In order to better compare and contrast the candidates, both answered a series of questions on topics most important to south Siskiyou County voters, including their take on water bottling facilities and cannabis businesses.
After three terms representing the Dunsmuir and Mount Shasta communities on the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, Ed Valenzuela has a challenger in Mount Shasta Planning Commissioner Paul Beck.
The two will face off in the March 3 primary election, with the winner taking the District 2 supervisor seat in January of 2021.
In order to better compare and contrast the candidates, both answered a series of questions on topics most important to south Siskiyou County voters, including their take on water bottling facilities and cannabis businesses. Their answers are below.
Q&A with the candidates
Q: For what reasons should District 2 constituents vote for you?
Beck: My ability to problem-solve, perform under pressure, and look far ahead into the future to the consequences of the decisions we make are valuable assets I bring to the table. Also, my ability to think outside of the box and always find a way to improve the status quo. For the first time in a long time we have the opportunity for innovative change because three seats are open on the Board of Supervisors. If the challengers in all three districts prevail, it creates an incredible formula for a new mindset that can propel us further into the 21st century in a prosperous way.
Valenzuela: I am proud of the fact that I have attended over 99 percent of my regularly scheduled meetings over the last 11 years. I am an independent thinker but listen to all points of view before making any decision. I am experienced with 11 years of being District 2 Supervisor and most recently being elected to the Second Vice-Presidency role at the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) shows that my peers have confidence in my abilities and can work with a wide variety of people with different points of view.
I am engaged. I am out in the communities of Dunsmuir and Mount Shasta practically every day talking to constituents on all kinds of topics and listening to their concerns. I am active in the community and am knowledgeable of current events such as fire safety, a sustainable local economy, homelessness, cannabis and water issues.
My number one priority right now is to develop a green-waste program for South Siskiyou County. In speaking with my constituents’ fire safety is big concern. People who have been clearing their properties have been concerned about the high cost of disposing their green-waste and are asking for a low-cost way to dispose of it. Green waste is not as controversial as cannabis or Crystal Geyser and is a much-needed program with the up and coming fire season.
Q: In what ways do you believe you can help make a positive impact on Siskiyou County?
Beck: Based on my 43 years in the community, I have solid grasp of what challenges face our county. I bring a unique skillset to the table, based on my various work experiences. I enthusiastically look forward to serving my district by solving some of our county’s most pressing issues.
Valenzuela: I always look for creative ways to promote and sustain our local small businesses such as putting advertising on our STAGE buses and extending our route to Castella (Shasta County) year-round. This helps not only Pacific Crest Trail hikers during the summer, but also enables the people of Castella a way of accessing our South County communities.
I encourage young people to become active and invest in our communities. I am particularly proud of the Dough Hook Bakery in Dunsmuir. A small business started by a young couple that graduated from Mount Shasta High School. A nice example of a small start-up business serving the local community.
I still volunteer at local events and support local fundraisers and I encourage my constituents to do so too. In that way we build a stronger sense of a community.
Q: In what ways can county leaders drive economic growth in Siskiyou, specifically in Mount Shasta and Dunsmuir, which rely heavily on tourism?
Beck: As a county leader, I can make sure that the necessary foundations for success are in place. We need well maintained infrastructure. We need to provide what visitors are looking for including good hotels, a variety of restaurants, and shopping experiences. It’s important to think about our unique product, not just marketing. What are we offering here in Mount Shasta and Dunsmuir that you can’t get elsewhere? You could look at our area as a beautiful plate of food ... all the ingredients are here – clean water, clean air, amazing views and endless recreational opportunities. How do we get people to our table? The emphasis should be on providing the experience that inspires a visitor to return. We need to get people into our towns, because if they just stop at Taco Bell it’s a missed opportunity to see all the unique things we have to offer in our downtowns. The potential exists to really captivate people going up and down the I-5 corridor. Dunsmuir and Mount Shasta have an ambience like no other two towns in this county.
Valenzuela: I am grateful that my fellow supervisors understand the importance of tourism. Not only in District 2 but in all of Siskiyou County. We continue to invest in tourism, such as installing restrooms around Lake Siskiyou and extending our bus system to Castella, but we should also look to diversify where we can. One example of diversifying would be to partner with the City of Mount Shasta to develop the old Roseburg mill site now called “The Landing.” Since the City of Mt. Shasta and the County have a 50/50 split on tax revenues, any development that could pass muster with the local community would be a significant boost to the South Siskiyou economy. It is my hope that soon something will develop on the old mill site which has been under utilized for decades.
Q: What is your take on industrial cannabis businesses, and are they a benefit or detriment to our south county communities?
