CoCo supervisors meeting: What goes on here?

One of my adult children asked me the other day, “What do you do at those county supervisor meetings?”

Nothing like hearing from a person with a real life to put your life’s work into perspective.

Nonetheless, I promised to explain the experience.

So, at this moment, I am blogging from the press table at the Board of Supervisors’ chambers in Martinez.

What is going on? I’ll update this list as the day unfolds. But the agenda lacks obvious controversy. I don’t attend if the items don’t look promising but today’s offerings include a discussion about the unfunded liability for the retiree health benefits of county employees and an update on a proposed fire district tax for the November ballot. Government is very often an incremental experience and there are few substitutes for actually hearing the information first-hand.

  • Supervisor Gayle Uilkema makes her first appearance at a board meeting since fell ill with pneumonia. She is being treated for cancer and the pneumonia was an unwanted complication. But she looked and sounded good. She joked about the wheelchair, saying she “loved being driven around.”
  • Presentation commemorating Girl Scouts week. The young Scouts were adorable in their uniforms and they handed out green re-usable water bottles. (I was hoping for Girl Scout cookies.)
  • Honored retired county emergency medical services director Art Lathrop, who was selected state EMS administrator of the year from the California Emergency Services Authority.
  • Declared March “Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Month” and heard a heart-breaking story from a mother whose son died after an overdose.
  • Heard the 2011 annual report from the county’s Mental Health Commission.
  • The poetry reading was unexpected. Gadfly Ralph Hoffmann complained that a man by the name of Joel Barker stole some lines from one of his copyrighted poems and asked the county attorney to investigate. And yes, he read the poem out loud.
  • Ellen Smith (not Wilson, sorry, there are two transportation guru Ellens!) from BART delivers update on planning for eBART out to East Contra Costa County. She may also have a career in stand-up if the transit gig flops.  Staff turned out all the lights when Wilson started her slideshow and when Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho asked if Ellen could read her notes in the dark, she didn’t miss a beat. “Yes, my notes are in Braille.” BART is working on right of way but still doesn’t have money for construction.
  • A bit of good financial news:  The county has cut its unfunded liability for retiree health care to $968 million. It was $2.6 billion in 2006. The number matters because the higher the figure, the higher the number of dollars the county must contribute each year out of its general purpose funds toward paying it off over a 30-year period. Six year ago, the county’s payment was $216 million. This fiscal year, it was $59.8 million. The drop is the result, among other things, of cuts in county employee benefits.
  • The board dealt with a handful of abatements, those pay-up orders to landowners who fail to clean up their properties and the county does it for them. The county has spent quite a bit of time trying to clean up areas in the Delta such as Bethel Island.
  • Board goes into closed session — where they also eat lunch — and will return at 1:30 p.m. for a meeting as the Contra Costa Fire District Board and Housing Authority.
  • Supervisor Federal Glover is gone today. He’s in Washington, D.C., for conferences including the National Association of Counties.
  • Housing Authority meeting cancelled. No quorum.
  • Supervisors convene as the Contra Costa Fire Protection District board. They hear that the department is crafting contingency plans in the event the Rodeo-Hercules fire district shuts one of its two stations after April 1 and/or if East Contra Costa Fire Protection District residents fail to pass an annual $197 per parcel tax measure on the June 5 ballot. Fire districts operate under mutual aid agreements and when one agency cuts service, it impacts its neighbors.
  • Starting with public comment and continuing with the county supervisors, Confire Chief Daryl Louder is repeatedly asked to provide more back-up documents and meatier staff reports with the agenda. “This is Government Sunshine Week. Let’s have more sunshine,” said Kris Hunt with the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association. Hey, it’s still better than most of the items on the last fire board agenda, which had no staff reports.
  • The county’s proposal to provide contract fire and emergency medical services to Pinole failed to include the cost of retiree health care and must be revised, supervisors told Chief Louder. ConFire and the Rodeo-Hercules district are competing for the deal. “We need to tell Pinole as soon as possible because they are relying on these figures to make policy decisions,” Supervisor John Gioia said.
  • News happening with the proposed parcel tax for ConFire and the impacts if it doesn’t pass in November …
  • I’m off to write dailies.
  • And here is what I just filed:  http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_20166759/contra-costa-fire-district-needs-90-parcel-tax

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Is the “gadfly” you mention our own Guest Columnist and protest dance man, Ralph Hoffmann?

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen


  • Ellen Wilson

    I’m pretty sure you meant to refer to Ellen Smith when you reported on the eBART issue at the BOS meeting. Not a big deal, though…we’re mistaken for each other all the time. I think she was more upset than I was, After all, you referred to her/me as an ENGINEER!

    Ellen Wilson, CCTA

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    Arggh, you are right! I have my transportation-expert Ellens mixed up!

  • Rick K.

    A new County Fire District tax? Why should we pay more taxes to fund the oversized firefighter pensions? Instead of increasing taxes, we need to reform the overly generous 3%@50 pension scheme. Contra Costa firefighters can now retire at age 50 and receive $100,000+ per year for the rest of their lives. It’s like hitting the lottery — but taxpayers foot the bill! They are literally bleeding the county budget dry so that they can have post-retirement (“Hello Cabo San Lucas”, a someone has written on this website) lives of luxury. Some goes for the tax increases that Governor Brown and his government union bosses/allies are trying to ram down our throats. Instead of seriously reforming state public safety pensions, they’re also trying to take the easy way out and get voters to pay higher taxes. The “Save Our Schoolchildren” part of that campaign is a big smokescreen for the CTA, CHP, CCPOA and California Firefighters conspiracy to line their members’ pockets with loot from the new taxes.