Tue. Mar 5th, 2024

Commentary By Samuel Strait – January 26, 2023

It has become a regular occurrence at the local Board of Supervisor’s
meetings for the Consent Agenda to be loaded with government actions
with very little scrutiny of any kind.  Makes one wonder who exactly is
minding the store.  Someone told me somewhere around the fourth grade
that this Country was a representative republic, and the public, was to
have a large part in what our “representatives” were meant to act on for
the benefit of “MOST” of their constituents.  It has become increasingly
difficult here in Del Norte County, at least, to be able to distinguish
whether our “representatives” represent their constituents  or the
various departments of the local government.   It certainly appears that
the consent agenda, which contains a bulk of local government business,
generated by various parts of local government biweekly, with little in
the way of public discussion or input, passed almost routinely with a
rubber stamp vote of 5-0 in the affirmative, most certainly contains
very little of a  “government of the people, by the people, and for the
people”.

In the current rendition of the BOS meeting (January 24th) 14
items appeared on that agenda, and the entire rest of the public meeting
consisted of four items of general business, a robot like transfer of
three budget funds, and a legislative item regarding fire severity maps
connected to insurance rates.    Two of the general business items were
concerned with appointments which elicited zero discussion and the
remaining two items concerned an obsession with tobacco and naturally
elicited another ordinance that has little likelihood of being
enforced.  Par for the course.

When the Consent Agenda occupies dozens of items, one would think that
just maybe, those items which have not been discussed in the public
meeting, someone from the public may wish to talk about one or more of
the items listed.  You might even think that if that were to occur, that
the public might be able to participate with a public comment on each
item.  Well, yes you can if you can act like the narrator reading the
fine print under the advertising on a TV screen.  In essence, the public
must confine their comments for the entire Consent Agenda to three
minutes.  Yet in this recent Board meeting, the Supervisor’s waxed
elegant for thirty five to forty five minutes on a non agendized item
whose concern was not about the public, but a concern over the “work
load” of the County’s Department heads.   One would think after that
little detour on the Agenda that the public might be given the same
consideration. Not likely.

There have been the rare occasion where items are pulled from the
Consent Agenda by various Supervisors, most to seek clarification rather
than foster an actual discussion of the item.  The public, for which
many of the items will more directly effect, have no mechanism which
enables them to act in a similar fashion.  Three minutes or more to
comment if your comment favors the Board.  Two comments allowed on one
item if you are a public servant.  No concession whatsoever if your
remarks fail to please the Board. This clear example of the failure of
our governmental system to allow public participation in the discussion
of multiple items on Consent Agendas that consist of twenty or more
items has fallen on deaf ears by this Board and all previous Boards. 
The idea that public participation in the governing of Del Norte County
is unwelcome and likely to be stifled should have local representative’s
phone lines burning down their houses.  In times where government
decisions can have an enormous impact on the lives of those that live in
the County, one would think that this would be the case.  It is not.

Our County is run by consent not by our local Board of Supervisors.  The
public has generally been deemed not welcome. The Consent Agenda allows
for a lack of transparency that is stunning.  This Board needs to change
this activity to restore any faith that we are being represented by our
local Supervisors and not for the benefit of those that work for the
public.   The Consent Agenda, whose consent?

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