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Sonoma County 5th District Supervisor Candidates Answer Questions #3

thumb_2_Lynda Noreen split 600.jpg

Sonoma County 5th District Supervisor Candidates Answer Questions #3

Gazette Readers and Voters:

Both Noreen Evans and Lynda Hopkins have agreed to answer reader questions - 3 per month as we head toward the election. 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.


This is our FINAL in the series of questions from Gazette readers for Noreen Evans and Lynda Hopkins. Mail-in Ballots are heading our way and people are are forming firm opinions. Please see links to our YouTube chanel with Forum videos on our website: SonomaCountyGazette.com and on our Facebook page: facebook.com/Sonoma.County.Gazette/ of our Candidate Forums - one on Sept 21st in Monte Rio - and October 6th in Roseland - as soon as it happens - please attend if you have not asked YOUR question. 

 


 

Living Wage Ordinance:

In Dec. 2015, Sonoma County’s Living Wage Ordinance established $15 an hour wages for county employees and private sector employees under contract with the county. The exception is non-profit service contractors at $13 an hour raised to $15 by 2019. Not included in the ordinance are 12 paid sick days per year, and people who work on county property but are not contracted by the county. Would you support including these additional workers and paid sick leave in the county ordinance?

Noreen Evans

For the past 20 years, the vast majority of the economic gains in Sonoma County have been taken by the  wealthiest 1%, while the rest of us have seen our incomes fall or remain stagnant and the cost of living here soar. Just as in the rest of the country, wealth disparity has been growing here in Sonoma County. The rich get richer, and ordinary people struggle to get by.  

Meanwhile, the County has been busy hiring managers, while reducing the number of front-line staff, increasing the cost burden to the County.

The Board of Supervisors needs to set an example for the rest of the county by making sure our workers are paid a fair and equitable living wage. I support offering more hours to current County workers before hiring new employees or contracting-out public services. It is sensible and cost-effective to utilize staff already on the County payroll. I also support ending the practice of hiring more high-paid managerial staff at the expense of lower paid front line staff who actually do the hard work, thereby reducing payroll and pension costs.

I applaud the Board of Supervisors for adopting a living wage ordinance, but believe it should apply to County contractors who also provide public services. The State of California recently adopted a law mandating all employers provide paid sick leave to their employees--it is just common sense for the County to provide 12 sick days a year to our public employees. Who wants to work next to a sick coworker or be served by a sick County worker?

One of our biggest challenges right now is affordable housing. We can start addressing affordability by paying County workers enough to live in the County they serve.

Lynda Hopkins

Yes, I support amending the law to include a minimum paid sick leave and more hours for part-time workers. Too many parents are faced with the question “do I send my child to school sick, or do I take an unpaid day off work to stay home with my sick child – even though I need the money to pay the bills?” It’s also important, wherever possible, to increase hours from part-time to full-time. Too many workers are juggling multiple jobs and schedules, failing to qualify for benefits at any of their positions.

In terms of the number of paid sick days, I believe we should strive for a minimum of three weeks (15 days) of paid time off per year. This would include both paid sick and paid leave time – again, at minimum.

I feel that if employees are already receiving (as some County employees do) three or four weeks of paid leave, then 12 paid sick days is excessive – particularly if they accumulate, and can be used for service credit upon retirement. For these employees, I support a minimum of six paid sick days per year. For employees who do not receive substantial paid leave, I support as many paid sick days as it takes to reach 15 paid days off per year.

I support living wage, paid time off, and competitive salaries. I’m also mindful of the need to balance the County’s budget, and fund social services and public infrastructure.

However, it’s true that prolonged illness may require a large number of sick days. (Short-term disability does not adequately cover missed salary.) The County currently has a program to facilitate the donation of vacation days to fellow employees experiencing prolonged illness or tragedy, and should expand this program to facilitate the donation of sick days, as well.

 


 

Fish Flows & Water Rights Project:

The Russian River watershed is a huge part of the 5th District and also the source of water for the majority of Sonoma County. We have been mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency to restore fish habitat to save local endangered fish. This requires extensive creek and river restoration as well as adjusting seasonal flows of the Russian River. Do you support the Fish Flows and Water Rights Project DEIR or would you prefer specific changes to insure water flow AND fish restoration?

