It’s a pleasure to let you know the Board of Supervisors at their Tuesday, August 29th meeting, voted unanimously to retain Municipal Advisory Councils (MACs) as an integral and vital part of the local governing process
Most folks figured out that once again County officials created a problem where there was none with this red herring of citizen committee “dissolution,” that was just a thinly veiled, all-out assault on public participation in the local government process.
County officials argued that by “dissolving” upwards of 29 citizen committees, including all six of the existing Municipal Advisory Councils (“MACs”) located in Gualala, Hopland, Laytonville, Redwood Valley, Round Valley, and Westport, was absolutely necessary to address what they claimed was a “structural deficit that is projected to grow to more than ten million dollars ($10,000,000) in fiscal year 24/25, at which would deplete most of the remaining reserves.”
That claim, along with similar assertions of the alleged adverse fiscal impacts of citizen committees is found in a 12-page memo-report prepared by the County Counsel’s office, that proved in the end to be heavy on rhetoric but woefully lacking in specificity.
To that point, Supervisor Dan Gjerde said, “We have a $7 million structural deficit. We probably have a $10 million structural deficit looking at next fiscal year. These cuts today are actually very tiny, and they’re kind of a distraction from the work that we need to be doing. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, this item landed on our agenda without consultation with the supervisors early on, when we have much bigger items to cut that are not even on our agenda yet.”
Gjerde also said that CEO Darcie Antle failed to follow standard agenda procedures: “I do think it’s unfortunate, because I have a standing request with the CEO that before any budget-cutting items come to the Board, that the CEO personally meet with each of the five supervisors, which is what a city manager would do, and make sure that there are at least three votes. But more importantly, that all five supervisors know of the proposal, and have an opportunity prior to publishing the agenda to have some input on the agenda. That didn’t happen here.”
As was mentioned at the beginning of this piece, another thing that didn’t happen was the dissolution of the six MACs. Here’s how it played out.
It seemed likely that on the day before the Tuesday meeting, there were three Supervisors who were going to support the retention of the MACs. Supervisors John Haschak and Dan Gjerde were onboard with their support of MACs from the beginning of this bad idea. It was also believed that Board Chairman Glenn McGourty was not in favor of terminating the MACs and supported keeping them in place. Supervisors Ted Williams and Mo Mulheren were known to favor terminating the MACs, and replacing them with non-profit organizations or NGOs (Non-Government Organizations).
However, at the start of the discussion on the proposed dissolution of the various citizen committees, Haschak requested a “straw vote” on how many of his colleagues supported keeping the MACs in place, as is. Haschak, Gjerde and McGourty all voted to retain the MACs, while Williams and Mulheren demurred.
Later, subsequent to lengthy public comment, all favoring retention of the MACs, the official vote was taken, and all five Supervisors joined in a unanimous vote to leave MACs in place.
At the meeting, I thanked the Board for doing the right thing, but it never should have gone as far as it did. So thank you to everybody who lent your voice to the effort, it didn’t fall on deaf ears.
I want to thank everybody who worked with me to get this problem solved, especially Sheriff Matt Kendall and Alison Pernell, Planning Commission Chair, for their great assistance on this issue.
Here’s just a few of the many comments from so many people who got involved in this issue.
“Dear Jim, Thank you for the ‘heads up’ regarding this agenda item. I wonder how much it cost the County to pay for this non-starter of a recommendation? Undoubtedly it cost many times the alleged costs of all the MAC’s and several of the other volunteer commissions and boards combined that are on the chopping block. This item caught me totally be surprise, so I can’t weigh-in other than to make it clear to Haschak that at the very least I strongly oppose the process! Great way for the BOS to show its appreciation for all the volunteer hours given to the betterment of the County by hundreds of citizens.” — Willits Resident
“Jim Shields, Adam Gaska, and Chris Boyd, a member of the Redwood Valley MAC, deserve a big round of applause for their published comments about the Board of Supervisors’ continuing mishandling of important local government functions, from Municipal Advisory Councils, cannabis regulations, and the forced merger of the Auditor’s and Tax Collector’s offices in a bid to undermine the current elected official who is now forced to oversee both. Thanks to the Anderson Valley Advertiser and Mark Scaramella for keeping up with issues that seldom receive attention as local media coverage continues a steep decline.” — Mike Geniella, Ukiah
“As someone who lives in an “outlying” area of Mendocino County, I am often frustrated by the lack of solicitation of ideas from those of us who don’t live in the Ukiah area. Because we are 1 hour away from the County seat, it can make participating in democracy difficult. The various advisory boards and MACs are great examples of how common folk can get involved in the process and have a voice. Lucky for us, the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council gives us that voice. Please re-consider the proposal to dissolve the MACs. It’s a terrible idea.” — Jayma Spence, Laytonville
“MACs are vital to our local democracy. They are an efficient use of community resources, they aid local decision-making, and are vital to local democracy. As a Mendocino County Planning Commissioner, each time I review a project for its merit and facts, I always look to see what the local MACs comments are. This is important to me because I know that MAC comments represent more than a single voice, they represent a consensus of the community on any given topic. I find it extremely valuable to have community members discuss issues at length at their respective MAC meetings and provide county staff, boards and commissions with succinct comments that assist us in our decision-making. Dissolving the MACs will not solve the county’s budget woes, but it will suppress local democracy and participation. I urge you to maintain the status of MACs in Mendocino County.” —Alison Pernell, Mendocino County Planning Commissioner
“The MAC has been instrumental in connecting people in Redwood Valley, in augmenting a sense of community and cooperation. I’m sure this is true for the other MACs as well. An informed citizenry is vital for a healthy society. Nothing is more important, in this difficult age of divisiveness than bringing people together under a common purpose, and in ensuring that diversity is supported. This is a benefit unmeasured by County Staff, but it goes a long way toward ensuring that response to future challenges and emergencies will be better anticipated and coordinated. You can’t buy that. This is precisely the moment that calls for MORE citizen participation, not less. So let’s work together. — Chris Boyd, Redwood Valley MAC Board Member