East Bay Regional Park District Trustee and Former Oakley City Councilwoman Diane Burgis announced her intention to run for Contra Costa County Board of Supervisor, District 3 this past December shortly after Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho announced that she would retire at the end of her term after serving on the Board of Supervisors since 2004. Piepho has endorsed Burgis
Burgis, who is a resident of Oakley with her three sons, believes there are a lot of opportunities and issues facing Contra Costa County. She says she is ready to tackle those issues while giving everyone a voice.
“I am running because I think District 3 deserves and needs a supervisor that will make every effort to represent everyone. I have had regional experience over the last 4-years and the people of the District deserve someone who can hit the ground running,” says Burgis. “We need a representative who is strong advocate for the Delta, someone that has a good understanding of the complexity of county government, and is ready to stand up for what is right”.
Burgis discussed several issues she is concerned and interested in working on which includes improving public safety, promoting economic development, bringing county services to East Contra Costa, and promoting environmental stewardship.
Burgis indicated that one priority is to find a definitive solution for the budgetary issues facing the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District and to curb the retention issues facing the Contra Costa County Sheriffs Office to help them both become sustainable and retain their employees. She wants to make sure our communities are appropriately staffed and supported.
Burgis explained one challenges with making the sheriffs deputies job more attractive is how to property fund the department and provide better pay and benefit packages to keep deputies from leaving for higher paid packages elsewhere. Burgis says the issue must be addressed immediately before crime rises across the county.
“They are coming in, getting trained and leaving for other agencies,” explained Burgis. “Basically, the county is paying for the training for other agencies and they are leaving. That needs to stop. We are losing deputies because we are not paying them competitively. District three has a huge unincorporated area of Contra Costa, I would like to find a way to get better coverage in areas such as Discover Bay, Bethel Island and get a full-time Marine Patrol out on our waters.”
Burgis acknowledges it will be a challenge to find the money, but she thinks apportionment is even a tougher approach. Regardless of how it’s done, she says it must be done to ensure safety of county residents.
Furthermore, she highlighted the financial issues facing the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District saying the solution is not as simple as taking 1% across the Board as some suggest, instead, she believes it will take a combination of creating more revenue, possibly some reapportionment and possibly down the road consolidation with Contra Costa Fire to get the fire district stabilized.
“Expecting to persuade 28 different agencies to give up revenue and future funding is not likely a quick fix as some are suggesting and don’t be fooled in to thinking you won’t be giving up something if and when those agencies are convinced to give up their revenue and or future revenue,” explained Burgis.
Burgis also discussed her interest in promoting economic development in Contra Costa County.
“I am particularly interested in EC2 Collaborative and the Northern Waterfront Economic Development Initiatives. I will work to support these efforts and work on other creative ways to bring stakeholders together to bring good paying jobs to the area.” said Burgis. “One way we can improve economic development is by improving on transportation in the area. We need to create better access to Tracy and Stockton, we need to widen and improve safety on Vasco Road, we need to build up the Byron Airport, get EBART out to Brentwood, bring commuter train services possibly through Brentwood, Oakley and Antioch and even someday have ferry service via our waterways. I am also passionate about investing in alternative transportation trails that will serve as a way for people to access public transportation and as safe routes to school”
She suggested that we need to think about promoting investment in infrastructure to attract particular industries like broadband for technology companies.
When asked about crime, Burgis indicated that it is important to make sure we are getting as many cops out on the road as possible to the communities that are facing challenges. She also discussed the need for Community Service Officers, promoting neighborhood watches and other programs that engage the community and creates ownership.
“In fighting crime, there is a need to involve more than just police officers. We need to find a way to get others involved to create more public pride and civic involvement and to not tolerate bad behavior,” says Burgis.
She also discussed the heavy burden that mental health has on crime, the health care system, the schools, and on the economy. Burgis got involved in mental health issues while serving on the Oakley City Council.
In 2013, Oakley had an unusually high number of suicides and Burgis was one of the first to notice and helped raise awareness of the trend. Burgis helped bring county, the interfaith community, the school districts, local law enforcement and nonprofits together to work on suicide prevention and awareness.
As a result many people have come together in the community to work on long term prevention and awareness efforts. Burgis indicated she was proud of being able to recognize a problem and inspire people to work on the issue.
“I believe these volunteers and community groups help fill holes that government and business can’t fill. While on the Oakley City Council I conducted three non-profit round-tables that worked to strengthen, support and grow those important groups of our community. I want to expand this on a county wide program to strengthen all non-profits and give them the support they need to be successful. This goes hand-in-hand with what Supervisor Federal Glover is doing with his grant writing workshops and the Youth Summit he puts on,” explained Burgis.
Burgis has been an active community organizer and executive director of Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed (FOMCW) a nonprofit whose mission is to protect, conserve, and restore Marsh Creek and its tributaries, and to inspire appreciation and conservation of the Marsh Creek Watershed.
According to their website they create thousands of volunteer hours every year most notably organizing a creek clean up every September that in some years has generated a cleanup of over 7-tons of trash from waterways, trails, parks and neighborhoods. They have a year round water monitoring program and an award winning summer internship program that they have put on for the past four years working with homeless, low income, special education, foster and other under served youth from the community in partnership with the Contra Costa County Office of Education and the Contra Costa Workforce.
