Winter 2014 pg7

A penny for your thoughts



Humboldt County

3rd District Supervisor – Mark Lovelace

Mark Lovelace
Mark Lovelace

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

Not good. When the GPU came before the Board of Supervisors in June of 2012 it had already been fully reviewed by the Planning Commission, which was able to reach broad consensus on all but 58 of the plan’s policies. Had the Board stuck with reviewing only that short list of policies, the plan would have been completed in Fall of 2012. Instead, the Board chose to re-review every last policy, making a waste of the three years spent at the Planning Commission and adding unnecessary years to the process. Since its inception, the GPU has cost an average of $220,000 per year, so this additional delay could conceivably cost the county a half-million dollars or more. At this point the process keeps changing from one meeting to the next, with no end point in sight.

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

To grow our local economy we must continue to support those core industries that have the best potential for job creation. We must create a business climate that nurtures entrepreneurship and helps good ideas get off the ground by providing business support, start-up capital, marketing and technical assistance. We must work with our schools to ensure a ready workforce for our local industries. We must help existing businesses grow by streamlining regulatory processes and providing ready-to-build sites for light industry that are properly zoned and pre-permitted. We must also continue to provide needed infrastructure like broadband, air service and improved land and sea transportation so local businesses can have better access to markets.

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

20 years from now, I would hope that rural Humboldt would look largely the same as it does now, with vibrant small towns separated by working lands and open space. I will continue to work for policies that provide for a strong rural economy by protecting our working forests, ranches and farmlands from loss to development. I will also continue my efforts to bring daylight to our marijuana industry so as to cut down on environmental abuses and normalize its role in our economy.

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

The Board of Supervisors only has discretion over a small portion (~17%) of the County’s overall budget, with most of that going towards public safety (Sheriff, correctional facility, DA, etc). After a few years of shrinking budgets, we are starting to see some modest increases in next year’s budget, and our Board has agreed thatour first priority should be to rebuild our reserves, which had been greatly depleted through the recession. With what little flexibility may be left, I believe we should focus any surplus towards public safety and infrastructure needs.

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”? –

No. Grants are a necessary source of revenue for critical county services and infrastructure. The County routinely depends upon grants to provide equipment for law enforcement, to build roads and infrastructure, to support first-time home buyer programs, to conduct fire-safe planning, to provide technical assistance and many other important functions. The reality is that many government revenue sources are provided solely on a competitive basis, and if we do not apply for these grants we will simply not be able to provide the level of service the people of Humboldt expect.

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

The Williamson Act program provides for greatly-reduced property taxes for farm and ranch lands if they enter into a 10-year contract with the County to keep those lands in resource production. In the past, the State of California provided subvention funds to counties to make up for the lost property tax revenue, but State support was eliminated by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2010. I am a strong supporter of the Williamson Act program, and was part of a state-wide working group that fought to protect it from the Governor’s axe. Since then the County of Humboldt has chosen to continue our Williamson Act program, even though the lack of State funds means we have less revenue available for public safety, road maintenance and other services. I anticipate that the County’s Williamson Act program will continue into the future at roughly the same level, with new properties being enrolled as others roll out.

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? –

California’s infrastructure is at a crisis point, with the majority of local roads considered “at risk” and 25% expected to fall into a “failed” condition over the next 10 years. The State is facing an $82 billion funding shortfall for road and bridge improvements over the next 10 years, as gas tax revenues and other funding sources continue to decline. Here in Humboldt, we have less than $40 million a year to deal with $50to-$60 million in annual maintenance and upgrade needs. Given this situation, our Public Works crew does the best they can with limited resources, and we must continue to prioritize as best we can. Through my work with the California State Association of Counties, I have fought to protect revenues for roads and infrastructure and to look for new and innovative ways to provide increased funding so the State will not continue to fall behind. Locally, we must work to ensure that new development pays its own way for needed improvements and ongoing maintenance so that the burden isn’t shifted to the County’s taxpayers.


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