Today’s column reports on the most recent Shasta County Board of Supervisor meeting this month on Nov. 6.
I am delighted that Catherine Camp has accepted the role of citizen journalist to keep us informed about our representatives’ actions.
Please join me in welcoming Catherine Camp to anewscafe.com. Welcome, Catherine!
Election day seemed like a good day to attend the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting. In the hyper-partisan atmosphere of this Presidential election, we have been bombarded by strong anti-government rhetoric and sometimes hysterical claims that we are facing the end of American life as we have known it.
Boards of Supervisors are open to the public almost every Tuesday, with agendas posted ahead of time and clear procedures allowing citizens to express themselves on virtually any issue and to comment on action items before the Board. I wanted to check in on the workhorse of governmental decision-making. My goal was simple: I’m convinced that Boards like this one reflect and act on problems and issues of great interest to virtually all citizens. So how were they doing on that clear and beautiful Tuesday morning?
Two actions seemed significant. The first was a presentation by Sharon Heywood, Shasta-Trinity National Forest Superintendent. The Forest has officially identified various roads in Shasta, Trinity, Siskiyou and Tehama counties, amounting to nearly 100 miles of road, as open for ‘mixed use’, including passenger cars and off-highway vehicles. These roads in turn hook to another 200 miles of such roads. In the view of the Forest Service, this assures that the forest is more open to off-highway vehicle users, hunters, fishermen, campers, and other outdoor users. This new declaration is the product of an extensive public comment period that in turn followed upon biological and archaeological surveys and regulatory review. Some groups who responded to the public review have threatened litigation on the grounds that the environmental review was inadequate.
The Supervisors believe that the declaration provides a model for other areas seeking a balanced negotiation of public interests on national forest lands. For more detail on the project, go to www.fs.fed.us/stnf. On that page, the background information is on the NEPA (for National Environmental Policy Act) link.
The second issue was Medical Marijuana. The Board received a report from the Director of Resource Management and the Sheriff about implementation on the nearly one-year-old ordinance that established parameters for the cultivation of medical marijuana in the unincorporated areas of the county. Some elements of that ordinance include:
- Cultivation allowed only in connection to a legally established residence and only by qualified patients and primary caregivers living in that residence.
- Indoor cultivation permitted only in detached accessory structures.
- Cultivation area is limited and must meet setback requirements from property lines and adjacent residences.
- Cultivation is prohibited within a specified radius around schools or other sensitive uses.
Enforcement of the ordinance is the joint responsibility of the enforcement officer of the county zoning structure and of the sheriff. The county identified a number of problems with enforcement. Many marijuana plots, called grow areas, have been established by individuals who moved here for that purpose. Grow areas have also moved to a substantial degree from public land to private land in the recent past. The abatement process of prompt removal of plants worked well on public land. However, it is time consuming and cumbersome on private land because of the protections inherent in private property.
Staff, including the sheriff, reported that they have been completely swamped by the number of complaints and the time-consuming nature of resolving those complaints. The resource manager reports more than 200 complaints and at least 100 violations. The sheriff reports more than 300 tips and nearly 100 cases, including some multi-state and even international actors. They believe that there are now probably millions of plants within the county and that most of the product is likely going elsewhere.
The staff report was highlighted by a number of citizens expressing concern about the impact of grow areas that they perceive as industrial in their neighborhood, including environmental degradation, gates across private roads, and armed individuals protecting the product.
The Board directed staff to identify ways to streamline the abatement process; to identify additional funding for compliance checks; to use peace officers for compliance checks, to maximize the collection of fines, and to pursue criminal proceedings where appropriate.
And so, a day pursuing the county’s business occurred on Tuesday. Partisan? Not so much. Concerned with issues that residents can solve themselves? Not so much.
Catherine Camp is currently retired. She served as a Consultant to the California Senate Budget Committee in 2001-02, reviewing Social Services, Employment Development, Aging, Community Services, Alcohol and Drug Programs, Rehabilitation and Child Support budgets. From 1989-2000, Catherine was Executive Director for the California Mental Health Directors Association. During that period, Catherine staffed the county mental health system’s restructuring of public mental health through Realignment of community and long term care programs from the state to the county, transfer of the management of specialty mental health Medi-Cal services to those counties that agreed to provide them, development of risk mechanisms for consortia of small counties, and advocacy and policy analysis for the operation of public mental health programs throughout the state. Her prior experience includes Executive Director to the California-Nevada Community Action Association, Principal Consultant to the Assembly Human Services Policy Committee, and Director of Community Action and Head Start programs in Shasta County.