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Contra Costa Supervisor Gayle Uilkema has died

Contra Costa Supervisor Gayle Uilkema on March 13, 2012.

Contra Costa County Supervisor Gayle Uilkema died early this morning with her family by her side.  She had been battling ovarian cancer since mid-2010.

In her fourth term, the 73-year-old former Lafayette mayor has been absent from her seat behind the board dais in Martinez since December, when she suffered a bout of pneumonia she described as a complication of chemotherapy.

She had hoped to return to her customary full-time schedule this spring although she was planning to retire at the end of the year after serving 16 years.

What I will remember most about Gayle is how much she deep-down loved her job as a county supervisor. She will be missed.

A rosary will be held 7 p.m. Wednesday St. Perpetua Church at 3454 Hamlin Road in Lafayette. The funeral mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, also at St. Perpetua.

Flowers should be sent to Hull’s, 1139 Saranap Ave., Walnut Creek, CA 94595.

Memorial donations may to sent to the American Cancer Society, 101 Ygnacio Valley Rd., Walnut Creek, CA 94596

 

 

Posted on Saturday, May 19th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 6 Comments »

State controller blasts Hercules’ financial books

State Controller John Chiang today called Hercules’ books the “worst set of accounting records” he has ever seen, and blasted the city on numerous fronts in its audits of the city’s use of federal and state grants and transportation money.

Read my colleague Tom Lochner’s story here.

Here’s what Chiang had to say a few minutes ago:

SACRAMENTO – State Controller John Chiang today released findings from his first two audits of the City of Hercules, one focusing on its use of state and federal grants , the other on the City’s use of transportation funds . The audits found glaring holes in the City’s accounting and management of state and federal grant funds, as well as inappropriate charges against street repair funds.

“During my time in office, this could be the worst set of city accounting records I have seen,” said Controller Chiang. “The City’s books were so poorly managed, that I must question their use of every single federal and state dollar granted to the City.”

Auditors made 32 requests for 107 documents from the City, many of them basic ledger statements that are fundamental to any accounting system, but the City only could provide 15 documents. Requests for meetings with City staff often were ignored or cancelled, and by the end of the review, the City no longer employed a senior accountant.

The City could provide almost no records showing how it spent more than $2 million in state and federal grants, leading auditors to question the use of all grant dollars in 2009-10. Some of the grants included:

  • State Citizens Office of Public Safety: $100,000
  • State Housing and Community Development: $720,000
  • Federal EPA Watershed – West Coast Estuary Initiative: $146,025
  • Homeland Security Grant Program: $4,824

The City’s reporting was so poor that it even failed to list four additional federal grants, which together totaled $159,984.

Auditors also found the City was commingling gas tax receipts – which are solely restricted to fund street improvement projects – in an investment pool with other city funds. Given the City’s questionable fiscal management practices, there is concern that gas tax dollars may have been diverted to fund activities unrelated to public streets and roads, and the Controller has ordered the City of Hercules to remove those dollars and place them in a separate bank account. The City also incorrectly charged more than $39,000 in interest against the gas tax funds, which must be replaced.

“The manner in which city officials approached their fiduciary responsibilities falls below every reasonable standard of care and begins to explain why Hercules is under water,” said Chiang. “The longer the City goes without accounting for its taxpayer dollars, the greater the risk that federal and state authorities will withhold money from the City, further increasing Hercules’ difficulties.”

The audits released today by the Controller will be followed by two separate reviews focusing on the City’s financial internal controls, as well as its redevelopment agency.

Posted on Thursday, May 10th, 2012
Under: California cities, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 2 Comments »

Contra Costa water initiative loses big

The contentious Contra Costa countywide clean water initiative has failed by nearly 19,000 votes. Property owners rejected the per-parcel fee by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin, which would have raised $14 million a year for water pollution prevention programs.

In a snippy press release, Clean Water Program Director Don Freitas blames the loss on the media, the voters in 1996, the California Constitution and the sun coming up. (Okay, I made up the last one.) Nowhere, it seems, does Freitas point the finger at himself.

