Commentary by Samuel Strait – March 14, 2023
There once was a time in the not too distant past when storms of even
greater magnitude as has happened to begin the 2023 calendar year were
shrugged off as relatively “normal” weather events in Del Norte County.
So often ten inches of rain in a four day period were not uncommon
during the course of most winters. My driveway, such as it is, was
often a small stream and water came in such considerable quantities as
to form a lake over most of my yard up to six inches in depth. Old
timers, who have lived in the County for some time, use to refer to such
an event as a “real Del Norter”, not unusual for this part of
California. Rather than moan and cry about it as our current leadership
is want to do, locals then simply picked up the pieces and moved on.
Now instead of doing so, “a declaration of emergency” is the first thing
that comes to mind for our leaders, in order to have the federal and
state governments come not to lend a hand, but to send us some “tax
dollars” to solve all our “storm damage” issues. Likely as not, most of
the “storm damage” to be addressed by the County comes in the form of
decades of “deferred maintenance” rather than actual “storm damage”.
This gives County leadership cover from the millions spent on useless
programs that do little to benefit the County’s residents and not spent
to deal with maintenance issues that litter nearly every aspect that is
the County’s responsibility to maintain.
What has become almost impossible to ignore, is when the present Chair
of the Board of Supervisors, Darren Short, makes statements such as the
following. “The declaration of an Emergency opens the door for funding
from FEMA to pay for damage caused by certain events. All of us pay
federal taxes. This is one avenue for us to get some of that tax money
back in repairs for damage caused by these events.” Most people should
be able to understand that this does not put any money back in the
pockets of local tax payers. It simply transfers money from one
government entity to another to be spent on whatever the recipient
government chooses to spend it on. Such gross ignorance displayed by
Chair Short is mind numbing and a big part of the reason for rolling
back the overreach of government to declare an “emergency” when none
actually exists. This is a lesson that should have been thoroughly
imprinted on the minds of tax payers over the last three years.
While it is understood that this pathetic grasping at tax dollars
through “declarations of emergency” and associated “grant funding”, it
is a pathway to financial ruin for this entire Country and an unhealthy
direction that most citizens are reluctant to do anything about. This
Country is rapidly closing on forty trillion dollars in debt, California
is heading towards a budget of three hundred billion, and our local
County will propose a budget of nearly two hundred million, if not more
for the coming year. This kind of profligate spending is unsustainable,
particularly when it does not accomplish what is necessary for this
Country to address its basic needs. Our local economy is and continues
to be a fragile one that cannot rely on this kind of leadership to
prevent an ever growing cost to our local citizens. Grant funding and
FEMA money sound inviting, but it comes at a cost. It most certainly
does not put money in local pockets. It simply is a band aid that
covers the mismanagement of local government for decades.
Since Del Norte County is a part of California where taxation leads the
nation as a blood sport, it would be of considerable use for citizens to
be able to sue our leadership for mismanagement of those tax dollars and
redress the continuing “train wreck” that is our local government.
Unfortunately, local government has set itself above that remedy and
only the ballot box can give us that relief if used appropriately. At
some point government in this County is in dire need of a check in the
behavior that has occurred for several decades where local taxpayers are
suffering the consequences of a spendthrift government.