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: http://www.kpfn.org)