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EDC Holds Candidate Forum

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The candidates for two Tuolumne County Supervisors seats and the lone spot on the Yosemite College District board had an opportunity to discuss core issues and voice some of their campaign platforms this morning.

The Economic Development Company of Tuolumne County hosted the second of two candidate forums for the benefit of its membership.

District 2 supervisor candidates Paolo Maffei and incumbent Don Ratzlaff, and District 3 candidates Jerry Morrow and Jim Peterson, along with College Board hopefuls Joe Mitchell and Don Stone, were given a chance to speak regarding topics of an economic development theme.

Incumbent Supervisor Ratzlaff told the EDC members the county can’t rely solely on tourism to sustain the economy. The county needs young business entrepreneurs to help support and sustain the economic climate here, he said.

Ratzlaff said he supports “smart growth,” and private property rights. He said he has, and will continue to, support the county’s General Plan maximum for new developments.

His run-off election challenger, Paolo Maffei said the Mountain Springs controversy is what got him to get involved and run for county office.

He wants to see the county’s traditional industries, such as logging, ranching and agriculture preserved, yet wants to see a healthy kind of growth.

Maffei said there´s a need for economic development, not “development that brings a lot more people up in the county only to be unemployed.”

The two candidates vying for Laurie Sylwester’s District 3 supervisor seat are taking differing views of how growth should be handled in the county.

Morrow, currently serving on the County Planning Commission, said, “If (the county) doesn´t have growth it´s going to die on the vine.” He wants to find ways to increase tourism to the area, especially in Twain Harte.

Peterson said not all growth is good growth. He’s in favor of growth but wants a planned growth that will protect and enhance the rural lifestyle and open spaces.

Both candidates see the economic importance of older age, retired residents who are moving into the county, but Peterson said he wants to make sure there is adequate housing available for working people to retain the younger worker.

College board candidate Joe Mitchell wants to raise the percentage of Tuolumne County residents who have college degrees, currently at only 8 percent. He’s also is looking to “widen the net” of access the college system has.

Don Stone, a former Columbia College student and college district board student trustee, said he is concerned over the lack of vocational education programs and plans to promote those and other job training courses.

EDC president Barry Hillman says he is pleased with the morning’s dialog and the format offering written questions to the candidates.

Hillman added his organization’s role in offering the local forum is a way to help educate candidates on EDC issues, as well as educate his business group’s membership to what the candidates stand for.

“We gained even further understanding of each other, so I think it´s quite positive,” Hillman said.