Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

Commentary and opinion by Samuel Strait – April 27, 2023

Ahh, the serious business of Del Norte County government trundles on
unimpeded by the absence of it’s leader Darren Short, the sniffles we
are being told.  But never fear, faithful readers, the show went on
without even the faintest illusion that this body was the servant of the
people of Del Norte County and not that of being the toadies of the
local bureaucracy.  Under the guidance of “there is a government
solution for everything” Vice Chair Valerie Starkey the minstrel show
went on.   Moment of Reflection, Pledge of Allegiance, no new employees
introduced, and so on.  Back to reports and announcements after a brief
hiatus.

Supervisor Borges on a new feature for Redwood Transit, a call up
service to the airport, a rate increase, and a curiosity of just how
many of Del Norte’s citizenry actually use the transit service, and at
what cost?  Likely not great numbers at an astonishingly high cost, but
hey, it’s only the taxpayer footing the bill.  On to Supervisor Howard,
where we get the flailing of the State on fire suppression that has
risen to the consciousness of the State after decades of forest
mismanagement by both the Feds and the State.  Then there is the lack of
affordable housing in the County, as if it is suddenly possible to build
an affordable house in California or have affordable rent in
California.  And not forgetting a plug for the Sister City menagerie,
bolstered by 1,000 students from the school district’s population,
otherwise not all that well attended.  And Howard’s lament for economic
development to round things out for him. Supervisor Wilson’s concerns
were for the homeless and lack of mental health professionals in the
County to treat them.

Last but by far the most loquacious was Vice Chair, Valerie Starkey, and
her laundry list of “nanny state-ism”.  What would we ever do without
her bleeding liberal take on the County’s ills. Child mental health
issues and First Five to lead the pack, before moving on the Emergency
Preparedness “for our children”.  The Sister City circus, then a nod to
us “doddering old folk”.  What will we ever do without someone holding
our frail hands. Transportation for out of the area healthcare, County
clean up crews for our homes and property, a growing list.  Then
attention given to broadband and the elusive “middle mile” for us
computer illiterates in the rural wastelands of California.  Finishing
up with Juvenile Justice and the under served juvenile offenders of the
County.  I am sure she must have covered many of the minority problems
locally in only the last two weeks.  How fortunate for all of us that
are paying the bills.

The consent agenda less numbers 5 and 8, 4-0 to approve the remaining
eleven items of mostly “for” government actions that the “little people”
don’t really need to know about.  Five and eight were handled just as
summarily later with no real substantive effort by the board to be
anything other than robotiic.   On to scheduled items and Public Comment.

Douglas Park residents and their grievances over traffic issues for
visitors entering Redwood National Park.  Speed was highlighted as the
issue for them.  The Gasquet raft races and permitting the event due to
some concern over possible liability to the American Legion and the
County.  Got to get local government involved some how.  Branden Bieber
and the decline of civilization in Del Norte County, not to make light
of it, for he most certainly has a point.

Cindy Vosburg and the Visitor’s Bureau with a glowing report of the
“return of the tourist” to Del Norte County, that is until it was
pointed out the inflation was the likely culprit for the increased
revenue, and not growing numbers of tourists.  Of course it was all made
to look like a positive with a flashy video that no one could process
due to the speed of the presentation, sparsely filled with the few
offerings that Del Norte County has to offer visitors and entice them
into a longer stay.  I don’t think anyone can point to all the flashy
media output by the visitor’s bureau and say Del Norte County will be
able to depend on a tourist economy, but we will shortly be graced by a
“high end Bed and Breakfast” in the near future.  Sure to draw all those
high rollers that are not staying in the Harbor’s new accommodations,
that is if they ever come to fruition.

A minor subdivision change was handled with very little input by the
supervisors, then on to the County’s foray over forty years ago into the
world of sewer providers.  Seems sewer systems need regular maintenance
over their lifetimes and the County is needing funding to take care of a
few things.  Rates for those that are tapped into the County’s system
are in need of an increase after forty years of floating along at $72
per year.  While it may have been prudent for the County to gradually
increase that amount over the years and conduct some maintenance at a
much lower cost, it looks like it was easier to ignore potential issues
until the County could maximize the pain and the cost as well.  Of
course whatever the path that the supervisors take, those in the
County’s sewer districts can be assured of maximum pain and cost for
what will likely be an inadequate solution, but what is so unusual about
that.  County government at its finest.

Last but not least of the timed items of the County’s business was a
report on the Smith River water quality where NO evidence of
contaminated water was to be found.  Sort of pulled the rug out from
under the Smith River Coalition’s fraudulent claims of Legacy Mines
being a problem for Smith River water users.  This report further
undermined the efforts by the Forest Service to claim the need for
abatement at three centuries old mine sites.  But never fear, the
potential of grant funding  waved in front of Supervisor Howard prompted
his defense of the Forest Service’s efforts to meddle with the non-issue
of surface water leaching into Rowdy Creek.  Got to steer the
conversation and the Smith River Coalition away from Howard’s
agricultural interests after all. Legacy Mines are voiceless and the
Forest Service mine abatement programs have been such a rousing success
in the Western part of the United States.  What could possibly go
wrong?  After all, three mines down and only a few hundred more mines to
be addressed.  Could keep the Smith River Coalition occupied for decades.

With item 19 pulled with no explanation, the Board moved on to to more
Nanny State to the potential tune of $8 million for a Community
Resilience Center Program, how wonderful.  Mr. Hooper has asked to brief
this reporter on its essential nature to the County’s residents and the
fact that it will use current County owned facilities.  Course that
doesn’t address future maintenance costs, but what the heck, its “free
money”.  Interested to learn what kind of spin will be placed on this
grant funding.  More later.  Item 20 was an unintelligible petition for
street vacation application.  And item 22 was an amendment to tobacco
retail licensing to allow for some license transfers and the possibility
of no licenses being offered by the County in the future.  All 4-0 votes.

And then budget transfers where the Sheriff’s department parking lot,
the Veteran’s hall parking lot are to be the recipient of nearly
$400,000 of new pavement funded by Measure “R”.  Clearly a “vital”
expenditure of Measure “R” funding put forward by our own “oversight”
committee for the expenditure of that sales tax money so consequential
to Police, Fire and Emergency Services efforts to provide essential
services.  Then another $200,000 to the Sheriff’s department for cameras
and tasers.  Looks like the County’s fire department better get the lead
out before the money is all gone, no doubt prompting the County to go
after further tax money to provide “police, fire and emergency
services”.  The other budget transfer ran into a bit of a problem as it
was clearly money to be spent for services, data collection, beyond the
scope of just Del Norte County business.  Not surprisingly, Supervisors
Howard and Starkey were on board for spending taxpayer money, Supervisor
Borges less so, and Supervisor Wilson mute on the topic.  Tabled in any
event for Chair Short’s return, maybe on a future consent slate.

No legislative issue to discuss, but another pair of the County’s
departments to present their budgets for the following year.  To cut to
the chase, both the Agricultural Budget and the District Attorney’s
Budget can be summarized as needing more employees and raises.  What’s
not to be expected out of Del Norte County’s growing and financially
healthy government.  Four more hours of watching the expected and seeing
no real change of direction in County government where the bureaucracy
gets healthier and wealthier and the local citizenry pays the price. 
Till next time.

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