By Barry Hirsch
During his candid presentation to the Windsor Democratic Club on August 27, Fourth District Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore called for greater dialogue with the community as future policies are considered by county supervisors. Gore stressed the need for exhaustive public input and greater community outreach when issues like the Lytton Tribe of Pomo Indian trust land are considered.
Supervisor Gore gave a brief history of the Lytton tribe’s efforts to purchase 500 acres of private land west of Windsor, and to put the land into federal trust so the tribe could operate as a sovereign nation not subject to local and state laws and regulations. The process began long before Gore’s election last November, but during his seven months in office he has been actively engaged in negotiations with the Lyttons to mitigate some potential negative consequences of the tribal development. Negotiations have resulted in an agreement to ban casino development anywhere in the County, and a commitment by the tribe to pay $6 million in mitigation fees. Negotiations still ongoing; Gore hopes to limit the scope of winery and resort development on this land. He said that he and the other supervisors believe that land going into federal trust is inevitable, and an agreement with the tribe is the best course for the county.
Supervisor Gore described the ongoing study of new regulations for wineries and vacation rentals. Expansion in these areas is moving very rapidly, and the board is working address these situations in a smart way. Gore openly shared the difficulties that have arisen in the present process. As a new supervisor with previous experience in government at the federal level, he wants to change some aspects of the ways in which the board is supported by County staff.
Gore mentioned, for example, that publishing an agenda on a Thursday for a Board of Supervisor’s meeting taking place the following Tuesday is problematical. The timing limits the work that can be done by supervisors to prepare to address the complexities of items on the agenda. Although he was quick to defend the ability and commitment of the staff, as well that of his fellow supervisors, Gore feels there should be some long-range improvements. He described the process to create a county budget every two years: the $1.5 billion budget is presented to the board by staff only a couple of weeks prior to a vote, allowing for minimal consideration. Less than $7 million dollars of the budget, as presented, is completely discretionary, making it difficult to choose which of many deserving programs will get additional funding.
Supervisor Gore promised to continue to work to make county government transparent. His candor was refreshing and somewhat unexpected. He promised to return to the club on a regular basis.