Hidden Church Concert 10/9/13

Alleghany California

Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin will perform in concert at the Hidden Church in Alleghany on Sat. Oct. 12th.  All proceeds from this event benefit the preservation of the Historical Church Building.

Paige Anderson & siblings hail from Grass Valley and play Bluegrass/Americana Style music.  Originally part of the Anderson Family Bluegrass band, Paige decided to start her own band to feature her original music after graduating from high school in 2012.  “ Paige is a seasoned, flat-picking maestro that is making the transition from child prodigy to top-flight performer and songwriter.” Savingcoutrymusic.com

Admission is $10.00 children 12 and under half-price.  A lunch of soup and salad made with fresh produce from You Bet Farm is available for an additional $10.  Children eat for free.

Local musician Cory Peterman will be playing music during lunch.  Lunch starts at noon.  Cold weather will mean lunch in the Old School Gym.  Nice weather: 60 degrees or warmer with no rain will mean lunch outside at the Church.

The Fearless Kin will start around 1:00.  It looks like there will be plenty of room if folks want to show up for just the concert at 1:00.  Lunch requires reservations.

For more details or to make reservations visit www.hiddenchurch.info or call 287-3223 and ask for Rae Bell.   The website also features you-tube links for those not familiar with the group.

Gerald John Bryant 1924 – 2013


OBit logo

Jerry Bryant

               Jerry Bryant

Gerald “Jerry” John Bryant passed away September 28, 2013 at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Reno, Nevada after several years of illness.

Jerry was born in Paola, Montana on April 28, 1924 to Mary and Nathan Bryant.  Jerry had one sister, Opal, and after several moves in the Northwest, the family settled in Medford, Oregon. Jerry graduated from Medford High School where he was a star track sprinter and was coached be the famous Bill Bowerman, developer of the NIKE brand.

Jerry met Marcelle Jane Rice shortly after high school and they were married on June 24, 1943. He joined the U.S. Army and served in Europe and in the South Pacific.  After WWII Jerry worked as an outside sales representative for Atlantic Richfield.  He worked in Medford, Eugene, Sacramento and San Jose, CA.  They had one daughter, Sharon.

Jerry and Marcelle retired to Downieville in 1978 where they made their new home and met many new friends.  Those who knew Jerry will remember him for his many stories about his experiences.

Jerry is survived by his loving wife, Marcelle, daughter, Sharon Swartz and son-in-law Tom who live in Gresham, OR.  He is also survived by three grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Jerry will be buried at the military cemetary in Eagle Point, Oregon in the Spring of 2014.  He loved his life in Downieville along with all the wonderful people who live there.

Any donations can be made to the Western Sierra Medical Clinic.

MOST Award Winners 10/2/13

Although the 2013 Plumas Sierra County Fair is in our rearview mirror, there is still some information that needed to be shared with the public; the results of The MOST Awards. Voting took place at a colorful booth in Serpilio Hall, where fairgoers could complete a short questionnaire that attempted to identify the MOST at this year’s fair. Those who chose to take the survey told how far they had traveled to attend the fair, what their age was, their height, the number in their group, how long their hair was, and finally, who was the smartest person at the fair.

In a surprising act of participation, over 100 people took the time to fill out the forms. Most answers were based on the honor system. Some answers were not. A few were outright lies. It would appear most responses were aware of the less than serious nature of the exercise.

A couple questions were very straightforward. Who had been to the most Plumas Sierra County Fairs? Jason Blust replied 32. Now, for all we know, Jason is 16, but that’s what he put down and therefore, wins. What does he win, you may ask? A genuine fair ribbon. Now, he has to claim it, so if he doesn’t read this, we are off the hook. But we would be happy to give him one if he calls.

As for age, Art Poma takes the ribbon at 89 years and 7 months. The youngest was Jordan DeMartile at eleven years and 3 months. We all know that there were younger people at this year’s fair, but they were too young to write, or they were too busy at the carnival. Congrats Jordan! The tallest attendee was Ashley at 6’4”. That’s all she wrote, but her phone number was from Indian Valley, so that should narrow down her identity.

Hailey Probst said she had 20 people with her at the fair and who are we to argue? Winner.

Alyssa Zigas claimed hair length of 30 inches and that she traveled 2939 miles to be here. Since Florida and Hawaii are around 2500 miles from Quincy, we can only assume Alyssa is a mermaid or was on shore leave. Maybe she lives in Central America or the Yukon. Anyway, she gets two ribbons if she wants.

Finally, we asked who was the smartest person at the fair? The winner, in a show of great self esteem, was the answer “me”, with 13 responses. In a show of great insight, 6 people answered Fair Manager John Steffanic, followed closely by Russell Reid with 5. After that came a variety of answers including; Mom, Smokey the Bear and Gandolf. There were other names listed that were particularly funny, but couldn’t be repeated in any reputable news source.

The awards were a big success, and a lot of fun. Look for their return next year at the Plumas Sierra County Fair, the second Wednesday in August. The dates are August 13-17, 2014.

