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Shasta County Supes Say No to State Divorce; Table 2nd Amendment Vote After Colorado Shootings

Photo credit: David Benbennick from nationalatlas.gov

Congratulations, Shasta County. You’re still married to California. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. Until, well, whenever.

But just for the sake of discussion, should Shasta County have divorced itself from the state’s COVID-colored tier system?

That was the question put to a vote Tuesday before five Shasta County Supervisors. Although four of the votes were common knowledge, one mystery swing-vote swung in the balance.

The two-assumed yes votes were expected from Leslie Baugh of District 5 and Pat Jones of District 4.

Baugh and Jones, both censured recently – and dang proud of it – are like demented drivers of a two-man, joy-riding clown car, but without the cool outfits.

From left, Shasta County Supervisors Patrick Jones and Les Baugh.

They appear to be driving under the influence of ego and bad judgement, intent on leaving governmental decorum in the dust; speeding to a place where all Shasta County’s elected officials think, vote, believe and behave precisely as they do.  Or else. Or else what? Or else recall, that’s what.

The two-assumed no votes were expected from Leonard Moty of District 2, and Mary Rickert of District 3.

Moty and Rickert have been steadfast voices of sanity, civility and the rule of law. The dynamic duo have been ambassadors for common sense and public safety in the face of an onslaught of verbal attacks and ridicule from sometimes rude and hostile unmasked masses for nearly a year. Moty and Rickert are being threatened with recall by Baugh and Jones supporters, many of whom put the fan in fanatics.

Cue Malcolm in the Middle, aka tie-breaker Supervisor Chair Joe Chimenti of District 1. He’d been the lone holdout secret teaser-vote ever since Baugh made a motion at the last board meeting to put the resolution on the agenda to ditch the state and have Shasta County go rogue.

Hey, California county cousins! Hold my Red Bull and watch this! 

Sometimes Chair Chimenti keeps his cards so maddeningly close to his chest that it’s as if he loses track of time, and the other players, or even which game he’s playing.

He’s what I call a toaster thinker: Down goes the bread, waiting, waiting, waiting. Then pop! Up it comes. Behold. Toast. So much to consider: when to hold them, when to fold them, when to walk away, when to run. Meanwhile, everyone waits with baited breath; each side hoping Chimenti will finally show his hand and play the right cards. What a heady place to be in; the source of so much undivided attention, worrying and wondering.

Consequently, at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, one speaker after another directed comments specifically to Chimenti. Some implored him to “do the right” thing and vote to remove Shasta County. They said this, despite the fact that Shasta County board chambers are open, the chairs are returned, and Shasta County recently escaped the restrictive purple tier and is cautiously, happily in the red zone. Fingers crossed that orange is on the horizon.

Other speakers tried to shame Chimenti by saying how disappointed they’d been with him, and they were hoping to not be disappointed by him again. Yet others mentioned the threat of recall.

Oh, yeah. That. 

By far, the majority of those who spoke during the public-comment period Tuesday were squarely on the side of divorcing from the state, as if doing so would turn back the clock to the winter of 2019, when 2020 loomed large and hopeful.

Of course, in all fairness, that’s the message one should expect from those who flood the board chambers, packing the room with unmasked COVID-deniers. A leper colony comes to mind, where only fellow lepers are likely to show up. For that reason, it’s been a long time since the the Shasta County board chambers have felt inclusive for anyone except the unmasked rowdies. So naturally, that demographic is exactly the group we’d expect to demand Shasta County splits from what they see as Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 tier of tyranny.

Even so, no doubt the supervisors received a fair number of emails and phone calls from rational folks, too. Tuesday, a couple of callers appealed to reason. They urged Chimenti to stay the course, for the sake of public health.

One commenter, Ann Webber, observed that many of the people who’ve complained most vociferously about freedoms being taken away during the pandemic have never complied with state mandates anyway. Webber took exception to those who ignorantly refer to protective face coverings as “face diapers” – or accuse her of being afraid.

“I’m not living in fear,” Webber clarified. “I’m living in knowledge.”

Actually, the vote to stand by the state or stay put was just one of two high-profile resolutions on the agenda, each of which attracted multiple speakers. The second potentially controversial agenda item was a vote on a resolution to show support for the Second Amendment. However, that was scrapped when Chair Chimenti appropriately pulled the plug on that vote, considering the mass shooting in Colorado Monday.

