The Press Democrat Editorial Board began interviewing candidates this week, starting with the six seeking seats on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in the June 8 primary.

We began with Deborah Fudge on Monday and David Rabbitt on Tuesday.
Mike Healy and Pam Torliatt came in on Wednesday. Mike McGuire and John King are scheduled to come by today. (Fudge and McGuire are the two candidates for the 4th District seat being vacated by Paul Kelley. The others are seeking the 2nd District seat being vacated by Mike Kerns.)

We set aside 45 minutes for each of these interviews, but they often go longer. Too much to talk about these days. We start by asking each their position on some basic issues such as the future of the Sonoma County landfill, the Dutra asphalt plant and, of course, water. (One thing often forgotten is that supervisors also are elected to oversee the Sonoma County Water Agency – an organization with nearly 200 employees and a budget of $190 million. It’s also an agency in a state of major flux right now.)

But our focus this year is on the economy. We want to hear what the candidates have to say about the county’s $48 million budget deficit  (9 percent of its general fund) and what, if anything, they would do to help stimulate job growth – or help prevent the county from being an obstacle to it.

Sonoma County’s unemployment rate fell slightly last month, but it’s still at 11 percent, the highest in 27 years. This doesn’t include those who are significantly underemployed – particularly in the construction trades. And it doesn’t include the many overemployed people who are working their tails off – often filling a void left by someone who was let go or took early retirement – and would like nothing better than a new job opportunity.

My guess is if this isn’t the primary issue on a candidate’s mind this year, he or she may already be in trouble.

– Paul Gullixson