Annual Fall Fiesta Dinner Oct 12


The Plumas Sierra Cattlewomen are having their 2nd Annual Fall Fiesta Enchilada Dinner on Saturday, October 12, 2013.  The dinner dance is being held at the Calpine Community Center in Calpine, California.  Social Hour begins at 5:30 P.M. and dinner will start at 6:30 P.M.   Between dinner and dessert the PSCW are honored to have Mike Filippini serve as our auctioneer to auction off a Cummins Onan 6500 Homesite Power Generator, gas powered open frame generator set on wheels, 5000 watts running, 5500 watts peak, 9 hour continuous operating time (at rated load), electric and manual start, 13 HP, 4-stroke overhead valve engine, 6.5 gallon fuel tank, auto ‘low-oil shutdown’, integral battery tray, heavy-duty cast iron cylinder sleeve, circuit breaker protection, and dual element air cleaner.  Following dinner there will be dancing to live music provided by the Simpletones.  There will be a photo booth available for guests, a no host bar and a 50/50 drawing.  Tickets are available for presale $12.00 Adults and $6.00 Child 8 and under by calling Paula at 530.994.3610 or Karen at 530.993.1655.  Tickets will also be available at the door!  


Jerusha 10/2/13

Volume V # 275

October 2, 2013sc004bb0b5

Dear Jerusha:

I owe someone some money, what should I do?

Sincerely, Molly Jiltsom

Dear Molly,

Well, there are several things you could do. What works best for me is to send a thank you card for the gift and possibly the debtor will forget you were suppose to pay it back and think you are truly a nice person for being thoughtful in sending the card or even a personal written thank you could work.  Of course if you owe them money for something you bought it could work even better suggesting you received it as a gift. Gosh, I suppose you could just pay the money back, but that kind of takes all the fun out of it. I would opt for the thank you note.

Sincerely, Jerusha

TNF is Closed 10/2/13

Tahoe National Forest Offices Closed until Further Notice;

Concessionaire-managed Facilities Remain Open 

Nevada City, CA – Tahoe National Forest offices, including the headquarters in Nevada City and ranger district offices in Camptonville, Foresthill, Sierraville, and Truckee, are closed until further notice because of the lapse in federal government spending.

All fee campgrounds that are concessionaire-managed are open until scheduled to close for the season. Other recreation facilities are closed and will not be maintained during the government furlough.

Forest woodcutting hotlines will still be open, and persons with current fuelwood permits may continue to gather firewood as conditions allow.

The Tahoe National Forest Web site at http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/tahoe/home will still be live, but information will remain static except that which concerns public health and safety.

The Mountain Messenger (real paper with ink) 10/2/13


This week is really a very sad story, you may remember in previous posts we have talked about Don’s right hand assistant who does all the work, Milly, and how she deserves a raise. Well proof is in the pudding because Don is gone and Milly has to do everything herself with the assistance of Ross Taylor, who may or may not appear at any given moment as he also holds down a job at the church of St Charles.  Don is still gallivanting around the country, visiting his mother, having fun, not thinking about us Downievillians at all. We are not allowed to call or write him. Which is probably a good thing as it could get ugly. Anyhow, soon he will return we hope, so life can get back to normal, Milly can get some sleep, Conan will stay home and all is right with the world. Probably the person we should worry about the most is Milly’s beloved Randy, he has to live with her.

Milly seen here struggling to stay awake while doing her job, Don's job and most of Ross's job. Milly deserves a raise.

Milly seen here struggling to stay awake while doing her job, Don’s job and most of Ross’s job. Milly deserves a raise.


Aaron Kirby & Jeorgea Beck Married 10/2/13


Jeorgea & Aaron with Officiator Laurel Kirby

Jeorgea & Aaron with Officiator Laurel Kirby.                               Photo by Mary Davey, Signs of Life Photography

Aaron Kirby and Jeorgea Beck were married September 28, 2013 at a beautiful setting, a wedding dock on Sardine Lake built by Tyler Rasmussen and Adam Daigle. Aaron’s sister, Laurel Kirby, performed the ceremony.

A garden reception was held at Sorraco’s in Sierra City.

The couple met in Brooklyn six years ago, and now live in Oakland.  Jeorgea, the daughter of Bonnie Saland and Mark Beck, was raised in Pasadena and is an interior and structural designer.
Aaron, son of Lee Kirby and Don Kirby, graduated from Downieville High School, attended University of San Francisco  and has worked in film production since 2005 in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Aaron is now a filmographer working on an HBO series being shot in San Francisco.
Jeorgia, Aaron & Laurel and the joy of the moment.

Jeorgia, Aaron & Laurel and the joy of the moment.                             Photo by Mary Davey, Signs of Life Photography

 Guests attended from as far away New York and were amazed by the beauty of Sierra County and the hospitality of Sierra City.

Board of Supervisors October 1, 2013

Here they are.....

Here they are…..


