A closer look
Divisions revealed during supervisorial candidates forum
The question was one of the few that elicited a back-and-forth discussion between District 4 supervisorial candidates Sue Hilderbrand and Tod Kimmelshue: What do you think about the Butte Regional Conservation Plan (BRCP)?
The Butte County Board of Supervisors hopefuls were facing off at a candidates forum held Jan. 15 at Butte College, and Kimmelshue, a retired agriculture finance adviser, said he opposed the BRCP, which has been billed as a way to streamline environmental permitting processes for development.
“It affects agriculture in a poor way,” he said, noting that he believes the agricultural landscape will undergo a transformation over the next four to five decades. “The plan says that if you decide to put your land into the conservation program, then you have to do with that land what they tell you. In other words, if I have a piece of rice land … all I could do is grow rice because rice protects certain species.”
Hilderbrand, a Chico State political science lecturer, said she supports the BRCP in part because it streamlines development.
“We’re going to see a lot of development in the next 10 years,” she said. “We need housing and we need to do it in a way that preserves what makes Butte County so beautiful.”
She further noted landowner participation is voluntary and lamented the Butte County Farm Bureau’s opposition. Kimmelshue, a past president of the bureau, said the opposition stems from long-term conservation easements that would become a cloud on a title, leaving in place land restrictions that future owners would be required to abide by.
“And the next owner understands the restrictions on the title,” Hilderbrand responded.
The forum, which was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Butte County, was the first of two events the league has planned ahead of the March 3 primary election. In addition to featuring candidates for District 4 (south county), those vying for District 1 (Oroville area) were on hand. The league said Doug Teeter, who is seeking a third term in District 5 (on and around the Ridge), had a scheduling conflict but that he and his opponent, Henry Schleiger, will attend the next event, which is scheduled for Feb. 1 at Chico High School.
In District 4, Hilderbrand and Kimmelshue are running for the seat being vacated by current board Chairman Steve Lambert. Hilderbrand said while she previously did not aspire to be an elected official, her skills are needed in a post-Camp Fire landscape.
Pointing to her experience offering disaster relief in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, Hilderbrand said she witnessed how special interest groups took advantage of a community struck by disaster, rebuilding the city in a way that suited them, not the locals.
“We are a community in crisis, and we are not organized enough to counter those outside special interests,” she said. “I know how to do this. It’s what I’ve always done. … I do have a background in public policy, and I have a lot of experience in strategic planning.”
Kimmelshue said he is seeking office because being an elected leader is about community service. He noted that the positions he’s held at the Farm Bureau, the Butte County Water Commission and Chico State Enterprises exemplify the seriousness with which he commits to service.
“I’m running to make sure that this county is saved and is preserved for many, many future generations to come,” Kimmelshue said. “And so when I decided to run for office, I was overwhelmed at the support that I have been given.”
Kimmelshue said public safety ranks at the top of the list of priorities facing the district, noting his campaign has the backing of Sheriff Kory Honea and law enforcement groups. He said he would work to ensure funding for public safety programs.
“I’ve knocked on 5,000 doors throughout the district,” he said, “and that is the No. 1 issue that I come across.”
Hilderbrand, a former director of the Chico Peace and Justice Center who is backed by first-term Supervisors Debra Lucero and Tami Ritter, offered that the concept of public safety must include issues such as economic stability and mental health. She added that the most pressing issues in the district also may depend on which community is being referenced.
When talking about the Hispanic population in Gridley, for example, there are concerns about unemployment. In Thermalito, she said, speeding and flooding rank highly. And in Chico, homelessness and mental illness top the list.
In District 1, Supervisor Bill Connelly is seeking a fifth term against challenger Ian Greene.
The incumbent supervisor said public safety is his No. 1 issue. On that front, he said, the Butte County Jail, which is undergoing an expansion, is ill-suited to address the county’s needs because of state legislation addressing prison overcrowding. He also criticized the condition of the facility, noting the women’s section “is terrible.”
Greene, a care provider, focused on wresting control of utilities from private corporations, saying local control could help prevent disasters like the Camp Fire.
While Connelly chided PG&E’s management of its infrastructure and criticized the California Public Utilities Commission’s oversight of the utility, he cautioned that any plans for a takeover may leave customers worse off.
“It’s OK to have a corporation in America,” he said, “but it’s got to be run in a way that protects the safety of the people you’re serving.”