Crazy-making Trick to Being a Supervisor Hero: Cast Deciding No Vote on Former Yes Motion

Shasta County already feels batshit crazy enough in the last 20 months without citizens being gaslighted by our elected leaders.

Welcome to yesterday’s insanity at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting.

First, the good news. Once again, in a 3-2 vote, a majority of Shasta County supervisors rejected the preposterous idea to send yet another letter and formal resolution to the governor in protest of pandemic mandates.

This time, the proposed correspondence specifically addressed school children and mask requirements. You can read the letter here.

The accompanying Resolution Opposing School Mask Requirements was read aloud during the meeting by Shasta County Counsel Rubin E. Cruse, Jr.

This time Shasta County District 1 Supervisor Joe Chimenti was on the right side of reason. He, as any rational supervisor would, voted against sending the governor another pointless letter that will surely result in the sound of silence and its end days decomposing in a recycling bin.

Why would sending that letter be irrational? It’s because Shasta County Supervisors have been there, done that, and didn’t get so much as a lousy California T-shirt for their efforts. As Shasta County District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert pointed out recently, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different outcome, which perfectly describes many people’s ongoing wrong-headed preoccupation with sending the governor additional letters of disapproval about California’s pandemic mandates. The reality is that within the last 20 months, supervisors have sent multiple letters and resolutions to the state to scold the governor and set the record straight about our conservative little red county in a big liberal blue state.

Yes, District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty has told state leaders that one size does not fit all when it comes to pandemic mandates in rural counties like Shasta. No, those words haven’t budged the governor’s position one bit.

Shasta County District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty.

The irony is that Moty, a conservative, Second-Amendment-embracing former Redding police chief who’s been a dedicated elected leader and life-long community advocate, has been vilified by a group of unsprung people hell-bent on recalling him in a few months, as if the pandemic mandates are all his fault. Speaking of faulty recall, many of the recallers suffer from amnesia when it comes to recalling how, early on in the pandemic, Moty’s connections with key state players kept us from falling from red into the purple tier (briefly). Remember the color tiers? Seems so long ago.

Dear Lord, give us strength

Tuesday’s meeting opened with a prayer by a pastor who asked God to bless the supervisors and give them the courage to make the right decisions. Amen to that.

The meeting also featured an 80th anniversary Pearl Harbor remembrance that included Moty’s presentation of a county resolution in honor of those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, and their survivors.

This solemn tribute was tainted when Lori Bridgeford, the tin-hat turd in the proverbial public-comment-period punchbowl at nearly every Board of Supervisor meeting, approached the lectern. Bridgeford — someone who routinely shows up to harass citizens at vaccine clinics, who poses as an independent journalist (not) — spoke about Pearl Harbor fakery, and how it, like the 9-11 attack upon the United States, was actually an “inside job”.

She was also among a handful of citizen speakers who came forward to beseech the supervisors to vote yes to send the letter and resolution about kids and masks to the governor. Some speakers singled out Chimenti to thank him for placing the item on the day’s agenda. Clearly, at the time, many of the anti-vax, anti-mask folks in the audience viewed Chimenti as their hero.

Maybe so. Maybe not.

A pair of Redding residents, Benjamin Nowain and Lisa Jensen, were rare, refreshing voices of reason during the public comment period. They explained why the supervisors should refrain from sending the letter and resolution to the state. Vote no, Jensen and Nowain said.

By the way, no segue, but a recurring question that arises during the public comment period is why folks from “the other side” don’t attend the supervisor meetings. The answer is, as has been explained repeatedly by supervisors Moty and Rickert, many citizens would like to attend the meetings, but don’t feel comfortable doing so for two primary reasons. First, there’s been an ongoing lack of decorum and incidents of threats and loud outbursts from the audience during many board meetings since the pandemic’s start. Second, many of the people who do attend do not wear masks, and have openly mocked the coronavirus as a hoax; sure signs that they’re unvaccinated. In short, the board chambers can feel like an unsafe place for those who believe COVID is real and who don’t share the unmasked masses’ viewpoints. However, rest assured that despite their lack of in-person attendance, many of these people watch the meetings remotely, and send emails to the supervisors to voice their opinions.

