Ukiah Daily Journal
Sheriffs from Northern California counties and one from Oregon met at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds Saturday to share their concerns about what they say is a shift toward centralized government and away from a nation run by its citizens.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman hosted the sixth in a series of six 2012 Support Rural America meetings designed to highlight issues faced by sheriffs in rural counties. The biggest issue of concern talked about Saturday was the lack of communication or efforts toward coordination with local sheriff’s offices on the part of the federal government, namely the U.S. Forest Service.
“We’re the watchkeepers of our county,” Allman said in his opening remarks. “We … have the ability to call a spade a spade without being fearful of losing our jobs or being thrown in jail.”
He added that while federal agencies have taken and continue to take steps that hurt local sheriffs and citizens, the goal of the summits is not to abolish federal government, but to establish a “better, transparent partnership.”
Allman continued, “We believe that there are some federal agencies that are being run by bureaucrats instead of elected representatives. That’s where … as sheriffs we can throw down the red flag and say, foul.'”
One sheriff asked all veterans in the audience of about 300 people to stand and be applauded, then after everyone rose for the Pledge of Allegiance, opened the meeting with a prayer.
took turns at the podium, talking about issues ranging from road closures they hadn’t been told about to regulations concerning the spotted owl and salmon that caused problems for local farmers.
Oregon’s Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson told attendees he would have no more “cooperative agreement” with the USFS, because, contrary to a sheriff’s constitutional authority over the geographic area of his county “which supersedes federal government,” the agreements essentially mean “they actually trump you.” Instead, he said, “coordination” is needed.
“Chief law enforcement official: the federal government is actually trying to take that authority away from sheriffs,” he said, adding that he got an e-mail from the White House about the “Strategic Implementation Plan.”
The plan, he said, would make the U.S. Attorney the chief law enforcement official “and everybody else is subordinate to that person.” His explanation was met with groans from the audience.
Del Norte County Sheriff Dean Wilson said he was asked by a citizen to attend a local meeting and arrived to find a U.S. Forrest Service representative in one of a series of public meetings, he’d known nothing about, regarding a tribal management plan that included plans to eliminate and close roads in his county.
He told them they had no constitutional authority to do so, standing on the premise that the federal government must run plans, even in the idea stage, through local law enforcement agencies before implementing them in order to coordinate.
“Mismanagement” of the forest land the USFS maintains — namely by not thinning the trees — has caused wildfires to burn too hot to foster revegetation, Wilson said. He also touched on increasing water regulations aimed at monitoring rural wells to ensure they don’t damage streams and rivers.
“They want to control where we live by using water,” he said “Agriculture is necessary … it was born and bred on rivers.”
He and other sheriffs painted a picture of overregulation by the federal government that has cost, and continues to cost, their local economies.
Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey closed his remarks by reading from the Bible and urging the audience to “pray for our nation.”
The sheriffs took comments from the audience, and Sheriff Tom Allman said several people asked how they could align themselves with the controversial Joe Aripaio, whose stance on illegal immigration and treatment of inmates has drawn sharp criticism.
Allman said Monday that while he agrees with Arapaio’s assertion that the federal government should pay for the housing of illegal immigrants in local jails, “other than that, he and I don’t have much in common.”
“I don’t agree with his inmate treatment,” he said, noting that some of Aripaio’s practices were “inhumane” an made those released from jail more likely to reoffend.
Tiffany Revelle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @TiffanyRevelle or at 468-3523.