Help Contra Costa beat Solano County to win the Big Apple trophy
By Contra Costa County District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis
I would like to take a moment to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and invite you to participate in the annual Counties Care Holiday Food Fight to raise money for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.
Once again, in 2023 Contra Costa and Solano counties will compete to raise funds for the Food Bank. This friendly competition, spearheaded by individual county departments, has raised nearly $2.7 million since 2003. The county that raises the most funds per employee will win the Big Apple trophy. The trophy and bragging rights pass back and forth annually, but the real winners are the recipients of the funds you raise: those that go hungry in our communities. (See results from past years’ Food Fights)
Please help raise funds for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano with a donation today. Every dollar donated provides enough food to make two meals. Of every dollar donated, 97 cents go toward food programs.
Counties Care Holiday Food Fight Challenge!
WHO: Contra Costa and Solano County Residents
WHAT: Counties Care Holiday Food Fight 2023
WHEN: Now through December 31, 2023
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano serves one in four residents and provides more than 3,400,000 meals monthly. While the Food Bank feeds our neighbors seven days a week, the need is felt even more around Thanksgiving, when a nourishing meal is the centerpiece of the day.
As you plan your Thanksgiving menu, I hope you’ll consider our neighbors and donate to make the 2023 Holiday Food Fight a success.
To donate, click the link below or mail a check to our office.
Please make checks payable to: Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano
Mail to: Office of Supervisor Diane Burgis,
Contra Costa County
3361 Walnut Blvd. Ste 140, Brentwood, CA 94513
Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.Read More
Members of Knights of Columbus at St. Ignatius Church in Antioch and other volunteers will be cooking and serving
By Steve Krank, St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County
St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County, (SVdP) is excited to announce a collaborative effort with Loaves and Fishes of Contra Costa, the Knights of Columbus of St. Ignatius Church, and dedicated SVdP volunteers and their families to host a heartwarming free Thanksgiving luncheon and celebration on November 23, 2023.
Guests are invited to join us at the SVdP Family Resource Center, located at 1415 Simpson Court, Pittsburg, CA (Corner of Gladstone Drive). The highlight of the day will be a delectable, free, Thanksgiving meal served from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM, featuring all the traditional favorites that embody the true spirit of Thanksgiving, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, salad, pumpkin pie and more. SVdP volunteers will also be handing out warm coats and jackets, generously donated by The Burlington Coat Factory, and serving delicious hot chocolate, to help everyone feel warm, safe, and in the Holiday Spirit!
Since 2010, SVdP volunteers have been providing a delicious Thanksgiving meal to the community and a warm gathering for neighbors in need and the homeless. This collaborative effort not only provides a delicious Thanksgiving feast but also gives an opportunity for community members to come together, connect with neighbors and guests, share stories, and create lasting memories.
SVdP encourages individuals to get involved by volunteering their time or making donations to contribute to the cost of food and decorations at svdp-cc.org, “DONATE NOW”. This year, SVdP is extremely grateful to the Knights of Columbus at St. Ignatius Church. KofC members, along with other caring volunteers, will be cooking and serving the Thanksgiving meal this year.
To confirm attendance or volunteer, please RSVP by November 20, 2023, via email to: Stephen Krank at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 925-439-5060 #28.
St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County and our partners look forward to hosting this special Thanksgiving celebration on Thursday, November 23 for community members, all are invited to join! Together, we can make this Thanksgiving meaningful and joyous for all involved.Read More
Smaller cities show biggest year-to-year improvements
By John Goodwin, Metropolitan Transportation Commission
Overall pavement conditions on the Bay Area’s 44,000 lane-miles of local streets and roads landed once again in fair territory last year, with the typical stretch of roadway showing serious wear and likely to require rehabilitation soon. Data released today by MTC put the region’s 2022 pavement condition index (PCI) score at 67 out of a maximum possible 100 points, as computed on a three-year moving average basis. This marks the seventh consecutive year Bay Area streets and roads have registered an average score of 67 and underscores the continuing challenges faced by city and county public works departments.
