No Contra Costa supervisor works harder than John Gioia. No supervisor is a stronger advocate for social and environmental equity and for criminal justice reform. No supervisor better represents the political values of his district and is more available to his constituents.
Gioia is seeking his seventh four-year term on the county Board of Supervisors. He has earned it. West County voters in the June 7 election should reelect him.
What he and residents don’t deserve is the threatening, disruptive and offensive behavior from his opponent, Hulan Barnett, an eighth-grade math teacher who is misinformed about the authority of county government and unfamiliar with most of the work Gioia has done for his district.
Gioia represents the most liberal and racially diverse of the county’s five supervisor districts. In his position on the board and his appointments to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, he has been a tireless advocate for his district’s progressive politics.
He has pushed successfully for stricter regulations to reduce pollution from refineries and other West County industry. He was the driving force behind a new county health center and separate mental health center in his district. He helped launch two programs in West County for at-risk youth.
He was a leader of the push for the Measure X half-cent sales tax in 2020, which provides new revenue for health care, mental health services, fire and other emergency response, and childcare. The money also supports new mental health crisis response teams so that professionals can respond with or without police, depending on the situation, and the upcoming reopening of a Pinole fire station that had been closed for 10 years.
He successfully pressed his board colleagues to create a new county office to expand racial equity and social justice across all county departments. And he is a strong advocate for preservation of the county’s Urban Limit Line, the growth boundary that has helped rein in suburban sprawl and will expire in 2026 if voters don’t renew it.
Gioia’s strong leadership and constituent communication has been on full display during the pandemic. He pushed the county to close the racial gap in vaccination rates by targeting efforts in lower-income communities of color. He was a strong supporter of Bay Area counties’ early sheltering mandates and vaccination efforts and Contra Costa’s mandatory vaccinations for county employees.
As he notes, “Our strong efforts saved lives, resulted in less-serious illness from COVID and prevented our hospitals from becoming overcrowded, thereby keeping hospital bed and ICU capacity available for people who became sick from other illnesses.”
Meanwhile, Barnett questions the value of vaccines and doubts, despite overwhelming evidence, whether they have been effective in controlling the severity of illness, number of deaths and hospital impacts. “I’m not sure if that’s accurate” is the best he can say.
He opposes vaccine mandates, says he has not been vaccinated and calls those who advocate for mandatory vaccination of school children Nazis. It’s an offensive and reckless comparison to the death of 6 million Jews across German-occupied Europe during World War II — the magnitude of which, by the way, Barnett did not know.
Barnett is known for his disruptive behavior. In public comment at the West Contra Costa School Board meeting in December, he said he viewed Jan. 6 “as a day where people stood up and I’m saying especially for our children.”
He called for storming the board. “Let them know how we feel. We can come right in there and have a party and that’s what I think we need to do. Have a big old shindig with them in there and see how they feel when their board meeting erupt.”
It wasn’t an isolated incident. In October 2019, Barnett was asked to leave, and departed after police approached him, after he repeatedly disrupted a town hall meeting hosted by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier.
In sum, Barnett is not temperamentally suited for leading Contra Costa’s largest public agency. Meanwhile, West County residents have an excellent incumbent who has earned another term. Voters should reelect John Gioia to the county Board of Supervisors.