It’s about the board process, not about bias
It was with excitement that I looked forward to the 2003 Board of Supervisors’ first official meeting Jan. 7. The board convened and, after vigorous debate, changed a 2002 board rule regarding the selection of chair/vice chair. This rule change allowed the board to choose its leadership with a majority vote, resulting in unanimous votes for my selection as chair and Robin Sutherland as vice chair. It’s been seven years since a District 2 supervisor sat as chair, and I am very honored to serve in this leadership role.
I realize a citizen observing board deliberations may be left with the opinion that an action may seem short-sighted or biased. It was brought to my attention that this was the case regarding one of the board’s first actions. My critic asserted the vote was biased toward the development community.
On a 3-2 vote, the Board approved the recommendation of the Sewage Disposal Technical Advisory Group (SDTAG) to add two new voting members to the group, a representative from the Nevada County Contractors Association and a Board of Realtors’ representative.
These organizations were attending SDTAG meetings for the last year and had worked regularly with staff regarding on-site septic system issues. SDTAG consisted of five highly specialized consultants appointed by the board. The county’s environmental health director and public health officer (PHO) are advisory members. When a homeowner files an appeal regarding his septic application, the PHO becomes a voting member of the group.
The board receives a volume of information from department heads and/or interested parties on Thursday on agendized items for the following Tuesday’s meeting. If a member wishes to present a request or information on an item, it is a courtesy to the other members to submit information in advance so the board has opportunity to make as thoroughly informed a decision as possible.
During discussion, Supervisor Green asked the board to add a seat on SDTAG for a representative of the Yuba Watershed Council (YWC) based on a written request from their organization.
Unfortunately, this letter was not presented to the full board, neither with the board’s agenda items in advance nor during discussion of the item.
During board discussion, I encouraged YWC to attend SDTAG meetings and welcomed their input. However, I felt it premature to give YWC a seat prior to their submitting to the same process the contractor and Realtor sectors underwent in order to obtain seats. I questioned whether the limited purpose of SDTAG’s oversight of individual on-site septic systems would be issues relevant to YWC’s broader purposes. I was concerned the functions of SDTAG could be diverted into controversial areas outside its purview.
After acknowledging my critic’s concerns, I wrote a letter to Yuba Watershed Council, explaining the proper process to pursue a seat on SDTAG. I will certainly reconsider a recommendation brought forward by SDTAG to add a YWC member, and publicly informed the full board of my actions. I also look forward to working more closely with the council on watershed issues, and I am appointing a board member to sit on the council.
The board’s decision to defer YWC’s membership has linked this action with “a $5 million mandate sewage system, which may triple the bills of Lake Wildwood and Lake of the Pines sewage treatment plant customers.” A clarification is needed here. SDTAG’s functions are not linked to sewage treatment plants. Another advisory body, the Nevada County Sanitation Advisory Committee, is charged with the issues affecting off-site sewage disposal and sewage treatment plants, including the LOP and LWW facilities.
The board has been accused of supporting “unfettered development” by its vote. Is it fair to be labeled by one vote of action? If the board wanted “unfettered development,” it would have voted in favor of the establishment of Nevada-style gaming casinos in Nevada County. There are potentially lucrative revenues to be garnered for the county from a successful casino developed within our borders. The board, during the same meeting, took a clear stand and voted 5-0 against this kind of development because of the certain environmental and social impacts of such a project.
As chair of the board, I am committed to listening to all sides of an issue and taking corrective measures that will move our community toward positive solutions for the challenges that are set before us.
Sue Horne of Lake of the Pines is District 2 supervisor and 2003 chair of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.
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