“The new pavement data continues to be a mixed bag,” commented MTC Chair and Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza. “The lack of progress toward our goal of bringing all the Bay Area’s streets and roads into a state of good repair is frustrating. At the same time, we’re encouraged that our counties and cities have been able to prevent large-scale deterioration. And the dramatic improvements seen in some of our communities, particularly those where voters have approved local taxes for street rehabilitation, show us it’s a goal that can be reached.”
PCI scores of 90 or higher are considered “excellent.” These are newly built or resurfaced streets that show little or no distress. Pavement with a PCI score in the 80 to 89 range is considered “very good” and shows only slight or moderate distress, requiring primarily preventive maintenance. The “good” category ranges from 70 to 79, while streets with PCI scores in the “fair” (60-69) range are becoming worn to the point where rehabilitation may be needed to prevent rapid deterioration. Because major repairs cost five to 10 times more than routine maintenance, these streets are at an especially critical stage. Roadways with PCI scores of 50 to 59 are deemed “at-risk,” while those with PCI scores of 25 to 49 are considered “poor.” These roads require major rehabilitation or reconstruction. Pavement with a PCI score below 25 is considered “failed.”
San Francisco, with a three-year moving average score of 74, is the only one of the Bay Area’s three largest cities to rank in the “good” category. San Jose, which has by far the largest street network in the Bay Area at nearly 4,500 lane-miles, recorded a three-year moving average score of 69. Oakland’s three-year moving average rose by two points to 54 (at-risk), but the city’s single-year score fell by one point to 57 from 58 in 2021.
The Sonoma County city of Sebastopol achieved the biggest one-year PCI gains of any Bay Area jurisdiction last year, with its 47 lane-miles of city streets registering a score of 55 (at-risk) for 2022, up 12 points from 43 (poor) the year before. Sebastopol’s three-year moving average score remains in the “poor” category at 48 points.
Other communities with big year-over-year improvements include the Santa Clara County city of Los Altos, which rose 10 points to 75 (good) last year from 65 (fair) in 2021 and the Marin County city of Larkspur, which recorded a 9-point increase to 85 (very good) from 76 (good). Larkspur as recently as 2017 registered one-year scores in the “poor” range but twice in recent years passed local sales tax measures dedicated to rehabilitating the city’s 65 lane-miles of streets. Cloverdale, Emeryville and Pacifica each registered 8-point improvements in their one-year PCI scores for 2022. Pacifica, which has long had some of the lowest average PCI ratings in the Bay Area, logged a one-year score of 49, compared to just 41 in 2021.
Five Bay Area municipalities registered three-year PCI scores in the “very good” range for the 2020-2022 period. These include Orinda (84); Cupertino and Palo Alto (83); and Brentwood, Dublin and unincorporated Solano County (80). Pavement conditions on Orinda streets were in the “at-risk” category in 2012, when voters in the Contra Costa County city approved a quarter-cent sales tax to support roadway maintenance and rehabilitation.
View the complete 2022 Pavement Conditions Summary, including percentages of local roadways in various conditions, and a listing of average PCI scores for the arterials, collector roadways and residential streets for all Bay Area counties and cities.
MTC is the regional transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.
Calls it “anti-competitive”
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, alongside the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), filed an antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging John Muir Health’s (John Muir) acquisition of Tenet Healthcare Corporation’s (Tenet) controlling interest in the for-profit San Ramon Regional Medical Center located in San Ramon in Contra Costa County. The complaint for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction filed today argues that the acquisition is inherently anticompetitive, and illegal under the Clayton Act. It seeks to block John Muir and Tenet from completing the proposed acquisition, under which John Muir would become the sole owner of San Ramon Regional Medical Center. In the lawsuit, Attorney General Bonta and the FTC argue the proposed acquisition illegally threatens to eliminate substantial competition between the San Ramon Regional Medical Center and John Muir’s nearby hospitals, significantly increasing consolidation in an already highly concentrated market, and leading to increased prices for patients, employers, and insurers.
“We’re in court today challenging John Muir Health’s anticompetitive acquisition of San Ramon Regional Medical Center, because when healthcare markets illegally consolidate, patients pay the price,” said Bonta. “At the California Department of Justice, ensuring that every Californian can access quality, affordable care is a top priority. Competitive markets help keep prices lower. We will continue to fight to ensure that Bay Area residents – and all Californians – can access the affordable healthcare they need to live healthy and happy lives.”
