The official video recording from the City of Portola (purposely?) leaves out public comment on the issue of removing the ability to comment remotely at meetings. Luckily a local activist recorded the entire meeting, posted above. You can hear the convoluted explanations from the council on why eliminating remote public comment is “necessary.” Funny if it were not so tragic. Below is our letter to the editor regarding this issue. An open and transparent government is a prerequisite for an informed public, healthy community and a protected watershed.
At the April 26th Portola City Council meeting, the council decided unanimously to prohibit remote participation that has allowed people to engage with meetings from home (or work) for years. Why would the council choose to limit public participation rather than encouraging different options for people to comment? This move is possibly contrary to state law and will not prevent critics of the council from speaking out, as it is clearly intended to do.
What it will do is prevent public participation by those who are older, people with disabilities, people with children or no childcare options, those working night shifts, those who can’t drive (or can’t drive in the dark), those with serious chemical or electrical injuries and sensitivities, those concerned about respiratory diseases as well as caregivers of ill residents (who may not be able to physically appear at the council). Basically, normal, everyday people.
Portola City Council is moving in the wrong direction under the new city manager. Remote participation has become a standard option for local government meetings in the past several years. At last night’s meeting, roughly 45 minutes were spent discussing this distraction. How many more minutes and hours were spent behind closed doors, over email, during closed session, etc., on this non-issue? Why is the council spending so much time and energy on limiting participation (which is already minimal at best), when there are far more important issues affecting Portola’s residents, visitors, and environment?
The excuses the council gave for this action were pathetic. Meetings running to midnight? When has that ever happened? Perhaps members of the council (which has seen very little change in ten plus years) are burnt out after years of service. We need other residents of Portola to get involved, speak out, and run for office— those who genuinely want to hear from the people, even when it is difficult. It seems that from the council’s perspective, the public’s role is voting them into office, and then getting out of the way and deferring to the council to make all decisions without broad input.
Yet, the Portola council clearly needs input from the public as it neglects critical public safety issues right on its doorstep:
– This morning, two, 2 foot wide pipes (directly adjacent to a major entrance and walkway) near the bridge in the city park stood open and filled with water that a child could fall into and drown. The large openings could injure any person or animal walking into this hazard (reported by my wife to city staff). An incident could bankrupt the city, not to mention being an unspeakable tragedy.
– A non-standard, hazardous sewer grate on Gulling right in front of city hall that could easily trap a bicycle tire and cause a deadly head-over-handlebars crash, including at the upcoming Lost and Found race (grate is yards from the start line). We have informed the council about this danger for years without any action.
– At least hundreds of gallons of untreated sewage was reported to have leaked into the Feather River from city sewers in recent months
– A profusely leaking water tap in the park not getting addressed for at least two years (has it been fixed?). City sprinklers running in the middle of the day, flooding into the street, during past severe drought years.
– As far as we know, the council is neglecting to prevent the threat of large amounts of micro-plastics washing into the Feather River from the new fake (plastic) tree cell tower near EPHC, as these cell towers have done near Lake Tahoe.
Meanwhile, we wonder what it cost tax payers to install CCTV cameras inside the park and outside of the City of Portola offices. Has there been a direct threat to the building or to members of the council to warrant this expense? This should not be a higher priority than keeping our public park and roadways free of direct hazards. The public, who funds the city, needs to ask the council: What are the priorities of this council and how are they set? How, and in what priority, are *our* tax dollars being spent?
It’s not unreasonable to suggest that the council should focus their time and efforts on resolving critical safety and health issues for the community (including on its doorstep!) rather than on restricting and attempting to silence public input. Believe it or not, members of the community may even have important safety information to share!
And, in a comment that also applies to the county government in Quincy, if you are an elected official or staff and feel “uncomfortable” with critical feedback from the community, the appropriate response is to look honestly at the criticism and maturely respond to concerns, not try to tamp down comment, silence the public, and start false rumors about individuals who respectfully voice criticism. Quite often, the public process is uncomfortable and messy, but it is essential to community health and mutual trust that we all listen to each other. My feeling is that both city and county governments are currently failing to do their jobs, risking public safety, declining to pay employees a living wage, and embarking on distractions designed to silence dissent rather than deal with it honestly and openly when it is raised.
It is not the council or city manager’s role to determine which comments are acceptable and which are not. It is their job to listen to the public. Do any of us who have been watching the shift of the council to a darker and more authoritarian character over recent months believe that if they could get away with eliminating public comment entirely that they would not do so? Luckily we have state laws that protect the public’s right to speak, and we need to use those rights.
A privileged, out of touch council who look down their noses at the people of Portola, and a city manager who writes outlandish, poorly researched and false assertions in the newspaper (insisting that non-profits should follow the Brown Act—which the city manager himself loudly complains about following!), and who consistently lies to make himself appear more reasonable, is not what Portola deserves. The public deserves better.
