Monday’s Supervisor Meeting on the General Plan Update by Mary Ella Anderson

By Mary Ella Anderson (written May 20th)

Yesterday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting on the GPU – specifically Open Spaces, was not very well attended, although the environmentalists outnumbered the realtor/developer contingent by a wide margin.

Quite unexpectedly, Supervisor Ryan Sundberg played a recorded phone message from an outraged constituent making the point that he had not been truthful in saying that trails were not protected and fully supported in the plan. This is true, as the language was changed by the Planning Commission to water down the strong version presented in the 2012 version. But Sundberg apparently wanted to vent his frustration at being criticized with anger by a constituent and so played her phone message for everyone to hear. His fellow board members, at least Fennel, Bass and Bohn, got a good laugh out of hit, as did Tina Christenson and Kent Sawatsky.

I personally felt offended by Suindberg’s decision to ridicule someone who disagreed with him. It’s the first I’ve ever seen such a thing in those chambers. Mostly the people who have sat in those seats have done their best to maintain decorum under some very trying circumstances. After all, isn’t it part of the job to listen to feedback and treat everyone with courtesy? That was my perception of the responsibility one takes on when one becomes a supervisor. Perhaps I was wrong to think so.

In any case, they did pass some revised language about trails, not as strong as the 2012 version, but all in all it could have been worse.

Something reminiscent of the haggling over where or not the Supervisors needed to express their support for Landlords Rights being equal to Tenant Rights arose in connection with trails, as it appears there is much fear in the hinterlands about the use of “eminent domain” to seize private property to build trails. The Four Reactionaries on the board were insistent that the Open Space element needed to express strong support for “Private Property Rights.” Without reassurances, it was felt that property owners would live in fear trespasser and usurpers and seizures by government entities. Of course there is a body of law that deals with trespass and victims of trespass can call law enforcement and have trespasser removed and prosecuted.

Counsel Ruth intervened to say that private property rights “means different things to different people.” As will trespass, there is a whole body of law regarding property – its sale, purchase, use and so on, and one must question what the whole issue is doing in the GPU. I question it anyway. Sundberg suggested that the staff add Private Property Rights to the glossary that will be added to the finished document. Staff asked for direction. After much discussion, he agreed that the best definition would be Ruth’s “different things to different people.”

There was also a long discussion about hazards such as earthquakes, fires, floods, and so on, that was way more convoluted than it needed to be. Remarks made by Bass as to where other parts of the document covered these topics made me wonder if any of them had actually sat down and read the entire document. One gets the impression that they haven’t read anything ahead of time and are just winging it, based on whatever phone calls they got from the people they trust. Perhaps they didn’t realize that this six figure salary job would require so much reading, and then being subjected to irate tirades on top of that must have seemed like just too much.

Jon, if I’m posting here too much let me know. I’m just a compulsive writer.

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15 thoughts on “Monday’s Supervisor Meeting on the General Plan Update by Mary Ella Anderson

  1. You can’t write too much imho Mary Ella – thank you for your time, effort and concern!

    I’m so glad you mentioned what you did about what must have seemed like public ridiculing. That was one private citizen’s concerns and it seems like such a breach to do what Supervisor Sundberg did. Think about the chilling effect that has on people paying attention.

    It’s not surprising, but it should be called out and thank you for doing so.

    It’s also always important to remember – we are talking about two Democrats joining the Reactionary Four. That is the trick they’ve pulled off and what I and I hope others are working to change.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What was “over the top” was Lovelace flat-out lying by claiming that trails were being “eliminated” from the general plan.

    When it was pointed out that there were numerous references to a “regional trail system” in the GPU, most notably in the Circulation Element, those promoting the false “trails are being eliminated from the GPU” narrative responded that this wasn’t good enough, because the PC took out a reference to a “countywide trail system.”

    Which is a rather strange complaint, since “regional” is actually much broader (and could include, for example, include a rail-side trail connecting Humboldt with Mendecino and points south). But apparently at that point the need to push the false “trails are being eliminated from the GPU” narrative for political purposes outweighed the actual policy considerations.

    But now it appears the spin doctors have modified their party line and a “regional trail system” is O.K. with them now. Great, welcome back to reality, where trails were never “eliminated” from the GPU, the Bay Trail connecting Arcata and Eureka is continuing to move forward, as it has all along, and “regional” is not a dirty word.

    1. Anon xx.x So do the quotes imply you have something to reference or are you using quotes to distinguish what those you disagree with are saying. The quotes nicely imply that was actually said.

      These are the talking points we heard at the time from the apologists who followed the PC’s actions, not from the PC itself when it made the changes.

