Healdsburg Tribune 1/22/2015
Dr. Jim Wood doesn’t seem like a person who would pursue higher office because he’s not. When asked when he first wanted to go after a second career in politics he replied that he never did and that it’s just one of those things in a person’s life that happens – that it just evolved organically. As he takes his seat he is one of the state’s 28 new members of California’s Assembly.
Assemblyman Jim Wood
Jim, who has two brothers, grew up in Orange County and got his degree in biology from U. C. Riverside where he met his wife, Jane. They got married during Jim’s first year of dental school in Loma Linda. Jim’s first practice was in Modesto but he and Jane would visit Sonoma County and they fell in love with the place. In 1987, he put out some feelers and found a dental practice to buy in Cloverdale which Jane managed the entire time they owned the practice. Jim, 54, moved to Healdsburg in 1989, has been married for 31 years, and has one son, Alex, who is a freshman at the University of Santa Clara. He and Jane sold the Cloverdale dental practice in 2013.
Jim’ first foray into politics was on the Cloverdale General Plan Advisory Committee in 1991. In 2002 he served on the Healdsburg Planning Commission and was first elected to the Healdsburg City Council in 2006. As Jim got deeper and deeper into public service he found that he not only liked the challenge of finding solutions to complex problems but also the interaction with the diverse groups of people which comprise local communities. His ability to both reflect on an issue and at the same time concerning himself with the well-being of people probably comes from years of looking into a patient’s mouth to solve a problem. As a dentist, he said, you can’t choose who will walk into your office.
Jim Wood and Family
The 2nd Assembly district is nested within the 2nd Senate district but is still one of the largest districts in the state. Extending from the middle of Santa Rosa to the Oregon border the area includes the north half of Sonoma County and all of Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity and Del Norte counties. With about 480,000 people in his district it’s about half the size of Mike McGuire’s Senate district.
Jim sees the biggest challenges (he doesn’t like to call it an agenda) in his district as employment, water, healthcare, education and the environment. Even if the state isn’t going into a historically prolonged drought north coast water management is now seen as a high priority. Jim sees storage and conservation as his prime focal points and not sending more nor-Cal water to southern California at the expense of our fisheries, our fishing industry and agriculture. Accordingly, one of his first appointments was as Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture. He is also on the Natural Resources Standing Committee.
California Dental Association
Employment and education are linked in that with the collapse of the logging industry people have to be retrained to work in other industries. To that end the community colleges need to be strengthened to offer more vocational and internet generating careers which is why getting broadband into every nook and cranny of his district is one of his highest priorities. With the Emerald Triangle being smack in the middle of his district the marijuana industry is being looked at closely. Its legalization could bring jobs but that has to be weighed against the damage its cultivation is doing to the environment, the outdoor recreation industries and the adolescent healthcare issues that come with it. But he says nothing substantial is going to happen one way or the other until the feds make a firm decision on the issue.
As the only professional healthcare provider in the Assembly, Jim is especially focused on strengthening healthcare in his district’s many rural communities and, as such, was appointed to the Health Committee. He is also on the Business and Professions Committee because of his experience as a small businesses owner in a regulated industry. He learned the state legislative and political process while working with the California Dental Association in Sacramento.
He feels that the district’s hospitals will have to adopt the Healdsburg Community Hospital’s model of specialization, like stroke care or joint replacement, in association with other facilities like the U.C. Davis Med Center. He also thinks that Obamacare has been reasonably successful but containing costs is still a big challenge and it will probably take ten years until the program is fully effective. It’s ironic that Jim expects to work closely with the Assembly’s Black and Latino caucuses because a lot of rural community issues, such as healthcare and education, are similar to those in the inner cities.
Although they are both highly intelligent and effective Mike McGuire’s personality is more a “force of nature” whereas Jim’s personality seems more contemplative and reflective which is probably comes from his medical training. Whatever, they both are dedicated, have a proven tract recorded of successfully working together and Healdsburg should be proud that we have them and that they are working for us on the bigger picture.
