Sunday, February 5, 2017

[Kern County] Grand Jury Awareness Week

February is Grand Jury Awareness Month in California.
California is the only state in the union in which the State Constitution requires each of the 58 counties in California to maintain a Grand Jury! All 58 counties have the required Civil Grand Juries in place. A handful of counties, including Kern Co, have sitting juries which are dual, civil & criminal.
February 7th @ 9:00AM the Kern County Board of Supervisors will proclaim that week as Kern County Grand Jury Awareness week; they have done so for the previous 20+ years.
February 9th @ 9:30AM at the Liberty Bell in front of the Superior Court Building ( KCGJ offices take up half of the 6th floor of that building) there will be a Grand Jury Awareness Week program with speeches by several court & county dignitaries.  [KGET has reported on this event several years.]
February 11th @ 6:00PM will be Grand Jury Awareness Night with the Condors at the Condors vs San Jose hockey game. A KCGJ recruitment information and applications table will be in the lobby.
February 17-19th at the Bakersfield Home and Garden Show at the fairgrounds the KCGJ will have a recruitment info & application booth in building 3. The booth will be manned daily by both KCGJ & KCGJA members.
Annually KCGJ Recruitment occurs mid-January to approximately April 1st.
Applications are only available and accepted during that time period. Applications are reviewed by the Superior Court lesion and all applicants MUST attend an overview meeting in mid-April. That will be followed by a complete background check and an interview by a Superior Court Judge.
IF the judge nominates the applicant their name will be placed in a blind draw the first Tuesday in June. 30 names will be drawn at that time. Those drawn will receive a subpoena to be at the final draw the 3rd week in June.
The Final Draw is also a blind draw conducted by Grand Jury Commissioner, Terry McNally, in the courtroom of the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court. At that time 19 names will be drawn for the 2017-18 KCGJ, as well as about 7 alternate jurors. Those persons will be sworn in at that time and their KCGJ service will begin July 2017-June 2018, four days a week, 5 hours a day.
The KCGJ is the "Watch Dog" of the county funds. Are all entities of the county  using the funds received from county taxpayers properly? There are five standing committees on the KCGJ: Administration & Audit; Cities & Joint Powers; Special Districts; Health, Education & Social Services and Law & Justice.  The vast majority o:***f what the GJ does is investigation into the use of county funds.
Occasionally the County DA, Lisa Green, or the State Attorney General will bring a case to the GJ for an indictment hearing. Indictments can last from a couple of days to several weeks.
February 2, 2017
Kern Golden Empire


Saturday, February 4, 2017

[Siskiyou County] Back to the drawing board: Yreka council takes on YPD move again

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report on the subject.
On Thursday, the Yreka City Council will once again take on the task of trying to get the Yreka Police Department into a new building, following last year's failed attempt to secure bids within the construction budget.
The city has been searching for a replacement of the current police department building - a former library building that is over 100 years old.
According to documents with the Thursday meeting agenda, discussion of finding a new building was prompted in part by a 2005 Siskiyou County Grand Jury Report that suggested that the building was no longer adequate for YPD's needs.
The Grand Jury that generated the report noted at the time that the list of issues included no wheelchair accessible ramps, too few electrical outlets for modern equipment needs and a lack of adequate space for the number of personnel.
Also listed in the report was the fact that one portion of the building was built on top of an old fuel tank, and that the entire electrical system was outdated. 
The city ultimately decided to seek other sites for the police station, settling on a building on Fairlane Road that was purchased in May of 2014 for approximately $800,000.
According to the agenda documents, the city then contracted with the architectural firm Calpo, Hom and Dong to develop a construction plan to turn the building - which had been built as a commercial structure with multiple rental units - into a police station.
The Siskiyou Daily News reported in 2015 that the retrofit was planned to have various upgrades over the current building, from a covered parking area to increase response times during cold winter weather to a dedicated sexual assault response room, among other changes.
In addition, unavoidable costs are a part of the project, including the need to make the building able to withstand disasters to ensure continuity of policing services - a need that dictates which materials can be used for the project.
The city had $1.3 million available for construction of the building at the time the project went out to bid, and another $1.4 million for the costs associated with moving YPD's equipment, purchasing new furnishings and assorted administrative costs.
In April of 2016, the council voted to reject all bids received on the project due to the fact that the lowest bid was still nearly $1 million over the allotted funds for construction.
The bids ranged from $2,215,150 to $2,503,870, and came from construction firms from locations as close as Mount Shasta and as far away as Loomis, California.
Agenda documents note that city staff have been working since the bids were rejected to identify potential modifications to the project to reduce costs and identify possible financing options that the city could afford.
A revised cost estimate of $2,650,000, plus funds to cover construction contingencies, was reached, and city staff identified a United States Department of Agriculture public facilities loan for which a pre-application has been submitted.
Agenda documents contain a table showing the costs to the city for a 40 year USDA loan for $3 million. It estimates that the city would have to pay anywhere from $130,000 to $160,000 per year for the life of the loan, for a total of $5,906,000 for the loan principal plus interest.
The council will discuss its options at its Thursday meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Yreka City Council Chambers at 701 Fourth Street in Yreka.
February 1, 2017
Manteca Bulletin
By David Smith


