ZZ DeVita Answers Nothing 4/2/14

The Fringe answers the candidate questions

Tuesday Morning Quarterbacking from DeVita

The Prospect put some questions together for the candidates for supervisor, and for county sheriff.  We tried to pick questions which would plumb both the candidates’ knowledge of the job, and their position on important issues.

We want to thank the supervisor candidates for answering these questions.  When the candidates answered these questions, they had to be cautious of the reaction of voters.  But, being far too clever to run for office, your Fringe Editor runs no such risk, and can answer without fear, or even much thought.

Here are the answers the Fringe provided, without risking electoral humiliation, or really much of anything. 

1.  Please briefly explain the relationship between the state and the county, both legally and functionally.

The county is an administrative division of the state.  We turn our revenue over to the state and they dribble money back so we can keep the doors open on county government.  Our county sheriff ultimately answers to the attorney general.  Our judges answer to state courts.  In most instances the board of supervisors legislates into ordinance what the state tells it to, with very narrow space for changes.  The county can typically make harsher laws, but generally can’t pass ordinances that are less harsh the state law.  For the great majority of the laws which impact our residents, the county is, in general, powerless to protect us. Water is getting tight in the power centers of the state, and they are coming for what water we have, and there is little likelihood of compensation.  It isn’t stating it too strongly to say we are one of the state’s 58 bitches, and a small and poor bitch we are. 

2.  What, in your opinion, are the county’s strengths?

Incredible natural resources and beauty, and a tough and resilient people.  Our abundant hazard fuel might be a resources, but not yet.  We are isolated and that might help us in some circumstances .

3.  What challenges do you see in the next four years?

We are isolated, and I think gas and food will increase in the next 4 years.  I think the next four years will bring dramatic new attacks on water in the county.  I think the state will send less money.  I think the state will pass some new building legislation that the county won’t be able to afford.  I fear a devastating fire in the county in the next four years.  I hope to hell the state doesn’t finish off the county and divvy up her stuff to surrounding counties.

4.  Though at one time Sierra County supplied the silver mines of Nevada with dairy products,beef and even truck crops, currently, very little food is grown in the county, far less than the residents of the county would consume.  Do you think it should be a priority of the board to encourage more local food production, and if so, how do you think the board might accomplish this?

This is not really a job for the board, since there is relatively little the board can do.  It can’t change the state laws for milk or cream, can’t make it easier for ranchers to sell beef locally, can’t protect our existing water which we would need to grow all our own food.  The county could pass a resolution favoring being self sufficient for food. We don’t have the staff or the expertise to do much, but many county residents are expert gardeners.  County government could take the position that it should be a priority for everyone in the county, not county government. It would be a far more significant resolution than supporting seat belt laws.

5.  What is your opinion of county participation in RCRC, SEDCO, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and the other opportunities for multi-county interaction, keeping in mind that participation requires time and travel for supervisors  If you find value, are you willing to attend these meetings?

One of the most important things a supervisor does is attend meetings with other agencies.  What little influence we have over our own destiny comes from working with other counties and rural groups. A supervisor who won’t travel isn’t doing his or her job.  

Bonus question. optional:  There is a growing effort to have Northern California counties withdraw to form a new state.  Efforts to do this have failed in the past, and is unlikely to succeed since the process involves state and federal cooperation  Some feel the effort will at least draw attention to the problems of rural counties.  Would you support a resolution to join a new state, and why or why not?

Absolutely we should join the Jefferson effort.  It’s clearly going nowhere, so we are safe from the kind of change we would most fear, but it would be a clear signal to the state: you’re doing a poor job.

The Sheriff’s Candidates questions

The position of sheriff is a critical one, particularly in Sierra County where the office not only funnels state and federal dollars, it also makes key enforcement decisions.  The sheriff is empowered to determine firearms related rules and has input on the formation and control over the implementation of medical marijuana laws.

There is concern among civil libertarians and left and right political elements that local law enforcement is being armed to the point they represent a standing army in our communities.  Can you comment to the proliferation of combat gear into local law enforcement?  Do you believe law enforcement constitutes the “community element” of federal Homeland Security?

