Five candidates for Nevada County supervisor in districts 3 and 4 fielded questions Thursday on everything from economic development, to the drought, to broadband Internet, Empire Mine, bike trails, marijuana cultivation and gold mines reopening at the first in a series of election forums run by the Nevada County League of Women Voters.
More than 250 people packed the county’s Rood Center, with many standing on the sidelines.
“It’s nice to see such a big crowd,” quipped incumbent District 4 supervisor Hank Weston. “Could all of you come back on Tuesday (for the public meeting)?”
Weston and his challengers, attorney Fran Cole and Internet third-party provider Jedediah Biagi, answered questions from the audience and from area media.
Also on stage was incumbent District 3 supervisor Terry Lamphier and his challenger, Grass Valley Mayor Dan Miller.
The candidates will face voters on the June 3 primary elections ballot.
The forum format, while spirited and full of enthusiasm, did not allow any debate between the candidates, so there were no winners or losers.
Some of the key answers:
On the county’s response to the drought:
Supervisors Hank Weston and Terry Lamphier said they would support the Nevada Irrigation District’s decisions on water supply.
“They’re the ones who make the call,” Weston said. “We need to support them 100 percent.”
Lamphier said he would be open to exploring alternative back-up plans, such as using water in abandoned mines if it could be cleansed of toxic wastes.
Miller said he also supports NID and that he might back 20-percent voluntary reductions in water use.
Biagi said he thinks his plan to create a charter for Nevada County and a public bank of Nevada County would help the county improve its self-determination in water use.
Cole said the county should “look at the broader picture, look at long term.” She would also look at “meadow restoration and forest management.”
On the Economic Resource Council’s economic plan:
Biagi said he liked the ERC’s plan to create and develop business. He also said a decentralized government to bring chartering and a public bank could work with the ERC and small banks to improve resources.
Lamphier said 90 percent of businesses in Nevada County employ between one and three people. He said he is working to support cottage industries and small businesses. He sits on the Biomass Task Force that is trying to create “renewable jobs, renewable resources” and has a $50,000 grant to begin that process.
Cole said she also likes the ERC plan and that it was a good first step. She would do more to create future jobs for the younger generation.
“Right now our children are our greatest exports,” she said. “That needs to change.”
Miller, a former president of the ERC, said the key to economic growth is partnerships that are inclusive to all parties.
“We are a divided county — the conservatives and the liberals, the good old boys and the transplants — and this hurts us,” he said. “We need to create a vision that all of us can agree to.”
Weston said he praises the ERC plan and said, “We should all get behind them.” He said projects such as restoring the Bridge at Bridgeport, a new sewer pipeline and changing zoning from business park to light industrial should all help.
On the marijuana ordinance:
KVMR announcer Paul Emery asked candidates if an economic feasibility study should be done to determine whether a legal cultivation policy might bring in revenue to the county.
Responses ranged from letting voters decide in November, when a ballot measure on the topic is scheduled, to moving proactively to further the effort and perhaps attracting millions or even billions.
“I think the study should have been done before the ordinance was passed,” Biagi said.
The League will sponsor three more forums on Thursday nights at the Rood Center for judge candidates, district attorney, school superintendent and U.S. representative.
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct an error stating "The top two vote getters, regardless of political party, will square off against each other in the November general elections." The "top two" primary does not apply to the county supervisor election. Unless a single candidate fails to garner a simple majority (50 percent plus one).