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Fusterclucking in the Northstate

Are you superstitious? If you’re a baseball fan, you probably are – a little. I have not written about my beloved NY Mets much because they have been in first place in the NLE the entire season and I didn’t want to jinx it. Gloating in baseball is a sure one-way ticket to the cellar, so this is not a gloat. It’s more of a “Can you believe it?” And now I have probably done irreparable damage to the 2022 season.

Photo courtesy gatorsports.com

Similar with wildfire. Here it is mid- August and we have not had to cancel one single hike because of smoke. Yeah – it’s around, but last year at this time we’d already been stuck inside for a month, unable to see the bottom half of our pasture, running the air conditioner because smoke comes through the swamp cooler. We are thankful and I bet you are, too. Am I jinxing it by showing gratitude? There is still time left in this fire and baseball season, so I hereby withdraw the last two paragraphs.

Smoke approaching our place in 2020. We were enveloped by the next morning.

 

Speaking of wildfire, I went back to Greenville a few weekends ago for the commemoration of the Dixie Fire destroying the town one year ago. There was an organized procession that started in Belden in the Feather River Canyon, traveled up Hwy 70 to Keddie and back through the Indian Valley. It stopped in Greenville for lunch, then on to Canyon Dam. 

 

Congressman Doug LaMalfa returned and this time we had about a half hour of face time. He told me he’d read what I had written about our meeting three weeks before and called me LaMalfenstein. I bent his ear a bit about Tehama County’s dry well situation and the lack of substantive action taken by our Groundwater Commission. It’s an issue throughout his district, of course, and there’s not much he can do personally, except stop growing rice maybe? Or does he get paid more when he doesn’t?

Rice field after rain – photo courtesy civileats.com

I asked him if he had read about the Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams’ See You Next Tuesday kerfuffle and subsequent censure and he said he hadn’t, so I spilled. He asked me not to convey his thoughts on that subject, but gave me a joke to put in print instead. Q – Why does Sweden paint bar codes on their warships? A – So when they return to port, they can Scandanavian. 

 

I will Finnish by repeating I will not be voting for Doug in November, but he is a nice person and I enjoy talking with him. We just disagree on too many things. Manton has the highest percentage of residents in Tehama County on food stamps and he votes to cut nutrition programs on the reg. Let them eat rice. There’s much, much more, but you’ve probably noticed I don’t like to discuss national issues here. So let’s get local, shall we?
 
Normally this column talks about Tehama County politics, but I was recently made aware of a legal battle in Trinity County that was caused by the same type of fustercluck in which our own board of supervisors indulges. 

 

Alert A News Cafe reader Larry Winter noticed Margaret Long is Tehama’s County Counsel. That is, her firm – Prentice Long – is contracted with us for over a half million dollars a year to serve in that position. She is also CoCo in Trinity, Alpine and Modoc Counties. Additionally, she is City Attorney for Susanville, Etna, and Fort Jones, District Counsel for 3 special districts, and serves 6 other jurisdictions in specific matters like dependency and labor. Busy gal.

Margaret Long – photo courtesy prenticelongpc.com

Mr. Winter is not impressed with her performance in Trinity and pointed me in the direction of the aforementioned legal battle. He referred me to a series of articles in the Trinity Journal, a fine news source with terrific investigative reporting. Kudos to Publisher/Editor Wayne Agner.

The story begins in January of 2019, when the Trinity Action Association – a grass-roots non-profit which many say are anti-cannabis – sued Trinity County for allegedly not enforcing CEQA rules for commercial cannabis cultivation licensees. A judge ruled in favor of the county, but the TAA appealed the decision.

Photo courtesy kymkemp.com

In early August 2019, two weeks before the court date, Chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors Judy Morris signed an agreement in closed session to settle out of court with TAA for $95,000. We know now the board voted in secret to approve the agreement, figuring they would be saving the county money in the long run. The check was cut, mailed and cashed before the public was ever made aware. County Counsel reported out that “direction was given to staff”, which is exactly what our County Counsel says about almost anything that happens in closed session. Oh right, it’s the same person.

