Andersen only no vote on tax increase measure; support Martizians for Black Lives and mural; approve Grand Jury report on wildfire preparedness; finalize recruitment process for new County Administrator
By Daniel Borsuk
Just as Contra Costa County’s top public health official Anna Roth informed the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday the number of COVID-19 positive cases has risen to 2,586 cases, an increase from 92 cases three weeks earlier, and with 79 COVID -19 stricken patients in county hospitals, up from 35 patients in county hospital six weeks previously, Supervisors reacted swiftly by extending a county-wide ordinance prohibiting rental evictions and rental increases until September 30.
Supervisors received overwhelming telephone citizen support to extend the ordinance’s benefits to renters and small businessowners two and half months during Tuesday’s teleconference meeting. The ordinance that had protected tenants from evictions and rent increases would have expired on Wednesday, July 15.
The new ordinance won unanimous support from supervisors.
“The emergency is not over with the COVID 19 pandemic. The economic impact our residents face has not subsided, said Board Chair Candace Andersen in a statement. “We sincerely hope passage of this new ordinance to extend the eviction protection of rent freeze will continue to protect renters and small businesses even as landlords and renters work together to have tenants pay what they can over a longer period of time.
The ordinance contains a no-fault provision that landlords cannot increase the rent on a residential property until Sept. 30, Andersen said in her statement. It applies to all 19 cities in the county as well as all unincorporated areas.
Support Placing Half-Cent Sales Tax Increase on Ballot on Split Vote
The Supervisors, on a 4-1 vote, also flashed the green light to allow county officials to proceed in drafting a county-wide ballot measure possibly for the November election for a half-cent sales tax increase to support county services.
Supervisors reviewed findings from a poll that cost $10,000 and conducted by FM3 Research that found among 666 persons who were polled, “To keep Contra Costa’s regional hospital open and staff; fund community health centers; provide timely fire and emergency response; support crucial safety-net services; invest in early childhood services; protect vulnerable populations; and for other essential county services, shall the Contra Costa County measure levying a half-cent sales tax, exempting food sales, providing an estimated $81,000,000 annually that the State cannot take, requiring fiscal accountability, with funds benefitting County residents, be adopted?”
The FM3 Research poll found that 62 percent of the respondents would possibly support a tax measure, 31 percent oppose, and 7 percent had no response.
Board Chair Candace Andersen, who represents District 2, cast the lone no vote against the sales tax proposal saying she had “serious concerns” about the measure. The supervisor from Danville said “it would add further tax burdens to families now stressed by the economic impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic restrictions.”
“A sales tax is the most regressive form of taxation for those who can least afford it. I think the timing is really, really off,” she added.
But District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond, who has constantly defended the need for a countywide sales tax to support county services, said, “The need is more apparent now that county services are underfunded and need additional tax support.”
The tax increase would require support of a 50% plus one simple majority of voters to pass. The Supervisors have until August 7 to place the measure on the November ballot. According to the Contra Costa County Elections website, supporters and opponents would have until August 19 to file Arguments in Favor or Against and until August 24 to file rebuttals.
Support Martizians for Black Lives & Mural
Supervisors approved, without opposition, a resolution “supporting Martizians for Black Lives in their legal public commentary through their ‘Blacks Lives Matter’ mural, and strongly condemns those who illegally deface this mural as a racist and illegal act.” The resolution is in reference to the Black Lives Matter mural that was painted and temporarily defaced in front of the Martinez court house with black paint by a woman and assisted by a man, who said they were defacing the mural with comments such as “Racism is a lie,” “There is no racism,” “This is not happening in my town, “ “No one wants Black Lives Matter,” and “All lives matter.”
Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton stated, “The mural completed last weekend was a peaceful and powerful way to communicate the importance of Black lives in Contra Costa County and the country. We must continue to elevate discussions and actually listen to one another in an effort to heal our community and country.”
Grand Jury Report on Wildfire Preparedness
A Grand Jury Report, “Wildfire Preparedness in Contra Costa County,” was approved as a consent item, but among the panel’s recommendations were:
“The Board of Directors of Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District, and San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District should consider directing their Fire Chief to update wildfire evacuation plans and incorporate pre-determined polygons and advanced routing technology, by June 30, 2021.”
The Grand Jury Report also states directors of the five county fire districts “should consider identifying funds to adopt or expand the use of new technologies, such as ground sensors, drones, satellites, and fire spotting cameras, to help detect fires in high-risk areas by June 30, 2021.”
Additionally, the report recommends that directors of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District and Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District should review and consider an ordinance similar to the one the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District passed that would enable their fire district to recover labor and equipment costs from PG&E for overseeing electrical utility work that presents a high fire risk by June 30, 2021. “
In other action, supervisors approved the sale of two parcels of county owned land at 1750 Oak Park Blvd. and 75 Santa Barbara Road, that is the site of the former Pleasant Hill Library, for $13.8 million to developer Davidon Homes. The site is part of a proposed development calling for the construction of a new City-owned library, 34 single-family homes, and open space. No one spoke either in opposition or in favor of the sale.
Finalize Recruitment Process for New County Administrator
Supervisors also authorized recruitment consultant Peckham & McKenney, a Sacramento firm that supervisors had hired to recruit a new County Administrator to replace David Twa, who will retire at the end of this year to begin the recruitment process. The supervisors had approved a $30,500 contract last month with Peckham & McKenney.
The successful candidate could earn an annual salary of as much as $381,000.
The recruiter has proposed a schedule that includes resume deadline of Sept. 22, preliminary interview running from Sept. 23 through Oct. 9, Recommendations of Candidates on Oct. 13, Interview – First Round the week of Oct. 26 and Second Round the week of Nov. 2.
The recruiters work is slated to be completed with the successful replacement of a new county administrator before Jan. 31, 2021, the end of the contract with Peckham & McKenney.