There were no fireworks at the Valley Women’s Club-League of Women Voters Candidates forum last night at San Lorenzo Valley High but smoke seemed to be coming from the ears of a few VWC members in attendance. Prior to the forum the McPherson campaign had sent an email to supporters which it posted on the Bruce McPherson for Supervisor Facebook page claiming a previous VWC forum in the spring had been “biased and unfair” and accusing the 32 year old non-profit of having “annointed Eric as their favorite”. (The letter has since been deleted from their Facebook page.)
Neither candidate mentioned the letter in the 60 minutes they spent answering questions submitted by the packed audience although Mr. McPherson expressed his “disappointment” to reaction engendered by his endorsement by County treasurer and former Supervisor Fred Keeley. This was presumably a reference to a letter published in the Sentinel by Paul Sosbee of Boulder Creek which said Keeley had “betrayed” his former constituents. McPherson said he wanted to “rise above party politics” and “I don’t want this to be a political game.”
In opening statements each spoke of their history in the 5th district, Mr. Hammer telling stories about growing up in a family of community activists, walking the watershed as a 6 year old with the late Al Haynes who founded Save our River. Mr. McPherson said he was born in the district, spent 26 years writing about it during his time with the Sentinel and that he had accomplished a lot for the district in the state legislature including helping to pass “the largest state parks bond in the nation’s history” which he said made possible the improvements at Junction Park in Boulder Creek and the Covered Bridge Park in Felton.
The League of Women Voters representative Morgan Rankin and Ann Wise sorted through questions submitted by those present. In all, 10 questions, addressing broad themes were put to each candidate who had two minutes to address them in turn.
In response to “What is your vision for SLV in 25 years?” Mr. McPherson said he wanted to “keep what we have” and that he wanted the district to get it’s “fair share” of county resources. In a theme he repeated throughout the evening, he said the San Lorenzo Valley has been treated like “a fifth wheel” and that the greatest needs in the 5th district were in SLV. He said he favored the strict growth controls that currently govern development and also called for increased sheriff’s patrols. Mr. Hammer shared a vision where SLV would be recognized for innovation in areas like conservation, water management and transportation. He said he believed the region could provide leadership by showing how to use green building practices to retrofit older homes to make them more energy efficient and by promoting the use of public transportation. He also suggested we create linkages with the south county, who he said share many of the same issues which face SLV residents.
Both gentleman acknowledged the sorry state of area roads with Mr. McPherson saying they need to be fixed as soon as possible citing their importance particularly for emergency services. He repeated his claim that SLV was not getting their fair share. He spoke about the RTC proposal, to levy a $10 vehicle fee saying he didn’t know if that should be done or not. “That’s up to the people.” he said. Mr. Hammer pointed out that the RTC proposal would raise between $1.2 and $2 million and that we need $5 to $6 million to do “the minimum work” required and that the counties' 600 miles of roads really need closer to $10 million for annual maintenance and upgrades. He suggested a sales tax increase might be more appropriate but said “That’s not my decision, but yours.” He said he was ready to bring the community together to try and solve the problem. He called for more transparency in the budgeting process “so people can see where the money is being spent.”
Mr. Hammer responded to a question about the planning department by suggesting they need to “become more user friendly”. He said there has been considerable improvement and called for more public outreach to help repair their reputation. “I want them to come out and talk to us.” It’s important that people understand their function and not “be in fear.” Mr. McPherson said Santa Cruz has “the most complicated codes in the state.” but he he does not want to weaken any of them. He wants more efficiency and what he called “up front honesty” so an applicant will know how long the process will be and how much it will cost.
On why he would be the best choice Mr. McPherson said he was the best qualified; “I know how the system works - and sometimes doesn’t work.” He said “I’ve written about the district for 26 years, I know the issues well. I don’t need any on the job training. I’ll hit the ground running and give you four years. I can deliver best for you.”
For his part Mr Hammer said he would be the best voice for the district because his is a local voice. “I know what you’re going through because I’m going through it. I live in the Valley, I’m raising my family here. I drive on the same roads you do. I send my kids to the local schools. I’m approachable, you’ll find me in the coffee shop in the morning or coaching little league.” He said he has the passion, commitment and dedication to take on the full time job. I haven’t written about the district for 26 years, I’ve lived in it for 44 years and I plan on being here well into the future.”
Community Television of Santa Cruz recorded the forum and will broadcast it in full a number of times before November 6th. As soon as they announce the schedule we’ll share it.