Our View: Passion, politics and some truths

By Del Norte Triplicate May 12, 2012 12:00 am

There’s a lot at stake in the races for three of five seats on the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, and the seven candidates spoke with genuine passion at the Triplicate candidates forum last week.

Still, an unusual thing happened when members of the newspaper’s Editorial Board assembled a few days later to discuss which candidates to endorse. We decided not to.

We feel as strongly as the candidates about the issues at play, but we just came to a group realization that it wasn’t really our place to flat-out tell people how to vote.

Newspapers have a longstanding tradition of making election endorsements, especially in local races. But frankly, that practice has the potential to get in the way of a much more important responsibility: informing the electorate.

The Triplicate has already published thousands of words reporting what the candidates have said in interviews and at various forums. In the next three weeks, we’ll be fact-checking their statements and contentions, and providing deeper explanations of some of the issues — including the state of garbage and recycling service in Del Norte, and just how much of our money comes from outside the county.

Indeed, you might want to hang onto those mail ballots for a while, because we fully intend to bring more eyes-wide-open context to the issues between now and Primary Election Day.

We will help you make an informed decision, we just won’t deign to tell you what to do.

Meanwhile, we won’t stop analyzing and editorializing on Page A4. We do trust our readers to understand the difference between what appears under the label of “Opinion” and what our reporters — none of whom are on the Editorial Board — write on the news pages.

We hold these truths about the supervisor election to already be evident:

• Del Norte is better served by cooperating with the state and federal governments, not fighting or alienating them. Compromise is not a dirty word.

The state is our biggest employer, and the source of social services vital to many local residents. Millions of state and federal dollars are coming our way for harbor, airport and highway improvements.

Heck, the Sheriff’s Office alone got nearly $450,000 in federal stimulus money over the last two years. Let’s not thumb our noses at state and federal officials, let’s work with them to our best advantage.

To that end, Supervisor Martha McClure has been appointed to a key position on the California Coastal Commission. It’s almost impossible to overstate how much power this panel wields on issues vital to Del Norte. Her challenger, Bill Gray, contends that this position is worthless to us. Yet our own harbor officials acknowledge that she just played an important role in ensuring the timely approval of permits for harbor reconstruction that can now begin this summer.

These are important considerations in an election year when voters at all levels are being urged to just toss out the incumbents.

• Being a relative newcomer to Del Norte is not necessarily a bad thing.

Some people have questioned the qualifications of the challengers in these races based on their length of residency or their lack of a local voting record. These newbies act like they know it all, seems to be the complaint. One was called a “carpetbagger” in a letter to the editor.

Fresh viewpoints — even a stubborn unwillingness to kowtow to local traditions — are sometimes needed. Besides, the challengers in these races are championing causes that some longtime residents clearly support.

Take the issue of government ownership of vast tracts of Del Norte — state and national parks, and especially the enormous Smith River National Recreation Area. Critics of our status quo question how much should be preserved as-is, and how much could be used more productively to boost our economy and our employment.

There are plenty of questions about the potential for growing jobs along with trees out in those publicly owned woods. It hasn’t happened much yet, however, which gives the challengers at least as much right as longtime incumbents to address the issue.

But newcomers should do their homework and come prepared with specific plans, not just slogans.

— Del Norte Triplicate