Debate: Is NH 2020 only issue in county? |

Debate: Is NH 2020 only issue in county?

A question was raised at Thursday night’s District 4 supervisors debate that’s been on the minds of many, but hasn’t been heard over the Natural Heritage 2020 din for months now.

“The District 4 campaign is not a single-issue election centered around NH 2020 – what would each of you do to augment and improve mental health services in Nevada County?”

And what about long-term care for seniors, affordable housing, campaign spending and how to deal with growth? These were some of the questions asked at the League of Women Voters’ election forum at Center for the Arts in Grass Valley.

Despite the diversions, however, the course of the debate couldn’t stay away from the county’s controversial open-space planning process and the polarization it’s brought over the past year.

The polarization has gotten so bad, it’s pitting neighbor against neighbor and friend against friend, said challenger Rene Antonson.

“When it’s all said and done, we’re all going to be living here,” Antonson said. “… We won’t have this controversy if I’m elected to the board because I listen.”

NH 2020 has been shoved down the throats of members of the community, said challenger Robin Sutherland.

Sutherland said she supports “proper planning,” but added the county’s long-term planning process is flawed.

“NH 2020 needs to be taken back to the table, scrapped, and started all over again,” she said.

“I’ve heard people throw the word ‘polarization’ around, and I’d like to challenge that,” said incumbent Elizabeth Martin, the lone NH 2020 defender in the District 4 race.

The community stood together on Jan. 10 (when a gunman killed three people locally) and Sept. 11, “and there was no polarization,” said Martin, who reminded her challengers the District 4 campaign was not a single-issue race.

NH 2020, Martin said, will give the community more control over its destiny and help deal with growth over the next 20 years.

Those who oppose NH 2020 are large developers who want to come into Nevada County and turn it into a Roseville, she said.

“I’m running because I believe I can bring us to a better place,” said challenger Michael Harris.

If eight out of 10 people vote for Harris, “we can end this thing March 5 … or we’re going to have signs and yelling and people-shaking,” he said. ” … No one wants this to go on ’til November.”

On the issue of campaign contributions and who’s supporting the candidates, Harris and challenger Bill Steele haven’t raised any money for their campaigns or put up signs.

Harris said he didn’t want the people’s money.

“I’m running a grass-roots campaign,” Harris said. “Tell a friend, please.”

Steele said he paid $200 out of his own pocket just to sign up for the race.

“Every dime comes out of (my) wallet,” he said. “I don’t take money from anyone.”

On the issue of smart growth and how to implement it, Antonson said the county’s general plan is adequate.

“I think smart growth is already here,” he said… “My concern is no growth.”

If land is zoned for development, then property owners should have the right to develop it, Antonson said.

Smart growth means planning for the future with an understanding of what that takes, Martin said.

By directing growth toward cities and avoiding urban sprawl, the county will have a better opportunity to protect open space, agriculture and forest resources, she said.

Returning to the issue of mental health and how to augment and improve services, Sutherland and Antonson said they’ll fight for more state funding and seek to build new facilities to house services and programs.

Steele said the answer to handling the county’s mental health issues and improving the delivery of services is to privatize the system.

The need to improve mental health services is getting more and more dramatic, cautioned Martin, who in retrospect said the entire community was affected by the Jan. 10 tragedy.

“We are going to be diligent in improving services,” she pledged.

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