I can’t believe I have been serving as District 3 Supervisor for a year! Time flies when you are busy. First and foremost, I would like to thank my wife and children. It has been a growing experience managing my busy work life. Without their love and support this would be impossible and with it, everything has been possible. I would like to thank you, the constituents. I have met so many wonderful people since being in office. Every time I run into you at the Twain Harte market, a community event or you catch me on the ski slopes at Dodge Ridge with my family, I am reminded and humbled how lucky I am to serve you; it is awesome. Last, but certainly not least, God gets all the credit for any success in my life. Knowing Him gives me strength each day to do what I need to do to serve you.
Budget Transparency: While campaigning for this office, I was concerned about transparency in the government budget process and considered the idea of a third party audit of our books. It was something I wanted to learn and share with others. I believe our Board of Supervisors is making progress in this area. We encouraged Tracie Riggs, the County Administrator, to get more acquainted with the community. Tracie has done that. From the Fire Preparedness Community Outreaches to the “Meet the CAO” community forum, from the 2019-20 Budget presentation and now the “We are Tuolumne County” forum, the CAO’s office is bringing transparency to our community more now than ever before.
The budget document is hundreds of pages long and even an accountant would have a hard time grasping it all. Many hours were spent making charts and graphs to help visualize the situation, which is why I am ecstatic that our Board of Supervisors (BOS) unanimously approved the purchase of the OpenGov budget software. OpenGov provides the administration with powerful tools for quickly and visually evaluating budget “what-if’s” and provides on-line tools for the public to easily create their own charts and graphs. This tool will better engage our residents by providing insight into hot community topics like fire, law enforcement, animal control, capital projects, strategic plans, and more. It can be used to present badly needed monthly and quarterly financial reports and strategic plan updates to the Board. Learn more from the OpenGov website here.
Meeting with Governor Newsom’s Department of Finance: To address the county budget short-fall, the BOS voted to place a Sales Tax and Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) increase measure on the ballot for you to vote on in March. At the first meeting, I voted NO because I couldn’t see why we should raise taxes when the State of California was sitting on a $21.5 Billion cash surplus. At the very least, I felt that before we discuss raising taxes we needed to ask Sacramento for our share of those funds. At the following meeting, we reached agreement to pursue a meeting with Sacramento. In December, we met with the Department of Finance as detailed on myMotherLode here. It was a good first step towards making our rural county’s financial situation heard, however much more effort is needed. I will continue to voice the financial burdens our rural county faces. With BOS support on the Sacramento initiative, I support placing the tax measures on the ballot for you to vote on. As you may be aware from the 2019-20 budget discussions, the county is facing financial shortfalls and serious projected shortfalls in areas such as law enforcement and fire protection. The agenda for that meeting is here.
Local State of Emergency: At the first BOS meeting of 2020 the BOS adopted a resolution proclaiming a local state of emergency due to the severe and persistent fire danger. We are requesting that the Governor approve California Disaster Assistance Act (CDDA) funding for road construction and maintenance in areas with limited ingress/egress routes, vegetation management around public infrastructure, defensible space assistance for seniors citizens and those with access and functional needs, and a residential green-waste disposal program. Mt. Provo Road is a prime example of emergency funds needed to address this ingress/egress route.
Economic Development Authority: The name has been changed to Innovation and Business Assistance. The three pillars of this organization continue to be business retention, expansion, and attraction. As Director, Cole Przybyla’s job includes identifying opportunities and matching them to the right enablers and incentives to make them happen HERE vs. somewhere else. Another aspect is helping business owners run their companies, or give them a hand when they are failing by helping them see new opportunities for expansion and providing a better environment to do that in, as well as attracting entirely new operations to the area. You can view a brief quarterly update here.
Resiliency Center for Tuolumne: The resiliency center is on schedule to be constructed with grant funds. Requests for proposals will be going out this spring for bids.
Sledding along Highway 108 in Little Sweden: We are all concerned that someone will be hit by a car while illegally parking, sledding and trashing little Sweden. Recent development in the area has not deterred sledding, I have initiated conversation with Caltrans and they will be conducting a traffic safety investigation.
Homelessness: We recently approved a job specification for a Homeless Coordinator. This position is grant funded, meaning it is NOT consuming general fund dollars. This position will help bring together all parties including government, businesses, faith-based community volunteers and the private sector in a coordinated fashion to be more effective in combating this issue together locally.
