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Balancing Liberties And Our Safety

Anaiah Kirk
Provided by Anaiah Kirk

Since my January newsletter, our world has literally been flipped upside down due to COVID-19. Our day-to-day lives have changed in the way we communicate, work (or not), the way we shop for food, are adopting social distancing and enhanced hygiene, all to prevent the spread of this very contagious and deadly virus. While this newsletter is a summary of the happenings over the last quarter, I want to speak to the issue we are all facing: balancing our liberties and our safety. As a grandson of three World War II veterans, I don’t take for granted the sacrifices they made for our freedoms. I often ask myself if they would support the closure of businesses, schools, churches and our public lands for the sake of preventing the spread of this virus? I don’t know. I think every reasonable person supports the safety and well-being of their neighbors during times of crisis with an immediate, midterm and long-term game plan on how to both enter and exit such a crisis. I have concluded, based on my research and discussions with those in the medical field, we are in a crisis and need to defer to the experts in the medical field, just as we would defer to the military experts if we were on the battlefield. With that said, I believe we are quickly approaching a breaking point where the medical crises may turn into a social crisis. We cannot continue much longer down this road with our economy. Finally, the difference between essential and non-essential jobs is becoming less clear. We are an economy of working men and women. Every person is essential. It does seem that if everyone returned to work wearing a facemask and continued social distancing with enhanced hygiene practices, then we could all resume a more normal life.

  • Hopeline (209-533-7991). With the help of Cynthia Halman, Christy Maxon and a number of local pastors and volunteers in the faith-based community. Hopeline was created to provide hope during this time of crisis. Details here.
  • For a recorded interview with BJ Hanson, click on the third clip here.
  • Make Your Own Face Mask. On March 27, 2020, I authored a blog making the recommendation for folks to wear a mask while in public. If possible, please make one as detiled here instead of buying one in order to give our medical professionals priority access. Taiwan and Hong Kong kept their economies going while significantly reducing the effects of COVID-19 by wearing masks.
  • Small Business Disaster Assistance. Cole Przybyla, Director of Innovation and Business Assistance has created a website to assist small businesses during this tough time. I personally would like to thank Cole for all his hard work during this crisis. I have heard from the business community how much of a help and a resource he has been. https://www.tcdisasterassistance.com/ His most recent blog is noted here.
  • Broadband. Broadband is one of my highest priorities. In February, Cole Przybyla and our county held its first Central Sierra Broadband Conference, which brought together a coalition of stakeholders from a five-county region hoping to expand broadband internet infrastructure. COVID-19 has again exposed the divide between urban and rural communities. People are unable to work from home and kids are unable to participate in virtual school as a result of this divide. We are working to address this divide with State and Local agencies. Details here.
  • Innovation and Business Assistance. On February 18th, Cole Przybyla, Director of Innovation and Business Assistance made a presentation to the BOS summarizing research on where economic development in Tuolumne County should be focused. The proposed focus is on hospitality, senior care, and natural resource manufacturing. The agenda is here.
  • Firewise Communities. With the leadership of Carol Hallet, more Firewise communities are coming into existence. In District 3, Cedarview, Mark Twain – Sierra and Tuolumne Drive have been approved, Lilac Terrace is pending and Confidence S. Fork, Sugar Pine RV, Gurney Station, Cedar Ridge and Strouch are in the beginning stages. By starting a Firewise community, you help Tuolumne County and its residence stay fire safe. In addition, some home insurance agencies are giving credits towards residences who reside in Firewise communities. For more information on becoming a Firewise Community, contact Carol Hallett at carolhallett1@gmail.com.
  • Twain Harte Drive. With a grant from Cal OES and in partnership with CDCR fire crews, the overgrowth along Twain Harte Drive has been cleared out and made fire safe.
  • Mount Provo Road. With winter nearly over, I am in the final planning stages with getting work done on Mt. Provo Road to make it drivable so the Ponderosa Hills community has an escape route should a fire break out. I will keep the community updated on this project as it comes to fruition. 
  • Emergency Notification. With fire season approaching, if you have not already, please sign up for Everbridge notifications. https://www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov/AlertCenter.aspx?AID=Everbridge-Emergency-Notification-Regist-30 
  • Fire Safety and Community Reliance. In January, our BOS was presented with a summary of what our board, departments and community partnerships have done over the last year in an effort to continue and build on creating a fire safe county. A full summary can be viewed here: https://tuolumneco.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=&event_id=716&meta_id=59426
    • Creation of the Fire Safety and Community Resilience Task Force
    • Community Hardening Projects (roadside brushing, fuel reduction projects and more)
    • Education and Outreach (town hall meetings, OES website, social media and more)
    • Regulatory Advocacy (grant funding, equipment purchase, timber harvest relief plan and more)
    • Subcommittees for projects including fuel breaks, ingress/egress routs, emergency evacuation and defensible space and more
  • Fire Insurance. Several bills are pending in the California Legislature focusing on improving the fire insurance situation. I attended a press release where Insurance Commissioner Ricard Lara rolled out AB-2367. Shortly thereafter SB-1359 was proposed. Bringing more attention to the insurance crisis is a step in the right direction; however, I believe the proposed legislation needs more work as there are several loopholes and biases, specifically against new home construction. Details here.
  • NEPA Reform. On January 9, 2020, President Trump announced the modernization the National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) regulations to promote more efficient, effective, and timely NEPA reviews of infrastructure projects that will increase our nation’s economic competitiveness and improve the quality of life of our citizens. This reform removes red tape which hinders projects.
  • Cal OES Grant. As a result of the PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs, the county received a grant from Cal OES to purchase generators. In addition to purchasing our own generators, our board reached out to community partners who stepped up to help fund the purchase of additional generators to meet their needs.
  • Tuolumne County Alliance for Resources and Environment, Inc. (TuCARE) Twain Harte Volunteer Fire Department (Twain Harte Fire Department) County of Tuolumne (Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office) Tuolumne Hose Company No 1 (Tuolumne Fire District) Habitat for Humanity, Tuolumne County Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency $2,100 $2,500 $2,500 $2,500 $5,000 $10,000
  • Tuolumne Lighting District. The district is getting additional lights on Yosemite road in Tuolumne in order to keep the neighborhood safer as many kids utilize it for walking.
  • California Surgeon General. In early March I meet with California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Harris to discuss her book “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity”. Presented her with more research and solutions for combating childhood trauma.
  • Water Rights. “TUD has entered into exclusive negotiations with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to acquire water storage and supply, pre-1914 water rights – the oldest water rights in California – as well as Pinecrest Lake, Lyons Reservoir, the Tuolumne Main Canal, and Phoenix Hydropower Facilities to meet the water supply needs for Tuolumne County.” For more information about this exciting development, visit https://tuocoourwater.com/
  • Cannabis. Commercial cannabis has continued to come up during public comment periods, primarily driven by the financial interests of one business. I anticipate the issue with be on the agenda once we come out of the COVID-19 crisis. In the meantime, I have countered the marijuana arguments with two blogs which can be reviewed here and here.

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