Political Actions Without Consequence

June 7th two Supervisors will walk into their second term with no real competition.  What happened?

Those that could or should be fighting against this have been silenced, not by others, but by ourselves.  We’ve tried and failed and found the rhetoric and power of those in charge just enough to fall in line.

The Democratic establishment in Assembly-member Woods and State Senator McGuire came out early endorsing local conservative Supervisor Rex Bohn for the 1st District.  No citizen stepped up to run against Rex.  The local Democratic Central Committee endorsed local incumbent Democratic Supervisor Estelle Fennell for the June 7th election.  Courageous and wonderful but ultimately un-electable wood-worker and musician Glen Rogers is Estelle’s only competition.

These two Southern Humboldt Supervisors were elected in part during the final hurrah of Tea-Party politics in 2012 because they promised a libertarian view of populism.  The truth behind their power is always veiled as much as possible.  Rex’s conservatism isn’t Republican, he is (last I checked) No Party Preference insuring that those who are not paying close attention don’t ask any questions – say, for example, two prominent Democrats.

Supervisor Fennell will never proactively mention her previous work with local property rights advocacy group Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights even though this past helps define to a T her guiding governing philosophy and actions over the past 4 years.  This includes of course bringing two HumCPR partners to the Planning Commission.  This combined with Supervisor Bohn’s and Bass’ nomination of a local construction workers and Supervisor Sundberg’s nomination of his campaign manager, business owner and previously very active advocate on most matters of land planning laid the ground work for a land use planning process that insures that government protection for natural resources, including agriculture and open space is at the very best now subject as much to market fluctuations and necessities as it is to any public mandate to protect.

Here is what Supervisor Fennell answered when asked during the recent debate on KEET  “What is your philosophy on open space and agricultural land” she said this…(see 17:20 min in)

“I think we need to protect open space and agricultural land.  We’ve gone very very far in doing that in our General Plan Update (GPU) and I think we will see more of that as that comes into implementation…. I think you are going to see lots of good policies that are going to address the issue of preserving open space and also preserving the areas between municipalities to give that feeling that is so precious to us in Humboldt County.  We’ve got lots of open space for us to enjoy and we want to protect it.”

But doesn’t this contradict, prima facie, what Supervisors Fennell and Bohn brought to the Board on June 3rd, 2013?  As I’ve written about ad infinitum, Estelle and Rex rushed to the board a new set of Guiding Principles to the GPU which gutted the work of demonstrably more public process.  The changes literally removed any government mandate, no matter how weak in reality, to “protect” agriculture.  The also added flowery meaningless language which in-effect removed any mandate to protect open space.  From the North Coast Journal:

Guiding Principle #6:

  • Original: Protect agriculture and timberland over the long-term, using measures such as increased restrictions on resource land subdivisions and patent parcel development.
  • June 3 revision: Encourage, incentivize and support agriculture, timber and compatible uses on resource lands.  (“Protect” is gone.)

Guiding Principle #7:

  • Original: Protect natural resources, especially open space, water resources, water quality, scenic beauty, and salmonid habitat.
  • June 3 revisionHonor landowners’ rights to live in urban, suburban, rural or remote areas of the county while using a balanced approach to protect natural resources, especially open space, water resources, fisheries habitat and water quality in cooperation with state and federal agencies. (“Protect” is now balanced with honoring land-owners.)

I’ve asked both Supervisors directly how they came up with the revisions and neither would answer the question directly.  A very important aspect of public participation is public accountability, and on this critical change in the nature of the GPU, there is no accountability.  Both Supervisors understand if there had been, their re-election would have been more difficult.

So Estelle must be able to admit to herself, if not to us, that on some level she is being disingenuous to promote herself as someone who is working to have government be responsible for protecting natural resources and open space.   Having spoken to Estelle about this and having argued this topic online with former like-minded advocates such as Peter Childs and Lee Ulansey I believe the way Estelle squares the circle when she says this “I think you are going to see lots of good policies that are going to address the issue of preserving open space and also preserving the areas between municipalities to give that feeling that is so precious to us in Humboldt County” is that in her mind, the new coordination between private and public will be much more effective than the previous status quo of no action.

What she won’t say of course that the movement forward from no action to property-owner-approved action was based entirely on the intransigence and power of her former employer and those it represented.

In other words, now that they are in control of the process or at the very least they are honored by those in control, property owners will in the future work with government and environmentalists concerns about protecting open space and natural resources.

Imagine for a moment what would have happened if those already economically less “honored” by our society, say, renters or the homeless had this kind of power to change the laws.  For one, if by some miracle those without economic means in our society were able to grasp power for an election, we’d surely hear about it during the next election.

But there won’t be any push-back this election.  On June 8th, both Supervisors will find themselves with 4 more years at their job. (to include their self-imposed $7,000 annual raise ).  One Supervisor will have won an election against an un-electable opponent and the other will have won without competition.

