Thursday, September 19, 2019

[Tehama County] Red Bluff responds to Grand Jury report

RED BLUFF— The City Council decided how to respond to the 2018-2019 Tehama County Grand Jury report Tuesday.
Every year the Grand Jury releases its report, which evaluated the city’s efforts to promote economic development and attract new businesses.
The report found the city does not employ a full-time city manager, city attorney or community development director. It cited the city’s trouble in planning for new infrastructure and public facilities that obstruct economic growth. Economic development is not actively promoted by the city.
The Grand Jury recommended the city hire a full-time community development director who could pursue outside funding for development.
The council responded by stating it is well into the 2019-2020 budget year and finances were not set aside to hire an economic development director, but the recommendation will be referred to the city’s Budget Committee in early 2020 for evaluation.
The Grand Jury recommends City Manager Richard Crabtree, who also serves as the city’s attorney, present the council an annual progress report of the city’s 20-Year General Plan beginning with the adoption of the new 20-Year General Plan. The council said it would implement this in July 2020.
The council and Crabtree were required to respond to the report’s findings and recommendations.
There was no discussion before the council approved Crabtree’s recommended response to the report.
August 7, 2019
Red Bluff Daily News
By George Johnston


[Alameda County] Oakland School District Seeing Spike In Departing Principals

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The Oakland Unified School District said 20 principals have quit over the summer, higher than the 10 to 12 that have left in recent years, according to district spokesperson John Sasaki.
“Is this a little bit more than normal? Yes, it’s a little higher than at least in the few years that I’ve been here. But we always have some turnover in principals,” said Sasaki.
It was a particularly tumultuous year for the OUSD. The teacher’s strike shut down the district for seven days, the school board agreed to a $20 million dollar budget cut and an Alameda County Civil Grand Jury report found the district “thrives on dysfunction.”
Leroy Gaines, the former principal at Acorn Woodland Elementary, said he had no regrets over his decision to leave. Gaines was also an executive principal who oversaw training for principals, and sat on the board of the union that represents OUSD principals.
“Just being in those spaces gave me a clear understanding of the sort of turmoil that not only Oakland, but the state is in, in terms of funding and our finances, and our ability to keep those in line and stay in the black,” said Gaines.
Gaines is now the executive director of the Bay Area branch of New Leaders, a professional development training program for new principals. He said principals were squeezed in the conflict in between the teachers union and district, all while trying to keep the school operations running normally.
“It’s very taxing. Like, having to bear that weight and being able to sit in the position of leading the people. Leading your teachers, parents and families at the site level. So that was tough,” said Gaines.
Keith Brown is the president of the Oakland Education Association, the union that represents Oakland’s teachers. He said the same pressures that are forcing teachers out of Oakland — including lower wages and a high cost of living — are affecting principals as well. And the strike helped to bring those issues to light.
“The strike is a step in the direction to improve our schools. So it’s not to blame for principals leaving. It highlights some of the symptoms, the problems that have existed in the Oakland Unified School District that we seriously need to change right now,” said Brown.
OUSD spokesperson Sasaki admitted that he labor dispute of the last school year might have led to some departures, but said he hadn’t heard anyone specifically say that.
“Are there some that could’ve been impacted and decided to do something else because of the stress of the past school year? Possibly. That’s entirely possible. But I have not heard that,” said Sasaki.
“I think a big piece of the puzzle is going to be how is the district finding resources, and doing the fundraising and grant writing, to build the support, and work in a way that they’re giving the principals training and the skill sets to get that work done at their schools,” said Gaines.
August 7, 2019
KPIX 5 CBS San Francisco
By Kiet Do


[Santa Barbara County] Safety improvements in railroad areas of Santa Barbara underway

