The official kickoff of the 4th District supervisorial race may have been on April 28th at Cardinal Newman High but the real start was on April 23rd at the Windsor Grange Hall when the five candidates met to say what they would do about Sonoma County’s poor roads if they were elected to replace outgoing Mike McGuire who is running for the state senate.
Sponsored by SOS Roads, a local road improvement advocacy group, the topic drew a group of about forty people. Bill Finkelstein and Craig Harrison of SOSR were moderators and Mike McGuire was the master of ceremonies. Having McGuire at the meeting was tailor made for the candidates to take pot shots at what the county has done on road maintenance and other things.
Mike opened the discussion by PowerPoint highlighting what the county has done toward road since he became supervisor in 2010. He said, “This is a legacy problem,” as past supervisors withheld money for road repairs. The county has spent over $8 million from the general fund in the past two years to repair 40 miles of priority roads. He showed slides of new roads on Westside, W. Dry Creek; Eastside; Lytton Springs; and Geyserville Roads. He said a top priority is to put sidewalks in Geyserville. McGuire continued that the county is working on finding more money for more road repair. He then turned the program over to Director of Transportation and Public Works Susan Klassen.
Susan showed slides of how the spending on roads had decreased over the past thirty years. One slide really stood out. It was a vertical bar graph that showed how much money each California County received from gas tax. Because state road maintained allotments are based on population, Orange County, with a population of over three million and 312 miles of paved roads compared to Sonoma County’s population of just under five hundred thousand and 1,370 miles of paved roads, gets about six times what Sonoma gets(Orange County must have really nice roads).
When asked what they would do to improve county road conditions the candidates took turns. Pete Foppiano wants to see a change in the way gas tax is distributed stating that the current formula favors counties with high a number of registered vehicles and small road networks. James Gore targeted unfunded pension liability in wanting to reform the county budget but didn’t support new taxes. “I won’t kick the can down the road, because it will probably fall into a pothole,” he said.
Keith Rhinehart said that the idea of spending millions of dollars on cycling routes that affect 1 percent of the commuting public is unconscionable and that he would eliminate bike path construction in favor of road repairs and tax cyclists. Finkelstein reminded Rhinehart that cyclists also drive cars and so pay the same taxes as everyone else. Rhinehart said that he will work as hard as anyone to fix this pension crisis.
Deb Fudge said she is wants to hear the county’s long-term roads plan, which McGuire said would be released within 60 days, and is interested in the $1 billion plus, 20-year project to rehabilitating the entire road network. When she said that it could be paid for by a sales or property tax increase one women in the audience commented, “No way.” Fudge quickly added, “Only with voter approval.” I don’t think Fudge is getting that women’s vote.
Ken Churchill, a longtime advocate of overhauling pensions, said that pensions are costing us money that is not fixing our roads and new taxes are not going to do it. When McGuire said that the county’s pension liability is now about 80% funded, Churchill challenged that figure saying that it’s closer to 60%. McGuire then said that the new actuarial figures backed him up and Churchill admitted that he hadn’t seen the new figures. McGuire went on to counsel the pension hawks saying that even with futures savings it’s not a dollar for dollar deal.
SOS Roads Forum
As the debate/conversation continued to intensify McGuire, as only he would do, decided that everyone needed chocolate so he passed around a basket. Finkelstein spotted Jim Wood, Healdsburg mayor and candidate for the 2nd Assembly district, and ask if he anything to add to the road conversation. Wood said that he didn’t as he was there on a fact finding mission.
Craig Harrison held up a sign that said “Tired of Potholes?” go to SOSRoad.org.” He said anyone who wants a sign should go to the organization’s website which is an excellent resource for information regarding Sonoma County roads. He continued that a statewide pension fix would help improve all nine Bay Area roads. To that end they have filed a “Friend of the Court” brief in the City of Stockton federal bankruptcy case arguing that retirement benefits owed to city workers should not emerge unscathed from a municipal bankruptcy.
All and all it was a fun get-together. The crowd was engaged and even a local climate denier, who kept blurting out “junk science” (about what wasn’t clear), didn’t dull the interchange. Local politics at its best.
Letter to the Editor
By Michael Haran
Published Healdsburg Tribune 3/28/2013
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read in “Foss Creek Circle one-way remains” that “Silver Oak Cellars General Manager Tony LaBlanc said he was willing to do what he could to help find a solution to the problem, but reminded the council it wasn’t the opinion of his business that Foss Creek Circle be made one way.” I thought this whole mess was over the ingress and egress of the Silver Oaks trucks. But I guess it wasn’t One councilman told me that there had been some near collisions with people exiting their driveway around the circle. Well if that’s the rationale for this boondoggle I think we should make every street in Healdsburg one way and we should start with the streets around the plaza. We could conduct a totally unrepresentative straw poll to justify this unnecessary waste of city money. Everyone who has a driveway coming on to a city street will be entitled to have their street made into a one way street at city expense. Why anger just a small segment of the town when you can anger everyone? Although I do think those little flags on top of the no left and right turn signs do look kind of festive.
