Fourth District Candidates Respond to Voters
by Jary Stavely
Approximately 75 members of the public attended the 4th District Supervisor candidates’ forum held by the League at Town Hall on Jan. 16. Candidates Lindy Peters and Dan Gjerde gave opening and closing remarks, and in between, responded to written questions from the audience. League member Sharon DiMauro presented thequestions with organizational assistance from Carol Czadek. Meg Courtney, Jane Person and Ron Hock (member Linda Rosengarten’s husband) made the question cards available, and ferried them to the moderator’s table. Sharon Gilligan kept track of time.
The questions covered a wide range of topics, and many of the candidates’ responses reflected the facts that Gjerde is the incumbent, having served during the past two terms as 4th District Supervisor, and Peters is the challenger, having served 18 years on the Fort Bragg City Council, including a recent stint as Mayor. His experience includes membership on several broad Joint Power Agreement boards, from which he knows many county officials well. He also touted his practice of having open interactions with the public during his weekly Mondays with the Mayor meetings. Gjerde, who also served on the Fort Bragg City Council before his two previous unopposed elections as Supe, emphasized his 8 years experience, and working relationship, with other Supervisors and county officials.
When asked to identify the most significant problems facing the county, Gjerde focused on the lack of affordable housing, and cited his work with the local Housing Action Team in studying the problem, and his work at the county level to facilitate 2nd unit approvals in the way that the city of Fort Bragg has already done. He stated that he is working on having the land trust acquire property for developing housing for the homeless. Peters identified the need to improve the county’s economy—especially as a way of improving the housing problem, as his first priority. He also wants to cut down on the county’s reliance on outside contractors, get more done on implementing Measure B, improve cannabis regulation, and do more to promote a de-salinization plant for the district.
A considerable part of the forum centered around the candidates’ views about county government. When asked about the county CEO model of organization, and whether he would fire Carmel Angelo, Peters said that he agrees with the Grand Jury that the current model gives too much power to one individual. Although he would directly discuss the problems raised with Ms. Angelo, he refused to promise to remove her as a campaign pledge. Gjerde said the organizational model was like having a city manager, with the complication that the county has other elected officials besides the supes, so that direct responsibility for what happens is more difficult to identify. He said that he appreciates the work the CEO did when she rectified the county’s finances after the 2008 recession, and that he wouldn’t worry about removing her, because she intends to retire shortly, anyway.
When asked what he would do about the problem of high-priced consultants, Gjerde suggested he would encourage department heads to develop better teams to attack problems, which ought to be easier to do, now that county employees are on three year contracts (which he helped negotiate). Peters advocated a strict review of county budgets with the application of an efficiency standard to keep from spending money outside the county. He approves of having monthly department reports, which, he said, has worked well for city staff. Gjerde prefers a system of quarterly reports which he developed with 3rd District Supervisor Haschak, and which county staff is in favor of. As for the upcoming General Plan Update (which took 20 years last time), the incumbent thinks the planning department is now functioning well, and he expects the process will go smoothly now that employee contracts are secure. The challenger advocates a thorough review to make sure that all planning services are working properly.
Several comments centered around the candidates’ opinions of how they would work as a member of the Board. Peters suggested that he would be a more assertive and effective Supervisor. With the retirement of two current members, and the recent election of two more, he foresees a period of new energy on the panel that he is eager to take advantage of. Although he agrees with 5th District Supervisor Ted Williams on several issues, he would not align himself with any other particular member. Gjerde, on the other hand, pointed out that he would be the most experienced member of the new board, and would be in a position to be even more effective in serving the district. He said he knows how to get along with other supes, and is appreciated for it.
More differences between the candidates
Enforcing Measure V: Gjerde supports waiting until the outcome of the inevitable lawsuit from Mendocino Redwoods can be foreseen, thereby avoiding tremendous financial cost to the county. Peters thinks the will of the voters must be respected, even if he doesn’t personally agree with them.
Non-lethal Methods of Controlling Predation: Gjerde voted to reauthorize the federal program for lethal assistance because many ranchers depend on it, but is working to develop a program to offer non-lethal assistance as well, based on Sonoma County’s existing program. Peters stated that, although ranchers may push for lethal predator control, we need to protect wildlife as well as livestock.
Implementing Measure B: Peters feels that after three years of collecting funds that it’s time to make things happen. Gjerde is hopeful that Adventist Health will be able to facilitate the development of new facilities mandated by the referendum.
Cannabis Regulation: Peters maintains that the process of getting all the necessary approvals is too cumbersome; he would bring in an expert to simplify it and turn around the 35% decline in approved licenses. Gjerde suggested that 92% of the process comes from the state, which the county has no control over; he thinks the county does have a duty to protect neighborhoods from deleterious effects.
Combatting Climate Change: Gjerde cited his work in bringing Sonoma Clean Power into the county, his work on setting up electric vehicle charging stations, and his appointment of a member to the county Climate Change Action Committee. Peters stressed the need for a reduction in our carbon footprint, proposed sending a van to carry coastal citizens over the hill for jury selection, wants work on developing microgrids, and to monitor salinity encroachment in the Noyo watershed.
Vacation Rentals: Peters would not allow them because they disrupt neighborhoods, reduce long-term housing availability, and cost the county in uncollected occupancy tax. Gjerde thinks there is a new opportunity for vacation rental regulation with Supervisor Williams, and that new technology will take care of the tax collection problem.
Noyo Harbor District: Peters would improve the county road along what he called the most important economic asset in the District. Gjerde said the road is still in better shape than was before CalTrans was required to remedy the effects of its bridge work; he wants to work with business owners to get the rezoning needed for their desired improvements.
Caspar Transfer Station: Gjerde said that the original Highway 20 site proposal would have cut costs and emissions by shortening the route into and out of the public site, and that county officials are still studying how to make it happen. Peters said that the MCRPD transfer deal is dead, and that the Caspar site should be kept in operation, especially because progress towards zero waste is being made.
Similarities Between the Candidates
Cutting Costs: Peters was able to balance the city budget and increase its reserves under his watch; one successful method was not to fill positions which became vacant, to instead find other ways to get the work done. Gjerde took credit for helping the county reserve recover from the great recession, and managed to effect a 14% reduction in the Fort Bragg city budget without relying on seniority considerations.
Emergency Preparedness: Gjerde organized two sessions with Mitchell Creek residents attempting to develop a new access road. Peters worked on Fort Bragg emergency plans and wants to develop a north access route for Noyo Harbor.
Support for Fire Departments: Peters has worked to keep the city’s fire department fully staffed and up-to-date, and stressed the need for preparation for how climate change is affecting all fire suppression work. Gjerde worked to get the occupancy tax on the March ballot which will provide funds rural departments have been unfairly deprived of.
Both candidates support pursuing tiny homes projects, want to make outreaches to the Latino community, and neither see problems with police brutality in local or county law enforcement.
During the course of the forum, Peters also cited the fact that he was able to save the G-P dry shed through his appeal to the Coastal Commission, his promotion of the arts while mayor, and his facilitation of the Latino community fiestas in Bainbridge Park.
Gjerde recounted his work in re-opening the coastal animal shelter, his efforts to find funds to resurface more roads in the 4th district than in any other, his participation in developing the Summers Lane reservoir for the city water system, the county’s expansion of class K housing permits, and the termination of the infamous Ortner mental health services contract.
The forum was videotaped by Mendocino TV: https://mendocinotv.com/2020/01/16/4th-district-supervisor-candidate-forum/,
and broadcast on radio by KZYX, although only portions of it can be accessed on its archive page.