Disconnected-ed: Part 3

           Wendell’s Restaurant, Calaveras County, CA

(excerpt) Louis Howe:  “…. it’s the most natural thing in the world for there to be a big empty restaurant sitting there all alone, miles from anywhere … with a broken helicopter sitting on its roof.  But we must move on.”

Yep, Part 3 of FreeTriTipDinner’s series on Calaveras politics is now up!  Thank you for your patience, I hope it was worth it.

Disconnect(ed) – Part 2

house2In Part 1 of Disconnect(ed) we were able to define a group of voters in Calaveras County – a large majority group of voters. This majority is older, retired or semi-retired, and lives in their own single-family home. It has enough in common to beg two important questions: what do they (the majority) want, and are they getting it?  In this Part 2 we will confine ourselves to the first question …

… We now come to what is meant by rational. Since we are being strictly Calaveras-specific, the question devolves to, given the common characteristics of the majority in Calaveras County, what characteristics of Calaveras County policies would be the most rational for that majority?

For us, our definition of rationality begins with a frank admission that it is irrational to expect any voter to vote for policies that result in harm to themselves or their family unless that harm is shared fairly, and / or there is an overriding benefit to those being harmed and / or the community at large.

Harm can be defined as physical harm, financial harm, or a reduction in the overall quality of life, e.g. reduced air quality, transportation bottlenecks, noise, etc.

So the first rational characteristic of County policies for the majority would be that they do no harm.  Conversely, the other side of the coin would indicate that the second rational characteristic of County policy for the majority would be that it enhances their physical, financial, and over-all quality of life.

So, rationally, what are the issues the majority of voters in Calaveras County might reasonably agree upon?

Click Here for complete article…

Disconnect (ed) – Redux: The Great Calaveras Marjority – Whose Interests Does Calaveras County Serve?

In early May 2014, FreeTri-Tip Dinner published “Disconnect – Whose Issues Are We Talking About?” In this piece we presented a lot of statistics that pretty much proved that people over age 55 are a clear majority of the votes cast in Calaveras elections. At the end we wondered aloud whether the Supervisorial candidates’ platform and policy priorities would reflect this insight. The answer was, generally, not so much. None of the candidates except 3rd District candidate Michael Olivera specifically mentioned “senior citizens” in any policy-related manner, and this, like almost all of Mr. Olivera’s published policy ideas, was not burdened with specifics.

After the election results came in later that year, and two new faces joined a Board that already had three new faces from the previous election, we resolved to watch the policy priorities of the Board through this filter. After all, it would make sense that if one age group casts three-quarters of the votes, that age group might reasonably expect to have its voice heard and its concerns addressed. But what are those concerns? Is there a ‘senior agenda’ and if so, what would it be?

We’ll re-visit this issue in three parts.  Part One will update the statistics with information from the most recent elections, and answer three questions: first, what is the age distribution of the entire population of Calaveras County? Second, what is the age distribution of the registered voters and, finally, what is the age distribution of the people who actually vote?

As in the first piece, we will find that in all three groups, population, registered voters, and actual voters, the age distribution is significantly older here than the State average. New this time, in Part 1 we’ll also look at some other statistics from the Census bureau that show what other politically important characteristics this population has in common.

Click Here for the entire article.

Here we go again … time to show up.

San Andreas Town HallSo here we go again, another big-big, great big, really big meeting on the Calaveras County General Plan update — tonight, in the cool, air-conditioned Town Hall in San Andreas, starting at 6:00 pm.

Yes, we’ve had lots of these meetings before, and each time the public makes its feelings very clear: we want a comprehensive update to the general plan that reflects the will of the majority of the people, not just the commercial interests or the real estate development industry. We’ve had workshops and written surveys and feedback and electronic voting and online surveys and each time the answers come back the same. We want to preserve our rural lifestyle, we want development centered in existing town centers, and we are all done with paying for the impacts of growth caused by, and profited from, just a few people.

