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Step Right Up to Shasta County’s Recall Circus

Photo by Steve DuBois

Tuesday was a sad and inauspicious day, even for the three-ring circus that’s become Shasta County, a region that’s gained a dubious worldwide reputation for crazy performances by a vocal minority during a deadly pandemic. 

Popcorn! Peanuts! Cue the monkeys and dancing bears! 

Outside the Shasta County Administration Center, the jubilant, maskless mob was as giddy as a bunch of schoolkids on a field trip that promised cheap entertainment under the big top of Shasta County’s board of supervisor chambers.

Once inside the chambers, they’d hoot and clap and cheer wildly as three of five supervisors were verbally put on notice about the intent to recall. One supervisor was served in person at the dais, while two will receive their paperwork in the mail.  

Photo by Steve DuBois

The supervisors being threatened with recall are District 1 Supervisor/Chair Joe Chimenti, District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty, and District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert.

Rally Sally Rapoza handed out informational fliers about Thursday-night training sessions, where recall believers could meet at a Redding church to learn how to ensure a successful recall. 

As an aside, someone on social media pointed out the similarity between  Shasta County’s recall logo, and QAnon’s. The first one is the QAnon logo.

The second is the Shasta County Recall logo. I can see it. Can you?

Back to the church-meeting-place-for-politics. That’s another example of the North State’s upside-down situation. Is it only in Shasta County that the IRS turns a blind eye to places of worship that break IRS rules about mixing politics with preaching in non-profit church facilities?

Does it have anything to do with the fact that Redding is home to the 11,000-member Bethel Church? There, preaching politics from the pulpit is as much a part of the church culture as how its Richie-Rich pastors live in huge homes and drive expensive cars, while many of its poverty-stricken parishioners cram like Third-World refugees into tiny living spaces, all for the opportunity to experience signs and wonders.

Speaking of signs and wonders, before the festivities began, even the pair of on-duty Shasta County Sheriff deputies could not contain their glee — or feign  impartiality.

This pair of Shasta County Sheriff deputies – center – were seen hugging Carlos Zapata before the supervisors meeting. Photo by Steve DuBois.

The deputies took turns hugging a grinning Carlos Zapata, the ringleader and master of the Red White and Blueprint movement, the group that’s vowed to “drain the swamp” of elected leaders who don’t comply with the Red White and Blueprint’s master plan.

There wasn’t an empty seat inside the board chambers. The walls were lined with spectators who faced the dais that held District 1 Supervisor Joe Chimenti, District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones, and District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh.

Moty and Rickert participated virtually, as did various other county staff. 

What a show! The very people who’ve taken exception to being classified as extremists did not disappoint. One man brought in a bunch of moving boxes upon which he’d taped white paper printed with childish titles.

Another brought an engraved wooden plaque, The Bendover Award, with Chimenti, Rickert and Moty’s names. Also, in a move that must have given Supervisor Baugh heartburn, his name was there, too. 

Oh, how the crowd laughed at that, as well as the box of Froot Loops, too! Clap, clap! Ha ha!

Things took a cruel turn when Vladislav Davidzon approached the lectern. Though a relative Shasta County newcomer, “Vlad” has gained a reputation as someone especially mean, someone who behaves in ways that call into question his mental state and capacity for empathy.

Davidzon has repeatedly said that he doesn’t care how many people die of the coronavirus, and a few months ago he visited a Facebook page of someone grieving the loss of a relative who lost his life to COVID, and Davidzon mocked the family for taking the virus seriously. And during one supervisors meeting, he turned his wrath to KRCR news anchor Mike Mangas, demanding answers about Mangas’ son, the Greater Redding Chamber of Commerce CEO, as Mangas held his camera just a few feet away. 

Vladislav Davidzon.

Davidzon used his three minutes of public comment period to launch a verbal attack against Supervisor Rickert, much to the delight of many in the audience who applauded their approval.

Davidzon went for the jugular, and made false, personal accusations about one of Rickert’s adult children. And when Chair Chimenti tried to intervene, and asked Davidzon to please address the board, Davidzon yelled, “Back off!” at Chimenti.

“I will address as I wish,” Davidzon shouted to Chimenti, before returning to Rickert. “You’re making up for your failures, stepping into a role of a supervisor and spending our dollars to make up for your failures as a failed mother!”

Rickert would eventually get the last word on on that subject.

