Looking for answers about County programs or services? Tap into our “Live Chat” service…
Navigating through the County’s large volume of programs, services and information can be difficult, but help is just a click of the mouse away. Contra Costa County’s website includes a LiveChat program, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. You can access it right from a button on the County’s homepage (and just to your left). You will also find the LiveChat button on every page of the County’s website. Thousands of county residents have taken advantage of this service, posing questions ranging from how to access property information, where to pay taxes, or how to license a pet. Tap into the Live Chat team and you’ll be talking in real time with staff at Contra Costa’s Libraries trained to help answer questions that might be tough to resolve just by searching online.
Response to the service has been overwhelmingly positive, from both citizens who have used it and from staff who have expressed how rewarding it is to be able to help residents navigate the sometimes complicated maze of County government information. Much of the information is actually available on various pages of the County website. Your inquiries through LiveChat, which are tracked and reported to the County’s departments, will help to organize the information so that it will be easier for future visitors to find.
My staff works hard to make my own District 2 website informative and up to date with many useful resources for my constituents. In addition to links to all of the District 2 city websites, you will find links to many local, county, and state organizations such as East Bay Regional Park District, Contra Costa Water District, local CERT training groups, and the California Secretary of State for voter registration. You will be able to see the advisory boards I make appointments to, where there are vacancies, and learn how to apply for those openings. You can also quickly access the Board of Supervisors’ agendas for the current and past meetings, view past issues of my eNewsletter, as well as sign up to receive a copy each month via email.
If you’re not already, I encourage you to become one of our many regular eNewsletter subscribers. Each month’s edition showcases local events and includes short, informative articles about what is going on in the County. Join my mailing list by clicking on e-Newsletters in the left navigation list. Along with my Facebook page and Twitter account (@AndersenCandace), my eNewsletter is another way of communicating with you on a regular basis.
Free Restaurant Inspection App for Smartphones
Throughout my Supervisorial district (Lamorinda, Walnut Creek and the San Ramon Valley) we have some of the best places to eat in the Bay Area. Have you ever wanted to know more about your favorite restaurant? Now you can access health inspection results for local restaurants on your iPhone or Android phone using California Food Inspector, a new app from Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS).
The County Health Services Department’s Environmental Health Division developed this free app. It is the first agency in California to do so. Each year the County’s trained food-safety specialists conduct thousands of unannounced restaurant inspections to prevent foodborne illnesses. They attempt to visit each food establishment at least twice a year.
The app allows users to search inspection results for the past five years for 4,200 food facilities in Contra Costa County. It includes everything from restaurants to coffee shops to ice cream vendors. The inspection histories show what, if any, violations these food facilities have been required to correct. With this new app, routine inspections are being uploaded weekly. Any closure information will be updated each evening.
Using the “Closures” button on the app, you can also see a list of eateries in the County which have been forced to temporarily close their doors to correct serious violations that pose an imminent threat to their customers’ health. Using your mobile phone’s GPS, you can also scan restaurants near your current location and compare the health-safety records of those venues.
The app’s release is the latest example of the County Health Department’s commitment to making information more readily accessible to the public. Contra Costa County Environmental Health Director Marilyn Underwood notes that for many years restaurant inspection results have been on the department’s website and now with this new mobile app, this information is available to the public in an even more convenient way.
Underwood said she expects the app will give restaurant owners more incentive to practice good food-safety techniques so they maintain a clean inspection record.
“Hopefully, eating out in Contra Costa County will be even safer now because of this app,” Dr. Underwood said.
To learn more about California Food Inspector, visit your Apps Store to see a detailed description of the app.
2013 – The Year of the Library
The Contra Costa County Library system is turning 100 this year, and the Board of Supervisors has declared 2013 as the Year of the Library. Since our District has some of the newest and most comprehensive library buildings and programs in the County, I thought it would be timely to highlight them and some of the technology used in the County system.
Last year the Contra Costa Library system was one of only ten recipients of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community and celebrates institutions that make a difference for individuals, families, and communities.
