DEC. 2, 2009, WED. 7 PM, CIVIL LIBERTIES HOUR, KMUD RADIO (KMUD STUDIO w/ call-ins, recorded by KMUD Engineer) Transcribed by Suzelle (CLMP).
BONNIE BLACKBERRY, CLMP, & Humboldt Co. 2nd District Supervisor CLIF CLENDENEN
BB: . . .We're going to be talking about the Code Enforcement Unit, the Planning Commission and the General Plan Update, and Public Participation in the Planning Process, and other matters. This is a call-in and I encourage people to call in and ask questions. . . [Clif has revealed that he is struggling through a bad cold, but will stay with us as long as he can.] We wanted to start out with what happened yesterday, with the Code Enforcement Unit coming up before the Board of Supervisors. That was postponed until the 15th?
CC: Yeah. Once we got going there was no good solution there; we had it on the agenda. The agenda was actually prepared right before Thanksgiving, and, ideally, we would have sent that out with the attachments to the Code Enforcement Task Force and other interested parties that are on the CAO's List of Interested Parties. But that didn't happen, so I phoned a few people including yourself on Saturday and Sunday, and then Loretta, our CAO, sent out the items for the Board Meeting on Tuesday, on Monday morning. But the attachments didn't make it through, so apologies to all for not getting that off to a very good start. Then we were in a quandary. . .People had called me and emailed me and said, "We really need to hold this over for more comment." And so I talked to Loretta early Tuesday morning and said we needed to do that. And she was already on that page. Yet, folks like yourself and Dan Taranto had already gotten the late notice and made the effort to be there, so we did hear from you folks, but we look forward to hearing from you when we take this up again.
BB: Yeah. To send this out on Thanksgiving weekend with the subject that has brought so much attention and interest from the public, I was just pretty surprised that it happened like that. I would have thought that there would have been some more notice and not during a holiday weekend.
CC: Not a great time. And nothing that really happens during this time of year (I mean, in a little bit of defense) nothing really works real well here, because there are a lot of things that have to get done before the end of the year in every year. I remember observing the November and December Board Meetings after the election last year, because as Supervisor-elect they sent us a packet, and they were jam-packed. It was the same thing. Hearings sometimes go till six o'clock and a ton to do. It's unfortunate that here we are, a year after the Code Enforcement Task Force, and I'll take a big chunk of that responsibility in being new, and being on the sub-committee with Supervisor Duffy, who was on the task force. It doesn't help things, but just lots to do, and we should have tackled this at a time when there was a more clear agenda, and we could do more notices.
BB: And now, it's going to be right before the Christmas Holiday. The timing! I was pretty disappointed that these documents were created, the draft for the new Statement of Responsibilities, and the Oversight Committee, and the Options, were done a month, a month-and-a-half ago, and why wasn't, at least, the people who had worked on the Task Force given this information? Or the Public? Is there some reason to hold it back until the last minute?
CC: We were kind of looking for a full product, and we were also in discussions with the Sheriff, and discussions with the District Attorney, and meeting amongst our own staff and committee to try to decide what were our options. And those options have changed, as it says in the item, there are two. And again, we're just prepping all the options. The Board in open session will decide. Since I've already discussed this at length with Supervisor Duffy, I won't know what Supervisor Smith, or Bonnie Neeley, or Mark Lovelace are thinking until open session time. In order to get this going, we . . .(Sorry, I lost my train of thought here.)
BB: So you helped create these new options. . .
CC: Here, I can pick it up. So, basically we need to have the options that are legally or statutorally, or other otherwise available to us. We need to basically present those options to the public and Board, which is what we've done: We could have a non-sworn officer, which is another way of saying, "He doesn't have a gun. . ."
BB: A gun and a badge.
CC: Right. That's one model, so it could stay in the County Counsel's Office, as it exists right now, or it could be a sworn officer and, in that case, then we'll either need the District Attorney or the Sheriff to deputize and supervise that individual.
BB: Which previously the Code Enforcement Unit was operating outside of the law by having that Police Officer be a Code Enforcement Officer without having the proper law enforcement supervision.
CC: Yeah. There were things wrong with that. I won't deny that.
BB: And that stuff, what was wrong, was brought up by the public, and the Code Enforcement Task Force brought that to the attention, so now it's like, to have this deputized officer as your Code Enforcement Officer, it says in here, it's going to cost an extra $175,000 to do that. And that, out of the 25 Counties that you surveyed, the only one that has had a Code Enforcement with Police Officer powers is Humboldt County.
