Claycord – Talk About Local Politics

March 27, 2020 19:00 pm · 27 comments


This special post is “Talk About LOCAL Politics”.

Please use this post to talk about LOCAL politics, and keep state and national politics out of this thread.

Thank you, and be kind to each other.

Please Note: Users who use multiple names will be deleted. Please choose a name so others can easily chat with you. Users must provide a name in the ‘name field’, please do not use the ‘@’ symbol in the name field.

Edi Birsan March 27, 2020 at 10:43 PM

Please take the short independent survey at

Send any suggested topics or questions for the next issue to *not on this thread please

Concord Mike March 28, 2020 at 10:16 PM

@Edi, I took the survey and have a quibble about your question relating to increases in high end apartment supply causing a drop in lower-end apartment rents.

I believe in the laws of supply and demand, and an increase in apartment quantity will effectively reduce prices (or reduce the rate of increase in prices) for other apartments, including lower priced ones as people trade up to the nicer units. Elasticity of demand in economics terms.

My quibble is the question says “do you believe rents will go down”. In practice, landlords rarely lower rents for new tenants when the market weakens. That would undercut the value of their property.

Instead, landlords usually offer incentives like a free months rent, a rent credit, or some other perk that allows them to keep rents stable (on paper at least). Sometimes they will upgrade the units to make them more competitive. These are not rent reductions per se, but they are helpful to new renters.

So that is why it was difficult to answer the question. Rents are pretty sticky.

If you asked “Will new apartment construction help new renters seeking lower cost housing?” It would be easy to answer Yes!

Hope Johnson March 29, 2020 at 8:28 AM

The laws of supply and demand do not apply to building housing because developers do not build to “demand.” If developers can’t turn a large profit, they just stop building until the market swings in their direction. This is a glitch in the supply and demand theory of housing – really a trickle down method of providing a basic life necessity. Trickle down works nowhere. I know people like Concord Mike cling to economic models that have failed us and brought us to this point where the MAJORITY of people struggle with housing – so I offer you real life examples. Why do you think all those lots in downtown Concord sit empty despite the “demand” for average income housing? Because developers don’t play by these so called “laws” you worship. For better or worse, they build when they can make a boat load of profit or the land sits idle, in complete defiance of these “laws.”

Cowellian March 29, 2020 at 10:00 AM

Hope, that is not a glitch. That is exactly how the law of supply and demand works. And your elected officials cannot repeal,or defy, the law of supply and demand, try as they might. The fact is, that anything the government does acts to restrict supply or increase demand.

To Do List March 29, 2020 at 10:29 AM

Hope is completely correct in questioning the “laws” of economic supply and demand given to us by professors. What they taught in beginning economics in school is wrong. The professors have all sorts of models that look great on a chalk board with marginal cost and marginal demand and will show you market clearing incentives, except it is mostly wrong. See for example, Alan Blinder (extremely well known in economics) published (see “Asking About Prices” for example) studies where they went to manufactures and asked them if they operate according to those models. Comically, they even had difficulty talking with them because manufactures and executives did not even think in terms of shapes of their supply curves, and in the majority of cases the curves the executives described they thought they faced had the opposite slope than the theories. The demand and supply curves work in a few cases such as primary materials like sand production, but not in advanced manufacturing situations. Conclusion, Hope is completely correct that those simple demand and supply curves you might have seen in school are generally wrong.

KAD March 29, 2020 at 12:39 AM

Concord Mark. I am with you.

Gittyup March 29, 2020 at 7:21 AM

I certainly hope the City of Concord is not developing city policy based on these informal and unscientific “surveys.” At best, they are a novelty giving people a chance to voice opinions, and perhaps feel as though they have some small measure of input and participation. At the least, they’re Birsan’s hobby.

RTC March 29, 2020 at 9:41 AM

You are right. The responses are not a representative sample of the citizens of Concord. I stopped responding to his surveys a few years back because I felt the questions were geared toward a specific point of view on subjects. His. I don’t know if that has changed in recent years.