  • Call to Order by Chair Scott Schlefstein
  • Pledge of Allegiance was led by Supervisor Jim Beard
  • Roll Call – Supervisors Adams, Huebner, Roen, Beard and Chair Schlefstein were present
  • Consent Agenda was approved.
  • The Regular Agenda was adjusted to add items that had been received to late to be noticed and needed to be addressed prior to the next Board Meeting. One item was the urgency to start the process of hiring for the position of Building Inspector due to the unexpected resignation of the current Building Inspector.  Another item was approving the county being responsible for the water service to the Sierra City Park. Apparently the location has water going to the ATT building on the property and it would save the county a great deal of money to just assume this connection rather install a whole new service. Both items were approved.

There were none

Supervisor Peter Huebner reported he had received and accepted the resignations of Mike Freschi and Cindy Noble from the Sierra County Firesafe and Watershed Council. Michael Krause is now the acting Executive Director.

Supervisor Adams reported he had heard from Tom Quinn, TNF Supervisor that he would be unable to widely anticipated meeting with the Board due to the Federal shutdown.

Update by District Ranger on items that may affect the County of Sierra, will be delayed because the Forest Service is federal and can’t work.
TAHOE NATIONAL FOREST SUPERVISOR – Quinn did not appear as previously mentioned.

A discussion with Tom Quinn, Tahoe National Forest Supervisor regarding Tahoe National Forest activities within Sierra County did not happen.


 Sheriff Evans requested  approval to hire one full-time Deputy Sheriff-Coroner to fill position vacant by long-term opening. The request was approved.


Completion of proceedings for consideration of a tentative parcel map and zone change: Robert Church, applicant and the Evelyn Church Trust et al, landowner:

  1. Resolution adopting findings in support of the proposed zone change and exemption of the project under the California Environmental Quality Act; and approving the proposed Tentative Parcel Map; and
  2. Introduction and adoption of an ordinance amending Sierra County Code, Section 15.12.320.80(c) to rezone 5.1 acres within the Sattley Community Core from Agricultural (A-1) District to Rural Residential-5 (RR-5) Zoning District consistent with the Sierra County General Plan.

These were approved by the Board.


A continued discussion and direction to staff regarding apparent requirement for an assessment of impacts of snowmobiles on wildlife, plants and quiet recreation in five California national forests – the Stanislaus, Eldorado, Tahoe, Plumas and Lassen – within the next two years. The Board still needs to talk to Quinn about this issue although they feel as though Sierra County is in a good position due to a monitoring and mitigation of wildlife impacts by the Snowmobile Grooming Program is already in place.
A Resolution approving plans and specifications and bidding documents for the Alleghany Community Park Project and authorization for the Director of Transportation to solicit bids for the project was approved

Second reading and adoption of ordinance adding Part 11, Chapter 12, Section 020, Subsection (w) to the Sierra County Code establishing a 24 hour parking limit on both sides of Durgan Flat Road from the southern line of Lot 5, Durgan Flat to the end. Jacie and Don Epperson appeared and talked about the burden this would place on

Jacie Epperson addresses the Board of Supes over parking problems

Jacie Epperson addresses the Board of Supes over parking problems

homeowners in the area and the fear it would be looked at as an invitation for overnight parking from those who would flaunt the No Camping on residential streets ordinance. Mrs. Epperson noted she was an emergency responder who frequently had to leave her residence at all hours of the day and night and being able to park near her residence was critical.  Bobby Burington who lives at the end of the road talked to the Board about how previous actions by the Board had affected his ability to enter and egress from his driveway, and due to changes in the USFS and new construction past his property he was concerned the new rule would cause even further difficulty in accessing his home and driveway. Another brave young woman stood up and suggested the Board might consider a Residential Parking program, either signs or stickers allowing residents to be able to park near their homes regardless of the time frame. The Epperson’s agreed this was a good idea. The Board was concerned it would cause too much work for staff to devise something like that although it appeared Director of Public Works was willing to look into it. I can’t imagine how much more work there will be enforcing the new parking restriction to the same standards that all other parking restrictions within the townsite are enforced.


A report by Pamela Payen, Chair of the Sierra County Economic and Development Committee regarding the Loyalton Business Park. was rescheduled at the request of Supervisor Huebner.

A request by Supervisor Huebner regarding the Sierra County Local Transportation Commission’s list of priority transportation projects to be considered for inclusion in the upcoming STIP cycle as reviewed by the Board on September 17, 2013 and direction to add one additional transportation project of 4 miles of Long Valley Road in Verdi was approved.

Discussion/direction to a Board committee, to review and address a potential reorganization of the land use permit structure by placing the County Environmental Health functions under the responsibility of the County Planning Director was referred to the Government Committee to meet with Staff at the suggestion of Supervisor Adams.

An appointment of Supervisor Lee Adams to the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) Board of Directors for 2014 was approved.

Michael Galan of Downieville was appointed to the Downieville Fire Protection District.



