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With exactly a week to go before election day, candidates for District 1 Supervisor gathered at the Bishop Senior Center Tuesday to face constituents and answer questions about county and district-specific issues.
Tuesdayâ€™s Candidateâ€™s Forum, hosted by the Independence Civic Club and The Inyo Register with help from Blogging Bishop owner Dee Younger, included four prepared questions about county-wide issues, and 10 questions from constituents. (Read about the Q&A in Saturdayâ€™s edition of The Inyo Register.)
The forum kicked off with an introduction and opening statement from the three candidates, Bill Stoll, Dave Tanksley and Dan Totheroh.
Tanksley said he is a 46-year resident of Inyo County, moving to the area in 1968. He graduated in 1977, attended junior college, joined the Army and furthered his education with the G.I. Bill. He is married and has two children and runs a construction company.
Through his business and his interest in local politics, he said he has worked with members of the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Department, Public Works Department and Environmental Health Department. He also chaired the Natural Resources Advisory Committee until 2011.
Totheroh said he has owned a small business for 14 years that operates community water districts. He said he has served the Starlite Community Services District for 17 years, and has volunteered more than 10,000 hours at Bishop Union High School over the past 12 years.
In 1969 Totheroh said he began a 30-year engineering career with the U.S. Forest Service, where he said he has received a number of awards for leadership and management.
He said he is running for District 1 Supervisor because he gets great â€śsatisfaction from helping and serving.â€ť
Stoll said he was raised in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California and worked for a number of years as a salesman for a $5 million company.
His goal, he said, was to move to the Eastern Sierra by age 30. He did, and began working with local pack outfits, learning the backcountry and working the â€ścity bloodâ€ť out of his system.
Stoll said he has served as an Inyo County Planning Commissioner for the past eight years. This past February, he was the only member of the commission who voted against the unpopular Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment.
â€śIâ€™m proud of my proven record and I want to do more,â€ť Stoll said.
Following introductions, the candidates were asked a series of questions concerning countywide issues, drafted by the Independence Civic Club.
1. With the continuing state fiscal crisis, declining revenue bases and demand for services, it is a challenge to balance the Inyo County budget every year. In view of that, should the City of Bishop continue to receive 30 percent of the countyâ€™s half-cent sales tax, in excess of $300,000? What does the City of Bishop provide to the county in exchange for this funding? What services does the county provide to the city of Bishop in addition to this funding?
Stoll said he believes the current formula works well. â€śI believe in co-oping,â€ť he said. â€śThe city, with that tax, does a lot of (park) programs. It helps the city do things at a community-based level.â€ť
The county, he said, provides law enforcement and social services. â€śItâ€™s a good mix,â€ť he said.
He said the tax should not be used as an avenue out of the current budget woes. â€śWe should roll our sleeves up, fix the budget and not use this tax to fix our budget.â€ť
Totheroh said the uses for the tax are clearly defined in the ballot measure that voters approved in 1988: the county spends its share on solid waste programs and the city uses its funds for park programs.
Totheroh said a change in that formula â€śwould be a violation of the law approved by voters.â€ť
Tanksley said that the programs the money is used for can be changed, but he believes that the current formula for dividing funds works, with the city generating about a third of the tax revenue, and receiving about a third of the funding.
Tanksley said that county residents benefit from many city park programs, and the city benefits from the countyâ€™s solid waste program.
He added that â€śany change has to be presented to the voters.â€ť
2. Name your top three priorities for Inyo County. As the fiscal picture worsens in Inyo County, what services would you keep, and what would you let go?
Totheroh said his priorities are creating more sustainable communities, utilizing the Digital 395 high-speed Internet project to promote communities and businesses, protecting the uniqueness of the county and protecting services for the elderly and youth.
He said that, at this time, it would be â€śdisruptive and irresponsibleâ€ť to speak on budget cuts without having thoroughly reviewed the budget. He said he would need to speak with each department head before making that call.
As a policy, he said he is in favor of program reductions rather than eliminations in times of need.
Stoll said his top priority is tourism. â€śWeâ€™re not doing enough for tourism. We need to take advantage of everythingâ€ť the county has to offer, not just fishing.
He said that he doesnâ€™t know how much the county is spending on issues related to the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository, but he did say that is one program he thinks could be cut to save money.
Tanksley said that he would focus on cost cutting to address budget issues.
He also said that his priorities include opening a dialogue with local businesses to ensure that their needs are met and the county doesnâ€™t see more businesses closing.
He also said that he would make â€ślong-term optimizationâ€ť of the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport a priority.
Another priority is to address fire response capabilities in District 1.
3. The export of resources such as water, electricity, and minerals is both a source of revenue for Inyo County and a detriment to its tourist-based economy. Please describe how you would balance these competing interests.
Stoll said that with 71 mines operating in Inyo County, â€śthe mining industry is doing pretty good.â€ť He said that he doesnâ€™t know a lot about electricity generation, and when it comes to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and its water exports, â€śyou just gotta work with the DWP the best you can.â€ť
Tanksley said that most of Inyo Countyâ€™s land is held by the LADWP, Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service. He explained that the DWP leases lands to local ranchers, who raise cattle or grow crops. Those locals, he said, are good stewards of the land.
He also said that Southern California Edison and the LADWP contribute to the tourist economy by keeping their holdings wild and available to the public, rather than opening them to development.
He did add that mining has declined over the past 30 years, creating a negative impact on the local economy.
â€śWe cannot pretend we operate in a bubble,â€ť he said. â€śA multi-faceted economy is the only way to sustain.â€ť
Totheroh said heâ€™s not sure that thereâ€™s always a conflicting interest, pointing out that Southern California Edisonâ€™s reservoirs, such as South Lake and Sabrina, are popular tourist destinations.
4. In light of declining western water resources, please outline your position on Inyo Countyâ€™s relationship with the LADWP. Specifically what is your position on the proposed Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch?
Tanksley said the LADWP is one of the largest contributors to the county General Fund and it stimulates the economy, as it is one of the largest local employers, paying about $30 million in salaries each year.
He said that the county needs to maintain an open dialogue with the LADWP to ensure the relationship is mutually beneficial, but water conservation on Owens Lake is important, especially if the water saved there can be used locally.
He also said he was in favor of the current revised REGPA that does not include LADWPâ€™s project site. He added that proposed construction of new transmission corridors is an important issue.
Stoll recognized that Inyo has a love-hate relationship with the LADWP, but LADWP keeps its land open for recreation, rather than the development of strip malls, which benefits tourism.
He said he is not in favor of large-scale solar developments. He said he prefers rooftop solar installations, or smaller solar ranches dotted throughout the county, rather than one large facility.
Totheroh said that he would like to see more research done on the installation of larger rooftop solar installations and solar panels that cover parking lots.
He also said he is opposed to large developments that will impact local viewsheds.
Ultimately, he explained that the problem lies with the state. â€śThe existing state mandates are the result of lobbying from the power companies,â€ť he said. He explained that the state is requiring utilities to produce a third of their power through renewable sources. However, rooftop solar development does not count towards that goal, â€śonly those the power companies can make a profit on.â€ť