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What’s next — There's no other way to say it. It has been a long, long school year for Curtis Creek Elementary. First a hillside slid into some classrooms. Then other classrooms and the library were rendered unusable after an early morning fire. And this week, wild speculation about a threat to the school ran amok, prompting school officials to close for a day. Anxious parents, apparently not completely trusting school and law enforcement officials' pronouncement that the school was safe, kept their kids home for another day. For that day the school had an absence rate of about 15 percent. It's no wonder Principal Terri Bell told The Union Democrat Thursday night, “If we could cancel classes tomorrow (for the year) we'd all be very grateful.” Here's a hearty thank you to some dedicated educators who kept learning going despite tremendous challenges.
Deserved promotion — Turu VanderWiel is a hometown fellow. Raised in Sonora, Sonora High grad who left to serve in the U.S. Army for a decade, came back and worked for the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office. By 2004, he had moved to the Sonora Police Department and promotions followed. Sergeant, lieutenant, second-in-command. Now acting chief. One of former Modesto Police Chief Mike Harden's interim roles was to evaluate VanderWiel as a leader. Apparently VanderWiel passed. The city chose well in selecting VanderWiel, and he deserves a chance to drop the acting from his title.
Economy — Good news for Tuolumne County. The process for completing $70 million in projects related to forest restoration, watershed health and community resilience is under way. The county won one of the grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition because of the devastation experienced in the 2013 Rim Fire. Timelines are in place for completing the projects by 2022. As Alex MacLean reported last week forest and watershed recovery projects will include biomass removal, noxious weed treatment, tree planting, reconstruction of rangeland infrastructure, and the construction or expansion of strategic fire breaks. The recovery projects and construction of the facility to process biomass removed from the forest will be overseen by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a state agency created to promote the economic and social well-being of the Sierra Nevada region. And at least one community resilience center will be built.
Socially disastrous — The havoc caused by inaccurate social media posts this week was unfortunate to say the least. A teen went missing and suddenly rumors spread that all schools in Tuolumne County were threatened. Let's be clear, the young man made no threats to anyone. He had no weapon. And even when the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office announced that there were no credible threats, people persisted. And we are not talking about children here. Adults were the ones spreading wild speculation. Social media is an interesting way to pass some time. It's not a place to pass unfounded information. Or as some people say, alternative facts.
Private/public — The development of a day-use area at Lake Tulloch is a nice addition to what's essentially a private lake. But what's being developed is not big enough for anything much beyond a canoe or kayak to be launched. And Tri-Dam, with $33 million in revenue last year, is not doing this out of generosity. It's a requirement for renewal of the company's federal license to operate the lake, a public treasure. And it's been more than 10 years since Tri-Dam agreed to build a place to let the public in. Seems like that much planning time might have rendered something fulsome that would benefit the public on a greater scale.
Apply — The Sonora City Council recently extended the deadline to apply to serve on various committees due to lack of applicants. Other government agencies, especially schools, have had similar problems. We get it. People are busy. People don't want the scrutiny – read, criticism- that can come from serving on a public board. But this is our place. Diverse opinion is essential to effective government. Consider applying for a seat on the Sonora Planning Commission, the Marijuana Working Group, the Parking and Traffic Commission or the Tuolumne County Transportation Council’s Citizens Advisory Committee.