Friday, March 22, 2019
Blog note: grand jury procedures were a little different 100 years ago, at least in Tehama County.
The citizens of Tehama county will be given an opportunity to put themselves on record as being for or against a comprehensive program of public improvements. The matter will come of them as a bonding proposition, the program being for an issue of bonds to build bridges throughout the county and to build a court house in keeping, not only with the present needs of the county. but in keeping with the multiplied business of the county for years of growth ahead of us.
The sentiment of the people on this matter of permanent public improvements is so unanimous that a meeting of the grand jury with the board of supervisors today seemed entirely a thing to be expected. It is a forerunner of the spirit of harmony that is to keep pace with the development of the county, for the board and the grand jury did not meet as two bodies in conflict, but as two bodies of forward looking citizens bent only on service to the county. It is fitting that these two bodies should be jointly discussing public improvements and how to get them.
The entire membership of the grand jury was present this morning when the board of supervisors was invited in to confer with them. W. N. Woodson, foreman of the grand jury, presided in his characteristic manner. In his opening remarks he explained to the board of supervisors that it was not the purpose of the grand jury to usurp any of the functions of the board or to trespass in any way on their duties. He states, however, that it was the sense of the grand jury that the county should at once undertake a program of permanent public improvements, and to this end they sought a conference with the board. Mr. Woodson outlined briefly the needs of the county as to bridges and a new court house, and his sentiment was reiterated by every member of the board. Judge Ellison was called into the conference and, seconding the things Mr. Woodson had said, went further into the details of the necessities of the county. He declared the time is ripe for the construction of a bridge at Squaw Hill, made necessary by the rapid subdividing and settlement of the Stanford ranch lands; of the construction of permanent bridges to connect up the highway system of the county: and of a new court house, the need of which has been more than apparent for so many years.
Besides the several members of the board who spoke in favor of bonding for these improvements this sentiment was also expressed by L. L. McCoy, Mr. Holland, William Dale. L. W. Warmoth and others.
At a meeting in the afternoon the resolution was adopted by the grand jury.
— March 21, 1919
March 21, 2019
Red Bluff Daily News
Monday, March 18, 2019
Blog note: this article references a 2018 grand jury report.
Avid cyclists have long envisioned a Kern River Bike Trail that would one day stretch from the mouth of the Kern River Canyon to the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area.
Now it seems the western end of that dream could become a reality.
Samuel Lux, a professional engineer and assistant director of the administration and engineering division for the county of Kern, has been working for some time on devising a workable path and acquiring right of way for just such an extension.
There are still some hurdles to get over, Lux said, but he's optimistic that the "Western Extension," as it is known, will ultimately be built.
"I feel confident we can get this through and done within the (time) extension I'm asking for," he said.
The 12-month extension into the 2019-20 fiscal year would have to be granted by the state's Active Transportation Program, created in 2017 to encourage increased use of active modes of transportation, such as walking and biking.
The goals of the ATP include increasing the portion of trips accomplished by walking and biking, increasing the safety and mobility of non-motorized users, advancing efforts to achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals, enhancing public health, and more.
So the trail extension seems consistent with the goals of the ATP.
The plan as it now stands is pretty simple. The trail, which currently ends at a parking area at Enos Lane, would turn south and follow Enos Lane, or Highway 43, about six miles to Lake Webb and the recreation area.
"It would be a Class I trail, not a Class II," Lux said.
It means that while it will basically follow the two-lane highway, there will be a separation, a space, between the highway's shoulder and the bike path.
"We estimate the project construction costs to be approximately $3.8 million," he said.
Avid cyclist Pete Wollesen, who has lived in Bakersfield for some 35 years, loves the idea of a longer bike trail.
"Oh boy, that would be awesome," he said. "I ride out to Enos on a regular basis, and I sure wish there was somewhere else to go once you get there besides turning around and going home.
"I ride nearly every day, including a daily commute to work, so I’m used to riding in traffic. I will tell you that the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had on a bicycle was riding on Enos Lane with semis and RVs hauling trailers whizzing by at 60 mph only inches away from my shoulder."
A separated paved trail would make a significant difference.
"Even a shoulder wider than the road stripe would be welcome," he said. "In some areas that’s all the room I had."
In a report released in early 2018, the Kern County grand jury's Administration, Audit and County Services Committee urged the Kern County Public Works Department to continue to apply for grants to help expand the network of bicycle lanes and pathways in and around Bakersfield.
Over the past 10 years, the grand jury wrote, the county has spent $46.4 million on pedestrian and bike paths in the county — but more are needed.
Longtime Bakersfield residents Bill Cooper and Rich O'Neil were instrumental in the development of the bike trail and the Kern River Parkway, the latter which officially extends along the river from Manor Street to the Stockdale Highway bridge near the Park at RiverWalk.
Cooper attended a scoping meeting when the project was proposed and argued for a route along the Cross Valley Canal to the Farmer's Bridge over I-5 and then on to the community of Tupman, an extremely underserved area, he said.
From Tupman, he suggested the bike path could have followed the California Aqueduct south to the Buena Vista recreation area.
"We were kind of over-ridden on that," he said.
But like Wollesen and many others, he views the extension of the bike trail as progress.
"If it links to Buena Vista in an efficient way," Cooper said, "that will be good."
March 17, 2019
The Bakersfield Californian
By Steven Mayer
In light of the recent decision of a grand jury in the matter of the death of David Josiah Lawson, some clarification may be in order. The criminal grand jury investigating the death of Mr. Lawson is in no way connected to the civil grand jury.
