Candidates share views in forum
Jim Judd answers a question during the Plumas County League of Women Voters forum held in Graeagle on April 24. Photos by Debra Moore
Two candidates for District 5 supervisor introduced themselves and answered more than a dozen questions at the Graeagle Fire Hall on April 24, giving voters their first chance to hear both men voice their reasons for running for office and their plans for Plumas County.
About 70 people turned out for the event hosted by the League of Women Voters. In addition to the two District 5 candidates, Jim Judd and Jeff Engel, four elected officials running unopposed for another term in office addressed the attendees: Assessor Chuck Leonhardt, Clerk-Recorder Kathy Williams, District Attorney David Hollister and County Superintendent of Schools Micheline Miglis.
Forums hosted by the League of Women Voters follow a strict format: a two-minute introduction, one-minute responses to questions and a two-minute closing.
At times it was difficult for candidates to respond to the often three-part questions in a one-minute timeframe, prompting Judd to stop mid-sentence in some cases.
Questions were written by audience members and then posed by the moderator. Those that were similar in nature were often linked together.
Engel and Judd are two of the three names that will appear on the ballot for District 5 supervisor.
The third, Jon Kennedy, has announced that he won’t campaign for the office and plans to leave the area for family reasons. However, his name will remain on the ballot, and voters can still select him.
A candidate needs to receive 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff. If that doesn’t occur the top two vote earners will face each other in November.
Moderator Margaret Goodart posed the questions gathered from the audience. If anyone attended the forum expecting discord, he or she was disappointed. Both men addressed the audience and never argued with each other.
Following is a synopsis of most of the questions:
What is the most important issue the Board of Supervisors is dealing with right now and what is your position?
For Judd, it’s the budget and how the county deals with it. He also discussed the need for a CAO (county administrative officer). “Their job is to lead and represent us, not work with department heads,” Judd said of the supervisors.
Engel cited lawsuits as an area of prime concern and mentioned the claims recently filed against the county in the Portola hospital shooting as well as the challenge to the county’s new general plan by the High Sierra Alliance. He also mentioned the need to fully fund the sheriff’s department.
What can you do to improve the economy in Plumas County or in your district?
Judd favors creating tax incentives, fast-tracking the planning and building permit processes, and fostering a better environment for business.
“Lots of opportunities aren’t being utilized,” Engel said and mentioned the Plumas County Coordinating Council.
What’s the most important challenge regarding schools and what’s the solution?
“We don’t fund our schools, but we need to protect them,” Engel said and mentioned the need for a funded sheriff’s department. He also noted that school enrollment is declining due to people leaving the area to find work and that needs to be turned around.
Judd stressed the need for vocational education and said he had talked to the Quincy High School principal that morning regarding the issue. He also met with American Valley Aviation and discussed the need for qualified employees.
How many Board of Supervisors meetings did you attend in 2011, 2012 and 2013?
Judd said he attended one in 2011 and one in 2012 to discuss the importance of rec and tech and two in 2013 in relation to the general plan. “I’ve watched the last six weeks on video and sometimes need coffee,” he joked.
Engel said he attended all but one since he announced his intention to seek office. “I wanted to see how they interacted and treated people,” he said.
Do you think a consolidated chamber of commerce would be effective to grow jobs?
Both agreed that chambers are important, but didn’t think it would be necessary to form one united chamber. Judd said there could be some costs savings for administration and operating expenses, but “each knows what’s best for its area.” Engel complimented Mimi Garner, who operates Sierra Adventures, for offering weekend hours for tourists.
What will you do to improve ‘fire-scaping’ in Plumas County?
“Our local fire departments excel,” Judd said and objected to Cal Fire “taking over.” He said that it’s the individual property owner’s responsibility to clear his or her property and said there need to be systems to help aged people.
“I’ve got a long-standing feud with Cal Fire,” Engel said. “They want to tell you to take a tree out; some people are elderly and can’t afford to do it.”
He ended with, “I truly believe in all our property rights — so lock your gates.”
What is your primary residence? Are you registered to vote here? Will you move your business here?
