Any candidate can market glossy lists of vague ideas. Issue spotting in Mendocino County is not difficult. Collaborating with each other to find creative solutions to hard problems is the task of supervisors. Voters should demand in depth knowledge from all candidates. Grill us, all of us. If the problems were trivial to solve, the current board would have already done it. For example, it’s not about being pro-affordable housing. It’s about finding creative ideas and reaching consensus, all within budget constraints.
I believe it’s time for the next generation to step forward with local government. I’m ready to lead. I was born here. I bring a perspective of a working class family. I’ve been engaged in the community, as a parent of two children, as a volunteer firefighter for more than a decade (Chief of Albion-Little River since 2011), as a proponent of two measures (V, M), as an advocate for broadband and as an avid outdoor explorer.
What follows are some of the “issues” I see connected to quality of life in Mendocino County. I invite you to ask me about other topics.
Our hard working residents need livable wage jobs. Without a strong economy, Mendocino is just a vacation destination.
We have an opportunity to steer economic development.
Cannabis will not be the whole of our economic story.
Sustainable timber will continue to provide employment opportunities, but new growth should be non-resource extraction based.
Oregon has done a better job of creating public trail infrastructure. Public trails, capable of hosting events, have the potential to infuse our local economy with foreign dollars as guests lodge, eat out and buy gifts. Bringing the public closer to nature also encourages protection of open space and awareness of the environment. It’s one potential puzzle piece to our future economic story.
High Speed Internet is largely unavailable in many of our rural communities. It has a direct impact on small business success. We can solve it.
Fire & Emergency Services
I’m pro-first responder.
Throughout the county, we have men and women, young and old, donating hundreds of hours every year to train and respond to emergency situations. Their tools and resources should not depend on bake sales, because these are the tools which might save our lives. I see a future with county support of base level emergency response throughout the land, irrespective of local district taxing ability. (Today, some areas are not covered by any fire district.) No matter the capabilities of our local fire department, we all pass through stretches of highway covered by underfunded departments. It’s time we support first responders.
An initial step toward supporting rural fire might be to higher a trainer or two who could rotate through all of the department. One of the burdens of volunteer departments is obtaining training and certifications. Bringing instructors to the volunteers is low hanging fruit — it doesn’t cost much and has the potential to increase local response capabilities.
High Speed Internet, Countywide
We can address the lack of high speed Internet throughout our rural communities through better planning policies and public-private partnerships. A necessity for small business success, broadband has become a critical ingredient for educational opportunities, telemedicine, social mobility and more. We can address broadband quickly and measure success by the number of homes connected. On broadband expansion, we don’t need to study the problem any further — we know where we lack coverage.
Nursing program (on the coast)
Find a way to bring it back.
Is Mendocino a candidate for a CSU or UC? Some argue the lack of commercial airport prevents it. I disagree — look at Humboldt State.
To the greatest extent possible, I believe in protecting the personal freedom of all residents.
Health Care Services (and Coast Hospital)
Coast Hospital is managed by the directors of its respective district, but imagine living on the coast without a functioning hospital — for example, one that can only deliver a baby in the emergency room. For too many years, Coast Hospital has been in financial turmoil with reductions in service. I expect the county to track both the hospital and health care availability.
As specialist services become less available, seniors are forced to travel great distances. I see the county taking an active role in encouraging greater local access of services through policy and active participation. A task force should be convened to identify possible providers. Mendocino County isn’t known for having the highest salaries, but a select few will find the scenery, community and quality of life as justification for practicing medicine here. We need to find these individuals early in their careers.
The county does not have the budget or responsibility for hiring medical providers, but providing local facilities throughout the county might allow for public-private partnerships of rotating specialists. All options should be explored.
Mendocino Coast Hospital District parcel tax
While there is discord about how to address the hospital, I’m pleased to see community consensus on the concept of high quality, local care. Hospital closures and reductions in service may affect older adults disproportionately, because these adults face greater challenges obtaining transportation and traveling farther distances for health care, but there is also a strong impact on young families. Without a hospital, the Mendocino coast would not be an attractive place to retire or raise a family. The hospital represents much more than medical care — it’s about sustainability of our rural community. Without it, we’ll face a greater downward spiral.