San Ramon Regional Medical Center is a 123-bed general acute care hospital located in the community of San Ramon, California along the I-680 corridor in Contra Costa County. San Ramon Regional Medical Center is currently owned by Tenet and John Muir through a joint venture. Currently, Tenet, a for-profit healthcare company is 51% majority owner of San Ramon Regional Medical Center. Its profitable strategy for San Ramon Regional Medical Center has been to charge lower prices, while offering high quality care. John Muir is a hospital system headquartered in Walnut Creek, California, which owns two general acute care hospitals north of San Ramon along the I-680 corridor: the 540-bed Walnut Creek Medical Center and the 244-bed Concord Medical Center. Both of these hospitals are located in the same geographic market as, and are direct competitors to, San Ramon Regional Medical Center. As such, John Muir’s purchase of the remaining interest in San Ramon raises significant competition concerns. A 2020 RAND study on hospital price transparency found John Muir’s Walnut Creek Medical Center was the costliest hospital in the nation from 2016 through 2018 and reporting by the New York Times stated: “John Muir Health . . . [is] the most costly system in the nation. Private insurers pay its hospitals four times what Medicare reimburses for care.”
In the lawsuit, Attorney General Bonta and the FTC argue that if John Muir were permitted to acquire San Ramon Regional Medical Center, insurers and their enrollees would have fewer alternatives for inpatient services in the I-680 corridor. As a result, John Muir would be able to demand higher rates from insurers. In turn, higher rates would likely lead to higher insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs or reduced benefits for commercial health insurance enrollees. Furthermore, San Ramon Regional Medical Center also competes with John Muir for patients by investing to improve its quality, service offerings, and facilities. These investments, and the competition that prompts them, provide meaningful benefits to San Ramon’s patients. If allowed to move forward, the proposed acquisition would immediately eliminate this competition, reducing healthcare investment and improvement along the I-680 corridor for California residents.
A copy of the complaint is available here.
Claims proposed deal would threaten competition in I-680 corridor, leading to higher prices and reduced incentive to improve quality of care for patients; John Muir Health assessing options, issues response
The Federal Trade Commission today, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, sued to block John Muir Health’s proposed $142.5 million deal to acquire sole ownership of San Ramon Regional Medical Center, LLC from current majority owner Tenet Healthcare Corporation, saying the deal will drive up health care costs. (See related article)
The Commission issued an administrative complaint and authorized a lawsuit in federal court alleging the proposed acquisition will eliminate head-to-head competition between John Muir Health (John Muir) and nearby San Ramon Regional Medical Center (San Ramon Medical). John Muir and San Ramon Medical operate in California’s I-680 corridor, which spans Contra Costa and Alameda Counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The deal would allow John Muir to demand higher rates at its two hospitals as well as San Ramon Medical for inpatient general acute care services (GAC), which are a broad range of essential medical, surgical, and diagnostic services that require an overnight hospital stay. The elimination of competition between John Muir and San Ramon Medical would also reduce incentives for these hospitals to invest in quality improvements.
“San Ramon Regional Medical Center has played an important role in ensuring Californians in the I-680 corridor have access to quality, affordable care for critical health care services, such as cardiac surgery and childbirth,” said Henry Liu, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “John Muir’s acquisition of San Ramon Medical would increase already high health care costs in the area and threaten to stall quality improvements that help advance care for all patients.”
The FTC and the California Attorney General’s office closely cooperated throughout the investigation and will jointly file a complaint in federal district court.
John Muir Health, a non-profit corporation headquartered in Walnut Creek, California, operates two hospitals that provide inpatient GAC services along the I-680 corridor. Dallas-based Tenet operates 61 general acute care hospitals and hundreds of outpatient facilities nationally, including numerous facilities in California.
Currently, Tenet operates San Ramon Medical and holds a 51% interest in the medical center, while John Muir owns a 49% non-operating interest in San Ramon Medical. Under the terms of the proposed deal, John Muir would acquire Tenet’s remaining interest in San Ramon Medical and would become its sole owner and operator.
