The air in the El Dorado County Supervisors Chambers Tuesday was virtually blue with all the dirty words flying in both directions — from the audience and from members of the board.
“Big, intrusive government, globalism, socialism, greed and claim-jumping, United Nations Agenda 21, Sustainable Development,” were all used to describe what began as a Consent Agenda item authorizing the chief administrative officer to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. SACOG is a consortium of cities and counties surrounding and including Sacramento County. El Dorado County has been a member of SACOG for many years.
At issue is whether the county wants to be included along with the rest of the organization as a recipient of part of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Regional Planning Grant.
As described in a letter to CAO Terri Daly from SACOG Chief Executive Director Mike McKeever, “The grant is a central element of the new Partnership for Sustainable Communities between the Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency and HUD.”
“SACOG will be using the award to partially fund the update of our Metropolitan Transportation Plan, which includes our region’s first Sustainable Communities Strategy as required under SB 375,” the letter continues.
Senate Bill 375 is commonly known as the “Greenhouse Gas Emissions” law whose goal is “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks. In addition to connecting regional planning processes, SB 375 will make it easier for communities to build housing and transportation choices. SB 375 does not change any local government land use authority,” according to a SACOG Website posting.
Terms of the grant require that in order to participate, individual jurisdictions must sign a “Memorandum of Understanding” with SACOG and its members that would create a “Regional Consortium,” which then would participate in the work of the grant, the posting notes.
El Dorado County District 2 Supervisor Ron Briggs lit the first fuse of the day when he explained why he had taken the item off the consent agenda, which opened it to general and public discussion.
“Most of us in El Dorado County are independent cusses and like taking care of ourselves, but big government is a hammer hanging over us. I intend to vote ‘no’ on this,” Briggs said. “It’s supplanting local control over land use and a perpetuation of submission to greater government. It may be inevitable but it’s just wrong,” he challenged.
John Knight of District 1 and the board’s representative at SACOG tried to mellow the atmosphere by countering Briggs’ assertion.
“SACOG does not undermine our local land use, and not participating in what’s going on in the region is dangerous. I don’t think we’re losing anything by participating,” Knight said.
Part of the perceived “danger” includes limiting or losing revenue from federal “pass- through highway gas taxes” that accrue to the county by complying with SB 375, and Supervisor Jack Sweeney reminded the board, quoting Supervisor Norma Santiago’s oft-noted axiom that, “If you’re not at the table, you risk being part of the meal.”
Board Chairman Ray Nutting then opened the discussion to the public and unleashed a floodgate of invective and suspicion. The board chambers were packed with people who often speak to the board from a conservative perspective and one or two from the other side of the aisle.
Dena Freeman, representing Tea Party in the Hills, quoted her father, saying, “If you make money in the wrong way you’re a whore,” as an indictment on remaining with SACOG just for the money.
Judy Mathat referred to the issue of “Sustainable Development” as a platform in a larger United Nations effort to subvert American freedoms and property rights under its “Agenda 21.”
She further urged the board to “get out of all federal and regional organizations.”
Laurel Stroud noted ramifications of adhering to SB 375 as “encouraging high density growth and reduced CEQA regulations” and called SACOG a “cookie cutter (approach) to an overpopulated El Dorado County.”
Enthusiastic applause followed nearly every speaker.
Mary Dankhe cited several items from the MOU, “social justice, climate change, sustainable development” as being “anti-property rights.”
“I’d like to see El Dorado County embrace sustainable freedom instead of sustainable development,” she concluded to sustained applause.
Melody Lane of Coloma likened SACOG to a “gateway to socialism” and sustainable development as “a highway to globalism,” while Leonard Stroud advised the board that “just saying no doesn’t hurt; start now.”
Leonard Stroud also described Tuesday’s event saying, “I’ve seen a stream of people who are tired of being … pushed around by the United Nations.”
Supervisor Santiago asked whether the county risked giving up control over land use by its connection with SACOG, and Knight told her emphatically, “No.” However she asked again “if anything from SACOG is opposed to our interests?”
County Counsel Lou Green assured her that “the county reserves the right to govern land use” and later clarified that the MOU or contract allows participation but does not bind the county to everything in it. “It’s not creating an entity but provides cooperation,” Green said.
After nearly two hours of debate and discussion, supervisors voted unanimously to have the matter tabled pending a future formal presentation from representatives of SACOG and some of its member organizations. The date was later set for June 14.
E-mail Chris Daley at [email protected] or call 530-344-5063.