Republican supervisor candidates share stage

Larry Micari elaborates on his plan to combat homelessness in District 1 with an audience member. Alexandra Feller/Valley Voice

Republican candidates running for Tulare County Supervisor Districts 1 and 3 attended the Visalia Republican’s Women Federated candidate forum at the Visalia Country Club January 9 to share information about their campaigns.

Members of the audience were invited to write their questions down on note cards. The moderator chose five questions and gave each candidate two minutes to answer them.

Before answering the questions, each candidate gave a two-minute introduction. Brad Maaske, candidate for District 3 said, “I hadn’t planned to run for this office, but here I am in the last quarter of my life ready to give back to my community.”

Tulare County Supervisor Amy Shuklian, District 3 incumbent, was not invited to participate because she is registered as no party preference.

From District 1, Robyn Stearns, the former Mayor of Exeter said, “I pay attention, I don’t let things fall through the cracks. I know that we can do better in our county, and that is one of the reasons I want to do it.”

Having served the public with the Tulare County Sheriff for 33 years, candidate Larry Micari believes in action. “And that’s what we need to do, we need to provide action. The bottom line is we need to provide services for our local communities.”

Speaking last was Tulare County Supervisor District 1 incumbent Kuyler Crocker. Crocker believes that it is important to keep a first-hand agricultural perspective on the board of supervisors. “Over the past three years we’ve made a lot of progress on working on different things that are a priority for me such as water jobs and public safety.”

During the forum, homelessness, water, and the degradation of city infrastructures became glaringly important as many of the questions were focused upon those issues.

Maaske has campaigned on his plan to solve Visalia’s homeless crisis.

“What we haven’t done yet is offered a low-barrier homeless camp,” Maaske said.

Low-barrier homeless shelters have minimal requirements for entry and provide mental health services, substance abuse and job readiness programs.

“My plan is so good, that Governor Newsom did an executive plan just yesterday and said that the state of California has to start doing that, making lands available for them to camp,” Maaske said. “He’s going to make portable trailers available, so you can have medical out there, they’re going to make grants available.”

In July of 2019, Governor Newsom approved a budget allocating $175 million to California counties for homeless aid.

With the help of this state funding, Fresno has created multiple homeless 24/7 come-as-you-are camps to give people a safe place to sleep and store their personal belongings. It is unclear whether or not Maaske plans on taking advantage of the same funds.

If given the opportunity to implement his plan, Maaske said he will use vacant land located near Bob Wiley Detention Facility. Bob Wiley is located on road 112 on the way to Dinuba and Junction 36 and is a three-hour walk from the center of town.

While many in the audience expressed their enthusiasm for the plan, Micari, does not support it. Micari and his campaign manager spoke to two homeless folks about living in an encampment. They said they would not even be interested in living in such an area because their things would get stolen by the other homeless people living there.

“Their most important issue is that they don’t want to get their stuff stolen,” said Paula Vinzant, Micari’s manager.

The solution to homelessness could lie abroad, according to Stearns. She models her plan after Portugal, a country that has reduced addiction and homeless by 60%.

“They have mobile units that go around and they have a doctor, a lawyer, and a social worker. They form a relationship with them, provide them with help, and even find jobs for them,” Stearns said. The country saved 70% by not incarcerating these people, she explained.

The second question asked of candidates was, “Aside from homelessness what is the biggest challenge facing Tulare County that you see as being a major concern and one of your first priorities as you prepare for a role as Tulare County Supervisor.”

The candidates were in unanimous agreement that water management is something that needs improvement in Tulare County and overall in California.

Micari pointed out that if we do not manage water resources properly, people could lose jobs– further contributing to the homeless population.

Stearns said, “if we are not able to grow the food we need in our area, we will be forced to import food that we won’t know where it came from, what pesticides are used on it etc.” The audience concurred with this verbally.

Crocker believes he has been proactive in bringing more water to the Valley, “a five-county effort to receive state funds via Proposition 1 where we secured $171 million dollars to build Temperance Flat, a new reservoir just above Millerton.”

“I’m the only elected official that is involved with the water blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley,” Crocker said.

Despite the funds raised for the project, Crocker said that Temperance Flat Dam is a $2.7 billion dollar project. The amount the state allotted through Proposition 1 monies is not enough to start construction.

However, Maaske had his own feelings about the crisis. “We don’t have a water issue, we have a publicity issue. There is a failure to promote what we do. The rest of the state thinks that food comes from a grocery store. They don’t know it’s grown, they don’t know where it comes from.”

“You can ask the realtors, I have gone to every legislator there to fight for our water, and I’m not even in office,” said Maaske. “We have to fight. We have to publicize what we do, and we might even do some selective strikes, and say, ‘Los Angeles, you think we don’t grow anything here? We won’t feed you for a week and see how that works for you.’”

Crumbling roads and dirty highways were also discussed during the forum. One question, specifically directed at Crocker, was “When will rural paved roads that are turning back to dirt be improved upon? Mr. Crocker, can you give a more accurate account of how the money from measure R has been spent?”

Crocker explained that Measure R, voted on in 2006, had a very specific plan for the roads. He mentioned it encompassing highway 99 and Plaza Drive expansion along with other things. “We update plans annually at a county level, and it is all very public. I am always happy to take requests,” he said.

Crocker said he focuses on farm-to-market roads to boost the efficiency of the agricultural industry.

After the forum candidates mingled with members of the crowd answering questions, many of Crocker’s centered around which roads will be fixed and when showing the significance of the problem.

Crocker’s 2016 opponent, Dennis Smith attended the forum, but was disappointed in the lack of clarity in Crocker’s answers.”So we have Kuyler who has been on board for 3 years. I am still disappointed in the lack of depth that I’m hearing in his answers in a forum like this,” Smith said.

“There’s a world of difference in working in government, and working for the government, for the betterment of the government, It is important to consider someone who is going to work for the government when considering who to vote for on March 3.”

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