The candidates differ in their opinions on hot button topics such as Klamath Dam removal, the movement to create a State of Jefferson, and Crystal Geyser’s proposed juice manufacturing facility in Mount Shasta.

When asked what they see as the most pressing issues facing Siskiyou County today, District 3 incumbent supervisor Michael Kobseff and challenger Ken Palfini had similar responses: jobs, economic growth, water, and property rights.

The candidates differ in their opinions on hot button topics such as Klamath Dam removal, the movement to create a State of Jefferson, and Crystal Geyser’s proposed juice manufacturing facility in Mount Shasta.

The candidates, running on the June 3 ballot to represent Weed, Lake Shastina, Big Springs, Grenada, Gazelle, north Mount Shasta, and south of Montague, talked last Wednesday about their priorities, qualifications and stances on various issues during an hour-long show recorded at Siskiyou Media Council’s studio at College of the Siskiyous. They then answered questions from the public during a forum Friday evening in Lake Shastina.

The show is scheduled to air on MCTV15 and streaming online Wednesdays at 9 a.m. and Saturdays at 7 p.m. through June 2. It will also be available as a video-on-demand at: siskiyoumediacouncil.org.

In addition, the candidates answered a set of questions posed by Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers.

Dam removal

Palfini, a member of the Weed City Council and native resident who has owned an insurance business for more than 30 years, believes Siskiyou County should “focus on the future” and what we can do if the federal government carries through with taking out the dams.

Kobseff, who is seeking a third term as District 3 supervisor, steadfastly opposes dam removal.

“We can voice our discontent, but we shouldn’t waste time chasing shadows,” said Palfini. “I am not sure the voice of Siskiyou is loud enough to have any impact... I am not sure, as a supervisor, if I would take on this divisive issue.” He said it is not in the spirit of his guiding principles of “collaboration, cooperation, and compromise.”

“I do not support the removal of clean emission-free hydroelectric facilities,” said Kobseff. “Siskiyou County cannot be idle with the impacts imposed upon us with the current Klamath Agreements and proposed legislation.”

Kobseff pointed out that 79 percent of Siskiyou County voters said they are opposed to dam removal in a 2010 advisory ballot measure.

Kobseff said over the past 10 to 11 years, Siskiyou County has spent approximately $750,000 fighting dam removal and believes the county’s stance has “made a big impact.”

Crystal Geyser

Answering a question about the county’s process for requiring environmental reports for incoming businesses, Kobseff said, “Crystal Geyser purchased an existing facility, within an existing zoning, that permits their manufacturing operation. For the county to deny operations that conform to county ordinance, or open an environmental process that is not required, would provide Crystal Geyser a litigious opportunity. A change in ownership that is consistent with an existing use does not require an environmental process.”

Palfini called it “a matter of perspective.” Though he said he’s “not a fan” of lawsuits, he believes Crystal Geyser’s planned use of the facility is not exactly the same as Coca Cola’s water bottling use.

“It changed slightly,” he said.

Palfini said he supports the creation of “small mom and pop businesses” and jobs that provide decent and livable wages.

“We need to welcome industry that recognizes the value of our resources and respects our ecosystems,” Palfini said. “Business that utilizes our natural resources should take the extra step to remove suspicions of abuse.”

State of Jefferson

Both candidates agree the movement to create a State of Jefferson is working to shine a light on issues facing rural communities.

Kobseff was one of four supervisors last year to support a proclamation of support for creation of a new state, but Palfini believes it is “a distraction of anger and frustration at our poor county economics.”

“The positive outcome is the conversations with our neighboring counties,” Palfini said. “If we bring back some local prosperity where people are making a decent wage the anger will abate. A vibrant economy will take vision and hard work not dreams of the past.”

Kobseff pointed out that the US Constitution provides a process to create new states, and a Jefferson State dialogue has been ongoing in Siskiyou County for 70 years.

“Supporting the proclamation has provided Siskiyou County the opportunity to speak nationally to the lack of rural county representation,” Kobseff said. “It is benefitting us, as exampled by the bipartisan bill, currently gaining support in our State Legislature, authorizing funds for the state to pay its property taxes owed to counties. The state has sent notice to counties for 11 years that it will not be paying the property tax on state owned lands. To date the state owes Siskiyou County over $600,000 in back taxes. Statewide, 19 million dollars is owed to counties.”

Kobseff said statehood is “a steep, uphill procedure” that continues to gain support as more counties weigh in.

“I would support having one state senator representing each California County in the State Senate, this would ensure rural representation,” he said.

Jefferson Republic

“I do not support the Republic of Jefferson because it is not plausible,” said Palfini about the movement that will appear on the June 3 ballot. “Supporters suggest what it will do, but don’t offer a step by step process to achieve its goals. They seem to argue that planning will recreate the current condition. It is tough to build a house without a set of plans.”

Kobseff said because proponents gathered approximately 1,800 signatures, supervisors had two options: to adopt the initiative or put it on the ballot.

“The BOS voted to authorize the initiative to be placed on the June 2014 ballot for the people to decide,” Kobseff said.

The budget

Palfini said priorities need to be established in each department to build a healthy budget.

He said the county should “look deep to see where money can be saved.” When it comes to basic services, Palfini said the county should consider how much they’re willing to sacrifice.

Payroll is the biggest factor, Palfini said. He mentioned the possibility of buying out retirees who can now get health insurance at a modest rate through the Affordable Care Act.

“A plan to build adequate reserves and having enough money necessary to generate a new general plan would be my initial goals,” Palfini said. “The planning department should have adequate funding to give them the flexibility to generate economic development.”

Kobseff said the county budget system “is not broken.”

“It is the internal processing within the county budget that needs refinement,” he said. “The county has a balanced budget each year. It usually provides for $600,000 in provisions for unexpected expenses that can occur during the year. The economic turn down and grant paybacks, due to audit findings, have hit the county budget particularly hard over the last few years. County departments have not spent more than their budgets where they have control over expenditures.”

Kobseff said the county is “doing more with less revenue” and department staffing is down.

“Is the county 100% efficient, no. The county is poised for an economic upturn as revenue begins to increase and strategically grow budgets where resources are most needed.”

Kobseff had the following suggestions for improvements to the budget system: full implementation of an electronic accounts payable program; requiring payments to vendors within 20 days of invoice date; a financial procedures policy that streamlines processing of claims; review cost allocation plan, consideration of contracting out to reduce costs and allow internal staffing efficiencies; allow departments to roll savings within budgets to their next year budget; evaluation of purchasing a modern accounting software program; legislating state mandated programs to include secure funding for implementation at the county level; and the expertise to implement grant funds without causing paybacks.

To learn more

Kobseff can be contacted at 918-9128, or by email: michael@kobseff.org

To contact Palfini, check out Facebook.com/KenPalfiniForSupervisor