      In this …”Which is a rather strange complaint, since “regional” is actually much broader (and could include, for example, include a rail-side trail connecting Humboldt with Mendocino and points south).” Are you arguing that those that removed the trails from the Open Space Element were in favor of regional trails? Are Commissioners Ulansey, Morse, Bongio, Edwards, trails actually trail advocates and they did remove the trail language to re-focus it and improve it in the circulation element?

      Or is it simply they got caught and their apologists found a decent mantra to repeat and they are trying to repeat it enough so it seems true(ish).

      Yes, there were other instances of trails in the Plan. But importantly, no, the conservative were not advocating for trails. They were considering the protests of people like Julie Williams and others representing property right’s advocates who are for some reason deathly afraid of trail talk.

      And again, trails is the absolute least of my worries with the GPU. I’m really disappointed the river and wetlands setbacks are not what we were upset about in the Open Space Element. Because that was where the hatchet job was taking place, despite the best efforts of Gordon Leppiq Jen Kault and a handful of other HumCo biologists.

      1. Anonymous says:

        “Stop what you’re doing right now and watch in horror while the Planning Commission eliminates trails and open space from the General Plan Update.”

        – Supervisor Mark Lovelace on Facebook, February 18th, 2014.

        He was lying, and he knew it.

    2. Also, what do you think Sid Berg meant when he said build jobs not bike lanes? Isn’t there a strong anti-trail contingent that would like to define trails in a way that would maximize private property rights and minimize public access? That is where the debate lies I believe, not contentions about who is lying with quotes etc. But the latter garners more votes for those who would like to restrict trail development.

      1. Anonymous says:

        I don’t know what Berg meant exactly, so I can only speculate. My speculation is that he meant that he’d rather see money spent on things that he believes will result in more jobs. My further speculation (and I don’t think this is too much of a stretch) is that at least part of the subtext to all of this was (some) railroad advocates who have become reflexively resistant to trails, because (some) trail advocates have foolishly created a narrative of trails vs. rails. The fear on the part of rail advocates, I believe, is that if trails are installed atop the disused railroad tracks, then if (in their minds “when”) it becomes feasible to rebuild the railroad and restore rail service to Humboldt, then no matter what assurances are given now, when the time comes, the presence of the trails will be used as an argument against allowing rail service to restored, as in “don’t let them ruin our beautiful trails with ugly, dangerous freight trains.” And given the fevered pitch of anti-rail rhetoric that has been emanating from (some) of the trail advocates for many years now, I think the rail advocates are probably correct to anticipate this.

        But, while I think their concerns are legitimate, I also think they’re a bit overblown, and not a compelling reason to oppose using portions of the rail bed for trails in the meantime. I think we should go ahead and put trails alongside the rail (instead of directly on top of it) as much as possible, but in spots that are narrow, or on bridges, etc., go ahead and put the trails atop the rail bed, with clear contractual and/or statutory language in place that requires moving the trail to the side to accommodate rail if/when the time comes. Yes, if/when it comes time to restore rail service, there will be resistance from some trail advocates and environmentalists, but we will just have to cross that bridge (pun noted) when we come to it. The fact is, despite some of the anti-rail rhetoric that portrays railroads as “a relic of the past” this is not the way things are going in the rest of the world, or even the rest of the country. When it comes right down to it, railroads are a far more efficient and environmentally friendly way of moving heavy freight long distances, compared to the alternative of fleets of diesel trucks moving the same cargo.

        By the way, I don’t doubt that there are other aspects to the debate, including fears of eminent domain being used to seize private property for trails, and while again I don’t think those fears are entirely without basis, I do think they are overblown.

        To me the bottom line is that the language approved by the Board of Supervisors (in support of a “regional trail system”) is a good outcome, and I have no problem with this language being included in the Open Space element as well as in the Circulation element. Whatever the motivations and intentions of some of the Planning Commissioners, I don’t think there is any indication that it was ever the intention of the current members of Board of Supervisors to eliminate trails or open space from the GPU. If the trail advocates want to believe otherwise, that’s fine, they can believe that they stopped something from happening that, in my opinion, was never going to happen. And I do think it was helpful to have some push-back against having the Planning Commission re-examine more of the GPU, as this helped clarify for the Board that this was not likely to speed up the process, nor create greater consensus, and that the best path forward was for the Board itself to move ahead with finishing up their review. The buck stops with the BOS, they are the ones we vote for, not the PC.

        Meanwhile, despite all the sturm und drang about the Housing Element, it looks like they actually did manage to get it done before the deadline, which the previous Lovelace/Neeley/Clendenen BOS and PC (and previous BOSs and PCs) repeatedly failed to do. Despite some (from my POV) minor missteps, and a whole lot of misleading rhetoric and hyperbole from those who, for political reasons, have tried to portray this Board’s review and revision of the GPU as highly dysfunctional and totally one-sided, the proof will be in the pudding — the pudding in this case being the actual policies, not the rhetoric on either side. No one is getting everything they wanted, such is the nature of taking a “balanced approach” to contentious issues. Some on both sides will continue to portray any compromise as unforgiveable, but…oh well, too bad, so sad.

