ECCFPD – Where do we go now?

Providing fire services is not a function of the city of Oakley or Brentwood and, for that matter, almost all of cities in Contra Costa. Richmond, El Cerrito and Pinole are the only cities providing that service. There are seven fire protection districts in the county. The largest is Contra Costa County Fire Protection District which includes these cities and unincorporated areas: Antioch, Clayton, Concord, Lafayette, Martinez, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, San Pablo, Walnut Creek, Bay Point, Clyde, El Sobrante, Pacheco, Port Chicago.
The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) was formed in 2002 when the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors consolidated the East Diablo Fire District, Oakley-Knightsen Fire District and Bethel Island Fire District. ECCFPD serves the cities of Brentwood and Oakley, as well as the unincorporated areas of Bethel Island, Byron, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, and Marsh Creek-Morgan Territory. Responsible for an area of some 250 square miles, the District is the second largest fire service in the County. ECCFPD was a dependent special district and was governed by the five-member county Board of Supervisors.

After lengthy negotiations between the County and the cities of Oakley and Brentwood governance of the ECCFPD was turned over to a new governing board in February of 2010. Under authority of State Code (California Health and Safety Code § 13837), each entity appointed the appropriate number of board members. The new Board included 9 members: 4 from Brentwood, 3 from Oakley and 2 from the County. Under this appointed structure, the City Councils or Board of Supervisors appointed directors according to each entity’s proportionate share of population.

The ECCFPD is a special district that manages and governs fire services within its area. Special districts in California provide over 50 types of diverse services including, water, mosquito abatement, irrigation, fire protection, libraries, cemeteries, sanitation, lighting, parks and recreation, street maintenance, airports, harbors, police protection, trash collection, and many others. Some Special districts serve a single purpose, such as sewage treatment. Others address multiple areas of service, such as community service districts, which can offer up to 15 types of services.

Special districts enjoy many of the same governing powers as cities and counties. They can enter into contracts, employ workers, and acquire real property through purchase or eminent domain. They can also issue debt, impose taxes, levy assessments, charge fees for their services and like other forms of government can sue and be sued.
The ECCFPD is funded primarily through property taxes. This funding source is woefully inadequate. The primary reason for the governance change was that the cities of Oakley and Brentwood thought that with local governance, as opposed to County control, it would be easier to address the funding problem. After three failed attempts to increase revenues this thought was painfully inaccurate. Each attempt was flawed in its own way and these flaws lead to defeat.

What needs to happen now:

  • The leadership void needs to be filled and tomorrows leaders need to come from the within the Fire District.
  • Oakley and Brentwood need to stop appointing members of their City Council to the board and instead appoint members from our community who are free from the internal politics and put the Fire District first.
  • The elected Fire Board is coming but we can’t wait 18 months to determine what needs to happen next. The board must start immediately creating a long-term solution to the myriad of problems currently confronting the Fire District.
  • Change doesn’t happen by itself. Any long term solution must involve the public to succeed. Steps must be taken by the Fire Board to educate and empower supporters so they will better understand the complexities and challenges facing the organization.
  • The public has lost trust in the message coming from both the cities and the Fire District. Relationships must be reestablished and/or developed to ensure that a clear and comprehensive message is being delivered from a single source, ECCFPD.
  • ECV has proposed a funding solution that involves reallocating property taxes. The plan proposed by ECV would ask the taxing entities to voluntarily shift 5.2% over to the Fire District, about $7.8 million, incrementally over a 4 year period. Nearly 70% of the shift in property taxes would come from the K-12 schools and community colleges serving East Contra Costa. Administrators from the school district have all publicly stated that they will not support this plan. Last week Discovery Bay rescinded its previous support joining 5 other special districts that had recently stated they were against the plan. ECV needs to set up meetings with each taxing agency and appeal to their elected directors. If ECV can’t convince a sufficient number of agencies to follow their plan, then other options must be explored and pursued.

Neither the cities or county can continue to provide long term funding to support the Fire District, it is not within our current revenue structure, and such funding is not sustainable. The Fire District needs to develop a strategic plan that involves community residents and a long-term solution.

Posted in Fire Dept | 2 Comments


Jimmy Wales, the co-founder if Wikimedia, and the Wikimedia Foundation are launching an interesting new kind of news site, Wikitribune:

From the website –

A new kind of news platform.