ZZ March 29, 2020 at 9:54 AM

Give the dog a bone.

Concord Mike March 29, 2020 at 12:28 PM

Hope seems to believe developers are the only deciders when it comes to housing. Not true.

Why are prime lots in Concord sitting empty for years? We have seen a series of developers pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in plans to add housing. Most have worked in good faith with the city, only to be forced to abandon their plans because our powerful building trades union and housing subsidy advocates step in and makes demands which, according to the developers, make their project non-viable.

I don’t believe developers should be allowed to earn excessive profits, but when developers walk away in a good economy and write off the money they had alread spent, you KNOW unexpected high costs (eg: labor and/or costs from subsidized housing demands) have stopped the construction.

Meanwhile, housing continues to be built in neighboring cities.

If Hope wants to validate her theory that the law of supply and demand is broken, maybe she could take the time to study neighboring cities like Walnut Creek to see why they are getting bigger projects built and we are at a standstill.

Personally, I think Concord now has an “anti-development” perception problem. Regional and national developers know which cities are easier to work with, and which are not. I believe we are now on their list of cities to avoid, and bigger developments will be stalled until city council feels desperate enough for new housing to coax big developers back in with terms most of us will consider a bitter pill.

Hope Johnson March 30, 2020 at 8:35 AM

@ Concord Mike – Your post does nothing to support your original assertion that building is dominated by supply and demand theory.

First, Walnut Creek is building high end units, not units affordable to average income people. In fact, Walnut Creek has been tearing down older. affordable units to cater to the developers’ desire for mega bucks. Second, this building is in no way bringing down rent or mortgage costs as you originally suggested. Rents in Walnut Creek have not decreased. The displaced people are pushed farther out east, increasing rents in Concord and elsewhere. Concord is not perceived by developers as a place where they can sell high end units, thus our lots stay empty.

If cities do not specifically plan affordable and middle income units, they do not get built.

Second, you are now admitting that the traditional theory of supply and demand is interefered with in real estate by other factors, which was my point in the first place. You can’t just say build, build really expensive units and everything else will come down. Trickle down economics is BS. As you yourself admit, many other factors interfere with mere supply and demand when it comes to housing. And, yes, this is driven largely by developers who do like to use space to build affordable units.

Edi Birsan March 29, 2020 at 12:33 PM

I would like to thank you above for having a civil conversation thread here.

As for the comments:
1. The Pulse of Concord has been going on for 10 years this or next month. In that time I have had great neutral questions, and some terribly worded (and spelled) wrong. I try to make them neutral and I welcome the suggested topics and neutral questions that people want to send me:

2. As for representative, generally the first reaction to any survey that has something you do not like is to: a. blame the question b. say it is not representative of your perception of what the answer should be,
I can share with you that I am fully aware of the real problems with A and B . I can also share with you that often when the city does a ‘scientific’ professional survey I will take one question and try to repeat it exactly and see if the results track. For the most part for the last 10 years they have.
However, I am always aware of the bias of self regulating surveys.

3. I use the survey’s to help me frame questions, look at different sides, get issues out to the people to talk about, and try to discipline my focus to find out where the divisions are and try to find out why and if anything what to do to clarify or reduce them. I learn nothing from a survey question that is 98% one way. *actually had a 450 survey response early on that gave that result- the question: should city councilmembers have to have their prime residence in the city of Concord.

4. as for the debate on Supply and Demand and housing, this is a needed one and the different perceptions are what the questions were trying to get at, Mike, I like your suggested quibble, work with me and send me a suggested neutral question. Always try to make things better,.

Text at
510 812 8180
Please do not knock on my door till the quarantine is over… but if you want to drop off bags of fruit for the Food Bank.Pantries, on my Porch I will get them there

RTC March 29, 2020 at 1:50 PM

Thanks for your reply. I will start taking your surveys again.