Noreen Evans

I fully support an extension of time to review the voluminous environmental studies for this low flow proposal and for hearings to be held throughout the Russian River watershed. I am hosting a panel of experts on Wednesday, September 28 at 6:00pm at the Russian River Fire Station in Guerneville - 14100 Armstrong Woods Rd -  so the public can learn more about this proposal and find out how to participate in the environmental review process. Please join us. You can find more information at www.NoreenforSupervisor.com.

The problem with the Draft EIR is that it assumes adjusting seasonal flow is necessary to restore fish habitat.  I am concerned that the proposal may undo decades of restoration work on the Russian River and its evolved, complex ecology that would put our endangered fish species over the edge towards extinction.

I have been studying this issue for many years now in varying capacities, going back to my service as a Councilmember on the Santa Rosa City Council when we pulled most of our wastewater discharge out of the Russian River watershed and into a clean energy solution at the Geysers geothermal plants. One of the real challenges we face is that the Russian River system has been substantially manipulated and changed by human activities for many years, via gravel mining, agriculture and vineyard development, the addition of tens of thousands of houses with impermeable surfaces, road and bank stabilization projects, and a slew of other issues that prevent the River from behaving as it would in its natural state. 

One of my biggest questions is how reducing the flow in the Russian River without also reducing the current amount of agricultural run-off will impact water quality for the fish, other wildlife, and humans.

As County Supervisor, and as Director of the Sonoma County Water Agency, I will work very diligently to ensure sound science and practical implementations are at the forefront of decision-making with our Russian River watershed. I will also work very hard to balance the needs of the various River stakeholders, from people to agriculture to fish and wildlife. We have one Russian River; it is important to celebrate its existence and preserve it because it sustains us all. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Lynda Hopkins

I prefer specific changes, and I’ll explain why. 

Unfortunately, the Fish Flows and Water Rights Project is an experiment, and the lower Russian River is its guinea pig. The conclusion of the DEIR is that we simply don’t know what the precise impacts of low flow will be on the lower Russian River. 

My greatest concern regarding the DEIR is the potential for “biostimulatory conditions” created by low flow. A biostimulatory condition refers to the potential for extreme algae or cyanobacteria growth. These Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) – aided and abetted by warmer water, which in and of itself holds less dissolved oxygen – can create hypoxic or anoxic conditions due to algal decomposition. In short, our lower Russian River might wind up with little to no oxygen in it. Fish cannot live without oxygen, so we might find ourselves harming, rather than helping, our fish. 

Unfortunately, we are under federal pressure to lower the flow of the Russian River. This pressure comes from the Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service – which invoked the Endangered Species Act, and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Act. What you need to know: the feds concluded that higher flows jeopardize the survival of Central California Coast steelhead and coho salmon, and California Coastal Chinook salmon. 

Despite this pressure, I am committed to fighting for the health of our lower Russian River. In particular, we must seek a feedback mechanism that enables us to adjust river flows based on in-situ conditions in the Lower Russian River. Currently, the DEIR describes a “top-down” approach: releasing water from the dam without considering the state of the lower Russian River. We need a “bottom-up” mechanism, where water can be released based on conditions in the lower Russian River. We need flow that will protect us from Harmful Algal Blooms.

 


 

Correct any Mis-understandings:

If you are concerned that voters have a mis-understanding of who you are, what you do and do not support, the integrity of your intent to serve Sonoma County, whether you are obligated to vote in favor of financial backers, etc. based upon campaign literature, Social Media posts, etc.…without pointing fingers…what do you want people to know to set the record straight?

Noreen Evans 

Transparency and accountability are words that get used a lot during campaigns. They are more than fancy words -- they allow scrutiny by the public of everything a candidate does.

Campaigns are in part an endurance test. In the end, voters get to decide who they believe is best qualified to represent them for the 5th District and best qualified to represent Sonoma County. Emotions tend to run high about this point in a campaign.

