District 1 Has Last Forum Before June Primary

The final Tulare County Supervisor District 1 forum took place May 4.  After three forums, the voting public has ample information about the eight candidates in order to decide who will pass the June 7 primary. The top two vote getters will proceed to the November general election.

The forum consisted of one hour of pre-set questions for all the candidates and one hour of audience questions. For the candidates’ views on water issues or public safety, watch the video of the forum on Valley Voice’s Facebook page, or read the articles on the last two forums in our April 7 and May 5 editions. The following article addresses those issues not covered in past forums.

The candidates running for Tulare County board of Supervisor District 1 are Kuyler Crocker, John Elliott, Angel Galvez, Ted Macaulay, Brian Poochigian, Vincent Salinas, Rosaena Sanchez and Dennis Smith. Sanchez did not attend the forum. The event was co-hosted by the Foothills Sun-Gazette, Valley Voice and the Exeter Republican Women Federated.

Paul Meyers from the Foothills Sun Gazette was the moderator for the first hour, asking the preset questions. He kicked off the evening by asking what emerging industries should Tulare County develop.

Elliot, who is from Three Rivers, said that Tulare County loses hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by not harnessing the potential of tourism. He said visitors drive right through the county and out the other side of the national parks without stopping and spending their money. Poochigian agreed, saying we need to get the tourist to stop by promoting our restaurants, Exeter’s murals and Visalia’s downtowns.

Galvez said that the emerging industry that should be developed in Tulare County is technology. He said that District 1 has an extremely large workforce mostly working in agriculture, but tech is the future and we need to focus on training and education so the county can grow economically. Salinas agreed, saying that agriculture production is going digital and that we need a four year university to keep the area from experiencing brain drain.

Macauley  and Crocker said that the emerging industry that best suits Tulare County is e-commerce such as the proposed Nordstrom warehouse in north east Visalia. Crocker said that at full build out, Nordstrom’s e-center would be providing 2000 jobs to the region and be the number three employer in the county. If Nordstrom chooses to locate in Visalia “it validates that we are business friendly and ready to go.”

Smith thought the idea of an emerging industry was hooey. “I don’t know what is an emerging industry.” He said that the county needs to do more so that present businesses and agriculture can flourish. He wants the wealth created by those industries to be left with “we the people so that we the people can be wealthy.” He continued,  “we need to take care of the people who are here right now, providing jobs, creating wealth and fighting for or private property rights.”

Public safety has been a popular point of discussion in the last two forums, so Meyers wanted to ask the candidates on what departments besides public safety would each candidate focus.

Poochigian sad that he would focus on utilities. He said that water, sewage and electricity are not privileges but are services that need to be accessible to everyone in the county.  Salinas said that he would focus on the parks. “During the time of the Great Recession, when people couldn’t travel outside of the area, they had to use their own home’s recreational facilities. So I would work on the parks.”

Smith said that he would break up the Health and Human Services into the three departments like it was in the 1990’s. “Of the $425 million, $408 million is coming from outside the county.”  He said breaking the department up  would make them more transparent and easier to manage versus the bureaucracy they have become. Smith has voiced in the past about the danger of being so reliant on outside money.

Crocker would focus on the heart of our county which is agriculture, in particular the $600 million citrus industry. The Asian Citrus Psyllid has destroyed 80% of Florida’s citrus. The disease has become just as dangerous as the drought here in Tulare County he said.

Elliot said that we need to get a handle on the county’s contaminated water. SB88 says we need to clean up our act so far as serving the disadvantaged communities with clean water or the state will come in and do it for us.

“I know for a fact that besides public safety the most important issue is health,” said Galvez. Many people who own their own business in Tulare County can’t even afford their own health insurance. The health of the residents in Tulare County is critical. He said that 50% of the residents have diabetes and that 22 veterans commit suicide a day. “Health is something that I am already out in front and working on.”

Macauley said that everyone exclaims,  ”What about the roads?!” He asked,“what good is a great agriculture industry if you can’t transport the products from farm to table?”

That ended the first part of the forum of prepared questions. The second half was moderated by Nancy Vigran, from the Valley Voice, who  asked the candidates questions submitted by the audience.

