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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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August 29, 2001     Feather River Bulletin
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August 29, 2001
 

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Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2001 Bulletin, Progressive, t at its aalb For the better part of a decade, the Plumes County Board of Supervisors' approach to putting together a budget was relatively sim- ple. Former County Administrative Officer James Stretch was given the authority to put together the county's spending plan each and every year. Once in a while, during the budget hearing process, a department head would appear before the board, complain a little about their budget, a compromise might be struck and everyone would move along. On the surface, that approach was successful. But there was always this nagging sense that the citi- zens of Plumes County were not getting much input into spending plans. The super- visors were expected to act as the citizens' representatives during the budget hearings each August. But, the reality was that it didn't really happen. At least not to the ex- tent the public expected from their elected representatives. As a result, the budget itself and the operations of many departments was the county's best-kept secret. That changed this year. With Stretch's de- parture and two new supervisors, the board has become more involved with every coun- ty department. It was an eye-opening experi- ence for the supervisors, particularly for Don Clark and Ken Nelson, who were as- signed the task of putting together this year's budget. The duo, along with interim County Ad- ministrative Officer Robert Conen, met with department heads and learned the nuts and bolts of government finance. It was obvious during last week's budget hearings that this year's budget has been crafted in a vigilant, thoughtful manner. When department heads attended the hearings, the supervisors did not need to depend on anyone else to provide answers. It was representative government at its best. Sure, there were some mistakes and misunderstandings, but typically it had , to with ninth, not with public policy. YOU know this approach is'Working when we overhear one department head tell anoth- er county employee, "Gee, what's with these supervisors? You would think we were spending their money?" When you consider the heightened vigi- lence by the Plumes County Board of Super- visors, it's no coincidence that the county is finally getting a handle on Plumes Corp's share of county financing. Although the board, through its various incarnations during the past decade, has vowed to get tough on Plumes Corp, it was always an empty promise, wafting through the air like an elusive gush of air. At last week's budget session with Plumes Corp, the supervisors finally got their hands around the problem. It is clear that the board wants tangible results--not pie-in-the- sky folly--and that it will no longer tolerate answers obscured by smoke and mirrors. Fea aibqishing / spaper Michael C. Taborski Publisher Ker! B. Taborski Legal Advertising Department Debra Coates Managing Editor Alicla Higbee Indian Valley Editor "rerri Daoust Portola Editor ' Marian Liddell Chester Editor Shannon Morrow Sports Editor Jenette Meneely News Proofreader, Kid's Page Editor ii i Staff writers Dave Keller, Gall Brown, Victoria Metcalf, Will Farris, Pete Margolies, Rob Brockmeyer, Shayla Ashmore, Sam Williams, Cassandra Hummel, Kelly Dachenhausen, Dale Defter For journalists in CalifOrnia who cov- er local government, the Brown Act is considered sacred. It is the law that gov- erns open public meetings for city coun- cils, boards of supervisors, special dis- trict boards and other public agencies. In short, it essentially forces local govern- ment to conduct business, with several limited exceptions, in public. It is intend- ed to prevent government from spending taxpayers' money and making other de- cisions in private. The law has a few ba- sic concepts: The public must be notified of meetings, and what will be discussed at those meetings, 72 hours before they take place. The purpose of the restriction is to let citizens know ahead of time that something important to them may be de- liberated and voted on. On many occasions, newspapers have had to use the provisions in the Brown Act to force public agencies to discuss is- sues in public and to properly notify the public of these issues. There have been lawsuits, and even some criminal prose- cutions, to force compliance. In several instances, Feather Publishing has had to remind local government to follow the law. In the mid-1990s, the Portola City Council tried to conduct an illegal meet- ing. Its city manager at the time called a special meeting of the council, but failed to give 24 hours notice. (For special meetings, which typically take place when an issue of urgency needs to be ad- dressed, government is required to give a notice o.f only 24 hours.) The city man- ager wanted to conduct the meeting in less than 24 hours. Another wrinkle is that she tried to conduct, the meeting without telling two members of the coun- cil because' they probably would have KELLER STAFF WRITER wevented the meeting from going for- ward. Feather Publishing stepped in by fax- ing a letter to the city manager to protest the meeting, by contacting the council members who were not going to be noti- fied and by threatening legal action if the meeting went forward. The meeting was called off, even though the city man- ager claimed she had been right. On another occasion, the Plumes Uni- fied School District's board of trustees spontaneously appointed a new superin- tendent at a meeting. The problem was that the appointment took place without notifying the public in advance. The board was not trying to make the ap- pointment to avoid public scrutiny; in fact, the opposite was true. The board made the appointment on the spur of the moment because a large throng of par- ents were at the meeting and aggressive- ly pushed the board into appointing Joe Hagwood as superintendent. Even though the decision was a popu- lar one, and the right one, Feather Pub- lishing informed the school board that it had made a legal error by violating the Brown Act. To the school