Voters reject tax to fund Doctors hospital
The fate of Doctors Medical Center was further imperiled Tuesday night as a mail-in ballot measure failed to tally enough votes for a parcel tax that supporters said was needed to keep open the area's only public safety-net hospital.
About 52 percent of voters supported the tax, which needed two-thirds approval to pass.
Measure C would have generated an estimated $20 million annually for the hospital, which is hemorrhaging about $1.5 million every month despite cost-cutting and new revenues that have cut the operating deficit in half in recent years. Hospital officials said they would vote to close the hospital if the tax failed.
Parcel taxes passed in 2004 and 2011 already pump $10.9 million annually into the hospital but have proved insufficient to keep the facility solvent.
The board in January authorized the mail-in ballot election in hopes of averting closure and making the long-struggling hospital more attractive to potential partners. The proposed parcel tax was 14 cents per square foot of developed property, or about $210 annually on a 2,000-square-foot house, and would raise about $20 million a year.
The hospital's $143 million operating budget is strained under the weight of its mostly uninsured and underinsured patients. DMC is the leading provider of hospital care to the area's Medicare and Medi-Cal patients.
The only other emergency room in West Contra Costa is Kaiser Richmond, which has only 15 emergency beds. DMC has 25.
If DMC closes, the results would be "catastrophic" to the region, according to a 2011 report commissioned by Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services.
-- Robert Rogers, Staff
Man charged in Tara Hills slaying
A Sonoma man has been charged as an accessory after the fact in the March 31 slaying of 24-year-old Nicholas Callen in Tara Hills, according to the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office.
Mark Collins, 30, was arrested April 23, one week after agents from the U.S. Marshals Service arrested 28-year-old Michael McQueen at Collins' residence in Sonoma.
Prosecutors allege Collins hid McQueen inside the home while McQueen was on the lam after the slaying.
McQueen and 20-year-old Kyle Navarro are each facing a murder charge for the killing of Callen, who was fatally shot at 2:50 p.m. March 31 outside a home in the 2600 block of Cornelius Drive in Tara Hills, an unincorporated part of Contra Costa County near Pinole.
Navarro turned himself in to authorities on April 23.
Collins was arraigned May 1 on one felony charge of being an accessory after the fact. He is out of custody after posting $100,000 bail. His attorney, Dirk Manoukian, said his client is a childhood friend of McQueen's but does not know Navarro or Callen.
-- David DeBolt, Staff
Council approves office project deal
City Council members have formally approved a development agreement for a long-delayed project that would transform an empty 5-acre lot next to Pittsburg's civic center into a three-story commercial office building.
Approval of an ordinance that outlined the agreement between the city and Concord-based Garaventa Enterprises clears the way for the project site at Highway 4 and Railroad Avenue to go through a formal approval process before construction begins.
Garaventa Enterprises plans to construct a building between 65,000 and 75,000 square feet, a bicycle path, a parking lot and a stand-alone full-service restaurant. Whether the restaurant will be included in the final project is undecided at this time.
The agreement calls for the project to be completed by September 2017.
The vote to approve the agreement at Monday night's meeting was 4-0; Mayor Sal Evola recused himself because he is employed by Garaventa. The agreement received tentative approval two weeks ago.
-- Eve Mitchell, Staff
Hearing scheduled on charter school
The Contra Costa County Board of Education will hold a public hearing Wednesday regarding the proposed Dozier-Libbey Medical High School charter in Antioch.
Trustees will hold the hearing at 6 p.m. in the Pleasant Hill Middle School multipurpose room at 1 Santa Barbara Road in Pleasant Hill. Trustees expect to vote on the proposal May 21.
Teachers at the medical-themed high school are appealing the Antioch school district's rejection of their petition to convert Dozier-Libbey into a charter school free of district control. Meanwhile, the school district is trying to turn the school into a district-run charter, but a Contra Costa County judge halted that effort last week pending resolution of the teachers' appeal.
After the hearing, trustees will recess and reconvene the rest of the meeting at about 7:30 p.m. at the Contra Costa County Office of Education, 77 Santa Barbara Road in Pleasant Hill. They expect to vote on a Memorandum of Understanding with Caliber K-8 charter school and to approve a Common Core expenditure plan.
More information is available by calling 925-942-3380 or by visiting www.cocoschools.org. Click on "County Board," then "Agendas and Minutes," and select May 7.
-- Theresa Harrington, Staff
Charges dropped in teen's fight with bully
A transgender student will no longer face a battery charge for a fight caught on video at Hercules High School last year, officials decided last week.
Contra Costa Judge Thomas M. Maddock dropped the misdemeanor charge May 1 after determining that 16-year-old Jewlyes Gutierrez had successfully completed a conflict resolution program known as restorative justice, an alternative granted by the court in February as a way for the teenager to deal with the battery charge.
The November fight attracted national attention, an online petition with more than 200,000 signatures and spotlighted problems of bullying and harassment on the Hercules campus -- just two months after a federal report found rampant sexual harassment in the West Contra Costa school district.
Jewlyes said she reported the bullying to an administrator in the days before the fight, but the bully was not punished.
-- David DeBolt, Staff