CC: Well, an interesting point to note on page two there, sixth paragraph of that item, I specifically asked Loretta about this line: It says, "However many if not most County Officials stated that given a choice they would choose sworn field personnel for safety reasons." And then she was directed by one county to. . .there's a website of Code Enforcement Officials, and there are some harrowing stories of assaults on Code Enforcement Officers, and that sort of goes with. . . Anybody with a clipboard in the world is sort of a target, because they're bringing bad news to somebody, or they're saying, "Well, you can't really do this, and. . .
BB: But, for some reason, Humboldt County is the only one that's done this, and I'm just wondering. . .
CC: I don't know all the history by which other counties made a decision in the other direction, and we made a decision in this direction. And again, that's going to be a decision by our Board, and I can't predict the outcome of that decision. Personally. . . I know you and I disagree on this, and many of my friends and I disagree on this. Personally, I think for the safety of the officer that he should be a sworn officer, and carry a gun. I think there's less opportunity, and there's less necessity to require back-up from the Sheriff, or any other agency, and this isn't. . . We need to always not view this necessarily through the lens of rural property and Southern Humboldt. There are a lot of areas in the unincorporated areas around Arcata, McKinleyville, there are a lot of meth labs, and different things that. . . This is sort of a one man department for a lot of things, and
BB: So how many times over the last year-and-a-half has there been a need to have deputies go out with Code Enforcement?
CC: I think a lot of it is Jeff Connors just kind of doing it on gut. I personally, as his ultimate Supervisor would feel more comfortable if he or any other officer were armed.
BB: Well, I'm just wondering how much in the last year-and-a-half, since he hasn't had the gun, how many occasions has he felt it necessary and gotten assistance from the police?
CC: I'll ask that question. I don't know.
BB: Because, I know when he was armed and the other code enforcement--both of them were armed--that they were bringing the police with them regularly, even though they were both armed, so I don't see that it's necessarily going to make them use the police less, when they're armed, because they were using them a lot when you had two armed officers out there.
CC: I hear your point. That's something to ask.
BB: And how do you separate Law Enforcement from Code Enforcement? When this person is Law Enforcement, then that's their primary duty. How do you separate? Because that was a problem of the overlapping of Law Enforcement and Code Enforcement, and the problems of using inspection warrants like search warrants, and things like that. How do you keep that separation between police duties and Code Enforcement when you're deputizing the Code Enforcement Officer?
CC: Well, I would take the point that having him deputized, he has plenty on his plate to do, without looking for any other kind of violations of any sort, so he's then focussed on his task at hand which is buildings and environmental degradation, leaky tanks, that type of thing.
BB: What about Environmental Health? Isn't that their job?
CC: Well, often the Environmental Health guys will (I mean, I know you know this, but just for listeners) the Code Enforcement is sort of the last resort. In Building and Planning, we have Claude Young who's the Code Compliance guy, and he sends what he calls "the vanilla milkshake" letter the first time that he gets wind of a. . .that there's a report of some building violation, or permit violation. He sends a letter, "Well, it appears that this exists. Can you let me know what the situation is." So, he gets about 90% compliance just with letters and the telephone. And Environmental Heath does as well, and the Public Works. And so, where Code Enforcement acts as kind of an umbrella for recalcitrant cases where people won't respond, and the violation continues. And so, I think it's a decent system to have a Code Enforcement. Some people feel like we should just get rid of it completely.
CC: I think it acts as a. . .When people realize that they're going to get referred to Code Enforcement. . .Having the sworn officer is more than just. . .there's more to that. . .The guy does have a gun. . .
BB: And that's a really big deal, especially when he pulls it out and points it at people.
CC: Understood. But the other parts that I think are valuable there, maybe perhaps more valuable than the gun aspect, are the fact that he has access to law enforcement databases, he's trained in bringing cases forward for prosecution to the District Attorney, should that need arise, and so just knowing that you have a guy with that kind of training, and that kind of authority, I think maybe gives pause to somebody who might. . .you know, somebody has a leaky diesel tank that says, you know, "I don't really have to deal with this. You know, it's not that big a deal. Yeah, there's a little rainbow in the water, but who cares?" Well, we do care.
