Bureaucrat Beat: Tree Odyssey, Bear Story and Heston, Jr.

Thursday morning in the Bureaucrat Beat newsroom. Tuxedo the cat has meowed himself into a dish of food. The caffeine has brewed itself into drinkability and the phone rings. Isn’t that just the way that these things start? The phone rang itself into a 4-hour ordeal to delay the chain-saw massacre – okay, the removal, of two old Deodor Cedar trees from the public right of way.

The early-morning caller alerted us to the fact that an Inyo Public Works crews was about to put the saws to the old, maybe 70 year-old, trees. Seems a year earlier, the Inyo Board of Supervisors had okayed the tree removal when the adjacent property owner complained about a limb that had fallen on his fence, which the county repaired.

Independence has a sore spot when it comes to trees. Many have died from lack of water. Caltrans will take out 100 trees in a future project. The little town stands surrounded by endless miles of desert. Services have disappeared over the years, along with the town grocery store and half of the population due to a lack of growth. The small-town quiet and natural beauty are all we have. We know, because the Bureaucrat Beat Newsroom South sits here.

Anyway, the Public Works crews and office staff had a job to do and they graciously listened to citizens who came to the site to delay the chopping and sawing. Phone calls flew in search of a reprieve so that there could be discussion about how important trees really are and how cavalier decisions to take them out are pass.

Credit goes to Supervisor Chair Susan Cash, attending a meeting in Sacramento, but trying to help; to CAO Kevin Carunchio, who grasped the issue, listened and went to work. We understand Supervisor Linda Arcularius weighed in. They responded and held off action. We were impressed how everyone tried to go beyond bureaucracy to real human concerns.

On to Mammoth Lakes where a tree ordinance addressed these upsets years ago. And, on to Mammoth Hospital where workers continue to email us with their fears of financial issues, failure to recognize human and staff needs. The Hospital now has a new CEO, and now it’s time for confidence building – whatever it takes to listen to workers and respond to their insights. The new CEO has a big human relations and business job.

On the national scene, 71 U.S. Senators voted against a proposed year-long moratorium on earmarks. Those are the special pork barrel-type expenditures in specific districts – more than $17 billion last year. How about you make sure Social Security and Medicare are okay before all the porky earmarks?

The federal budget is underway – all $3 trillion of it. Good Grief! The budget resolution does, at least, include lots more for veterans’ health care and for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. We like that.

Closer to home, the Eastern Sierra Council of Governments, which represents all of our local governments, met and talked about internet service for our region. They also noted recent talk about the potential loss of our area code. We’ll hold off getting upset on that one.

Steve Searles, Mammoth’s famous bear man, was upset and very articulate at the Town Council meeting this week. It is a shame that Town officials couldn’t pull it together with Steve. They claim they still want to. No wonder Searles is offended. The Town Council ignored the hard work he and many others had done over the past decade to keep bears out of dumpsters and modify the big animals’ behavior to make them good neighbors.

Maybe some Council members need history lessons. Do they know about the threats from the Department of Fish and Game to the former Police Chief? Bears shot by DFG because they had no other way to deal with wildlife? Unlocked dumpsters and bears who set up homes under houses? Searles and others turned it all around. Now, the Town is turning it all around again. What’s up with that?

They spent more than $20,000 on an “investigation” of the Police Chief’s treatment of Searles, spent hours questioning Searles but never about wildlife – just the he said, he said stuff. And, another thing. As our Tom Woods pointed out – the whole discussion on bears happened in secret – countless private meetings. Up to and including a closed session Tuesday night. How about the public? Why weren’t these discussion held openly? Fear of lawsuits? Or just plain Fear?

And, finally, several of you have noticed comments posted on our website, signed John Heston. Those comments came from our editor’s son of the same name. Here’s a comment from John Heston, Jr.:

“DWP,” writes Heston, Jr., “is like that little car that speeds by and cuts you off so it can turn ten feet later. They have no consideration of what they have or might have done. The wreck or nerves they may have shattered. The anger they might have caused or the reaffirmation that consideration doesn’t exist. The Owens Gorge has been around a long time. It deserves water not just for the people that live around it but for the environment. Backpackers, campers and tourists who feed a struggling economy. Be considerate. Do the right thing. Stop speeding by.”

John Heston, Jr.
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Definite genetic similarities.

With that, this is Benett Kessler signing off for Bureaucrat Beat where we await your word on our lives in the Eastern Sierra and beyond.

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