Badlands dropped by City Hall tonight and caught a spirited debate between supervisor candidates running for the 2nd (City of Merced) and the 4th (rural east side) districts. The event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Business and Professional Women of the county. We plan an article on the debate in a few days. Meanwhile, cruising the campaign-literature table we picked up an impressive paper from Claudine Sherron, running against 4th district incumbent Deidre Kelsey. We thought it was substantial and thoughtful. --editors
Restore Integrity Restore Integrity Restore Integrity Restore Integrity
CLAUDINE SHERRON for Supervisor
Claudine’s Responses to the Public’s Questions.
What is your vision for Merced County?
My vision for Merced County is to preserve its character and to improve its economy rather than to allow the further disintegration of both through irresponsible growth, unearned enrichment for the few, and hardship for the many. This vision of Merced County, which I share with the volunteers who support me and have urged me to represent the 4th Supervisory District, is based on the belief that we can do better.
We can do better in representing all of the people of Merced County, not just those with financial means to buy patronage; we can do better in providing equal access to government for all of the people of Merced County, not just those who want to further a particular viewpoint; and, we can do better in providing protection to the property and lives of the citizens of Merced County.
I will work to repair the damage to the economy, to public health and safety, and to the quality of life of the people of District 4 as well as to the entire County of Merced. This damage has been caused by the systemically-flawed planning process which has marked the past 15 years with lack of consistent direction and the total absence of transparency. Business-as-usual has not worked for Merced County. We can do better.
We need community-based solutions to the problems which affect our communities. I will bring government back to the citizens I represent and give a voice to those who want to work with me to restore honor to the process of government.
Not only can we do better--we must do better!
What are the three top issues in Merced County?
1). Fix the broken planning process
A process that allows for unrestrained growth and no long-term plans for the well being of the citizens is by definition a broken planning process. Public access to information in order to comment intelligently on projects sailing through the planning department does not meet the requirements of state law, either the Brown Act or the Public Records Act. The planning department, with the aid of the county administration, the planning commission and the board of supervisors is out of completely out of control.
2). Public Safety
We are not at all competitive with the benefits that we offer to our deputy sheriffs or wages which is driving sheriffs from our department and leaving citizens unprotected.
3). Our Future
Think smaller, plan for the people and that is our future.
We need a comprehensive county water plan to insure that residents and farmers have enough.
There is no "balance" between the ambitions of large corporations and the health of our people and way of life.
Eradication of agriculture in California and unstoppable growth is not a foregone conclusion for me.
What skills qualify you to be a County Supervisor?
By philosophy, I am a modest conservative. The result of fifteen years of immodest, reckless, and unmanaged growth in Merced County has been hardship for many and the enrichment of a few. It is time to think smaller and much more carefully; it is time to make decisions based on the public good, not the good of the public’s representatives.
I am a substitute teacher and a partner with my spouse in our family construction business. I have worked tirelessly in our community to understand the problems which have beset us and to improve the quality of life for the residents of the community. I have been frustrated by the lack of support which the individual who is trying to make a difference gets from government. I don’t have a “platinum list” of donors to whom I owe allegiance. I am not running for Supervisor as the first step in my personal political career; I am running for Supervisor to make Merced County a better place to live and do business for everyone--not just the favored few.
I have a degree in Criminal Justice and I have watched in horror as the criminals have targeted the rural people in District 4. I have formulated the plan to get an active neighborhood watch program going and have lobbied my neighbors to make it a reality. I am not a professional politician on a statewide presidential campaign leadership team; my time and my efforts are needed for the betterment of my constituents.