BB: So, if a guy with a gun shows up, that makes him care more than if it's a District Attorney that's going to press charges against him, or the Health Officer or somebody like that?
CC: Well, I would take the view that just his existence acts as a deterrent. And I would say, many people are probably going to listen to the gentleman at the Planning Department or the folks over at Environmental Health realizing that, okay, I really need to bring this into compliance, or explain why this is such as it is. . .I think that encourages compliance at a lower level, which is the goal for all of this, to have things solved at the lowest level possible.
BB: Okay. So, I guess we'll just continue to disagree. I'm concerned about the public and the public safety when you have these people armed to do a job that the rest of the State, somehow they've managed to do it without that. And we're saying, well, Humboldt County. . .it's more efficient, we can do it better. But in reality, when they were armed, this whole mess happened with Yee-Haw and down here, with them working outside of the law and abusing people. So I guess I don't see Humboldt County as having a better system than the other counties, because they ran into so many problems.
CC: Well, I'd like to go on record, Bonnie, as saying, I would like it if there were no guns out there at all. But, the fact remains that, you know, the cartel-type drug operations, the meth labs. . .
BB: That's what we have the police for.
CC: Well, but the Code Enforcement. . .there's often an overlap of some of these cases, you know, and the things he's walking into, the people that haven't listened to any other lower level department, tend to be some of these kind of folks. And also, you mentioned that other counties, if you google CACEO, which stands for California Association of Code Enforcement Officers, you get to their website and there are some fairly chilling stories of things that have happened to. . .I mean, I know well the chilling stories from citizens that have been terrorized by the police in the world, but it happens the other way too, and we've lost some Code Enforcement Officers.
BB: We have? Here in Humboldt County?
CC: No, I didn't say that. I said, we have. . .I'm referring to this website.
BB: Okay. So, I'm not aware of this. . .I'm just. . .you know, it sounds like Humboldt County. . .you know, if people have to go armed to go out into the community, the inspectors, and they're not having to do this in the other counties, it's like, what's going on in Humboldt County that's so scarey?
CC: I don't know the background of why, in fact, there's that pattern in our County. I just know that exists, and, personally, I'm not against it. I think, anytime, it's a tremendous challenge to be a good Police Officer or a good Law Enforcement Officer of any kind, because you have some serious work to do. But the last thing that, I think, any good officer wants to do is to even pull his gun, let alone use it. And I would like that there are not criminals that would, perhaps, threaten an officer, but the fact remains that that is. And I don't think this is. . .You know, I think some of this is. . .You know, we're viewing this through the lens of Southern Humboldt, but there are. . .and I'm not saying it's all in the city, or it's all anywhere, it just is, that there is a danger to officers, and I wish that weren't so. I also wish every Law Enforcement person did their job perfectly, and, of course, that doesn't happen either.
BB: Okay. Well, we've got some calls, so I'm going to take our first caller. [CC: Okay] Hi Caller, you're on the air.
#1 Caller: Hi Bonnie, Hi Clif, This is Robie. [CC & BB: Hi Robie!] I'm glad you guys are talking about this. And I agree, Clif, it did get off to not a good start there. CC: Yeah, and apologies.
#1 (R): Yeah, I'm concerned that we're continuing to mix the civil and the criminal in the discussion about whether they need guns or not. I'm hearing very strongly that you feel that we need a Code Enforcement Officer. I'm not following the thread to the fact that they need a gun, and that that will help with compliance and/or safety, because it's been shown time and time again, a lone officer, going out on duty, is not considered safe in a dangerous situation. You always want to have back-up. So, to have back-up by the Sheriff in those kind of situations that's what you would want to do. So, why would the standing Code Enforcement person have to have a gun the rest of the time? Where you're saying, it's, you know, leaky tanks, it's these other things that are not as dangerous as you might. . .I don't know, you're saying meth lab, I'm not even sure, I mean, the question Bonnie asked about. . .I'm sorry to go on and on, I had quite a few things that I'm thinking about you guys talking. You're going to have to know the answer to the question of whether you need it or not. You're going to have to look at the history: what was happening when those two armed officers were going out, and look at what's happened since. And is there a high necessity for an armed force, an armed officer for the Code Enforcement? Or could they just use the Sheriff as back-up?
CC: Okay. Good point. I'm taking notes here. I hope all of you that have information, or are interested here are. . .
