Public voice in Solano policymaking under threat
by Ramón Castellblanch, May 6, 2023
Over the years, Solano County has set up a number of advisory boards comprised of volunteers from the community. Underlying these boards’ establishment is the fact that County staff and its Board of Supervisors can’t know everything that they need to know to fairly administer County government. To promote sustainable agriculture, an agricultural advisory board was set up; to protect Solano’s unique historical documents, an historical records board was set up; to help plan the County response to its rising drug use disorder crisis, an alcohol and drug board was set up.
. . . the main factor in recommending continuation [of these boards] didn’t appear to be usefulness; it appeared to be whether or not advisory boards were state-mandated. [The supervisors] didn’t seem to consider their value to Solano; but to County administrators.
This year, a committee led by Supervisors John Vasquez and Monica Brown reviewed the value and continuation of these committees. In that review, the main factor in recommending continuation didn’t appear to be usefulness; it appeared to be whether or not advisory boards were state-mandated. They didn’t seem to consider their value to Solano; but to County administrators.
The Brown-Vasquez ad hoc committee met with none of the advisory boards that it was evaluating. Still at the Board of Supervisors’ May 2 meeting they recommended a blanket termination of all those that were not state mandated with one exception: the Nut Tree Airport committee. Why they that committee was spared may be indicated by its agenda: it actively works to help businesses at the airport.
The particular rationale for terminating the Alcohol & Drug Advisory Board (ADAB) was that the Mental Health Advisory Board could do its work fighting Solano’s opioid epidemic. But, a check of MHAB minutes over the past months shows nothing in them about fighting the epidemic. Further, the MHAB meets during business hours, cutting down public voice. At the hearing, Supervisor Wanda Williams asked if current ADAB members would then be on the MHAB. Despite asking several times, she couldn’t get a straight answer to her question, implying that the answer was, “no”.
While discussion of the Brown-Vasquez report implied that there was a state law requiring merger of MHAB and ADAB; there is no such law. State law does mandate counties to have a MHAB which would help explain why the MHAB wasn’t mentioned in Brown-Vasquez report. Another factor in the omission may be that Brown is a MHAB member.
The ADAB and Historical Records Commission were able to muster vigorous political defenses at the May 2 meeting and were given reprieves. A rationale for the ADAB’s retrieve was that it would give it time to merge with the MHAB, even though that merger was not assured nor justified.
The particular rationale for terminating the Alcohol & Drug Advisory Board (ADAB) was that the Mental Health Advisory Board could do its work fighting Solano’s opioid epidemic. But, a check of MHAB minutes over the past months shows nothing in them about fighting the epidemic. Further, the MHAB meets during business hours, cutting down public voice.
So, after the County behavioral health director had shut it down citing the recommendation of the ad hoc review committee, the ADAB is back in business. Its next regular meeting will be May 10 at 6 p.m. As the County has discontinued facilitating online access to advisory board meetings (while maintaining online access to Board of Supervisors meetings), the in-person meeting will be held in Conference Room A of the classic County Events Center, 601 Texas St., Fairfield. As the room seats over a hundred, there should be ample ventilation and space for attendees, providing some protection against COVID.
The top item on its new business agenda is BOS action re: ADAB. As the County has also discontinued providing inexpensive meals to dinner-time advisory board meetings, ADAB members will provide them on a one-time basis.
- Solano County board dissolves agriculture and anti-violence advisory committees | Vallejo Sun, May 5, 2023
- Solano County Supervisors Vote to Preserve Records Commission | Open Vallejo, May 5, 2023
- Save the Solano County Historical Records Commission | Open Vallejo, May 1, 2023
- Save Solano’s Drug Advisory Board — An Open Letter to the Board of Supervisors, by Ramón Castellblanch, April 30, 2023