I have a few topics to discuss today. The first is a follow-up to last week’s note about the “This is This” journey into the topic of poverty and homelessness locally.

The conversation began a week ago (see story on page 4) and continues next Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Oma’s. If everybody returns, it might be a crowded room. But I hope the interest expands.

Even if Congress cannot avert a fiscal cliff or create a genuine consensual solution, Idyllwild can contribute to the improvement of some people’s and families’ lives.

This is not a Don Quixote adventure. Idyllwild is not declaring another “War on Poverty,” but people do have an opportunity to aid residents and possibly neighbors.

Karen Patterson, executive director of the HELP Center, believes nearly 20 percent of local families live on incomes below the poverty line. More than half the students at Idyllwild School are eligible for lunch assistance. Your action will yield tangible results here.

And I can tell that you are responding to this problem in various ways. Thank you very much.

Last week, when I visited BBVA bank, the Angel Tree looked bare. Scared that something had gone wrong, I asked Patterson about it.

She happily replied that all of the cards had been taken. She and Colleen Meyer are beginning to hang the thank-you notes this week.

That’s really good. And I hope it’s a start on what we can do for people and families on the Hill.

The second topic is about my fear that the Idyllwild Fire Protection District commission is having a relapse.

At last week’s meeting, they abolished the Committee on Labor Relations and Pensions, which was only established in October. Next they created an Ad Hoc Committee on CalPERS changes.

When asked why they needed to repeat the action, Commissioner Jerry Buchanan said several times, “The October decision was an error.”

Apparently, the commission felt it was an error to establish a standing committee. The Brown Act requires meetings of standing committees to be posted with an agenda and (importantly) open to the public.

Ad hoc committees can be private without any public awareness or involvement.

The commission never did explain why secrecy was preferable. But it sure looks similar to past IFPD behavior that resulted in their current financial straits.

The department’s financial situation began eroding years before these commissioners took office. Nevertheless, their perception of the value of open government and history is just as distorted as past commissions.

Eighteen months after enactment of the state Fire Prevention Fee, IFPD now opposes it, ostensibly because residents have the mistaken belief it’s IFPD’s fee.

The governor recommended it and the state legislature approved it. But the IFPD Commission believes its ability to gain approval for any future local fees will be rejected because of reactions to this fee.

As Chief Reitz said, any proposed fee increase would suffer defeat similar to 2011’s Measure G. But the Chief wasn’t here then.

Measure G was soundly trounced, but not because it was a tax increase. Just look at the local results from last month’s election on page 19.

Idyllwild voters were the only Hill precinct to support Proposition 30 (a tax increase) and gave the strongest support to HUSD’s Measure U.

But in 2011, one sitting Commissioner Chip Schelley and two candidates, now Commissioners, Jerry Buchanan and Larry Donahoo, opposed Measure G. They all felt it was being promoted for the wrong reasons.

Rather than blaming red herrings or taking information off-line that they had previously voted to make public, if the Commission would trust the voters to know what’s going on and why, I firmly believe Idyllwild voters would support the Fire District.

Finally, I want to remind you that the Town Crier publishes a special “Top 10 Stories” review at the end of each year.

If you would like to have some influence on choosing which were the Top 10 local stories in 2012, check out the poll in the right sidebar.