Edi Birsan March 29, 2020 at 2:25 PM

Thanks for the return and please write to me on suggestions or how to word things differently. I am not emotionally committed to anything in the survey.

Gittyup March 29, 2020 at 4:32 PM

Your reply above indicates that you very well are emotionally committed to your surveys. They are unscientific, your sample is biased as a small class who choose to take it, and, as such, it should never be used in any devision-making process. Just like the people who show up to comment at City Council meetings, those who take the survey have a vested interest in the outcome on any given issue. The majority of Concord residents go unrepresented unless they contact their City Council member personally with an opinion. The surveys provide squeaky wheels yet another opportunity to input city decisions and that is all they do.

Concord Mike March 29, 2020 at 9:51 PM

@Atticus, Well said. Giityup gets it right a lot…but this time he kinda got on his high horse. 😊

Edi has never represented his pet survey as scientific. It has its purpose as a feedback mechanism and I respect him for his efforts to even ask for input.

Edi Birsan March 29, 2020 at 10:52 PM

@ Gittyup/anyone I am more than happy to sit down with you and listen to your opinions, concerns, ideas, etc. Once this pandemic thing is over will be totally available.
Edi Birsan
or if you prefer an more private matter
510 812 8180

Atticus Thraxx March 31, 2020 at 8:56 PM

He has no intention of engaging you Edi. All hat, no cowboy.

Gittyup March 30, 2020 at 9:50 AM

Ed Birsan, Laura Hoffmeister, and others, told us all we need to know about their vanity and leadership skills when they installed that plaque in Todas Santos plaza. Birsan’s survey is how he confirms his own opinions. I wouldn’t recommend it at this time, but one could get a more representative, accurate, and random sample by conducting a door-to-door survey. What Birsan gets are opinions of people who are computer users, a specialized subset of the general population and certainly not representative.. That’s only one thing that is wrong with it. Birsan and Hoffmeister, specifically, need to step away from the public watering trough and get real jobs before we have to rename the city Oakland East. They have run Concord completely off the rails.

