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A vacant chair or two might have been found, but they were few and far between as District 2 voters packed into Greenville’s Town Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 29. Beginning at 7 p.m., questions covered an hour and a half of candidate responses. Photo by Victoria Metcalf

Supervisor candidates respond to forum questions in Greenville

Greenville’s town hall was filled as the League of Women Voters hosted a District 2 supervisorial candidates forum Wednesday, Jan. 29.

It’s fair to say that it was an older audience that turned out to hear what three of the four candidates had to say in response to questions from the gathering.

Longtime League of Women Voters member Jane Braxton Little was the moderator. Lee Anne Schramel held up time cards telling each candidate how much time remained for his response.

Candidate Phil Shannon’s wife, Che, represented him because he was unable to attend due to work commitments. She was allowed to read opening and closing remarks from the candidate, but not respond to questions.

The other candidates —Michael Grant, Greg Cameron and incumbent Kevin Goss —attended the event.

Opening remarks

Greg Cameron said he thought the residents of District 2 were looking for leadership. He said that the district is vast, diverse and awkward.

Cameron thought it important to get people away from the boundaries and think in terms of the vast human resources available. That needs to be brought forward to the Board of Supervisors, he said.

Kevin Goss said he was fortunate growing up in District 2 (Indian Valley). The community was good to him and he was looking for a way to repay Plumas County for all that it’s given him over the years.

As representative of his seven years as District 2 supervisor, Goss pointed to a General Plan lawsuit that the county won, as well as other impactful, wide-reaching issues.

Goss cited the Greenville streetscape project, as well as the decision-making process behind the moratorium on cannabis, that he was directly involved with.

Goss said he was instrumental in bringing the California Insurance Commissioner to Plumas County to address residents’ concerns about being dropped by insurers and/or not being able to sell their homes because potential buyers couldn’t get fire insurance coverage.

Goss also said he is a member of the task force working to rid the county of abandoned vehicles.

Mike Grant said he is a 40-year Plumas County resident. Initially he was self-employed, and then began working for the sheriff’s office part time. That developed into a full-time position. He has been with the sheriff’s office for 35 years.

Grant said he is the best choice for supervisor because he is honest, he has a sound set of values and has extensive experience with grants, contracts and purchasing.

Through his duties in the sheriff’s office and as a leader with the county’s search and rescue program, Grant said he was worked with large boards that can benefit emergency media programs and many others.

Grant said he has personally taken his campaign door-to-door from Storie at one end of the district to Cromberg at the other edge. He has also visited potential voters throughout Indian Valley.

Che Shannon said that her husband Phil has served as a deputy for 20 years. He supports the logging industry and believes that is what keeps the county in business. He also believes the county should preserve its water rights.

Shannon said her husband supports Todd Johns as the new sheriff. He wants to see the new supervisor open an office in the Greenville substation, as well as work with volunteers from the fire departments, veterans groups and senior citizens.

Shannon said that the promotion of tourism is important and bringing in better events is part of that.

He also promotes fiscal responsibility.

How could internet service be improved for businesses?

Goss said he was looking at fiber optics as a solution, especially if Frontier (the current provider) does declare bankruptcy. Goss added that the current agency has a slot problem in that someone might want to get connected to the existing service but there isn’t room. Goss said there is Digitalpath, which is the internet provider he uses. AT&T is another option if it is willing to take over the lines.

Grant said that wired connections like those provided by Frontier “are a thing of the past.” By 2021 everything will go to broadband and cell towers.

He said there have been plans for better internet service — especially for Greenville and Chester — but the efforts to develop those have been stymied by some departments.

Grant said there is a lot of interest in providing services throughout the county. However there is a lot more to it than just putting up a tower. He added that he understands that it is very difficult to attract businesses to the area without broadband availability. (Grant is in charge of  computers and communications with the sheriff’s office.)

Cameron said there are other options available in terms of the internet. He uses a satellite system. He finds it necessary as an employer in communication with agencies such as the IRS. “My service with the satellite is decent,” he said, but he believes more modern approaches are needed. He said he would bring ideas for a more modern way to communicate especially for businesses.

What do you think about existing regulations on cannabis and hemp?

Grant said that the current regulations are in the best interest of the county. (Currently there is a moratorium on commercial cannabis growth and sales. Hemp can be raised with proper procedures in place.)

Grant said he understands that when it comes to growing hemp that there are varieties that produce a very low THC (tetrahydrocannebinol) and higher CBDs (cannabidiol). Growing hemp is very expensive, he learned.  It can cost up to $7,500 an acre.