Grand Jury report cites dangerous zones


SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara is making safety improvements in the railroad corridor through the city at the same time as a Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report addresses fatalities in the area.
It involves more than just having more horns going off and crossing arms at rail-street crossings.
"It is pretty loud even if you have your headphones on," said resident Roxanne Solakian about the train horns on both the Pacific Surfliner and Union Pacific freight trains.
There are new safety arms in place at Milpas Street and State Street for both cars and pedestrians.
Cyclist Rick Cremeen said, "This is pretty noisy here now. This should be pretty safe."
We found many adults who make sure kids are learning about train track safety at an early age.
Soily Gammino has been taking care of two kids for the summer. At the State Street crossing, she said, "He's been to summer camp called Safety Town, so he learned to stop, watch, listen. So that is very helpful, but also they hold my hand when we cross the street, especially on the train track."
One of the crossings by Milpas Street has multiple signs for the public and drivers to see about where to stop and reminders to look for the trains.
There's also new railings that guide the pedestrians into a designated area for crossing instead of wherever they want.
Distracted pedestrians, similar to distracted drivers, can always still be a risk.
"You know a lot of people are on their cell phones, and they are looking down and not paying attention," said Solakian.
A study shows most of the fatal accidents in recent years have been between Ortega Hill to about Los Patos Way. There's also an area of serious concern from behind the Santa Barbara Zoo near Milpas Street to Castillo Street.
August 7, 2019
KEYT ABC
By John Palminteri


[Sacramento County] Water district responds to grand jury report

The Florin Resource Conservation District (FRCD) Board of Directors on July 31 responded to complaints filed against them and their organization’s subsidiary, the Elk Grove Water District (EGWD).
Those complaints appeared in an 18-page section of the final Sacramento County Grand Jury Report for 2018-19.
The board’s response to the complaints and the grand jury’s recommendations came during a special meeting held at the Cosumnes Community Services District’s headquarters.
The board’s responses did not represent official action. They will be presented for formal action by the FRCD board during their Aug. 21 meeting.
District’s mission
A portion of the grand jury report recognized the district’s decision to alter its mission while it was facing budget challenges in April 2018.
The district was in jeopardy of depleting its budget reserve by last January, unless it took dramatic action. As a result, the district voted to dedicate its entire budget to its water service. The report noted that this action was taken without an outside review.
The grand jury recommended that the district’s board conduct a review its decision to alter the mission by Dec. 31, including outside consultants, and expanding public participation and engagement.
FRCD board Vice Chair Bob Gray responded to the jury’s findings.
“It’s factually incorrect,” he said. “We did use outside consultants. We had numerous meetings and discussions of this (issue) long before the ruling.”
Another board member mentioned that this discussion is cited in the board meeting minutes.
The board disagreed with the grand jury’s findings regarding its decision to alter its mission, and agreed that the jury’s recommendation would not be implemented.
Individual ratepayer representation
Concerns about ratepayer representation were also raised in the grand jury report, with the potential that all five board members could live outside of the EGWD’s boundaries.
“Because Board Members are elected at large from the entire area of the FRCD and not from within the smaller boundary of the EGWD, equitable representation of rate-payers may be denied,” the grand jury noted.
Currently, the Elk Grove Water District’s board includes two directors who live outside of the district’s boundaries. The FRCD board agreed with those findings.
Board member Sophia Scherman focused on the use of the word “may” in the jury’s report.
“Words mean things,” she said. “Just like when you take medication and they give you the what-ifs (regarding) what can happen, we have a paragraph (that includes) ‘it may cause this’ and ‘it may’ (do that).”
Scherman said that she agreed with the finding, since the word “may” is “not a definite definition.”
The grand jury also recommended that the district consider a plan, by June 30, 2020, that would make only those living within the Elk Grove Water District’s boundaries eligible to become members of the board.
The board decided that this recommendation would not be implemented.
Following the meeting, Madison told the Citizen that the board believes taking such an action would be illegal.
“The bottom line is that is not possible legally at this time,” he said. “That’s a controversial matter, and it’s simply not legal to do. That is the position of the board.”
Board meetings
Also addressed in the grand jury’s report was the district’s practice of holding closed meeting sessions following the public open session, instead of holding closed meeting sessions prior to open sessions.
The Brown Act requires that the board return to an open session to present any reportable action.
It was recommended in the report that the FRCD board hold its closed sessions prior to its board meetings to “ensure that the public is notified timely of any actions resulting from those closed sessions.”
The board agreed that beginning closed sessions at an earlier time – for instance, 5:30 p.m. – would not be practical, since some board members would not be able to make earlier start times due to other factors, such as employment.
It was also noted in the district’s response that the board has rarely taken action in closed sessions.
Since 2015, the board has had 39 closed sessions, four of which had reportable actions.
The board also presented its finding that the current session order is consistent with how most water agencies in the region conduct their business.
According to the board, all but two of the 14 agencies hold their closed sessions following their open board meeting sessions.
On two occasions during the meeting, FRCD General Manager Mark Madison stated that a change in the session schedule would result in increased costs.
“It does cause increased costs to the district, as certain consultants and staff are kept here to have to be compensated and paid for that time,” he said.
Health benefits
The grand jury report also noted that the board could institute health insurance benefits for its members, without additional public discussion.
Although a previous vote by the board allowed for the board members to receive such benefits, no action on the matter was ever taken, the report noted. The FRCD board agreed with those findings.
The grand jury recommended that the board rescind its vote regarding health benefits by Sept. 30, since no action was taken to implement them.
In response, the board recommended further analysis of this issue.
The next steps
Madison commented on future steps in the grand jury process, including action that will be taken in the Aug. 21 meeting.
“We need to prepare a formal response based on the directions that the board provided to me on (July 31),” he told the Citizen. “I’ll be working on that next week, but I expect and plan to take the formal proposed response to the board on Aug. 21.
“The board has to (officially) approve the response, so all I can do is give them a proposed response (based on the board’s recommendations).”
Madison added that once the board approves a motion authorizing him to present its official response to the court, he will do so.
The Aug. 21 meeting will be held at the Elk Grove Water District office, 9257 Elk Grove Blvd., from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
August 7, 2019
Elk Grove Citizen
By Lance Armstrong


