Coastal Voices: Local boards distrustful of the public

By Samuel Strait February 01, 2012 06:45 am

Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on the meetings of a few of Del Norte County’s many boards. Mind you, many of them only came into existence recently in the nearly 40 years I have lived in this county.

During the course of my attendance, several interesting behaviors were on display as I witnessed the progress of each meeting. The first and perhaps the most disturbing, was that there was a complete lack of trust on the part of many of the respective board members in the abilities of the general public.

This lack of faith for the public to accomplish even the simplest of tasks, the disposal of trash, has exploded into a complex process, often aided by governments and boards at yet loftier levels, into an expensive monster all at the expense of the people that those representatives claim to be looking out for.

Many on those boards, and their respective staffs do not seem to recognize, that this is a small, rural and very poor county with limited economic opportunity. Individuals and businesses simply cannot afford government interference in their daily life unless it is absolutely necessary.

While board members may mouth the words in public — poor, rural and small — their actions for the most part do nothing of the kind. We have a harbor board that will spend millions of dollars over the next several years on a harbor that needed to be more than partially operational after a year or six, depending on which tsunami you are counting from.

We have an airport board that was to have at least a new terminal by now and perhaps a better and longer landing strip, but that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

And the best example of government grand adventures comes from an even larger board, which monitors the landfill and deals with the solid waste in the county. It seems that in the nearly 25 years since the problematic landfill first appeared on the scene, the friendly ministrations of the solid waste board and its staff have landed us with a landfill that probably will never cease costing the public money, a collection company and a transfer station that will continue to cost the public more money for less service, a ridiculous recycling scheme whose goal is zero waste at enormous cost, and now the gall to suggest that mandatory pickup, first for all businesses and apartments and then no doubt for all residents when costs for recycling and eco-philosophy are unsustainable.

I have to say it was an enlightening experience, particularly in light of the fact that some of these boards meet when most of us that work cannot attend. I will say that not all members of every board behave this way, but far too many do, and do a great disservice to those of us that count on them.

In a perfect world they should be looking at all the effects of their decisions and not just the problems that they think that they are solving. If there is one thing that I have learned in life it is to make sure the solution doesn’t lead directly to more problems.

Talk of mandatory garbage collection for any individuals or groups is a slippery slope and will without question create more problems than it will solve. Unfortunately, we currently have far too many on the Solid Waste Board that have not acquainted themselves with the consequences of such an action and continue to drink of the zero waste kool-aid.

Samuel Strait is a Crescent City resident.