The complaint alleges that the proposed deal would allow John Muir to control more than 50% of the market for inpatient GAC services sold to commercial insurers and their enrollees in the I-680 corridor, eliminating competition between John Muir and San Ramon Medical to provide better services, high-quality care, and access that benefits patients in this region. Currently, San Ramon Medical is a lower-priced competitor seeking to offer inpatient GAC services in the I-680 corridor to enrollees. John Muir’s hospitals are close competitors to San Ramon Medical in terms of both patient preference and geographic location, according to the complaint. The proposed acquisition would lead to higher insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs, or reduced benefits for commercial health insurance enrollees, the complaint alleges.
In addition to filing an administrative complaint, FTC staff will also ask a federal court to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent John Muir from taking control of San Ramon Medical pending the agency’s administrative proceeding.
The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and authorize staff to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction was 3-0. The federal court complaint and request for preliminary relief will be filed jointly with the California Attorney General in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to halt the transaction pending an administrative proceeding. A public version of the complaint will be available and linked to this news release as soon as possible.
John Muir Health Assessing Options Following FTC Challenge of Acquisition
In response John Muir Health spokesman Ben Drew issued the following statement:
Today, John Muir Health (JMH) and Tenet Healthcare learned that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided to challenge JMH’s agreement with Tenet to acquire sole ownership of San Ramon Regional Medical Center (SRRMC). JMH has owned a 49% interest in SRRMC since 2013 and, under the proposed agreement, would acquire the remaining 51% interest from Tenet.
“We are disappointed by the FTC’s decision, and are discussing our options and next steps, including challenging the decision in court,” said Mike Thomas, president and CEO of John Muir Health. “We believe the proposed acquisition would benefit our community, caregivers and patients, as well as John Muir Health, San Ramon Regional Medical Center, and Pleasanton Diagnostic Imaging.”
For now, SRRMC will continue to operate under the current joint venture structure between JMH and Tenet with Tenet managing the operations of the hospital. Pleasanton Diagnostic Imaging (PDI), which is also part of the proposed agreement, will remain operated by United Surgical Partners International (USPI).
After announcing the agreement in January, JMH and Tenet learned in late March that the FTC intended to conduct a more in-depth review of the transaction. As part of the FTC’s review process, JMH and Tenet submitted a large volume of documents and data, as well as expert testimony on the Bay Area health care market and letters of support from local community leaders and government officials.
By acquiring SRRMC and PDI, JMH would be able to further enhance care for the community by:
- Integrating SRRMC and PDI onto JMH’s version of Epic, the electronic health record used in the health system’s inpatient and outpatient facilities and by nearly 1,000 physicians and healthcare providers throughout the community.
- Extending JMH’s quality enhancement and population health programs to SRRMC and the surrounding community.
- Making investments in facilities and enhanced services at SRRMC to reduce the number of patients leaving the community for their care.
Acquiring SRRMC is consistent with JMH’s history and would further the health system’s mission to improve the health of the communities it serves with quality and compassion. In 1997, John Muir Medical Center and Mt. Diablo Medical Center came together along with the John Muir Physician Network to create John Muir Health to better serve the community.
“We appreciate the patience of John Muir Health, San Ramon Regional Medical Center and Pleasanton Diagnostic Imaging-affiliated employees and physicians throughout this process,” continued Thomas. “Once we determine our course of action, we will communicate with all impacted audiences.”
NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The issuance of the administrative complaint marks the beginning of a proceeding in which the allegations will be tried in a formal hearing before an administrative law judge.
Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.
All entrance activity fees waived in East Bay Regional Parks
By Dave Mason, Public Information Supervisor, Public Affairs, East Bay Regional Park District
Thursday, November 16, 2023 (Oakland, CA) – Celebrate Green Friday, November 24, with an East Bay Regional Parks FREE Park Day. Green Friday provides healthy and fun ways to enjoy the day after Thanksgiving with family and friends.
On Green Friday, all entrance activity fees are waived in Regional Parks, including parking, dogs, horses, boat launching, and fishing, as well as entrance to Ardenwood Historic Farm. The fee waiver does not include state fees for fishing licenses and watercraft inspections or concessions, such as the Tilden Merry-Go-Round and Redwood Valley Railway steam train.
For the past nine years, the East Bay Regional Park District has celebrated Green Friday to encourage the public to spend time in nature.
