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Sonoma County 5th District Supervisor Candidates Answer Questions #1

thumb_2_Lynda Noreen split 600.jpg

Sonoma County 5th District Supervisor Candidates Answer Questions #1

Gazette Readers and Voters:

Both Noreen Evans and Lynda Hopkins have agreed to answer YOUR questions. I want to give them each the SAME 6 QUESTIONS - 3 per month - perhaps we’ll extend that to 3 months and 9 questions - we’ll decide as this progresses. They will WRITE 300 word answers for print - then longer on SonomCountyGazette.com which allows more room for longer answers to elaborate on their opinions.

THANK YOU for participating in our Supervisors election! Remember that this is 5th District but EVERY supervisor votes on issues countywide - who we vote for impacts the entire county.

Please submit your questions to vesta@sonic.net - POST tofacebook.com/Sonoma.County.Gazette - SEND to: Sonoma County Gazette, 6490 Front St #300, Forestville, CA 95436



Campaign Financing: 

Of the organizations, businesses and individuals contributing money to your campaign, are any making their donation dependent upon your future legislative support? Have they asked you to SIGN a pledge of mutual agreement and support? If you do NOT agree with their policies, but are willing to accept their donations, how do you tell them you will not vote in their favor if an issue where you disagree comes up while you are on the board?

 


 

Noreen Evans

Who funds a campaign tells you a lot about the candidate.

Individuals and special interests who write large checks to candidates do so because they want to elect someone friendly to their concerns and who shares their values. 

I have a long history of protecting the environment--getting Santa Rosa’s wastewater out of the Russian River, ending gravel-mining  of the Russian River, adopting the original urban growth boundaries and community separators, stopping oil drilling off our coast, and protecting our state parks. That’s why I’m supported by every major environmental organization in Sonoma County, including the Sierra Club and Sonoma County Conservation Action. Its also why the interests who fought against all these environmental protections are pouring money into this election on behalf of my opponent.

To answer the specific questions above: no; no; and of course. Just as I always have, I will make decisions according to what I believe are the best interests of the people of Sonoma County. For example, as your state Senator, I supported the Public Employees Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) over the vigorous objections of my friends in the labor movement because I believe pension reform was in the best interests of the public.   

The only pledges I have ever signed are those promising to uphold the laws of the State of California and of the United States. Any candidate who cannot promise to uphold our laws guaranteeing workplace protections is one who does not deserve the trust of working people.

Wealthy, influential special interests don’t need to ask candidates to pledge support. They know any candidate who relies on their contributions to get elected the first time must support their interests once elected, because their money won’t be there next time around if they do not.

Your interests and the future of Sonoma County are at stake. You can trust me to protect them, as I always have.

Lynda Hopkins

I am the only candidate who has not signed any special interest pledges. My independence came  at a cost: I lost endorsements and contributions because I refused to “play ball.” Specifically, I refused to make behind-the-scenes promises to special interests. One of these special interests, whose pledge I didn’t sign, poured $85,000 into mailings, much of it mud slinging attacks against me, during the final three weeks of the primary election.

I will not sign pledges to any group because I am not willing to secretly sign off on future votes. I don’t accept financial contributions that depend upon signing a pledge, even for progressive causes. 

Pledges create “insiders” and “outsiders,” and put the interests of a particular group above the interests of the many. Recently, candidate pledges have made headlines as contributing to government dysfunction and undermining the democratic process in Sacramento..  Here’s my pledge: to always put the needs of my constituents first and treat everyone equally.

I guarantee that I will not always agree with my supporters, because my supporters don’t agree with one another! My campaign is supported by unions, environmentalists, local businesses and farmers. I’ve already taken positions that some of my supporters disagree with. Good communication is essential when it comes to contentious topics that divide our community. As one of my largest contributors  said, “When -- not if -- you disagree with me on policy, I just ask that you explain the reasons why.” 