[San Diego County] Call to Action issued by La Jollans in DecoBike fight: Opponents asked to write City Council, Mayor's office

Blog note: this article references a 2016 grand jury report on the subject.
Concerned residents from La Jolla, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach gathered at La Jolla Community Center Jan. 30 to unanimously speak out against DecoBike, the City’s bike share program. DecoBike kiosks have not been installed in 92037, but the plan is to place 12-14 stands throughout La Jolla, Bird Rock and La Jolla Shores. The installation date is pending. 
Led by Cindy Greatrex, president of La Jolla Community Planning Association, and Debbie Watkins of the Mission Beach Precise Planning Committee, the meeting included a presentation outlining what DecoBike is, why it is not appropriate for La Jolla, how it has impacted communities where its kiosks have been installed, why these communities oppose it, and where opposition organizers would like to go from here. 
The presentation is available by e-mailing: cindy.greatrex@diplomats.com
Meeting attendees and others who do not want DecoBike in La Jolla, were encouraged to write their concerns to each San Diego City Council member, to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and sign a soon-to-be-circulated petition. Some attendees suggested using the hashtag #nodecobike in social media posts on the topic. 
Two representatives from District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry’s office were on hand to hear the public outcry, along with a representative from District 2 City Council member Lori Zapf’s office. If there was representation from DecoBike, its supporters, or the Mayor’s office, they did not make their presence known. 
Bike share plan history
The City of San Diego’s 2013 Bicycle Master Plan calls for “a bikesharing program to offer cyclists the opportunity to rent a bicycle from an unattended docking station, ride it wherever they want within the network, and return it to any station with an open dock.” To meet the terms of this plan, the City entered into a Corporate Partnership Agreement in 2013 with DecoBike LLC, which provided approximately $8 million in infrastructure investment in return for the ability to sell advertising on the bikes and kiosks.
San Diego receives a commission on the gross advertising and bike rental revenues. DecoBike receives no public funds. 
Listing the reasons DecoBike does not work in San Diego (and specifically La Jolla), Greatrex said the DecoBike company: 1) has a series of negative reviews online (ranging from complaints about multiple credit card charges, issues with getting bikes in and out of kiosks, and difficulty reaching customer service); 2) does not provide locks or helmets to its users; 3) offers bikes that are not recommended for the hilly topography found in La Jolla; and 4) is not practical as a non-car alternative because there is no large public transit stations in La Jolla. 
La Jolla Community Planning Association president Cindy Greatrex (standing) makes a presentation on the cons of DecoBike in San Diego at a special meeting, Jan. 30 at the Community Center. (Ashley Mackin)
Among other problems, several meeting attendees cited DecoBike’s perceived lack of community consideration, which has led to the bike rental kiosks blocking views in Pacific Beach and competing with local, tax-paying bike rental businesses near Mission Beach. 
Watkins said, “A (San Diego) Grand Jury report regarding DecoBikes was produced May 19, 2016. DecoBike went before the Grand Jury and said we need to tap into the coastal communities … and the jury came back and found that in order to be financially successful, DecoBike needed kiosks in tourist areas, including beach communities. The Grand Jury report also demanded community outreach, and that request has been ignored.” 