Meeting of the Sierra County Board of EqualizationCall to order
This is the moment when it all went wrong. The Board of Supervisors adjourned and then convened as the Board of Equalization. Chair Scott Schlefstein stepped down as three of the hearings before the BOE regarded property owned by Schlefstein. Paul Roen became Chair. Then County Counsel Jim Curtis instructed the BOE  of their duties concerning tax assessment appeals (for an interminably long time) stressing their role as Judge and Decider and how the proceedings should go, saying “you have probably seen TV shows like Perry Mason or Ironsides and how they question witnesses, do not ask leading questions.” The only thing left out of the legal expertise advice was who got to shout “Objection” when a leading question was asked… which happened frequently throughout one of the hearings and there was no

Appraiser Eric Jackson and Assessor Laura Marshall before insults were hurled.

Appraiser Eric Jackson and Assessor Laura Marshall before insults were hurled.

objection except in the minds of some of the observers. There were also accusations of incompetence and stacking the deck toward some very competent and efficient staff, Assessor Laura Marshall and Appraiser Eric Jackson.  I have to say I was impressed with the professional conduct and presentation by Marshall and Jackson, who received ill spirited comments from at least one of the applicants. Being accused of using “black magic” and being asked “how they can sleep at night” resulted in both of them remaining professional and courteous

The other thing that struck me was how both Emershy and Schlefstein, the applicants, were determined to prove how little value their property had. Granted they were attempting to get a reduced tax assessment, but it seemed odd they had no future thought about the consequences of devaluing an asset to themselves and the neighboring properties.
 Emershy requested that Chair Schlefstein be reseated for his Hearing. In his

Terence Emershlel explains his reasons for lowering his property value.

Terence Emershy explains his
reasons for lowering his property value.

presentation he repeatedly pointed out that his trees were  not as big as the ones that were burned in the Cottonwood Fire seventeen years ago and so (even though the property is zoned Agricultural and not TPZ) he should pay less taxes for his 652 acres because the aesthetic and timber value would take another 20 years to return to their former state..

Schlefstein, who again stepped down and Supervisor Roen assumed the Chair position,  was concerned about two lots he owns adjacent to the lot where his home is located, saying that he only used them as “an extension to our back yard and a buffer to the neighbors”. He felt since those lots were not used for anything except his backyard they should not be valued for tax purposes in the same manner as any other buildable lot in a residential area. The property which contains

Scott Schlefstein wants his properties devalued.

Scott Schlefstein wants his properties devalued.

his residential structure was also contested  because he felt newer homes than his were valued less because of the recent downturn in the real estate market. (Evidently he was not thinking about how devaluing his property would cause devaluation of his neighbors property who may not have the same priorities as him)

Application for Changed Assessment No. 2011/2012-011 filed by Terrance Lynn Emershy, Assessor’s Parcel Number 021-100-009-0 was heard and decision will be aired at the November 5, 2013 BOE meeting in Downieville.
Applications for Changed Assessment No. 2012/2013-004, 005 and 006 filed by Scott A. Schlefstein, Assessor’s Parcel Numbers 016-130-012-0, 016-130-013-0 and 016-130-014-0.

11:00AM SOLID WASTE APPEAL – Wayne DeLisle

Continued appeal of Solid Waste Assessment Fees filed by Mr. Wayne DeLisle for

Pike resident Wayne DeLisle enjoying another show at the Board of Supes in Downieville.

Pike resident Wayne DeLisle enjoying another show at the Board of Supes in Downieville.

APN 006-130-024, 500 Pike City Road and APN 006-130-025, 133 Pike Short Cut Road. A Motion of Intent to deny was approved and it will come back on November 5th. So we will get to see Wayne in action again. Wayne was thanked for his patience during the previous BOE Hearings.


Items placed on the Consent Agenda are of a routine and non-controversial nature and are approved by a blanket roll call vote. At the time the Consent Agenda is considered, items my be deleted from the Consent Agenda by any Board member or Department Manager and added to the Regular Agenda directed by the Chairman.
Agreement for Indemnification and Reimbursement for Extraordinary Costs for Sandra Sorlien, Applicant and R.C. Sorlien Trust, Landowner: Consideration of a lot line adjustment to facilitate family estate planning. The project site, identified as APN 006-010-008, is located at 2500 Pike City Road, Pike. (PLANNING)

Documents: Sorlien Packet.pdf
Resolution designating the Sierra County Arts Council as the Local Arts Agency for 2014/2015. (CLERK OF THE BOARD)

Minutes from the regular meeting held on September 3, 2013. (CLERK-RECORDER)

Minutes from the special teleconference meeting held September 24, 2013. (CLERK-RECORDER)


Letter from Randy Moore, Regional Forester regarding the 2013 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (SNFPA). (Copy of plan on file in Clerk’s Office)

Sierra County Board of Supervisors’ response to the Grand Jury Final Report 2012/2013.

Wednesday October 2, 2013

So this week is interesting because we have a Federal shutdown impacting Sierra County which is over 87% federal owned land and important discussions to be held with USFS personnel at the Board of Supes  meeting didn’t take place as the USFS couldn’t attend because they couldn’t work. Hmmm. There were some interesting events at the Board meeting even though it was the longest, weirdest meeting I’ve attended in quite some time.

