In an effort to ensure that every Contra Costa ballot is counted completely and accurately, technicians from the Elections Division are in the process of programming and testing every piece of voting equipment that will be used in the November 6, 2018 General Election.
The central-count voting system for Vote-by-Mail ballots and the scanners for paper ballots located at each polling place are being tested for logic and accuracy. The ballot-marking equipment used at Regional Early Voting locations and on Election Day is also tested at this time since it interacts with those counting systems.
The series of tests starts by confirming that all machines are in working order and functioning properly, followed by a series of test ballots running through each machine to make sure they are properly programmed to pick up intended ballot marks.
There are six central count machines that will record results for approximately 2 million Vote-by-Mail ballot cards, along with about 300 ballot scanners at polling places throughout the County.
The public is always invited to check out the equipment testing in action. Those interested in observing the process should contact the Elections Division at 925-335-7805, as testing is being conducted intermittently during the next several weeks and at multiple locations.
A public demonstration of the central count voting equipment is scheduled for 10:00 am on November 2, 2018, at the Contra Costa Clerk-Recorder-Elections Office, 555 Escobar Street in Martinez. Visitors are asked to check-in at the Elections lobby. For more information, call 925-335-7800.Read More
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors went on record on Tuesday supporting the establishment of a national fee and dividend on carbon emissions. Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve the proposal.
Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville cast the dissenting vote on the grounds she opposed the dividend feature of the proposal that was acted on and endorsed by the Contra Costa Sustainability Commission at its June 25 meeting and was finally presented to the full Board of Supervisors Tuesday, more than three months later.
“I do support cleaner air, but I don’t see how this will produce the desired result,” said Andersen. “This isn’t the plan for me.”
Contra Costa County can now be counted as one of a number of California counties backing the proposal lobbied by Citizens Climate Lobby for a federal revenue-neutral carbon-based fuel fee and dividend proposal to reduce catastrophic climate change from global warming.
Other counties already signing on in support of the Citizens Climate Lobby carbon emissions initiative are San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, and Marin. Bay Area cities that back the initiative include Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Los Altos, Oakland, Petaluma, Richmond, and San Carlos.
“We have 12 years to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” Citizens Climate Lobby member Doug Merrill, a resident of Lafayette, told supervisors in encouraging them to endorse the initiative.
“We need to pay for our air pollution problems,” said Betty Lobos, also a Citizens Climate Lobby supporter.
At the national level, the carbon fee and dividend concept is gaining traction, especially within the energy industry where ExxonMobil this month announced it will donate $1 million to Americans for Carbon Dividend founded by former United States Senators John Breaux and Trent Lott.
Ordinance Banning Polystyrene Food/Beverage Containers in the Works
Supervisors, most likely next year, will act on an ordinance that will ban polystyrene food and beverage containers to be used in stores located in unincorporated Contra Costa County.
The County Department of Public Works will draft the ordinance at a cost of $75,000 after completing a recent Regional Water Quality Control Board stormwater permit review in which it was found that in order for the county to improve stormwater quality it needs to reduce different types of trash, especially the most prevalent, polystyrene containers.
The Public Works Department request was unanimously approved as a consent item. The department estimates it will cost about $25,000 a year to enforce the ordinance.
In late August, the Department of Public Works mailed letters to about 200 stores, markets and other businesses that would be affected by the proposed ordinance to inform them about why the county is proposing to adopt a ban on polystyrene food and beverage containers and what would be included in the proposed ban.
Increased Payment for Citizen Document Access Solution
Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve a contract amendment with Granicus, Inc. to increase the payment limit by $175,000 to a new payment limit of $825,816 for the continued hosting of the Citizen Document Access Solution. The contract was also extended from Oct. 9, 2018 to Oct. 8, 2021.
“The increase of the payment limit includes annual maintenance, support charges, software charges and web hosting fees, “County Administrator David Twa explained a memo to supervisors. “The new annual charges for October 9, 2018 to October 8, 2021 reflect a lower annual price of $9,708. This is due to the new and more efficient hardware and decommissioning of old hardware and the subtraction of a module called Meeting Efficiency.”