As far as cannabis, Grant said there are no commercial sales or businesses that sell it allowed in the county.

Cameron said that as a candidate or supervisor a person has to live in reality. “Do I support commercial cannabis now? No.”

Cameron said that cannabis is one of the vice businesses. If he was to allow any grows or sales there would only be a few licenses.

As far as personal use, Cameron said he has no issues with it. What people do in the privacy of their own home is up to them.

Cameron also said that he sees nothing wrong with hemp. There are a lot of uses for it and Plumas County needs the industry.

Goss said he chaired the cannabis-working group for a year-and-a-half. He helped make recommendations to both the county planning commission and the board of supervisors.

As supervisor, he said he does have issues with cannabis delivery vans from out of the area. And people are going over the state line into Nevada to purchase their cannabis products. He is concerned about any liability.

Goss said he is considering a road tax with all the white delivery vans running about the “highways and byways.”

Hemp growing is moving forward, he added.

Address the current fire insurance crisis in Plumas County.

Cameron said it is one of the most pressing issues and a lot of people don’t understand how insurance premiums are figured out. He said that companies currently rely on zip code addresses and satellite images to determine fire risks.

Cameron said insurance companies need to look at information collection in a different way. He said that the best thing residents can do is to be proactive and keep yards clear of forest debris.

He also believes that all local supervisors need to have local plans and present them to the state.

Goss told the audience that his insurance was recently revoked, so he understands the situation others have found themselves in.

Plumas County has one of the best firewise programs in the state, Goss said. More areas within the county need to be aligned with the program.

Residents also need to work to get the state insurance commissioner on our side. The need is here and not in the big cities.

Grant said that CalFire has come out with a big fuel reduction plan on state lands, the problem is that Plumas County has very little state-owned property. Federal land is what is here.

Grant said that residents need to promote volunteer fire departments. Also, the more people involved with the fire department the better the insurance rating for a given area.

Is there anything in each candidate’s background that hampers him?

Goss said there is nothing in his background that would prohibit him from serving. He asked that the question be reread. Little added that if county employees are subject to background checks, would he subject himself to the same process. Goss said yes.

Grant said that in his entire career with the sheriff’s office he had never been disciplined.

Cameron said it was a tough question for him. His answer is no. He would submit to a background check, but added that he can’t testify in court in this county. The state Department of Justice says that he can’t testify because of the terms of an agreement in which he was the witness to a crime.

Can a candidate adequately represent Indian Valley if the candidate didn’t live there?

Grant said that he was quite familiar with the entire area. He said he had talked to service districts throughout District 2, met with people throughout the district and listened to what people had to say.

During his years as a deputy and especially as a member of search and rescue, he is accustomed to dropping everything to respond to a situation. Over the years he’s missed birthdays, Christmases and even his son’s wedding reception because there was a call to respond to.

Cameron said that the biggest thing is that people need to understand that “we live in a different time.” The use of the internet to communicate has changed things.

Cameron said that his family has had a constant presence in Plumas County since the late 1840s and in mining. He said he is happy to drive to Greenville to meet with anybody —  even to Twain. “We always forget about Twain,” he said.

He added that he would be available when needed.

Goss said that social media is the way to communicate. When he went through what he called Supervisor 101 trainings offered by the California State Association of Counties in Sacramento, being available was one of the tasks.

Goss said he is always available in Plumas County and in Indian Valley at the Village Drug, “which I call my office.”

A question asked Goss to respond to allegations that he missed 10 percent of the meetings in two years.

Goss explained that he missed three meetings last July because he was hospitalized with a brain aneurism.

There were other times when he couldn’t find an employee to cover his business.

Goss said he believed he had the latter situation in hand by hiring more employees, including his daughter. He said his drug store is no longer for sale.

The next question was directed to Cameron concerning employment and what he has done to contribute to the county?

Cameron responded that he is an employer. In his mining operation he employees one to five people that are beyond government people.

He also works for the probation department with its policy and procedures, ensuring that everyone is safe.

The next question was directed to Grant. He was asked what he knows about LAFCo?

Grant said that he knows the California agency makes determinations on boundaries. He has experienced boundary changes with the fire department. He also thought the agency had been around since the 1960s.

Goss asked if he could tag along on that response. He said that it is an amazing organization. He was chair of the agency for Plumas County at one time.

One of the main concerns now is that the county has so many public service districts and so few volunteers. He also sees a huge shortage of people to serve on those districts and realizes there will come a time when special district must be combined.

How do you feel about gun control and especially about current concealed weapons permits?

Goss said he supports CCWs in Plumas County. He also supported the constitution and the second amendment.

