Saturday, October 4, 2008

Contra Costa supervisor run-off heats up with televised debate

MARTINEZ — In a campaign that lay mostly dormant since a candidate died in a tragic plane crash, the replacement and the incumbent squared off Wednesday in the Contra Costa supervisor run-off's first televised debate.

District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover and challenger Gary Agopian engaged in a spirited debate, touching on the county's unfunded health care liability, budget cuts, a prison controversy, education and Section 8 housing.

The face-to-face debate kicked off a little more than a month of campaigning before the Nov. 4 election. Glover originally faced challenger Erik Nunn in the run-off after finishing first and second, respectively, in the June election. However, Nunn died June 28 after the airplane he piloted crashed near Las Vegas. Agopian, the third place finisher, later was named his replacement in the run-off.

Times political columnist Lisa Vorderbruegen hosted the 30-minute debate for District 5, which covers Antioch, Pittsburg, Oakley, Bay Point and Bethel Island.

In covering a range of topics, Glover painted his opponent as all talk and no action, while Agopian called Glover a "flip-flopper."

Regarding budget cuts, Glover said he would first look at attrition and merging of departments as alternatives to cuts. Agopian said the problem was something that "could've been avoided" and suggested getting rid of inefficiencies and dipping into reserves to help balance the budget.

Glover touted the board's Advertisementsuccess at setting reserves and debt management policies.

"The school district in Antioch has not made those changes," Glover said, referring to Agopian's current post as an Antioch Unified School District trustee. Glover criticized truancy and test score issues plaguing the district.

"For Federal to say that is very disingenuous," Agopian responded. Agopian cited an increase in test scores in some schools. "Maybe he's not paying attention," he said.

The school board member also praised the new health sciences Dozier-Libbey Medical High School and Delta Academy for the Performing Arts. Agopian blamed Glover for getting the county into its enormous unfunded health care liability and suggested the county take a serious look at the proposal to move county employees and retirees to CalPERS health plans.

"This is not a county problem, this is a national problem," said Glover, pointing out that under his tenure the board moved toward funding 40 percent of the $2.54 billion liability.