Contra Costa County Library is also recognized as a leader among libraries implementing technology. Snap & Go, a mobile application utilizing QR code technology, pushes new and existing library content and services into the hands of mobile phone users. The service is designed to satisfy the reading and information needs of County residents at times when their local community library is closed or when they cannot make it into a library building. Another innovation, LINK+ is a great free service you can use to borrow books not available at a Contra Costa County Library. It's a cooperative effort among many California and Nevada libraries. You can use your Contra Costa County Library card to place a hold on up to 10 items that you pick up at your local Library. From the library’s website ccclib.org you can also download e-books and audio books in various formats, and access a significant amount of research materials.
Lafayette Library The 30,000 square foot Lafayette Library and Learning Center is the largest and most complex public/private project in Lafayette’s history. More than 10 years in the making, with $12.5M raised by private funds, $11.9M from a state grant, and the rest by public funds, it represents a community-driven effort to build a regional resource and national model for the library of the future. Located in the heart of Lafayette, it boasts a separate Children’s Area, Technology Lab, Teen Center and outdoor reading and meeting areas.
Orinda Library The Orinda Library has over 30,000 children's materials and an overall collection of over 70,000 books, recorded books, music and DVDs, along with 29 public computers, Wi-Fi, comfortable reading areas, and a tutoring room. It is a far cry from the first library in 1924, which consisted of two shelves in the local dry-goods store. The current library building, funded completely by Orinda residents, also includes an art gallery, community meeting rooms, a plaza, and a café. It was opened in October of 2001.
Moraga Library Flanked by majestic redwoods, the Moraga Library, home to almost 65,000 books, recorded books, music CDs and DVDs, as well as public computers, free WI-FI access, and large public meeting room, has served area residents in its current location since 1974. The Friends of the Moraga Library contribute significantly to the Library's materials budget and fund free programming for all ages. Interactive and lively story times, children’s and family programs, such as music and dance performances, magic shows, lectures, author visits, and workshops are offered regularly. The Moraga Historical Society maintains local history archives in a separate climate-controlled room, adjacent to the Library.
San Ramon Libraries The San Ramon Library is located in the Marketplace shopping center across the street from Central Park and the San Ramon Community Center. The library includes a large children's area with a separate story room, teen area, public access computers, and free wireless Internet access. Collections include materials in a variety of formats that support the educational and entertainment needs of the community. Programs for children, teens, and adults are provided with the support of San Ramon Library Foundation. San Ramon is particularly proud of its jazz collection and annual jazz concerts.
Also in San Ramon, the Dougherty Station Library is a joint-use library serving the needs of San Ramon's growing population and the new Diablo Valley College campus. The 11,600 square foot building is designed to incorporate new technology and efficient service. Library collections focus on the needs of children, teens, and community college students. The library includes unique seating areas for young people and families, a community room for library programs, study rooms, a computer lab, free wireless Internet access, and 44 computers for public use.
Danville Library In 2006 the Danville Library celebrated its 10th anniversary at its current location as well as 100 years of library service in the Town of Danville. It houses a strong collection of over 78,000 children's, teens and adult materials. Among the many resources available are 6 catalog computers and 33 public Internet terminals including an ADA computer workstation. Early Literacy Computers are pre-loaded with many fun and interactive activities for children ages 2 – 8 to help them develop their reading skills. Library staff regularly offers educational programs for all ages including author presentations, story times, children's performances, computer workshops, book discussion groups and teen programming. The library is also proud of unique services such as Books for the Homebound, Stories-to-Go preschool program, and one-on-one computer instruction.
Walnut Creek Libraries Walnut Creek is fortunate to have two libraries. The Walnut Creek Library in Civic Park which was built in 2010, and the Ygnacio Valley Library on Oak Grove Road.
The new Walnut Creek library opened in July 2010. It was funded through a private-public partnership, with $34 million from the City of Walnut Creek and $5 million raised by the Walnut Creek Library Foundation. It has a large children’s wing and garden, a Teen Zone, a Business and Career Center, a Technology Center, and three group study rooms. It also has the Oak View meeting room, which seats 150, and the 16-seat Las Trampas conference room can be rented through the City of Walnut Creek. Special collections include a Russian language collection, and an expanded health and wellness collection funded by John Muir Health. There are 39 pieces of public art and local artists may apply to display their work at the Community Art Gallery.
