Contra Costa at impasse over district maps

Without the necessary three votes to make a final selection, the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors this afternoon punted its decision over new political districts to the end of the month.

The five supervisors will take up the matter again on July 26 at 10:30 a.m. (Click here for Contra Costa’s redistricting web site and links to all the various maps and data.)

Frustration was evident as the supervisors each reiterated the merits of his or her preferred map but repeatedly failed to come up with that third and majority vote.  Each views the county through a different political and personal lens, and they have yet to find middle ground.

Supervisors Federal Glover and John Gioia agree. The other three supervisors (Gayle Uilkema, Mary Nejedly Piepho and Karen Mitchoff) dislike the men’s map but don’t support each other’s maps, either.

Four maps remain on the table for debate although any could change at any time.

Click here for Piepho’s preferred map (Proposal 15.)

Here’s the first map proposed by Glover and Gioia (Proposal 17.)

Here are the men’s second and revised map (Proposal 17D) they submitted earlier today.

And here is what Mitchoff has submitted (Proposal 16.)

Broadly speaking, Glover and Gioia want to create a map based on regional subdivisions and reverse the 2001 map under which East Contra Costa County was carved into two districts. They submitted two maps, (Proposal 17 and Proposal 17D) each slightly adjusted in an attempt to win a third vote. But one of their maps slices a small sliver of Concord into a second district, while both maps splits Pinole, Walnut Creek and Antioch and the percentage population spread among the districts is 7.95 to 8.76 points. The law requires the county to draw new districts of equal population or as near as possible to equal; deviations have withstood court challenges but must be justified.

Their map most closely matches the option drawn by a volunteer citizen’s task force, or Concept 6, as it was originally labeled. Much of the audience Tuesday endorsed this version, holding up signed and testifying in its favor.

Piepho’s submission appears designed to inspire compromise rather than survive outright adoption. It draws her out of Walnut Creek, her prime political support base, and instead shifts it entirely into Uilkema’s district. It splits no cities and has a 5.39 percentage point population spread. But it does split Bay Point and Pittsburg, communities with longstanding ties.

Mitchoff’s map shifts Glover’s district westward, as he wanted, and allows Piepho to keep portions of Walnut Creek. But it splits Antioch and Walnut Creek. It has a 6.86 percentage point population spread.

In the next two weeks, the pressure will be on these supervisors to cut a deal, end the political suspense and allow the 2012 election to official begin. Uilkema, Glover and Piepho are up for re-election and at least four possible challengers were in the audience Tuesday and testified.

The question is whether a majority of the board will simply ram a map down the throats of their colleagues and let the chips fall where they will … or will they unanimously choke down a compromise and avert open warfare.

My money is on the latter although the former would be a lot more fun to write about.


Contra Costa supes may ban naming relatives

The language of a Contra Costa Board of Supervisors policy barring the appointment of the the supervisors’ relatives to  boards in which they select the members emerged from a sub-committee today.

Supervisors John Gioia, of Richmond, and Federal Glover, of Pittsburg, who comprise the Public Protection Committee, approved the wording, which will move to the full board next month.

Click here to read the proposed policy: http://ca-contracostacounty.civicplus.com/DocumentView.aspx?DID=5371

The policy came out of a controversy last fall when David Piepho, husband to Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho, sought an appointment to a small cemetery board. David said he was interested in cemetery governance but critics said his primary intent was to keep his seat on on the Local Agency Formation Commission. (He had opted not to seek re-election in November to the Discovery Bay Community Services District; a cemetery seat would have allowed him to serve out the remainder of his term as an appointee of the Contra Costa Special Districts Association.)

After much ado, the board allowed David Piepho to apply for the opening but after a tense public hearing, they eventually appointed Vicky Rinehart to the Byron-Brentwood-Knightsen Union Cemetery District.

Embarrassed by the perception of favoritism, Glover and Gioia pursued a policy that would remove even the hint of impropriety: An outright ban on appointments to county boards of anyone  related to a supervisor or a business partner of a supervisor.

Keep in mind, these appointments typically involve advisory posts with little or no financial benefits.

Nonetheless, the public remains fiercely opposed to even a whiff of nepotism.

The policy undeniably places the Piephos in a difficult position. David was an elected official long before his wife ran for supervisor, and if this policy passes, he cannot seek appointment to any county board while she holds the seat.

And David is free to volunteer for any number of other civic organizations or run again for public office.

Regardless of where you come down on this issue, when the policy comes up for debate the discussion will be most interesting.


Pair of Contra Costa electeds say ‘No thanks’

The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors this week delivered official farewells and fancy framed proclamations to retiring Sheriff Warren Rupf, District Attorney Robert Kochly, Treasurer-Tax Collector Bill Pollacek and Auditor Steve Ybarra.

Well, sort of.

Only Rupf and Kochly showed up. (See video of Tuesday’s presentations below.)

Pollacek and Ybarra declined to participate. Supervisor John Gioia told the audience that both men had opted to receive their proclamations at another time. That isn’t entirely true.