#1 (R): It seems that we can go on and on and on on the philosophy of whether you should solve your problem at the end of a gun, but you have to take in the fact that it doesn't make logistical sense to go out with one officer. And also, if you're sending out a letter, and you're getting 90% compliance, you're going to want to approach that person. . .Again, what was happening before was people weren't getting those preliminary discussions. You know, officers just went out.
CC: Well, and I think what the current term is is going "rogue," I think there were some mis-steps there, no doubt.
#1 (R): Would you be open to having a Code Enforcement Officer that was unarmed and can have back-up. . .Okay, I know what I was thinking. Even if we disagreed philosophically, when it comes down to the money, is it worth having to pay all that money to have an armed officer rather than just someone that is an officer, then they call for back-up?
CC: I think the money part is going to be probably approximately equal, because you're going to want a very high calibre individual, even if the Board chooses to have a non-sworn officer. You're going to want somebody with. . .They need to have investigative skills, diplomatic skills. Anyway, I don't know what the salary is for Code Enforcement Officer. I want to hazard a guess it's $60--$70,000 a year. But. . .
BB: Well, here in this report it said that for now it's $168,000 for Code Enforcement, but if you have this sworn deputy, then you're going to add $175,000 to the bill.
CC: Well, I think, math, there, was based around Paul Gallegos, District Attorney, not wanting to take on something where he didn't really have the support to do it well.
BB: Right. So that's going to be $175,000 more for the County, who's supposed to be broke, to have this officer with a gun, where all the rest of the counties aren't doing it, but somehow, we need to do it.
CC: Well, I think, currently the Code Enforcement Officer, I believe is making approximately the same as. . . even since April of 2008, he has not had a gun, so that part is not going to change. You're still going to have a highly qualified, capable individual, whether he's a sworn officer or not. The extra money here is because, up in the District Attorney's office, they're going to need to dedicate at least part of a district attorney's time and a secretarial staff person, whereas. . .The District Attorney's view is that that's the way he's going to be able to properly run and support that. And currently, that's kind of shared among office staff, I believe Devina Smith is working about 1/5th time. She's a deputy County Counsel, and she works with Jeff Connor at about 1/5th time, among other duties. And then I think the secretarial staff kind of picks up the rest. That's the way it's currently being done in the District Attorney's Office.
BB: Well, in the Financial Impact, it said, should the Board transfer Code Enforcement Unit to the District Attorney? The additional attorney and clerical positions, the cost would increase by $175,000. So, to put it in the District Attorney, to have the guy with the gun, it's going to cost $175,000 more.
#1 (R): Bonnie, I think they're entertaining the idea of the officer having the gun and being in the County Counsel's office, not the DA's Office.
BB: Nope. Because the DA said he wasn't going to give somebody a gun and a badge and not have a supervisorial. . .and they can't do it legally. The Law Enforcement has to be supervised by Law Enforcement.
#1 (R): Who would surpervise if the DA did do it?
BB: The District Attorney.
CC: Our only two choices are elected officials, which don't really answer to any other County Department. They answer directly to the voters. And that's the Sheriff and the District Attorney. And the Sheriff wasn't interested. The District Attorney wasn't interested, but it was housed in his department.
#1 (R): So, the only thing that we're talking about with the gun would go to the District Attorney. [BB & CC: yes.] Okay, so we are talking about an increase of $175,000.
CC: And to me, I mean, that's a lot more money than any of us see in a year, but in governmental terms, considering if you've got a program that's running well, or not, that's not a big amount of money. So, that's worth raising up if that's the right way to do it.
#1 (R): It's not "the right way to do it," it's if it's needed. So, we really need to know if it's needed. How many situations are called upon where the officer needs to be armed? And why would a single officer want to enter a situation where that is the case? They should already have Sheriff's back-up. So, it seems that you're going to need answers before you want to spend that money.
CC: Those are good questions. One of the issues that I have felt, though, is that when you do have back-up by another agency, there's more opportunity for Fishing Creek(?), and having that turn into something other than the inspection that. . .
BB: And the important thing to remember is when you had two armed Code Enforcement Officers they were bringing a couple trucks of Sheriff's' with them. Even though they had two guns already, they needed a dozen guns. Well I think we should move on.
CC: Point taken.
BB: Just one quick thing about the $175,000. Trying to get the Planning Commission to come down here and other things to serve the people on being able to participate, and stuff, is the County's broke, the County doesn't have the money for it, and so. . .They don't have the money for the people, but they've got the extra $175,000 for the guy with the gun. CC: Well, I would say, partly because of your input, Bonnie, they are coming, the Planning Commission.
