Board Highlights 081711
The Sierra County Board of Supervisors met in continued regular session yesterday, Tuesday 16 August. All Supes were present and in good form. Here are the highlights.
Dr. Carol Roberts, Director of Health and Human Services continued her rocky relationship with the Board, drawing close scrutiny from Supervisors Goicoechea and Adams in particular. Dr. Roberts presented five issues and attempted to collaborate with the schools on a sixth, and faced stiff questioning on all but one.
A contract for services was declined because it indemnified the county for actions taken by the contractor.
Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health services received close examination though the program is well established in the state. Eventually, it passed.
A social worker supervisor fared less well. Dr. Roberts maintained that the position was mandatory, and in answer to questions from the previous board meetings provided numbers she hoped would show that Sierra County was not over-staffed. She made comparisons between Alpine, Modoc and Sierra, with Sierra being between Alpine and Modoc in population and staff.
But Supervisor Adams noted that the numbers were selected from other information he’d seen, and noted that when comparing the number of law enforcement to the number of social service staff, Sierra county lead with 2.2 staff to each cop in Sierra County, but only 1.3 to one in Modoc, and .65 to one in Alpine. Supervisor Goicoechea stated he disagreed with the entire presentation, and maintained that the Board had asked for a number of counties to compare to; he also echoed the news in maintaining that the federal and state funding for these positions is likely to be cut.
The supervisors struggled to avoid bringing someone in to fill the position, and sought to have current staff promoted, perhaps even transitioning the position to a “working supervisor” who would carry cases as well as oversee the other supervisors. But, Dr. Roberts was adamant that no staff had the necessary training and that the supervisor position should be unchanged because it is a Merit Systems position and the county can’t really change it.
County Council Jim Curtis re-iterated his support for hiring the position.
Supervisor Schlefstein said that Dr. Roberts had indicated there is a statutory requirement, that not having the position seemed to open the county to more liability, and there were no general funds attached.
Supervisor Nunes allowed that, yes, there would be funding cuts no doubt, and not every position needed to be filled, but it was case by case, and he indicated the position was necessary.
Scott then did a brief sociopolitical dissertation, allowing as to how we had one party in charge of the entire government of California, the people elected the party, and it is deeply philosophically committed to dealing with the population a certain way. The Board can’t change that and should simply deal with it.
From the back of the room, the interjection sounded a little “Tea Party” but no one found it necessary to disagree, though some commented on confusion following it. This reporter will note that, while Schlefstein sounded a little “out there” no one can deny that our “leaders” at the state and federal level have decided to engineer a perfect society, with social workers and psychologists who are heavily invested in the system deciding what constitutes “normal”, though there is no evidence their education makes their lives any better or even different from the average. Mr. Schlefstein’s analysis doesn’t differ greatly from that of Lee Adams and Dave Goicoechea who feel that human services have become too big, too expensive, and too intrusive into people’s lives.
In the end, Heubner, Schlefstein and Nunes supported the social worker supervisor position, and Adams and Goicoechea did not.
The Board approved training for HHS.
There was an interruption for show-and-tell about a high voltage power line cutting from Verdi to Bordertown across Sierra County. It won’t benefit our grid, it’s for Western Reno (who gives a R’sA?) and NV Energy will be happy to invoke imminent domain if someone doesn’t want to play ball, but it’s years off and Sierra County will get taxes on the project.
The next issue calling on Dr. Roberts was a presentation from Stan Hardeman about CONNECT, a cooperative agreement between the schools and Mental Health for a counselor in the schools.
Hardeman’s presentations are generally lackluster, but before the Board he was animated and well organized. He outlined, as such people always will in today’s culture, that there was a critical need for a counselor in the school. He ignored completely such traditional counselors and mentors as gym teachers, shop teachers, and the librarian, and asserted the need of some kind of a professional.
The program is not state mandated, but uses state funds in an approved program. Hardeman insisted he had a primary responsibility to ensure a safe learning environment, and this counselor was part of that.
Supervisor Goicoechea said he had considerable concerns, and told Mr. Hardeman he’d give him all the money if he could, because it’s misspent where it is. He told Mr. Hardeman that the Board had no power to force policy on the schools, but called the money a “bribe” and said the money doesn’t warrant the interference in the school system. He also pointed out that rebelling against authority is pretty common among kids and no one should be labeled crazy if they are. We note that the correct diagnosis would not be “crazy” but would instead be “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” by the practitioner.