Back to Jensen and Nowain.

Jensen referred to the letter as a pointless, uninformed “toothless gesture” that does not reflect the wisdom of leadership, but rather, Jensen said that the letter and resolution only pandered to the same people who’ve hijacked the board meetings for more than a year.

“Taking precautions is not only about your own safety,” Jensen said. “Mask-wearing is mostly for others’ benefit. We worry about what this teaches our children? What about teaching compassion for others; their teachers, the older adults in their lives, their classmates? What about teaching respect for human life? Those are worthwhile lessons.”

Jensen mentioned Chimenti by name when she said that the proposed letter only encouraged those who’ve turned the meetings into more spectacle than agenda when she asked, “Do you honestly believe that this will placate your anti-mask constituents, Joe?”

We all know the answer to that question: No.

Nowain took a similar stance, with the inclusion of scientific data.

“So, if you’re unvaccinated in Shasta County, you are six times more likely to die of COVID,” Nowain said. “That’s a mathematical fact.”

From the audience, some people chuckled and heckled. One man laughed and said, “Yeah, right,” prompting Chimenti to ask the audience to be quiet.

Nowain continued.

“As of right now, one in 390 Shasta County residents has died from COVID.”

Nowain then described the motion as a toothless letter with no legislative effect. He said he found it insulting to all Shasta County citizens, from those who are against the mandates who wrongly believe the letter has the power to bring change, to those who work hard to keep residents safe via testing and vaccinating.

Nowain, like Jensen, turned a portion of his comments to Chimenti. For people like Jensen and Nowain, on that moment of that day, before the vote, Chimenti would not be described as a hero.

“I have to say, Joe, I’m disappointed in you for putting this motion forward,” Nowain said. He continued by saying that he understood the resolution’s true intent.

“This is an attempt to appease the bad actors that come in here week in and week out to complain to the board,” he said.

“But you see, this will not shut them up. It only serves to embolden them. In a stroke of irony, you may have just united all of us, as this is not going to please anyone; one half because it’s a silly letter that will end up in the trash bin in Sacramento, and the other half lamenting that it was even brought up in the first place. I don’t consider it leadership to give in to terrorist demands.”

The multifaceted, multi-faced Joe Chimenti

Shasta County District 1 Supervisor Joe Chimenti

Supervisor Chimenti is an enigma; a man who keeps supporters and detractors alike guessing at his next move. We’ve reported here on A News Cafe the fact that a few months back Carlos Zapata, the head of the Red, White and Blueprint movement that enthusiastically supported the recall of Moty, Rickert and Chimenti, inexplicably declared that Chimenti wouldn’t be recalled after all. This about-face even caused some confusion among recall insiders.

We’ve yet to learn why Zapata made that decision.

Either way, the Recall Shasta group failed to gather enough valid petition signatures to put Rickert’s name on the recall ballot, although they did have enough signatures for a special election next year to recall Moty.

We may never know what endeared Chimenti to Zapata and other Shastaliban faithfuls in the tasteless melting pot that includes militia members, State of Jefferson believers, extremist Christian zealots, among others. But Zapata’s social-media declaration to remove Chimenti from the recall process calls into question Chimenti’s allegiances, aspirations, votes, and yes, items that he votes to place on future agendas, such as Tuesday’s resolution and letter.

Riddle me this: Since the time when Zapata pronounced Chimenti as free from recallers’ clutches, have you ever heard Chimenti publicly denounce the recallers? Likewise, have you ever heard Chimenti publicly defend Moty, who’s fighting to save his rightfully elected supervisor seat? Frankly, I’d be surprised if Chimenti’s home even displayed a yard sign in support of Moty. Feel free to correct me if I’m all wrong about Chimenti, but these are among a slew of questions that cause me to wonder whose side Chimenti’s on.

At this point, Chimenti’s every move as a supervisor is under scrutiny.