The Ygnacio Valley Library opened its doors in 1975. It sits on the site of a former walnut orchard. In 2004, the Walnut Creek Library Foundation and Contra Costa County Library worked together to remodel the interior. It’s considered a popular neighborhood hangout known for its cookbooks, mysteries, and an “Investment Corner.” Their collections have been by enhanced greatly by the Friends of the Ygnacio Valley Library.
All of our libraries in District 2 share the common theme of being built through tremendous support from the community. Each continues to thrive with not only dedicated library staff, but enhanced programs and additional hours of operation thanks to the contributions of time and generous support by Library Friends and Foundations. I offer my very sincere thanks and appreciation to all who make our libraries such an important part of our communities.
Realignment – What is the Best Way to Keep our Communities Safe?
Something you may be hearing about lately in County news is “Realignment.” In an effort to reduce State Prison overcrowding, the Public Safety Realignment Act (Assembly Bill 109) was signed into law last year. This law transfers the responsibility of supervising lower level--non-violent, non-serious, non-sex offenders – both inmates and parolees, from the State to local counties.
This unprecedented change in how California handles those convicted of felony crimes, greatly impacts the justice system. For example, some felony violations will be redefined resulting in shorter sentences. These won’t be served in State prison but in our local jails, which weren’t designed or previously used for lengthy stays. Some low-level inmates released directly from prison to community supervision will no longer be monitored by State Parole Officers, but County Deputy Probation Officers.
Each California County has been allocated a certain amount of money and is required to create a Community Corrections Partnership (“CCP”) to oversee the realignment process. After the CCP makes its decision on how to proceed, its budget must be approved by the County Board of Supervisors with a 4/5 vote.
The State Realignment legislation defines which County leaders or agencies should be on the CCP Committee. In Contra Costa the CCP Executive Committee is: Chair, Chief Probation Officer Phil Kader; a Chief of Police (Chris Magnus, Richmond Police Department); Sheriff David Livingston; District Attorney Mark Peterson; Public Defender Robin Lipetzky; Presiding Judge of the Superior Court (Diana Becton and Kiri Torre, CEO Superior Court); County Social Services/Mental Health /Drug and Alcohol Services (Cynthia Belon, Director of Behavioral Health for Contra Costa Human Services)
Agencies represented on the CCP are considered reentry stakeholders in that they need to develop a plan to bring inmates, previously housed and supervised by the State, into county custody and probation supervision. A Community Advisory Board (“CAB”) was also developed to assist formerly incarcerated individuals to return to the community, by collectively providing job training opportunities, literacy skills training, affordable housing, behavioral and physical health care, family reunification, substance abuse treatment and counseling. The CAB is made up of CCP members, community-based organizations, community members and local service providers.
The common goal of the realignment plan is to ensure public safety, reduce repeat offenses, and give formerly incarcerated inmates the tools they need to successfully reintegrate into our communities. Of great importance to the realignment process, is risk assessment of the convicted individual to ensure that the community stays safe.
Contra Costa County was initially allocated about $4.5 million dollars for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011/12 through AB 109 funding. Fortunately, this amount was increased and for the next two years, Contra Costa will be allocated just over $19 million. This is supposed to be used to implement the reentry plan, expand services, and secure County coordinated community-based programs. There are no funding guarantees past June 30, 2014.
At issue now, is how to responsibly and effectively spend the allocated $19 million dollars. Should it be spent on increasing our County jail capacity or on social programs to help released prisoners. Up until this past month Sheriff Livingston was hoping to utilize some of these funds to add 150 beds to the existing West County Detention Facility; a jail that not only holds inmates but provides a variety of services to help with successful reentry. However, many citizens and community groups came to the September CCP meeting and argued that we don’t need more jail beds, but the monies would be better spent on community-based programs which should help keep the released inmates from going back to jail. The Sheriff has taken the addition of the 150 jail beds off the table, for the time being.
Realignment is quite an undertaking and all parties involved realize that having never done this before, it will remain a work in progress. As our County is given these new responsibilities, the highest priority should be to keep our communities safe. We are relying on the experts who make up the CCP to come up with a plan of how to best use the $19 million to serve that purpose.
