Commentary by Samuel Strait – October 31, 2022
My apologies to those that wait breathlessly for my inane rambling about
the circus like representation we have in this County on a bi-weekly
basis. Four hours and forty four minutes of listening pleasure was
difficult to shoe in amidst a cross country trip of more than 10,000
road miles. Coast to coast with multiple stops enroute, with time to
reflect on the challenges of living in California as opposed to much of
the rest of the Country.
It is not often that our local Board of Supervisors make it through the
bi-monthly Del Norte County Supervisor’s meeting without suitable “egg
on one’s face” moments, and the October 25th rendition was no
exception. With weighty issues on the Board’s agenda such as VRBO’s,
Juvenile Hall Closure, Homeless trash collection and as usual the
Consent agenda, what could possibly go wrong? I suspect that the
ensuing train wreck of indecision, questionable decisions, and flights
of comedy were not too much to qualify for the general dysfunction award
given to local governments that behave in this fashion “beyond the call
of exceptional bad governing bodies”.
It remains clear that our local Board of Supervisor’s is completely tone
deaf to the notion this community has more than enough government
currently on the books that fail in too many ways, for them to continue
to push “more government” as the solution to this impending
catastrophe. I was recently characterized as someone who takes
government accountability and transparency as a paramount concern in my
approach to government malfeasance, that; however, it not even close
to the concern I have over the shear over reach and size of local
government. The current reporting of activities by local Supervisors
give ample reason to become aware of just how far the tentacles of local
government have reached into the lives of the citizens they are meant to
benefit. Worrying about oversight and transparency is hardly a relevant
occupation when our leadership is barely aware of what is placed before
them and that information comes from the various County departments they
are meant to oversee. Kind of like the chickens telling the fox which
way to the hen house. Not going to be very accurate when the fox goes
looking for that hen house.
Following the Supervisor’s report came the much abused consent agenda,
passing 5-0, but not before removing item #16 for further scrutiny.
More on that later. Public comments, more VRBO protests and defenses,
while we await the staff to generate more government intrusion. Then on
to the weighty issue that occupies most residents in the County, that of
natural and cultural preservation in the event of a natural disaster.
Workshop to follow, food and good cheer, plus a little something extra
in your pay check for those that attend. A grant from Humboldt Area
Foundation to pick up the $1200 tab.
The board then had to dig into their costume bag to drag out their
change of wearing apparel to that of the Board of Equalization to
deliberate on the weighty issue of about $400 of additional property tax
being levied on a local family. The County position was that the
additional tax was appropriate according to State law and should be
collected. Clearly the choice between following State law and being
“fair”was indeed a difficult choice for the newly constituted Board, but
“fair” won the day and the local family had a successful day before the
Board. That leaves only the State to weigh in on what the law has erred
on the side of fairness, but shucks the local “clown show” was well
worth the time spent in the “new” duds.
The scheduled items concluded with a return to the costume closet and
the return of the Board to regular business items, that of
reclassification of employees at DHHS, coupled no doubt, with a tidy
increase of compensation for the lucky reclassified employee. Then on
to the general business scheduled for this meeting. A new ordinance
about County campground stays, a pay increase for the County’s
Agricultural Commissioner, now that he has less to occupy him, more
employees for Animal Control because they can’t possibly survive without
a secretary for each entity, now that the Agriculture department is
moving to new digs. Not as though Animal Control could possibly find a
spare secretary when they join the Sheriff’s Department, or that
Agriculture could steal away the one that currently slaves away at
Animal Control. Heavens the catastrophes that await. And finally we
arrive at the door of staff recommendation of the closure of Juvenile
There has been a number of assurances by various Board members at
previous meetings where we have been assured that anything County Staff
recommends we must “trust” without exception. Clearly, that is until
certain circumstances arise. One; however, becomes somewhat uncertain
as to when the moment arrives, when we are to no longer trust County
staff. Apparently, the closure of the “popularity contest winner
“juvenile hall” is one such occasion. What initially became a
presentation by the County’s Probation department head for the
additional information as to “why” Juvenile Hall needs to be in the
County’s rear view mirror, quickly turned into a public crucifixion of
the unlucky soul. As usual the Board quickly turned a quest for
additional information into a public hanging, unsupported allegations
notwithstanding. Fortunately for all involved the action was tabled
before decorum left the room.
While the continuation of life at Juvenile Hall is clearly a step the
County wishes to maintain for some Supervisors, the “how to do it
legally and still have a functional probation department” is dangling
out unsupported for the few juveniles that require the service. As far
as whether or not leadership is a problem for the department, the Board
should make a serious effort at getting the Judicial part of the
equation up to their required duties before the decision to close or
remain open is made. It was truly a mistake on the part of the Board to
proceed without all the players part of the process. And the bumbling
and stumbling goes on.
Legislative issues and budget transfers yet to go, with no end of the
fumbling in sight. 5-0 is the vote, and the tax payers are paying in
Measure R funding to pick up the trash from the homeless. Somebody
needs to tell the Board in no uncertain terms that “trash collection” is
not an ENFORCEMENT ISSUE! HOMELESSNESS is a choice and should be treated
as such. County government and the taxpayers are not responsible for
the care and feeding of those that refuse to take up one of the many
jobs available in this County alone. Homelessness has only become a
serious problem when governing agencies get involved. Spending $50,000
funneled through Code Enforcement to justify the expenditure of Measure
R funding is just another example of why the County should not have the
sales tax money in the first place. A “Working group”, and $50,000 to
spend on an unsolvable issue is the kind of waste that the County’s
Oversight Committee should be all over, yet silence is their answer.
This is precisely why citizens should be less concerned about oversight
and transparency because it is such a waste of time and focus on ridding
us of excessive government.
The grand finale, an oversight by Chair Hemmingsen having forgotten the
item removed from the Consent Agenda is drug into the shining light of
public view. I will spare you the sordid details of the item itself,
chalk it up to “liberal/progressive State government”, but the response
by the Board is priceless. Failing to pass muster at 3 opposed to 2 in
the affirmative, the Department of Health and Human Services must look
for somewhere else to spend taxpayers money on LGBTQ services, as only
one group stepped up from Humboldt County to take up the challenge.
Then the prize for stupidity stood up and uttered a condemnation of
Branden Bieber for his insistence that more items from the “Consent
Agenda” should merit such scrutiny. One only wonders just how many
examples of Staff submissions to the Consent Agenda would have with
stood the light of Public attention and been passed 5-0.
Congratulations to Branden Bieber for cracking an impenetrable wall.
Hopefully we will begin to see more such questionable items pulled from
the Consent Agenda in the future where optics matter.
And the Darwin Award for stupidity goes to Chair Gerry Hemmingsen, also congratulations.