By Mary-Justine Lanyon
The nearly three-hour town hall hosted by Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh at Rim of the World High School on June 10 was devoted almost exclusively to questions and a discussion about SB1405 and the possible acquisition of AWAC (Arrowhead Woods Architectural Committee) by LACSD (Lake Arrowhead Community Services District).
The senator first delivered some opening remarks, saying she had run for office “because I saw the world my children were inheriting. I saw a lot of toxicity and pain.” Calling herself a highly sensitive person, Ochoa Bogh said she hates to see people in pain and wants to be helpful. “I look at that as I work on legislation,” she said.
“I believe everyone has the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness so long as it doesn’t infringe on another person’s rights.”
That led to the first question of the town hall: “You spoke about your concerns for everyone’s personal liberties,” said one audience member. “I’m concerned about taxation without representation.”
The senator, realizing the question related to SB1405, said the bill came to her from former Assemblyman Thurston “Smitty” Smith’s office. “His staff asked if I would carry this bill as they couldn’t. There was concern that AWAC wouldn’t have the ability to continue enforcing the CCRs and they needed help. I said OK.
“The proposal,” the senator noted, “was the local utility could take on the responsibility. They already visited the properties because of the work they did. We submitted the language, which was modeled after several other cities attempting to do or who had done the same thing.”
Ochoa Bogh went on to say there would be no taxation without representation as the property owners in Arrowhead Woods would have to approve the change.
“No one wanted this legislation,” one woman in the audience said. “Property owners were not represented. They lied to me and misrepresented what they said to you. I’m upset this bill got to the governor for signature without property owner input. We’re livid. You’re very brave to come up here.”
The senator’s response was that she “was trying to step up and help AWAC. Moving forward, you don’t have to agree to transfer. It can stay the way it is right now. That will leave you with the responsibility of what’s going to happen with AWAC. It will leave you with no one enforcing the CCRs.” To that, there was great applause from the audience.
“You’re having this conversation because you wanted to protect a private entity without knowing a lot about it,” said Seline Karakaya. “As taxpayers, we’re paying for the time you spend on this. A true Republican approach would have been to stay out of it. If a private organization can’t survive on its own, let it fail.”
At this point in the town hall, Crystal Upton, the AWAC executive director, spoke. “No vote will happen anytime soon. On Friday, our board drafted a letter – it won’t go forward. I told you (she said to the audience) I would listen to your concerns.
“When we presented this idea to LACSD a year and a half ago, AWAC was not to be taken over – it was a partnership. I changed the verbiage. It’s not a merger – it’s an acquisition. I took this on to make it a better organization for you.
“No one wants AWAC – we’re a liability. This is off the table. But the bill doesn’t go away.”
And that was a concern raised by several audience members.
“Can you get rid of the bill?” asked George Hatt. “Is that what you want?” the senator asked. The response was loud applause from the audience.
Senator Ochoa Bogh’s solution was for AWAC to send her a formal request to rescind or repeal the bill, whichever the legislative council tells her is the proper procedure. Upton agreed to do so after consultation with their attorney.
And, she told the audience, “we’re not pursuing it.
STORM RECOVERY EFFORTS
The last half hour of the town hall was devoted to information on storm recovery efforts. Representatives from FEMA, the Small Business Administration and the California Department of Insurance gave phone numbers folks could call for help.
“These were unprecedented snowstorms,” the senator said. Her office will be releasing a report in the next month or so on how they helped and communicated.
She said she can submit up for four budget requests for the communities she represents. “This year,” she said, “we realized there wasn’t a lot of heavy snow removal equipment up here on the mountain. I have requested $1.5 million to help facilitate purchasing this equipment so it can be stored here.” That statement was met with applause.
Twin Peaks resident Trudie Blank told the senator she was wondering about the potholes. “Does the state need to allocate more money to Caltrans to get them repaired?” she asked.
“No, it’s a question of human power,” the senator replied. “They can’t fill them all at the same time. There are so many arenas where they don’t have the workforce – education, law enforcement.”