One of the few things Mendo’s current Board of Supervisors is good at is ignoring public input with the well-known, “Thank you,” and goodbye. But now they’ve taken it a step further by making it even more difficult for the public to provide the input they so studiously ignore.
A few days ago, in her Supervisors report on Mendofever.com, KZYX/Freelance reporter Sarah Reith said:
“The public is also no longer privy to correspondence with the Board of Supervisors on matters of public interest. Up until the beginning of June, comments addressed to the Board about items under discussion during the meetings would be attached to the pertinent agenda item. They were often plentiful, and they ranged from expert opinions to angry one-liners. But a new system, called Granicus, requires commenters to create a password-protected account, which has not caught on.”
Very correct. “Not caught on…” is an understatement. Reith continued, “Since then, only county documents have appeared on the agendas.”
Apparently, even the memo that elected Auditor Controller Treasurer Tax Collector Treasurer (ACTTC?) Chamise Cubbison wrote to the Board last month complaining about their misinformation and failure to include her in budget clarification discussions was unable to be posted as a comment to the Board’s ill-considered agenda item.
Other documents from well-known and well-established people and organizations which rightfully should be attached to relevant agenda items have also gone astray from Cannabis growers and groups to municipal advisory councils.
If even people like elected office-holders, and representatives of local organizations can’t get their comments to the Board and public or the Board, what about the rest of us? And what about that “accountability” that some local organizations say they plan to demand when the Board misallocates sales tax revenues? If the public and the Board don’t even know about their failures, how can an elected official be held accountable?
Reith noted, “The most recent agenda consisted of 66 items, and contained only one public comment, which was a memo from the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, an advocacy organization that has long been working with the Board and the public to establish and clarify its position.”
When Reith complained about the Board’s obstructionism in person at last Tuesday’s Board meeting, Board Chair Ted Williams shrugged his shoulders and made excuses.
Reith: “Williams responded that he agreed, but that the Clerk of the Board’s office is down from five employees to about 1.5. The union members, who were in the room for public comment, booed and groaned. Williams said the clerk is charged with saving emails as pdf’s, and manually uploading them as comments. ‘We simply didn’t have staff time, based on the number of comments,” he said. “I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have that simplified model that we had before, but it’s a struggle, and it’s not just in the clerk’s office. It’s across the board. Every problem that we look at, we say, we don’t have enough personnel to carry it out. Yes, it’s a problem…I don’t know what that solution is today. It’s not as easy as directing staff to put back in place what was in place previously. Because we simply don’t have the staff time to carry it out’.”
Since technically, there is a process to submit written correspondence — even though in practice it’s essentially non-functional — this arrangement is another violation of the Brown Act, in spirit if not the letter.
Among the County’s many long-standing staff vacancies, the Board Clerk’s small office is one of the most glaring. For all their talk about the importance of “transparency” and such, Williams and the Board collectively shrugging their shoulders at this latest road block to public comment is yet another example of their hypocrisy and failure to deal with the most basic aspects of their duties.
Paired with their recent decision to charge seemingly arbitrary fees for staff time for ordinary local public records requests, the Board’s isolation from the public that elected them is increasing, even as they complain about not having enough information to make decisions with.
And if that wasn’t enough, the Supes have taken a month off — their last meeting was August 16 and their next one isn’t until September 13 when they say that they might get around to starting to talk about their ongoing budget info gaps and unusually high staff vacancy rates.
No public input to ignore for a whole month!
Inland Water Déjà Vu
Back in 2006 the Mendocino Grand Jury wrote a report about the multiple water districts in the Ukiah/Redwood Valley area entitled: “Water, Water Everywhere, But... Mendocino County Water Districts Report.”
In that report the Grand Jury wrote:
“Historically, instead of using a unified consensual approach, various County Water Districts have been embroiled in continual squabbles and infighting, petty territorial and philosophical conflicts, and competition, typically without accomplishing any meaningful results except to generate extraordinarily high legal costs for all involved.
Strategic planning must be done now rather than waiting until a crisis develops. The process of developing new supplies in the face of ever increasing demand will be difficult and time-consuming, especially if there is a material decrease in imports from the Eel River Diversion. Additionally, the potential impact of a typical multi-year drought, as well as outside restrictions on Russian River water use, requires immediate and serious attention to both short and long range strategies.
A properly organized, single entity dealing with UV/PV area water issues can provide the appropriate direction and leadership for smaller independent agencies and special districts to follow in addressing and solving mutual water problems.
There must be a top-down political will to accomplish any multi-agency unification among the various agencies and special districts, with the assistance of LAFCO. The agencies and special districts must be committed to the benefits of unification and consensus. Agencies and special districts should retain their individual water rights even as they work together. The BOS needs to play a pivotal role in the development of this political will and consensus among the diverse independent water entities within UV/PV. Beyond that, citizen involvement and engagement in development of this political will is equally essential.
Because water development, improvement and infrastructure require large financial resources, a unified entity can better provide the financial leadership needed to negotiate with financial institutions about bond issues, as well as to negotiate with political groups and elected officials concerning revenues.
Outside entities such as several State and Federal agencies, ACE and SCWA require an effective County negotiator. A single unified entity would provide a coherent and knowledgeable negotiating force.”
The County provided responses from the Water Agency (Roland Sanford at the time), the Board of Supervisors and the Interimin CEO:
Response (Water Agency): The Water Agency agrees with this finding. Finding 12. Unification or consolidation of water districts, a complex process, requires that all parties or districts concerned must approve such action.
Response (Board of Supervisors): The Board of Supervisors agrees with this finding.
Response (Interim CEO [Al Beltrami at the time]): The Interim Chief Executive Officer agrees with this finding.”
So did the Russian River Flood Control District (RRFCD): “Partially agree. Consolidation would have to be brought before the voters.”
The other water district responses did not address the question of consolidation or unification and two of them didn’t respond at all.
* * *
Fast Forward To 2022…
From Monical Huettl’s Recent Report of the meeting of the Redwood Valley Water County Water District (from Mendofever.com):
“Consolidation with Other Water Districts — Jared Walker reported on his meetings with Sean White, City of Ukiah Director of Water and Sewer, and Michelle Frederick, with the State. They are in talks to consolidate the districts in the Upper Russian River Water Agency (URRWA) with the City of Ukiah. Walker and White will hold a workshop meeting on September 6 with two representatives from each district and Frederick from the State. The purpose of the workshop is to hammer out the details of which entity will be the lead agency in the consolidated group. There is some urgency to get the consolidation done while the State is offering money for this. Building out the infrastructure will take longer. Redwood Valley’s $7 million debt is a complicating factor. The debt is a federal debt with the Bureau of Reclamation; the State of California doesn’t have the power to forgive or refinance a federal debt. Once the parties involved determine the structure of the consolidation, there will be meetings open to the public to discuss.”