Goss said he believes it will eventually be harder in California for people with guns. That’s why so many people are deciding to move to other states.

Grant said, “I feel the same way about CCWs. It’s up to the sheriff,” to make determinations.

Grant said he is a strong believer in the Second Amendment and people’s right to carry weapons. In his years in law enforcement he’s learned that the crooks don’t pay attention to regulations.

Cameron said that he supports CCW programs. He said he is a member of the rifle and pistol association and a member of the National Rifle Association. He also supported the NRA’s stand against Sen. Kamala Harris’ stand on gun legislation.

Cameron said he would be very proactive and would support sanctuary states so that people’s firearms right are not infringed upon. He added that if one amendment is taken away from the U.S. Constitution that people might as well get rid of the rest.

Plumas County’s population is in decline so how will you increase county revenues?

Grant said, “This is a difficult nut to crack,” since the county essentially lost the timber industry it essentially lost its economic ability. The situation calls for a partnership with business, the county and the people in the county.

Grant said Plumas County no longer has a blue-collar population and there is a growing population of older residents. There are more deaths than births recorded. The young people are moving away so they have more of a future. “We need more options for these folks,” he added.

Cameron said that more sustainable and substantial economic opportunities are needed. He would explore ways to bring back industry. He pointed to agri tourism and heritage tourism as ways to bring in a lot of money to areas like Plumas.

“We have a ton of tourists that come through here,” Goss said.

Goss said that by developing a better way to keep track of the private homes that are rented to tourists and charging the owners Transient Occupancy Tax, the county stands to gain a “nice little chunk of money.”

Looking at tourism, Goss said that he would like to see the Lassen Volcanic Scenic Byway and the Feather River Scenic Byway routes better promoted and somehow linked. These could become destinations.

Goss said that as required by the state, Plumas County is rebuilding its reserves.

Goss noted there are a lot of other conversations and talks to be had.

What could be done about transportation for residents to out-of-county health care?

Cameron said that some agencies, especially veterans services, do offer transportation to Reno. Possibly Chico and Redding could be added.

Transportation could be the incentive to bring people into the area, Cameron said.

He also said that veterans’ services are also exploring the option of bringing in a clinic to the county that would serve veterans.

Goss said that he has served on the Plumas County Transportation Commission. He understands the need to get together with the hospitals for serving the rural county.

He sees a need for a wheelchair accessible system on an as-needed basis, and he can work toward that. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” he added. Looking at what other counties are offering is a good start. He also said that social media could help those find a ride.

Grant said that Plumas County has a really good transit system for a small area. He thought that all three hospitals could help come up with a solution. He said that once the baseline is in place then someone could go out and look for the funding to pay for a system.

Grant said that it needed a door-to-door ride approach, not a bus-to-bus system.

Do you support the decision to hire Todd Johns as sheriff?

Goss said that they solicited applicants for the position and received three who were qualified and interested in the job. They were interviewed using the League of Women Voters format. “Picking a sheriff is not in my wheelhouse,” Goss said. “All three candidates were exceptional.”

Grant thought the process was very fair. He added that many people thought the board of supervisors would appoint the sheriff to serve until the next election, not for the entirety of Sheriff Greg Hagwood’s remaining term. He said some people were upset that they didn’t get the right to vote someone in.

Cameron agreed with the process the board of supervisors used. He understands that Johns is “a no nonsense kind of guy.” And he supports Johns based on what he knows of him.

What are your thoughts on climate change?

Grant drew laughter when he said that in Indian Valley he couldn’t see much except putting a cork in the cows. He added there wasn’t much industry to be concerned about.

Grant said he didn’t see the problem here as much as in other areas. “I’m not really sure what we can do. No one wants to give up our cars.”

Plumas County does a fine job of being green, Cameron said. He said there needs to be a more proactive approach so the county doesn’t face the big forest fires that have hit other areas. They release a lot of contaminants into the atmosphere, he said.

Cameron said that the county could do something to regulate and promote logging. He concluded that he doesn’t agree with climate change necessarily.

Goss sees Plumas County as a clean, beautiful place. There is hydroelectric power and a lot of solar power. The county doesn’t have any coal plants. People do use wood heat in the winter but there are newer cleaner-burning stoves available. There is also a stove replacement program available for those that qualify.

Goss said that forest fires produce a huge carbon footprint, but then the U.S. Forest Service owns 80 percent of the county so it’s their responsibility to clean it up.

What are your thoughts on a  trial cannabis growing project?