There were many adorned in some of the usual theatrical attire, such as the man who looks like Captain America, and the woman in the stars and stripes duster, and State of Jefferson-pusher Terry Rapoza in his usual American flag-patterned shirt, and some State of Jefferson T-shirts, and, of course, a few Red White and Blueprint T-shirts. 

And the drama! Like the recall process itself, there’s no law that says the reasons for the recall should be fact checked. 

Speakers claimed the recall was a “course correction” for Shasta County. They cited their grounds for the recall. They accused the supervisors of betraying the public trust, of not defending the county from state overreach, and most of all, for “bowing to Gov. Newsom, a lawless politician.” 

There were some voices of reason. Former Assembly candidate Elizabeth Betancourt called from her Happy Valley home to offer support for Moty, Rickert and Chimenti. She referred to one of the speakers who was in favor of the recall, who accused the supervisors of irresponsible funding.

“This recall campaign would be the most irresponsible use of public funds in our county, which are very short for a rural county where we don’t have the big populations of more urban bases,” Betancourt said. 

My family has lost friends and members of our family. We know COVID is real and supervisors, Moty, Chimenti and Rickert, are acting in the best interest of the vast majority of Shasta County citizens. Whether they’re speaking here today or not, the vast majority of Shasta County citizens understand COVID is real.”

In front of the county building, a lone man stood outside the chambers with a sign that said, “No Recall”.

He knew others were there in spirit, but unwilling to face a crowd of people who refuse to follow public health pandemic guidelines.

Topsy-turvy North State

In these early days of the recall circus, things are as topsy turvy as a Twilight-Zone circus act on crack. If things were right-side up here in Shasta County, the most deserving of recall would be the censured pair of calamity circus clowns, District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh and District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones.

From left, supervisors Patrick Jones, Les Baugh and Joe Chimenti. Photo by Steve DuBois

They’re the ones who grandstand. They’re the ones who shamelessly play to the crowd, cause dissention, and cast doubt upon public health measures in the face of a pandemic.

They’re the ones who are seemingly oblivious to their sworn oaths, duties and responsibilities to serve the people, not their personal agendas. 

Instead, inexplicably, the majority of the most rational supervisors – Rickert, Moty and board Chair Chimenti  – are being threatened with recall. However, they’re also the ones who risked their political careers for an entire year to keep their citizens safe during a pandemic. So why are they the ones with recall targets on their backs? It’s insane.

Meanwhile, the two most undignified and duplicitous supervisors  – sanctimonious double-talking pastor Baugh and gun-manager Jones – they were Red White and Blueprint’s chosen ones, and allowed to stay. 

Supervisors Patrick Jones, left, and Les Baugh. Photo by Steve DuBois

How much easier it would have been for Chimenti, Rickert and Moty to give into the demands of the tantrum-throwing public during this last year. 

Fine. Suit yourself. Contract the coronavirus, infect your granny, bury your grandpa, experience the wonders of long-haul COVID-19. If you don’t care, then why should we? Knock yourself out. 

Instead, supervisors Rickert, Moty and Chimenti kept their commitment to public health guidelines, for the sake of public health. These three supervisors walked that precarious, often unpopular tightrope, one stretched taut between following state mandates and, quite honestly, not pushing enforcement. 

Indeed, no good deed goes unpunished. Because now, it’s as if Chimenti, Moty and Rickert are being persecuted for maintaining public safety.   

You can’t tell us what to do! We won’t live in fear and wear face diapers! You’re communists and tyrants and unAmerican! We hate you as much as we hate Newscum! We will remove you from your seats and we will replace you with someone just like us who lets us do what we want. It’s our God-given right to play with tigers and dancing bears if we want to. 

Really rigorous recall reality

Either way, the first step – the easiest part – of the recall process has begun. From now on there are many hoops that recallers must jump through, and many deadlines to meet. If the recall actually gets off the ground, it could happen as late as December.

But first, the recallers must collect signatures.

There are 21,956 registered voters in Chimenti’s District 1, 21,540 registered voters in Moty’s District 2, and 22,160 in Rickert’s District 3. The recallers must collect enough signatures to equal 20 percent of the voters in each of those three districts, and a few thousand more signatures for good measure. At a minimum that’s 4,391 for District 1, 4,308 for District 2, and 4,432 for District 3.

Three recurring recall fantasies

This recall plan could go a few ways, including my recall fantasies.

