Supervisor Kirk’s May Update On Issues
Once again, thank you! I am unopposed for the District 3 Supervisor seat which is the greatest community endorsement. Thank you and I look forward to serving another term. With that said, my name will still be on the ballot and I would be honored to have your vote.
For my opinions on the other local races, please visit my website:
Letter of Support for McClintock’s Fire Bill
Vice-Chair Kathleen Haff and I sent a letter of support for House Resolution 6903. It’s simple. Put the fires out during fire season immediately. We don’t have the resources to fight them if they get out of control and turn into mega fires. Until our forests are better managed, put the fires out during fire season.
The SERAL project is underway. The project will treat 118,808 acres of public and private lands stretching from behind Twain Harte up towards Strawberry. This 7-year project will make the Highway 108 corridor a safer place. The SERAL project was 1 of only 10 projects nationwide to receive funding from the Federal Infrastructure bill due to its importance for community and resource protection as well as the strong collaboration we’ve developed with Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions (YSS). The project has gained national attention and received approximately $55M in funding!
About $37M will come directly to Tuolumne County to implement SERAL under the Master Stewardship Agreement (MSA). The County will use it primarily for mechanical fuel reduction, road maintenance work within the SERAL footprint, and prescribed burning prep. The remaining $18M will be used by the
Forest Service to issue timber sales and other fuel reduction work. SERAL is in the final environmental assessment phase; full approval seems imminent. Using other grant funding the County received, we will be installing fuel breaks in the highest priority areas of SERAL starting this month.
And speaking of the Master Stewardship Agreement, Tuolumne County was awarded a 2022 NACo Achievement Award for our efforts. See the information below and a brief summary of our program here: https://www.naco.org/resources/award-programs/preventing-catastrophic-fire-through-master-stewardship-agreement.
A full news story about the SERAL project can be found here: https://www.uniondemocrat.com/news/article_3f45f292-9a63-11ec-9ac3-bf41d681718a.html
Audible Alert Warning System
Tuolumne Safe, a nonprofit started to address life-safety fire measures, conducted a siren test in March. Three audible alert warning systems, funded by community donations, are located in Strawberry, Cold Springs and Groveland. Prior direction from the Board of Supervisors was to have the Office of Emergency Services (OES) return in May with a policy for all sirens in Tuolumne County. This includes other pre-existing sirens such as Twain Harte Fire, Tuolumne City Fire, and some lake dams. On May 17th, our board will get an update from OES regarding sirens and policy recommendations.
TUD Water Rights Acquisition
On May 10th, TUD, the County and the City of Sonora met for a presentation regarding TUD’s acquisition of Stanislaus River water rights, including Pinecrest Lake, Lyons Lake, the Tuolumne Main Canal and the Phoenix hydroelectric facility, from PG&E. Negotiations are ongoing and the purchase is expected to be completed by the end of 2022. Yes, there will be an increase to ratepayers. But I see it as two simple options. Either a not-for-profit entity such as TUD will purchase it, or a for-profit entity will purchase the rights and infrastructure and will make a profit off the backs of Tuolumne County residents. I would rather be first in line for our water and pay for it, than be at the end of the line and pay even more for it. And with local control, we can hold our elected officials accountable.
Our Roads Suck
The Pavement Condition Index (PCI) is graded from 0 (worst) to 100 (best condition). Tuolumne County’s roads average PCI is 28 as of 2020 (poor condition and worst in the state), down from 33 in 2018. We spend $1.2M annually for preventative maintenance (ditching, culvert pipes, overlays, etc.)
There is some talk about proposing a local tax to increase our revenues an additional $2M per year. Why am I against this idea? Because Tuolumne County needs $31M now to seriously start to address this problem. Because our PCI index has fallen so far, we are in a PCI free fall. Decades of underfunding (logging used to provide 25% of their sales taxes to local roads and schools), has left us in a situation where a small tax will never catch us up. We need the state, which has the world’s 5th largest economy to invest in basic infrastructure to fix our 3rd world roads.
In the meantime, our roads team will continue to do preventative maintenance, including the addition of street sweepers and using the hot patch machine for potholes. Meanwhile, our board continues to advocate with our legislators and rural county association (RCRC) to provide more flexibility in the Public Contract Code for smaller rural counties to perform more work in-house at a significant savings. Our board has also requested a meeting with the Governor’s budget team to relay our budgetary concerns. On May 3rd, our board put another $1.3M of ARP funds towards two road projects. We are doing what we can, with what we have.
Please take a moment to read the full report on the PCI index of our roads here: 2020 LSR Report Tuolumne County PPT.pdf
News story on roads here: Displeasure Voiced About Tuolumne County Having Worst Roads in California
Restructuring the Way We Do Business. Priorities, Objectives and Action Items
Since in office, there has been a need to communicate better internally within the county organization and externally with you the voters, just what it is we are doing and what success looks like. The board has always set priorities and objectives, but we have not gone a step deeper to action items. This year, one of my main objectives as the board chair was to get down to action items. Action items give our board, our staff and our community clear vision and expectations. Although it has taken some hard work and we continue to refine the process, I am looking forward to the result. Since February, we have built our priorities and objectives list, have selected action items and are moving towards a presentation on timelines to complete those action items. Each action item will be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Once this process is completed, these action items will continue (if already started) or put into motion as priority and time permits. The only way to add or stop such an item would be through a board discussion and vote with updates throughout the year.
