Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Opinion Piece By Samuel Strait – January 7, 2023

For those of you that are used to my bi-monthly reports on the local 5-0
Club, aka the Del Norte Board of Stupervisors, I apologize for my
tardiness as internet connections on my Coast to Coast trip were less
than acceptable and the holiday break for the month of December for the
CCTimes has pushed my review of the train wreck found in the
Supervisor’s chambers until now.  Never fear, I will relate to you the
contents of the last three meetings, three you say?  Yes, the County had
the unfortunate experience of another DNBS screw up in the form of
failing to remember the State’s generous increase of the minimum wage to
$15.00 as of January 1, 2023.  Fortunately, since most in the County
already receive a generous wage, only a very few of the County’s
employees were affected.  It did seem that at least according to the
spin cast by Norma Williams, the Union’s president, that this oversight
ranked up there with the sinking of the Titanic or some other major
catastrophe, and she was having none of it.

Anyway, back to the serious stuff contained in the November 8th BOS
meeting, where aside from the “opening ceremonies”, everything in this
lengthy meeting proceeded more or less as normal. Introduction of new
employees, quite a gathering, Board member reports lacking any evidence
their activities are essential, and of course the County Council’s
pronouncement of nothing to report.   How refreshing. The governing took
place in the oft maligned “Consent Agenda”  where the County’s
Bureaucracy runs the show and the BOS dutifully rubber stamps.  Twenty
items this go around with nary a question from any of the Board.

The Board had to at least pretend to be interested during the public
comments, with suitable stone faced normal appearances when things were
made uncomfortable for them, but no real appearance of engagement.  The
vacation rental situation, juvenile hall closures and the Lake Earl Duck
hunting closure led the parade.  Seems that the pointless Sister City
gibberish is still alive and well. Maybe another trip for the “Traveling
Man”, Chris Howard, at the taxpayers expense naturally.  Nothing like
getting nothing in return, except for some airline miles for Supervisor
Howard. Following a dive into the Board of Equalization, the Board moved
on to the “real” business of the Board.

A Rotary Club donation, a public hearing on the County’s five year
housing plan, and another ordinance that is unlikely to be enforced, but
hey, they must be seen to be doing something at least.  Noise was I
believe the culprit to be “corrected” by our ordinance happy BOS.  I
could say more, but the Budget transfers are calling.  THE HEALTH AND
HUMAN SERVICES LED THE WAY WITH $205,000 FOR THE “HOUSING AND HOMELESS
INCENTIVE PROGRAM”.  Must be nice to be homeless in Del Norte County.  I
wonder if purchasing them all automobiles is next on HHS list of
incentives?  The Sheriff’s department got its “cut” to the tune of
$165,00 .  Wondering if the Sheriff’s department will get well anytime
soon?  Then the cherry on the cake in the form of $50,000 to pay for the
homeless to pick up their own trash, compliments of Supervisor “the
government has a fix for every occasion” Valerie Starkey.  A quietly
slipped in $60,000 to waste on the Tri Agency.  Thank heavens
“legislative items” came up before Ms. Starkey managed to spend the
County’s $182 million budget before Christmas.  I suspect that the
County’s “real government” would be unlikely to go along with that plan
as it must be time for Norma William’s crew to start agitating for
another raise or at least an increase in benefits.

After a quick adjournment for November, as the Board took the second
meeting off, whew, dodged another lengthy consent agenda, clearly
something to be made up in December.  Can’t after all, let the BOS think
that they actually matter can we?

December’s supervisorial circus began as most do with the usual opening
ceremonies, closed session report and supervisor reports occurring
during the previous month long hiatus.  Quickly on to the “Consent
Agenda”, twenty eight items.  The “real government” had been busy during
the intervening period.  Nothing to see here folks.  Most who view the
proceedings are unlikely to question the lengthy list of goodies and
benefits to many of the County’s departments, but after all, according
to Ms “stamp her foot” Norma Williams the County’s employees are grossly
disrespected, under paid, and over worked.  Ms. Williams must not be
aware of the hundreds of people paid for by the County to “consult”
thereby “lightening the load” on Ms. William’s forlorn.  Time could be
spent on slicing and dicing the consent agenda, yet the Supervisors seem
unable to muster the energy to do more than vote 5-0 to rubber stamp the
agenda.

Moving on to timed item, Public comment.  More on Juvenile Hall,
Vacation rental issues, and hunting at Lake Earl.   The report by Rural
County CEO, Patrick Blacklock, with plenty of “Climate Change” and the
environment activities by RCRC, but a seeming indifference to the future
closure of Pelican Bay by 2028.  Not so we were informed by super sleuth
Supervisor Valerie Starkey.  I guess we shall see.  In any event, more
Board of Equalization business, and concern over a new housing unit near
Lake Earl which has garnered the attention of the local environazis. 
Seem they didn’t get their way this time around, but hey, nobody gets in
the way of potential money to the County.  The last item to be scheduled
might quell the angst of the environazis with the discussion of the
Coastal Trail north of Point St George to be developed with all kinds of
local agencies participating, including a discussion of “who would
maintain it” once it was completed.  No answers there, but what is new. 
Something for the future to wrestle over.

And then the BOS takes up it’s incredibly important County business, the
praise of a retiring employee, Cannabis taxation, the transfer of Animal
Control to the Sheriff’s department, the Chief Probation Officer to be
overseen by the County, another ordinance on County Camping, and then a
bit of a hiccup occurred when confronted with Queer Humboldt and the
establishment of a resource data base for the LGBTQ and a few other
letters and symbols community which seems to require a separate and
distinct resource data base that wished to utilized a 501c nonprofit
that ruffled a few feathers on the Board.  No second was to follow, a
quick spin through updating the County’s administrative manual, then a
second hiccup occurred.  Two at one meeting, will the heavens remain
over head?   Seem HHS got a bit greedy when it came to management level
employees and it did not go well.  The director of HHS was sent
packing.  How did that happen?

Budget transfers  went like this, a new vehicle for Code Enforcement to
the tune of $32,000, not bad, at least someone is giving the taxpayers a
break, $15,000 to the Jail, $17,000 to Victim Witness, and $64,000 to
move Agriculture from Animal Control.  Legislative Items and Budget
transfer rounded out the day with money being spent, but not so fast. 
Adjournment followed and the festivities continued with the celebration
of Chair Gerry Hemmingsen’s ride into the sunset.

Thought the year was at an end for the Board with Christmas coming up
and the final meeting cancelled, but not so fast.  A Special Meeting had
to be held on December 29th to address the plight of a handful of County
employees who hadn’t been boosted in pay above the State’s new minimum
wage of $15.00/hr.  Oh Dear! What a calamity.  Nothing like five years
to take care of that little over sight.  Ms. Norma Williams, taking time
out from her critically important job at HHS, elected to berate the
Board over this slip up and threaten them with all sorts of Union
inspired mayhem should the Board not heed her stomping foot. Of course
in “Closed Session” the Board also took the opportunity to “run over”
the Chief Probation Officer a few more times for the audacity to put
them on the spot over the proposed closure of Juvenile Hall. Nothing
since has occurred with that thorny issue. The final item involving
money was tabled due to lack of interest.  The 5-0 Club was unscathed
throughout November and December until the opportunity arose for one
more 5-0 vote, not to happen due to lack of attendance, the Board being
short two members, and 3-0 didn’t make the cut.

2022 is a wrap and in the can, hopefully 2023 will see some life
injected into the new make up of the Board and the 5-0 club can retire
in disgrace.  Here’s to a Board with a few questions in a future
meeting.  Let the 5-0 Club retire, not to be seen again.

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