How We Actually Gain More Local Control

Many Shasta County residents want more freedom from the state and more local control.

I am among them.

This is why I volunteered to be the Shasta County Chair for the Educational Freedom Act, which would have allowed public funding to follow students to schools of their choice via educational savings accounts.

The state has made unending attempts to control more of our lives, whether that be through COVID mandates, more and more restrictive gun control laws, overruling local decisions on renewable energy projects, or prohibiting hand counting.

You may agree with some or all of these decisions, but it would be hard to disagree that the state is taking more control.

 

Why don’t I want more state control?

  1. Centralized governments tend to be less effective & more authoritarian
  2. The state has failed to solve the problems we care about (homelessness, crime)
  3. The state doesn’t understand rural areas well
  4. The state has shown it will retaliate against localities that oppose it

Recognizing that the state is much more powerful than us, how do we gain more local control and freedom?

We do the opposite of what the board has been doing.

Despite their pro-local control rhetoric, their actions have produced more state intervention. In November, state officials came to Shasta County to supervise our elections. When the Board defies the state’s wishes and then boasts about it on national TV, claiming to be the model for the state, the state does what we would expect it to do – it punishes us.

It may make some feel good to give the state the middle finger – but it is a losing strategy. I care about results, not feeling affirmed.

George Washington almost ended the colonies’ chances of winning their independence using the same doomed head-to-head strategy with the much more powerful, British Empire, in the Battle of New York.

 

Instead, let’s use a smart strategy that focuses on results, not feeling good:

  1. Make decisions using a rigorous, thorough process that includes the right people at the right times and carefully assesses the options, so there is no room for fault in the decision-making process. Instead, the Board has done the opposite, resulting in lawsuits for its decisions to rezone the property for Supervisor Jones’ gun range project and to enter a 30-year agreement with the Tribe for its new casino. 
  2. Solve the problems the state is trying to solve but hasn’t. Every manager knows that you micro-manage underperformers and give high performers more freedom. Shasta County is an underperformer on homelessness, crime, mental health, roads, childhood trauma, and more. If we want more freedom, we have to demonstrate that we can lead ourselves well. When we start solving the problems the rest of the state cares about, the state will give us more breathing room and possibly even start looking to us for insights.
  3. Build as much local support as possible for decisions that oppose state directives. Local division weakens our ability to effectively lobby the state. We may be able to go fast by leaving many residents behind – as the Board did when terminating the Dominion voting machines contract –  but if we want to go far, we need to go together – as the old African proverb says. 
  4. Recruit other counties to lobby the state together rather than going at it alone as the Board did on elections and mostly did in its opposition to the Fountain Wind project. As one county, we have limited ability to influence the state, but if we can collaborate with multiple counties, particularly the larger ones, our chances go up considerably. Here’s how I would have approached this regarding the Fountain Wind Project.
  5. Develop working relationships with state officials so we can share with them our concerns and desires early in the process. It may seem heretical to some to develop relationships with state officials, but relationship is the key to influence. We won’t always get what we want, but we’ll better know what they are planning, they’ll better understand our perspective, and we’ll have a platform to influence their decisions.
  6. Stop bad-mouthing the state at every turn, even though it is often justified. Can you imagine a state official granting us a favor when our local officials continuously ridicule them? It may feel good to hurl insults at the state, but is it helping us gain more local control? No.
  7. Be realistic about what we can win. Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’re not going to get the state to go along with all our wishes, but if we can make their legislation or executive orders 10% better for us, that is a win. If we remain focused on unrealistic goals, we’ll get nothing.
  8. Look for win-wins with the state by searching first for opportunities where we can give the state what it wants while getting what we want. If we can give the state some of what it wants, they are more likely to give us what we want. 

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t times to stand our ground. I participated in the school walkout when the state was considering mandating the COVID vaccine for kids. I drafted an 8-point plan to keep the state from overruling our decision to reject the Fountain Wind project.

It’s time to reject the feel-good virtue signaling that results in more state control and develop a smart strategy that gets real results.

 


Voting has started! Remember there will be no general election for this race. If you haven’t received your ballot, check your voter status and reach out to County Clerk to make sure you’re set up to vote. If you’re planning to vote for me (thank you!), can you let us know so we can check in with you closer to Election Day to see if you’ve voted? The last day to vote is March 5th.