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Ledger Dispatch Candidate Q&A Response

Q.  Please provide a brief personal biography including family and career information, qualifications, your experience living in Amador County and community involvement. (500 words or less)

A.  I have been in public service to our country for my entire adult life, serving 24 years of distinction in the US Air Force, responsible for maintenance, logistics, asset management, and budget for C-5, KC-10 and C-17 aircraft.  I’m a proud veteran, member of the American Legion 108.
I currently serve in the USDA Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management.  During fire seasons I’m sent out anywhere needed in the US to coordinate the air fields for the tankers, smoke jumpers and other fire personnel on the ground as a Ramp Manager.  This requires critical thinking, attention to detail, and an ability to work under pressure.  During the off season, I’m at the McClellan Wildland Fire Training and Conference Center managing the 140,000sf facility and USFS vehicle fleets.

I’ve been elected President and Manager by the shareholders of the First Mace Meadow Water Association in Pioneer for the past 12 years. Water management responsibility for our residents, the budget, water storage and its delivery has given me extraordinary fiscal and business experience in managing this important resource. 

In 2017 I was elected Chairman of the Upcountry Community Council. This position has provided the opportunity for me to keep our Upcountry residents informed with interesting, knowledgeable speakers.  We are able to share our opinions and talk about issues, even when issues are controversial. The UCC then acts as a liaison for Upcountry issues with county agencies and others, while working to gain the resources that are needed for District 3.

My family has lived in Amador since 1984.  After my retirement from the Air Force in 2005, I moved with my wife and son to Pioneer to help my parents and take care of my ailing grandfather. I now appreciate the special matters-of-the-heart my fellow multi-generational families face. There were some hard times with family health issues. In 2009, both my wife of 27 years of marriage and my father tragically passed away. Despite the emotional devastation of that time period, I’m very proud that my son was able to attend and graduate after 4 years from Amador High School and continue on to college.  
I have since married Suzanne Brown, a retired paramedic and volunteer for the Red Cross and Cruz Roja in Costa Rica for 25+ years. We are avid kayakers and enjoy trail riding and 4-wheeling where permitted.  Travelling in our RV to new places and meeting new adventurous people is another great past time.  Together, we have a huge extended family.  Last Thanksgiving, we hosted 14 family members in our home in Pioneer due to the devastating Cascade Fire that took their home down to rubble. 

I believe in making a positive difference for my community, my family and for myself. You will find that I’m fiercely loyal to my community and I care deeply for our quality of life.  I’m not a politician; I’m a steward of our land and resources. I’m simply your neighbor, your advocate, and your best choice for District 3 Supervisor.

Q.  Please describe how you came to hold/run for the District 3 Supervisor position. (250 words or less)

A.  For the last year I’ve been asked repeatedly by citizens and businesses to run for Supervisor. Many of us, myself included, feel we have not been represented well by Supervisor Morgan.  In the last 3 years I have noticed that my opinion and views have never been solicited.  This is what has personally spurred me to run. Now, when I am out introducing myself at functions and going door to door, many people have shared their dismay in the direction our current Supervisor presents when it is not their view, nor have their views been solicited.   

Morgan’s one-sided progressive approach isn’t a “non-partisan” approach.  I have listened to Board of Supervisors meetings. Morgan is biased and is clearly fighting for a progressive, liberal direction for our county. 

I believe in taking all sides in account before making any decision.  In the 24 years I served for US Military I represented all US citizenry.  When elected, I will take a balanced, non-partisan approach to represent District 3 constituents and Amador County.

This what I believe non-partisan is:
Taking all opinions and arguments into consideration. 
Using common sense and moral dictates.
Using all the best information that is available and provided to me to make decisions,
Growing, learning, and concentrating on not being opinionated except when it is for the good of all.
Listening to the people and doing my best to attend to your concerns and resolving problems that arise.

