Board Notes 020111

Board Notes Part Two 020911

When we left off with Part 1, the board had decided to move forward to allow road closures on specified roads in the county, though wiser heads had counseled against it.  As a reminder, the new system would allow cops to cite people who drive on the closed roads, though it isn’t clear how they would do that, since the roads are supposedly impassable, and likely only those who got stuck and sought help could be busted, completing an already miserable and expensive day with useless help from the government.  Still, income is income, so the board went with sign design number one even though design number two would be more effective.

Design 1                                                                                       Design 2

At the January 18th BOS meeting in Loyalton Tim Beals, Director of Planning and Building Inspection, Public Works and the Commissar of Roads stood to discuss the accomplishments of the county in 2010.  It was determined, without fisticuffs, that the item should be on the agenda, and it was.
Mr. Beals began with “maybe I’m a dinosaur” to murmurs of agreement and went on to talk about what he called a “remarkable list of accomplishments”.  It is a remarkable list, we agree, and encourage you to read the list HERE.
A discussion ensued about an annual or semi-annual newsletter to the residents to highlight the accomplishments of their representatives and employees.  It seemed like a great idea, and so County Council Jim Curtis was consulted to see why they shouldn’t do it.  Mr. Curtis recognized the danger that some could see the newsletter as a government paid commercial for those in power, and cautioned that they could highlight the accomplishments of politicos provided it wasn’t political.  He left it to the Board to determine how that might be possible (we suggest they could publish it in Swahili). 
Newly appointed Chair Lee Adams, trying manfully to fill the wisecracking shoes of his predecessor, “Huck” Goicoechea, said “everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts,” which is good, but still not up to the standards of “you can try to teach a pig to sing but you’ll only waste your time and bring animal rights activists and music critics down to the farm” which Goicoechea said, or something like it.  Then, the Chair rescued the moment by saying “I like to think we put the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional’,” which is much better, even though ‘dysfunctional’ doesn’t have ‘fun’ in it, but ‘fung’.  Still, much better.
The matter was turned over to Mr. Beals to be put on the back burner.

Then, the tone turned serious.  The item read thus:

7. Discussion/direction to staff on a proposed resolution acknowledging and
supporting water rights and assuring proper analysis and understanding of
impacts to existing water rights, including agricultural rights, from projects
planned or proposed for watershed or meadow restoration. (SUPERVISORS

The key word is, of course, “water”.   A subject this big needs its own article, HERE.

The public portion of the Board meeting ended with an item that was pulled from the consent agenda at the request of the editors of the Messenger and the Prospect. 

The Infamous Editor of the Mountain Messenger, Don Russell.

The item deals with a grant to provide $11,000 dollars in federal anti-cannabis production money. 
The editors stepped forward to complain that the grant required the sheriff to turn growers over to the IRS. 
At stake are issues of federal coercion at the county level, and of state law which provides for medical cannabis, and federal law which does not recognize it and considers all proceeds to be illegal. 

Sheriff Evans was not present; remarks were addressed to the Board.
Mr. Russell wrote a piece in the Messenger explaining his objections to having the local sheriff rat for the IRS. 

I take exception, however, with the Board itself.  It was a foregone conclusion that they would approve a grant they actually knew nothing about, because it dealt with “cannabis”, and they were willing to dismiss our cautions so easily for the same reasons.

The grant presents with the stench of bad tuna.  I think the Board should have done what the press eventually did: send the idea back to the Sheriff, who couldn’t be there to discuss it (he was fighting crime).  It is an effort for the feds to bribe our local sheriff.

In his press release, presented to the media after the Mountain Messenger article hit the stands, Sheriff Evans notes that he may, but is not required to, provide information to the IRS.  That isn’t necessarily an assurance. 

What degree of reporting does the grant require?  If the sheriff doesn’t provide it, will the county have to pay the money back?    A vicious, energy stealing virus prevented the Prospect Staff from obtaining the full text of the grant and related information; it’s likely to be typical for such grants.  The feds offer money for local cops to harass pot growers and gather statistics about it.  Local cops need the money.  It’s very unlikely the Sheriff is forced to report anyone, and even more unlikely the grant would ever have to be paid back. 

