PD Editorial: Stick with James Gore for Sonoma County 4th District Supervisor
James Gore is running for a third — and, he says, possibly final — term on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
Gore wasn’t widely known when he filed for the north county 4th District seat in 2014, having spent several years in Washington as a midlevel Obama administration appointee. But his family had roots in Sonoma County’s wine industry, and having grown up working in the vineyards, Gore mixed easily with farmers and farmworkers alike. He was elected in a runoff and ran unopposed four years later, after immersing himself in rebuilding efforts following the 2017 Tubbs fire, which consumed thousands of homes and businesses in Coffey Park, Larkfield and other 4th District communities.
He isn’t getting a free ride this year.
Gore’s opponent in the June 7 election is Andy Springer, a Santa Rosa business consultant and the pastor of a church in Rohnert Park.
Springer says he is running out of frustration with the cost of living in Sonoma County. He says his children, now young adults, cannot afford to make their homes here, and that taxes and fees are too high to attract high-paying businesses from outside the area. He says the county doesn’t get much bang for the bucks it spends on homeless services and doesn’t spend enough on the Sheriff’s Office. He also says county officials aren’t responsive to their constituents.
Springer is friendly and engaging, and he didn’t duck questions about his tax liens, saying he got in trouble by failing to sort out the rules before starting a window-washing business to support his family about a decade ago. He isn’t alone in his criticism of insular public officials or his concerns about Sonoma County’s economic challenges. But identifying problems, like jumping into a business, is the easy part of the equation. It’s harder to sort out the details and craft effective solutions that fit within legal and budget constraints. Springer mostly offers generalities, promising to dig into problems after he is elected, to manage public money carefully, to listen to advice and offer solutions.
In effect, he is asking voters to trust him to learn on the job. That may be OK for a commissioner, perhaps even a city council member, but the county is the largest local employer. Supervisors are responsible for health and safety-net programs, land use, open space and coastal planning, parks, agricultural regulation, emergency management, public safety and water supplies for 600,000 people. The county’s budget is $2 billion a year, and supervisors are paid about $168,000 a year. They should be prepared on Day One.
In contrast, after almost eight years in office — including multiple wildfires, a flood, a drought and the COVID pandemic — Gore is thoroughly versed in his duties. But experience isn’t the only thing that sets him apart in this election. Like Springer, he can articulate the county’s challenges and failures, but Gore has a record of delivering for residents of the 4th District.
Gore was the first county official to publicly acknowledge that warning systems failed miserably on the first night of the 2017 fire. Since then, he has helped secure and direct millions of dollars to vegetation management and fire detection systems. He supported consolidation of small north county fire districts into a unified firefighting force with a dedicated source of tax revenue.
Gore and his board colleagues have substantially increased spending on road maintenance, and they invested part of the county’s PG&E settlement money in an affordable housing fund focused on developing in cities, near transit, rather than in rural areas. Enormous challenges remain for the north county, beginning with water supplies if the Potter Valley Project is shut down. Supervisor isn’t a job for a beginner. In the 4th District, The Press Democrat recommends James Gore.
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