The race for the District 1 seat on the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors is, in some ways, a rematch of the 2012 election. Incumbent Cliff Edson faces a challenge from former Supervisor Gary Tofanelli, the man he defeated for the job four years ago. Also running is retired business consultant Sharon Romano.
The three offer differing visions of the county’s economic future and what county government should do to promote prosperity.
Edson supports economic development efforts but thinks funding should come from private industry rather than via a taxpayer-supported government department. He said an example of that is Business Resource Center, a business incubator being operated by the Calaveras County Chamber of Commerce.
“This is a business incubator that will show people how to run a small business. And it is funded by a grant from the Central Sierra Economic Development District. Part of the funding will go to hire an economic development director,” said Edson. “We don’t have to burden the taxpayers if we look at creative ways to support economic development.”
Tofanelli thinks county government should take the lead on economic development.
“It’s time we do what other counties around us have done and hire an economic development department head,” he said. “Someone who will encourage business and then help people go through the county departments to get approvals.”
Romano thinks that the lack of an updated general plan limits options for economic growth. She says the failure to have a comprehensive plan for growth and development is a problem.
“We are not making good decisions,” she said. “We are taking things piecemeal.”
And Romano is opposed to industry near residences, while her competitors differ. She said of industry like the asphalt plant being considered near Valley Springs: “I don’t think it should be near anyone’s house.”
“We have enough open space that there are some businesses, some industries that have no business to be near residential areas,” she added.
Tofanelli said placement of industry “depends on the type of business. There are all kinds of industries that can be done in a building and no one would know the difference.”
He said the asphalt plant “needs a conditional use permit. … A conditional use permit limits the operation in many ways. I’m not in agreement with giving the asphalt plant a permitted use.”
According to Edson, “The (Hogan) rock quarry has been there since 1960; then the houses and development moved in around it. It doesn’t matter what I think or want, what matters are the laws that are in place and that we follow them.”
“That industry has a right to do business as long we’re following all the laws and rules that are in place for the environment, every one,” he said.
Edson was a champion of thinning forests and improving the county’s watersheds even before the Butte Fire. He advocates developing local management and coordinating with state and federal bureaucracies. Tofanelli puts more focus on lobbying outside of the county on watershed and forestry issues. Romano has not yet developed her approach.
“We need to manage the forest for maximum snowpack, to reduce the canopy and spread it apart,” said Edson. He said he helped develop a watershed management pilot program two years ago that “takes into consideration the maximum effect on the watershed, the greatest amount of wildfire reduction, and greatest water yield”
He said the Butte Fire was an example of poor management. “We’ve taken the natural process away and made it unnatural and dangerous – it destroys the environment and a lot of wildlife.”
Tofanell said, “We need to talk in the real world. I’m aware of what people have wanted to do for many years: thinning the forest, clearing brush, improving the watershed. But you are talking about state, federal and privately-owned forests. And the water is the property of the people of California.’
“Anything done from the county level means lobbying at the state and in Washington, D.C. And as for privately owned land, well that would be at the discretion of the people who own it.
Romano said she knows that “everybody wants our water.”
“I don’t know a lot about this,” she said. She added that the water needs to be protected both environmentally and from expropriation by outside entities.
Calaveras County has one of the state’s highest suicide rates and the three candidates agree that poverty has a lot to do with it.
“I can imagine some the things that can be causing it,” said Romano. She cites lack of jobs and drug use, poverty and not enough affordable housing.
”I think of this, especially now, after the Butte Fire and our suicide rate went up,” said Edson. “We have two or three generations of folks who have not had the opportunity for employment because the economy has basically tanked and along with that so has education.”
Edson called for increases in post-secondary education opportunities, which will develop a local, educated workforce.
Tofanelli said there is a state funding mechanism for mental health services.
“Prop 63 funds the California Mental Health Services Authority. This agency provides counties with funding for prevention and early detection programs. Suicides are high in all California rural counties as compared to urban areas,” said Tofanelli.
The District 1 candidates hold similar views on some issues. They agree that the county should regulate the marijuana industry and receive income from fees and perhaps taxes. They want to increase funding for the Sheriff’s Office to increase staff and retention. All three embrace public libraries, a new animal control facility, and a completed general plan.
All three say that they don’t need the salary or health benefits that go with the job.
The matter race could on June 7 if one candidate receives 50 percent of the votes, plus at least one. Otherwise, the two top finishers will face each other on the November ballot.