Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

Commentary by Samuel Strait – September 29, 2922

I have to say it.   I didn’t see that one coming, not that it changed
much of anything in the continued dysfunction of our local Board of
Supervisors.  At long last a dissenting vote and on the County budget no
less.  After reviewing the September 27th meeting of the County’s Lords
and Ladies on video several times, for you must excuse me as not being
able to attend the last twenty five minutes of the recent meeting in
person, as a much more important business to attend to, watching an
exceptionally vivid color of paint dry, drew me away from the revolting
display of testosterone by our erstwhile Chair of the Board, Gerry
Hemmingsen.  Pretty clearly, Chair Hemmingsen is not much of a fan of
anything that disturbs his napping ability, eyes wide open, while
conducting the County’s business.

Board of Supervisors

Once again the issue of three minute public participation in the very
transparent conducting of the County’s business came up, when local
citizen, Brandon Bieber, voicing his objection to the robot-like conduct
of the Board when passing lengthy lists of Consent Agenda items without
so much as a by your leave discussion, was cut off for exceeding the
sacred and inviolate three minute time limit.  Naturally, that
exceptional virtue of public participation and transparency, Gerry
Hemmingsen, could not abide by his stated virtues and had Mr. Bieber’s
microphone silenced.  So much for transparency and public participation
that Board Chair is constantly whining about.  Needless to say, in the
ensuing war of words, it was very likely possible for Mr. Bieber to have
completed his remarks with much less angst displayed by Chair
Hemmingsen.   It is not as though the Consent Agenda does not warrant
more attention to its content by the public, for many items that have
appeared on it warrant more than the cursory attention it normally
receives.  One almost begins to believe that various of the County’s
department heads use this mechanism to escape any sort of scrutiny when
large sums of money or interesting contracts for approval appear
regularly within.  A more functional suggestion for public participation
while discussing the aforementioned Agenda by Supervisor Starkey,
supported by appointee Supervisor Masten, was summarily dismissed by the
“ruler of all Board things”, Gerry Hemmingsen.  Looks like the public
will have to wait outside the palace for any scraps of recognition.

Following yet another pointless ordinance regarding parking at Preston
Island, not as if the Sheriff doesn’t have enough to do, the Board
stumbled on after a series of 5-0 votes to a video glorifying the
County’s efforts to “help” the local citizenry “get a Job”.  Of course
failing to recognize the fact that many businesses in the County are in
a perpetual search for employees in order to keep their doors open, not
to mention stuff to sell. Clearly the Board of Supervisors continue to
turn a blind eye to the struggles of local community members with their
simple inability to keep up with the rising costs to live.  Granted they
have been most generous to the four hundred and some odd County
employees which has taken the sting out of their lives, but the County
has more than County employees who would like to get a break as well.

Aside from a couple of undiscussed budget transfers, 5-0 on each
occasion, and the County’s desire to participate in yet another out of
town commission by none other than Supervisor Chris “must like to travel
on the County’s dime” Howard, a true revelation occurred when discussing
the County’s proposed budget for 2022-2023.  While regaling the Board
and the public about the “process” by which the County’s budget is
constructed by our own Auditor-Controller, Clinton Schaad, it was
revealed that far from the desperate, impoverish state of the County’s
financial picture most often repeated at nearly every opportunity by
Supervisor Chris Howard and other Board members, the County’s financial
health is currently rather robust.
  Auditor-Controller Schaad should be
commended for this honest appraisal of County finances, rather than the
hysterical portrait we have been inundated with by County leadership and
government.  Makes one wonder why exactly the less than one percent of
the $182 million budget represented by the Measure “R” funding is being
held out as catastrophic if repealed in November.  Never fear, I have a
theory about that one.

When the generous raises “forced” on the County’s employees at the
beginning of 2022, a bargain was struck with the County’s Unions that if
Measure “R” was struck down, the raises would go away as well as the
positions that were funded by that money.  To the average observer of
Union shenanigans one would assume that the Union members were being
thrown under the bus by their leadership by agreeing to such a bargain. 
Not so fast.  Since we now know that County finances are not at crisis
level, as evidenced by the discussion that followed about Animal Control
and their needs, one thing was made clear is that the County has a
number of “pots” of money that can be used for whatever the Board
elects to employ them for.  Clearly the County’s Union leadership is
counting on those funds to support the rash of new hires that have
occurred over the last nine months to make things “easier” for County
employees.

The take away from this recent meeting, other than a singular “NO” vote
of dissent on the Budget by Valerie Starkey, surprise, surprise, is that
the County is NOT destitute by any measure and can afford the loss of
Measure “R” funding without much of a disruption of County government. 

The County can very likely retain most of the new hires from sources
within the current budget.  And finally, the attitude of the Board when
it comes to benefit is clearly directed at County government and not the
rest of us “Walmart” shoppers.  Vote “YES” on Measures “U” and “T” in
November to lower taxes in the County.  Remember, a “YES” vote on those
two Measures LOWERS the County and City Sales tax by one percent.

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