Even so, should we barbecue John Evans for this grant?

He has to patrol large, heavily wooded areas of the county; this is done by aircraft.  Most of the money was for that kind of activity.
We don’t like cops in airplanes violating our airspace, but it’s legal, and more than that, the Sheriff has the obligation to do so.

In conversation, Sheriff Evans stated that “we do get complaints of grower activity on federal land”.  According to the sheriff, there are several cases annually of loggers, miners, hunters and others complaining about cannabis grows.  “I can’t ignore them, that isn’t my job.” 

Sheriff Evans said there had never been a medical marijuana grower turned over to the IRS, and there won’t be.  Illegal grows are different, and he says that large illegal grows, particularly those which take place on public land are a crime under both California and Federal law, and he’s charged with taking part in those busts. 

He said that the $11,000 isn’t for watching local people go about their business on their distant parcels.  He’s not looking for people with private pocket grows. 

However, he said there was no way of looking at a grow of 5,000 plants except as “organized, and crime.”  People on these grows, often people paid barely more than minimum wage, are given guns to protect the crop from wild life and from pirates, who sometimes discover the grows and return at harvest time to steal.  It’s a potential escalation of violence.

Should we ask the Sheriff not to patrol the heavily wooded areas for large marijuana grows?  Do these grows have anything to do with medicine or community well being?  If we want him to participate in busting large scale illegal grows, do we want him to take the eleven grand from the general fund, instead?

There’s no doubt that marijuana prohibition is ill conceived and amounts to federal tyranny over the states.  Legalizing medical marijuana has dramatically dropped the price of cannabis, making it less profitable, but with the bad economy, people can still make money that way.  It’s money growers are after, just as it’s money the Sheriff is after, and the feds hold the key in both instances. 

Should we barbecue John for that?

The remark was made that a previous sheriff hadn’t taken federal money for such projects.  That same sheriff, now as a supervisor, has been questioning taking Health and Human Services money when it isn’t needed.

At the board meeting that retired sheriff was only able to provide this justification for authorizing local law enforcement to rat to the feds: “Everybody should pay their fair share of income tax.” 

The Board sniggered at the editors, approved the grant without thought, and the public portion of the meeting ended.

Board Notes 020211 Part 1


The Sierra County Board of Supervisors met in continued regular session in Downieville. 
Supervisors Schlefstein, Huebner, Goicoechea, Nunes and Captain and Commander Lee Adams were all present, though some more than others.

The Sheriff’s anti-farmer of consumable herb grant was pulled from the consent agenda by two malcontents, though everyone knew from the start it wasn’t going to change anything.

Genice Froelich, ranger from the Westside Ranger District, addressed the Board.
On the one hand, we’d like to thank Ranger Froelich for coming all the way to Sierra County to Address the Board of Supervisors of Podunk, Inc.
On the other hand, a huge section of her district is in Sierra County, and if her office were in Downieville as it should be, she would have only had to walk across the parking lot and up the street a little ways.
Editorial observation: Genice came to town to snap back a little.  She came armed with True Facts, which don’t carry the weight you’d think.  Still, she cut through a lot of fat.

First, the Bike Race.  The FS amended the 5-year permit to move the race back to the 2nd week in July.  Birds nest in that area, and extra care has to be taken not to disturb them.  In the wild, we guess, birds are very tranquil and nesting time is a time of hanging out drinking lattes and eating runny Brie.  There is no scenario, at least she didn’t mention one, in which the roar and smoky exhaust of a vegan on a mountain bike might scare off a predator and give a tired birdie mom a break.  The Forest Service is being cooperative, she said, while they could just be jerks and make everything impossible since they own most of the county, which she didn’t say.

Next, the $125,000 for the assessment of Pauly Creek Meadows, or upper Paul Creek Meadows, or Pauly Creek Watershed, or whatever.  Ranger Froelich explained that they applied for the grant and left the “county” contact information blank and the computer at SNC filled Tim Beals in as contact.  She promised to give the County a “heads up” next time they apply for a grant.
No one said, “what the hell?  Over a hundred thousand bucks to “assess” a watershed?  Are you taking it to Kaiser for an ultrasound?”

