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Fifth District Supes Candidate Ted Williams

1. Do you think the County’s mental health money is being effectively spent? (around $28 million at last estimate)

In general, I’m not enthusiastic about outsourcing core government responsibilities. There are circumstances where private industry can outperform public agencies. SpaceX is a great example. These circumstances are where innovation and execution offer a financial reward. This paradigm does not encompass a responsibility like the administration of mental health services. Outsourcing removes transparency and is a sign of capitulation of competency. If we can’t pull off government locally, how can we expect anything on a state or federal level? There’s some basis in that we haven’t done a great job at a lot of things, but I’d rather we improve our competency than privatize the operation. I expect well defined metrics with regular reporting to gauge success over time. I don’t mean hiring another high priced consultant. If a school anywhere in the county calls with a concern, what’s the follow-through? If we have an addict on the south coast looking to come clean, is the assistance effective? I have a rebuttable presumption that the money is not being spent as effectively as it could and that a secondary motivation is avoidance of our pension situation. Convince me otherwise.

2. If you had monarchical authority, what would you do to create genuinely low cost housing?

Affordable housing in Mendocino County is bordering on crisis and if it were easy to solve, the current supervisors would have already done it. The Housing Element of the General Plan (by law) has a goal of ensuring shelter for all residents. We’re failing. We have a jail that attempts to rehabilitate, teaching trades to inmates, but when they get out, where will they find affordable housing so they don’t return to their old ways? Many of the usual approaches will not work here. We don’t have economies of scale. We don’t have or want new large subdivisions where we could require an allocation of affordable units. I would attempt to encourage infrastructure development combined with focused zoning changes, because affordable units are more feasible where there is water, sewer and appropriate parcels. Simultaneously, an effort to promote a resident-friendly path towards accessory dwelling units for long term rentals could help aging residents with needed cashflow while increasing affordable housing units and it wouldn’t drastically impact the character of our neighborhoods. I’d like to see each community drive its own destiny, which raises the issues of general plan update and inspiring greater citizen participation. A lot of people are jaded about their ability to work with government. We need to turn that around.

3. What is your opinion of the recent moratorium on vacation home rentals?

I see it as a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that has been brewing for years. I track firefighters leaving our department roster. The number one reason is housing. It’s a huge loss when we’ve invested years in training a firefighter. I’m always hopeful that they’ll join another department so the investment isn’t lost. The vacation rental model offers greater returns, but it’s at the cost of community. (Further loss is the TOT, which leaves the source community and doesn’t offset expenses incurred by visitors who tend to be responsible for a disproportion number of water rescues, cliff rescues, traffic collisions on hw128, etcetera.) Many of us want to live in residential neighborhoods where we wave to faces we recognize. At the same time, I see people I grew up with offering extra space to visitors. This cash flow allows families to remain active in the community. They give and we need them. I see parents vacationing space otherwise utilized part time when their kids return from college on break and this helps with the tuition. I don’t believe in an outright ban, but I’m against outside investors buying our residential dwellings purely for profit. I believe each community should have an opportunity to reflect its wishes in a local plan. My preference is for limited vacation rentals, architected to protect the people who live here.

4. Your opinion of the locally proposed changes to Class K.

I spoke about it at the BoS meeting. There are a lot of pressing issues throughout the county. Affordable housing, lack of broadband, faltering local economy, roads, a jail with rain catchment on the inside, implementation of Measure B funds, a hospital on the brink of insolvency and the list goes on. Class K wasn’t even on the public radar until our supervisors decide to “enhance” it with additional regulations. What problem are we trying to solve? We heard from staff that the spirit of the ordinance is not abused. We don’t see public safety issues arising from owner-builder development. We don’t have records of these structure falling over. As best I can tell, Hamburg excluded (because I believe his interest in tuning K is genuine), it’s effectively an industry attack on the rural resident. It should be dropped altogether. Let’s talk about it after the roads are fixed.

