The former executive director of a non-profit affordable housing company in Sonoma County hopes to represent Del Norte in the state Assembly.
Democrat John Lowry attended a Crescent City Council meeting on Monday and met with supervisors Gerry Hemmingsen and Roger Gitlin. Lowry also spoke with Linda Ging, president of the Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
Lowry, who lives about 10 miles west of Santa Rosa, acknowledged that he lives within two miles of the district's southern boundary and 300 miles away from the northern boundary. But, he said, he has lived in the district for about 40 years.
California's Second Assembly District includes the northern portion of Sonoma County and all of Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity and Del Norte counties.
"As you come north, the question of representation and the feeling (of) not being represented or heard at the state level is loud and clear," Lowry said. "What I realize is, traveling from south to north in the district, you go through various gradations of what people think is most significant with Del Norte and Trinity at one end of the spectrum and Sonoma at the other and the others sort of in between."
Lowry, the former executive director of Burbank Housing, a non-profit affordable housing developer, said one of the things he'd like to do is change a state regulatory process that is "slowing down everything." He said he would like to reform the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, and limit the authority of independent boards like the California Coastal Commission and the various water quality control boards.
Lowry said scaling back the authority of California's independent boards, looking at the big picture and developing an environmental policy that's "proactive and results-oriented" would better serve the residents in his district.
Lowry said the regulatory barriers, many driven by urban area interests, are detrimental to Del Norte County and the other communities in his district. The Jefferson state movement is an expression of that frustration, he said. But what's important is getting to the concerns behind the movement, Lowry said.
"The idea that we deal with the regulatory morass and unravel it and we give local areas more authority and maybe even carve out some special levels of authority for rural areas is, I think, a realistic expectation," he said.
In addition to scaling backstate regulations, Lowry said the retirement system also needs reforming.
One local issue Lowry said he didn't know about until he came up to Del Norte has to do with Last Chance Grade. Lowry spoke with Ging and Gitlin about the local push for an alternate route around the landslide-prone section of U.S. Highway 101 12 miles south of Crescent City. Acknowledging the primary obstacle to a bypass - that it could require the removal of old growth redwood trees - Lowry said being flexible about park boundaries may help the project along.
"The distance around if you couldn't go through there (would be) an incredible distance," he said. "(Del Norte) really would be part of Oregon then."
Lowry is on the ballot with fellow Democrat Jim Wood, the mayor of Healdsburg; Republican Matt Health, of Santa Rosa; and Green Party member Pamela Elizondo, of Laytonville.
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