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Off-highway vehicle park foe thrashes board for its behavior

As a citizen of Madera County for 41 years and an elected official, (Chawanakee Unified School District, Board of Trustees, 31 years), I have never witnessed such a lack of respect for our citizens and our government process as I did at the Aug. 9 Madera County Board of Supervisors meeting.

I attended the Board of Supervisors meeting so that I could speak regarding an agenda item that was illegally placed on the agenda through a reconsideration motion from the July 12 Board of Supervisors meeting. It concerned an item for funding an archaeological study by transfer of funds from developer fees, for the Blackhawk Mountain OHV Park proposed in eastern Madera County. It seems that Rosenberg’s Rules of Order by which the Board conducts its meetings is merely a suggestion, according to Madera County counsel.

I have not made my opposition to this OHV project private and my reasons for opposing this project are too long to list in this letter. However, I felt compelled to attend the Aug. 9 meeting with, what I realize now, was a misguided belief in the Madera County Board of Supervisors dedication to the citizens of Madera County.

As I approached the podium to speak, Chairman Rick Farinelli advised those in line to speak that they would be limited to three minutes to express their views. He didn’t enforce the three-minutes rule to supporters of the OHV Park that spoke before and after me, but I honored his request.

During the time that I addressed the board I was rudely interrupted by several board members. The attitude portrayed by these members toward myself and other people with whom they disagree is shameful.

Shortly thereafter, a supporter for the OHV project, made a comment about a local ordinance which prohibits motorcycle riding on a piece of land less than 10 acres. The gentleman speaking was passionate about his dislike for this ordinance, and Supervisor Tom Wheeler interrupted the man and informed him, and everyone in attendance, “that ordinance was put in by Frank Bigelow about 15 years ago”. (My husband, Frank, was a supervisor at the time the ordinance was passed March 28, 2006, by unanimous vote. It is limited to residential areas that are specified or have a tract number, and does not cite an acreage limit. Please see Madera County Ordinance No. 10.28.010-.050).

Supervisor Wheeler continued to encourage the man by stating “the ordinance was only for the rich and elite.”

Since when can ONE Supervisor “put in” an ordinance? I thought it requires a majority vote.

Was he insinuating that because the Bigelow family has owned ranch land in O’Neals for more than 150 years, and we are opposed to this location for an OHV Park, we should be targeted as “elite and rich?” If so, this is Supervisor Wheeler’s fabricated and baseless personal opinion, and for him to express this as an elected official, in a public meeting, is unprofessional, to say the least.

I was appalled that not one of the other supervisors or staff members intervened. Remember this, silence is implied agreement.

As citizens, we should expect our elected officials to conduct public meetings so that we feel we can bring our concerns to them. We should not feel we will be targeted if we have concerns or oppose a project. We should expect our voices to be heard without interruption from board members and we should expect our elected officials to act in a respectful manner. Most importantly, our elected officials should be honest and transparent with us. If they are unable to do any one of these things, they should not be re-elected to the office in which they have been trusted.

I urge your readers and Madera County citizens to watch the archived board video from the August 9th meeting and form your own opinion.

— Barbara Bigelow, O’Neals

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