Survey: This annual survey is an opportunity for you to share your ideas as the Board of Supervisors begins to plan our goals and priorities for 2020. Your input and participation is important to us and we look forward to reading your feedback. https://www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=596
Broadband: Governor Newsome recently acknowledged a digital divide exists in communities across California. The Governor announced he will convene stakeholders, the private sector, education institutions, and government agencies with a goal of developing an inclusive “Broadband for All” plan for the state. I will work to have Tuolumne County well represented at those meetings.
Waste Management: With last year’s heavy snow, Waste Management struggled to provide adequate services. At my request, customers were reimbursed for missed pickups. I am pleased to see Waste Management stepping up their customer service this year and providing an Inclement Weather Hotline 1-888-558-0616 where people can call and find out about service delays. You can also request automated messages via phone line, text or email. Update you contact information with Waste Management here.
Meet County Staff: CAO Tracie Riggs and team members from Tuolumne County departments are hosting community open houses (view the flyer here) to connect and educate the public about County services. For District 3, don’t miss January 23rd at Twain Harte Bible Church and April 2nd, at Tuolumne Memorial Hall.
CEQA and NEPA Reform: Although the original intent of these acts was just, the unintended consequence has been their use in back-door litigation deals to stall and stop needed housing development and forest management projects. In October, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris requested feedback on power shut-off effects and fire prevention. Among the recommendations, I provided feedback to her office requesting legislation reforming CEAQ and NEPA. On January 9, 2020, President Trump announced major reform in NEPA detailed here.
CSAC Appointment: In November, the BOS elected me as the alternate Director for Tuolumne County to the California State Association of Counties (CSAC).
Juvenile Hall: Many of you remain concerned about the operational costs associated with the Juvenile Hall, myself included. I have joined the CSAC Juvenile Hall working group as part of my efforts to address this issue. Chief of Probation, Linda Downey is working on creating “camp beds” within the Juvenile Hall. If approved, it would save between $100K-145K per year. More information is here.
The Historic Preservation Review Commission (HPRC): If you are interested in serving on this commission, please contact us here.
Planning Committee: If you are interested in serving on the planning committee, please contact us here.
Agriculture Production: 2018 agricultural commodities produced in Tuolumne were estimated at $40.9M, an 8.0% increase over 2017 production. Forest related revenue increased 32% due to an increase in the value of harvested timber and an increase of biomass going to our local co-generation plants.
Tuolumne City Parks and Recreation (TPRD): During budget discussions, Tuolumne Parks and Recreation funding was a target for cutting, with the proposal to return the funding and services workload back to the County. After a joint tour with myself, CAO and TPRD, we agreed to keep the contract with TPRD. They have done a great job reviving and maintaining the facilities in downtown Tuolumne, and the local community should be proud of them.
Election Recommendations: When it comes to politics, some have advised me to stay out of the elections that I am not running in, that it may “hurt your reputation when you go to run again for another term.” Thanks for the advice, but just because I am elected does not mean I lose my voice as a voter with opinions. There are three BOS seats open in this election cycle: District 1, 4 and 5. I am a professional, so I will work with whoever is elected.
For District 4, I support Dameion Renault. Dameion is a family man with an incredible life story and large and diverse resume. He has young children and lives in Groveland. He is one of the most passionate people I have ever met and will bring that passion to the BOS. https://www.dameionrenault.com/
For District 1, I support Sherri Brennan. Sherri is known throughout the State of California for her experience and leadership in Natural Resources. She was recently elected chair of the fire insurance ad hoc committee for Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC). The last two years she chaired the agriculture and natural resource committee for CSAC. Her years of experience and knowledge represent our rural county better than most.
For District 5, I support Karl Rodefer. Even though at times we disagree, he listens and considers other positions and that is what I like about him. He is tough but unquestionably wants the very best for his district and this county. A retired Lieutenant Colonel, he has more life and leadership experience than most people in any room. His knowledge mixed with some of the younger BOS members (myself included) make for great discussion, perspective and action.
There is also a Superior Court Judge seat open. I support Laura Krieg. Laura has worked tirelessly as our District Attorney to protect the rights of children and victims, while exhibiting fairness and integrity.
State and National Politics: In recent years, the idea of socialism has spread like wildfire. Simply stated, we live in the greatest nation on earth. It is not perfect, but it is the mecca of freedom – which is why so many people want to come here. I support those leaders who share the vision stated in the Declaration of Independence. Our government was not created to rule over people but to secure the God-given, inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. While socialism may sound attractive, it has been tried in other counties and failed, leading to government control and deprivation of rights – known as tyranny.