[Contra Costa County] Three Contra Costa elected officials to get second pay raise in two months

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
MARTINEZ — Three Contra Costa County elected officials will get pay raises this month ranging from 4.77 to 8.45 percent on top of the 4 percent cost-of-living increases they received in July.
The Board of Supervisors last month unanimously approved the latest raises, effective Aug. 1, for the county’s clerk-recorder, who oversees the elections department, the treasurer-tax collector and the auditor-controller.
Those will be in addition to the 4 percent cost-of-living increase that kicked in last month, which the supervisors authorized in December for management, exempt and unrepresented classifications — including elected department heads.
County Administrator David Twa said at Tuesday’s board meeting the extra raises will make the salaries of the three elected officials comparable to those of their counterparts in neighboring counties.
As a result, Auditor-Controller Robert Campbell’s salary gets an 8.45 percent bump to $225,594 a year, Treasurer-Tax Collector Russell Watts’ pay goes up 4.77 percent to $217,931 and Clerk-Recorder Joseph Canciamilla takes in 5.48 percent more for $210,686.
A county analysis indicated they made less than people holding similar jobs in Alameda, Marin, Napa, Sacramento, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties.
It’s not always apples and apples, however, since some of the other counties combine roles of the three elected officials. In Alameda County, for example, the auditor‐controller‐clerk‐recorder functions are combined, and in Sacramento County the auditor‐controller and treasurer‐tax collector functions fall under the job of director of finance.
Salary increases for Contra Costa’s district attorney and sheriff-coroner are tied to those given to the employees in their departments. District Attorney Diana Becton’s $282,094 and Sheriff David Livingston’s $269,174 salaries are higher than the averages of their respective positions in other counties.
Although County Assessor Gus Kramer would need a raise of 1.96 percent to match the average salary of county assessors in the other counties, Twa said he didn’t recommend it because of “issues” in the department. He didn’t elaborate on the issues.
The county’s grand jury has recommended that Kramer be removed from office amid accusations that he created a hostile work environment by making sexual comments and racial slurs to employees.
According to county documents, increasing the salaries of the three elected officials will cost the county $55,000 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, including $13,000 in pension costs.
“These adjustments are necessary to prevent the potential loss of highly trained executives and to continue to attract experienced, highly motivated individuals to run for these offices,” the memo says.
Earlier this year, the supervisors voted to tie their own raises to those of Superior Court judges. By 2021, the supervisors’ salaries will reach $134,825 — 65 percent of the judges’ salaries.
August 7, 2019
East Bay Times
By Annie Sciacca


