Confused by news of a new fire abatement law? Here’s some simple points:

1) Representation. A local committee drafting a local law should have more local representation. The Hill is a close-knit community with a variety of private groups representing all of us. Of all these, Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council is the only one sitting at the table writing our law. No one is there representing property owners, real estate or business.

2) Possible conflict of interest. MCSFC has been a strong force promoting this new law. And it sits on the committee drafting it. It is a private group that allegedly will reap a financial bonanza. The new law, as being discussed, means a lot more forced, required fire abatements. MCFSC receives money in many abatements it participates in.

Do not underestimate this. MCFSC is probably one of the wealthiest private groups on the Hill. It is not required to disclose, but it is alleged to receive a large percentage from abatements. What’s wrong is to sit on a committee writing a new law that brings more money. This seems to me like a financial conflict.

3) Why not vote on it? A new law that will affect each and every one of us should be voted on. Already, real estate values are being questioned by what the new law will mean to the landscape.

4) An open process? We’ve been hearing about this revised law and committee since June. Since June, MCFSC, other committee members and county officials have been giving it the hard sell. Finally, after pressure from the community, we were permitted to attend their meeting. We took off work, changed our schedules, only to find a note on the door, “Meeting canceled.” Two months in a row. This is not a sign of what’s called an open process.

Fire prevention/fire abatement is essential. But so is community support and understanding. I’ve tried in this short letter to clarify the main issues. Other things, such as the murky way the county has described funding this, what this means to property values, bold misrepresentations by officials, etc., can also be discussed, but let’s stick to the facts.

Norm Cassen
Pine Cove