Supes OK concept of the ‘Next Economy’

By Chris Daley
From page A1 | 26 Comments

Any new ideas for regionalizing anything came up against a fairly solid wall of skepticism at last week’s El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting. The Chief Administrative Office recommended the board consider and adopt a resolution in support of a new project known as the “Next Economy Capital Region Prosperity Plan.”

The resolution eventually passed with three of the four supervisors present giving somewhat tepid support. Ron Mikulaco, District 1 voted no. Norma Santiago, District 5 was out of town Tuesday.

As presented by Charlie Downs, a partner in Placerville’s Anova-Nexus architectural firm, and a member of the Next Economy steering committee, the project seeks to identify and address a set of goals common to the six counties that make up the Capital Region: Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties.

The Executive Summary on its Website describes the “Movement” as a:

“CALL-TO-ACTION: Mobilize private industry, government, academic and civic leadership to focus on a set of common strategies and actions to accelerate job creation and new investment in California’s Capital Region with the goals of supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, diversifying the regional economy and improving the business climate for economic growth.”

Downs described “catastrophic” effects of the economic recession throughout the capital region, citing 130,000 lost jobs and alluding to the “Great Depression” by comparison. The Next Economy plan forms the foundation not only for recovery but for a sustainable economic future, he explained. Based on what he calls “the unique aspects of our region,” he highlighted the existing food and agriculture industries, great universities, a rapidly growing health services industry and a culture/lifestyle that is attracting the best and brightest.

“Smart, young, energetic entrepreneurs” represent the engine driving the new economy, he said. He particularly noted Cate Dyer, founder of Stem Express, a biomedical-related research firm that recently relocated to Placerville.

“We’re not attracting the next Intel, but rather start-up, small, special manufacturing companies,” Downs said.

Supervisors Ray Nutting, District 2 and Ron Briggs, District 4, while not attacking the messenger, immediately challenged the message.

“The economy grows from the land up rather than from the region down,” Nutting said. “The economy starts with the people on a parcel of land, and it’s our old economy that we ought to showcase. But it has been redefined by outside interests.”

Nutting further pointed out that “53 percent of El Dorado County is under federal or state control” which many believe has severely limited traditional extraction industries such as logging and mining. Later in the discussion, Nutting cited SNUBA International that was founded and is still headquartered in the county and said, “The region needs to know we’re in the new economy, and the government needs to get out of the way.”

“Every time we do something regionally, we seem to get more cars and more smog,” Briggs weighed in. “I don’t want to be a hermit … but we’ll be fighting for our old economies long after I’m gone.”

Downs agreed in part with both perspectives but added, “The bottom line is that we’re creating a framework (of commerce and jobs to prevent) retail leakage. Money is spent where people are working, and that’s not here. And we have to focus on where our infrastructure is (generally the Highway 50 Corridor) and not spread it out.”

It is estimated that El Dorado County loses up to $2 billion per year in sales and tax revenue that is spent “down the hill” especially by residents who commute to work out of the county. “Retail Leakage” has become the name of that reality.

Executive Director of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce Laurel Brent-Bumb expressed complete support for the concept Downs had described, especially that of clean, high-tech industry.

“What are we and the Corridor going to look like?” she asked rhetorically. “Not juice bars on every corner.” Playing on both old and new economies, Brent-Bumb quipped, “We don’t export agriculture. We import consumers.”

During the public comment period, a small but palpably hostile number of audience members lost no time excoriating both the plan and the supervisors for even considering involving the county in “another” regional entity.

Valerie Chelseth, co-owner with her sisters Pattie and Janet in My Sisters’ Farm in Shingle Springs, set the tone.

“I’m so pissed, and I hope it pisses you off as well. This is big government taking over. You’ve already sold the soul of your constituents, and we’re totally outnumbered by the six counties,” the first Chelseth said.

Sue Taylor of Camino piled on, slamming the proposed mixed economy as an example of “government intervention … a public-private partnership to regionalize our economy, to remove and replace local autonomy with ‘pre-determined clusters’ just like communist countries.”

Evelyn Veerkamp addressed the board assuming that supervisors had already decided they were “going to sign on” without knowing all the nuts and bolts of the plan. She likened the situation to “Obamacare and Nancy Pelosi saying you have to approve it before you read it.”

Pattie Chelseth called the plan, “Utopian ideals couched in seductive rhetoric.” Urging the board “not to sign on to this,” Chelseth asked, “have we considered the losses relative to the gains (of being part of the plan)?”

The sisters were instrumental in the passage last year of the county’s Food Sovereignty Ordinance and have become a “go-to” resource for similar movements.

