Paul Gallegos had nine months between when he was elected District Attorney and when he actually took office. Plenty of time for his handlers to whisper in his ear - convincing him that he could only trust them, reinforcing the notion that no one there would like him, that he would have to fire a few to send a message, show them who was boss - and plenty of time to set him up to fulfill their agenda.
No one saw it coming, but Gallegos began to telegraph his intentions well before he took office. This was the precursor to his bringing Ken Miller in to draft the PL lawsuit. But they pretend that this never happened.
This article tells part of the story:
District Attorney-elect reaches out to enviros
By Daniel Mintz
Nov. 13, 2002
Taking an unusual, proactive step toward inclusion, District Attorney-Elect Paul Gallegos has pleasantly surprised environmentalists by sending them letters that ask for their input and portray "maintenance of a quality environment" as a priority enforcement matter.
Gallegos takes office in January, and following a campaign last spring that focused on a more progressive approach to county law enforcement policies, he's been heralded by activists as the usher of a new direction.
Increasing the medical marijuana plant limits and downplaying the intensity of marijuana enforcement overall was part of Gallegos' campaign platform, and he's since reaffirmed his desire for those changes. But an Oct. 30 letter sent to a variety of Humboldt-based activists and environmental groups makes a pledge to environmental oversight that's assertive and probably unprecedented.
The letter begins by quoting a section of the California Constitution that defines the role of local officials as giving "priority to the provision of adequate public safety resources." Gallegos then quotes the state Environmental Quality Act, which calls environmental preservation "a matter of statewide concern" for health and safety of residents and further states that regulation of corporations and other entities be done "so that major consideration is given to preventing environmental damage. "I interpret this as a finding by the California Legislature that the maintenance of a quality environment for the people of this state now and in the future is a matter of public safety," Gallegos wrote. Reflecting the content of the legislation, Gallegos added that "the district attorney... has the obligation to work toward the maintenance of a quality environment... take steps to make actions necessary to prevent critical environmental capacity thresholds from being reached, take steps to contribute to preservation and enhancement of the environment and enforce regulations intended to prevent environmental damage while providing a decent home and satisfying living environment."
Gallegos wants environmental groups to participate in the enforcement process by "advising me of matters relevant to these concerns and educating me about the consequences of inaction." He informed the various groups that he's available for "individual and/or group discussions at any time."
Local environmentalists and the groups they belong to will take Gallegos up on the offer, and view it as a stream of fresh air.
"It's absolutely excellent," said Tim McKay, executive director of the Northcoast Environmental Center, of the letter, "I've never gotten one like it, and one of the key issues that's concerned environmentalists is that we have laws on the books that are primarily unenforced."
McKay said he and his co-workers at NEC shared a "very positive" reaction to the letter. "We just said, 'Wow, this is long overdue,' " McKay related, "And I'm sure this will put Humboldt County in headlines nationally, because it's coming at a time when the environment has been degraded by the powers that be - the Bush administration."
McKay delivered mixed reviews of the County D.A. Office's performance on environmental enforcement. He pointed out that the county has a "very capable" environmental prosecutor, Paul Hagen, whose services are paid for through the California District Attorney's Association.
"I hope Gallegos retains him," McKay continued. "And the letter seems to indicate (Hagen) would be unrestrained in seeking prosecutions for violations of state law."
But some environmental damage has slipped under the enforcement radar here, McKay continued. He cited a developer's effort last year to engineer a cranberry bog at the lower reaches of Little River, a waterway at the northern end of Clam Beach.
"I hope that kind of egregious violation will not go unenforced again," said McKay, adding that "a number" of environmental law violations have escaped timely enforcement "primarily because of (outgoing D.A.) Terry farmer failing to give the green light."
Jan Lundberg heads the Sustainable Energy Institute and said Gallegos' correspondence is "very welcome" and nods to a new direction for environmental awareness.
"(Gallegos) is representing everyone with that letter because we are all citizens of this environment," Lundberg continued, "And we will be expanding the scope of environmental consciousness with his help and evolving the consciousness of the community."
Other groups that got Gallegos' letter include Northcoast earth First!, the Environmental Protection Information center (EPIC), Californians for Alternatives to Toxics and the Humboldt Watershed Council.
In Black and White
In an interview, Gallegos said he sent the letter to make it clear that crimes against the environment will be assertively enforced under his helmsmanship of the D.A.' s Office.
"I want to let people know that as D.A. for the next four years, I see environmental violations as a public safety issue," Gallegos continued. "Public safety is a dear concept to me and I need their assistance and will respond to what they tell me. I put that in black and white, so four years from now, if they say I'm not doing it, they have it in black and white."
He expects to make "significant policy decisions" on environmental enforcement and felt that local activists need to know that their participation in important, as they haven't been included to the degree Gallegos is seeking.
"They've been working hard and they don't know that the D.A.'s Office needs their help." he said. "The letter's overdue - I'm committed to learning, to reaching out to these groups that are actively involved, so I can do what's right."
Gallegos was asked what kind of policy changes he'd like to see on environmental prosecution. "At a minimum, the change I's like to bring is to have those who received my letter to realize they are part of the equation, and that I understand the role they play is important tot he community...we promise to be busy, and people should know that we're serious."
Gallegos has been engaged in many meetings, including those with law enforcement agencies. He's also met several times with Robert Manne, the president of Pacific Lumber Company, which has been portrayed by activists as a trouncer of environmental regulations.
But the meetings with Manne were geared to easing the safety problems stemming from forest protests, not the environmental effects of logging. And Gallegos said lots of people view him as a radical presence and are worried about what he might do.
"One of (PL's) - and everyone's - big concerns is that Paul's going to come in and be a super-liberal and not represent them," he said. "But my job is to do what's right, I'm not taking one side over the other. But I sent the letter to the environmental groups because they are the ones who wouldn't know that the D.A. might like to hear from the."
Forest protestors can expect a continuation on enforcement of trespassing laws, but Gallegos said his priority is "keeping people from getting killed or beaten up in the forest - when kids go up in the forest to protest logging, they are putting themselves in harm's way, but that doesn't mean we turn away if they're injured and say, 'Well, they asked for it.' "