Cameron said that the county is severely restricted and that it is a vice industry. He said he used to work gaming and vice and conducted investigations on underground economies. He added that he would support it for marijuana growing here.

Goss said he thought it would open a can of worms. The county is into its ban by two years and he wanted to look at that process a little longer before “opening that Pandora’s box.”

Goss said that he has heard rumblings about changing Proposition 64 (that legalized marijuana use with restrictions).

Grant said he wasn’t for it at all. Right now there is quite a bit of growing around Plumas County. And what the state is experiencing is a black market on marijuana not a taxable commodity as anticipated.

Grant also asked who would regulate any new proposal in the county. There is no one to do that now. He added that it would take a lot  to convince him that it was a good idea.

What would you do to inform or involve Indian Valley residents in decision making?

Goss said he thought Indian Valley residents were informed. He said he was sorry if anyone felt left out. He said that perhaps social media is the way to get people more involved. He again said he was sorry if anyone felt left out.

Grant said that as he’s met people he’s heard the same thing. A lot of people feel disengaged. Part of the solution is for the supervisor to make himself available, and to host local meetings. Grant said the board of supervisors does a good job of putting things online, but perhaps they could do more about what is coming up.

“I feel it’s everywhere in the district,” Grant said. He added that he would make himself available “so we can have those discussions and make good decisions.”

Cameron said that citizens are only allowed three minutes to address a concern to the board of supervisors. “Three minutes that’s all you get. That’s not enough in my opinion.”

Cameron sees social media as a great option for creating dialogues. He said it was time to use 21st Century approaches.

What can be done about sidewalks in the rest of Greenville outside the downtown improvement area?

Grant said that the end result of the project was much better than what he thought it was going to be. He said that he would go after more funding to carry it out through town.

Cameron said the new project is safer to some extent. It provides better water runoff. He said the real issue is a sustainable economy. While there’s nothing wrong with seeking grants, self-sufficiency and getting serious on business and commerce were the keys.

Goss said that the project actually started 20 years earlier with then Supervisor Robert Meacher. Goss said he ran into problems with Frontier and the fact they decided not to put the lines underground. Goss said he held the company’s feet to the fire and got them to live up to their part of the agreement.

Goss said there are grants available for more work, including providing plants for the planter boxes. He’s also concerned with who will water those plants.

How would you reverse the declining numbers of volunteers?

Cameron said that a lot of people are experiencing a sense of hopelessness. There aren’t a lot of real jobs and there’s nothing to make people proud of their communities.

Goss said that in Indian Valley there is actually an uptick because of the new fire chief.

In talking with people at the Long Valley Fire Department in the Cromberg area, Goss said they’re actually thinking about offering a stipend to put a little extra money in people’s pockets. It would be a half-paid model. “I don’t know how that would look.”

Grant said that attracting more volunteers is something he’s been concerned about for some time. In search and rescue, good jobs aren’t the concern, it’s the time commitment. Recently the agency did a training. It started with 14 prospective volunteer and ended up with two.

Grant notices that the younger generations are not into volunteering the way older generations do.

How do you feel about the new county administrator?

Grant said that he has worked with Hydrick and finds him extremely motivated. He has a lot to offer the county, Grant said.

That said, Hydrick has little authority and lots of ideas that he can’t push through, Grant said. Grant said that he thought Hydrick should be given the authority to do what a county administrative officer used to do.

Cameron said that he knows that Hydrick is an asset to the county. He also hasn’t been given enough authority to take the county to the level it needs to be. One of the first things Cameron would do if elected is to increase Hydrick’s responsibility to oversee the Community Corrections Partnership. “If elected I plan on using him a lot more than he’s being used,” Cameron said.

Closing statements

Grant was first in making closing statements. There are many accomplishments that have taken place, a lot of things have been overlooked, and a lot that needs taking care of, he said. Insurance, communications, better pricing through competition and more are involved.

Grant said he has been on the other side of the board of supervisors in trying to get something on the agenda. He said the process is not transparent and needs to be.Grant said he would stand strong for what he believes in. There are tough decisions ahead and he would stay connected with the people.

Answering for Phil Shannon, Che said her husband is accustomed to serving the people. He believes that the public’s concerns are his concerns. He believes he knows the issues and hasn’t forgotten why he would be supervisor.

Cameron said he had been looking forward to that particular forum. He believes that it is an elected officials duty to protect the citizens; that problems should be remedied; and that the CCP needs overseeing.

Cameron said that as supervisor he would make sure that your funds are spent effectively and not wasted. People would also be treated with dignity and respect.

Goss said that he has gained a lot of experience during his last seven years as supervisor. He said it has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people.

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