Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Meeting Summary 6.30.20

Tonight the Council took action on two significant items:

Formed an ad hoc committee on public safety.  The ad hoc committee consists of two members of the Council who will meet on an informal and as needed basis.  With recent actions here in town and across the nation regarding police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and our two demonstrations, there is a need to address for a venue for the city to engage with the community to enhance public safety and outreach with our residents.  

Each member of our Council expressed interest in being a part of the committee, however prior to any discussion among Council Mayor Pierce made a motion to have Councilmembers Catalano and Wolfe form the ad hoc committee.  I did express concern that as this issue was important to our community and that its members should not be the ones that are up for re-election in 4 months.  It would be counterproductive if the committee were politicized and used as a vehicle to further a political campaign.  I also found it concerning that the only two people of color who are on the Council (myself and Diaz) were excluded from a committee whose purpose is, among other things, to listen and act on issues that affect people of color.

We also approved the budget for FY21.  Producing a budget is usually a very long process and I want to commend our Finance Manager who started just a few months before the fiscal year end deadline and was able to complete the budget in time.  As part of this budget I am very glad to see that we included funding for the additional crossing guard outside the elementary school at Mt. Zion and Pine Hollow.  This was requested by the past two presidents of the Mt. Diablo Elementary PFC, and numerous parents who I worked with to garner support and ultimate inclusion in our budget.  This is a public safety item and hopefully this will aid in increasing the safety for our youngest students.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 6.30.20

There are only two items on the agenda for the next upcoming special meeting. We are meeting again to ensure we are able to pass the budget prior to the 6.30.20 deadline.

The first is approval of the FY21 budget. As I discussed previously, we are fortunate that we have not been significantly impacted by COVID-19 from a budget perspective. There are no significant cuts and our budget is balanced.

We will be discussing the formation of a public safety subcommittee. This subcommittee would be comprised of two Councilmembers, along with the Police Chief, and would meet as needed, in a public forum, to address public safety issues in the community. Previously we discussed this as a permanent committee but on the agenda is the potential to have this as an ad-hoc committee. The difference is that the former would be subject to the Brown Act and have the same notice and meeting requirements as Council meetings. An ad hoc committee is less formal and doesn't have specific requirements around how it meets or when.

If you have any thoughts or questions on the items above, please let me know.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

6.23.20 Meeting Summary

There were three significant things discussed at last nights meeting:

Clayton Police Department (CPD) response to the 8 Can't Wait Campaign - Police Chief Warren gave a presentation responding to each of the 8 points in the 8 Can't Wait Campaign.  By state law, CA has already addressed many of the items in this nationwide campaign and we abide by all CA laws.  The chief elaborated on how we as a city approach issues such as training, de-escalation, use of force.

Discussion of options to enhance community engagement with the CPD - Chief Warren presented three possible options to enhance community engagement.  Briefly, they were townhalls, a Chief's advisory board, and a council subcommittee.  Townhalls and similar events are already being pursued in other avenues and will likely happen more organically.  The Council felt that the subcommittee would be the most effective, and could also include interested members of the public.  The focus of this subcommittee would be to facilitate discussion around issues of public safety and provide recommendations to Council.  While all members of Council were interested in participating, ultimately there would be only two slots.  We will determine the membership at our next special meeting scheduled for 6.30.20.

Discussion and setting time of budget approval for fiscal year 2021 (Jul-20 - Jun-21) - Impacts of COVID-19 to local budgets have been significant throughout the state and country.  Municipalities that have  sales tax as a significant portion of their budget have been especially hard hit.  Even more so those municipalities that have a large component of Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT, or taxes paid by hotel guests) have been scrambling on how to fill those budget deficits.  

Fortunately for Clayton, we do not rely heavily on sales tax or TOT and as a result the projected negative impacts to Clayton are relatively limited.  The biggest negative impact may be in transit funds received for future street maintenance.  Since we typically accumulate multiple years worth of transit dollars, the impact may be in future years as our ability to accumulate funds for larger projects may be reduced.  For the current year however, we are continuing to move forward with regularly anticipated maintenance of our streets.