Contracting with Granicus for a Citizen Document Access Solution supports the county in meeting the goals of the Better Government Ordinance, complying with new website posting provisions of the Brown Act and using improved technology to deliver to citizens.
Supervisors Add One Meeting in 2019
Supervisors approved a 2019 meeting schedule that will call for 31 meetings instead of 30 meetings as initially planned. Supervisors scratched the meeting slated for February 19, figuring January would be a busy month with three meetings. A March 19 meeting will be needed, even though supervisors are scheduled to meet on Cesar Chavez Day, March 26, where business might be light. A meeting was added for December 17 because there was only one meeting originally scheduled that month, December 10.
Vice Chair John Gioia of Richmond is slated to become chair next year. It is yet to be decided who will become vice chair in 2019, either District 2 Supervisor Andersen, who has served on the board since 2012, or District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis, who has been on the board for two years.Read More
By John Crowder
Last week the California Department of Education released the 2018 test scores in English and math for all districts and schools in the state. This is the fourth year of data from this latest testing scheme, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Test (SBAT), meant to align with the Common Core teaching standards and methods. Students completing the test are placed into four broad categories in the subjects tested. These are, Standards Not Met, Standard Nearly Met, Standard Met, and Standard Exceeded. By combining the percentages from the latter two categories, we can compare how well schools and districts are doing in preparing students to, at a minimum, meet basic standards.
As has been the case since California began using this test in 2015, the results are not good for the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD). AUSD students have the lowest scores of all eighteen school districts in Contra Costa County (See table below). Further, the results for AUSD have remained, essentially, unchanged for the last four years. In 2015, the percentage of students achieving success in English was 30%, while it is currently 31%. In math it was 19% in 2015, and it now stands at 18%.
It is this low performance, combined with a lack of progress, that led hundreds of Antioch parents to sign the petitions and to turn out to the hearings held over the last couple of years to support bringing new charter schools, the Rocketship Elementary School and the Tech Academy Middle and High Schools, to Antioch.
The Charter School Act of 1992 was passed by the California legislature to address exactly the situation we find in Antioch. Public charter schools, with longer school days, more interventions, and proven programs, bring hope to parents who want their children to have a good education, but who can’t obtain it from the district schools they find their children assigned to.
Parents only have one chance at ensuring their students learn the skills they need to be prepared for college and the job market. They can’t afford to wait years, or decades, for change, especially when progress toward positive outcomes is nonexistent. Each year of delay is another year lost.
Establishing high-quality, public charter schools in districts where students are not being adequately educated is imperative for communities where students are being failed by the education establishment when the district schools can’t, or won’t, change.
English Language Arts – Contra Costa County School Districts
Rank District % Meet/Exceed
1 Orinda Union Elementary 88
2 Lafayette Elementary 85
2 Moraga Elementary 85
4 Acalanes Union High 82
4 San Ramon Valley Unified 82
6 Walnut Creek Elementary 73
7 Canyon Elementary 67
8 Brentwood Union Elementary 60
9 Liberty Union High 58
10 Byron Union Elementary 56
11 Martinez Unified 53
12 Mt. Diablo Unified 51
13 Knightsen Elementary 43
14 Oakley Union Elementary 39
15 John Swett Unified 37
16 Pittsburg Unified 34
16 West Contra Costa Unified 34
18 Antioch Unified 31
Mathematics – Contra Costa County School Districts
Rank District % Meet/Exceed
1 Orinda Union Elementary 85
2 Lafayette Elementary 82
3 Moraga Elementary 79
4 San Ramon Valley Unified 77
5 Walnut Creek Elementary 71
6 Acalanes Union High 69
7 Canyon Elementary 65
8 Brentwood Union Elementary 50
9 Byron Union Elementary 47
10 Martinez Unified 42
11 Mt. Diablo Unified 39
12 Knightsen Elementary 38
13 Liberty Union High 31
14 Oakley Union Elementary 27
15 John Swett Unified 26
16 West Contra Costa Unified 23
17 Pittsburg Unified 20
18 Antioch Unified 18
Crowder is a candidate for Contra Costa County School Board, Area 4Read More
“Lights. Camera. Action!” Contra Costa voters can now see and hear where local candidates stand on important issues through televised roundtable discussions and forums. Local “Election Preview” offers Contra Costa voters a chance to be educated on candidates and issues before casting their ballots.
