He is well-known by his constituents, who greet him with a handshake or a hug at an Exeter eatery. He is recognized throughout the county as a familiar face–who some see as an authority figure. And, perhaps not yet known by the general population around California, he may soon be.
For 11 years, Allen Ishida has served Tulare County as a member of the Board of Supervisors. He is finishing up his 12th year now. Just how his time has gone and where he intends to direct his attention next was the focus of this interview. It is no secret that he will seek governorship of California.
Where he has been is an important factor in where he wants to go, he said. It is not just that he served as a supervisor, but the things that have happened and what part he has played during that role, that helps qualify him for head of state.
Ishida is a native of Tulare County–his grandparents moved to a Japanese colony in Lindsay in the 1900’s. His grandfather started farming with the Keeley family, and his father and uncles invested in their own farming businesses. Likewise, Ishida and his siblings are also farmers, growing citrus including Valencias, navels, easy-peel oranges and lemons.
It took Ishida a while to settle down into farming, though. After earning a degree in business administration from Fresno State, he went to work for the US Department of Agriculture, managing its California offices; he had a stint in sales with the Xerox Corporation, and he worked for 20 years selling commercial real estate, mostly agricultural land, in a large firm with offices around the state.
Throughout these experiences, especially through farming, he said, he has dealt with a plethora of regulations. He hoped, by being elected as a county supervisor, he could have a positive impact and reduce red tape.
“What I found out was that the county basically administers what the state regulates,” he said. “But it does make a difference in how those regulations are administered.”
Coming in as a supervisor, Ishida said, “I think my main frustration was with Resource Management Agency management.”
Getting permits and zoning was extremely slow and complicated.
“Now we have the ability (within the county) to issue a permit within 30 days, if properly zoned,” he said.
“A conditional-use permit may now take about 90 days,” he said. “It used to take years.”
In Tulare County, we now have a reputation for being open to business–I think that is an important asset to our county.”
Some of the other positive things that have happened during Ishida’s time in office include:
- Step-Up Program
- Measure R
- Receipt of US Funds for Eradication of Federal Land
- Tulare Lake Basin Disadvantaged Community Water Study
Formed in 2007, Step-Up Tulare County is the culmination of a joint effort between the county, law enforcement, schools, businesses, community organizations, faith-based groups and residents to combat gangs and provide more positive opportunities for at-risk youth in the community.
Step-Up offers $100,000 grant funding to non-profit community groups throughout the county through the Youth Activities Grant Fund aiming to improve the quality of life for those at-risk under 18 years. Each of the five county districts is allotted $20,000, and grants are awarded in $5,000 and $10,000 increments.
Measure R was passed in November, 2006, implementing a half-cent sales tax throughout Tulare County to help meet and improve transportation countywide. The 30-year tax will generate more than $652 million to help meet the county’s needs.
“Measure R was a tremendous boom for us,” Ishida said.
So far, it has allowed the widening of Highway 99 and improved unincorporated area roads, he added.
According to the Measure R website, 50% of Measure R funds are to be used for regional projects, such as the widening of Highway 99, freeway interchange improvements and increasing safety and reconstruction of major commute areas.
Thirty-five percent of funds are allocated for local programs to improve transportation for any member city of the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG). Fourteen percent of Measure R funds raised are used for public transit projects, bike lanes and environmental mitigation project.
Funding to Aid Eradication of Marijuana in National Forest
Since part of the Sequoia National Forest is within Tulare County, it was part of a bill passed by the US Senate Appropriations Committee to receive assistance funding for park historic preservation and eradication in 2007, according to documentation from Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office. Tulare County received $300,000 allocated to the county’s sheriff department to eradicate marijuana grows on national forest lands.
Tulare Lake Basin Study
Tulare County was the lead agency in the Tulare Lake Basin Disadvantaged Community Water Study, which also included the counties of Kings, Kern and Fresno, and was completed last year, Ishida said.
“I am really proud of that report,” he said. “It outlines water issues for small communities.”
Because of it, the Tulare County Water Commission has been resurrected, he said, which has been active.
“We’ve been able to obtain grants for disadvantaged communities,” he said.
This is all part of the county aiding communities during the drought.
The county has hired a water analyst, Ishida said.
“Tulare County is positioned better on water issues than most counties in the Valley,” he added.
Boards and Committees
Through his position, Ishida serves on many committees and boards. Some of those include the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) Board, State Freight Advisory Committee, California Rail Advisory Committee, San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, San Joaquin Valley Policy Council and TCAG.
The Sierra Nevada region provides more than 60% of the state’s developed water supply. It also provides habitat for a diverse range of wildlife and provides renewable energy generation.
In his fifth year with the SNC board, Ishida said the main priority is watershed restoration to provide more water for the area and the state, and reduce fire risk.
Railroads and High-Speed Rail
During his service, Ishida has gained a lot of insight into railroads, both freight and passenger. Being a member of one rail-related committee lead him to another and another.
“We’ve saved the rail (tracks) from Strathmore to Fresno,” he said. “If we had been able to save it to Bakersfield, we could have sent logs to Terra Bella.”
Ishida was referring to salvaging wood from forest fires and drought, and selling it for profit. While it could have been trucked down, the cost would have been prohibitive, he said.
“Now we have 30 million dead trees and they are just going to burn up,” he said.
