Saturday, April 28, 2012

Taking the Fifth: McPherson and The Million Dollar Question

On Wednesday night 5th District Supervisor candidate Bruce McPherson joined Sleepy John Sandidge on KZSC.  Comedian Richard Stockton was in the studio for the first half hour and then Sandidge and McPherson discussed local politics and took calls for the remainder of the show.

Check out Part 1 of my account here.

McPherson is justifiably proud of his participation on the boards of local non-profits, he singled out his involvement with 2nd Harvest Food Bank, the Marine Exploration Center and the Tannery Arts Center.  He said cultural and arts activities account for as much as $30 million in the local economy.

Before getting to the call in questions John posed a hypothetical to his guest essentially asking how to control speeders on the rural roads in the county.  McPherson spoke about  the need for more patrols to slow down traffic.  He said the Sheriff’s department would be his top priority.  He then said that currently there were only two patrols per shift to cover the San Lorenzo Valley and parts of Bonny Doon.  He offered a suggestion that electronic speed indicators might be an idea but expressed doubt on their effectiveness; message boards alerting people to accidents or hazards might be a good idea he thought; then he recalled a story he remembered that if people drove 55 on Hwy 17 they would get over the hill within 2 minutes of those driving faster.  Sandidge pointed out that the speed limit was 50 mph.

When Sandidge brought up the Sentinel, McPherson shared the story about how the paper first came into the family in 1864. When his ancestors, who had migrated to the gold fields from Scotland by way of New York and then came to Santa Cruz to pursue logging his grandfather Duncan took a half interest in the paper for $900.  McPherson thought the paper became less conservative when his brother Fred took over as publisher and he became a writer, eventually working his way from the sports desk to editor.

Sandidge was critical of paper’s move out of Santa Cruz,(which happened after the paper was sold to a New York publisher).  Bruce defended the current Sentinel news staff and said it was one of the top newspapers among it’s size in the state.  “There are some good folks over there.  I think they’re doing very well.”

Sandidge tried to draw McPherson out on why, after 118 years in the family, the brothers decided to get out of the business.  “It must have been weird selling the paper.” he asked.

McPherson would only offer that “It was very difficult.”  He said the business was different now pointing out in particular the decline in classified advertising pages.

Sandidge also brought up the fact that the family once owned KSCO but beyond saying that his father preferred print to broadcast he had little to say.  He did agree that current talk radio seems to “feed the fire” that is among the reasons why there is so much partisanship today.

When Sandidge went to the phone for questions from listeners the first was about the effects of Proposition 13 and on whether or not the way the law conflated residential and commercial property was appropriate.  

McPherson acknowledged that the measure, passed in 1978, has had a dramatic effect on local government.  He said it is probably “unrealistic” to think it could be changed.  “It would be a very difficult thing to do” he said.  He also implied businesses might suffer from a change in how commercial property was assessed.

The next call came from a resident of Ben Lomond who claimed that as a candidate, McPherson has called the Sheriff’s office, the roads, building a Library in Felton; putting a bike trail from Felton to the school and perhaps from Boulder Creek to Santa Cruz; improving the bus system, support of Planned Parenthood and other non-profits; all “top priorities” of the former state legislator.

McPherson replied at length about these and other needs he intended to fight for if elected and when pressed by the caller to say where the money would come from his answer was “That’s the million dollar question.”  Pressed further he said “Maybe we can look at the sales tax.” He also thinks creating a better climate for new businesses would boost the economy and increase revenues for local government.

The next caller wanted to know what could be done about unscrupulous landlords who were building illegal units, running extension cords to provide power to outbuildings or renting out RV’s.
and trailers that overtaxed already failing septic systems.

McPherson responded by talking about “strict planning policies” and wondered why there hadn’t been enforcement. He wanted to know if the caller had filed any complaints.  “I’m interested to hear what you have to say.”  he said.

Sandidge pointed out that there were likely hundreds of similar situations and that it would be next to impossible for the short staffed county to address them.

Both McPherson and Sandidge tried to help a caller who was distressed that a planned refinishing of the Derby Park skate board ramps was to proceed without public input.  A subsequent caller pointed out that it was a city, not a county park and that the ramps were in need of repair.

Another caller wanted to know how McPherson felt about private management for the Simpkins Center.  McPherson said we should look at it.

A caller from Boulder Creek told about his situation involving a building which had burned down on a small site that he owned but that he was unable to get permission to rebuild.  McPherson thought he should have that right.  “I don’t think government should be punitive.  We should respect private property rights.”

The show ended with Mr McPherson saying how much he loved this part of politics, listening to the people.

Sandidge said that would have McPherson’s main opponent, Eric Hammer on a subsequent show.

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