Contra Costa County Elections Division partners with the County’s Contra Costa Television (CCTV), the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley, the League of Women Voters of West Contra Costa and the Contra Costa County Library to provide candidate forum programming for Fall Elections 2018. “Election Preview” shows begin airing this week on TV and online.
“We’re happy to provide this incredible resource that gives voters the opportunity to educate themselves about important issues,” Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla said. “Decisions made at the local level have the greatest impact on our daily lives, and without this program, voters likely might not have any other chance to see and hear from these candidates.”
“With the support of the Board of Supervisors, election preview shows on Contra Costa Television continue to be a priority,” said Susan Shiu, Director of the County’s Office of Communications and Media, which oversees CCTV. “We’ve been airing voter education shows since 1996. Now through television and social media channels, voters can have more access to information ahead of the November 6th election.”
This year’s production featured well-known journalists as moderators, including KCBS radio reporters Bob Butler and Doug Sovern, ABC7 News reporter Laura Anthony, KTVU reporters Alex Savidge and Claudine Wong, and former ABC7 News reporter Alan Wang who is a public information officer for Contra Costa County’s Employment and Human Services Department.
As part of the Election Preview partnership, the Contra Costa County Library is hosting Candidate Forums at local libraries that will be streamed live on its Facebook page. For a list of upcoming public forums, go to: https://ccclib.org/pressroom/pressreleases/2018/CandidateForums.jpg
A total of 39 local races and ballot measures will be available for viewing on Contra Costa Television broadcast channels leading up to Election Day. “Election Preview” roundtables and forums can be seen 24/7 on the Contra Costa Television channel on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD1z6XC8_fqZXP3HayI-kQA.
Homicide Detectives from the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff have identified a suspect in the September 20, 1985 killing of 57-year-old Virginia Vincent. On that day, a concerned neighbor found Vincent’s body in her apartment in Danville and notified police. It was later determined that she was raped and murdered.
All investigative leads were pursued, at the time however, no suspect was identified, and the case went cold for nearly two decades. In April 2002, a DNA profile was created from the evidence found at the crime scene. No match was found, and once again the case went cold for another 15 years. Over the years, there have been technological advances in forensic science that have assisted law enforcement agencies in analyzing evidence from cold cases. One method is known as “familial search.”
In November 2017, the Sheriff’s Office submitted a request to the California Bureau of Forensic Services (BFS) to conduct a familial search using the DNA recovered at the scene.
In June 2018, the Sheriff’s Office was notified of a possible match through the diligent work of the BFS committee. Homicide Detectives later identified Joey Lynn Ford as the likely suspect in the killing of Vincent. Ford died in 1997 at the age of 36 and is buried at a cemetery in Fairfield, California. Ford’s body was later exhumed. The Office of the Sheriff Forensic Services Division Crime Lab confirmed Ford as the suspect after a DNA sample extracted from him matched that found at the crime scene. This is the first successful familial search on a cold case in the Bay Area.
Detectives are still working to determine how the two might be acquainted, but records indicate Ford was arrested for DUI in Danville the day before the killing, just a short distance from the crime scene. At the time of the homicide, Ford was working as a plumber in the area and Vincent was a Real Estate agent. Investigators believe this is the likely connection between them, but that remains unclear.
“The Sheriff’s Office and all of the law enforcement agencies involved were relentless in their handling of this case, they are the true heroes,” said Marianna Wickman, daughter of victim Virginia Vincent. “So many were instrumental in getting us our closure and were sensitive to our needs. I am so very grateful.”