Following public comments, Mikulaco asked County Counsel Ed Knapp, “Are we legally bound to anything (by doing the resolution)?” To which Knapp responded, “not really, it’s just supporting the concepts.”

Whereupon Nutting suggested that the plan could “drain the spirit off the land in favor of the region. I’m not in favor of that.”

Answering Briggs’s question about “who pays for the project?” Downs explained that the project management is centered at the Valley Vision company in Sacramento and that the larger platform of support from the counties gave the project a better chance to attract grants and funding.

“I don’t really like the Next Economy,” Briggs said. “But I think we should be involved to know what they’re doing. I’m skeptical about the regional aspect, because I don’t see our benefit.”

Mikulaco concluded that he was “on the fence and struggling because we don’t know where this is going. El Dorado County interests are different than these other counties, especially Sacramento,” he said.

No follow-up to the issue was suggested, and the resolution simply becomes part of the board’s record.

Thursday afternoon, responding to a request for additional comment, Downs spoke at some length with the Mountain Democrat.

“At times I’m dumbfounded both by our leaders and our citizens,” he said. “They seem to be motivated by fear, fear of the government, which I think is an unhealthy climate in the country as a whole. This conspiracy fear is bizarre. The beauty of democracy is shown in local government and it’s a pretty remarkable dynamic.”

Downs continued, saying the notion that the county can remain isolated from the region “is beyond me, and it’s based on unfounded fear and emotion (and part of a wider belief) that there’s a government-sponsored conspiracy to take our freedoms. I’m just puzzled by their reaction.”

In the past, Taylor and others have strongly urged the county to withdraw from organizations such as the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) and other region-based entities. Much of the value of the larger groups is connected to acquiring federal and state grant funds for numerous public works projects. However, some suggest that El Dorado County can and should be more autonomous and less willing to accept “outside” money, influence and the strings that may be attached to them.

Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.

Chris DaleyChris has written a weekly column for the Democrat for more than 20 years and has Master’s Degrees in Russian History, Psychology and Career Counseling. He has been a staff writer for a number of years and enjoys it because he "learns so much about so many things."
View all my storiesEmail Me CDaleyMtDemo


Discussion | 26 comments

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  • EvelynMarch 17, 2013 - 5:20 pm

    Charlie Downs’ shoe full of “conspiracy” rhetoric is on the wrong foot! The Resolution adopted by the Board of Supervisors “authorizes County staff to actively engage in shaping and implementing THE PLAN and economic development activities to integrate it into the County’s economic development activities.” A few points: (1) The documents presented to the Board of Supervisors contained no actual PLAN. (2) Nonetheless, the Board signed on. (3) If architect Downs had been hired to produce building plans and had presented his client with documents equivalent to those given to the Board of Supervisors, he would have been be fired. (4) The movers and shakers behind the “Next Economy” essentially are lobbyists. (5) The County has given virtual carte blancheto a powerful group of unelected individuals to shape County regulations to their own needs.

  • Susan SheppardMarch 17, 2013 - 7:10 pm

    Mr. Daley, Your heading indicates the BOS OK'd the concept of the plan however, the Ordinance Mr. Briggs signed, directs staff to implement it. There appears to be a gap, nay chasm between the meanings of "approve concept" and "implement plan." Did the Board not read the template they were given before they authorized its signing? If so, I have some ocean front property I would like to talk to them about. I agree with Ms. Veerkamp's assessment citing Mrs. Pelosi's comment: "We have to pass it so we can know what's in it."

  • Zeke SlateMarch 17, 2013 - 7:54 pm

    Looks like bait and switch to me. The CAO suggested the BOS approve the "concept" of the plan. But the sample ordinance they used (from the folks in Sacramento)says, "...actively engage in shaping and implementing the plan and to integrate it into the County's economic development activities." Whoooo...there's a big difference between going out and getting married. Did we just get hitched and was it a shotgun wedding?

  • Susan SheppardMarch 17, 2013 - 8:29 pm

    Ed Knapp, upon being asked if we are ""legally bound to anthing (by doing this resolution)?"" "To which Knapp responded, ""not really, it's just supporting the concepts."" Didn't he read the Resolution? Again, it says nothing about "Support our concept." It says, "...impletmenting the plan..." Which, by the way, hasn't been released yet. So, the County approved a Resolution and instructed staff to "actively engage" in implementing a plan that has yet to be revealed... Are we missing somethin here?

  • observerMarch 17, 2013 - 8:57 pm

    Take your pick: they don't read; they're all in bed together; they're stupid. Doesn't really matter since the end result is the same. Charly Down's idea of democracy must have been one of those visioning things. A roomful of people get together and have a vision and a new policy is born. Might as well have a seance.