As my constituent, no matter who you endorse, contribute to, or support in this 5th district election, once I’m elected, my door will always be open to you. I will respectfully listen to your perspective, consider all of the evidence at hand, and make a sound, data-driven, community-first decision for the benefit of the District and County.

 



 

Local Coastal Plan: 

 The Sonoma Coast is unique to the Fifth District and the Local Coastal Plan is due for an update while you could be on the Board. With projected rising sea levels, PRMD will be forced to update building codes to accommodate high water along the coast as well as inland where estuaries and rivers will flood deeper inland. Increased tourist traffic, increased pressure for visitor accommodations and the ever-present desire for everyone to go to the coast for recreation has put more pressure on this fragile land and sea. Do you see an equitable solution for protecting the coast eco-system while accommodating local and visitor demands?


 

Noreen Evans

The Coastal Commission is not fulfilling its mission to protect our coast. That job now falls to the next 5th District Supervisor.

On this, as on so many other issues, the question for the voters is, who can you trust to protect our coast?

My commitment to preserving this fragile eco-system is well-proven. I served 4 years on the Coastal Conservancy, wrote legislation enabling preservation of Jenner Headlands and successfully fought efforts to renew oil drilling on California’s coast. As a member of the Coastal Conservancy, I opposed the Preservation Ranch proposal and we obtained the funds to acquire the development rights to stop it.

I’ve been part of every environmental protection effort in this county for over 20 years--adopting the first urban growth boundaries and community separators, removing Santa Rosa’s wastewater from the Russian River, getting gravel-mining out of the River, protecting the endangered California Tiger Salamander, and stopping Preservation Ranch. 

Development and gravel-mining interests who opposed these efforts are now pouring money into the campaign of my opponent in this race.

For example, Syar Industries fought for years to continue mining gravel from the Russian River. Developers opposed protection of the California Tiger Salamander so they could develop the Santa Rosa Plain.

Balancing protection of our fragile coastal eco-system with the demands of residents and visitors requires capable leadership, committed to environmental protection. As our Local Coastal Plan is being updated, the coast needs a Supervisor who knows how to get things done and can actually deliver strong coastal protection policies. Our coast is much too precious and we have too much to lose to take a chance.

Lynda Hopkins

The Sonoma Coast is unique to the Fifth District and the Local Coastal Plan is due for an update while you could be on the Board. With projected rising sea levels, PRMD will be forced to update building codes to accommodate high water along the coast as well as inland where estuaries and rivers will flood deeper inland. Increased tourist traffic, increased pressure for visitor accommodations and the ever-present desire for everyone to go to the coast for recreation has put more pressure on this fragile land and sea. Do you see an equitable solution for protecting the coast eco-system while accommodating local and visitor demands?  

Generations before me have fought to save our Coast from development:  to keep the beaches public, not privatized for profit.  I will continue this fight.  I’m committed to maintaining the integrity of our magnificent coast through a strong, conservation-based Local Coastal Plan.    

Coastal access is sacred in Sonoma County, and I will defend the right of everyone, no matter their socioeconomic status, to experience the sea. It is only through allowing people to enjoy our natural resources that we inspire the desire to protect them.

At the same time, it’s imperative that we protect our fragile coastal ecosystems and do not overwhelm our small towns’ capacities with visitors. We can balance these interests. To do so, we must invest in our struggling public infrastructure and emergency services. The Community Improvement District I have proposed will help return tourism tax  revenue to the coast.

I studied coastal ecosystems as an undergraduate, and I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to conduct scientific research on these fragile ecosystems around the world -- specifically addressing the intersection of industry, tourism, and climate change on riparian corridors and coastal zones. I understand the science behind the challenges we face and bring an interdisciplinary, stakeholder-based approach to policy development.

We should review “best practices” from around the world, and come together as a community to chose the most suitable method to protect our visitor impacted beaches and existing residences in the face of climate change.  I will partner with federal and state legislators to secure available funding to implement these adaptive strategies.