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

[San Mateo County] Grand jury encourages pension cost transparency

City manager: HMB can budget for liabilities


One year after the San Mateo County civil grand jury released a report warning of the threat of increasing pension costs on local government budgets, a new report recommends that cities publish at least 10 years of future pension liabilities in annual reports.
The grand jury emphasized the importance of transparency, noting that residents should be able to easily compare projected pension costs against general fund forecasts to assess their city’s financial stability.
Half Moon Bay City Manager Bob Nisbet said he wasn’t shocked by anything in the report.
“I haven’t heard anywhere in the community that people don’t have access to this information, or they think this is a big concern,” he said.
Though pension costs in Half Moon Bay rose almost 50 percent during the 2017-18 fiscal year, the costs make up about 7 percent of the city’s general fund. The county average is 14.8 percent.
Portola Valley and Woodside are the only cities that spent less on pension costs in 2017-18 than Half Moon Bay.
Nisbet said pension costs, which rose to $881,000 in 2017-18, are a concern, but he said the city can afford the increase and plans to budget for the change. He added that the city saves money by contracting with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement, which could partially explain why the city isn’t facing the same budget squeeze other cities face.
Increasing pension costs for cities can be partially attributed to lower projected investment returns by the California Public Employees Retirement System, the public administration organization that manages pension plans for San Mateo County cities. CalPERS invests employee and city contributions and relies on a return on investment for more than half of the benefits it pays out. In 2016, CalPERS lowered its expected return, leaving cities on the hook to pay for the difference.
Last summer, the grand jury found that San Mateo County cities spent $102 million on pension plans in 2016-17, a number that could double by 2024-25. 
The grand jury’s 2018 report laid out a number of possibilities to pay down pension costs, including cutting services, reducing employee salaries, laying off employees, negotiating an increase in employee contribution to pension costs, increasing taxes or reallocating money from other areas. 
In its most recent report, the grand jury assessed how the county’s 20 cities have managed pension costs and planned for increased costs in the future. It commended Half Moon Bay for its retirement stabilization fund, which Nisbet said the city could draw on if its revenues began to decrease.
“Right now, we’re in the position where we can pay as we go, like any other expense,” he said.
The city has $1.15 million in the fund, enough to pay for 17 months of pension costs.
August 7, 2019
Half Moon Bay Review
By Davis Rich


[San Mateo County] Report warns of election worries

Group says county systems at risk


The San Mateo County civil grand jury warns that online election information held in county offices is vulnerable to cyberattacks.
While that might surprise many voters, there is precedent, according to the grand jury, which issued its report last week. In 2010, hackers hijacked the county’s election results website and in 2016 the county fell victim to a phishing attack against several employees.
Nationwide, election security is a hot topic. Last week, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee reported that Russia targeted elections systems in all 50 states in 2016, and that effort went largely unnoticed at the time.
The grand jury maintains San Mateo County’s election information website and social media accounts remain vulnerable to attack because the county has not put in place sufficient, secure, multifactor authentication systems — systems that require users to enter more than one password to log in to gain access.
While much of the public attention focuses on the integrity of voting machines and counting individual votes, this report focuses on the vulnerability of the county’s email and online communication platforms.
The grand jury concludes that the security protections against hijacking that the county currently uses are not adequate. The county election website and social media accounts could be used to mislead voters before an election or distribute incorrect information afterward.
“Public confidence is at stake, even if the vote itself is secure,” the report states. 
The report details steps that the county could take to improve the security of these online accounts. Employees who are critical in distributing election information should better protect their accounts using FIDO keys — physical security keys that owners insert or tap to their computers or phones to complete their account sign-in process — as part of a stronger multifactor authentication process. 
The grand jury also recommends that the county take advantage of free consulting services offered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help them assess and improve online system security. 
Mark Church, chief elections officer for San Mateo County, released a preliminary response to the report. “In cooperation with the county’s Information Services Department, we will incorporate those recommendations and best practices that are in the best interests of the public,” he said in the statement.
Church says the report failed to recognize the cyber security programs and procedures that are already in place to protect the county’s election information. 
“San Mateo County voters can rest assured that our voter information, voting tabulation systems, websites and communications structure are safe and secure,” said Church in his response.
The elections office is still in the process of reviewing the report and will provide a detailed response to the San Mateo County Superior Court on or before Sept. 23. 
August 7, 2019
Half Moon Bay Review
By Emma Spaeth