What happened to democracy, or for that matter the public participation that both candidates ran on in 2012?  Quite simply, it has been co-opted by the green-rush, by job creators and by property owners.  All of these constituents have a great deal more at stake in these elections than the public at large does, at least on paper, and when push comes to shove they have the time, resources and motivation to play a game the left either can’t or won’t play.

And sadly, my political party, the Democrats, have found it worth while to endorse this process.  Going forward, we have to ask the question why?

What Really Happened at the Nevada Democratic Convention

Thom Hartmann interviews Erin Bilbray a Super-delegate from Nevada.  It is a welcome dose of reality from what cable news, and the rest of the media will report on the Nevada State Democratic Convention last Saturday.

I’ve posted this onto a SoundCloud account.  It is too large to stay there indefinitely.  If you get to this post after it has been taken down you can given me a call at (707) 496-5311 and I will e-mail the show to you.

Also, sorry for the writing hiatus.  I’m gearing up for a run for Eureka City Council Ward 2 and I’m having to re-direct priorities and focus.

BTW, if you are interested in helping this campaign to help continue to move in the  a direction which would focus on the priorities of working people, building an economically and environmentally sustainable future while retaining compassion for all of our citizens (and, heaven forbid, non-citizens?), give that number a call.  This is going to be a campaign depending much more on volunteering resources to get the word and vote out rather than $$.

Continue reading “What Really Happened at the Nevada Democratic Convention”

BOS After Another Critical Common

From yesterday’s Times-Standard two verbatim letters to the editor regarding a Board of Supervisors meeting today.

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Serious concerns about proposed library budget

I am writing to you because I am VERY concerned about the budget problems of our public library. I understand there is a proposed budget that saves money in part by cutting staff in the library’s Public Services department that will severely affect the ability of our library system to provide the important public services Humboldt County residents get from our library. I also understand that this proposed budget would first be presented to the Board of Supervisors at a public hearing on April 25. This proposed budget will cut important positions including the public services manager position, which will severely reduce the library’s ability to be a library that provides many kinds of information services. For a library the size of Humboldt County Library, the staff is already small with many positions cut or left unfilled over the last several years resulting in a workload that is already heaving in all departments. Other positions to be cut now include the part time fiction buyer, a critical task. Why are crucial positions being cut, with no plans on how those tasks are to be fulfilled in the future, rather than making, for example, smaller across the board cuts for all departments and positions? Please join me in contacting the Board of Supervisors to encourage them to become involved in saving vital service functions of our crucial and important library, rather than just accepting this proposed budget that will be so damaging to critical information services.

Emily Siegel, LCSW, Eureka

Dear supervisors: Libraries do not need more cuts

It has come to my attention that there is a proposal to cut funds for the library’s 2016-17 budget year. This will be going to the Board of Supervisors April 25 at their 1:30 p.m. meeting. Having been a library patron since learning to read, I find that this is not acceptable. I hope other supporters of the library will try to attend this meeting on Monday. The board needs to hear from you.

Carol Kinser, president, Friends of the Fortuna Library


Our libraries are a critical component of an improved quality of life for all of us, in other words a critical aspect of our public sphere.  They have suffered enough cuts in the past decades and this needs to stop.

Unlike the funding darling de-jour, libraries do not have a direct link to public safety concerns, but if we continue to gut our commons, the ultimate result will be a need to spend more and more money to keep those who haven’t kept up with the economy locked up or shipped away.

Supervisor Bass and peers, please don’t make any more cuts to our libraries.

Bernie DID Get His Clock Cleaned

For more.

Democrats Behaving Badly

As the one party in “one party rule”, sometimes center-right Democrats need to bite their tongue and do some hard work they feel they need to do.  You can tell this is happening when there is a request for a secret ballot or debate behind closed doors.

Those payinHumboldt County Democratsg close attention won’t soon forget when the Coastal Commission with many Commissioners appointed by Democratic elected officials went behind closed doors to fire their Executive Director, Charles Lester.  By all accounts outside of most land owners and developers Mr. Lester was someone who excelled at his job – protecting California’s coasts.

Last night, in a monthly meeting with typically low attendance and after a poorly planned and executed vote, Supervisor Estelle Fennell finally won a long-sought endorsement from the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee.

The vote by secret ballot was at least 8-6 (it was not announced if there were more than 8 votes for Supervisor Fennell).  Members present where Chair Bob Service, Vice Chair Milt Boyd, Secretary Barbara Kennedy, Vice Treasurer Phillis Seawright, Pam Service, Arcata Councilmember Michael Winkler, Julie Timmons, Roger Smith, Kathy Sobilio, Kathryn Donahue, Chris House, Richard Leamon, Pam Cahill’s proxy Matthew Owen. (I’m missing someone and for the life of me I can’t think of whom – apologies to that individual!)

