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Contra Costa MAC reforms on table

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Monday, December 17th, 2007 at 10:41 am in Contra Costa politics.

Contra Costa County’s push to reform and standardize the operations of its municipal advisory committees, or MACS, may meet with vocal resistance Tuesday.

The county Board of Supervisors called the all-MAC meeting to present its draft policy recommendations but opposition is already pouring in. Some members of these hyper-local community boards were already peeved after the county stripped them last year of their elected status and converted them to political appointees.

The county has 10 MACs in unincorporated communities such as Byron, Knightsen, Rodeo and Kensington. The county assigns MAC duties to two elected community service district boards, one in Discovery Bay and the other in Diablo. These boards have no authority and receive little funding but serve as a sounding board on local issues and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on issues that may impact their residents.

These boards have operated for years under inconsistent rules, funding and oversight, and the county wants to create a single playbook. For example, the supervisors are considering the imposition of minimum standards for reporting and storage of minutes, term limits on membership and uniform funding.

On the surface, it sounds like a housekeeping matter.

But in Supervisor Mary Piepho’s district, some local folks view the move as a hostile take-over designed to silence and intimidate her critics. Piepho has had repeated run-ins with MAC members in Knightsen and Byron over the community board’s authority to send letters stating their positions to any entity other than the Board of Supervisors. Former Knightsen MAC member John Gonzalez, and a Piepho critic, says the county has plenty of laws in place to govern its MACs and questioned the use of public resources for a minor matter at a time when the county faces far more serious issues. “I’m hoping there is not an ulterior motive,” he wrote. “The talk of the community lately is why would the supervisors make it so difficult to work with them?”

Piepho has said repeatedly that her intent is to open the MACs to the entire community and lend more transparency and accountability to their activities.

The bigger question may be whether or not Piepho and fellow Supervisor Federal Glover, who lead a sub-committee charged with developing the MAC guidelines, really want right now to start a battle over citizen advisory committees. Both face the potential of strong opponents in their 2008 re-election campaigns. Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, has said he will challenge Piepho and most expect Antioch Mayor Don Freitas will declare his candidacy in Glover’s supervisorial district in January.

If you’re interested, the all-MAC meeting will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Dec. 18 at the Board of Supervisors’ chambers, 651 Pine St., Martinez, CA.

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  • John A Gonzales

    Well, I guess I am now either a Blogger, Bloggee, Blogite, or Blogonian. A critic of Piepho ? Not quite one hundred percent, but probably more than less. Statements regarding MAC’s such as ” remove the dead weight ” is quite insulting when All MAC Members give thier unpaid personal time to the community and county for the benefit of the county. Dead weight is an unessecary cost that needs to be reduced or eliminated without affecting the operation of an entity. MAC’s are unpaid yet provide an enormoud amount of feedback and work that assists in cost savings to the taxpayers of the county. When no appreciation comes back from your Supervisor to any members. When your supervisor does not support your communities identity, and I could go on but then I would be a real critic of Piepho when I actually have a sliver of hope that my little confidence will not be removed totally by this springs supervisorial actions in District III. I hope that whatever is done this next year, the preservation, heritage , and history of East County is not damaged by special interest movements. My heart is in my community over all else. That will never change.

  • John A Gonzales

    Well, I guess I am now either a Blogger, Bloggee, Blogite, or Blogonian. A critic of Piepho ? Not quite one hundred percent, but probably more than less. Statements regarding MAC’s such as ” remove the dead weight ” is quite insulting when All MAC Members give thier unpaid personal time to the community and county for the benefit of the county. Dead weight is an unessecary cost that needs to be reduced or eliminated without affecting the operation of an entity. MAC’s are unpaid yet provide an enormoud amount of feedback and work that assists in cost savings to the taxpayers of the county. When no appreciation comes back from your Supervisor to any members. When your supervisor does not support your communities identity, and I could go on but then I would be a real critic of Piepho when I actually have a sliver of hope that my little confidence will not be removed totally by this springs supervisorial actions in District III. I hope that whatever is done this next year, the preservation, heritage , and history of East County is not damaged by special interest movements. My heart is in my community over all else. That will never change.

  • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UnboundedEducation/ Michael Sarabia

    I am former elected MAC member and active participant.
    I believe MACs serve a real and valuable purpose but, only if they are elected, not if they are appointed.
    If they are appointed because they agree with the views of the Supervisor then they are not needed.

    If they totally disagree with the Supervisor, they will be ineffectual in getting support from the Supervisor, also, they will have to openly disagree with people that supported and elected the Supervisor and likely fail re-election -a key Democracy Value.

    Elected MAC Membership opens the possibility that any tight knit group, could vote as a group and rule the MAC elections but, that is the price of Democracy.
    We all have the equal right to join, or form, whatever groups we think will support our values. An essential aspect of Democracy is Freedom of Association.

    I do favor the use of Term Limits, to four or six years maximum, this promotes wider participation and variety of views -reduces the ‘arragance’ tendency.

    I also favor, larger size MACs, eight or ten, with staggered terms to maximize overlap. This is an unpaid position and more voices help support more views.

    In the computer era, it is practical to define MAC election boundaries to insure wide representation.

    An all-appointed MAC converts a local microphone into a loudspeaker. People that may otherwise be controlled by special interest groups will have no voice. True anywhere, even Iraq.

    The most important change I favor, more than any of the above, is the simplest. Formally meet with the Supervisor, and/or, staff once a year in open session and once a year in private session. This could serve to give MAC members insight and background in current and future issues on which their views may be relevant
    -even if their vote is not required. Like a Seminar similar the Joint All-MAC Meetings we had twice a year they were all excellent and should be kept, unchanged.

  • John A Gonzales

    Well, here we are one year later on the ” MAC ” reform. Let’s see my comment was what a year ago ?
    “I’m hoping there is not an ulterior motive,”
    Sure enough, after the election safety net of four more years to retaliate, not communicate, co-mingle with her spouse about Discovery Bay CSD ( if thats not a conflict of interest ! ) Piepho puts a hatchet to Knightsen and Byron that show benefit for her hubbys Discovery Bay personel agenda. She incorporates a MAC reform that includes Discovery Bay that has no MAC. Could this be a cover for ulterior motives ? The thing that is really low down dirty and underhanded is the lack of community impute allowed on the reduction part of representation area issue. The citizens both in Byron & Knightsen that were removed from representation never saw it coming. They were not mailed, phoned, or encouraged to comment on thier loss of MAC representation. Quite frankly I never thought she would be that evil to the small communities she is suppose to represent. While Piepho claims ” We have worked on this for three years and went out to all the MACs, Communities, etc…. ” is a bunch of bologna. The truth is there were meetings , the deciet comes in when no one knows that Byron and Knightsen are chopped in two until a couple days before the Board of Sups hearing. We all knew a MAC RE-Org was in the works ( even though Tom Torlakson had established protocol several years prior and approve by the BOS). What we were led to believe was a policy change not a boundary change. What we didn’t know is how Piepho would cover the entire policy change with surprisingly and coincindentaly boundary reduction by half for only two of the eleven MACs ( Byron & Knightsen, {the ones north and south of Discovery Bay}). I will not trust this woman ever again. She used the BOS to underhandedly accomplish a personal agenda that matched her zip code fiasco. I guess I will have to wait her out for a more honest and fair Supervisor to replace her.

  • Watchful Eye

    When Mary Piepno entered into politics she made many, many promises as they all do and cannot seem to keep one. She continues to beat down the small communities through the MAC process. Glover and Piepho claim to work together on the MAC reforms. The first go round Glover looked at the signature block and said where do I sign? Piepho coordially said Oh don’t worry Federal I will take care of it for you, you just get well. Glover has been quoted as saying I don’t know what it really said I’ve been in the hospital for weeks. Now comes the second round of what Mary calls reform. Land Reform! Piepno’s reform is to give as much opportunity to the arrogant husband so he can take the land he needs to attempt to expand Discovery Bay. For what reason would she have to cut Knightsen in half, The same reason she pushed to extend Discovery Bay’s zip code to the San Joaquin=Alameda County line. Greed! The sooner the public realizes Piepho is a sheep in wolf’s clothing this County will not move ahead into the future with so much damage to it no one will be able to climb out of the whole. The unfortunate part of the ordeal is that now the entire Board of Supervisors appear to all be incompetent with her leadership. It is no doubt hubby will be her downfall and hopefully take her political career with him.