There has been some commentary in the news and social media that has some people attributing names of civil grand jury members as if they were part of the panel that found insufficient evidence to charge an individual in this matter. This is inaccurate. Grand jury members listed on the county website are not the ones included in the Lawson matter.
Criminal grand juries are selected by the court upon a request by the District Attorney and this is a process seldom used in Humboldt County. On the other hand, civil grand juries serve for a full year at a time and are selected from a pool of applicants for those positions. They investigate governmental issues and create reports on an annual basis.
For additional information, you may contact the Humboldt County Chapter of the California Grand Jurors Association at email@example.com or leave a message at 707-502-2168.
March 16, 2019
Eureka Times-Standard, Lost Coast Outpost (later date)
By Jim Glover, secretary-treasurer, Humboldt County Jurors Association
Friday, March 15, 2019
Blog note: this article references a Tuolumne County grand jury’s report on the general subject. We have posted many articles about it. Grand jury reports attract media attention across county lines.
Calaveras County’s economic development department is less than 13 months old and it has a budget of $172,493, said Kathy Gallino, the department’s director and sole employee.
Ninety-five percent of that budget equates to Gallino’s salary and benefits, she said Wednesday. Her budget also includes $1,846 for conferences and training, and a travel budget of $999. Her position was created in July 2017 by the Board of Supervisors. She was selected for the director’s job in December 2017, and her first day was Jan. 22, 2018. She reports to the county administrative officer.
“My department was created to facilitate business attraction, retention and growth,” Gallino said. “The supervisors wanted to revive the county’s economy, especially given the downturn that started in 2008, and then the Butte Fire. It took a toll on our county, hit us hard.”
People in Calaveras County are trying to do economic development different from their next-door neighbors in Tuolumne County.
Less than four weeks ago, Tuolumne County supervisors voted unanimously Feb. 19 to dissolve the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority and end a partnership with the City of Sonora that dated to late 2008. The Sonora City Council also voted that day to withdraw from the EDA and begin the process of shutting it down. Two days later the TCEDA governing board voted 5-0 to terminate the chief executive officer Larry Cope’s employment contract.
Cope earned a base salary of $163,625 and his spending was the focus of a Grand Jury report released in June that led to audits of the authority’s operations and finances. Decisions to dissolve the TCEDA came a day after The Union Democrat published a report on Cope’s travel and business spending, which the newspaper found amounted to more than $100,000 in 2017 and 2018.
One of the findings made by a Tuolumne County Civil Grand Jury report released in June was that Cope went to England for a month in 2017 and used just four vacation days, with the rest mostly labeled as “comp time.”
Other economic development efforts
Calaveras County used to partner with Tuolumne County in the Central Sierra Economic Development District and Central Sierra Planning Council, a former joint powers authority serving Tuolumne, Calaveras, Amador, Alpine and Mariposa counties, and the cities of Sonora and Angels Camp.
The council is now disbanded, but Calaveras and Tuolumne counties are still members of the district, and the district is administered by Mother Lode Job Training staff. Its stated aims include bringing workforce and economic development assistance to businesses and residents in the Mother Lode region.
Cope lists on his LinkedIn profile that he was executive director for the Central Sierra Economic Development District from August 2011 to July 2017 in Sonora. During his time with CSEDD, he says he designed and launched the region's first economic development website, and he updated and rewrote two Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies for the region.
The Central Sierra Economic Development District and Central Sierra Planning Council came under scrutiny in April 2011 after declining revenues led the agencies to empty their coffers and lay off an employee to remain solvent, The Union Democrat reported in June 2011. Part of the exit strategy for the agencies was closing the joint powers authority, and turning CSEDD files over to Cope and the TCEDA to continue multi-county programs.
The CSEDD still exists with a $25,000 annual budget and Dave Thoeny with Mother Lode Job Training is the executive director, Thoeny said Wednesday. John Gray, Tuolumne County district 4 supervisor, and Ben Stopper, Calaveras County district 5 supervisor, are on the current CSEDD board.
There used to be a Calaveras County Economic Development Company, a nonprofit founded in 1981. The company was absorbed six years ago by the Calaveras County Chamber of Commerce, The Union Democrat reported in March 2013.
Longtime Calaveras County residents Al Segalla and Stephen Fairchild said Wednesday the Calaveras County Economic Development Company “folded for lack of support” and “people just stopped coming.” The Calaveras County Economic Development Company was not taxpayer-funded, said Segalla, who is president of the Calaveras County Taxpayers Association.
Jump-starting businesses, jobs and affordable housing are keys to economic development and growth in Calaveras County, Gallino said. Wednesday morning she met with 10 local business owners and business advocates in a second-story office at Copperopolis Town Square in Copperopolis.
The business round table included Cheryl Hoag with the Copper Area Business Association, Staci Johnston with the Calaveras County Chamber of Commerce, Segalla, Fairchild, and Jack Cox, a representative for Dennis Mills, Calaveras County District 4 supervisor.
Copperopolis Town Square is a multimillion-dollar development backed by Castle & Cooke of Los Angeles that stood dormant for a decade until November when Mike Fletcher and other investors with CV Development Partners, LLC, and Copper Valley, LLC purchased the square and an extensive real-estate portfolio in Copperopolis that includes a 247-acre Sawmill Lake parcel south of the square, Saddle Creek Golf Resort, 1,770 undeveloped acres of Copper Valley Ranch, and other single parcels in the community.
