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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Threats Punctuate Re-Entry Prison

On Tuesday, I detected a clear lack of interest in the topic of the re-entry facility on this board. The threat gone from Davis, the number of comments dwindled. Supervisor Matt Rexroad noticed it too. He called it proof of NIMBYism. I think a certain degree of that is understandable. I may dislike toxic waste sites, but I'm probably going to act more strongly and more passionately if it is a few miles from my home than if it's across the country. You can call that NIMBYism or you can call that acting locally.

Bottom line here is that I can sympathize with the plight of those from Madison. They felt disenfranchised by the process not only because they lacked the veto power that an incorporated city would have but because their own board member was partially conflicted out of the discussion. Despite what some have claimed, the fact that Duane Chamberlain farms land adjacent to the airport is a direct conflict of interest when weighing in on whether a prison should have been built there.

Supervisor Chamberlain was back on Tuesday to cast the lone 'no' vote. Supervisor Mariko Yamada abstained. The location was approved by a 3-1-1 vote.

The Woodland Daily Democrat described her decision to abstain:
"Yamada said she supported the idea of a re-entry facility for the county, but had heard nothing throughout the discussion to assure her of the "fairness" of placing the facility in Madison. In addition, she noted, she will not be present to see the facility plan implemented, as she is the heavy favorite in the race for the 8th Assembly District in November.

"I'm not doing this because I'm afraid to make either side mad," she told a packed crowd in the supervisors' chambers Tuesday. "By doing this, I'll likely make both sides mad."
The Davis Enterprise added:
"Yamada said while she supports the concept of a re-entry program, 'siting it in a rural area fails two tests - one of these is certainty, and the other is fairness.'"
I must admit, I do not exactly understand her rationale. Why not just vote no if she is uncomfortable with the location?

The Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians and their tribal leader Marshall McKay wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors urging them to reconsider the Madison site.
"We have serious concerns that the placement of a prison in Madison could thwart what the tribe and county are working to build here, which is a thriving community supported by needed infrastructure, planned growth and economic development."
This process is really somewhat backwards. The next step is a planning process whereby the state will analyze the cite and undergo CEQA process. Should the site not be feasible, the county would likely be granted additional time to find an alternative site.

Now the threats. The neighbors are threatening both a recall and lawsuit. I will deal with the recall first because that has to be dead on arrival. Who are they going to recall? The residents who are actually angry about this live in Chamberlain's district. They are going to recall him. So they are going to try to recall someone else's supervisor? That is not going to work to well. I do not get the sense that there is enough interest in the rest of the county to get enough signatures for recall let alone to enable them to remove and replace someone. Just is not a realistic possibility.

As far as a lawsuit goes it more likely will prolong the process.

I sympathize with the residents of Madison, they do not want this. There is not much solace I can give them, however, there is little evidence to support the notion that a prison would lower property values.

Additionally people fear that the prison could morph into something else. However, the board believes that the site lease agreement of 25 years will preclude that at least in the near future.

At some point, this process needs to move forward. It is unfortunate however that rural residents have found themselves so powerless in the face of such a proposal. That I think is the real tragedy of all this.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting