Putting in a good word about good government

December 31, 2007 12:00 am

Government, be it local, state or federal, is an easy target. Its mistakes, because of disclosure laws and confrontational nature of politics, are highly visible. And bashing our leaders, be it in at the boardroom or the barroom, has been a popular local pastime for as long as there have been elections.

Often lost amid the negative cacophony is the good that government does.

Think about it: In 2007, Tuolumne County's Board of Supervisors and staff had the courage and conviction to close down the money-hemorrhaging Tuolumne General Hospital. It was an overdue move that their predecessors stalled and rationalized their way out of for many costly years.

In Calaveras County, 2007 will be remembered as the year supervisors proposed and voters approved a $31 million bond issue to finance a sorely needed new jail. The measure was approved by more than two-thirds of the county's voters, reflecting an effective campaign by Sheriff Dennis Downum and the board.

Looking back on the year gone by, the jail and hospital decisions were only two of many positive accomplishments:

• The Tuolumne Utilities District is close to buying the troubled Matt Dillon Water Co., meaning Dillon's beleaguered Soulsbyville-area customers will soon get the consistent source of clean water they have been without for so long. During this summer's shortage, TUD also bailed out the Strawberry Water Co. with an emergency supply from the Stanislaus River.

• The state Department of Parks and Recreation budgeted hundreds of thousands of dollars for maintenance at Columbia State Historic Park and at Calaveras Big Trees, which will benefit from a $488,000 fuel reduction project near the South Grove.

• The California Transportation Commission, making good on a promise to voters, allocated $17.2 million in construction funds to Phase 2 of the East Sonora Bypass and $4.4 million to the Angels Camp Bypass.

• After months of wrangling, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors in August adopted a set of septic tank rules acceptable to both state regulators and residents who had earlier protested that the county's regulations were too strict.

• The Calaveras County Sheriff's Office won thousands of dollars in grants to equip the Search and Rescue Team, buy a patrol boat and improve the already excellent Bomb Squad.

• Yosemite National Park, citing adverse public comment, dropped a proposal to hike entrance fees from $20 to $25 per car.

• The Stanislaus National Forest, also responding to public outcry, spared the popular restroom at its Rim of the World lookout. The forest also put up new railing at its Donnells lookout.

• Cal Fire, with community sentiment in mind, assured that its new $2.47 million Twain Harte station will have the same classic log cabin-style architecture as the original.

• Cool heads prevailed at the Mother Lode Fair Board, which voted to move the Sonora event from the sweltering second week of July to cooler dates in June.

• With more than $1 million in state emergency funding, the Calaveras County Water District replaced a redwood water tank destroyed in 2004's Valley Springs-area Pattison Fire with a larger, 150,000-gallon metal version.

• Tuolumne County supervisors took the first step in a years-long, $266 million dollar project by buying 50 acres off Old Wards Ferry Road for a new and much-needed law and justice center.

• The Tuolumne board, after hearing pleas from a standing-room-only crowd of 200, voted to spare the Groveland Rehabilitation Center from planned closure and to look for a private firm to operate it permanently.

• The Calaveras County Water District, recognizing the pressures of development, launched a groundwater monitoring program and applied for a grant to keep it going.

• Sonora completed its grant-funded Dragoon Gulch Trail, a network of foot and bike paths on 35 acres of woodland just minutes from downtown.

• Columbia College unveiled plans for a $6.2 million child care center, to be built with bond funds authorized by voters in 2004.

• Thanks to the efforts of Cal-Fire, Tuolumne and Calaveras county fire safe councils, local fire departments and districts, and alert citizens, the long, dry fire season of 2007 ended without a disastrous blaze.

• Old-fashioned street lights ordered up for Sonora, Columbia Historic State Park and Jamestown arrived just in time for Christmas.

Union Democrat editorial positions are formed through regular meetings of the newspaper's editorial board — Publisher Geoff White; editor Teresa Chebuhar; managing editor, news Craig Cassidy; senior reporter-columnist Chris Bateman.