Seven deeds totaling $18 million transferred in November by Castle & Cooke, according to the Calaveras County Recorder’s Office. Most of the grantees of the deeds were limited liability companies that began with the initials “CV.” Cox, who is also on the Lake Tulloch Alliance estimated $57 million has been invested in town square so far.
“What people need to understand is the value of business,” Cox said. “We live in a time when news agencies report 50 percent of young people believe socialism is the way to go. Some people don’t understand the basic value of free markets and businesses and jobs and tax revenues. These are the foundation of our free society.”
Gallino said local business communities in Calaveras County can look forward to the hiring of a new county administrative officer in the near future and a new county building official, steps that she says will help streamline permitting processes for construction and business licensing and business expansion.
“The old Calaveras, the pain-in-the-butt Calaveras, the hard-to-deal-with Calaveras, is going away,” she said.
That’s fine with Fletcher. He stood outside and said he and his partners are excited. Everything was dead there 10 years, and since November, Fletcher said, his people have spoken to 14 new businesses about moving into the square. He said he thinks they’ll be fully leased in the next three to six months.
“That whole bottom floor has seven storefronts,” Fletcher said, pointing to part of the square called Town Hall. “We’re planning it out now.” He pointed at other unoccupied spaces in the complex, saying “This space is taken, this space is taken, we just signed a lease with another new tenant up there.”
There’s been nobody to take the development forward since 2008, Fletcher said. Now the blanket is off and he and his partners are bringing in landscapers and new businesses like the recently-opened Copper Valley Café.
“This is going to be the gateway to everything up here,” Fletcher said. “My understanding is we see 4 million cars a year on Highway 4. This hasn’t had a local presence in a long time. We’re here now.”
March 13, 2019
The Union Democrat
By Guy McCarthy
[Los Angeles County] Pomona residents are calling for civilian oversight of police department, here’s how the chief sees it
Blog note: this article references a 2018 Los Angeles County Grand Jury report.
For weeks, a small group of Pomona residents has been advocating for a civilian oversight commission to address what they say are ongoing issues with the police.
Community activist Benjamin Wood said he is not only calling for the firing of two officers, he and residents would prefer to see a civilian commission established which would have subpoena power, ability to discipline, hire and fire officers. He would also like it to have the power to promote personnel and ensure there is gender and racial justice within the department.
Calls for public surveillance of the department started in late January after two officers who were acquitted of charges stemming from the September 2015 violent arrest of a then-16-year-old at the Los Angeles County Fair. But Wood said residents have long wanted a civilian oversight commission to keep officers accountable.
“They know that nobody’s looking over their shoulder,” he said by phone earlier this week.
Chief Michael Olivieri, who was sworn into the position 11 months ago, acknowledged the push for an oversight commission is not new in Pomona. The last time he recalled the topic coming up was during then-police Chief Dave Keetle’s tenure, which ended in 2014.
But he’s skeptical a civilian commission would have prevented the L.A. County Fair incident because the circumstances of the case were extraordinary, he added.
Recent steps have been taken to improve transparency, Olivieri said, such as equipping officers in late 2017 with body-worn cameras. According to 2018 figures released by the department, officers “interacted with members of our community through a call for service, enforcement stops, or other self-initiated activity, 128,212 times.” Of those interactions, officers employed non-deadly use of force 33 times.
There was one fatal incident last year, Olivieri said, when officers shot a suspect who had stabbed and killed a Cal Poly Pomona public safety specialist while in his patrol truck on campus.
At the chief’s direction, the department is complying with a new police transparency law that took effect Jan. 1; other departments are fighting it, even going as far as to destroy records in Inglewood and Long Beach.
Olivieri also is making changes to its internal affairs division following a 2018 Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury report that made recommendations about the way it handled citizen complaints.
The grand jury report noted that 44 of the 46 law enforcement agencies in the county do not have civilian oversight, a problem that should be “of great concern.” Instead, most departments have either an internal affairs unit or Office of Professional Standards which investigates complaints by the public.
Whether or not a commission is established, Olivieri said he is committed to meeting with this group of residents, or any citizen, about the Police Department which has 169 officers and 111 civilian employees.
Olivieri said he recently met with those who have been vocally critically of the department, with Mayor Tim Sandoval serving as mediator. He set up the meeting to reach out and to answer questions about the continued employment of the officers involved in the the Fair incident. The parties have agreed to meet quarterly to continue that dialogue.
The two officers have been reinstated but are not assigned to field duty, Olivieri said.
Olivieri, who was deputy chief when the officers were indicted, said the decision to place them on paid leave, rather than nonpaid leave or firing them, was done, in part, to preserve the officers’ due process rights.
When the FBI notified the department that it would conduct a criminal investigation into the three officers, the internal review was paused, he said. At that time, Olivieri said he served the department’s liaison with the FBI but never reviewed any of the 15,000 documents involved in the case.
Cpl. Chad Jensen was accused of striking teenager Christian Aguilar twice in the face in September 2015 before arresting him in what prosecutors argued was a violation of his civil rights. Both he and his partner, Officer Prince Hutchinson, who assisted Jensen in the arrest, were accused of falsifying a police report about the incident.
The officers were also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly giving false testimony during Aguilar’s criminal proceedings. The teen was charged with two counts of obstructing a peace officer and his father faced a charge of being drunk in public, but in both instances, the charges eventually were dropped.
In a separate case, Sgt. Michael Neaderbaomer, a detective in the internal affairs division, is accused of lying to Aguilar’s parents about evidence that did not exist and then lying to the FBI about his conversations with family. A court date is set for later this month.
