Supervisor Anaiah Kirk’s Update On County Issues
Fighting For Freedom To Choose
I am not anti-vaccination; I am pro-choice vaccination. The current data shows vaccinations are very effective in preventing ICU placement and deaths, however the push for mandates is causing those who would rather stay quiet about their confidential medical decisions to become more vocal about their right to choose. No matter where you stand on vaccinations, you should have the final say in what substance is injected into your body, without fear of losing your job and being unable to provide for your family (otherwise known as blackmail), especially when there are proven alternative methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At the August 13th board meeting, Dr. Heard from Adventist Health advised that those staff who contracted COVID-19 did so from contacts outside the hospital and not necessarily from working with COVID-19 positive patients. “This is a testament to wearing PPE.” If wearing PPE protects health care workers from contracting and spreading COVID while at work, then why is the state forcing such a mandate? Let them continue to have options along with staff testing. Let’s not force critical health care workers out of a job when they are needed the most. Let them wear PPE and keep doing the job. Let those who want to be vaccinated, be vaccinated, and those who choose otherwise, to wear proper PPE.
As a County Supervisor who is responsible for creating and setting policy, I will not support a vaccination mandate which will force the unvaccinated to get tested and masked, while ignoring the data which shows vaccinated people also get and spread COVID-19. Doing so is workforce discrimination and creates a hostile work environment. Therefore, my stance to the board (along with Supervisor Haff), even if outvoted, is county employees either all get tested and masked or not at all. Anything short of this is political punishment from our State and from our Board for not getting vaccinated and I will not support it. At the September 7th Board of Supervisors meeting I will be requesting equal treatment of our county staff from your Board of Supervisors.
With that said, I understand our community is in a time of great hurt. We all know someone who has been affected by COVID. As I write this, one of my friends is in ICU. Many have had minor effects, but we have all known someone who has been admitted to the ICU and perhaps even passed away. As we all
deal with our hurts and frustrations differently, I want to make it to the other side of history without imposing mandates on personal liberties.
Tuolumne Safe’s Outdoor Audible Alert System Project
Hours after being interviewed by BJ Hansen of MML regarding our non-profit raising funds to install Outdoor Auditable Alert Systems, the Washington fire broke out in Sonora. It was a stark reminder to our non-profit and our community partners, that we need another layer of safety measures for our community, and the sirens are part of that layer.
Tuolumne Safe, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which restored the evacuation route on Mt. Provo Road in 2020, announced Phase 1 of an effort to provide Outdoor Audible Alert Systems (OAAS) in the communities of Strawberry, Cold Springs, and Groveland. An OAAS will notify residents of an active emergency, such as a wildfire, via an array of long-range outdoor loudspeakers (a modern siren).
Why a siren system? There are residents who have not registered for the county’s EverBridge emergency notification system and there can be large numbers of visitors in the area who might not even be aware of the system. There is no guarantee the EverBridge system will work properly; depending on technology and human input, it might not call all the right people. Many people silence their cell phones at night and some people no longer have land-lines even though they live in areas with poor cell phone coverage. It adds another layer of safety using a completely different technology, and when people hear a long running siren they will realize something is wrong.
This $120K project is already underway with over $100K in donations from the community and a large donation from the technology provider HQE Systems. In order to get the alert system in place during this fire season, we need the community to rally now and raise the additional $20K. Future plans are to provide every community with an OAAS. For more information and to make tax deductible donations, please visit www.tuolumnesafe.org.
Thank you, Tuolumne Safe board of directors, for working tirelessly to bring fire safe projects to this community. This is a team effort and I am thankful for each one of you, Matt Nutting, Shelly Foley, Curtis Doty, Clay Mermod, Terry Northcut and Mel Kirk.
Fire Evacuation Planning
Many folks are requesting details about fire evacuation plans. The Tuolumne County Transportation Council (TCTC) recently received an Evacuation Planning grant which will look at the entire county and will be working in cooperation with the Office of Emergency Services (OES). This process will help identify issues, prevent duplicating tasks, and involve stakeholder groups. We are also working with our GIS department to update the community maps section with possible egress routes for many of your communities. Check out this link for more information. https://www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov/1169/Community-Maps . Please note that during an actual emergency, the Sheriff’s Office is responsible for evacuations.
The Citizen Fire Advisory group is in the process of developing a countywide vegetation ordinance. The ordinance would require fuels management on properties in a greater measure than what the state mandate is per code. It would be greatly appreciated if this Advisory committee had your input during this process.