  3. Mary Ella Anderson says:

    Anonymous might want to check his knees. I suspect they are jerking. This happens a lot and prevents any real exchange of ideas. Having watched these truisms develop I think a lot of it may be due to a lack of vocabulary and/or sentence construction. When you try to explain that the change of language weakens a goal and alters the intent, the response is not to that point but a retreat to the safety of blaming it all on some well identified villain who is out to create a firestorm and destroy the sacred property rights of the just.

    If you get a chance to watch the recording of the last Open Space hearing, the public includes a beautiful demonstration of the point about language during the public comment portion. Bob (I can’t think of his last name at the moment) applied some of the language changes to portions of the Bill of Rights and the change of intent is clear and very funny. I suppose the language challenged might not get it, and it just might make them angrier, but it does demonstrate why people got upset about it and why we are grateful to Mark Lovelace for letting us know what was going on.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Would have been nice if he could have “let people know what was going on” without, you know, blatantly lying about it. But I guess that’s too much to ask from someone as lacking in self control and puffed up with his own sense of self-importance and righteous indignation as Mr. Lovelace. At least this time he managed to refrain from actual physical violence toward those he disagreed with. Considering some of his past behavior towards his colleagues, I guess that’s progress of a sort.

      Meanwhile, do you have a problem with the actual outcome, in which the phrase “countywide trail system” was changed to the phrase “regional trail system” and if so, why?

  4. Mary Ella Anderson says:

    Your tone is so hostile and once again you have completely missed the point. There is no issue with regional over countywide. The issue was that the language of the entire element weakened the concept of a trail system that would connect communities throughout the county.

  5. Mary, just ignore it. It’s an attempted meme-creation. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is someone very close to the Bass Campaign. The right does all it can to slime Supervisor Lovelace (usually called or pronounced “Loveless”) as violent, lacking in self control, etc. it’s part of the game of sliming the character of the left instead of tackling policies.

    Unfortunately it often works, but it’s important to call it out as often as possible. Just understand it for what it is would be my hope of how people deal with this type of political gamesmanship.

    1. Anonymous says:

      “Mary, just ignore it. It’s an attempted meme-creation.”

      Which Liberal Jon does not engage in at all. Except pretty much in every single post he does, and even immediately following that very comment. In this case the meme is — poor Supervisor Lovelace, so unfairly criticized, and the critic must be a right-winger and part of his opponent’s campaign (so don’t pay any attention to his proven lie about the “elimination” of trails or his admitted loss of self-control towards his colleague).

  6. Anonymous says:

    >>> “Your tone is so hostile…”

    You’re complaining about tone? LOL! First there is the snotty tone of your original post, and then just now: “Anonymous might want to check his knees. I suspect they are jerking….sacred property rights of the just…language challenged…”

    I am certainly “hostile” towards public officials who lie in order to mislead the public for (attempted) political gain, as Mark Lovelace clearly did in this case, misleading lots of well-meaning but poorly-informed followers into thinking that trails were being “eliminated” from the GPU, even though clearly this was not, and is not, the truth of the matter.

    But if your objection really is to the tone of my comments, and not to the substance, it seems to me that one difference between my “hostility” and yours, is that mine is straightforward, whereas yours takes the form of passive-aggressive snark. I don’t see that as an improvement.

    >>> “You have completely missed the point.”

    Or we just have different points that we’re making, but you’d prefer to ignore my points because they don’t feed your narrative. At least that’s what it looks like to me.

    >>> ” There is no issue with regional over countywide”

    Glad to hear that. There were some claims (not by you, but by Eric Kirk, for one) that “regional” would mean only trails in the Humboldt Bay area, and therefore wasn’t as good as “countywide.” I’m glad you’re not confused about the breadth of what could be covered by the word “regional.”

    >>> “The issue was that the language of the entire element weakened the concept of a trail system that would connect communities throughout the county.”

    That’s awfully vague. I’m happy with the language they came up with. If you’re not, perhaps you could be a bit more specific about what it is you’re not satisfied with. In your original post, you say “they did pass some revised language about trails, not as strong as the 2012 version.” If it’s not the difference between “countywide” and “regional,” then what exactly is it that is “not as strong?”

    1. Anonymous says:

      Mary Ella, I’m going to sign off now, due to impending changes in the anonymous commenting policy of this blog (see other thread). But I will look for your response to my last question…you get the final word (at least between the two of us), so enjoy that rare opportunity!

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