After the January verdict, Olivieri was in the process of launching a new internal review of the officers’ conduct when he reached out to the FBI. The Bureau, however, told Pomona it couldn’t help until the Neaderbaomer case was resolved, Olivieri said.
While he wanted to control the investigation — there’s been a regime change since the incident — Olivieri also wanted to ensure the final determination could withstand public scrutiny. So he went to the city’s top administrators and informed them of his intention to hire an outside firm to handle and conduct the review, which they agreed.
Doing so also allowed the internal review to start immediately — with some possible interruptions — because the investigator would work with the FBI.
At recent council meetings, Wood has called on the council to take steps to create the commission. The council has so far been silent on the issue, which Wood knows might be tied to legal concerns. But any acknowledgement from elected leaders, he said, would be welcomed.
“The council has a responsibility to ensure that this department is a trustworthy institution,” he said.
Sandoval said he wouldn’t create an oversight commission unless a pattern of wrongdoing warranted it. If the council decides against it, residents can force the issue during the city’s charter review process in 2020, he said.
For Sandoval, the chief’s openness — to hire a third-party for the internal review and willingness to meet with residents — speaks to the culture he is creating his department.
Longtime resident Virginia Madrigal sees things differently. The sentiments raised by Wood and others don’t represent everyone, she said, asking the public to give Olivieri time to properly resolve the situation.
“We have to put our confidence in that, and that he will do whatever needs to be done,” she said.
Madrigal, who recently spoke at a council meeting, asked the public not to lose sight of the fact that these officers put their lives on the line every day. Since 1996, she said, the department has seen three officers killed in the line of duty. March 9 marks the one year since Officer Greggory Casillas was gunned down.
“We seem to have an atmosphere lately in our community that doesn’t support what we should be supporting, and that’s our police officers,” she said.
While Wood said Oliveri has explained the circumstances of the internal review, he still believes the two officers need to go.
“I understand why he needs to follow the letter of the law, so whatever solution he reaches will stick,” Wood said. “I want to see action, but I’m wiling to be patient.”
March 10, 2019
By Liset Márquez
Monday, March 11, 2019
The City of Shasta Lake has responded to a grand jury report from last June that was critical of the city’s cannabis industry embracing of the legal cannabis industry. The City of Shasta Lake saw an opportunity to cash in on the potential tax windfall. After putting the question to voters in the form of their “Measure A”, the city hit the ground running at the start of last year in order to allow businesses to establish themselves as soon as it became legal to do so, but the grand jury says that in its rush to be first, the city did not effectively plan for the impact on infrastructure. The city already had the county’s only remaining medical marijuana dispensaries, and they made a fairly seamless transition to retail recreational sales. The grand jury pointed out the inherent problems in the conflict between state law and federal law, which still considers cannabis to be a prohibited substance. Since federal law oversees banking, the cannabis industry is forced to be a cash-only operation, which has obvious potential security issues. The city says they implemented a policy requiring cash deposits to be transported by law enforcement. Remarkably, no violations of the law have been identified by the sheriff’s office, which provides the city’s law enforcement needs under contract. While the cash-only system may eventually pose problems concerning security and the temptation for graft and corruption by city employees, it apparently hasn’t yet. The grand jury said ethics training and cash management standards for city staff is needed, but the city has responded that they don’t believe that’s warranted. The primary remaining issue the grand jury found was in allowing cannabis-related businesses in the Shasta Gateway Industrial Park. When the park became zoned for the new industry, every available lot was quickly snapped up. The biggest problem is access, specifically egress in the event of a disaster. There is only one secondary emergency road and it’s unpaved and sometimes gated. The grand jury said that needed to be addressed before any more development was allowed there. Much discussion has taken place, but apparently the recommendation has not yet been implemented. The panel also pointed the need for a more clearly defined code enforcement process, which the city says it has expanded. The grand jury had required responses for eleven issues involving cannabis in Shasta Lake, but only three were addressed.
March 8, 2019
Blog note: great start of a monthly column about the grand jury by the Humboldt Chapter of CGJA.
Have you ever wondered how our county government is spending your tax dollars (your money)? How do the cities of Arcata, Eureka, and Fortuna prioritize their city budgets? Perhaps you are concerned about Child Welfare Services and their response time to alleged child abuse, or the maintenance of our trail and park systems. Maybe you have concerns about how the county is handling the support of our disabled and homeless citizens, or perhaps how efficiently the county performs its purchasing and permitting.
Frustration is common among our citizens over these, and other issues and concerns. Questions such as whom do I talk to about my concerns?, who will listen to me?, how can I make a difference? Perhaps you tried speaking to the Board of Supervisor only to increase your frustration. In the end, acceptance sets in and you say, why bother because nothing will change.
It is true that change does not happen without some action, but Humboldt County has a civilian watchdog organization to oversee the efficient and effective operations of the county and city governments. It receives and reviews citizen complaints. Some complaints lead to full investigations. Investigations often lead to recommendations and corrective action.
The organization that can help is your Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury. The civil grand jury dates back to the forming of the state of California, and is empowered by the state constitution. The civil grand jury has the legal right to investigate issues affecting the county itself, cities, and districts within the county. It performs this task through interviews, documentation research, first hand observation, and the ability to subpoena individuals or documents.