A Bunch of Malarkey in our Own Backyard
By Michael Haran
Published Healdsburg Tribune 11/01/2012
Regarding Mel Amato’s recent Letter to the Editor (I can read a Thesaurus 1018/12) Mr. Amato’s should look up the word “malarkey.” How stupid does he think people are? Either he is a one percenter, a lapdog for the rich or just loves seeing his name in print. I am not going to comment on his Thesaurus BS and focus on the facts.
He like every other conservative extremist in this country likes to twist the facts to pander to likeminded ignorant and prejudiced people. The reason the deficit has increased over the past four years is because our economy is working through the worst recession since the Great Depression. The deficit had to rise to help people and businesses get through these tough times on shrinking tax revenues. When Obama took office the economy was in a free fall. His administration implemented a stimulus package which helped stop the slide in the summer of 2009. In retrospect no one knew just how bad this recession really was and that the stimulus package was actually too small. Obama has since tried several times to get a jobs stimulation package through congress but has been stymied by congress at every turn. They have no intention of trying to stimulate the economy they only want the “black” man out of the “white” house.
Mr. Amato would be doing the local community a great service is he would recalculate his figures from the summer of 2009 forward. The reason food stamp dependency is up is also a result of the crashed economy. The unemployment rate has improved considerably since the bottom of the recession.
Another reason the recession has lasted so long is because of the housing market. Traditionally the U.S. has been lead out of recessions by housing. This time, because of the largest building boom the world has ever seen and subsequent crash, it has taken longer to get out of the mess the previous administration got us into with deregulation and two unfunded wars which benefited only the U.S. military industrial complex.
The current administration has steered us through the hard times. The economy appears to be improving. Consumer debt is the lowest in six years. The housing market looks like it’s healing with modest price increases, lower foreclosures and short sales, increased builder confidents and higher traffic to new home subdivisions. Not only does Romney have no real plan to further simulate the economy if he gets elected guess who’s going to take the credit for the improving economy.
As the president said Romney has no “five point plan” his only focus is to pander to the wealthy. The richest four hundred families in the U.S. saw their wealth increase by over four hundred percent over the past 10 years while the middle class has lost over two trillion dollars in the past three years – that’s trillion as in trillion! And if Romney gets elected the Republicans will continue to squeeze the middle class to pay for more tax deductions for the rich. This is no way to promote growth. Just look at the Middle East where in most countries the lack of a strong and vibrant middle class has led to stagnation and extremism. Our system of government was set up by our founding fathers to prevent Mr. Amato’s type of ideological extremism.
If Mr. Amato truly believes in what he is saying about adhering to our “founding principles” and turn back “our stampede down the Marxist road” he should send his Social Security and Medicare checks back to the government. And while he’s looking up “malarkey” he should also look up “oligarchy” and “hypocrisy.”
By Michael Haran
Published Healdsburg Tribune 8/11/2011
I ran into Mike McGuire the other day at the First Annual Healdsburg Water Carnival. He asked how I was doing and we chatted about county politics for a few minutes until another constituent came up and wanted to thank him for something. Knowing that his time is limited at these public affairs I excused myself and walked on.
I first met Mike and his wife Erika a few years ago at the Kiwanis pancake breakfast at the Villa when they sat down across from my wife and me. I recognized him from the city council articles in the Tribune. He introduced himself and Erika and then wanted to know about us. I felt his interest sincere.
Sometime in early 2010 I ran into him at Amoruso Printing. I had been working on a project to sell wine in China and when I told him a little about it he wanted to know all about it. So we scheduled a coffee and met at the Goat. Having taken a couple of poly-sci courses at Sonoma State in the early 70’s I was eager to give him my two cents on how he could win his upcoming election.
I had one issue to talk to him about which I call “pothole politics.” He listened intently as I explained the theory of the lowest common denominator. If he knew about it he didn’t let on and let me finish talking. Judging from his margin of victory I think he knew very well about this theory.
In the fall of 2010, I attended Mike’s debate with Debra Fudge at the Raven Theater. As Mike announced the endorsement of several business and civic groups Debra criticized him for seeking those endorsements. Mike responded that Debra had also pursued those endorsements. She continued by asking him how he intended to handle any conflict of interest in dealing with such diverse groups. He paused for a moment, turned toward Debra and, almost under his breath said to her, “Don’t worry, it’ll be alright.”
This amazed me. It was as if Mike thought that Debra was sincerely worried about this and his initial reaction was to reassure a worried constituent. I think this goes back to his days on the Healdsburg School Board where he developed his people skills. As Pat Wyman said in an article on Mike soon after he was elected, “If you know McGuire at all, you know how much he loves one-on-one meetings and how accessible he is.” It should be mandatory for every politician to spend some time on a local school board.
His election to the Board of Supervisors comes at a time of extreme austerity. He has to deal with SMART extensions, education, the increased demand for senior care, jobs, pension reform, education, clean air, housing and the homeless and all on a shrinking revenue base. He is new to this and his challenges are many but Mike McGuire is a unique individual and with his work ethic I really do believe that “it will be alright.” And it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one that feels this way.