Seven seek LAFCO special district’s appointment



Seven people have applied for a seat on the arcane but powerful Contra Costa County board charged with overseeing orderly growth and stanching suburban sprawl.

The Contra Costa Special Districts Association, comprised of the county’s 44 independent elected special districts, must replace its appointee and former Discovery Bay Community Services District member David Piepho.

Piepho tried unsuccessfully to keep his Local Agency Formation Commission seat through an appointment to a cemetery board, but the Board of Supervisors balked at naming the spouse of sitting supervisor, Mary Nejedly Piepho.

The large number of applicants reflects the typical high level of interest in LAFCO, an agency that governs annexations, determines community planning areas and conducts reviews of public service delivery including water, fire and police.

The seven elected special district applicants include Thomas Baldocchi, Jr., Reclamation District 2065 in the Veale Tract; Leonard Battaglia, West County Wastewater District; Sandra Bonato, Pleasant Hill Recreation & Park District; Danny Hamby, Byron Sanitary District; Michael McGill, Central Contra Costa Sanitary District; Richard Olsen, Moraga-Orinda Fire District; and Elmer “Al” Schaal, Mt. View Sanitary District.

The pursuit of a LAFCO seat involves behind-the-scenes politicking among geographic regions, and special interest factions such as developers and environmentalists.

The leading contender appears to be McGill, a sanitary board member who owns a Martinez-based civil engineering, planning and surveying firm. He ran unsuccessfully in June for county supervisor but he impressed voters with his pragmatic attitude and financial skills.

On the other hand, McGill may not find favor with the environmental community whose members view him, given his professional background, as too friendly with developers.

McGill describes himself, however, as fully capable of making objective assessments of applications before LAFCO based on the agency’s role as an arbiter of orderly boundaries and logical service providers.

The name conspicuously absent from the ballot is that of West County Wastewater District member George Schmidt, who had the environmental community’s support. He has served as the special district’s alternate for years and sought the full voting position.

But Schmidt failed to win his own board’s nomination. Instead, in a 3-2 vote, the West County Wastewater directors chose without comment fellow board member Battaglia.

Battaglia’s nomination probably won’t amount to much except as a means to block Schmidt. The association is unlikely to select two LAFCO appointees from the same agency.

Schmidt, unwilling to give up, went special districts shopping and secured the nomination of the Diablo Water District in Oakley during a Dec. 22 special meeting. Under the rules, Schmidt could appear on the ballot if he received the nomination of a special district, not necessarily his own.

But the vote was a case of mistaken identity, said Diablo District Manager Mike Yeraka.

The board intended to nominate McGill — who had already been nominated by his own board — but Schmidt showed up to the Diablo Water District meeting and McGill didn’t. Both men sit on sanitary district boards.

Two weeks later, the Diablo Water District, seeking to correct its mistake, rescinded its Schmidt nomination and replaced it with McGill.

As a result, Schmidt’s name will not appear on the ballot when the special districts association votes on Jan. 24. He will remain on LAFCO as an alternate through 2014.

The average resident may well wonder about the furor over appointments to such a little-known public agency.

Growth has slowed dramatically throughout the Bay Area but that won’t last forever. And the continuing service cuts as the recession slams public agency’s budgets could push LAFCO’s service efficiency recommendations into the public eye.

LAFCO’s voting board is comprised of one at large public appointee and two appointees each from the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, Mayors Conference and the Special Districts Association. Each of the four represented groups also appoints an alternate.

Special districts include elected boards that govern water, sewer, fire, reclamation agencies.


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: McGill and Mitchoff duel over law





Contra Costa supervisor candidate Karen Mitchoff filed a complaint today with the District Attorney’s Office alleging that her opponent, Mike McGill, violated county campaign finance laws.

In response, McGill challenged Mitchoff to work for $1 a year, if elected, and “remove all financial motives and ensures that we are focused on public policy and solving real problems,” he said.

Under county law, supervisor candidates who loan or contribute more than $25,000 to their campaigns must file a statement of intent to self-fund at the time they file for office.

The total includes donations and loans from immediate family members.

McGill, a board member of the Contra Costa Central Sanitary District, has loaned his campaign $54,500 as of May 22. Relatives have contributed $3,675. His company, MMS Design Associates, has contributed $1,065 worth of office support and copies.

The Pleasant Hill engineer says he never intended to self-fund.

But as the campaign proceeded, the public responded “so strongly to my message, and I realized I could do more than make a point, I could win and implement the changes that I think are needed in our budget and public employee pension system,” he said.

McGill needed more money, so he says his campaign team began researching the rules.

He met with county officials and after what he described as confusing conversations, McGill filed a self-fund declaration Thursday, which was also the campaign finance report filing deadline for local and state candidates.

As the law also requires, he changed his campaign literature to reflect his self-funded status.

“I think Karen knows (he has followed the rules), but she’s frustrated that her campaign is struggling and my upstart campaign has been gaining a lot of traction,” McGill said. “Karen’s taken more than $30,000 from labor unions — but I’m not going to start throwing mud and accusing her of being a labor funded candidate, because I want this to be a campaign about the differences in our vision for the county.”