Gabby writes an interesting article this week, one can only hope her projections for her future are off enough to create a little less turmoil in her life. It’s not clear from the article where things took a turn for the worst but it could be because of her father knowing everything about anything.

Yes, we have Carol’s Books and Movies. This week she reviews local author Tom Schumann’s book, Reality and Consciousness which is interesting and I may get beyond the first chapter yet.  So check out the Cats and Cooter, make sure to read the Fringe and maybe the current issues with SCFWC will be more understandable.

The photo this week is from Mike and Nancy Carnahan’s wildlife camera. Great shot. You might think about staying at their place on a visit to Downieville. Riverside Inn

TNF Lifts Fire Restrictions 10/2/13

Tahoe National Forest to Lift Fire Restrictions

Nevada City, CA – Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn announced that fire restrictions in the Tahoe National Forest will be lifted beginning at midnight on September 27, 2013.

Recent moisture, conditions in the forest, and forecasted weather prompted the decision to end the restrictions. When the restrictions are lifted, recreationists may light backcountry campfires with a valid permit; smoke outside of designated sites; and operate internal combustion engines off forest roads and trails where appropriate.

Quinn advises forest visitors to continue to use fire-safe practices since conditions can turn dry, warm, and windy very quickly. Never leaving campfires or lit lanterns and stoves unattended and making sure equipment and off-road vehicles have working spark arresters are two ways to be fire safe. Other wildfire prevention practices can be found athttp://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r5/fire-aviation/prevention.

For more Tahoe National Forest information, go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/tahoe/home. Follow us on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/Tahoe_NF.

Gabby Fringette 10/2/13



gabby yno

Good old Gabby


By Gabby Fringette


As I look in the mirror today, I have to remind myself, this is not me, I will not always be as I appear now.   One day, I will be sixty, and I’ll probably live to be even older.  My skin will be loose on my face, weathered by time.  My ear lobes will be droopy, and so will other parts of me I wish weren’t.

My face will have little scars from accidents and fights. But who know what my eyes will say? The eyes are the windows to the soul, what will my story be when I am sixty?

When I’m sixty, I’ll probably have osteoporosis.  Even though I’ve always eaten lots of meat and drunk lots of milk, and I’ve never been anorexic.  It’s just something that happens.  My joints are shot, from all those years as a young and middle aged woman wearing stilettos to do shopping, work, and go to social functions.

At 60 I am 5’7, pretty tall, really, but my ego wanted me to be the tallest woman in the room.  Stupid, but I still think it was my 5 inch heels, not my B.A. degree, that got me my first real job.

Now I don’t think it was worth it.  I hated that job.

When I was in collage, I got a scar on my nose from a fight with my roommate, who had been my friend.  My boy friend of two years, who I had thought was perfect, was sleeping with her.  More than once too. And they went on dates.  She was a slutty C student upper-middle class daddy’s girl who always had everything she wanted.  I had thought it was her fault.  Well, we got into an argument, and it ended with us fighting.  She was a full three inches shorter than me, and ran off when I loosened her front tooth and ripped out a bunch of her hair, but she still managed to hook her bracelet on the tip of my nose and leave me a scar that would cause me to remember her over the years.

As for the cheating ex-boyfriend, I was glad I didn’t move in with him before the second year of collage, when I found out what a cheating scumbag he was.  He stayed with my roommate, until he knocked her up. They split up a while later, but at the tenth reunion of class of 2024, they were with each other, with not one, but two children, now.

When I left collage, there were more jobs, the baby boomers had mostly left the job market, dying or retiring.

Most other people were from what I think of as a second baby boom, a time of child worship, when any kid who could ever get to go to college, would be taken out by hot dogs, rap music, or just would not be able to handle the real world after the years of being treated like a child.

A few were very motivated, money hounds, that would probably fall short when they discovered strawberry Jell-O shots.  But many of them would go through, and succeed, to lead happy or miserable lives.

I was neither a hound, nor incompetent. I had thought I knew what I wanted.

I got a job as a realty assistant, the woman I worked for was a very old lady, full of gusto and charisma, who ‘Captain Mixied’ a term we coined after an incredibly old and tough hen.

Well, this old woman was so old she could hardly read, or drive, so I did that for her, taking her to and from appointments, writing and reading texts and e-mails for her.

Well, she refused to retire; the firm decided they had one too many realtors, so they fired her and one or two others they didn’t like, saying that the lack of ‘funds’ wasn’t the only reason they were sacked, they said there were some complaints from people. They didn’t say what people.

I remained and was, for a short time, the assistant for a really stupid woman, who was the cousin of the guy in charge of most of the hiring and firing.  Well, I liked her, sort of, and was sad when she got hammered and drove her car into the Klamath River.

