Board Notes 020812
News, Analysis, Opinion and Hyperbole from the Fringe
The Sierra County Board of Supervisors met in continued regular session Tuesday, February 7th in Downieville. All supervisors were present.
The meeting began with the Board turning to Old Glory, red, white, blue and gold. Each placed his hand over his heart and said the words first written by socialist minister Francis Bellamy and used in the promotion of The Youth Companion, a magazine. The blatantly nationalistic (as opposed to patriotic) pledge was written in 1892 but not adopted by the U.S. until 1942, a year when nationalism was surging through the population. The term “one nation…indivisible” is a federalist slap at the secessionist states, and everyone who believes in strong local government and weak federal power. The pledge was amended four times, the last, in the 1950s, added “under god”. There have been court fights over the phrase, from Jehovah’s Witnesses, who correctly point out that “I pledge allegiance to the flag AND the nation for which it stands” is a clear instance of idolatry, and those who believe that the reference to a monotheistic deity has no place in the pledge of a nation which is intended to be free of religious dogma of all sorts. The Supreme Court determined in 2010 that “under God” is a sentiment, and does not constitute the establishment of a state monotheistic religion, but then SCOTUS has been wrong a lot lately.
We have no way of knowing what the five supervisors were thinking as they turned, covered their hearts (FDR’s idea instead of the outstretched arm and hand salute Bellamy suggested) and said those words. Some might have thought of brother killing brother in the Civil War; some might have remembered relatives who lived through World War Two, when it was easy to be a patriot. Some might have been thinking of the brave men who were conscripted and forced to fight in foreign wars as “America”, the Johnny-come-lately of the age of empires struggled to expand its post WWI influence; others might have thought of Eisenhower’s warning of the “military-industrial complex” and how that unholy alliance of industry and government has consumed the military and now ventures into “intelligence”, and an endless war with invisible enemies, a war conveniently fought here at home, a war with theaters fought in the domain of the computer game. Perhaps some were instead wondering if the meeting would go past three, or worrying how they would approach an unpopular position on a hot agenda item. What, really, does it mean when the room stands, and everyone places her or his hand over their heart, and murmurs the loyalty oath, “I pledge”. What does it mean? For the curious: this reporter stood, and mumbled the pledge, but I used the outstretched arm as Bellamy had originally suggested, which was protest enough.
The Board dabbled with the agenda and then got to business. Astute readers will already recognize that there was not a lot of news generated.
Bill Nunes spoke of a Plumas Corporation plan to do plug and pond in Dotta Canyon, and suggested there was already some objection to the project. He promised there would be more on the agenda for the BOS meeting of the 21st, which happens in Loyalton.
Tim Beals, Director of the Physical County, reported that at the meeting of the 21st he would discuss Stampede; on the 21st he would discuss the SRA fee and bills to prevent it, and steps the state is taking on Aquatic Invasive Species. It made this reporter wish he was at the meeting of the 21st instead of the meeting of the 7th, in the way that a great preview makes you regret the movie you came to see. Attendance to board meetings has been down recently, maybe Supervisor Nunes and Mr. Beals were trying to drive some enthusiasm for upcoming meetings.
The Forest Service was represented by biologist Marilyn Tierney, who had mostly good news, including the potential sale of timber and the production of biomass.
Rhonda Grandi appeared from HHS with a request for the county to spend $1100 for two “ruggedized” laptops. However, the laptops actually cost over $5500 dollars each, the rest comes from state and federal funds. Lee Adams spoke about the hard times the state was having and was incredulous that they would consider spending eleven grand on laptops that were primarily for use when an emergency hit the county and the grid was down. The laptops have direct satellite link which will work without the grid. The purpose of the laptops is to allow people to get their welfare and other state benefits. Without them, someone would have to drive clear to REDDING! Lee Adams asked, “in the 160 year history of Sierra County was there ever such a time when a $5500 dollar laptop was needed? Supervisor Schlefstein restated the issue just to be clear he was hearing what he thought he heard, that we needed to spend eleven grand of taxpayer money to make sure welfare recipients get their benefits. Yes, Ms Grandi told him, and indeed, if there were a terrible disaster, even more people would qualify for benefits. The Board eventually declined the laptops.
The Board was treated to a uniquely human multigenerational moment as Tim Beals told a story of how he, as little Timmy Beals in the early 1970s had salvaged some documents which were being tossed. There were maps and books dating into the middle 1800s; Timmy saved what he could and stashed them here and there around the courthouse complex.
Enter Andrew Winberry, young like Tim Beals was forty years
ago, who finds the maps and is seized with the sense of history young Tim
was. He talks about the maps, gets the
nod to have them evaluated and preserved.
Andrew stood before the Board and spoke of the process of having the maps touched up and preserved. He showed the Board each map and told them of its history. This is a map of Howland Flat from 1861; this is Goodyear’s Bar, 1887; this is an 1869 map of the high waters of the middle fork of the Yuba; this is an 1866 map of the Sierra-Plumas border. Andrew referred to the maps with reverence. This reporter couldn’t help but look across the stretch of time, from county workers in the 1800s, to Tim Beals, to Andrew Winberry, who is intelligent and motivated and who, with his partner Holly and their wee kids, form the fabric of today turning in to history, and Sierra County surviving until it can thrive again. Thanks, Andrew, for preserving history, and for allowing us to be optimistic about the future. Of course, that means one day you’ll be hulking and puffing and dog-eared like Tim Beals is now, but that’s going to happen wherever you are.