For nearly ten years the people have waited for the County Government to respond. And for nearly ten years, here are the fruits of the County’s labors:

 A half-dozen Planning Directors hired and resigned
 A million dollars spent on one general plan update that the public isn’t allowed to see
 First, discouraged communities from updating their obsolete community plans
 Then, encouraged communities to update their obsolete community plans
 Then, released the current draft General Plan update that throws out all community plans, including the Rancho Calaveras Special Plan

Nearly ten years ago, at the first meeting over the General Plan update, a former Supervisor looked out at the two hundred people in front of him, and he was not happy.

He was offended that all these people wanted to have a say in their own future. He was mad that the people were challenging the usual practice of a small group of people, including himself, making all the key decisions regarding growth and development in Calaveras County. So with a dismissive wave of his hand he said “I don’t care what you want, I don’t have to listen to this, I’ve seen it all before – all you people get excited and you show up for one or two meetings, and then you disappear.”

But we didn’t disappear… for nearly ten years we’ve been showing up, asking for the same things – public participation, focus on communities, sustainable growth policies, no more free-riding developers.

Yes, it’s hot today (did I mention the San Andreas Town Hall is air-conditioned?). But once again the people need to show up. All the work done by so many people for nearly ten years can, and will, go down the drain if we let them think we don’t care anymore. We need to make our feelings clear to this Board of Supervisors. Tonight, Six o’clock, San Andreas Town Hall.

Wow, this is really a good thing…

It’s a new website — www.DigitalDemocracy.org that, if it works, will shed light on an otherwise opaque legislative process in Sacramento.  Here’s the AP lede by Judy Lin:

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former state Sen. Sam Blakeslee have teamed up with computer scientists to create a video search engine that they say will lift the shroud on government by allowing people to see, read and share what their representatives are doing in the state Capitol.

It also promises to track lobbyists’ support for specific bills, allowing the public to better see how special interests dominate what becomes law.
So, another thing besides the rain to be happy about today!

Came across this researching some election results … it’s going to be bad news for a lot of folks I know

United Nations Irrelevant in Local Land Use Planning

By Nevada County Supervisor Richard Anderson (District 5)

Published on: 6/5/2013 12:00 AM http://www.mynevadacounty.com/nc/bos/district5/Pages/News-From-District-5.aspx

Despite the worries expressed by some in our county regarding the specter of a United Nations–led takeover of land-use planning, the fact is that the U.N. has no substantive influence on the decisions made by local government.

Land-use decisions affecting private property occur at the lowest levels of government, the city and the county. City council members, county supervisors and the planning commissioners of both are people you likely see in your community and probably know and who probably know you and are familiar with the issues of concern to you.

These people are accountable to you, and you are their first priority. Your considerable influence is amplified further through a local decision-making process that revolves around meetings, testimony and votes that all occur in public.

The surest way for the United Nations to gain significant traction in local decisions, other than by offering good advice with no strings attached, would be if it provided financial incentives to local government. Although local governments are always in need of money, that hasn’t happened and, no doubt, would be roundly criticized if it did. Conceivably, the U.N. could influence local decisions through financial incentives and directives coming from our state or federal governments, but the planning principles that the state and federal governments try to promote have been around for decades and often predate the U.N. That these principles might resemble policies advocated by the U.N., such as in its nonbinding set of recommendations known as Agenda 21, suggests that rather than the U.N. influencing American planning theory, it is American planning theory that is influencing the U.N.

And American planning theory is intellectually vibrant and constantly in flux, because our policy preferences change over time and because there are multiple ways to resolve the land-use-related issues that we face now and will face in the future. The benefits of “smart growth” and “sustainable development” in relation to our current sprawling land-use patterns, for example, continue to receive critical examination and debate. This examination and debate takes place through our universities, through our scholarly publications and think tanks, through our popular media and, not least, through innumerable meetings of our planning commissions, city councils and boards of supervisors, where decisions are ultimately made and where you have an important voice.

To claim the United Nations can somehow insidiously harm the quality of life in Nevada County is not only to misunderstand the history and process of American land-use planning, it devalues the prominent role that you and I play in shaping the places where we live. There is no such conspiracy.