I attended the Tuesday night forum featuring Sheriff’s and Assessor’s candidates sponsored by the Bridgeport Republicans.
The most interesting part of the forum was having the Sheriff’s candidates’ spouses ask questions of their opponents when Moderator Bob Peters opened it up to questions from the audience.
Between the Assessor candidates, I found the most interesting exchange occurred regarding the $135,000 the Assessor’s department is contracting out annually to consultants.
Challenger Barry Beck, who has worked in the department for the past eleven years, maintained that there is the expertise “in-house” to get that work done, and that in trying financial conditions, this was an area where the County could save money.
Incumbent Bob Musil explained that the $135,000 is for consultants who are handling the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and Casa Diablo assessment appeals. “As good as my appraisers are, they don’t have the expertise to handle these two jobs,” said Musil.
Beck retorted that Mammoth Mountain is “not that complicated” and affirmed his belief the work could be done by staff.
In response to a question about belt-tightening and cost-cutting, Musil defended current staffing levels. He cited the fact that the department had 14 employees in 2009 and has just 7 now. “You wouldn’t be cutting fat,” he said. “You’d be cutting bone.”
Beck responded by pointing out that there are 23,000 parcels in Inyo County, which he said has two appraisers, and 17,000 parcels in Mono County, which he said has five appraisers.
Both candidates stressed that they would make the department more responsive and user-friendly by transitioning many items and forms online. For example, said Musil, starting July 1, Mono County business owners will be able to fill out property tax forms for their businesses online.
The showdown between the Sheriff’s candidates was interesting, particularly because the forum was held in decidely pro-Obenberger territory.
That said, Ingrid Braun performed admirably. She is a pro, no doubt. And what I really liked about her was her ability to field a hostile question without being hostile in turn to the questioner, but rather, demonstrating an empathy and understanding for those who have opinions which differ from her own.
Once again, the infamous “saturation patrols” were discussed.
And leave it to the Sheriff’s wife, Ellen Obenberger, to have posed the toughest question of the night to Braun.
Braun acknowledged that tourism drives Mono County and while we shouldn’t turn a blind eye towards any law-breaking, we should focus our efforts on things that affect our communities versus targeting people who just happen to be passing through.
But Ellen Obenberger zeroed in on the waffle. How do you know they’re just passing through? she asked. And even if they are passing through, what if they’re heading to Burning Man carrying a whole bunch of date-rape drugs? Is it really okay to ignore the bad guys, just because the bad guys are going somewhere else? Shouldn’t we be concerned about the welfare of all citizens, not just the citizens who live in Mono County?
Braun declined to take the bait, reiterating that it wasn’t wise to put a lot of resources into enforcement actions that have very little to do with actual threats to Mono County.
The candidates also expressed disagreement regarding the degree to which the current department is “connected” to the various communities within the County.
Obenberger insisted that the department is connected to the communities, citing numerous volunteer activities and organizations which his deputies are involved in.I think I’m the right man for the job.
Braun disagreed, saying “It’s not just what I’ve seen, but what I’ve heard … that the deputies just don’t stop in the store anymore.”
Mono County Sheriff’s Deputy Raymond Tems, who attended the event as a civilian, piped up, “That’s a slap in the face to the folks in the department. I see us doing a lot of good work out there.”
Braun said that’s the beauty of politics, democracy and choice. That not everyone shares the same perspective, and that the voters will ultimately decide.
Throughout, Obenberger stressed the areas where his experience trumped Braun’s. Throughout, Braun, a 1989 graduate of U.C. Berkeley and a former supervisor within the LAPD, shot back, “What I don’t know, I can learn, just like my predecessors.”
Obenberger’s closing statement would have been uneventful save for one interesting choice of words. He began, “I think I’m the right … “ and then he paused for just a beat and continued “ … man for the job,” with man ever so subtly emphasized.
At first, I wondered if my brain had played tricks on me, but I spoke to another person afterwards who reassured me that I hadn’t been hearing things and that the choice of words was no accident.
While no questions came up regarding the hot-button issues of the Madrid case or the Boulaalam case, Obenberger did make a point of saying that the current relationship between his department and the Mono County District Attorney’s office is the best Obenberger has ever seen, and the best that the D.A. has ever seen. How cozy that relationship should be is perhaps something for a future discussion.
Keflezighi wins Boston Marathon
Former Mammoth resident and Olympic medalist Meb Keflezighi, 38, won the Boston Marathon men’s division with an official time of 2:08:37, according to the Marathon’s Facebook page. The time was a personal best, and the win was entirely unexpected.
Meb became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983, adding Boston to a resume that includes the New York City Marathon in 2009, as well as a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics.
The Boston Marathon took place on April 21, one year after a bombing killed three people and left over 260 injured. According to The Huffington Post, Meb ran with the names of the 2013 bombing victims on his bib.
“At the end, I just kept thinking, ‘Boston Strong. Boston Strong,’” he said. “I was thinking, give everything you have.”
The last American man to win was Greg Meyer in 1983; Meyer and Meb embraced after the race. “I’m blessed to be an American and God bless America and God Bless Boston for this special day,” said Meb.