Therefore, because of that Colorado tragedy, the Shasta County vote to show support for the Second Amendment is postponed.

Here’s my suggestion for a date: The 12th of Never.  Seriously, what’s the point of voting on a special resolution to show support for the Second Amendment? Shasta County is a rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ county. So? Big deal. Tell us  something we don’t already know.

Will there be an upcoming special resolution to show support for the First Amendment and free speech? How about the Nineteenth Amendment and women’s right to vote?

Shasta County Supervisors’ Second Amendment resolution vote is a slippery slope that leads straight to a Trojan horse belly filled with untold consequences. Isn’t it good enough that supervisors accept the entire Constitution, without singling out the Second Amendment?

Never mind. We can jump off that Second Amendment bridge later, after the next board meeting.

Back to the vote to decide whether Shasta County would stick with the state, or turn its back on the governor’s pandemic tier system.

All the supervisors shared their opinions on the subject.

Baugh made his pitch for a yes vote by saying that doing so would restore citizens’ confidence in local government. He said he wasn’t afraid of any repercussions from the governor. Baugh said Shasta County could lead the way, and embolden other counties to follow Shasta County’s courageous act of independence.

District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh

“The governor is wearing no clothes,” Baugh added, which had a more pervy ring to it than if Baugh had simply said, “The emperor has no clothes”.

Speaking of which, Jones said it was time for Shasta County to stop following the state’s “illegal, unconstitutional” emergency order.

Supervisor Moty said Shasta County’s made great progress, and he believed it would be irresponsible for Shasta County to take actions that could return the North State to more restrictive tiers, especially when we’re nearing the orange tier. Moty said many people have shared similar viewpoints with him, including concerns that Shasta County could see a spike in virus cases if the county removed itself from the state’s public-health mandates.

District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty

“We’re making good progress, and I think we need to stay the course,” Moty said of Shasta County.

“We shouldn’t give up our efforts this early for just a small time that could create such a disastrous effect for our county … I think we should continue down the path that we’ve chosen. We’re getting close to the end. We just need to finish off the race.”

Supervisor Rickert began her statement by pointing out that the number of Shasta County residents who’ve  lost their lives to the coronavirus – nearly 200 – could fill the board chambers.

“Those people don’t have a voice today, and they’re not able to be here today because they passed from COVID,” Rickert said.

She questioned what exactly would change if the resolution passed, since many Shasta County residents have not complied with state mandates.

“Today, we just had a couple of speakers comment that businesses are not complying, that the tier system is not being followed. So I don’t understand really, what is the point of passing this resolution if people aren’t following it?”

District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert

Like Moty, Rickert expressed confidence that Shasta County was at a positive turning point with regard to the pandemic.

“I’m hoping that we’re going to get into the orange tier here real soon,” she said. “I think we’re really making some progress, and I just think the timing for this is just not appropriate.”

Finally, it was the moment everyone had waited for: Chair Chimenti’s turn to speak.

Chimenti, the King of Prefaces, was true to his style. Without first disclosing how he would vote, Chimenti offered a lengthy, detailed explanation of why he would soon be voting the way he would.

I’ll bet he delivers epic father-of-the-bride speeches.

District 1 Supervisor Joe Chimenti

He explained that when it comes to all the important decisions in his life, his foremost deciding factor is whether he’d feel proud to tell his loved ones about his decision, and whether he could face himself in the mirror and feel certain he’d done the very best he could.

The more he spoke, the more Chimenti alluded to the recall threats, foreshadowing his swing vote that would no doubt greatly displease one group or another.

“To me, leadership is having the courage to know what you can do and what you can’t do,” he said.

“It’s having the conviction to live with whatever decision you make, regardless of what consequence that may bring in terms of your political career — which,  I am not interested in a political career. I’m interested in serving my community for as long as I’m capable of serving.”

The lion’s share of his preface behind him, Chimenti reiterated viewpoints shared by Moty and Rickert about how well Shasta County had managed the coronavirus thus far. Chimenti said that while he believed COVID-19 is real and it’s deadly, he also believed the virus had been politicized.

“And I’ll leave that right there,” Chimenti said.

Even so, Chimenti asked rhetorical questions about how Shasta County has handled enforcement of state mandates. Ordinances? Tickets? Citations?

“We never did that,” Chimenti said.

“We never had any intention of doing that. We relied on the intelligence and the common sense and the commitment to community that this community shows.”