Van Maddox, the ATTC, presented the board with the steps necessary to re-finance the debt which, almost unbelievably, CalPers has dumped on the county. Maddox produced prudent looking men who explained how the process of refinance would work. We can’t get as angry about this debt BS as we should because there’s just so much these days to get pissed about, and we’re getting outrage fatigue.
Chief Probation Officer Jeff Bosworth made a presentation to the Board about the determination of the commission overseeing realignment, which includes Sheriff John Evans, DA Larry Allen, PD Cooper, Judge Kennelley, Rhonda Grandi representing HHS, and Jeff Bosworth, who presides by law. The commission has come up with a plan for “realignment” of prisoners to the counties. Bosworth said the plan is dependent on the state, which has been changing the rules as it goes along. There is very little controversial about the plan, except who decides what prisoners get electronic monitoring. The court can sentence to electronic monitoring, and if a prisoner is old and sick and would cost the county a fortune in health bills, they’ll monitor her or him electronically, but Lee Adams, who wrote the 1992 electronic monitoring policy the county now has insists people shouldn’t be allowed electronic monitoring very easily. A righteous and judgmental Adams said “if someone is sent to jail, they should spend time in jail… there are all kinds of sob stories” which allow people to stay home and “watch pay per view” or practice their drug trade when they’re supposed to be in jail. Likewise, Sheriff John Evans made a plea to keep the determination of who stays in jail with the sheriff, and not let it go to probation.
Tim Beals spoke of the Aquatic Invasive Species issue in the county. There is no way to overestimate the eventual damage AIS can, and almost certainly will, bring to the county. Quagga and Zebra mussels have over-run major rivers in Europe, and have been invading the US since the 1980s. Andrew Winberry addressed the board regarding the possible inclusion of Sierra County into a coalition of entities hoping to stem the advance of AIS of every sort. Winberry and the other players have worked very hard to include everyone impacted by AIS, and have proposed a plan, a Joint Powers entity including Nevada, Placer, Sierra and the City of Truckee. The board had the opportunity to take part in that effort. In addition, Mike Freschi, Operations Director of Sierra County Firesafe and Watershed Council, made the offer to the board of about $15,000 in a RAC grant which the council took in the hopes that the money might be used to prevent some AIS in the county. However, the Board decided not to take part in the JPA agreement, and it was noted that the California Department of Fish and Game had a statewide plan, though they are slow to get it moving in our area (it also includes marine species) and that there were already laws on the books regarding AIS, the county shouldn’t enact ordinances, and finally, that there is talk at the state level about adding a fee to boat registration specifically to inspect boats. It was mentioned that the “bug station” already inspect boats coming into the state. Jim Curtis suggested the county might not have jurisdiction to pass ordinances on lakes. It is clear that there are many people worried about our local watersheds, and they don’t want to wait for the DFG to do something to save them. But, Dave Goicoechea spoke on the reality of the matter: “they’re going to come.” He pointed out that Lahontan and Ryepatch in Nevada have tested positive, that there is no way, except to isolate a watershed from people, to prevent the eventual infestation. It’s true, the larvae and fertilized eggs of bivalves can live for a very long time on very little water, and they are essentially invisible to even a close inspection. As few as half a dozen could ruin a watershed. Mr. Winberry gave a good pitch, and the money from the FSWC was a great gesture, but the problem is too big for one county, or even several counties. The Board declined to go farther on the matter, at least for now. As an editorial note, this editor favors writing some lakes off; making a very few special lakes completely off limits to humans, and raising fees on private boats to the point that it’s simply easier to go to a lake and rent a cool in basin boat. I’m sorry that this plan essentially ends private boat ownership, and further impacts the poorest people the hardest, but we need to shift to a new mode to stop the spread of AIS. Sorry, my many friends with small fishing boats (I own two).
The Board heard from Tim Beals and Craig Morgan about the Loyalton Landfill. There simply is no way to be nice about this: Loyalton is probably the last unlined landfill in the state, and the state wants it gone. They’ve used every opportunity to find a problem there, and further, they’re making it difficult to even close the landfill. There are several things at play; one is the expected age of the landfill, and the other is the inevitable creep of regulations. Originally, the county had hoped to use most of the 20 acres they have, but a number of things have made that impossible. In 2003 there was Freon detected in a well, and the state ordered the expansion to stop. Still, the county should have been able to count on another fifteen or so years. During that time the solid waste fund could accumulate enough cash to pay to close the dump, and to support the estimated $50,000 a year for monitoring after it’s closed. With recent developments the landfill has to close earlier, giving the county less time to save the money, and further, they’re demanding that the county save more, about $1.8 million, the county has $1.1. In addition, the landfill has been wonderfully cheap; closing it will cost money, hopefully the county can simply put a few feet of local soil over the top, but there are a myriad of other expenses, all of them with at least five figures. In the end, the county can probably close the landfill for less than $1.8, but there has to be that much to draw on. Once it’s closed, it will cost much more to send our solid waste out of county. Mr. Morgan was very clear: there is no benefit to running the landfill half and sending half out of county. Mr. Curtis reminded the Board that they must not increase costs to users unless they directly benefit, and it will be a hard sell that collecting money to support a closed dump is a direct benefit. The final analysis: even though no one in the room would exactly say so, we need to be ready to pay a lot more to throw something away. Prospect advice: throw as much as you can away now.
The Board prepared itself to hire a new Director of Health and Human Services, which should happen Thursday. It is clear they are taking this task very seriously, and we’re glad they are.
To the Board, and to all of us, Good Luck!