As funding for Mono County programs continue to wobble in the face of ongoing state and federal instability, the Mono County Board of Supervisors this past week took the first step in passing a first-of-its kind “State and Federal Legislative Platform.”
“There are decisions being made by people who don’t live in Mono County,” said Jim Leddy, the county administrator, who introduced the document on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the Board of Supervisors meeting in Bridgeport.
“When you have a county that has 94 percent of the county that is owned or regulated directly by other governments, and only six percent is in citizens’ hands, those decisions impact us every day.
“We saw that with the Rim Fire, we saw it with the government shutdown,” Leddy said.
“What other governments do impacts us, so for your staff to be empowered and for your citizens to understand what we’re fighting for, it’s good to have a playbook that is fluid, that reflects the values of the community as expressed by the board, and then allows the staff to be proactive rather than reactive.”
Leddy, who spearheaded the project, said the 12-page document adopts a proactive set of priorities. In the past, he said, the county’s major concerns were reflected in the board’s votes and discussions, but had never been collated into a single handbook.
“I think this really helps focus us on what’s important to us,” Leddy said in an interview before the meeting. “State advocacy is really critical these days.”
The document, which is available to the public on the county’s website, laid out 10 “general guidelines,” then went into detail.
The board accepted the document, but sent it back to Leddy’s office for more detail work. It likely would be passed in January.
The board accepted a large bulk of the work, which Supervisor Tim Fesko said was a critical step in moving Mono County forward.
“We have to be at the table,” he said, “because one of the things on here was the Endangered Species Act, for example, and I was reading some more stuff on it regarding where we’re heading with it.
“We’ve only scratched the surface of what’s going to affect us here. So we have to become a player. We have to have the voice, and this is a good start toward that. It’s part of the road map.”
Not only does the document provide a legislative road map, according to Supervisor Tim Alpers, it provides a window into Mono County that some state and federal legislators may not be aware of.
“This gets it down into a manageable document we can look at and refer to,” Alpers said.
“Mono County isn’t just your typical little podunk rural county. The number of people who come through here, the statistics we have on skier days, access to wilderness areas, the different things we have—we are quite possibly the most important destination/recreation county in the United States, all things considered.
“When we go to our state and federal legislators, we have to concentrate on putting ourselves on the map in the big picture.”
At the top of the list, aside from protecting county revenue sources from the state, is a push for the reform of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), opposition to listing the sage grouse as an endangered species, and a nod toward supporting legislation to make it easier to get mountain-pass highways open in the spring.
It also contained its unconditional support to facilitate a federal land swap at the base of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, as well as nuts-and-bolts items such as pledging full support toward making good on the state’s and federal government’s payments in lieu of taxes (PILT).
Much of the document is environmental in scope; some of it is purely political; and all of it spoke to the key elements of the mostly rural, high-altitude tourism-driven county.
“The Mono County Legislative Platform reflects an ongoing commitment by the Board of Supervisors to the visitors and residents of Mono County,” the document states in its opening chapter.
“Both state and federal legislative policy and funding decisions affect the county’s ability to deliver services.”
Certain policies clearly were in the supervisors’ bulls-eye, beginning with environmental policies as they relate to construction and development—in other words, CEQA.
“The reforms to CEQA are to simplify and streamline local permit processing, while still protecting the environment.
“Examples include clarifying CEQA’s ‘fair argument standard’ that currently enables project opponents to easily trigger costly environmental studies and unnecessary EIRs (Environmental Impact Reviews).”
Another item on the bulls-eye list was in the supervisors’ approach to a federal proposal to list the sage grouse as an endangered species, and to “minimize local impacts that result from Yellow legged frog and Yosemite toad listing, along with critical habitat designations.”
Each of those items speak to big, heavy, dense and highly complex subjects, but the supervisors left plenty of room in the platform for more easy-to-grasp issues.
For example, there was heavy supervisor support for making sure Sierra mountain passes open on time, and that if the agencies currently involved can’t get it together for a swift spring opening, maybe state legislation contains the answer.
“It is vital for Mono County tourism that all trans-Sierra passes, including Tioga Pass (S.R. 120), Sonoma Pass (S.R. 108) and Monitor Pass (S.R. 89), are open by Memorial Day.
“In the past,” the supervisors wrote, “ensuring timely snow removal has required collaboration between Caltrans, the county, and in the case of S.R. 120, Yosemite National Park.
“We would seek legislation that ensures state and park responsibility and timeliness for their sections of the road, allowing county funds to be used for county roads.”
In one way or another, each specific legislative agenda item fit neatly within the 10 general guidelines.
“County staff will apply these guidelines in evaluating legislation, as well as executive and regulatory actions,” the document states.