Q. What are your top priorities upon election in terms of policy-making? (250 words or less)

I’ll advocate results-oriented, best practice solutions for managing funds and resources for these top priorities:  Fire, Water, Roads, Tourism, Business Improvement, Senior Citizen Needs, Mental Health, Non-Sanctuary State, More Healthcare Providers, Preserving the Mokelumne and Consumnes Rivers, Homelessness, Protection of Person and Property, Prudent Code Enforcement, Vocational/Higher Education, Libraries.

I want to bring existing resources together to provide practical, affordable services to our seniors, veterans and youth. I believe in policies that address specific issues without incurring higher, ongoing costs, or impacting our freedoms. Government policies should protect and improve our quality of life without restricting our freedoms. I am acutely aware of who pays the salary of the District 3 Supervisor – YOU, THE TAX PAYER. As your public servant, I will advocate for your needs by listening in an open, transparent manner, including regular “Ask Jeff” sessions. I look for long-term results not just short-term fixes that come with high risk of long-term problems, such as the debate about commercialized marijuana. I believe our generation should not push the burden of our policies, like high debt, drugs or danger onto our children.

I firmly believe in the rule of law, our borders, and our constitution with respect to Immigration.  I do not support the designation of California as a Sanctuary State.  Chair Morgan, so far has refused to allow Amador’s Board of Supervisors to take a symbolic vote for or against Sanctuary Status.  My supporters would like Amador to join the 20 other counties that are demanding Non-Sanctuary status.

Q.  Roads and road repair are a perennial issue in the county. What would you do to address the decaying state of the county's roads? Given the limited resources available, what would you prioritize in terms of road projects? (300 words or less)

The condition of our roads is a heartfelt concern among the people in District 3.  We all need to ask what has been done for our roads through the efforts of Supervisor Morgan for the last 3 years?

Lack of money is the repeated excuse.  We need to expand our grant writing capability and keep a keen eye out for the grants available. From my standpoint we need to chase pennies, and pennies make dollars.  We need to chase down every dollar available to go to our decaying roads.

I can envision a page on the county’s website for citizen reporting of road problems or other dangerous conditions. I would like to work to procure a road maintenance software program that will track the repairs and completion of our road projects.

I will work with ACTC in supporting the completion of the Pine Grove Road Corridor Project.  I will work to share and disseminate the SB1 gas tax revenues that we have received fairly through the County.

I have been managing complex logistics and resource planning for most of my career. There are some tasks where local people and local businesses could be encouraged to volunteer to help beautify or clean-up roadway corridors for our county and specifically District 3. I would spearhead those activities for the good of us all. Specifically, I’ll prioritize and direct more of our limited budget toward fixing Amador County’s 410 miles of maintained roads and I will work with County and State programs to ensure funds are allocated to repair Amador’s most critical thoroughfares. I’ll make sure we have the necessary roadside signage to expedite emergency responses. Proper signage is essential for emergency response and fire safety – now more than ever.

Q. With the approval of the new County General Plan and the recent lawsuit settlement, the next step will be implementation, including adopting a new zoning code. What kind of changes would you like to see in a new county zoning code? Do you support design guidelines for new development in the county? What other aspects of the new General Plan would you prioritize? (300 words or less)

I want to make sure we don’t have “spot zoning.” All county zoning should be consistent with existing hubs of activity and provide for commercial uses with contiguous development. Compatible zoning designations should be encouraged, meaning putting manufacturing away from residential areas.

Business and housing development is already constrained by stringent building codes that restrict people in what they can build. I’ll roll back unnecessary controls and I’ll only consider new restrictions if they make absolute sense for the betterment and safety of our communities.

I support voluntary design guidelines for the town centers. I have some concerns where industrial zoning has been identified in the General Plan for District 3 and will discuss my concerns with District 3 constituents.  I also support and propose a new landscaping ordinance which would affect new developments or businesses in the county.  With respect to the recent Foothill Conservancy lawsuit, I have not yet seen what the Settlement Disposition was, therefor I am not able to answer that portion. I know that the zoning code must comply with the General Plan and that the General Plan can be amended up to four times a year. The Buckhorn Town Center has adopted the aesthetic theme of Alpine Mountain as their voluntary guidelines for new commercial development in the Town Center and I support that. 
I would not like to see unnecessary restrictions for developments outside the town centers. 
Preserving our scenic and historical values is paramount.  Amador County is one of the few counties left where most of our residents want to preserve those values. 