Fantasy No. 1: Chimenti, Rickert and Moty decide that being a supervisor is a tireless, thankless job. They jump before they’re pushed from their seats, and they all book vacations together (fully vaccinated, naturally) with their respective spouses somewhere tropical. They sit on a beach and sip beverages from hollowed out coconuts. They’d have earned every minute of relaxation. They’ve endured a year’s worth of abuse and torment from unmasked mobs of rude, ungrateful citizens.

If Moty, Rickert and Chimenti resign before the recall process is even in its infancy stage, before signatures have been handed in, then Gov. Newsom will appoint three supervisors to replace the three voluntarily departing Shasta County Republicans who are apparently too liberal for the Red White and Blueprint crowd. Of course, he’ll appoint Democrats.

Just imagine how upset Carlos & Co. would be if their recall plan backfired, and Newsom hand-picked three liberal Shasta County supervisors. Golly, what fun Baugh and Jones would have then as perpetual minority votes.

3-2, 3-2, 3-2!

Fantasy No. 2: If the recall process does get underway, this fantasy would see the elections office flooded with recall candidate applications from sane, rational people willing to have their names on the ballot, if the election proceeds. Those reasonable, normal candidates would campaign against the Red White and Blueprint’s cast of extremist candidates.

That would give voters myriad options, not just Red White and Blueprint chosen few. How awesome would that be if the RW&B folks did all the heavy lifting, got all the signatures, got the recall over the finish line where it was presented to voters in a special election, and then the counter-recallers won the day with their candidates, each of whom were more along the lines of Rickert, Moty and Chimenti?

Fantasy No. 3. If the recall moves forward and goes before voters in a special election, Shasta County citizens will have a golden opportunity here in the North State to prove we’re not as crazy as the world assumes. We will show up in droves to vote a resounding NO!  to the recall. That would be the best outcome of all; a scenario in which Moty, Rickert and Chimenti would retain their seats.

If Fantasy No. 3 happened, if the recall was rejected by voters, the Red White and Blueprint movement would be a total flop; DOA; a slickly produced example of a grandiose bad idea directed by equally grandiose bad actors.

Behold, Red White and Blooper.

Of course, the down side to all theese scenarios is that a special recall election would cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It’s such a sham. The truth is that although early on, the angry unmasked masses claimed they were most outraged about COVID mandates, clearly, COVID was a springboard to higher aspirations. Look at the board chambers as an example of the transition from last year to this year. The doors are open for in-person attendance again. The seats are back and the plexiglass screen is gone. Look around the county. Most businesses are open. Kids are playing sports. Travel restrictions are easing. We’re in the home stretch.

What do recallers really want?

Not that all the recallers are on the same page, but generally speaking, the recall ticks a bunch of the same boxes between many disparate groups, from Christian zealots to militia members. A successful recall would be one pointy-toed cowboy boot in the door for access to some big-ticket to-do-list items: create a 51st state, give a one-finger salute to the governor, gut public health (for starters), get rid of department heads, ensure a RW&B sympathizers represent every single elected position, and make Shasta County a Second Amendment county where citizens can open-carry; a place with a Constitutional sheriff who’d flex his muscles as he escorted federal agents to the county line, where he’d say, “Git out, and stay out. You have no authority here.” 

Meanwhile, Rickert, Moty and Chimenti are collateral damage. This recall isn’t about this trio of rational supervisors’ behavior in the face of a pandemic, because as we can see, life is finally getting back to normal again. From where I’m sitting, the recall is Red White and Blueprint’s slippery-slope crazy-ass plan to turn back the hands of time to whatever magical Wild West era these so-called patriots imagined as a time when life was free and easy. 

The recallers were no doubt disappointed that they were unable to present all the recall papers to each supervisor in person, with the exception of Chimenti, who donned a mask and accepted the papers.

Supervisor Joe Chimenti, center, wearing a mask, receives the recall intent papers. Photo by Steve DuBois.

The tenacious recallers asked for permission to be escorted via sheriff deputies directly to Moty and Rickert’s offices inside the county administrative building. 

Knowing as we do now that the deputies are on hugging terms with Zapata, how inappropriate would that have been to have the same obviously impartial deputies deliver the hostile recallers to Moty and Rickert? 

Extraordinarily inappropriate, at the least, and potentially dangerous to Moty and Rickert at the most. 

Fortunately, both Moty and Rickert were off the premises. Undaunted, the recallers asked if county counsel could accept the papers for Moty and Rickert. No, they could not, replied county counsel. Next the recallers asked if the county CEO could accept Moty and Rickert’s recall-intent papers, to which county counsel again said no. 

