Our View: Supes race should go to run-off election

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The challenges facing Placer County’s 5th supervisorial district are immense. Voters deserve to hear more about issues like the proposed massive Forest Ranch development in Foresthill, and Royal Gorge near Donner Summit, and how fire protection, transportation, wastewater treatment, drinking water and other issues might be handled before electing a supervisor June 3. And there is a way to ensure the race is not decided until November – not giving any one candidate more than 50 percent of the vote. Placer County’s sprawling 5th District takes in the western portion of Lake Tahoe, a jewel that must be preserved. Lake Tahoe is the No. 1 tourist destination in the United States. The lake is already experiencing extreme challenges to its clarity. A cooperative plan must be followed to preserve this gem. Fires, like the Angora, loom on the horizon unless we act now to thin our forests and demand defensible space around development. This, too, will take cooperation from residents and officials of many communities and jurisdictions. The Olympic Games might be lured to Placer County in the next decade, if plans are set in place and officials of the many regional governmental entities affected would unite for this common cause. The 5th District is laden with natural resources that must be protected, but that protection must be balanced with smart growth to create jobs and bolster economic viability. Three candidates vie for the 5th District seat, including incumbent Bruce Kranz. The best-case scenario for voters would be a run-off election, caused by the failure of any one candidate to garner more than 50 percent of the vote. This would open up a debate about the issues — and the best supervisor to address them. Kranz, a key cog in the Congressman John Doolittle political machine, would seem the likely front-runner in June’s election, because he is very well known and has served not only as supervisor, but as a Local Agency Formation Commission director for 11 years prior to that. He was also the top state parks supervisor overseeing the Auburn State Recreation Area and Folsom Lake for several years. But his leadership has been filled with controversy and political ploys that do not benefit the taxpayers. Kranz’s style of doing business — he admits he is fiercely loyal — led him to reward a campaign contributor with a seat on the planning commission. That commissioner was terminated by the entire board for alleged illegal lot-splitting. The county now has a lawsuit against her. Kranz fired everyone from local municipal advisory councils who did not share his pro-development views. Residents, in Foresthill especially, have complained that their voices are no longer heard at public meetings. And Kranz rarely attends these advisory council meetings, which are key links in the planning process. There are too many key issues at stake to give Kranz an easy win in the primary. Residents should vote for challengers Jennifer Montgomery or Bob Houston and ensure the debate continues in the public arena until November. Houston, a businessman who has put up his own money for his campaign, is an engaging man who would aim to bring consensus within the district through collaboration with Municipal Advisory Councils. He has much to offer in terms of leadership and his affable nature, but he lacks knowledge, especially in critical matters such as wastewater treatment and the mounting problems of state and federal water regulations affecting the urban foothills communities. He would benefit from catching up on these issues between now and a runoff election. Montgomery says she would restore transparency to the district through the MAC process, leaning on the advisory councils to influence her on hyperlocal concerns. She is a strong proponent of private property rights and environmental protection, and her eastern district residency is an attractive alternative to past representation. She is the clear choice for Democrats and environmentalists. Her knowledge of Donner Summit and Lake Tahoe may also greatly benefit the county. But she too needs to study the issues and listen to voters. Bruce Kranz has worked hard for the district on the Middle Fork Project, bringing methamphetamine awareness before the public and keeping fire protection and biomass energy projects at the forefront. But he brings a top-down style that does not benefit those who have other ideas about how to preserve this vast segment of Placer County that is so precious to us and to the rest of the world. Residents should cast their votes for Houston or Montgomery, and make the election go to a runoff in November. That way we can all become more informed and in November choose the best candidate for the job.