I'm glad to see that we've included the funding of the crossing guard at the corner of Mt. Zion and Pine Hollow Rd.  I want to thank all the parents who reached out and continued to ask for this item to be included.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 6.23.20

This is a special meeting due to the need to finalize the budget for the upcoming year prior to 6.30.20.  In addition to the budget discussion there are two additional significant items on the agenda as well as an early start in closed session to for the upcoming meeting on 6.23.20.  The agenda as follows:

  • Closed session labor negotiation with potential interim city manager candidates
  • Updated budget discussion based on previous comments from 6.9.20 meeting
  • Clayton Police response to "8 can't wait campaign"
  • Discussion of potential options to enhance community engagement with Police department in order to:
  1. Provide a forum for information exchange and transparency
  2. Increase public awareness and education
  3. Increase trust between the community and the police department
  4. Use community input to problem solve and identify best practices
Options include: Hosting town hall or community forum, forming a Chief's Advisory Board (CAB), forming a Public Safety Subcommittee

If you have any thoughts or questions around any of the items above please let me know.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

6.16.20 Meeting Summary

Tonight there were a few significant actions taken:
  • Interview and appointment of three Planning Commissioners - There were four candidates for three spots.  I supported the incumbent Frank Gavidia, and a new applicant who had decades of architectural experience.  I did not support two of the other incumbents, Bassam Altwal and Terri Denslow, as I felt their demeanor unsuitable to represent the city.  Councilmember Diaz felt similarly. 

    Conditionally calling for the resignation of our police chief who was enforcing a curfew instituted  by Mayor Pierce without consultation from the the City Council, as well as being a self described member of Antifa, does not appear to be the right fit for a city representative. Antifa is a group that at times uses violence to achieve political ends, something that I could not condone.

    Previously when the Council was discussing Parolee Housing businesses and various available restrictions on those businesses, several ideas were offered from the community and from Council.  At the next meeting, Ms. Denslow came to the podium and likened that discussion to the enactment of Jim Crow laws, literacy tests, and poll taxes - implying that myself, the Council, and those that would oppose parolee housing businesses, were racists.  Casual implications of racism may be de rigueur, but it does nothing to advance discourse.  If we are to have meaningful conversation on race, characterizing disagreement as racism without basis is not the way forward and taints any potential for discussion.

    These reasons were not enough to prevent reappointment by Mayor Pierce and Councilmembers Catalano and Wolfe and all three incumbents were reappointed.  

  • Adopted resolutions to facilitate the upcoming November election for three city council seats.  This was a routine action but I did want to call out that the filing period for candidates begins July 13, and ends Aug 7.

  • Adopted a resolution temporarily reducing the sewer service fees paid by every residence in Clayton.  We contract with the City of Concord for sewer services and due to projected increases in fund balance, the City of Concord is reducing their rates.  We are following suit. 

  • Established a path forward for filling the vacant City Manager Position.  We will be holding closed session before next week's special meeting on 6.23.20.  We are also initiating a candidate search with the same recruitment firm previously used.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 6.16.20

There are quite a few things that the Council will be discussing in the near future, and as a result we are having a few extra meetings this month.  In addition to the regularly scheduled meeting on 6.16.20, we will also be having a special meeting on 6.23.20 and 6.30.20.  On the agenda for the next meeting:
  • We will be interviewing candidates for 3 positions on the Planning Commission.  Interviews will begin at 6pm, and the appointments will be done during the meeting.
  • Resolutions to conduct the general election for 3 city council seats at the November 2020 election.
  • Resolution to temporarily decrease sewer collection rates due to lower anticipated costs.
If you have any thoughts or questions around these items please let me know.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

6.10.20 Meeting Summary

Tonight was a well attended meeting with a full agenda. Here is what we did:

Discussed the first pass of the 20/21 budget.  One item that I called out and that many of our residents offered comment on was the importance of adding funding for an additional crossing guard outside of Mt. Diablo Elementary.  I was glad to hear from many folks at the meeting, and via email prior to the meeting about the importance of a crossing guard at the intersection of Mt. Zion.  I am also glad that all of the other Councilmembers appeared supportive of this item as well.  We asked that an increased budget for an additional crossing guard be included in the next draft of the budget which will be discussed at a special meeting being held June 23.

