Reporter’s Notebook: Board of Supervisors, July 16 – Return of the Drones

Returning after a two-week break, the Board Meeting on this day included an especially interesting Public Comment period.  Anyone can request to speak during this segment of a Board meeting agenda.  Speakers are held to three minutes, and are asked to limit their presentation to issues on which the Board has jurisdiction.  The Board may not take action on an issue that has not been put on the agenda in advance, but they may ask questions or provide comments.  Most often they simply accept the public input.

An American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney, Linda Lye, made a presentation on drones.  This issue has been so prominent in Redding City Council discussions.  The ACLU is concerned that drones can be abused for aerial surveillance, as they are so much cheaper and so much more surreptitious than other types of surveillance.  They therefore suggest that the county needs to develop a system of clear rules and accountability, in advance of their widespread use.  Lye’s suggestions include such items as:

  • A decision to acquire drones should be open and made with public input;
  • The purposes for any drone usage should be clarified and use restricted to those purposes;
  • Drone usage should be limited to occasions where a warrant has been issued;
  • There should be strict protocols for data collection and retention;
  • There should be audit and accountability protocols.

Supervisor Baugh requested that the ACLU submit a written copy of these suggestions.

Several members of tea party groups then endorsed these recommendations.  While it seemed unusual for the ACLU and tea party groups to present such similar appeals, it was helpful for me to remember the recent past.  The ACLU of Northern California and the North State Tea Party Alliance collaborated in 2011 on lawsuits to end the Redding Public Library’s restrictions on distribution of material on the library grounds.  This activity resulted in a broader definition of the library as a public space where various views may be freely permitted.

The Board engaged in yet another tussle with Wes Foreman, Chief Probation Officer, about contracts and purchases.  A contract with a program in Chico to provide substance abuse and residential treatment services for adult offenders was not approved, principally because the Board believed that the staff report recommending the contract was misleading as to the expected success rate.  The Probation Department will bring the contract back with a report that more clearly states outcomes expected and achieved from the program.

The Board also considered an extension of an existing authority for the Chief and the Assistant Chief to purchase goods and services up to $5,000 per purchase when the goods and services are determined to be effective in reducing criminal behavior.  This authority is intended to permit the Probation Department to purchase items when there is no contract in place with the vendor.  The Department has moved to develop contracts with vendors as their services are found to be needed and effective, and views the authority as part of the introductory period of implementing Corrections Realignment.  Supervisor Baugh in particular requested that the County Executive Officer, Larry Lees, arrange for an audit of expenditures in 2012-13 under this authority (roughly $58,000 in that year).  The Board acknowledged that for some members of the public, this kind of program looks like just giving bad guys stuff that other people need.  Supervisor Chappell underlined that funds spent on these needs will save incarceration costs later.  Supervisor Kehoe underscored, again, that programs like this must have defined outputs and specific deliverables.

The Board also signaled an issue that will come up in future meetings.  The US Forest Service has indicated that it will continue to review portions of the Shasta-Trinity and Lassen Forests under the Travel Management Rule.  The Forest Service has developed regulations that require the identification in each forest of which roads, trails and areas should be open to vehicle use and to specify what types of vehicles.  This would, of course, identify those areas where vehicle use is not permitted.  The rule-making was undertaken in recognition that nation-wide the road and trails developed for logging, fire suppression or informal recreational use far exceed the capacity of the Forest Service to maintain.  A Traffic Management determination has the potential to close off portions of the forest that people have been using for a considerable time, and is very contentious.  The Board approved signing a letter that will be signed by other counties as well, calling on the Forest Service to fully comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including consideration of cumulative impacts on each forest and across various forests of implementation of Travel Management actions.  Compliance with NEPA would also ensure public notice and participation and coordination with local government.  The Board also approved a letter to the Forest Service formally requesting coordination between the County and the Forest Service as the Travel Management process is conducted.

The US Forest Service will conduct a public Travel Analysis Informational Meeting on August 7, 5:30 – 7 p.m., at the Redding Memorial Veterans Hall on Yuba Street.

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.

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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.
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