Last week the California Prison Industry Authority issued waivers to Susanville’s Morning Glory Dairy — a distributor, not a producer — allowing the local dairy to continue to provide milk and eggs to the California Correctional Center and High Desert State Prison — at least through February 2020.
The waivers are important to Susanville residents because the dairy gets a lower price from its suppliers due to the volume of product it buys. Losing the prisons’ business would mean the public would wind up paying higher prices for milk at local schools and retail stores supplied by the dairy. The diary also said the loss of the waivers would force it to lay off employees, and to make things even worse, the loss of those accounts might even jeopardize the survival of the dairy itself.
In late December, CalPIA announced the cancellation of those waivers despite the fact it would have to pay an estimated $110,000 more per year to provide the same products from the same producer to the prisons, despite the fact the arrangement between the dairy and CCC reaches back 55 years.
According to CalPIA’s website, its strategic business plan for 2016-2021 is to: reduce offender recidivism, maintain self-sufficiency, develop high performing staff and organization and increase customer satisfaction. CalPIA receives no appropriation from the state’s general fund, but generates $375 million to the state’s economy. It manages more than 100 factories as of 2015, provides more than 1,500 goods and services to 35 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation institutions. It’s hard to argue against CalPIA’s goals — except when it moves forward with a decision such as the one with Morning Glory Dairy that makes no sense due to the increased cost to the taxpayers and the negative impact on our local economy. Worse, it appears the decision wasn’t actually made by the board through the required public hearing process but by the agency’s administrators.
While the community deserves thanks for supporting the local dairy with an ambitious letter writing campaign that reportedly generated thousands of postcards, much of the credit for this win over the Sacramento bureaucracy should go to Lassen County District 2 Supervisor David Teeter.
Not only did the recently elected Teeter get heavily involved in the effort to move the public’s response forward, he and city councilmember Brian Wilson even traveled to the Central Valley to appear before the CalPIA board and remind them of their civic duty to conduct the public’s business in the open. He stressed the need for transparency at every level of government. During public comment at the CalPIA’s board meeting, Teeter asked the apparently hard questions about who made the decision to terminate the local dairy’s waiver and when and how was that decision made.
Because Teeter, the diary’s owner and other supporters appeared during public comment, the board could take no action. When it didn’t schedule the matter for discussion, Teeter et al responded with the letter writing campaign. Teeter also worked with Assemblyman Brian Dahle, asking him to join the effort to save the dairy.
Local communities, especially small, rural communities such as ours, generally have little power, influence or clout over the big city bureaucracies that often shape public policy to benefit their needs and desires.
So congrats everybody. This time the little guy won.