District 3 Mono County Supervisor and 2012 incumbent, Vikki Bauer faced off against challenger Tim Alpers on Tuesday night at a candidates forum in Lee Vining. Due to last year’s redistricting of Mono County, Lee Vining is now part of District 3.
The following is a summary of highlights of the candidates’ answers to some of the questions asked throughout the evening.
What will be the biggest challenge to Mono County be in the next five years?
Alpers: Balancing projects and financial stability; improving the human environment and business.
Bauer: Pension reform; keeping Mono County solvent is the first order of business otherwise we can’t provide services. Pension reforms could lead to bankruptcies. We need to get county pay in line.
Thoughts on term limits for supervisors.
Bauer: There’s a sweet spot; 12 years is good, but 16 is too long [Bauer has currently served 8 consecutive years as a supervisor]. Voters showing up [at the polls] are the best solution.
Alpers: I’m a term limits guy. I impose limits on myself. You go into office with goals you want to accomplish, and it takes a lot of energy and work. The longer you’ve been in office the more slips through the cracks. I’ve been away and had time to recharge my batteries [Alpers served as a Mono County supervisor from 1983-1989 and again from 1993-1997].
How can you help small business development get going?
Alpers: The county needs to remember who it is working for. People are being harassed when they are trying to get a business going; we need to figure out how we can help. From serving in the past I know what works and what doesn’t.
Bauer: By having a personal touch. I have a personal relationship with the Planning Department (Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that Bauer had a personal relationship with the Planning Commission, which was incorrect). [Bauer then gave an example of how she helped a man in June Lake open a taco truck business]. I helped him understand all the hoops. I couldn’t relieve the hoops but I could explain them. It took six months but it worked.
Would you support trying to get Hwy 158 designated as a state scenic byway in an effort to promote and encourage economic growth?
Bauer: I don’t see any reason not to, we have a large planning grant right now.
Alpers: I think we should look through the lens of making things better for small business and I would support any effort in that direction.
The current pay to Mono County supervisors and management, and the raises that the supervisors have received in the past three or four years outrages the public. What are your thoughts?
Alpers: We should index the employee with economic reality. Some things should be on your own dime. I recently went to D.C. on my own dime and spoke with the President for three minutes and now he wants to come to the Eastern Sierra.
Bauer: We [supervisors] receive a $740 car allowance, which is considered income so taxes are taken out. There’s a lot of travel as a supervisor and there are months that I go over that allowance. It ends up being a wash. In 2009 the supervisors took cost of living raises because employees received cost of living raises as well. Salaries are in line with 2008 and 2009. You have to honor the employees you have both union and management.
Mono County RPACs are the front lines in the county, how do you see your role with these groups?
Alpers: RPACs are where the rubber meets the road. I brought the first RPAC to Chalfant. Supervisors should be seen and not heard at RPAC meetings. We should bring information but then just listen. These groups are where you start building interest.
Bauer: I am the product of a RPAC in June Lake. As a supervisor I have been appointed to the Lee Vining RPAC when it was left without a supervisor on several occasions. I was able to step in and take care of you. I have played a part in RPACs all along.
The Bodie Hills are special and unique but have recently been threatened by gold mining. Will you support the permanent protection of the Bodie Hills?
Bauer: We have to make recreational opportunities economically viable. I supported the mining because Bridgeport needs viability. As a trade off I am working to get Bodie into the national monument program.
Alpers: The Bodie Hills are beautiful but we need to look at the bigger picture. We need a strategic plan. We need to polish our jewel and promote business. We need to get preservation and sustainability language into our policies so people coming in know what to expect.
Are you in favor of promoting something that would help businesses survive in winter?
Bauer: The RPAC plays with that all the time. Making practical use of ideas is the trick. The government needs to help move it along but not pay for it. It seems that in Lee Vining the best thing would be a permanent drought because I hear you’ve had your best winter ever. But the county counts on Mammoth so much and Mammoth needs snow.
Alpers: Government needs to provide an inviting environment. We need to get a whole variety of things. We need to be possibility thinkers. Think in bigger terms and don’t just hunker down in a hole for the winter.
The USDA is willing to loan money to my small business but the local bank won’t loan it. How can you help when there’s money out there but we can’t get it?
Bauer: Persistence is the answer. You have to prove that you can pay it back. You need to build your case with a tight business plan. Perhaps scale back to fit into constraints.
Alpers: This is a national problem, too. You have to show that you can sustain a day-to-day business. Paying attention to details separates the winners from the losers. Networking is a great key so talk to your peers. Ask yourself if you are willing to work hard enough to pay the money back.
Currently the supervisors have given up a lot of control of running the county to one person holding three positions [CAO Jim Arkens who is also the HR and Public Works Director]. One person running the county, whoever it is, isn’t good and affects the county’s checks and balances. Is this an issue for you?
Alpers: The supervisors ran the county when I was in office the first time because there was no CAO. The board is losing control of the team framework in the county. We need to go back to four board meetings per month. Team Mono County needs to be built and we need to watch bureaucratic growth.
Bauer: I’ve seen it both ways. Checks and balances cost money. Combining positions has kept us alive, fiscally. We won’t go back to what we were. We are in a new era of consolidation and we won’t ever be able to afford what we had before. Two people may be doing what three were doing. One person shouldn’t have three jobs, but I choose that versus not being able to put snowplows on the road.
During closing statements, Alpers made five promises to Lee Vining. “I will correspond promptly, hold office hours in Lee Vining, attend all RPACs, report RPAC results at the board level, and have at least two town hall meetings per year.”
He also stated that he would make all of his decisions in office based on three things: his personal philosophies, what his constituents want, and what the laws allow.
Bauer asked that the public review her record when making its decision for whom to vote.
“I am just hitting my stride and would like four more years,” she said. “I enjoy my work and am an active problem solver. I ask for your vote and your support.”
Since Lee Vining does not have a polling place, residents will receive their vote by mail ballots on May 10.