The first question concerned building a rest stop in Three Rivers. Macauley thought that a rest stop along with regular bus service to Three Rivers would help keep tourist dollars in the area. Elliot said that right now there is nowhere for visitors to go to the bathroom. He said that Three Rivers has tried to construct a rest stop but that they could not secure the federal dollars and had a difficult time negotiating with Caltrans.

The next question was directed at Smith and asked if he thought property owners should be able to sell their ground water. Smith said absolutely not and that would start the slippery slope of outside corporations coming in to buy our water. “This is not just US corporations, but from all over the world will be buying up our water and that will hurt us.”

Another audience member wanted to know why Crocker used a Fresno Company to send out campaign information if he is so intent on creating jobs in Tulare County. He said that he wanted to use people he knew who had a proven track record. He did add that he purchases his signs in Tulare county. Macauley wanted to point out that all of his campaign materials, flyers, mailers and signs not only came from Tulare County but District 1.

Vigran then asked, “In one word or two what is the most important characteristic of a supervisor and how do you fit those characteristics?”

Crocker said, “Servant and leadership.” That is how he has served his community of Strathmore at various organizations including the boys and girls clubs and his church.

Elliot said, “knowledge and vision.” While working on a newspaper he has researched and studied every issue under the sun and that translates to knowledge and vision.

Galvez said “Honest, ethical and fair. If you don’t have integrity then nothing else matters. That’s what you need in a leader.”

Macauley said, “experience and community service.” He said that his 12 years on the Exeter City council for $45 a month was not for the money. After being president of the Exeter’s Lions Club he decided to run for city council because he wanted to continue to give back to the community.

Poochigian said that the best words to describe himself would be honesty, trust and accessibility. He said that he puts in 100% into everything he does.

Salinas said that service to humanity is the best work in life.

Smith puts in 10 to 12 hours a day into his business and says that he has the work ethic and energy it takes to be a supervisor. He said that he is a prolific reader and has studied the issues that have gotten the country into the mess we are in.

The next question focused on the proposed Yokohl Valley development in regard to the drought. None of the candidates came out against the residential development planned by the J.G. Boswell Company and slated to be located east of Exeter. Elliot pointed out that, being a member of the Tulare County Planning Commission, JG Boswell and many developers are in a wait and see mode with the Ground Water Sustainability Act. He said that there won’t be much movement until after 2020 when the rules for the Act go into effect. He added that the development will be a much more scaled down project than the originally 50,000 people planned for the community.

When the candidates were asked about the impending legalization of recreational use of marijuana, none of them came out in favor of making it legal in Tulare County. If the November initiative passes there will be a clause where counties can decide for themselves. All of the candidates were leaning against legalizing the substance because of the problems with crime and the increased visits to the emergency rooms that Colorado and Washington have experienced since it was legalized there.

The only candidate with a more retrospective view on the initiative was Elliot. He wanted to take a wait and see approach and said it might help the crisis happening in the national forest with illegal cultivation. Tulare County is also burdened with taking care of prisoners in jail because of crimes involving pot. Lastly, the federal government is moving towards legalization so Tulare County needs to be prepared for when that happens.

The last question was if the candidates agreed with Tulare County Sheriff Boudreaux putting on a gun raffle during his 2014 campaign. All of the candidates gave an unequivocal “yes” except Elliot. He said that that the raffle under California law was totally illegal and he did not support it. Looking surprised at Elliot’s answer, Crocker said that seeing as it was illegal that he would be against it also.

Mail-in voting started May 9. Residents can also hand in their ballots at the Tulare County Registrar of Voters in the Government Plaza across from Mooney Grove. Tulare County residents can register to vote until May 28. The registrar’s will be staying open late the night of May 28 to accommodate anyone who wants to register.

Tulare County Supervisor District 3 contest between Phil Cox and Amy Shuklian will be decided in June because there are only two candidates. District 3 mostly encompasses Visalia. District 5 including most of Tulare is also up for re-election, but Supervisor Pete Vander Poel is running uncontested.

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