The most important skill I bring to this campaign is the ability to totally focus on my new job as Supervisor for District 4. I had to learn cognitive thinking and the skill of analysis to complete my education. I had to learn to think globally but act locally in assuring the continuing success of our family business. I have no aspirations of becoming a “Big shot”; actually, I have been very happy in my leadership role in my own community. But my community cannot prosper while the County founders; my family business cannot survive in the boom or bust mentality which results from poorly managed, inconsistent, and inequitable planning. My community has asked me to take a leadership role in restoring the luster to Merced County; I want to help bring all the citizens of Merced County to the realization that we will each do better when we can all do better: when each person, each family, each business, and each community takes responsibility to do better, our County will be a better place in which to live and to work. I hope we will once again be famous as the “Gateway to Yosemite” not for having the dubious honor of top national ranking in foreclosure rates and double-digit unemployment.
Analytical decision making is critical to success, and is something that I have been trained to do. The best decisions are those that are made without emotion, but based on the achievement of the particular goal. The step-by-step process that we possess will define success. Also, the critical part of analytical reasoning is being willing to accept the circumstances with which you must contend. There is no room for fantasy. We must push forward with reality.
I bring the opportunity for a fresh start. I have no investment in justifying the poor decisions which have wrecked the county landscape and the economy. It is time to move forward with a fresh perspective and with new energy and determination.
How important is the General Plan Update process?
No intelligent comment can be made on the update process until the County publishes the environmental impact review.
The 1990 Merced County General Plan was a cutting-edge document, well-respected throughout the State with a powerful section on protecting agriculture. The arrival of UC-Merced and the real estate bubble sparked multiple amendments to the point that the General Plan is now a useless document which the Board of Supervisors routinely ignores. An update is necessary because the existing General Plan is out-of-date by statute and it is routinely ignored. Unfortunately the focus groups which are an important part of the Update process are nothing but Planning Department and consultant dog-and-pony shows; the public is poorly represented in the process. This is just another example of Merced County business-as-usual by a closed circle of elite special interests.
Is the General Plan Update proces important to Merced County? Yes.
Is the General Plan Update process embarked upon by the Planning Department with the support of the Board of Supervisors important to Merced County? No.
As long as there is no coordination between the County General Plan Update process and the municipal general plans and the community plans of unincorporated areas, the entire Update process is unrealistic.
What about a grading ordinance?
I believe that a grading ordinance needs to be developed. A grading ordinance would allow neighboring farms and land owners to be aware of conditions taking place that would affect their land. The development of this policy is what is crucial. There is no need to place undue burdens on land owners with trivial regulations. However, land owners need to be made aware of significant changes of landscape that affect things such as underground water flow and overall water availability.
Please describe your recent public service, including any public offices you have held in your recent past.
In the past year community members and I have gathered in response to growing crime in our area. Members of our community have been victimized through ag crime as well as home invasion and property crime. We are in a rural area so we created what has become a virtual municipality in a neighborhood watch program. This program serves as a communication link between residents and gives us resources for times of emergency. This organization has grown to serve a role like volunteer fire personnel. Many of our volunteers have trained and been educated in community services and policing and serve a vital roll in a rural area where we lack municipal support. I serve as secretary/editor.
Additionally, I serve as a leader for the Ballico-Cressey 4-H, mentoring youth in an agricultural environment. I work within the Hilmar School District and have an opportunity to view and interact in the community on various levels. My husband and I own a small home restoration and remodel business that specializes in residential renovation.
Describe your views on funding public safety; in particular we are interested in your level of commitment to funding critical fire protection services provided by the Merced County Fire Department/Cal Fire.
My level of commitment is very strong. I know that we are approaching a public safety crisis and we need to really get behind our public safety systems and organizations now. And, in the case of a major disaster, from natural or terrorist sources, we are in no position to protect and defend our local citizens.
Most people look at fire protection as just that, fire protection, but I am well aware that most calls that fire crews respond to are emergencies other than fire. Additionally, our valley is vulnerable on so many levels at this time in our history. I view our overall public safety from a wide angle. If our county were to be part of a major disaster, would we be able to cope? I am completely committed to creating strong policies and setting high goals to guide public safety services to a higher level of protection and safety for all of us.
As you may know, the Merced County Fire Department/Cal Fire has 21 fires stations of which 4 are now staffed with two firefighters 24 hours, the rest are all staffed with a single permanent firefighter and volunteers. The Merced County Board of Supervisors has been committed to increasing staffing in the Merced County Fire Department. What are your views on the current and future staffing levels of the Merced County Fire Department?
