At the April 28th meeting of the Windsor Democratic Club, Sonoma County Fourth District Supervisor James Gore candidly addressed many of the pressing issues confronting our community. An animated, engaging Gore shared his perspective and approaches when considering the complex and at times divisive challenges presented to the board for consideration and action.
With regard to a proposed countywide anti-GMO ordinance, Supervisor Gore said he strongly admired the grassroots group that gathered over 24,000 petition signatures in support of the measure, which would prevent genetically modified crops from being grown in the county. He feels that such an effort should be rewarded with a place on the November ballot, where a positive vote would result in this becoming county law. Instead, the Board of Supervisors voted to contract a study of the plan at a cost of $40,000, after which they will vote again. The supervisors could then vote to adopt the proposal as an ordinance, which would allow the board itself to change the law in the future. Gore didn’t favor the study, preferring immediate advancement to the ballot.
Gore talked about problems related to the current county process of how ordinances, including those for the county budget, are presented to the board. Complex legislation is often given to the supervisors by staff on the Thursday prior to the Tuesday board meeting where it will be discussed and decided. Given the inherent complexities of many of the ordinances, Gore feels that five days does not give sufficient time for adequate consideration. Additionally, this constrained time frame does not allow the community to fully respond, which raises questions relating to the transparency of the process. Related to this problem, Supervisor Gore discussed the difficulty of receiving reports from the twenty-six separate departments that constitute the county government without an established, effective process for deliberative decision-making.
To address the nuts and bolts problem of how the county bureaucracy works, Supervisor Gore helped create a governance ad hoc committee to report to the board with suggestions for making the county government more effective. He also worked to establish a seven-member Independent Citizens Advisory Committee on Pension Matters. Gore sought people to serve who had strong fiscal backgrounds, trying to avoid advocates with entrenched views from both sides of this hot-button, complex problem.
Throughout his presentation, Gore repeated his notion that “If there’s a problem, let’s fix it.” He debunked the characterization that the board is clearly divided along partisan lines. He expressed great respect for all members of the board, saying that agreements among members vary widely, depending on individual issues.
Gore stressed the need for innovative approaches when trying to find funding for the multiple pressing needs in the county, which has an inadequate budget to pay for everything. Unfortunately, things like increased salaries for county employees must be weighed against the need to repair our deteriorating roads. He continues to look for innovative solutions that move beyond knee-jerk politics.
— Barry Hirsch