“When they came before us again, this time with locations on the boardwalk, we all voted against it and wrote to our City officials. We were told the kiosks might go in the following Monday, or a few weeks down the line. Instead, they snuck out one early morning that week and put two on the boardwalk, despite all the input (against it) they had from us,” Curry reported.
Soon after the boardwalk kiosks were in place, concerned PB residents scheduled a meeting with the City. “When they agreed to meet with us, we saw it as an olive branch … but we noticed the City and DecoBike were on one side of the table, and we were on the other. We asked ‘Who is representing us here?’’ The public has been ignored. We made the mistake of letting them in, now we want them out.” 
By embedding these kiosks against community wishes, Curry said, it gives the impression that the City “is not listening to us,” — a sentiment echoed by others throughout the evening. (Reporter’s note: Although not in attendance, Council member Bry later e-mailed La Jolla Light stating, “I understand that there are many concerns in the community regarding the installation of DecoBikes. Before any plans for a future site move forward, I will work to ensure that the City listens to the residents of District 1 and addresses their concerns.”
Hopeful for a different result, and that a dialogue in a well-attended public forum would be “hard to ignore,” Greatrex added she has repeatedly requested presentations about DecoBike and its proposed locations, but “no one has gotten back to us in three months.” City spokesperson Katie Keach previously told La Jolla Light presentations were planned “starting in February,” but she could not specify when or where. 
At the end of the presentation, a seven-point list of requests was shown that will be forwarded to the City.
The requests were for: 1) a moratorium on any future DecoBike expansion into coastal communities; 2) DecoBike to install kiosks at transit locations and shopping areas, in school corridors and communities that have requested installations before more kiosks are located and installed in coastal communities; 3) local bike rental businesses to be included in the City’s Bicycle Master Plan and Climate Action Plan; 4) adherence to the Grand Jury report for community discussion on unsuccessful charging stations in Pacific Beach and removal of kiosks on the boardwalk; 5) review of alternate climate control strategies; 6) review of requests made by City Heights and North Park, which have public transportation, for DecoBike use between transportation hubs; and 7) to note that the agreement between DecoBike and the City is for two, five-year options and the City does not have to exercise its option at the end of year five. 
“The City can release DecoBike as a partner, send out another Request for Proposal and find a different bike-share program that will work with small businesses and the citizens of San Diego … not just rent bikes to tourists,” Greatrex elaborated. “But the City Council has to be involved. They voted DecoBike in, they can vote them out.”
Curry stressed the importance of writing to the Mayor. “We have strong-mayor form of government. If he says something is not going to happen, it’s not going to happen.”
Watkins added that a petition was started in Pacific Beach to remove the kiosks on the boardwalk, and another would be created to prevent kiosks from coming to La Jolla. The petitions will be sent out via email, possibly with e-mailable and printable versions, and distributed to community groups for signatures.
January 31, 2017
La Jolla Light
By Ashley Mackin


[Alameda County] Editorial: Oakland fire chief clearly doesn’t get it, she should go