Remember those concerns regarding Child Welfare Services, trails and parks, the disabled and homeless, and purchasing and permitting? The civil grand jury has investigated all of these concerns in the last three years. Have the county and cities taken the grand jury reports to heart and implemented necessary changes? Not really. Traditionally, these “powers that be” are quick to thank the civil grand jury for its hard work, but then continue with business as usual.
The Jurors’ Association believes it is time to hold the county and its cities accountable for their often- inadequate responses to civil grand jury reports. The association believes the citizens of this county need to be made aware of these reports and whether these responses really address the recommendations of the civil grand jury or simply are a routine “check the box” motion before moving on.
As noted earlier, the civil grand jury has investigated Child Welfare Services several times during the last 20 years and discovered serious deficiencies. Recommendations were put forth to encourage the county and cities to make procedural changes to meet federal and state mandates. Lacking a serious consideration of our recommendations, today the county is involved with the Attorney General of California and a stipulation for entry of final judgment and permanent injunction dealing with Humboldt County’s ChildWelfare Services and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. The final judgment deals with a decade’sold systemic problem of failure to adequately investigate reports of child abuse and neglect. In other words, timely attention to grand jury recommendations might have avoided Attorney General monitoring of these departments.
Our county’s serious lack of attention to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was spelled out in a 2016 grand jury report. Now the county is embarked on a compliance effort that is costing many thousands of dollars. In the meantime our disabled have been ill-served.
In another county (Butte), grand jury warnings of emergency escape routes in the area of Paradise, California were ignored. We are all too familiar with the Camp Fire’s deadly results.
Could something similar happen here?
It is with these things in mind, the Jurors’ Association begins a monthly column in this space. We will try to highlight glaring inadequacies and we will try to offer solutions. We will attempt to clarify and to educate. We hope you will contribute with your ideas for future discussions. Jim Glover resides in Eureka. This is the first of a series of articles about the Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury written by the Humboldt County Chapter of the California Grand Jurors’ Association (CGJA). The CGJA provides the general public with informational and educational materials and activities on the California grand jury system. Our next article will address civil grand jury membership, processes, and reporting.
March 2, 2019
By Jim Glover
Saturday, March 9, 2019
Despite the city of Tehachapi being named the safest city in Kern County, the city should look into more ways "to curb rising crime," according to a recent Kern County grand jury report.
That was the only recommendation the grand jury made in its report about the city, which also recognized other good work. It was issued March 1.
As of November 2018, crime was up 22 percent from previous years, while city officials stated that between 2016 and 2017, Tehachapi had a 34 percent reduction in crime, according to the grand jury report. Many of these crimes are blamed on the fallout of Proposition 47 and Proposition 57, which, respectively, made some non-violent offenses misdemeanors rather than felonies, and allowed more parole and changed some sentencing laws.
“I don't like any increases in crime, but regardless of what the courts or state legislation says, we have to continue to enforce the law and aggressively pursue those committing crimes,” Police Chief Kent Kroeger said.
Kroeger added that drug and property crimes or other Part One offenses put people behind bars, but now those crimes have been reduced to misdemeanors and the offenders are on the street, allowing more people to be victimized.
The city's Police Department expects to launch some new community oriented policing strategies this spring, according to a city news release.
In the past few months, the Tehachapi Neighborhood Improvement Project has been discussed during City Council meetings. The council has heard about and partnerships with companies offering incentives for home owners to install security cameras. They have also heard about plans to help citizens adhere to municipal and building codes in an effort to reduce crime.
As of 2016, the department established its own communication center and has dispatched more than 11,000 calls for emergency and non-emergency service, the report said.
The grand jury also highlighted the city's efforts to combat retail leakage, provided a review of past and current construction projects around the city and noted the city is fiscally responsible.
Retail leakage is a topic the city is combating. The city attended the International Council of Shopping Centers Conference in Las Vegas and the ICSC Los Angeles Deal Making Conference to meet with “potential corporate partners and local developers,” the grand jury report said.
Many construction projects completed or underway are the Flying J Travel Center, Walmart, World Wind and Solar headquarters, Kern County Library, Stay Leaves Tasting Room, Industrial Parkway improvements and more than 10 neighborhood street and sidewalk projects.
“We were pleased at the findings of the grand jury. City staff takes pride in working hard for its citizens. We are proud we have a balanced budget and strive for excellence when managing tax-payers money,” City Manager Greg Garrett said in a news release.
The city of Tehachapi has 90 days to reply to the grand jury report, a standard timeline for such reports.
March 6, 2019
By Cara Jackson
Have time? Want to make a difference? Volunteers can help ensure our tax dollars are spent wisely
Blog note: this opinion piece trying to recruit grand jours for 2019-20 is for two counties. This is the first time that I have seen the promotion in the media of grand jury service in more than one county. It certainly makes sense in some media markets.
Would you be proud to be one of the authors of the following reports written in 2018?
• Contra Costa’s opioid crisis, how many people are impacted, what drugs are involved, what is being done and recommendations on what else to do.
• A report on Oakland’s unfunded liability for retiree health care coverage growing to $860 million. This report prompted the city’s police officers to step up and make concessions to significantly lessen the impact of this crisis.
• BART’s crime trends, budgeting and number of officers. The report included recommendations on ways the transit agency might better use its resources.
These are a few of the reports issued by the Contra Costa County and Alameda County civil grand juries.
And what is a civil grand jury? It is 19 volunteers in each county willing to spend time investigating local government and reporting on their findings.
You might have heard in the news or on television about grand juries that deal with criminal matters. A civil grand jury does not deal with crime, and it is not directed at a specific issue. It is charged with being a “watchdog” over local government — counties, cities, schools and special districts.