I wore my five-inch heels and applied for her job.  And I got it too, it paid well, and I liked talking to people, and I was good at my job, but I was lonely, really. I was 28, and I was starting to want kids.  I hated the job because it took all of my time, and I just got so sick of it.

Then, one Thursday afternoon, I was showing a house to a man who was supposed to be meeting his girlfriend, they were gonna move in together and move toward making a family.  He started telling me about his girlfriend, and the more he told me, the more familiar she seemed. And, when I met her, she was.  There was a coffee house a block from where I lived, and every Tuesday and Thursday, this woman would go there, and meet a guy, they would kiss, she would get in his car, and they would leave.  I was watching her, last Thursday, and she seemed to fill the description of this man’s girlfriend.

I wasn’t sure if I should say anything, but I did.  I told him about how this woman was meeting this guy; he could be her brother, but if he was about to put money into a house with her name on it, maybe he wanted to look into it.

He absolutely exploded and left.  He called me about a day later, saying he’d confronted his girlfriend, and she confessed, and that they wouldn’t be interested in the house.

Well, the guy came by the firm a couple times, returning papers and such, but then he started showing up more and more, no papers.  Pretty soon we were friends.  Soon after we were dating. Soon after that we were a couple.

We were on a date one night, and his ex came into the restaurant.  She sat across the restaurant, glaring at us, eating little, but drinking a whole bottle of wine.  She came over to our table, shouting, asking how could he be dating the blazer wearing whore who ruined their life.  I told her it was her fault for cheating, and then she screamed that I didn’t understand.  She swung at me with the wine glass, shattering the glass and giving me a two inch cut over my right eye.  If she hadn’t been drunk, she would have taken the eye.

When I turned 32, we both decided we wanted kids. Neither of us felt really good about having kids without getting married.

We had three children a boy, who we named after my dad. He was a lot like my dad too, every one called him ‘the little Fringe’.  He was very focused on knowledge, and was an honor student.  Not because he cared about schoolwork, but because he was proud and wanted to show off how smart he was.

Then a daughter.  We named her after my grandmother.  She didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, but always felt she was better than every one else.  Every one seemed to like her, but that like never went very deep with most.  They only liked her because she would destroy them if they didn’t.

Then a second daughter.  The other two were very much like those they were named after, and I didn’t know anyone nice, so I named her Karen, because it sounded nice.

Well, Karen was nice, but she had some problems with depression after puberty. The teen years were hard.  So very hard.

Even though they were arrogant or mean to other people, my oldest two children adored  Karen.  When Karen was twelve, in the middle of winter, we had moved up to the mountains, four hundred miles from Karen’s best friend.  She wanted to mail a bracelet she made to her friend.  Well, my son’s new friend was driving to the P.O, and so he went along.

They got to the P.O ok, but as they were coming back, they went around a turn and hit some black ice wrong.  They spun off the road into a tree.  His friend was killed, and my son suffered brain and spine injuries, in a wheelchair, with seizure disorder.  The thing that bothered me a little, was his friend’s mother felt sorry for me. Her son was dead, mine was alive. It was touch and go if he would live, but he did.

He had seizures after that, in the beginning just after the crash, he had twenty a day.  As the years went by, though, they were only triggered once in a while.  But he was changed. Darker.  Meaner. He didn’t seem to be glad he was alive.

As I said earlier, Karen had problems with depression.  I came down the hall one day after the wreck, and I heard her in the bathroom, crying.

I tried the door, she had locked it.  She was crying about how it was her fault her brother had been in the accident.

I kicked the door in, it was made out of flimsy sheets of sawdust and glue.

She was sitting there, crying, and staring at a half empty bottle of  pills.

I was about to take her to the hospital to get her stomach pumped, but then she calmed me down.  “I didn’t take any. I’m not going to. I’m just sad”

I didn’t believe she was just sad. And I didn’t think she never would take any.

I took her to a doctor who diagnosed depression.  She took some anti-depressants.

My daughter and my oldest son were having trouble, but my oldest daughter, I thought was close to normal.  I sure hoped so, because, our children might start tearing at our marriage.

She tried to reach my attention, competing with my other kids, and my husband.  I really thought she was going to go to college and see the world, but she married her high-school sweet-heart, then left town for New York.

Karen was mostly fine, after her first break down, she went off to college, where she met the person of her dreams.  She was a lesbian, but I didn’t really mind.  The woman she loved was a good, loving person.

They adopted a baby girl from Vietnam, Cara, my first grandchild.

My son left, and wrote a book about moving on, and it became very famous, nationally known on safe driving, and the heart throb of many disabled girls and women.  Unfortunately, he was scammed on his book contract, and made very little money. But he didn’t care about that. He just wanted to get his book out there, and on his “own two feet”.

I had no children at home then, and life was, well, easier, but I didn’t have anything to do.  I wanted to write a book, but I was too tired.   I found some old books I wrote when I was a teen.  If I updated them, then my son could get me a publisher, and I would be famous too.

Unfortunately, the words of my girlhood no longer fit.

Oh, well.

