Supervisors Must Be Held to Account

Recently, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors made a shocking and shameful decision. Supervisors Wilma Chan, Richard Valle and Keith Carson should be held accountable for their reckless and absurd decision to effectively turn away more than $5 million from the Department of Homeland Security based on a vocal, but minuscule minority of misinformed members of the community. 

The money funded the Urban Area Security Initiative Regional Training and Exercise Program and included the annual exercise: Urban Shield. The Urban Shield exercise hosted by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office was the largest regional exercise of its type both nationally and internationally. Since inception in 2007 as a regional SWAT exercise it has grown to include community members, emergency response teams, emergency management, paramedics, fire, medical practitioners, private industry and other state and federal emergency preparedness stakeholders. 

Last year, more than 9,000 people participated in the Urban Shield exercise. The anti-Urban Shield group claims that the exercise is too centered on law-enforcement. By the way, there were just 240 SWAT team participants compared to more than 7,000 other emergency responders, volunteers, community members and medical practitioners who were involved. 

Local hospital personnel rotated through a simulated surge of patients into an emergency department to simulate and prepare for a real event. Some of the concerns of the “anti-Urban Shield” crowd are legitimate, such as addressing the need for more all-hazards and community preparedness opportunities. They are misguided that they believe the funding can be applied to programs outside of having a nexus to terrorism. 

The funding, according to federal guidelines, needs to have a nexus to terrorism. No one argues the need for more community preparedness, however, it is against the grant guidelines to move this money to other purposes. The Board of Supervisors knew this. Shamefully, they bowed to the vocal anti-law enforcement minority.

By their actions, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors also recommended complete defunding of the program, hosted by the Sheriff’s Office. 

The program has been serving the training and exercise needs of the majority of all Bay Area first responders, emergency managers and other emergency preparedness and security stakeholders. Year-to-date the program has provided no-cost training to 31,118 people in multiple disciplines from throughout the Bay Area.

It should be noted that the Bay Area initiative’s region is ranked fifth nationally by the Department of Homeland Security for being at risk of a terrorist attack.

The decision to defund the program’s initiatives, training and exercises was made by the Bay Area approval authority at its March 14 meeting after being told of the conditions the Supervisors wanted to impose as part of their annual agreement with the Bay Area initiative that funds the program. The outrageous and illegitimate conditions the Supervisors adopted prevented the Approval Authority from administering Department of Homeland Security Grant Program funds according to published grant guidelines. 

BOS knew this and with the utmost arrogance and shortsightedness, they went ahead anyway. BOS effectively handcuffed and defunded training and exercises for the entire Bay Area.
Supervisors Chan, Carson and Valle are to blame. 

During the March 12 Supervisors meeting, Valle actually said the following, “if we lose this grant, I’ll only have myself to blame” referring to the misguided notion that their adoption of the ad-hoc groups recommendations (or more accurately termed “demands”) would not result in the grant money going away. The money is gone, out of Alameda County. 

Thank you to Supervisors Scott Haggerty and Nate Miley for understanding that great strides have been taken by the Sheriff’s office and the greater program has made in being inclusive, transparent and serving the entire community. Only these two supervisors represent the vast majority of Alameda County residents who support our first responders.