Blog note: this editorial references a 2014 grand jury report on the subject. Earlier articles posted on the blog do so, as well.
Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed’s threat to sue a hillside homeowner is the final straw: Attempts to stifle criticism are unacceptable. Reed must go.
It’s become clear in the wake of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire that she is incapable of fixing the problems plaguing her department.
We’ve heard lots of excuses from the chief about budget constraints. But Reed’s recent performance at a meeting of hillside residents demonstrates she’s temperamentally unfit for the job.
She’s in charge of the Fire Department and that means she’s accountable for her subordinates’ behavior. That also means that she must professionally respond to criticism of the Fire Department and of her leadership.
She might disagree with critics, but threatening to sue them is beyond the pale. A public official like Reed has almost no chance of prevailing in a legal action that tries to silence critics. And with good reason: Our libel laws are designed to protect dissenting views.
More significantly, Reed’s reaction reveals a defensiveness that makes constructive corrections impossible. Right now, there’s a clear need for radically reforming the deeply dysfunctional Oakland Fire Department.
This newspapers’ reporting following the Ghost Ship fire, which killed 36 people, has highlighted problems that have plagued the department for years.
More than a third of commercial buildings went unchecked despite city code at the time requiring annual inspections, according to a 2014 Alameda County grand jury report.
The department in 2015 became the first in the state to be stripped of its California certification to perform hazardous materials inspections.
And, as reporters David DeBolt, Matthias Gafni and Thomas Peele have revealed, the Fire Department has botched the hills inspection program that’s supposed to guard against a repeat of the 1991 conflagration, which killed 25 people and destroyed 3,000-plus homes.
That has hillside residents understandably concerned. At a Jan. 19 meeting of the Wildfire Prevention Assessment District Citizens Advisory Committee, former member Dinah Benson presented a history of the district and fire prevention issues in the hills.
“Administrative support from the various fire chiefs during the life of the (district) went from warm and hopeful to downright hostile with the current fire chief,” Benson said.
The chief reacted angrily, interrupting the committee chairwoman and demanding equal time to respond to what Reed called “a bunch of lies.”
“I’m going to be talking to my attorney about this because … I am tired of this group coming after me and trying to blame me for all the deficiencies that are going on within this group.”
The issue is not the committee’s deficiencies. The issue is dysfunction of the Fire Department. And for that, Reed is ultimately responsible. It’s time for Mayor Libby Schaaf to find a new fire chief.
January 31, 2017
East Bay Times
By East Bay Times Editorial Board


[San Diego County] Grand Jury: County Should Include Waterfront Park in Drought Plans

The county of San Diego should include the downtown Waterfront Park in its drought management plans to set a better example for the public, according to a county grand jury report released Tuesday.
The grand jury commended the county government for its response to the drought overall, but said the park “consumes copious amounts of potable water” for its fountains and lawns.
The park opened nearly three years ago outside the County Administration Center and has served as a signature gathering place for the public, particularly families with children. The facility also hosts numerous special events.
According to the grand jury, the county adopted a drought response plan in 2015 and reduced water use at nearly all of its locations, except for a few “critical” recreation facilities — of which the Waterfront Park was one.
The report said the county received a waiver from the city of San Diego Public Utilities Department that allows for enough irrigation to keep the expansive lawns green. However, it’s unknown how much water the park actually uses, since it’s on the same water meter as the County Administration Center’s air conditioning system.
The grand jury recommended that the county:
— include the park in the drought response plan in a way that reduces the operating hours of the fountain system and turns off the fountains when not in use for recreation;
— invoke the plan whenever the city declares a water emergency that restricts residential water consumption and ornamental fountain operation;
— implement a proactive, ongoing water-conservation program for the park that reduces potable water consumption through landscape alternatives and active fountain-operation management;
— develop a means to measure fountain water consumption at the park so that conservation actions can be tracked; and
— create a public recreational usage profile of the fountain system to allow plans to be established during declared water emergencies and for normal conservation.
“The Waterfront Park has been used year-round by nearly three-quarters of a million visitors since opening in 2014,” county spokesman Michael Workman said. “It is a featured crown jewel on San Diego’s waterfront. Much like Balboa Park and other parks in the region, the Waterfront Park serves as an important tourist and regional destination.”
The county has until May 1 to file an official response to the report, which was issued five days after the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors declared that drought conditions in the region were over.
—City News Service
January 31, 2017
Times of San Diego
By Debbie L. Skylar


