Criss and Cook will face off to represent the expansive and diverse eastern half of the county in the March 3 primary election. The winner will take office in January 2021.
After serving two terms representing District 1 on the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, MacDoel resident Brandon Criss has a challenger in environmental consultant Angelina Cook of McCloud.
The two will face off to represent the expansive and diverse eastern half of the county in the March 3 primary election. The winner will take office in January 2021.
To compare and contrast the candidates’ differences and similarities, the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers provided both with the same set of interview questions on topics that most interest District 1 residents. Their answers are below.
Q&A with the candidates
Q: For what reasons should District 1 constituents vote for you?
Cook: I have been building capacity for sustainable economies in far northern California for 15 years.
My diverse skill set includes teaching, non-profit management, collaborative planning and major grant acquisition for infrastructure repairs. My place-based approach to resilient community building has resulted in an extensive network of stakeholders in the public and private sectors, each of whom are deeply invested in this region. I am diplomatic, solution oriented, data driven, and will encourage informed participation in local government. My proactive leadership will strengthen self-reliance, nurture community vitality and energize enduring prosperity in Siskiyou County.
Criss: Back in 2011 when I first began to run for the 2012 election for county supervisor, I wanted to better know the district I would be representing. I not only went to county supervisor meetings, but I also began to attend meetings in each of the areas of my district. I continue to be actively engaged and bring fresh ideas to help solve problems such as helping organize key stakeholders to find solutions. Examples include when Montague faced having its water shut off in 2014 or when the McCloud Family Resource Center closed. Or responding to a school district’s need in my district and working with Siskiyou County Probation Services to partner with the schools directly helping children and their families.
Q: With such a large geographic area and a variety of communities with different individual identities, how do you intend to insure that each feels heard and supported in county government?
Cook: District 1 communities of Dorris, Tulelake, Montague and McCloud are historic, charming, and full of potential. Although we are unique, we also have a lot in common. The things we have in common tend to be the most important, yet often underappreciated and unrepresented in status quo politics. As supervisor, I will prioritize the issues that unite us. I will consolidate resources and coordinate efforts to employ simple solutions at the local level. In this way we will strengthen common ground, and reinforce a foundation for building upon small successes.
Criss: During my seven years as District 1 Supervisor I have made it my priority to regularly attend such things as city council meetings, local events, town hall meetings, as well as reaching out individually to help meet the needs of the communities and individuals. I will continue to stay engaged and not just show up for events during an election cycle. I also championed programs for the needs of each part of the district. Because of my efforts, I have been endorsed by the mayors for each incorporated city that I represent and by both conservative and liberal constituents in all corners of the district.
Q: In what ways do you believe you can help make a positive impact on Siskiyou County?
Cook: I am a prime candidate for leading Siskiyou County into the 21st century. Community health is essential for economic wealth. By improving affordable access to basic necessities such as housing, nutrition, recreation, information and provision of community services at the local level, we can increase quality of life, while inviting good old fashion American ingenuity to stimulate sustainable economic growth in our region.
Criss: The organizer of a youth camp in Tulelake said on Facebook I was “instrumental” in helping with its success. The truth is I play a role with different teams on a variety of goals. I’m a team player on those teams, whether it’s the team working on Montague Resiliency or a team composed of several northern California counties working with the private sector on improving the conditions for watersheds and fire resiliency. I’ve worked with and will continue to work with irrigation and fire districts and with our state and federal representatives.
Q: In what ways can county leaders drive economic growth in Siskiyou?
Cook: First, we need to focus on attracting, diversifying and retaining small businesses. We need to bolster agriculture by providing incentives for family farmers, and encourage growing practices that make sense for our communities and climate. We need to harness the incredible wealth of our resources as attractors, not just exports. We can begin this by expanding trail networks, and enhancing the desirability of our region for people looking to relocate, who work remotely. We should waste less, recycle more, and reclaim the wealth of our rubbish. Perhaps our biggest untapped opportunity is to leverage California’s Climate Investments Program to finance resilient forestry, build markets for small-diameter timber and innovative wood products and improve public transit. Eventually, we will need to retrofit our energy infrastructure with locally appropriate, renewable sources of power. Fortunately, we are in a great region to accomplish this.