Both Barbara Kennedy and Michael Winkler spoke out eloquently against the eventual endorsee.  Thank you btw to both of you for your passion and focus on issues and Democratic values.

In 2014 when the 4th District had an extremely competitive race there was a more formal and transparent process.  These were the results of this vote.  These were the members present last night that supported Virginia Bass who like Estelle Fennell votes consistently to favor private interests in their attempts to direct the process of public land-use planning,

Those members from 2014 who did not support candidate Chris Kerrigan and voted last night were Phillis Seawright, Pam Cahill, Richard Leamon, Milt Boyd, Pam Cahill and Chris House.  If I was in charge of rounding up votes to insure Supervisor Fennell did not get the endorsement, these are people I would like to have not been present last night.

Lookit, I don’t begrudge any of those who voted to endorse Supervisor Fennell as she faces her second election – all Democrats are not going to agree.  The problem is that the endorsement process is the one method the HCDCC does get to put it’s finger on the balance of issue advocacy.

Last night the HCDCC failed in connecting the dots in local issues and greater Democratic goals which necessarily include the public’s (our) ability to plan, and make difficult decisions for future land use.  We* endorsed a candidate who subverted democracy and true public participation in the name of public participation.

And it is obvious that we knew what we were doing because we requested and executed this vote in secret.  I understand the necessity for secret votes, and I can anticipate the argument that posts like this are exactly the reason we need secret votes.  Sincere question, is this true?

This isn’t about divisiveness.  This isn’t about unfriendliness or dislike.  I hope this isn’t perceived as bullying or intimidation because it certainly isn’t intended to be.  This is about policy and on matters critical to the future of our County.  Supervisor Fennell and those Members last night who voted to have Humboldt County Democrats endorse her have put the stamp of HCDCC approval on her confounding first term.  Her legacy already promises to be with us for decades given the divergent path she chose from previous work on the General Plan Update, with support from Supervisors Bohn, Sundberg and Bass.

Yes she has chosen the “D”, but that alone cannot define who we are as Democrats.  To an unaccountable majority in the HCDCC last night that “D” trumped (sorry) democratic issue advocacy by the official voice of Humboldt Democrats.  And I think this is the reason for the secret vote.  This is Democrats voting like property-rights advocates, people know it isn’t the Democratic thing to do and they’d rather not have their name attached to the vote to endorse Supervisor Fennell.

It’s Democrats behaving like Republicans in a county that has a 25 point Democratic edge in State-wide elections.  In other words, it’s Democrats behaving badly and they’d rather not be accountable for their votes.  imho.


*Now “they” as after the meeting I resigned as an Associate Member as it was the only way I could have written this piece without being subject to removal.

Blind Spots

We all have blind spots.  Ourselves, our institutions, our society.

Blind spots are simply those things that well meaning people miss either by denial or omission.  As Donald Rumsfeld might describe them they are either the known unknowns or the unknown unknowns.

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Here is a short list of local blind spots of local institutions.  I believe these current blind spots will help define our common future.

a) A Democratic Party (local, state and national) that has largely forgotten it’s responsibility as the party of the 90%.  Reference:  Thomas Frank’s Listen Liberal.  Solution:  We need all need to get involved.

b) A local environmental movement which largely forgives or forgets about the cumulative effects of our largest and growing agri-dustrial sector.  Reference:  Fundraising letter from EPIC below the fold.  Solutions:  Demand accountability from those we task with being the conscience of our commons. Also, greater structural changes.

c) Businesses that have forgotten or deny that their own workers deserve a living wage and this is critical for any sustainability of our society into the future.  Even if they themselves cannot afford to pay these, they rightfully should be advocates for the injustice of the status quo and helping us to define where it is we need to go.  Reference:  Co-op and Eureka Natural Foods as two examples who sell sustainability, except when it comes to living wages which they will fight against either with silence or advocacy.  Solution:  Get the word out to those businesses you frequent that the wages of their employees is important to you.  Also, greater structural changes.

d) An economy  and society that only remembers that some percentage are not making it when they are forced to live in the same vicinity.  Reference: Houselessness in Humboldt and Eureka.  Solution:  Greater structural changes, not what we are currently doing.

There is an unintentional theme here.  It’s how we all make our own lives and priorities match with what is essentially an economic system with winners and losers.  This takes us back to a), our Democratic political party which has dropped the ball and needs to regain focus combining FDR’s view of governmental action against a rigged economy with a continuation of LBJ’s action on civil rights and racial justice.


Continue reading “Blind Spots”

Lifting the Cap on Social Security Taxable Income

Why not?  I just don’t understand this.  It can go a long way towards making Social Security solid for decades into the future.  In the clip below from This Week with George Stephanopoulos yesterday, Bernie is arguing it can also be used to expand benefits.