Wikitribune is a news platform that brings journalists and a community of volunteers together.

We want to make sure that you read fact-based articles that have a real impact in both local and global events. And that stories can be easily verified and improved.

They are asking for donations so they can hire 10 full-time journalists. Those journalists will be tasked with reporting news stories that will then be fact-checked and edited by the wide world of internet volunteers.

Wikipedia itself has been dogged with issues of accuracy but, for the most part remains a rich and reliable starting point for good information.

It will be interesting to see if they can succeed in presenting a fair and balanced view of what is going on around us – Evidence-based journalism.

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Is Every Speed Limit Too Low?

By Alex Mayyasi · Priceonomics

When Lieutenant Gary Megge of the Michigan State Police attends a meeting, he sometimes asks, “How many of you broke the speed limit on your way here?”

Hearing his question, you might assume that Lt. Megge is a particularly zealous police officer. The type of person who walks half a city block to avoid jaywalking on an empty street. The model citizen who defers almost obnoxiously to the letter of the law. But that is not the point of Lt. Megge’s question at all.

“We all speed, yet months and months usually pass between us seeing a crash,” Lt. Megge tells us when we call to discuss speed limits. “That tells me that most of us are adequate, safe, reasonable drivers. Speeding and traffic safety have a small correlation.”

Over the past 12 years, Lt. Megge has increased the speed limit on nearly 400 of Michigan’s roadways. Each time, he or one of his officers hears from community groups who complain that people already drive too fast. But as Megge and his colleagues explain, their intent is not to reduce congestion, bow to the reality that everyone drives too fast, or even strike a balance between safety concerns and drivers’ desire to arrive at their destinations faster. Quite the opposite, Lt. Megge advocates for raising speed limits because he believes it makes roads safer.

Traffic Engineering 101

Every year, traffic engineers review the speed limit on thousands of stretches of road and highway. Most are reviewed by a member of the state’s Department of Transportation, often along with a member of the state police, as is the case in Michigan. In each case, the “survey team” has a clear approach: they want to set the speed limit so that 15% of drivers exceed it and 85% of drivers drive at or below the speed limit.

This “nationally recognized method” of setting the speed limit as the 85th percentile speed is essentially traffic engineering 101. It’s also a bit perplexing to those unfamiliar with the concept. Shouldn’t everyone drive at or below the speed limit? And if a driver’s speed is dictated by the speed limit, how can you decide whether or not to change that limit based on the speed of traffic?

The answer lies in realizing that the speed limit really is just a number on a sign, and it has very little influence on how fast people drive. “Over the years, I’ve done many follow up studies after we raise or lower a speed limit,” Megge tells us. “Almost every time, the 85th percentile speed doesn’t change, or if it does, it’s by about 2 or 3 mph.”

As most honest drivers would probably concede, this means that if the speed limit on a highway decreases from 65 mph to 55 mph, most drivers will not drive 10 mph slower. But for the majority of drivers, the opposite is also true. If a survey team increases the speed limit by 10 mph, the speed of traffic will not shoot up 10 mph. It will stay around the same. Years of observing traffic has shown engineers that as long as a cop car is not in sight, most people simply drive at whatever speed they like.

Luckily, there is some logic to the speed people choose other than the need for speed. The speed drivers choose is not based on laws or street signs, but the weather, number of intersections, presence of pedestrians and curves, and all the other information that factors into the principle, as Lt. Megge puts it, that “no one I know who gets into their car wants to crash.”

So if drivers disregard speed limits, why bother trying to set the “right” speed limit at all?

One reason is that a minority of drivers do follow the speed limit. “I’ve found that about 10% of drivers truly identify the speed limit sign and drive at or near that limit,” says Megge. Since these are the slowest share of drivers, they don’t affect the 85th percentile speed. But they do impact the average speed — by about 2 or 3 mph when a speed limit is changed, in Lt. Megge’s experience — and, more importantly, the variance in driving speeds.