  • Walking TallMarch 18, 2013 - 5:17 am

    Sometimes you just have to say no, but before you buy anything you must read the small print. However no one seems to want to read and that will sell the rest down the river, what is our gain and loss and did anyone think that a government controled county will be owned by the government. Table it and read it and study before you sign on to something you know nothing about, we stand to loose if this is our BOS's position and if it can't be explained don't sign on.

  • Potemkin VillageMarch 18, 2013 - 6:16 am

    Charlie Downs builds schools and hospitals. His shining star example, Stem Express, is now leasing his building since his own business ANOVA is no longer doing so well. Supervisor Brian Veercamp voted for this undefined plan. His assistant worked for ANOVA prior to working for him. The whole thing reeks of cronyism.

  • James SmithMarch 18, 2013 - 8:05 am

    Wake Up Folks! Socialism is at your door step. Pushed by folks who make their money off of Government - designing schools, libraries, civic centers, ie., Murray Downs/Anova. Next we'll see the County Map divided up into round communes with integral walking and biking paths to get you from the government cheese line back to your teepee! Observer is absolutely right. We either have a very dumb Board of Supervisors right now or they just are too lazy and don't want to read and investigate things. I have been told the latter by many.

  • Phil VeerkampMarch 18, 2013 - 8:18 am

    Yurts, James. Teepees risk culturally insensitive and offensive stereotypical imagery. Yurts.

  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 18, 2013 - 8:45 am

    It is already here--I have posted many links...come to Pollock Pines to see the stages being sold to a few--while others already control it. March 25th in the morning these people will try for 10% of the tot taxes...later that night is our town meeting...South Lake Tahoes has already had this kind of new economy in place. In Pollock one can not build out (without destroying part of the forest) one can only build up...COME TO OUR MEETINGS--scary stuff. This is happening all over the united States--look up "Next Economy"--look up next economy and South Lake Tahoe. BOS knows--when you hear the word sustainability--think New Economy. The article about Pollock being light years ahead...the audience is salted...we have 6000+ people --no one is taking this seriously because Harper is in charge...but it is serious--and it is socialism. Keep reading. You guys are great with the constitution and debating gun control--be as well read in this subject. Because it is already in place. Tahoe is already on their second "New Economy" meeting--outside of the visioning meetings. Start reading the Economic development documents--many of the same names. look at the links

  • CatherineMarch 18, 2013 - 8:50 am

    "Valley Vision" would seem like an odd name for the foothills. Maybe those who oppose this need to start "Foothills Vision," and write up some weasel-worded junk for the supes to sign. That said, issues like transportation and air quality do need to be discussed across a broad region, and creating a plan to increase agricultural and small manufacturing in the foothills could be helpful. A citizen group proposing plans doesn't, to my knowledge, result in legal responsibility--does it?

  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 18, 2013 - 9:17 am

    Catherine, many of the ideas are good ones...our world is changing--because of the net--we are global. What scares me is that people who were not elected are forming these plans and meetings. Small groups are at the helm of my grandsons future. Any program based on not a good one, in my opinion. It states that even more things are being hidden. It feels like they are trying to make people more passive--recently people have been following Harpers new "love", harmony, communes. Or the new term--ecovillages for ecotourism

  • taxpayerMarch 18, 2013 - 9:43 am

    Veerkamp's secretary Kathy Witherow is uniquely qualified. Previously she worked for Charlie Downs, and now, having never before worked for the county, she started this year with Veerkamp at salary schedule step five.

  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 18, 2013 - 9:49 am

    keep reading taxpayer...BOS has...come to our town meeting march 25th

  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 18, 2013 - 10:01 am

    along side ecovillages are the A bio-energy village. Which is a regionally oriented concept for the use of renewable energy sources in rural areas. The system uses biomass from local agriculture and forestry in a biogas powerplant to supply the complete energy demands of a village, as electricity and district heating. These villages tend to be self-powered and independent from external grids, despite being connected to overland grids for feeding surplus energy. The term "bio-energy village" describes only the energy dependency on fresh biologic material, whereas an "ecovillage" includes more differentiated networks. So James is not far off...villages with themes.

  • SparkyMarch 18, 2013 - 10:34 am

    Not a big fan of Valley Vision nor the "Next Economy" concept. Participation is voluntary and it is important to stay informed with activities of these type groups. Thus at some level, a seat at the table is necessary, but without any commitment. A far better course of action was to rewrite resolution to reflect the comments of the BoS rather than buying into some entity's standard participation document. This is much different than the federal mandated participation in a regional planning organization such as SACOG. The actions should have reflected that difference....

  • CatherineMarch 18, 2013 - 10:35 am

    Biomass energy production is a great idea, and one that rerequires planning. My mother's community did this way back in 1975, when some brilliant soul decided it was better to power a small subdivision with methane than keep watching the dump catch on fire.

