California District 1 State Senator Brian Dahle visited Susanville Wednesday, June 16 and met with constituents on the front steps of the Historic Lassen County Courthouse for about 90 minutes.
First he apologized for providing so little notice of his visit (announced through a Facebook post by a local resident a little more than two hours before his arrival). He said he was able to clear some items from his calendar by being able to attend Zoom meetings and headed to Susanville to meet with constituents, some of whom have been criticizing him of the whyccc.org page and Facebook.
Continuing to draw the ire of many local residents, Dahle explained as one of only nine Republicans (compared to 31 Democrats) in the senate he has little clout or ability effectively fight the California Department of Corrections decision to close the California Correctional Center in Susanville.
The relative power structure is similar in the Assembly where his wife Megan Dahle represents the first district — 19 Republicans and 60 Democrats.
“I just wanted to come here and hear from you, first of all, and then share with you what we’ve been trying to do,” Dahle said.
Dahle said he learned of the state’s decision to close CCC at the same time as everyone else.
“Obviously we were very frustrated and blind-sided by the governor and the administration,” Dahle said.
Other elected officials found out about other closures at the same time, and Dahle said, “and we’re quite frankly ticked off.”
Dahle said the governor’s office accepted responsibility for blind-siding the elected officials and apologized. He said he and Megan came up here and met with city and county officials to see what could be done.
At a meeting with state officials Dahle and others were told the state had made it’s decision and it would not be changed. He said despite all the arguments against closing CCC, they were told the decision would stand.
“We said, ‘what about our community? It’s 1,000 jobs in a small community. You promised us when you brought the prison here you were going to be part of the community’ … ” Dahle said. “Basically what they told us was it was their decision, and they would work with us to mitigate impacts you have if there are opportunities to repurpose the facility. That’s where we were in the process. I read in the Sacramento Bee that the city was going to sue the administration, I guess and our line of communication was cut off at that point … They haven’t given us anything, they’ve only taken from us. We haven’t threatened anybody. We’re trying to negotiate through this process to get what’s been taken from us, and we don’t have a lot of political capital to threaten anybody or to do anything.”
One local resident asked Dahle why he didn’t come on board with the lawsuit, and Dahle said he’d like to know what the city was doing.
The resident said the locals understand the control of government in Sacramento and that the Dahle’s have little influence in changing that. But he added the Dahle’s needed to engage with city and county government.
“I also don’t think it’s acceptable to say, ‘OK, we know the prison’s going to close, how much will you give us for the tax? That don’t cut it,” the resident said.
“You don’t live in the world I live in, and let me tell you something” Dahle responded. “You can scream as loud as you want to scream and you can sue, and I can tell you I think it’s going to be an uphill battle all the way.”
Dahle said he represents a number of interests in his district and he wants to spend his political capital on things he can win. He said seeing come comments on Facebook, some constituents seem to think he has a magic wand he can wave to fix things.
“We’re not mad at you.” another resident said. “We’re frustrated. We’re upset. We’re scared. I’ve lived here my whole life. I was born here in 1951. I grew up right down the street. We’re not upset with you. We need your help. We need to come together. “We’re not going to lay down for Sacramento. We’re going to go down in a blaze of glory. We’re not going to lay down for them.”
Dahle said he didn’t want to throw the Susanville City Council under the bus, but the threat of litigation ended any negotiations he could have had with the administration.
Dahle said he plans to return to Lassen County and meet with constituents again in July.