This is important because, as noted in a U.S. Department of Transportation report, “the potential for being involved in an accident is highest when traveling at speed much lower or much higher than the majority of motorists.” If every car sets its cruise control at the same speed, the odds of a fender bender happening is low. But when some cars drive 55 mph and others drive 85 mph, the odds of cars colliding increases dramatically. This is why getting slow drivers to stick to the right lane is so important to roadway safety; we generally focus on joyriders’ ability to cause accidents — and rightly so — but a car driving under the speed limit in the left (passing) lane of a highway is almost as dangerous.

Traffic engineers believe that the 85th percentile speed is the ideal speed limit because it leads to the least variability between driving speeds and therefore safer roads. When the speed limit is correctly set at the 85th percentile speed, the minority of drivers that do conscientiously follow speed limits are no longer driving much slower than the speed of traffic. The choice of the 85th percentile speed is a data-driven conclusion — as noted Lt. Megge and speed limit resources like the Michigan State Police’s guide — that has been established by the consistent findings of years of traffic studies.

Yet most speed limits are set below the 85th percentile speed. We first investigated this topic at the urging of the National Motorists Association, a “member-supported driver advocacy organization” that has made raising speed limits to the 85th percentile one focus of its efforts.

One member pointed us to a 1992 report by the U.S. Department of Transportation on the “Effects of Raising and Lowering Speed Limits,” which, beside making the same arguments described above, noted that the majority of highway agencies set speed limits below the 85th percentile, leading over 50% of motorists to drive “in technical violation of the speed limit laws.” Lt. Megge believes the compliance rate in Michigan to be well under 50%.

It seems absurd that over half of drivers technically break the law at all times. It’s also perplexing that speed limit policy so consistently ignore traffic engineering 101. So why do people like Lt. Megge need to spend their time trying to raise speed limits?

How Saudi Arabia Got Us All Driving 55 MPH

“When I drive that slow, you know it’s hard to steer. And I can’t get my car out of second gear. What used to take two hours now takes all day. Huh, it took me 16 hours to get to L.A.”

~ Sammy Hagar’s hit song “I Can’t Drive 55”

In 1973, the Egyptian military crossed the Suez Canal in a surprise attack on Israel. It was the start of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, and also low speed limits in the United States.

When the United States began resupplying Israel with arms, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries announced an embargo against the United States and several other countries. Combined with other supply constraints, it led to a quadrupling of gas prices, shortages of gasoline, and long lines at the pump.

In an effort to reduce America’s need for gas, President Nixon issued an executive order mandating a 55 miles per hour speed limit on American highways, which Congress made law the following year. States are officially in charge of setting their own speed limits, but national leaders (semi) successfully cajoled states by tying compliance to federal highway funds. Since driving at high speeds is less efficient, the policy is estimated to have saved 167,000 barrels of oil per day, or around 1% of American motor oil consumption.

Even as the effects of the energy crisis drew down in the 1970s, the new federal speed limit remained. But rather than insist on the limit in order to reduce gasoline consumption, members of Congress maintained the policy because they believed it led to safer highways. This is shown by a debate over a measure passed in 1987, which allowed select states to raise the limit on certain roads to 65 mph. The New York Times reported that “Critics immediately warned that there would be a surge in highway fatalities.” The dissenting chairman of the Public Works and Transportation Committee called it “irresponsible, life-threatening legislation.”

Congress abolished the national federal speed limit in 1995. Many states increased their speed limits before they could even post new signs, but many speed limits remained low. Twenty years of a 55 miles per hour speed limit created a low baseline that drags down speed limits today.

Why Speed Limits Are Low

If you peruse the websites of state’s departments of transportation, you’ll often find a very technocratic explanation of the 85th percentile principle. Speed limits are consistently lower than the 85th percentile speed across the country, however, because there are many limitations on following the principle. Florida’s Department of Transportation, for example, extolls the 85th percentile principle, yet the state legislature sets maximum limits for each type of roadway. Locally, officials can come under pressure from parents and other safety-conscious groups to lower speed limits.

Consistently, the 85th percentile loses out to the perception that faster roads are less safe, so speed limits should be low. It’s a misconception, Lt. Megge says, that he faces often in his work. When he proposes raising a speed limit, the initial reaction is always “Oh my god! You can’t do that. People are already going too fast.” People think raising the limit 10 mph will lead people to drive 10 mph faster, when really changing the limit has almost no impact on the speed of traffic.

