The agendas for the Board of Supervisors next week are posted on the county website. I am not sure how much I will be able to get done on the Tuesday meeting.
The board is having three meetings this week. Two will be held at the Pines Resort in Bass Lake.
Wednesday morning will be dedicated to discussing the strengths and opportunities for the Madera County Board of Supervisors.
Translation: What can we get away with this year?
Then comes lunch break.
The afternoon will be a discussion about working together as a governing body.
Translation: Let’s school the new guy on how things are done in Madera. If we have a poison pill your district needs to choke down you can vote no as long as you will give me the same when I am out on a limb.
I have a few questions, never having been to one of these special meetings: Who is picking up the tab for travel expenses and rooms for a few?
The Wednesday meeting is not too concerning, but the Thursday meeting is a barnburner.
Unfortunately with the discussion taking place at the Pines there will probably be no live streaming video or for that matter no archived video or even comprehensive notes for us to see.
Now, I suspect, the fun begins.
Every retreat I have attended has had what are called hospitality sweets.
Translation: Rooms rented by big-money high rollers to provide fancy snacks and free flowing booze.
In this case I would look for big developers, vendors wanting county contracts, and pretty much anybody who wants to push something through that is more in their interests than in ours.
This is all taking place before the big meeting to decide the county priorities on Thursday.
Presentation by Kerry Shearer on the basics of effective social media.
I see a very expensive new department or contract to take smoke and mirrors to a whole new level.
Number 3: Workshop discussion: “Strategic conversation with staff related to the achievement, vision, goals, initiatives and priorities of Madera County.”
Translation: Strategic conversation with staff; An opportunity to have the entire BOS and key staff talk about what they want to do for the next year and marching orders, outside of the rules of the Brown Act and not being recorded. Related to achievements, vision, goals, initiatives and priorities for the county; This encompasses just about anything the supervisors or staff want to talk about with very few prying eyes and ears.
Is this where the OHV on Black Hawk Mountain was conceived? Is this where the million-dollar sign at (State Route) 41 and Children’s Boulevard was hatched? Is this where the Starbucks plan for the administration building lobby got started?
You need to understand this single item on the agenda has the power to set the county’s direction for the next year.
If the BOS is setting “vision, goals, initiatives and priorities” in this environment, WE need to be there.
NOTE to self; this is before the budget hearings!
Fire protection funding: Will this be a priority?
What input do the various citizen groups who were concerned about fire protection have?
I have been to budget hearings for Madera County; very little public input is permitted on each budget item, the last one I was at, public input was held to the end so you could comment on the whole day’s discussion in your allotted three minutes.
Items 4 and 6: Workshop discussion: Implementation of strategies.
Translation: How are we going to get this past the taxpayers?
Turn off the lights. The party is over. Anything and everything the BOS or staff want to happen has been discussed in a semi private setting. The staff have their marching orders. The next time you hear about any of these items the will be buried on the Consent Calendar.
Future DOG reports should have an accounting of this attack on the spirit of the open government laws. It would be helpful if anybody with a video camera could record the workshops. The Brown act clearly states they cannot stop you from recording any meeting.
It does not matter what issue you are passionate about, it can be affected by these “special meetings.”
Dale Drozen, a retired firefighter, is author of the DOG (Demand Open Government) Report, in which he calls out the Board of Supervisors and county staff members on what he sees as violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act.