BY JAIME YARBROUGH
Tuesday night, March 10th at 6 PM at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds, the Del Norte Tea Party Patriots hosted a town hall meeting with 4th district Supervisor, Gerry Hemmingsen, and 1st district Supervisor, Roger Gitlin. Each opened with brief individual introductions for the approximately 40 members attending. Afterwards several topics were to be explored although time constraints and public questions limited the list to three:
1. Forest Service Traffic Management Plan and the use of Off Highway Vehicles
2. The Del Norte county airport/air service/terminal
3. Sutter Coast Hospital.
Each of which are immensely critical and complex.
Supervisor Hemmingsen, a born and raised resident of Crescent City is, to his surprise, in his 3rd term. He is married with a son and daughter and several grandchildren. He mentioned recent knee surgery that has kept him somewhat sidelined but is almost fully recovered.
The greater reason for his involvement in politics was public access from the beaches to the forest land that surrounds the county. With 80% of the land State or Federally owned he has strong feelings about local control of what is left and the management of “our” public lands. A strong supporter of property rights activist and attorney Fred Kelly Grant, who practically single handedly stopped the NAFTA super highway with the implementation of the constitutional instrument coordination, Supervisor Hemmingsen stated our struggles are not with the Government
per se. “We the People” are the government. It is up to us to demand our rights and desires be realized within the law.
A question was raised about the influence of Agenda 21 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
involved at every level if they expect to see the change they want and stop the change they don’t want.
Supervisor Gitlin was next up with another topic, that being the growing issue with Sutter Coast hospital, the quality and availability of our healthcare. The issue is not just the jobs and medical services but the situation and it’s future have a huge impact on the overall economy of the region, he said. The aging population in addition to the potential influx of retirees is increasingly dependent on access and affordability. If they can’t find it here they will go elsewhere or not bother looking at the prospect of coming here to live.
He championed the efforts of Dr. Greg Duncan and Dr. Caldwell in their fight to crack the veil of secrecy erected by Sutter Health. During the conversation an audience member said Sutter has been flat out lying about their profitability to Del Norte county residents, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development
(http://www.oshpd.ca.gov/), a statewide reporting agency. Supervisor Gitlin did not mince words when he said the motivation for regionalization and critical access was strictly about money and has nothing to do with their non-profit status or the public welfare. With there only being 216 flights out for medical care in 2013, because of
regionalization there have been over 800 flights. The costs are being born by the residents and by Medicare. In short it’s “Greed Verses Service”
Returning to Supervisor Hemmingsen and the topic of Last Chance Grade he said from the 13 proposed routes around the area 6 or 7 have floated to the surface in light of the recent feasibility study. There is no doubt something will happen because the consequences of not doing something are simply unacceptable. All of the north and south
coastal areas would be impacted if the closure would happen which it could at any time. There are very large issues at play from the multiple environmental groups trying to protect old growth Redwoods to the fact several routes are protected by being World Heritage sights. This, in effect, says the remedy for Last Chance grade is not a local
The last topic of the evening was the status of the Del Norte County Airport, our air service, a new terminal, and the much needed expansion. Supervisor Hemmingsen is on the JTPA Airport Authority board and has been in the front line of this issue since coming into office. The recent loss of United Skywest service has only caused to focus on the absolute critical nature of a quick and adequate solution to this issue. As most are aware there is a much needed need for a new terminal and an beefing up / extension to our primary runway to accommodate jet aircraft. Recently Pen Air has received the bid for air service but because of the type of plane they fly and the structure of the air traffic system they will only be offering flights to Portland in the beginning.
Supervisor Gitlin joined in the discussion saying that eventually the turbo-prop aircraft that have long serviced us will eventually all be replaced by jet aircraft and if we cannot take jet aircraft we will simply be without air service. Supervisor Hemmingsen said one of the largest issues aside from the cost is The California Coastal Commission who are demanding a 4 to one wetland exchange for the property required.
The Coastal Commission (http://www.coastal.ca.gov/ ) brought into existence in 1972 with Proposition 20 quickly ushered in the California Coastal Act of 1976. Its initial aim was all about coastal access but, as both supervisors said, “it has morphed over the years into a regulatory monster.”
The meeting ran out of time but Karen Sanders closed with the announcement of two issues that everyone should be aware of and take appropriate action on. The first is Senate Bill 608: known as the Right To Rest Act. And take the online survey for the Superintendent search for the replacement of Don Olson, retiring Del Norte Unified
School district Superintendent. Del Norte’s future is in the hands of our youth. (http://www.delnorte.k12.ca.