Minimal impact on crime rate
By Allen Payton
In a letter to Pittsburg Police Chief Brian Addington, on Friday, July 15, 2016, Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson informed him that of the 204 reports in 2015 listed by the Pittsburg Police Department as “suspicious circumstances” 103 should have been listed as crimes.
Following a request by Addington seeking an opinion by the District Attorney’s office, one deputy district attorney and one deputy sheriff performed an audit, reviewing each of the reports. They determined that 40 of those 103 reports should have been listed as Part I crimes and 63 as Part II crimes. Part I crimes include murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.
Peterson’s letter states “Although the police reports listed the applicable crime, apparently your department did not the 103 incidents as crimes to the FBI.”
The reclassification of those crimes, will increase the total Part I crimes the Pittsburg Police Department will have to report to the FBI for 2015, changing the statistics to better reflect the true crime rate in the city.
The letter, however also states, “It should be noted that during the 2015 calendar year, the Pittsburg Police Department wrote 9,975 reports. Thus, the 103 police reports we have discussed are only 1% of all the police reports written that year.”
The result is an increase of 0.5% in reportable Part I crimes and 1% in Part II crimes.
Peterson concluded that “had the 103 Suspicious Circumstances cases been correctly classified as crimes reported to the FBI, there would have been minimal impact on city’s crime rate.”
To read the entire letter and audit, click here: Pittsburg PD 2015 AuditRead More
On Thursday, July 7, 2016, Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark A. Peterson released a report requested by the Richmond City Council describing the investigation into the death of Richard Perez III who was shot and killed by a Richmond Police Officer on September 14th, 2014. The report also outlines the reasons why criminal charges were not filed against the officer.
For over 30 years Contra Costa County law enforcement agencies have utilized a county-wide protocol to investigate incidents when officers or civilians are shot or killed during law enforcement encounters, or when officers are accused of crimes. The formal process is entitled the “Law Enforcement Involved Fatal Incidents Protocol,” and informally known as the “Protocol” system.
The process was adopted by the county’s Police Chiefs’ Association and the District Attorney’s Office early in the 1980’s, and since then hundreds of “Protocol” cases have been investigated under this approach. The approach has proven to be a very effective means to conduct such sensitive probes and joins a team of District Attorney inspectors with investigators from the involved agency to jointly investigate all such incidents. Their work is overseen by a senior Deputy District Attorney.
Pursuant to the county-wide Protocol, the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff/Coroner holds Inquests following virtually every death involving law enforcement officers. These Inquests are open to the public, and are conducted by a private attorney acting as the hearing officer for the Coroner’s Office. Such hearings are held in front of a jury of citizens randomly selected from the Superior Court jury pool.
The death of Mr. Perez was investigated pursuant to the county’s Protocol. The report is attached which describes the investigation, and the reasons charges were not filed against the officer.
Inquiries concerning the death of Mr. Perez, or the Protocol process can be directed to Deputy District Attorney Barry Grove who oversees the District Attorney’s Protocol team. He can be reached at (925) 957-2200.
Read the complete report, here: CCDA Report on Perez shootingRead More
State funds support arts education at Meadow Homes Elementary celebrating cultural diversity
The California Arts Council announced, on Wednesday, that it plans to award a grant to Meadow Homes Elementary in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) as part of its Artists in Schools program.
The Artists in Schools program supports projects that integrate community arts resources—artists and professional art organizations—into comprehensive, standards-based arts learning projects for California’s students. This year, the California Arts Council’s Artist in Schools program will allow 144 arts organizations to hire 580 teaching artists that will serve a total of more than 43,000 students in 323 schools across California.
The $6715 grant was awarded jointly to Walnut Creek Civic Arts Education, along with MDUSD’s Meadow Homes Elementary and Tice Creek School in the Walnut Creek school district to offer high-quality, after-school arts learning communities for at least 50 students in grades 1-6. In series of workshops, students will receive standards-based arts instruction in two disciplines, one visual and one performance-based, draw connections between them, and hold a community-based culminating performance/exhibition.
“Civic Arts Education is excited about this opportunity to work with local schools whose goals so closely align with ours. Teaching artists from Civic Arts can’t wait to share visual and performing arts like anime and African drumming to help Meadow Homes students explore their creativity,” said Linda Johnson, Civic Arts Education Program Manager. “We’re grateful to the California Arts Council for making it happen!”
Dr. Nellie Meyer, Superintendent for MDUSD, praised the Artists in Schools grant as a valuable tool to contribute to student achievement and success in school and beyond.
