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Grand Jury Slams City and County For Impasse

The Contra Costa Civil Grand Jury came down hard on both the County and the City of Richmond for not resolving the long-simmering jurisdictional dispute over El Sobrante (see

They Fiddle While El Sobrante Burns, January 14, 2006).

I wish to thank City Manger Bill Lindsay for alerting us to this report before it was even published on the Grand Jury web site. Lindsay also provided the following comment and update on negotiations:

Mayor and Councilmembers:

Attached is a copy of a Civil Grand Jury Report concerning the lack of an automatic aid agreement between the City of Richmond and Contra Costa Consolidated Fire District (Con Fire).  The report was provided to me yesterday in its final form (we did not receive a draft) and I understand that it will be released to the public today or tomorrow.  The report is unfortunate for a number of reasons, and we will provide a full response to correct the factual inaccuracies and omissions.

Among the shortcomings of the report, it fails to document the initial reasons why the City terminated the initial agreement with the County.  These reasons had much more to do with activities by the County that were detrimental to an equitable, functioning agreement than with the City.

Second, and more importantly, it ignores the progress that has been made during meetings between City and County staff, and Supervisor Gioia, that continued after November 2005.  In fact, City and County staff have an agreement in principle on a new automatic aid agreement that we are planning to take to the City Council prior to the summer recess.

I will work with Chief Banks to provide you with more complete information, but wanted you to have a copy of this report.  In the meantime, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Bill Lindsay

Failure of the City and the County to come to terms with a jurisdictional dispute that has as its basis jealousy, greed and turf protection largely by rival public employee unions does not give government a good name. Unlike the recent internal dispute among Richmond Fire Department employees over how many ladder trucks and crews (and money) are enough, this one could have been settled simply by drawing a line on a piece of paper to reflect what is best for the residents of the El Sobrante Valley.

Instead, we seem to be close to a contrived solution that preserves everyone’s turf and jobs but requires unending paperwork to track activities and interagency reimbursements.