"The most important
responsibility for a
supervisor is to listen
concerns and find
ways to address them."
The Change We Want.
The Supervisor We Need.
Improving County Services
District 2 needs a supervisor who will be accessible and who will meet regularly with residents to solve problems. I will hold monthly meetings at the many different communities in District 2 so that residents can interact one-on-one with me. Half of Monterey County's unincorporated population lives in North County, but North County doesn't get its fair share of the services that its residents deserve:
Roads have deteriorated because the road maintenance budget has not kept up with inflation over the last 50 years. Many roads have not been paved since the 1960s.
Litter is dumped and cars abandoned, leaving North County looking like a refuse dump and forcing residents to clean up what the county fails to do.
North County is dotted with hundreds of small water systems that face increasingly burdensome regulations while poor water quality issues remain unaddressed. I manage a water system with 32 connections. I know the problems first hand.
Parks are neglected and the community has had to step forward to develop and manage Manzanita Park while Royal Oaks Park slowly deteriorates from disrepair. The county needs to work with our communities in maintaining these valuable facilities.
Loud parties disrupt the peace of country living as the county refuses to enforce its own noise ordinance. This problem should have been addressed immediately when it arose several years ago. That is a prime responsibility of a Supervisor -- listen to to people and address their concerns.
Animal Services' budget has been stripped to where it has had to take donations from the public for dog food and provides no weekend patrols. It is time for the county to again fund a weekend animal control officer.
Over the last few decades, sheriff's deputies available for patrol have been cut from 120 to 60, reducing response time and risking lives. The Sheriff's Department spends $8.5 million dollars on overtime. Much of that overtime is mandatory, stressing officers and creating an unhealthy working environment. Deputies are also underpaid as compared to the neighboring counties of Santa Cruz and San Benito, creating a high turnover rate.
Small businesses and small farmers face unnecessary regulations and delays unrelated to health, safety and environmental matters. Many of these problems are wrapped into the permit process and code enforcement, which are applied unevenly and with some unnecessary or outdated regulations.
Waste Management holds an exclusive contract to collect garbage and charges county-approved exorbitant penalties. Waste Management gets what it wants, and that needs to be questioned.
Castroville and Pajaro are neglected and deserve beautification and redevelopment projects. Castroville, the Artichoke Center of the World, is the only significant community between Santa Cruz and Monterey that has not been developed to capture the millions of tourist dollars that drive past it on Highways 1 and 156. This is a missed opportunity for jobs and businesses.
It has been nearly 120 years since a major catastrophic fire burned through North County. Another fire would leave devastating destruction in its path, similar to what happened in the Northern California town of Paradise in 2018. We are fortunate to have avoided the lightning strikes of August 2020 that burned through Mount Toro with the River Fire and the Santa Cruz Mountains with the CZU Lightning Complex Fire. We cannot continue to rely on fortune alone.
Monterey County needs to develop aggressive policies for wildfire prevention. Removing the thousands of acres of eucalyptus that destroy native habitat and represent a serious fire danger is one step. Another is to develop a county-wide chipping program so that residents have a convenient way to dispose of dead vegetation without the fire risk that burning creates or the carbon it adds to the atmosphere.
There are many reasons for the tremendous fire risk, but one of these is poor county policies. One example is how the county protects oak trees, which is an almost universally agreed-upon policy in principle. How the county goes about protecting oaks is the problem. The tree cutting regulations are confusing, contradictory and complicated and inhibit the removal of dead wood, prime fuel for a wildfire. The noble intent to protect the beautiful native oaks of our land is in fact creating the ever-growing potential of a wildfire nightmare that will destroy them. We must put some common sense into government to protect our lives, our property and our environment.
The lack of affordable housing is one of the great failures of local government. Home prices are sky-high, and consequently so are rents. Places to live are scarce. Multiple families are forced to live in single-family homes. People who lose their jobs are unable to pay for housing and end up on a friend's couch or homeless. This isn't a new development. This has been going on for decades and the crisis is getting worse. It is time to change direction and come up with real solutions.