Beck: If we hold dear the voting process, we have to find a way to acknowledge the voice of the voters by not impeding access. Even though the majority of voters in this county approved both medical and recreational use of cannabis, there is a conservative element that still finds this industry somewhat disconcerting. I feel it is imperative to respect their concerns. If you had asked me this question four years ago, I would have said let’s put the pedal to the metal. But now, after having been in local government for four years, my take on this has been revised. I mostly definitely think there is a place for it in our county, but it should be regulated and monitored so we can determine the effect it is having on our communities. With all that being said, I don’t honestly see very many areas in District 2 where we can do this outdoors, and there seem to be a very limited number of places to do this indoors without building new facilities. I think Districts 1, 3 and 5 are more suited for this application. I do think we can derive some positive economic benefit from it. My understanding is that the City of Mt. Shasta takes in in excess of $90,000 from our three retail stores alone – all told, in upwards of $120,000 industry-wide. It would not be my hope that Siskiyou County resemble Mendocino or Humboldt counties.
Valenzuela: Supervisors voted to ban commercial cannabis in Siskiyou County and as such is somewhat of a moot point, however, I don’t believe legal cannabis has been a detriment to our south county communities. I drive by three cannabis related businesses in the City of Mt. Shasta routinely on my normal day to day adventures and I have yet to see any abnormal activity, loitering, or police stops near any of these businesses. I don’t see legal industrial cannabis businesses as a savior to our local economy, but as tax paying businesses and job creators they are contributing in their own small way. On a side note though, Siskiyou County is moving forward to allow industrial hemp growing in agricultural zones.
I should point out that we do have, county-wide, a proliferation of illegal grows that are a huge problem as stated in previous news articles by Sheriff Jon Lopey and I continue to support the sheriff in his efforts to combat this problem.
Q: WATER and other members of the community are demanding a more thorough Environmental Impact Report before Crystal Geyser opens its facility on Ski Village Drive, while others believe that it's time to welcome the company with open arms. What is your opinion on water bottling companies in south Siskiyou County, particularly Crystal Geyser?
Beck: If we are looking for a good economic model, water bottling is not the best option. Water is our most valuable resource. If you have the water, you have the power. If you are giving away your water, you are giving away your power. And we don’t want to do that. I am not opposed to utilizing this resource for economic advantage, however historically, that facility has not provided the economic benefit we expected. It’s a risk/reward circumstance that could have unforeseen consequences.
Valenzuela: My job as a supervisor is to ensure that any business, in this case Crystal Geyser, obtain the proper state and local permits, and adhere to all the rules and regulations to operate their facility. Crystal Geyser has done that, including an EIR, in its plan to reuse an existing water bottling facility. I supported the Crystal Geyser project because it was a reuse of an existing facility and the promise of decent paying jobs.
It’s not like a company can throw up a building and start bottling water. There are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to do that and in the current environmental climate, any company wanting to come in and open a plant would face increased scrutiny, especially by me. The fact that it has taken this long since Crystal Geyser has purchased the plant and is still not operating, sends a clear message to other potential bottlers that the water climate in District 2 isn’t particularly fine.
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?
Beck: We are taking steps to address these concerns, but it’s not enough. Overall, as an entire picture throughout the whole county, no. Of the individual communities in the county, it appears that only Yreka has made a concrete effort with a shelter and we need to find the funding to emulate that. We need enough facilities around the county to address this increasing dilemma. The bottom line is that it comes back to fiscal solvency and having the money to address these issues which is a problem in our county at this time.
Valenzuela: Homelessness is at a crisis point in the big urban areas and has become Governor Newsom’s number-one priority. I have always maintained that we have all the same issues in Siskiyou County as the rest of the state, but on a much smaller scale. Which in theory should be more manageable.
The biggest part of homelessness that affects Siskiyou County is the mentally ill. Due to the costs of mental facilities, Siskiyou county must transport patients to the nearest mental health bed available which is not in Siskiyou County. Next, we have the homeless that for a variety of reasons are without shelter, and we must find ways to help keep people in their homes. And lastly, we have the transients that travel the I5 corridor that tend to be seasonal and homeless by choice.
It is only within the last three years that Siskiyou County has participated in the Point-In-Time study to quantify the number of homeless people in Siskiyou County which would allow us to access funding to help combat homelessness. Currently there is not an operating homeless shelter in Siskiyou County, but there are a couple things in the works, one potentially in Yreka, under the direction of the Beacon of Hope project. Another avenue is the county, through the Behavioral Health Department which has applied for grants that would enable the county to trial a Tiny Homes Shelter project.