[San Mateo County] Civil grand jury recycles concerns over waste stream

Ox Mountain filling fast


The cities within San Mateo County face significant challenges in managing waste, according to a report issued last week by the county’s civil grand jury.
The biggest challenge outlined in the report headlined, “Planning for the County’s Waste Management Challenges,” is meeting the state’s new organic waste reduction target. The statewide goal is to reduce the amount of organic waste put in landfills by 75 percent by 2025, amounting to nearly 300,000 tons of organic waste.
According to the report, limited space in landfills is also a concern. The Ox Mountain Landfill, owned by Republic Services and located off of Highway 92 just east of Half Moon Bay, is expected to reach capacity in 2034. 
“While the solid waste facility permit for the landfill estimates a closure date of 2034, based on current fill rates and remaining capacity, we anticipate that Ox Mountain has approximately 20 years’ capacity left (2039),” said Monica Devincenzi, municipal relationship manager of Republic Services, in an emailed response to questions. She said the key to extending the landfill’s life lies in diverting and reducing waste.
“As more materials are diverted away from the landfill, it extends the closure date,” she said. “Our goal has been and will continue to be to operate and manage the facility with the greatest care possible to ensure it remains a resource and viable option in the county for as long as possible in partnership with the communities we serve.” Recyclables have also contributed to this problem. Every year, California exports about a third of the recyclable materials it collects. Most of this has historically been bought by processors in China who use recycled waste as material to manufacture new products.
However, in February 2018, the Chinese “National Sword” policy showed a reduced tolerance for contaminants on recyclable materials. That has resulted in a portion of the county’s collected recyclables being dumped in a landfill. Since the Chinese policy shift, the portion of South Bayside Waste Management Authority’s collected recyclables sent to Ox Mountain landfill rose from 7 to 12 percent. 
The most recent calculations from CalRecycle, California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, report that California generated 77.2 million tons of waste in 2017. Of that, 44.4 million tons ended up in landfills.
“We have always stressed the importance of reducing and reusing before recycling, and it’s now more critical than ever,” said Devincenzi. “We are starting to see more of these types of initiatives in communities throughout the Bay Area and the state, and we anticipate that more will be developed in the coming years.
“It requires everyone to do their part, from such simple steps as getting away from purchasing single-use items, to making sure that they are only putting those items that are accepted in their recycling programs.”
The grand jury recommended that the county’s Office of Sustainability prepare a new plan to deal with the problems addressed in the report.
August 7, 2019
Half Moon Bay Review
By Emma Spaeth


