From JULIA FRECH
[Losing our vote is the only threat that matters to an elected official… -DS]
Between 10:30 and 12:30, 30 people got up and spoke against sending a letter of support to Caltrans to continue construction on the Willits Bypass. After a break, 30 more people spoke up, making citizen dissent for the current construction unanimous. In some cases they were emotional about losing their valley and business, reminding the supervisors of their mission statement and the precautionary principle. Other testimonials brought up scientific studies, supporting evidence, and historical precedent. Some implored the supervisors to provide leadership in a world that is different than the one in which the Bypass plan was made 40 years ago, and to represent their constituents in Mendocino County. Every case was compelling, and together, the evidence was overwhelming: there is a better way to solve Willits traffic congestion, and support is overwhelming and growing.
After another break, Jared Huffman made a report on current items of interest to Mendocino County. Among them were the health of salmon fisheries and watersheds, the importance of reducing government spending on wasteful projects, and of the importance of reducing CO2 emissions and halting climate change. The supervisors agreed with him on these issues, making their forthcoming final statements and vote (on the bypass) conflict not just with their constituents, but to their stated concerns about government and the environment.
After Jared Huffman left, the supervisors summarized their positions on the Willits Bypass, and whether or not they would support the letter to Caltrans. John Pinches reiterated that this has been planned for 40 years, and the project should proceed as planned. Carrie Brown initially gave hope by saying she had been behind the argument for the railroad as truck lane in years past, had stood with Ellen Drell and others on this issue. Then, in a sudden turnaround, she said she would support John Pinches letter because commitments had already been made.
Dan Gjerde was next, and in visible and growing discomfort, explained the historical context of MCOGs decisions, and his involvement and support with the project in the past. His final words were a breath of fresh air to the hundred people still sitting in the room. “After hearing all of you today, and knowing what I know about the plan for the bypass, I believe there is a better way. I don’t feel comfortable signing this letter”. Extended cheers and clapping ensued. I cannot summarize John McCowen’s position because it made no sense. Memorable comments he made were: “There has never been such one sided support at any other BOS meeting. I know the supporters of the Bypass exist, but they apparently did not get organized enough to come. I’m sure there are many of them as well .” And “it takes courage to stand in front of a hundred and oppose them. Much more courage than it would to change a position that one had a day ago.” Needless to say booing, sighing and some tears were shed. John McCowens’ vote would have given the majority needed, and people around me deflated instantly, after an intense and hopeful day.
Dan Hamburg said that hearing 30 or so testimonials, he had been worn down and had to agree with his colleague Dan Gjerde. Applause erupted again, but the mood was more somber.
My question is this: Why would 3 of our 5 supervisors abandon their mission statement, make a decision that conflicts with their public requests to Jared Huffman minutes before, misrepresent their citizens, and make a decision that directly conflicts more than 30 policies in the Mendocino County General Plan?
More news and video here and here…