Supervisor Nunes, predictably, jumped right on board saying it was only a one year program. At one point Nunes did what Hardeman and Roberts did: there are some real problems out there, some real issues, but we can’t tell you what they are or how many there are. “Take my word,” they all seemed to say, school is a hell hole. We don’t need an expert to know that, just about any kid can tell you that.
Supervisor Schlefstein expressed concern that the county couldn’t terminate the contract if it needed to.
Supervisor Nunes, sounding very much like a social worker, said there needs to be outreach, to “avoid push back” from the population. “Push back”, Mr. Nunes, is the voter’s way of saying there is already too much government interference in our lives and families.
Supervisor Schlefstein told of telephone calls from people who don’t want more mental health workers in the schools, and people who had growing concerns about HHS in general.
Then stood Mr. James Beard, Loyalton City Councilman and father of a kid many know to be a great person. He related his experiences with the local schools regarding a questionnaire given students including his son. It is obvious even to the untrained that these forms, used to “identify” students, can easily result in the child being labeled. Further, the information is intrusive to the family.
Though the contents of this questionnaire were not specifically discussed, such questionnaires often contain questions about firearms in the home, about alcohol and drug use, and about family dynamics. The answer a child makes becomes a document.
Indeed, none of the supporters of the program, not Stan Hardeman, not Carol Roberts, and certainly not Bill Nunes admitted the potentially sinister repercussions of a mental health worker in the school. Above all, the person is a “mandated reporter”, so defined by a law which attempts to turn every bus driver, school receptionist and playground supervisor, and certainly teachers and counselors, into kid cops, alerting the full power of the government to intrude over the least suspicion of “abuse or neglect” according to their definition. Further, the counselor’s prime service to HHS is to generate referrals for “service”, like having a recruiter right in the school. The key word is “identify” as in to “identify the student as in need of services.”
Mr. Beard told of his decision not to have his son answer the intrusive questionnaire, and how his son was threatened with school administrative action and grade reduction if he didn’t comply.
Yet, Mr. Hardeman insisted that this position didn’t use a “directed” approach, that the counselor wouldn’t “dig” for information. This disregards the need to “identify” the child and family; Mr. Hardeman didn’t address this contradiction.
Mr. Beard gave the opinion the position in the schools “isn’t needed.”
Supervisor Goicoechea stated that the program had been in effect under a different name, and there had been complaints.
Mr. Hardeman said he’d administer the program with a new and different person.
Chair Adams said he’s concerned about mental health getting tentacles into the school.
In the end, the program went down, with Supervisors Schlefstein, Goicoechea and Adams standing in opposition to Supervisors Nunes and Heubner.
The Board jumped to redistricting, below, but returned to an item Dr. Roberts put on to hire a new alcohol and other drug person. The last person, not a member of the community of our county, quit suddenly.
There was discussion; again the idea of keeping the service in house with Dr. Roberts again insisting there wasn’t the proper expertise. In its rush to organize and promote itself, the “helping” professions have parsed us up in to little pieces, and each piece is the fiefdom of a separate “helping” professional, (not her words). In the end, it was 3-2, with supervisors Nunes, Huebner and Schlefstein approving.
The Board then tackled redistricting. There was a great deal of fussing, moving four houses here, or seven houses there, trying both to keep natural groups, like Loyalton, Sierra Brooks, or the Valley, together in one district, but worrying about the problem of the “percent” of each district. The idea of “one person, one vote” means the districts need to have populations of about the same size, or someone’s vote will have a few percent more powerful a vote than another, presuming our votes actually count for something.
In the end, after moving a few people here and there, and after ignoring the suggestion from a wise guy in the gallery suggesting they use imminent domain to force people to move, the Board agreed on a configuration. See photo.
Supervisor Nunes approached the Board asking for staff to approach the Postal Service to offer reduced rents on the Calpine Improvement Association site. The Board has never raised the rent, but the postal service has increased the rent they pay several times. The Board agreed, but there seemed to be the realization that the Postal Service would do what it would do in defiance of logic or negotiation from the County.
Until next time!