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Third District Needs Pinches

Pinches is The Best Of The Old And The New For Third District Supervisor

By the way, for any new readers out there, I’ll disclose the Shields and Pinches families have been friends for about 30 years now. John’s dad, Sully, recently deceased, lived next to me out in the country. John’s brother and sister-in-law, Jimmy and Rhonda, live across the street from my daughter and son-in-law. And his sister, June Sizemore, is another long-time friend and much-loved member of the family.

So it should come as no surprise that I’ll be voting for Pinches for Third District Supervisor. 

One of the things that I learned at the candidates’ forum we held here in Laytonville last month (sponsored by a broad-based coalition consisting of the Observer, the Laytonville County Water District, KPFN Radio, the Mendocino Wildlife Association, the Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association, and the Willits Environmental Center) was the voters truly have some good people to choose from for the next supervisor. 

Also as someone who is an unabashed Laytonville booster, I think it’s great our town has three people in the mix for the Supe’s seat: Susy Barsotti, Pam Elizondo, and Pinches. I’ve always believed folks here in Laytonville just know how to do it better and get things done that need to be done. Susy understands that marijuana is the number one economic issue in this county, and that the current BOS has mangled and bungled the transition into legalized cannabis. The county needs to repeal its ordinance in favor of the state regulatory framework.

Pam is an independent voice who understands that the governing process is a mess, run mostly by incompetent elected officials and swivel-chair, do-nothing bureaucrats who are obstacles to participatory democracy and good public policy that actually benefits the public.

The 3rd District position is open because the current incumbent, Georgeanne Croskey, appointed last spring by Gov. Jerry Brown, announced shortly after the appointment, that she would be leaving the county at the end of 2018.

Croskey replaced Tom Woodhouse who resigned from the BOS due to health problems in late 2016.

In effect, Woodhouse’s resignation coupled with Croskey’s lame duck status has rendered 3rd District residents without any meaningful representation for four years — and is that ever an obvious, indisputable, unarguable fact.

Pinches agrees that these circumstances “basically left the district with nobody representing them.”

“The supervisors voted themselves a big raise. The county has a $300 million (discretionary) budget. Do you think the 3rd District receives $60 million a year?” he asked rhetorically. He was referring to the idea that each of the five districts should be apportioned approximately equal amounts of the county’s annual discretionary budget. Of course, the 3rd District doesn’t receive anything close to that allocation. As I’ve pointed many times over the years, county government and decision-making is heavily Ukiah Valley-centric.  The outlying, unincorporated areas are out-of-sight-out-of-mind down in the county seat. 

Instead of prioritizing salary increases for themselves, Pinches argues the Board should be focusing on more pressing matters such as the county’s failing road system and the ongoing unsettled, confusing situation surrounding the county’s cannabis ordinance approved this past May.

“Why aren’t they enforcing that ordinance? There’s so much more marijuana out there than there’s ever been before,” he said. “It’s like you’ve been saying, the main people hurt by no enforcement are the small growers.” 

Back in the early 1990s in his first stint on the Board of Supervisors, Pinches was one of the first public officials in the state calling for the legalization and taxation of pot. That stand drew fire from all quarters, including law enforcement and fellow elected officials. He called the old system of criminalizing marijuana cultivation, “the greatest governmental price support system” ever created because one of its consequences was driving up the price of black market ganja.

Due to his many years on the BOS, Pinches knows the county budget process inside-out and backwards-forwards. He was not popular with a lot of department heads, because he could quickly sniff out any and all budgetary boondoggles. Probably the most memorable incident was when Budge Campbell headed up the county’s Dept. of Transportation. 

Campbell ran DOT for years and for a lot of years he had hidden away in his budget a so-called contingency fund that the BOS was not aware of. Pinches did some rooting around in Campbell’s budget and found this account that had several million dollars in it. This was at a time when the county was literally on the verge of bankruptcy and needed every spare dollar available. Once the fund was made public during budget hearings, the fight was on. Campbell argued he needed the fund as an operating hedge for unspecified emergencies. Pinches argued the county was in dire straits and the money should be used for road projects in all five supervisor districts. He won the fight and a short time later Campbell retired.

So once again, the county is at a crossroads with numerous issues that must be addressed.  

At the top of the list are fixing the ever-deteriorating road and bridge system, a marijuana ordinance that is rotting like a beached whale, two-decades long of a neglected mental health system that voters were forced to at least partially bail out with a half-cent sales tax due to county incompetence, and over 30 years of a housing shortage brought on by short-sighted and nearly non-existent housing planning.

And, of course, permeating the entire local governing process is that the current Board of Supervisors functions basically as a rubber-stamp for virtually every proposal emanating from the Chief Executive Officer.  In fact, when you think about it, it was pretty audacious when the Supes voted themselves their big raise, given the fact they’ve delegated so much of their responsibilities to the CEO. They’re doing less work than ever and getting paid more.

So, I’ll be voting for Pinches because he combines the best of the old (his proven experience and capability of representing 3rd District constituents) with the new: he understands that times have changed with the new governing dynamic down in the county seat, and he’s committed to changing how the public’s business is currently being conducted.

(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live:


  1. William Ray May 30, 2018

    Shields failed to note in his editorial advertisement for John Pinches that he called himself Pinches’s campaign manager in a prior election, one which Pinches lost. This omitted history works against a credible endorsement now. That Shields is neighbor and acquaintance to members of the Pinches family is of course believable personal testimony but again hardly a presentation of Pinches’s political competence, which should be the main point in a public forum about political office.

