Wednesday, 17 April 2024

District 1 supervisor candidates outline differences, goals in debate


MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – The two candidates in Lake County’s District 1 supervisorial race faced each other on Wednesday, May 2, at the Calpine Visitor Center.

The election on June 5 will decide whether incumbent Jim Comstock or challenger Victoria Brandon wins the four-year term to represent the southernmost district in the county, which includes Middletown, Hidden Valley Lake and Lower Lake.

The May 2 forum was moderated by Elizabeth Larson of  Lake County News, with Calpine and the Lake County Chamber of Commerce acting as cosponsors.

In opening statements, closing statements, nine questions from the moderator, and one question from each candidate addressed to the other, the candidates listed their own accomplishments and the policy positions they argue are right for the district.

Comstock summarized the main accomplishments of his four year term as getting the construction started on Middletown’s new library and senior center complex and purchasing the land for the park adjacent to it, the repaving of Highway 29, and getting the stop sign at Hartmann Road.

Brandon countered with a list of what she feels are his failures: disregard for planning commission advice and the general plan on the proposed Cristallago development, poor handling of medical marijuana regulations and lack of leadership in keeping Anderson Marsh open.

Brandon was proud that she was able to block installation of a cell tower across from the courthouse in Lakeport which would have been disguised as an 85-foot plastic tree. Instead an antenna was placed on top of the courthouse, bringing $2,500 a month in lease fees to the county.  

She also has “been working on the last four years to have this declared a National Conservation Area (the Snow Mountain-Berryessa Area), which I’m delighted to say the board of supervisors voted unanimously to support.”

A frequent area of disagreement was development, with Brandon often being more restrictive.

On the private development on Rattlesnake Island, for Comstock it “comes down to an issue of private property” and he voted with the majority in a 3-2 board decision to not require an environmental impact report.  

Brandon countered that three professional archaeologists raised significant concerns about possible Indian artifacts and that such concern, by state law, requires an EIR.

Comstock also was in favor of a large retail development in Clearlake.

Brandon was involved in the Sierra Club lawsuit with the city of Clearlake to require more study before approval, and was concerned because it involved “chain, corporate business coming from outside,” rather than local businesses.

She cited statistics that say 45 percent of money spent at local businesses stays local, but only 15 percent of the corporate business.

Comstock countered that “15 percent of something is better than 45 percent of nothing” and that as a result of the Sierra Club lawsuit “redevelopment funds that were going to be used there are now lost.” He also said “I totally support the Crazy Creek project,” a subdivision which would be built outside of Middletown.

Both candidates oppose Measure D, an initiative on the June 5 ballot to regulate medical marijuana growing.

Comstock said he considered illegal growing on public and private land the No. 1 issue in Lake County, and that the medical marijuana ordinance the board passed last fall – and rescinded in January in the face of a referendum – was done with “more vetting with public meetings than anything in my tenure.”

Brandon thought the supervisors, in their cultivation ordinance, “didn’t approach it correctly because they didn’t have all sides at the table,” and thought that it was improper that existing dispensaries were forced to close after another referendum effort forced the board to rescind its dispensaries ordinance.

In offering a view of economic development for the county, Brandon said, “We are surrounded by mountains – we’ve got transportation difficulties .. We‘ve got two fiber-optic cables crossing the county, there are efforts under way to link our whole community into those so that people who want to start Internet-based businesses actually have the tools to do it.”

Furthering the case for development, Comstock said, “No community is successful until multi-generations of families can live and work in the same community … When he graduate our kids from high school, we give them two things – we give them a diploma and a bus ticket, because do not have jobs and opportunities for them here.”

Brandon concluded “I think it (our future) can be wonderful. I think we’ve got it right in our grasp now to make something that is uniquely our own, to have a permanent kind of prosperity which is based on our real assets which we’re always going to have. We can do this.”

Velocity Video, which did the event's videography, will have a link available soon so community members can view the debate in its entirety.

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