Glenn County grand jury releases report

The 2018-2019 Glenn County grand jury covered a variety of topics in its most recent report such as the Glenn County Jail, roads, the district attorney’s office, Elk Creek water and more.  
Glenn County Jail 
The grand jury is required to complete an inspection of the county jail facilities each year – in accordance to the penal code. 
“Built in 1990, the Glenn County Jail is showing its age,” it was stated in the grand jury report. “With little funding available, some of the previous grand jury recommendations have been met, some partially met and some have not been met.”
The grand jury findings included things like staffing being at a minimum; an environmental health report showing mold, chipped paint, etc. in some pod areas (the grand jury relied on outside reports due to members not being allowed in pod areas); some food having a temperature reading more than 41 degrees (however the food was discarded); refrigeration unit having an accumulation of ice build up; a smoke detector having a cage that couldn’t be removed for inspection; and, having Senate Bill 10 (which would change how an arrested and detained subject would be processed) going into effect in October, it will have an effect on the population of the jail, probation department officers, Glenn County Courts and the sheriff’s department. 
The grand jury concluded that most of the findings have a minimal effect on the operations of the jail, jail and kitchen staffs and maintenance personnel are to be commended for their efforts in keeping the jail a safe and well maintained place for county personnel and jail inmates, according to the report. 
“The grand jury wishes to thank the Glenn County Jail staff for their outstanding effort to provide a safe, clean place for inmates and staff in a dated structure that has seen its day,” it was stated. 
Juvenile probation
“After one year of Glenn County juveniles being held at Tehama County’s juvenile hall, they seem to acclimate well,” it was stated in the Glenn County grand jury report. 
The juvenile hall offers juveniles many self improvement and enrichment programs, and physical  and mental health services providing juveniles with a chance to change their ways, according to the report. 
The grand jury is required to visit the juvenile detention facility each year and the report also states that its purpose is to inform the community about the daily lives and access to programs juveniles housed in Tehama County can participate in. 
The grand jury met with the Glenn County chief of probation, conducted interviews with Tehama County facility administration, had a Tehama County facility visit, interviewed Glenn County juveniles, reviewed the Tehama policy and procedures and interviewed the Glenn County probation officer. 
Several of the findings of the grand jury, such as the juvenile hall having many policies and procedures followed by staff and juveniles, a reward system being in place for “positive behavior,” and juveniles stated that they felt safe and protected came with no recommendation. 
The grand jury did recommend that the detention center consider holding a business fair showing jobs available in Northern California, that each of the Glenn County Board of Superiors make arrangements individually to visit the juvenile hall and the Glenn County probation officer ensure parents receive orientation information via hard copy or electronic form rather than by request only. 
Adult probation 
According to the grand jury report, for the last two years, Glenn County has withheld general funds from the Probation Department – making the department utilize the department’s reserve funds which will be depleted by 2020-2021. An internal memorandum revealed $813,098 would be needed to fully restore the probation budget back to its normal reserve amount. 
The Glenn County Probation Department is made up of seven adult and three juvenile probation officers, one program manager, assistant chief of probation, office technician, supervising probation officer and chief probation officer. 
“After interviews with several county departments, it was decided to reinterview the probation department to gain insight into the problems that may be caused by the absence of ‘general funds’ that has been slashed from the department’s budget in recent years,” it was stated in the report. 
The grand jury conducted the investigation of the department to evaluate the process and procedures of the adult probation division to the Glenn County Probation Department and to know how the department was operating without the general fund support and depletion of grant funds held in its reserves.
The grand jury met, interviewed and reviewed Glenn County chief of probation, probation budget proposal to the Board of Supervisors, email communications from the Board of Supervisors to the probation department and from probation to the Board of Supervisors, and 2017-2018 Glenn County budget and expenditures.
The grand jury recommended that the Board of Supervisors return the promised general dunds back to the probation department so it can meet its obligations and retain their personnel. 
The grand jury also found that within the next 18 months, seven probation officer positions will be at risk of elimination while the mandates to the probation department will continue or increase – it was recommended that the Board of Supervisors and probation department work to find a solution for financing for continued and/or increased monitoring of probationers by officers.
Glenn County District Attorney
The grand jury investigates areas within each of the public sectors that includes public safety. 
According to the report, the grand jury selected the district attorney’s office to understand the process of prosecuting a crime in Glenn County, to better understand the responsibilities of the DA and to better understand why some murders in Glenn County take a long time to be prosecuted.
Upon the investigation, the DA makes a decision to send the investigation back to the investigating parties or department for additional information, take it to trial or make the decision for dismissal. 
“The Glenn County District Attorney serves the people of Glenn County by prosecuting crimes that come before his desk, participates in county budgeting process, serves the grand jury when needed, help with department web pages and serves on other county committees,” it was stated in the report. 
The current DA, Dwayne Stewart, has served the county for six years and most of his time is spent in court and/or preparing cases for court, according to the report. He also gets called out for warrants as well as working with the sheriff on arrests.
At the time of the grand jury investigation, the DA’s calendar showed homicide cases scheduled for every other week through the month of September. When the current DA was elected, the office had more than 7,000 cases that needed resolution, according to the report. It took him more than two years to clear the inherited cases. 
The grand jury recommended that the Board of Supervisors provide financial resources to meet human resource needs of the DA’s office (finding that it was understaffed), that the supervisors also provide professional space that supports the confidential nature of the office, that the board provide the DA staff with an office in Orland without time limits, and that the supervisors also provide necessary resources to the DA to have all case files currently warehoused in boxes digitized.
“The grand jury found that the district attorney and his staff is performing their job duties of the office with the expected diligence the public expects on every case without favor,” it was stated in the report. “The grand jury commends the district attorney for his had work putting in many personal hours to insure the crimes are prosecuted to their full extent.” 
Public Works – Glenn County roads