I’ve had personal experience with our hospital. I was born at MCDH. My grandmother and father died there. I was present for births of cousins. My wife had gallbladder surgery in out-patient. Like many, our experiences are mixed. When Mary needed an MRI prior to back surgery, MCDH quoted $3200. St Helena extension at Lakeport offered the same service for $445 with a far superior administrative process. I’ve also been on the fire response side, packaging and rushing patients to the hospital at times fog has prevented helicopter transport, further instilling a sense of local emergency department necessity. I’ve had friends and former schoolmates work at the hospital. Some have praised it while others have recommended going elsewhere when possible. It’s difficult to derive an overall grasp of the hospital situation from anecdotal stories. I believe the burden is on the MCDH board and executives to convince us that the proposed parcel tax assessment will translate into a top tier rural hospital. I expect the board to research what funding it’ll take to pull off the endeavor and not simply evaluate what amount the public will support on election day. Explain the plan to me like I’m five.
Money is fungible. No matter what restrictions are placed on the new tax revenue, the concern about appropriate spending will remain. The underlying concern is about trust and can’t be answered legislatively. I don’t doubt the intentions of the board to address a difficult reality most rural hospitals face today, but the path to trust is transparency.
Transparency is a greater concern to me than high salaries. Diagnostic equipment is expensive. Nobody will suggest the hospital save a buck by cutting corners on equipment. I can accept the idea that in a free market hospital administrators are also expensive. However, with that expense comes a need to measure success. How do we know whether the current executives are justifying their pay? I want to see a shovel ready plan with clear milestones, not just a request for more money.
I recommend watching the MCDH meetings at mendocinotv.com
General Plan update
We’ve neared a point of zero growth. It’s a concern as young families attempt to find housing, but it’s of consequence to all. How will your business survive if your employees cannot afford basic housing? It’s time to update the general plan and decide how we will grow. The supervisors have a role of facilitating public discussion, but ultimately we all own the task.
Update the general plan.
Make use of whatever state units we can find to augment affordable housing in our cities (where infrastructure is more financially feasible).
See it through the lens of inadequate livable wage jobs.
I believe in protecting the Class K relaxed building construction standard to the greatest extend allowed under state law. Owner-builder is part of our culture.
How long of a delay do you want when calling 911? Along with other emergency services, law enforcement needs to be adequately funded.
Our strongest voice in climate change is local policy. We should encourage green energy growth to the greatest extent possible.
No offshore oil, ever. Through policy and coalition with other coastal counties, we must do what we can to limit offshore oil and related onshore infrastructure. Our local economy depends on it. Oil will trash both our environment and coastal economy.
Protesting is probably not a viable answer to the Trump administration. Delaying the process, finding an alternative bidder or alternative use of the same space might be approaches to protecting our coast.
Vacation Rentals (AirBNB phenomenon)
A great number of residents moved here to enjoy a sense of community. Many of us find security in knowing our neighbors, an atmosphere easily lost when vacation rentals dominate the landscape. AirBNB and related technologies have further fueled the growth of vacation rentals.
On the other hand, we have families taking advantage of the new model to augment income through short term rentals of otherwise underutilized structures. These are families who participate in community, struggling to make ends meet. We want to fight for their sustainability.
I’m confident we can architect policy free of black and white thinking, taking into account all perspectives to reach reasonable policy. We want towns to sustain a culture of local residency, without unnecessarily impacting the income of residents.
Mendocino County has 650 miles of paved, county-maintained roads and 300 miles of unpaved roads. The 2017 legislative platform claims, “maintenance backlog is $625 million and funding shortfall is $9 million per year.”
We have a similar road network as Sonoma county, yet our revenue is much less. This isn’t an easy problem.
We should evaluate the nature of wear (high weight vehicles, for example).
California's legalization of recreational cannabis places great competition on local producers. Our permitting process must be streamlined and simplified to bring all interested participants into compliance, without creating onerous obstacles.
I believe our economic focus should be in other areas.
Our national immigration policy is broken. Not a single cent should be spent assisting in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportations.
Transparency & Public Involvement
We need greater public involvement in county decision making.
One way to encourage this process is through greater transparency.
When was the last time your input was solicited on county budget priorities?
As someone who has picked up roadside trash, including water heaters and couches, I believe in addresses dumping in two ways:
1) stiffer penalties for littering
2) reduced disposal fees (we’re paying for it anyway and it costs more to haul out of the bushes)
Although I’m against the trend of regressive taxation, I’m pleased Measure B passed on November 7, 2017. Championed by Sheriff Tom Allman, B provides the beginning of an answer where all other efforts have fallen short.
We must ensure follow through on facility placement both inland and coastal.
At the cliff’s edge of America's westward expansion, we fail to maintain a standing committee to track tribal concerns. Some of these concerns are the same as above issues, but others are unique. This needs to be rectified. It’s not about budget. It’s about showing respect.