I had menopause late, and it oddly surprised me. All of my older friends were menopausal, I knew what was coming, but I was still surprised when it happened. Now I could have no more kids.

No more babies.  I would have an empty nest.  I was close to depression too, or I would have been, except for my grandchildren.

The little girl Karen adopted loved me, and favored my homemade cookies to her other adopted grandparents toys.

My oldest daughter came back; divorced, she had two children, twin boys, who were 4.  She apologized to me, and the next week left the boys with me.  The week after that, she and her ex got back together, but were busted for possession of drugs. They were deemed unfit parents, the state said the children’s grandparents should take them.  Well, the kids’ other grandparents owned the local paper mill, and my husband was only an accountant.

They did get the children, but other Grandmother, as the boys called her, (I was Grandma) was an alcoholic.  The social worker came by for a visit, and found the boys playing in the pool unsupervised; she was passed out drunk, by the side of the pool.

 The children were put in our custody, they are eight now, and they love me, but there’re running me ragged.  My son is married now, he and his wife love each other very much. They live close, and help us out with the boys.

Well, I’m insulin dependent, with the diabetes in my family, my descendants will all have it some day.  At least I’m alive.  My back hurts, but, it could hurt worse. My eyesight is going, but I hope to have another twenty years left on my eyes.  My hearing is bad, but I can afford a hearing aid soon. My husband and I are getting older, but we are thankful for the time on earth, and that we survived all those wonderful years, that we are still important to so many people.

Now I look in the mirror again, and I remember when I was young.  47 years ago I was pert and energetic, a kid.  My face has changed, it’s more round and fleshed out.

Almost every thing from my youth is gone, the music, the books, the fashion of ridiculously tight jeans, almost the whole culture, gone.

Many of the people I knew are gone too.  All of the kids I knew, grown to elders, or died along the way, the adults, decrepit or dead.

But I’m still glad I made this journey, Gabby at 60.



The Fringe Explains 10/2/13

Salvaging the Fire Safe Council

A Discussion of What’s Worth While in our Local Non Profitsfringe logo

By The Fringe

The long awaited implosion of the Fire Safe Council administration is complete with the Council Board’s acceptance of the resignation of Mike Freschi, Operations Director, and Cindy Noble, Executive Director.  There are speculations on why they resigned, perhaps for personal reasons, perhaps because they feared some disclosure, perhaps because they realized how badly alienated the Fire Safe and Watershed Council had become, or perhaps because the money is running out and the writing is on the wall.  Some have speculated they resigned because of a letter from the Auditor’s office regarding Title III funds; that rumor is probably untrue.  There is a letter requesting information on how the council spent Title III funds, but it is not an audit, simply an affirmation that the funds, which are federal funds sent to the county for certain activities, are spent.

The Fire Safe and Watershed Council began life as the Sierra County Fire Safe Council, a part of the County government.  After a few years struggling with a lack of structure, the Fire Safe and Watershed Council, a nonprofit corporation, emerged.  It had the same basic intent: serve the residents, recreationists and landowners.  Though the Council had gone non-profit, it was still in service to the people of the county.

The Fire Safe and Watershed Council went wrong the way non-profits intending to serve the public often go wrong: they become less “non-profit” and more “corporation”.  The council went from being completely open to the community, mostly volunteer powered, board driven, to being highly restrictive, dependent on government and other grant funds, and driven by the executive director, at least in my view.

And, my view might count for something, because I was on the board when Mike and Cindy were hired; I supported, and indeed almost rubber stamped many of their proposals, and I was on the board when the tail began to wag the dog.  My efforts to correct the course of the Council resulted in my withdrawing from the board.  In my defense, I wrote in the Prospect.com about the problems non-profits typically have, not much of a defense, because I had more non-profit experience than many board members, but I waited too long to try to do something about an administration which was empire building at the cost of the Council.

Because of the approach the Council has taken in the last two years, the legitimacy of the Council is threatened.  In discussion with landowners in the county over the summer, it was clear none had confidence in the Council administration, and most agreed they would not participate in Council projects because they were mistrustful, particularly over water rights.   The Watershed Coordinator literally works for and serves the purposes of the California Department of Water Conservation, which, among other things, serves to “act locally to solve statewide problems”.  There are no doubt still ag and timber owners who support the Fire Safe Council, but there is a general crisis of confidence.  The crisis is reflected even in the Board of Supervisors, who originally created the organization, and who often funded it.  A supervisor seeking more input from the community and greater accountability was rebuffed by Freschi and Noble, according to reports.  The Supervisors affirm their confidence in the Sierra Valley Resource Conservation District.

Let’s look at how, in my view with 20/20 hindsight,  the Fire Safe and Watershed Council failed.  The failure, as I’ve said, is one common to non-profits.

The functionally part time coordinator was replaced with two part time workers.  It was a goal when the executive and operations directors were hired that more paperwork would be done, and more grants applied for.  We were glad to get Mike, who was well known and liked in the county, and Cindy, who had experience in coordinating resource efforts.  They did, indeed, do more paperwork and get more money.  I’ll suggest they did too well, setting up the Fire Safe Council as a retirement plan, and expanding the finances at the cost of the original intention of the organization.