Why isn’t Hillary fighting hard for this?  Like President Obama passing the Affordable Care Act, expanding funding to Social Security is a tangible movement a Democratic leader could make to restoring an America which is striving to reduce poverty.  Especially in the most vulnerable of populations, especially after a life of work.

Why not have those privileged to be making $250,000 and above pay the same Social Security tax those making less than that have to pay?  It does not make any sense and what makes even less sense is that we don’t hear about this more often.

Thank you Bernie for making it through the baloney questions from George Stephanopoulos and talking about policy.  Even if you only had a couple of minutes to do so.

Fortuna Leads by Adopting the CCA Ordinance

Councilmembers of Eureka City Council, let’s follow your colleague’s lead on this too please.

From page 2 of today’s TS:

The Fortuna City Council adopted a Community Choice Aggregation ordinance Monday that authorized the city’s participation in a CCA program implemented and operated by the Redwood Coast Energy Authority.

And this:

Power is generated by the CCA but uses the existing wire and infrastructure already in place to distribute power. In this case the infrastructure is owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which will still deliver meter and bill for the power purchased by the CCA.

Not quite.  Power won’t be generated by the CCA, but they will be buying it from those that do.  This is why Eureka’s participation up front will be very helpful.  More meters (in terms of Eureka’s significant portion of Humboldt’s population) means more leverage to get the best prices.

At least as I understand it, and yes this is all very new and confusing so we are all allowed a learning curb as we find ways to add what hopefully will remain a local public option as competition to a monopolistic public utility who is not intrinsically interested in promoting local energy production alternatives.

 

“Qualified”gate: A Mistake by Bernie.

Last night Bernie overstepped.  Kevin Drum of Mother Jones writes this indicates the rhetoric has been elevated to “DEFCON 1” and and John Amato whom I will reference below writes this augurs a “really brutal” stage of Democratic primary for those of us with something at stake in this process.

Here is the clip from a Bernie rally in Philadelphia last night.

And here is a good summary of the clip in context of the day’s media events from John Amato founder of the website Crooks and Liars.

Some thoughts…

a) Hillary had not said Bernie was unqualified, but she did not rebut MSNBC’s repeated and slanted question.  Former Republican Congressman and Trump apologist Joe Scarborough asked 3 times if Hillary thought that Bernie was unqualified followed by answers by Hillary about why she thinks she would be a better President than Bernie. (find clip of this in John Amato’s post linked above).  In the end, although not affirming that Bernie would be eminently qualified himself, Hillary does rightfully conclude that the voters should be making the decision.

b) Yes, there was an “if” to Bernie’s statement and he wasn’t speaking about Hillary the person as much as he was talking about that stuff he is trying to get through our thick skulls.  …but…  He can’t ever forget he is running against potentially America’s first woman President and a man of the left cannot call a woman who is arguably the most qualified person in America to be President given her experience as a Senator, Secretary of State and even First Lady unqualified.  It will be seen as part of a familiar pattern to 50.8% of Americans, not to mention those men who can see what is going on.

(unrelated bonus bullet-point) c)  Note to Bernie’s staff – make sure he stands well above the podium in the future.

Bernie shouldn’t have said what he said. Hillary is eminently qualified to be President  AND our system is rigged by money and elected leaders such as former Senator Clinton have made horrible decisions like going into Iraq and failing to protect American workers.

Now when I Google the search term “hillary unqualified” to find the video linked above the ad that shows up is Hillary’s official campaign website.  Good move Hillary!

Politics.  AmIright?

RCEA Selects TEA to Lead CCA (What?)

At last night’s Eureka Energy Committee (EEC) meeting Matthew Marshall, Executive Director of Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA)  introduced Jeff Fuller of The Energy Authority and Sean Marshall of Lean Energy as the group selected to head up Humboldt’s Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program.

This will be a big change and I hope Eureka via our City Council will help lead Humboldt into what has been a successful and sector-changing in counties such as Marin and Sonoma.

My request is for the Eureka City Council to push this to the top of their upcoming agenda to find out as much as they can and make their decision sooner rather than later for Eureka.  If this CCA as organized by the RCEA is found to be solid,  Eureka could then join with other leading jurisdictions who will be going through the same decision process.  If Eureka can join other leading jurisdictions which is likely to include at the very least Arcata, having Eureka’s electricity consumers on board means more meters (customers) for those running the CCA.  More meters a greater economy of scale meaning more leverage and options for those running our CCA as they traverse the changing energy marketplace.

Eureka, let’s take the lead in shaking up PG&E’s electricity production monopoly.  The technology and the resources exist in, for example, local biofuel plants and rooftop solar, what comes next is the infrastructure to handle and promote local electricity production.  Let’s lead this necessary change.