“A strong arts education promotes the skills our students need to be successful, and is essential to promoting self-directed learning, and critical and creative thinking skills. We believe firmly that what students learn in arts education helps them to master other subjects, including mathematics, language arts, and science,” said Meyer. “We could not be more excited about the opportunities this grant will open up for Meadow Homes’ students and families.”
Meadow Homes Elementary serves approximately 900 students, representing 19 different ethnic groups. Principal Sandra Wilbanks applauded the Artist in Schools grant for providing the campus an unparalleled opportunity to expand their existing arts education program to further celebrate the school’s cultural diversity.
“When you tie arts education into all areas of the curriculum, you create a rich environment for student learning that truly celebrates and honors students’ cultural backgrounds and traditions,” said Wilbanks. “Having diverse arts experiences is empowering for students. By exercising creative expression in all subject areas, students can be proud of who they are and how they are developing as young learners and future leaders.”
Wilbanks says Meadow Homes’ existing arts initiatives and grants have had unexpected but happy consequences in promoting second language development among its English Learner population, which accounts for approximately 78% percent of its 900 students.
“What we’ve seen is that, through the arts, students have a stronger connection to school, especially for English Learners. This has, in turn, improved the home-to-school and school-to-home engagement with our families,” she added. “We are absolutely elated about the grant and very excited about being able to partner with the California Arts Council on something that will be so meaningful for our families.”
The news of Meadow Home’s grant was featured as part of a larger announcement from the California Arts Council, which can be viewed online at http://arts.ca.gov/news/pressreleases.php.
“California Arts Council grants provide vital support for projects in diverse communities across our state,” said Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. “This was an historic year of state arts support. We are proud to invest more than $8.5 million in funding 712 grant projects that will stimulate local growth and prosperity, and meet the needs of our communities through deep engagement with culture and creative expression.”
The California Arts Council will continue to grow the reach of its programs in the coming year, as the result of a significant one-time state arts funding increase for 2016-17 announced last week.
Nestled at the base of Mt. Diablo in the suburban East San Francisco Bay Area, the Mt. Diablo Unified School District is one of the largest school districts in the state of California, with over 56 school sites and programs serving 150 square miles, including the cities of Concord, Pleasant Hill, Clayton; portions of Walnut Creek, Martinez and Pittsburg; and unincorporated areas including Lafayette, Pacheco and Bay Point. The district is among one of the more ethnically-diverse in California, with students and their families representing more than 50 languages and dialects. Learn more at www.mdusd.org.
For over 50 years the City of Walnut Creek’s Civic Arts Education program has been the regional center of arts learning — promoting new visions, supporting exploration, stimulating creative thought and encouraging self-expression. Last year more than 8,000 adults, youth and children enjoyed beginning through professional level classes and programs at the Shadelands, Civic Park and Heather Farm campuses. Learn more at by clicking here.
The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California’s diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov.Read More
HIGHWAY LANE CLOSURES:
There will be highway lane closures in the westbound direction of State Route 4 between Somersville Road/ Auto Center Drive and Railroad Ave. on Monday through Friday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm.
There will be highway lane closures in the eastbound direction of State Route 4 between Bailey Road and the State Route 4 / State Route 160 connector ramp on Monday through Friday from 4:30 am to 12:00 pm.
There will be highway lane closures in the eastbound direction of State Route 4 between L Street / Contra Loma Boulevard and the State Route 4 / State Route 160 connector ramp on Monday through Friday from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am.
There will be highway lane closures in the westbound direction of State Route 4 between L Street / Contra Loma Boulevard and the State Route 4 / State Route 160 connector ramp on Monday through Friday from 9:00 pm to 4:00 am.
LOCAL STREET CLOSURES:
There will be lane closures in the eastbound and westbound directions of Larkspur Drive between Hillcrest Avenue and Wildflower Drive on Saturday through Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm to 6:00 am.
There will be lane closures in the northbound and southbound directions of Hillcrest Avenue between Larkspur Drive and Sunset Drive on Saturday through Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm to 6:00 am.
There will be lane closures in the northbound and southbound directions of A Street/Lone Tree Way between Rossi Avenue and E. Tregallas Road on Saturday through Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm to 6:00 am.
There will be lane closures in the northbound and southbound directions of Somersville Road / Auto Center Drive between Delta Fair Boulevard and Century Boulevard on Saturday through Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
For questions or comments please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.Read More
It is a great outdoor music festival and street fair. It is family friendly, has great arts and crafts, food, beer, wine and live entertainment. Stroll through a shady street, enjoying the food and wine, shopping the great arts and craft vendors while enjoying wonderful music, with two stages to choose from.
