Letters to the editor for Feb. 13, 2020
Thanks for the support
On behalf of the Board of Directors and the staff of Tahoe Youth & Family Services we want to sincerely thank you for the Douglas County Community grant funds. Providing Mental Health and Substance Abuse services to children, youth and families is making our community a healthier and safer place to live. Thank you for your support so we can continue this important work.
Karen S. Carey
Executive Director of Tahoe Youth & Family Services
Residents question Alpine vote
Readers who live in Alpine County may be very surprised to hear that the Alpine County Board of Supervisors took action last Tuesday allowing refugees to be resettled in Alpine County.
Surprising? You bet. For one thing, this tiny county finds itself in a structural deficit. Alpine is challenged by its miniscule property tax base (we’re 94 percent federal land). There’s no industry here, no large employers, and almost no local jobs. There’s no regular public transportation, just Dial-a-Ride. Low-income housing is limited (one trailer park). Our school faces multiple challenges. There’s no bank. No hospital. No pharmacy. No DMV. No driving school. No university or college. No department store or grocery store. It’s hard to imagine that this remote and challenged community has anything practical to offer as a potential resettlement site.
Even more significant, however, is that most people in Alpine County had no idea this issue was coming up, much less that the board would take action in such haste. The board simply added this complex and thorny issue to its usual formal agenda. Vote taken. Done deal. Nobody knew about it.
Unlike other issues of significant community concern, this time no dedicated special public meetings were scheduled. No postcards were sent to residents to make them aware of the issue. No notices went out on social media (that we know of). No posters went up. No verbal announcements were made to local community groups. One supervisor’s newsletter did include a brief mention of the item. When I specifically asked about it, however, I was assured that the question was up for discussion but, given Alpine’s lack of resources, it had no chance of passing.
Given the complete lack of community outreach, it’s not surprising that not a single member of the public showed up to speak about this important item. And despite this lack of public input, nobody on the board suggested further public hearings be held to solicit that input.
That’s right: the board took action to allow refugee resettlement in the county without any public input on the decision.
People can certainly disagree about whether Alpine is an appropriate or practical host county and whether it has the resources to practically serve the needs of refugees. But the bigger issue here is the lack of public awareness and lack of public input as this decision was being made.
I strongly urge the board to rescind its previous action and hold appropriate hearings. A pro forma agenda notice was inadequate as practical matter to inform Alpine residents that this significant issue was up for a hasty, immediate vote.
Most of all, I hope the board will realize that rushed decisions are too often bad decisions. Because Alpine County has no dedicated newspaper, no radio, and no local TV, the Board must adopt better notice protocols going forward. Transparency here requires more than just an agenda blurb.
Next time there’s a thorny issue with the potential for a significant divergence of opinion, have a better way of getting the word out. Schedule a special public hearing. Send postcards. Post fliers. Notify Fifty-Plus and other public groups. Take your time, don’t rush. Let your constituents share their opinions. Make a realistic decision with all the facts in front of you.
Karen and Rick Dustman
Sue and Phill Torney