BB: Yeah. They're coming, you know, at the end of the thing, and I'm really glad they're coming. I'm sorry that the other rural communities aren't getting the same treatment. So, I want to go on to the next caller. 31:05
#2 Caller: Happy Thanksgiving, Clif & Friends. You're talking about Code Enforcement, so #1, Friend, for example, in many Counties, if a Sheriff's Deputy appears at a domestic violence situation, somebody is going to go to jail. Now, I'm using this as a metaphor, friend. Now, you're talking about Code Enforcement. Now, Deputies do/have responded eventually to child abuse in the Department of Health and Human Services Office, and they respond positive to the communication of garbage, all right. You're talking about the sophisticated case where armed deputies are showing up on your private property (?) That's vital, that's important. And my point is this, as a metaphor, everytime a deputy shows up in a case of domestic violence, somebody's going to go to jail. Please respond.
CC: Bonnie, I'm going to have to have you repeat. . .
BB: Okay, he's talking about a deputy showing up for domestic violence, and somebody getting arrested. Well, this is another thing. Code Enforcement has to do with building, environmental stuff, and not with violence between individuals, or something.
CC: But I believe the caller is correct that when law enforcement does show up for a domestic dispute, they typically incarcerate the male, unless there is some compelling reason that it should be the other way. But they usually do something to make sure that that doesn't escalate, and that the altercation doesn't continue.
BB: Right. So, to me that's a different. . . you know, apples & oranges. So I think we've got a couple more callers.
#3 Caller: Bonnie? Hi, this is Tom. [BB: Hi, Tom] [CC: Hi, Tom] Hi Clif, I hope you're feeling better, someday, if not today. I wish you the best. Part of the problem with the whole Code Enforcement thing was the County, itself, initiating their own things without even a complaint from anyone, and writing up their own search warrants by the officers, and stuff like that. Now, I just got this document, but I don't see anywhere where that part of it was addressed.
CC: And I'm aware that that occurred. Yeah, I don't see that in the document either, but that's outside of the protocol as far as I'm concerned. That shouldn't happen. And I'm hoping that in which ever madel we choose, that the case management group will be watching all these. There was an oversight committee in the past, that didn't meet. So, that doesn't do a lot of good.
BB: So now, you pretty much just got rid of them and you have a case management thing where you have meetings but there's no minutes, so nobody can remember who. . .Because before with the Task Force they couldn't remember when they had a meeting or who showed up. They couldn't remember anything about the oversight, and I don't see how this new thing is going to be any different if there's no record of when they met, and what they discussed.
#3 (T): And is there going to be any guarantee that this isn't going to be self-initiated on the part of the County Counsel where they just feel like they don't like somebody and they come out and hassle you? CC: I will personally guarantee that.
#3 (T): Well, okay, there's another problem in here with this kind of attempt at a hybrid which you're trying to do, is that actually the County Counsel's Office is not really allowed to enforce any laws at all, except for the Housing and Safety and stuff like that, and so when you throw a Sheriff in there, you're really. . .How can you rationalize those two, and I suspect that's why a lot of counties don't try and mix them. It seems like you have cops, and the cops are there to deal with criminal matters, and then you have the Code Enforcement, which is only supposed to be Code Enforcement. So, when you mix them, you really have a conflict of interest, don't you?
CC: Yes, but you bring up the point of criminal, and I think Bonnie Neeley had made the distinction between criminal and civil. [(T): right.] That's actually not. . .I mean, you try to draw a bright line between. . .just like you're describing, but it actually doesn't fall on criminal versus civil, because. . .Oh, I know I keep mentioning leaky diesel things, but that's a criminal violation, to pollute a waterway. That's a crime against the waters of the people. And
#3 (T): Yeah, but the County Counsel's Office, by State Law, is not allowed to enforce other laws. You've got to go call the cops for that one, and that goes through the DA as I understand it. CC: I believe you're correct.
#3 (T): So, you're saying that, with the new model, it would then go through the DA if there was a criminal charge involved. . .a criminal situation, other than just a code issue? In other words if this Task Force went out and found that it was a criminal thing, then they'd go to the DA, and then it would go through the normal DA channels?