Green Friday activities in Regional Parks include:
Hike It Off, 9:00 a.m. – Reinhardt Redwood, Oakland
Fall Scavenger Hunt, 9:00 a.m. – Sunol, Sunol
Green Friday Hike, 10:00 a.m. – Del Valle, Livermore
History Hike ABOVE the Mines!, 10:00 a.m. – Black Diamond Mines, Antioch
Farm Chores for Kids, 10:30 a.m. – Ardenwood, Fremont
Meet The Bunnies, 11:30 a.m. – Ardenwood, Fremont
Stilts, 1:30 p.m. – Ardenwood, Fremont
Woodland Wonderland, 3:30 p.m. – Del Valle, Livermore
For more information about Green Friday, visit www.ebparks.org/green-friday.
The East Bay Regional Park District is the largest regional park system in the nation, comprising 73 parks, 55 miles of shoreline, and over 1,300 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and environmental education. The Park District receives more than 25 million visits annually throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.Read More
Claims typical residential customer will pay $32.62 more for combined monthly electric and natural gas bill beginning January 1, 2024.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, resolved Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) General Rate Case (GRC), which covers its operational and infrastructure revenue requirement for 2023-2026. The decision marks a crucial step in fortifying the future of California’s electric grid while prioritizing customer affordability.
Based on the evidence presented, the CPUC today unanimously approved the Alternate Proposed Decision of Commissioner John Reynolds. This decision approves investments in the safety and reliability of PG&E’s energy services. Inflation and a significant investment in undergrounding electric lines ranked among the top drivers in PG&E’s request. Over the past year and a half, numerous parties reviewed PG&E’s GRC request and provided input on each cost category and related proposed expenditures.
“I am proud of today’s decision because it represents the CPUC’s commitment to finding a reasonable balance in the face of incredibly challenging circumstances and competing objectives,” said Commissioner John Reynolds, who is assigned to the proceeding. “This decision ultimately represents both an historic investment in PG&E’s electric and natural gas systems as well as an expectation that PG&E must continue to be safer and more efficient. I am grateful to the many parties, and the scores of CPUC staffers, for their help as we grappled with this decision.”
Today’s decision propels PG&E’s energy infrastructure and operations into the future, addressing critical objectives such as mitigating wildfire risk, enhancing safety and reliability, and anticipating evolving electric grid demands. This comprehensive approach not only ensures PG&E’s capacity to maintain a safe and reliable energy system with a dedicated workforce, but also positions California for a more resilient energy future in the face of climate change. Moreover, the decision reflects rigorous oversight over hundreds of programs, and reduces PG&E’s request to more accurately reflect forecasts for prudent use of ratepayer funds.
Among the key initiatives covered in the decision:
- Wildfire System Enhancement and Undergrounding
- Approves 1,230 miles of electric line undergrounding, as well as 778 miles of covered conductor, totaling 2,008 hardened miles. This represents an historic opportunity for PG&E to invest in safer, reliable improvements for its customers while also achieving economies of scale to drive down costs; the revised undergrounding total also provides PG&E with a bridge to a future phase of undergrounding planning, through the Senate Bill 884 program.
- Vegetation Management
- Approves PG&E investing approximately $1.3 billion in vegetation management to reduce wildfire ignition risk and improve reliability on PG&E’s electrical system.
- Capacity Upgrades
- Approves PG&E investing more than $2.5 billion in upgrading the electric distribution system from 2023-2026, which will help prepare the grid to support initiatives for enhanced building electrification and new interconnections for electric vehicle charging stations and new housing and businesses.
“Today’s decision balances a myriad of competing interests—affordability, feasibility, safety, and reliability,” said CPUC President Alice Reynolds. “And in the face of increasingly turbulent climate-driven weather events, it gives PG&E the opportunity to prove it can underground electric lines at scale. This will allow PG&E to achieve economies of scale, drive down costs, and reduce wildfire risk.”
Setting the pathway for critical investments in PG&E’s system
For PG&E customers, this approval by the CPUC translates to a continued commitment to safe, reliable, and affordable energy services. The GRC ensures that every dollar invested contributes to more resilient energy infrastructure, offering customers lasting benefits. Moreover, stringent accountability measures are embedded within the decision, assuring customers that their investment yields tangible and accountable improvements in PG&E’s operations and services.