Q. Wine production and wineries continue to be the largest growth industry in Amador County, but the county's ordinance governing how wineries are approved and operate is decades old. Would you support a new winery ordinance and what changes would you want to see in how industry is governed in Amador County? (300 words or less)

At this time, a “new winery ordinance” is not an impact issue for District 3. It is an issue that may need to be visited, on a case by case basis, but I respect the private property rights of the landowner.  I want to ensure that growth is consistent with zoning decisions in the General Plan.

There must be a balanced approach to encouraging growth to attract tourism and increase business growth without burdening our limited water resources or compromising our land-use concerns. With new wineries comes more jobs and revenue from tourism but they also would bring environmental concerns with traffic safety issues for police and emergency responders.


Q. Despite California's statewide legalization of marijuana, Amador County has in place an emergency ordinance that bans the commercial sale and growing of pot. Critics say allowing commercial marijuana is more trouble than its worth, while supporters say the County is leaving a huge amount of money on the table. What is your position on commercial marijuana in the county? (300 words or less)

I firmly believe in your personal rights and freedoms.  I understand that there is a very passionate debate on both sides of the issue.  However, after research, I am opposed to commercial growing of marijuana in Amador County. 

Some growers do not use proven, safe agricultural guidelines or follow laws. Some growers have shadow financiers, leaving hazardous waste, committing environmental crimes and leaving unusable land in their wake. Potential tax revenue from the marijuana industry may look attractive but, from the experiences of our neighbors in Calaveras County and the knowledge I have from the Forest Service, we have already learned how costly the environmental damage clean-up will be.

I have also seen first-hand the effects this drug has had on our unsuspecting youth. Many of you may have, as well. As I have knocked on District 3 doors; consensus supports my belief that we should prohibit commercial marijuana grows.

My wife is a retired paramedic.  In her career there have been several instances where individuals who used a drug they thought was simply marijuana overdosed on contaminated product laced with some other deadly substance or pesticide.  

Reading the 2016 report from Colorado and Washington “Lessons Learned After 4 Years of Marijuana Legalization” I’m shocked at the devastating consequences.

Evidence I have researched indicates increased homelessness, uninsured hospital visits, expensive emergency response and ambulance rides, traffic accidents from impaired drivers, domestic violence and sex crimes from uninhibited users, just to name a few of those unseen human and financial collateral costs.

I simply do not want to experiment with the lives of our children and fellow citizens and our neighbors, just for tax revenue.

Q. What can the county government do to improve the economic climate in Amador County and attract new businesses, and therefore new jobs, to the area? (250 words or less)

I will explore all avenues to court new, needed and desired business to District 3 and Amador County. We have instances where businesses have closed. I’ll work diligently to find ways for those businesses to re-open, get up and running and become established again. We need minimal initial requirements and possible delayed fee payments. For those requesting information to create a new business, I will make sure our county provides up-front, clearly written procedures and guidelines with needed information on what permits are required with reasonable fees.  My goal is that we have a 1-stop process which includes all needed departments’ reviews. 

A portion of the area west of Hwy 49 should be zoned and designated as an industrial park. As an industrial park, the zoning should encourage a variety of businesses and reduce the economic impact, if one large business were to fail.

Education, both vocational and higher learning should be an important component of our County’s Economic Development Strategy.  I would also encourage businesses to include apprenticeships in their business plans.  The current economic development information in the General Plan is outdated and needs to be revised to reflect existing conditions. 

In District 3, I would like to explore having a lumber processing plant, another saw mill, and a bio-mass plant.  New jobs and revenues will follow.  With the onslaught of dead trees from bark beetles and the Butte Fire, these ideas make sense, and I would consult with my constituents for other ideas.