CC: Yes. And if we choose the model of the sworn officer it'll all be in the District Attorney's Office, at least with the options available to us right now. [(T): uh-huh, okay. ] Personally, I can see good points and bad points about that. Whenever you have something that you're used to working with, in the county itself, you know, with close access with County Counsel which is primarily her duty. Her primary duty is she is the Board of Supervisors' attorney. And then the County Administrative Officer is our first head above all the other department heads. So, when you have Code Enforcement working closely with them, it's really kind of more attached to the board. When it becomes in the District Attorney's Office, that's a separately elected office, so we start to have less control over what happens.
#3 (T): What Mr. Connor was saying to me was that if he's deputized as a Police Officer, he felt an obligation to turn in any crime that he saw, as a Police Officer would, you know, right? But that's not what's allowed under the rules that apply to the County Counsel's Office. They are only there to do code issues.
CC: I believe your distinction is correct.
BB: Okay, so, I believe we've got another caller.
#4 Caller: I've just looked up this CACEO site, California Association of Code Enforcement Officers, and I'm looking for things. The only thing I saw here on their news says: "Code Enforcement Officer Attacked," and then says, "Chico Code Enforcement Officer attacked," and I went to both of those places and they were not there, they'd been removed. So I mean, I don't know. Have you checked out the horror stories of this situation? CC: I checked out a couple, but I haven't been to it recently.
#4: How did you find it when you went on there?
CC: The same way you did, Google CACEO.
#4: I'm there, but I don't see a place where it says. . .
CC: Okay, maybe that was a bad lead, anyway.
#4: Also, the other thing I was thinking was: the part that you quoted about that "many if not most of the officials say they would rather be carrying guns," that just seemed kind of vague and, you know, as far as standing up to reality situations, it didn't seem like it was really polled: "many if not most officials?" I don't know exactly what that means, but I was thinking that there probably was a good reason why most of the counties don't want their Code Enforcement to carry guns.
BB: All the 25 counties that they surveyed, all of them didn't have Police Officer powers, just Humboldt.
CC: Yeah, I hear your point. And that's a good follow-up question. Our County Administrative Office produced this item, and I'd be just speculating to document the research that was done. I don't know how many of those 25 said that versus not. I'd be completely speculating.
BB: But the reality is is none of them have guns, of the 25.
CC: That's correct.
#4: Thank you.
BB: Do we have one more? And then I want to head over to the Planning Commission Meeting that's coming up. Okay. Hi Caller, you're on the air.
#5 Caller: It's me, Naomi. Thanks for a great show. This is just the strangest kind of conversation, because it seems to me that every point that you've made, Bonnie, has either been acknowledged by your guest, or not refuted adequately, so actually I keep listening for a legitimate, credible reason why he thinks that the officers should continue to go out with guns and make possibly civil issues into criminal ones, or go on fishing trips for them. And it's like the only thing I can get from the speaker is A) They want to have guns, and B) They're familiar with the procedure and they don't want to change, and C) There may be some unknown dangers out there, like meth labs, that have not been substantiated in one single case that I've really heard. So, what's up with this? Everything sounds plausible, but you're presenting a lot of emotional arguments, and we're not getting anywhere. So, thanks, I mean, I'd like to hear, What are your real reasons other than that?
CC: My feeling is that it would be Choice D: That police work is dangerous, and that it's not an accident that they carry guns. I think it's the last thing that you would ever want to do, but. . .and I only travelled with Jeff Connor once, in a road tour of different issues around the County, and I've never been a Police Officer, and haven't done gun ride-alongs, so I couldn't say at what point it's dangerous, and at what point it's not. . .
#5: So would you say the main reason is you have a fear for the safety of the unarmed officer? You think that he's safer if he's armed?
CC: That would be my opinion. It's not shared even amongst our board or staff, but. . .and certainly not amongst many of my friends, but that would be the. . .
BB: Do you think Building Inspectors should be armed? And the Health Inspector? Because they're going out to the same places. Do you think we oughta get them some guns, too?
CC: No. And I think that they're. . .although sometimes, depending on the call, then they take the Code Enforcement Officer with them. Because they're tending to deal with the people that are on board that are trying to fix their issues.
#5: I just have one other question. Do you think that being armed is the only way to protect an officer's safety? Do you think that there might be some other way, or could you entertain the idea that having a gun actually might make him less safe? I'll just leave you with that.
CC: That's an interesting point. That would be an interesting point to research. Thank you.
