Wildfire in California and Economic Development

With a blanket of smoke in the air from multiple fires raging across California, policy-makers, investors and the business community gathered together to have a conversation. I was in Santa Rosa last week attending the California Economic Summit. I was inspired by the message of inclusivity and resiliency.

The location of the Summit this year was not an accident.  After devastating fires in the Sonoma region last year, Sonoma County wanted to highlight the region’s destruction and their subsequent fortitude.

As a rural Californian and as a progressive, I have high expectations for my peers. I attend these conferences in order to serve as a voice that demands inclusivity for under-served communities. Our issues need to be a distinct part of the conversation.

I came home inspired.

In spite of the rhetoric coming out of the national conversation, this year’s summit unabashedly focused on some of the most pressing issues facing California today: climate change, income inequality, workforce development, watershed restoration, affordable housing, and elevating rural California—including wildfire prevention, forest management, and rural broadband.

After attending the conference, I know that one thing is clear: key players understand that economic development in our Golden State will continue to rely on whole-systems thinking that must address all aspects of our economy. Where there were gaps, I raised my hand and stood as a voice for rural California.

Policy makers, investors, and businesses are weighing in on how to move forward with our advantages, while mitigating our risks in order to make our communities sustainable for everyone. This was an underlying current throughout the entire conference.

Given the recent events in our own community of the Sierra Foothills, I have found hope in the spirit of the people of Santa Rosa, who suffered last year from the Tubbs fire which burned more than 36,000 acres and destroyed over 3,600 structures, changing the landscape within the city limits of Santa Rosa and destroying landscapes inside Sonoma, Napa and Lake Counties.

Seeing the devastation of the Camp Fire has been terrifying and overwhelming.  This cannot be understated. Our friends in Butte County are on all of our minds. The relief effort is proof of that.

The heart-felt relief effort has been nothing short of an out-pouring. Our neighbors and all surrounding community members stand with Butte County in their time of need.

The people of Grass Valley and Nevada County know that what our communities to the North are facing today, is the terrifying possibility that we might face tomorrow.

What I didn’t realize until last week is that fire danger is on the forefront of the minds of everyone up and down California. We are not alone.

As wildfire is becoming more and more common, and as more communities are effected by crumbling infrastructure and increasing risk, the conversations about prevention and resiliency have shifted. This is no longer a rural conversation.  This is a California conversation.

In Santa Rosa, just a year later, neighborhoods are being put back together, houses are being rebuilt, burnt hillsides are cleared of dead trees and brush. The grass has come back green.

The natural world is resilient and so are the people who inhabit it.

The folks in Sonoma County have a saying: “The love in the air is thicker than the smoke.”

As our neighbors continue to rebuild, and as we continue to help, let us hold that saying in our hearts. Let us bring that sentiment to community gatherings. Let us show up with our best selves.

To donate to the relief effort in Northern California click here.

Sanctuary Cities

Our law enforcement officers should have all the tools they need to do their jobs safely and efficiently. I believe all Nevada County residents, our officers, and our diverse community members, should have the opportunity to live with dignity and respect. I have spoken with candidates for Sheriff, John Foster and Shannan Moon as well as Alex Gammelgard, Chief of the Grass Valley Police Department, and all of them have reported that their jobs here in Nevada County are not impeded by the state sanctuary law.

According to an article published the Los Angeles Times, when Governor Jerry Brown signed SB54 into law, he wrote, “In enshrining these new protections, it is important to note what the bill does not do. This bill does not prevent or prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Homeland Security from doing their own work in any way.”

In many cases, California’s state sanctuary law is helping to protect communities.

In places where cities and counties have openly passed laws compelling immigration officials to come do sweeps, law enforcement has had trouble with community cooperation in finding violent offenders. Because other community members are fearful of discrimination, they often fail to report criminals. Proponents of enacting sanctuary jurisdictions include law enforcement and people who want to reduce the fear of family break-up and deportation for a number of reasons. In many cases, law enforcement officials argue that, in sanctuary jurisdictions, people are more willing or likely to report crimes. Police chiefs across the country have advocated for sanctuary cities because it reduces crime and promotes collaboration with law enforcement officials.

Additionally, child advocates believe that people will be more likely enroll their children in school if they do not have to fear deportation.  Maintaining an education base for American citizens as well as work force education is essential to maintaining a healthy economy.

Further, healthcare professionals believe that healthcare is negatively impacted by fear of deportation.  If people with contagious diseases do not seek medical attention, the risk of a serious outbreak increases.

Our local high school’s student leadership advocated for protecting undocumented students from fear of retribution and/or deportation.

An article in The Union recently noted that our county’s current sitting board would not take up the issue.  Supervisor Weston stated, “We will not be putting this on the agenda. The law is the law.”

I would like to see our community focus on a conversation about how we can support our officers who are working on issues facing our community now–homelessness, mental illness, addiction, etc.

Paw and Order

Everyone wants a safe place to live.

We have an amazing police force and a very special K9 officer here in Nevada County. On Friday, September 22, I attended the Paw and Order dinner in Nevada County, a benefit for Rüdiger and our K9 program. Rüdiger is a great addition to our community.

Many of the officers locally have talked about his contribution to peaceful and effective law enforcement in Nevada County.  It is exciting to hear talk of possible expansion for the K9 program in our community. Thanks to Scott for being such a great handler. A huge thanks to everyone who helped make this event happen and for the support of our men and women in uniform in our community.