Campaigns are the only opportunity for voters to see how candidates respond to criticism and under pressure, before they cast their votes. Does the candidate blame others? Deflect attention? Call others liars for talking about inconvenient truths?

In this campaign I’ve been called a liar, misogynist, and corrupt in recent forums and in a very unfortunate video featuring profanity and scatalogical references. And we still have another 6 or 7 weeks to go before Election Day!

I remain determined to talk about an issue voters care deeply about--who funds the respective candidates? Who is paying for those fancy mailers and huge signs? Voters want to know before they vote. That’s why California law requires candidates to regularly and publicly report campaign contributions, under penalty of perjury. Go to the County website to see the list of each candidate’s’ contributions in this race and judge for yourself. (http://campaigndocs.sonoma-county.org)

Having represented the 5th District for years in both local and state government, I know 5th District voters are among the best informed in the state. I trust you with this information. I trust you to draw your own conclusions. I trust you will look behind the pretty images and the fancy words that arrive in your mailbox and make the best decision.

I would be honored to serve the voters of the 5th District as your County Supervisor, and put my 20 plus years of experience to work for you. I know how to get things done, and I can build a team through my administration and appointments to tackle the tough issues facing our District. We can work on solutions for housing, wastewater issues, preservation of rural character, protecting our coast, issues in Roseland with annexation and development, and more. Thank you for your consideration and vote.

Lynda Hopkins 

I’m not running for office to become a politician. I’ve never aspired to be President of the United States, or even High School Student Body President.

Why, then, run for Supervisor? I’m running for office because I want to change local government: to create a more participatory, collaborative County. Let’s create Community Improvement Districts to give unincorporated communities a greater voice—empowering our small towns to invest tourist tax dollars locally. Let’s hold Town Halls every year in every area of the 5th District to discuss needs, challenges, and solutions. Let’s open up government so that elected officials are held accountable.

My resume demonstrates my values. I studied environmental sciences and policy development through the Earth Systems Program at Stanford, and taught freshmen and elementary school children about climate change. I’ve spent 9 years growing food for the community in order to create a “triple bottom line” business – one that is environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. I served as a community journalist in order to shed light on local government and educate the public on local land use and agricultural issues. And I’ve been active in the non-profit world, as an executive director of Farm Trails and board member of Farm to Pantry.

As a journalist, I attended many Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Adjustment, and Supervisor meetings. County government is very different from state or city level government. I witnessed the good, bad, and ugly of local policy development, and have concrete proposals to change County government for the better.

I believe in a better world. I believe in positive change. And I believe those things start here – on the local level. Let’s work together to address affordable housing and homelessness, to protect our coast and river… to leave our corner of the world a bit better than we found it.

 


 

Issues not asked about?

Is there an issue you want to address that hasn’t been covered in these questions? Something you are burning to write about?

Noreen Evans 

I would like to address the proposed Dogwood timber harvest plan for the Gualala River. I am grateful that Judge Rene Chouteau had the foresight to temporarily halt the harvest, but long-term we need to protect our redwood forests and the Gualala River. Our forests will, over time, become more valuable standing than harvested, because they will help us sequester carbon and combat climate change.

In addition, I would like to address my proposed plan to invest a portion of Sonoma County’s $2.3 billion in public pension assets in workforce housing right here in Sonoma County. My proposal has been, unfortunately, misrepresented recently in the pages of the Press Democrat. Workforce housing is housing that is affordable to working families and will provide a steady stream of income to our pension investment portfolio. This is not a new idea--nationwide, the AFL-CIO has been doing this for many years. Furthermore, both CalPERS and CalSTRS invest in real estate development. Absolutely nothing prevents us from doing this here. It is a win-win for taxpayers and our communities and should be a part of our diversified investment portfolio.

Lynda Hopkins 

I’d like to talk about pensions, and the health of the Russian River.

Pension reform isn’t about whether you care about working families. It’s about math. The math is frightening: $831 million in pension liabilities, or $1,650 for every person alive in Sonoma County today. Unfunded pensions for the 1% of public employees are risking services for the 99% of taxpayers funding them.

I will protect reasonable pensions. I will fight for rank and file County employees.