Intelligence? Common sense? Commitment to community? I beg to differ, but it’s Chimenti’s turn to talk.

On a personal note, Chimenti shared how during the year of the pandemic, he was blessed with two new grandbabies. He recalled how initially he wore a face covering when he visited his grandchildren, but over time, he stopped.

“I wanted them to see my face,” he said. “I wanted to see them smile, and I wanted them to see grandpa smile. I managed my life the way I felt my life should be managed.”

Chimenti said that his story was similar to the board’s basic position about Shasta County citizens’ personal choices during the pandemic.

“We’ve been yelled at, we’ve been screamed at, we’ve been vilified,” Chimenti said. “I get that. That’s all part of this. None of us like this. All of us experienced the emotional impact of this. But now we really have to think about what are we doing, and where’s it going to get us. Because to me, the biggest question that I ask myself all the time about this is, ‘Will the decision I make help the business community?’ ”

Chimenti said that one prevailing question remained.

“If we leave the tier structure, and we tell the governor, ‘We’re done, dude,’ how does that help the business community? Can I indemnify any business against investigation and prosecution by a state agency? And the answer is absolutely no.”

For Chimenti, a lifelong businessman – and, by the way, endorsed by the Greater Redding Chamber of Commerce – businesses’ current and future economic health weighs heavily upon him. He understands some people’s need to make a statement by divorcing from the state tier system, to show the world how Shasta County is bravely bucking the system, but in the end, he believes there would be zero gain; in fact, on the contrary.

“That’s the cold reality of it,” Chimenti said. “It accomplishes nothing. It does not protect our schools, it does not protect our businesses. It may make good political theater. It may be good for something that we want to take a stand on, and God bless America. And yes, I am a patriot. Even if I don’t agree with everything everyone says, I’m a patriot. This is my country and I love it very much. And this is my county and I love it very much.”

Chimenti said Shasta County must separate theater from reality. He said supervisors are faced with the responsibility to implement common sense, best practices and intelligent choices to guide the county through one of the most difficult periods it’s ever experienced.

“Period. That’s our job,” he said. “It’s not about getting reelected. It’s not about a fear of a recall. It’s about doing our jobs, and that’s what we’re doing.”

In conclusion, still without unveiling his vote decision, Chimenti — one of five Republicans on the Board of Supervisors – minced no words about the governor, and the risks that could follow a major Shasta County misstep.

“What are we really doing?” Chimenti asked.

“If we tell the governor, ‘We’re done,’ do we not just draw attention to ourselves? Do we not just put our businesses at risk? Because I disagree, I don’t think governor Newsom cares about us. I have never agreed with what he’s done. I believe all businesses are essential … But the reality is he doesn’t care. He doesn’t have to. He has no political capital up here. We were never going to put him in the White House. We were never going to keep him in the governor’s mansion. He doesn’t care. I’m not saying he’s a vindictive man. I don’t know the man, and quite frankly, I have no interest in ever knowing the man, but he is the governor. Whether I like that or not, he is the governor.”

Chimenti suggested that if Shasta County separated from the state tier system, there was the real risk that the governor could respond punitively in a way that could exceed current state-mandated discomfort levels.

With that, Chimenti was finished with his remarks. Next, he turned his attention to his job as board chair. Chimenti said there was a motion to vote on the resolution to remove Shasta County from California’s tiered system, that Supervisor Baugh had made the motion; seconded by Supervisor Jones.

The clerk conducted the roll call:

Supervisor Rickert?
No.”

Supervisor Jones?
Yes.”

Supervisor Baugh?
Yes.”

Supervisor Moty?
“No.” 

And Supervisor Chimenti?
“No.
So the motion fails.”

Thanks to the enlightened leadership demonstrated by Chair Chimenti and his better-late-than-never decision, and thanks to the unwavering wisdom of Supervisors Rickert and Moty, Shasta County was spared from living up to our usual reputation as a North State cautionary tale in a sorry story that would have surely gone viral. Unfortunately, the story would have ended, as it often does, with Shasta County viewed as the butt of a joke.

This time, Shasta County was the little county that could … do the right thing after all.

I think we can. I think we can. I think we can.

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“Our Board of Supervisors Absolutely Shit the Bed  in Shasta County …”

Update: Red White and Blueprint leader Carlos Zapata’s Facebook Live reaction to the vote. Warning. Strong language.

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Doni Chamberlain

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.

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