PG&E requested $15.4 billion for 2023; Thursday’s decision cut that amount substantially, by $1.8 billion. Today’s decision sets the 2023 revenue requirement at $13.5 billion, reflecting an 11 percent increase from the authorized 2022 revenue requirement. For the typical residential customer, their combined monthly electric and natural gas bill will increase by $32.62 or 12.8 percent, compared to PG&E’s request of $38.73 or 17.9 percent increase.
|PG&E’s 2022 Authorized Revenue Requirement||Proposed 2023
|Percent Increase||Dollar Increase|
|$12.2 billion||PG&E Request||$15.4 billion||26%||$3.2 billion|
|Decision||$13.5 billion||11%||$1.3 billion|
Customers can expect any changes to their bill to go into effect on January 1, 2024.
For further information on the proceeding, including today’s decision and a fact sheet, please visit the CPUC’s website.
About the California Public Utilities Commission
The CPUC regulates services and utilities, protects consumers, safeguards the environment, and assures Californians access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services. Visit www.cpuc.ca.gov for more information.
Expected to boost Bay Area housing bond; Cal Chamber opposes; requires majority of voters to approve
By Allen D. Payton
MTC/ABAG-backed Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1, which would lower the vote threshold for local special taxes and bonds to fund affordable housing, transportation, resilience and other public infrastructure projects from two-thirds to 55%, will go to voters in November 2024.
The state Legislature in September approved sending the amendment, authored by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, to voters with the backing of the entire Bay Area legislative delegation. MTC and ABAG sent letters of support to Sacramento and MTC/ABAG legislative staff actively lobbied the bill to help get it over the finish line.
Similar bills have been proposed over the past two decades but until now none were approved by the house of origin, a hurdle that itself requires a two-thirds vote. Other supporters included Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California, Enterprise Community Partners, the California Professional Firefighters, and individual cities and counties.
The Bay Area is preparing to place a regional housing bond on the November 2024 ballot, with 80% of funds flowing to counties and several large cities and 20% designated for regionwide programs administered by the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA).
“While Bay Area voters have a long history of generously supporting taxes to fund transportation and housing improvements, measures in some parts of the region have repeatedly fallen short of the two-thirds margin,” MTC-ABAG Executive Director Andrew Fremier noted. “ACA 1 would reinstate the ability of voting majorities to address vital community needs.”
The election of ACA 1 co-author Robert Rivas to the Assembly speakership helped build momentum for the proposed amendment, as did the nonprofit housing community’s raising of $10 million to gather signatures for a citizen’s initiative if the legislature didn’t approve the amendment.
California Chamber of Commerce Opposes
The constitutional amendment is opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce. In a report by policy advocate Preston Young before it passed, he claims ACA1 would increase costs for key sectors, will erode taxpayer safeguards and would harm California workers.
Preston wrote, “This would provide increased tax authority for many local government agencies in California—not just cities and counties, but thousands of potentially overlapping special districts.
In a letter sent to legislators recently, the CalChamber pointed out that while it’s important to improve infrastructure and increase housing availability, higher property, sales and parcel taxes on working Californians run counter to the goal of making the state more affordable for all.
Businesses engaged in manufacturing, research and development, teleproduction and post-production, and agriculture face a significant sales and use tax burden in California.
The sales and use tax is supposed to be a tax on the final point of sale of a product, yet many businesses—including businesses conducting research and development, manufacturing, filming activities, and agriculture—are taxed for equipment purchases.
Taxation of business inputs for these industries leads to a pyramiding effect throughout the production process, leading to higher costs for purchases made by consumers, the CalChamber explained in its letter. To counter this pyramiding effect and incentivize business growth in the state, California offers a partial state-level sales tax exemption for purchases made by these industries. However, purchases made by these businesses are still subject to local transactions and use taxes.
Equipment purchases represent a significant portion of capital investment for existing businesses and start-ups. Tax increases promoted by ACA 1 would defeat the purpose of the state-level exemption provided by the state and make it more cost-prohibitive to conduct these business activities in California, the CalChamber warned.
ACA 1 would allow local jurisdictions to approve Bradley-Burns sales tax increases with a 55% vote of the electorate, eliminating the uniformity and certainty provided by the Bradley-Burns sales tax.
