Winter 2014 pg8

A penny for your thoughts



Humboldt County

4th District Supervisor – Virginia Bass

Virginia Bass
Virginia Bass

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

While there is a certain segment of the community that feels that the General Plan Draft that came to us from the Planning Commission should have received a quick “rubber stamp” treatment, I am pleased that the Board has taken the time to examine items beyond the short list that was scheduled for review. I am delighted that the Board has been willing to look at the various elements in depth and I believe that the majority of community
members understands and appreciates the very deliberate process we are going through in order to achieve a General Plan that will work well for the community as a whole. There has been a tremendous effort to expand opportunities for public input which will allow the Board to make well-reasoned decisions as we continue through the process. I feel confident that by sending some elements of the plan back to the Planning Commission the result will be an even stronger GPU once completed. While I understand this may not be considered a traditional path of a General Plan, sometimes you have to do things differently to achieve superior results.

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

While I believe it is fitting for the county to focus to some extent on the results of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy that was recently adopted by the Board, I also feel very strongly that support should be given when other ideas come forward that might not be part of the “plan”. We need to encourage people to explore their ideas and provide support when appropriate and possible. Ideally, I would like to see the County be able to provide economic incentives where possible and help businesses in acquisition of venture capital. I believe hiring Kevin Hamblin as the Director of Planning and Building was a significant step forward in providing support for the development of new industry and future economic growth. I say this because with Kevin, came a change in attitude within the department. My goal is that people will soon start seeing Humboldt County as “open for business”. Anyone looking to develop or expand a business or industry needs the support of key departments within the County. The first step is a welcoming attitude; the next step is making it easier to go through the process. Additionally we must ensure that an adequate inventory of appropriately zoned properties are available and may want to go so far as pre-permitting certain sites and pre-zone land for specific industries. While we are making strides in this particular department, we will most certainly need to take steps for this to happen in other areas as well. We rely on feedback from the community on how we can improve services and I invite your readers to reach out to us to share your experiences… good or bad. Then we know where we need to focus our attention and make changes.

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

One of the special qualities of living in Humboldt County is that there are a variety of housing options available to citizens. Rural living certainly is one of the most proud traditions we have in this community. I believe we need to preserve and enhance the opportunities for people to live in rural settings. That includes developing policies that support the rights of landowners to live on their property as well as policies that encourage second units that may be more affordable for those who are not landowners.

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

Discretionary funds are, unfortunately, very scarce these days. As the financial picture starts to brighten and available funds increase my top three priorities would be public safety, infrastructure improvements and improving opportunities for job growth (these all go hand in hand).

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 a classic “good news/bad news” situation… here is some money, but there are strings attached and it could disappear without notice! Counties and other governmental agencies rely on grant funding for many of the services/projects that our citizens have come to expect. Most Counties are forced to depend on grants for some essential services as well. One of the main areas of concern I see when it comes to the use of grant funding is that in cases where positions are filled. Let’s say that a grant is available to employ two sheriff deputies for a period of two years to do a specific task. At the time the grant runs out (1) the community has gotten used to the extra level of service and (2) what happens to the people hired in those positions? The easy answer would be that the positions no longer exist because the money is gone. Reality is, the community has grown to accept the better level of service as “normal” and would see the loss of deputies as cuts in public service. This leads to an unintentional increase in positions in some departments that when the funding is gone, the financial liability remains as the County must now pay for the costs previously covered by the grant. Having said that it is essential that we seek available funding options through grants. SOME community is going to get those funds and it might as well be us…. we just need to prepare for when the funds are gone and be mindful of unintended consequences that may result from the “strings attached” nature of grants. In some cases the “strings” might cause more problems and in that case the grant should not be accepted.

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

I consider maintaining the Williamson Act a high priority for this Board and believe it will remain as such in the years to come. Now that the State no longer provides the subvention funding, I believe that it will become increasingly important that verification is preformed to ensure that properties enrolled actually are being used in accordance with the Act as the financial burden on the County will likely increase. I understand that the lower property tax values often are the one thing that keeps an agricultural operation going in the tough times and will continue to be a staunch supporter of the program.

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? –

Well, since my wish list from question 4 has not been granted in the time it took to get to question 7, let me mention some ideas we should pursue while waiting for that extra discretionary funding. I believe the key will be working with interested parties to find creative solutions that are within our current financial means. This could encompass voluntary assessments, cost sharing of improvements, and cooperative projects (bigger bang for the buck) just to name a few. While not a fan of increasing taxes, it may be beneficial to ask the public what amount (if any) they are willing to pay towards improvements in infrastructure. That would not be my first choice but it does seem that it would be a good conversation to have in the community. We also need to keep doing what we are doing that is working in this area. Public Works has been very successful at leveraging other funds which helps provide for some of our maintenance needs by using “non normal” road funding sources.


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