No wonder that during the last few days North State social media was abuzz with much angst, speculation and suspense about not just the resolution/letter vote in general, but specifically, how Chimenti would vote. That uncertainty in itself says a lot about Chimenti. By now, shouldn’t we know Chimenti well enough as a supervisor to anticipate his stances on basic issues, much as we’ve come to anticipate actions taken by Moty, Rickert, District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh and District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones? For better or for worse, agree or disagree, Moty, Rickert, Jones and Baugh remain true to their natures and voting patterns. Not so when it comes to Chimenti. He keeps his cards close to his chest, and can be for something one day, and against it the next.

Case in point, a few months ago Chimenti was the supervisor with such shockingly bad timing that he suggested — just as Shasta County was identified as having the highest COVID rates in California — that supervisors host a special in-person meeting for healthcare workers to air their grievances about the state vaccine mandates. Not only was that an illogical suggestion from a public-safety standpoint, but it also made no sense because — once again, with feeling — the county supervisors have no authority over state mandates imposed on healthcare workers. Lose, lose.

Later, Chimenti changed his mind and suggested that kind of public meeting during a spike in COVID cases was a bad idea. Cue head-spinning.

Consequently, with all that anticipation about the letter and the resolution, all eyes were on Chimenti Tuesday morning. Would he vote in favor of sending the letter, or would he vote against it? Flip a coin. Spin the wheel. One never knows with Joe. Which way is the wind blowing? How are his emails leaning? Who most recently bent his ear during a lunch meeting? It’s anyone’s guess.

The initial buzz about Chimenti’s Tuesday vote began a few weeks ago, when, to many people’s surprise, Chimenti joined the yes votes with his alt-right pro-recall-Moty supervisors Jones and Baugh to put the resolution and letter on the next board agenda.

What the what? Why, oh why would Chimenti vote to put that resolution and letter on the agenda, knowing full well that the supervisors’ previous letters and resolutions sent to the governor received zero response from Gov. Gavin Newsom? More to the point, why would Chimenti vote to put that letter and resolution on the agenda when he knows the county has no control over the state, just as the county has no authority over state mandates handed down to public schools and private hospitals?

It’s cruel to give misguided people false hope. Sending a letter of this type to the state is about as effective as a letter to Santa. It makes the ignorant little kids feel good, but it’s all a bunch of make-believe.

But rather than speak plainly to the earnest citizens who’ve vociferously expressed for 20 months their mistaken beliefs that the supervisors could put the skids on state mask and vaccine mandates, Chimenti routinely plays with fire.

Like a pyromaniac firefighter who enjoys the thrill of the resulting adrenaline rush from the activity that follows a raging inferno, it appears that Chimenti’s leadership style is to strike the match and stand by as small sparks ignite into five-alarm fires. Public comments are heated. Tempers flare. Things get red hot. Still, Chimenti sits back and watches, such as Tuesday, when a speaker verbally eviscerated Rickert in a personal attack, and Chair Chimenti took no action to stop it.

Eventually, though, Chimenti’s pattern is to rush in with a firehose, playing the part of the courageous hero who’s shown up to save the day to stop a disaster; one that he helped create. That detail is lost on many people. Behold, on Tuesday, as I live-streamed portions of the supervisors meeting on Facebook, some commenters praised Chimenti.

“Thank you, Joe!”

Hold off on the ticker tape parade, folks. The fact is, Tuesday’s vote would have never happened in the first place had Chimenti not voted with Baugh and Jones weeks ago to put the resolution/letter vote on the agenda. Had he then voted no with Moty and Rickert, Tuesday’s motion would have been a non-event.

And oh, the grandstanding! Before the vote, before Chimenti rushed in as an elected first-responder, he spent many minutes (during the ostensible discussion time about the resolution) to deliver a long, impassioned, totally out-of-left-field speech. Chimenti said he only had 12 months left in office as a supervisor, and he had so many things he wanted to do in his remaining time. He spoke of such issues as homelessness and housing shortages and jails and even a little fictitious girl heading to lunch that very moment who may end up an addict as an adult. All pressing issues, certainly, but way, way, off topic. He even defended his habit of allowing loud,  rude speakers to have their way during the public comment periods, all in the name of free speech, and his desire to hear people out. (Funny, he later said that once this particular vote was over, he wanted no more outbursts. I guess the free-speech window had a limited opening.)