This project inspired more work in Brentwood under the “Three Creeks Project” where she has worked with partners to help secure an $800k grant. In that project, Burgis worked with a developer to commit $1 million to “The Three Creeks” restoration project.
Some people think she should stick to the environment but Burgis disagrees.
“I have proven that I have a great capacity for learning by focusing on environmental issues the past several years, including being by far the most informed and experienced advocate for the Delta in this race. During my time in elected office I have been involved in a lot of other issues from transportation and regional planning, mental health, public safety, fuel management, integrated pest management, alternative energy, affordable housing, veteran’s issues, homelessness, seniors, and working with labor. I sit on the Regional Planning Committee for the Association of Bay Area Governments working on how to plan for growth in all of the 9 Bay Area Counties. East Contra Costa is unique and I make sure to be a voice that speaks on behalf of our needs,” says Burgis. “So while I appreciate people see me as an expert on environmental issues including water and open space, I have an expertise in surrounding myself with smart people and bringing people together to come up with solutions. I love creativity and I am not opposed to bringing everybody to the table and that is how I get things done. I appreciate that people believe I have this environmental expertise, but I don’t feel that I need to be boxed into one specific issue.”
Burgis says instead of labeling her, people should focus on the fact she has gained experience working in a District that covers nearly 120,000 acres in both Alameda and Contra Costa County serving over 2.6 million people with a $205 million budget that is not just parks and trails, it is a very diversified land and water system of 65 regional parks, recreation areas, wildernesses, shorelines, preserves, land banks and 31 regional, inter-park trails.
EBRPD receive over 22 million visitors each year. The district also has its own police and a fire department which includes a total staff of up to 1,200 people during the summer season.
Supervisor Piepho encouraged Burgis to run for her seat due to her track record.
“Mary and I worked together on the Delta Protection Commission. That is how we got to know each other. She is always the most informed and most prepared official. Not everyone will agree with what she does, but she is a professional, and a prepared advocate for the Delta. We both agree that the Delta needs strong advocates to protect the water and ecosystem, the wildlife, the economy and the people that live, work and depend on the Delta. When we sat down to talk about me running, she told me that it is extremely important to her that a strong advocate for the Delta serves in her seat and she sees that I have the intelligence, compassion and commitment to serve all of East County. That is why she encouraged me to run.” explained Burgis.
Burgis highlighted some people are stuck on the term “recruited” but she takes it as a compliment.
“People can choose whatever words they want to choose because that is up to them. I had no plan; I haven’t gone through training to get elected or how to run a campaign. I was very flattered when Jim Frazier asked me to run for Oakley City Council and I was blown away when Ted Radke supported me to run for East Bay Regional Park District, so when Mary Piepho asked me to consider running for her seat, again I was blown away,” explained Burgis. “I look at it like professional sports, when someone is really good they get moved up. People go out and look for people with the most potential and best skills for the team. That is how I feel about it. Recruited, yes, that is a nice word but it also proves I have proven myself with my actions and intellect and that is why people keep asking me to run for another office.”
Burgis also acknowledges that she has had a quick trajectory that has had her go between two seats in four year now potentially to a County Board of Supervisor seat, but says she is content with the idea serving in a county role.
“I have no aspirations to go up to another seat. I do not want to run for a state level seat,” says Burgis. “Serving part-time as an elected is very much like community service because it’s not about the paycheck, I think anyone who has ever served on most elected local offices knows you put in a lot more time than what you are paid. I look at the Supervisor seat as the ultimate chance to commit myself to serving my community on a full-time basis. I am interested in serving my local community.”
Burgis further highlighted those criticizing her for switching seats are just looking for something to criticize her for.
“I am running because I have the intellect, compassion, experience, potential and integrity that District 3 deserves.” says Burgis. “I look forward to the challenges and I look forward to giving everyone a voice.”
When asked about the 33% pay raise the Board of Supervisors tried to provide to themselves, she said it’s the supervisors job to lead by example, not to be the first ones with their hands out.
“I think the way it was approached was not the way I would have done it. Since I was not there, I will not criticize, but what I will say is that the perception of it was very poor,” says Burgis. “If I was elected, I would propose we take the average of what our employees were compensated in the previous year. I think that is fair and predictable and might just provide better relations with our unions. “
With six candidates announcing their intention to run for the same seat, Burgis says she is focused on preparing to be the best candidate for county supervisor she can be while saying she intends to run a positive campaign focused on the issues and staying out of the weeds.
“I heard something that resonated with me about politics lately that some people are running to be somebody and others run to do something. I am running to do great things and giving people a voice in the process. People tend to underestimate me but make no mistake; I have no tolerance for people not being kind, considerate or respectful. When I believe in something I will not back down. When I represent someone, I will stand up and defend them. When I see things aren’t right, I speak up and try make it better,” explained Burgis.
For more information on Diane Burgis, you can visit www.dianeburgis.com
Interview conducted Feb 19, 2016