mountainecho.com

October 8, 2012

Editorial

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 4:36 pm

The world is changing and I’m going to do something I haven’t done before – do my endorsements now because the mail-in ballots are starting to come out this week. The election of directors to the Community Services District is extremely important this year and it needs and deserves the vote of every registered voter living within the district’s boundaries. The outcome of the election will determine the direction the district takes in the future. There are those of us who feel the district should concentrate on water and sewer service and get problems in those area and the district’s financing completely done and stabilized before trying to take on more. There are also people on the other side who feel the district needs to move into a variety of other areas which it, as a community services can, to provide such things as more parks, a hydro facility, trails, a community building and more.
The district’s board is a mixed bag. On the one hand, in the past 2-2.5 years, they have started to get a good, solid handle on their financial situation. They have seen that audits were completed and corrected deficiencies. They have explored numerous avenues for revenues and services, they got rid of the cable television squatter that had trashed up one end of the sewer pond property, and are in the process of negotiating a lease with an outfit that wants to put in a solar farm on the part of the sewer facility property the district isn’t using. The lease will provide badly needed income to the district.
On the other hand, they have demonstrated that the end justifies the means. They don’t appear to care how they get what they want as long as they get it. They have feigned ignorance numerous times as they violated the Public Records Act. Each time it has been for expediency or because they admittedly wanted to hide something. For whatever reason they let the manager do what he wants without consulting them and ignore complaints and questions from citizens in the district even when he violates the law. The board has condoned and become a party of extremely abrasive behavior against individuals who, for whatever reason oppose or disagree with them.
The result has been that, because of board turnover, all five seats on the board are up for election and an unheard of nine candidates are seeking those seats when, In the past, it was impossible to find people who wanted to be on the board.
The current board and manager have worked very hard, and have been very creative in attempting to expand the powers of the district. That is something that, if done properly, could be of great benefit. In my opinion they have been overreaching, too zealous, too abrasive, too demanding and rather than do their homework first, try to set things up without long-range plans to insure success. Grants, as an example are wonderful if no strings are attached and future income is guaranteed. Parks, etc. don’t do a lot for the community if they damage existing facilities such as the fairgrounds, or 15-years down the road are let fall into disrepair because there is no longer a dedicated stream of income that can insure the project’s continuance.
Incumbent Sandy Jensen and past board member Barbara Briggs have put a lot of heart and soul into that district. The two of them were the mainstays that straightened out the finances and got the district back on the audit track.
Unfortunately I can not endorse either one. Both are “the end justifies the means” oriented, and while they give violation of the open meeting law and transparency lip service, their actions have shown the reverse.
The board lets the manager do as he pleases, which might be okay in a private corporation, but isn’t in a public, tax supported district. As an example they okayed the managers request to go ahead and hire an attorney he had found to take on LAFCO, but not to spend any district money. They approved a payment out of the existing treasury for the attorney the following month without comment and okayed an $8,000 loan for the attorney the month after that to cover all of his expenses. They also talked with a hydro consultant in closed session, a direct violation of the Brown Act, and okayed her going ahead on the project, also a violation and then didn’t report that they had okayed the project when they came out of closed session, also a violation of the act.
Jensen has spent the past several years building a home outside of the district. It isn’t complete yet, but logically could be well before another four-year term would be up and then she would have to step down, setting the seat up for appointment by the board rather than election by the people.
Briggs brings a lot of energy and financial recording and analysis expertise to the position. However, she does not tolerate opposition or criticism, two things that a person must be able to do if they are to be on any public board. Additionally, she quit the board putting a letter in the paper attacking the paper for its coverage along with the citizens for criticizing her.
I cannot and will not endorse Sally Voorheis- Brunner for the position because she is the wife of Bill Brunner who caused himself, the Community Services District and its manager to be notified by the LAFCO Executive officer that she had obtained an attorney and was seriously contemplating a law suit for libel or slander against them because of Brunner’s actions. Interestingly, the Jensens and Briggs, were part of a group that won a similar suit against Brunner several years ago. It isn’t a good match any way you look at it.
That leaves six candidates. I am going to endorse three – Jerry Monath, Diana Rogers, and Kathy Ontano. All three have attended and shown an interest in the district’s operations and finances for several meetings. All three have been in the district for some time. All three are oriented towards getting the district’s core services and finances in line before expending energy on other areas.
Monath is on the Municipal Advisory Committee. He has a background in labor relations, finances and management. He is from McArthur.
Diana Rogers has been on the Municipal Advisory Committee since its inception. She has a wide range of skills including organization and analysis. She is from McArthur.
Kathy Ontano is a long-time board member of both the Fall River Cemetery District and the Fall River Fire District. She is a past chairperson for both. She is from Fall River Mills.
I have nothing against the other four candidates, two are basically too new on the board to rate, a third hasn’t made any real input until the last couple of meetings, and the fourth has attended only one meeting.
Paulette Gooch, is a Fall River Mills resident who retired as the head of the Burney Branch of the Shasta County Superior Court Clerk’s office. She headed that court’s office and Fall River’s as it grew from Justice into Superior. She has shown primarily interest in the parks and recreation planning process and plans. She is a newly appointed incumbent who hasn’t made much input at the meetings.
Dave Hall, a retired power plant manager, has been on the board several months, and just recently started coming out of his shell. He has indicated he is interested in the hydro and the parks. He is a Fall River Mills Resident.
Sky Snyder, a brand new board member, says he is representing the younger generation and has demonstrated an enthusiasm for the parks and hydro. He is a Fall River Mills representative.
Jan Bentz, a Fall River Mills business woman is a complete unknown quantity. She attended her first and only board meeting for the district last month. Other endorsements next week.

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