Q. Bark beetle & tree mortality continue to be ongoing issues, especially in the Upcountry areas. What can you do as an elected official to address these issues and ease the financial burdens of tree removal for residents? (300 words)

As this is a natural phenomenon, little can be done to prevent it, but educating residents who live in the forest and potential land and real estate buyers is key.  Living in the mountains, surrounded by trees is a dream for many.  When buying land with trees, it is the buyer’s responsibility to care for those trees. The USFS considers our acre of property as a “private forest.”  You are responsible for maintaining the health of your private forest. 

By coordinating local tree removal services, utilities and forest services, we can lower the cost of managing this hazard. I’d negotiate with CalFire to change restrictions on property owners to allow logs to be sold or used to offset the cost of tree removal services. PG&E already cuts down the bug damaged trees that pose a hazard to power lines.

The USFS has recommended for years to thin our forests.  It is unfortunate that some environmentalists sued the Forest Service to stop implementation of their adopted Forest Service Management Plan making the thinning process difficult.  A thinned healthy forest will prevent outbreaks of the beetle, improve views, and reduce wildfire threats. 

I look forward to working with the State of California’s and Amador County’s Tree Mortality Task Forces in investigating new ways to resolve the tree mortality problems.  I would coordinate with CalFire and The Fire Safe Council in order to procure grants for tree removals. 
Residents can find more information about the Tree Mortality and removal process at www.amadortreemortality.com.

Q.  In the past few months, many readers have raised concerns about difficulties contacting supervisors, or having their concerns addressed by supervisors. In what ways can you improve the lines of communication between constituents and elected officials to make sure that voices are heard and concerns are addressed? (250 words or less)

I know how our citizens feel. Few of us have the time to go to council or supervisor meetings to raise our concerns. I am available as Chairman of Upcountry Community Council for our monthly meetings at the Vet’s Hall on Buckhorn Ridge Road, in Pioneer. And if elected as your District 3 Supervisor, I’ll frequently hold “Ask Jeff” sessions to give residents additional access so all your voices are heard.

At this time, I’m available by phone presently in the evenings and weekends, as I have a full-time job with the Forest Service.  When elected I’ll dedicate the Board of Supervisors as my full-time job.

I operate in an open, honest and transparent manner and invite and encourage more upcountry residents to attend the UCC meetings and to reach out to me to discuss your concerns so they can be added to the agenda and we will work together to find ways to solve them.

I also plan to hold twice a year, Upcountry District 3 Town Hall gatherings where we all can meet our neighbors and discuss our vision and concerns for District 3 while we develop action plans that will benefit us all.  I’ll make myself prudently available and promptly respond with priority given to our most important issues.  My door will be open and I will be just a phone call away. Phone me, email me or schedule a visit with me in person at our county offices.

Q. What can you do to improve access to public services for people living in remote areas with limited transportation options, especially seniors, the disabled and the poor? (250 words or less)

The county has a very good transportation system for those who are willing use our bus system.  We also have Dial-a-Ride and Amador Riders to supplement this bus service and I will see if those services could to be improved, where there are concerns.  For those residents with infirmities, who must get to various down country medical facilities, we also have STARS, a nonprofit, volunteer driver service that provides free transportation to chemotherapy and radiation appointments for Amador County residents receiving cancer treatments. I will be reviewing our bus routes to make sure that we are providing the best possible service with consideration of transportation problems of our senior citizens. I would also encourage Ride-Sharing and Neighbors Helping Neighbors. It is my understanding that our churches often assist with transportation for in-need parishioners as well.

Bus schedules and more information can be found at amadortransit.com.

Q. Airbnb units in the county seem to be becoming more common.  How can the county benefit from this trend while preserving much-needed affordable housing? (250 words or less)

Our county, from one end to the other is a wonder of beauty and nature.  Every day I literally thank God for the natural beauty I see everywhere I look.  I get to see it every day, but for those who live in cities and different climates, this County is full of what is only in their dreams.  For that reason, it is a vacation destination for many.  I would like to see tourism pushed, especially in the District 3 mountains. 

