Were these two electeds at the same meeting?

State Sen. Loni Hancock said, "I hope everybody realizes what a tribute to democracy this whole process has been. I am in awe of you guys, in awe of this community."

Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson said, "I've been involved in bureaucracy for a long while, but this is getting to an incredible level."

Indeed, they are both talking about the Martinez meeting of the Community Corrections Partnership, a fledgling seven-member governing board mandated as part of the state's shift of supervision of low-level offenders to the county.

On a split 4-3 vote, the partnership on Thursday again postponed a vote on its full $19 million budget.

The panel instead formed an eight-member subcommittee and charged it with drafting an operations plan that spans the multiple agencies responsible for inmates and probationers: sheriff, district attorney, public defender, probation, health department and the courts.

The law enforcement contingent -- Peterson, Sheriff David Livingston and Chief Probation Officer Phil Kader -- opposed the delay and called the third committee "paralysis by analysis."

Contra Costa Superior Court Executive Officer Kiri Torre, Public Defender Robin Lipetzky and Health Services Department representative Cynthia Belon endorsed what they called a holistic and integrated approach.


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Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus was the swing vote, a position that put him at odds with some of his police colleagues but in line with his liberal community.

The partnership members are understandably frustrated but no one needed tea leaves to predict these rough seas.

To start, it's a brand new entity and it takes time to work through the kinks.

Too, the partner agencies perform specialized tasks and a full understanding of each other's challenges is difficult. For example, running a jail may look like the equivalent of operating a super-strict hotel until you factor stuff like housing rival gang members.

In addition, the sheriff and district attorney are directly elected and they make the final call in their agencies. Sharing decisions, for example, on the appropriate numbers of jail beds or prosecutors with a public defender or a health administrator is uncharted territory.

Nowhere is the gap more evident, though, than on the question of whether the county should spend $2.9 million expanding the jail in Richmond, as the sheriff requested.

Sporting an "Invest in people, not prisons!" motto, activists piled into Martinez-bound buses with handmade signs, packed partnership meetings and delivered emotional -- if not entirely accurate -- testimony.

It worked.

They turned the jail into a flash point in the debate over the efficacy of incarceration vs. rehabilitation.

It got Sen. Hancock and her legislative colleagues' attention.

The sheriff backed down, for now.

And a majority on the board launched the new subcommittee whose work may lead to greater investment in programs that help inmates and probationers transition into a crime-free life.

The operative word is "may."

As the sheriff and district attorney observed, the longer the process to divvy up the new cash, the larger the number of claims on the pie. The delay could lead to less money for the same programs advocates want.

The health department, for example, asked last week for roughly $400,000 in unanticipated costs for probationers' health care bills.

It was a not-so-subtle message to those outspoken critics from nonprofit groups that provide transitional services and will likely apply for the money.

Hancock wasn't buying it.

She not only praised the county's robust democracy, she lauded the formation of the subcommittee and its charge.

"I will tell you I have worked on (prison reform) for years, and everyone talks about it and almost no one has done it successfully," Hancock told the group. "It sounds to me like Contra Costa is on the road to doing it successfully."

Law enforcement leaders would no doubt love to ride in an accolade parade thrown in honor of a record-low rate of repeat offenders and top-notch re-entry programs.

But for now, it seems they picture themselves walking behind the horses ... with the shovels.

AND FINALLY: Last week was gut-wrenching for police officers and their families who reeled from news of the death of 37-year-old California Highway Patrol Officer Kenyon Youngstrom, shot point blank Tuesday during a routine traffic stop.

That includes me. My son is a CHP officer.

In their grief, people called and shared their law enforcement stories.

My favorite was a tale from 90-year-old Phil Goodenough in Alamo, whose father was a Baltimore cop.

In the late 1920s, his father climbed James Bond-style onto the outside fender of a fleeing suspect's car and one of the bad guys shot his dad clean off the side of the vehicle.

But the bullet whistled through his dad's hat and just singed his scalp. Phil was mighty popular in the neighborhood when he brought out the hat with two bullet holes, he said.

A happy ending is just what I needed.

Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, Twitter /lvorderbrueggen or Facebook/lvorderbrueggen.