IN MY OPINION
by Tina Christiansen
It is starting to become obvious that the Planning Department staff and the legal counsel that have been advising the Board of Supervisors are providing the Board with poor advice and erroneous information. This has become increasingly obvious when one looks at the multiple submissions to the State of the County’s required Housing Element. The Board has forwarded to the State SIX different variations of a Housing Element, each being embarrassingly certified by the Board as being accurate and in compliance with State regulations. Six times these Housing Elements have been totally rejected and sent back to the County as not being in compliance with State regulations. Even after the Planning Director, Mr. Kirk Girard made his famous statement “those folks at HCD don’t know what a Housing Element is supposed to contain” things did not get any better.
To the outside public looking in it would appear that the Board has blindly rubber stamped the work of their Staff, doing little if any due diligence on the accuracy and completeness of the submitted information. This rubber stamping continued blindly on SIX times, even after rejection 1, rejection 2, rejection 3, rejection 4, rejection 5 and the crowning glory of rejection 6. No other County in the State has achieved this magnificent of a strike out record with the State’s HCD department. Humboldt County’s record is heading for the Bureaucratic Hall of Fame and the Supervisors may get honorable mention in the Amateur Leadership Division. Somewhere in the record breaking rejection process the light should have come on and the Board should have awakened to the fact that the outright rejections of these different renditions of these six Housing Elements indicated that there was something seriously amiss.
There is a process for the submission of the Housing Element which involves the public being allowed to meaningfully comment on the proposed decision and the validity of the process. During this public comment process multiple individuals, with intimate knowledge of the County’s zoning and available land parcels, attempted to enlighten the Board of the shortcomings of the Staff ’s recommended “flavor of the week” Housing Element. Instead of meaningfully considering the public’s input, the Board followed a process designed to reduce public comment effectiveness by dictatorially imposing a three minute speaking time limit upon each speaker, no matter that the document under review might be 300 pages. Staff was then allowed unlimited time to respond to issues raised by a speaker and assert their opinion and thus this unrefuted Staff opinion then became the final word and arbiter on the matter.
It is time that the Board recognizes that they have a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of the County. The Board owes an explanation as to why they continued to spend tax payer monies by blindly following the advice and counsel of advisors who led them off a cliff, not once – but SIX times. After one, or even two tumbles over a cliff, a reasonable person would have started having doubts about who was guiding them and about the advisability of the route they were following. Obtaining counsel and advice from knowledgeable third parties was publicly suggested many times, only to be quashed by the insecurity and pride of Staff.
This Housing Element debacle has been ongoing far too long and in that it is a crucial linchpin in the General Plan Update, it demands that the Update be questioned as well. The same attitudes and philosophies that have disastrously pervaded the Housing Element are also evident in the GPU process. The majority of incorporated cities, service districts, chambers of commerce as well as the majority of the business community in the County feel disenfranchised with process as well. The GPU process is viewed in a manner that is as biased and as flawed as is the Housing Element process. Transparency in the public decisional process should be a dominant theme and it has sadly been lacking to date.
The Board is the ultimate decision maker for the County and it is time that the Board face reality and make the tough decisions that come with the position. If Staff is not up to the task, get someone who is. Quit accepting the excuses and the spin of the bureaucratic spin-meisters and make sure the job gets done.
In these tough economic times the County no longer has the luxury of having a Planning Department that rivals the Sheriff ’s Department in size, budget and manpower. The County no longer has the luxury of having a Planning Department staffed to a level that permits it to do and re-do the same application work SIX times. If the County leadership does not see the situation for what it truly is they are either:
1. In financial denial of the times
2. Are amateurish in their management capabilities or
3. Have an ulterior agenda that they are implementing with tax payer dollars.
In any case, the County cannot continue down the road that they are currently on. The elections are coming up shortly and I would urge everyone to exercise their right to vote in a manner that they believe puts Humboldt County on a brighter road to the future.
Letters to the Editor
Beginning with this issue, HumCPR will entertain letters of opinion from the public. These letters should be 800 words or less
and submitted to HumCPR no later than August 1, 2012, in order to be considered for publication in the Fall newsletter.
We would ask that these letters be on topic to the matters discussed in this or other HumCPR newsletters. HumCPR reserves the sole right to determine whether to publish a submission. Thank you.