Declaration of Candidacy
I want to serve as the Supervisor for the 5th District of Mendocino County, because I believe my experience, accomplishments and imagination can help find solutions to the many problems that currently confront our county. I’m driven to make Mendocino County a place my grandchildren would choose to call home.
We face a shortage of affordable housing, inadequate access to broadband and severe strains on our county’s long-term economic and financial viability. We need to strengthen our coastal protections, especially against oil extraction. We need to bolster equipment and training for our public safety personnel and first responders. Mendocino County must do whatever it can to ensure health care availability and a functioning hospital on the coast.
Born at Mendocino Coast District Hospital, a relatively new facility at the time, my first days were spent at my grandparent’s house on Main Street, Mendocino. Before long, my family moved home to Comptche.
My earliest memories are of chasing ducks, forest walks, and quiet nights lit by kerosene lamps far removed from the electrified world. I bathed in water heated by the sun and picked strawberries from planters constructed by Steve Antler, an attorney who later in life would welcome me at a democratic event in Boonville. My father built with lumber harvested from the land, ultimately coming into compliance with Class K through the Clean Slate program.
Many of my views on our county trajectory stem from personal experience. My grandmother and father died on this coast. My son was born here. My elderly in-laws attempt to maintain their independence on a forested ridge. My daughter at fifteen has completed her first 36 credits at the local community college. My livelihood was made possible by the availability of broadband, a service considered to be a basic human right, yet still out of grasp for too many of our residents.
Mendocino County is not merely the stage of my life story. It is a home which has catalyzed the themes of my existence. Having swum in phytoplankton bioluminescence at Big River and raised pigs inland, I am equally attached to our coastline as I am the rolling hills.
My wife Mary and I met in class at Mendocino High School. We went on to live in the San Francisco bay area, drawn by career opportunities and the search for experience. We will celebrate our 20 year anniversary this year. Before our daughter turned two and after countless weekends of driving north, we decided to return “home” full-time to Mendocino County. We were set on offering our children the experience of community we had not found outside of Mendocino County.
Today, with our daughter 15 and our son 11, we’re able to step back and see how the balance between preservation and development on the Mendocino coast has influenced their world view. We’re thankful for the Coastal Act and planning efforts of the generations before us.
As a kid growing up in Comptche, sitting at a primitive computer powered by solar panels, I never envisioned being compensated for writing code. After more than two decades of professional experience, I still wake in amazement, eager to solve problems. My career has largely focused on embedded systems and challenges inherent in smart devices.
I’ve gravitated towards projects designed to maximize energy efficiency. Climate change is our problem. In order to have a voice, Mendocino County must be part of the solution, today. Telecommuting has allowed me to spend dollars earned out of area within our local economy, but it has not been without hurdles, namely the digital divide. Broadband has become a useful tool beyond entertainment. It is vital for enabling telemedicine and online courses. The difference in value between a house with broadband and one without is substantial and this tells a story about modern needs. It is also one of the basic requirements for many who attempt to work from home.
When we moved home to the coast, we struggled with access. I worked with Shirley Frericks, Jim Moorehead and others on the Mendocino Coast Broadband Alliance project. Ultimately, I installed fiber to my home. Mary glued much of the conduit. The pipe was large enough to supply all of Albion Ridge, but quickly I discovered planning policy roadblocks in the path to sharing Internet access.
As a county, we can do more to encourage broadband penetration to improve economic opportunities and the quality of life for rural residents. The Adelphia/Comcast franchise agreement signed by supervisors lacked an anti-cherry picking clause. We were naive and as a result, only the most profitable houses have been connected. We cannot wait any longer — the county must do more than recognize the spotty high speed Internet.
Joining the Albion-Little River Volunteer Fire Department was one of my best life decisions. Fire departments in rural Mendocino County respond to all risks: structure fires, wildland fires, water rescues, cliff rescues, home medical aids, lost persons, traffic collision, trees blocking roadway — sometimes even the “smell of sewage”.
In Albion’s case, we respond to over two-hundred incidents per year, entirely with volunteer labor (some of the most dedicated people I’ve ever met). This model offers a unique opportunity for neighbors to help neighbors in ways not imaginable in urban environments.
In 2011, I took the role of Chief. In the following year, driven by a sense of responsibility, I responded to all 207 incidents. With a confident board, we restructured the fire department, coming into compliance with state law. This restructuring triggered a renaissance. We saw a huge boost in roster, increased involvement by directors and an outpouring of community support and awareness of the needs of their fire department. When we drive through the county, it is easy to overlook the fire district boundaries, but levels of response and equipment across these lines vary greatly.
By awarding responsibility to each individual community, we’ve built a checkerboard of capabilities. I believe our residents deserve a greater level of consistency and county support for emergency services. The availability of a modern Jaws of Life should not depend on local bake sales.
In 2014, while enjoying renewed enthusiasm and community support for volunteer fire, it became strikingly apparent that years of status quo had hidden critical infrastructure needs.
The department’s two structure engines were from the early 1970s and where showing age with parts rusting out. At one point our mechanic cautioned against repairs, arguing the work estimate was far greater than the value of the vehicle. Technology was far behind Mendocino Fire, the district to the north. We saw the disparity in capabilities across arbitrary district lines, lines many residents rarely contemplate.
With a group of concerned citizens and the support of my board, we placed Measure M on the ballot, an ordinance which would nearly double the per unit special assessment and add forestland and rangeland for the first time. The measure passed with 82.5% in favor. In late 2017, we are just starting to see the fruits of this measure. Tax funds have been received, the fleet upgrade promised by proponents has begun to arrive, each built specific to the needs of our community. We’ve included a state of the art compressed air foam system, a tool which will stretch limited water availability 500% in effectiveness.
This effort was not my own. It took firefighters, dedicated directors (including Michael Issel, who barely slept to complete specs and financial plans), a committee of active citizens and overwhelming public support, but we did it. Together, we’ll do more for public safety at a county wide level.
In 2015, a group of concerned citizens asked me to join a Timber Harvest Plan field presentation hosted by applicant Mendocino Redwood Company. Initially I was reluctant to participate, but seeing that the fire district was the only form of local government, I quietly enjoyed the tour and listened carefully.
When hack and squirt was discussed, I requested assurance that the intentionally killed and left standing trees would be cleaned up. Falling snags are deadly to firefighters working below. As a fire chief, no part of sending volunteer firefighters to suppress fires below dead trees sounded like a good plan. Placed against a residential subdivision, I had a further concern of changes to fire behavior. While on this walk, a company representative informed me that the law did not require the type of cleanup I had envisioned as common sense. There was a suggestion, “If you don’t like the law, change it.”
The following day, I authored a letter to the Board of Supervisors. It is available here. Initially, we attempted to create an ordinance at the local fire district level, but as word spread, I recognized the concern as county wide. Our county supervisors agendized the issue. I carpooled to Ukiah with Ed O’Brien, chief of Mendocino Fire, to find the chamber at maximum occupancy, with concerned citizens spilling into the overflow room. As a fire chief, I was offered three minutes to speak, yet commercial timber companies spoke without limit. A group of us, including retired CAL FIRE Air Attack Captain Kirk Van Patten, assembled a committee and authored the text of Measure V, a county wide ordinance requiring timely cleanup of intentionally killed and left standing trees.
Despite the opposition spending approximately twenty-five times as much on campaign efforts, the ballot measure passed and V became law immediately. However, more than a year after passing, our county supervisors have not yet taken steps to enforce. Irrespective of personal alignment with V, there is a core issue of representation. Supervisors must listen and be accountable to the will of the people.