Winter 2014 pg6

A penny for your thoughts



Humboldt County

2nd District Supervisor – Estelle Fennell

Estelle Fennell
Estelle Fennell

1. What is your perspective on how the General Plan is coming along? –

It is an honor to be involved in the finalization of this important document. I am happy with the progress we are making as a board. We are providing ample opportunity for input, our hearings are very inclusive of public participation and we are working diligently to find a balance that will address the rights and needs of property owners as well as the community as a whole and our natural environment. Underlying all the goals, policies, standards and implementation measures is the importance of planning a healthy, thriving Humboldt County for decades to come. I think my colleagues share that vision.

2. What concrete steps do you feel the county needs to make to support new industry and economic growth? –

A vibrant and growing economy is essential to a healthy community. Regulations are necessary for orderly development and a clean environment but we need to ensure that those regulations are applied fairly and wisely. I feel we can accomplish that by taking a multi-pronged approach, some of which is already being implemented: Streamline the planning and permitting process; Improve service and require results- driven management of departments such as Planning and Building and Environmental Health that interface with the public on a regular basis; Adopt an open door policy to entrepreneurs and others who would like to establish or grow their businesses here; Develop programs that “pre-permit” suitable sites for manufacture and production facilities; revitalize vocational and trades education for our youth and establish a way to help prospective business owners through the regulatory process with clear A to Z guidelines.

3. What is your vision for rural living in our county 20 years from now? –

I want to ensure that rural residents retain the right to enjoy their property and their rural homes. I would like to foster a climate of inclusiveness at the county level that encourages good environmental stewardship while respecting the time-honored tradition of living rurally in Humboldt County.

4. What are your top three priorities for the expenditure of discretionary funds? –

Public Safety, Roads/Infrastructure, and Economic Development

5. Given the state’s current fiscal condition, do you believe the county is too reliant on grant monies that could potentially lead to a “boom and bust”? –

This is an issue that concerns me and it drives my vision for a more self-reliant economic future that is anchored by private enterprise. The better off a community is the more it is able to protect its’ citizens and the environment. It takes funds to implement such things as safer communities, green belts, bicycle lanes, parks, community forests etc. Increase the tax base and you improve every sector of community living. That is why I favor some form of growth. If we stand still we wither, our quality of life declines and we become less and less able to realize the dream of an independent and strong county.

6. What do you predict for the future of the Williamson Act in Humboldt County? –

There is a lot of support for the Williamson Act in Humboldt County and among members of the Board of Supervisors. The Board recently adopted the recommendations of a Williamson Act Ad Hoc committee, which was tasked with evaluating the program’s overall costs and benefits and the County’s capacity for supporting the program. There were two significant aspects of the revised approach, both of which seek to address non-compliance i.e. landowners who are under contract and get the tax break but who are not managing their lands for agricultural production. Under the new guidelines there will be a more robust monitoring program and significantly, in my view, the county will remove the language that stated that the County would use non-renewal as an “enforcement mechanism of last resort”. Essentially what this does is removes the probability that the County will resort to lawsuits to enforce compliance and will, instead simply non-renew. The County has also joined the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), which is advocating for the return of subvention funds (that compensate for lost revenue), from the State.

7. Humboldt County has a 200 million dollar maintenance backlog. How do you plan to address the public roads and infrastructure needs in the county? –

The simple answer to this question is once again, to improve our economy (see #2 and #5). That is the only way that we can increase the tax base that’s needed to fund our roads, infrastructure and public safety. Federal and State grants and permitting fees are an important part of the picture but are clearly not enough as witness that huge backlog.


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