Neely in, Rodoni out
by Nathan Rushton, 1/10/2007
Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Chair Bonnie Neely will replace 2nd District Supervisor Roger Rodoni as the county’s representative to the increasingly controversial Humboldt County Association of Governments’ board of directors.
The decision was approved by the board 4-1, with Rodoni opposing, during a discussion of the 2007 committee appointments at its meeting Tuesday.
HCAOG, an eight-member agency made up of the seven incorporated cities and the county, is the designated regional transportation planning agency responsible for programming state highway programs, road improvements and transportation resources.
Who represents the county on HCAOG’s board has become inseparable with and as controversial as the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s nearly decade-long efforts to gain a seat at HCAOG’s table, which has been voted against by Rodoni despite the other four supervisors’ support for the tribe’s inclusion.
Neely said her justification for replacing Rodoni was to be consistent with HCAOG’s charter, which states the board chair shall hold the position.
“I am no stranger to transportation issues or securing funding for transportation issues in Humboldt County,” Neely said. “I was part of the task force that secured $72 million for the Confusion Hill bypass on (U.S.) Highway 101.”
While he is out of the county’s top HCAOG spot, Rodoni accepted the alternate position.
Rodoni, who has joined with three other HCAOG members to oppose the tribe’s inclusion in several deadlocked votes last year, said the one looming argument put forward by the opponents is that tribes are for-profit, private corporations that are able to do what is in their best interest, including forking out money to political candidates — something no other member entity can do.
While the issue of a possible conflict of interest was raised during last week’s meeting in light of Neely’s $25,000 campaign contribution from the Blue Lake Rancheria, Neely dismissed that concern because she said it was the membership of the Hoopa Valley Tribe that has been before the HCAOG board.
There has been a significant shakeup of representatives to HCAOG’s board.
When the proposed membership criteria amendments to HCAOG’s cooperative agreement are brought before its members later this month, the new makeup of the board is likely to bring a fresh perspective to the issue that has dominated meetings and bogged the members down in recent months.
Neely will join with three new representatives on HCAOG’s board, including Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass, Arcata Mayor Harmony Groves and Ferndale Mayor Jeff Farley to replace Peter La Vallee, Dave Meserve and Carlos Benemann, who did not run for or didn’t survive the election in November.
An attorney representing the Hoopa Valley Tribe made a brief appearance to express the tribe’s support for the board to follow the joint powers authority’s agreement to place the board chair as the HCAOG representative.
Also addressing the board, although he said he wasn’t there advocating for who should represent the supervisors on HCAOG’s board, was HCAOG Executive Director Spencer Clifton.
Responding to questions about the “steep learning curve” Rodoni mentioned last week as a big reason not to replace him, Clifton said some of HCAOG’s transportation funding mechanisms were rivaled in complexity only by the state’s school systems, but offered his staff’s help to bring new members up to speed.
“We have membership changes at HCAOG,” Clifton said. “It doesn’t cripple the organization.”
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