Next, the courthouse property.  The Forest Service was ASKED by the county to sell some land so the state can build a justice fortress.  They didn’t want to sell the property, but they would if asked, because that’s the kind of benevolent overlord the Forest Circus is, not her words.  Now they hear a supervisor doesn’t want them to sell the property.   If there is any complaint, they won’t sell it.  Please poop or get off the pot over it.  The courthouse is a state project.
Chair Adams said, we don’t want you to sell the property if that will preclude the Forest Service from returning.
The District Ranger said “there will never be a district office in Downieville.”  Some people in the room took umbrage with the term “never”.  Perhaps what Ms. Froelich meant was “not as long as we wear these weenie green uniforms”.
We give the event to Ms. Froelich on points.

Director of Whatgoeswhere Tim Beals reported that the state plan for the justice fortress (NHW) goes ahead as scheduled, with some options taking some Forest Service land.

The state is trying to renege on the Prop 40 money by demanding the bill before the work is done.  The contract period ends June 30, but the bills have to be in by March 31.  Director of WTF Tim Beals will keep an eye on the situation, which all agree puts the county in a very poor position for Prop 40 work done in Spring, which is when you can work here.

Editor’s note: Several times during the session a need arose for a term that meant “the disadvantaged side of the bargain.”  Speakers were heading for a phrase, and some attempted it, but for some reason didn’t seem able to say it.  Here it is: shitty end of the stick.  The County frequently gets the shitty end of the stick.

Mr. Beals also noted that Independence Lake access is going to be on the next agenda, and the Board should wear their comfortable underwear because it was going to be a long one, not his real advice.
He informed the Board he was seeking information on the status of the cogen plant in Loyalton.
He advised the Board and the county that Bob Marshall is going to appear at the February 15th meeting to discuss broadband in the county.

Director of Who Has Business Tim Beals presented the Commissar of Roads Closure List to the Board to create an ordinance, and one that punishes people for driving on the roads which the sign said were closed.
Supervisor Schlefstein expressed frustration with the punishments described, which could be either infraction or misdemeanor, depending on how the cop and the DA felt.  He asked if the Board couldn’t have some clarification on the matter.
Mr. Curtis suggested the District Attorney had been consulted and this is what he liked.
Mr. Schlefstein wanted the ordiance to have language that was clearer, so everyone would know what was an infraction, what a misdemeanor. 
The District Attorney was sent for.
Citizens stood to speak against the road closures.  Kenny Osburn stood and noted that, once again, it was people who knew what they were doing who were being penalized.

Mr. Allen appeared and said that the law could, indeed, stipulate a misdemeanor or an infraction, but the current ordinance gave him discretion.  He said he could work with it either way, and went back to, we assume, ministering justice.
There was discussion of safety and road damage, and Commissar of Roads Tim Beals sternly asserted his right to protect people and the roads.
Julie Osburn stood and mentioned private property owners on the roads, and also said what some had been thinking: these closures are not very different from the Forest Service Travel Discouragment Plan that everybody hates so much.
The discussion turned to the nitwits who use their GPS unit to chart a course from Verdi to Loyalton in the wintertime.  It was suggested a sign be posted to alert the unwary, but others said things about natural selection and the gene pool.
Supervisor Nunes said how the Board trusted Tim to use good judgement and not close the road unnecessarily.
Mr. Beals said all cops love it.
Editor of the Mountain Messenger Newspaper and local luddite Don Russell spoke to the Board.  He said that the county was putting tow trucks out of business, that it wasn’t the county’s responsibility to rescue people, You can’t pass a law based on staff who won’t stay, particularly, he did not add, Mr. Beals who, judging from the moss on his north side must be about 80.

Everyday citizen and not a nutcase L. DeVita stood to say it was, indeed, just the same kind of rhetoric the Forest Service used to close roads. He said that unanimous agreement by all law enforcement did not comfort him.

Liz Fisher stood to say that law enforcement are good, they aren’t bad.

Lee Adams agreed. 

The Board agreed that Downieville needs its one lane bridges.

End of Part 1.
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