Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Commentary and Opinion by Samuel Strait – February 22, 2024

Apologize for the delay in addressing the latest attempt at governance
by our local Board of Supervisors where no one listens, except when it
is something that they want to hear.  Opening with the usual ceremonies
at 10:00 am on Tuesday, February 13, 2024, the Board initially
entertained us with a veritable parade of new employees, most of the
Health and Human Services variety with few exceptions.  More people with
titles that give little in the way of information as to what these new
employees actually do for their money.  Not much progress in finding
victims to work in departments that seem to actually need help……the
Sheriff maybe.  The Board reports, Supervisor Starkey, long winded as
usual, Supervisor Borges, silent and stoic as usual, Supervisor Howard,
on vacation, as usual, Supervisor Short, lost as usual, and Chair
Wilson, explains all, as usual.

Board of Supervisors, minus Chris Howard – on vacation

The Consent Agenda appeared to be not so straight forward as it more
often should be.  Items appearing on the agenda that regularly lack
transparency are often more palatable to the public when someone other
than the Board has the opportunity to question an item.  Often the Board
members have little expertise with regard to questioning items placed as
non controversial by government employees on the agenda that the public
might find just a wee bit problematic.  While the Board has the
opportunity to gain some understanding prior to a meeting, the public is
rarely afforded that opportunity.  Five of the twenty item agenda were
pulled for separate scrutiny;  however, it was much to do about nothing
as most were rolled back into the original agenda after questions were
asked and only two items received more than passing examination.  A
concern over transmission of health information between Sutter Health
and Department of Health and Human Services was quickly passed over the
objections of Supervisor Starkey and another letter to the Pacific
Fisheries Management Council about near shore fishery closures.  Other
than that more Health and Human Services, a meager seven items, more
employee raises cloaked as employee reclassification’s, some travel
authorizations, and a million plus dollar software purchase requested by
half the County’s department.

Scheduled items consisted of the usual efforts by local citizens to
steer the Board’s decision making towards a more representative light,
fat chance.  A discussion of the questionable direction embarked upon by
the Tri Agency and their obsession with Off shore wind power.  The hope
that after expending $400,000 to resurrect the Agency, economic
development would consist of more than money thrown down the drain
pursuing off shore wind power that was very unlikely to materialize. 
That, and pointing out that the Tri Agency “successes”, the harbor
reconstruction, the airport terminal, the waste water treatment plant
and the County’s sewer system have come back to haunt both the City and
County in addition to the “lender of last resort program”.  With those
kinds of “successes” can we really afford more from the renewed efforts
of the Tri Agency?  Perhaps the County’s Board might wish to focus on
issues that actually do matter.

Public Comment was followed by the latest useless effort to make our
local airport meaningful in this Community.  Wow!  Another airline that
will fly us to the Bay Area, Oakland.  Then the cherry on top, two
weekly flights to Hawthorne a suburb of LA.  No interline agreements,
more frustrations, and likely very little improvement over Contour.  For
some unknown reason the “powers to be” do not understand that going to
the Bay Area and now, to the vicinity of LA may not coincide with many
travelers flight plans. Seems like there might just be a few other
places in the United States and else where that passengers on the North
Coast may wish to go.  Perhaps that may be “Why” many potential
passengers travel to Medford in order to travel more seamlessly to the
outside world.  Just saying.

And then the Board proceeded to make more trouble for themselves by
allowing a portion of the County’s homeless to occupy County property on
Williams Drive.  One would think the County’s leadership would learn
from experience that becoming a landlord to the County’s Homeless was a
very poor idea, but, No, 27 homeless at the Legacy to the tune of
millions of dollars, now 110 more to push the dollar amount to near $20
million, maybe a couple hundred million will solve the County’s housing
shortage.  No one would have to buy a house or rent, when the County
would just give them one.

Then on to another of the DHHS’s current crisis, the upcoming vote on
Proposition 1.  A Bond measure put before the voters to build mental
health facilities and to throw more money at housing the homeless
issue.  If it passes, what could possibly go wrong? $6.38 billion with a
“B” which would be funded by stripping funds from already existing
programs at the County level, return the money back to the State, add it
to the already breath taking amount of bond debt by the State, and
increase the debt repayment of the State by $310 million annually for
thirty years, what a deal.  How can Sacramento be even more of a train
wreck than it already is?  And just in time for the State Controller’s
Office to announce that the State has increased it over budget total to
$72 Billion, up from the previously reported $68 Billion.

On to General Business, another hire at the DA’s Office, more turmoil
over the County’s Campground program guide.  Another opportunity for
Supervisor Starkey to pitch a fit.  Finally a pot hole and road repair
item?  Oh, Wait, those pesky non County maintained roads have $50,000 to
be spent up road repair. Wondering why the County roads that were
supposed to be maintained by the County by the Measure “R” funds appear
to be left out?  Oh, that’s right, too expensive! 

*Animal Control, budgeted $100,000, expended $100,000

*Capital Improvements, budgeted $400,000, expended $0

*Code Enforcement, budgeted $150,000, expended $100,000

*District Attorney, budgeted $15,000, expended $15,000

*Jail, budgeted $170,000, expended $125,000

*Juvenile Hall, budgeted $80,000, expended $50,000

*Office of Emergency Services, budgeted $90,000, expended $90,000

*Planning, budgeted $80,000, expended $50,000

*Probation, budgeted $85,000, expended $60,000

*Infrastructure budgeted $760,000, expended $0

*Sheriff budgeted $$400,000, expended $260,000. 

Looks like Measure “R” essential services, Police, Fire, Emergency Services, and
road repair to me.

Then on to the party request by Supervisor “On Vacation” Howard. It
looks like three of our illustrious leaders were invited to a party in
Sacramento where a good time was had by all.  In order to finance this
little shindig, Supervisor Howard using the County’s “Travel and
Training” budget wished to be reimbursed for his out of pocket expenses
for this extravaganza.  While “missing in action” when the Board took up
this stinker, Supervisor Short, another attendee, tried mightily to
justify “party expenses” as an effort to schmooze with the “Big Wigs” to
curry favor “for the County’s welfare…  It went down hill from there. 
Claiming weakly that he “really didn’t expect this to fly, he was
stepping in for his buddy Supervisor Howard since it was on the Board’s
agenda. Then came the prize statement of the day authored by Supervisor
“the government can fix everything” Starkey, who realized that the
optics of the request was looking pretty bleak, chipped in with “I
really didn’t expect to be reimbursed, but the County’s manual
says…….”.  No one on the Board was willing to follow that lead with
even a suggestion of a motion, let alone a second. Unfortunately, this
is a huge sign that our current Board cares little for those they are
tasked to represent, by placing themselves first in line at the public’s

After that debacle, there wasn’t much the Board could do but “spend
money like a house afire”.   Seven budget transfers, one totaling nearly
$!.4 million.  One hopes that the voters in the County are paying
attention when it comes time to vote, because this train wreck has been
going on for awhile in a County that can’t afford its government.

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