The papers will be delivered to Moty and Rickert via snail mail.

After that, it was over, at least from the recallers’ viewpoint. They packed up and left, leaving the supervisors and county staff to carry on with dealing with the business of Shasta County.

As has become a pattern, Jones and Baugh are each one-trick ponies. Each week Baugh asks for a controversial sure-fire no-win item for the next meeting’s agenda that would insist all board members attend the meetings in person inside the board chambers. This isn’t his first time of making this request, but he said he’ll continue doing it, despite knowing that three of his fellow supervisors will vote against it, despite knowing it’s a waste of time.

Rickert, Chimenti and Moty all pushed back, saying people should have the choice of how to attend the meetings; in person or virtually.

Moty questioned Baugh’s “gall” to balk at being told what to do by the state, and yet Baugh wants to tell others what to do.

“You are so two-faced,” Moty said. “I will not support this at all.”

Rickert agreed.

“Everybody talks about their personal rights, and I think even supervisors  have personal rights, too,” Rickert said. “We have a right to make a decision for ourselves.”

The vote failed, yet Baugh chuckled and promised he’d try again next time.

You may remember how Jones, on his first day as a supervisor, vowed that because he doesn’t trust the McConnell Foundation, he would vote no on anything affiliated with this philanthropic organization that has benefited the North State in countless ways and many millions of dollars. Because of his blanket animosity against the McConnell Foundation, Jones recently voted no to water McConnell was offering to residents in the Jones Valley area, a region that includes portions of Jones’ district.

I wonder how Jones’ constituents would have felt about his rejection of the gift of water come August, had his colleagues not voted yes?

If you follow Jones’ grudge, which included his vow many years ago to  never set foot on the Sundial Bridge, the McConnell Foundation could propose funding of my pie-in-the-sky dream: a state-of-the-art mental health facility that would provide jobs for workers, and help for those who suffer from mental illness …. and even in that situation, Jones would note no.

In other board matters, department heads gave lengthy, complex reports. And as is customary, supervisors each reported what they’d done since the previous meeting in terms of board-related business, appointments, contacts, special events, communications, projects, committees, etc.

Jones, once again, came up with a big, fat zero, saying he had “no reportable meetings,” which is another way of saying he didn’t do squat. In previous meetings he’s made vague references to meeting with some people throughout the week at the gun shop he manages.

As the meeting wound to close, well into the afternoon, Rickert said she wanted to clarify and correct some misinformation spoken about one of her adult children during the public comment period. She said that all three of her grown children have lived in their own homes, and had for many years.

“I’d also like to thank Mr. Vlad Davidzon for giving me the opportunity to advocate for the need to break down stigma,” Rickert said.

“My message to those who have a loved one with a diagnosis, just please know I will continue to lobby for expanded programs for the mentally ill and those who need help with addiction. I do appreciate the opportunity to share that message, because there is a need for us to break down stigma.”

Class act. Watch and learn, recallers.

Chimenti, who’d experienced the indignity earlier in the day of being served with recall papers in person, also took the high road. Though by now, the maskless audience was gone, he wanted to make a few things clear.

He said the board hoped to limit state intrusion, not encourage it.

And when you do political theater, you’re just encouraging the state to come after us,” he said. “So, moving forward we must continue to follow science and common sense to mitigate this threat and protect against future threats. We must also continue to support our business community by spending money in our local businesses.”

Chimenti said he realized that all the people who’d crowded into the board chambers that morning were gone, but he hoped they’d hear his message that encourages people to check out businesses and places of worship, although some restrictions may still be in place. He encouraged people to bear in mind that Shasta County is heading in the right direction.

“So with that, I want to also say, as Supervisor Moty has expressed, we should be out of this completely by June 15th,” he said. “I mean, we’re talking 60 days out. And again, if you look at our county, we’re open, intelligently, with common sense and safe practices. And we should be out of this by June 15th. So with that, I have nothing else that I’d like to add. I appreciate you indulging me to get that on the public record, as you will probably be hearing more of that as time goes on.”

Time will pass, one way or another. And by Christmas, Shasta County may receive the gift of good news about the recall; that nothing becomes of it.

Of course, the greatest gift of all would be if we could put 2021 and COVID-19 behind us, and maybe by then our lives will have returned to normal again. No protests, no fighting, and absolutely no more circuses.

Normal, glorious normal. I’ll take it.

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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