For decades the county and cities have used inclusionary housing policies where 80% of the homes are built at market value and 20% are set aside as affordable housing at a lower cost and financial loss to the builder. Different projects and different government entities use different percentages but the end result is always the same. These inclusionary housing policies have failed to provide enough affordable housing and spiraled the cost of housing ever higher. A sustainable affordable housing policy is not possible if builders lose money building affordable homes.
The current inclusionary housing policies force builders to build larger market-rate homes. Since the county requires all the homes in an inclusionary housing project to look the same externally, all the homes become increasingly larger, even those set aside as affordable. Since the 1970s, the average American home has increased by 1000 square feet. Reducing the size of homes is the most manageable step that we can take for building more affordable homes. We need policies that encourage the building of smaller dwellings, whether as stand-alone units, duplexes or fourplexes. Affordable housing must work for renters, the most vulnerable residents in changing economic times. The target populations must be young adults, new families, workers and seniors.
We live in North County because we enjoy the rural setting, a bit of privacy and the friendly interaction of our neighbors. But that way of life is constantly threatened.
At the heart of North County is the Elkhorn Slough. Once planned as a wastewater pond for oil refineries and chemical plants with ocean-going ships floating along its banks, it is now a local treasure and one of the most precious natural environments in the nation.
It has attracted an abundance of animals that were once threatened or absent here — raccoons, foxes, weasels, bobcats, deer and even mountain lions. This unique resource, and its surrounding environs, must always be preserved.
We have successfully been able to do this by balancing growth and preservation. People who live in North County choose to live here because they prefer a rural lifestyle or choose to live in small communities like Aromas, Las Lomas or Bolsa Knolls. This lifestyle is under threat from several fronts.
One of the big challenges facing our area is traffic. Over time, North County has become a drive-through zone for those traveling between Santa Cruz and the Salinas/Monterey areas. During the summer months, hordes of tourists flood Highways 1, 101 and 156. Additionally, in the last 10 years, the Hall/San Miguel Canyon roadways have developed major congestion. This massive increase in traffic continues to threaten the once slower-paced lifestyle that is rapidly vanishing.
While much of North County is built out, there are still pressures for significant development. In addition, there are great challenges regarding water availability and water quality that restrict development. While anyone who owns a vacant lot in North County has the right to build on it, larger developments are not necessarily compatible with the water and traffic crises in the hilly regions and need to be directed to the more urbanized areas of the county.
Fair and Open Government
County government isn't working for the people of Monterey County. It lacks responsiveness, accountability and transparency. Even worse, the daily problems that Monterey County residents face are not being solved. Special interests play an increasingly influential role, cutting deals behind closed doors while the needs of ordinary people go unmet. This must change. The most effective means to make government fairer and more efficient is to change the way government operates so that it works for the people and not against them.
I am the only candidate with an extensive plan for reforming county government and to make it more responsive to the needs of its residents. These reforms include:
Moving the meeting times of commissions and committees from daytime to evenings so that working people can attend and sit on these government bodies, and not have to take time off work to participate.
Re-engaging the Board of Supervisors in managing county affairs. Over 25 years ago, the Board of Supervisors surrendered the power of hiring and reviewing major county department heads to the county's Chief Administrative Officer. County department heads now have their first loyalty to the person who hires them instead of the Board of Supervisors, the true representatives of the people.
Distributing all meeting agendas and minutes through social media and other public channels in an easily readable format for county residents.
Creating a county ombudsperson office as an avenue of last resort when county departments and supervisors will not address a resident's needs.
Having all county advisory commissions and committees report to both the county departments and to the Board of Supervisors, instead of only to the county departments. This allows for broader constituent input to the supervisors who should not rely solely on staff for recommendations.
Most importantly, a Supervisor need to be engaged, responsive and in contact with the constituents in a district. This is my top priority.