For more information or to find out how you can get involved in the Realignment process, visit:
Fire Station Closures Affect All of Us
There has been a lot in the news lately about fire station closures and fire districts. Many people don’t know that fire services are not provided by the cities or the County, but by separate agencies called “fire districts. ”My Supervisorial District 2 has three fire districts covering it: San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District, and Contra Costa Fire Protection District. For the most part, the history of each fire district began with volunteers assembling and training themselves to protect what was mostly rural and farming land dating back as far as 1912. The current fire protection districts are an outgrowth of this.
The San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District (SRVFPD) was formed in 1980 after the consolidation by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) of the Danville Fire Protection District and the San Ramon Fire Protection District. The new District served the communities of Alamo, Blackhawk, Danville, Diablo and San Ramon - a 70 square mile area. With the reorganization of these two districts, five locally elected directors governed the newly formed District. In 1991, LAFCO completed the annexation of all territories of the Tassajara Fire Protection District and transferred them to the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, which included Tassajara Valley and the southern boundary of Morgan Territory. The major revenue sources of the District are property taxes (93%), ambulance service fees, and interest income. Total income for the year ending June 30, 2012 was $52,936,340. The District employs approximately 191 personnel.
The Moraga-Orinda Fire District (MOFD) was formed on July 1, 1997 as an independent special district.MOFD was created through the consolidation of the Moraga Fire Protection District and the Orinda Fire Protection District, to provide more efficient fire protection and emergency medical services. The MOFD provides fire protection, rescue, and emergency medical services in the City of Orinda, the Town of Moraga, some unincorporated county areas adjacent to the municipalities, and the community of Canyon. The MOFD covers an area of roughly 47 square miles and serves a population of approximately 38,000 people. The major revenue sources of the District are property taxes, ambulance service fees, and a new cost recovery program to recoup some vehicle accident costs. Total budgeted income for the fiscal year 2012-13 is $17,781,231. The District employs approximately 71 personnel.
The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (ConFire) was originally formed by the merger, in 1964 of the Central Fire Protection District (Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill) and the Mt. Diablo Fire Protection District (Concord, West Pittsburg, Clayton, and Pacheco).In the years since, many other fire districts have been annexed into ConFire to create the current district. Mountain View (unincorporated Martinez), Martinez, Lafayette, Bay Point, Island, Briones, Riverview, San Pablo, Oakley, and Pinole Fire Districts have all become a part of ConFire. The District serves more than 600,000 residents across a 304 square mile coverage area, operates 30 fire stations, and responds to approximately 45,000 incidents annually. Total projected revenue for the fiscal year 2012-13 is $102,313,737. The District employs approximately 298 personnel.
Although all fire districts in Contra Costa County have been hit hard by a decline in property taxes and increased employee and pension costs, ConFire has been impacted the most. The County Board of Supervisors, which serves as the ConFire Board of Directors, voted last month to close four stations as a cost saving measure. The stations closed are: Station #4 - 700 Hawthorne Drive, Walnut Creek; Station #12 – 1240 Shell Avenue, Martinez; Station #16 – 4007 Los Arabis Avenue, Lafayette; and a partial closure of Station #11 – 6500 Center Avenue, Clayton.
These closures impact all of our fire districts because of agreements to support each other through “Automatic” and “Mutual” aid. We are looking at both short term and more importantly long term solutions to make ConFire sustainable. These include continuing to control expenses, reducing pension obligations and employee expenses, and finding more cost efficient ways to respond to medical emergencies, which make up more than 80% of all ConFire calls. We hope to expand our use of volunteer/reserve firefighters, seek greater cost recoveries, and apply for additional grants. We are examining the efficiency of where all of our fire stations are located. For example, rather than eventually reopening Lafayette Station 16 in its current location, we are exploring with MOFD the possibility of a joint firehouse on the Orinda/Lafayette border to better serve both fire districts.
We often talk about being prepared for disasters, but it’s important to be prepared for emergencies in our own homes. Please ensure that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed in your house and routinely checked. Have fire extinguishers on hand and know how to use them. Consider the installation of a residential sprinkler system. Create defensible space around your home and property in the event of a brush fire, and attend citizen CPR/CERT classes and training.