Check out what Freitas put out a few minutes ago:

The purpose of this email is to inform you of the final election results for the “2012 Community Clean Water Initiative”. Contrary to recent press articles, Monday, May 7th has always been designated as the deadline to receive this information. Passage of the Initiative required fifty percent (50%) plus one of those casting a vote which included all property owners in Contra Costa County. The results are as follows:

Mailed Ballots – 339,586

Received Valid Ballots – 100,768

“Yes” Ballots – 40,924

“No” Ballots – 59,844

Invalid Ballots – 1,355

Based on the aforementioned results, the Initiative failed by approximately a 60% to a 40% margin. As was stated many times during this process, the defeat of the Initiative does NOT negate the need for all twenty-one affected jurisdictions in Contra Costa County from the regulatory mandates of the Federal Clean Water Act and California’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act. Each entity needs to immediately determine how the necessary funding will now be generated in order to implement the regulatory mandates or be found to be in noncompliance and subject to fines which could run into the thousands or millions of dollars.

The election results can and will be interpreted in many ways, but suffice it to say, the methodology outlined in the voter approved 1996 Proposition 218 ( California Constitution XIII ) had great challenges even though the Program followed its provisions religiously. Courts in California have said the legal nexus between urban runoff and property is valid, but the requirements of Proposition 218 became suspect in the voter’s mind and the press. It’s very easy for the press to condemn actions of local government; but rarely if ever, do they suggest valid alternatives. The election result has worsened local government’s ability to finance Federal and/or State mandates when it is done with no local financing. If the general fund becomes the only alternative to finance the regulatory mandates than the public debate will be simplified between “clean water vs. hiring police officers and other vital community services.”

Donald P. Freitas

Project Manager

Contra Costa Clean Water Program

 255 Glacier Drive

 Martinez, CA 94553-4825

 (925) 313-2373

 dfrei@pw.cccounty.us

 

Posted on Monday, May 7th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 18 Comments »

CoCo supervisor forum to air May 7 and 9

An election forum featuring two candidates for Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors will air on public access television on May 7 and May 9.

The Contra Costa Council sponsored the lunchtime debate with candidates Tomi Van de Brooke, president of the Contra Costa Community College District Board of Trustees, and Danville Mayor Candace Andersen.

The pair answered questions earlier today in Lafayette about a wide range of topics including pension reform, water policy, tax initiatives and county budget trade-offs. And they sparred over campaign finances and whether positions on social issues matter in the local, nonpartisan race.

The third candidate, solar technology professor Sean White of Lafayette, was out of town on business and could not attend.

Held in Lafayette, the debate will air at 8 p.m. on May 7 and 10 a.m. on May 9 on Contra Costa Television. For Comcast customers, CCTV is on Channel 27; Astound, Channel 32; and AT&T U-verse, Channel 99.

For information, visit www.contracostatv.org.

 

 

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Under: 2012 primary election, Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 1 Comment »

Contra Costa supervisor candidate debate set for April 23

Contra Costa District 2 supervisor candidates Candace Andersen and Tomi Van de Brooke will face off at the April 23 lunch meeting of the Contra Costa Council.

Van de Brooke, an Orinda resident and elected member of the Contra Costa Community College District, and Andersen, mayor of Danville, will answer questions and discuss their platforms.

The third supervisor candidate, Sean White of Lafayette, is out of town and cannot attend.

The Contra Costa Council is a nonprofit membership and nonpartisan organization that advocates for economic development throughout the East Bay.

I am the moderator and the event is open to the public.

Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. followed by the program at noon. It will be held at the Lafayette Veterans Memorial Building, 3780 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette.

Tickets are $45 for non-members and $35 for members. For reservations, contact the Contra Costa Council at www.contracostacouncil.com or 925-246-1880.

 

Posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Political calendar, Political events | 1 Comment »

Watch Van de Brooke vs. Andersen ed board interview

Van de Brooke

Andersen

The Contra Costa Times’ editorial board interview with Contra Costa County supervisor candidates Tomi Van De Brooke and Candace Andersen on Tuesday afternoon starts with fireworks over social issues. Read full story here.