Chimenti’s words sounded suspiciously like a campaign stump speech, to the point where he later referred to his remarks as delivered from his “soapbox”.

He got that right. If he doesn’t plan to run for re-election in June, one could only guess what post-supervisor position he does have in mind. I guess we’ll find out eventually.

As is customary before a vote, each of the supervisors weighed in with their reasons behind their upcoming decision. Baugh acknowledged that yes, the board had sent other letters to the governor, but the last letter was poorly written. Jones, who spends much of his time on the dais with his eyes closed in apparent slumber, had little to say except he’d vote yes, and he was ready to get going with a motion. Rickert and Moty repeated the same song, different verses, about what a waste of time and energy this item was, because, as they’ve said before over and over again, the previous letters had no positive effect.

Rickert did come up with a novel suggestion that she directed to her colleague Baugh: Rather than push for another pointless letter and equally pointless resolution, how about if Baugh goes to his Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) group, of which he’s Shasta County’s representative? There, he could speak to his fellow rural representatives about joining forces to collectively appeal to the governor. You know, strength in numbers rather than Shasta County going solo.

Baugh was caught flatfooted. He pushed back, made excuses, and said that no, first he’d want to tell the RCRC folks that Shasta County just sent a letter to the state. With that, Rickert literally put her head in her hands in exasperation and reminded Baugh that Shasta County had already done that, a few times, with no results. Remember?

So it goes upon the insane merry-go-round called Shasta County. Up and down. Around and around. Where it stops nobody knows.

Eventually, Chimenti’s cliffhanger speech ended with his grand announcement that he would not vote for the resolution/letter (that he’d agendized). If you suffered whiplash from that vote, and felt blistered from the effects of being gas lighted as you questioned whether you’d misunderstood Chimenti’s original stances for the letter, never fear, you’re not alone. So it goes in the land of Chimenti.

In other news: 1 supervisor accuses 3 colleagues of Brown Act violations

The nearly empty board chambers held other interesting moments, such as when Supervisor Baugh, all smiles with his renowned golly-gee-whiz style, brought up a Nov. 29 meeting that he said ventured into the serious territory of possible Brown Act violations by supervisors Rickert, Chimenti and even Baugh’s buddy Jones. The private meeting in question took place on Nov. 29, hosted by Judy Flores, Shasta County School Superintendent, and included representatives or board presidents from 11 of the district’s 15 charter schools, and 19 of the district’s 25 school districts who’d gathered to discuss state mandates.

According to Rickert, she was on the formal invitation list, while Jones was not. Rickert said she was told that Jones showed up early, uninvited and unexpected, and gained entrance into the building by asking to use the restroom, and then he stayed.

Jones countered by saying that because he arrived before Rickert and Chimenti, the onus was on one of them to leave to avoid a brown-Act-violating quorum, not him.

Chimenti, like Rickert, reiterated that he was invited to the meeting, adding that even though it was true that three supervisors did ultimately attend the same private meeting simultaneously, the trio never spoke to one another, and no county business was discussed. Baugh asked County Counsel Cruse to look into the incident, and to report back with his findings. Cruse said he would do that.

Baugh’s Brown-Act accusations aside, Rickert noted that at no time during the Nov. 29 meeting was there any mention by Flores or any other educators that suggested that any action should be taken by Shasta County Board of Supervisors, lending credence to her point that the state’s mandates related to schools is out of the county’s reach and responsibility. Rickert said that Flores provided the schools and districts with contact information so they could reach out to the appropriate agencies and individuals to air their concerns and inquiries regard personal belief exemptions, vaccines, masking and consequences for boards that chose to go against state directives.

The supervisors broke for a short lunch, and after they returned I learned there were some fireworks regarding the topic of recent redistricting. We can watch the recording here after it’s uploaded.

Bring your popcorn. Straightjackets optional.


Here’s a Facebook Live video of the portion of the meeting related to the letter and resolution.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9:55 a.m. on 12/9/2021

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's 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's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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