Contra Costa County, CA March 7, 2000 Election
Smart Voter

Q&A On Other Issues

By Sean White

Candidate for Supervisor; County of Contra Costa; District 2

This information is provided by the candidate
"Think Globally, Act Locally" is the motto of the time, but county government continues to govern in the old style. I am for bringing the holistic Big Picture to county government and connecting the dots between "issues" like sprawl and crime, public health, and the quality of life.
"Think Globally, Act Locally" means: Stop All New Development on Virgin and Agricultural Lands;

Focus Devlopment in Already Paved Communities that Need it, De-ghettoize the suburbs with Affordable Housing near Public Transit "Villages";

Create a Phase Out Plan for Oil Refineries Near Residential Communities Over a 25 Year Period;

Use the County's Buying Power to Bring Health Insurance to the Uninsured;

and Look to Innovative Models Like Delancey Street (SF) for dealing with the Homeless.


  • Regarding county health services hit by welfare reform

  • The Issue: Contra Costa health services face a $10 million deficit after this year caused largely by diminished federal and state support for low-income and indigent patients. As more welfare clients enter the workforce in low paying jobs without benefits, they lose Medi-Cal coverage and show up at county clinics as "uninsured indigents," a rather insulting term considering that these people are attempting to get jobs and live independently. The question has been raised about what the county can do to protect its health system and care for uninsured patients.

  • My Position: It is a travesty of justice that welfare reform would deprive people of their health coverage at the very moment they are trying hardest to live independently. County governments nationwide are taking on welfare, and are developing innovative ways to protect the security of their residents at the local level. Contra Costa County should look to San Francisco's efforts to create a new county-wide health insurance cooperative for the uninsured, as well as adapt its clinics to the new context caused by welfare reform.


  • On Sprawl, LosAngelesization, etc..

  • The Issue: Supervisor Joe Canciamilla has proposed an urban limit line that would largely restrict growth within current boundaries. An alternative would allow largest pockets of growth, and supervisors will vote on this issue soon.

  • My Position: Stopping sprawl is my first priority as a candidate. We must make a priority of protecting Contra Costa against LosAngelesization. More than Supervisor Canciamilla's urban limit line (which I would seek to strengthen), I would go further to oppose all future municipal annexations of unincorporated land, would pursue a policy of "no development of virgin lands," and would pursue every means available to stop already permitted sprawl-causing developments such as the Gateway Valley project.


  • On Oil Refineries

  • The Issue: The county's Industrial Safety Ordinance has been a very controversial issue is recent years, with many communities near refineries speaking out that the ordinance does not go far enough in protecting residents and workers from refinery explosions and other accidents. The question is what degree of oversight and enforcement should the county take.

  • My Position: The county's Industrial Safety Ordinance is an insult to the children in Rodeo who attend the grammar school directly adjacent to the refinery. Explosions and leaks are just the tip of the iceberg of the death, suffering, and immense social costs caused by refineries. There is no environmental safety for the communities living downwind of them. The fact that our county seal features a refinery says a lot about where we are coming from and where we must go. The refineries in this county are a fixture of its past the same way that junk yards are fixtures of Richmond's past as the Bay Area's dumping ground, and in the same way that brownfields are fixtures of Oakland's past as the industrial sacrifice area of San Francisco. Contra Costa's refineries have no place in our future. As a regional government responsible for the environmental safety and health of its people, the county should regard the refineries as Environmental Public Enemy Number 1, and should plan not merely to regulate them severely, but to close them, at least in the long term.


  • On the Emergency Room Shortage:

  • The Issue: In the past few years the county has lost several full-scale emergency rooms at its hospitals. It lacks the power to block the closings, and there have been calls for the county to do something.

  • My Position: I would emphasize a systemic approach. What causes our emergency rooms to be overcrowded? First, the uninsured, who cannot afford to seek preventive medicine, less costly intervention, and instead rely on emergency rooms as a last resort. Again, looking to San Francisco's example of a health care cooperative for the uninsured is wise because it addresses the cause rather than applying Band-Aids to the symptoms. In the larger picture, of course, the county could easily identify the principal conditions and etiologies underlying emergency room visits. Certainly, the long term sprawl and urbanization of this county will dramatically increase the number of emergency patients. Violent crime will increase, automobile accidents will increase, drug abuse, alcoholism, and general misery among the people will increase. These are the ultimate causes, and that is why I assert that sprawl is not merely a planning issue but a health issue and a crime issue as well. We need county government to look at the larger picture and take a holistic approach to its decisions across the board.


  • On the Library Bond Measure

  • The Issue: The county intends to put a Library Bond measure ont eh ballot for voter approval in November 2000.

  • My Position: I would support the library bond measure, for obvious reasons.


  • On Homeless People

  • The Issue: The county is opening new homeless shelters in the West and East county. The question has been raised that this is not doing enough for the homeless, and some have proposed more expenditures to house more homeless people.

  • My Position: The county's policy on the homeless should not be merely to house them, but to get them on their feet again - to deal with their drug problems, to get them some job training, and to give them the moral and community support they will need to seek an independent living again. I would look to independently run solutions that are far more innovative and dynamic, such as Delancey Street in San Francisco. Perhaps Mimi Silber or and associate would be interested in modifying the model for non ex-convicts.


  • On the Affordable Housing Shortage

  • The Issue: There is an enormous shortage of affordable housing, which means housing that middle class families (I am thinking of families that earn a total of say $50,000 to $100,000 per year, so a house that costs $150,000 or so), but others point out the failure of overrelying on federal HUD (Housing and Urban Development) moneys. The question is, what should the county do.

  • My Position: As long as the county is allowing sprawl, getting developers to develop high density downtown housing that people can afford will be impossible, and affordable housing advocates will have no choice but to wait for more federal money while the problem gets worse. The problems of sprawl and gentrification are related.

The key here is de-ghettoization. I am against rich ghettos like Blackhawk and poor ghettos like Richmond alike. The key to creating real communities with civility and depth is for the rich, middle class and working class to cohabitate - to share the same public sqaures and meeting places. This is the antithesis of the philosophy of suburbia that has governed this county - and this country - for the past fifty years. This means that building affordable housing goes hand in hand with anti-sprawl and redevlopment policies. Clearly, the rather drab subdivisions of our county could use some redevelopment that includes affordable housing. I would push the county to get firm in its position against any more development of virgin land and to actively seek out developers who would redevelop already paved areas in the neglected urban - and suburban - core that need it, much as the city of Oakland is now doing with its downtown area. Transit villages around BART stations are clearly a key to this kind of effort.

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