The Sugartown festival features two stages with well known artists. Seating and dancing spaces are available.
Lagunitas Brewing Company is the choice beer at the Lagunitas beer gardens. Wine and icey cold Margaritas are also sold to quench your thirst.
See the Arts Calendar at AC5.org for more information.
FContact the Crockett Chamber of Commerce at either P.O. Box 191, Crockett, CA 94525 or by calling 510-787-1155.Read More
Today, Thursday, July 14, 2016, the Contra Costa County District Attorneys’ Association announced their endorsement of Steve Barr for County Supervisor in District 3.
The District Attorneys’ Association represents more than 75 Deputy DA’s who serve our community as prosecutors in the District Attorney’s office.
Aron DeFerrari, the group’s president, said the decision came down to Steve’s direct and open style, as well as his financial skills.
“Steve is very honest and tells you exactly how it is,” said DeFerrari. “We don’t always agree on everything. But we think his direct and open style is going to make him a great partner as we work on a lot of tough public safety issues.”
“Having a small business owner who understands finances and has a track record of using public money responsibly, was also very attractive to us,” DeFerrari continued. “We don’t have unlimited resources and need leaders who can make sure our public safety officers and prosecutors have enough money to do their jobs effectively. Steve Barr has our full trust.”
Barr said the endorsement was great news.
“Their vote of confidence means a lot and the role of prosecutors play in the county is vital,” he said. “I really look forward to working with them throughout this campaign and beyond.”
Barr, who was the top vote getter in the primary, is currently in the runoff election that will be held November 8th. As a Brentwood City Councilman he has made public safety a top priority, and his campaign already has the support of the Brentwood Police Officers’ Association.Read More
On July 7, 2016, a Grand Jury in Contra Costa County indicted twenty-seven year old Danville resident Nickolas Robert Thurston on charges he distributed and possessed child pornography, conspired to access protected computer systems and used the identities of multiple women in an attempt to unlawfully gain access to their “cloud” computer accounts.
Following indictment, Danville police arrested Thurston at his home on July 12, 2016 and he is currently in the custody of the Contra Costa County Sheriff with bail set at 1.5 million dollars. Thurston will make his first appearance in court on July 12, 2016 in front of the Honorable Patricia Scanlon.
The indictment alleges that between January 1, 2016 and May 24, 2016, Thurston conspired with an unnamed co-conspirator to unlawfully access the protected “cloud” accounts of women and girls that he knew in an attempt to gain revealing photographs of them and distributed their personal information in order to further the plan. The indictment further alleges that Thurston operated a website to distribute child pornography and directly distributed images of a nine-year-old girl engaged in sexual activity via email.
On May 24, 2016, investigators from the Contra Costa County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force served a search warrant on Buena Vista Drive in Danville. During the course of that search warrant service, investigators developed probable cause to arrest Thurston and numerous items of evidence were seized from his house.
Thurston has been indicted on two counts of distribution of child pornography in violation of California Penal Code 311.2(c), one count of possession of child pornography in violation of California Penal Code 311.11(a), four counts of identity theft in violation of California Penal Code 530.5(a), three counts of accessing or attempting to access a protected computer system to steal files in violation of California Penal Code 502(c)(1) and conspiracy to commit computer theft in violation of California Penal Code 182(a)(1).
The maximum penalty for the above charged offenses is approximately five years and a requirement to register as a sex offender. An indictment is an allegation that a crime has occurred and all charges must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. All defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty.Read More
By Allen Payton
In June, the BART Board voted 9-0 to place a $3.5 billion bond measure on the November ballot to provide funding for repair and maintenance of and upgrades to the existing system. The measure will appear on ballots in the three counties of Contra Costa, Alameda and San Francisco that make up the BART District, and requires a two-thirds vote to pass.
The system improvements will take 21 years to complete, according to the brochure about the measure. To see the brochure, click here: BetterBART_Brochure
“BART anticipates that the 2016 System Renewal Program Plan will be implemented over the course of twenty-one years, commencing in Fiscal Year 2017 and concluding in Fiscal Year 2038. Projects will be accelerated as practical to maximize the benefit of planned improvements as quickly as possible.”
However, the bonds will take as long as 50 years to pay off.