Wickman asked for privacy for herself and the family.
The Sheriff’s Office would like to acknowledge the California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services and Bureau of Investigation for their assistance in this investigation. We would also like to thank Rick Jackson, a retired long-time LAPD homicide detective who now resides in the Bay Area, for his dedication and work on this case.
“Because the suspect Joey Ford is deceased, there will be no prosecution in this case,” said Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston. “However, we hope that the identification of the suspect in the killing of Virginia Vincent brings her family and the community some closure in this painful case.”Read More
On October 2, a Contra Costa County jury found defendant Frank J. Newkirk, a 26-year-old transient, guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter. The victim, Theresa Frazer, was killed on October 4, 2017 during the morning commute on Highway 4 in Pittsburg. Newkirk was driving westbound on Highway 4 in a 2004 Chevy Tahoe in the slow lane when the incident occurred.
Newkirk now faces a sentence of up to six years in state prison. According to the D.A.’s Office Public Information Officer Scott Alonso, “Newkirk was a transient and his last known address according to court documents was Discovery Bay. But he lived all over including Bay Point and may have lived in Antioch at the time of the crash.” Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Aron DeFerrari prosecuted the case behalf of the People for this felony jury trial. Sentencing for Newkirk will occur on November 16 by the Honorable Barry Baskin in Department 7 at the Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.
On the morning of October 4, 2017, Newkirk was driving his girlfriend’s 2004 Chevy Tahoe without a license and careened into Frazer’s Nissan Sentra. Frazer was driving her friend to work when the accident occurred. The impact of the crash spun the Nissan around and crushed the vehicle. In total, five cars were impacted by Newkirk’s crash into Frazer.
California Highway Patrol investigated the crash and found Newkirk was traveling at an unsafe speed between 54 to 61 miles per hour in traffic with cars slowed in front of him due to an unrelated accident. Evidence gathered by CHP showed the vehicle’s brakes were never activated before the crash. Newkirk also did not take his foot off the throttle. Newkirk’s collision led to the unfortunate death of Frazer, a 47-year-old mother of three children. Restitution for this case will be determined at a later date.
Traffic collisions can cause very serious injuries and even result in fatalities. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, traffic fatalities are increasing, totaling 3,623 in 2016 and serious traffic injuries are on the rise.
Earlier this year our office filed the following counts against Newkirk:
- Count 1, Vehicular Manslaughter – Felony
- Count 2, Driving Without a License – Misdemeanor
Case information: People v. Frank J. Newkirk, Docket Number 05-181281-7.Read More
Would repeal gas tax increase
By Daniel Borsuk
Listed as a consent item, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted without comment an agenda item aimed to oppose Proposition 6, the Nov. 6 state ballot initiative to repeal Senate Bill 1, otherwise known as the Road Repair and Accountability Act or gas tax, but in public session supervisors voted 3-0 to accept a Public Works Department report describing how passage of Prop. 6 will negatively hit county road projects.
During the meeting on Tuesday, Supervisors had approved their “oppose” position on Proposition 6 without any comment from either the public or the three supervisors in attendance – board chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill, supervisor Candace Andersen of San Ramon, and supervisor John Gioia of Richmond – because it was posted as a consent agenda item, C-17.
County Public Works Department Chief Deputy Director Stephen Kowalewski told supervisors that, should Proposition 6 win at the polls, unincorporated Contra Costa County could lose, over the next nine years, $239.9 million or an average of $26.7 million per year.
During that nine-year period Contra Costa County could lose each fiscal year, provided Proposition 6 wins at the polls, $15.5 million in 2018/2019. $21.8 million in 2019/2020, $24.9 million in 2020/2021, $26.4 million in 2021/2022, $27.6 million in 2022/2023, $28.9 million in 2023/2024, $30,3 million 2024/2025, $31.6 million in 2025/2026 and $33.8 million in 2026/2027.