Criss: I feel we must be humble enough to know it takes a team effort between education, employees, entrepreneurs, private and public sectors. Recently Siskiyou County reached its lowest unemployment rate in 29 years. From eight years ago, we also improved when compared to our rankings amongst California counties. County leaders must be a champion for job growth and the local economy. When the Tulelake Basin faced having its water shut off for all its farms midseason on flawed science for the sucker fish, the county aggressively stepped in and allied itself with other impacted counties. The court agreed and the farms kept their water. If we hadn’t acted, it would have devastated not just that local economy but the county as a whole. I also assisted with bringing in some of the stakeholders for the Siskiyou Occupational Advancement Roadmap (SOAR) program to match local graduates with jobs and careers in the county. You can’t beat homegrown talent.
Q: The county's homeless population has been a source of contention, especially in recent years. Do you think the issue is being properly addressed currently?
Cook: It has been disappointing to see how few practical solutions were generated after the recent concerted efforts to address this issue. We have plenty of vacant houses, yet very few affordable housing options for low-income renters, much less for extremely marginalized people who can’t even afford rent. I think this issue needs creative problem solving and sustained attention over a period of time. It is complex, but not insurmountable. If we dedicate sufficient resources, and involve key people who are capable of addressing it now, we could avoid the crisis level homelessness that places like Sacramento and Redding are facing.
Criss: As a volunteer firefighter my engine responded with many others to the Boles fire that devastated Weed. I was also there the next morning as people were returning to what was left of their homes. I’d be very happy to never see that again. It was a fire started at a homeless camp. The impact of homelessness affects us all. From one angle this is in part a mental health and in part a substance abuse problem. This county is working on small scale transitional housing to help a few local homeless at a time facing these issues. It’s not permanent, it will be used for people to become stabilized with their lives, in order to break the cycle and then join the workforce.
Q: What is your take on Measure A, which would generate general funds through a TOT increase?
Cook: Measure A sounds rational, but two conditions that may have galvanized local support, were ignored. Those two conditions are: 1. Local hospitality businesses should have been consulted first, and 2. Since unincorporated communities only benefit indirectly from TOT taxes, there must be a provision to ensure fair distribution of increased revenues. One hotel manager I spoke with increases rates incrementally on an annual basis. Those funds are used for staff pay-raises for retaining employees. A four percent TOT tax hike is significant, and will hinder that company’s ability raise rates in-house. I was shocked to learn that the Board of Supervisors neglected to consult affected businesses before a third attempt to place such a measure on the ballot.
Criss: I’m supportive of Measure A and voted in favor of it being placed on the ballot. It’s up to the electorate, but read the ballot argument: I think it explains it very well.
Q: What is your take on dam removal?
Cook: Siskiyou County has been participating in Klamath negotiations for 20 years. They have spent significant amounts of taxpayer dollars on fighting dam removal, yet the super majority of relevant stakeholders understand that removing the dams is more cost effective than keeping them. The dams are property of a privately held power company. At this point, I think the county needs to get on board with what the company has determined is their best course of action, make sure affected landowners get properly compensated, and maximize benefits for Siskiyou County. I heard that river restoration will generate 2,000 to 3,000 jobs over the next 10 years. With concerted effort and coordinated actions, that economic activity could produce profound benefits for our region.
Criss: I oppose removal of the Klamath River Hydropower Dams. The county successfully lobbied against the hypocritical Federal Legislation that would have exempted the dam removal process from environmental standards. If it’s great for the environment why then did it need those exemptions? The county continues to demand real answers about dam removal. Helicopters and planes dipped out of the reservoirs to fight the Klamathon and other fires. They provide tax revenue for local schools and the county; how will that money be replaced? There are many other species to consider as well, such as the thriving sucker fish populations behind the dams. There’s much more but I’ll leave it there.
Q: Is there anything you'd like included about yourself, your campaign, etc.?
Cook: The process of running for supervisor has inspired me to scale up my level of civic engagement. Over the next year, my website www.cook4sup.net will serve as a tool for identifying common goals, and advancing solutions that people agree could improve our communities. Please visit my site, sign-up and stay tuned for more opportunities to get involved. With fresh perspective and proactive leadership, Siskiyou County is poised to prosper. Working together, our rural communities can enjoy health and wealth, now and in the future.
Criss: I’m honored to have been twice trusted by the constituents of District 1 to represent them. It’s a job I take seriously. We’ve had successes but I want to continue working on the problems that we must solve. I raise my kids on the fourth generation farm that I grew up on and I want a bright future for them. For experience, I’m a graduate of Leadership Siskiyou County, have a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Norwich University, worked for an Oregon State Senator and as a supervisor graduated from the California State Association of Counties Fellows Program. For 15 years I’ve served my home community as a volunteer firefighter and ambulance volunteer.