The membership was redefined.  At one time, pretty much anyone who wanted to be as a “member” of the Fire Safe Council, though only some people were board members.  That system was best for public participation, but few people came to the meetings, as is often the case with small local non-profits, and it was seen as a streamlining move to create just one class: board members, with supporters rather than voting members.  I voted for this change, and it was a terrible mistake; we had no idea what an exclusive club the Fire Safe Council would eventually become.

Staff came forward with the principle that the members of the Fire Safe and Watershed Council Board did not represent the people of the county, or the communities they lived in.  I insisted we did, indeed, serve the people of the county; it states that the board should reflect the community in the bylaws.  The board took no action on the matter, but it diminished the Council’s allegiance to the people of the county.

The Council applied for the Department of Water Conservation Grant.  There were several members of the board, including myself, who didn’t want the grant, particularly since the watershed coordinator couldn’t pick up a shovel and help in a local effort.  We were assured by staff that the position would meet the needs we saw.  The function of the position didn’t, actually, and those who objected left the council.

The Council administration continued to grab power, in my estimation, and limit participation, according to local people who were “declined” by the council for participation because of their views.  The Council went “hell bent for leather” into the dubious and lucrative business of “watershed coordination” and works to bring about projects which allow California south of us to continue to have water.

Administration worked to fill the board with people who were on board with cooperating with the state water plan, instead of allowing dissenting points of view on the board.  Recently, advertising for board members, the administration insisted the prospective board members be willing to show “loyalty” and “obedience”.  In my 25 years on various board and committees, I’ve never heard of such a thing, and I’ve been through dozens of “board training” exercises.

One could argue that the administrators saved the Fire Safe and Watershed Council.  After all, funding for hazard fuel removal, the main purpose of the organization, is waning, and might not recover for some time.  There was no funding for someone to do the watershed coordinator work we wanted done.  The Council was meant to do watershed work; OK, this is watershed work.

But, those responses betray an essential misunderstanding about the Fire Safe Council and what it is supposed to do.  It is not supposed to keep the doors open at all costs.  If funds decline, you lay staff off, and keep the board going.  The board, not staff, is the heart of a non-profit.  Eventually, hazard fuel or biomass fuel money will return, and the administration is re-inflated and goes to work.  The Council was not intended to be a meal ticket for anyone.

Further, the watershed activity has to benefit, and not harm, our local recreational users and landowners.  It doesn’t do that, except incidentally.  Water is a dangerous issue in California.  All over Northern California ag users of surface water are being threatened by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Water Resources.  The state has divided water now not by county, but region, where largely unelected people make rules for our water users and our county supervisors, though provided a seat at the table, are disempowered.  This isn’t rural paranoia, real farmers and ranchers are threatened with ruin when the water cops come.  Any project which involves measuring or monitoring water is far more likely to hurt ag than help it.  The state agencies who fund and encourage watershed work are talking about “new ways of thinking about water rights”   The crisis is coming, http://www.unc.edu/~charack/pdf/Gleick_Article.pdf .The last thing the local Fire Safe Council should do is endanger local landowners by serving the purposes of others.  The Council shouldn’t serve downstream users, or fish, more than it serves local people; there are already plenty of people doing that.

In my view, the Fire Safe and Watershed Council is too valuable to lose. We are desperate for hazard fuel removal; our landowners and recreationists are eager to make watershed changes themselves before the state steps in.  If the county is to return to resourced based economy the hazard fuel in the hills needs to be converted to an industry, and the Fire Safe Council could be pivotal in that transformation.  We need what the Fire Safe and Watershed Council should be to the county.  The Sierra Valley Resource Conservation District is currently stocked with heavy weight players, but it serves only the Valley piece of the county.

Currently, if my information is correct, there are five directors; seven would be better and nine would be best.  They should represent all the views in the county, not just those friendly to watershed restoration.

They should be prepared to shave down staff if the grants aren’t available, and board members should assume the responsibility of finding grants.  When one is found, a grant writer is sought and if there is money, staff should be hired.  It’s true that skilled staff can bring in more money, but they also cost more money and present the danger of empire building.  Non-profits before now have waxed and waned, and waxed again.

The success of the Fire Safe Council isn’t found in the number of office staff it has, but in the number of local people who benefit from its services.

Finally, in my view, it is time for Nancy Finney to step down.  Nancy has, I believe, worked in concert with the administration to discourage board members and to head the Council in a wrong direction.  Ms. Finney has served the council long and well, and if she retired now it would be with some gratitude.  Neither does it benefit anyone to further demonize the retiring administrators, who did what people commonly do, and who have proven themselves to be good neighbors in other venues.

This has been an unfortunate period for the Council; I’m confident that with a new part time staff person, with the current board and a few new members, and some support from the community, the Fire Safe Council will continue to serve the residents of the county as a critical player in the community’s safety and wellbeing.

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