is critical as the comment period for the public to share thoughts and concerns is 15-days for the sale of a building and 60-days for a full postal closure. USPS is responsible for processing and delivering over 500 million pieces of mail a day and changes in operations can negatively impact people and businesses. My amendment will help ensure the public has advance notice to make their voices heard,” he concluded.
“Residents here and across the country care about the decisions made by the federal government that impact important local community facilities,” said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt. “I was shocked to learn about the proposed closure of the historic downtown post office over social media without having been notified by the postal service. Residents expect federal and local government officials to coordinate to avoid significant impacts; this measure does just that. Congressman DeSaulnier took the steps needed to ensure transparency around important postal service decisions. We are thankful for the Congressman’s leadership to pass this measure and represent the community’s best interests.”
Allen Payton contributed to this report.Read More
By Don Martin, II
When Antioch Speedway opens for its 57th season of All Star Series racing this Saturday night, they will do so without Larry Damitz. During the offseason, we learned that he passed away. On March 11th, many of his friends and family came to remember him at a special memorial service. His three race cars were on display.
Larry started his racing career back in 1953 and competed or helped others at the race track every year since.
“I’m really not sure what got me started in racing,” Larry shared in an older interview. “I’ve always liked cars and I started working on cars when I was nine. I’ve always been interested in automobiles. Another guy and I knew of a Hardtop that was halfway completed, so we went over and finished it off and started racing.”
He was hooked. He continued to race his Hardtop at the old Vallejo Speedway and Contra Costa Speedway in Pacheco. The competition was much tougher than it is today.
“They had one class, and they had enough cars that they had a C Race,” Larry recalled. “Every car in the Main Event could win. There were always some Main Event cars in the B Main.”
Winning seemed to come easy for Larry in Limited Late Models at Antioch. At 87-years-old, he was still winning and was track champion for the fifth time in six seasons. However, he paid his dues to get that first win.
“I didn’t win a Main Event until 1963,” said Larry. “Everybody that comes out here and they think in their first year they’re supposed to clean house and win a Main Event. They race all year, two years, don’t win a main and they quit.”
By the time Larry was done with Hardtops In the mid 1970’s, his resume included three track championships and a win in the Chet Thomson Memorial 100 lap race. He was second to Gene Dudley by just 8 points at Vallejo in the 1960’s. The highly competitive Super Stock division awaited. He was Vallejo champion in 1978 and Petaluma champion in 1980 and 1981. For good measure, he raced on Friday nights in Chico when he could make the tow and won 11 times in 1977.
It was 30 years into his career when he started racing at Antioch Speedway. He won his first Late Model feature there in 1984. He broke a shoulder blade in a crash there in 1985. After recovery time, he returned and won 10 Main Events in 1986, finishing second to Ed Sans Jr. in points.
“Back then, the configuration of this track was altogether different than any other track,” Damitz recalled. “It was fun to drive. It was a lot of fun. They had it banked right up to the wall, and you had to run right around the wall. I just wanted to come back and run on that track some more.”
Larry ushered in Late Models at Petaluma in 1987 by winning the first championship. He then took on the role of crew chief for his nephew, Milt McGinnis, who won the next two championships. He started racing and winning again after that, but he again took on a helper role with Jim Pettit II. He let Jim drive his car at times in 1991 as Pettit won that Antioch championship.
“Winning the championship definitely wouldn’t have been possible without Larry Damitz and everybody’s involvement in the the whole Sundrop Racing Team,” Pettit recalled. “I mean, there were no balks or anything about me driving their car.”
After that, Larry won another three Late Model championships at Petaluma. Track statistician Harlan Osborne counted 58 wins just in a 20-year span at Petaluma from 1987 to 2007, and there were more than that. As the current decade came around, Larry entered his 80’s with no signs of slowing down. Why was he doing it? He loved cars, he loved the sport and he loved people. Winning was just the icing on the cake.
After finishing second to Mitch Machado in 2010, Damitz won five of the next six championships and two more at Merced. Jim Freethy bears the distinction of being the only driver during that run to beat him for a championship. He wasn’t planning to quit. He would have turned 88 in May and had every intention of competing in his familiar blue and orange Limited Late Model once again. He had over 60 wins just at Antioch, and estimates are that he won over 150 Main Events in his career along with 17 track championships.
The loss of Damitz hit the people at Antioch Speedway pretty hard. Promoter John M. Soares raced with Larry for many years. As Soares enters his 20th season as Speedway Promoter, he had a crew put a special monument to Larry where he used to park. He was an inspiration to many. It wasn’t just that he could still win races at that age, but because he was a genuinely nice and down to earth guy.
On My 13th, Antioch Speedway will hold the Larry Damitz Memorial Race in Limited Late Models. This Saturday night, there will be a special Memorial Lap as Antioch Speedway opens with DIRTcar Late Models, Limited Late Models, Wingless Spec Sprints, B Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars. For further information, go to www.antiochspeedway.com.Read More
On Tuesday, March 21, 2017 at about 1:53 PM, Lafayette police officers were dispatched to a suspicious circumstance at the Chase Bank at 3492 Mt. Diablo Boulevard in Lafayette.
A customer apparently came into the bank and told staff that someone had threatened and beat him while he was at his home on Sweet Drive and told him to withdraw money from his bank account.
The suspect took a shotgun from the victim’s home and forced him into the suspect’s car. They then drove to the bank. The suspect waited in the vehicle while the victim went in and notified bank staff.
Officers arrived at the bank and detained the suspect at gunpoint.
He is identified as 26-year-old Manuel Bustos. Detectives are interviewing him at this time. He will later be booked into the Martinez Detention Facility on charges that include kidnapping, robbery, burglary, and stolen automobile.Read More
On Tuesday morning, March 21, 2017, law enforcement officers arrested 33-year-old Pablo Ruiz of Bay Point for child molestation and distribution and possession of child pornography.
This follows a ten-month investigation lead by detectives from the Sexual Assault Unit of the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff. In April 2016, investigators from the Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force were contacted by authorities in Lynchburg, Virginia, who had identified Ruiz as a suspect who was trading child pornography over the internet. The Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office took over the case. Investigators served a search warrant at Ruiz’s residence and collected a significant quantity of computer evidence. A short time later, evidence was uncovered that Ruiz had sexual contact with at least one minor.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has charged Ruiz with five counts of child molestation, aggravated possession of child pornography and nine counts of distributing child pornography. Ruiz is currently being held at the Martinez Detention Facility in lieu of $1.5 million bail.
Detectives believe there may be other victims. The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information to please contact Detective Norvell at 925-313-2625. For any tips, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866-846-3592 to leave an anonymous voice message.
The prosecution is a result of an investigation by a multi-agency Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is managed by the San Jose Police Department. In Contra Costa County, detectives and investigators from the Walnut Creek, Antioch, Martinez, San Ramon, Concord and Moraga Police Departments, the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office, Probation Department and District Attorney’s Office participate in the task force.Read More