Let the LAFCO games begin

Four elected officials will seek a Contra Costa Mayors Conference appointment to the powerful Local Agency Formation Commission in a smackdown set for Jan. 6.

Richmond Councilman Tom Butt, Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier, Lafayette City Councilman Don Tatzin and Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor have submitted their names for a vote. To win, a nominee must receive a majority vote of the members of the conference, which consists of the mayors of the county’s 19 cities. It may take several elimination rounds until one of the nominees secures the required majority.  (Click here for the agenda, nomination letters and other information about meeting, which is open to the public.)

To start, what is the Local Agency Formation Commission? It oversees orderly growth and governs public agency jurisdiction issues including annexations and determines which entity is the most appropriate to deliver services such as water and sewer. It also conducts periodic reviews of the efficiency of services such as fire, law enforcement and water.

Every California county has one and its membership is comprised of appointees from the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, Mayors Conference, Special Districts Association and the public at-large. The conference seat opened after former Concord Councilwoman Helen Allen chose not to seek re-election.  (Click here for LAFCO’s Web site.)

A Special Districts Association Seat has also opened after former Discovery Bay Community Services District member David Piepho chose not to run for re-election. His seat will be filled at the association’s quarterly Jan. 24 meeting. The Special Districts Association’s appointed alternate, George Schmidt, a director at the West County Wastewater District, is seeking the full voting LAFCO position. Others have been nominated for the opening including Contra Costa Central Sanitary District member Mike McGill, who ran unsuccessfully for the Board of Supervisors in June; Elmer “Al” J. Schaal with Mt. View Sanitary District; Danny Hamby, Byron Sanitary District; and Richard Olsen, Moraga-Orinda Fire District. The nomination deadline is Jan. 5, so there may be more.

LAFCO is a powerful agency. Competing interests within the county, particularly developers and environmentalists, are always jockeying for influence on its board. Geography also plays a role as representatives from the western, eastern and central portions of the county seek a voice on LAFCO’s board.

Among the Mayors Conference candidates, Tatzin has the strongest argument for the appointment. An attorney, he has been a LAFCO alternate for 12 years and has arguably the most knowledge and investment into the agency.

Taylor, a retired liquor distributor, has been lobbying his Mayors Conference colleagues for months. He has been the Mayors Conference chairman and he is hoping those relationships will count during the vote.

Butt hasn’t been active in the Mayors Conference but as the only nominee from the western half of the county, he could rally votes from West Contra Costa. Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin wrote a glowing nomination letter. He is an architect and more than intellectually capable of deciphering LAFCO’s arcane regulatory environment.

Frazier is a general contractor, which may put him in the crosshairs of the environmental community. And he is a new mayor (Oakley rotates mayors each year) and relatively unknown among the Mayors Conference members. But if some of the better-known nominees split the vote and force elimination rounds, Frazier could survive.


Gerber retires and plans extensive travel in Europe

Donna Gerber speaks at a 2006 WakeupWalmart event. She was the government affairs director for the California Nurses Association and a former Contra Costa County supervisor.

Donna Gerber speaks at a 2006 WakeupWalmart event. She was the government affairs director for the California Nurses Association and a former Contra Costa County supervisor.

The always frank former Contra Costa County Supervisor Donna Gerber has retired from her job as the government affairs director for the California Nurses Association.

Gerber, 62, is headed in a few weeks to London, which will become her home base for the next six months as she travels throughout Europe and enjoys her new-found freedom from politics and policy.

“I needed a break,” Gerber told me when I reached her by phone earlier today.

You may recall that Gerber served several terms on the Board of Supervisors prior to running unsuccessfully against then-Assemblyman Guy Houston in 2002. Gerber then left the board to return to the CNA where she has been working ever since.

Gerber took center stage in Contra Costa politics on several controversial fronts, chiefly the contraction of the countywide urban limit line in 2000 and the design of the transit village at the Pleasant Hill BART station now under construction.

During her time at CNA, the nurses waged one of the most successful campaigns in California history as the nurses beat down Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s prized special election measures.

But while Gerber is in Europe, she says she will have plenty of time follow the issues that most interest her such as the development of livable, desirable communities where people can live, work and job without driving vast distances.

And the by time she returns, she says she hopes to “be able to see the near completion of the transit village at the Pleasant Hill BART station, which looks as though it will look just as we designed it,” Gerber said.


Guided hikes set for Concord Naval Weapons Station

Save Mount Diablo will lead three guided hikes on portions of the Concord Naval Weapons Station typically inaccessible to the public.

The military has declared the land surplus and the city is in the midst of a planning process on how to use the 5,000-acre mothballed base. Save Mount Diablo is an environmental group that lobbies for open space preservation.

Here are some details of the hikes or for more details, click here to link to Save Mount Diablo’s web site:

Save Mount Diablo will lead walks in three separate areas of the Concord Naval Weapons Station on three weekend days.  Since World War II the Weapons Station has been locked away. As development filled Central Contra Costa County, the Station fences protected thousands of acres and many species of sensitive wildlife. All hikes are on paved roads. We’ll see sections of Mt. Diablo creek and hike into the foothills for views of the Weapons Station and of Central County.

The Concord Naval Weapons Station – Inland Area (5,028 acres or about 8 square miles) has been surplused and its future uses are being planned. This is a rare opportunity to see the CNWS up close.  

Walks are limited to 30 people, start at 7:15 am and return at noon to BART station Signed waiver and RSVP required – no exceptions!

Saturday April 18, 7:15am –Bailey Road South (4 miles roundtrip, 300′ elevation gain)  RSVP with waiver form and other info by Tuesday, April 14, photo ID on the day

Sunday May 10, 7:15 am – Northern Foothills (4.5 miles roundtrip, 580′ elevation gain)  RSVP with waiver form and other info by Tuesday, May 5, photo ID on the day

Saturday May 30, 7:15 am – The BART Station Hills (4.5 miles roundtrip, 175′ elevation gain)  RSVP with waiver form and other info by Tuesday, May 26, photo ID on the day


UC-Berkeley launches climate-change speaker series

UC-Berkeley announced a free speaker series that will “explore the state’s landmark climate control legislation’s critical connections to sustainable development and land-use planning.” The series begins March 17.

Here are the details:

The series, “Growing Sustainability in a Low-Carbon World,” is being sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Urban and Regional Development (IURD). It will bring together local, regional and state decision-makers, scholars, researchers, environmentalists, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders from the public sector.

The program, free and open to the public, will take place on campus on Tuesdays, starting March 17, before jumping to March 31 and continuing through May 5. The first event will take place from 6-8 p.m. at The Faculty Club; other programs will be held from 5:15 to 7 p.m. in Wurster Hall. Each seminar will be moderated by a UC Berkeley faculty member or research associate.

Much of the discussions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state have focused on technologies, clean fuels and green jobs, which have important roles to play, said Robert Cervero, interim director of IURD and a professor of city and regional planning.

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