[San Luis Obispo County] Mayor Jim Hill responds to allegations

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
At Tuesday’s Arroyo Grande City Council meeting, Oceano residents and former South County Sanitation District directors Mary Lucey and Matt Guerrero alleged I acted inappropriately on the San District Board. By no coincidence, earlier that day SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow brought criminal conflict of interest charges against former sanitation district administrator and engineer John Wallace.
During prior service, I attempted to bifurcate Wallace’s contract to end his domination and engage other engineers.  Former Mayor Tony Ferrara and Grover Councilman Bill Nicolls blocked that, endorsing Wallace.
Later, attorney Guerrero joined the board supporting drawn out litigation orchestrated by Wallace against the Water Board regarding the 2010 sewage spill fine. Fearing intent to evade limitation statutes, former Grover Mayor Debbie Peterson opposed Ferrara and Guerrero but was outvoted.
Even after a SLO County Grand Jury report highlighted Wallace’s conflicts, Lucey and Guerrero sought to impede the district’s investigation by Carl Knudsen which prompted the criminal charges. Lucey often called the citizens’ group recommending Knudsen “haters.” Guerrero filed intimidating records requests on group members.
With overwhelming support, I prevailed with efforts to engage Knudsen.
Council member Caren Ray, who at the time was quick to denigrate the Grand Jury report and defend Wallace, immediately asked for investigation into Tuesday’s allegations:
·         Distributing unapproved employee contracts from closed session:  The attorneys retain documents discussed in closed session. I’ve never had copies to distribute. Finalized unapproved contracts are included in public board agenda packets.
·         Talking about closed session items: I may have spoken generally about a subject but not specifically confidential or attributable information. I am informed that a resident gadfly has listened at the door and reported discussion during several closed sessions.
·         Acting unilaterally: Intending to prevent wasting district resources, I’ve insisted that a costly investigation demanded by Mary Lucey’s partner not be authorized by Board Chairman John Shoals alone.
The sheriff’s office determined there was nothing substantive there. Related, Lucey’s continuous verbal sniping at sanitation district Superintendent John Clemons appears an attempt to belittle Clemons’ excellent record in comparison to Wallace’s.
·         Giving statements about an investigation in progress. This refers to the “he said she said” claim by Mary Lucey’s partner which the sherriff’s office deemed without merit. No investigation was in progress. I reiterate my intent not to engage in costly investigations to no purpose. Perhaps Lucey wants to waste district funds to make the draw down under Wallace seem more normal comparatively.
·         Giving my wife my email password: I haven’t given anyone my password. I will continue routinely to converse with my wife about issues.
·         Attempting to remove Administrator Gerhardt Hubner: On the contrary, although Mr. Hubner ‘s ties to John Wallace go back to the Avila Beach oil remediation and he has no prior wastewater treatment experience, he did assist positively in settling the Water Board litigation.
I have so far attempted to facilitate better relationships between Mr. Hubner and the staff of licensed operators who have done an excellent job running the plant and building a financial reserve since Wallace left. However I have serious concerns about Mr. Hubner’s management style and effectiveness leading the district. We’ve had personnel grievances, investigations, and contracting out work previously done by staff.
·         Commenting about ongoing litigation: Despite Guerrero and Lucey’s apparent past efforts to unnecessarily prolong Wallace’s Water Board lawsuit, there is no ongoing litigation to comment on.
Lucey and Guerrero know I oppose their campaign against Superintendent Clemons. As mayor, the Health and Safety Code provides that I be the Sanitation District Board member. I take that responsibility very seriously. I will continue there to act in the best interests of ratepayers, employees and regional cooperation.
January 31, 2017
CalCoastNews.com
Opinion by Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill


[Santa Barbara County] Supervisors Considering Girls-Specific Residential Programming for Juvenile Offenders

There is no residential treatment program for delinquent girls in Santa Barbara County and the Board of Supervisors has asked the Probation Department to consider options for one, given the success of the boys-only Los Prietos Boys Camp.
A county Grand Jury report on Los Prietos Boys Camp called the program for delinquent young men “well-run and constitutes a major community asset.”
The June 2016 report requested that the county explore the possibility of adding a program for girls.
Most of the county’s delinquent girls, Chief Probation Officer Guadalupe Rabago said, are in group homes as opposed to foster care.
Twenty are at Santa Maria Juvenile Hall, where they receive some sort of education or programming seven days a week, said Deputy Chief Probation Officer Steven DeLira.
The department reviewed three options for residential programs for girls going through the probation system that are intended to reduce recidivism, continue mental-health care and enhance current programming.
“Daily Choices” at Santa Maria Juvenile Hall would be a seven-day-a-week program that would cost the department $600,000, while “Luz de Esperanza” at the facility would be a 90-day, court-ordered commitment program with a $2 million one-time cost and $1.1 million ongoing.
Rabago put the price of the girls’ camp concept at $3.2 million, and said programming also would focus on developing the girls’ personal strengths, discipline, bonding and accountability.
He said the department wouldn’t be implementing the grand jury’s recommendation because “it’s not warranted or it’s not reasonable.”
Programs that work well for boys don’t necessarily work well for girls, he said.
“Probation data does not support a camp program for girls, even if the funding could be redirected as a commitment program,” he told the board. “We believe that the girls should be kept in the most home-like environment.”
Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf asserted that the Probation Department had not fully investigated opportunities for an “out-of-institutional” and “residential, high-treatment setting” for girls, calling the department’s decision incredibly disappointing.
The board directed Probation and other departments to work more closely and further study residential treatment programs.
January 28, 2017
Noozhawk, Santa Barbara
By Sam Goldman