Below is a rough draft of the priorities, objectives and action items as well as a MyMotherLode views interview regarding the process. 2022_Priorities__Objectives_and_Action_Items.pdf
MyMotherLode Views interview: Board Chair Kirk Recaps Supervisor Workshop
Reduced Number of Board Meetings
Our board increased the number of board meetings from 2 to 3 during 2021. We did so in order to have more time for “special projects” and land development cases. It quickly turned into a third regular meeting which sucked up more staff time to prepare for and deal with the follow-up after a meeting. Board meetings which used to last 4-5 hours turned into all-day events. Total board meeting time at least doubled. In 2022, we went back to 2 board meetings per month in order to be more efficient and more productive with staff time. The work does not get done during board meeting deliberations; it gets done between the meetings.
Year End Budget (2021-2022) Approved
On April 19th, your board approved the year-end budget with a $5.1M surplus. Some supervisors think it’s because we did a great job balancing the budget. But it’s really because we were bailed out by American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. Plus, we saved money due to a high number of vacant positions. We are also seeing more revenue from the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) rate increase. Although it is great to have a surplus, we must put money aside for rainy days, continue to support economic growth, which is led by the tourism industry, and stay fiscally prudent.
Status of Youth
Our kids are our future. Over the last 3.5 years in office, our board has heard information presented in “bits and pieces” regarding the kids of this county, whether via the probation department, education, child protective services, YES partnership, First 5 and many other partners. Also, there is a greater understanding of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how they affect the long-term health of children into adulthood and throughout their lives. I thought it important to bring all the partners together for a roundtable discussion on the “Status of our Youth” and what we as a society might be able to accomplish to better Tuolumne County’s kids. On March 1st, the larger conversation started with our first ever presentation on the Status of our Youth (please see the memo below for all the agencies involved). It was a great conversation and launching point. I am thankful for all the amazing work already happening in this endeavor and am excited for the work to come.
For more information on ACE’s including a TED talk video, please click here: https://burkefoundation.org/what-drives-us/adverse-childhood-experiences-aces/
Sheriff Department is Getting Body Cameras
The Tuolumne County Sherriff’s department was approved to purchase body cameras which will be in use in the near future. Greater transparency will result in continued trust in public safety, while also highlighting our Sheriff’s Department’s professionalism. Tuolumne County Purchasing Body Cameras For Sheriff’s Office
Support for AB1599
On March 3, 2022, the District Attorney, Sherriff, Chief of Probation and myself signed a letter of support for AB1599. AB1599 would replace Proposition 47 with the pre-2014 language. In essence, it would be a swing from being “soft” on many crimes to “tough,” reverting many misdemeanor crimes back to felony charges.
You can view the full letter here: AB-1599-Letter-of-Support-Signed.pdf
Sonora Area Foundation (SAF) Grant Recipients
Our board partnered with SAF to administer grants utilizing American Rescues Plan (ARP) funding. We are blessed and thankful to have SAF in our community. $500K of ARP funds was contributed by the county, and SAF contributed $183K. A total of 42 grants were made to local community and non-profit agencies.
Affordable Housing Project
In January, our board approved the Hidden Meadow Terrace affordable housing project, located at Greenley and Cabezut Roads. Quincy Yaley, Community Development Director, called passage of a new affordable housing apartment complex “monumental and historic,” and the first of its kind in the county “in a long time.”
Board Meeting Shut Down Due to Unmasked Woman
On February 1st, my 3rd board meeting as chair was shut down due to one woman not wearing a mask. In the interest of transparency, a blog and video were posted titled, “This is ridiculous.”
Our board gave themselves a pay raise while in office. All four supervisors will get a raise except for me. I signed a waiver not to accept pay raises.
Cannabis Gets Shot Down…. Again
One of Supervisor Jaron Brandon’s key campaign promises was to get cannabis into Tuolumne County via pot shops and cultivation. On May 3rd, cannabis was again discussed as requested by Supervisor Brandon as a possible revenue source, even though there are reports of huge oversupply of cannabis in California, growers going out of business, tax revenues falling and the black market getting even bigger. Although our board has had several discussions on the matter, whether, during our board retreats, priority setting, legislative platform or our newly formed action item process, cannabis has never had majority support by our full board. In fact, at the action item exercise which we just participated in last month, cannabis only got one vote; from Supervisor Brandon. Yet, again, on May 3rd, we spent hours of time discussing the item. At the end of the discussion, cannabis received the same attention it has for the last few years, not a majority. Thank you to all the business owners, county staff, parents, teachers, hospital staff and Sherriff who voiced your frustration and opposition to this dumb idea and laying it to rest, again… for now.