The same lack of understanding motivates public health pushes for lower speed limits that influence legislation. The World Health Organization, for example, advocates low speed limits to prevent road fatalities, and cites studies showing that accidents and fatalities increase with traffic speed. “When you look at it from a pure physics standpoint,” Megge says, “and ask would you rather hit a bridge abutment at 10 mph or 40 mph, you can’t argue with that. But when I look at correcting a speed limit, I am not advocating driving faster, and that’s the hard part to get over.”

If someone could wave a wand and get every American to drive below 60 mph, roads would be safer. But since law enforcement can’t keep over 50% of Americans from speeding, putting a low number on a sign can’t make roads safer. Fortunately, American roadways are safer than ever, with highway fatalities at historic lows. Roads can be dangerous, but the perception of roads getting increasingly dangerous is a false one.

Plenty of public safety advocates of lower speed limits, however, would disagree with the actions of individuals like Lt. Megge. Just as Megge can point to the results on hundreds or thousands of roads which have become more safe or equally safe when the speed limit increased, other researchers looking at data sets of speed limit changes have come to the opposite conclusion and advise that raising speed limits comes with the price of thousands of roadway fatalities.

None of these studies mention the 85th percentile principle — at least in our review of them — and Lt. Megge expressed surprise at researchers coming to this conclusion. Given that debates over speed limit laws often enlist experts who make clashing predictions about the effect of raising speed limits, we got the feeling that speed limit policy would be a lot more consistent if the public health community and traffic engineers collaborated more often.

The other reason speed limits may remain low, which John Bowman, Communications Director of the National Motorists Association strongly insists on, is that cities and police departments use traffic citations as a revenue generating tool. As Bowman says, when speed limits are artificially low, it’s easier to give out citations and pull in fine revenue.

Due to concern about such “speed traps,” Missouri passed a law in the 1990s that capped the amount of a town’s revenue that could come from traffic tickets. In 2010, auditors discovered that Randolph, Missouri, generated 75% to 83% of its budget from traffic tickets. The tiny town of around 50 residents, which is located near several casinos, employed two full-time and eight part-time police officers, turning it into a speed trap poster child.

Figuring out how common the tactics used by Randolph’s police department are around the country is difficult, as is tying it to a conscious decision to keep speed limits low. Each town or city makes its own decisions, which makes it difficult to know how comprehensively speeding tickets are used as a revenue generator. Further, it is very easy for police departments to defend pushing officers to issue more tickets as a goal intended to further roadway safety — as the LAPD did when found in violation of a state law banning traffic ticket quotas last year.

In our conversation, Lt. Megge stated that he believes speed traps to be a “big problem” and counter to police officers real role of altering dangerous behavior. In a Detroit Newsarticle about a number of towns ignoring state law by not reviewing the speed limits on stretches of their roads, Megge said that he believes the communities did so in order to avoid revising speed limits upwards. This allows them to keep collecting ticket revenue on “artificially low” speed limits.

Slowing Down

Given the inevitability with which most drivers speed, it’s heartening that roadways can be made safer through the very achievable means of traffic engineers setting more realistic speed limits — rather than the nearly impossible goal of getting everyone to drive ten to twenty miles per hour slower. But it also seems counter to other goals. Most people may drive at a reasonable rate, but is that speed low enough to accommodate bikers, protect children at play, and make our cities more walkable?

“I don’t want to lie to people,” Lt. Megge tells us. It may make parents feel better if the speed limit on their street is 25 mph instead of 35 mph, but that sign won’t make people drive any slower. Megge prefers speed limits that both allow people to drive at a safe speed legally, and that realistically reflect traffic speeds. People shouldn’t have a false sense of safety around roads, he says.

If people and politicians do want to reduce road speeds to improve safety, or make cities more pedestrian friendly, Megge says “there are a lot of other things you can do from an engineering standpoint.” Cities can reduce the number of lanes, change the parking situation, create wider bike paths, and so on. It’s more expensive, but unlike changing the number on a sign, it’s effective.

Raising speed limits up to the speed of traffic can seem like surrendering to fast, unsafe driving. But it would actually accomplish the opposite. If advocates like Megge are right, following the 85th percentile rule would make roads safer, and it would also mean taking speed limits seriously.

