From the Desk of Arnold G. York: Let the Chips Fall

Arnold G York

The city of Oroville, a town of 19,395 in Butte County, way up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, has decided that it has had enough of the State of California and, in a lopsided 6-1 vote, the city council decided to declare itself a “constitutional republic,” whatever that means. Apparently, they simply don’t like being told what to do and they have declared themselves free from federal and state COVID-19 restrictions. As you might guess, they have a vaccination rate of under 50 percent and total population in Butte County is 211,632. If you wonder what they do up there, all you have to do is go online: Google lists the 10 best casinos in the county. I can only assume that playing blackjack against the house is a favored occupation, and apparently these people are not very good at calculating odds.

But Orovillle’s is not the only city council that sometimes gets a little iffy. You may recall that before Malibu’s last city council election there was a large controversial campaign charging corruption in the city government, and finally a signed affidavit by the departing city council member Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner, supposedly authored by candidate Bruce Silverstein, which charged corruption. The city council thereafter hired two independent attorneys to investigate, spent over $100,00 or so, and took almost a year to get to the bottom of the charges. The report is now finished and we are all awaiting its release. Coming up on the next council agenda (Nov. 22) is the question whether or not the report should be released. It is, of course, couched in legal language like attorney client privilege (the client is the City of Malibu) and privileged communication, but what it boils down to, reading between the lines, is that some people don’t want the report released. I say, let the chips fall where they may. I don’t know what’s in the report nor who was right or wrong, but we the people of Malibu paid for the report and it should be public, and I, along with a number of lawyers who live in the city, are prepared to take it to court if the city tries to cover it up.  

The California redistricting commission has come up with a tentative plan and, if it’s approved as is, the demographics of our Malibu congressional district will change and we would lose our congressman Ted Lieu. They propose to put us into a district that includes the west side and most of the LA County part of the San Fernando Valley. Of course, there is a whole process yet to come so nothing is official yet. In any redistricting process, even a fair one, someone is going to win and someone is going to lose. It can’t be helped. You can’t make changes and keep the status quo at the same time. The proposed plan would put a dozen or so congressional districts into play, according to some, giving the Republicans a better chance to flip some seats. I have no problem with that, but whereas California is trying to be fair, many other states are gerrymandering the heck out of the maps so they end up with a minority of the voters electing the majority of the congressional representatives. The supreme court has indicated redistricting is a state matter and they aren’t going to touch it, no matter how lopsided the plan. It certainly isn’t fair, but then, whoever said life was fair? It also plays into the Washington D.C. congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. The reason someone like Steve Bannon can thumb his nose at a congressional subpoena is that he’s betting he can drag out the process until the 2022 congressional election that he expects, as do most of us, will turn the House Republican. If the Republicans regain the majority in the House, they’ll just shut the investigation down—so for both parties this is a race against the clock.


Despite some slight recent rain here in Southern California, we haven’t made much of a dent in the drought. Our water district, West Basin, just declared this a “severe drought,” which is a legal definition that means we can probably expect that some mandatory water conservation rules are headed our way. Water has always been a matter of life and death here in California. Los Angeles expanded on water from the Owens River Valley and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is still one of the big landowners in that area. It wasn’t the land that they wanted; it was the water rights. In the process, a bunch of financial heavy hitters in Southern California like the Chandlers, who owned the LA Times, helped push through the bond issues to finance the aqueducts that managed to bring LA the water. On the way, they managed to see that it passed through the San Fernando Valley, which turned a dry, arid desert into valuable farmland and later towns, which they also had the foresight to buy cheap before the aqueducts were built. Large fortunes were made. For more detail, read a couple of books or go see the movie “Chinatown.”


A couple of judges have already kicked out a couple of lawsuits brought by some local governments that are trying to get back some of the money they had to spend on the opioid crisis. The lawsuits were based upon some sort of nuisance claim, which sounds a little strange. What I don’t understand is why politicians and federal prosecutors are pussyfooting around what is the reality of what happened. Drug companies, pharmacies and middlemen were engaged in sending hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of pills into little towns that in places like Kentucky and Tennessee and West Virginia that had to be making their way into the illegal drug markets. They knew, and they simply didn’t care because they were making so much money they just spread it around like manure. Typically, when the feds go after a drug cartel they file RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) and conspiracy charges and just about anything they can think of.

Why these drug dealers are treated differently, I don’t know.