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Reporter’s Notebook – Board of Supes: Roadway Cows; Responsive New Dept. Head; Effective Salt Monster

The Public Comment period in this week’s Board of Supervisors was enlivened by a truly Western story. Bob Burger runs open range cattle on Gas Point Road in the southern part of the county. Last February he complained about a relatively new neighbor who was purposefully leaving open gates to the road, encouraging the cattle to roam the road and creating a hazard for both the cattle and passing motorists.

Individual Supervisors and local police agencies have told Burger there is nothing to be done. Burger came to request an ordinance that would require landowners to protect the roadway from cattle.

The story was complicated for this writer raised in the city. However, the area involved is designated as open range. Within the area, cattle owners have installed fences along the road, thus signaling to drivers that they can assume no cattle on the road. The landowner involved would be free to fence her property to keep cattle out. Instead, she has no fences between her land and Burger’s and then has left the gate to the road open; indeed, Burger says she has locked the gate open, so that any cattle that roam onto her land can move freely onto the roadway. On occasion, she has herded cattle onto the road. On the one hand, this is a classic neighbor dispute. On the other hand, cattle on the road are a danger indeed. Burger says he has upped his liability insurance.

There can be no action in response to a Public Comment, of course. And the Board asked no questions. As one audience member commented later, it does appear that ‘good fences make good neighbors.’

And it does appear that the West is alive and well in the county. You be careful driving Gas Point Road.

In other news, Rick Simon, the new Director of Resource Management, made what he proposes to be the first of quarterly reports on his Department’s activities. This Department has been the eye of the storm in the Anselmo Winery dispute as well as numerous other citizen complaints of unresponsive, clunky process.

The good news is that there have been increases of up to 30% in customers served, building permits applied for, building permits issued and planning projects applied for in the last quarter compared to a year ago. This change is perhaps most reflective of a modestly improving economy. The average time to issue building permits has been reduced, from 56 days to 41 days.

In addition, the Department is actively seeking to meet with stakeholders and citizen groups to identify problems and explore solutions. Supervisor David Kehoe underscored the Board’s hope that the message to the public, including the public commenters, is that it is not business as usual at Resource Management.

The Shasta County Department of Public Health brought a request to expand funding for a social media campaign for education on sodium reduction. The County has developed a series of videos featuring ‘Saul the Salt Monster.’

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was so pleased with the campaign that they offered additional funds to expand the program. There was considerable discussion of the proposal, as Supervisor Bill Schappell had a terrifying family emergency when his wife suffered a nearly catastrophic reaction to too little sodium. The balance of the Board was convinced that the educational campaign addressed a serious problem: Shasta County residents  have high blood pressure at significantly higher rates than the statewide average. Moreover, the Public Health Department believes the education information is appropriately targeted to sensible use of salt.

The contract to expand the program was approved. Do you want to meet Saul the Salt Monster? Go to www.healthyshasta.org, and then look under the Eat Healthy button.

Until next time …

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.