BB: Okay. Just because we don't have a whole bunch of time, I'm going to ask the callers to wait for a minute. The Planning Commission, as you acknowledged, are finally going to come to Southern Humboldt, which, in the last General Plan Update they went to numerous of the outlying areas, but they're only coming here because of the continued request of the people from this area. One of the things in the General Plan is that they are supposed to be maximizing the opportunity for indificuals and groups to have meaningful participation in the process. Do you, Clif, think this has been going on?
CC: It's never perfect. You know, you and I just got this at length. I think it's great. You know, if the Planning Commission is game to do this, I'll look forward to them getting a lot of good input. The challenge is when you. . .And Dennis Mayo covered this issue. . .the challenge is the geographical fairness. And Dennis Mayo said that he felt like a lot of rural areas might have some of the same issues as Southern Humboldt, so that, even though he's from the 5th District, up in McKinleyville, he felt like going to S. Humboldt would be a good thing, and we might actually cover some of the same rural issues that would be pertinent to his district.
BB: So is the Planning Commission going to be answering questions and clarifying confusion?
CC: I saw just a little bit of that meeting, and I heard Jeff Smith, the chair, say that he wanted to do Maximum Input. He goes, "The more we talk, the less we can hear from somebody else. We're down here tohear from people that might not be able to make it to Eureka."
BB: Well, we're in this situation where there are a lot of people that have questions, and the Planning Department, as you know, you came down here in May with Martha Spencer for a Town Hall Meeting, and agreed to come back for a follow-up and that just fell in a hole, and there has been no follow-up, and it doesn't look like the Planning Department has any intentions on coming back down here for I don't know how long, and so the public, in this rural area, and also the other rural areas, are being left out of the process. And where do we get the answers, if the Planning Department is just going to listen, and the Planning Department doesn't want to answer any questions, how do these inconsistencies. . .We hear one thing: it's this way, no, it's that way. I know I'm really confused, and most of the people that I talk to are really confused about what this stuff means and how it's going to impact the lives and the property of the rural landowners.
CC: I can request that they do answer some questions. They have their own separate process. I was going to get an attorney's opinion about whether it would be appropriate for me to attend that meeting, because I'd like to, to hear the input. BB: Well, why wouldn't you?
CC: We try to draw a distinction between what. . .Since all of this will come before the Board of Supervisors, as well, I figured I couldn't be a participant, even if I were there, because we never want to have one body that's going to review something that a previous body, like the Planning Commission. . . We can't have any overlap. They're distinct processes. And so, you don't want to have one meddling in the other.
BB: Okay, so you may not be there. The Planning Commission may show up and only listen, not answer questions. If the Planning Department doesn't have any intentions to come down here, that puts it back to, where do we get the answers? I mean, my understanding is that the County has a responsibility in this General Plan Update to educate and inform the public as well as take input.
CC: Uh, huh, subject to budgetary considerations and time considerations, I mean, we've been at this nine years. There have been several outreach meetings in Southern Humboldt. And I'll try to work with you and get every question answered. I know we talked about coming back when Martha and I and John Miller were there in May, and didn't happen, but will try to keep the lines of communication as open as possible. I do know that for items like the Community Park we had half a boardroom full of Southern Humboldt that were actively giving us input.
BB: Right. Well, that, to me, that's a different issue than this General Plan Update. One of the things I just wanted to get to real quick is that I had brought up in the past is about trying to develop means for more opportunity and access for the rural residents. And one of them was to have some type of real-time connection to the Board of Supervisors' Meetings and the Planning Commission Meetings. We've talked with Access Humboldt, and it all sounded like a really good idea. And then a few months back you came back and said that the County really didn't have any interest in developing something like that, where people could go to the Garberville Courthouse, which stands empty most of the time, and view the meetings that are going on--The Board of Supervisor Meetings, and the Planning Commission Meetings, and when it's time for public input, they could step up to the monitor and give their input. Instead of having to drive all the way to Eureka and back, which basically isn't happening. And basically your response was, "Too much money," again, which I said the community would pay for it, and that "It wouldn't be fair to the other communitees," which, we could be a pilot program, and they could adopt it. And the final one that I really would like some explanation on, is "The change of dynamics," that that was a reason to not do that.