I want to point out we are a poor rural county that routinely scores a 57 of 58 in healthy outcomes. Meaning, in 58 California counties, we rank #57 according to countyhealthrankings.org. My personal goal is to get to the mid 50s in that ranking, (of course much lower would be great) and that is going to take a concerted effort by everyone to achieve that goal, including county, cities, schools and non-profits.
Do I think the issue is being properly addressed? I think we are doing the best we can with the resources available. My role at CSAC, is to represent the rural counties. My goal is to highlight the lack of mental health facilities and staffing in rural counties, particularly our county.
Q: What is your take on Measure A, which would generate general funds through a TOT increase?
Beck: The proposal is to go from eight percent to 12 percent. At some point, this kind of increased cost may become a liability in that people could be priced out of vacationing here. If our goal is to increase tourism, then it must remain affordable. The other concern is that if we have a bad snow year, we have to look ahead and see how we can mitigate the losses from shortened ski season. Fires, too, have an impact. Trying to fund basic services on what is essentially a sales tax on tourism, is a risky proposition at best.
Valenzuela: A TOT increase is nothing new. In fact, when I was first elected, I proposed a TOT increase that was intended to help the libraries and it failed.
This measure, Measure M, is for hotels that are only in the county, not cities, and the taxes are to go to the general fund, so think jobs, salary increases, and the Library Backbone amongst others. The increase from eight percent to 12 percent is disappointing but is to align with rates in Sacramento, another tourism area. Initially, my suggestion was to raise it to 10 percent, to align with the City of Mt. Shasta, but ultimately, the Board of Supervisors voted for 12 percent of which I begrudgingly voted for.
When one is shopping for a hotel, what are they looking for? Location, ambience, amenities, price and possibly resort fees. I know those are the things I compare, when shopping for a hotel, not tax rates. Remember this affects only tourists and travelers who check into these hotels and in general is not a tax on local residents.
Q: What is your take on dam removal?
Beck: This is a complex issue. First, the dams are owned by a private company who will make decisions based on the profitability of that company. We can litigate them if we don’t like their decision, but that takes money away from other programs that we desperately need and there is no guarantee that the county will prevail. Secondly, there will always be a winner and a loser in this kind of scenario. We need to take a wider view of this issue and look for the best all-around solution. Other communities have successfully dealt with dam removal and once you get through the first growing pains, there is a demonstrated benefit to river restoration.
Valenzuela: Klamath Dam removal has been an ongoing issue since I was first elected to the Board of Supervisors. While I do understand my fellow board members position, I have always disagreed with the amount of taxpayer dollars we have spent fighting dam removal. With the states of California and Oregon supporting removal as well as the owner, Pacificorp, it is apparent that Siskiyou County is not the ultimate decision-maker.
All things considered, we should have a plan “B” in place that would mitigate the loss in property taxes, the impact on the environment and any rehabilitation required. Siskiyou County should be made whole by the powers that be if and when the dams are ever removed. With all the unknowns, I’d be surprised if anything happens anytime soon. But if the dams stay in, I expect that our electrical rates will increase significantly due to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing requirements.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like included about yourself, your campaign, etc.?
Beck: We have opportunities to utilize our vast untapped resources (without exploiting them). For example, encouraging music and arts by providing a music venue, similar to the Britt Music Festival, which generates an enormous amount of revenue for Jacksonville. Also, the I-5 corridor provides opportunities for businesses like Harry & David which employ thousands seasonally in Jackson County. I would work tirelessly to achieve the goal of fiscal solvency and together, I know we can make Siskiyou County flourish again!
Valenzuela: I continually believe that the glass is half full. We do have all the good things people look for in a community: good schools, clean air and water, wonderful restaurants and majestic beauty, everything my wife and I wanted when we moved our family here over 20 years ago.
I had been interested in local politics and was soon elected to Mount Shasta City Council where I served eight years. I then ran for county supervisor, was elected, and now 11 years down the road here we are!
I have experience and have built relationships with other supervisors both on my county board and statewide. I have recently been elected by my rural county peers to be Second Vice-President of the California State Association of Counties. It is not only an honor, but a huge opportunity to work with state leaders to help make them understand the challenges and issues of a struggling rural county.
Now looking back over my political career, I have always and will continue to give 100 percent effort to promote, fight for and enhance south Siskiyou County. I have always been accessible, whether by phone (look me up, I’m in the book!), email or in person. As a politician It has been a pleasure meeting all the people that I would never had met otherwise. It would be a privilege and an honor to continue as your elected District 2 Supervisor.