Wasteful spending

To the Editor:

I would like to know how much money Sonora and Tuolumne County spend on consultants. The money consultants are paid does not require their work be accurate or effective.

Alex McLean’s article about the Board of Supervisors’ plan to hire a consultant to persuade our community to vote for tax increases is another instance of wasting money on consultants.

In 2005 the Board of Supervisors hired a consultant to push a tax increase:

The 2005 consultant’s survey found that 70 percent of the community supported a tax increase.

However, the voters voted down the tax increase overwhelmingly.

The consultants were paid almost $20,000 anyway.

The Board of Supervisors don’t have a good record for wisely spending taxpayer money they already have — does anyone remember TCEDA’s half a million dollar yearly extravagance? On April 3 the TCEDA Financial and Management audits were delivered to Debbie Bautista, County Auditor/Controller, and she says they are in the “review stage” before being released — there may be more fiscal disasters there.

Taxpayers who want to see our county budget’s vast document, 447 pages showing county spending line by line, should go to this link and just scroll through to see the massive apparatus our local government has become for a county of 51,000 people.

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The supervisors have demonstrated little oversight of county spending and have a disturbing tendency to raise their own salaries and that of upper county administrators to levels higher than counties much larger and complex than ours. I recommend before they come to the taxpayers for a tax increase — again — that they have our own county staff — not a consultant — find the waste in our present budget. Or maybe we need another grand jury?

Barbara Dresslar


Impeachment: Ultimately, voters decide

To the Editor:

In Boston in 1945, Mayor Curly was reelected from jail. He had broken the law by supporting the widow of a deceased firefighter. Voters re-elected him and passed new laws to support widows.

From the Mueller investigation, we know that Russia interfered with our 2016 election to elect Donald Trump and the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russians. Paul Manafort gave them the campaign polling data and strategy for winning in the swing-states.

Donald Trump publicly asked Russia to find 30,000 Clinton emails and the Russians started looking within hours. However, Putin is smart. He funneled info through Wikileaks. The direct connections required to prove a “conspiracy” were covered up.

Removing a president requires a 2/3 vote in the Senate. Senators listen to their voters. But, Americans are confused. They don’t know who to believe. Trump contends that the “Russia thing” is a hoax and witch hunt. He has vigorously attacked our intelligence agencies, the FBI, the Congress, and anyone else who wants to investigate and find the truth. An innocent person would welcome a thorough investigation to exonerate him. Trump claims the Mueller report exonerates him, when it specifically states that it does not.

Voters must be informed, not confused. Congress must get all the key documents, call the key witnesses, and hold public hearings. Voters are the jury. They will decide who they believe. If voters see no obstruction of justice, no leverage over the President from Russia, and no compromise of American policy for the financial benefit of the Trump family, then the president will be exonerated.

On the other hand, if Trump is abusing power, obstructing justice, lining his pockets and protecting his Russian loans at our expense, then he deserves to be removed from office, quickly, before more damage is done.

Marvin Keshner


AB326 is a bad law

To the Editor:

I am concerned with AB326, which is directed at members of law enforcement, but it has a much wider impact. It threatens a citizen’s right to self-defense. The change from “reasonable” to “necessary” will apply equally to a citizen using force in self-defense.

Consider this: A couple leaves a restaurant after dinner. As they are arriving at the car, a man steps forward with a knife and demands their wallet and purse. The husband pulls his concealed pistol for which he has a permit. He fires and disables the assailant. Police arrive and arrest the assailant.

Focus shifts to the husband. Under current law, he will be judged on the question: Would a reasonable man under the same circumstances felt his or another’s life was threatened and that under those circumstances deadly force was reasonable.

Under AB326 the question would be if deadly force was the only alternative and thereby necessary. This opens the possibility that other alternatives were available: surrendering the wallet or purse, running away. Also because only a knife was used, the use of force could be deemed not necessary.

The difficulty is how something is viewed not by the individual involved, as in a reasonable man analysis, but by others who may have other motives. Particularly, attorneys who may look for opportunities for litigation.

A solid citizen may be exposed to criminal and civil actions. Thousands of good California citizens have applied for and received concealed weapons permits because of a belief in a right to self-defense. Most know law enforcement response, particularly in rural areas will be delayed. AB326 compromises the rights of citizens to self-protection.

This bill has the potential to create a serious impact on the rights of each of us.

Richard Nutting

Former Tuolumne County Sheriff/Coroner

Who’s to blame

To the Editor:

Rep. Ilhan Omar has been vilified for making a statement against being stigmatized by the actions of others, something with which we all agree, and which, if taken against any of us, would inspire passionate defense and strong opposition.

Rep. Omar identified the systematic anti-Muslim prejudice that exists in the minds of some people in America. She traces this to the fact that the perpetrators of 9/11 identified as Muslims. Her statement, annotated by me, is, “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people (who happened to claim to be Muslim, though their actions are not in accordance with the mainstream precepts of the Muslim faith, a religion espousing peace) did something (a terrible, violent act of terrorism against America, the country of which she is a naturalized citizen), and that all of us (Muslims) were starting to lose access to our civil liberties (the latest example of which is the present situation where stupid, ignorant, right-wing propagandists have [intentionally?] taken her words out of a context, words with which all true, loyal, democracy-loving Americans can, or should, agree).”

Let’s engage in a mental exercise. Some Republicans, including Trump, have expressed anti-Muslim and other racist sentiments referenced by those who have committed acts of violence. If someone were to say that these are therefore acts of “Radical Republican Terrorism,” I would bet Sarah Huckabee Sanders would say something like, “Just because some people did something doesn’t mean that the president or Republicans in general are responsible for those actions, and they shouldn’t be blamed for them.” If (debatably) so, then how can they dare blame innocent Muslims for 9/11?

Phil Nichols


TCEDA - A gift that keeps on giving

To the Editor:

The TCEDA transparency lawsuit was settled last year (showing no new documents backing up claims of $400 million in new economic improvements). The Board of Supervisors and City of Sonora this year saw the light and voted to shut down TCEDA (unanimously) based upon Grand Jury reports and The Union Democrat’s detailed reporting on how TCEDA spent our money.

Now, two independent consultant audits have been released showing TCEDA needed major policy and financial accounting improvements. No surprises, right?

But we are being advised in these audits that the community — you taxpayers — may owe much more money to the TCEDA director than was given in salary over the past 10 years. In 2018, $167,000 per year, over $100,000 in travel expenses over the past two years and $120,000 in severance pay when the position was eliminated. The audits claim the county and the city may need to cover future retirement benefits in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Think about that. This is just one executive position hired and eliminated over 10 years. And now the county wants to hire a new economic development director to begin the cycle over again. Guess it doesn’t matter to them spending other people’s money.

Let this be a lesson to the citizens of Tuolumne County and the City of Sonora. Every time the government wants to hire a new executive position that is tasked with a long list of promises to the community, ask for a return-on-investment.

If you are tired of the government failing to make good on their promises, you have the right and constitutional authority to submit a California Public Record Act request to demand documents that will shine a light on their promises and, more importantly, all future costs and annual performance results.

Ken Perkins


Why Trump must not be impeached

To the Editor:

It’s quite simple and alarming. If Trump is impeached, then Mike Pence would become president and you can bet your booties that his first order of business would be to pardon Trump. That would mean all federal crimes committed by Trump go away, whether hush money payments orchestrated by Individual 1, obstruction of justice, federal tax evasion, money laundering, etc.

Yes, Congress, under its constitutional mandate of oversight, should thoroughly investigate all the allegations in the Mueller report, but impeachment? No.

Sue Phalen