This would represent a monumental change to sales and use tax policy in the state, the CalChamber said. Unlike the transactions and use tax—which is capped at 2% per county and requires statutory authority to exceed the cap—the local 1.25% sales tax (referred to as the Bradley-Burns sales tax) is uniformly applied across the state and voters are not authorized to approve increases to the rate.
“California already has the highest state-imposed sales tax in the country, and the combined sales tax rates in some jurisdictions are among the highest in the United States,” the CalChamber said. “Allowing localities to modify their Bradley-Burns sales tax rates, without a cap on rate increases, paves the way for excessive combined sales tax rates in parts of the state—increasing costs for residents and businesses.”
More than four decades ago, prompted by years of rising taxes, Californians resoundingly approved Proposition 13 to provide a check on local governments’ taxing authority, and to ensure a greater representative voice for those who would be taxed. Proposition 13 also limits taxes on property to 1% of the property’s assessed value.
Reducing the vote threshold would diminish the people’s voice on tax increases and would erode property tax safeguards. The CalChamber pointed out that a May 2022 Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 64% of registered voters believe Proposition 13 has benefitted taxpayers, and this support reaches across nearly every major demographic.
After comparing the costs of operating in California versus other states, many employers left the state in recent years. A Hoover Institution report found that from 2018 to 2022, at least 352 companies relocated their headquarters out of California—with many businesses citing the state’s tax burden as the deciding factor in their relocation.
The relocation of these companies and their employees to lower-cost states has a major impact on state and local tax revenue, causes unemployment for workers who cannot move to the new location, and is a sign that California must find ways to be more competitive, the CalChamber stressed.
“Tax increases such as those promoted in ACA 1 would be a step in the wrong direction and would encourage more companies to move workers and investments to other states,” the CalChamber said.
Indeed, Californians are sensitive to this problem. A 2020 Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll found that 78% of voters “agreed that taxes in California were already so high that they were driving many people and businesses out of the state.”
Majority Vote Needed to Pass
According to a report by the California Globe, Article XVIII, Section 4 of the California Constitution, “requires a proposed amendment or revision to be submitted to the electors and, if approved by a majority of votes, takes effect on the fifth day after the Secretary of State files the statement of the vote for the election at which the measure is voted on, but the measure may provide that it becomes operative after its effective date.”Read More
Lower prices, thousands more e-bikes and 55 mew stations
By John Goodwin & Laura Krull, Metropolitan Transportation Commission
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Lyft announced on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023, a drop in both annual membership prices for the Bay Area’s Bay Wheels regional bikeshare program and members’ e-bike usage fees, as well as the addition of more than 2,000 next generation e-bikes to the Bay Wheels fleet and the rollout of 55 additional docking stations in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. These measures are aimed at improving Bay Wheels’ long-term sustainability by growing ridership and reducing operational costs.
Beginning today, the cost of an annual Bay Wheels membership will drop to $150 from $169 and the cost for members to use a Bay Wheels e-bike will drop to 15 cents per minute from 20 cents per minute. In addition, monthly members will now automatically transition to an annual membership at no additional cost when they renew for five consecutive months. MTC next year will launch a pilot program to provide reduced-cost annual memberships for Bay Area college students.
“Bikesharing, and e-bikes in particular, play a central role in our Plan Bay Area 2050 strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” explained MTC Chair and Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza. “The Commission this year committed $20 million of federal climate investment money to promote the use of e-bikes for more of the short trips Bay Area residents make each day. These improvements to the Bay Wheels system are a big part of that commitment.”
The expansion of Bay Wheels’ e-bike fleet will begin this week in San Jose and San Francisco, with the addition of e-bikes to Bay Wheels locations in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville expected to begin in the coming months, pending local approval. E-bikes’ ability to climb hills, travel longer distances, and attract riders of varying physical abilities have made them a transformational mobility option for Bay Area residents and visitors alike.
“E-bikes are perfect for San Francisco — they make our steep hills flat. We’re grateful to MTC and Lyft for helping make e-bikes more accessible to more people,” said Jeff Tumlin, SFMTA Director of Transportation.
