Letter to the Editor (03/20/2019)

More council pay and more red tape

The City of Williams is currently a hub of activity in the midst of a building boom.   There are new buildings, houses, and businesses all over the City.  In little under two years the City has opened an Arco gas station, Dollar General Store, Starbucks, senior housing apartments and over fifty new homes.  And the coming months will see the opening of Love’s Truck Stop,  industrial expansions, an auto parts store, Grocery Outlet market, and more homes.    

These new businesses and development have brought a corresponding significant increase in City revenues.  No longer is “lack of funds” a reason for the City to ignore its problems including its long standing one – its public facilities.  Starting with the City’s infamous roads which, from any direction in or out of Williams, beg for repair, there are the deteriorating parks, the worn Sacramento Valley Museum, broken public restrooms, and the frail Old Gym.  

This author served recent City Councils as both staff and member for several years and brought initiatives to Council to fix infrastructure.  Past Councils did not act on infrastructure basically because of “lack of funds”.  Though not completely accurate, that was Council’s response at that time.  That is not the case anymore.

This large influx of public funds should inspire the City to begin to fix these long standing problems afresh.  Surprisingly, even with this new revenue, the City has taken no action toward addressing these issues, especially the most obvious –  the roads.  

This indifference was apparent at the last City Council meeting.  On February’s  Council agenda were just two action items –  an item giving the Councilmembers a 40% pay raise and a new ordinance to hamper construction. 

Asking for such a large pay increase is a surprise.  As caretakers of our public facilities and given the state and history of the infrastructure, this large raise is questionable. 

The City also enacted a law to establish fines for removal of stop work notices –  known as “red tags” (red tags indicate there is danger to the public).

But consider of some of recent red tags issued by the City :   empty pipe laying on private property,  a solo shipping container among the multiples in the City, the wrong color of paint    none of these are dangers to the public.   Then consider the recent building department grade the City received this past October by Insurance Services Office (Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule Survey for Williams, October 2018 by Insurance Services Office of Mount Laurel, New Jersey).  The City’s building department received a reduction in grade in all categories – administration of codes, plan review, and field inspection.  This  department is performing worse in all categories which can lead to higher insurance rates for residents and contractors.  

With the strained ability of the City to issue red tags and it’s falling building department grades, creating rules to burden contractors leads one to ponder, why this new law?  

Serving on City Council calls for a commitment to the serve the people of Williams, not personal aggrandizement and passing innocuous laws.  The City’s facilities, our crumbling facilities, are Council’s responsibility.   Now that the Council has the wherewithal to undertake large infrastructure projects, the City Council agendas ahead of them are obvious.  Yet there is nothing… except more Council pay and more government red tape. 

Charles Bergson
Sacramento, CA

  Governor Newsom’s Moratorium Circumvents the Law

Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive action imposing a moratorium on all state sanctioned executions is a purely political move and subverts the will of California citizens. Californians made it clear as recently as 2016 that they support maintaining the death penalty as an option in the most egregious homicide cases.

The Governor’s reasons are not supported with facts from California death penalty cases but are simply political talking points. Newsom stated as his justification for his death penalty moratorium: “The American justice system is completely broken, and we all are perpetuating it. The systemic racism, the implicit bias, the overt bias, the whims of prosecutors based on geography, based on the will of people in the moment, fear and anxiety… until we address that I don’t think we can do what Saudi Arabia is doing and what North Korea is doing.” Such rhetoric is offensive, dishonest and is detached from the realities of both the United States criminal justice system generally and the California criminal justice system specifically. He gives no examples of California death penalty cases where a defendant was prosecuted because of racial bias, animus or the peccadillos of a particular prosecutor. The reason he does not is because he cannot. The Governor  is aware that unlike the disingenuous and inflammatory statement he made equating California justice with the brutal and arbitrary regimes of Saudi Arabia and North Korea, all defendants, especially defendants facing a death sentence, are afforded all the protections of due process including the obvious, legal counsel and a jury trial.

 To be eligible for the death penalty in California, you must be guilty of first-degree murder with “special circumstances.” These special circumstances include:  murderers who raped/tortured their victims, child killers, multiple murderers/serial killers, murders committed by terrorists, as part of a hate-crime, or killing a police officer. Death sentences are issued rarely and judiciously, and only against the very worst murderers.  I agree with The California District Attorneys Association that the use of the death penalty is an important part of making sure justice is served for the victims in the most serious and heinous of cases in California.

 Our elected Governor has engaged in rhetoric that is both damaging to society and has sadly become common place. Newson states that “[t]he “. . . justice system is completely broken.” Really? Don’t  peace officers still respond to dangerous situations on a daily basis protecting citizens and arresting criminals? Don’t prosecutors and defense counsel appear in courts and articulate their respective positions seeking justice? Aren’t defendants still entitled to a jury of citizens to determine their guilt or innocence? It should be troubling to all Californians that the sitting Governor attacks the  institutions of civilized government to make a political point. In imposing his moratorium, Newsom said “he was elected for his judgment.” The Governor is elected as California’s chief executive officer to implement and enforce the laws – not to impose his personal beliefs on us in spite of the existing laws.

Matthew R. Beauchamp

District Attorney, Colusa, CA