Humboldt Conservatives: Tax The Little Gal

Even if their loudest constituents have been participating in a crime, Humboldt’s conservative representatives will do what they can to minimize their taxes moving forward.

Never-mind revenue needs to be devised to balance private sector production and the costs of government we all want and need.  You know things like public safety or even roads.


But no, let’s minimize the revenue from those free loaders and law-breakers who we all have to now admit have helped us get into this disastrous state.

We don’t have enough money (there have been no previous per-acre taxes collected from  weed that would go directly to County government), we have increasing problems with violent and property crime and houselessness, and there are surely growing problems convincing children and students that they should wait to make a decision about smoking or ingesting weed until after they become adults.  Don’t forget the conservation of our landscapes and culture.  These are principles that a concerned conservative (and liberal) should be championing, no?

And what about our law-and-order conservatives that we hear so much about endlessly on KINS.  Can we not see that we are favoring those who have been breaking the law for all these years?

And now we want to legalize this trade while laying out a red carpet and having the rest of us suckers good people pay the tab of incentivizing more criminals out of the shadows so they may pay a gentle tax.

But this is where our conservative leadership is leading us.  This obviously isn’t about conservatism at all, but about money.  Whether it is the value of the land that many will benefit from with the laissez-faire attitude toward weed, or proof of the disastrous and nonsensical tax policy which would be a Grover Norquist’s dream.  A flat tax that is so low that it is designed to bring more people and businesses into the tax stream instead of building a revenue stream which will help pay for known costs of this business.

Twenty-five percent tax reduction when a twenty-five cent reduction was proposed(1)?  Really?  Is this how little our representatives value math?  Now Supervisor Sundberg’s even lower flat taxAll this when we know this regressive sales tax to maintain roads is in the offing from Humboldt County Association Of Government?   Can we the people begin to see the collusion that is going on?

This is government and policy not for the people (or for that matter rationality) but for land owners and it’s being sold to us as if the little gal will ultimately profit.

This has nothing to do with conservatism as we might have defined it under Eisenhower or arguably even Reagan.  This is about Tea Party populist conservatism.  It’s about doing one thing with clear results, and rationalizing it as another.  The only way this has been possible is with a media with a crumbling business model and, sadly, many of those in both the environmental movement and the Democratic Party that are doing what they can to get along and go along.

OK, let us add one more reason to the list:  we are economically desperate.  There are many people in dire financial need and many others living paycheck to paycheck.  People under those circumstances are probably not inclined to pay attention to the nuance of governing.   They will be listening to representatives who are telling them what they want to hear, even if in the mean time they are actually working against their interests.

(1) From LoCO: “Fennell floated a suggestion of dropping the fees by 25 cents across the board, at each level of the progressive tax. After some discussion with fellow supervisors, Bohn said that if it’s gonna be lower he’d prefer it to be a 25 percent cut across the board, rather than 25 cents. Sundberg agreed, and that’s how the item ultimately passed.


Political Actions Without Consequence

June 8th 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 and in-person 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, the people’s political party, the Democrats, have found it worth while to endorse those that ended-up on top as a result of process.  Going forward, we have to ask the question … why?

Why We Need to Oppose the Incumbancies of Supervisors Bohn and Fennell

Their record.

Put simply, it’s a record that defends those that need government the least.

To me, their project was clearest when their hand-picked Planning Commissioner Lee Ulansey, confronted with language in the General Plan Update (GPU) that sought to protect tenants felt compelled to add language to protect landlords.

But that’s just the tip of the dwindling climate change iceberg.  Their record is one of …

a) Defining “public” as the land owners.  The only way the rhetoric that brought them into office makes sense is if you accept that by public participation one means participation by landowners and those that serve them.  Any question of this, pay attention to the GPU now that the mapping has started and notice the efforts they will make to reach out to the “stakeholders”.  You will notice that despite the cries of the Public Participation Workgroup, the current (and final) GPU public process is largely free of public participation.  This makes for a content Chamber of Commerce, a content real-estate industry and a content Resource Lands Working Group.