Word is the two men told the board to take their plaques and put them where the sun don’t shine. Well, perhaps they didn’t use those exact words. But don’t expect either Pollacek or Ybarra to make room on their living room walls for them.

There’s no love between Ybarra and several members of the board. Several  members publicly accused Ybarra of exacting political revenge when he released an unprecedented and highly critical audit of how Supervisor Federal Glover was spending the proceeds of the Keller Canyon mitigation fund.

And Ybarra says Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho has treated him and his staff with disdain ever since he endorsed her opponent, Guy Houston, in 2008.

As countywide, independent elected officials, Pollacek and Ybarra have often said they answered to the voters, not the Board of Supervisors, despite the board’s control over their budgets. They didn’t like what they viewed as arrogant attempts to relegate them to the status of a mere department head by people who were elected by a smaller district rather than countywide.

The incoming Treasurer Russ Watts and Auditor Bob Campbell are proteges of their predecessors. It will be interesting to see how the men navigate the political scene, particularly if they are asked to endorse candidates. Supervisors Gayle Uilkema, Piepho and Glover are up for re-election in 2012.

Here are the videos of the Kockly and Rupf presentations.


Contra Costa mulls ban on appointing kin

Shall we call it David’s Law?

Contra Costa County supervisors Federal Glover and John Gioia are recommending a ban on the appointment of supervisors’ relatives to board-appointed panels. (See my colleague Matthias Gafni’s story here.)

The David is David Piepho, soon-to-be-former Discovery Bay Community Services District member and husband to Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho.

David sought — unsuccessfully, as it turned out — a board appointment to a small cemetery district board in East Contra Costa County, a post that would have allowed him to retain his post on the powerful Local Agency Formation Commission.

Given the highly charged political atmosphere around this appointment, it was highly unlikely that Mary Piepho’s colleagues on the board would have ever appointed her husband to the cemetery district.

And whether one agrees or disagrees with the wildly disparate assessments of David Piepho’s value as a public servant, it may seem unfair to penalize the relative of an elected official who wants a role in public service.

But as my mom used to say, “Life is not fair.”

On balance, a ban on the appointment of supervisors’ relatives to county boards is a good thing.

Government should and must take extraordinary care to avoid the appearance of favoritism.  There are many, many ways for the relatives of supervisors to serve one’s community beyond that of a county board seat.


Contra Costa candidates report cash

Campaign finance reports were due this week. I have already reported on the high profile results on this blog a few days ago, but here is a round-up of a the other interesting tidbits as of the end of the reporting period on June 30:

CONTRA COSTA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Mark Peterson and Dan O’Malley emerged in June as the top two vote-getters and will compete in run-off on Nov. 2.

Peterson raised $121,841; spent $156,597; had $3,748 in the bank; and debts of $10,000.

O’Malley raised $143,717; sp0ent $184,980; had $16,128 in the bank; and debts of $9,014.

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY SHERIFF: David Livingston won the seat, beating Brian Kalinowski in June.

Livingston raised $147,325; spent $193,601; had $16,548 in the bank; and debts of $22,000. He loaned his campaign $22,000.

Kalinowski raised $$135,679; spent $105,341; had $4,153 in bank; and debts of $58,115. He loaned his campaign $44,067.

CONTRA COSTA BOARD OF SUPERVISORS’ OFFICEHOLDER ACCOUNTS: State law allows officeholders to raise and spend money on a variety of non-election activities.

Gayle Uilkema: Raised 5,335; spent $2,440; cash in the bank of $27,701. No debts.

Susan Bonilla: Raised $2,315; spent $6,015; cash in the bank of $1,918. No debts.

Federal Glover: Raised $8,400; spent $12,378; cash in the bank of $45,748. No debts.

Mary Piepho: Raised $16,734; spent $20,690; had $15,235 in the bank. No debts.

CONTRA COSTA BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: Karen Mitchoff prevailed in the June primary contest against Mike McGill for the seat left open by Susan Bonilla, who is running for Assembly.

Mitchoff: Raised $74,148; spent $75,570; had cash on hand of $5,446. No debts.

McGill: Raised $108,265; spenty $109,105; had cash on hand of $1,702. Debts of $51,800. Loaned his campaign $51,800.

MAJOR DONORS: There must be gold in them thar jelly bean jars. The Jelly Belly Candy Co. contributed $90,252 in the first six months of the year to candidates including Contra Costa sheriff candidate David Livingston, GOP Assembly candidate Abram Wilson and $21,000 to the California Republican Party.


Contra Costa Council hosts water forum

The Contra Costa Council hosted today a water panel, featuring some of the state’s foremost voices in California’s effort to implement sweeping water legislation adopted last year.

Watch video of the hour-long discussion below. The panelists presented mostly a status report of where the implementation process sits and an outline of the key issues.

Panelists include California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Lester Snow, Delta Stewardship Council Chairman Phil Isenberg, Delta Protection Commission Executive Director Linda Fiack and Contra Costa Supervisor and Delta Protection Commission member Mary Nejedly Piepho.