Black Hats: The District 5 Supervisorial Race; What does it Mean?
It’s easy to read too much in to the District 5 Supervisor’s race, and that’s my goal here today.
The Prospect Prognosticator back in May said the race was too close to call, and it was a perfect tie.
Very little has changed this time, and if a few voters on each side change their minds it could be a tie again. It’s that razor edge that adds drama to the election, so we’re going to make the most of it, like any good news source would.
The candidates are Scott Schlefstein and Karen Rickman. Scott is a former cop, small business owner, and author. Karen has extensive experience in government and finances. The editor has some experience with both, and finds both to be competent, and able to do the job well.
Our impression of the candidates, and we reserve the right to change our mind at any time, is as follows:
In my guestimation, Scott would most likely tend to move ahead when the Board was stalled; he’s able to generate a clear vision of the situation. Karen’s forte would be in understanding government and government funding. This is not to say Scott can’t read a balance sheet, or that Karen can’t provide leadership, only that each seems to excel in different areas. That’s what makes it a horse race (though neither is a neigh-sayer).
Schlefstein is politically libertarian-conservative; Rickman would fall on the moderate side of moderate liberal on many issues, though fiscally she seems to be conservative. It is that slight difference in their politics we hope to exploit in this report.
As is often the case, the passion in the contest arises not so much from the candidates, but from what the supporters of each tend to represent, and the suppositions others make about them.
In a county as small as this, where many people are literally cousins, you’d think there would be community cohesiveness and harmony, and sometimes there is, but more often such communities become microcosms of the larger society. In short, it’s money that divides cousins.
Bele and Lokai from Star Trek: Sworn enemies, “he’s black on the left side, I’m black on the right side, we’re completely different.”
The perspective creates two groups of “black hats”.
1. It is imagined by some that there is a group of ultraconservatives who want to rip the county apart, fire Tim Beals and install a rummy as Director of Planning, forbid conservation easements, and then build houses in the Valley and right on the creek in the Canyon. They would also stop all services for the hard-up in the county.
2. It is imagined by some that there is a group of ultraliberals who want to grab all the private land they can into public hands, and make the remaining private land un-buildable with environmental regs. These people want to take all our guns away and tax anybody who owns anything to give to illegal residents.
The characterizations are exaggerated, but not without some basis in truth. There are nutcases of every variety in the county, thank God, and there are a few who fit the most extreme stereotype of both “black hat” groups. But, not most people.
Still, in this little drama, conservative black hats will vote for Schlefstein, and liberal black hats will vote for Rickman.
Or, maybe not. In truth, both Schlefstein and Rickman protest that the seat is non-partisan. Both deny that they represent any hats at all, and both have indicated they’d be independent if elected.
Many politicians find their positions to be moderated by supporters during an election, but between elections tend to vote as rationally as possible. There is no reason to believe that either candidate would vote strict black hat on most issues.
But, cooperative attitude is what makes the current Board such a poor news source, so we’ll pour a little salt into the community division.
There are a couple of disappointed investors who’d had plans to attain wealth through crafty use of land. It has escaped their notice that there are no houses being built anywhere, let alone in the remote areas of the eastern Sierra. Because they can’t seem to understand the economic crisis on the larger scale, they can only lash out at the proximal causes, as though local public servants write state law or control the international money market. To these few, the open land in Sierra County is going to waste, and won’t be useful until it’s filled with upscale houses inhabited by taxpayers. Their motivation is simple: the dollar, and the regal acceptance they think it can bring. They are often very angry and verge on being hateful, demonstrating how disappointment and regret can shape a person.
There are also a handful of people who would “save” Sierra County from the ravages of growth. They imagine themselves to be enlightened beyond the average turnip head in the county, and so have a duty and therefore a right to impose restrictions on us in a way they imagine we would choose if we simply knew better. Though most of them already own their little slices of Sierra heaven, they want to be sure that no one else will, through their own selfishness, harm the little animals of the fields and fishies in the river and make Mother Earth die. Most environmental problems start in the cities, or to meet the demand for goods for cities, but rather than moving to a city and stopping degradation at the source, they’ll impose their imagined forest primeval on us, on watersheds that have long since been changed, and on the people who can least afford to bear the burden. Many of them are afraid of guns, and so do want to take our guns away. They are oblivious to the misery they cause, since they are willing that a few real people should suffer for the long term benefit to all. Their arrogance and bullying are expensive and obstructionist, demonstrating how self-righteousness purges one of the healthy astringent of doubt.
And now, back to Karen and Scott.
There is little objective evidence that either of the candidates are extreme. Most often, there is a great deal of heat and noise generated during an election, but once the members meet as a Board, they have more in common with each other than they do with the peanut gallery. None of them want the county to go down on their watch, and all of them realize that in most instances, their job is to simply enact locally what the State has already determined. There have been Boards in the past which were opportunities for members to express their mental health issues, but the current board isn’t like that, and neither of the current candidates are likely to be so bad.
In candid discussion, both candidates are moderates, their hats would be gray, to reflect the real life choices supervisors have to make.
Left to right: Schelfstein, the current Dame of District 5 Pat Whitley, and Rickman. Behind them, secret service agents (Kenny and Robert). From the FIL IL tour.
No doubt, the two extremes would prefer the candidate nearer their fringe, but, for most people, the choice is going to be tough all over again.