b) Ushering in Weed Inc.  Pay close attention, because this is something both Supervisors will be walking a razor’s edge to be re-elected.  One the one hand, they will taught their law and order background and will depend on the votes of Humboldt’s conservative religious community.  On the other, in the true libertarian/free-market conservative fashion they will be doing everything they can to put their hand on the scale to minimize oversight and cost-sharing measures that Humboldt or California would enact.  In short they are and will be beholden to the no or minimal government of their Reagan/Rush conservative base.

c)  Their pay-to-play constituents.  The constituents for the government-hating-(but regressive tax loving) Rex Bohn and the property-owner-advocate and SoHum libertarian media celebrity Estelle Fennell is money.   It’s the 10% of the county’s capital that like the status quo just fine and wants to stay on top.  It’s property owners and resource extractors stuck in their own rhetoric and business models and afraid to seek alternatives.  Alternative owners/builders aligned with the Chamber of Commerce aligned with the Resource Land Working Group’s “Large Timberland Owner’s Group” aligned with mom and pop growers.

d) Financing government with the worst kind of taxes – those that hurt those without money the hardest – regressive sales taxes.  Yes, turns out Rex along with all other conservatives actually don’t hate government – they just want to be in charge of it bringing their constituents that have paid-to-play with them.

Supervisor Bohn and Fennell’s record is one of continuing Estelle’s work as a lobbyist for the landowners of the county as the lead of Humboldt Coalition of Property Rights (HumCPR).   With Estelle and Rex in the seats along with the friends of developers Supervisors Bass and Sundberg, the political battle for what money and property needed ended with the GPU Guiding Principle transformation from Summer to Fall in 2013.  Despite the cries that the Principles were meaningless – you really need to look no further to HumCPR’s moribund web site (Fig. 1) to understand their significance.  HumCPR’s political fight ended with the transformation of these principles.   Something done in plain English and something done despite the cries of the very public we were told both Supervisors championed.

The cries of public participation – the ones that insured 3 of the Principles mentioned it were, in short, lies.  They were lies that were boosted by the Tea Party fever of the moment and changed years of work on a General Plan Update that included actual, difficult public participation and agency compromise.

That’s the record that needs to be challenged and it’s a record that many honest conservatives and liberals should be aligned to defeat.

Figure 1.  Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights’ Web Site 4/6/15.


Supervisor Fennell On Manipulation

Can you get somebody? Can you track somebody down? Can you target them when they are going to work, when they are going on vacation? You know, can you identify possible voters, people who are registered and can you manipulate them the way you do everything else?

      -Supervisor Fennell, broadcast 3/25/15 on KINS’ Talk Shop with Brian Papstein

Many of us already know that Supervisor Fennell’s politics is about manipulation.  This is an unsaid truth.  It’s how an individual can move from being a beloved celebrity in her community via a Democracy Now radio station to advocate for land use from the helm property rights lobby organization to becoming county supervisor as a Democrat.

But it isn’t about manipulating people, what Supervisor Fennell does is manipulate the narrative based on the audience at the time – whether it’s HumCPR, KINS, KMUD, the HCDCC, or the (manipulatable?) voter.  Manipulating the story we knew, but manipulating people?  That’s what she said and when she attempted to correct herself she repeated it.

Obviously, under scrutiny I know Supervisor Fennell would take this back.  However, the baseline that undermines the cynicism, the one that connects Brian Papstein’s and Rob Arkley’s anti-government perspective,  Supervisor Fennell and her specific libertarian SoHum constituent’s anti-system perspective, and yes, even cynics on the left that see the whole political facade as a farce, that baseline is … we are already dealing with a hopelessly corrupt system that requires manipulation, of the voting electorate.  (In other words, it’s the “everyone’s doing it” excuse.)

And we all buy into this quite literally.  You and I pay by watching (and being affected by) the ads.  Supervisor Fennell, Sundberg, Bass and Bohn pay in amounts, more often than not, 2x as great as their opponents to media outlets.  Media outlets such as Brian Papstein’s KINS gladly accept this money, deem the manipulation a good and necessary thing, and the pattern continues.

The quote from KINS’ Talk Shop last Wednesday is below the fold, what they meant of course is not manipulating people, but data.  Data can be manipulated to GOTV (Get Out The Vote) with more and more precision.  That’s what they meant I’m sure, but it’s not what they said.

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