Each county in California is required to have a civil grand jury. The members serve for one year, so new volunteers are needed annually. Now is the time to apply for the 2019-20 grand jury. Serving is a big commitment; the number of hours per week add up. But it has the potential for a big impact.
The greater the variety of skills jurors have the more effective they can be. And the better they know their county the better they can identify what should be investigated. The rules for becoming a civil grand juror are:
• You must be a county resident age 18 or older.
• You must have been a resident of the county for at least a year.
• You should be willing to commit about 20 hours per week to grand jury service.
• You must be willing to keep your investigations secret until they are published.
• You will need to work with fellow members of the grand jury (there is no one telling the jury what to investigate — only the jury decides).
• You only have the power of public persuasion — you cannot force any entity you investigate to do anything except respond to your findings and your recommendations.
Applications for serving on the next grand jury must be submitted by March 22 for Contra Costa and April 15 for Alameda County. If you’re interested, you can get an application at the following sites:
• For Alameda County residents: http://grandjury.acgov.org
• For Contra Costa County residents: www.cc-courts.org/civil/grand-jury.aspx
Many who serve on grand juries find the experience fulfilling. In some cases, it opens doors to long-term paths of volunteering to help others.
Most importantly, as a grand juror you will learn more about your local governments — what they do, how they do it, and why they do what they do. You will have the opportunity to make constructive recommendations to ensure all of our tax dollars are spent wisely.
March 5, 2019
The Mercury News
By Richard Knowles (Contra Costa County) and Janet Clark (Alameda County). Both are former grand jurors and members of the California Grand Jurors’ Association.
Friday, March 8, 2019
Blog note: this article references a Santa Clara County grand jury report.
Last year, fueled by the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man, Stephon Clark, in Sacramento, civil rights groups and state legislators got closer than they ever had to bringing a landmark use-of-force reform bill to the governor’s desk.
This year they are trying again, with renewed momentum and confidence that they can push the legislation through. But police advocates, concerned about the threat posed by the legislation, which is aimed at raising standards for the use of deadly force and making it easier to punish cops who don’t meet that standard, have banded together to ensure they’re not caught off guard, as they were last year.
The 2018 reform bill, spearheaded by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, stalled in the state Senate before it could reach a full vote in the Capitol. It has been revived for the current legislative year as Assembly Bill 392.
Police unions and lobbying groups, who made a late-breaking push last fall to assail the proposed reforms, are backing a competing piece of legislation, Senate Bill 230, sponsored by Salinas-based state Sen. Anna Caballero. That bill focuses on increasing force training for police officers and removes the criminal liability of police officers from the equation.
The police groups have also formed the nonprofit Protect California, an organization that besides promoting the Caballero bill, aims to address issues that often dovetail with deadly police force, including de-escalating police confrontations and responding to mental-health crises. Multiple studies, including a civil grand jury report in Santa Clara County last year, have shown that mental illness factors into nearly half of officer-involved shootings in the state.
“Public safety professionals believe more can be done to improve outcomes between police officers and the residents we serve,” said San Jose Police Officers’ Association President Paul Kelly in a statement. “Protect California will focus on pulling every lever available to advocate for policies, programs and laws that make us all safer.”
The San Jose union is among the inaugural members of Protect California, which includes police unions in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Bernardino, as well as the California Highway Patrol and the influential Peace Officers Research Association of California. The architects of the group don’t skirt the fact that Weber’s bill, and how close it came to passing last year, prompted the creation of the lobbying arm.
“Where we separated from Dr. Weber, is that she wanted to criminalize those split-second decisions” about whether to use lethal force, said Robert Harris, a board member of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. “We wanted more than a bill, we wanted to have a plan to impact safety in our communities that was grounded in data and fact based.”
Harris cited a poll, commissioned by the new police group and conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, that surveyed 800 registered voters in California and found that 71 percent of them preferred that authorities focus on addressing the root causes of crime rather than prosecuting police officers.
Reform advocates question whether that’s a fair characterization of the alternatives, and argue that the Weber bill, through its higher accountability standards, will compel the training and other improvements proposed by the competing Caballero bill. They cite Seattle and Cleveland as examples of large cities that tightened use-of-force standards and saw a reduction in overall incidents involving police force.
Among the biggest points of contention over Weber’s bill involves raising the deadly force standard from “reasonable” to “necessary,” and requiring officers to exhaust other alternatives before turning to potentially lethal tactics. Critics have called it a moving target that could unfairly expose officers to prosecution. Both sides expect the issue to be sorted out in the courts if the bill were to be instituted.
“Raising the standard from reasonable to necessary is going to change training policies,” said Joe Kocurek, Weber’s communications director. “What we’re saying is, in order for training to be effective, you have to have certain expectations for conduct on the ground.”
On Saturday, a day after Kocurek spoke with this news organization, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office announced it will not charge the two officers who fatally shot Clark in a backyard in March 2018, a shooting that further galvanized national and state police accountability movements.
“The unnecessary deaths of civilians, including those who are unarmed, has been a problem for a very long time,” Kocurek said. “They’ve had their chance to solve it but haven’t. Now they want us to trust them to solve it.”
He added: “We’ve chosen this policy because it has been proven to save lives.”
Grant Ward, president of the San Bernardino County Sheriffs Employees Benefit Association, said the forces behind Weber’s bill are widening the gap between police and the communities they are tasked with protecting. He singled out among those forces organizations like the ACLU.
