The week between holidays is the best of the year

Ahhhh, the Week Between. Is there a better week on the calendar than the last one in December? The hectic pace of the weeks leading up to Christmas are behind us and we can relax in our new jammies and slippers, eating leftover cookies and pie so all that stuff is out of the house by New Year’s Day, when those soon-to-be-broken resolutions kick in.

I don’t make resolutions, but I am a big believer in setting goals and planning the steps to achieve them. Anytime is a good time for that, so if hanging a new calendar on the wall inspires you to change for the better, yay.

My New Year’s practice is to adopt a word or phrase to focus on for the next 12 months. This year’s was “Gratitude creates Abundance,” which is true for the most part. When we are grateful for what we have, it becomes plenty. Except food, of course. Food insecurity among Americans has more than doubled this year, and the long lines at food banks nationwide indicate the seriousness of the situation. Too bad it hasn’t put a dent in the obesity rate.

If there was ever a year people were anxious to leave behind, it’s this one. Humans are tribal beings and we are biologically hard-wired to gather together — to break bread, worship, dance, sing, and watch baseball. People working together to grow crops, hunt and defend themselves is the cornerstone of civilization.

So when COVID appeared and we were forced to physically separate to save lives, it was very unnatural. Nobody liked it. Early on, before we knew how it spread and how contagious it is, we were all a little paralyzed, waiting for information. Later, as facts became available, some people chose to follow the recommendations of scientists and some didn’t. Those two groups now hate each other. And yes, Virginia, that is also a choice.

There were already deep divisions between Americans but COVID pushed them to Marianas Trench proportions and sadly remain so, even right here in Tehama County. It doesn’t need to be this way. I like my masks and wear them in public. I have friends and family who don’t. I still love my friends and family. We cannot control the actions of others — only our response. Let’s respond with love. Or at least civility. From six feet away.

We can’t control how people operate their businesses either. By now, everyone knows who is being compliant and who isn’t. Where do you stand? You get to choose which establishments you patronize.

Of course, it would have been easier for businesses to comply with health guidelines if the board of supervisors had given them more than 7.8% of the CARES Act money so they wouldn’t have been so worried about losing their businesses. In comparison, Butte County gave 35% of CARES funding to its businesses.

Let’s do the math, shall we? The county released $500,000 (7.8% of $6.4 million total CARES Act money received) to the chamber, which distributed $5,000 each to around 100 businesses. Butte County’s 35% of $6.4 million is $2,240,000. Divide $2,240,000 among 100 businesses and you get $22,400 per business. That amount would have kept alive the businesses we have already lost and made it more palatable for others to follow guidelines. But we had a spending gap to close. Sorry, businesses.

This past Tuesday, a discussion on the COVID Enforcement Ordinance was on the agenda. We were told at the first reading of the draft ordinance back in May that we had to adopt or at least be actively working on a plan to get the CARES money. When the item came up Tuesday, we were informed that the ordinance was not necessary for us to keep the money. What? Really? Thank you, Santa.

It was unclear whether someone here — maybe County Counsel Stout or Chief Administrator Goodwin — misunderstood the original requirements or something had changed at the state level. Each supervisor made a statement about it and some were as lame as one would expect. I’ll spare you.

Enforcement was never going to be about citing people walking down the street without masks. It was going to be focused on educating businesses on ways to operate safely, with blatant non-compliance getting small fines. Maybe.

The reality is that there wouldn’t have been enforcement even if it had been approved. City police don’t have the time or inclination. Public Health doesn’t even have enough people to do contact tracing. County Code Enforcement claims to have no jurisdiction in the incorporated cities, which is where the businesses are, of course.

And we all know how busy Code Enforcement agents are playing whack-a-mole with cannabis growers. It’s much more important to eradicate a beneficial plant that has never killed anyone in the history of mankind than to help control a virus that has killed 34 Tehamans, 23,000 Californians and 340,000 Americans in 9 months.

Code Enforcement will have even more work to do this summer, because the long-awaited industrial hemp ordinance was finally passed. The biggest fear is the possibility that some ne’er-do-well will try to pass off THC-rich cannabis as hemp. It is difficult to tell the two apart until harvest time, when testing will be done to ensure the plants contain less than three tenths of 1 percent THC.

Amazingly, this ordinance got a CEQA exemption, deeming no harm would come to the environment by growing hemp. However, when a group of cannabis advocates applied for a rezone to allow six cannabis plants to be grown outdoors on adequate sized residential parcels in a secure and regulated fashion, a $100,000 EIR was required by the county. California had already made a negative declaration on outdoor cannabis cultivation throughout the state, so? And now, a local exemption for almost the exact same plant.

More hypocrisy. More reasons for recall. Enjoy the week. I’ll see you next year.

Liz Merry has been half of Merry Standish Comedy for 30 years and is a former downtown Red Bluff business owner. She now has a home-based business and is locked and loaded in Manton. She can be reached at [email protected].

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