Lars Anderson March 30, 2020 at 3:55 PM

A question Edi Birsan should have asked in his survey is the following; How do you as a Concord resident feel about the fact that Concord has among the highest paid city employees in the state of California? That would have been a good question because the average city resident is unaware of out city leads the state in pay compensation for our city workers.
The average city worker in Concord makes more then city workers make in Oakland, San Francisco, and even San Jose (one of the wealthiest cities in the world, 3rd highest GDP in the world behind Zurich Switzerland and Oslo, Norway!) Concord workers average roughly 110,000 in salary annually, while San Jose workers make 98,000. (see Transparent California) Concord workers also make more than their counterparts in tony Walnut Creek (the former employer of City Manager Valerie Barrone!)
I was just looking at the salary of our new incoming Police Chief. He had a big job in San Jose, he was a deputy PD Chief at San Jose PD. San Jose, unlike Concord which is a low crime suburban city, is a big city PD, one that deals with the normal crime problems – high stress crime problems – you see in big cities, like problems with street gangs and murders (44 murders in 2018). San Jose, unlike Concord, has got some really tough neighborhoods.
According to Transparent California the new PD Chief, Bustillos, had a lower salary working as a Deputy Chief than the two captains make at Concord PD, William Roche and Garrett Voerge. Voerge and Roche both make 230K annually (2018 figures), while Bustillos made slightly less than that in his highly stressful job as Deputy PD Chief.
I also learned in my research not a single Captain at San Jose PD makes 200K a year in salary, yet ALL the Captains at Concord PD make 200K in salary – to police a city that has hardly any serious crime (an average of 3 murders per year over the last 15 years). Captain salaries at San Jose PD ranges from a low of 173,000 a year to 193,000.
Another thing I learned in my research is the city of San Jose has a whopping 4.3 million dollar annual budget. San Jose is a very wealthy city, compared to Concord. You have all those high tech companies located in that region, the median income of the average San Jose household is 20K more a year than the average Concord household.
Given this, why is Concord paying these unusually high salaries to people working at the PD? Simple common sense tells you you can pay Concord PD employees less than San Jose because housing costs are cheaper in our region.
If San Jose can find people to work as Captain’s for 175,000 a year – in expensive San Jose – why is Concord paying our Captain’s 230K a year? It makes no sense, at all. Is it any wonder residents have nicknamed the people running Concord PD the “Wyatt Earp Gang”.
Isn’t a fact Edi Birsan the people working at Concord PD are just cleaning up wage wise to police a city that has little serious crime? Yes, it’s a fact. The dispatchers at Concord PD routinely make 100K a year, even though the dispatcher job is not dangerous and the job only requires a week of training (you only need a high school diploma and good typing skills to qualify for one of Concord’s 100K PD dispatcher job! lol. )
Edi, the reason wages are so high at Concord PD is because our city is steeped in corruption. The people running the PD are setting their own salaries – gouging us taxpayers horribly – and you are sitting back in your capacity as a council person and doing nothing about it.
The people that run the PD continually roll the council and Valerie Barrone at budget time- to the point it’s pathetic and embarrassing (the bigwigs at the PD are really running the city now, the city council is a joke, and Valerie Barrone is an ever bigger joke).
Meanwhile, we can get a new library built in Concord to replace our broken down rat-trap library.( San Jose has 26 libraries). We can’t get a gym built in our city (San Jose has three gyms), recreation programs have been run into the ground (under Edi Birsans watch) and local kids aren’t getting the services they deserve (no teen center, substandard rec programs for kids, crappy library etc. etc) (see PH, new library on the way, and state of the art rec programs).
Edi, your surveys are also a big joke because you and the other council people, and Barrone, won’t deal with the ongoing corruption that is going on in Concord – which is centered at the Concord PD.
As long as you have got the Wyatt Earp gang running the PD Concord – who continually gouge taxpayers with their outrageous salary demands, Concord will always be broke, we will continue to get to watch surrounding cities build new libraries, new city halls, new theaters, and new parks – while we here in Concord get to hear about all the big crime problems we have – along with Concord’s fake gangs – and all this other nonsense that the brass at the PD peddles to keep their own budget in the stratosphere – along and with these budget choking pay packages they get (completely unjustified given Concord’s crime levels).

S March 30, 2020 at 4:16 PM


Lars Anderson March 30, 2020 at 7:29 PM

“S”, characterizing my post as a rant is unfair. I back up what I say with facts. Fact is San Jose, a city with the third highest GDP in the world, a city with a 4.3 billion dollar annual budget – pays it’s captains at the San Jose PD less than than Concord does PD – all have a salaries under 200K.
Concord is paying it’s Captains more than most PD Chief’s make in Contra Costa county. In fact, Concord is really paying for three police Chief’s – Captain’s Voerge and Roche are making PD Chief pay. They are getting paid these fantastic pay packages even though Concord has little serious crime. Voerge and Roche both have cushy jobs, so cushy they have to make up work to do (see Roche’s second career as a movie producer).
Outgoing PD Chief Swanger basically been retired for several years. For much of the time Swanger has been Concord’s PD Chief he has been functioning like Chairman of the Board of a major corporation. He was around, he had an office at the Taj Mahal Concord PD station, a secretary, but he wasn’t doing much.
Swanger lasted as long as he did as Concord PD Chief – 10 years – because his job was so cushy and because his pay was so fabulous (Swanger was drawing a 187,000 pension on top of his 260,000 city of Concord Salary!) With that kind of sweet deal going who would want to leave any job.
According to my calculations Swanger may have been making as much as 500K a year when you put his Concord PD salary together with his pension, and his wife’s pension (she is a retired PD officer), along with her salary as a public school teacher. The Swanger’s collect money from all over the place (see Transparent California), at the expense of us taxpayers.
If we had a decent library in our town, if we had a teen center, a theater for local theater groups, if we had decent rec programs in Concord, a nice city hall – then I might be able to swallow these huge salaries they are paying at the Concord PD but our city has been run into the ground because of this overspending going on at the PD.
The City of Concord really needs to do some soul searching. Why are salaries at the city so high? Why are we continually pouring money into the Concord PD when serious crime is down 50% in the state.
Is the central purpose of our city now arresting and jailing people? Why are the recreation facilities in Concord so rank; Pleasant hill, one city over, a city with a weaker tax base than Concord – has great rec facilities, a beautiful city hall, a teen center, a new library on the way, and they got a good PD too, a PD that is keeping residents safe.
These are the questions Edi Birsan ought to be asking in his survey, but instead he is asking these ridiculous questions, like what should our new city slogan be. Meanwhile the city is facing a 13 million dollar deficit – we don’t even have the money to pay these crooks running the PD – the Wyatt Earp gang as many call them.