“We’re not likely to sell $3.5 billion of bonds in the first year or even the first 10 years,” stated BART Director Joel Keller, who represents Concord and Eastern Contra Costa County. “There are laws that you spend bond proceeds before you issue more bonds. What we’ll do is sell the bonds in what’s called tranches. Let’s say the first tranche is $1 billion and it takes us five to 10 years to spend that money. That tranche will last 30 years. If we do that three or four times, that could take the final payment out years. That’s really an unknown. It could take 40 to 50 years. It will be 30 years after the last bond is sold.”
According to a BART press release, “Estimates show the bond will cost Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco county homeowners less than a pack of gum a week.” More specifically, the cost will increase the average property tax bill by $37.21 per year in Contra Costa County if the measure is approved, according to Keller.
The annual cost is based on the appraised of property values, both residential and similar to the BART earthquake retrofit bond measure, which is what property owners are currently paying on the property tax bills.
For the BART earthquake safety measure, which voters approved in 2004, the projected annual cost was between $4.85 and $12.65 per $100,000 of assessed value. However, the actually cost was $2.60 to $9 per $100,000 of assessed value.
“It’s an ad valorem tax with a fixed cost to pay off the bonds,” Keller explained. “So, if property values increase, the cost per $100,000 decrease.”
The 2016 bond measure is projected to cost $8.98 per $100,000 of assessed value. So a property in Contra Costa County with an average value of $414,399 will be assessed $37.21 per year.
Use of Bond Proceeds
The use of funds from the bond measure is split into two categories, according to the BART System Renewal Program Plan 2016.
Repair and Replace Critical Safety Infrastructure – $3.165 billion, 90.43%
“We want to upgrade our computer equipment from Pong-era technology to a modern train control system—which means less waiting for trains on crowded platforms and less frustration from delays. New maintenance facilities will keep the maximum number of cars out serving customers, so that fewer cars clog our congested highways,” from “The Plan” brochure about the measure.
This category is further divided into six sub-categories, with explanations in the brochure.
Renew Power System – $1.225 billion, 35%
Replacing Worn Track – $625 million, 17.85%
Waterproofing & Repairing Tunnels & Structures – $570 million, 16.29%
Modernizing & Replacing Train Control – $400 million, 11.43%
Renovating Stations – $210 million, 6%
Renewing Mechanical Infastructure – $135 million, 3.86%
Safer Station Access – $335 million, 9.57%
Design Future Projects to Reduce Crowding & Reduce Traffic Congestion – $200 million, 5.71%
Expand Opportunities to Safely Access Stations – $135 million, 3.86%
The bond measure brochure clearly states No general operating expenditures: The proceeds of the bond measure cannot be used to support BART’s general operating needs, but must be dedicated to the capital program outlined in this Program Plan.” Therefore none of the funds can be used for employee salaries or benefits.
According to a press release from BART:
The bond measure is a key funding component of BART’s plan to rebuild and renew its aging system, which faces increasing problems as various physical parts of the 44-year-old railway reach the end of their useful lives. The plan replaces and repairs 90 miles of deteriorating tracks and other aging infrastructure in order to maintain BART’s excellent safety record and protects our environment by keeping thousands of cars off the road.
“This bond measure is practical; it’s dedicated to fixing what we have,” said Board President Tom Radulovich. “We have a responsibility to keep our system safe and reliable while getting the maximum value out of taxpayers’ investment.”
Over the past year, BART’s community outreach department has held over 230 community meetings with local stakeholders and civic groups to ensure widespread understanding of BART’s needs, and to hear the public’s thoughts about its capital reinvestment program.
Due to record-breaking ridership, BART has been able to find funding for many of the solutions needed to increase capacity, meet modern demand, relieve crowding, and upgrade the system. That includes the newly arriving Fleet of the Future, the Hayward Maintenance Complex, and some of the groundwork for a cutting-edge train control system.
However, the cost of the capital projects needed to repair, fix, and replace worn rail, leaking tunnels, unreliable track circuitry, and failing power transmission equipment outpaces revenue growth. BART’s plan is to dedicate funds from the bond measure solely to fixing what we have first – without earmarks, pet projects, or frills.
If voters choose to pass the measure in November, great care will be taken to ensure the public’s money is protected and spent wisely. An independent audit committee will be commissioned to publish regular, transparent reports on how the money is being spent, with open, frequent and public meetings.
BART has proven itself to be a prudent and effective steward of public bond funds in the past, executing its 2004 Earthquake Safety and Retrofitting effort under budget with better and more robust results than expected.
