FAIRFIELD — Candidates for two Solano County supervisors seats have wish lists of what they want to accomplish if elected, from creating a Suisun Valley bike trail to creating youth programs to cutting down on crime.
Of course, among their wishes is being elected the winner in the June 3 election.
Supervisor Jim Spering is running to keep his 3rd District seat that represents much of Fairfield and Suisun City. Challengers are Fairfield City Councilwoman Pam Bertani, commercial real estate broker Michael Oman and medical marijuana clinic businessman Steven Lowe.
Supervisor John Vasquez is running to keep his 4th District seat that represents Dixon and much of Vacaville. Challengers are Dixon City Councilman Thom Bogue, family farmer Gerald Clift and real estate agent Eugene Ray.
The candidates had many goals. This article focuses on only a few of the things they’d like to do.
Oman has a list of ideas he calls the Oman Plan.
“I think job growth is the fundamental issue,” Oman said. “I just think there’s a fresh perspective about job growth.”
Among his ideas is adding assisted living homes to the roof of Solano Town Center mall in Fairfield. While acknowledging the mall would have to be retrofitted to hold the extra weight, he sees ways this can be done. He’s written a letter the mall owners Starwood Retail explaining the proposal.
Another idea is extending Bay Area Rapid Transit from Richmond to the Solano County fairgrounds in Vallejo. The fairgrounds would be redeveloped to have office buildings for the biotechnology industry.
That’s a change from the county’s fairgrounds redevelopment plan, which focuses on retail and amusement uses and mentions no BART extension.
Oman wants to see new business centers in Suisun Valley linked by a 10-mile bike and walking trail along farmland and vineyards. He’d like to see a Tuscan hotel in the valley.
Solano County has its own 2010 Suisun Valley Strategic Plan. It calls for promoting agritourism in part by creating six new commercial centers, in addition to existing Rockville Corner and Mankas Corner.
Some have expressed skepticism about some of Oman’s ideas. For example, Spering said he doubts BART will be extended to the fairgrounds. But Oman is undeterred.
“I can’t do this as a private citizen,” Oman said. “I can do this as a supervisor. I would all of a sudden be speaking with developers and financiers and putting the proper entitlements in place for this to happen.”
Spering said the county and its cities need to do a much better jobs creating local jobs for the people who live here. That means adding a full spectrum of jobs, from technological jobs to jobs for people who have just graduated from high school.
“I feel very strongly that a healthy economy lifts everybody’s boat,” Spering said.
The Solano Economic Development Corp. and the cities already try to bring businesses to the county. Spering said the next level is to erase the city lines on this issue. Solano County has to do something different from the other Bay Area counties, he said.
He listed a number of selling points for Solano County, from its reliable water supply to Interstate 80’s designation as a state and federal freight corridor.
“We just start capitalizing on all those assets and stop competing among ourselves and compete as one county,” Spering said.
Bertani has her own ideas to spur economic growth.
This economy is in transition, she said. Instances where people can work at the same job for 40 years and retire with a gold watch are less common. People have to retrain for different jobs.
Bertani said the Workforce Investment Board of Solano County can play a bigger role.
The Workforce Investment Board is a nonprofit, federally funded agency that works with the county. It tries to improve the workforce by offering services that range from job fairs to job readiness training.
Bertani calculated that having the county invest $5 million in the Workforce Investment Board could result in retraining about 800 workers. This is about the amount the county has spent developing its plan for the Solano County fairgrounds, she said.
The county can use its resources for Solano Family and Children’s Services, Bertani said. This organization, among other things, helps families with child care.
Providing subsidized child care can allow people to get job retraining and get back to work, Bertani said.
Supervisors need to cut their $10,400 annual auto allowance and their longevity pay, Bertani said. They need to reinvest money from these “perks” back into the community for child care and workforce training, she said.
Lowe could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts.
Clift wants the Solano County Board of Supervisors to have more supervisors who get paid less.
The county has five supervisor districts, with each supervisor getting a base pay of $96,085, not counting the auto allowance and longevity pay. Clift proposes having seven districts, with each supervisor getting $59,000.
That way, each supervisor would represent fewer people and better know their constituents, he said. Each supervisor now represents about 82,000 residents.
State law in most cases requires counties to have five supervisors and virtually every California county does, including such large counties as Los Angeles and Orange. But a charter county with a charter stating otherwise can have more. San Francisco County has 11 supervisors.
Clift also wants Solano County to become a charter county, as opposed to a general law county, so it can make the supervisor change. The state has 58 counties, of which 44 are general law counties and 14 are charter counties.
County Counsel Dennis Bunting said a county board of supervisors or an initiative can propose creating a charter. An election would take place to determine whether to draft a charter and elect a charter commission. Voters would have to approve the charter.
Even if all of this can’t be done and Solano County remains with five supervisors, Clift said he wants to lower supervisor salaries by at least $10,000. He also wants to get rid of the supervisors’ $10,400 annual auto allowance.
“I don’t think their salaries should be more than $1 a constituent,” Clift said.
Ray wants to cut down on crime. One approach he favors is having more programs that work with youths.
He talked of his own experience several years ago of offering free karate lessons to youths who stayed out of trouble and kept their grades up. Ray has an 9th-degree black belt in karate.
That effort at local churches included bringing in tutors and community sponsors to help pay the tuition cost for needy youths. Ray said it reached hundreds of youths in Fairfield-Suisun City, Vacaville, Dixon and Winters.
“Programs can be run in every town in Solano County,” he said.
Getting younger kids to aim in the right direction starts taking away the legs from gangs and crime, he said.
He also supports giving inmates job training and other support. He used to go to the local prison to compete in karate with inmates and talked with them, Ray said. Getting involved with these folks and working with them is much better than throwing them back into the cycle of crime, he said.
Solano County runs the local jails and is looking at programs to teach inmates job skills. Ray also wants to get the churches involved, adding that the county has churches that are geared up to help people.
Vasquez looks forward to the county finishing its agricultural specific plans.
Agriculture is the biggest business in the rural county. The 2012 Solano County Crop Report put the total worth of agricultural output at $342 million.
Solano County in 2008 had an agricultural study done that divided the county into nine regions. Each has different characteristics. The report looked at Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta soils of Ryer Island, the ranchlands of the Montezuma Hills, the walnut orchards along Putah Creek near Winters, the vineyards and orchards of Suisun Valley.
Then the county started doing plans for each area, to come up with policies that would help farmers who face different situations. It completed a plan for Suisun Valley that allows for some shops and retail space to promote agritourism. It worked on a Dixon Ridge plan.
The recession and county budget problems stalled the special study effort. Vasquez wants to complete the plans, saying then that each area can create its own destiny. No longer would agricultural policies be the same across the county.
“Agriculture is not cookie-cutter across Solano County,” Vasquez said.
Solano County is also looking at a new way of evaluating farmland, one that goes beyond the prime and not-prime designations, he said.
Bogue also mentioned agriculture. For example, he talked of having incentives so farmers can put up windmills and generate power for both their farms and the state power grid. Over several years, both the farmers and county would see a return on the investment.
“We’ve got to take care of our food,” Bogue said. “We have the most prime land in the United States. It doesn’t get any better than ours.”
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.