State senator spends two days meeting DN officials

Days after Del Norte County's congressman, Jared Huffman, visited, local elected officials and community members hosted state Sen. Jim Nielsen, showing him the progress the harbor reconstruction project has made and taking him to Lake Earl.

On Friday, Nielsen, R-Gerber, met with county Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Sullivan, Crescent City Mayor Richard Enea, Pelican Bay State Prison Warden Greg Lewis, Del Norte County Sheriff Dean Wilson and a representative with the local California Highway Patrol office. On Saturday, the state senator met with Crescent City Harbor Commissioners, the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority Board and members of the Tolowa Nation.

Nielsen said two of the main concerns of his constituents in Del Norte County are the proposed regionalization and downsizing of Sutter Coast Hospital and the implementation of AB 109, the Public Safety Realignment Plan.

The plan means people convicted of certain non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual crimes do time in county jail rather than state prison. Offenders would then transition into the county's probation system rather than state parole.

"AB 109 is unleashing a crime wave of unprecedented proportions," Nielsen said, adding that he headed the California parole board. "I know the issues up front and personal."

Hospital regionalization was one of the top concerns constituents brought to Nielsen, said Scott Feller, the senator's district representative and harbor commissioner. Feller said Nielsen told his constituents that he plans to talk to Sutter Health executives and follow up on some of the letters written to him as well as to other agencies like the Internal Revenue Service, the state Board of Equalization and the California Attorney General's office.

"His concern is that we have adequate hospital care in our community," Feller said. "The community is very concerned. At almost every stop people have talked to him (about the hospital)."

Before his visit to Lake Earl on Saturday, Nielsen visited with harbor commissioners to look at the reconstruction progress. Last Monday, Crescent City Harbormaster Richard Young, Feller andHarbor Commissioner Ron Phillips walked Congressman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, through the harbor reconstruction project. They told the congressman that focusing on stronger docks will help the harbor weather winter storms and a 2011-size tsunami.

But because Nielsen is closer to Del Norte County and because Feller is both a harbor commissioner and the state senator's district representative, Nielsen is well versed in how the reconstruction project is progressing, Young said.

"He's very interested in helping us get this harbor rebuilt," Young said. "He just took a look around to see the work that's actually going on and offer his support. We hope we don't need his assistance in the future, but we are also glad to know it's there if we need it."

Nielsen won a special election in January to serve on the 4th state Senate District, which currently includes Del Norte County and traditionally elects Republicans. Nielsen took the seat formerly held by Doug LaMalfa of Richvale, who resigned to run for Congress.

Nielsen's term will last only until 2014 when Del Norte will become part of the California's 2nd Senate District due to redistricting. That district is currently represented by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and is expected to lean Democratic in its new configuration.

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