Govt. in Spite of the People

by Lou Binninger

Sutter County citizens against spending $2 million on a homeless village along Garden Highway came to speak at the October 10th Supervisors’ meeting. Supervisors feigned surprise that there would be a protest from Little League parents, Airport operators, Posse Arena and Twin Cities Rod and Gun shooting range advocates. Supervisors contended the issue wasn’t even on the agenda.

The concern was Item #9, the second reading of a new and improved camping ordinance outlawing squatting on county property. Supervisors argued that Item #9 had nothing to do with a homeless development on Garden Highway. However, a Little League representative noted that the new ordinance exempted the property in question essentially allowing a homeless camp in the city.

Though supervisors acted astonished at the dust-up, there are detailed plot plans, purchase lists and cost estimates for cots, tents, hygiene items, food, security patrols, an agreement with nonprofit providers, and plans for a 6,000 sq.ft. building, and more. Were supervisors ignorant, deceived by County Administrator (CAO) Mitnick , or devious?

The meeting started in bizarre fashion. Board Chairman Jim Whiteaker moved #9 from a stand-alone agenda item to the Consent Agenda where there is no discussion and a number of issues are voted upon at once. However, scores of people were there to speak about #9.

Whiteaker then asked county counsel if the supervisor made a mistake. Counsel responded that Item 9 should now be considered in a separate meeting. Whiteaker ignored counsel by saying he was taking responsibility. The supervisors then passed the Consent Agenda allowing the use of Garden Hwy property for a homeless camp.

In spite of the ordinance being passed without discussion and public input, Whiteaker allowed homeless village speakers to have their say. This was governing in spite of the people. The supervisors already made up their minds without debate. Then they grandstanded about how transparent and easily accessible they were.

In fact, Supervisor Flores promised Peach Bowl Little League new ball fields, just somewhere else. A new shooting range had already been proposed to the Rod and Gun Club, but somewhere else. In other words, everyone along the corridor is being hustled with promises and spending someone else’s money. However, rather than building new facilities first, people are being asked to trust their fate to the Supervisors.

No such guarantee is given to the airport people though. If CAO Scott Mitnick has his way the airport will be closed. Mitnick is not a fan of the Sutter County Airport. He considers it underused and not the best utilization of the property. The county owes the Airport Fund hundreds of thousands of dollars because Federal Aviation Administration rules requires paying fair market rent to the airport for using portions of it for unrelated activities.

So, is creating a camp where hundreds of homeless people will live across the fence line from the airport the first step to closing the facility? Thieves are already stealing from the gun club, baseball operation and airport hangars.

Drugged and drunken homeless pose a threat to airport safety and children at the ball parks. Will sex registrants be allowed in the camp in violation of the law? Speakers addressed the supervisors about these issues but the ordinance was already in the books.

Supervisors played the crowd encouraging them to return on October 24 when the camp itself will be on the agenda. However, the issue may already be decided and then reassigned to the Consent Agenda for a vote.

Last Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency because an outbreak of deadly hepatitis A has killed at least 18 people in the state, and forced almost 500 to be hospitalized. How did that happen?

The epidemic has been linked to homeless communities in San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz.

So far, 581 people in California have been afflicted with the liver virus, more than half of whom have ended up in the hospital. The virus is very dangerous, and can be fatal for those who already have other liver diseases, like hepatitis B or C.

Federal health officials said last week that even with the ongoing efforts to slow the spread of the disease, California’s outbreak could last for years.

Should a handful of local politicians and bureaucrats spend millions of tax dollars while putting the community at risk? The voters say no but no one is listening.

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# In Spite of the PeopleGary Kim 2017-10-19 15:29
I always read Lou Binninger's articles with a great deal of curiosity. I know that if he's writing articles about people in our local government, that they will not like what he says, but that doesn't mean he's wrong. I always believe in the old adage that "where there's smoke, there's fire." and I see lots of smoke in this article. Very thought provoking article Lou.
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