George Boardman: Double dipping at the public trough, in the spotlight, and just the facts
Conservatives love to sing the praises of limited government while decrying freeloaders who feed at the public trough — unless it involves a member of their immediate family.
That thought occurred to me last week when Megan Dahle, wife of newly elected state Senator Brian Dahle, announced she is running for the first state Assembly district seat being vacated by her husband.
Perhaps she was inspired by the man her husband is replacing, former Senator Ted Gaines, who gave up the seat when he was elected to the state Board of Equalization. Gaines’ wife, Beth, took over his seat in the state Assembly until she was termed out. Ted Gaines is also an advocate of small government.
Megan Dahle, whose public service consists of a term on the Big Valley Joint Unified School District board, said she was waiting for her husband to be termed out of his Assembly seat before running for the seat.
In case you thought otherwise, Megan said she’s running on her own. “I’m running for our families and communities and small businesses in our district,” she said. “I’m excited to do this … The only thing Brian has given me is his last name, which I’m proud to have.”
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I’m guessing he’s also given her name recognition, his campaign operation, and his donor list, three advantages no other candidate for the seat will have. She’s also familiar with the playbook her husband used in getting elected to the state Senate, including his decision to avoid being caught in Nevada County in the presence of his competitor.
Megan Dahle also listed some issues she wants to address: Vegetation management, fire safe communities, homelessness, and what she described as crime creeping into the edges of the assembly district. “It’s very complicated, but it needs to be addressed,” she said.
Regardless of how complicated crime may be, it’s probably easier than dry land wheat farming.
In the spotlight
Megan Dahle may want to address the low vaccination rate of students who live in the first Assembly district, a fact recently highlighted in a report from the Health Officers Association of California. When a Redding newspaper asked her husband to comment, he didn’t respond.
The report listed 835 schools in the state where the student vaccination rate is less than 95% — the threshold for “community immunity.” In the case of Nevada County, it’s easier to list the schools that attained the threshold than those that are under.
But the underachievers are going to get more scrutiny under legislation carried by state Senator Richard Pan designed to crack down on the abuse of medical exemptions for vaccinations in the state.
Pan’s original bill, SB 276, would have authorized state medical authorities to review every medical exemption granted, but he pulled that part of the bill when Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed his “concerns about a bureaucrat making a decision that is very personal.”
Under changes negotiated with the governor, Pan’s bill requires state health officials to conduct a review if a public school has an immunization rate of less than 95% or a doctor grants more than five exemptions in a calendar year.
The state can revoke exemptions if it finds they are fraudulent or inconsistent with medical guidelines. Exemption denials can be appealed to a panel of doctors, and state medical officials will make the final call.
SB 276 passed the Senate in its original form, and the amended version is now being considered in the Assembly. Nevada County schools will get a lot more attention from state officials if this bill becomes law.
Just the facts
The Grass Valley Police Department got a lot of attention recently when it used its Facebook page to criticize a judge for releasing a man on his own recognizance after allegedly being caught with enough drugs to intoxicate more than 15% of the town’s population.
The post received over 1,500 comments, most of them supporting the police position, but the comment also generated some concerns about attempting to tilt the scales of justice before the suspect gets his day in court.
“The Nevada County District Attorney’s Office did their part by filing a slew of charges and arguing for a significant bail amount …,” the police wrote on their page, “but he was released anyway.”
Chief Alex Gammelgard told The Union the post was the third one on the case and is in line with the department’s policy of promoting transparency in the criminal justice system. Capt. Steve Johnson said the Facebook page is for communicating with the public and isn’t designed for political activity.
But just to make sure the public knew where the police stood, the post included the following: “Number of people who could have gotten high on the amount of drugs he possess = over 2,000. The initial bail set at the time of booking = 250,000. Release of an armed drug dealer with no bail – PRICELESS.”
Johnson described the comment as “tongue-in-cheek language” (it failed). “I think that was born out of our frustration with the case. People are dying everyday from heroin overdoses.”
Local residents are frustrated by the spread of drugs in our community, and the perception that courts are going too easy on drug dealers. People also understand — at least intellectually — that suspects are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law, but emotionally believe a suspect must be guilty or he would never have been arrested. Comments like “PRICELESS” make it difficult for the suspect in this case to get a fair trial.
The transparency in our justice system Gammelgard claims to be promoting needs to be perceived as fair and even handed. The Grass Valley Police Department can best achieve this on its Facebook page by leaving out the editorial comment and sticking to the facts.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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