Do You Plan to Comment at Tonight’s BOS Meeting?

BOS = Board of Supervisors meeting of course.  Tonight is the night when the BOS is going to revisit their draft of the Guiding Principles.   

Here is what I might say tonight at the Board of Supervisors General Plan Update meeting covering the Guiding Principles.  Are you going to join the fun?  Are you planning to speak?  Good luck if you do and I hope to see you there.


My interest in the General Plan Update is in the name – Plan. I believe with a modicum of planning we could solve a host of seemingly unrelated problems and make life in the North Coast easier, more fulfilling and yes sustainable – environmentally and economically. If we focused on the PLAN aspect of the General Plan, we could work toward more livable spaces, less reliance on automobiles, choice in new housing, maximizing our county’s resource potential, protecting and preserving our ecosystem values, and even maintaining and creating jobs.

I believe with a little planning we could have our cake and eat it to. But this is not the path this Board has chosen to take by deconstructing the previously written principles. Of course we know why, elections have consequences and as Louis DeMartin said as the first speaker during the June 3rd Board of Supervisors meeting “The other four of you (outside of Supervisor Lovelace) …were elected to do the will of the Humboldt people who put you in there.” The question I have is, why four?

Of course Mr. DeMartin is right. He predicted the straw vote count accurately, but how did he know? I mean two of you are Democrats, and two are Decline to States. Mr. DeMartin might argue that all four of you ran to the right of your opponents on property rights issues and all won your elections, so what is the problem?

The problem is that despite Supervisor Bohn’s denial, there are hidden agendas. The first is of course hidden in plain site. This process is run by the stakeholders who are the property owners themselves and the construction and financial support industries that want to have as much elbow room as possible when it comes to governmental oversight. Specifically, many real estate agents, many developers, many mortgage brokers, many contractors, etc. have vested interests in a more lenient set of principles that focus on property rights over sustainability or livability concerns.

But there is another hidden agenda that is also in plain site whose influence is similarly not getting any coverage. In a word, weed. If one takes the time to read Lost Coast Outpost or listen to KMUD one begins to understand the importance and influence of this very profitable agricultural product. We often only think about weed in terms of crime because most of the news reports are about the enforcement aspects, but the influence from the state sanctioned growers has become so great that I believe this is how you can explain two Southern Humboldt Supervisors from different poles of the political spectrum coming together to deconstruct the previous set of principles in favor of maximizing flexibility.

Maximizing flexibility is Supervisor Bohn’s chosen phrase and is in my opinion another way to say relinquishing planning in favor of the private sector’s will to do what they see fit. The public is forced to take a back seat and trust that the private sector will assume responsibility of building appropriately given society’s greater interests, but this is of course setting us up for failure. Private concerns are rightly interested in their own bottom line.

Back to the connection with weed. The growers prefer maximum flexibility because with lax building codes and planning mandates there will also be less reason for the government to be involved in their business. And as marijuana is still illegal, at least federally, minimizing governmental attention is absolutely necessary to many grower’s business interests.

We are going to have these strange political bed-fellows until marijuana is legalized. In the mean time, I hope that as a society we try to understand the forces at work in our local politics. We need to be honest with ourselves and our constituents and always work toward a robust public debate. Unfortunately this process (and btw this meeting by my Supervisor’s own admission) is not and has not been an example of a robust public debate.




6 thoughts on “Do You Plan to Comment at Tonight’s BOS Meeting?

  1. michael says:

    Way too long a comment if there are many people there. I will be brief and need to be elsewhere by 6:30 so please give me cuts if I’m behind you.
    As far as weed goes, a 99 plant per parcel limit allows plenty of medicine and local economic stimulus. I think most cash from the largest scenes leaves the area. The serfs may spend some of their cash here but seasonal residents and out of area owners reinvest less than Mom and Pop. Real estate interests, law enforcement and grow stores are the local winners from the gold rush.

    1. Michael, you are probably right. I have an alternate plan to just ask the question how long should the final product GPU last, including the GP. Should it be 20 years or until a different BOS disagrees with it. As much as I disagree with the current GPU GP, my answer would be 20 years. I emailed this question to the BOS but did not get a reply. So maybe I’ll take that route as I don’t think it’s effective to get up there and rush though one’s comments. Thanks for the advise Julie and michael.

  2. Here is another go. Damn it it is long too!

    I think what has happened here is we are attempting to take the “plan” out of General Plan Update and Planning Department in favor of Supervisor Bohn’s concept of maximum flexibility. I think maximum flexibility is another way to say relinquishing planning in favor of the private sector’s will to do what they see fit. The public is forced to take a back seat and trust that the private sector will assume responsibility of building and planning appropriately given society’s greater interests. This is of course setting us up for failure. Private concerns are rightly interested primarily in their own bottom line.

    I sent four of you an email with a couple of questions and did not get answers so I thought I try here. First of all I challenge you to address each and every phrase addition, change, or deletion from the set of Guiding Principles you received from the Planning Department. I think the extensive work and public input that went into those demands at least that. I’ve endeavored to find the reasoning behind each phrase change, but have not found it. The best I’ve found besides Supervisor Bohn’s idea of maximum flexibility is Supervisor Fennells explanation that the new principles are generally a re-write of the introductory preamble in chapter 1.4 of the GPU.

    Secondly, I would like to know what is each of your understandings as to how long the eventual guiding principles that you approve should last. Should they last 20 years, if so, what about the elected supervisors that may disagree with them in the mean time? Or are they meant to be changed as each elected board see’s fit.

    I’m interested in the citizen’s responsibility, through their elected officials to be able to set a plan for the future. Therefore I hope your answer would be these principles are meant to last and be buffered from the changes of one election to the next. I know this is an unpopular idea, but we need as a society need to be able to set principles for development and stick to them. If we don’t, we forfeit our ability to plan for the future and thus our ability to act proactively against economic or environmental concerns.

    Finally, I’d like to address Supervisor Sundberg’s contention that the Guiding Principles are “so general that they don’t really mean a whole lot.” a) then why change them under such strange circumstances? Why not subject them to a working group like the element portions of the plan. And b) The everyday citizen should not be expected to have to make it through the language of each element. The Guiding principles are a great opportunity for the citizens to have a say. And unfortunately the way this was handled has insured this is the one portion of the GPU where we the public have the least influence. So far it seems the only participation the public has had is they have been allowed to vent. This is not enough.

    I think I can make it though the first four paragraphs in the allotted time. I may have to drop the last, but it isn’t necessary.

    1. I don’t think it went badly, given the numbers. We moved back from the precipice at least. To TOA’s point durning the summer, the Supervisor’s were reasonable and worked together. Supervisor Lovelace had plenty of input which was nice. I think the public input had an impact, and without cruching the numbers, the percentage of environmentalists/smart growthers/lefty’s/etc out numbered the builders/realtors/property owners/rural advocates/undercover weed advocates quite a bit. Especially compared to the 6/3 meeting.

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