I grew up along the coast and the Pacific Ocean  is where I feel at home.  It’s my personal mission to ensure that my girls and future generations can experience the peace and beauty offered by the wild, rugged contours of our coast.

 



 

Homeless Camps and Housing: 

Across Sonoma County homeless camps are causing serious trash issues along our waterways where camps find shelter, water and places to defecate in bushes. On the Russian River a volunteer group has been cleaning up camps and working with homeless people to participate in the process, but this issue is county wide. The Water Agency has been cooperative by providing dumpsters to remove this trash. Do you think there is room in the budget for a county-wide program to keep our waterways clean of homeless camp impacts that is not dependent upon volunteer labor?

 


 

Noreen Evans

Trash on the Russian River is a symptom of failure by our County government.  For way too long, the County has failed to address our growing problem of homelessness.

Because we have so little affordable housing and such a low vacancy rate and because the improving economy has failed to lift all boats, our homeless population is increasing. Every night, over 2,000 people sleep on the streets and along our creeks and waterways. It shouldn’t take 500 angry people showing up at a town hall meeting on a rainy night in Guerneville for the County to start paying attention.

It’s no mystery what we need to do.  We need to provide emergency, transitional, and permanent housing for the homeless. We have locations, we can get money--what we lack is capable political leadership to get it done. Sonoma County should consider declaring a year-round state of emergency, similar to what Los Angeles County did last year.

We need a host of improved services for the homeless: mental health services; employment services; mobile showers, lockers and laundry facilities located near emergency shelters and transitional housing.

The trash problem is a public health crisis. The County has an exclusive franchise contract with Redwood Empire Disposal. The County should exercise leadership by requiring Redwood Empire Disposal to place recycling containers and more trash containers in downtown Guerneville and provide trash pickup for homeless encampments. The County shouldn’t rely on volunteers to do its job.

None of these suggestions are new. They are all doable. They require a Supervisor willing and able to do the hard, unglamorous work of listening, negotiating, consensus-building and problem-solving. But because we have lacked that leadership for so long, volunteers are still picking up trash along the Russian River.

Lynda Hopkins

I have received letters, photographs, phone calls and personal stories from Fifth District residents who are deeply concerned about this issue, and I’ve also seen firsthand the impacts that homeless encampments are having on our River, Southwest Santa Rosa, and the Joe Rodota trail.

I’m glad that Governor Brown has set aside $2 Billion to address our statewide homelessness crisis, and I will work with our state representatives to secure funding for local initiatives and programs. But we must be willing to match those state dollars with ongoing local funding to address homelessness in Sonoma County.

We must open up more single room occupancy dwellings -- like Palms Inn in Santa Rosa -- for shelterless residents. While we work on long-term solutions, I support creating safe camping spaces to provide homeless residents with basic needs: dumpsters, toilets, shelter, heat. We must move homeless camps away from sensitive ecological areas. And we must continue to clean up sensitive ecological habitats impacted by homeless encampments.

I will work to fund these countywide initiatives. While these programs should not depend entirely on volunteer labor, volunteerism is an asset to our community. The world’s a tough place right now. Across our country, we’re facing tremendous economic disparity that is fanning the flames of racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence. We can’t solve the world’s problems overnight, but we can start by addressing economic disparity at home. Volunteering to help the homeless is one tiny way you can fight back against the divisive, toxic politics we are seeing nationally.

I became a “Garbage Patch Kid” last winter, and I’d encourage you to join me: to come out with the Clean River Alliance and actually work with the shelterless in their own environment. It will permanently shape the way you think about the intersection of environmentalism and social justice.

 



Please submit your questions to vesta@sonic.net - POST tofacebook.com/Sonoma.County.Gazette - SEND to: Sonoma County Gazette, 6490 Front St #300, Forestville, CA 95436