5. What do you think of the current marijuana regulation program?

Local producers face great competition because of Prop 64 legalization. Only 3% of this county is flat. With all the trees, this was a place to hide marijuana. Our high energy rates don’t create a competitive environment for indoor. Our hillsides aren’t as economically feasible as flat fertile farmland elsewhere. The last thing these cottage industry growers need is excess regulatory hurdles. Seeing the number of denied permits qualifies our attempt as a failure. Let’s fix it.

6. Do you agree with CEO Angelo’s decision to separate Mendocino County from Coastal Valley EMS?

I’ve had my own minor gripes with Coastal Valleys EMS over the years, but their performance on the Redwood Complex fires is a poor excuse to part ways. The Local Emergency Medical Services Agency role is one of setting protocol, policies, certifying paramedics and EMTs — essentially desk work. I wouldn’t have expected them to be on the ground at the fire, especially considering the concurrent Santa Rosa blaze. Look at the big picture. Sonoma county pays in $1.2MM. We add $90k to be part of their LEMSA. Duplicating the effort up here will cost far more than the $90k.

7. What is your opinion of the leadership provided by CEO Angelo’s “Leadership Team”?

County employees generally work hard, take pride and even meet on their own time to discuss building leadership skills and propelling professional development. However, we tend to be a training ground, because wages are comparatively low. CHP has the revolving door too, especially on the coast. By the time an officer learns the area, a transfer is ready. Local experience is an important ingredient for leadership and a significant human capital expense when lost. Another candidate fielded this question at a recent event by saying he’d increase pay. That’s a good idea, but let’s talk about where we’ll source those funds. What can we give up in order to achieve success for a reduced scope?

8. How many Board meetings have you attended in the last year? Watched any on YouTube?

I watch via the video stream, because it allows me to multitask. I try to give my available time to the fire department, because I believe every able body should volunteer in some manner.

9. Do you agree with the Board’s recent decision to raise their pay to $84,000 plus benefits? Should the three retiring supervisors have voted on the raise?

I would not have raised the idea or voted for it. It’s not an issue I’m campaigning on, though. We want competency on the board, not the status quo. It remains to be seen, but if pay attracts strong candidates in the years to come, it could be a win for the county. When I joined the fire department, there was an annual stipend. Nobody gets rich responding to fire calls, but this somewhat helped offset fuel and other out of pocket expenses. Initially, I was eager to reject it, until an elder explained why it’s better to give back in a less prideful way to avoid pressuring the remaining members. I’m not in the race for the money, but I do want the position to attract talent in the coming years.

10. Do you think the County needs to spend some $50,000 to hire an outside consultant for a needs assessment before proceeding with Measure B’s mental health facilities program?

I’m against using high priced consultants, especially in the case of telling us what we already know. Do it in-house or partner with a university.

11. What specific benefits do the children of Mendocino County derive from the First 5 program? Would you support spending most of the annual $1 million on childcare vouchers instead of on Ukiah staffers?

Isn’t this a question for the FIRST 5 Mendocino Commissioners? I’m trying to stick to issues of county authority.

12. Who would you appoint to the Planning Commission?

Someone fair and balanced, who cares as much about this county as I do. Someone who understands the original intent of the Williamson Act and can administer planning policy without bias.

13. What is the single biggest environmental problem faced by the County?

Climate change. This drought might be a new way of life.

14. Do you support the current level of water diversion from the Eel River to mostly irrigate vineyards in Potter Valley?

I support fairness and data driven decision making. I’m not anti-business — I want business to thrive in Mendocino County, especially in ways that will trickle down to the workers — but sustainability of residents and the environment must be factored in. We can do better at collecting and distributing data. We need to remove assumptions and bias from the process. In some cases, there are likely more water rights than water.

15. Do you think the County’s recently organized Ground Water Sustainability Committee is dominated by wine-grape interests?