Deputy District Attorney Steve Bolen declined to comment on the complaint. Violation of the election code is a misdemeanor although candidates are rarely prosecuted.

Had McGill filed the declaration earlier, Mitchoff could have solicited higher contributions. The self-fund notification triggers a rise in the contribution limit for the opponents from $1,675 to $5,000.

Mitchoff has raised $75,017 since she started campaigning in 2009 but has written no personal checks to her campaign. As McGill indicated, the largest portion of her money has come from labor unions.

Outside of personal loans and family contributions, McGill has collected $70,156. He has received far less PAC money than his opponent, but what he has received came from the Associated Builders and Contractors, Homebuilders Association of Northern California and Western Electrical Contractors Association.

The legislation is intended to help level the playing field between wealthy candidates and those who rely solely on donations. It only applies to county supervisor candidates.

The ordinance also says that self-funded candidates cannot repay themselves but must treat the money as a contribution.

Candidates may loan their campaigns up to $50,000 if an independent expenditure committee spends in excess of $75,000 for the benefit of his or opponents.

No independent expenditures have been reported thus far in the county supervisor race.

Click through to read the pertinent ordinances.

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Contra Costa: Count the campaign cash

Check out the cash flowing into Contra Costa County candidates’ campaign accounts, per Thursday night’s campaign finance report filing deadline.

The totals are for 2010 only; some of the candidates started raising money in 2009 but the reports are for the calendar year only. The reporting period ended May 22. Not all the reports are yet available. Candidates had until 5 p.m. to submit them but postmarks count. I will update this list as the information becomes available.


Michael McGill: Raised $100,165. Spent $101,150. Has $860 in the bank. Outstanding debts of $51,800. No personal loans.

Karen Mitchoff: Raised $65,618. Spent $49,092. Has $22,995 in the bank. No outstanding debts. No personal loans.


John Gioia (incumbent): Raised $104,737. Spent $103,123. Cash on hand of $4,659. No debts. No loans.

Mister Phillips: Raised $4,678. Spent $5,511. Cash on hand of ($42.58). Debts of$1,971. He made a personal loan of $1,000 and received a loan of $730 from Angela McClain of El Cerrito.


Gus Kramer (incumbent): Raised $95,537. Spent $105,734. Had $8,200 in the bank. No debts. Made personal loan of $53,000.

John Nejedly: Raised $38,809. Spent $25,566. Had $13,242 in the bank. No debts. Made personal loan of $20,500.

Ross Butler: Raised $900. Spent $790. Had $109 in the bank. No debts. No personal loans.

Bob Brooks: His form is incomplete and fails to list calendar-year totals. Between March 18 and May 22, he raised $3,516; spent $20,228; had $3,369 in the bank; and reported no outstanding debts.


David Livingston: Raised $100,985. Spent $145,416. Had $15,353 in the bank. No outstanding debts. No personal loans.

Brian Kalinowski: Raised $82,962. Spent $80,702. Had $3,198 in the bank.  Debts of $42,100. Made personal loans of $44,067.


Dan O’Malley: Raised $111,872. Spent $120,369. Cash on hand of $45,242. Debts of $8,400. Made personal loan of $3,000.

Mark Peterson: Raised $96,866. Spent $114,837. Cash on hand of $7,495. No debts. No personal loans.

Elle Falahat: Raised $42,637. Spent $76,786. Cash on hand of $6,429. Debts of $33,225. Personal loans of $23,000.


CoCo supervisor race heats up

Contra Costa supervisor candidate and Pleasant Hill Mayor Karen Mitchoff is throwing a few elbows this week with a mailer targeting her opponent, Mike McGill.

She plays off McGill’s clever ads that brand him as a glasses-wearing nerd, just the kind of guy a voter wants handling the books, right?

Mitchoff hammers McGill, an elected member of the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District board, for the agency’s sewer rate hikes and its generous retirement benefits.

I’m not sure the mailer quite works, though. At first glance, it almost looks like it could be a McGill-sponsored mailer with its image of black glasses. A voter will have to take the time to turn the mailer over and read the details in order to get the point she is trying to make.

Here is the mailer plus her companion, feel-good flier that went out.


Contra Costa supervisor debate set

Candidates vying for Contra Costa County District I and IV Contra Costa Board of Supervisors seats will debate the issues  at a Monday luncheon meeting of the Contra Costa Council.

The candidates include District I incumbent Supervisor John Gioia and challenger Mister Phillips.

In District IV, the two challengers are Karen Mitchoff and Mike McGill. The incumbent, Susan Bonilla, is running for Assembly and not seeking re-election.

The forum is set for Monday at the Hilton Concord Hotel, 1970 Diamond Blvd., in Concord. Registration starts at 11 a.m., with the program and luncheon beginning at 11:30 a.m.

I am the moderator. I will ask a few questions of my own and we will take audience questions.

The cost is  $35 for council members and public officials and $45 for nonmembers.

For more information, visit the Council website at www.contracostacouncil.com or call the council at 925-246-1880.