  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 18, 2013 - 11:14 am

    sparky...are we agreeing on something--because didnt you make fun of all my links referring to this issue...I believe you referred to me as "ranting"--although I am perfectly calm...keep reading is all connected. I put up links that friends ask for--so you see my friend...this "library nut" does have people reading. And see im not even mad at you. I dont care if people agree or not--but people should be informed.

  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 18, 2013 - 11:20 am

    sparky...shhhhhhhhhhh--they are connected...Informational Update on SCAG and SACOG’s Draft Sustainable Communities Strategies

  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 18, 2013 - 11:33 am

    SACOG'S MTP/SCS Covers 2012-2035 planning period. • $35.2 billion in investments. • Connecting local land use plans with transportation system. Has a slide show... sustainable communities strategies...El Dorado is there.

  • 1036-FrankMarch 18, 2013 - 5:22 pm

    "Group Think" with valley counties is a great way to turn this county into one. Agenda 21 is the same concept and was being brought here by none other then the notorious Done-Nuttin and his crony on the BOS who was sent back to S. Cal. The Supervisor who voted against this idea had the right vote, the others are just shills for the developers.

  • Zeke SlateMarch 18, 2013 - 10:10 pm a News Conference today in Sacramento, the Plan was released to the public. Now I guess we can all see what's in it. I wonder if the Supes will get buyer's remorse. The thing is 72 pages (the draft was only 41)...Happy reading to those of you who want to see how our futures may be shaped.....

  • SparkyMarch 19, 2013 - 7:23 am

    Sifting through the hyperbole, The CA Stewardship Network is funding what is suppose be to a joint private/public endeavor for regional collaboration excluding land use and transportation. Activate participants include the chambers, regional trade organizations and Valley Vision and is organized along the geo-political boundaries of SACOG. But it is voluntary unlike SACOG. Valley Vision was a big deal 7 years ago, but disappeared presumably because of lack of focus and money. In Truckee, the Network is using the Sierra Business Council to serve a similar purpose. I stand by my original statement - get a seat at the table, but make no commitments. County and community identities need to be developed before any discussion of regional interaction. Here is the link to the regional plan:

  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 19, 2013 - 7:46 am

    Sparky--already put these links out... Joplin regional strategy then look at the other plans put out by this company market street services. Valley vision...links to next economy capital region...and to the "Connected Capital Area" Broadband Consortium--which leads to Gold County Broadband...I could lead you to links and similarities really deep. Read the Joplin Report--its across the US...Yes this whole thing rides on volunteers, however money has already been made...items have already been changed to fit these ideas...and its been happening for a long time. People can accept it or not...but its there. And it goes back years. What groups do is change their names...or move the entire plan to other group sites. Dont worry about vision valley--they are still going very strong.

  • francescaduchamp@att.netMarch 19, 2013 - 8:26 am

    another really interesting paper is the MIT manifesto dealing with the internet...for years people have known that the internet can lead people by the nose in a direction its wants. People have also known that since these sustainable societies have been in the planning for awhile--that the internet would be used to connect these small ecovillages. People would not have to leave them as often--money would stay within their "places". Tourism would be the "key" to have people enter and exit a place. I knew of these ideas for a long time...some are "our future." I support kids. They are here now. The technology doesnt bother me...what bothers me is the deception. A plan based on lies can not work well. I can give you a list of people in our county already part of this--but why? Volunteers have always run society--so nothing new there. Non profits always gathered money for different groups. whats new is that now some volunteers have decided they know best for entire county--thats wrong. Some nonprofits have used donations for projects that the money was not collected for--thats deception. Do I care if Tahoe brings in more tourists --no. Do I care that a group in this town is telling people if they can bring their business here--you bet. Do I care that these groups want 10 % of the "tot" tax--to help them decide what "design" is right for a whole--you bet I do. Our budget is closed. My friend works for senior nutrition (meals on wheels is part of that)--each year they lose more and more. Children and seniors should always be cared for--one is our history and the other our future. Well good luck Sparky trying to find a way to make it go away--too many connections--across the world. And its not all bad. The plan forgot about the individual. I am not a socialist--I am an American. I believe in the republic under the rule of law. I just went to an event--a true community event--where no one was concerned with any thing except one needed to be first--no one needed to have power over anyone else. No one left feeling they were less than their neighbor.

  • EvelynMarch 28, 2013 - 9:38 am

    Not by mistake do I place here the following: SURPRISED? MONSANTO OPENLY WROTE OWN MONSANTO PROTECTION ACT -- "[T]hose who knowingly passed the Monsanto Protection Act . . . have chosen to serve corporations over people."