People can get more involved by signing up to receive city council agendas by submitting a request to firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as joining Feather River Action! (to help look after our beautiful mountain environment and hold elected officials accountable) by e-mailing email@example.com .
We have consistently stood up for public access to public meetings when it has been threatened over the past few years in Plumas County. In 2021, when COVID prevented many people from attending the county board meetings (including to speak against the Portola Sand Mine and Asphalt Plant) and Plumas was one of only a few counties in the state to prohibit remote comments, our public pressure for access is what turned the tide. Sup. Engel was the only one voting against remote public access but the other supes voted for it and Plumas County continues to offer remote access to this day, unlike the City of Portola (COP). Too many times elected officials forget their number one responsibility is to the public. It’s not about them, it’s about us.
Thanks for reading my long letter. Though the local political situation is sad, if all those of us who care about this place band together, I have faith we can turn it around.
2023 Ocean Temps Warning of Possible Planetary Shift
Scientists are watching with alarm as ocean temperatures go off the charts this year (see black line above). Oceans are huge repositories of energy and heat, and due to human emissions of greenhouse gases, are absorbing the equivalent of more than 7 Hiroshima sized nuclear bombs every second.
Up to now the oceans have been quite effective at absorbing the sun’s energy being trapped by human effluent, but that is starting to change. Without the oceans to absorb all the heat, the Earth would already be a Venus-like hell-scape, given the amount of pollution humans (and particularly rich humans and large corporations) have already belched out into our eggshell thin atmosphere.
Normally in April, temps will start to decrease but this is not happening this year. This could indicate a temporary condition that will return to something like normal, or something far more serious, threatening global climate disruption on an unprecedented scale. Temperatures in Europe and Asia are already shattering records in April. Current predictions are for a strong El Niño developing over the summer which could make the precipitation we saw this last winter look like a drizzle. Check out Daniel Swain’s Weather West website for a thorough analysis of the science here.
Unfortunately most of the carbon reduction actions humans are taking are not appropriate for the scale of the problem, or are making the problem far worse, such as carbon offsets, widespread adoption of electric cars, forest “thinning” (aka logging), etc. etc.
This is an emergency, and an existential threat to human survival and we need to start acting like it. The truth is that our culture is sick and operating based on assumptions that are outdated and dangerous to our survival.
A great discussion of what real solutions would look like if we are serious about addressing the climate crisis can be found here.
The truth, however inconvenient to our lives, is that there is not enough space in the atmosphere for aviation and personal motorized mobility to continue indefinitely without making life on Earth intolerable or impossible.
People tend to blindly trust what experts tell us, but the truth is that the “experts” who planned interstate highway systems, the aviation industry, factory farms, industrial logging and electricity networks never properly calculated whether the atmosphere would be able to absorb the carbon from their lucrative but damaging projects longer term. The painful truth is that humans have wasted trillions of dollars on infrastructure, much of which will soon have to be abandoned. This is where rhetoric and cultural norms and assumptions meet reality.
Here in Plumas County, though our population is small (less than 20,000 people in an area larger than the state of Delaware) our potential global impact can be huge. Re-localizing our economies and allowing the forest to absorb enormous amounts of excess carbon are two ways we can make a global impact. This means a moratorium on mechanized logging on the national forests, allowing natural fires to burn under some circumstances, dramatically increasing the amount of under-burns, which can contribute to healthy forests and allowing large tree communities to reach and remain at old growth stage, so they can absorb more carbon. Fire suppression and industrial logging are what has gotten us into this mess. Doubling down on these archaic practices will only dig us deeper into climate disarray and put lives and communities at risk. This presentation by Chad Hanson answers many questions about forests, fires, and appropriate management.
If you are waking up to these issues, we need you to get involved and take action to help turn the tide so that the worst catastrophic outcomes are averted. Right now the Forest Service is planning the “Protection Project” that could damage Plumas County forests for generations, increase wildfire threats, and exacerbate the climate crisis, but we can do better with public lands than handing them over to industry, surely!
We’re Raising Money to Protect Thacker Pass, NV
Feather River Action! is raising money for Protect Thacker Pass, who are working to fight the lithium mine planned for Northern Nevada.
FRA! has already successfully raised $2500 from an anonymous donor to support this important campaign. Please join me in supporting this cause and give what you can and/ or spread the word!
Will we continue to despoil the wild in pursuit of false, profit driven solutions or protect sacred land for future generations? It’s up to all of us. Read more about what real solutions to our climate crisis involve here.
You can easily make a donation by going to https://givebutter.com/protectthackerpass Any amount makes a difference. Thank you for your support for this critical movement!