Trinity County Courthouse – trinitycounty.com

On October 1, ratification of the signature on the agreement was placed on the Consent Agenda to be voted through without public discussion. We just went through the same thing down here – remember? That’s what started C-gate.

 

Two Trinity Supes, John Fenley and Keith Groves, had the item pulled from consent so it could be discussed that very meeting. Fenley asked why they were voting on something they had already approved in closed session almost 2 months prior. 

 

Long’s partner, David Prentice, was serving in her place because of a scheduling conflict. He said that even though the settlement was agreed upon, they were finalizing the vote now. Trying to cover his and Long’s shiny white behinds, he went on to insist that because the closed session vote was never reported out, it was not final. He went on to say that they were not voting on the agreement today, they were voting to ratify the signature of the Chairwoman which would finalize the agreement. And that, my friends, is some stellar backassward lawyer logic. He added it was up to the board to publicize the closed session vote. Oooooookay.

David Prentice – photo courtesy prenticelongpc.com

It was obvious Prentice didn’t know until that moment that the check had been mailed and cashed over a month earlier, so he deflected by throwing Auditor Angela Bickle under the bus, stating she had no right to issue the check until the vote was finalized. Not surprisingly, Bickle took issue with that, saying she had received all required paperwork and signatures and it wasn’t her job to judge the process by which that paperwork landed on her desk. Oh snap!

 

Supervisor Fenley asked what would happen if the vote didn’t pass. Prentice said the TAA would have to return the $95k and that would be a difficult process and probably involve court action. Fenley announced he was leaving the meeting as he believed the proceedings were illegal. Ya think? 

 

The vote tied at 2-2, which means it failed. That set in motion a lawsuit by TAA that was ruled on this past May – almost 3 years later. The judge said the agreement made in closed session was valid and the county would have to uphold it. The county also had to pay for all TAA’s legal fees. The total was over $338,000 to TAA, plus the county had logged 162 hours of their own outside legal fees to defend themselves in the case. Cha-ching.

 

If they had just been honest with the public right from the start, all of this could have been avoided. The Brown Act exists to expand transparency to the public. Using closed session and the consent agenda to sneak things past us violates its intention. And the law, incidentally.

 

As to the original suit, everybody wants CEQA rules to be adhered to by cannabis cultivators. Cannabis doesn’t need toxic sprays or flood irrigation to produce top shelf product. In fact, if you used as much water on cannabis as they do on almonds you would kill the plants.

 

And speaking of cannabis, there is a delivery service coming to Red Bluff that I am fully supporting. It’s local people who have been victimized by the Tehama County bunker ordinance. They are looking for backers, so if you’d like to invest in the economic future of Red Bluff or just want updates on when they’ll be open for business, you can email them at californiacannacompany@gmail.com. Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in the company. I just know they have all of our best interests at heart. Good peeps.

Cannabis storefront – getnugg.com

There has been some controversy surrounding the cannabis storefront coming to downtown Red Bluff in the dining room of Carlos Zapata’s Palomino Room. The businesses will be separate and Zapata will not have a direct financial benefit other than half the rent for the space in the building. Some Red Bluff businesses are happy about it, some don’t care either way, but Lynn Moule, wife of County Supervisor Bill Moule, doesn’t want it there. Moule owns Business Connections right next door and doesn’t want cannabis so close. She supports the industry being in Red Bluff, but NIMBY. She believes it will destroy the “family atmosphere” of that block. Um…you mean the block with the bar cum strip joint where every drunk cowboy goes to fight?

I have mixed feelings, of course. I’d like to see as many dispensaries downtown as the town can support – I just don’t want Zapata to benefit. From anything. Ever. My friend Jesse Montgomery said this about the dispensary ~ “Best not to have one downtown. It would bring too much money to surrounding businesses and might accidentally cause economic growth.” Hah.

If you appreciate journalist Liz Merry’s reporting and commentary, consider a contribution to A News Cafe. Thank you!

Liz Merry

Liz Merry was born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx, then transplanted to the Jersey Shore. She moved to Chico in 1984 and married her comedy partner, Aaron Standish, in 1990. They have lived in Manton since 1994.

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