In its 1992 report, the U.S. Department of Transportation cautioned, “Arbitrary, unrealistic and nonuniform speed limits have created a socially acceptable disregard for speed limits.” Lt. Megge has worked on roads with a compliance rate of nearly zero percent, and a common complaint among those given traffic citations is that they were speeding no more than anyone else. With higher speed limits, Megge says, police officers could focus their resources on what really matters: drunk drivers, people who don’t wear seat belts, drivers who run red lights, and, most importantly, the smaller number of drivers who actually speed at an unreasonable rate.

It seems counterintuitive, but it’s a formula Americans should love: Raise speed limits, make roads safer.

Posted in Highways, Transportation | Leave a comment

Oakley PD adds an Officer

Oakleyʹs gained a new Police Officer! Daniel Buck has more than a decade of experience in law enforcement. Buck first served as a Police Aide with the Contra Costa Community College District before enrolling in the Police Academy. After completing the Police Academy, Buck was a Deputy with the Contra Costa County Sheriffʹs Office where he performed security functions and also worked in detention at the County jail. He later went on to serve nearly 10 years with the Pittsburg Police Department before joining Team Oakley. Buckʹs previous specialty assignments include the Street Crimes Unit, K‐9 handler and Field Training Officer. He has broad experience including proactive policing, narcotics & violent crimes related search warrants and surveillance operations. On his days off, Daniel enjoys spending time outdoors as he often goes camping with family and friends.

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April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Technology allows us to make phone calls, dictate texts or emails and update social media while driving – all actions that are proven to increase crash risk. The National Safety Council observes April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month to draw attention to this epidemic. NSC wants empower you to put safety first and Just Drive.

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Let us know what you think of Contra Costa’s Countywide Bike and Pedestrian Plan

Our new Countywide Bike and Pedestrian Plan website is now live!

The Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s (CCTA) Countywide Bike and Pedestrian Plan outlines strategies that support pedestrian-friendly developments and encourages a connected, coordinated network of bicycle facilities. To help implement these strategies, CCTA adopted a Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan in 2003. We updated the Plan in 2009, and are reaching out to the public to provide comments and ideas for the latest Plan update, which is currently underway.

Now the Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is being updated for 2017 to help make walking and biking safer, more convenient, and more attractive in Contra Costa. The Plan will help harmonize local plans for bicycle and pedestrian networks in Contra Costa and help us better understand where and how often people walk and bicycle in the county.

We encourage you to visit the project website,, today to take a short survey and use the interactive map to provide your comments and suggestions about the Countywide Bike and Pedestrian Plan. You can also learn more about upcoming events, the planning timeline, and opportunities to provide your ideas to the planning team. We will be hosting pop-up stations at community events and other popular locations throughout the County to gather input from residents and visitors.

The planning process will take place in phases over the course of the next year, with a final plan and environmental report scheduled for completion in the summer of 2018. We hope that you’ll stay tuned and check back on the website often to keep up to date on the planning process, explore draft documents, and provide your feedback and comments!

Let’s work together to make our community a safer and friendlier place to walk and bike! Visit now!

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Congratulations, as of today you’ve officially earned enough money to pay off your taxes this year

For many years the Tax Foundation has performed a fairly complex set of calculations to find a simple and sobering result: the calendar date that American taxpayers finally pay off their total annual toll to the government — that is, their individual local, state and federal tax bills as an aggregate. On average, Americans will pay off that onerous debt on Sunday, April 23 — one day earlier than last year. Still, it’s hardly cause for celebration. Taxpayers fortunate enough to live in Mississippi were freed from their overall tax burden back on April 5. In California we are still a few days away – May 1.

Americans will pay $3.5 trillion in federal taxes and $1.6 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total bill of more than $5.1 trillion, or 31 percent of the nation’s income. The government spends an average of $31,154 per household. So where does all that money go? By far the largest individual portion ($12,141) goes to the combination of Social Security and Medicare. The second-largest amount goes to programs lumped together under the “anti-poverty” banner ($6,143), with defense coming in third ($4,696).

A century ago, on the eve of World War I (and just after the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment) Tax Freedom Day occurred in late January. Although there’s been a little bit of relief since 2000, the year Tax Freedom Day fell on May 1 — the fact that we spend well past a quarter of each year rendering unto Caesar should give everyone pause and make us question how we came to this point.

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