Healdsburg Tribune 10/20/2014
The election is over, the signs are being picked up and James Gore is on the job. I met with James on Veteran’s Day at the Center Street Café. Knowing Mike McGuire pretty well and now getting to know James I was curious to find out how the heir apparent to Sonoma’s north county supervisorial district will match up to McGuire’s stellar tenure. Although they are both quality people in their own right I couldn’t help but compare them. A few of their similar traits include – they are both extremely intelligent and excellent multi-taskers; they are both tireless campaigners; they both have charismatic personalities; they both will take the time to talk to anyone; they both suffer fools graciously; they both put their constituents above special interest groups; and they both absolutely love the flora, fauna and people of northern Sonoma County.
James Gore 4th District Supervisor
So what’s on James’ mind? Well for one thing he’s not waiting for January to get to work. He recently had a meeting with Mike McGuire to discuss how they can make the transfer as seamless as possible and to continue the economic gains the current Board has made. James supports many, if not all, of McGuire’s priorities such as the big three “E”s: the environment; employment; and education. Gore also supports the Sonoma County clean power initiative, community outreach programs, and solutions to the critical issue of affordable housing.
One of the things that strikes me about Gore is how pragmatic he is. It is this pragmatism that his election opponent mistook for being non-committal. As he explained to me the County has many fiscal priorities with a limited amount of revenue to fund them. For example, although he totally believes in it he wouldn’t commit to a $15.00 “living wage,” until the board figures out how that will impact the county’s $12 million social services budget which includes elderly care workers. The same can be said for road improvements. Gore is in favor of using general fund money but the amount has to be within budget constraints. If a majority of taxpayers are okay with it a road tax measure may be put on the spring ballot.
As important as road maintenance is to business and residential quality of life a more important issue is our water situation or more precisely our growing lack of it. This is where I think Gore’s time spent at the federal government level can initially benefit us. Working with Mike Thompson and Jarred Huffman, Gore knows how a federal bureaucracy like the Army Corps of Engineers operates. Changing the antiquated methods of releasing water from Lake Mendocino and getting Coyote Dam raised are high priorities. He sees the key to change in water release policy is with NOAA’s new satellite smart weather monitoring system.
Northern Sonoma County
James said that his primary concern regarding water supply is with the towns of Cloverdale, Geyserville and Healdsburg. He doesn’t like the rumblings coming from some Eel River conservation groups about cutting off the diversion to Lake Mendocino which is its prime water source. Although flow has been stopped for repairs to PG&E’s hydroelectric facility, the giant utility isn’t likely agree to cut such a valuable source of electricity. But at the same time the issue bears watching. Gore supports studies on creating opportunities to inject water into local aquifers during the high water events that happen even in drought years; and user and student education and conservation programs.
Regarding county pensions Gore felt that the Board has done a good job of, as he called it, taking care of the “low hanging fruit.” Spiking has been eliminated but issues of equity still remain. Gore wants to protect the county retirees that receive modest benefits while continuing to rein in the abuses of six-figure incomes. The problem for the lower income retirees is that in exchange for allowing an increase in their pensions they agreed to freeze their healthcare compensation which, as it turned out, didn’t work to well as healthcare costs have soared well above any COLA adjustments.
Gore for Supervisor
Because of his ability to speak fluent Spanish, which he learned in his Peace Corp days in Bolivia, I think Gore will have a positive impact on not only County agriculture employment but also education where almost fifty present of K-12 students are bilingual.
And what about all those orange and blue campaign signs? Well, they’re being recycled to keep as many as possible out of the landfill. In fact, Willie Lamberson, Gore’s sign guy, is developing a program that could be used nationally to reuse campaign signage. Some will become theater signs; some will become planter boxes; and some will become beehives. If you have any other suggestions contact James and let him know. This is so cool and environment friendly.
The last thing James wanted me to mention is that in the post-election Tribune article it quoted him as saying “I deserve this position” which sounds terrible. What he actually said was “I WANT to deserve this position.” As I wrote after Mike McGuire was elected I think the same holds true for James Gore, “I think we have a good one.”