Websites like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, etc. offer places that people can come to and dream.  They can relax and get away from their stresses.
These vacationers bring business to our restaurants, gas stations, stores, attractions, and other businesses.  That is a win-win. 

We can survey hospitality businesses and private property owner hosts’ needs. I believe that the Tourism Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council should join with Amador County to weigh in on this issue to consider the economic impact of the Transient Occupancy Tax on Amador County’s revenues.  Compliance audits and the collection process to collect and verify the TOTs from each business are costs we have to consider.
Q. How can we better protect lives and property from devastating wildfires? (250 words or less)

We all know forest fires are a fact of life but there is so much we can do to reduce the impact. For us to live amongst the natural beauty, smells and sounds of the forest, we must respect that potential hazards.  We do this by removing ground fire fuel, trimming our tree’s lower branches from the ground clearing up to 8 feet to prevent laddering in a fire and keep all wild grasses cut down to no more than 3” high and clear out all dead brush. We must all do this for our own safety and the safety of our neighbors.  CalFire also has required a 100’ clearance around our homes/structures.

We should all have metal, reflective, readable address signs for easy identification in case of emergencies.  Proper street signage needs to be on County and Private roadways.

www.readyforwildfire.org is an excellent source for residents.

I’ll promote and require that new buildings built in identified High Fire Hazard Zones (see General Plan map of High Hazardous Fire Zones) have water storage on site. I will advocate that new or remodels conform and use fire safe building materials with sprinkler systems as required for commercial or residential or other building uses in the high fire hazard zones.

I would also work to increase water to fight residential and other fires through our local water agencies. For these reasons, I supported and fought for the gravity Supply Line (GSL) that increased firefighting capabilities for our District 3.

There has seemed to be a shortage of primary care doctors and specialists in Amador County in recent years. What can you do to help increase local access to care or encourage care providers to come to our area? (250 words or less)

I am sorry to say that the Federal Affordable Care Act drove many physicians out of business or into retirement. Doctors are squeezed financially with low Medi-Cal payments. Some physicians refuse to take Medicare patients. I plan to meet with the CEO of Sutter Amador Hospital and other medical professionals in our area to see if we can find a solution that will attract more doctors to our area. We might promote advertising of our open medical staff needs on our Amador Tourism page, on the County job needs website page, with the Chamber of Commerce or in medical journals to name a few.

Q. The “Wild & Scenic” designation of the Mokelumne River has been a hot button issue in the county for a number of years. Though clearly a nuanced issue, what benefits or detriments do you believe could come from this designation. Explain. (300 words or less)

I oppose the Mokelumne River being designated Wild & Scenic. The following agencies already protect our water quality and our precious wild life: Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Environmental Quality Act, Department of Public Health, Department of Public Resources, California Energy Commission, California Wildlife Conservation Board, EPA.  

The Director of the California Natural Resources Agency will be in control of our Wild & Scenic, 37 miles of river if the Mokelumne River is designated Wild & Scenic River. This person is a bureaucratic, non-elected, appointed person, and not your elected officials of Amador County.

“Wild and Scenic” law only insures domestic water (drinking water) is guaranteed. It does not guarantee protection of our agriculture, manufacturing, commercial or institutional water needs. San Joaquin farmers suffered with the designation; their land has been turned into a dust bowl after designation of the Merced River. Merced Irrigation District is desperately trying to get out of the Wild & Scenic designation in order to get enough water for agricultural use.

Some think that “Wild and Scenic” is a distortion of fact. I have not had anyone state they think the Mokelumne River Canyon is not already scenic; most want to keep it that way!  As far as Wild, it is not a free-flowing river. The only reason it flows year-round is because dams have been built across the river that meter outflow for year-long, varying discharge. These dams provide water storage for domestic and agricultural use, habitat for fish and animals, flood control and electrical energy; the cheapest way to produce electricity. An official designation of “Wild & Scenic” on the Mokelumne obstructs and denies future water needs forever. Those wanting this designation are mostly rafters or visitors to the county – not the taxpayers.

Committee to Elect Jeff Brown D3 2018
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