by Hilary Crosby
Our September meeting had a focus local – our main presenter was our District 1 Supervisor John Gioia. One guest, Brady Calma, was from Local 21 of the International Professional and Technical Engineers which represents their members in Contra Costa County. Our other guest was Zachery Mallet, the BART board member for part of El Cerrito and the rest of West Contra Costa County.
Brady came to inform us about a dispute over changes in how increases in the cost of healthcare premiums will be shared between the county and its employees. Up until 2009, the county paid a percentage of the increases in health care premiums, but since then, the employees have paid 100% of the premium increases.
BART Director Zakhary Mallett made a brief presentation about his proposal to explore expanded rail service that may connect northern communities in West Contra Costa County with existing BART services at the Richmond or El Cerrito del Norte BART Station, a project he calls wBART. By relating wBART to eBART in East Contra Costa County, he discussed wBART being neither alignment‐ nor technology‐specific, but an open‐ended study and project title that would identify which alignment and which technology would best serve the purpose of providing a commuting alternative to the many commuters in the area.
As he reminded us, this issue was an important reason for why he wanted to serve on the BART board, and it was refreshing to hear an elected official follow up on a campaign promise. At this point, Mr. Mallett is still working to build political consensus to conduct the comprehensive study component of this effort and is hoping to secure funds for such a study.
Mr. Mallett pointed out that the I‐80 corridor is the most congested commute corridor in the San Francisco Bay Area and suggested this as a paramount reason for investing in the wBART study. Since traffic congestion contributes to global warming, chances are our club would support the wBART effort.
In response to questions from Sandy Waters, an ECDC member who has recently retired from her position as BART station agent, Mr. Mallett informed us that an initial planning study would probably cost between $400,000 and $600,000 and that the Environmental Review process would likely run between $2 million and $2.5 million. This of course begs the question of the amount it would cost to actually construct the project.
Supervisor Gioia put this issue into the broader county‐wide, and pointed out that the main reason county didn’t fund the extension because would have sucked up all other transportation money. There is currently no identified funding for wBART, and building BART is really really expensive.
Supervisor Gioia provided the Club with various updates on Healthcare, the County’s financial situation and overall good news for residents in Contra Costa.
Contra Costa County (CCC) has been a leader in providing healthcare for 30‐40 years. We have the first had County‐ run Health Maintenance Organization that is funded with Medicare reimbursements.
The county is exploring becoming part of a region‐wide health care system centered by University of San Francisco (UCSF). UCSF is in the process of buying Children’s Hospital Oakland, and is open to entering the East Bay market more comprehensively. By affiliating with UCSF in some way, Doctors’ Hospital in San Pablo could become part of this consolidation.
Supervisor Gioia pointed out that Obamacare incentivized delivering health care more efficiently, and focusing on more preventative medicine. Affordable care keeps people out of the hospital; making it easier to see primary care doctor will help people stay healthier.
The lawsuits with Chevron are over – Chevron has withdrawn one, and the panel appointed by the Assessor dismissed another. By the way, ECDC members can be proud of our member Art Walenta who served on the panel and wrote the dismissal! The County netted $8 million from the results.
After two years of property tax decrease and one year no growth, there has been an increase in property tax collections. During the down times, the County worked with unions to prevent layoffs and preserve services, even as the demand went up during the recession.
When employees paid more health care and pensions, it helped meet those goals. But now we have seen a 3.5% increase from property, and are projecting a 5% increase forward.
Of course, we still have the looming unfunded pension liability of $55,600,000. So putting together the projected increases in revenue and project additional, the County is looking at a $22,980,000 deficit for 2014/15.
Save the Bay launched a project to get an SF Bay region‐wide parcel tax onto the ballot that would fund wetlands restoration and protection. With all of the Bay Area counties participating, a small amount for each parcel would provide significant funding to preserve and protect the Bay.
Contra Costa Library working on its strategic plan. The meeting in El Cerrito had the best turn out in county. There is a big citizen movement in El Cerrito to build new library.
RYSE Center in Richmond is a youth center grew out of youth’s response to the killings of four young people in 2000. Although it is a “place to hang out” and be safe from violence, there are several active programs, including music video productions. Supervisor Gioia encouraged us to take a look at rysecenter.org.
If you download it on iTunes, RYSE gets the money. But if you just want to listen, do that too.
Assembly member Nancy Skinner proposed legislation to increase penalties and fines levied against companies for things like the Chevron fire. These funds would go towards more refinery monitoring which will hopefully prevent the kinds of accidents that generated the fines in the first place.