The Public Works road department is adequately funded for the current scope of work that it performs for federal and state agencies, according to the grand jury report. However, it’s lacking in funds to maintain existing county roads or to create new ones that might be determine to support the residents of Glenn County. 
Recent fires and flooding have had an impact on Glenn County roads, according to the report. 
“The infrastructure is old and needs replacing, with the influx of traffic from the Camp Fire and recent rains/flooding they will deteriorate much faster,” it was stated in the report. “Glenn County roads are in desperate need of repair.”
The grand jury interviewed the Public Works Department, gave a presentation to the Board of Supervisors and visited several road sites.
The grand jury recommended that the Public Works Department budget needs to be addressed by the Board of Supervisors to find additional funds to repair county roads and that the department needs to recruit additional employees, as it is understaffed.
“Commendations to the Public Works Department for their forward thinking in researching mitigating factors in making the county roads useful,” it was stated in the report. 
Elk Creek water
“Elk Creek water has been undrinkable for years,” it was stated in the report. 
The Elk Creek community relies on water from the Stony Gorge Reservoir for all uses including household, personal use, gardening, lawn and agriculture purposes. The chlorine odor and taste make the treated water undesirable for drinking, according to the report. 
Community residents have relied on bottled water for several years to have potable water, however, treated water is used for all other purposes. 
“Those subscribers having water service from the (Community Service District) had to give up use of well water in order to be given access to pipe in water from the CSD,” it was stated. 
Elk Creek consists of about 175 people, 110 homes with 90 water connections. The Stony Gorges dam was built in 1926 and is the only source of water for the community. 
According to the report, the area water is known to contain high levels of iron and magnesium from all sources of runoff water, including water that feeds into the Stony Gorge Reservoir. 
“It is a combination of these high levels of mineral content and periodic episodes of water turbidity and the chemical treatment protocols required to treat the raw water that are the main reasons CSD states it needs a new upgraded settling tank,” it was stated in the report. 
The grand jury interviewed CSD personnel, reviewed USDA proposed grant and conducted a CSD plant inspection.
The grand jury found that the potable water in Elk Creek is unusable for human consumption, that the CSD doesn’t have funds available for necessary repairs to the existing equipment, that the budget from Glenn County for CSD operations is insufficient, that the CSD needs funds for new equipment for treatment of raw water used from Stony Gorge Reservoir, and the state of California may require CSD to hire full-time employees with benefits. 
To address these findings, the grand jury recommended that a new water treatment tank be installed, that Glenn County use reserves to install needed equipment, that the Glenn County supervisor of District 3 advocates support for funds, that CSD continues to investigate sources of funds for new equipment and daily expenditures and that CSD investigates the possibility and makes arrangements in the budget to hire full-time employees. 
“The CSD is commended for using every available option to them to correct the undrinkable water in Elk Creek,” it was stated in the report. 
Willows Unified School District – Measure B
The Willows Unified School District made improvements with Measure B that were necessary.
“The school bond provided upgrades to each of the district’s three schools by improving aged and out dated equipment and buildings,” it was stated in the report. 
The grand jury looked into Measure B to ensure that the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee Measure B is following their bylaws, monitoring the expense report and informing the community of the progress. 
The grand jury interviewed the WUSD superintendent, reviewed the resolution, reviewed the bylaws for the oversight committee, reviewed the audit performed by Christy White Associates in June 2017, reviewed the 2017-2018 grand jury report and visited the sites of construction and maintenance. 
Measure B was passed by the citizens of Willows in 2016 and in the summer of 2017, the work started to be completed from the funds of Measure B and matching funds from the district. 
According to the report, Phase One had been completed at the time of the investigation and Phase Two is near completion – it’s anticipated that all projects will be completed this year and most or all of the funds exhausted and the district provided about an additional $1.26 million to complete the project. 
A tour by the grand jury of Murdock Elementary School showed improvements such as new portable classrooms, carpeting, computer lab and library and more. 
Although the grand jury didn’t tour the Willows Intermediate School, according to the report, the superintendent stated that a new ADA compliant toilet room was provided, most buildings received a new coat of paint and more.
No recommendations were provided from the grand jury. 
“The Willows Unified School District and the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee needs to be commended for the work that has been done toward the completion of this worthwhile project as it has increased the quality of education, as well as providing a cleaner, safer and more appealing educational environment to all staff members, students and the community it serves,” it was stated in the report. 
Glenn County Senior Nutrition
The grand jury received concerns about possible misuse of the Senior Nutrition Program by people outside the target population, according to the report. Through an investigation, the grand jury didn’t find evidence to support these concerns. 
“The most prominent finding is the insufficient funding to sustain the program into the future,” it was stated. “Another finding worth mentioning is the high quality of the service provided by the Senior Nutrition Program.”
The program – which has locations in both Willows and Orland – provides meals to seniors and guests and is a government-administered program that works closely with the Glenn County Senior Centers, a nonprofit, and passages Area 3 Agency on Aging. 
Interviews were conducted by members of the grand jury questioning key individuals in the program, financial information was provided from the program and passages, written policies and procedures were reviewed along with the California Code of Regulations regarding elderly nutrition programs, conducted a written survey of patrons of the Senior Nutrition Program and went to the centers during lunch to observe the program operations and viewed the senior nutrition website. 
The grand jury did find that suggested donations and guest fees for meals are posted but easily missed and that it is unclear if the guest fee is a suggested fee or required fee. It was recommended that the program revises the posted donations and fees to be more prominent and that they clarify fees for guests under 60 years of age. 
Other grand jury findings and recommendations address the concerns over funding and operating costs – by way of applying for grants and researching ways to reduce the operating costs of the program.
“The Glenn County grand jury commends that Glenn County Senior Nutrition Program that provides a valuable service to seniors by providing freshly prepared, nutritious meals through both home delivery and senior participants and the Glenn County Senior Center site in Orland and Willows Senior Nutrition at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Willows,” it was stated in the report. 
August 6, 2019
Appeal-Democrat - Glenn County Transcript