When the State Legislature enacted SB 1 in 2016, the measure raised gas taxes and Department of Motor Vehicle fees to drum up funds for the freeways and roads that were in a rapid state of deterioration. One of the key features of SB 1 is an index tax provision that permits gas tax revenue to keep pace with inflation.
Kowalewski listed a number of county road projects that could be in jeopardy should Prop. 6 wins in November. Some of those projects include the Kirker Pass Road truck climbing lane, Vasco Road improvements, Byron Road improvements, Baily Road/State Route 4 interchange improvements, Bel Air Trail crossing safety improvements, Blackhawk Road green paint bike lanes, resurfacing of 43 miles of roadway, and the Orwood Road culvert repair that is already in progress.
Supervisors Award $1.5 million Pathologists’ Contract
Supervisors unanimously approved Sheriff-Coroner David O. Livingston’s request to award three two-year contracts totaling $1.5 million to pathologists to perform autopsy services through Sept. 20., 2020.
As a consent item, supervisors approved the sheriff’s bid to award $500,000 contracts each to Dr. Mark A. Super, Dr. Arnold R. Josselson, and to Dr. Ikechi Ogan. Their contracts will be in effect from Oct. 1, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2020. Dr. Ogan will serve as coroner.
The three pathologists had provided pathology services to the county sheriff under the entity of Forensic Medical Group, but as of Oct. 1 FMG will no longer provide the county pathologist services because the doctors have decided to dissolve the company. The three doctors that made up Forensic Medical Group are able to provide services to the county under individual contracts.
There was no comment from either the public or three supervisors in attendance.
Kensington Hills Elementary School School Zone Speed Lowered
Supervisors reduced the school zone speed for three roads approaching Kensington Hilltop Elementary School from 25 miles per hour to 20 MPH over the safety concerns that there are few sidewalks in the area and the roads are narrow. An engineering and traffic survey were conducted and found that the request by an unnamed applicant complied with Assembly Bill 321 that was passed in 2008. AB 321 permits local jurisdictions to extend the 25 MPH speed limit in school zones or to lower the speed limit to 15 to 20 MPH up to 500 feet from school grounds under certain circumstances.
The school speed zones will be lowered on approaches 500 feet to Kensington Hilltop Elementary School. These roads are Highland Boulevard, Arlmont Drive, and Kenyon Avenue.
Cannabis Ordinance Amended
Without any public comment, supervisors amended the county commercial cannabis ordinance on a 3-0 vote. Supervisors added Knightsen to the list of unincorporated areas where the ordinance will not be enforced. Along with Knightsen, Bethel Island, Alamo, Acalanes Ridge, Contra Costa Centre, Saranap and Sandamond Slough will also prohibit enforcement of the commercial cannabis ordinance.
Supervisors also amended the ordinance by adding vertically-integrated businesses that include both storefront retail and commercial cultivation. Vertically-integrated businesses will not count toward the 10-permit limit for commercial cultivation.
The ordinance was also amended to require cannabis delivery businesses located outside of unincorporated Contra Costa County to possess a current County Health Permit.
The ordinance will become effective provided voters pass a tax ordinance measure on the ballot of the Nov. 6 general election.
September 30 Designated Gold Star Mothers’ Day
In recognition of the sacrifice and history of Gold Star Mothers in Contra Costa County and throughout the nation, supervisors approved a resolution designating Sunday, Sept. 30 as Gold Star Mother’s Day, founded during World War I.
Upon thanking the board for the resolution, Gold Star Mother Yolanda Bacon said, “We ask you don’t say ‘You’re sorry for your loss.’ Say instead “Thank you for your son’s or daughter’s service.”Read More
Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors took a “support” position on Proposition 2, a state bond ballot measure to build housing for homeless individuals with mental illness but, took a “no position” on Proposition 10, another state ballot measure that would expand residential property rent control at last Tuesday’s meeting.
Supervisors voted 4-0 in favor of Proposition 2, but voted 3-1 to a remain neutral, with Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond in dissent, on the rent control measure – Proposition 10. Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg was absent.
