Sunday, June 28, 2015

[Fresno County] Civil grand jury [Letter to the editor]

If the Fresno Unified School District board cannot agree to have an outside investigator, then the concerned members and the general public should send a letter to the Fresno County Grand Jury asking that it investigate.
It is empowered to investigate the entire school district and if it finds what the 5th District Court of Appeal found, it can call for a criminal grand jury to be empaneled.
If the public and the board members want transparency, they should all write a letter addressed to Fresno County Grand Jury, 1100 Van Ness Ave. Nobody can stop the public or the concerned board members except themselves.
June 28, 2015
The Fresno Bee
Letter to the editor from Dave Martin, Fresno

Marin Civil Grand Jury: Farm out youth detention, find new use for juvenile hall

Marin should contract with another county for youth detention services because its own juvenile hall has become too expensive to run, the Marin County Civil Grand Jury reported.
The investigative panel found that the county spends about $3.7 million a year and employs 21 people to run the 40-bed Marin County Juvenile Hall round the clock — yet its average daily population was a mere 9.1 inmates in 2014.
In addition to forging a contracting deal with another county, the grand jury recommended finding another use for the property, which occupies a tract of land off Lucas Valley Road in northern San Rafael.
The findings were released this month in a report titled, “Marin County Juvenile Hall: A Time for a Change.”
The grand jury, a branch of the local judiciary that researches public policy issues and monitors government performance, toured the juvenile hall complex and four others in the state. Jurors also interviewed numerous state and county officials.
The jury found that Marin’s juvenile offender population has declined as the county, like jurisdictions throughout the country, has sought alternative programs for youth offenders rather than locking them up. Also, the grand jury said, the loosening of marijuana possession laws has helped reduce the number of youth arrests.
In Marin, the number of youth detentions fell from 1,674 in 1995 to 253 in 2014, according to the report. The average daily population at Marin County Juvenile Hall has dropped from 30 in 2005 to 9.2 in 2014, with a median incarceration period of 8.4 days.
With the decline in population at the hall, the cost-per-offender has increased “astronomically,” the grand jury said. In 2014, the daily cost per inmate figured out to $901.64 — nearly twice as much as in 2011.
State law requires counties to have juvenile halls, but it also allows counties to operate joint facilities, the grand jury said. It identified at least six counties that have no juvenile jails but contract with other counties, with daily costs of $85 to $190 per youth inmate.
The grand jury suggested that Marin could pay Sonoma or Napa counties for their excess space and use the savings for programs that are alternatives to incarceration.
The grand jury has requested a response from the Board of Supervisors and invited responses from officials at the Probation Department, which oversees the juvenile facility.
“I am pleased that the Grand Jury recognizes the Probation Department’s extensive efforts with our rehabilitative programming inside juvenile hall, but was surprised that the Grand Jury came to the conclusion to shut down juvenile hall,” Michael Daly, the county’s probation director, said in an email. “After I speak to stakeholders, I will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. I will begin that process immediately and look forward to responding as soon as possible.”
June 28, 2015
Marin Independent Journal
By Gary Klien

Marin County analysis rejects grand jury pension report

Dismissing assertions by a civil grand jury as incorrect, Marin officials rejected the panel’s contention the county repeatedly broke the government code by approving pension benefits without public notice.
Although agreeing the county did not “fully comply” with rules that future costs of pension increases be disclosed two weeks before they were adopted a decade ago, officials said most other respects of a jury report were amiss.
The county staff’s response to the jury, based on an independent analysis by the Meyers Nave law firm of Oakland, will be reviewed by county supervisors about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Civic Center.
Essentially, the law firm found the county in substantial compliance with the law despite jury contentions to the contrary.
The jury’s claim that violations of public notice, disclosure and related rules years ago might jeopardize pensions that were awarded has no merit, the county indicated.
“Outside legal counsel has revised relevant case law and has advised that the government code sections at issue to not state that failure to comply makes pension increases void, and the county substantially complied with the requirements of the government code,” the response drafted by the county administration said. “In the opinion of outside legal counsel, based on the county’s substantial compliance, there is no basis under the government code sections at issue to void the pension increases.”
The county administration document rejects jury claims that the county and other agencies violated the law by using the same actuarial report for a number of pension increases. It says pension matters were on the agenda, and notes that county supervisors approved just four pension increases from 2001 to 2005, not 23 as the jury reported.
The response rejects jury proposals, including establishing a citizens oversight panel for pension matters, and says a recommendation that the county report publicly on pension costs is already in place.
The jury report said that “the citizens of Marin County were never given proper notice about pension increases that are now costing them millions of dollars.” Of 107 violations targeted by the jury, 92 were attributed to county supervisors.
The jury investigation, “Pension Enhancements: A Case of Government Code Violations and A Lack of Transparency,” mirrored a 2012 probe and similar findings by Sonoma County grand jurors, where authorities later indicated there was no legal problem.
The county used an outside law firm to analyze the jury report after County Counsel Stephen Woodside drew fire from critics alleging conflict of interest because he draws two public agency pensions in addition to his Marin paycheck — and served as Sonoma County Counsel during a time of pension missteps there.
June 27, 2015
Marin Independent Journal
By Nels Johnson