Public transportation continues to be at the intersection of many of the great issues facing cities in the 21st century – and voters were wise in choosing to build such an extraordinary work as BART back in 1962. Since then, BART has been a staple of this region’s culture, workforce, and values. As both riders and service providers, BART appreciates and is deeply grateful for the opportunity to connect residents to the people and places they care about.
Kerry Hamill, Government Relations Manager for BART offered additional comments regarding the cost and length of the bond measure, in response to an editorial by Dan Borenstein published in the East Bay Times:
The East Bay Times editorialist’s headline – that our bond measure will cost double what we are saying – is flatly incorrect, a conclusion drawn from a selective interpretation of our analysis. In order to assist BART’s Board of Directors in making an informed executive decision, a variety of scenarios were created with different variables relevant to particular presentations. The East Bay Times piece incorrectly appropriated data from these scenarios, resulting in an inaccurate characterization of the bond’s effects. BART has long taken care to illustrate the repayment structure of this bond in a standardized way; we have been doing so through all our exhibits and resolutions since the Board discussions began in earnest this past February.
The editorial also takes issue with how staff described the bond to the Board of Directors and the public, claiming we provided inaccurate information out of either incompetence or deceit – a charge which has absolutely no merit. Bonds are issued over time in subsets called tranches, each lasting 30 years (hence the name ’30-year bond’). This is done to coordinate the timing of bond issuance as closely as possible with construction progress payments, which minimizes interest costs and keeps the annual tax rates as low as possible – a prudent and responsible financial management practice. The editorialist was given this point of clarification multiple times as he repeatedly misrepresented the meaning of a ’30-year bond’ to mean the total span of time property owners would be paying – a false claim BART has never made. We were disappointed to see the author’s misunderstanding make the final printing, despite our best efforts.
The bond measure is projected to cost between $0.80 and $17.49 per $100,000 of a property’s assessed value, for a weighted average of $8.98 per $100,000 over the life of the bond – and for further explanation, that minimum and maximum range is based on the structure of BART’s projected debt service. The editorial’s repeated point that BART made a mathematical error in not compounding the increase in AV is also flatly incorrect, based on a misunderstanding of how the cost of bonds increase or decrease over time. The more the District’s assessed value increases (as housing supply, ownership changes, improvements increase), the lower the rate property owners would pay as the cost is spread over a larger base of assessed values. Furthermore, our models and estimates are built on the assumption of a 4% yearly increase in assessed value. $3.5B Scenario C Tax Rate At 4% AV Escalation
This is not our first bond – when the Earthquake Safety measure went before voters in 2004, the District projected that rates would vary between $4.85 to $12.79 per $100,000 of a property’s assessed value. Since approval, the actual annual cost has ranged between $2.60 (current year) and $9.00 per $100,000 of assessed value. Contrary to popular opinion, we have a proven track record of responsible fiscal stewardship. $3.5B Bond Financing
Concerned property owners are encouraged to do their own math for the sake of accuracy: $8.98 per $100,000 of assessed property value. When we provide averages for particular scenarios, we run the risk of appearing to conceal changes in amounts due to the many variables that can be introduced. Our goal is to provide people with a general understanding of a complex issue based on the best information available, which we have done and will continue to do. We are a transparent organization with deep ties to the community, and have held hundreds of meetings to ensure people understand what this bond is and how it will work. In that vein, we appreciate the opportunity to draw attention to our plan to rebuild the core of the BART system for improved safety, reliability, and traffic congestion relief.
Complete details of what is in the bond and how it relates to safety, reliability, and relief of traffic congestion can be found at bart.gov/betterbart.Read More
On Thursday morning, July 7, 2016 at about 11:00 a.m., Detectives from the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff Special Investigation Unit, assisted by the Contra Costa County Anti-Violence Support Effort (CASE) team, served a search warrant at a home on the 4500 block of Elkhorn Way in Antioch.
During the search, detectives seized approximately one pound of heroin, methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), and marijuana in sales quantities. The value of the drugs is estimated to be about $30,000.
There were also seven firearms seized, to include one shotgun, two assault rifles with hi-capacity magazines and four handguns, two of which were stolen. Detectives also recovered a stolen motorcycle. In all, over $76,000 in cash was seized.
Two people were arrested at the scene: 40-year-old Michael Green and 30-year-old Joseph Lowery. Both lived at the residence. They were both booked into the Martinez Detention Facility on various charges that include possession of a narcotic controlled substance for sales, maintaining a place for the purpose of selling drugs, possession of drugs while armed with a loaded firearm, possession of stolen property, and child endangerment.
Green is being held in lieu of $430,000 bail; Lowery’s bail is set at $340,000.Read More