The Next Fire Safety Advisory Committee will be held September 22 at 10:30am. Visit here for more information https://www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov/1341/FireSafety-Advisory-Committee
SERAL Project Update
The county applied for and just received notice of award for another $5M to continue work under the Master Stewardship Agreement (MSA) for funding, along with nearly $3M awarded from the USFS, will be used for the first phase of the Social and Ecological Resilience Across the Landscape (SERAL) project, to install fire management features in 6,500 acres of the highest priority areas for forest resilience and community protection. Funding will also go to reduce fuels and reforest 120 acres of land in the Murphys Ranch area in partnership with the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians. For more information about the SERAL project, click here. http://anaiahkirk.com/april-2021-newsletter/
On July 21, 2021 PG&E announced a major new electric infrastructure safety initiative to protect communities from wildfire threat. They plan to underground 10,000 miles of power lines in the highest fire-threat areas. The new infrastructure safety initiative, announced in Butte County by PG&E CEO Patti Poppe, is a multi-year effort to underground approximately 10,000 miles of power lines. Tuolumne County has already sent letters of support for these efforts. Presentations were expected from PG&E to Tuolumne County in August, however, due to wildfire activity, those presentations and discussions have been postponed. Tuolumne County has and will continue to advocate for this new electric infrastructure.
Insurance and the (Unfair) Fair Plan
I recently reached out to the office of Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara to find out what pro-active steps they have taken to safeguard against people losing their insurance or being forced to pay for plans they can’t afford, or end up with the Fair Plan which is not sofair. Unfortunately, no substantial steps have been taken. While Lara appears to be very busy in social aspects of insurance, he appears to be off the playing field when it comes to fire insurance. I have spoken with some of his staff and am working towards an in-person meeting with the insurance commissioner to address this burden.
American Rescue Plan Funds
In August our board had several meetings regarding how to spend the $5.3M ARP funds allocated this year (and another $5.3M is expected next year). Here are the items the board approved and my vote on each item.
Many items still remain in discussion such as monies for nonprofits, roads projects and helping small businesses. These discussions will continue after we have completed our budget this fall. Regarding ARP funds to bolster Law Enforcement retention and recruiting, our board (as required by law) is in confidential negotiations with all bargaining units at this time.
Preventative Road Maintenance and Hot Patch Machine
We all know many of our local roads are in poor condition and the funds available for repairs are paltry at best. Public Works Director Kim MacFarlane and Road Superintendent Mike Cognetti and the roads crew have increased drainage work on roads. This type of preventative maintenance improves road longevity as it prevents water damage to the road structure from overflowing drains. Furthermore, they have purchased a street sweeper (due by the end of the year) and our first hot patch machine which will be arriving in September. It will create longer lasting pothole repairs. You can view more info on my website at https://anaiahkirk.com/goals/ (see goal 4) and https://anaiahkirk.com/the-fine-print/#Roads (2018 campaign research and solutions).
Your board will be getting an update soon regarding a possible 10-year contract extension. I look forward to reviewing the contract to address many concerns you have brought to my attention over the years. I also look forward to allowing other providers the opportunity to bid on the contract.
Congressman McClintock’s office is recommending Cole Przybyla, Tuolumne County’s Innovation and Business Assistance Director, to the Small Business Administration (SBA) Underserved Communities Advisory Board. This recommendation clearly indicates Cole has been doing great work on behalf of increasing broadband to our rural region, and it hopefully positions the county to secure additional grant funding.
Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau
In 2019 Tuolumne County hit a record high $273M in tourism. Due to the COVID shut down, 2020 tourism decreased to $173M (taking us back to 2010 earnings)! While California on average saw a -55% hit to tourism dollars, Tuolumne County only saw a -36.8% hit. In addition to fairing much better than the state average during these tough times, 2021’s 2nd quarter Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) is 15% more than the same quarter in 2019. The Visitors Bureau continues to be a vital tool for assisting economic recovery from the governmental shutdowns imposed on our industries. To view the full annual report, click here.
On May 4th, the board declared a state of emergency due to a shelter crisis. It allows for the construction of emergency housing for the homeless on county owned or leased properties. As stated during the BOS meeting, I want the county to support community efforts to address the homeless issue by supporting the non-profits such as ATCAA and faith-based organizations, and providing services through Behavioral Health and Health and Human Services. But I don’t want the county to end up owning the homeless problem. If the county owns homeless housing then the county will own the problem long term, therefore I voted against the declaration.