[Humboldt County] Editorial: Homelessness — back to the drawing board

It’s official. Eureka’s scuttled its plan to establish one or more sanctioned temporary homeless camps within city limits — three months after it was announced.
After city officials discovered that the four sites under consideration not only were subject to the city’s own Local Coastal Program but to the California Coastal Act as well, the writing was on the wall.
What now? Back to the beginning.
As detailed by a Humboldt County grand jury report sent to local media at 5:20 on a Friday night, which we reported on in Saturday’s edition, Eureka’s now abandoned plan was but a single phase of a four-step strategy. It’s a strategy for which the city paid a Sacramento-based consulting firm at least $80,000 to help concoct, and it revolves around the concept of rapid rehousing.
Rapid rehousing — helping homeless people off the streets and into permanent housing with an array of sustaining services — has, according to studies documented by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness cited in the report, “a success rate between 80 and 90 percent, meaning residents are still in permanent housing two to three years after initial placement.”
It’s the promise of rapid rehousing that formed the foundation of the city’s four-step strategy:
• “Operation Safe Trails,” the multi-agency law enforcement sweep which arrested more than 20 people on April 15 in a sweep of more than 100 homeless campsites in the greenbelt north of the Bayshore Mall, commonly known as the Devil’s Playground.
• “Operation Helping Hands,” held on April 30 and May 1, a fair near the Playground to try and make services accessible to the homeless there. According to local philanthropist Betty Chinn of the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center, about a dozen homeless people came to the first day of the fair and more than 20 came on the second day.
• “Operation Clean Sweep,” the now-cancelled relocation of the Playground’s population to the aforementioned temporary camps pending their entry into the rapid rehousing system ...
• ... via “Operation Home Stretch,” a transitional housing facility, the repurposed Multiple Assistance Center — reopening this week 2413 2nd St.
The math is daunting.
As we report in today’s edition, the MAC’s being set up to initially help up to 40 clients. The grand jury report describes it as eventually serving up to 100 homeless. Eureka City Councilwoman Marian Brady told this newspaper in April that there were “580 homeless living in greenways and gulches.”
Where, it seems, a good chunk of them will stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
The grand jury report had plenty of more to say, as we reported Saturday. It faults the city for ignoring $80,000 advice: “Contrary to one of the strongest recommendations of the Focus Strategies Report, the [Humboldt County Housing and Homeless Coalition] was not involved or consulted in the plan’s creation.” It proposes the city and county form a housing trust fund under a joint powers authority to power a unified, countywide approach to homelessness involving all stakeholders. It has a lot to say about the amount of cooperation — or lack thereof — between the city and the county on the issue, an assessment that at least two county supervisors and one city councilwoman strongly disagreed with in Saturday’s edition.
Leaving any talk of grand, unified strategies for another time and setting aside finger-pointing, City Hall and the offices of Humboldt County government are full of people who have spent months and years grappling with the issue. Let’s assume they’re working in good faith. Let’s also assume that maybe they ought to follow $80,000 worth of advice and invite the Humboldt County Housing and Homeless Coalition — described by the homelessness consultants as “the leader of most of the work being done to address homelessness in Humboldt County,” according to the report — to the planning party this time out.
Clearly, we need all the help we can get.
June 27, 2015
Eureka Times-Standard

[Yolo County] Safety regarding food trucks ‘lacking in accountability’

Food Truck Mania is a well-known monthly event in Woodland, drawing crowds downtown to try various cuisine.
However, the meals coming from those trucks may not be what they seem.
The Yolo County Grand Jury conducted an investigation of countywide food safety procedures regarding food trucks and found the system “lacking in accountability.”
While Food Truck Mania started more than a year ago, Yolo County employees have recently embarked on their own truck-themed event in the atrium of the county administrative building.
What started as a small lunchtime endeavor has expanded to more than 150 county employees, utilizing food trucks from local restaurants and partnering with BlackPine Catering in Woodland.
Members of the Grand Jury identified this influx of mobile food trucks, prompting their investigation.
According to the Thursday report, the Environmental Health Specialist has limited enforcement capability when it comes to more serious violations.
“Inspectors are in a position to teach the food truck operators how to bring everything to code, but not to ticket or fine,” the report states. “Because they do not perform inspections, or inspections while in operation, unless a complaint is made, the county does not know if any given food truck is following all requirements.”
The Grand Jury also found that non-permitted food trucks operate during non-business hours with little fear of being caught, food truck operators who are out of compliance are not ticketed or fined, and that the current system for locating food trucks is not working.
To help improve this system, the Grand Jury made the following recommendations:
• The Director of Planning, Public Works and Environmental Services, in conjunction with the Director of the Environmental Health Services Division and the Director of Human Resources, shall implement a plan to alter work hours so that food truck inspections can routinely take place while in operation including weekends and evenings by Dec. 31, 2015.
• The Director of Planning, Public Works and Environmental Services, in conjunction with County Counsel, shall determine and implement the necessary steps to enable inspectors to ticket or fine food truck operators who are out of compliance by Oct. 1, 2015.
• The Director of Planning, Public Works and Environmental Services, in conjunction with County Counsel and the Board of Supervisors, shall implement the use of GPS technology on food trucks by July 1, 2016.
June 27, 2015
Daily Democrat
By Democrat Staff