Low-level staffing has far-reaching affects. Ideally I would like to see houses staffed with three and two minimum rather than the two and one staffing we have now. Also, ideally, in my district, I would like to see at least Delhi and Hilmar staffed with a minimum of three. Houses located in more residential areas which are likely to be responding to more medical emergencies, would benefit from the extra personnel to effectively treat and function. Even basic medical calls should optimally have three responding.
We have supplemented our staff with volunteers, and without them we would not function. I am, however, cautious of too much dependence on volunteers. When we rely too heavily on volunteers, we lose vital elements of control.
With all of this being said, understanding reality is critical. We do ourselves no favors by functioning in fantasy. We are facing tough economic times ahead at the state level as well as the county level. I am confident that the future will bring us leaders telling us that because of the budget, we will have to cut services.
I will be the candidate that does not accept that as an answer. I will fight to keep and work toward increasing staffing levels. It is imperative that we elect a candidate that is willing to fight to protect the safety and wellbeing of the citizens as well as those who risk their lives to do the protecting.
The County of Merced has had a long history of cooperative fire protection services with Cal Fire. These services are both efficient and cost effective providing excellent benefits to the citizens of Merced County. What is your view on protecting and/or enhancing this long standing relationship?
I have an extremely strong stance on funding for public safety, as I said before. Further, I am very committed to continuing funding for the Merced County/Cal Fire relationship. This relationship provides the best protection for Merced County residents. Here are a few reasons why:
· Cal Fire has a superior prevention program
· Cal Fire has the ability to draw from resources that reach far beyond Merced County in times of crisis
· The relationship allows Merced County to tap into resources that otherwise would be limited or not available such as training and equipment.
· Training mandates which are imposed on agencies today make it virtually impossible for smaller departments and volunteers to keep up. The relationship with Cal Fire gives us the best possible tool for meeting those needs.
· With Cal Fire being a large organization, it has the ability to absorb fluctuations in costs and budgets whereas small departments must immediately look to cutting services or personnel to cope.
· Cal Fire allows personnel to be paid a higher wage and better benefits than what the county can and does provide.
For these reasons I will fight to improve the relationship. I would like to note that I would not like to see the contract change to provide fewer services as a result of economic struggles. I think that public safety is akin to paying a mortgage. You pay the mortgage before you book a vacation.
Please provide any additional comments regarding public safety or the Merced County Fire Department/Cal Fire.
I believe providing public safety is the top priority and responsibility that government has to its people. Providing services like drug counseling and outreach programs are good, but they cannot come at the sacrifice of public safety. In this day and time, we must be more aware than ever that we, here in the Central Valley, are extremely vulnerable. In addition to that, our leaders have allowed unbridled development which public safety has not been able to keep up with. This has been a one-two punch that we the people and those of you who work to protect us have been delivered by our current leadership. The decisions of our
current leadership to allow massive development without long-range plans for adequate public safety has a direct, negative impact on the capacity of fire services to perform their job effectively. I will fight to stop the flow of development until public services can catch up with the demand. Having spent the first thirty years of my life watching my father contend with the demands of being a public servant and first responder, I know first hand the strain fire personnel can be placed under on a daily basis even when they work in rural areas. You are on demand at all times and that stress takes its toll, a hardship on you and on your family.
Our business has been meeting payrolls for 18 years in a business very sensitive to economic conditions. I am the type of candidate that we need as we approach harsh economic times. By endorsing me, you will be endorsing a candidate that doesn’t take “no” for an answer, doesn’t quit until the job is done.
IF YOU WANT CHANGE YOU MUST VOTE ON JUNE 3RD
Land and business owners on the east side of District 4 have fought for more than five years to develop a Municipal Advisory Council so citizens could have a voice for an area that includes ranches, dairies, aggregate mines and more than 15,000 acres. They have been refused even though this goes against state regulations.
