Commentary by Samuel Strait – March 24, 2023
Having attended most Board Of Supervisor meetings for some time, there
are almost certain “givens” when listening to Board members over the
course of time. What has become evident over the past couple of years
is the inevitability of District Two’s Supervisor, Valerie Starkey, and
her penchant to become involved in an obsessive fashion with anything
related to the local youth. Most often her advocacy is directed
towards, applying government solutions to problems, problems that should
be left to parents, or in many cases the simple notion that the youth
must be allowed the room to make mistakes early in life in order to
learn from them for the future. Somehow she has the notion that to
“fix” some societal problem the only solution is for her to bring the
power of the bureaucracy to bear. The idea that when she says, “we
have to do something”, quite often the best solution is to do nothing.
Clearly the concept that young people must be allowed the freedom to
begin the process of learning how to make correct decisions before they
can become an adult has escaped her. Not all parenting is a matter of
“words of wisdom” from some higher authority. Young people are more
likely to learn from the poor decisions made when they become invested
in finding solutions for their failures. Recently, at a Board of
Supervisor’s meeting, and now at the City’s Council meeting, Supervisor
Starkey became involved, as she was with the County, in advocating for
retail licenses for the sale of tobacco products. The intent being the
inclusion of vaping products as well.
Clearly Supervisor Starkey is not hearing the chorus when they say that
for nearly all cases, young adults do not get their tobacco or vaping
products from retail outlets, making any such ordinance immaterial and a
pointless burden on local businesses. Smoking or vaping is not something
anyone can do much about. I’m sure Ms. Starkey would be horrified to
learn that as a child growing up, tobacco products, for the steep price
of a quarter, could be purchased from a vending machine suitably attired
with prohibitions from purchase due to age. Compared to that era of
tobacco use, the world has come a long ways.
Needless to say, Del Norte County’s “Helicopter Mom” is unlikely to
change her ways in any substantive fashion and the young adults when
faced with difficult decisions growing up will be ill equipped to become
functional. Sad to say, that more often than not many youth learn
valuable lessons from their failures that pay dividends towards their
futures, something smothering with “good” intentions does not accomplish.
Of course Supervisor Starkey’s good intention do not focus merely on the
“youth” of our community, and is well represented in many other forms of
the County’s business. Clearly her time yoked to California’s probation
system for many years has created a certain blindness to limited
government and the cost to the citizens she is meant to serve.
According to the documents that formed this great nation, governance was
to be minimalist in nature and not the monstrosity it has become. Just
the burden of local taxes make for many a struggle. Senseless and
useless ordinances and licenses do not ease that burden. What made this
Country grow and proper did not include Helicopter Moms or the “nanny
state” that government at all levels has become. For centuries through
out history great civilizations have come and gone, mostly because
governments became “too” oppressive. Perhaps it is time to learn that
lesson before 2025 comes around when the latest “forecast” by the United
Nations has us all “doomed” by “Climate Change”.
2 thoughts on “Del Norte County’s Helicopter Mom”
Sam, I appreciate the label. I honestly don’t feel this is entirely negative but I realize that this was your intent. I agree, for the routine “kids will be kids” mistakes, we should allow them to self-correct and not intervene. But there is a big difference in allowing a child to get caught stealing items from a local store and assaulting his/her parent because that very parent failed to protect them from years of sexual abuse. I have never proposed we have invasive services for low risk (to reoffend) teens who are doing stupid things and winning stupid prizes. Perhaps my years of experience in having first hand conversations with kids who have endured so much physical, mental, and emotional abuse has caused me to be overprotective. But when is the last time you spoke to a young teenage girl who described being molested by her step father since the age of five and having to crawl down a hallway combat style in the middle of the night so she wouldn’t wake the aggressor when she had to use the bathroom? After years of this abuse, and as she became physically stronger, she fought back on the person she could, her mother, who had allowed this abuse to continue for years. I recall one case where the child at the age of 17 had began to act out. One night, in a fit of complete rage, he fought with police. Such a brutal fight that 3 cops’ knees were blown out and the “child” suffered from Renal failure during the attempt to contain him. When researching the case, as probation officers do, it was learned that he had been stabbed by his mother when he was four. He remained living with her, despite her own mental illness. That mother was arrested once when he was 7 years old in their scarcely furnished apartment (a single bed on the floor and filthy) with the child present. As police were entering the apartment she held a bird, his pet bird. She squeezed the head of that bird off in front of the child. He was returned to her time and time again. Trauma experiences like this don’t just go away. They require healthy grown ups modeling healthy behavior they are not able to get from their unfortunate living arrangements. I am not blind to the need for limited services in situations where natural consequences can take hold and serve their purpose. In fact, if you pay attention, I advocate for the least restrictive consequences most often but support graduated sanctions when those don’t work. I appreciate you, Sam. I know we don’t see this the same but I am always grateful for a different perspective. We need both perspectives because the adversity children experience varies tremendously from childhood to childhood.
So this is what a Valerie Starkey “Ha, ha, ha, No Comment” looks like. I, in fact, never meant it to be negative, merely an observation based on my experiences with another “Helicopter Mom” of many years as a constant companion. Her hovering fortunately, or the opposite, was mainly restricted for the most part to her own children, not the entire youth population of Del Norte County and any other of the County’s unfortunates. It took her many years to realize that constant “hovering” negated much of the benefits she thought she was parceling out to her children when she realized through her form of employment that there are children or their situations that you simply can’t fix or that hovering was only to make the situation far worse. In those cases a more successful solution was often to step back and be supportive. One size fits all was very rarely a successful option in even the most troubling situations. While as a probation officer you may have been able to tailor your approach to your clients with some success, but the County’s entire population is not a single person who will find success by applying formula solutions. Very often, if there isn’t a balanced opposition to a “hovering” personality the damage inflicted on those being hovered over far exceed what is thought to be the protection being offered. When I first witnessed a radio interview of you at the KFUG radio station before you were elected, I saw good intentions, but was concerned about your ability to be rational and able to recognize common sense solutions while governing. I was never particularly concerned about your work ethic, just what I viewed as an inability to separate the few from the many. This Country and the County was meant to thrive in a world where the few did not become a problem for the many. That is something you may wish to think about.