Both Proposition 2 and Proposition 10 will appear on the November 6, 2018 general election ballot.
Before the meeting, supervisors were initially prepared to brand an “oppose” position on Proposition 2 that “Authorizes Bonds to Fund Existing Housing Programs for Individuals with Mental Illness Legislative Statute.” But supervisors reversed that recommendation from the board’s Legislation Committee from August 13 to recommend an “oppose” vote on Prop. 2 over concerns the county could lose about $2.8 million in state funds for mental health services.
For a while, Board Chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill was concerned passage of Proposition 2 might jeopardize funding for another mental health and housing program for the homeless, the No Place Like Home Program, because a state Legislative Analyst Office report states passage of Proposition 2 would mean money would be borrowed from the 2016 enacted homeless housing program.
During the meeting, Dr. Matthew White, head of the Contra Costa County Behavioral Health Services, said the threat to the state funds, in the event Proposition 2 passes at the polls, will probably have little impact on county mental health services. He said there is a major need for adequate housing for the homeless needing mental health services that will be integrated into new housing projects.
But some speakers were unconvinced Proposition 2 will not deteriorate county mental health services.
Retired physician Dr. Mark Cohen, who has an adult child with mental illness, urged supervisors to oppose Proposition 2 on grounds that the ballot measure’s passage would divert money away from the psychiatric care services for the severely mentally ill not housed in Proposition 2 funding developments.
County mental health commissioner Douglas Dunn opposes the measure because the county is bound to lose upfront money aimed for mental health services that would be diverted to construct housing for the homeless with mental and substance abuse issues.
In support of Proposition 2, Gloria Bruce, executive director of the East Bay Housing Coalition, said “Proposition 2 is the right way to go. Give high need people access to affordable housing.”
Danville resident Douglas Leach called for supervisors to support Proposition 2 because it would create safe housing for the homeless needing mental health and substance abuse assistance.
Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood said she would support Proposition 2 based on the fact it is “difficult to find housing for the mentally ill,”
“These dollars are needed,” supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville said. “We won’t see a reduction in programs. It will give us an addition tool.”
On Proposition 10, the Affordable Housing Act, supervisors voted to take “no position” on a 3-1 vote. Supervisors John Gioia of Richmond cast the dissenting vote. He supported Proposition 10 mainly because it would eliminate the 1998-enacted Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act that permits landlords to raise rents of residential apartments and houses as much as they want constructed after 1995, but not before 1995. Costa-Hawkins allows landlords to raise the rent in any building before 1995 to the market value when it becomes vacant.
In other business, supervisors officially adopted the $3.2 billion budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year without any public comments. The 2018-2019 budget is up from the $3 billion budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
In other action, Supervisors recognized September 16-22 as Falls Prevention Awareness Week at their meeting on Tuesday. At the presentation were Meals on Wheels Mt. Diablo Region Chief Executive Officer Elaine Clark and Communications Specialist Maricel Kinsella.
Meals on Wheels Mt. Diablo Region and the Contra Costa County Fall Prevention Coalition will hold presentations on how to prevent senior citizens from falling in their homes, a leading cause of death or injury to persons 65 years old or more.Read More
By Daniel Borsuk
A number of Contra Costa County workers turned out at last week’s Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors meeting to demand that they instruct County Administrator David Twa to negotiate with nine labor unions representing county employees to produce more affordable healthcare coverage.
County workers said they pay more than any other public workers in the nine county Bay Area. They pay more than double than their county counterparts in San Francisco and triple that of city workers in Oakland for family coverage. Premium rates are set to rise as much as 14.74 percent in January 2019 unless the unions and county strike a better deal.
In acknowledging the county will begin negotiations with the unions starting Wednesday, Sept. 19, Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond said, “We know health care costs are high and this is why these upcoming negotiations with the nine unions will resolve this issue.”
One major reason why Contra Costa County workers pay some of the highest health care costs in the region is because the county offers more plans than other counties and cities.Read More