The North Coast Railroad Authority had a meeting today at the Humboldt County BOS chambers. Staff of this board is supposed to make provide information, counsel and suggestions to help a public agency/board make decisions. With this bunch, it was more the staff making decisions and steering the board to comply! No kidding. I witnessed this today and commented on it publicly. They spent around 2 stinking hours to pass a motion to agree to public hearing dates for the Russian River Division Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). It was clear that staff wanted to only hold One meeting, even though Director Tom MacDonald from Marin County said he understood from their last meeting that there would be 3 public meetings. Staff (That means CEO Mitch Stogner) said they decided one was sufficient, and that in fact, they were not bound by law to even have one. Written comments were enough. Director MacDonald of was not comfortable with this and wanted public input at this meeting which staff and Chairman Allen Hemphill were very leery of even allowing.
Public comments were pretty tame (well accept for my bantering staff for bullying the board. I reminded the board they could have as many meetings and modify meeting times as they see fit, and direct staff to do that. That is the correct order for business.) There seems to be this underlining "boogey man" war between trails advocates and rail people. They are always addressing each other without identifying the players. Getting old really.
Director Paul Kelley of Sonoma County was the creator of the original motion and was very patient in having his motion twisted and spun. Director David Colfax of Mendocino County clearly was frustrated as he felt the one meeting process was sufficient, but he would go the extra meetings for transparency issues. He said this EIR was very simple as compared to his counties General Plan EIR's and felt there was a waste of time in these meetings. (Who voted this guy in? Let's do everything back doors and just trust me. Yee, scary.) Director Bernard (Bernie) Meyers of Marin County was also for additional meetings.
Director Clif Clendenen of Humboldt lobbied for additional meetings. Director Charles Ollivier of Humboldt was silent over the subject. Both voted with the motion to have 2 meetings as an alternative. (Good for them) Whew. Two hours wasted on just a meeting time and date. No wonder the rail is slow in rolling.
But the good news is that that first 62 miles are a go. The next 142 is going to be doable this next year.
From Willits to Samoa in the next 5? I am pro rail and trail, so I hope these groups work together and are transparent with each other. We all need to work together and not war against each other. We need a healthy rail system in the long run. If we have port development. If we have product. If we have the need. You get my drift.
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