Editorial: Ventura County grand jury needs your help

We hope that in the future we don’t look back on this week as the beginning of the “alternative facts” era, fueled by the Trump administration’s dubious claims about the size of his inauguration audience. Champions of good, old-fashioned, plain facts will need to remain vigilant to beat back this latest form of government doublespeak.
That’s one reason why we, as a news organization, feel a special kinship with the Ventura County civil grand jury. The jury’s core mission involves discerning and communicating facts about how our local governments operate.
The panel has earned its share of criticism over the decades, including some from us, but its role as a public watchdog remains as important as ever. And now it’s the time of year when you can apply to be a part of that. The 2017-18 Ventura County civil grand jury began accepting applications for members this month and will continue through April 7.
Don’t confuse this panel with the criminal grand jury, which investigates crimes and hands down indictments. The 19 volunteers on the civil grand jury investigate local government issues and make recommendations on how to improve things. The investigations usually begin with a citizen complaint.
The 2015-16 grand jury, for example, investigated county government policies and practices on administrative leave and overtime exemptions, the condition of county and city detention facilities, oversight of local crude oil pipelines in the wake of the Refugio spill, and invasive vegetation in our rivers, among other issues. It made useful recommendations such as having the county compile an annual report on the status of local oil pipelines, and devise a long-term plan and budget to eradicate arundo from our rivers.
In years past, some have accused the grand jury of conducting superficial, unfair investigations. Not surprisingly, those critics were usually the ones being investigated. Supporters note that jurors often tackle complicated issues, work long hours (15 to 35 hours a week) and get little pay ($25 a day and a mileage allowance for driving to the Ventura jury chambers and elsewhere).
To apply for the one-year position, you need to be a U.S. citizen, 18 or older, a Ventura County resident for at least a year, and “of ordinary intelligence, sound judgment and good character.” You’ll need to understand English well enough to conduct and report grand jury business, and not have any felony convictions.
Then you’ll undergo a background check and be interviewed by outgoing jurors. A committee of judges will choose 30 finalists, and then the open positions (up to 10 jurors can serve for an additional, second year) will be filled by a random drawing around July 1.
If you have the time and interest to fill this challenging, important role in our community, we encourage you to learn more and apply at ventura.org/grand-jury.
January 25, 2017
Ventura County Star


Opinion – Huntley: Should Orange County’s Grand Jury Investigate Itself?

