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Local News

Third District Supervisor candidates differ on the issues

Two men sitting at a table in front of a stage while a woman stands at a podium. Another woman in the background.
Third District Supervisor candidates, incumbent John Haschak and Clay Romero (in red hat) at the forum in the Little Lake Grange, listening as Lois Lockhart of the Mendocino Women's Political Coalition delivers a land acknowledgement.

Incumbent John Haschak and challenger Clay Romero discussed their positions at a candidate forum at the Little Lake Grange in Willits.

May 16, 2022 — The candidates for Third District Supervisor and County Superintendent of Schools took questions at the Little Lake Grange in Willits yesterday.

Incumbent Third District Supervisor John Haschak and challenger Clay Romero differed on most issues, though each expressed support for the local cannabis industry, and they agreed that they would prefer to keep the county museum in Willits open. Haschak has the endorsements of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance and the Covelo Cannabis Advocacy Group.

In his opening remarks, Romero spoke about being “very critical of government mandated lockdowns.” His website declares that masks have “very limited effectiveness,” and goes on to provide a popular piece of medical misinformation that wearing a mask for more than an hour will lead to other diseases.

Romero emphasizes the importance of promoting business and easing regulatory burdens, and highlights his commitment to public safety by writing that, as a property owner along the Firco road, he worked with CalFire on an emergency access route that would allow firefighters access to Brooktrails during an emergency.

The first question on voters’ minds at the grange yesterday was about how candidates plan to prepare for a long-lasting drought. Romero offered two points, saying that, “A significant amount of the water that’s available is out at Lake Pillsbury. I would be in favor of raising Scott Dam to see if we could capture more of that water...but we do need to be prepared with what we have…I know that the rains will come again.”

Haschak does not expect wet conditions to return, due to climate change. He also spoke about funding for water projects, in the context of his work on the drought task force with Supervisor Glenn McGourty, including an ongoing project to draft a policy about extracting water from one location and trucking it to another. He said the county has received $23.3 million in state grants for various projects, but that, outside the Ukiah groundwater basin, “we haven’t had the knowledge of what we have in our aquifers and the quality of that water. So we really need to work on getting grants to get that kind of knowledge…especially in Covelo, Laytonville, Willits,” he reported.

The candidates have decidedly different views on climate change, with Romero expressing reluctance to allocate county money to counter or prepare for it. “I think it’s probably ill-conceived,” he said. “I think it’s a mistake to be addressing something like this and identifying money to be spent on something that ultimately would lead to no fruition at all…because when you’re talking about the globe, what about the incredible environmental damage that’s going on in China? They don’t seem to be even remotely concerned with what we’re calling climate change.”

Haschak is a believer in climate change, saying that, “If we don’t do anything, we are all going to perish from it.” He said he was proud of the Board of Supervisors’ unanimous decision to allot $2 million to carbon reduction initiatives like solar panels. He added that he serves on the Mendocino Council of Governments (MCOG), which is working on installing more electric car chargers, and that he and Supervisor Dan Gjerde are working with Sonoma Clean Power to get customer rebates for energy efficient appliances.

Some questions went unanswered by either candidate, with Haschak taking up his allotted time to explain the complexities of an issue and Romero providing answers that were lean on detail. One question, about whether or not the candidates would enforce state laws, even if they disagreed with them, referred directly to frustration over pandemic restrictions and their as-yet unquantified fallout. Haschak said that, “Certainly, if a law is passed, we have to abide by it because it’s a state law. But the process is, we try to amend it, make it so it serves our needs way beforehand.” As an example, he added that the state budget has just come out, “and there were some things, such as the elimination of the cannabis cultivation tax, which the County of Mendocino had promoted and lobbied for.”

Romero provided a counterpoint, assuring the public that, if elected, “I would really much rather be representing and looking out for the interests of the people I represent, over some meddlesome state agency. I’m here to represent you. And I’m certainly not going to be put upon by any agency, whether it’s state or federal. Now, I may not have a choice in the matter. Maybe they’ve got something over my head, as surely as a rock hitting me in the head. But ultimately, when it comes right down to it, I’m still a citizen of this county, of this state, of the United States. And I will pen a letter that will be in the best interest of the people, that they are not put upon by a law that I find harmful or detrimental to you.”

Local News
Sarah Reith came to Mendocino County in 2008 and worked as a reporter and freelancer, joining KZYX as a community news reporter in 2017. She became the KZYX News Director in March, 2023.