On August 31, a press release was issued stating Camp Hope, the illegal homeless site, was permanently closed. This is just several days after the Washington Fire came very close to burning through the site. https://www.mymotherlode.com/news/local/1936034/camp-hope-is-officially-closed.html
Long Term Planning for the Highway 108 Corridor
With the increase in visitors up the Highway 108 corridor, long term planning is needed. As complaints come in about parking, trash, trespassing etc. multiple jurisdictions are impacted. However not all jurisdictions are communicated with. From Public Works, community development department, private land owners to USFS, a plan is needed, instead of passing the problem on from one agency to another. A visitor’s plan is needed so there is a clear understanding of what each agency can do, what their limitations are, and who to refer people to when certain complaints happen. Once we clearly identify the problem and the constraints, we can find some solutions, or provide information to residents on how to handle the influx of visitors.
Tuolumne Resilience Center
On June 8th, Boyer Construction broke ground on the Tuolumne Community Resilience Center. The NDRC grant monies, made available after the Rim Fire, will provide the community of Tuolumne a community center for future community needs.
Many complaints have been surfacing regarding AirBnB’s in Twain Harte and Mi Wuk Village. I have met with some groups to get feedback. I am currently researching which path to take and will be bringing something before the board when my research is completed.
Pot Store Next to Tuolumne County Family Visitation Center and Behavioral Health
Law requires pot dispensaries to be more than 600 feet from schools, day care centers or youth centers. The spirit of the legislation is to keep pot dispensaries away from kids. On May 11th, I requested our board send a letter to the Sonora City Council to reconsider their approval of the Bract House on 10 Calaveras Street which would place a pot dispensary well within 600 feet of Tuolumne County’s Family Visitation Center where neglected, abused children and victims of their parent’s substance abuse, congregate for family visits multiple times per week as they seek healing. Unfortunately, Supervisor Haff and I were overruled by the majority of the board and no letter was sent to the Sonora City Council.
Cyber Security / Information Technology
Two years ago, the county had zero budget dedicated to IT security. We have added a cyber defense platform which protects the workforce and data from sophisticated attackers in real time. In August, our board unanimously approved approximately $350K of the $5.3M ARP funds for a Disaster Recovery solution. It provides a scalable, comprehensive data management solution and provides robust ransomware protection for data backup and archiving.
Love Tuolumne County
Love Tuolumne County held their first county cleanup and projects day in April. Another projects day is being planned. Please submit projects you would like to see completed in your community and help volunteer and/or donate to the completion of proposed projects! https://www.lovetuolumnecounty.org/communityservice/suggestproject
Future Town Hall Meetings
Due to COVID-19, my plans for hosting town halls continue to be in a state of flux. In the very near future, I will be announcing either zoom or in person meetings to discuss district and county related issues of concern to you.
Incident at Freedom Rally
On 8/16/21, I stopped by the Freedom rally in downtown Sonora. During my visit, an attack occurred in which a person was taken to the ground by bystanders. I saw a weapon within arm’s reach of the individual who was biting and striking the people. I did not want anyone there to obtain the weapon and stab anyone else. As a sworn Peace Officer, I had an obligation to attempt to make the scene safe, therefore I obtained the weapon and helped hold the individual in place until police arrived and made the arrest. On 8/17/21, during the BOS meeting, an individual, who was not at the incident, called into the BOS meeting and presented a speech about their interpretation of the event. The individual’s speech and perspective can be found in an audible recording here. https://www.mymotherlode.com/multimedia/newsmakers/tuolumne-county-board-of-supervisors-meeting-freedom-rally-incident
Yes, I am Running Again for County Supervisor
As announced earlier this summer, I am running for re-election as your Disctrict 3 Supervisor. Since the annoucement, I have been overwhelmed with love and support. I can’t thank you enough for your prayers, encouragment and your abundance of financial support. Elections are expensive and I will continue to work hard to win re-election and to make your donation stretch as far as possible. To view my video announcment and how you can support our run, you can visit http://anaiahkirk.com/
One of my top ten priorities when running for Supervisor was to “drive transparency” within Government and the community we serve, (https://anaiahkirk.com/goals/). Every few weeks I post short videos on Facebook with some of the local happenings in Government. It’s also a great opportunity for you to ask questions and give me feedback on your perspective regarding the issues. Please friend me on Facebook under Anaiah Kirk, or under Anaiah Kirk, Tuolumne County District 3 Supervisor, to view the videos. I look forward to hearing from you. Videos can also be found at http://anaiahkirk.com/videos/