board's credit, it admitted the error and appointed Hag- wood at a properly noticed meeting. The Brown Act has been a source for Photo courtesy of Plumas County Museum Cowboys turned out to participate in the Chester rodeo in the 1930s, No er information was included about the one-time popular event. the board of supervisors in They once operated assumption that were not allowed to two of them to discuss an board was told by former istrative Officer Jim constituent contacted bers about an issue, the the Brown Act by member. Stretch presumabl) portion of the serial meetings, which take members of an elected body deliberate on an issue be~1 meeting. Typically, one mere , board will act as a hub and then' nicate with two or more board on an issue. I'm not aware of it ever taking place cannot imagine that it has tentionally or time in the past. That's thing as Stretch's concern. Th attempt to Stretch was concerned, without( accuracy, that Plumes County were so uninformed and their attempts to influence the board would result in a his legislative agenda. The latest confusion Act focuses on the supervisors'I that they should respond to, an opinion about dents during the public that starts each board pears to be a belief that, if a spontaneously responds, is being violated. On easy to see why the supervisor view a response as some kind ation or discuss policy appears to be taking the Act to an unnecessary extreme- The legislative intent of the was to ensure that residents chance to observe, cal government in action. I their intent is nefarious from discussing and taking sues without first er notification. The concept is age a free exchange of ideas shroud it. There Act that sponding to a comment In fact, the supervisors but act as if they're gal. It's not illegal, and citizenS ate it an immediate response ask a question or make a point ing. KERIIABOF]S [J HISTORIAN 75 Years Ago ............. 1926 Grammar school opened at Quincy Mon- day with an enrollment of 117 students allo- cated as follows: first and second grades 30 third and fourth grades 32 fifth and sixth grades 29 and seventh and eighth grades 26. 50 Years Ago ............. 1951 Budget provisions have been set by the state to finance construction of a National Guard armory building at a proposed site lo- cated in American Valley. The Plumes County National Guard unit has completely outgrown its quarters at the Quincy Veter- ans hall and will establish temporary head- quarters at the Plumes County fairgrounds. 25 Years Ago ............. 1976 Dorothy Neer Marley resigned as Plumas County Recorder this week and he Board of Supervisors took immediate steps to seek consolidation of that elective office with the County Clerk's position, naming Plumas County Clerk RayneUe Slaten as interim act- ing recorder. 10 Ago ............. 1991 First day attendance figures percent increase in the student in the Plumes Unified School the flu'st day of school last 91 school year enrollment on the: school was 3,688 students. For school year that number has 3,787. NOTE: Items included the When column are taken from edition newspaper archives writing style of that particular spelling and grammar are not copy is presented as it actually the original newspapers. are amazm AI IFUmdVmall~ ~ ~, STAFF WRITER School begins in just a few days, and each year at this time, I fred myself think. ing about how amazing some teachers are. A recent letter from a retired teacher made me remember how dissatisfied I was with a few teachers, as well. This retired Plumas County teacher was responding to a somewhat outraged col. umn about attention deficit disorder (ADD) that I wrote several months ago. She called me after a local reading teacher responded to the column with a letter to the editor. In my column, I argued against using drugs to treat ADD, and in her letter, the long-time reading teacher praised the ef- fectiveness of drugs. The retired teacher, who earned her master's degree after intensive study about learning disabilities, called me after she read the letter. "I did not like the response from that specialist," she said. "A very small per- centage of students actually need the drugs." The numbers of ADD cases are exagger- ated because teachers cannot handle the students, she continued. In no way, though, was she trying to dis- credit the teachers, who, she says, spend a lot of their own money on special supplies and learning materials for their students. She described some of the changes made in teaching methods and conduct. Many years ago, teachers were allowed to spank unruly children, and they were also al- lowed to hug them. Today, a teacher faces prosecution for child abuse, sexual harassment or mo. lestation for these same acts. Teachers today are under tremendous pressure to produce students who can score well on sometimes controversial tests. Instead of smiles from instilling a life- long love of learning in their students, I have seen the frustration on their faces. "We are teaching to the test scores," one teacher told me, after I commented about some of the fun learning activities that were missing from classes that year. Even with all of the modern pressures, many teachers still dedicate an amazing amount of time to their students. I have been reading about some of them in essays submitted for a contest spon- sored by New California Media and Feath- er Publishing Co. Two of the six essays I have received, so far, are about the same teacher, a man whose actions illustrate just how dedicat- ed some teachers are. This Greenville teacher his classroom open after hourS l dents can come in for extra has even invited students chocolate and help Another essay describes teacher, coach and friend----a kind of woman whose love for gious. A teacher in Chester was nized for not only teaching helping her students develop will make them successful world. The most colorful letter so what used to be a bewildered ! who was suddenly grandchildren's education. One of her little angel' teacher's instruction "like a on a June bug," this Her energetic imagery made In each essay, there is provided inspiration, both and personally, to a student. Even though I have had faction with a few teachers in my own and my after reading these essays, ries about our favorite shine the bad. "Thank you for ever given me and the lessons you me," one student wrote. not be forgotten." Ditto.