By Deb Murphy
The journey to find a protocol for tribal consultation on permitted projects within Inyo County has been complicated. At issue is melding the deadlines and constraints of county agencies and the needs of area Tribes to protect their cultural resources. The Board of Supervisors and Tribal representatives were moving closer to reducing the complexities. Then at Tuesday’s Board meeting, it got even more complicated.
Vice Chair of the Native American Heritage Commission Laura Miranda and Terrie Robinson, chief council, complimented the Supervisors on their efforts and sincerity, but it was clear staff and the Board were still missing the mark.
The purpose of the consultations, according to Miranda, was to define the value of identified resources to the tribe in order to arrive at satisfactory mitigation or changes to the project. In addition, the expertise of tribal members participating in the consultation had to be acknowledged.
Inyo’s Planning Department has been wrangling with the number of consultations in an effort to identify an end point for the consultation process. What kind of timeline can a builder expect before a permit is issued or denied? “This has to be an open process,” Miranda said. “You’re not under the gun to figure it out. The purpose is to foster relationships. It’s going to be bumpy for a year or so.” Miranda’s solution to a timeline issue was to start consultation early. Riverside County formed a task force, she said, and is moving toward ordinances, creating public policy regarding cultural resources so “everybody’s on the same page.”
The legislation requiring consultation, Assembly Bill 52 and Senate Bill 18, only require “good faith effort,” not complete agreement. But the bottom line, permits cannot be issued until a consultation process is complete—when an agreement on mitigation is reached or the parties have made a good faith, reasonable effort and simply can’t work it out.
Robinson outlined additional complexities in the legislation. “You can’t put limitations on the tribes (with a consultation protocol) that aren’t in the legislation,” she said. However, AB 52 and SB 18 have different requirements.
Thankfully, the NAHC has offered Inyo County technical assistance.
Probation Chief Jeff Thomson and Health and Human Services Director Jean Turner updated the Supervisors on progress toward transitioning Juvenile Hall from a 24/7 facility to a Special Purpose Facility, and providing additional services to at-risk juveniles.
Thomson’s goal is an Area Resource Center where both juveniles and adults can receive a broad range of services. But, for now, he proposed using existing County facilities and staff to provide those services to the 17 juveniles currently on probation, including the two detained in Juvenile Hall. “We can identify a future location for a Resource Center as we add services,” Thomson said, “but the juvenile numbers don’t justify (a separate facility) now.”
Thomson will officially notify the Board of State Community Corrections that Inyo’s hall will house juveniles only during weekends. Contracts will also be worked out with other counties to provide facilities for area juveniles requiring detention.
The big question is the Keith Bright School currently at the Hall. The County Office of Education is required by law to provide education to adjudicated youth. Currently, the Office of Ed. Contracts with Bishop Unified School District to run the school. But, with no students detained once the Hall is closed as a 24/7 facility, where do those students go? The obvious answer would be back to the school they left. However, the Supervisors expressed a need for a court school as an important tool. The only problem: there would be no guarantee of the number of students sent to a court school.
Supervisor Matt Kingsley suggested Probation continue on the path to convert Juvenile Hall into a Special Purpose Facility, carve out a partnership with the County Office of Ed on its proposed after-school program, continue Court School for a year, then re-evaluate, perhaps using Keith Bright teachers to provide extra help to juveniles on probation.
“We’re on the verge of a really great system,” said Chair Jeff Griffiths, “but the Office of Education, Probation and judges have to all be on the same page.”