Not necessarily, White and Brown are just two of six. Are there more ties? As water diminishes, we might need to consider dry farming at new developments and limiting projects on significant slopes. See Napa.

16. What is the first project or program you would look into if elected?

Broadband, because it impacts us in so many ways and is addressable. If I’m allowed two first projects, adoption of policies to support emergency services throughout the county needs to happen now. I believe there is low hanging fruit here. We ask volunteers — our neighbors — to provide much of the 911 response. It’s time the county take an active role in supporting the volunteers. Some of my ideas include a rotating trainer (to improve skill, reduce burden), shared mechanic services (to keep apparatus in service and take some financial burden off special districts), volume purchasing (the buying power of special districts is limited), perhaps shared bookkeeping services. We have to start somewhere.

17. Do you have any proposals for dealing with the colossal deficit in the pension obligations fund?

Our public employees performed their end of the bargain and it’s our job to follow through. That said, immediately we need to honest and transparent about how deep we’ve dug. Next, stop digging. No part of sticking the next generation with poor infrastructure and debt is attractive. I’ve suggested we ask each community to define our county priorities so that if we can’t accomplish everything, the supervisors have clear marching orders about what the citizens want completed. Anytime a candidate suggests spending money, ask what he or she will cut to balance the budget.

18. Would you support the creation of an integrated, county wide disaster alert system?

Yes, but I want the BoS and perhaps the Sheriff to closely track and own the implementation. I don’t trust our ability to outsource it. Having a background in embedded systems and communications, I could help author the specification.

19. Would you be willing to be on a radio call-in show every six months and respond to callers’ comments and questions?

How about rotating town meetings with a different location every month plus a weekly call-in (or rotation if other supervisors wish to take slots). I want to pull the public into the process. Historically, candidates commit to public engagement during the campaign, but then fall short while in office. I should be recalled if I can’t follow through. It’s a basic job requirement.


  1. james marmon May 3, 2018

    “Do you think the County’s mental health money is being effectively spent? (around $28 million at last estimate)”

    Who gives a shit, we have Measure B money now. Not to mention State and Federal Grants. Medi-Cal reimbursements for services, and Title IV-E funding through the Child Welfare System. The money being spent on mental health services would blow your mind if you only knew.

    James Marmon MSW

    Where’s the money Camille?

    • james marmon May 3, 2018

      Just take a look at Children’s Mental Health alone.

      “Federal grants provide some support for prevention and early intervention, including through Head Start, Maternal and Child Health, and Early Intervention under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Federal grant support for treatment comes from mental health, child welfare, and juvenile justice funds. Federal grant funds also support system development and coordination. Additionally, states invest significant funding in children’s mental health, primarily for treatment services, and increasingly as Medicaid matching funds.”

  2. james marmon May 3, 2018

    Even though the county switched from an in-house system to a privatized system in 2013, HHSA still offers personal contracts for mental health services. The private ASO contractor’s (RQMC) sister agency, non-profit RCS, is the primary beneficiary of those contracts.

    I plan on getting a list of those contracts in the near future, and expose the money grabbers for who they are. Those contracts usually go undetected via the Consent Calendar or are under 50,000 dollars and do not require BoS approval.

    These contracts were being looked at in 2016 about the time Supervisors’ John McCowan and Tom Woodhouse had their mental breakdowns but the inquiry died on the vine once Ortner told the County to f**k off. Tom Woodhouse received treatment for his break, but Supervisor McCowan has never received treatment and is still at large out there making irrational decisions that effect the entire county and beyond.

    Mendocino County spent $46.8 million for mental health contracts in three years

    “HHSA staff were asked by the Board of Supervisors in February to compile a full report of all mental health-related contracts, including those for Ortner Management Group and RQMC, along with subcontracts entered into by both providers, since 2013. The matter has since been referred to the Health and Human Services Standing Committee.”

    James Marmon MSW

    Where’s the money Camille?

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