The adversarial spirit of elections season was on full display in the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors chambers Tuesday morning.
During public comment, District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi received a line of questions and critiques from opponent Laree Garza, of Mokelumne Hill.
Garza brought with her a Garamendi yard sign that she said was left in her driveway.
“I’m going to do my first act of kindness,” said Garza, a nod to the county previously adopting a proclamation deeming the county a Random Acts of Kindness Zone for the week. “I’m returning your sign to you.”
Before launching into an attack on Garamendi’s voting record, she called his campaign literature a “bunch of fluff, so I’m thinking (Speaker of the United States House of Representatives) Nancy Pelosi wrote this.”
Garza claimed that Garamendi voted to increase building fees on Butte Fire survivors.
Refuting Garamendi’s alleged notion that communities are safer because there’s more funding available for the Sheriff’s Office, Garza argued that an increase in crime, namely “theft, murder, shootings and human trafficking” all arose after cannabis cultivation was legalized.
“Before marijuana came to our communities, we didn’t have those problems,” Garza said.
Garza added that Garamendi has done “nothing to protect our land rights,” since “we are now surrounded by commercial agricultural businesses.”
When reached for comment, Garamendi told the Enterprise he has no idea where the yard sign came from, whether it was truly in Garza’s yard and that Pelosi had no part in the production of his literature.
Regarding the alleged increases in building fees on Butte Fire victims, “I’m not exactly sure what she’s talking about,” Garamendi said. “The Board of Supervisors approves building fees countywide,” none of which singled out Butte Fire survivors.
Garamendi added that Garza is an opponent of commercial cannabis cultivation and that he has a “strong record on property rights; a record I’m willing to stand by.”
Later in the meeting, the board received the first quarterly update of the year on the county’s tree mortality program from Office of Emergency Services Director John Osbourn and TSS Consultants Forester Tad Mason.
Since the program began in October of 2017, 23 projects have been completed, with over 7,400 hazardous trees threatening county roads and infrastructure removed.
All projects were completed with minimal damage to private property, no damage to public roads or infrastructure and no worker injuries, according to the presentation.
The program has mailed out 3,000 right-of-entry forms to date, with a 72% return rate, and 700 forms outstanding.
The county has been successful in coordinating with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to remove debris from ditches left by its contractors that was diverting runoff and obstructing culverts, Osbourn said.
To ramp up hazardous tree removal efforts, the board is planning on signing a letter to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to ask for more funding from the state’s tree mortality program that went unused in the last budget cycle.
In other business, the board unanimously supported adoption of a local road safety plan for the county that aims to bring the number of crashes down by 25% by 2023 and cut the number of fatalities resulting from collisions in half by 2025.
In 2017, 18 people died in car accidents in Calaveras County, and between 2006 to 2017, the county had the third highest rates for fatal and severe collisions in the state, according to a presentation by Public Works Director Josh Pack and Analyst Chantelle Garvin.
The three primary collision factors are improper turning, driving under the influence, and driving at unsafe speeds – all of which have human error in common, Garvin said.
Developing reactive road safety measures can be difficult for a number of reasons, Pack said.
The low volume of cars travelling on county roads makes it hard to develop meaningful data patterns that correlate to roadway deficiencies, and some “politically and socially motivated” improvements may divert county resources away from fixing other dangerous roadways, Pack said.
That said, there are low-cost systemic roadway projects that can dramatically reduce collisions, according to Pack.
The road safety plan includes crash data; projects; stakeholder engagement with municipal, county, tribal, state and federal entities; and an implementation and evaluation timeline, Garvin said. Meant to be a living document with periodic updates, the plan will dovetail with projects in the county’s capital improvement plan, Pack said.
Public Works is actively coordinating with several “safety partners” to pursue grant funding, including fire districts, law enforcement, hospitals and school districts, along with federal and state partners, among others, Garvin said.
For one project, the department is helping the City of Angels Camp Fire Department apply for funding to shift from an on-call system for emergencies to a pager system that would notify multiple personnel at once.
“In fatal and severe injury crashes, 15 minutes could mean a life or death situation,” Garvin said.