“It’s a recipe for disaster, designed to make it easier to capitalize on tragedies and sue cities and counties,” Ward said. “It does nothing to address the root causes, it’s just punitive. We’re fighting their false narrative, and trying to be proactive. We want our communities to be successful.”
Raj Jayadev, director of Silicon Valley De-Bug, which helped author multiple bills in last year’s criminal-justice reform wave in the Legislature, rejected the notion of police trying to pin community trust issues on groups like his.
“Let me tell you what is divisive,” Jayadev said. “Officers killing unarmed people of color then returning back to work after having paid leave, not having to face any measure of accountability in its wake, and leaving a community in shambles.”
“What it feels like, I think they could concede, is that this is a fork in the road moment for California,” he added. “We can make a historic shift in a long trend and pattern, and have political momentum behind ending police violence.”
March 4, 2019
By Robert Salonga, Bay Area News Group
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — After investigating the red-light camera system installed at various intersections in Bakersfield, the Kern County Grand Jury is suggesting the city add more such cameras.
The city of Bakersfield currently has 10 camera-enforced intersections.
The Grand Jury’s investigation found the number of crashes at these intersections are lower. “Primary” crashes were reduced by about 80 percent, and “secondary” crashes were reduced by about 40 percent over a nearly five-year period.
The fine collection has also outpaced the cost of the system, with Bakersfield collecting more than $1 million in citations over the last decade, according to the Grand Jury.
March 2, 2019
By Jeanette Quezada
Blog note: this article summarizes the remarks of the luncheon keynote speaker, a superior court judge, on the topic: “The Past, Present, and Future of the California Grand Jury.”
A room full of attendees feasted on vegetarian soup, cornbread, salad and carrot cake before listening to a keynote speech by Judge Daniel Maguire.
The 25th Annual State of the Community Luncheon, held on Thursday at the Woodland United Methodist Church, is a fundraiser for the Woodland League of Women Voters.
As dues paid by members primarily go the national and state leagues for their work, the Woodland league holds the event every year to raise money for local efforts such as the Woodland Tree Foundation, Neighborhood Court and Youth Empowerment Summit.
Notable guests included Supervisor Gary Sandy, Woodland School Board Trustee Jacob Whitaker, Superintendent of Schools Garth Lewis and County Administrator Patrick Blacklock.
President Laura Kofoid thanked the sponsors and volunteers who made the luncheon possible before introducing Judge Maguire, who spoke on “The Past, Present, and Future of the California Grand Jury.”
Maguire currently serves as Yolo County Superior Court’s assistant presiding judge. He’s a graduate of Stanford and Harvard Law School who worked as a private practice lawyer and deputy legal affairs secretary for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger before being appointed to the Yolo Superior Court bench in 2010.
The thesis of his keynote was: “The grand jury is an ancient institution that has proved to be flexible and adaptable, which has allowed it to survive over the millennium, but it must adapt to changing times in order to survive and be relevant.”
Some suggestions he gave for the grand jury to stay relevant were that “the grand jury should not be seen as having comprehensive review of county operations that is looking at everything at the same time” and instead dig “narrowly, but deeply and focus its efforts” to be more of a local think tank. Maguire advocated that the current one-year grand juror term should be extended to two years and said a state level grand jury should be created instead of just having them on the county level.
The latter two suggestions would require related laws to change.
Yolo County is accepting applications for grand jurors through March.
March 2, 2019
By Heather Kemp
[Santa Barbara County] County Faces $25 Million in Main Jail Renovation Costs, Delayed Northern Branch Jail Project
Additional custody deputies may be needed to cover both facilities if overall inmate population doesn’t decrease
Blog note: this this article references a 2016-2017 grand jury report.
Work continues on the new North County Jail at the corner of Betteravia and Black roads in the Santa Maria Valley. The $111 million project has been plagued by delays. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
The new $111 million facility at 2301 Black Road will have 376 inmate beds, including 80 beds in a women’s wing and 32 beds in a mental health and medical wing.
The county received $80 million in state grant funding for the project but is on the hook for the operating costs, estimated at $19.3 million a year.
The estimated opening date has been delayed multiple times, now to late 2019, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Construction originally was to be finished in November 2018, with the jail opening this spring.
The project was only 70 percent completed at that point, according to a county staff report, and the Board of Supervisors amended the construction management contract, with a new goal of finishing construction by the summer.
Since the project has been delayed, county supervisors have approved multiple contract amendments for project vendors, including one Tuesday for the construction inspection firm T.Y.R. Inc. of Ventura.
The increased cost of the T.Y.R. contract — about $200,000 — falls within the construction contingency budget, according to the county.
The Sheriff’s Department has been hiring staff, and the county has been contributing millions of dollars per year into an operations fund to get ready for the increased costs of operating the North County jail.
The existing Main Jail, at 4436 Calle Real near Santa Barbara, needs major renovation work in the range of $26 million, according to the county.
Jeff Frapwell of the County Executive Office told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the renovations would be phased over several years, and would start once the new Northern Branch Jail opens so inmates can be moved around the work.
There is no official renovation plan yet nor funding identified for the project.
The county may need additional custody deputy staffing to cover both jails if the overall inmate population doesn’t decrease, according to a recent county budget report.
“While areas of the Main Jail are to be closed down with the opening of the new Northern Branch Jail, and impacted staff transferred to the new jail, a study by CGL consultants in 2015 indicated shift relief staffing would be needed at the Main Jail if the overall jail population did not decrease,” a Nov. 13 county staff report stated.
