Thu. Feb 29th, 2024

Commentary by Samuel Strait – October 12, 2022

We most definitely would not want our local Board of Supervisor’s to go
“too” far off of the track;  hence, it was with great relief that I am
reporting that during the most recent Board Meeting a return to the
norm, 5-0 in the affirmative, how comforting.  It is not as if any one
had any great expectations of the Board deviating from the dictates of
their overlords, the County Staff, did we?  After all we must trust that
they are there for themselves, and not the public of which they are
employed.  We were assured by the President of the County’s Employee
Union, “stomp her feet” Norma Williams, that they were feeling slighted
by the recent insinuations that they were doing “quite well” on the
backs of local tax payers.  Several times during the course of the
meeting Ms. Williams was ready and waiting to inform the Board just how
far they could go without invoking the wrath of the Union membership. 
Did I detect a bit of cowering by the Board?

In any event the remainder of the meeting was rather informative, which
included regular doses of Ms. Williams histrionics, and more admissions
by the County over their dishonesty regarding Measure “R” funding. The
Concerns over the Consent Agenda which contains most of the County’s
operational business  and appears to have supplanted the need for the
Board of Supervisors remains contentious.  5-0 in any case.  Wouldn’t
want the public to be meddling in the process of paying employees more
while making things easier for them, would we?  More contracts to be
authorized and road trips for Supervisors Short and Howard.  Nothing to
see here folks.

The party moved on to the Public Comment section, where additional
“vacation rental” neighbors came to the party, loudly complaining about
the lack of regulation specific to the inanimate miscreants.  I am sure
there must be some sort of government code somewhere that likely
addresses most concerns, yet the Board appeared at a loss for words.  I
suspect we will hear about some useless flailing some time in the
immediate future in a later Board Meeting which will consist of a lot of
hot air, references to the need for Measure “R” funding, and an early
Christmas present for the beleaguered Sheriff’s department and maybe
even the “beefed up” Code Enforcement Department can join in on the
Clown Show sure to follow.   One additional note, it was informative to
learn that the Board Chair, Gerry Hemmingsen has great patience for the
public during the three minute Public comment periods, if, and only if
the message is something he agrees with, then you are allowed to drone
on for an unspecified time.  Not so much for Branden Bieber. Did
somebody talk about a two tiered society?  Oh yes, that was the
inimitable Ms. Williams.

Enough of the trivialities, and on to the important stuff, another
employee raise, carefully couched in language to disguise it as a raise,
a new “noise” ordinance, 5-0 in both cases, and on to the Chief
Probation Officer’s report about a possible Juvenile Hall closure.  Get
out the crying towels, another sacred cow is in the “hot seat”.  There
is no way around it, that is if “we trust the Staff”, and according to
Supervisor Hemmingsen we have to do that.  And you have to ask “Just who
is running the show?” Clearly the message that once the alternatives had
been dispensed with, the closure of Juvenile Hall was the recommended
path.  But wait a minute wailed Supervisors Starkey and Masten, there
has got to be something, anything that prevents that from happening. 
“The public might just crush us when they hear that bit of travesty”.
Remember all the flack that greeted the Board when Bar O was closed? 
Can’t possibly follow a staff recommendation without more information,
can we?  Trust the staff?  Well, maybe not.

For nearly an hour and a half the Board gnashed their collective teeth
over this development.  You didn’t give us any warning!  Not that both
Probation and Juvenile Hall are currently functional, or that you have
to have a functional Probation Department, but a Juvenile Hall can be
optional?  Oh, No! we should figure out how to have both in a County
that is contending with disasters in multiple County Departments.  Let’s
just see if we can make things worse by trying to figure out how to have
our cake and eat it too.  It should be no surprise that local government
isn’t trying to have a fire tender in everyone’s yard, a police officer
on every street corner, or an emergency hand holder in your spare
bedroom.  No consideration for what is possible in lieu of practical is
in the repertoire of either the City or the County. Both groups are
killing the local population with visions of grandeur and popularity
contests instead of the reality that this County of 27,000 souls just
might not be up to the financial hill being created for anything but
what is necessary.

During the course of this discussion several other shoes dropped with
now what seems like increasing regularity.   Probation has at least six
unfilled positions all budgeted, but unable to be filled at juvenile
hall.  Not only that, not likely to be filled anytime soon.  One wonders
just how many other staff positions remain unfilled throughout the
County?  In addition, it doesn’t appear that pay was the over riding
issue even though we are constantly hearing from the Board and County
Administration that it is.  Who do you trust seems to be the “elephant
in the room”.   Seems that the Board, County Administration, and Norma
Williams are all caught up in a bit of subterfuge when It then becomes a
matter of who you can actually trust?   In any event, the choice is
clearly whether you wish to have a fully staffed and functional
Probation department, or a rapidly sinking Probation department with a
juvenile hall that currently houses two, yes that’s right two, juvenile
offenders?  Not really rocket science here folks, no matter how
unpopular that decision would be.  But the Board, in their steadfast
effort to be dysfunctional, wants “more information” so they might
ponder this weighty conundrum.

I leave you with this last bit of comic relief.  The first being the
purchase of a $10,400 commercial dishwasher for Juvenile Hall before its
imminent closure, and wait for it, to be paid for by using Measure “R”
funding.  Not to fear, the purchase is to go forward pending the
finding of another funding source due to the “poor optics” asserted by
that “Prince of financial responsibility”, Chris Howard.  The final
“fork in the public’s eye” is an effort by Health and Human Services to
“provide stipends to facilitate hiring and retention of Social Workers
and Supervisor staff”.  Nothing like the parade of new hires at HHS to
continue at a mind numbing pace.  If only after all this hand wringing
we actually got “better service”, but don’t hold your breath, as this
seems to be the only way that County and City is willing to grow local
government.

Perhaps the County and City should suspend all future Meetings before
they completely destroy their messaging over Measures “T” and “U”.  It’s
not like there would be any crisis developing should both Measures pass
and reduce the sales tax.  Both governments can’t seem to avoid talking
about the inability to operate functional or practical departments
despite the continued parade of sales tax spending.  Vote YES on
Measures T and U to lower sales tax and send a message to the County and
City to get your house in order before you start asking for more money. 
Vote YES on T and U.

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