But the candidates also speak at length about a wide range of policy matters closer to the work of a county supervisor, such as budget priorities, whether or not general fund dollars should subsidize the county hospital and pension reforms.

Watch video here:  http://bcove.me/twuc0kwx

 

 

 

Posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
Under: 2012 primary election, Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Assembly looks at wasteful health care district spending

A friend and a foe of the Mt. Diablo Health Care District, targeted by local regulators for transfer to the city of Concord to eliminate costly elections and overhead, are among the speakers at Wednesday morning’s Assembly hearing on health care district.

Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review Chairman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, will lead the hearing starting at 9:30 a.m., which will be aired via webcast at the California Channel.

Mt. Diablo Health Care District board chairman Jeff Kasper is scheduled to speak, along with district critic and Contra Costa Taxpayers Association Executive Director Kris Hunt.  Contra Costa Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill will also testify. (Speaker list updated on 4/10/2012. LAV)

The Local Agency Formation Commission last month voted to dismantle five-member elected health care district board and turn over its limited remaining duties to Concord’s city council. The district hasn’t run a hospital since 1996. Since then, four civil grand juries and the Local Agency Formation Commission’s hired consultant have concluded that the district has spent the vast majority of its property tax proceeds — $240,000 a year — on elections, overhead and legal bills, with very few dollars going to community services or programs.

Mt. Diablo is a piker compared with other health care districts, according to a recent Bay Citizen analysis of similar agencies statewide.  It found a Peninsula district, for example, with $43 million in reserves that refused to help subsidize health insurance for the poor. It reported that 30 of 74 of California’s taxpayer-funded health care districts no longer run hospitals but continue to collect public dollars, diverting that money for administrative and legal costs, along with benefits for their directors.

“Allegations of administrative waste, wrong doing, and lack of appropriate spending priorities persist, while unmet health care needs linger in their communities,” wrote the committee in a news release about the hearing. “The committee will aim to uncover if health care districts are still the best use of public funds and if they are using their resources to promote public health and welfare, especially given the current health care environment in the state.”

The committee said witnesses will include representatives from the Peninsula Health Care District in San Mateo, the Beach Cities Health District in Redondo Beach, Mt. Diablo Health Care District in Concord, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, health care advocates and the Association of California Healthcare Districts.

The testimony will focus on the health care districts’ current and former purpose, funding mechanisms, Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) oversight, the current challenges of healthcare service delivery, if the health care needs of the state are being met and case studies of health care district expenditures, the committee said.

 

 

Posted on Monday, April 9th, 2012
Under: California Assembly, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 6 Comments »

LAFCO to interview 5 for coveted seat; Allen not on list

The powerful Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission, of LAFCO, which oversees orderly growth and public agency boundaries, narrowed to five the candidates it will interview April 11 for its public member seat.

It took LAFCO nearly two years last time to fill this opening after dueling factions couldn’t settle on a mutually acceptable choice. Confirmation requires at least one aye vote from each of the groups represented on its board — Contra Costa supervisor, special districts and cities.

Whether or not the vote proves difficult this time around remains to be seen.

But the central question of the prospective commissioners remains the same: How would you balance the ever-present tension between the demands of a growing population for housing, water and other services and the agency’s responsibility to control sprawl?

The short list is an impressive one: Retired Contra Costa Mayors Conference executive director and former Walnut Creek city manager Don Blubaugh of Brentwood; attorney and former Lafayette Councilman Ivor Samson; retired San Ramon city manager Herb Moniz; retired wastewater plant general manager Kathy Hopkins of Lafayette; and the commission’s current alternate public member, Sharon Burke of Alamo.

Blubaugh and Burke are the likely front-runners, but Hopkins and Samson reportedly did well in the first round of interviews.

Moniz will almost certainly draw the most attention from the environmental community, whose leaders closely monitor LAFCO’s policies on the county’s urban limit line. Moniz helped write San Ramon’s controversial failed Measure W, which would have expanded the city’s urban growth boundary into the Tassajara Valley.

Interestingly, former commissioner and one-time Concord Mayor Helen Allen didn’t make the cut.

She says county power-brokers conspired behind the scenes to keep her out and promote their own choices. But others say the outspoken woman’s dominating personality grated on her colleagues, staff and the public.

