Local opinion columnists

Questions I have for supervisor candidates

By From page A9 | May 04, 2014

We are about a month away from our June election, and Solano County has two seats open on the Board of Supervisors.

As a savvy voter, I attended candidate forums for both districts and both were polite and courteous. The questions centered around the usual topics of crime, jobs and water policy, but for the most part, answers were limited to three-minute sound bites. This format did not quench my thirst for in-depth discussion of the multitude of issues that will come across a supervisor’s desk. Here are some questions I would like to have discussed:

  • What agencies, boards or committees do supervisors represent the people of their district on? How do those agencies impact my life?
  • With 400,000 Solano residents, each supervisor represents around 80,000 people. Is that a manageable number to ensure we the people are represented? Are five districts enough to represent the variety of regions in our county?
  • What is the separation of duties between a municipal government and a county government? Is there any overlap or duplication that could be eliminated to save resources?
  • The sheriff and the district attorney are countywide elected officials. They currently have some controversy surrounding some of the practices of their respective departments. Does the Board of Supervisors have any say on how they run their departments?
  • Highway 12 is vital artery for commerce in Solano County. The Solano-Napa segment is finally getting upgraded after many years. The Suisun City-Rio Vista stretch on the other hand is woefully inadequate for the volume of traffic it carries, and some stretches resemble bombing ranges. What is your plan to upgrade Highway 12 to a safe and modern four-lane highway?
  • Solano County is rare in that it is covered by two air quality management districts, each with different standards and regulations. Is this beneficial for our county, or does having multiple sets of regulations handicap our ability to prosper and thrive? Can we bow out of these air districts?
  • Pension liabilities (unfunded or otherwise) are a dark cloud hovering over government agencies at all levels. Vallejo is a local casualty of pension liabilities. How exposed is Solano County, and what are solutions that allow us to fulfill obligations without bankrupting future generations?
  • Supervisors make well in excess of $100,000 a year in salary and perks, including a $10,000 transportation allowance, and longevity pay. Should it continue to be a full-time job, or perhaps a part-time job?

The compensation issue strikes a chord with me. As a working citizen, I want our public servants be in the same boat as us, so they can relate to challenges we face. Very few working folks in our county get a transportation allowance. Since we the people are often being encouraged to take public transportation, why not lead by example and have the supervisors take public transportation so they can experience firsthand the issues and opportunities facing citizens? Additionally, my longevity bonus is in the form of “I still get a paycheck.” Elected officials’ longevity bonus is that they get re-elected; why should they get a cash bonus?

Solano supervisor salary is currently tied to the salary of California superior court judges, per county policy. Why tie it to a completely unrelated position? I tried to get my boss to tie my salary to the salary of the Raider’s third-string quarterback, but he was not having it. A better compensation package idea: A supervisor’s salary should be equal to Solano County’s median income. As of 2012, this would be in the neighborhood of $69,000. If the people of the county are better off, then the supervisor will be better off; this would be performance-based compensation. The saying “a rising tide lifts all boats” comes to mind.

Governing a county of 400,000 residents with diverse demographics, ranging from classic urban in the west to very rural farming in the east, is a challenging role. We the people are hiring someone to represent our respective districts for a four-year term. Asking detailed questions and getting quality answers is instrumental in making an educated voting decision.

Brian Thiemer is chairman of the Solano County Libertarian Party. He can be reached at [email protected]

Brian Thiemer


Discussion | 4 comments

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  • The MisterMay 04, 2014 - 7:37 am

    Great comments and questions, Brain. But why is it the main thing we hear about is the new train station (next to Supervisor Spering's property) and the county fair grounds. Perhaps it's a slight of hand... keep the people focused over there so they don't ask questions about things over here.

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  • SteveMay 04, 2014 - 9:45 am

    Maybe you are too focused on the train station and the fairgrounds. The train station is a City of Fairfield project by the way, not a county project. Spering has never voted on it. And your allegations are serious. If you have real questions, you should show up at a Board meeting and ask them. Or write to the FPPC. Closet allegations and innuendo are cowardice. If you think there is a problem, act on it. Otherwise, you are just another nut in the peanut gallery.

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  • The MisterMay 04, 2014 - 10:30 am

    @Steve: blah, blah, blah

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  • SteveMay 04, 2014 - 9:39 am

    I'll give it a go.... #1 ABAG, MTC, Delta Protection Commission, LAFCO, YSAQMD, BAAQMD, and about a dozen more. #2 There has been no uproar about lack of representation. #3 Cities are basically in charge within their jurisdiction, counties within theirs, with the exception of taxation, voting regulations, probation and some other duties that are the requirements of counties. #4 Supervisors control the budgets of the Sheriff and DA. #5 Hwy 12 to Napa was a higher priority project for Caltrans. If you want everything fixed at once, support a transportation sales tax in Solano County. #6 Air districts are grouped into air basins, county has no say in what air district it is in. Solano is rare but not the only county divided into two districts. I'm sure the BOS would like to be in just one, but that is not possible. #6 Solano has changed its pension plans for new hires, but unless the State Supreme Court rules otherwise it cannot change existing pensions. It will have to, as all other cities and counties, set aside larger amounts of its available funds for future pension costs. #7 Personally, I want to attract the best and brightest to manage a budget of $220,000,000 and 400,000 residents. I have no problem with their salaries if they are doing the job.

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