But here is where my opponent and I differ: I believe that pensions for affluent employees who gamed the system – like Rod Dole, who spiked his pension and takes home $300K+ per year in perpetuity – should be reduced to reasonable levels.

My opponent’s idea of investing pension funds in workforce housing is illegal (per SCERA bylaws) and dangerous. The system is predicated on a 7.25% return on investment. Building workforce housing does not make money, which is why none has been built for the last 20 years. If we invest the pension fund in affordable housing, our unfunded pension liability will skyrocket. Even a reduction to 3.75% (unattainable in the low-cost housing world) would result in an additional $1.5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

Pension reform is essential. We must lower the assumed ROI, or work towards a shared risk system with employees. We must have citizen oversight of pensions, and the negotiation process.

Secondly, I’d like to address gravel mining in the Russian River. There is nothing more important to me than the health of the Russian River and Sonoma County coast. I will protect the River – which means no in-stream mining. I will protect the coast – which means no development. I’ll fight against beach fees. I’ll protect our commons, defend our environment and work for our community’s best interests.

 


Meetings and Debates coming up: 

Oct 3 ~ 5th District Supervisor Candidate FORUM ~ hosted by the Sebastopol Sunrise Rotary. Moderated by Gina Channel. Lynda Hopkins and Noreen Evans. 6pm - 8pm, FREE, at the Community Church of Sebastopol, UCC, 1000 Gravenstein Hwy N, Sebastopol INFO: sebsunriserotary.org

Oct 6 ~ 5th District Candidate FORUM ~ Noreen Evans and Lynda Hopkins will be available for attendee questions so you can learn who they are, and how they plan to serve our community. Hosted by the Sonoma County Gazette. Duane DeWitt moderator, 6-8pm at Roseland Village Community LIbrary,  779 Sebastopol Road Santa RosaCA 95407 (707) 548-7873 INFO: https://sonomalibrary.org/locations/roseland-community-library

Oct  10 ~ Candidate Forum - by League of Women Voters, 6:30 PM  at the Sebastopol Community Center, 390 Morris St, Sebastopol INFO: www.seb.org, 707-823-1511

 

Candidate Meetings by Candidate: 

LYNDA HOPKINS

lyndaforsupervisor.com

707-820-7075

Coffee Chats: everyone welcome

Oct 6 ~  9am – 11am, Forestville  - Tiny Town Café, 6544 Front St, Forestville

Oct 13 ~ 9am – 11am Santa Rosa – Starbucks, 760 Stony Point Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95407

Oct 20 ~ 9am – 11am, Graton - Willow Wood Market Café, 9020 Graton Rd, Graton, CA 95444

Oct 27 ~ 9am – 11am, Sebastopol  - Coffee Catz, 6761 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol, CA 95472

 



NOREEN EVANS

noreenforsupervisor.com

707-861-016

Meet & Greets:

Oct. 2 ~ Sebastopol Meet and Greet 4:00 to 6:00 pm RSVP and directions:  MartyR@sonic.net

Oct. 4 – Meet and Greet on Peak’s Pike Rd. 5:30 to 7:00 RSVP and directions:  MartyR@sonic.net

Oct. 5 ~ Sebastopol Meet and Greet 5:30 – 7:00 pm RSVP and directions:  Host:  Bleys Rose, bleysrose@gmail.com

Oct. 9 ~ Rally for the Win 3:-6:-pm at the Fairfield Inn & Suites, 1101 Gravenstein Hwy S, Sebastopol

Oct. 11 – Meet and Greet in Guerneville Host Jim Maresca 5:30 to 7:00 p.mRSVP and directions:  MartyR@sonic.net 

Oct. 12 – Meet and Greet in Santa Rosa  241 Royal Court, Santa Rosa RSVP and directions:  MartyR@sonic.net

Oct. 14 – Meet and Greet in Sebastopol 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. Florence Avenue, Sebastopol RSVP and directions:  MartyR@sonic.net

Oct. 19 – Meet and Greet in Graton 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. Hosted by:  Christy Lubin and Jordan Burns RSVP and directions:  christy@gratondaylabor.org