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Candidates present their positions

Two sample ballots for the June 7 election
Sample ballots

Fifth District Supervisor candidates discussed the issues at a recent League of Women Voters forum.

May 10, 2022 — Incumbent Ted Williams and challenger John Redding are vying for the Fifth District Supervisor’s seat in next month’s election. They presented their positions at a League of Women voters event last week, fielding questions about healthcare, fire preparation, drought, and economic development.

A major issue on the coast is the uncertain future of the Mendocino Coast Healthcare District, and whether or not to dissolve it. Redding, who is Treasurer of the district board, fears that the county, which is struggling to balance its budget and has failed to collect millions of dollars in cannabis tax revenue, could take charge of healthcare on the coast. At stake is what he believes is local control over the decision to bring the existing hospital into compliance with seismic codes, build a new hospital, or rely on clinics.

“What I’m not in favor of is dissolving the Healthcare District,” he said. “That would mean the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) would, without a vote of the people, dissolve the Healthcare District, and the successor agent would be the county. And they would seize our money, our taxes, our land, and there would be no representatives anywhere close to the coast to provide governance,”

Williams countered that local control involves a lot of dysfunction on the district board, and doubled Redding’s estimate of $50 million to build a new hospital. “I tune in to those meetings,” he said. “I see a lot of bickering. I don’t see much progress. There's complaints going to the Grand Jury and FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission) and questions about was an attorney hired…and I think it’s casting a shadow over the real discussion that needs to happen. A new hospital could cost $100 million, plus. Might only generate $2 million revenue… It’s really a challenge for the segment of our population that can’t afford to go to Ukiah or Santa Rosa for regular healthcare.”

When it comes to abortion rights, Williams is a staunch supporter, saying restrictions on abortion limit a woman’s right to participate in society. Redding said that, while he is pro-life, he does support the right to choose. He said that when the Healthcare District board was presented with a proposal to allow the clinic to perform chemical abortions, he voted in favor of it. “I would not in any way limit a woman’s access to abortion, and I think I’ve proven that with my vote,” he said.

Fire and drought are region wide issues that are top of mind as summer approaches. Though he is dubious about relying on the state, Redding thinks huge wildfires are largely the state’s responsibility. He cited the state’s years’-long policy of preventing wildfires by clearing and logging, saying, “This is really a state problem that affects us…we really need to put pressure on the State of California to follow through on its commitments.”

Williams, a volunteer firefighter, invoked historical factors as well. But he also advocates a local response, saying, “”It’s our problem, because we live here, and fire may be in our backyard.” He highlighted defensible space and chipper programs, adding, “There are also opportunities to coordinate the funds that are available to get local workforce out, putting people to work, who desperately need work.”

Both candidates support the idea of water storage, which is emphasized in the governor’s drought strategy. But while Williams touted the county’s success at winning a $5 million state grant to build water storage in the town of Mendocino, Redding tied storage into his emphasis, which is encouraging private economic development. “To rely on government grants makes me uncomfortable,” he said, recalling a former boss who told him, “hope is not a business plan. And when you’re hoping that you’re going to get a grant from the State of California or the federal government, that’s not a business plan.”

Redding suggested hiring an economic development coordinator and supports funding West Business Development Center, which the Board of Supervisors agreed to continue doing last week. Williams agreed that economic development is a glaring need, but opined that, “the county’s role in that needs to be to provide infrastructure where businesses want to exist, where people want to live.” He added that he is reluctant to shift financial resources away from core services like road maintenance, public safety and social services, “all of the services that the most vulnerable people rely on, and the services that would attract businesses to our area.”

The candidates differed on the nature of the board’s relationship with the sheriff’s office, with Redding associating Williams, and an attempt at a system-wide audit of the sheriff’s department, with efforts to defund the police. Sheriff Matt Kendall has since endorsed Williams.

KZYX will have more election coverage this month.

This Thursday, May 12, from 3-4 pm, we’ll hear from Assessor/Clerk/Recorder Katrina Barolomie and Pat Dunbar, from the League of Women Voters.

On Monday, May 16, from 6:30-8pm, we’ll host a debate with Fifth District candidates Ted Williams and John Redding.

And on Monday, May 23, frome 6:30-8pm, we’ll host a debate with Third District candidates, incumbent John Haschak and challenger Clay Romero.