For more information about the fire station closures, please see the ConFire website at www.cccfpd.org
, or contact my office with any questions:
or (925) 957-8860.
Your Elected Officials are Talking Trash!
Last Fall the Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority (CCCSWA) held public workshops in our community to talk about issues related to garbage and recycling, which is often referred to as “solid waste.” The CCCSWA is responsible for franchising solid waste services. Their service area encompasses the Cities/Towns of Alamo, Danville, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, and Walnut Creek, and unincorporated Contra Costa County.
The objective of the workshops was to inform residents and businesses about what garbage, recycling, and other reuse programs will look like in coming years, and to get feedback from the community to shape the future of recycling and solid waste programs. The CCCSWA outlined how the solid waste industry is changing. State law requires that 75% of all waste must be recycled by the year 2020. Recycling by businesses is now mandatory. New technology and innovative approaches are also impacting the industry.
The current contracts with service providers will expire in February 2015. The Authority is beginning the process now, with feedback from the community, to determine what the next franchise agreement will include. They will take this input and develop agreements with service providers based on what the consumers need. The most common requests for new services include home composting, sharps disposal, curbside e-Waste recycling, and food scrap recycling in the green bins for areas of South County that do not already have that service.
If you were not able to attend one of the public workshops, the CCCSWA still welcomes your input about waste pick-up services or recycling services via the feedback form on their website www.WasteDiversion.org. You may also call them directly at (925) 906-1801.
I currently sit on the Board of CCCSWA and have been a member since 2007. The CCCSWA was formed in 1989 when the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District and cities decided to form a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to consolidate administrative functions and find strategies to lower the solid waste and recycling costs to consumers. New services went into operation March 1, 1996, with the Board of Directors consisting of two members from each of the member agencies. By joining together, the Authority has been able to save residents 25% – 35% on rates over the years. In addition to weekly curbside service, CCCSWA has other recycling and waste management programs you can take advantage of:
- Special Cleanup Days provide curbside collection of reusable items twice each year. You should receive a flyer two weeks before your cleanup date, or see the schedule at www.wastediversion.org.
- Residents are also entitled to a once-a-year garbage pick-up of their choosing. To schedule it, call Allied Waste Services at (925) 603-1144 and press 2 to arrange an appointment. Extra recycling or green waste pick-ups can also be scheduled by calling Valley Waste Management at (925) 935-8900.
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications that are no longer needed or have expired can be dropped off at the Town of Danville Police Department, 510 La Gonda Way, Danville.
- Medical Sharps that might otherwise harm solid waste workers and others can also be properly disposed of by dropping them off at the Danville Police Department.
- Batteries should be recycled, and not thrown in the trash receptacle. Below are drop off locations, or you can recycle batteries curbside during your twice-yearly reuse days:
Alamo CVS/Pharmacy 3158 Danville Blvd.
Blackhawk CVS/Pharmacy 3420 Camino Tassajara
Danville CVS/Pharmacy 650 San Ramon Valley Bl.
Radio Shack 4808 San Ramon Valley Bl.
Walgreen’s 611 San Ramon Valley Bl.
- Currently, over one-third of the waste generated by Central Contra Costa County communities consists of yard and food waste. Organic waste material, like yard clippings and food scraps, can be given "new life" through composting. CCSWA conducts workshops to teach residents how to reduce garbage and create healthy soil for plants through home composting. The next scheduled workshop will be on November 4th at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum. Register online at www.wastediversion.org, or by calling (925) 906-1801 x306.
The County and CCCSWA continue to look at the idea of a plastic bag ban. One reusable bag can eliminate thousands of single-use bags over its lifetime. I encourage you to bring your own bag when shopping, and recycle the plastic bags you do have in the recycling receptacles located outside most local grocery stores.
Representatives from each of our cities are currently meeting to set rates for next year. Talk to your elected officials and let them know what services are important to you. You are always welcome to join us at a future meeting of the Solid Waste Authority. The next meeting will be held at 3:00 p.m. on December 13th at Walnut Creek City Hall, and future meeting dates can be found at www.wastediversion.org.
Should you have any questions or other County issues you wish to discuss, please don’t hesitate to contact me. As your County Supervisor, I’m here to serve you. I can be reached at (925) 957-8860 or .