Approved a suggested 10 year plan for street improvements within the city. This will serve as a guide for which streets are selected for maintenance and repair. This doesn't set in stone the schedule, but is based on information at a point in time and allows residents to get an idea of where their streets may fall in the next several cycles.

Approved the next year street maintenance program for specific streets including:
  • North Mitchell Canyon Road
  • Caulfield Court
  • Kenston Drive
  • Tiffin Drive
  • Chardonnay Circle
  • Peacock Creek Drive
  • Pebble Beach Drive
  • Mount Dell Drive
  • Herriman Court
  • Fleming Drive
  • El Molino Drive
  • Capistrano Court
Introduced a first reading adopting County fire codes.  This will come back for a second reading before becoming effective.  We rely on the County for fire protection services and need to conform with their fire codes for consistency of rules.

Discussed the potential of cancelling certain meetings this summer and ultimately decided not to as there are several significant items that will need to be addressed in short order, including budget adoption and filling vacant City Manager position.

Decided to hold closed session next meeting 6/16 to determine strategy on filling vacant City Manager position.
And speaking of future meetings, because there are many items that need to be resolved, we are going to be adding meetings to the calendar in June.  We expect to have meetings on 6/16, 6/23, and 6/30.  Many of these are budget related as the next year budget needs to be approved by 6/30 and there will need to be a few working sessions to get us across the finish line.

There were a few items that were brought up for discussion at future meetings.  Councilmember Catalano requested we review police polices including use of force.  Councilmember Diaz requested a series of community discussions with our police and the potential of a public safety committee.

I asked about ways we could assist those impacted by COVID-19 that do business with the City of Clayton by forgiving amounts owed to the city. We briefly talked about the potential of facilitating outdoor dining similar to what Danville has recently done, but with indoor dining being allowed beginning July 1, I wasn't sure of the efficacy of doing this given the cost of setup. I leave open the possibility if downtown business owners are interested.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 6.10.20 - brief update

Reminder that there is a special Council meeting being held Wednesday (6/10) in lieu of the meeting that was postponed last week. I did a write up previously about the topics, located here: 

In that update, I hadn't yet had a chance to review the budget but there is one item I'd like to call out. I had previously asked that we include funding for an additional crossing guard in front of Mt. Diablo Elementary. In the 19/20 school year, the PFC paid for the crossing guard in front of the school. Given street safety is a city responsibility, I've asked that we include the approximate $12-14K to cover this for the 20/21 school year.

Unfortunately this is not in the first draft of the budget that is being discussed tomorrow night. I realize there are always prioritizations done when crafting a budget. I think this is worth it and would ask that people express their support of this item to be added.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Regarding the June 2, 2020 Demonstration


I’ve heard from many members of our community regarding events of the last week. It started with the protests and wide spread looting the weekend of May 29. Almost right on the heels of watching nearby Walnut Creek lose control of their downtown, the city got word there would be a protest and march on downtown on Tuesday, June 2. People in town were very concerned. I saw the people mobilize to protect our downtown businesses.

At this point, no one knew what to expect. Police were receiving warnings from the FBI that there were credible threats of violence and arson. There were death threats sent to police. Knowing there would be a protest, but not knowing the nature of it, we requested mutual aid from other departments. We have a small police force in Clayton. Crowd control is a numbers game and we do not have the numbers to safely contain a large crowd of unknown intentions.

The protest and march started peacefully. What began as about 100 people at Ygnacio and Clayton Rd. grew to 400+ heading to downtown on foot. For the most part, it was calm. Police were interacting with the crowds, handing out water since it was 100+ degrees and chatting with folks. When the curfew time came, most left. For those remaining, there were several warnings and instructions to disperse. 45 minutes and multiple other warnings passed. At this point, the vast majority of the people assembled had gone.

