Board Notes 042010

Board Notes 042010:

Get the Board Packet HERE:

The Sierra County Board of Supervisors met in Loyalton on 04/20/10. All supervisors were present.

Editorial Notice: this reporter found the meeting to be like molasses slowed way down, which is always bad news for factual reporting. It was only the presence of Tim Holabird, who loathes blah blah in a meeting even more than I do, which made the ordeal bearable. Mr. Holabird works for Tom McClintock, and we agree on almost nothing politically, but he’s a savvy old boy and a great guy to sit next to in a meeting. He has a low, rumbling voice, and since he and this reporter are hard of hearing from vigorous living, his wry, whispered comments are usually picked up by Ms. Foster’s microphone at the front of the room. (I’m largely immune to being glared at in a meeting.) Don’t miss the opportunity to sit next to Tim if you’re stuck in a meeting with a glacial pace.

The meeting started briskly: Heather Kenny, big city lawyer who’s gaining notoriety working for local residents in a group known as the Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR), took the stand.

Ms. Kenny and Tim Beals

In the past, Mrs. Kenny wore a long black duster, making her look like a svelte blonde Bat Masterson. This time, though, she wore a cheery red blazer; not a gun fighter, this time, she was here to help the County.

Frequent readers will recall that a local group had challenged the county on the use of the term "high water line" to be the line of high water on a creek, stream or lake. The group wanted the county to substitute the water line during Noah’s time for the traditional high water line, or perhaps it was the hundred-year flood plain.

Ms. Kenny explained that people in the county were fed up with H.S.R.A. or anyone who wanted to trifle with the rights of local citizens. CAPR is ready to submit a county initiative which would codify the definition of "high water mark." A public initiative is not subject to CEQA, she said. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), though intended simply to cause the environment to be a consideration in land use, has been used as a tool for obstructionist groups to prevent development, keeping rural areas pristine for urban visitors.

The Board received the news, but Lee Adams wondered what effect it would have on the very same definition they were poised to approve. For those interested, Lee wore one of his great ties, and looked much more like a banker than a man who, as sheriff, hunted down and killed some of America’s most dangerous criminals, which Lee never did as sheriff, but he looked as though he could.

Long story short, the offer of an initiative didn’t change much at the meeting, but it offers an iron clad backup should "anyone" decide to sue over CEQA. Would such a measure pass? Ha ha ha! Of course it would! I’m saying by 90%.

More than anything, in this reporter’s view, the initiative, or even just the promise of it, is empowering to Sierra County, and all small counties. We simply don’t have the money or staff to deal with every possible challenge, particularly when city attorneys show up to bring lawsuit for obstructionist groups. CEQA is important legislation, no one but a nitwit would want to see CEQA gutted, but it was never intended to be a moneymaker for every group with the skills to pick apart building codes is a small county. Having county residents gather at the ballot box to ensure their building department’s ability to function is a community statement against those who would ride our environmental protections to the bank.

It was decided that the Board would take its own action on the matter.

And, for the most part, that was the high point of the meeting.

Except for when Director of Odd Bits and Chief Dogsbody Tim Beals addressed a letter which appeared in the Sierra Booster (online at, a local newspaper.

The letter, by a person who has been called "factually disadvantaged" by some, clearly indicated that Mr. Beals had met on the sly with various characters regarding the $500,000 in Prop 40 money.

For some reason, Mr. Beals was impatient at the suggestion that he was going behind the public’s back to squander half a million dollars of public money. Maybe he was miffed because his desk at the county seat in Downieville was already full and he didn’t really want to piss away more time on Loyalton’s local squabbles; he didn’t say that, I’m just saying "maybe". Maybe it’s because a lot of people including this reporter heard Mr. Beal’s participation described in public at a Loyalton City Council meeting, so it wasn’t really on the sly. Maybe Mr. Beals felt the allegation was unfair because he was clearly asked and even instructed, to play that role in seeking information on how Prop 40 money could be used in the community, and specifically for the Loyalton Middle School. Perhaps it was because Mr. Beals was trying to help Loyaltonians get what they’d asked for when some of these same people accused him of meddling that he was slightly put off. Just a guess, here, but maybe, after over 30 years of diligent, if not infallible, service, he might have earned the benefit of the doubt from the peanut gallery. Or, perhaps he’s simply tired of having people who don’t know what they’re talking about gum up the works of local government. Maybe he thought the letter writer should have contacted him to ask about it before framing their allegations. Whatever the reason might have been, he seemed a little fed up.

At the break in honor of 4/20, the date and the international symbol for smoking ganja, this reporter asked some of the Board if they had considered the plan to market captured marijuana on the medical marijuana market. One supervisor, at the mention, made a face like he’d let out just a little pee. He changed the subject. A second, though, asked how much the county would have made off the 54,000 marijuana plants captured last year. An estimate is at least $750,000, after expenses. The sound of cannabis might have scared some, but the song of seventy hundred and fifty grand sounded good to everyone. No one offered to put it on the agenda, though. Cowards. What could it hurt, except re-election?

The Board did many important things:

They heard from Dr. Carol Roberts about progress towards the teen center at the Loyalton Middle School. They heard about an endless number of very important meetings which contribute to a meeting gridlock unimaginable in a county of only 3300 people. (By the way, the Prospect can’t send anyone to the meeting on the Little Truckee watershed being held April 30, at 1:30 at Sierraville Ranger Station; everyone who cares about the watershed or the Little Truckee should attend.)

Angry at Forest Service: Tim Holabird

Tim Holabird took the podium to alert the Board and the public to a Forest Service plan to dramatically increase the fees charged on the ground for cabins at such locations as Clarke Station. The owners often own the homes, but not the land, which is leased from you and me, no, I mean the U. S. Government. Essentially, the increases in the fees would make the cabins less valuable, discouraging ownership, and eventually achieving what has clearly become a Forest Service effort to clear the public from public land. We are often reminded that the Government has to protect our hills for the people in Cleveland, Ohio just as much as they do for the poor yokels that live here. Not to editorialize, or anything.

People spoke on behalf of Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s plan for a sustainable Sierra.

The Board found there to be no violation of CEQA and so approved the existing definition of "high water line". No one complained.

The Board: appointed Gloria Ray to the Cemetery District 2; appointed Tricea Valen to In Home Support Services Advisory Board; disposed of a grievance by Jodi Benson; complained to Schwarzenegger about the Williamson Act money he’s taken.

There was a presentation by Jim Turner of the SPI cogen plant in Loyalton about biomass.  Chair Dave Goicoechea gave Mr. Turner a certificate of appreciation for the work he's done on biomass in the county.

Jim Turner and Dave Goicoechea

Mr. Brooks Mitchell took the podium to clarify the Rotary claim to Smithneck Park. For many years the County has had an agreement that the park and surrounding acres up Smithneck Creek would be managed by the Rotary Club. Mr. Mitchell stated that the park is a county park and absolutely anyone could use it. That is not historically quite true, as many folks from here know, but we’ll say "from now on" it is open to anyone. Even so, it had been declared as the "Alvin Powers Memorial Park," or maybe "Alvin Powers Memorial Rotary Park" in 1967. On behalf of the Rotary Club, who manages the park, he wanted to be very clear that Smithneck Park should be known as "Alvin Powers Memorial Rotary Park." He did not suggest "The Alvin Powers Memorial Park That is Controlled by the Rotary Club But Which (From Now On) Anyone Can Use If They Get Permission From The Rotarians Park."

Brooks Mitchell representing the Rotarians
No one objected to the idea just then, but at the break this reporter heard someone ask "why does the Rotary control a county park, anyway" and someone else ask why the 4th of July Picnic and Rare Junk Auction now looks like a tiny group of stranded pioneers with all their stuff piled up by the creek, instead of the populated, raucous good times of the Old Days. We don’t judge, we just report (in this instance).

Insulting casual wear; a local T shirt
During the discussion Chair Dave Goicoechea praised the Rotary Club for their contribution to the community, and Supervisor Pat Whitley noted that Rotary had maintained the park for over 40 years. The request was trailed, or delayed.

Mr. Arata  
Mr. Joe Arata appeared before the Board as he has every year for at least five years, appealing the solid waste fee. Mr. Arata has two parcels, but one hasn’t been inhabited, has no water, no electricity, no gas. It is used for storage. He feels he shouldn’t have to pay solid waste fee on that parcel. Nearly everyone else disagrees. Mr. Arata could combine the properties; he could de-commission the house; he could rent the house. He doesn’t want to do the latter, and the first two would damage the value of the property.

Don Russell, Editor of the Mountain Messenger Newspaper, enumerated reasons Mr. Arata should not receive a tax break, including the fact that, at any time, the second house could be inhabited, and that by paying $238.00 a year Mr. Arata is assuring that his grandchildren will be able to dump trash in Sierra County. Further, Mr. Russell reportedly resents someone from out of town, who only lives here when they please, but refuses to pay their fair share of keeping the county going.

Ennumerating reasons: Don Russell explaining reason number one
why Mr. Arata's request should be denied; it would cost Russell more money.

This is an old battle, nothing has changed. The Board denied his request, he promised to sue but he’s wasting his money if he does in our view. The SC method of dividing the cost of solid waste has been tested elsewhere and found to be sound.

Ms. Widman
The Board heard about Child Abuse Prevention projects from Carolyn Widman, of the SCCAPC.

The Board did other things, but who can remember what they were?

Then, they went in to closed session and even though it was 4/20, they CLAIM they didn’t smoke any captured boo.

The Board in closed session; is that... smoke?









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