Voters in Tuolumne County’s Board of Supervisors District 4 will decide between youth and experience on June 5 when marking their ballot for county supervisor.
Incumbent John Gray is seeking a second term representing the county’s southern district. And he faces a challenger in Nolan Matter, for whom county supervisor would be his first job out of high school.
Whoever wins will sit on the county’s highest governing body for a four-year term, voting to set budgets and policies for Tuolumne County’s departments. Gray and Matter, both of Groveland, each commented on local issues recently for an election questionnaire by The Union Democrat.
Gray, 63, started on the board after sitting on the Groveland Community Services District and serving as general manager for the Pine Mountain Lake Association. He’s also worked as a contractor in the community where he is a fourth-generation native.
One of Gray’s priorities during a second term would be to streamline the development process by reviewing and possibly modifying local regulations. The county’s regulations, he states, should not be more restrictive than state and federal ones.
“We need to continue to partner with the Chambers of Commerce, Visitors Bureau and the Tuolumne County Business Council through the Economic Development Authority to expand existing business and to create new ones,” he told The Union Democrat. “Government does not create jobs, the private sector does.”
Matter, 18, will finish his senior year at Summerville High School days before the election. Matter was inspired to get involved in local government after participating in Boy’s State, a youth leadership program in which students are involved in mock government proceedings. He’s also served on student government at Summerville High.
Matter told The Union Democrat that an early goal of his if elected would be to make access to county building permits easier, which he believes would lead to more jobs and revenue for the county.
“Instead of having projects sit around and wait as costs rise to get the project going, the building department should be helping them, because in the end they are helping the county,” Matter stated.
The candidates’ written responses to questions on local issues included the following excerpts:
On county plans for a new $48 million jail and how to fund it.
Matter: “I am for the new jail.”
Gray: “Asking taxpayers in a County of 55,000 people to fully fund a $48 million dollar project is not realistic. When I ran for office 4 years ago, I stated that a new jail should be a priority, but the $80 million dollar project that was being considered was also unrealistic. Through work by County Staff and the Sheriff, the cost has been greatly reduced. We need to continue to work with the public and with the private sector to find funding. Floating a bond for $48 million dollars is not the answer. The good news is that we have taken on the Justice Center Project with a pay as you go attitude. When funds are available we have a place to put the jail that has passed environmental review and has roads and utilities in place. We are shovel ready. We just need funding.”
On the closing of Tuolumne General, and how the county deals with psychiatric cases where people are dangers to themselves or others.
Matter: “I believe that Tuolumne County has the responsibility of providing a facility to detain and house patients that have been deemed a danger to others. Law enforcement has an obligation to intervene in issues like this. Therefore, I would propose that a facility be kept in mind for possibly being in conjunction with the new jail.”
Gray: “Unlike many other small counties around the state, our Behavioral Health Department office operates 24 hour walk-in services at the Tuolumne General Medical Facility Campus for individuals in crisis. The county has taken steps with the closure of the Acute Psych Unit to enhance its outpatient and 24-hour crisis services. The Behavioral Health Department, by emphasizing preventive outpatient services, has relatively few cases where inpatient services are needed, but every case is important. An involuntary hold for evaluation and treatment may be initiated only under strict requirements. It’s just not as simple as having a place to lock people up. In a perfect world, the County would have continued the TGH Acute Psychiatric Facility. We need to continue to work closely with the private sector and with law enforcement in a collaborative effort to assure quality care and access to special psychiatric medical services for a person in need of a locked inpatient setting.”
On the Yosemite Area Regional Transit buses scheduled to begin running from Tuolumne County to the Yosemite Valley and back.
Matter: “From my understanding the service will be provided in a two year trial, which I believe would provide easier access for traveling tourists, and will increase revenue in the Yosemite area. For the bus line’s travelers and federal funds being able to keep service out of debt and not requiring more money being put into it, such service as it generates could be seen to be a success.”
Gray: “Running a bus to Yosemite really doesn’t have a downside for Tuolumne County. The Park Service has contracted with Yosemite Area Regional Transit to provide this service on a trial basis with the goal of reducing private autos into the valley. With the number of visitors to the park increasing annually, the limited parking in the Valley is, at times, filled to capacity making the Yosemite Experience less attractive to many. Buses may not be everyone’s choice, but a full bus will reduce auto traffic. Those individuals that are staying in a local lodging facility will generally stay longer and spend more in our County. Success will be measured by the reduction of traffic congestion in The Park and the willingness of visitors to use this new transit system.”
On what they feel are other big issues facing the district:
Matter: “I believe county government agencies are not wisely managing their money, and thus having to make up the difference by taxing the people. I would propose making government agencies transparent, by putting online the businesses contracts, wages, and benefits therefore presenting to the people where their tax dollars go. When people can see how their money is spent, the spender will be aware, more careful and more responsible because he is directly accountable to the customer.”
Gray: “District 4 is the largest geographic and most diverse district in the county. The biggest issue that my district faces is the same as the rest of the districts in the county. We need jobs. There can be no economic growth without them. We face many of the same challenges of other rural areas. We have limited access to high-speed communication technology and a shortage of beneficial living wage jobs. Our public agencies and non-profit organizations face decreasing funding and increasing demands. The best solution is to continue our economic development effort. We will not prosper unless we do whatever we can to open the door for industry and small footprint businesses.”
This story is part of The Union Democrat’s ongoing campaign coverage for Primary Election 2012. Tomorrow’s story will profile Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors District 5. Upcoming stories will also examine the Sonora City Council and Tuolumne County Superior Court judgeship elections, plus the presidential primary and state ballot initiatives.
NAME: John L Gray
PLACE OF BIRTH: Sonora
YEARS IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY (IF APPLICABLE): 63
EDUCATION: Sonora High, Modesto JC, Columbia College, California Coast University, Certified Community Association Manager, Certified Golf Course Superintendent. Continuing education in: Employment Law, Union Contract Negotiation, Facility Maintenance, Marketing and Business Management
IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBERS: Son, John, Daughter, Courtney both grown and Fiance, Eleda Carlson
GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Current District 4 Supervisor Tuolumne County, 7 years Southern Tuolumne County Planning Commissioner, 2 years Oak Grove Cemetery District Board, 3 years Director of Groveland Community Services District, served on Joint Powers Boards. Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority, Area 12 on Aging, ATCAA (Amador-Tuolumne-Calaveras Action Agency), Mother Lode Job Training, Governing Board of Tuolumne County Historical Society
OTHER COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: 43 year member Sonora Elks Lodge, present member of Groveland Rotary, California Deer Association, NRA, past member Pine Mountain Lake Men’s Golf Club
NAME: Nolan J. Matter
PLACE OF BIRTH: San Lorenzo
YEARS IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY: 10
EDUCATION: Will graduate June 8, 2012
IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBERS: Donald Matter (father), Karine Matter (mother)
GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Boy’s State, Student Government
OTHER COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Youth Leadership Tuolumne County, Peer Court