“An additional 20 to 30 positions at the jail may be necessary as a result of CGL recommendations and FY 2017-18 budget reductions. However, as part of the Sheriff’s Renew ’22 proposals, the sheriff will be looking at the feasibility of consolidating certain functions at the Main Jail to reduce staffing needs. We will also closely monitor the impacts of the new bail reform legislation, which will eliminate cash bail beginning October 2019, and could impact jail overcrowding.”
Several recent legislative changes have affected the custody population, such as Assembly Bill 109, which shifted to counties the responsibility for monitoring, tracking and incarcerating lower-level offenders previously bound for state prison.
The Main Jail has been habitually operating above its rated bed capacity, and unless the population drops dramatically, the South Coast facility will continue to house a majority of inmates, even once the new jail opens.
In 2018, there was an average population of 951 inmates in custody at the Main Jail, with 820 men and 131 women, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said. As of Feb. 25, 72 percent of inmates were not fully sentenced (for every active case they have), and of those, about half are not eligible for bail, she said.
The county hopes to open the Northern Branch Jail in September, but there have been multiple delays, she said in a statement.
“Building a jail is a complex process and requires the coordination of contractors, sub-contractors and state agencies to do inspections. A project of this scope is even more challenging in our county than it would be in a metropolitan area due to trade availability. Often times construction elements do not align and can cause delays to the final completion. We have also had weather delays and natural disasters which have had an impact. When you have one delay, it can cause a domino effect and lead to more delays. While these delays can be disappointing, they are not surprising,” she said.
Overcrowding and deferred maintenance costs have been longtime issues at the Main Jail.
A 2016-2017 Civil Grand Jury report called it an “outdated and inadequate facility” that has for years had been operating at 120 percent of its rated capacity (of 819 beds).
“The (Board of Supervisors) has developed and implemented a plan to fund the North Jail operations,” the report noted. “However, the jury could find no concrete plan to fund the multimillion dollars needed for repairs and upgrades to the Main Jail.”
As the Northern Branch Jail nears completion, the county still has not identified a funding source for the Main Jail renovation work, which likely will include replacing old plumbing and sewer systems, and making the building compliant with seismic and Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
County supervisors may discuss the Main Jail renovations as part of the yearly budgeting process, with workshops scheduled for April.
There was an opportunity to build additional custody beds as part of the Northern Branch Jail complex, but in 2015, the Board of Supervisors decided not to build the Sheriff’s Treatment and Re-Entry facility.
The so-called STAR complex was a 228-bed facility at the Northern Branch Jail complex to house minimum-security inmates and people with mental health issues. It was estimated to cost $2 million in yearly operations, and the state had offered $39 million in grant funding for construction.
March 2, 2019
By Giana Magnoli
A Kern County grand jury is recommending the city of Bakersfield install more red-light cameras in order to reduce traffic accidents.
The report, released Friday, said red-light cameras have reduced the number of primary traffic accidents that occur on city streets. It said increasing the amount of cameras beyond the 10 intersections already equipped with them could further reduce accidents.
In calendar year 2017, the cameras captured an alleged 13,598 violations, with 9,572 citations issued.
Adding more cameras, depending on the intersection, could increase the amount of violations by thousands.
More cameras could also reduce accidents and make drivers think twice about running a red light. According to the report, intersections with red-light cameras experienced a precipitous drop in primary accidents, such as T-bone collisions, since they were installed.
In one notable instance, the Coffee Road and Truxtun Avenue intersection saw an average of 10.4 primary collisions in the seven years prior to a red-light camera being installed. From 2013 to 2018, the intersection experienced an average of 0.6 primary accidents per year, according to the report.
“I think the data shows, in Bakersfield, that they are a positive and decrease accidents, and in the long run save lives,” said City Councilman Bob Smith, who noted he would not be against adding more red-light cameras to city streets. “I’m all for them. It’s kind of on a case-by-case basis, though.”
The grand jury is a group of 19 citizens that conducts investigations into various public offices.
Bakersfield Public Works Director Nick Fidler said the grand jury had looked into the city’s red-light camera system in January.
He said he didn’t know why the grand jury wanted to look into Bakersfield’s red-light cameras, but it was unlikely that the city would arbitrarily add more cameras just because of the report.
“In general, we don’t go out and put up red-light cameras just to have them,” he said. “They have to meet some sort of need.”
He added he planned to meet with his staff next week to go over some of the recommendations included in the report.
Aside from adding more cameras to Bakersfield streets, the grand jury also recommended that city officials increase the yellow-light interval for left turns.
Caltrans requires that yellow lights with approach speeds of 25 miles per hour or less be set at a minimum of three seconds, with increasing intervals for faster speeds.
However, the report said that left turn time is set at three seconds because approach speeds are typically slower. The grand jury recommended increasing the yellow-light interval to 3.9 seconds, which the city will look into Fidler said.
In the last 10 years, citations from red-light cameras have more than tripled, according to data provided by the city, partly as a response to increasing population and more cameras being added over the years.
The city has paid the Arizona-based company, Redflex, $5.8 million to administer the system over the last decade. Although the city has earned roughly $6.9 million in revenue, costs for hiring police officers to review the citations as well as Redflex’s fee have meant the city has experienced a net loss of $602,067 since 2008 from the system.
The grand jury recommended the city hold public hearings on red-light cameras before it renews its contract with Redflex, set for August 2020.
Smith said he would welcome public input on the system.
The city last renewed a contract with Redflex in 2015.
March 1, 2019
By Sam Morgen