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Letters To The Editor

Groups take advantage of Prop. 84 funding, special easements

Dear Sir,

The Tri-County Taxpayer’s Association read with interest the recent news of a $350,000 state grant being awarded to Sequoia Riverlands Trust to “protect critical grassland habitat from development” within a 480-acre ranch located just north of the Tulare-Kern County line.

The Trust secured the grant through funding provided by Proposition 84, also known as The Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006. However, clean drinking water does not appear to be the motivation for the grant. Instead, the Trust’s grant was used to acquire the development rights and control the use of the ranch, thereby preventing it from being “split into two, 160-acre parcels with two residences on each parcel,” according to a recent Sun-Gazette article. And, to accentuate this point, the Trust placed a conservation easement over the property, removing the opportunity for any development to ever occur on the land and eliminating the chance for any locally elected leaders to weigh-in on the land use, forever.

It’s important for taxpayers throughout the Tri-County area to understand that, while the goal of Prop. 84 is to ensure safe drinking water, more than $500 million in general obligation bonds has been allocated for “revitalizing our communities and making them more sustainable and livable by investing in sound land use planning, local parks and urban greening.” Translation: Under the guise of clean water, the state is able to hand-out millions in taxpayer-underwritten funds to allied “conservation” groups intent on eliminating development on private property. And, instead of providing the property owners with “just compensation,” as mandated by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, they get — a tax break, while local land use decision-makers get left-out of the process.

The situation grows even more alarming after careful examination of the growing abuse of conservation easements by some land trusts. Over the past decades, as land trusts have exploded in size and number, so has their chummy association with government agencies. In fact, the mission of many land trusts has changed from protecting open lands through private stewardship to aiding government agencies in “acquiring” private lands. In these troubling arrangements, land trusts operate more like government agents, acquiring easements from private landowners, only to turn around and quietly sell them – sometimes for a profit – to state or federal governments. While certainly Tri-County Taxpayers Association is not accusing the River lands Trust of this action, the actions of other trusts certainly calls for some stronger accountability.

Tri-County Taxpayers Association is very concerned over the actions by the state and land trusts in joining forces to strip local elected leaders of their land use authority through well-hidden provisions of Prop. 84 and through the use of conservation easements. Tri-County Taxpayers Association believes that land use decision-making should be transparently conducted at the local level, by city and county elected leaders, neither by the State of California nor the Federal government.

Tri-County Taxpayers Association


March 13 marked 10th anniversary of Casey Goodwin’s death

To The Editor,

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 marked the 10 year anniversary of the death of Casey Goodwin. Casey, as many of you know, was a young lady that grew up in our programs and was a leader in our Friday Night Live program in Exeter, with the California Youth Council, with Teenwork and an intern in the CFNLP Office as well as the SLO FNL Office. She was a student at Cuesta College in SLO County. On her way home to celebrate her Mom’s birthday she was hit head on by an 18 year old young man driving under the influence. Casey’s Mom, Lynne, has worked for the Friday Night Live program since Casey was a young child. Casey’s sister, Kellie now works in our office supporting the California Youth Council and the Betting On Our Future projects.

The question was asked, where did the 18 year old get his alcohol, and no one had investigated that question. As a result of Casey’s death a new policy was initiated in California- Target Responsibility for Alcohol Connected Emergencies (TRACE). The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control now has agents trained across the state to investigate where the alcohol came from when a major incident occurs with someone under 21 and alcohol is involved (http://www.abc.ca.gov/programs/Trace.html).

In addition, friends of Casey created Casey’s Pledge- an opportunity for young people to make a committment and change the norms about drinking and driving and riding with a drinking driver. http://www.fridaynightlive.org/areas-of-focus/alcohol/caseys-pledge/ There is a short video there to remind you about the program. We have had over 400,000 young people sign Casey’s Pledge.

Many of you who utilize Casey’s Pledge may not have had the pleasure of meeting her. For those who did, you know the energy, sparkle and love she brought to the work we did together. Casey’s younger brother Kyle also grew up in our program, was an intern in our CFNLP office and died in a single car crash 9 months after Casey’s death. Casey and Kyle exemplified all the benefits of positive youth development. They championed our causes and led the volunteer efforts to host conferences and trainings.

FNL today is not the FNL Casey and Kyle knew, our field continues to evolve and improve. I encourage you to look inside your self and stay connected to the energy and passion that brought you to FNL. Casey invited us to dance like no one is watching.

I invite you to bring that spirit to your daily work with young people and go out of your way today to do something special (big or small) for someone else. On this tenth anniversary, join me in celebrating what Casey and Kyle brought to our program, as we continue to build opportunities for young people to make a difference in their communities.

Thank you for all you do in support of our young people!

Dr. Jim Kooler,

Administrator, California Friday Night Live Partnership – Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE), California Center for Youth Development and Health Promotion- TCOE

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