Ever go to a Madera County Board of Supervisors meeting? They should sell tickets because it is a show.
Five supervisors, representing five districts in the county, sit up on stage. It’s hard to see them because each has a computer screen in front of them. The state mandates these officials do certain county business in public. Most of the time it is routine, and sometimes it’s a dog and pony show as department heads parade through giving reports on their endeavors
But every once in a while, an important issue comes before the board. These items can affect the very quality of life for a few citizens or an entire community. Most of the time you never hear about them because you have to get on the county’s email list to get the agenda. The agenda gets posted online a few days before the show. They do provide agenda documentation on the county web site and you can see the show live or recorded.
Voting is just a formality as behind the scenes their staff has already negotiated the outcome. I once watched as the past county auditor/controller gave a “state of” report. Each supervisor then gushed over what a good job she did. Some months later she lost the election and the new guy fixed her department saving the county millions of dollars.
The ‘bully’ comes out when you are opposing an action by the county supervisors. Typically with every agenda item, the public gets to comment and that’s when you see ‘bullies’ in action. Most opponents have already made their case in front of their supervisor on the phone, by letter or privately so the public meeting is the last chance to make a public statement. Most of the time people who stand at the podium to make a comment can do so without a time limit although you can’t go on and on.
But when it’s your turn, body language changes, smiles become griminess and you’re probably going to be told you have three minutes to speak. You will get interrupted, argued with and when your time is up, told to sit down. There is no level of politeness in this process. You are the enemy. Sometimes after you leave the podium they will berate and belittle you and it happened to me after I cited a State code.
I demonstrated they were about to violate it with the pending action. Instead of really considering what I said, tabling the issue for more review, I was chastised and told I was a ‘wanna be’ attorney. It was ugly. Some months later they reversed the law as being unconstitutional. I am not alone. This bullying happens every time someone has the audacity to challenge the board. I hear it even happens privately.
More recently it has happened over the proposed OHV park. The Austin Quarry and supervisor’s salary increase is next. The simple fact is the board is a political creature. Common sense and even science is ignored. Favoritism exists, political favors are paid and us, the spectators, are beaten down.
On Sept. 12, the Board of Supervisors will control our fate once again as they decide to allow a rock quarry to operate that will affect the lives of over half the county’s citizens. What is at stake is a small number of jobs, the political will of a mammoth company verses traffic nightmare and water shortages.
The next day, Sept. 13, they will decide whether or not to increase their salaries by 25%.
Will they listen? It should be an interesting show. Don’t give up, voice your opinion anyway you can - don’t let the bullies win.
NOTE: Marc Sobel recently announced he will run for the Madera County Board of Supervisors District 5, a seat currently held by Tom Wheeler.