CC: I never actually participated in an input like that. But there is sort of a magic, if you will, that happens in a meeting, where everybody can see everyone else's expressions. You can know what's happening in the room. It is a way to get input, but, in my view, it's imperfect, because you can't really see what's happening in the room. The body that's hearing the input can't really see what's going on. It's way better than nothing, but it has its limitations. It's not a traditional meeting where everyone can absorb the full feeling and emotion of what's happening.
BB: Well, the full feeling and emotion, when most of the people are unable to make it to these meetings, is we're effectively cut out of the process. So what you're saying is, "change of dynamics" would just be that you wouldn't get the same feeling if people were on the screen, and you could actually see them, and they could see you? What's the "change of dynamics?"
CC: Well, because you are just looking at a screen. I've been on a few video conferences, and of course the bigger the screen, the higher the quality of the equipment, all that kind of stuff, improves the process. But to me it pales compared to what it's like to have real people in a room together.
BB: But, how does it compare with nobody being there? Because that's what is happening now, is the rural people are not being included in the process. So it's better to not have them included than to have them included in a process that isn't as perfect as in person?
CC: I'm hearing your point. We've discussed this at length, and it's one of those ones that we're probably going to have to agree to disagree on. I agree that more input is better. If cost weren't an object, and there was a way to set this up and kind of travel it around the County, but it just seemed to me that logistically, and financially it was something that the money would be better spent in other ways.
BB: Like $175,000 for a Code Enforcement Officer with a gun would be better than improving the access for the public to the government processes. To me, the priorities are a little skewed, and I don't know how the General Plan that's supposed to be reflecting the changing values of the community can really do that if they're not making any effort to really get out to the community. And these past meetings that have gone on over the 10 years have been so inadequate. If all of that had gone well, then there would be no confusion and questions. People would be knowing what's going on. CC: I'm not going to disagree that it's imperfect, and I'm taking notes on your points here. BB: Okay, so, let me see if we have another caller to get in. Hi caller.
#6 Caller [Richard Gienger]: From earlier, the General Plan process, and the General process, I guess, I had a question for Supervisor Clendenen about whether the Hilltop Ranch agenda item was dealt with yesterday?
CC: We continuted that one. The Hilltop Ranch is 1638 acres, I believe, was timberland, had belonged to the Barnum family, briefly was owned by PALCO, even though the properties had been sold, I believe, the Forestry Review Committee approved the Joint Timber Management Plan where the joint forestry could happen on all the properties, other than where the residences are, our Board asked for a little more definition to that Joint Timber Management Plan, and in general, we asked for a review of the Joint Timber Management Plan to really ensure that in trading for a really low tax rate, $2 an acre, that the public is getting something in return.
#6: Actually, getting it to be timber production. I thought that this particular issue is sort of like a test case, or of the essence of the whole issue of keeping timberland in production, and still having development, and I thought that this might be a place to try out the so-called "Restoration Zoning" concept. I thought it was really good that you met with some of us and the County staff about what "Restoration Zoning" might be, but there are all these questions about adequate water, fuel hazard reduction, road maintenance, infrastructure to allow timber management, and this is like a case where a lot of these things might get worked out maybe, and come up with some good consensus of what these things should look like.
CC: Thank you. And that was actually my thought as well, and I got an email from Richard Gienger, mentioned those same points. And I haven't gotten back to him yet. But, yeah, this felt like a pivotal case, where we've got timberland, and if it's going to become basically rural residential, you know, how does that work? Personally, I don't want to see that timberland go into production, so can that coexist with what it might turn into here? Good question.
#6: You might try to express that when the Planning Commission is down here. Thank you. BB: And that was a 3-2 vote, right, Clif?
CC: That's correct.
BB: And you voted to nix that?
CC: I voted to give another look at that, rather than just pass it as it came through.
BB: Okay, I want to thank you, Clif. It just went by, and there was a lot more that we wanted to come to, and I would encourage you to come to the Planning Commission so that you can hear concerns and questions from the people that are in your district that need some attention, and we'd like to have your support.
CC: Okay, well, thank you, Bonnie, for having me on, and I know we don't always agree, but I really value your input and that of your listeners. So thank you, very much.
BB: I just want to say that the Planning Commission is going to be in Southern Humboldt on Dec. 17, [Thurs. at Redway School, at 6 PM] and I hope that everybody out there that has questions or whatever shows up at that meeting. And also the Code Enforcement stuff is coming back to the Board of Supervisors on the 15th of Dec., and I hope that you all can make it up there and put some input in. So Thank you very much.