The “cop on the beat” is mostly relegated to the past, like doctors who made house calls.  Today’s cop expects, indeed, hopes for, a “COPS” moment.  Cops today are as racist as they’ve ever been, and more willing to react with deadly force than ever before.  And, law enforcement is better equipped to deliver deadly force than ever, with some carrying semi-automatic or even automatic rifles as well as shotguns. Heavily armed and shielded cops are a result of two things: the arms race between cops and organized crime, and money from DHS.  Yes, absolutely, local cops are the “community element” of the force the state, and the feds, will bring to bear to keep “the peace” in the event of a serious upset of the system.  On the other hand, there isn’t much a local sheriff can do except get his people the same gear as other counties are getting.  So, most sheriff’s take the loot.

Sierra County has a lot of USFS land.  In many California Counties the county sheriffs have declined to allow FS law enforcement to have police powers in some instances.  In addition, it has been pointed out that local law enforcement often does marijuana eradication on federal land at the cost of county taxpayers.  Can you comment on Sheriff Office relations with the Forest Service, and/or the cost to local taxpayers of law enforcement services provided to the FS?

The USFS plays us for chumps.  If they decide to toss some local old timer out of his cabin, they call our cops in to take the heat.  They have law enforcement, but often our LE dollars are spent on FS crime.  They rarely reimburse us for costs, and when a big pot bust takes place on FS land, even though it is federal anti-pot laws that are being enforced, our people have to do the work.  The county citizens essentially pay to enforce laws on federal land, the very land which, increasingly, people are prevented from using.  If elected your sheriff, I’ll tell the forest service to pay up or shut up.

Sierra County is a small place; do you think law enforcement in SC is different from law enforcement elsewhere, and if so, how?

It is very different.  A good local sheriff’s deputy has to keep the peace, respond to crime, and still recognize that life is hard in the county, lots of people are poor.  If we make our cop dollars  busting local people, eventually there will be no one in the county to bust.  We really rely on drunken people from other counties to help make up revenue for the courts and so on.  On the one hand, LE has to keep the peace and bring in some revenue, and on the other hand, not ride hen on the few people who live in the county.  A good sheriff would ignore medical cannabis grows whenever possible, and only spend deputy time on trespass grows or grows with other nuisance or criminal implications.

What is your position on medical cannabis grows in the county?  What is your position on med can dispensaries? 

To be honest, cops don’t know much about drugs, and I’m not a doctor, so I would have no more opinion on medical cannabis than I do on estrogen replacement therapy.

The county sheriff issues concealed carry weapons; there is a mandated background check.  California doesn’t allow open carry; a recent court decision makes it difficult for sheriffs to withhold a concealed weapon for a person who does not fit into the “prohibited” category (those with domestic violence, some drug felonies, some mental health prohibitions, and so on).  What is your position on concealed carry permits for county residents?

I think everyone should own and carry a firearm, or at least cause others to believe they might have one handy.  Read the news, who always has a gun?  Criminals, people on probation, meth freaks.  Why would I want them armed but the decent people in the county disarmed?  I would not only encourage concealed permits, I would provide low cost ammo in .38 special, 9mm, and.45 to encourage people to become better marksmen.  I would provide low cost gun safety and gun handling classes including classes on how to identify the correct target in a shooter situation, and how to return fire from cover and concealment. Criminals are nutcases are great at that stuff, why shouldn’t everyone be?

The jail has been an issue for some time; grand juries have occasionally complained; the Board of Supervisors haven’t had the resources, nor is there much space, to make modifications; the option of housing inmates elsewhere is sometimes necessary but is expensive and creates a hardship for the families of inmates.  What do you see as the likely solution to problems with the jail?

I see the solution that we do what we can.  We don’t send prisoners out of county if they and their family live here.  It would be great if we had the money to give our prisoners better digs, but we don’t.  After all, we don’t want them to be more comfortable in the hoosegow than they are at home, or they won’t behave when they get out.  It sounds simplistic, but really, not more simplistic than the utter bullshit on crime and punishment we are exposed to nearly everyday.  Times are hard; jail is supposed to suck.

Realignment has increased jail costs in some counties, but other counties seem to be making money taking inmates.  How do you think realignment has impacted the county?

Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to have had too bad an impact on our county, because our population is low.  We haven’t rented beds out like some jails have, and we haven’t over filled our jail with people who belong in prison.  For some counties, it has been hard, with “catch and release” policies and “11470” buyouts becoming more common as jails become over crowded.  For Sierra, the problem hasn’t been as severe.  

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