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Terry McLaughlin: What do you want our western Nevada County community to embody?

Terry McLaughlin

Do you have a vision for Nevada County? What do you want our community to embody?

Nevada County, along with the rest of California, and indeed, the United States, is facing many issues which affect the quality of life for its residents.

Everyone who lives here recognizes that we must deal with homelessness, drug addiction, criminality, a lack of affordable housing, broadband limitations, and a shortage of well-paying jobs; not to mention the on-going need to establish rules regulating the now legal cultivation and use of both medical and recreational marijuana.

We will each have a decision to make in four very important county races this June. The Sheriff, District Attorney, Board of Supervisors and Clerk Recorder/Registrar of Voters are all elected positions in which more than one candidate has presented him or herself and is asking you, the voter, for your support. Some of these races have become contentious, with a great deal of rhetoric being expressed between the candidates and in the press.

Counting the number of yard signs posted for a candidate around town does not provide enough information on which to base a decision!

California’s cities have become less safe with the passage of Proposition 47, along with a number of other pieces of legislation which have reclassified many serious felony crimes as misdemeanors, lowered or eliminated bail for those in custody, created sanctuaries for criminals who are already in our country illegally, and released suspected and/or convicted criminals into our community. Consequently, our votes for those tasked with enforcing our laws and aggressively prosecuting those who disregard them, are more important than ever. The safety of our community is at issue and a thoughtful evaluation of each of the candidates is warranted.

We are introducing an entirely new voting system in our county, one with which we are all inexperienced and which may be vulnerable to fraud, or simply human error, as it is implemented. The election of the person responsible for administering this system and assuring that all of our legitimate votes, and only our legitimate votes, are properly counted is of vital importance.

Our leaders must work through the give-and-take of setting fair and reasonable regulations on cannabis businesses and distribution. They must work together on the difficult question of how best to deal with the problems of homelessness and addiction in a humane and compassionate way, while keeping our neighborhoods safe. They must tackle the ongoing issues of affordable housing and jobs which affect our county economically. Our vote for those responsible for making some of these difficult decisions on behalf of our community is critical.

What you are looking for in an elected official? Are you looking for someone with long ties to the community? Someone who has a history of local employment? One who has owned their own business and employed local residents? Someone who has or had children enrolled in local schools? Someone who understands the budget process? Someone involved with our nonprofits, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, or other organizations? Someone who has shown a capacity to work collaboratively with other officials, business owners, homeowner associations, or law enforcement? Are you looking for a policy of low-growth, no-growth, or the urbanization of our community? Do you favor aggressive enforcement of our laws, as well as health and safety codes?

Our answers to these questions and so many more may not all be the same, and the type of leadership, experience, and capabilities we are seeking may differ, but without taking the time to research, question, and learn about each individual candidate, you cannot know that the persons you are voting for will provide the type of leadership you actually desire and that will most benefit our community.

Counting the number of yard signs posted for a candidate around town does not provide enough information on which to base a decision! And although it is helpful, just reading about these candidates in this newspaper is not enough either. I urge every voting citizen of Nevada County to take advantage of the many forums that are being made available through the League of Women Voters, the Nevada County Republican Party, the Nevada County Democrats, and any of the many other organizations that are hosting candidate debates and events.

Visit the candidates’ websites. Learn about their experience, base of knowledge, and their past civic engagement. Personally ask the candidates questions about the issues that are important to you. Ask their supporters why they are supporting their candidate. Research how their campaign is financed and who their donors are. Are the bulk of their campaign donations coming from local voters, businesses and organizations, or are they coming from outside our county, or even outside of our state?

Find out who is running their campaign. Ask the candidate why they want the position for which they are seeking your vote. What is their vision for Nevada County? Does it reflect yours?

Be informed! Don’t casually put a checkmark in a box on your ballot — know exactly who you are voting for and why.

Be certain in your own mind that the candidates for which you vote have the experience, knowledge, capabilities, dedication, integrity and proven past performance necessary to lead this community. We all seek a safe and thriving Nevada County, although we may differ on the optimum path to achieving that shared vision. We are each ultimately responsible for making clear, educated and informed decisions regarding those we elect to lead us down that path.

Our future and the future of our community depends upon it.

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Nevada City, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.

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