S March 30, 2020 at 8:30 PM

still a Rant

Gittyup March 30, 2020 at 9:05 PM

Nicely stated Lars Anderson. The fact is that Birsan, Hoffmeister, and others don’t have the skills or sophistication to run a city like Concord. As a result, they resort to trivial and unnecessary time-wasting activities like developing a city slogan. Well, I’ve got one for them, “Dump the City Council.”

S March 30, 2020 at 4:36 PM

I just heard Bob Campbell died….

Jo March 31, 2020 at 8:25 AM

If the Council truly wanted to uphold the “Families First” motto, it should look into putting a family-oriented recreation activity into the old K Mart site. All interest seems to go into the Monument Corridor while the other end of town has fast food places and thrift stores. Unfortunately, the new Chief may just perpetuate that same notion.

Lars Anderson April 1, 2020 at 4:30 PM

Good point Jo, our city does need to back up it’s “Families First” motto with some tangible evidence that Concord cares about young people. Children in Concord have been ignored for too long. The failure to build a new library in our city is one example of that.
The reason we can’t a new library built for out kids, and our grandchildren, is because the of the greed of the adults that run the City of Concord, most of whom don’t live in Concord, and who could care less about Concord.
In fact, our city has long been run by “professional” out of town bureaucrats, bureaucrats who use their insider status as City of Concord employees to run their own personal salaries and benefit packages into the stratosphere.
The mantra of these out- of-town bureaucrats who work for the city is to keep telling us how broke the city is, how we can’t afford anything, yet while they are telling us this their own personal salaries as City of Concord employees continue to grow at ludicrous rates. After they retire, they then promptly move away, never to be heard from again. I’ve seen this happen over and over again.
Has anybody seen former city manager Ed James around the City of Concord lately? How about former city of manager Lydia Duborg? How about Chief Ron Ace? No, you won’t see any of these people living in Concord, they are long gone. They took down us taxpayers in Concord for all they could get from us – which was a lot – then rode off into the sunset (see the fantastic pensions these ex- bigwigs, none of who did much of anything while they worked for city, are making on the Transparent California website).
In fact, families don’t come first in Concord, it’s city employees that come first, that’s why all these paper pushers down at the city are getting paid 250K a year to tell us how broke the city is, and how the money isn’t there to build a new library or to build a gym for our kids.
The fact that our kids get little or nothing from city government in Concord is not the fault of the kids who live in Concord, it’s the fault of the adults that are supposed to running the city, like council members Edi Birsan, Carlyn Obringer, Tim McGallian, Laura Hoffmiester. and City Manager Valerie Barone.
These folks are NOT doing their jobs, which is to keep city salaries lower – down to something reasonable – so taxpayers can see some amenities for their tax dollars, like a new library, or a new teen center, or a new all purpose gym. Pleasant Hill, one city over, has gotten these things, but not Concord because our city is steeped in ongoing corruption.

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