Supervisor Kelsey has been asked for almost three years to replace missing Stevinson representatives on the Hilmar MAC board and has refused in an effort to avoid citizen opposition to a 3,880 home development she calls "a good project" in Stevinson. This project would increase the population of Stevinson 5,000% with no long-range plans for the increased burden on county services or roads.
Supervisor Kelsey has refused to join with citizens of Delhi to work for incorporation, which would provide vital municipal services such as local police.
For twelve years Supervisor Kelsey has refused to participate in decisions regarding the Merced River that lies almost entirely in District 4.
Supervisor Kelsey is the only supervisor to vote to keep the sick- leave perk, which gave supervisors tens of thousands in bonus money when they retired or leave office.
On June 3rd take time to vote for a candidate that will work for the people, not special interests. Vote for a candidate that will not tolerate unbridled development like we have seen. Vote for a candidate that will see to it that the county takes care of the taxpayers. Finally, vote for a candidate who isn’t afraid of the voice of the people.
VOTE TO STOP “ASLEEP-AT-THE WHEEL” POLITICS
CLAUDINE SHERRON for Supervisor
"paid for by sherron for supervisor 1305188"
Several prominent, long-standing members of the Merced County Farm Bureau have lodged a complaint with the state Farm Bureau legal office about the legality of the Merced chapter's endorsement of my opponent. Did the endorsement committee have a quorum? Should my opponent's husband have had a vote? (letter below)
MERCED COUNTY FARM BUREAU May 5, 2008
646 South Highway 59
Merced, CA 95340
ATTN: PETER KOCH, PRESIDENT
First, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Merced County Farm Bureau for your Candidate’s Night. You and the Farm Bureau staff that I met that night were friendly and welcoming. I have received your letter stating that the Farm Bureau intends to endorse the incumbent for supervisor of District 4. Additionally, I understand that the candidates from District 2 will have their questions and answers available for your membership through the newsletter and website. I am requesting that the questions and answers that I submitted be included with those from District 2. It seems reasonable that the membership at large be given access to all of the candidates’ responses especially in light of how few board members were able to attend the early interviews. I feel confident that you will agree and that Merced County Farm Bureau will want to create a fair and accessible process for their members.
Thank you again for your time and consideration.
For our records, please respond in writing.
Candidate for Supervisor – District 4
P.O. Box 185
Ballico, CA 95303
Letter: Ranchers team up for rangelands...CLAUDINE SHERRON...Candidate for Supervisor District 4, Merced
This past Monday a unique group of people gathered together at a cattle ranch near Le Grand to discuss issues surrounding the protection of California's shrinking rangelands. More than 100 cattle ranchers, farmers, environmentalists and local officials met together in a beautifully decorated barn for a fascinating program and a delicious luncheon, provided by Marge and Ed Bright of Ed Bright Catering.
In the past, no cattle ranch in California would have been big enough to hold them together. However, several years ago a few amazing people from resources agencies, environmental groups and the ranching industry met and recognized that stewardship of grazing land, wildlife habitat and watersheds was a common good that outweighed their differences.
They put aside mistrust and preconceived notions and found if they worked together they could achieve immeasurable things. They agreed that protection of working landscapes, its species and habitats, could be achieved by defending California's cattle ranching industry.
As the speakers shared their journeys, each made it clear that it wasn't easy to overcome the negative perceptions of the other. As I listened, I began to realize what amazing things could be achieved when people care more about the greater good than entrenched positions.
The California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, the model that California environmentalists, ranchers and resource agencies developed, is now being used in other western states by other groups of environmentalists and ranchers. My only regret of the partnership on what they share, despite their continuing differences. I would like to publicly thank Maureen McCorry for the excellent, inspiring program, sponsored by Cattlemen's Association and all of those who are working so hard. This is a message that should be shared with everyone.
I encourage all to visit the California Rangeland Coalition's Web site at carangeland.org to learn more about this unique partnership.
I hope the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition luncheon will become a perennial event in the Central Valley.