Judd said he has been a resident for 14 years and has been a registered voter in Plumas County except for the 2010 election cycle when he ran for Congress. “No, I can’t move my business here because there isn’t the infrastructure,” he said.
“I’ve lived in Plumas County for 50 years, minus an eight-year stretch for a honeymoon,” Engel said of the early years of his marriage. He has owned Engel Construction for 32 years. “I have employed and done business with as many people as I could,” he said.
What would you do to reduce over-regulation in the county?
“Whatever I could do,” Engel said. “We need to start pushing back (against the state).”
Judd said there’s a distinction between regulations that hamper business and those that impact private residences. He again mentioned “fast-tracking” through the planning process where they “tend to throw up roadblocks.”
Should Plumas County be involved in the formation of the state of Jefferson?
“It’s a bigger issue than we need to do locally,” Judd said, but is in favor of passing a referendum.
Referencing the 30 million people who live south of Sacramento, Engel said. “We’ll never do it. They’re not going to give up the water.”
What is the biggest challenge for District 5’s future?
“We have to have a balanced budget,” Engel said of an issue that affects the entire county. “The money flows out pretty easily; I’d like to put an end to that.”
“The biggest challenge is where the citizens understand what we need to be for the future,” Judd said. “First it was timber, now it’s rec. We need to provide for technology.”
Your campaign literature (Judd’s) suggests a complete review of the general plan. Can you provide more specifics?
“My specific concerns with any general plan is the one-size-fits-all approach,” Judd said.
“I’ve read the general plan and see nothing wrong,” Engel said. “Ninety percent is mandated by the state. I don’t see anything that takes away private property rights or water rights.”
What influence does Agenda 21 have on the general plan?
“There are people who believe that they are coming to get us and take our property,” Engel said, but he doesn’t share that view. He referenced the 70 public meetings that were held on the subject.
Judd said that the words “high density” and “sustainability” are “language that we do need to be afraid of. But will it happen in our lifetime? No.”
Would you support consolidating CSDs (community services districts) to save money?
Judd said he could see some benefit and used as an example fire districts that receive grants based on the number of calls that they respond to.
“I don’t know that I would support it,” Engel said. “CSDs are self-supporting, self-sustaining and fine on their own.”
Would you put 100 percent of TOT (transient occupancy tax) to increasing tourism?
“I would like to see the majority spent on tourism,” Engel said. He discussed the importance of the ski hill and what it meant to him as a child and young adult. His reference to a broken leg drew laughter.
“Unfortunately, we’re not managing our TOT correctly,” Judd said, and mentioned funding public pools. He said the money now goes into the general fund and it’s time to “get the fox out of the henhouse.”
What is your position on the need for a CAO?
Both men support having a county administrative officer.
Engel said that the supervisors can’t micromanage. “I saw Dave (District Attorney Hollister) almost nitpicked to death for a 70 cent raise” for one of his employees. He also objected to department heads sitting in the supervisors’ room.
“I don’t know why we have department heads in there every Tuesday,” Judd agreed. “They should be running their departments and the supervisors should be spearheading economic growth.”
“I’ll be as accessible as I am to my employees,” Judd said. He wants to hold townhall meetings that will be live-streamed, and will post information on a website. “There’s no reason why supervisors aren’t in constant contact (with their constituents),” he said.
“I don’t think I’m going to be accessible 24 hours a day,” Engel said, with a smile.
“I’m not going to quit my full-time day job, but I have employees. They can do the job. Maybe not as well as me …” he added jokingly.
In closing Judd said it “comes down to experience, integrity and honesty,” and pointed to Engel, including him in the comment. Noting that Engel is a neighbor and a friend, he wants the race to be respectful, and for everyone to remain friends when it is over.
He concluded with “Plumas County needs a new direction; it’s about what it’s going to be tomorrow.”
Engel said he is running for office to pay back the county for all that it has provided him. “I think I’ll do a great job because I’m full of common sense,” he said.
The candidates plan to meet again May 7 when two forums are scheduled to be held at the Quincy library meeting room. The Special Districts Association will host a forum at 12:15 p.m. and the League of Women Voters will hold another at 6:30 p.m.