Remaining were less than 50 people. At some point after orders to disperse are ignored, the chance of a catalyst increases. It was unknown what this group that was refusing to obey lawful orders would do, or what others in nearby businesses would do. Given recent events in Walnut Creek, information received from multiple other law enforcement agencies, and threats received against officer’s lives, police were rightfully concerned.

The police made the call that the risk that something would occur that would result in violence or the loss of ability to protect people was increasing beyond an acceptable level. After multiple warnings, police deployed colored smoke to let people know they were serious about dispersing the crowd. As we saw on the video, someone in the crowd kicked it back at officers. Kicking smoke canisters back at police can be considered assault. The crowd continued to refuse to obey lawful commands and the police escalated with tear gas. The crowd quickly dispersed after that.


Our city loves our police. They are our neighbors. They help in our kids’ classrooms, they talk with the community while on patrol, they know our town. There are little to no complaints about police here in Clayton. That’s why it’s so outside the norm that when our police do their jobs - keep the peace, protect our residents, enforce the law – they get roundly criticized for doing the job we ask them to do.

If there is any officer anywhere that acts unprofessionally, or abuses the power they are entrusted with, they should be criticized and held to account. That’s not what happened here. The murder of George Floyd is a national tragedy. But to attribute blame to Clayton police based on the actions of a small subset of officers would be engaging in behavior justly condemned by the BLM movement.

I’ve received hundreds of communications regarding Tuesday’s demonstration. Many of these were asking questions, trying to understand why events unfolded the way they did. I’ll go through the common ones.


  • By far the top concern is why the crowd was forcibly dispersed with tear gas, when the people in front of their businesses like Canesa’s were left alone?  The reason is two fold. First, when police were dispersing the crowd, they started with the largest group. There aren’t enough police to take action with everyone everywhere at the same time. Second, the people at places like Canesa’s were on private property. The curfew did not apply to private property.

  • Why didn’t the police arrest or cite people instead of using tear gas? Again, the reason is multifold. In a crowd control situation, it could take multiple officers to effect a single arrest. Given the numbers of people involved and the officers on duty, the math isn’t there. Once an officer has to put their hands on a person, it greatly increases the chance of injury for both the person being detained and the officers involved. This would be for people who have already shown a willingness to disobey lawful orders, where the chance of easy compliance gets reduced and the chance of injury increased.

  • Were rubber bullets used? No. After objects were thrown back at police, 40mm foam batons were deployed. A foam baton is less forceful than a rubber bullet, but still capable of causing injury. They are designed to be able to be used at very close range, as little as 3 feet. The persons who threw objects and were subsequently on the receiving end of a foam baton quickly left the area.

  • Why weren’t the people who were shouting offensive things addressed by the police? Freedom of speech cuts in all ways. We all enjoy the right that is recognized by the 1st amendment. That right protects people’s ability to protest injustice just as much as it does a person using their voice as a siren song of ignorance. The first amendment is designed to protect speech at the fringes. Speech that everyone agrees with does not need protection. The protection of speech applies to the most insightful the same as it does to the most inane.

Our police are tasked with a difficult job. When they are called upon to protect us they are often faced with difficult choices. It’s totally acceptable to question and criticize actions we may disagree with. When we put them in this position though, on the heels of out of control looting in a nearby city, credible threats of violence and arson, death threats, and a group of individuals refusing to follow lawful commands, I’m going to act with humility rather than righteous indignation and give leeway to judgment calls made in the field. I certainly wouldn’t undermine the resolve of our police department who we’ve asked to be in harm’s way by calling for the resignation of the Chief like a member of the City appointed Planning Commission has done.

Everyone recognizes that deploying tear gas to break up a protest where the only thing that is being violated is a curfew is not a desirable outcome. I support the right of people to protest. This country has a long history of civil disobedience which should be celebrated. I support the police for taking the action they did in the circumstances they were in. Simultaneously I want to pursue ways to avoid any escalation of force to the extent possible. To that end, the city curfew that was in place earlier this week has been rescinded. The county curfew has been rescinded as well. I will be out there tonight.