By Donna Westfall – January 22, 2018 – The Politics of Exclusion
If you’ve been a regular reader of Crescent City Times.com, you’ve probably noticed a familiar theme that being about corruption. And, if you’re one of those people in this community that has been fighting for an open and honest government, and demanding the highest ethics and accountability of our elected officials, then this article is for you.
On January 12th, the 2017 Chairman of the Board of Supervisors (BOS), Chris Howard was nominated by Sup. 2nd Dist., Lori Cowan and 2nd by Sup 4th Dist., Gerry Hemmingsen to lead the BOS board a 2nd year in a row. Not surprisingly, the vote of 3-2 put Howard back in that seat for another year with Gitlin and Berkowitz voting “NO.”
Before the vote and before the item was discussed, several people spoke to the board during public comment recommending they put Sup. 1st Dist., Roger Gitlin, in the position of Chairman as he had seniority, plus Gerry Hemmingsen already held the seat three times.
Let’s backtrack to October 10, 2017 so you can see and hear first hand how facts are distorted and history is rewritten.
Long time 5th District County resident, Liz Freeman, got up to complain about the board being polarized, and pleaded with Chair Howard and Sup’s Cowan and Hemmingsen to take the high road. It boiled down to her feeling that not only did she not have representation in Sacramento and Washington DC, but with the three of them not appointing Berkowitz and Gitlin to boards like California State Association of Counties (CSAC) or Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), she now had no represtation in Del Norte County.
Sup. Cowan chimed up before Liz reached her seat and implored Chair Howard to allow her to respond. That’s when she shared that Berkowitz left CSAC meetings early, didn’t stick around to develop relationships along with not having been back to Washington DC in years.
So, Bob Berkowitz responded, “I’m really concerned. One Supervisor doesn’t know what the heck she’s talking about.” She doesn’t bother to ask. Bob clarified that he goes back to DC about once every three years developing relationships which concern Federal legislation. It’s federal legislation that will affect what goes on here.
Supervisor Gitlin jumped on board to clarify “A good chairman would look at this and say, ‘How do I bring my board together, instead the chasm becomes wider’… calling it the county of Do Nothing.
The only conclusion one can make from the actions of both Supervisors Cowan and Hemmingsen are that Supervisors Gitlin and Berkowitz want to make changes in the way the county does business so that we can solve some long standing problems and three supervisors are not used to that.
For example, last year Supervisor Berkowitz introduced the Great American Renewal Plan which, if adopted, would have brought in over $300 million dollars to the county to fund a bypass for Last Chance Grade. This would have been complementary to the ongoing efforts to build the bypass, but because it was supported by Supervisors Berkowitz and Gitlin, it went down to defeat.
During the recent budget hearings both Supervisors Berkowitz and Gitlin presented a plan which would have provided the funding for a clean up of the worst blighted areas in the county, assisted in tourist promotion of the Southern part of the county and fixed many of the non county maintained roads funded by savings in the budget, but again, because they were presented by Berkowitz and Gitlin, they were again voted down.
It seems to be an all to familiar pattern. Any plan to make changes to move this county forward that is put forth by Berkowitz, or Gitlin, doesn’t stand a chance.
Both Hemmingsen and Howard are up for election this year. If you want the county to continue to stagnate, if you are happy with the lack of progress we are making on Last Chance Grade, if you are content to live with potholes on our roads, then continue to vote for them, but if you want real change to come to our county, then vote for it in June.
It’s up to you to have your elected officials, lead, follow or get out of the way. Only you can make it happen.
In Part 3 of The Fix Is In, we’ll go into more detail about the BOS meeting of January 12, 2018.