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

[Humboldt County] Eureka’s homeless to consult ACLU on police treatment

Advocate frustrated with city’s response to calls for new policies


Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
A leading advocate for the homeless says he and others may pursue a class-action lawsuit against the city of Eureka if they can’t find common ground over local homeless policies and law enforcement practices.
Numerous homeless people in Eureka have come together with stories of alleged harassment and misconduct by local police. At a meeting next Monday, the individuals will consult with attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California chapter to discuss steps forward.
Vernon Price, a leading advocate for the homeless, says he approached the Eureka City Council on multiple occasions to discuss how to improve the local homeless population’s quality of life instead of criminalizing the problem.
“That has been blatantly ignored, so we’re moving forward with the ACLU,” Price said.
The group has support from the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission, which has advocated for addressing policies surrounding homelessness. Jim Glover, the commission’s chair, said the meeting next week is a long time coming.
“We’ve been working for a while to get the ACLU’s attention regarding people who have charged that they are being criminalized simply for being homeless people,” Glover said.
Monday’s meeting won’t be open to the public, since Price and others want to give attendees a chance to speak freely without too many people or possible authority figures in the room.
A grand jury report on the county’s homeless enforcement policies released last month documents what the jury called a “counterproductive” use of taxpayer dollars to keep homeless people from camping in certain areas or sleeping on sidewalks near commercial sites.
Price hopes a number of personal anecdotes between homeless individuals and police will compel two senior ACLU attorneys — who will attend via video conference — to offer legal advice and take up the group’s cause.
One of the group’s testimonies is of a 62-year-old woman who, while living legally in her vehicle in Eureka, allegedly had “all of her possessions and personal belongings taken” by police for “sleeping in a public place.” The police also allegedly took her vehicle.
The group has several similar anecdotes ready to go, but Glover hopes the accounts are rooted more in facts than emotion. The ACLU potentially taking up the group’s cause depends on the effectiveness of the testimony, he said.
“The more factual it is and the more evidence they can provide that they were criminalized,” Glover said, “that’s what’s going to speak to the lawyers.”
“Of course, there’s two sides to every story,” he continued, “but this is an opportunity for people to tell their story, unfiltered by the (Human Rights Commission) or anyone else, directly to lawyers who deal with this kind of problem all the time.”
Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson emphasized the subjective nature of personal anecdotes, noting that he wouldn’t be able to respond to any individual case or generic allegations without more research. But the group’s rhetoric isn’t anything new, he said.
“I know that there are members of the homeless community — and the advocates and activists — who believe any enforcement is too much enforcement,” Watson said. “And they erroneously equate any enforcement of existing local or state laws with criminalizing the state of being homeless.”
Watson said responding to the “innumerous” public complaints about homeless people isn’t law enforcement’s “preferred tool,” but the ultimate answer isn’t to “further erode” the department’s tools in maintaining order.
“Instead, we need solutions that will reduce the need for enforcement,” he said. “So we’re just as desperate for solutions as anyone else.”
Price mentioned repeatedly the Eureka City Council has ignored his attempts to start a conversation about common-sense homelessness policies. One of the few times he’s interacted with a council member was when Kim Bergel, the Ward 5 representative, took him up an offer to spend 48 hours as a homeless person.
Bergel later posted about the experience on social media, saying she was “traumatized” after less than a day living on the streets. But when it comes to the group’s grievances, she said there’s likely “more to the story.”
“It’s on our radar,” she said of the council, “but I don’t see our laws as being that way. I feel like our police department, myself personally and other council members have actually worked with people and supported them into different decisions that get them the help they need.”
She added that the stories of criminalization are “not fun to hear” but she opts to ask herself: “Is there a better question that can be asked? Is that both sides of the story?”
Price, meanwhile, had been residing in Arcata, but by the end of the month he will again be homeless. The excessive price of transportation to Eureka has prompted him to go back to the Eureka Rescue Mission.
It’s a “money-saving” move, he said, and a need to be actively present in Eureka to help the city’s homeless move forward — Monday’s meeting being a start.
August 6, 2019
Eureka Times Standard
By Shomik Mukherjee