    Shields’s flattery regarding Pinches ‘saving’ the county from the DOT chief’s secret contingency fund curiously never reported a subsequent increase out of the freed millions for salary or hirings of county workers whose livelihoods had been decimated by the board of supervisors. This did not happen since Pinches was the champion of a deplorable Draconian approach to county personnel with direct results in county services and maintenance.

    More relevant today might be that Pinches had to retire from his last position at the Board of Supervisors due to poor health, and that he passed out recently driving to an open house regarding the present election campaign. Does Shields consider this a rational and responsible action by an aging candidate whose district has already experienced two consecutive aborted terms of office?

    Pinches’s claim to responsible leadership seems to be his vocal call to upgrading county roads. When 3rd District Supervisor in 1998 he declared that the southeast Willits-valley one-lane bridge would be considered for replacement in the county’s five year review plan. He was right, it was, twenty years later under another Supervisor.

    As a forty-seven year voter in that part of the District, I consider ‘John’ a much indulged county character, marketed ‘jes’ down home folks’, but in no way a progressive capable leader. He has had his chance to achieve positive farsighted results. There is nothing of consequence in the record and therefore no reason to trust loquacity, by either candidate or his supporter, as a guarantee this time.

  2. izzy May 31, 2018

    “He (Pinches) called the old system of criminalizing marijuana cultivation, “the greatest governmental price support system” ever created because one of its consequences was driving up the price of black market ganja.”

    The long-standing elephant in this particular room, with the added benefits (?) of providing material support and justification for our ever growing police state and for-profit prison system. And what county government has done recently with the byzantine and essentially incomprehensible regulatory structure now hovering over it all will do little to improve the situation. If clueless, ineffective behavior was not already such a distinguishing feature of local policy and operations, one might surmise it was done intentionally.

    Overall, faith in the current electoral process to solve much of anything at any level becomes harder to keep.

  3. Linda May 31, 2018

    Wondering how, why and when many of us that were in Pinches district got booted to district 2.

    Defiantly not because we wanted too.

    How can we fix that???

  4. Monty Levenson September 26, 2018

    Here’s the column written by Jon Spitz that appeared in the Mendocino County Observer. I was at the event, and it accurately reflects what went down at the Laytonville Debate Forum.

    Haschak By A Knockout
    By Jon Spitz

    Sad to say that the debate between John Haschak and John Pinches in the race for 3rd District Supervisor at Harwood Hall on Sunday, September 23, was sparsely attended. What does this say about voter participation in the democratic process in our little town of Laytonville?

    To me, hearing the candidates square off against each other in a live unscripted debate is the absolute best way to get a real sense of not only their positions on the issues, but also of who they are as people. Sunday’s debate between the two Johns did that in spades.

    There were eight cosponsoring organizations of the debate: The Mendocino County Observer, KPFN Radio, the Laytonville County Water District, Laytonville Healthy Start, the Mendocino Wildlife Association, the Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association, the Mendocino County Growers Association and the Willits Environmental Center.

    The format of the debate was that each sponsoring organization got to ask two question (16 total) and each candidate got to ask two questions of the other candidate. After all those questions, the audience was allowed to submit a few questions. Each candidate received two minutes to answer each question. For me, this format gave too much time to the sponsors and too little for questions from the public; it also did not allow for rebuttals which make debates much more informative and entertaining. I did like the candidates questioning each other though.

    Three time former Supervisor, local rancher and Laytonville resident John Pinches is a well known quantity up here in the north county, and he performed right on cue. He continues to throw out outrageous claims like being granted a “water right” means that you own the water that flows through your property (all the waters of California belong to the state), and that wild predators have killed all the sheep down at the Hopland Research Center.

    What did surprise me was when Traci Pellar of the Mendocino Wildlife Association asked the candidates if they supported a non-lethal program for wildlife management in the County, Pinches became visibly angry and snapped back at her that ranchers need trappers to kill predators to protect their livestock. It’s reactions like that to constituents that is the problem with our current Board of Supervisors.

    Unlike Pinches, John Haschak is a relative unknown here in Laytonville. As a longtime teacher and union organizer from Willits, this is his first time running for public office. Haschak showed remarkable poise for a first time candidate when asked a tough but fair question by Pinches of how he could honestly represent the people of the 3rd District when he is taking money for his campaign from the County’s unionized workers? Haschak passionately stood by his union background and his long history of standing up for hard working people and said he wouldn’t take the 40% raise the Supervisors voted themselves until the lowest paid workers in the county get a 40% raise. That’s how he’d represent the 3rd District. (Pinches is on record saying he will earn the raise.)

    Question after question, Haschak gave thoughtful, clear, knowledgeable answers that articulated an overall vision for Mendocino County moving forward during this difficult period of transition to a legalized cannabis economy. Pinches, on the other hand, tended to ramble on about his past accomplishments as a Supervisor and make promises to deliver more of the same if elected.

    Haschak has prepared himself well to take on the responsibilities of public office. Aside from his lifelong work as a teacher and union organizer, for the past year he has been tirelessly traveling around the 3rd District reaching out to people in all walks of life and listening to their stories, concerns and aspirations, building a community consensus on how we can move forward together in these times of economic uncertainty. I know this is true because I’ve seen him at events here in Laytonville many times, and he has always listened to my concerns very carefully and responded respectfully and intelligently. That’s what’s been missing on our Board of Supervisors, someone who listens.

    A telling moment in the debate came when Haschak respectfully asked Pinches why he isn’t keeping his promise of not becoming a career politician when he retired from the Board in 2014, and also why he isn’t keeping his promise to support a younger candidate with energy and vision like him? To that, Pinches responded jokingly, “You’d be my second choice.” If I were John Haschak, I’d take that as an endorsement.

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