The rails and railroads continue to be important for industrial use, Ishida said. Again, it is part of economic development and being open to business, he added.
With his knowledge and expertise, Ishida is against High-Speed Rail, at this time, he said.
“I am in favor of buying the complete right away, at this time.”
And, he said, he feels in the future, High-Speed Rail should come. But, a lot of technology may happen first.
“We’re going to be subsidizing High-Speed Rail forever,” he said. “Public transit does not pay for itself. Rider fares only pay for 15% of services – the rest someone else is subsidizing.
“The maintenance on rail is very expensive, especially passenger rail.”
The 15% Ishida refers to is an average and includes various forms of transit including city buses, he said.
Amtrak rates the San Joaquin line within its Top 5 revenue versus cost sources in the country, Ishida said.
“But it still doesn’t pay for itself,” he added.
As for High-Speed Rail, “we’re just not ready for it,” he said. “Who the hell is going to use it from Merced to Bakersfield – we’re going to have 20 years of killing weeds and no usage.
“It will be expensive to ride, especially because of the speed.”
San Joaquin Valley Policy Council
The SJVP council is made up of eight county transportation authorities including Tulare County, for which Ishida is the representative. With the help of congressmen Devin Nunes and Jim Costa, funding was made available for widening Highway 99 (not only in Tulare County with the help of Measure R funds) up to Stockton, Ishida said.
This council is also looking at the possibility of widening Interstate 5 to six lanes, he added.
Taking It Up to the Next Level
“Because of my service as supervisor, I understand how dysfunctional the State of California is,” Ishida said.
“I think a strong government can fix most of the bureaucratic red tape,” he added. “Most legislation is written by bureaucrats, not legislature. The executive branch can amend a lot.”
For example, Ishida said, the internal reporting on human health can be streamlined, with a reduction in cost for the state and counties.
However, “the biggest issue, is a lack of economic opportunity for our young people in the State of California,” he said, adding, “We used to worry about them graduating and moving out the area, now it is out of state.”
“We need to open up the state for business,” he said. “We have about killed business in this state.”
This is one of the platforms for his upcoming campaign. Another is water.
There are three main facets to the water issue, he said.
Surface water storage, which provides groundwater storage.
Clean up and reuse of municipal wastewater.
Restoring the infrastructure.
Sixty percent of the state’s water comes from the Sierra Nevada, Ishida said.
“We need to build more dams, everywhere we can build them.”
Ishida did say he isunsure about the status of global warming.
“But I’m an old Boy Scout,” he said, “Be Prepared.”
Ishida does have concerns about air quality and feels that poor air quality due to forest fires is not being addressed, while the public is being regulated too much.
“Sixty percent of the soot (in the air) comes from forest fires,” he said. “The state and feds will not address the issues of air quality and forest fires.”
“The Rough Fire caused the worst air pollution in the Valley during my lifetime,” he added.
Ishida is against the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
“I am not against it for medical use,” he said, “but we need to change the designation, so that it can be purchased at the pharmacy.
“Most of the dispensary clientele are recreational users.”
And it should be up to the local officials–city and county governments, he said.
With regard to healthcare, Ishida said, “Covered California is going to bury us, financially.
“I would want to amend it, although, just how, I am not sure,” he admits.
If the state had more economic development, it would have more taxpayers, he said. There would be more paying in, rather than current taxpayers paying more. Thus, taxpayers could retain more of their income.
“We need more people working,” he said. “Healthcare providers need to get fair compensation for their services,” he added, “or else there won’t be enough caretakers for all of us.
“When I was growing up we didn’t have health insurance–we paid to see the doctor. Until you’re in your ‘50s you really don’t need it, you just need catastrophic coverage.”
That is unless you were born with health issues, he added.
Making the Run
There are two years and nine months before the election that could make Ishida governor and he will not fully start his campaign until his current term as supervisor is complete. Then he will start avidly fundraising.
“I am probably one of the few Republican candidates in the recent past (to run), who is not filthy rich,” he said, admitting that he cannot self-fund his campaign.
“I am definitely not part of the establishment and I will get resistance.
“I look at myself as the person to get the job done–to address water and financial issues. I believe in being upfront and honest. And I am tired of seeing the state kick the can down the road and not solving any problems.
I can be nonpartisan–I’ve dealt as a nonpartisan for 11 years and I feel, as governor, I would take the same approach–and that’s, I’ve got to be tough.”
Ishida does say that he really never has had political ambitions and this has nothing to do with ego.
“I feel you have certain things in life–this is something I need to do,” he said. “If there was someone else who would do what I want to do, I wouldn’t run.”
On a Personal Note
Allen Ishida is 67 years old. If he were elected to Governor in 2018, he would be nearing 70 by the time he took office. However, longevity does run in his family. His father, 92, still helps run the family farming business, as Ishida has stepped aside during his time in office.
Ishida and his wife, Wanda, live outside of Lindsay. They have three grown children. All are surprised by his intention to run for governor, but are supportive.
Ishida enjoys hunting, sport clay shooting, camping and occasional freshwater fishing. He and his wife enjoy traveling around the state and the country. He has been a member of Exeter and Porterville Eagles Lodges. Most of all Ishida likes to farm.
“I enjoy farming,” he said. “There is an immediate gratification from getting tasks done. You’re your own boss–you are an independent businessman” he said.
But mostly, “Farming is memory relaxing.”