Upholding the US Constitution was topic of well-attended forum

Concerns about private property rights, dam removal, the state’s public safety realignment and government overregulation took center stage Saturday afternoon at a Support Rural America event, held at the Yreka fairgrounds.

A panel of five north state sheriffs, led by Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey, addressed a group of nearly 300 at the event, which was sponsored by Scott Valley Protect Our Water, the Yreka Tea Party, the Redding Tea Party Patriots and the Siskiyou Co. Water Users Association.

Lopey talked about the need to uphold the constitution and the many problems he sees facing Siskiyou County residents today.

“Our way of life, our traditions, and our economy is at risk,” Lopey said. “Our county could be destroyed if we don’t  take the time to stand up and fight for it.”

Lopey said he and the other participants are not trying to be political, but they’re simply defending the citizens they serve. “It seems like some leaders have forgotten that we work for you. This servitude concept is what the constitution is based on,” Lopey told the rapt crowd.

Support Rural America is a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting rural sheriffs who are standing up for the US constitution, explained POW president Liz Bowen, one of the event’s organizers.

Saturday’s function was the first in a series of similar events scheduled to be held in north state counties through  2012, Bowen said.

The idea to host a panel of “constitutional sheriffs” came from the Defend Rural America event held in Yreka in October, Bowen said.

Defend Rural America is  a group spearheaded by Kirk MacKenzie, a Bay Area resident who believes Siskiyou County is “ground zero” in the attack he believes has been launched by the government on farmers and ranchers. Issues including property rights, land use, dam removal , Agenda 21 and wolf reintroduction are high on MacKenzie’s list of examples of what he sees as a concentrated attack on rural America.

“Defend Rural America was  our springboard,” Bowen said. Though MacKenzie’s organization is “going in a different direction,” the groups are amicable, said Bowen.

During the Oct. 22 event, “We saw that the sheriff’s were a real hit,” said Bowen, who organized Saturday’s event with Erin Ryan, Louise Gliatto and Jerry and Donna Bacigalupi. “People seemed hungry to hear from their elected sheriffs, so we are concentrating on showing support for our sheriffs... We want these to be peaceful, positive events to help the citizens know that their elected officials care.”

The issues
Lopey said he’s concerned that some federal agencies are not acting in the best interest of local citizens and aren’t  coordinating with local officials.

He discussed a specific incident when a Siskiyou County resident received a visit from a representative with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who was investigating alleged water use violations at his ranch without first notifying the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office.

Lopey said he feels this was an inappropriate situation, and the crowd applauded and cheered in agreement.

“The state and federal government is growing bigger and stronger at a time when we have less resources,”?Lopey said.

Lopey also talked about his opposition to dam removal, which he contends will adversely affect public safety.

“Removing perfectly functioning dams doesn’t make sense,” he said. “They say they’re doing it ‘for the fish’ but what about the other habitats that will be destroyed?”

If the dams are removed, Lopey fears property values  will plummet, meaning less income for the county’s General Fund, leading to fewer positions at the Sheriff’s Office. He also fears that without the flood control and water storage the dams currently provide, the county would be put in even more danger.

Other federal government policies and regulations, such as the Transportation Management Plan would limit law enforcement’s ability to arrive at an emergency situation such as a fire, or inhibit search and rescue efforts, he said.

Much to the audience’s amusement, Lopey said he could “talk for hours” about the challenges Siskiyou County faces before handing the mic over to his fellow sheriffs.

Bowen said during the question and answer period, the sheriffs answered several questions about the state’s public safety realignment, as well as the other topics discussed.

For more information
Bowen said the group is networking with other groups who have similar concerns, including The Liberators and Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, who were on hand at Saturday’s event, Also present Saturday were a few local candidates, including US Congressional candidate Pete Stiglich and County Supervisor candidates Dan Dorsey and Brandon Criss.

The next Support Rural America sheriffs forum will be held Saturday, April 21 at the Alturas Casino in Alturas, hosted by Modoc County Sheriff Mike Poindexter.

To learn more about Support Rural America, go to their website www.supportruralamerica.com