Former Concord Mayor Helen Allen

For years, the conservative Allen and appointee of the Contra Costa Mayors Conference was considered a reliable vote for new development. She pooh-poohed global climate change and said that as long as people keep having babies, local governments should help build places for them to live.

Allen has been a lightening rod for years on a whole host of issues. But she lost significant support from her elected colleagues in 2010 after she signed a letter as a LAFCO commissioner which was later used in a campaign mailer promoting a Brentwood urban growth boundary ballot measure. She narrowly escaped a move to have her removed from LAFCO.

Allen declined to seek re-election to her city council seat later that year and as a result, she was no longer eligible to serve on LAFCO as the mayors conference representative and avoided what would have almost certainly been an uphill fight to win reappointment.

She put out the word months ago that she would apply to LAFCO when the public member seat opened, citing her experience with the agency’s often arcane and complex issues.

Her chances were slim, though. She still faced concerns about her dominant personality and her past transgressions.

Allen admits she sealed her fate during the screening interviews with three LAFCO members, when she says she told them she knew she wasn’t going to be appointed and lectured them for more than 20 minutes.

Well, if you have to go out, you might as well make a lasting impression, right?

Posted on Friday, April 6th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Local Agency Formation Commission | 1 Comment »

KQED takes up Chevron defeat in Contra Costa County

Belva Davis (Photo by Greg Habiby © KQED 2009)

Watch ” This Week in Northern California” with host Belva Davis tonight and yours truly, where I will talk about Chevron’s stunning property tax appeal defeat in Contra Costa County.

The show airs at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays on KQED Public Television Channel 9 or you can watch a video archive online at http://www.kqed.org/tv/programs/thisweek/watch/

Here’s the blurb about tonight’s full line-up:

In the wake of the devastating shooting at Oikos University in Oakland, hundreds of community members attend an international prayer vigil. Meanwhile, Mayor Jean Quan calls for a renewed effort to curb gun violence and improve access to mental health services. Yahoo hands out pink slips to 2,000 employees, implementing the most significant layoff in the company’s history. New CEO Scott Thompson is expected to make further cuts this year as part of a monumental corporate restructuring. Oil giant Chevron is dealt an unexpected blow as the Contra Costa County Assessment Appeals Board slaps an additional estimated $26.7 million in taxes on its Richmond refinery, claiming the property was previously undervalued by the county. As baseball season kicks off the San Francisco Giants sign a record $127.5 million deal with All-Star pitcher Matt Cain and unveil plans for “Mission Rock,” a new waterfront development next to AT&T Park.

Guests:

Mina Kim, KQED News

Lisa Vorderbrueggen, Contra Costa Times

Kara Swisher, All Things D

Rachel Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle

 

Posted on Friday, April 6th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 1 Comment »

Chevron loses tax appeal 27 million ways

Chevron has lost its Richmond refinery property tax appeal in the worst way possible: It not only won’t receive a $73 million refund but it has to pay an additional estimated $27 million.

Contra Costa County, cities and special districts heaved a big sigh of relief at Monday morning’s Assessment Appeals Board decision, which could have forced public agencies to repay Chevron as much as $73 million of the $129 million the company had already paid for tax years 2007-2009.

“There were a lot of people conjecturing that this wasn’t going to be a question of winning or losing but how badly we were going to lose,” said Richmond Councilman Tom Butt, whose city receives 60 percent of the property tax proceeds the refinery pays. “It was a pleasant surprise to hear that we not only beat back the appeal but we may have more money coming to us.”

In the uncharacteristically detailed and strongly worded 24-page opinion, the three-member appeals board rejected the disparate taxable values Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer and Chevron had vigorously defended.

Kramer is legally entitled to set property values, but he and his staff failed to produce supporting evidence behind the numbers they entered for the refinery, the panel wrote.

Chevron’s values were based on “greatly exaggerated” calculations in some areas and outright unbelievable in others, the document also stated.  Click here to read the rest of the story.

For the full text of the appeal, click here for supplemental decision and here for main ruling.

 

Posted on Monday, April 2nd, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 23 Comments »