Supervisor candidates address issues at forum

Tony D'Souza
Candidates for District 2 County Supervisor Ed Valenzuela and Jim Hardy field questions from College of the Siskiyous’ Chris Vancil at last week’s Candidates’ Forum in Mount Shasta.

By next week at this time the results of the long fall election campaign of 2008 should be known. The United States will have a new President and Vice President, California voters will have passed judgement on 12 different ballot propositions, and Siskiyou County will have elected numerous office holders and decided the fate of numerous bond measures.

One of the top decisions voters in Mount Shasta and Dunsmuir will be making is for County Supervisor in District 2, a seat longtime incumbent LaVada Erickson is relinquishing.

On Tuesday Oct. 21, Chris Vancil, Faculty Advisor for the History and Political Science Club at the College of the Siskiyous,  hosted a Siskiyou County Supervisor District 2 election forum at the Lower Lodge of the Mount Shasta City Park. For an hour, the two candidates, Jim Hardy and Ed Valenzuela, fielded questions from Vancil and club members before a mixed audience of Mount Shasta residents and COS students.

In an election season that has become increasingly negative on a national level, Hardy and Valenzuela have run a consistently polite, considered, and amicable race for District 2 Supervisor. Both candidates have been highly visible at  community events, and have stuck to the issues without engaging in mudslinging.

Opening statements

Jim Hardy: “I’ve lived in Siskiyou County for 40 years, raised my family here, worked in McCloud, worked for the County Office of Education. I travelled all around the county and got to know a lot of the local entities. I’ve worked on cooperative projects with the local school districts all around the county... I have a good feeling for what it is to be a resident of the different areas and their particular concerns, I think that gives me a good feeling of the county. Living here for 40 years or so, I have a pretty good sense of [South Siskiyou County]. But working through the county office also gave me a feeling of the entire county. I have 20 years of experience balancing budgets and working with state and federal agencies. I have a strong desire to see us succeed as communities... we really have a lot of talented people here and I really would like to be able to help us revitalize.”

Ed Valenzuela: “I am currently on the city council of Mount Shasta serving as mayor pro-tem. I am completing eight years on the city council. I was mayor last year, mayor pro-tem the year before that. Previous to that I had served on the planning commission for the city of Mount Shasta. I have found that being involved with politics is a way of giving back to the local community, it’s a great learning experience, and my goal is to leverage what I’ve learned and take it to the next level, to the county level. I have been in this area for approximately eleven years... it was a place where we wanted to raise a family. I was grateful that I was able to transfer here. I have 30 years as a telephone man. I am eligible to retire and plan on doing such if I am elected. Again, I’d like to say that my way of giving back to the community is through politics. My running for city council was to teach my kids that you can do something, you can change things at a local level... We’re in a downturn, my goal is to bring us back on the upturn. I have a lot of ideas, the reality is that there are going to be budget constraints the next couple of years.”

Questions & Positions

– On agenda items the candidates would address if elected: Hardy emphasized a ‘Shop local, go local’ approach, and spoke of trying to get the Enterprise Zone extended around the whole county. He said the county should look at taking control of income generating assets like the Box Canyon Dam power plant, which is currently contracted to an outside company. He said the county cannot count on ‘one big company’ coming in and providing jobs. Valenzuela praised the Roseburg cogeneration plant project, and said that he would spend time getting a full-view of the issues facing the county before putting items on the agenda. 

– On defining their ‘guiding principles’: Valenzuela said his guiding principle is “... a monetary decision. The Supervisor is entrusted with taxpayer money... I want to do the taxpayers right by spending wisely.” Hardy said, “We don’t want to dilute, pollute, contaminate, or degrade where we live.” He said he was concerned about Nestle in McCloud “depleting and hurting” the watershed, and called for an emphasis on clean industry that guards the environment and invites tourists in.

– On economic development strategies. Hardy spoke of the ‘Local first’ movement and its success in such places as Bellingham, Wash., and Willits, Calif. He said that the COS Board of Trustees, on which he currently serves, is getting behind the idea at the college. Valenzuela also spoke of the ‘Local first’ idea, saying that people should be encouraged to patronize local businesses instead of driving to Medford or Redding. At the same time, Valenzuela said that the county should remain ‘business friendly.’ He said he sees recycling and telecommunications as potential growth industries that can provide local jobs.

– On barriers to economic development: Valenzuela said that the county’s remote location and distance from major population centers is a challenge. He said that there has been a tendency by residents to ‘overreact’ and say ‘no’ to businesses wanting to come into the county. “What I learned,” he explained, “is that you don’t say ‘No’ [as the first thing.]” Hardy spoke of the industries the county has lost over the years such as timber and the railroad, but pointed to the area’s quality ranch land. He said a mobile slaughterhouse could help keep production local, and our ranches functioning. He said that tech centers could access the fibre optic cable running along I-5.

– On a comprehensive county water policy: Valenzuela said, “The county does have a water policy.” He said his personal water goals include protecting riparian environments.  Hardy differed from Valenzuela by saying, “The county has a water policy, but water bottling companies are exempt... Right now we don’t have any definite studies on our water. We need to look at the science... We need a clear, universal water policy.”

In their closing statements, both candidates spoke of their experience in local government and their ability to ‘hit the ground running.’ Both also pointed out that they have focused on the issues and run clean campaigns.

Final defining points

After the meeting, Hardy and Valenzuela answered a few additional questions:

On the Nestle issue: Valenzuela said,“I am for a do-able project... There are infrastructure costs associated with that project, Nestle will have to pay their share. The project is still a couple years out, it’s something I will be monitoring.” Hardy said, “I think it’s a bad idea. If they come in and the water monitoring comes out where what they would be allowed to take doesn’t impact that watershed, then maybe it’s a good idea. But right now what they have proposed, what their track record is, they just come in and take the resource and they don’t really provide a lot of good jobs. It’s an extraction, not an addition to the community.”

On the Roseburg cogeneration plant: Valenzuela said, “I am for it. It’s a way to use 100% of the log. It’s a way to generate electricity. There was a reason that the mill was built there in the first place, it has to do with the wind. So there are mitigating factors there that have to do with the [air quality issue]. I am for that project.” Hardy said, “I think that’s a great idea. We need that to get rid of the waste products in the woods, the overgrowth. But I am concerned about the air quality. I felt that there were unanswered questions in the environmental impact review that they glossed over. The filtration system, they just kind of said that it was okay and they didn’t do a lot of monitoring of the air.”

On logging and fire: Valenzuela said, “I am all for thinning projects. You see catastrophic fires almost annually. We need to be proactive to prevent catastrophic fires.” Hardy said, “Projects like Mountain Thin are really necessary where we go in and get rid of the excess fuels in the forest. And they are doing that with surgical precision, which we need to do. But just opening up the woods to the old-fashioned kind of logging, that’s not really practical for today. We need to look at getting a mill opened somewhere so the county can keep more of that money.”

Total campaign costs at this point: Valenzuela says he has spent $2500.  Hardy says he has spent $3500.   

Endorsements: Valenzuela has declined endorsements from the Republican Party and the Police Officers Association, citing his desire to remain non-partisan. Hardy has received endorsements from the Democratic Party and the Siskiyou County Employees’ Association.