Kirk H. Nakamura, assistant presiding judge and chair of the Grand Jury Recruitment and Selection Committee, offered an invitation printed in the January 16, 2017 edition of the Orange County Register among other places to potential do-gooders who have 30-40 hours to spare each week to join the 2017-18 Grand Jury. This effort to encourage people who want to “make a difference” is certainly laudable, but the reality of what the Grand Jury does or doesn’t do tells a different story. That story needs to be told and action should follow.
Aside considering criminal indictments and investigative matters such as the recent “jailhouse snitch” issue, the Orange County Grand Jury, and every Grand Jury throughout the State of California, spends a majority of their time looking at local jurisdictions and special districts under its purview “promoting sound government” in its civil “watchdog” role. Thousands of fully burdened government employee hours are spent on the OC Grand Jury annually. This exercise is more of a tax-payer funded civics class for retired folks. The reports produced and signed off on by the presiding judge at best qualify as passing grade term paper in a community college or yellow journalism. A glance at the sources of these reports would lead a high school sophomore to scratch their head when they see that in some of the 2016 reports (for example), Wikipedia was used as a source. As that sophomore knows, Wikipedia as a valid source is a no-no.
A public agency then has 90-days to respond to the findings and recommendations contained in the report. In my personal experience spanning 25 years in Orange County local government I have never seen a report that actually unearthed some terrible wrongdoing but I can assure you many hours toiling with these guys are wasted. Totally wasted.
Perhaps the Orange County Grand Jury itself? Imagine the credibility they would have if they pursued an independent review of themselves. Interview all the same government leaders they do and ask tough questions on their function and contribution to the public good. Then a report could be submitted, hopefully with valid sources, that would include “findings and recommendations” on the value of this effort to the taxpayer.
Certainly Orange County has plenty of areas where government is not doing the right thing, be it unintentionally or intentionally. Irregularities and outright malfeasance needs to be weeded out for sure and there are many ways this happens but seldom is it the Orange County Grand Jury that discovers these wrongs, however. The Orange County Grand Jury plays an important role here in Orange County and in counties throughout the state on criminal indictments and investigations. Watchdogs groups are popular and needed but their effectiveness in Orange County would not be hurt one bit if the OC Grand Jury focused solely on their more important criminal investigation role.
Glen Huntley from Orange has more than 25 years’ experience in Orange County municipal government, all years including direct involvement with public agency interactions with the Orange County Grand Jury.
Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.
January 23, 2017
Voice of OC
By Glen Huntley


Saturday, January 21, 2017

[Marin County] County tackles human trafficking

Blog note: this article references a recent grand jury report.
Dozens of people are set to take to the streets Jan. 28 to visit more than 100 local businesses, aiming to cast light on human trafficking — a hidden problem in Marin.
“There still is widespread belief that it doesn’t happen here, that this county is immune,” said Lynn Bauer, who chairs the Marin County Coalition to End Human Trafficking’s public awareness committee and is a member of its steering committee. “We’re here to say that any place where there’s a highway, a hotel and people with money, there will be trafficking, in particular sex trafficking.”
Members of the coalition and others are on a specific mission — they will be carrying posters to hand out to merchants hoping to increase awareness and promote resources for trafficking victims.
The material must be posted at select businesses and locations in California under a state law passed in 2013, but with no funding available for distribution and enforcement, coalition members are taking it upon themselves to spread the word and to assist businesses and agencies comply with the law.
The coalition, created in 2014 under the Marin County District Attorney’s Office, now has about 50 members dedicated to finding ways to put a stop to the practice that forces, deceives or coerces victims into selling sex.
The Marin County Civil Grand Jury last year encouraged authorities to work together to crack down on the problem that, the grand jury reported, goes largely unrecognized and under-reported in Marin. Sex trafficking most often occurs in San Rafael, Novato and Marin City, according to the grand jury’s report.
The poster campaign is believed to be the most effective tool to create awareness, authorities said.
States with posting requirements similar to California’s Civil Code Section 52.6 have seen an increase in reported crimes and victim rescues, said District Attorney Edward Berberian in a joint statement with Belvedere Police Chief Patricia Seyler, president of the Marin County Police Chiefs and Sheriff’s Association.
Requiring that the National Human Trafficking hotline number be posted in public also plays a key role in arrests, Bauer said.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Rosemary Slote, also a coalition member, said the business owners and managers who receive a visit next week will get all the information they need to help them comply with the law.
“We’ll let people know about what resources are available, how to contact law enforcement, if there’s an issue and how to report it, and just to let businesses know there’s a law that requires them to post this information and to give them the resources to do that,” Slote said.
The coalition is also working with Marin libraries to help train staff to recognize victims. As part of the coalition’s campaign to spread the word, members are also hosting workshops through Feb. 22.
Sessions are planned from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Novato Library, 1720 Novato Blvd.; Feb. 3 at the Marin City Library, 164 Donahue St.; and Feb. 22 in Spanish at the Pickleweed Library, 50 Canal St. in San Rafael.
January 19, 2017
Marin Independent Journal
By Stephanie Weldy