Bay Wheels’ existing e-bikes are used three times as often as classic pedal bikes. The system’s new generation e-bikes have double the battery life, a more powerful motor for going uphill, improved stability and ergonomics, and better theft deterrents. These new bikes will exclusively dock in stations to improve predictability and availability for riders.
“I’m thrilled that Lyft and MTC are helping San Jose expand access to alternative modes of transportation in our growing downtown,” said Mayor Matt Mahan. “E-bikes are a fun and affordable way to get around the city and they have the wonderful benefit of reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions.”
“We are ready and eager to help make MTC’s plan a reality to strengthen Bay Wheels and benefit the regional transportation network,” said Caroline Samponaro, Vice President of Transit and Micromobility Public Policy at Lyft. “Our shared goal is get more people to choose bikes for their transportation needs and we’re taking action on the three things that will make the greatest impact: lower prices for members, new hill-climbing e-bikes and a more robust station network.”
To enhance the growth of Bay Wheels’ e-bike fleet, MTC and Lyft are piloting grid-connected charging stations using Lyft’s next generation station technology. Electrified stations improve e-bike availability for riders by increasing the number of bikes with sufficient battery charge and making operations more efficient. E-bike batteries currently are charged in a warehouse and manually swapped at the station.
MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. Launched in 2017, Bay Wheels is the Bay Area’s regional bikeshare program with over 6,000 bicyles — both pedal-powered and pedal-assist electrict bikes — at more than 500 stations in San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. Lyft operates the Bay Wheels program under a contract managed by MTC.
State Senator Glazer might also run
By Allen D. Payton
With the opening of the filing period for the March 4, 2024 primary election on Monday, Nov. 13, this week, former Contra Costa Supervisor Karen Mitchoff confirmed she is running for State Assembly District 15. Earlier this year a letter emailed to supporters that shared her intentions was obtained and published by other media. At that time, Mitchoff said she her campaign would be sending out a formal announcement later.
“Since it was out there, we decided not to send out a press release announcing my campaign,” she said in a brief interview with the Herald. “So, I’m definitely running.”
According to her campaign website, “Karen Mitchoff was elected to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors in 2010 and has twice been re-elected by substantial margins.
Karen has a long and varied career in public service and is known for her straightforward style and effective constituent service. In her 12 years on the Board of Supervisors, Karen worked to improve water quality and save the Delta, championed aging issues, improved public safety, expanded access to County healthcare, and fought for transportation improvements.
As Supervisor, Karen served in leadership positions on regional bodies: the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, the Delta Counties Coalition, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the Association of Bay Area Governments.
Prior to her election to the Board of Supervisors, Karen served as Councilmember and Mayor of Pleasant Hill and was elected to the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District Board.
Karen began her career in the private sector as a Legal Secretary and Family Law Paralegal. She transitioned to public service, working for former Contra Costa County Sheriff-Coroner Richard K. Rainey, as Chief of Staff to two former supervisors and as a fiscal and administrative analyst in the County’s social services department.
An avid reader, one of Karen’s proudest achievements was negotiating a complex land deal between the County and the City of Pleasant Hill to help finance and build a new library, which opened last year.”
According to her LinkedIn account, in 2002 Mitchoff earned a BA degree in Human Development from Cal State East Bay.
District 15 includes all of the following cities: Antioch, Brentwood, Clayton, Concord, Martinez, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill and a portion of Walnut Creek. It also includes the communities of Bay Point, Clyde, Crockett, Pacheco, Port Costa, and Vine Hill.
She will face Antioch Councilwoman Monica Wilson and Contra Costa Board of Education Trustee Anamarie Avila Farias in the March 2024 primary election.
But Mitchoff shared that State Senator Steve Glazer might also enter the race as he has two more years of eligibility under term limits.
On Friday, Glazer said he mentioned it on one of his recent podcasts. Regarding his State Senate seat he said, “I’m in a grey area with term limits. The previous law said if you served less than half a term, then it doesn’t count. But the new law is silent on the matter. I made the decision to not be the test case. There might be candidates who might not file if I did, and I could the case.”
“Under the term limits I could run for the Assembly. I’m currently in my ninth year of twelve and I could serve one more term in the Assembly,” Glazer explained. “I have not decided, yet. Filing closes on December 13.”
To learn more about Mitchoff and her campaign visit www.karenmitchoff.com